I'm Emily Reynolds.
Are you a goal-setter? If you're here, reading this book review about children's literature, you must be. So just for you, here are a half-dozen story* recommendations that will inspire you to train for that triathlon, start your own business, lose thirty pounds, travel around the world and learn a new language, or get your pilot's license in the new year.
(*Slight caveat: not all of these "story recommendations" are in picture book format--two of them are movies...Wha?!!! Time to shake things up, I guess.) Enjoy! This list is a quickie...
1) After the Fall, by Dan Santat
If you're not acquainted yet with Dan Santat's genius, you're in for a picture book BFF relationship! This title of Mr. Santat's is my personal favorite of his repertoire. I won't say more than this spread alone made my entire family laugh--from our six year-old to the forty-seven year-old!
I had to open the book up multiple times over the two week period when we checked this out--just for the sheer pleasure of poring over the names of these cereals. I mean, check out the pic of the black and white box of bland old "Twigs and Berries" on the bottom (left) shelf--it's completely out-radianced by the cereals named, "FREE TOY!" or "SUGAR FROSTED SUGAR" on the top row. Dan Santat, you're having way too much fun. And aren't we glad because of it?! Ha ha!
So much so, that I wouldn't mind eating a bowl of "Sad Clown" cereal (second shelf up, third from the right--behind the sliding ladder) if it meant I could peruse through "After the Fall" while munching on a bowl.
Go, gobble this book up yourself. And you'll exceed your laughing quota for the day. And perhaps get a little surprise of finding yourself teary-eyed at the end. Warning! You may have to read through the conclusion a few times before the "what happens" really sinks in. It took me a minute. Or maybe I'm just slow. More likely the latter. :)
2) Vera Rides a Bike, by Vera Rosenberry
Do you and your little people know the Vera books? If not...(OH!) you will love them! I even adored them before we found out Ms. Rosenberry lives in England. (Okay, I openly admit it--I am obsessed with all things English. How dorky am I? Yes, I know it. You all know it. *Blush.* Oh well. What to do...)
But here's why Ms. Rosenberry's books work. Vera's view of the world is so spot-on, so childlike! And Vera's vision of the world is authentic, so much so that adults and kids can't help commiserating for this little soul as she tries her best to navigate the world of big feelings and first happenings in a small person's body. Vera Rides a Bike just reminds one of the great feelings we all experience after finally figuring out a new skill. Then to make it through a scrape using that new skill is fantastic, right?!
Not to mention that the quirky illustrations are genuine and one-of-a-kind. I sure wish I could draw in such a fresh style. Teach me, Vera! Teach me.
Here's a link to the Goodreads blurb about this title:
And here's a list of Vera Rosenberry's many other published books:
3) Sahara Special, by Esme Raji Codell
My eight year-old, Quincy, just read this one last summer. She fell in love with it even more so than I did a decade ago, when my older sister first introduced me to Ms. Raji Codell's writing (Thanks, Celestia!).
Every person with an Achilles Heel, that is, um--all of us--can relate to the vulnerability Sahara feels when her weaknesses are exposed publicly amidst the desire to achieve her heart's dream of becoming a writer.
And because there are two or three curse words in this book, checking out a title before we hand it to our children is a good idea, as each child is particular in their methods of handling media. If I had the time to read all of my kids' books aloud to them, I would just swap out the few swears, but reading this one ahead, may be helpful for some.
Here's what one parent's review from Common sense media says:
"An impressive offering
I was offered this as a choice to use for a book review assignment for a diversity class. I found the book to be a strong voice for students that often go unheard. It offers inspiration for the young reader and insight for those of us that are a bit older. It reminds us that kids' lives are as complex as our own and that each child needs that consideration. I highly recommend this book."
And one child's review of the book, just as a heads-up:
"very good book...
I loved this book...I thought Sahara is funny and has a heart of gold. The language surprised me. I couldn't believe it was in my school library! ( I'm in elementary school, my school accepts grades K-6th Grade) Still, it is an AWESOME book and I would love to read it again."
The way this book made me feel was unforgettable--empowered and touched. This title would be an exceptional read-aloud, which would solve any problems regarding children reading cursing, as a parent could skip right over the profanities. Note: Ms. Codell is writing from the perspective of an inner-city school where she taught for several years in actual life. Still, note to self, that when writing my own book, I can make the narrator explain that any unschooled characters, "cursed under their breath," rather than spelling out the unsavory wordage. Right? Right.
4) The trilogy:
Emily of New Moon,
Emily Climbs, and
Emily's Quest, by L.M. Montgomery
No, I did not choose this trilogy because of the name, Silly goose. Probably more likely that I must have subconsciously empathized with the protagonist as she discovered a love of words and writing. In my adolescence, these were three of my very favorite books by L.M. Montgomery about following one's dreams. I almost loathe to admit it, but I like these titles even better than the Anne books. EEK! Is that blasphemy? They're right up there with Pat of Silverbush. Are they your old friends as well?
Here's Goodreads weighing in, once again, on the trilogy:
Emily of New Moon, book 1:
Emily Climbs, book 2:
Emily's Quest, book 3:
And now the anomalies I promised...the family MOVIES to keep you entertained through the long winter...
5) Dangal has, by now, hopefully been seen by you all. But, if there is one soul out there who has not seen this movie yet, this entire blog was written just for you. Dangal is (quote) "an extraordinary true story based on the life of Mahavir Singh and his two daughters, Geeta and Babita Phogat. The film traces the inspirational journey of a father who trains his daughters to become world class wrestlers." (UTV Motion Pictures)
I cannot say enough good about this movie. If you know me personally, you've already heard me blab on and on about it, until I've pestered you for at least six months, asking, "Have you seen it yet? What about now? Have you had time yet?" Until you've finally watched the movie just to appease my blethering. It's that good.
See the official trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuIVa_K59QE
And a behind-the-scenes/making-of-the-movie here:
I always know I'm in for a treat--that a film is going to be supremely good--when my husband Matt, movie connoisseur extraordinaire, insists that the whole family watch something together that he's already previewed and enjoyed on his own.
I'll tell you something...when elementary-aged kids can sit down right along with the high schoolers, and the adults thoroughly enjoy the whole thing along with every one of the kids--this, my friend, is fine cinema at its superlative.
By the end of this movie, you'll be giddy to wake up at 5 a.m. to go run the mile, drink raw eggs by the fistful, and dust off whatever other strange ambitions you've always wanted to accomplish.
Truly, this based-on-real-life movie is simple inspiration--showing us one true example of how one man's dreams and patience to mentor his daughters, brought an entire community and country together, above prejudice and dusty ideas, to witness something exceptional--all for the love of the sport and one's own people. Meet you on the wrestling mat. (With a head bobble. You'll see what I mean when you watch the movie.)
(Unfortunately, this film is only available on Netflix, as far as I know. If you've found it elsewhere, or have located a great place from which to order the DVD, please fill us in, and comment below!)
6) Pele: Birth of a Legend
This movie makes me want to be a better parent. My family laughed, cried, hoped, and danced at the end. I mean, up on our feet, jamming. You will too, just wait and see--oh, just wait! (With such powerfully-rhythmic music, ninguém pode evitá-lo--no one can avoid it!) So beautiful. So touching, and so incredible that the story is actually true, neh? (As they say "no Brahz-io.")
Besides, I'm a sucker for the Brasileiro and Português cultures--from my days serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (in ye olde days of snail mail--gasp--can you imagine?!) in Portugal and the Cape Verde Islands. Makes my heart go wild when I see the big heartedness of the Brazilian culture and hear the beauty of that sing-song Portuguese language of the Iberian Peninsula. Joy.
Once again, thanks to the hubs for insisting last winter that my kids and I watch this great pic. Você tem bom gosto, Matt! What'll it be next? Bring it on! I'm ready...
So a happy, shiny, new 2020 to everyone! And don't be shy. Someone out there has GOT to have a fun new year's resolution to share in the comments below. Pretty please? With a Brazilian cereja on top...