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.  

Children's Bookshelf host Dr. Sue Ann Martin.

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.

The Children's Bookshelf only accepts for possible review titles that are sent from the children's book divisions of national publishers. 

EARTH VERSE: Haiku from the Ground Up written by Sally M. Walker and illustrated by William Grill is a fascinating book that celebrates geology through poetry and art. Twenty-nine haiku accompanied by beautiful illustrations rendered in colored pencils interpret some of Earth’s most interesting and dramatic activities such as volcanoes, thunderstorms and the formation of glaciers, rocks, minerals and fossils.

The illustration of a volcanic eruption done with wild impressionistic lines in pink, red and white dramatically captures the explosion at the top of the mountain. The companion haiku is in perfect lock step:

“hotheaded mountain

loses its cool, spews ash cloud—

igneous tantrum”

The illustration of a stalactite growing down from the cave ceiling and a stalagmite growing up from the cave floor invites the reader to feel the beauty of the solid structures and honors the vibrancy of the cave’s community of fluttering bats.

The back of the book has seven smartly decorated pages of engaging explanations of such topics as the Earth, Minerals, Rocks, Fossils, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Atmospheric and Surface Water and Glaciers and Groundwater. Reading through this material first will enhance the reader’s experience with the beauty of the poetry and the pictures.

EARTH VERSE: Haiku from the Ground Up written by Sally M. Walker and illustrated by William Grill is a unique combination of poetry, art and science for children 7-10 years of age (Candlewick Press, 2018).

BABY BEAR’S Book of Tiny Tales written and illustrated by David McPhail contains four darling stories about Baby Bear and his friends. Young children will enjoy the short, simple stories as they follow Baby Bear’s good deeds such as finding the owner of a lost boot he pulled from the lake, showing Mama Bear a new flower, rescuing a baby bird from a hawk and making a new friend.

In the tale entitled Baby Bear Finds A Friend the little bear wants to play but Timmy Squirrel is not home, Bobby Raccoon is sleeping, Daisy Skunk is having a drum lesson and Ollie Owl is out to lunch! Not to worry because Baby Bear unexpectedly sees a little girl having a picnic with her dolls! She invites him for sandwiches and tea. When she brings forth a cake for dessert Baby Bear’s friends all show up and are invited to the fun.

The author illustrator accompanies the four tales with gentle illustrations full of cuddly curvy lines and soft pastel colors. There is humor tucked inside the pictures as well. For instance, when a hawk tries to grab a little bird that fell out of its nest Baby Bear is shown growling his best growl and waving his arms in earnest to scare the hawk away. The book has many visual literacy opportunities.

BABY BEAR’S Book of Tiny Tales written in a clear and sweet narrative and illustrated beautifully by David Mc Phail is a perfect picture book introduction to simple but delightful narratives for young children 3-6 years of age ( Little Brown and Company, 2018).

HIDDEN CITY: Poems of Urban Wildlife written by Sarah Grace Tuttle and illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford is a beautifully produced book for young readers. The illustrations and poems are a tribute to the heartiness of plant and animal wildlife within the cityscape.


The kinetic activity comes vividly alive in this book with dandelions growing, moss multiplying, inch worms digging and mushrooms appearing overnight all swollen from the rain.


There is organization to these activities that assure the reader that all is well. The poem “Community Garden” is an example.

WRITE TO ME: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind written by Cynthia Grady and illustrated by Amiko Hirao is a non-fiction picture book about San Diego librarian Clara Breed. She encouraged her Japanese American students to write to her when they and their families were forced into internment camps by the federal government after the attack on Pearl Harbor.


Clara Breed supplied the children with books to read and cards on which to write to her. And they did. Many of those letters are featured in this book. “Dear Miss Breed, Books make the day shorter and happier for us. Sincerely Yours, Florence and Margaret Ishino.”  Other letters talked about the shortage of food, the outbreak of measles in the camp and overcrowding. “Dear Miss Breed, We have one large shower and one large laundry room. We certainly don’t see how they expect over 16,000 people to be clean and also have their clothes clean. Yours truly, Fusa.”

GHOST BOYS written by award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes is a powerful historical novel for middle grade readers about the tragic death of an African American twelve-year old by the name of Jerome. He is shot and killed by a policeman who says he thought the boy’s toy gun was real.

 The story is told in the first person by Jerome’s ghost. It tells the reader how Jerome, a model student, son and grandson, happened to have a toy gun. The story also imagines how the daughter of the policeman who did the shooting is feeling. Brilliantly the author brings these two characters together in the courtroom where Jerome’s ghost is watching the preliminary hearing as is Sarah. She has a gift that enables her to see him, even though he is dead.


Jerome’s ghost spends time with her and they both meet the sixty-year old ghost of another slain boy Emmet Till. The conversations are full of bewilderment, hurt, anger and love. Jerome’s ghost wants to move on and get away from his family’s pain, Sarah wants to understand her father’s role and the ghost of Emmett Till wants to help them handle the realities of racism.