This third set of book reviews from the Children’s Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) includes a donkey, a dog, a slug, and a cat! All creatures share thier love of books and encourage students to enjoy reading. Winter, Jeannette. (2010). Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia. New York: Beach Lane Books.
In simple, straightforward prose, Winter tells the true story of Luis Soriano, a book-loving teacher in rural Colombia determined to share his beloved book collection with those who have no access to books. When his books overtake his living space, Luis loads books onto one donkey and rides another into the countryside. The author’s approach is warm and inviting, showing Luis sharing a story with village children and reading a book peacefully at home. While the plot suggests the danger and challenge of the journey (a bandit threatens him at one turn, steep and treacherous terrain at another), this picture book honors the dignity of both helper and helped. Folk-art illustrations ground the reader in the Colombian setting while also providing a touch of whimsy and celebration. Winter presents Luis as a simple man sharing what he had and doing what he could to make a difference. In doing so, she quietly entreats readers to take actions of their own as well. The spare presentation leaves room for classroom dialogue; background information provided will support further exploration. - Sue C. Parsons
Yates, L. (2010). Dog loves books. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Dog is a book-loving canine, the kind of reader who covets the very “smell” and “feel” of books and finds ecstasy wallowing in a good read. Like all book lovers of this magnitude, Dog cannot keep his passion to himself, so he opens a bookstore. Disappointed by a lack of enthusiasm in his first customers, he, of course, “fetched a book from the shelf and began to read” (u.p.). Yates shows Dog’s unabashed ardor for reading through brilliantly detailed body language. As he slips rapturously into the book, he is surrounded by the characters he encounters. Dinosaurs, kangaroos, and space aliens, drawn with spirit and humor, gravitate with sparkling eyes and eager grins toward the book in Dog’s hands, and the lively pastel illustrations move from pleasant and engaging to full-on celebratory. When, joy of joys, a customer enters, also craving a book, Dog knows “exactly which ones to recommend” (u.p.), and the two book lovers explore the titles together. This is a delightful book—spirited and funny—and an irresistible invitation to grab a book and read. (A humorous nudge to the coffeehouse bookstore will bring a smile to adult readers.)
Pearson, S. (2011). How to teach a slug to read. Illus. by D. Slonim. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Books for Children.
- Sue C. Parsons
Chockfull of tips for how to create a reader and how to enhance reading skills, this picture book would be useful for beginning readers, but could also serve as a ready reference for their parents and teachers who are looking for easy ways to help young readers notice print. For example, one of the tips suggests labeling the favorite things of the slug—or child, of course. By underlining some words in slug slime and featuring slugs instead of children, the positive message goes down smoothly, enhanced by illustrations that add humor while paying tribute to that often-disparaged creature, the slug. The not-so-hidden message that if a slug can read, so can I is particularly salient. - Barbara A. Ward
Pelley, K. T. (2011). Raj the bookstore tiger. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
Raj, a beautiful tiger-striped cat, loves stalking through the shelves, listening to stories, and sitting on the laps of the bookstore patrons. His human companion, Felicity, reads stories to him and calls him her tiger. But the arrival of Snowball, a disgruntled feline bully, leaves Raj discombobulated since Snowball denigrates him, telling Raj he is just a cat, after all, not a tiger. Depressed, Raj hides in the bookshelves until Felicity reads him poems written by William Blake, most notably the lines “Tyger Tyger Burning Bright” that describe the fierce and wondrous beast. Inspirational message delivered and understood, Raj licks his wounds, his self-esteem restored, and ends up befriending Snowball. Once again, literature saves a life, and the bookstore now has two happy cats, er, tigers, frolicking through its shelves. - Barbara A. Ward