“There is no happiness, only moments of happiness.”—Spanish proverb
“We do not remember days, we remember moments.”—Cesare Pavese
Grandfather Whisker’s Table
A teaching story masquerading as a history lecture, set around the famous dangerous-looking horse race in Siena, Italy. A kid who just bought his little brother a toy woodpecker is worried about losing it, so he leaves it with the moneylender, only to now worry about losing the receipt. I feel ya, bro.
The story is cute and sweet, but the artwork is strange, like the heads don’t fit the bodies and have to be tilted. And though this claims to be the forerunner to modern banks, does that automatically make it the first one? Pretty sure the word “moneylender” is in the bible.
There are small articles on the first banks, the city of Siena, and other stuff, along with a timeline, at the end. Some of it might even interest the kids reading it.
Lion, King, and Coin
In ancient Turkey—Lydia, to be exact—there’s a golden river, where a boy named Laos gathers the fungible metal so his father can make ornaments and his uncle can sell them. When someone wants just a piece of fruit but can only pay with a cow, Uncle has an idea, and so money is born. Nice piece on how the coins are made, along with the legend of King Midas.
The artwork is fine, but there’s one long painting of the marketplace with Laos photobombing from the side that is truly excellent. As expected, there’s a lot of golden hues.
At the end are articles on the invention of the coin, the local geography, history of commerce, and a timeline. Kinda strange topic for a history lesson for little kids, but effective.
A Time to Act: John F. Kennedy’s Big Speech
A bare-bones bio of the great president, zeroing in on his civil rights activity, for kids. Beautiful in its simplicity as well as its watercolor paintings. It might be a call to action for those far too young to know much about the Sixties but who might draw comparisons to the present-day tensions in this country.
For someone who’s as big a fan of counterfactuals as I am, throwing in the phrase “History isn’t a straight line” is pure catnip. In this case, had older brother Joe not died in WW2, it’s possible JFK would never have become president. Try to imagine life today without, for example, a moon landing.
In the beginning the author calls him out on not doing more to support civil rights, and as a bonus at the end she explains exactly why she felt the need to do this. Had it not been for this, the book might not have been as good, or at least complete.
Hold Your Temper, Tiger!
As you can tell from the title, Little Tiger is quite the brat when he doesn’t get his way. He finally learns his lesson because, like most of us, he’s scared of Mom: “Little Tiger didn’t know what ‘or else’ meant. He didn’t want to find out.”
In the artwork there’s a red blob that stands for his temper. He doesn’t know where to hold it, but finally figures something out, saying, “I’ll never lose my temper again. I know exactly where it is.”
Simple but effective story told with simple watercolor drawings.
Sloppy Wants a Hug
As told in the title, Sloppy the Tree Dragon wants a hug, but Dewdrop the Sprite isn’t about to give him one.
It takes a while to find out why not, which hurts the story a little because Dewdrop comes off as mean; she reminded me of Lucy from Peanuts. In the end we finally find out her “very good reason,” but hey, you’re supposed to put up with your friends’ idiosyncrasies.
You Can’t Win Them All, Rainbow Fish
The pub calls this “A lighthearted look at accepting loss without losing your sparkle!” Heaven forfend someone lose their sparkle!
Rainbow should know by now that he’s not gonna be good at Hide and Seek, given his bright colors, but he’s a sore loser anyway. Hide and Seek seems kinda pointless among fish anyway, but okay. Besides, it’s the simplistic but colorful artwork that’s the best part of this story.
Use Your Words
Despite knowing numerous languages, two brothers like to talk gibberish, which pisses Mom off enough to ground them. They don’t care, they go to their room and bounce on the bed until it’s broken so bad they open a hole in reality and end up with some not-so-scary looking creatures who also like to talk gibberish.
Here’s a line you don’t read often: “Then it bent over and held both of its noses.”
The cartoony drawings are helped by the fact the story is Holi (the Indian festival) themed.
I found it a little silly at times, went to extremes for what could have been an easily-taught lesson.
Wake Up to Love, Lessons on Friendship from a Dog named Rudy
Simple paintings of a dog and his human girl: playing, relaxing, cuddling, licking. Nothing more, but then for the really small kids this is intended for, that’s all that’s needed.
The Magical Forest
A young boy named Wayta has come from far away to check out the forest when he meets another boy, Penjaga, who turns out is the guardian of the jungle.
The opening poem starts with the forest itself saying what it is—mountains, river, etc.—before ending with the classic “We are one, we should play together.” This leads to a beautiful if somewhat overdone painting of a rain forest that foreshadows the coming chapter, as happens throughout the book.
There are some lines that come across as clichés—like “Hear the voice of your heart, your voice will guide you”—but since this might be the first time a kid is reading it, that’s okay. Another is, “Be patient, brave, and have faith in yourself.” Plus be pure of heart, clear of mind, and expect the unexpected. Only by learning each lesson will he—and you—find the magical places he seeks. Much more philosophical than expected, but still at a level that children can understand.
Probably intended as a textbook, since it has discussion questions after each chapter.
Accompanying music is also available.
(As you will no doubt quickly notice, the following book is the Spanish version of the one above.)
El Bosque Magico
Un joven nombrado Wayta ha jornado al bosque para investigarlo cuando conoce a otro muchacho, Penjaga, quien es el guardian de la selva.
El poema que empieza el libro tiene el bosque diciendo lo que es—montañas, rios, etc.—antes de acabar con el clasico “Somos uno, deveriamos jugar juntos.” De alli sigue una bella aunque muy elaborada pintura de la selva que da idea a lo que va a pasar en el proximo capitulo; este escenario continua por todo el libro.
Hay veces que las lineas suenan como clichés—como “Que la sabiduria de tu corazon te guie en cada momento”—pero como esta es la primera vez que un niño lo esta leyendo, sale bien. Otra es, “Debes ser paciente, ser valiente, y tener fe en ti mismo.” Mas tener pureza de corazon, tener una mente clara, y esperar lo inesperado. Nomas con aprendiendo cada leccion se puede encontrar los lugares magicos que se buscan. Este libro es mucho mas filosofico que lo esperaba, pero de todos modos a un nivel que niños pueden entender.
Probablemente intentado como libro de escuela, proque tiene preguntas de discusion despues de cada capitulo.
Tambien ay musica que va con el libro que se puede comprar.
A Chocolate In My Pocket
A cute loving story about a father and daughter brought closer together by chocolate. Also a lesson to parents to not take their kids for granted, certainly don’t put work above them.
I’m a fan of rhymes, and these are intriguing, especially the pattern.
This sweet girl is far too good to be believed. . .
Danny Dingle’s Fantastic Finds: The Metal-Mobile
Pencil-like drawings, almost doodles, are interspersed throughout the story of a schoolkid whose only skills, despite his huge belief in himself, are goofing off and farting.
I think Superdog is a great name for a toad. My favorite line is “A tumbleweed rolled past.”
But seriously, there’s a lot of farting going on. And there’s only so much you can get out of a mediocre kid pretending he’s smart. The beginning of the egg chapter had me cringing.
Not sure what the message is here. Be an idiot, ignore your parents and your schoolwork, still win at the end?