Rummanah Aasi
  This round of picture books are either Caldecott winners or honorees. The Caldecott award is given to the best picture books for young readers. This year's Caldecott winner and honorees will be announced by the American Library Association on January 28th, 2014.

Description: Amos McGee, a friendly zookeeper, always made time to visit his good friends: the elephant, the tortoise, the penguin, the rhinoceros, and the owl. But one day - "Ah-choo!" - he woke up with the sniffles and the sneezes. Though he didn't make it into the zoo that day, he did receive some unexpected guests.

Review: A sweet heartwarming tale of friendship, A Sick Day for Amos McGee does require a bit of suspension of disbelief when it comes to the activities and the behavior of the animals, but the relationship between the friendly and beloved zookeeper and the animals surpass even the most cynical adult. Like the story, the pictures are quiet and the illustrations are composed of pencil and woodblock color prints, are both tender and hilarious. Each scene captures the drama of Amos and the creatures caring for each other, whether the elephant is contemplating his chess moves, his huge behind perched on a stool; or the rhinoceros is lending Amos a handkerchief; or the owl is reading them all a bedtime story. A Sick Day of Amos McGee is a great story for those looking for a pet-bonding theme as well as animal lovers. It is a good story to snuggle up to on a cold, wintry night.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades PreK to Grade 1.

If you like this book try: If a Beaver Had a Fever by Helen Ketteman, Farm Flu by Teresa Bateman

Description: In his characteristic heartwarming style, Patrick McDonnell tells the story of the young Jane Goodall and her special childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. As the young Jane observes the natural world around her with wonder, she dreams of "a life living with and helping all animals," until one day she finds that her dream has come true.

Review: Me...Jane is a great introduction to biographies for younger readers. In a just a few pages, this picture book is rich in information on the account of the childhood of Jane Goodall, the famous animal behavior scientist. Those familiar with Patrick McDonnell's Mutts comic strip (one of my favorites) will recognize its ink and watercolor sketches in his popular style. Jane's passion for science, particularly studying animal is clearly shown as she hides for hours in the hen house to observe egg-laying, a practice which anticipates her long vigils watching and recording chimpanzees in the Tanzanian game reserve. There are pages of animal puzzles drawn by a youthful Jane and photographs of her as a child and as a grownup.This account shows how her childhood dream of helping animals in Africa became a reality. The engaging narrative ends with an inspiring message from Dr. Goodall saying that "each one of us makes a difference in the world." On the last few pages of the book includes a page of information about Goodall for adults. Young readers interested working or taking care of animals would thoroughly enjoy this picture book.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Grades K to Grades 3

If you like this book try: The Amazon by Jane Bingham

Description: Grandpa Green wasn't always a gardener. He was a farm boy and a kid with chickenpox and a soldier and, most of all, an artist. In this captivating new picture book, readers follow Grandpa Green's great-grandson into a garden he created, a fantastic world where memories are handed down in the fanciful shapes of topiary trees and imagination recreates things forgotten.

Review: The concept behind Grandpa Green is not new, but Smith pulls it off flawlessly. Smith uses the conceit of a garden as a metaphor for lock-box of memories. The story begins with an elderly unnamed person, however, readers see a fairly modern-looking boy tending to an increasingly impressive topiary garden featuring creations sculpted to visualize each stage of the person’s life. The garden morphs seamlessly with the text, never missing a beat. For example, when the unnamed boy has chicken pox, they are represented by berries across a humanlike shrub’s face. Going off to war is visualized by a cannon-shaped shrub with branches shooting from its muzzle. What I loved most about the illustrations is that though they are creative and clever, they are also very poignant—especially after it is revealed that the boy is the great-great-grandson of the old man whose life is being described, and whose failing memories are contained in this garden. I was really impressed that this story was only told in a four-page fold-out spread. Though the very young readers may not understand the overarching theme in Grandpa Green, I really think this is the perfect book to help kids understand old age.

Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades K- Grade 2.

If you like this book try: My garden by Kevin Henkes, And then it's spring by Julie Fogliano,
8 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Grandpa Green sounds AMAZING Rummanah! And if that cover illustration is anything to go buy, I'm sure it's an absolutely beautifully illustrated book. Love that the illustrations are pretty, but also poignant once looked at in the context of the story itself. Definitely going to recommend this one to my brother for his girls!

  2. Oh these sound perfect! I've been looking for some young reads to recommend. Thanks!

  3. Thank you for taking the time to review this picture books. I am headed to the library next week with my five year old and three year old and I will be looking up these books!

  4. Anonymous Says:

    I love Lane Green, and I didn't even know about Grandpa Green until now! This sounds like a wonderful story with impressive visuals. Thanks for reviewing and sharing these! I can't wait to see which books will be honored this year.

  5. Candace Says:

    Grandpa Green definitely sounds appealing to me but they all look adorable!

  6. I bought a Sick Day for Amos McGee for a niece for Xmas. Even though it's a classic, I'd never read it before. It was surprisingly cute and timeless I thought.

  7. I love the idea of the animals in the zoo taking care of the zoo keeper in A Sick Day For Amos McGee. I think it's such a sweet idea and a great way to show compassion.
    And I love the Jane Goodall book. She has always been fascinating to me and there is a severe lack of biographical books for younger readers. I am happy to see her story there and I hope that there will be more about other great women.

  8. Hmm, that sounds like a hard book to read. I think I probably would have given up. But you do stick to the end on any book that you start. I'm glad you found something good to write about in this book, but I don't think you've convinced me to read it. It's a great review, despite the tough character.

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