Children’s books hold truth, magic in lessons learned

Fei Wu Huang December 31, 2016 0

A Morning with Grandpa celebrates loved ones

Sylvia Liu gives readers a wonderful glimpse of the special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren in her new children’s book A Morning with Grandpa. The bond between Mei Mei and Gong Gong is entertaining and shows us that we’re never too young or too old to learn from one another.

On a crisp sunny morning, Mei Mei watches her grandpa outside practicing his tai chi. Fascinated by all the hand and leg motions, Mei Mei doesn’t hesitate to join the fun. Mei Mei soon realizes how hard learning something new can be, but her grandpa helps turn the difficult situation into a sweet and memorable one. Filled with excitement to have her grandpa by her side, her hands glide through the air and she doesn’t hesitate to add a little flavor and technique of her own to the age-old tradition.

The excitement doesn’t stop there as Mei Mei also ends up sharing some yoga poses with her grandfather that she learned at school. Gong Gong has similar difficulties in learning all the twists and turns of yoga, seeing through the generation gap shared between himself and his granddaughter. Yet, through these gentle exercises, each has something meaningful to teach the other, just as culture is passed from one generation to the next.

A Morning with Grandpa reminds readers of the importance of being with loved ones. Although learning new things can be challenging, the characters celebrate their experiences, allowing the time they spend together and the things they share bring them closer.

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A Piece of Home shares immigrant stories

It’s not easy to leave a place you’ve known your entire life and begin again in a foreign land. Jeri Watts and Hyewon Yum’s animated book, A Piece of Home, tackles this reality that many immigrants face—trying to find a delicate balance between fitting into a new culture, while hanging on to and cherishing your own heritage.

This artistic and crafty book invites us into the lives of a Korean family as they journey from their Korean homeland to West Virginia. Moving to a new place many miles away, the family comes to realize that West Virginia is nothing like it was back home. The whole family longs for the comforts of home as they are forced to assimilate into American culture. The main character, Hee Jun, realizes that he does not look like everybody else and cannot understand the English language in school. At the same time, his outgoing grandmother becomes more refrained and keeps to herself, sitting on the doorsteps of the house.

As the days become weeks and the weeks become months, the family slowly transforms themselves from being outsiders to being everyday locals through everyday interactions with family members and locals. Hee Jun’s nostalgia of home quickly dissipates when he gets invited to a friend’s home and discovers something all too familiar in his backyard. A Piece of Home goes full circle when Hee Jun surprises his grandmother with a little gift given to him by his new friend to remind them that home is never too far away.

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All About China is a hands-on learning experience

Take your mind on a whirlwind tour of China’s fascinating history and culture in All About China, by writer Allison Branscombe and illustrator Lin Wang. Branscomb introduces us to a huge diversity of elements that make up Chinese culture and gives us an opportunity to witness all of the moments that make China what it is today. In one moment, we might find ourselves singing along in one of China’s favorite folk songs, while in another we might find ourselves learning about China’s history that stretches all the way back to ancient times. Immersed in an overflow of detailed information and colorful pictures, this children’s book provides readers a nice balance between simple facts, storytelling, and activities as there is always something new to be learned and discovered on every single page. The author brings to our attention many different cultural topics such as the vast variety of tasty food and the importance of dining etiquette. Did you know that it is impolite to point chopsticks or the spout of the teapot at someone? What makes this book unique is how readers get to be interactive and hands on—there are opportunities to do craft work such as writing calligraphy and brush painting. This comprehensive book is a real treasure waiting to be discovered and a real treat for both kids and parents alike.

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Bum Bum a comical crowd pleaser

The rear end grabs the spotlight in Taro Miura’s Bum Bum, a short and comical read aloud book that is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Bum Bum is an easy to read book especially for young toddlers that focuses on using repetition of the same phrase at the turn of the page following each character’s picture. Each creature gets introduced to us in a simplistic yet inviting picture that seems so innocent at first glance. But as the pages are turned the creatures show a more comical side to them by revealing what their mamas gave them. By showcasing an array of creatures and their unique and distinguishing characteristic, their bum bums bring out the laughter in all of us. From the bum bums of a duck, pig, elephant, and a monkey, Miura uses a simple concept of shapes to point out the similarities and differences in all of us. Even though the book lacks text, it makes up for it not only through the silliness of the pictures itself, but also by the boldness of the selection of colors used. The animals as well as the backgrounds are illustrated with bold, simple shapes rendered in a clean, limited color palette that is sure to please the eye. This short but sweet book is a playful celebration of bottoms of all shapes and sizes that will have parents and babies giggling with every turn of the page.

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Elephant in the Dark revives classic parable

Inspired by a Rumi poem based on the parable of “The Blind Men and the Elephant,” Mina Javaherbin’s Elephant in the Dark offers a lively take on a classic story about the folly of a limited perspective.

In this version of the tale, a merchant brings a huge animal back from his homeland of India and stashes it away in the confines of his home and away from all of the villagers. Lo and behold, rumors circulate around the village about Ahmad and the mysterious creature that he has hidden away. Sparked by their curiosity and interest, many of the villagers decide that it is in their best interest to take matters into their own hands and do a little investigating. One by one they all take turns sneaking into Ahmad’s dark barn to touch different parts of the creature to get a feel of what this creature might be. Was it a creature that could bite your hand if you went near it? Or is it a creature that had wings and could fly? Does the creature make a hissing noise like a snake? As each member takes turns coming back out to reveal what they have discovered, all of them find themselves at odds with how different all of their findings were. Having jumped to various conclusions, they begin arguing into the night that their ideas are the correct ones.

As morning arrives and the sun is beaming in the sky, the creature that is hidden in Ahmad’s barn is revealed to the villagers. Still seen arguing and fighting, they failed to realize that they were all right but all wrong at the same time and it is not until the end of the story that all of them learn a good lesson in always looking at the whole picture before drawing conclusions.

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What Do You Do with an Idea? is magical

Kobi Yamada’s award winning children’s book What Do You Do with an Idea? reminds readers of the importance of ideas and why we should not give up on them. Told in the first person, this notion is well represented in this story that highlights the mental struggle of a curious little boy who is placed in a situation that we can all relate to, where moments of self-doubt turn into moments of confidence and joy. Appearing out of nowhere, an idea that came in the form of a bright and colorful egg adorned with a golden crown becomes the center of attention for the little one. There was no explanation as to why it appeared or why it remained. Feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable at the nature of the situation, the boy became disinterested very quickly and tries to deny its very existence by simply walking away. Little does he know that the persistent idea is right there behind him every step of the way. After toiling with the idea for some time, the boy realized that the idea wasn’t just any ordinary thing but something that was magical. He decides to feed it and give it attention, and, as a result, the idea starts to grow. As he starts believing more in his idea, he decides that it is time to show it to others only to be criticized for how silly it is. Not deterred by their comments, the boy decides to continue to nurture it and soon, the idea becomes more than he could ever imagine.

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The Story I’ll Tell filled with joy and tears

Author Nancy Tupper Ling brings together the heartwarming story of adoption in The Story I’ll Tell, where a mother narrates how her adoptive son came to her. Seeing that there will come a day when her son will ask her where he came from, an adoptive mother imagines all of the stories she’ll get to tell her son about how he came to be a part of the family. In her imagination, the adoptive mother spins many elaborate tales about his origin and before long, her tales takes us on many wild journeys and adventures through many different settings. She also imagines her son being brought to her by an angel in one tale, while in another, he is found floating to shore on a massive wave. There’s even a tale of her saving her son from a dragon queen. Through these tales, it becomes clear each one contains a small kernel of truth that pieces together the baby’s journey into her arms. As the tales come to an end, she knows that she will be ready to tell him the most beautiful tale of them all. A tale that is not only filled with joy and tears but a tale that shows how families can come together in so many different ways.

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You Look Yummy reveals meaning of family

You Look Yummy by Tatsuya Miyanishi and Yasuko Kimura follows a heartwarming story of a hatchling dino who’s egg rolled away from his mother during an earthquake. Displaced and scared out of his own mind, he encounters the unlikeliest of friends in a Tyrannosaurus Rex. When the two companions meet up for the very first time, it becomes a case of mistaken identity as the little Ankylosaurus believes that the T-Rex to be his father. Playing off the Ankylosaurus’s innocence and confusion, the first and only intention on the T-Rex’s mind was going to be eating the little dinosaur. “You look Yummy!” he says. Catching the T-Rex off guard, the little Ankylosaurus grabs onto his leg and calls the T-Rex daddy as the Ankylosaurus realizes that the T-Rex knew his name. Realizing what had just happened, the T-Rex’s heart melts by this loving gesture and his attitude quickly changes. Knowing what’s at stake for the little one, he embraces the opportunity to protect him from all of the dangers of the world. As their relationship grows, it is not long before the T-Rex begins to realize the reality of it all as both of them are complete opposites of each other. The baby won’t grow up to be like him, nor is he his real daddy. Eventually coming to terms with what’s best for the little Ankylosaurus, the T-Rex tricks the baby to race him to the top of the mountain where he eventually finds his real family. As the two companions go their separate ways, their roles in this book reveals to us the meaning of family.

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