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.

A Different Pond written by poet Bao Phi and illustrated by graphic artist Thi Bui is a touching story about a family from Vietnam and how the mom and dad go about raising their family in America, their new home.

This picture book, told in first person by the young boy, is softly spoken and beautifully genuine. The boy is aware of the fact that his dad works two jobs, his mother also works and sometimes his classmates say difficult things. “A kid at my school said my dad’s English sounds like a thick, dirty river. But to me his English sounds like gentle rain.”

The star-laden sky and the blueness of the pond before the sun comes up, where the father has taken his young son to fish for that night’s dinner, wraps the story in a cloak of love. The soft mist of the early morning and the sweetness of the interaction between dad and son are beautifully captured in both poetic words and tender pictures.

Alexander Graham Bell: Answers the Call, written and illustrated by Mary Ann Fraser is an unusually interesting picture book biography. Readers between 6-9 years of age will not only enjoy the story of the invention of the telephone but will also find out how Aleck’s childhood curiosity about sound itself played an important role.

Aleck was born in Scotland in 1847. His mother, Eliza Bell, had been deaf since childhood and his father, Melville Bell, was a speech therapist. His mother played the piano and heard the notes by using an ear tube. In fact, Aleck often communicated with his mother by speaking into the tube as his mother listened on the other end. He was captivated by sound and even learned the 129 sounds his father taught when instructing lessons in Visible Speech.

“Baby Goes to Market,” written by Atinuke and illustrated by Angela Brooksbank is an adorable tale set in South West Nigeria for young children 3-7 years of age.  The musicality of the words along with the detailed and colorful illustrations are captivating.

The darling little big-eyed Baby does what comes naturally when he goes to market with his Mama riding in her back pack---he is cute! As Mama buys necessary staples such as rice, palm oil and a new pair of flip flops Baby makes sure he catches the attention of the other sellers. Consequently, entirely unknown to Mama, Baby is given many wonderful things to eat. The banana seller likes Baby’s curiosity and gives him six bananas. He eats one and places five in the basket that rides smartly atop Mama’s head. The orange seller thinks Baby could be hot so she gives him five juicy oranges. Baby eats one and places four in Mama’s basket. The biscuit seller thinks Baby is cheerful so he gives him four sugary biscuits. Baby eats one and places three in the basket and so on.

The Bad Mood and the Stick, written by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Matthew Forsythe is a clever picture book about how a bad mood, under the right conditions, can jump from one person to another.

As the story begins a little girl by the name of Curly is in a very bad mood because her Mom passed by the ice cream store while they were out walking without getting she and her younger brother some ice cream. The bad mood appears as a cloud over Curly’s head. Being in such a bad mood Curly picks up a stick and pokes her brother with it. Mom reprimands her and tells her to apologize! This puts Mom in a bad mood as the tricky little cloud moves from over Curly’s head to under Mom’s arm.

“Piece By Piece” written by Stephanie Shaw and illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault is a beautiful fairytale told in both lyrical language and graceful lines about a weaver and how she stays true to her artistic gifts and triumphs over greed and rejection.

The weaver gathers memories of things from nature and places them in her collection basket while her children play on the seashore. She then weaves these visual, tactile, auditory memories such as “the crunch of leaves,” “the leap and splash of a fish” and “the kiss of the sea as it reaches the shore” into her cloth. When the cloth is fashioned into a dress she takes it to the village shopkeeper in the hope she can sell it and buy food for her children. But the shopkeeper complains that it is too shimmery and tells her to take that part out of the dress.