A Common Thirst by Gary Boelhower

Gary Boelhower, Author

Sarah Brokke, Illustrator

Beaver Pond Press, Fiction, Oct. 27, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-9

Themes: Goats, Sheep, Abundance, Drought, Sharing, Compassion 

Opening: “Not far from here, the land was divided into towering mountains and level plains.”

Publisher’s Synopsis

A Common Thirst is a story about the goats, who rule the mountains, and the sheep, who rule the plains. The melting snow in the mountains and the rain on the plains give the goats and the sheep all the water they need. But one year no snow falls and not a single rain cloud fills the skies. The streams become bone dry. The goats and the sheep decide to travel to each other’s kingdoms, searching for water and food. They realize their lands are dry as dust. Their common thirst challenges the goats and the sheep to find a new way to live together.

A Common Thirst helps children think about the earth-home we all share. When resources are scarce, we are often tempted to withdraw from one another and to horde what we have. Yet when we recognize our common needs and our common stories, we discover ways to share what we have. In the sharing, we find that life is richer than we could have imagined.

Through engaging, vibrant illustrations and lyrical prose, A Common Thirst provides children with a sense of the abundance of life and the challenge of finding new ways to be in community.

Why I like this book:

There is so much beauty in Gary Boelhower’s picture book. It is a quiet and contemplative story for children. The narrative is poetic, the theme inspiring and the message timely, especially for the noisy world we live in today. It will spark many lively and positive discussions about our differences and similarities, and how important it is to share — as the goats and sheep beautifully demonstrate. They realize they must change and work together if they want to survive.  Life is meant to be lived abundantly, but only if we live in harmony with each other and the planet. It requires effort, kindness, and compassion. I believe children today will take this message to heart because it is an opportunity to create a better world.   

Sarah Brokke’s illustrations are soft, lush and caressing. Her colored pencil details breathe life into the text. This gorgeous book will resonate with young readers and families for years to come. It is a treasure.

Author Quote: “In my dream world, the next generation of little ones will grow up with a deep sense of our common human family and what connects us to one another, across all the differences of nations, culture, races and religions.” The author has donated 100 books to Heart of America, a non-profit that provides books and other resources to needy families, schools and community centers.

Resources: The book is a beautiful tool to talk about love, empathy, and compassion for our human family. It is an opportunity to ask children if they’d offer share their lunch if they saw a student without one. There are many real-life variations of this question that could be asked. It is perfect for home and school. Teachers who teach character development won’t want to miss this book. 

Gary Boelhower, professor emeritus at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota, is an award-winning teacher, writer, and poet whose career has focused on wise decision-making and values-based leadership. For more about Gary, visit GaryBoelhower.com.

Sarak Brokke has garnered numerous awards for her widely exhibited work. She is the director of the art program and the Community Mural Initiative at the College of St. Scholastica. For more on Sarah, visit SarahBrokke.com.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

Don’t Feed the Bear by Kathleen Doherty

Don’t Feed the Bear

Kathleen Doherty, Author

Chip Wass, Illustrator

Sterling Children’s Books, Fiction, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3 and up

Themes: Bear, Park, Ranger, Feeding, Battle, Sharing, Friendship

Opening: “Bear loved when campers left him grub. Mac and cheese…carrot cake…meatball stew!”

Synopsis:

Bear had a perfectly great life…until Park Ranger put up a sign that read DON’T FEED THE BEAR.

Well, Bear isn’t about to let Park Ranger get away with claiming all the picnickers’ goodies for herself. Crafty Bear puts up a sign of his own and the battle for yummy grub is on! Each worthy (and hungry) competitor tries to persuade parkgoers to their side. At stake: delicious chow, like juicy burgers and cookies. Who will win this war of words?

Why I like this book:

Kathleen Doherty has penned a delightful and humorous story about a bear and a park ranger battling over the food left behind by parkgoers. Her text is simple and snappy and encourages children to read on their own. Doherty uses clever word play and words that are fun to read aloud to kids — SMACKITY! SMACK! WHOMP! and STOMPITY, STOMP, GRRRRRR!

The book theme can be translated into many real life situations like sibling squabbles over food, territory and possessions. Kids will learn about compromising and reconciliation. Somewhere the bear and ranger must meet. Perhaps they can become a team and work together.

Couple Doherty’s lively story with Chip Wass’s rip-roaring and cheerful cartoon-like illustrations, and kids will beg to read this story repeatedly at bedtime. Make sure you give kids enough time to study each page — it’s worth it! Who knows what they may add to the story. With summer fast approaching, this is a perfect read!

Resources: Time to pull out the paper, markers and crayons. Ask children who are the rooting for: Bear or Park Ranger. Let them choose a  favorite scene or encounter in the story and draw their own version. If they are focused on the many signs that Bear and Park Ranger post, ask them what they may want to add.

Kathleen Doherty is a reading specialist who has taught elementary school for over thirty years. She loves writing humorous stories and read aloud to kids — that is,  when she’s not having a scrumptious picnic and chowing down on s’mores.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Terrific Toddlers Series – Boo-Boo! – Bye-Bye! – All Mine!

The Terrific Toddlers is a new series of books, written by Carol Zeavin and Rhona Silverbush and illustrated by Jon Davis. The  explore important topics for active and curious  toddlers ages 2-3 — injury, sharing and separation anxiety — all a big deal for little ones. They are perfect lap books for children when they seek comforting and support.

Boo-Boo!

Magination Press, Fiction, Oct. 30, 2018

JoJo likes to fun FAST! When she falls down and hurts her chin, her dad tries to help her boo-boo. But JoJo is scared! JoJo screams when Daddy tries to wash her boo-boo.  And she doesn’t want a Band-Aid! JoJo puts a Band-Aid on Daddy’s nose. Her dad helps her understand that boo-boos aren’t so scary. Boo-Boo! is a book for toddlers about small cuts and scrapes.  The book includes information about helping toddlers with minor injuries.

Bye-Bye!!

Magination Press, Fiction, Oct. 30, 2018

Sometimes It’s hard for JoJo, Kai and Ava to say goodbye to Mom and Dad! There are tears and anger. Even if it’s for a short amount of time, Mom and Dad reassure them not to worry because they will always come back. When their parents return there are hugs and kisses. Bye-Bye! is a book written for toddlers about separation. The story includes information about helping toddlers with saying goodbye.

All Mine!

Magination Press, Fiction, Oct. 30, 2018

Ava, Kai, and JoJo are playing with their toys at school, but they aren’t ready to share and take turns! Ava wants the fancy hat Kai is wearing and grabs it. The teacher offers Ava  a sparkly necklace. In the kitchen Ava is playing puts a carrot on a plate. JoJo grabs the carrot. Can the teacher help them out? All Mine! is a book written for toddlers and their caregivers about toddlers’ need to feel ownership, so they can better navigate this tricky time in their development when everything is “All Mine!”

What I like about this series:

The Terrific Toddlers  books are 12 pages long, perfect for short attention spans. Each book is 8×6 inches,  just the right size for toddlers small hands. This is a great go-to series when children are dealing with scary feelings that they don’t understand and have a difficult time communicating.  Everything is a big deal.

Carol Zeavin and Rhona Silverbush books are written in simple, childlike language which is reflective of children’s everyday realities. The Terrific Toddlers series is based on understanding the developmental level of young toddlers.

JoJo, Kai and Ava all appear in the series, lending a familiarity and continuity for toddlers. I like the diversity throughout the books and the emphasis on gender neutrality as the toddlers play together. The soft and soothing pastel illustrations Jon Davis by are expressive and playful.

Resources: Each book includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers about helping and supporting their toddlers through difficult moments.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds

The Word Collector

Peter Hamilton Reynolds, Author & Illustrator

Orchard Books, Fiction, Jan. 30, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Collecting words, Sharing, Individuality, Imagination, Kindness

Opening: Collectors collect things… coins…art…comic books.  And Jerome?

Synopsis:

Some people collect stamps. Some people collect bugs. Some people collect baseball cards. Not Jerome. He collected words. Printed words. Short and multi-syllable words. Words that roll off your tongue and feel good to say. Words that sing. Words that make you laugh. He organized and filled scrapbooks with his favorite words. One day he was carrying an armload of scrapbooks when he slipped.  His words went flying through the air and landed in a mess around him. He began stringing the words together and made a powerful discovery. Perhaps his words weren’t so mixed up.

Why I like this book:

Reynolds captures the magic of words in Jerome’s pure joy of sharing words with others. There is a charm in this book. There is kindness. The tone of the text is wistful and alluring, inviting the reader along Jerome’s magical journey of discovery and possibilities. This book fosters a curiosity for  words and a love of language! It is both empowering and heartwarming with a satisfying ending that will put a smile on a children’s faces. It is spindiddly!

Jerome is a child of color, but the story has nothing to do with his color or ethnicity. The supporting characters in the story are all diverse, which lends itself to inclusiveness. It is so important for children to see themselves in a story.

Reynolds’ pen and ink illustrations are playful and contribute to the joyful spirit of Jerome’s journey. Make sure you check out the endpapers.

Resources: After reading the book, look at the endpapers which are packed with words.  Reynolds urges children “Reach for your own words / tell the world who you are / and how you will make it better.”  Each word is strung together on separate pieces of paper.  Encourage kids to write four or five words that they like on separate index cards. They may be familiar, happy, caring, loud, funny and so on. Then ask them to share what the word means to them.

Peter Hamilton Reynolds is a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of many books for children, including The Dot, Ish, and Happy Dreamer. His books have been translated into over twenty-five languages around the globe and are celebrated worldwide. In 1996, he founded FableVision with his brother, Paul, as a social change agency to help create “stories that matter, stories that move.” He lives in Dedham, Massachusetts, with his family. Visit Reynolds at his website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website. 

Mine! by Jeff Mack

Mine!

Jeff Mack, Author and Illustrator

Chronicle Books, Fiction, May 9, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 2-5

Themes: Mice, Animals, Possessiveness, Quarreling, Sharing, Friendship

Opening: Mine!

“Mine!” This one word is powerful when you add two mice, who find a large rock and each one declares ownership. A battle ensues with the two trying to outsmart each other by dangling tantalizing morsels of cheese from a fishing pole and bearing other gifts. As the stakes get higher for who will own the rock, a dump truck backs up with a load rocks to knock one of the mice off the rock. One victor is momentarily triumphant, while the other builds a rock fortress around his rock. A wrecking ball brings the rock wall tumbling down. In the final battle, the two mice both stand on top of the rock facing each other with fists raised and yelling “Mine! Mine! Mine!” at each other. And then something happens and they both are in for a big surprise!

This is the first time I’ve reviewed a picture book with only one word. Jeff Mack’s zany story is highly entertaining with great pacing. His bold and  colorful illustrations are expressive and show the building tension between the two mice, one blue and the other orange, as they try to outsmart each other. You have to love that cover!

This is a perfect read-aloud story for young children who are learning to share.  It is a clever book about sibling rivalry and one that will elicit giggles from children. It’s a great book for about learning how to solve problems. This book belongs in every pre-school classroom.

Jeff Mack has drawn since early childhood, when he would illustrate his own stories, particularly about monsters, robots and pinball machines. He has illustrated more than 30 children’s books, including Ah Ha! and Good News, Bad News, both of which he also authored. Visit Jeff Mack at his website.

** I won Mine! from Sue Morris’ website, Kid Lit Reviews. Check out her honest and objective reviews of the most recent book releases.