Baabwaa & Wooliam

Melissa Sweet’s illustrations are perfect for this fun twist on the wolf in sheep’s clothing tale.

Picture book, fiction
Interest level: Pre-K through elementary school
4 out of 5 stars

Baabwaa and Wooliam are two sheep who like their rather boring life, where Baabwaa knits and Wooliam reads. One day, after reading a pirate book, Wooliam proposes they go on an adventure. The two friends set off to find explore their walled-in pasture. The only thing they find however, is that they are now hungry.
While munching on some grass, they are approached by another strange looking sheep, with a long tail, sharp snout, a filthy wool coat, and poor dental hygiene. Wooliam, who had read a book about a wolf in sheep’s clothing, recognizes the wolf and tells Baabwaa to run. The wolf gives up the chase as he ponders that Wooliam has read a book about him.

Wooliam realizes the wolf does not know how to read, and offers to teach him. Baabwaa is going to knit him a new coat to replace the ugly one he is wearing. Thus begins a new friendship.

What makes this friendship story different from others is that the wolf never fully gives up his natural tendency to chase sheep. In the middle of reading lessons, he would suddenly chase the two sheep around the field. Wooliam was annoyed by the behavior, but Baabwaa understood that “he is just following his nature. Besides, all that reading and knitting has taken its toll. We can use the exercise.” Sure enough, if you examine Melissa Sweet’s illustrations, the once very fluffy sheep are now much more svelte!

The book ends with Baabwaa and Wooliam discussing how they did indeed find a wonderful adventure, and the wolf asks them to keep it down because he is trying to read. Althogether a very smile-inducing twist on wolf in sheep clothing stories.
Melissa Sweet’s watercolor, gouache, and mixed media illustrations are a perfect fit for the whimsical tone of the story, and Baabwaa and Wooliam are absolutely adorable. This would make a fun read-aloud, or could be used in a lesson that examines different versions of the big bad wolf story.

Baabwaa & Wooliam
by David Eliott; illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Candlewick Press, 2017
ISBN 978-0-7636-6074-1

Peanut Butter & Cupcake!

This is a very inventive picture book about friendship and perseverance.

Picture book, fiction, friendship
Interest level: K-3; Reading level: 2.1
5 out of 5 stars

This book has a lot going for it, which I must admit I didn’t expect before I read it. I thought it looked like a silly read, and there are some moments with humor and fun plays on words, but it has a special and important message that it conveys as well.

Peanut Butter is new to town and just got a ball for his birthday. He starts searching for someone who will play with him. As he comes to each potential playmate, he recites a repetitive rhyme each time:

Hello, I’m new here, and I’d like to play
Maybe now, maybe later–or even all day
I’ll make you chuckle deep down in your belly
And we’ll go together like Peanut Butter and …

Each rhyme ends with Peanut Butter naming the new potential food-related friend. He encounters Hamburger, Cupcake, Egg, Meatball, French Fries, and Soup.

Children will love that they know who Peanut Butter’s special friend is supposed be, especially since it rhymes so well, but Peanut Butter almost gives up before his special someone is found. What makes the book even more wonderful is that while Peanut Butter and Jelly have a close relationship, they also make sure they include all the other friends in their fun.
Terry Border’s illustrations are also very unique and make the story even more special. The images are comprised of created objects that have been photographed. It is especially fun to look at closeups of images to come up with ideas of how they were constructed.

This would be a great book to read at the start of the school year as children are worrying about making friends in new classes or schools.

Connection: Terry Border and his family live in Indianapolis, Indiana. It’s always a good thing to support local authors.

Peanut Butter & Cupcake!
by Terry Border
Scholastic, 2014
ISBN 978-1-338-03820-0

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled
by Lynne Rae Perkins
Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-237345-8
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 26 cm
Interest Level: K-5; Reading Level: 2.7
Lexile measure: 660
4 out of 5 stars

At the end of an absolutely horrible day, Frank’s parents take him to the animal shelter where he meets his new best friend, Lucky, who was also having a pretty bad day. Thus begins a beautiful friendship between a boy and his dog.

What makes this book unique is how Lynne Rae Perkins takes this basic story and manages to tie in lessons about how learning isn’t just something you do in school, but it takes place all around us. For example, when Lucky wants to learn about skunks, Frank had to learn about chemistry in order to change Lucky from “smelly” to “not-so-smelly.” The two friends explore the concept of fractions as we see how much of the bed at night is Frank’s and how much is Lucky’s. Art is explored by discovering that “every picture can be better with a dog in it.”

The concepts introduced in the book sometimes might be above the heads of younger readers, but I can see children in grades 3-5 really enjoying the lessons explored in the wild. Children who like dogs will really love this story, because the friendship between Frank and Lucky is the most important lesson of all.

Ballet Cat: Dance! Dance! Underpants!

Bob Shea has created a wonderful series that focuses on Ballet Cat and some of her friends. This friendship story will cause lots of laughs, because …. underpants!

Dance! Dance! Underpants!
by Bob Shea
Disney/Hyperion, 2016
Beginning reader, picture book, fiction
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 24 cm
Interest Level: K-3; Reading Level: 1.7
4 out of 5 stars

Ballet Cat is practicing ballet with Butter Bear, who is fine with toe pointing, but very reluctant to practicing super-high leaps. In fact, Butter Bear comes up with every excuse she can think of not to practice high-leaps, until Ballet Cat gets fed up and demands to know what is going on. Is Butter Bear scared? Afraid to fail?

Young readers will delight to find out that the problem involves underpants! The ending of the story is silly and fun. This would make a great read-aloud to kindergarten or first graders.

Shea has also included one of the best jokes for any adults who may be reading this to a child. The book is dedicated “For Steph, who may or may not have written the funniest joke in the whole story.” I believe the answer lies here:
Ballet Cat: Dance! Dance! Underpants! is the second book in the series by Shea. Fans of Elephant & Piggie will also enjoy these books of friendship and fun. These books will highly motivate beginning readers.

Suryia & Roscoe: the true story of an unlikely friendship; 4 out of 5 stars #bookaday

by Bhagavan Antle with Thea Feldman; photographs by Barry Bland
Henry Holt and Co., New York, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9316-2
Description: 32 unnumbered pages : color illustrations, color maps ; 24 cm
Dewey: 599.883
Subject: Narrative nonfiction; unlikely animal friendship
Interest Level: K-3; Reading Level: 2.0
Lexile measure: 430
4 out of 5 stars

Summary from the publisher: “Who can imagine an orangutan being friends with a dog? Is it even possible? With Suryia and Roscoe it is! Dogs and orangutans rarely meet, and when they do, they are naturally shy around each other. But when Suryia the orangutan first meets Roscoe, a stray dog, they become best friends from the start. Set on a preserve for rare animals, The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.) in South Carolina, here is a true story of a remarkable friendship between two unforgettable animals.”

Evaluation: This lower level text is brimming with the author’s excitement, and when read out loud with enthusiasm, will quickly capture children’s attention. The text reads like a conversation and details when Roscoe, the dog, first met Suryia, the orangutan. Children will love all the photographs of the two friends.

There is an author’s note in the back that provides more information about the wildlife preserve where Suryia and Roscoe live, as well as a map indicating where orangutans live in the wild. If you are reading to a group, the map is a little too small for listeners to view without placing it on a document camera.

The engaging topic, fun text, and silly photographs all combine to make this a hit as a read-aloud for younger children.

Sophie’s Squash Go to School; 4 out of 5 stars #bookaday

by Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016.
ISBN 978-0-553-50944-1.
Picture book, fiction, friendship
Interest level: PreK-grade 2
Reading level: 2.9
4 out of 5 stars

This is a sequel to the wonderful Sophie’s Squash. It is not imperative that you read the original Sophie story, but it does provide some background that gives this story a little more depth.

It is time for Sophie to go to school, so she takes her two friends, Bonnie and Baxter, with her. While sometimes it can be comforting to take something special from home when you go to school for the first time, Sophie only wants to play with her squash and refuses to make friends with her classmates. One boy in particular refuses to give up on Sophie, following her and watching everything she does.

After accidentally ripping a picture Sophie drew of Bonnie and Baxter, Steve Green apologizes in a way that makes Sophie look at friendship in a new way and she begins to connect with her classmates. The last line of the book is very profound and sums up the story well — “Sometimes growing a friend just takes time.”

Readers who enjoyed Sophie’s Squash will like this sequel. This would also be a good book for parents or teachers to read to child heading off to school for the first time.