Confession time: I often don’t care for picture book biographies. They’re hard to do well; either their subject matter is too adult for the preschool crowd, or their treatment of their subject is too shallow for the adult reading it. It’s a tricky thing to get right, but author Alicia D. Williams and illustrator Jaqueline Alcántara have struck a near-perfect tone with Jump at the Sun, a compelling and delightful picture book about national treasure Zora Neale Hurston.
Dimitri is the most affectionate boy in preschool. He loves every child, every adult, every ant, and every tree. And he’s not afraid to say so. However when the children, adults, ants and trees don’t answer back the same way, Dimitri feels embarrassed, and ashamed.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a picture book paint such an honest and straightforward treatment of a mental disorder in a parent, and I can imagine what a relief it would provide for young readers to see that parts of their story are shared with others.
This is a marvelous book. I can’t recommend it enough, not just for young bug boys and girls, but for all kids, those with passions, and those who might be inclined to dismiss other’s interests, for those who feel alone and shunted to one side, and for those who are doing the shunting. And for the parents of all of the above, as a little reminder of what we’re supposed to be doing here. Well done, Sophia. I can’t wait to see what you do next.
With a charming cast of characters like flamboyant and gorgeous dance phenom Alec, cruel dance teacher Millicent Moore, singer/songwriter Fletch, mean girls Natasha and Jade, and terrifying martinet Cecile Duke, the plot moves along in a way that is comforting if a little predictable. Fans of Singin’ in the Rain will know exactly where the story is going, but they will enjoy getting there tremendously.
It’s been twenty years since we met those typing cows, and Farmer Brown is tired. (Well. Aren’t we all?) It’s time to unplug and go to sleep. The cows, sheep, and chickens are all ready for bed. Why can’t Duck sleep?
Madeline Finn is a young girl with a big white dog named Star. Is he a lab? Is he a Great Pyrenees? Does it matter? No. He is adorable, and so is she. Madeline is training Star to be a therapy dog. They practice meeting people, sitting still, and meeting other dogs. Then it’s time for Star’s first of three tests at the retirement home. He passes with flying colors.
Our hero is a sweet little bear, who one day chances to come across a red balloon. (Why are they always red? If you don’t have “99 Luftballons” in your head, you are not as old as I am.) The bear is enchanted by the simple pleasures of playing with a balloon, and proceeds to show his new playmate his home.
Written in a breezy, conversational style, the book is a quick read, for all its depth. Felix is engaging, appealing, and faces the most appalling adult dilemmas with grit and grace. His plight will be great fodder for discussion in the classroom or around the dinner table.