A good potential resource for upper-elementary classroom discussions about motivation, social responsibility, and ethics.

PETER & THE COAL CHRISTMAS

Peter has a very good reason for behaving very badly in this workbooklike children’s tale by debut author Brooke and illustrator Soldano (Path of the Outlaws, 2016, etc.).

The story is set in Russia but with no particularly Russian details in either the illustrations or rhyming text. It opens in a town where kids love to play all day long and where everyone is merry: “Even the strange kid who looked like a cherry.” (At first glance, Soldano’s character design doesn’t seem particularly cherrylike, but a second look may have readers giggling over the child’s bald head and stemlike hair.) Christmas is coming, and everyone has a lot to do to prepare; most of the kids try to be extra good so they can reap Santa-given rewards. But there’s one who doesn’t do the right things; he’s “a spitter, a kicker, and a beater” named Peter, who’s aptly punching a wobbly-looking snowman in an illustration, sending its nose flying. After portraying Peter as a seemingly irredeemable fellow, due to exploits that include arson, Brooke promises that the boy’s doing it all for a good reason: he’s trying to help his poor family, who can’t afford firewood. Peter’s dad is a lumberjack, but he’s not physically cut out for the job, and his mother works as a poorly paid maid. That leaves Peter to earn much-needed coal in his stocking through misbehavior: “For Peter knew that toys and candy could be sacrificed / If it meant that his family would not turn to ice.” Although the text includes plenty of throwaway nonsense to create rhymes, including strange hats and a kid with pimples, it also provides a truly compelling examination of the ethics of doing the wrong things for the right reasons. The questions in the back of the book should get kids talking about Peter’s actions as well as about taking care of others in one’s community. Soldano’s whimsical illustrations, featuring large-headed characters and oddly proportioned yaks, belie the serious quandary in the text, but they suit the far-reaching rhymes.

A good potential resource for upper-elementary classroom discussions about motivation, social responsibility, and ethics.

Pub Date: June 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62901-340-4

Page Count: -

Publisher: Inkwater Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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