Some people might call them trite, sentimental, or sappy, but there is still something very satisfying to one’s soul about a well-written and illustrated book with a message of hope, love and family. This month in particular, when we put our rat race on hold for one day to give thanks, is rather appropriate to showcase books which illustrate all that for which we should be grateful. Picture Books
Halmoni’s Day by Edna Coe Bercaw. c 2000, Dial. Jennifer’s grandmother is coming to visit all the way from Korea, and just in time for a special Grandparent’s Day at school. Jennifer worries about how her Halmoni will fit in, with her traditional clothes and no English. But during the presentation, Halmoni surprises her granddaughter with a special story that demonstrates how time, distance and language are no barrier to family love. Beautifully rendered oil drawings by Robert Hunt are a wonderful compliment to this tender story.
The Gift by Kristine L. Franklin. c 1999, Chronicle Books. Flattered and excited by Fish Woman’s invitation to go fishing, Jimmy Joe dreams of catching something better than just stew fish – a mighty salmon! And while he does land a salmon, he catches something even better after the whales come by. Engaging and colorful artwork by Barbara Lavallee add to the magical feel.
Thanksgiving Wish by Michael J. Rosen. c 1999, Blue Sky Press. More than any other, Thanksgiving was Bubbe’s special holiday. Determined to carry on after she dies, all the cousins, aunts and uncles meet at Amanda’s house to try to duplicate her special recipes, and everything else Bubbe did to make the holiday so special. But while cloudy skies, lost electricity, a friendly neighbor and kitchen tag with all the dishes certainly makes the day memorable, it’s still Bubbe’s absence and her gift of wishbones for her grandchildren that Amanda misses. She helps start a new tradition, inspired by the memory of Bubbe’s love. Wonderful paintings by John Thompson have that detailed look that might remind you of Norman Rockwell.TRANSITIONAL BOOKS
Sky Memories by Pat Brisson. C 1999, Delacorte Press. Emily and her mom begin to gather their special memories of beautiful skyscapes right before her mom discovers she has cancer. This short but touching book is about the year before Emily’s mom dies, and how their love, memories and rituals sustain them in their grief. The skyscape drawings by Wendell Minor are just simply beautiful.
Seven Wise Princesses retold by Wafa’ Tarnowska. c 2000, Barefoot Books. This is a prose translation for children of “Haft Paykar”, considered the masterpiece of Nizami, a famous Sufi poet who lived in twelfth century Persia. Using the imagery of a shah, seven princesses and seven colors, these stories have an underlying theme of moral and righteous living. From each princess, the shah hears a story that illustrates such virtues as honesty, forgiveness, and humility. Lots of detailed and vibrant illustrations by Nilesh Mistry are an excellent compliment to this fine book.
FOR OLDER READERS
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. c 2000, Candlewick Press. Moving to a new place can be lonely, particularly for a preacher’s kid. India Opal’s luck turns, though, when she befriends an ugly stray dog with an uncanny knack for making friends. She meets a librarian, a convict, Sweet Pea, the local “witch” – and it’s all because of Winn- Dixie. Set in Florida, this gentle story about change and acceptance is perfect for kids starting to read longer novels.
Drawing Lessons by Tracy Mack. c 2000, Scholastic. So much of Rory’s life revolves around her father – she has his artistic ability and he’s been giving her lessons since she was five. Then when he leaves one night, it seems as if her talent has gone also; she can’t seem to draw anything. Mingled with the pain of losing her dad are the problems of dealing with her first year of high school and watching her best friend get a boyfriend, but after a struggle, Rory finds a way through it all.
Men of Stone by Gayle Friesen. c 2000, Kids Can Press. Anger is common for fifteen-year-olds, and Ben is no exception. Since his father died, he’s been the only male in a house with his mother and three older sisters, dealing with a bully at school, and one of his best friends runs away from an unhappy home. Into all this comes his great aunt Frieda to stay for a little while, and turns their scattered lives around. Ben hears stories about his father he’s never heard before and through her stories of living through the time of Stalin does Ben begin to find a way around his anger and understand the right way for himself. Despite the serious subject matter, this was a very humorous book with great insight into a young man’s thoughts.
Saying It Out Loud by Joan Abelove. c 1999, DK Ink. Mindy’s mother is dying from a brain tumor, and she struggles to cope with her relationships - a mother she loves dearly but finds irritating, and a father to whom she was once close. Left mostly to herself in this difficult time, she has time to remember happy memories of her childhood with her parents, and how to reconcile the THEN with the now. A sad but moving book, it highlights how easy it is for family to drift apart when they need each other most.
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