Book Reviews - Books for Building Your Library

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In this issue, Team Literacyhead reviews titles that offer opportunities to explore mood with your students. From our feature book to an assortment of moody books, these titles will give you and your students something to think about.

Yesterday I Had the Blues

If you've ever had the blues, or the yellows, or the indigos, then this book is for you! Jeron Ashford Frame's colorful story is filled with metaphor and accompanied by the equally vivid art of R. Gregory Christie. This book uses different colors as metaphors for feelings, such as Frame's description of having the grays as "The don't ask for a new skateboard till tomorrow grays." This book is great as a mentor text, as an exploration of color, and as a prompt for discussions about feelings.

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Click here to view this book in Amazon +

Show Way

One of few picture books awarded the Newbery Honor Book designation, this book written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Hudson Talbott certainly stands out among picture books. The story offers layers of complexity, combining flashbacks and flash-forwards to move across history from slavery on a South Carolina plantation to present day. The story is the common thread connecting the women across generations in a family. With the poetic presentation of themes of family, freedom, civil rights, matriarchy, love, and hard work, you can read and reread Show Way and reach new understandings of its depth with each interaction with the text. We are grateful to Jacqueline Woodson and Hudson Talbott for giving the world Show Way.

My Many Colored Days

Illustrated by husband and wife team Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, this Dr. Seuss tale pairs moods with colors. In classic Seuss rhyme, the story's character describes the ways his mood changes from day to day. The child in the story transforms into a new animal for each day's emotion from a lively red horse to a melancholy purple dinosaur.

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Click here to view this book in Amazon +

Sometimes I'm Bombaloo

When self-proclaimed "really good kid" Katie Honors gets mad, her angry alter ego, Bombaloo, emerges. Bombaloo is erratic and would rather smash things or use her feet and fists instead of her words. Children will easily relate to Rachel Vail's tale about losing control of one's emotions when things go wrong. Yumi Heo's illustrations beautifully denote Katie's tumultuous moods through color. Readers emerge with the message that anger is a natural emotion that manifests itself differently in each person.

The Bad Mood

When Badger wakes up in a bad mood, he decides that his feelings should be noticed by others, so he ventures into the world to share his grouchiness with friends. Moritz Petz takes readers through Badger's miserable day as he manages to influence the moods of those he meets. Forest friends who were once jovial and kind become rude and silent after interactions with Badger. Petz's story shows how one's mood can easily shape the way others feel.

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Click here to view this book in Amazon +

The Three Questions

Using simple and eloquent text and elegant watercolor illustrations, Jon J Muth interprets a Tolstoy short story into a fable that will impact children and adults alike. Nikolai wants to know the answer to three questions to help him be a good person. He asks three good friends but is unsatisfied and hikes up high in the mountains to consult the old turtle. The simple and direct answers given to Nikolai are the basis for compassionate living and profound enough to be a child's first exposure to philosophical explorations.

The Wretched Stone

This adventure picture book is written in the form of a ship's log. Chris Van Allsburg uses beautiful, expressive images with bright colors to convey the mood of exciting anticipation of the musical and literate sailors. The captain of the Rita Anne tells the story of very unusual events after the crew discovers a stone on a mysterious, deserted island. The atmosphere vastly changes as the allegory unfolds: the men are terribly transformed into primates. The dramatic illustrations increase the suspenseful mood. Captain Hope saves the men by dumping the stone overboard and reading books aloud to restore their humanity. The dramatic paintings increase the suspenseful mood in this outlandish ocean story. While this could be read as a simple picture book, the true beauty of The Wretched Stone is in the symbolism of the glowing stone. The tale serves as a reminder that we can lose our humanity as we sink deeper into the electronic age.

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Click here to view this book in Amazon +

An Angel for Solomon Singer

Cynthia Rylant's story, An Angel for Solomon Singer, tells of a lonely man weighed down by hopelessness. The dreamy watercolors by Peter Catalanotto convey the cheerless, downhearted mood that envelopes Solomon Singer. Rylant uses a blend of imagination and reality to show us Singer consumed by loneliness, poverty, and a yearning for the things he misses from his Indiana childhood like fields, stars, and crickets. The tone of the book takes a hopeful turn when Singer stumbles upon a diner named Westway Cafe with a waiter named Angel. The symbolism of both names is not to be missed. The relationship Singer forms with the cafe and Angel is just the bit of connection Singer needs to grab onto some hope and a chance for happiness. By story's end, we see Singer has chosen to be happy and find remnants of his home state in his urban life.

The Longest Night

In the cold and dark of winter, the sun has left the animals longing for its warmth. The crow, the moose, and the fox all claim they have the particular skills necessary to lure, force, or even trick the sun into returning to the sky. In The Longest Night, Marion Dane Bauer offers a tightly woven story that is filled with internal balance and ends as it should. The animals all speak in compelling metaphor, boasting their might and wit. Illustrator Ted Lewin adeptly captures the frozen night, the mood of tension and anticipation, and the slow, ascending warmth that follows the call of a small bird.

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Click here to view this book in Amazon +

Where Giants Hide

Author Mij Kelly brings us a book-length metaphor illustrated by Ross Collins. Our petite narrator has been searching for giants, fairies, and mermaids, to no avail. From frog princes to unicorns, she laments her rising disbelief in anything magical. Just when she has given up faith in magic and resigned to a life that is dull and gray, she realizes that her imagination could create magic all along. She learns that there are giants in her head, and makes way for her own big ideas. The mood shifts from disappointment to enthusiasm as the narrator discovers her own power.