The Children's Bookshelf

The Children’s Bookshelf from WCMU Public Radio showcases new children’s book titles meant to engage young readers in the joy of story found in both the written word and illustrations. The target audience includes teachers, librarians, parents and grandparents as part of their role to foster the love of reading.  Each of the two minute reviews have accompanying study questions and activities and are available as podcasts. The series host and reviewer is Dr. Sue Ann Martin, Professor Emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts in the College of Communication and Fine Arts, at Central Michigan University.

Our theme music for The Children’s Bookshelf is the polka from Denes Agay’s “Five Easy Dances”, performed by the Powers Woodwind Quintet, in residence at Central Michigan University’s School of Music. It is taken from the album GEMS, on the White Pine label.


Pablo and Birdy written by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Ana Juan is a fascinating novel for middle graders about friendship, community and the human quest for identity. Pablo is ten years old and his friends on the Island of Isla, known for its birds, each year celebrate his un-birthday because they don’t know when he was born. What they do know is when he washed up on their shore after a violent storm. Emmanuel, a Cuban American who runs a souvenir shop on the island, found him tied to a baby swimming pool along with a lavender parrot hanging on tight to the rope.


The entire community of Isla welcomed the tiny refugee to their shores. The baby along with the devoted parrot who would not talk and would not fly, was adopted by Emmanuel.

HOORAY FOR BOOKS written and illustrated by Brain Won is a picture book in celebration of reading. It will charm young children 3-6 years of age with its cast of book-loving animal characters including Turtle, Zebra, Owl, Giraffe, Elephant and Lion.


The problem is that Turtle, after searching everywhere, cannot find his favorite book! He even cleans out his entire shell looking for it. Then, he as an idea!


“Aha! Maybe I shared it with...Zebra!”


 And off he goes to get his book. But Zebra does not have it anymore. Turtle wonders if Zebra could have shared it with Owl and off the two of them go to see if Owl has Turtle’s favorite book. This cumulative story cycle repeats itself as Owl thinks perhaps Giraffe has it and Giraffe thinks maybe Elephant has it and Elephant is sure Lion has it and he does! The rhythm of this chain reaction will delight young ears.

This is a Good Story written by Adam Lehrhaupt and illustrated by Magali Le Huche is a marvelous picture book introduction to how to write a story for 5-8 year olds. It inventively reveals all the parts necessary to make a good story:  the main character or hero and heroine, the setting or where the story happens, the conflict or the problem that must be solved, the plot or the series of actions that move the story forward and the climax or exciting ending.


A gentle voice from perhaps a teacher-narrator takes a little girl through the parts of a story as she begins to draw a storyboard for her good story. The little girl’s first picture is of a hero. But wait, the second picture is of a heroine. Why not both asks the narrator as the little girl decides to start again and draws both the hero and the heroine ready for action with swords drawn and capes flying.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History written and illustrated by Vashti Harrison is a beautifully-compact and interesting collection of    stories from the lives of forty African American women who have all made a significant impact on history whether it be in the field of science, arts, sports, social justice or education. Every biography is laced with well- known and not so well-known facts making this book an eye opening read for 9-12 year olds.


The charming illustrations add to the understanding of each women’s contribution by picturing them historically dressed whether they lived in the 18th, 19th, 20th or 21st Century. All the doll-like figures gracefully reveal the nature of their gifts to society.


Super Manny Stands Up! written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by  Stephanie Graegin is a picture book in celebration of speaking up and speaking out whenever you see acts of bullying.  The star of this animal tale is Manny, a quiet little raccoon who loves wearing capes.


 Manny owns six capes: a blue cape for when he feels fearless and must fight sea creatures, a red cape when he feels strong and must fight zombies, a yellow cape when he bravely takes on the evil cloud monsters, a purple cape when he must be powerful enough to match wits with alien robots and a green cape when he comes up against the forest giants. The sixth cape, however, is an invisible cape! Manny does not wear it when he’s play acting but only when he sees mean actions in the real world.