picture books

Dogggone Feet!

Helakoski, Leslie. Doggone Feet!Honesdale, Pa: Boyds Mills Press, 2013. Print.

Doggone it, this book is a fresh look at feet. Yeah, I know, feet are not my cup of tea either, but imagine a dog whose world-view is defined by feet. Combine that imagery with colorful illustrations, some playful rhyming language in narrative form and you have a potentially great book that presents families from an interesting perspective.

The book will find a comfortable home in the hands of early readers and classrooms, but it might also become a favorite for read-aloud sessions that kick off larger units of study. There are limitless classroom investigative applications for the down-low viewpoint introduced by Helakoski. Older students could make their own collection of pictures around the school or home and re-tell the story or adapt it to a certain series of events like a day at school.


Books that spark creativity in children and adults are special because they tend to move us beyond the pages and bend some of those pre-conceived notions we have of our world. They implore us to think creatively for solutions to problems and enlarge our field of view. But they do it in a sneaky way. It is up to the parent and teacher to seize these teachable moments and make them visible for those who might not recognize them at first glance. That is called teaching them how to think.


Add this to the bottom shelf of your collection, or the top, but add it with confidence.


A Review of Barbara Newman’s Glamorous Glasses-

Newman, Barbara J. Glamorous Glasses. Honesdale, Pa: Boyds Mills Press, 2012. Print.


When I think of eyeglasses I think of glamorous people: Elton John, Elvis, Jackie O., and a few others that rocked some odd looking specks. But I also recall those glasses known as Clark Kent’s that were issued to military inductees. I never wanted those (and didn’t need glasses at that point), but some people even make those look glamorous. It is the search for that perfect pair of glasses or other fashion accessory that makes life quite exciting at times for some folks. I’m just satisfied to know where my glasses are located without having to resort to one of those ropes that tethers them around my neck. Maybe I’m trying not to look like a librarian?Never mind my lack of fashion, but I just read a book that reminded me that kids can even look cool in glasses as long as they are not the ones who have to wear them.

Glamorous Glasses is an all-too-cute story that should resonate with girls and their moms. Imagine what can happen when you wear a pair of prescription glasses that are not yours, and the person that should be wearing them doesn’t wear any. The story gets better when a shopping trip to the city is the background for the fun that ensues. Yes, the story is both fun and funny; it can be enjoyed at any pace by almost anyone- including boys.

School librarians will want to be sure to pick up this title for a variety of reasons. Yes, chief among those is a reminder that it can be quite cool to wear glasses. Secondly, this title is ripe for reading aloud by a bespeckled teacher or librarian. The vivid colors reinforce the sense of fashion that can be found in everyday items and how we can achieve that elusive glamorous effect. Well, everybody except me.

Ostrich and Lark -a voice lesson

Nelson, Marilyn. Ostrich and Lark. Honesdale, Pa: Boyds Mills Press, 2012. Print.

This book is about more than a child’s picture book by a Newberry Honor Book author; it is about breaking down barriers. The Kuru Art Project of Botswana provided the vibrant pictures for the tale that describes their journey as much as it does the story accompanying the art. And make no mistake about it, the book is about the art and it is fabulous. It is vibrant and adds color to the text that is a little more complicated than the art. In fact, the text is often overwhelmed by the art- which is not such a bad thing.

Ostrich and Lark is about finding one’s voice and that is a message that applies not only to writers, but learners of all shapes and sizes. The choice of characters just adds to the African feel of this book and introduces all types of life from the animal world, most not in the average child’s vernacular.

Teachers contemplating a study of Africa or African influence will not want to neglect this beautiful book. The images invite replication and kids are the perfect ones to attempt it. Librarians will also want to consider adding it to collections that need some more representation from true African art. Another educational opportunity and conversation also exists in the role that this art plays in helping an indigenous people realize their value and commodity in a world economy. Schools engaged in a serious program of world cultures will also want to acquire this book .

Molly, by Golly!

Ochiltree, Dianne, and Kathleen H. Kemly. Molly, by Golly!: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter. Honesdale, Pa: Calkins Creek, 2012. Print.


Dianne Ochiltree and Kathleen Kimly have provided an accessible, albeit fictionalized account of America’s first female firefighter, an African-American named Molly Williams. The story, crafted from legend and a few available facts portrays Molly Williams as a servant-cook who took up the firefighter’s role in a time of need.

The story heralds Molly’s actions as heroic, but it is her motivation that provides the real life lesson for young readers. Molly was faced with a circumstance where the opportunity to do good took precedence over any other role that was assigned or expected of her. Encouraging young readers and future firefighters to do the same in the name of unselfish public service is at the heart of the lessons to be learned from Molly, by Golly!

Additional information and background is included on the historic development of firefighting at the end of the book along with a section of frequently asked questions.  Young readers will be comfortable with the illustrative content, but others may find the plump Molly a tired stereotype of African-American women. Despite that objection, the watercolors provide the appropriate images for a folktale for young children.

Teachers and librarians will want to include Molly in classroom activities of all sorts. Besides the obvious connections to firefighting and public service, the content does provide elementary-aged students a glimpse into a neglected area of early American city life. Add this piece of Americana to the collection with confidence that it will circulate and spark conversation about life past and present.