The following children’s book all show how children (or, in one case, penguins) can find their own special talents. By sharing a smile, or doing a small service, one can change someone’s life. I like each of these books for the sweet messages they share, plus they are fun stories!
Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein (Candlewick, 2012) is a circular book to emphasize our individual and unseen influence on others. When Amelia smiles, Mrs. Higgins smiles too, and makes cookies for her son in Mexico. When he eats the cookies, he teaches his class a song about cookies and his student makes a decision. As each person makes a decision, the story travels around the globe, from New York to Mexico, Paris, Israel, and more. Eventually, someone’s choice makes Amelia smile, and the reader is convinced that the influence of that smile will travel the globe again. The crayon, pencil and watercolor illustrations are rich and full of detail. As I pour over the illustrations, I wonder which other people have been influenced and the ways the world will change because of the influence of the one. The whole book brings a smile to my face.
Penguin wonders how he can contribute to the community talent show in Penguin’s Hidden Talent by Alex Latimer (Peachtree, 2012). Predictably, he finds he does have a talent, and his friends greatly appreciate it in the end. Although Penguin’s Hidden Talent follows a predictable format, it is still a heartwarming book about finding your place in a community as well a hilarious tale about a penguin. As Penguin tries various skills, he cannot find success. Why, he can’t burp the alphabet or juggle appliances! What can he do? I loved the twist at the end, where he realizes, “I don’t need a medal. I need a telephone.” Further, I really like the geometric pencil drawings. Penguin’s story is inspiring, but it’s also lots of fun. Who doesn’t like a good party?
Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine by Allison Wortche and pictures by Patrice Barton (Knopf, 2011) is a book about selflessness and overcoming jealousy. Rosie is tired of being overshadowed in her class by Violet, whom everyone believes is the Best in everything she does. When it comes time to begin the class unit on growing a plant, Rosie is determined to have the best plant, despite what Violet brags. But when Violet remains out of class, sick, for days, Rosie feels she should help Violet’s plant succeed. I loved how Rosie’s “time to shine” in this book was not about recognition from others, but rather about her own internal change from jealousy to service. The digitally rendered pencil illustrations are soft and sweet, perfectly matching the feeling of Rosie’s story. I really liked this book.
Crafty Chloe by KellyDiPucchio and illustrated by Heather Ross (Atheneum, 2012) is a sparkly book for the creative child, and yet my not crafty five-year-old son enjoyed it too. Chloe is not good at sports or dancing or video games like some of her friends, but she is good at making things. When her friend has a birthday party and Chloe cannot find the perfect gift at the store (because another friend is already getting it!) Chloe must figure out the perfect thing to make for her friend. I loved the emphasis on child creativity. This wasn’t a project of Chloe’s mom telling her what to do. Chloe was the one in charge of the project, and the ultimate result was perfect. Although my son is not a doll-loving crafty girl as was Chloe and her friends in this book, he still really loved Chloe’s creativity in finding a solution to the question all kids have: what to take to a friend’s birthday party.
These books were all nominated for the 2012 Cybils awards.