Marigold Bakes a Cake by Mike Malbrough
This picture book is a laugh-out-loud delight. Marigold the cat is a finicky perfectionist who loves to bake. Mondays are his days for baking and he can’t tolerate any interruptions while he is perfecting his culinary creations. But this Monday, he keeps getting interrupted by birds coming through the window – first a finch, then a pair of pigeons, then a trio of loons. With little patience, Marigold shoos the birds away, getting a bit more undone each time, until he loses his temper with the loons and a madcap chase around the kitchen ensues, resulting in a total mess and his cake in ruins. He decides to go for a walk to cool down. While he is out, the enthusiastic birds do their best to bake a cake. The results are less than stellar, but a calmed-down Marigold appreciates the effort and the chef in him is challenged to teach the birds how to bake. In the comic ending, his efforts are a total failure, but the birds sure had fun!
The text is filled with colorful language, including fun alliteration, rhymes at each new interruption, and clever use of adjectives and adverbs, and the action-packed watercolor illustrations full of humorous details add to the fun and zaniness of the text. I liked that there wasn’t a perfect ending with the birds learning how to bake from the master chef – sometimes in real life things don’t work out and this lesson is taught in a very funny way.
Bruce’s Big Move by Ryan T. Higgins
The third book in the delightful and hilarious Mother Bruce series. In the two previous titles, a grumpy bear named Bruce ends up the adoptive parent of a group of goslings who mistake him for their mother. They are now living together as a family, with a group of mice also making themselves at home in Bruce’s den, much to his annoyance. Try as he might, the mice will not leave. Bruce finally can’t take it anymore and packs up the geese and moves. But the geese miss their mice friends and are listless. In the end, the mice show up in a moving van and normalcy (with all its chaos and noise for Bruce) is restored. With bold, detailed illustrations that add to the hilarity. I love these books – they are so funny and also sweet and touching, as Bruce is a wonderful provider in spite of his curmudgeonly ways and they make a lovely if unconventional family.
I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
This is a sweet picture book that consists of a collection of wishes for a child, rather than telling a story. Each two-page spread is one wish, with charming illustrations expressing the wish. The book opens with an illustration of two children flying a kite across a green field, with the wish: “I wish you more ups than downs.” Several more wishes follow, and the book closes with the lovely declaration: “I wish all of this for you, because you are everything I could wish for… and more.”
The wishes can be understood by children with the help of the illustrations, but also have deeper meaning for adults that children may not comprehend, which gives the book added depth and emotion for the adult reader. For example, a child may take the wish accompanied by the illustration of the kite as just a wish that the kite flies, but adults understand it also wishes for a life with more happiness than sorrow. A wish accompanied by an illustration of a girl watching a caterpillar on a sidewalk reads, “I wish you more pause than fast-forward.” A child may not understand this, but I take it to mean a life with time to savor all the wonderful moments, instead of being rushed. The child can still appreciate the wonder of the caterpillar and understand sometimes going slow rather than fast. A beautiful celebration of love between children and parents or other loving adults in their lives that adults can also appreciate.
Thank You, Bees by Toni Yuly
A simple picture book for very young readers about appreciating nature’s gifts. On each spread, there is a simple statement, i.e. “Clouds give us rain” and then a reply, “Thank you, clouds.” The illustrations show a child enjoying the gifts of nature – wearing a hat made of wool from a sheep, eating honey produced by a bee, and so on, ending with “Earth gives us our home. Thank you, Earth.”
With global climate change, human expansion, and industrial agriculture endangering plant and animal life on a massive scale, it is more important than ever to educate our children about saving our earth. This simple picture book can help teach gratitude for nature to the youngest child.
On the Night of the Shooting Star by Amy Hest and illustrated by Jenni Desmond
Two solitary animals, a bunny and a dog, live next door to each other. Both are content in their quiet lives, but occasionally they steal glances at one another. They don’t speak to each other, though. Until a night when they both witness the magic of a shooting star. This event gives them courage to reach out to one another and they become friends.
This is a warm, gentle, reflective book about the value of friendship. The sweet illustrations depict fun details of each animal’s life, showing the reader the interiors of their houses as well as the beautiful lake on whose shore they live and the sky. Bunny and Dog’s expressions are pleasant and show the joy they take in their lives, enriched further by their new-found friendship.
Remembering Vera by Patricia Polacco
A true story about a remarkable dog who was an honorary member of the U.S. Coast Guard and saved numerous lives. As a homeless puppy, Vera was rescued by a member of the Coast Guard in San Francisco. At first, she was kept hidden from the commander, but when she helped rescue some civilians from a sinking sailboat, the commander took a liking to Vera and she began to spend her days in his office and even go on vacation with his family. She also assisted on more rescue missions. Vera became well-known in the area, with newspaper articles written about her and features on the local news. After a courageous rescue involving a capsized ferry in which she saved several passengers who were trapped, Vera was retired from active service as a result of injuries she suffered during the rescue, including damage to her leg muscles. She was awarded a medal for her actions and made an honorary member of the Coast Guard. She spent the rest of her life on the base and was buried there with a full military honor guard after passing of old age. The author actually met Vera twice – once while touring the base and again at the end of Vera’s life in 1967 when Polacco was a volunteer at an animal hospital and attended Vera’s burial. Years later, Polacco visited the base again and found Vera’s grave – a photo of which appears at the end of the book. A wonderful tribute to a brave dog.
The book has a lot of text, so it is not appropriate for toddlers and pre-schoolers, but older children. It includes charming illustrations in colored pencils and markers. One thing I didn’t like about the book was the fact that Vera had puppies every year most of her life. This is a true story and took place in the 1950s and 60s, but with millions of homeless dogs in this country being killed in shelters, people need to spay and neuter their dogs and should not allow them to have puppies. I would discuss this with children if I were reading the book with them.
The Jelly Bean Tree by Toni Yuly
This is a simple, cute story for toddlers and preschoolers about a blue giraffe named Jelly Bean. After taking a nap among the trees, Jelly Bean awakens to find that a bird has built a nest and laid eggs on top of her head! The generous and kind-hearted giraffe acts as a tree, standing patiently in the same spot until the eggs hatch. In the meantime, her friends tend to Jelly Bean, bringing her food to eat and flowers to brighten her days. Jelly Bean does such a good job being a tree that when the baby birds hatch and are moved to a real tree, they prefer Jelly Bean’s head! A sweet story of friendship and caring.