In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover computer programming books aimed at children, as well as reality-based children’s books.
The Practical Life book review series continues again this week. Here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Since practical life skills can encompass how we interact with one another, the stories I have included below focus on character development. Each one of these stories has some sort of moral or lesson that provides a great point for discussion with young children. As usual, these stories do not contain talking animals. In the primary years (from birth to age six, according to Dr. Montessori), young children are trying to determine how the world works. Unfortunately, there are no intelligent animals that speak (besides humans, of course). In my experience, I’ve found that from five years and older, children are ready to explore the difference between fantasy and reality.
Ages: 5 and up
Harper, Jamie. Me Too! New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2005.
Elementary student Grace just wants a free moment without her toddler sister following along. Her sister Lucy’s favorite words (her only words) are “me too!” Finally, after Grace recognizes her own “copycat” ways, she realizes that Lucy just wants to be near her because she loves her. Grace does have a low moment where she terrorizes Lucy’s stuffed animal and gets in trouble for it, but everyone rallies in the end.
Ages 8 and up
Neeman, Sylvie. Something Big. Illustrated by Ingrid Godon. Enchanted Lion Books: New York, 2013.
As a parent and educator, I am often reminded that a child has needs – even if they can’t always express them in a way an adult can understand. This book does a fabulous job of telling the story of “the little one” and his desire to do something big. Unfortunately, “the little one” doesn’t have the words (or know exactly what he wants to do) and “the big one” tries to help, but in helping, the “big one” sometimes hinders the “little one.” This is a story that parents and observant teachers know quite well and in the end, “the little one” helps a trapped fish and “the big one” mentions that that was a very “big thing.” This would be a great book to read on parent night and is invaluable for all teachers to be reminded that there is something big in all of us.
Ages 5 and up
Rosenthal, Amy Krouse and Tom Lichtenheld. The OK book. HarperCollins Publishers: New York, 2007.
It is quite amazing what Lichtenheld can do with a few line drawings and a main character who is literally the word, OK (but turned on it’s side – a stick boy). This silly and yet, affirming book opens with, “Hi, how are you? I’m OK.” While this stick figure does not have eyes or a mouth, he tries many new things and is not very good at these new activities, but he enjoys them all the same. I recommend this book for an older crowd because they need to understand their letters (sounds and names). However, they will also be more able to understand that trying new things and enjoying the process is important, even if that means you aren’t the best.
Ages 7 and up
Rath, Tom and Mary Reckmeyer. How Full is Your Bucket: For Kids. Illustrated by Maurie J. Manning. Gallup Press: New York, 2009.
The co-author of the New York Times Bestseller, How Full is Your Bucket? for adults, has authored a version that children can understand. The story follows Felix, an upper elementary student, who doesn’t let his sister play with him and she wrecks his tower of blocks when she gets angry. So, Grandpa tells Felix that his sister’s bucket was empty. When Felix wakes up in the morning, he sees his own “invisible bucket” and as he has troubles (he spills his cereal, gets made fun of on the bus, bumps into someone), and the water drips out of his bucket and his mood darkens. But, after his teacher asks him to read his funny story to the class and everyone laughs, his bucket starts to fill back up. He realizes that by helping others, his bucket gets filled up too. Recommended.