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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Elephants Cannot Dance! by Mo Willems

September 21, 2011

Elephants Cannot DanceEver been told you can’t do something?

This is the story of someone who tried anyway!

The Story

In this picture book for ages 4-8, a little pig in a tutu tries to get Gerald the elephant to dance. Despite Gerald’s insistence that even books say elephants cannot dance, he is convinced to at least try. Can he do it? What happens when he tries?

Kids who love music, the theater arts, and animal stories will be attracted to this book.

Boys in particular might relate to the idea of giving up on something they enjoy, such as dancing, because others say it’s something only girls should do. By seeing Gerald’s trials, kids might feel hopeful and encouraged to try something outside of what a boy supposedly should or should not do. Gerald and Piggie let the reader know it’s ok to try.

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

  1. Why do you think Piggie insisted that Gerald try to dance?
  2. What are some of the things you have not tried because you think you can’t?
  3. Why is it important to try to do something, even if you think you can’t?

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Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo, by Ayun Halliday and illustrated by Dan Santat

June 20, 2009
(May 5, 2009)

(May 5, 2009)

After visiting the Tea Cozy blog today, I was reminded of a book I read at a local bookstore titled Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo, a picture book about…can you guess? That’s right, heinies!

When you go to the zoo you are sure to see a lot of different people and animals, but what you will most certainly always see are lots and lots of animal booty!

There are all kinds of heinies in this book, “from the feathered booty of a cockatoo, to the hairy haunches of the caribou”! The rhymes will keep you laughing and it’s a great way for the little ones to learn new vocabulary words.

The illustrations are lovely and as colorful as the subject matter. If you have a child and are looking for a book for you to share and laugh together, this might be the one!

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