Category Archives: Friends

Larf (Must Read)

By Ashley Spires

Published by Kids Can Press

Copyright © 2012

I have always had an affinity for the Sasquatch legend. I will freely admit that there is a little part of me that believes that Sasquatch is out there. But even if they aren’t, to believe in them is to retain that sense of unexplainable wonderment in the natural world. So when I saw “Larf,” by Ashley Spires, in our latest children’s book order I knew I had to read it.

Larf, as you may have guessed, is a sasquatch. He likes the fact that no one knows he exists, and even when they see him they don’t really believe he exists. Larf is the only sasquatch in the world and he loves his privacy.

While reading the newspaper one day he reads an article that says that “a sasquatch is scheduled to make an appearance today in the nearby city of Hunderfitz.” Larf wonders how this could be, and then he wonders how this could affect him. Larf has no choice; he must go to Hunderfitz to see this sasquatch. Larf is in for a surprise.

The story of Larf is cute. As much as I hate the word “cute” there is no other word that fits. There is not deep layer of morality to this tale it is just cute. Sure you could look at it as a tale about getting out of your own head and letting others in so that we can make friends, but that is merely an aside to the cuteness.

Fortunately, “cute” is not the only thing that “Larf” has going for it. This story is very humorous. Most of this humor shows up in the illustrations. Spires’ line art is reminiscent of the work of Craig Bartlett on the Nickelodeon cartoon “Hey, Arnold” (which I loved), but she lightens it up and makes it more whimsical and fluffy with her use of what seems to be water color. The funny comes not just in her way of drawing people and Larf, but in the way she juxtaposes the text of the story with the illustrations. For instance when we read “Larf knows no one would ever leave him alone if they found out he was real.” And then we see an illustration with his face on the cover of magazines, newspapers, and tabloids with the addition of a book featuring his pet bunny Eric on the cover with the title “Bigfoot’s Bunny: Shocking Tell-All Memoir.” It made me laugh.

This book will definitely get five stars on my book sharing accounts. It will be a welcome addition to the story time rotation for children’s groups or individual children ages 3 and up.

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Filed under Children's Picture Books, Fantasy, Folklore, Friends, Nature/Animals

Otis and the Tornado

By Loren Long

Published by Philomel Books

Copyright © 2011

 

Otis is a little tractor on the farm. In his spare time he likes to play follow the leader with all of his barnyard animal pals. All of the animals on the farm love Otis, all except one, the bull. The bull wasn’t friendly with anyone, and even though Otis tried to be nice to him the bull was as cantankerous as ever.  One day a tornado touches down on the farm and Otis tries to round up all his animal friends and get them to safety, but the bull is not Otis’ friend. Whatever will happen to him?

 

I liked the story of Otis, even if it is a tad predictable. It is a great book to show kids the power of kindness. Otis the tractor certainly personifies the lesson that a good person cares about everyone, even those who don’t seem to deserve it.

 

Even more than the story itself I love Long’s illustrations in this book. He contrasts the shiny red tractor and colorful animals with a stark, and eventually ominous, landscape. The green and gray in the sky when the tornado touches down is really quite eerie; it evokes that frightening feeling of an oncoming storm.

 

This is a great book for children ages 4 and up.

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Filed under Children's Picture Books, Friends, Nature/Animals, Trucks/Power Equipment, Weather

Zen Shorts

By Jon J. Muth

Published by Scholastic Press

Copyright © 2005

 

Michael, Karl, and Addy find a Panda with a large red umbrella. “The wind carried my umbrella all the way from my backyard to your backyard” he told them with a slight Panda accent. His name is Stillwater and he is ever so nice and polite. Each child visits Stillwater in succession and to each he tells a story. Stillwater and the children become fast friends.

 

The stories that Stillwater tells are parables based in old Buddhist and Taoist literature. I don’t want to give away the morals in the stories however I think you’ll find them to be good reminders, not just for children, but for adults as well.  

 

Muth also paints wonderfully soft and gentle watercolor illustrations for this book; just as he did for his book “The Three Questions” that really reflect the meditative quality of his main character and the story itself. He juxtaposes this against simplistic black and white illustrations to depict the long ago and faraway quality of the stories the panda tells.

 

This is really a fabulous book. You don’t need to be a Buddhist or a child to benefit from these tales. Muth has chosen stories with principles that are very universal. Read this book for yourself, or share it with children age 4-8.

 

Quill Award nominee

2006 Caldecott Honor

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Filed under Children's Picture Books, Fables/Parables, Family, Friends, Multicultural

The Dodsworth Adventures

The Dodsworth Adventures Series

By Tim Egan

Published by Houghton Mifflin

Dodsworth in New York © 2007

Dodsworth in Paris © 2008

Dodsworth in London © 2009

 

A Ducky little set of books that take children on a whirlwind trek from New York to Paris, and from Paris to London. Children will be captivated by this Mouse and Duck comedy team.

Dodsworth is getting ready to go on an adventure to Europe, but before he does he needs a hot breakfast. He stops at Hodges’ Cafe to have some of the best pancakes in the world; here he meets Hodges’ crazy duck. This duck is going to give Dodsworth more of an adventure than he ever planned for.

In “Dodsworth in New York” the duck hitches a ride with Dodsworth to New York City and he ends up chasing the duck all over the city. He runs up Wall Street and down Fifth Avenue, past Yankee Stadium and into the Statue of Liberty. In the end they both end up on a boat bound for Europe. “In Paris” Dodsworth and the Duck stay in the Chateau de Paris, visit the Notre Dame Cathedral, and visit the Eifel tower all the while participating in some very French activities like eating, painting, and riding a bicycle. And finally, “in London” Dodsworth and the duck get separated and Dodsworth confuses the Queen’s royal duck for Hodges’ duck and follows her around London on a big red bus learning things about London Bridge and Big Ben. In the end Dodsworth and the Duck get the immeasurable privilege of meeting the Queen of England.

The Dodsworth Adventures are a fun way to introduce children 6 and up to the cultural and geographic landmarks of New York, Paris, and London. In addition Egan does a wonderful job of weaving different forms of transportation in to these stories which will make for even more conversation. Egan’s illustrations match the stories with there simple, cute, and quirky characters and images. Each book features that crazy duck creating some comic situation for the straight man, Dodsworth, to navigate, and in each book the mouse and the duck grow closer together.

One thing that stands out most in these books though, is that while travel can be fun, it is even more enjoyable when there is someone to share it with, even if that someone is a crazy, troublesome duck. I can’t wait to see what these to do when they get to Rome.

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Filed under Adventure, Children's Picture Books, Friends, Geography, I Can Read/Young Chapter Books, Nature/Animals, People & Places, Transportation, Travel

Stella: Queen of the Snow

by Marie-Louise Gay

Published by Groundwood Books

Copyright © 2000

“Sam had never seen snow. This was his first snowstorm.” And so the tale of Sam and Stella begins.

Stella introduces Sam to the fun that can be had during a cold snow winter. You can make a snowman, go ice skating, build forts, have snowball fights, sled down hills, and make snow angels in the winter. Sam has questions, as most children do including: “Is the snow cold? What does a snowman eat? Why is fog coming out of my mouth?” Stella lives up to the book’s title “Queen of the Snow” because she answers all of his questions and seems to have such a handle on winter fun.

Marie-Louise Gay has written a light hearted, funny, and slightly whimsical tale about a boy’s first snow storm and an enthusiastic, and obviously more mature, little red-headed girl who teaches him how to enjoy it. Told mainly in the form of dialogue between the two main characters, this story very simply contrasts the magical imagination of the young with what is reality. Gay’s illustrations add to the light and whimsical feel with her thin lines and contrasts of Pale and vivid colors. I really love her little round snowflakes and how she draws the winter wind with wispy white lines. Her illustrations help this story along so much.

This is a great book to read to children ages 2 and up. It reminded me of some of the things that I love about winter that I haven’t done in a long time. If you are going to take advice on winter fun it should be from someone who knows a little about it like a Canadian. Marie-Louise Gay fits that bill for sure, and she has just inspired me to get back outside this winter to go sledding and make a snowman.

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Filed under Children's Picture Books, Friends, Nature/Animals, Seasonal

Rainstorm

By Barbara Lehman

Published by Houghton Mifflin Company

Copyright © 2007

It is ever so dreadful outside. The rain is coming down in buckets and it shows no signs of letting up. There is no one home and a young boy is very bored. How shall he keep himself busy and entertained? “Rainstorm” is a wordless book that tells in pictures just how nice it is to have friends.

The Illustrations in this book are simple with distinct bold lines and great use of color. While the main theme of this book is friendship, I think the illustrations go deeper than that. The main character lives in a big house, has nice clothes, and lots of expensive things but he lives by himself. The new children he meets have more modest homes and possessions but they have each other. It shows that it is nice to have friends, but it takes it one step further inferring that riches don’t make you happy but friends can.

This is a great book for children 4 and up. It can be enjoyed for its simplicity, and it can be used to help children learn what is more important in life.

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Filed under Children's Picture Books, Friends