Drops of Life, by Esko-Pekka Tiitinen, illustrated by Nikolai Tiitinen

May 23, 2012

Drops of Life“The strong give the weak the power to do more when the wind is behind them!”

This is a story cooperation, collaboration, and love of life on Earth.

The Book

This picture book is intended for children ages 5-8. It comes from Finland, adapted from a play created by Esko-Pekka Tiitinen for the Environment Online (ENO) Programme, which is a “global virtual school and network for sustainable development”. The play has been performed in over 70 different countries and publisher Cuento de Luz has made this picture book adaptation available in English and Spanish (titled Gotas de Vida).

The Story

A lonely owl reminisces about the seemingly care-free days of his youth. A dove, desperate to reach Africa, asks him for help. The two embark on a journey where they face death but are rescued by an unlikely new friend: a whale. From then on they reach a home different from what the dove remembers. What was once a dense forest is now desert. It is up to them, along with the sun, a gust of wind, and other animals from around the world, to plant the seed of life back into the desert. It is not easy and it takes a lot of help, including help from the humans.

This book is appealing for those who enjoy the theater arts and animal stories. It can also appeal to those who enjoy a good mystery. The story never clearly explains how the dove’s home got destroyed, nor why the owl is bogged down by the memories of his youth. Readers are free to fill in these empty spaces by looking for clues in the dialogue-rich narrative, where they can make connections between the desert landscape and humanity’s progress coupled with indifference for others and the environment. The book, however, never points a finger of blame. Instead, the focus is on how we can all cooperate and collaborate to bring back the rich forests to now sandy terrain.

The Art

Nikolai Tiitinen combines bright and vibrant colors with rich, earthy tones. The blended backgrounds emphasize the fantastic nature of the characters and plot. The illustrator pays careful attention to each animal’s face, casting them in brighter colors, which helps draw the eye to them and encourages the reader to acknowledge them and empathize with their plight.

What questions might you ask to get kids talking about the book?

  1. If you were the dove, would you have asked the owl for help? Why?
  2. Why do you think the whale’s brothers and sisters risked their lives to deliver a message?
  3. How does planting trees help everyone who lives on this planet?

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Ten Days and Nine Nights, by Yumi Heo

May 10, 2010

Rating: 5/5

A little girl marks a circle on the calendar. She has ten days and nine nights.

What is she waiting for?

Starting on May 1st, the reader accompanies the girl on her journey of ten days as she marks them off in the calendar. There are clues on every page as to what she could be waiting for so eagerly. Some of the things she does include saying goodbye to her mom at the airport; redecorating her room with her grandpa’s help; and practicing with a baby doll before, FINALLY, May 10 arrives, along with her mom and new sibling from Korea!

Yumi Heo’s story is a positive, heartwarming tale of adoption. It is written from the point of view of the little girl, which young readers can immediately relate with. The colorful, vivid illustrations emphasize the joy of family throughout the story. It’s a picture book you don’t want to miss.

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La bruja Maruja, by Ana Galan; Ill. Natalie Ponce Hornos

May 4, 2010

Rating: 5/5

(Note: This is one of those books written in Spanish that I really wish were translated to other languages so that more kids would get to read it!)

The day she met Maruja, she realized she was a troublemaker.

Maruja snuck into her room to give her nightmares.

Maruja blamed her when she got in trouble.

Everyone was bewitched by her smile.

But…how does this little girl really feel about her sister Maruja?

This is a heartwarming story of sibling rivalry written from the point of view of the older sister, who did not expect life with her new sister to be quite so disruptive. The sentences are simple and the images colorful and uncluttered. Other than sibling rivalry, themes in this picture book include: change, jealousy, problem resolution, patience, friendship and family. There is so much emotion packed into these 14 pages that you won’t want to miss! (If you can’t read Spanish, just get a friend to translate 😉 )

The book was written by Ana Galán, illustrated by Natalie Ponce Hornos and published by Kumquat (Buenos Aires, Argentina).

If you are interested in this and other titles from this published, click here: Kumquat
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Looking Like Me, by Walter Dean Myers, Ill. Christopher Myers

March 2, 2010

Rating: 5/5

What do you see whan you look into a mirror?

Are you a son, a daughter, an artist or a writer? Who are you and what makes you unique?

The father and son duo of Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers deliver a picture book that at first glance is about self-esteem, but it is so  much more. The book is not just about being happy with ourselves; this is a celebration of the differences that make use who we are. It is fun, it is positive and it is inspiring.

If you are looking for a preachy and comforting book, this is not for you. If you are looking for color, vibrance, inspiration, affirmation and hope, then this is the book you need to share with all of the pieces that make you who you are and to share with others to celebrate the uniqueness of what you see when you look in a mirror. 

Coupled with Christopher Myer’s paper and photographic collage, this book of poetry is a visual and auditory treat that will have you nodding your head and pumping your fist in the air.  __________________________________________________________

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Selavi: A Haitian Story of Hope, by Youme

January 11, 2010

Rating: 5/5

Once upon a time, a little boy lost his family and his home to violent men with guns. He was forced to live in the streets of Port-au-Prince in the island of Haiti, scavenging for food and looking for a home.

Another little boy finds and feeds him. Instead of asking for his name, he asks what his new name should be. He could be “Hungry, Sleepy, or Little Traveler…” Since he is all of those things, he is then called “Selavi” (that is life).

Selavi discovers a world of children with similar stories and living on the streets. His new-found home would not last long, but caring adults find and help them build a new beginning, where their voices will no longer be stifled.

This is one of those books I fell in love with at first sight. It is based on the true story of many of Haiti’s homeless children who, once they found a home, also created a Haitian children’s radio station: Radyo Timoun.

To learn more about this radio station and life in the Lafanmi Selavi home, check out this article.

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Moja Means One: Swahili Counting Book, by Muriel Feelings, Ill. by Tom Feelings

October 3, 2009


Rating: 5/5

Rating: 5/5

Awards (1971/1972): Caldecott Honor Book; American Library Association Notable Children’s Book; School Library Journal’s Best Books of the Year; Child Study Association Books of the Year

This informative book is about so much more than learning to count to ten in Kiswahili (which we learn from the book is the correct way to refer to the language, instead of “Swahili”).

Muriel Feelings and her husband, Tom Feelings, did a beautiful job of depicting life in East Africa. Each new number is accompanied by a double-spread black and white painting and a sentence providing many insights: from the types of instruments played to facts about the Nile River.

The book invites readers to engage with each page by learning to pronounce the Kiswahili numbers and getting just enough information about East African life to inspire curiosity to find out more.

If you are looking for a good book to get children ages 4-8  interested in other cultures and learning new languages, as well as acquire counting skills, I highly recommend this book.

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José! Born to Dance by Susanna Reich and Ill. Raul Colón (Review and Giveaway)

August 14, 2009

Rating: 5/5

Rating: 5/5

Award: Thomas Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award

I love the art of dance. My godson is a professional dancer and every time  I attend one of his performances my heart soars and joins him on stage. He has my full admiration for pursuing his dream of dancing professionally despite the criticisms often aimed at young men who want to enter a profession where only stereotyped genders are supposedly the  norm.

I was reminded of him last week as I happened to see this beautiful book for ages 9-12 titled José! Born to Dance, by Susanna Reich and Ill. Raul Colón in a bookstore. It is a picture book biography of dancer José Limón and his struggle to find his place in the world despite the Mexican civil war, his poor English and new culture, his mother’s death and his struggle between his family and dreams.

What I loved most about the book is that it does not question dancing as an acceptable career for a man; there isn’t even any mention of criticisms he probably dealt with. It simply and beautifully depicts the journey from emptiness to fulfillment in a way that encourages the readers to follow their dreams even if the road is long and difficult.  Vivid text is accompanied by watercolor and colored pencil illustrations that seem to jump out of the page.

Topics found in this book include: family, perseverance, diversity, confidence and following your dreams.

If there is a dancer in your family and/or classroom, this is a great book to recommend.

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Liked this review? Interested in your own copy of José! Born to Dance?

For a chance to win a free copy of this book, simply leave a comment.

A random entry will be chosen next Friday (August 21st).

Good luck!

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