Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Friends and Family

When readers connect books to their own lives it deepens understanding.  Young readers enjoy stories with friends and family, little adventures and discoveries, and daily life.  Children might even like it better when there is just a little bit of magic and make believe gluing together all the friends, adventures, and daily life.  For preschoolers reading books about childhood troubles may help teach about problem solving, expressing one’s self, and being a good friend.  These are important lessons and great for opening discussion with children.  Here are two books that offer such discussion starters for ages 3 to 8.

Monty and Milli, The Totally Amazing Magic Trick by Tracy Corderoy and Tim Warnes is a picture book about a brother and sister mouse.  Monty is the older brother who is into space, dinosaurs, artwork, and reading.  Milli is the younger sister who is annoyingly into pretty much anything that Monty likes.  Monty seems like a pretty patient mouse until it’s time for his birthday and he gets a totally amazing magic set.  The magic set is clearly for big kids only and Milli doesn’t take this well. 

The book is cute and the story is very believable for siblings.  I appreciated that the story showed the sibling both getting along and having problems.  The illustrations were very colorful with a bit of sparkle on some of the pages.  (I know some people are anti-sparkle in books but this was done in moderation and added to the magic.)  The scenes showing the mice’s home is really adorable, I even spotted a Lego-mini head in one of the illustrations.   (I like hidden Easter eggs like this for older readers.)

I think both younger and older siblings would really be able to relate to the story in this book.  If you have a young one who is into magic, there are a lot of little bits of magic throughout the book that they would enjoy too.   Recommended for ages 3 to 8, read alouds, big siblings, little siblings, and children who have an interest in magic.

Flabbersmashed about You by Rachel Vail, illustrated by Yumi Heo  is part of a series of books about Katie Honors.  Katie is a sweet and sensitive little girl (maybe preschool or kindergarten aged).  She has a best friend but feels betrayed when her friend chooses to play with (gasp!) a boy at recess time.  *spoilers* Katie feels very hurt and wants to yell at her friend.  Instead Katie blurts out that she feels flabersmashed!  She also unfortunately karate chops the friends hands apart in anger.  Another friend, a shy quiet girl comes and takes Katie’s hand dissipating the situation.

While I do appreciate giving children a chance to express their emotions, I was frustrated at how the author chose to deal with the problem.  Research supports that emotionally, children benefit from having an emotional vocabulary to express themselves.  We also didn’t see Katie making good decisions, coming up with solutions, or thinking about others.  These are all important steps in teaching students how to deal with problems.   Overall the book also lacked diversity even though an entire classroom full of students is shown.  I would check this one out at the library, but it doesn’t seem essential for a school or personal collection.

How about you?  Have you read any good books picture books about Family or Friends lately?  Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments section below. 

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