Illustrated by Michael Martchenko
Princess Elizabeth is about to marry Prince Ronald when a dragon destroys her castle and kidnaps Ronald. Princess Elizabeth, her clothes also destroyed, dons a paper bag and cleverly outwits the dragon to rescue Prince Ronald. Prince Ronald's response upon his rescue is unfortunately focused on Elizabeth's appearance rather than on her accomplishment. This was fun little story which both of my boys really enjoyed. And I, of course, liked how it turned the classic prince-rescues-princess-and-they-marry-and-live-happily-ever-after tale on its head. We have previously read another Munsch/Martchenko book, Stephanie's Ponytail, which my kids and I also found humorous. I will be checking out more books by this pair.
Illustrated by Kevin O'Malley
This tale casts the Cinderella story in a new light, as it juxtaposes the lives of Cinderella and her neighbor Cinder Edna, who were both treated unfairly by their wicked step-families. However, Cinder Edna handles her situation much differently than Cinderella. Though not as attractive as Cinderella, Cinder Edna has a great sense of humor and is good at finding solutions to her own problems. For example, on the night of the great ball, instead of relying on a fairy godmother to help her, Cinder Edna buys a dress she had on layaway using her cage-cleaning money (a little entrepreneurial venture she had on the side), wears her comfortable loafers, and takes a bus to the ball. Cinder Edna, like Cinderella, has to leave by midnight but for a different reason - that is when the buses stop running. Cinder Edna meets the arrogant Prince Randolph's younger brother, Prince Rupert - who runs a recycling plant and a home for orphaned kittens - at the party, and they have a great time dancing and talking to each other. Cinderella and Prince Randolph don't dance very much as Cinderella is afraid of messing up her hair, and her glass slippers are uncomfortable. When the young women dash off at midnight, they leave behind a glass slipper and a scuffed loafer. Rupert thinks his brother's idea of finding the lovely owner of the glass slipper by trying the slipper on all the women in the kingdom is dumb; he had talked to Cinder Edna enough to know her name and know that she could make 16 different kinds of tuna casserole, so he uses that information to find her. Eventually they all find each other, and have a double wedding, with one couple (guess who?) living happily ever after, laughing, joking, making music and and trying new recipes. I thought this was a clever and fun tale, and in this more harsh portrayal of Cinderella, I found Cinder Edna to be my kind of gal and a better role model. Although I talked to my boys about which characters they thought would be more fun at a party and who appeared to be happier (they both agreed, Cinder Edna and Prince Rupert), they still liked Cinderella better...the seeds of popular culture have already sprouted.
Illustrated by David Messing
This book teaches kindness through the analogy of an invisible bucket. The book talks about how we all have invisible buckets, representing our emotional health. When we show kindness and love to someone, we fill their buckets with good feelings (bucket filler); when we say or do mean things, we dip into someone's bucket and take out good feelings (bucket dipper). The book mentions that often bucket dippers have empty buckets and try to fill their buckets by dipping into other people's, which will never work. However, when we fill someone else's bucket we fill our own at the same time. When we choose to be bucket fillers, our world is a better place. I think the book provides a positive way to teach kindness and provides kids with mental imagery to help them realize how our behaviors can affect other people and theirs can affect us. However, despite the high reviews on the book and the awards it has received, I felt like it was missing something. I didn't care for the way feelings were framed as something we "make" each other feel; in my belief, we of course often feel emotions in response to what others say or do, but we also have some control over our emotions. I chose to talk to my kids about how we don't have to let other people dip into our buckets, that just because others may choose to be mean to us, doesn't mean that we have to lose our good feelings about ourselves. I want my kids to acknowledge that what others say and do to us can truly be hurtful, and that it's okay to admit hurt, but I also don't want them to view the emptying of their bucket as something they have no control over, as though their self-confidence is dictated by the whim of others. I want my kids to be resilient in the face of cruelty, to be capable of filling and knowing how to fill their own bucket and to not allow the thoughtlessness of others to automatically detract from their sense of self. So although I think this book has some really good analogies and lessons about kindness, and is useful for young kids, I prefer to supplement it with my own lessons. As an anecdote, shortly after reading the book to my two older kids for the first time, my older son was pestering my younger son, who in turn indignantly turned toward him, scowled, and told him he was "being a big dipper!"
Kimberly & James Dean
There are several Pete the Cat stories, but this is the first one that I have read. In it, Pete gets a new neighbor, Gus the Platypus. Pete introduces Gus to his friends, and they all invite Gus to play with them. However, Gus is different than any of Pete's friends and isn't able to do the same things - he can't climb a tree like Squirrel, he can't jump like Toad, he can't juggle like Octopus, and so on. Gus is feeling blue, but Pete keeps telling him there is "something everyone can do." Eventually, Pete discovers Gus' special talent that allows all the friends to enjoy an activity together. This was a simple, cute story, and my kids really liked it. They quickly caught onto the repetitive refrain and would chime in with "there is something everyone can do."
Sara Hoagland Hunter
Illustrated by Susan Spellman
My oldest son loves stories and shows about nature, and this was a book that he selected from the library. In the story, Mimi is a young girl with autism who discovers and rescues a rare Kemp's ridley sea turtle frozen on the beach near her home in Cape Cod. Though the odds are against its survival, the turtle gets better and is eventually relocated to warmer waters. As the turtle, named Ridley 3, recovers at a nearby turtle rescue center, Mimi visits, builds the type of bond with the turtle that she finds so difficult with people, and discovers how both she and the turtle count. The story ends with a grown-up Mimi, now a scientist, searching the one beach in the world where the Kemp's ridley turtles hatch, hoping to find that her Ridley 3 turtle has survived decades and finally come back to the beach to nest. This book was informative about the plight of the Kemp's ridley sea turtle, but was also a good jumping off point to talk to my kids about how we all have worth and value, no matter how different we may seem to other people. We also talked about some of the characteristics that kids with autism, like Mimi, may display (delayed language, repeating phrases, focus on numbers, ability to calculate quickly in their heads, pull away from touch) and that it doesn't mean they are unintelligent or uncaring...that it is just the way their brains work and another way of being.
Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein
Illustrated by Mark Pett
As someone who tends to be hard on myself for my mistakes, and aware of the unnecessary stress that can cause, I'm very conscious of teaching my kids that all mistakes are not bad - they can an opportunity for learning and are inevitable if you are really trying to live. This book was a nice opportunity to reaffirm that perfection is not the ultimate goal to strive for. The story centers around Beatrice, who is famously known as The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes - her toddler block tower never fell down, she immediately knew how to ride a bike, her socks always matched, she never forgot to do her homework, and she was once again expected to be the obvious winner of the school talent show. But then she makes her first ever mistake - in front of everyone at the talent show. After that, the pressure is off, and she sleeps better than she ever has and enjoys life more. We all enjoyed this book, and it has been requested often.