You Don't Belong Here by Sean O'Toole
Review 4 star
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You Don’t Belong Here is a fun beginner book by Sean O’Toole. It’s a good match for kids who like animal stories and tells the tale of two muskrats who are brothers. When Marty and Manny stray into an older lady’s yard, she feels they are pests because they eat all her vegetables. The pest controller plans to relocate them gently to a distant pond. Marty is caught first and separated from bis brother. Marty is scared, but he soon finds the animals around the pond have problems too. A hooligan raccoon is running around trying to eat them. Marty cleverly confronts the raccoon and gets him to have a new outlook on life. And it might be that acceptance from his new friends isn’t the only good thing that will happen to Marty.
You Don’t Belong Here is noteworthy for its straightforward, in-the-action style of writing and its realism. Animals in fiction often act behave a lot like people, but the characters of this book act very much like real animals as well. Although they can speak and think, their origins as creatures out in the wild are very clear. Marty has just enough humanness to provide a little humor and a little problem-solving too. You Don’t Belong Here could keep a young child genuinely entertained if they have an interest in the wildlife in their backyards or in nearby woods. The most entertaining bits in the story occur when Marty packs a good punch of tough and reasonable while dealing with the bullying raccoon, Ronny. Standing up for yourself should always go hand in hand with solving problems so they don’t happen again, and Sean O’Toole does a commendable job with the moral message in the storytelling. A perky book that stands out from the crowd a little bit.
Where Do All The Flowers Go? by Lisa Crystal
Review 5 star
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Where Do All the Flowers Go? is a gentle picture book about the challenging topic of grieving. Author and illustrator Lisa Crystal introduces young readers to a family of three small mice who live peacefully with their parents. On a rainy day, little Cookie, Foster, and Tidbit are worried to see that their parents, Mama and Papa Crumb, have some sad news. Grandmouse has died. She died because she was old, but Cookie doesn’t understand and thinks she personally caused Grandmouse’s death. After Cookie has a nightmare and wonders when she will die too, Mama Crumb uses examples from plants, birds, and fish to show how all things eventually die. Cookie and her brothers create memorials for their grandmother, each in their own way, to honor her.
Where Do All The Flowers Go? is a great book for children who see death as frightening, especially in the context of a loved one’s passing. I found the tone of Lisa Crystal’s book to be encouraging in an excellent way, as the abundant talk of new life being born nicely balanced the sadness of death and comparisons to simple, daily examples of life patterns in things they’ve seen every day enabled Cookie and her siblings (and children too!) to relate to such a big concept. The pastel illustrations create a hushed calmness that flows off the page, validating the mouse family’s actively hopeful theme of embracing life even more because you know it will one day end. A neatly placed reminder that death is no one's fault—it just happens—threads into the story, but grief emotions are very much at the forefront as the little mice express their feelings by doing things like planting a rose garden and writing poetry. Where Do All the Flowers Go? will serve parents and young children very well during a time of grief.
Review 5 star
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Kitten from the Sky (Little Box’s Adventures) is a charming children’s book by K. W. Tey. Little Box is a shy boy who keeps to himself. He always wears a square box over his head and that makes him feel safe. Although he believes he is happy, actually Little Box is afraid to take risks or be seen. But when a kitten flies from the sky and lands in a tree, Little Box finds an inner resourcefulness. Faced with challenge after challenge in getting the kitten out of the tree, he endlessly tries new strategies fearlessly—even taking a giraffe from the zoo! When the kitten escapes on his own, Little Box realizes he gained a lot of new skills and needed them more than the kitten needed rescuing.
Kitten from the Sky is a heartwarming, cute-as-a-button story. A faceted gem of a tale that uses the simplest language for small children to tell something wonderful—the value behind never giving up and trying new things. K. W. Tey is an inspiring picture book writer who presents a fun, quirky little hero, but Little Box’s humanness as he puts a box over his head to hide, but then finds himself up to the task when a situation needs him is what seals the deal on this book. Young Little Box has the quite relatable problem of overthinking too much and he gets (literally in this case) stuck in a box. Handling surprises that come your way is an important life skill and Little Box finds he’s quite up to the challenge. As is this book if you’re looking for something really feel-good for kids. Recommended.
This is the companion for Sarah Scheele's newsletter blog. In it I share reviews for books I'd recommend/are similar to my own.