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.

Woolfred Cannot Eat Dandelions

Woolfred Dandelions9781433816727_p0_v1_s260x420Woolfred Cannot Eat Dandelions: A Tale of Being True to Your Tummy

Claudine Crangle, Author and Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Sep. 28, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: Animals, Sheep, Food Intolerance

Opening:  “Most sheep will eat almost anything they come across… whether it’s good for them or not.” 

Synopsis: Woolfred is born with a delicate system. He can’t eat dandelions. It isn’t fair – the other sheep can eat whatever they want. Beautiful yellow clumps of dandelions grow everywhere and tempt him as he grazes. Finally he chews a mouthful of dandelions. They are so delicious until …Gaaaaglewaaaglelewush!

Why I like this book:

  • Claudine Crangle has written an engaging story about a daring young sheep who knows he can’t eat dandelions, but wants to taste them in the worst way.  Sound familiar?
  • This is one of a few picture books I’ve seen for children who have a food intolerance to products like milk, gluten, eggs, fructose and yeast. This is not a book about food allergies that may be life threatening. It is a book about learning to cope with a food intolerance and still lead a normal and active life.
  • The plot is humorous. Does Woolfred learn his lesson after he tries the dandelions the first time? No! He tries eating the different parts of the dandelion and has the same tummy reaction each time. The narrative is funny and the text is simple and silly.
  • Children with food intolerance issues will certainly identify with Woolfred. Like Woolfred, they want to eat the same foods their friends eat at school, birthday parties and outings. Like Woolfred, they don’t want to feel deprived, different or lonely.
  • I love Crangle’s takeaway message for children. While Woolfred focuses on what’s missing, he’s not seeing the good things in his life.
  • Crangle’s illustrations are in bright and colorful spring colors. They are expressive, warm and endearing. Crangle’s process is quite unusual. She begins with “an idea cut out of paper with a knife. Designs are translated through the printmaking process and evolve with each proof.  They are done by hand without any computer manipulation.”

Resources: The book is a resource for parents, caregivers and children. Children with a food intolerance will have fun discussing Woolfred’s antics and comparing them to their own situation. At the end of the story Woolfred begins to think about the other sheep and shares how his friends have differences: Dank rolls in bad smells. Lana sneezes when she’s near clover. Marino is terrified of bees. Bert likes to scratch his bottom on the ground. This would be a fun family activity to discuss how everyone is different.  Visit Claudine Crangle at her 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 Perfect Picture Books.