Renato loved his home in Florence, Italy.
He loved the people there. And the food there.
But he especially loved the art there.
It was everywhere.
This is how Barbara DiLorenzo begins her beautiful book, Renato and the Lion. Through beautiful watercolor images, DiLorenzo brings Florence, Italy to life. This gorgeous book sends us back to Florence during World War II, seen through the eyes of young Renato, who not only loves his homes, but especially loves the art work found throughout the magnificent city.
Renato’s father works at an art museum. As soldiers start to take over the city, men like Renato’s father encase famous sculptures in brick to protect them from damage. Renato’s favorite sculpture is a lion in the Piazza della Signoria who he desperately wants to protect. The lion weaves into Renato’s dreams and in the end, he does manage to help save the sculpture. Continue reading →
Every year as the winter holidays roll around I’m always on the lookout for new Hanukkah books. We of course have our long-time favorites, but finding new books is always a great adventure. Since Hanukkah begins tonight at sundown, I wanted to finally get my collection up.
While not a new book, Stephanie Spinner’s It’s a Miracle! A Hanukkah Storybook, is new to us. We found this one at our school’s book fair and it is a great little gem. This book manages to tell a little bit about the story of Hanukkah while also showing how it really is about spending time with and appreciating your family. Young Owen is getting to light the Hanukkah candles himself for the first time. Each night, after the candles are lit, his grandmother tucks him into bed and tells him a story about someone in their family, without actually saying who the story is about. Owen is learning about family history while also spending quality time with his grandmother. The book ends with a simplified telling of the Hanukkah legend. This is a great book for younger elementary aged children to listen to around the holidays.
This year’s book from the PJ Library was Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale, by Gloria Koster. This super fun story takes the beloved story of Little Red Riding Hood and joins it with the story of Hanukkah. Little Ruthie is on the way to her grandmother’s house to make latkes when a wolf steps into her path. Ruthie couldn’t let on that she was scared, she needed to “be as brave as the Maccabees.” Smart girl convinces the wolf to let her be because she will be much more delicious after 8 days of latkes. But he still goes off to grandma’s house, though she is out. He occupies himself by putting on her clothing. When Ruthie gets there, she still manages to stall him by making him latkes and telling him the story of the Maccabees. Her resourcefulness saves both herself and her grandmother and listeners get a wonderful telling of the Hanukkah story. A super fun book and one that I plan to use when I go into classrooms to share Hanukkah! Continue reading →
Recently I was given the opportunity to review Leo’s Gift, by Susan Blackaby and Joellyn Cicciarelli, through the Kid Lit Exchange. The book moved me in a number of ways. I am a sucker for books about music, but also, since I freelance for OutreachNC, a magazine that often covers topics about caring for those with dementia and other memory issues, a book that illustrates how “music carves a memory” is something I feel strongly about.
There are so many pieces to this wonderful book! First off, the illustrations, by Carrie Schuler, are top notch. She captures so many emotions and concepts beautifully and it all feels so fresh. The story itself touches on a variety of topics from finding your passion to sharing your personal gifts with others. Young Leo doesn’t know what his gift is, but all children are encouraged to figure out their own special talents through this moving story.
The story itself starts with Meredith practicing piano and complaining about it. But her music touches her young brother, Leo, and Meredith manages to teach Leo some basics only to discover that Leo has a natural gift for the piano. Meredith’s true passion is basketball, and while she stays late to practice with the team, Leo finds the music room and his own time to practice. Continue reading →
Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the free review copy of his book – all opinions are my own.
I had so much fun reading this book and would find myself finding ways to sneak in a chapter here and there. Quite impressive for a debut novel, but it is obvious that Jake Burt knows his audience well (he teaches 5th grade). Totally not surprising that the book is already a BEA Editor’s Buzz Pick for 2017!
Nicki Demere is a foster kid who happens to also be a kleptomaniac. After getting sent back from her most recent family, she finds that while her background of crime hasn’t helped her win over families, the US Marshalls might have a need for her to help hide a family of 3 by making them a family of 4. Continue reading →
Every fall, Jews around the world come together to celebrate Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, also known as the High Holidays. Five days after Yom Kippur is over, another holiday starts again, this time, it is the wonderful holiday of Sukkot.
Sukkot celebrates the fall harvest and the exodus from Egypt. Many families build their own sukkahs or have one at their synagogue. A sukkah is a temporary hut topped with branches and decorated with autumnal, harvest, or Judaic themes. One mitzvah of sukkot is to share a meal in the sukkah. Another is to shake a lulav and etrog and rejoice before God. The lulav is actually made up of branches from palm (lulav), willow (aravot), and myrtle (hadassim) trees and the etrog is a citron fruit. The four items are meant to represent the various personalities that make up the community of Israel, whose intrinsic unity is emphasized on Sukkot. More than anything, sukkot is a holiday of coming together.
Since Sukkot is a holiday of community, it is a great time to come together and read a book to understand the many meanings of the holiday. Continue reading →
Sibling love. Or rather, that constant scream a parent hears through the house – “Mommmmm!” If you have more than one child, there are bound to be times when you hear your children screaming at each other, unable to get along for one reason or another. Louis Thomas offers a great idea in his new book, Hug it Out.
Happy 4th of July! My family just finished walking in our local parade and it was fun to wave at everyone and wish people a happy 4th of July. We are such a rich, diverse country and this is a great time to celebrate that fact. So given that today is the day that we celebrate America, I give you the really wonderful book I Love You Americanly, by Lynn Parrish Sutton and illustrated by Melanie Hope Greenberg.
I Love You Americanly is a tribute to the United States as well as a love story between parent and child. As Lynn Parrish Sutton explains, “It is a declaration of love for family and country that includes America’s geographical wonders, cities and monuments, as well as its founding ideals and quintessential experiences.” Continue reading →
We all feel a little different from others from time to time. Sara O’Leary’s sweet book, A Family is a Family is a Family, gently reminds us all that no matter what our differences, we are all the same in the one way that matters most – there are people around us who we love and who love us.
The book starts from the voice of an unknown child who wanted to go last when her teacher asked the class to share what makes their family special. This child wanted to go last because they weren’t sure what to say – “My family is not like everybody else’s.” But what does that mean? What makes this child think that her family is so different?
The rest of the book features a different family on each spread. No two families are exactly alike which also allows each child reading it to see a family that might be similar to theirs. We talk about how important it is for kids to see themselves represented in books, and this story aims to include as many as possible. There are a variety of races, families with gay and lesbian parents, adoptive families, step-families, and everything in between. Continue reading →
Many cultures have notions of who can do certain jobs. There is a long-standing history of women being expected to be housewives and caretakers. We have seen, however, that many men excel in that role and there have been times when women excel in historically male dominated professions.
In Alma Fullerton’s new book, Hand over Hand, we are told a simple story of a young girl who wants to fish with her grandfather, but who is repeatedly told that a fishing boat is no place for a girl. Continue reading →
There is a special place in my heart for books that champion the relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild. There is much to be learned by having a special bond between generations. The relationship between parent and child can be difficult at times, and often the grandparent is able to have a very special relationship because they don’t have to be the disciplinarian. In this The Not-So-Faraway Adventure, by Andrew Larsen and Irene Luxbacher, children get a glimpse of the relationship between a grandfather and granddaughter, as well as the joys of exploration and adventure.
Young Theodora loves looking through her Poppa’s old trunk full of mementos from his past adventures. Whenever she looked in it, she would find something interesting and it inspired her to explore the world as well. As her grandfather’s birthday approaches, she ponders what she could get him. In talking, she realizes that going on an adventure with him and having a special birthday meal would be the best way to celebrate.
The two plan out a path, take public transportation, and make it to the beach. “Theo felt like she was stepping into one of Poppa’s postcards.”
Together they explore the beach finding treasures and taking pictures. Then they enjoy lunch at a restaurant sharing new treats. On their way home, Poppa explains that his favorite part of taking an adventure has always been coming back home. This time, there is a party waiting for him. Theo puts memories from their not-so-faraway adventure into Poppa’s trunk so he can always remember them, and so can she.
This very sweet story encourages young children to explore the world around them and to treasure the history and stories of their family members. In the overly commercial world that we live in, we often forget that the best gifts can simply be the gift of spending time together and making memories. It was also a nice added touch to see a wide array of cultures portrayed in the pictures as they went on their adventure.