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 BIG UMBRELLA written by Amy June Bates with Juniper Bates and illustrated by Amy Bates is a charming picture book in honor of inclusion and community. The main character is a loving red umbrella.

Early in this brightly-colored storybook the reader is told: “It is a big friendly umbrella. It likes to help. It likes to spread its arms wide. It loves to give shelter.”


The umbrella is first seen at the front door where a young child in a yellow raincoat takes it from its leaning place and steps out into the rain. A child in a blue jacket comes along and is the first to be invited under the umbrella followed by a ballerina in a pink tutu and a runner in shorts and tennis shoes. As space gets crowded the umbrella stretches its canvas to take in all no matter how tall or short, young or old or color of skin.

THE CREATIVITY PROJECT: An Awesometastic Story Collection edited by Colby Sharp is a fun-filled but serious group of story prompts and responses written by forty top writers and illustrators from the world of children’s literature. Parents, teachers and middle grade readers will find this delightful publication full of ideas that inspire wonderful stories both written and visually-depicted.

For instance, Adam Gidwitz’s prompt requesting the writing of an encyclopedia entry about a yet to be discovered animal results in a most imaginative story by Jess Keating about a new moth. “Genius moon moths are ideavores: They feed off the creative energy of those around them...However, a word of warning: If you are inspired to create something new and do not act on it, this moth will not stick around... Often, it takes its inspiration with it.”


Other intriguing prompts by Kate Di Camillo, Jewels Parker Rhodes, Gary D. Schmidt and Kate Messer are cleverly responded to by Lemony Snicket, Grace Lin, Linda Urban and Andrea Davis Pinkney in that order.

BOOKS! BOOKS! BOOKS! Explore the Amazing Collection of the British Library written by Mick Manning and illustrated by Brita Granström is a pleasant and interesting tour for 8-12 year olds of one of the most unique libraries in the world with its many millions of important books, letters, charts, drawings and maps.


The book takes the reader from The Magna Carta to Handel’s handwritten sheet music and from the 11th Century tale of Beowulf to the 19th Century writings of Sherlock Holmes. Jane Austen and the Brontë Sisters dwell there too as well as the first cookbooks, Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll’s Alice. Brief narratives about the selected twenty-one works and the writers, scientists, inventors and artists who created them are augmented in the back material.

Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon written by Judy Young and illustrated by Jordi Solano is a gentle tale set in ancient China. Two stories, one about the traditional Chinese custom of fashioning cricket cages out of gourds and the other about two young boys from vastly different circumstances, merge in this softly told and beautifully illustrated story.


 When he is nine years old, Hu Wan learns how to make a traditional cricket cage out of a special gourd amongst those that he and his grandfather have grown. Grandfather knows it is time to pass this art down to the next generation.


THE WORD COLLECTOR written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds is a picture book salute to the wonderful world of words for 4-8 year olds. The book shows youngsters enjoying the act of collecting baseball cards, stamps, rocks and bugs. However, Jerome, our hero, collects words!


He finds words everywhere such as in the books he reads, in the signs and posters he sees and in the conversations and descriptions he hears spoken aloud. Jerome’s love for words is infectious. He likes short words, long words and words with multiple syllables that seem to sing such as guacamole, kaleidoscope and effervescent.