A young elephant bullied for his congenital abnormality faces an ethical dilemma about rescuing his tormentor in this children’s picture book.
When Kofi, an elephant, is born, he has a knot in his trunk that makes ordinary tasks, such as drinking or trumpeting, difficult. Other elephants tease him, especially mean Big Ebo. Kofi’s parents take him to see “a special doctor” for an operation. Afterward, his trunk has a curl in it, but it works. One day, during rainy season, he sees Big Ebo stuck in the swirling river, and Kofi decides to pull him out. As Kofi later tells his grandchildren, “that’s when I knew: I was going to be all right.” A guide for parents and teachers is included. Patz (co-author, with Susan L. Roth: Babies Can’t Eat Kimchi!, 2007, etc.) and debut co-author Sheer, an orthodontist who volunteers with Operation Smile to fix cleft palates and similar problems, present the challenges of physical difference in an understandable way for kids. They acknowledge the hardships but also show supportive parents. Kofi’s trunk realistically looks odd post-surgery, but the focus on how well it now functions is helpful. Perhaps Kofi shouldn’t have to prove he’s a hero to feel good about himself, but the book’s message that life goes on is encouraging. Patz’s lovely watercolor-and-pencil illustrations are wonderfully expressive.
Beautiful, useful, and compassionate.
An excited Korean-American girl seems a bit disenchanted with her new baby sister until she imagines the fun she’s going to have as a big sister. Right now, the baby may be very good at making a lot of noise, but she’s not much of a playmate. She’s just too little to eat things like spicy Korean kimchee or spaghetti or popcorn. She can’t ballet dance, or play dress-up or paint with colors. What good is she? But when the baby gets bigger, the possibilities are endless. The big sister visualizes how someday she’ll be able to teach her little sister to dance and sing and lick an ice cream cone. She fantasizes swinging with her little sister, reading funny stories with her and even eating kimchee together. Now all the big sister has to do is to wait. Bold and brilliant collage, ink and pastel illustrations expressively capture the big sister’s emerging attachment for her little sister. Perfect for families introducing new babies to older siblings. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)
A hat viewed in the Jewish Museum sets off a string of questions about its owner by a narrator of indeterminate age. What was the woman like who wore the hat? “Did she put cream in her coffee?” “When the woman put on her hat, did she tip the brim just slightly?” These questions give way to more urgent ones: “I wonder if she wore it the day she left home the last time, that cold, cold day in Amsterdam—that cold cruel day in Amsterdam when the Jews were herded together and arrested in the Square.” Using the vehicle of the hat, the reader is made to realize both the particular, i.e. the characteristics of the individual who owned the hat and who perished, and the randomness of being singled out for death in a catastrophe such as the Holocaust. Although the vocabulary and spare text imply a very young reader, the events referred to presume some knowledge of the Holocaust, raising the issue of intended audience. Without some prior knowledge, the story would seem extremely abstract. Some of Platz’s drawings incorporate old photographs, bringing into sharp focus the human face of tragedy. An author’s note explains the origins of the story in a trip to the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam and the intention of the author in using photographs. An abbreviated chronology of the Holocaust is also appended, as if to provide the background needed to make sense of the text. A fine picture book to spark discussion among older readers. (Picture book. 10+)
In her introduction, Drucker (Grandma's Latkes, 1992, etc.) explains that Jewish tradition is made special by sharing stories, playing games, and singing songs. All of these help bring joy and understanding to holiday celebrations. To this end, Drucker has written and compiled this collection of stories, poems, activities, songs, and explanations for all the holidays in the Jewish calendar. It's a good idea, but Drucker doesn't pull it off as well as she might have. Some of the stories are not adapted well, like I.L. Peretz's Hasidic tale ``Maybe Even Higher.'' Others are precious. Barbara Cohen's classic ``The Carp in the Bathtub'' is wonderful here but still better in the original picture book. The activities are generally fun, though not particularly inventive, and Drucker's explanations are informative but dull. Holiday traditions are important, but prepackaged ones will never replace those created and discovered by families with love. (Religion. All ages)
The title characters, first seen hibernating--deliciously ensconced under comforters in a large double bed--are out of sync. First he gets up, rustles around, and insists that it's spring--although snow still covers the view from the window. Undaunted, he spring-cleans, plays his cello, bakes, and finally falls asleep again, just as the first robins finally arrive outdoors, and just as Sarah finally rolls out of bed. Never mind; she tiptoes around till he wakes again so that they can go out into the blooming world together. Patz uses frames for the visual component of her story, and these ebullient, roly-poly bears burst out of them with infectious enthusiasm; their vigor and affection are endearing, their foolish plight satisfyingly comic. Just the thing to rouse a class from a February doldrum.