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  • Children's book reviews by Jennifer Sykes

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Perfectly Percy by Paul Schmid

 

perfectlypercyIf you were a very prickly porcupine whose favorite thing in the whole world was a balloon, I’d tell you that you were not setting yourself up for happiness.  But in the delightful picture book Perfectly Percy, we find just such a situation… and a happy ending.

Percy loves balloons.  He’s also covered in sharp quills, and at the beginning of the story, a lovely blue balloon meets its demise.  Poor Percy.  But he’s not one to mope or give up.  He problem-solves, he seeks the wisdom of his older sister Pearl (featured in Schmid’s previous book, Hugs from Pearl), and he stays calm.  He finds a solution in an unlikely place, and all that persistence and patience pays off.

This is a very charming story that gives a great example of cause and effect.  Toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners can learn from Percy.  He doesn’t melt down or stomp when his favorite thing is ruined.  He doesn’t cry when he can’t figure out a way to enjoy his balloon.  He deals with his sadness in a constructive way, and he makes his own success.

The sweet and simple illustrations, also by Schmid, show this adorable porcupine, and his feelings and actions, in an accessible way.   A lighthearted and non-preachy tale about disappointment, frustration, and solving life’s little problems is a perfect read for young children who face these challenges several times a day.  Even if they don’t follow Percy’s lead, they’re sure to enjoy hearing about someone who feels the same way as they often do.

Swimming to the Moon by Jeff McMahon

moonPoetry is a form of literature that we often forget about, but it’s one of the most adaptable and enjoyable varieties to read with kids.  It’s also a form of reading that isn’t too intimidating to young readers — stanzas are less overwhelming that paragraphs.  And it inspires young writers in a way that doesn’t have to come with strict rules about punctuation and form.

So it was with great pleasure that I read Swimming to the Moon by Jeff McMahon.  He brings silliness and wit to poems about kid-familiar subjects like elevator rides, friendly dares, wearing clothes in funny ways, and playing outside.  These are poems that range from whimsical to slapstick goofy, and they are sure to delight a broad range of personalities.

The poems are full of rhyme — kids love rhyme — and are very fun to read aloud.  My daughter and I took turns reading to one another, and she quickly would dissolve into giggles. There are over 100 poems in this text, so there are plenty of turns to be had and plenty of silly  sessions to spread over many days.

The charming illustrations by Jessica Warrick offer great snapshots of some of the best moments in the poetry.  Swimming to the Moon is a bit like Shel Silverstein’s volumes of poetry, and it will offer pleasant re-readability for years to come in much the same ways.

While the sub-title of the book is A Collection of Rhymes Without Reason, I say there is definitely a reason for reading this book — it’s fun!  Your kids will broaden their literary horizons and giggle all the way through it.  I know my daughter has big plans to lie under a tree and read these poems in the summer sun… and maybe she’ll even be inspired to pick up a pen and write some of her own.

The Foodie Club by Dani Shear

foodieclubPicky eaters.  We all know some, and many of us have one (or two or three).  Parents bang their heads against the wall trying to help kids expand their food palates beyond “kid food.”  This fun, kid-friendly book by Dani Shear just might help.
We meet Syd, a big sister who will try anything you put in front of her.  And we meet little Sunny, who seems to be your typical shortstuff picky eater.  Mom is weary of the food fight, and she comes up with a plan to get Sunny interested in trying some new things.  Big sister helps out, and Sunny gets inspired to try something that would strike fear in the heart of many food-challenged kids — a big green smoothie full of kale, spinach, and dates. Gulp!

As intimidating as that sounds, Sunny gets brave and not only tries the smoothie, she likes it.  And she and Syd start a Foodie Club and even set up a green smoothie stand to sell the healthy treat to their friends and neighbors.   We’ll call that a success!

Shear uses rhyme to make the story interesting and enjoyable for kids, and the illustrations by Holly Weinstein are adorable.  This is a bright, fun book to look at and to read.  The book goes beyond a simple, charming story and helps establish some goals for picky eaters who might just be reading along.   Shear’s characters motivate kids to try new things, and the book includes a Foodie Club pledge and a cool sticker chart and instructions for earning Foodie Club badges.  Of course, the recipe for Syd & Sunny’s Green Shake is included, too.

The Foodie Club is a cool twist on using books to inspire children.  The story doesn’t end with Sunny trying something and liking it; these bonus pages of Foodie Club fun will give picky eaters something to think about… and hopefully taste!

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