The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse

wolf, duck, mouse

Title: The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse
Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Year of Publication: 2017

At first glance, and within reading the first couple of pages (where a mouse gets eaten by a wolf), one might pass over this book as too dark and dreary. Don’t let appearances deceive you! I read this pourquoi tale to both first and fourth graders this week and they all thought it was hilarious. In fact, they begged me to reread it!

A mouse is gobbled up by a wolf, only to discover that a duck has taken up residence in the wolf’s belly. He is asleep in his four poster bed when the mouse enters and wakes him up with a ruckus.  The two quickly become friends, dining on cheese and fine wine and congratulating each other over the fact that they never have to worry about being eaten by a wolf again. One day a hunter comes along and threatens to disrupt their happy, carefree situation: Duck and Mouse must band together to save themselves and their unlikely dwelling place.

Dry humor and lovely, vintage style illustrations combine to create a delicious picture book that both children and adults will savor. My favorite sentence in the book is Duck’s musing, “I may have been swallowed, but I have no intention of being eaten.”

Chew on that for a bit.

The Night World

night world

Title: The Night World
Author: Mordicai Gerstein
Illustrator: Mordicai Gerstein
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Year of Publication: 2015

Perfect for bedtime, this is the story of a young boy whose cat wakes him up and draws him outside in order to enjoy the breaking dawn. Much to the boy’s delight, the world looks completely different at night. Waiting for the sunrise is a ritual for the neighborhood critters, who gaze toward the east murmuring, “It’s almost here!” and “Look!”.

night world book

In typical Gerstein fashion, the illustrations are stunning. With the story, they progress from dark and shadowy to bright and colorful.

night world book

The Night World could easily lead into a deeper discussion about the symbolism of darkness and light. I’ll leave you with some of my favorite quotes on that topic, courtesy of Pinterest. Enjoy!

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Who Wants a Hug?

who wants a hug

Title: Who Wants a Hug?
Author: Jeff Mack
Illustrator: Jeff Mack
Publisher: HarperCollins
Year of Publication: 2015

We’ve all known that person: the impossibly cheery, look-on-the-bright side individual who thinks the world’s problems can be solved one hug at a time. Of course, we’re also familiar with our fair share of pessimists: complainers who always have something snarky to contribute to conversations. This adorable book features a lovable, huggable bear and a rather jaded skunk. While the bear skips through the woods offering hugs to one and all, the skunk attempts to thwart his kindness.

who wants a hug

Adorable illustrations and a slight twist at the end of the story make this an enjoyable read for children and adults, both sweet and sour.

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise

hoot owl

Title: Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise
Author: Sean Taylor
Illustrator: Jean Jullien
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Year of Publication: 2015

I absolutely love owls. Yes, they’re kind of trendy, but they’re also beautiful birds of prey. I’m very thankful that I live in a place where I wake to their eerie hoots regularly. Once in a while I’m even graced with a sighting.

owl

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise is an adorable picture book. Owl is a rather confident fellow, and this story follows his costume-changing attempts at catching prey. When his disguises fail repeatedly, Owl grows hungrier and hungrier but never loses faith that a tasty meal is soon to be his.

The book’s repetitive pattern and humor make it an enjoyable read aloud for younger students, and the author’s use of similes is a perfect focal point for older students.  It would pack even more punch paired up with some nonfiction books about owls. The illustrations in this book would be great fun to try and recreate. Maybe the next time I read this little gem with Caden and Carmen I’ll hand them some oil pastels and paper and see what happens!

Gaston

Gaston

Title: Gaston
Author: Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrator: Christian Robinson
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Year of Publication: 2014

Most children will take the story at face value: a bulldog puppy (Gaston) accidentally ends up with a poodle family and, in spite of his efforts, doesn’t really fit in. From this standpoint, the book acts as a springboard for conversations about differences within families, and the idea that, ultimately, love makes a family.

Christian Robinson's illustrations are so eye-catching!

Christian Robinson’s illustrations are so eye-catching!

But wait, is there a deeper, darker side to the story? Well, stereotypes do play a prominent role. The bulldogs are portrayed as rough and tumble while the poodles are dainty and polite. There’s definitely some gender stereotyping going on. Also, I tend to lean toward a French accent when reading this book out loud.

At first the charm and simplicity of the story overpowered any of my concerns about stereotyping, especially since I’m pretty sure the author did not have any malicious intent. But perhaps that’s part of the issue? Upon further reflection, I started to think obsess about the importance of recognizing stereotypes when you see them.

It is critical to teach children this skill.

I’ll continue to sing the praises of this book, but my lessons centered on it will delve into the power of (intentional or unintentional) hidden messages.

Wolfie the Bunny

wolfie the bunny, siblings in picture books

Title: Wolfie the Bunny
Author: Ame Dyckman
Illustrator: Zachariah OHora
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Year of Publication: 2015

Oh, how I love this book! Dot the bunny is not amused when her parents decide to adopt the baby wolf left in a basket on their doorstep. She tries in vain to convince her parents that Wolfie is a wolf, and is sure to gobble them all up.

wolfie the bunny

Dot may be wary of her new sibling, but Mama and Papa Bunny absolutely adore him. Like any younger sibling, Wolfie enjoys following his older sister around. When he accompanies her to the local Carrot Patch Co-op (home of local, organic, lucky bamboo!), a hungry bear shows up and Dot’s true feelings for her “little” brother emerge.

wolfie the bunny, hugs

When I read this book to my kids, Caden (my oldest) nudged me and glanced sideways at his little sister. Likewise, when I shared this with students in the library there were cries of “My brother does that, too!” and “My sister always follows me around!”. In addition to sibling related conversations, Wolfie the Bunny provides an opportunity to compare and contrast a wolf’s typical role in a picture book: the bad guy. Truth be told, the reason I adore this book has less to do with the sweet story and more to do with the illustrations. The illustrations! The vibrant, vintage look of Zachariah OHora’s art brings this humorous story to life. Head on over to your local library and check it out!

 

Blizzard

blizzard, snow, winter, adventure, problem solvingTitle: Blizzard
Author: John Rocco
Illustrator: John Rocco
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Year of Publication: 2014
Genre: memoir

My kids love this book. I’m not sure if it’s the lovely illustrations, or the fact that it is based on the real life tale of a boy (the author/illustrator) who took things into his own hands and solved a problem for his family and neighbors. Whatever the reason, Carmen has asked her brother to read this to her multiple times and he always obliges. With my students, this book sparked some conversation about the difference between an autobiography and a memoir. Try pairing this great winter picture book with a mug of hot cocoa and a snowflake craft!