Character Development

Book Reviews - Books for Building Your Library

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This week we share book titles by authors who developed the characters by juxtaposing them with other characters. Use these texts to explore with your students character development and/or relationships.

A Friend

"I'd like a friend who..." So begins this idea log about the qualities we desire in our friends. Anette Bley depicts the many faces of friendship using a creamy color palette flowing with crimson, chartreuse, lime, and sunny-side-up yellow.

Each page features bright panels with well crafted descriptions that are both thought-provoking and playful. I just love the way the words perfectly convey the ideas about friendship from the perspective of a child. "I'd like someone who is there when I need help as well as one who doesn't try to help when I want to do things on my own."

Joyous, sad, and fanciful occasions are highlighted throughout the text. Make room on your bookshelf because this is perfect for circle time, one-on-one reading, writing prompts, or just picture-walking through the pages.

Click here to view this book in Amazon +
Click here to view this book in Amazon +

The Alphabet Tree

This classic by Leo Lionni cleverly illustrates the balance between managing the code of letters and then making sure that those letters say something "important." For children who are both learning how the print system works and considering the messages they want to communicate, this book offers a lovely opportunity to consider the parallel challenges of reading and writing. In the story, the letters first gather in random clusters, until a friend suggests they should organize themselves into words, and even sentences. Finally, an insightful onlooker lets them know that it isn't enough to just say something; they must say something "important." Read this book to show your students why we write in the first place.

Forever Friends

As the seasons change one thing remains, the beautiful bond of a friendship formed between a small blue bird and a gentle rabbit. The two romp through nature's playground enjoying the fragrant fields and lush forest. They sample the fruit and cavort with the elements from season to season. You won't want to put this book down! Carin Berger's design and writing is simply extraordinary. She uses a menagerie of textures and a burst of soothing colors in her cut-paper collage renderings. Each illustration is elegant and poised, flowing with the poetic text like a fresh breeze.

Click here to view this book in Amazon +
Click here to view this book in Amazon +

Horace & Morris but Mostly Delores

Horace and Morris and Delores are "the greatest of friends, the truest of friends, the now-and-forever-I'm-yours sort of friends," so when Horace and Morris join an all-boys club, Delores responds by signing up with the Cheese Puffs. To her dismay, the girls are engaged in lackluster gender-specific activities. Delores is leader who is bold and clever. She drops out of the Cheese Puffs and creates a new club without the gender specifications.

Horace, Morris, and Delores are joined by new friends Chloris and Boris and together they engage in adventurous and winsome play that proves that making distinctions based on pink and blue curtail the opportunities for creativity and fun. They learn that boys and girls can and should have rich friendships. Fun is fun and reading about James Howe's Horace, Morris and Delores is exactly that. The rhyming word play and vibrant illustrations are a treat and pack lots of pizazz. Kids can revisit this crew in the equally enjoyable book about friendship.

Melrose and Croc Friends for Life

Have you ever had a friend who knew exactly what to say and when to say it? They know how to make you laugh out loud and remind you of your strengths and your weakness. Well, that's just the kind of friendship Melrose and his best buddy, Crocodile, have. Throughout this day-in-the-life snapshot, Melrose and Croc cheerfully complement each other and bare the not-so-wonderful truths about each other in loving exchanges. The sprightly images of the two chatting and wasting the day away warms your heart and taps into the simple but deep and unexplainable connections that define friendship. Page after page, Emma Clark's images are like rays of sunshine tickling your toes. Kids will delight in sharing stories about the characteristics they value in their friends.

Click here to view this book in Amazon +
Click here to view this book in Amazon +

The Other Side

"Someday somebody's going to come along and knock this old fence down." Friendship has no color, and Clover and Annie two girls, one black and one white, living during segregation who know that the physical and metaphorical fence that separates blacks and whites is simply not right.

After a summer of watching each other over the fence, they decide that they can play together on The Other Side of the fence. Woodson pens a masterpiece that aptly introduces the complexity of segregation through the eyes of children whose wisdom and wit demonstrate the power and promise for a future of a society that sees beyond the barrier of race. E.B Lewis' watercolor images are rich and realistic and capture the essence of the sensitivity, wonderment, and the spirit of the young girls. This collaboration between Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis is an exceptional testament to art and story.

City Dog, Country Frog

Don't you love it when an author can truly make the characters in a book come to life? That's what happens in this magnificent collaboration between extraordinary literary talents Mo Willems and Jon Muth. When City Dog and Country Frog meet by chance, they ramble and romp through the seasons.

There is so much to love about this book, but this is my favorite part: As the two sit, they reminisce about the fun and frenzied games they played in the past. We all like to play "remembering games" with our friends and you can't help but smile as the unlikely pair engages in this common ritual of friendship. Children will certainly enjoy this gem featuring Jon Muth's illusory visual scapes that express the emotional sentiment of Mo Willem's writing. It will certainly spur rich conversations and memories about favorite pastimes with friends, and the unique lessons that we've learned from them.

Click here to view this book in Amazon +
Click here to view this book in Amazon +

Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom

When you open this book be prepared to be wowed. Jeanne Bridges creates stirring acrylic images that take your breath away. This is the story of Martha Tom, a young Choctaw girl who discovers a friend in an unlikely place. As Martha Tom is looking for blackberries she meets Little Moe, a slave who lives on a plantation across the river. When Little Moe's family is threatened with the possibility of his mother being sold, Martha Tom and members of her Choctaw community share the secret path they created across the river which leads Little Mo and his family to freedom. This story is full of powerful visual and textual elements. Tim Tingle pens an immensely powerful story using the cadence of oral storytelling to illuminate this amazing fictionalized narrative that exemplifies the spirit of friendship through faith, support, and guidance.

Sandwich Swap

Opposites attract. It's true. Take Lily and Salma for example, they have different taste and they are still great friends. That is not to say that their differences don't sometimes get in the way. And boy does their disagreement get out of hand. A food fight ensues after Lily deems Salma's hummus and pita sandwich "yucky." Mind you, she makes this determination even though she hasn't tried the sandwich. But once she does, just like green eggs and ham, she's pleasantly surprised.

The rift between the girls mimics the real-life problems that occur between friends in grade school, and the hurtful words and intolerance serve as important talking points for circle times in classroom settings. This book is a lesson from a real Queen (Queen Rania of Jordan, no less) and it is valuable. Tricia Tusa creates humorous mixed media images that provide a fresh perspective and add a warmth and gentle air to this unique tale about friendship and food.

Click here to view this book in Amazon +
Click here to view this book in Amazon +

My Friends

"I learned to sing from my friends the birds/I learned to read from my friends the books." The text and images in this book are oh so simple and oh so amazing. Taro Gomi creates illustrations using bold splashes of color and sharp graphic design elements that celebrate the joy of learning from our friends. The illustrations are cheery and each page is drenched in color. The simple narrative is featured in both Spanish and English, an added kudo, and in the spirit of sharing and learning conveyed in the book, teachers might want to invite Spanish-speaking students to teach their English-speaking friends how to read the text in Spanish!