Books of the Week – Quest & Otto The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear

51uek3gw6il-_sx357_bo1204203200_My selection for originality in writing this week was Tomi Ungerer‘s “Otto The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear“. The book tells the story of a little bear that is given as a birthday gift to a young boy. His life starts out great, he spends all of his time with David (the boy who owns him) and his best friend Oskar. Their happiness does not last however, Oskar and his family are taken away in trucks, along with the rest of the Jewish families. David gifts Otto to Oskar. In the process of the war, Oskar loses Otto. Otto is found by an American soldier who uses him as a shield, when a bullet almost strikes his heart. Eventually Otto ends up in America where he miraculously is reunited with Oskar and David.

I loved the story and I love the fact that it provides children with a bit of history. Although the story is tragic in many ways, people’s kindness and Otto’s resilience lead to a happy ending. There are many tragic and also happy twists and turns, as happens in most people’s lives, but in the end all three main characters overcome their difficulties (enough so to live happy and fulfilled lives). I like stories like these because they open up discussions about difficult subjects with children. They help them understand that life can be tough sometimes and unfair and that they should always try to be kind to others.

imagesThis week for originality in illustrations I selected Quest by Aaron Becker. The story is a follow-up to Journey. It tells the story of two children who stumble across a door that leads them back into the magical world first found in quest. They are faced with the challenge of finding all the magical colors in different parts of the mystical world in order to rescue the king. They go on a grand adventure. They travel under the sea, to a jungle over a rickety bridge, they soar over the mountains and eventually collect all the colors. Once they connect them, they defeat their enemies and save the magical world. The king is saved and he throws them a huge parade and knights them.

Quest is a very unique book in that there are absolutely no words, just beautiful images that tell and equally beautiful story. The words are not necessary in this case, they might actually detract from the story if they were there. Children are encouraged to add their own special touch to the story and to imagine what the children must be feeling. It is truly an incredibly unique and beautiful book.

What books were your favorite this week?


Please be sure to check back every Friday to see what book(s) I selected as my Books of the Week for Originality in the Writing and Illustrations. Feel free to make any recommendations on books I should check out.

Book of the Week – The Mighty Lalouche

24821874._UX200_.jpgI decided to select one book this week for originality in illustration and writing – The Mighty Lalouche. The book is written by Matthew Olshan and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. It tells the story of a postman named Lalouche who loves working as a postman. Unfortunately, one day his boss tells him they are going to have to let him go. Lalouche is devastated, because he loved his job. However, he has to figure out how to make money. He sees a boxing poster advertising the need for people with all the abilities he possesses (he is fast, nimble, and strong). He decides to try his hand at boxing (even though he is very small and thin). He ends up beating some of the biggest and strongest boxers. However, in spite of all his boxing trophies, he misses his old job. Eventually he receives a call from his old boss and he gets his job back as a postman. Once more, Lalouche is happy and feels fulfilled.

I absolutely love everything about this book. I love the story, the french words thrown in, the quirky underdog, the beautiful and equally quirky drawings. I love the fact that the main character is a small and thin man who manages to outmaneuver the huge overly muscular boxers that assume they will take him down right away. Lalouche proves that looks can be deceiving and that he is much stronger than he appears. I also love that Lalouche is not in it for recognition – his true passion is being a postman (a job that is often not perceived to be prestigious or noteworthy in comparison to winning boxing trophies). It has such a great message about reaching goals, not letting others put you down, not judging others by their appearance, and about following your passions.

In addition to the great story I absolutely love the illustrations.They are colorful and quirky. I also love the decision to cut out the images and give the illustrations a three dimensional feel. It was a great choice which made the book even more unique and special. The arrangement of the words works perfectly with the illustrations presented by Sophie.

This is a beautiful look into life in late 19th century France. You do not need to be a boxer, a postman, or a Frenchman to relate to Lalouche – you just have to share the human experience.


Please be sure to check back every Friday to see what book(s) I selected as my Books of the Week for Originality in the Writing and Illustrations. Feel free to make any recommendations on books I should check out.

Book Review – Journey

61596besl6l-_sx258_bo1204203200_Summary – Tells the story of a little girl who feels neglected and lonely. She finds a magic red color and draws a door in her bedroom which leads to a magical world. She takes her crayon along and uses it to draw modes of transportation (a boat, hot air balloon, and a magic carpet). The adventures she goes on are amazing. Eventually it leads her to a new friend and a lif ethat is much less lonely.

  1. Bestseller’s Lists or Awards – A 2014 Caldecott Honor Book, a Junior Library Guild Selection, The New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children’s Book Awards
  2. Themes – Loneliness, Imagination, Magic, Friendship, Journey, Wonder
  3. Age Range – 4 to 8 Year Olds
  4. Author/Illustrator – Aaron Becker
  5. PublisherCandlewick Press an Imprint of Random House
  6. Year Published – 2013
  7. Original Retail Price – $15.99 for Hardcover Book
  8. Number of Pages – 40 pages  (includes title page and body of the book)
  9. Word Count – There are no words in this book.
  10. Complexity of Story – The story is complex in its images. There is a lot of detail in each of the images and each reader can add their own flair to the story through their personal experiences.
  11. P.O.V. – The story is told from the perspective of the young girl.
  12. Dialogue? – There is no dialogue.
  13. Rhyming? – There isn’t any rhyming.
  14. What Makes it Special? – There are no words in the book, so it is up to the “reader” to input their own take on the book based on the images that are presented. In a way it forces the “reader” to think more critically and figure out what’s going on.
  15. What I like about this book? – I love the images, they are absolutely stunning. They have so much detail and allow the “reader” to travel to those magical worlds with the little girl. My favorite part is when she initially enters the magical world through her bedroom. The forest will all the lights and lanterns is stunning.

Thank you for reading my book reviews. The purpose of these reviews is to break down and analyze bestselling and award winning books. It is crucial for writers and illustrators, that wish to be published, to do homework on what books are currently being sold and garnering awards. I hope to figure out what makes these books special and what attributes they share. I hope you will find this review helpful.

Book Review – Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

61+jut2htwL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Summary – This story tells the origin of how Winnie the Pooh came to be. A veterinarian named Harry Colebourn bought a cub on his way to help take care of horses during World War I. They develop a lifelong friendship. Eventually, Harry realizes that in order to keep Winnie safe, he can’t take her along with him anymore and he decides to take her to the London Zoo. Winnie is visited by Christopher Robin at the zoo and eventually they too become great friends. His father, Alan Alexander Milne, wrote about the adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Christohepher Robin.

  1. Bestseller’s Lists or Awards – A #1 New York Times Bestseller and Winner of the 2016 Caldecott Medal
  2. Themes – Friendship, War, World War 1, Winnie the Pooh
  3. Age Range – 4 to 8 Year Olds
  4. Author/Illustrator – Lindsay Mattick/Sophie Blackall
  5. PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
  6. Year Published – 2015
  7. Original Retail Price – $18.00 for Hardcover Book
  8. Number of Pages – 44 pages  (includes title page and body of the book)
  9. Word Count – 1,631 words total (includes only body pages). Average of 37 words per page.
  10. Complexity of Story – The story is told in simple terms geared towards a younger audience. Although a large component has to do with war, the author made sure to leave out the tough realities associated with war and instead focus on the friendship between the bear and Harry.
  11. P.O.V. – The story is told from the perspective of the great granddaughter of Harry Colebourn. She tells the story to her son.
  12. Dialogue? – There is dialogue.
  13. Rhyming? – There isn’t any rhyming.
  14. What Makes it Special? – The story is based on a true story. It tells the origins of how Winnie the Pooh came to be the sweet bear everyone loves. At the end, the author includes actual pictures of the bear that Winnie the Pooh was based on as well as a picture of the little boy known as Christopher Robin.
  15. What I like about this book? – I loved the idea of passing on history to our children and the importance of telling them about our ancestors (everyone has a story to tell). I loved the story overall, I never realized that Winnie the Pooh was actually based on a real living bear and that he had such an amazing and interesting history. The images are also absolutely beautiful, they add to an already beautiful story.

Thank you for reading my book reviews. The purpose of these reviews is to break down and analyze bestselling and award winning books. It is crucial for writers and illustrators, that wish to be published, to do homework on what books are currently being sold and garnering awards. I hope to figure out what makes these books special and what attributes they share. I hope you will find this review helpful.

Book Review – The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore

U7mLCwAAQBAJSummary – The book tells the story of the a young boy named Lewis Michaux Jr. and his father, Lewis Michaux Sr. Lewis Michaux Sr. is the owner of the National Memorial African Bookstore. It is a bookstore that he worked hard to make a reality. He started the bookstore in order to get black people to read and talk about things that mattered; however, the bookstore was open to anyone and everyone. Lewis Michaux Sr. wanted to create a space where different people could come together and learn. The bookstore became a place where people from all walks of life came, including celebrities like Muhammad Ali and Malcom X. It is a beautiful story about a father who is passionate about books and about sharing his passion with others. He encourages his son to read, learn, and to ask questions. The story is more touching because it is told from the son’s perspective – the love and respect he has for his father is beautiful.

  1. Bestseller’s Lists or Awards
    A 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
  2. Themes – Sharing knowledge, father-son relationship, love of learning, love of reading, political change, equal rights
  3. Age Range – 4 to 8 Year Olds
  4. Author/Illustrator – Vaunda Micheaux Nelson/R. Gregory Christie
  5. PublisherCarolrhoda Books – A division of Lerner Publishing Group
  6. Year Published – 2015
  7. Original Retail Price – $17.99 for Hardcover Book
  8. Number of Pages – 31 (includes title page and body of the book)
  9. Word Count – 1,496 words total (includes only body pages). Average of 48 words per page.
  10. Complexity of Story – The words used and the information provided are a bit more advanced than other picture books I’ve read, but a lot of it has to do with the subject matter. Nonetheless, the information is not told in language that is too advanced for its intended audience.
  11. P.O.V. – The story is told from the young boy’s perspective.
  12. Dialogue? – There is dialogue.
  13. Rhyming? – There are some passages throughout the book that the dad repeats or has all over his store that are poetic and rhyme.
  14. What Makes it Special? – The subject matter is a very important one that is not always addressed or talked about with young children. The author manages to present the information in a way that doesn’t speak down to kids (instead it acknowledges that they are smart and mature enough to understand) and it also tackles it in such a graceful and beautiful way.
  15. What I like about this book? – I love the relationship between the dad and the son. There is clear mutual respect and love. The father tries encouraging his son to learn  and think for himself without necessarily trying to impose his own views on him. My favorite part in the book was when Lewis Michaux Sr. does not give up on his dream of opening a bookstore and works hard for every penny so that he can open a bookstore in Harlem. He is refused a loan by the bank, because they say, “black people don’t read.” But Lewis Michaux Sr. proves them wrong after he opens his bookstore.

Thank you for reading my book reviews. The purpose of these reviews is to break down and analyze bestselling and award winning books. It is crucial for writers and illustrators, that wish to be published, to do homework on what books are currently being sold and garnering awards. I hope to figure out what makes these books special and what attributes they share. I hope you will find this review helpful.

Books of the Week – Spork & Virginia Wolf

51acOmac4UL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_This week’s selection for originality in writing was Spork by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. The author tells the story of a little spork who, although loved by his mother (a spoon) and his father (a fork), he does not quite fit in with any of the other kitchen utensils. To make matters worse, he is hardly ever used or allowed to participate in the humans’ dining experiences. Although he makes many attempts to change his appearance in order to fit in, he realizes he can’t change the essence of who he is or where he comes from. Eventually, the home where he lives, gets a new family member, who finds great use for a spork.

What I love about this book is that it talks about a sensitive subject (the feeling of not belonging, due to either coming from a mixed race family, or for any other reason) and it presents it in such an innocent and sweet way. I loved everything about it. I love the thought that it has the potential to make children feel better about being different and to have them realize that they too belong and serve an important purpose. The illustrations are also very sweet and well thought out, they work perfectly with the feel of the book.

The book I selected for originality in illustrations is Virginia Wolf, which interestingly enough is also written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault – I did not realize I had chosen two books from the same author and illustrator until a few minutes ago, when I sat down to write my reviews. I first picked up this book, because I thought it was an homage to Virginia Woolf (which it might be interpreted in that way, to some extent, since Virginia Woolf tackled depression and her sister Vanessa Bell was a painter). Although it wasn’t an exact homage to Virginia Woolf, I was not the slightest bit let down by the story.

51LNpt+VRRLThis book tells the story of a young girl named Vanessa, whose sister, Virginia, wakes up one day feeling wolfish. Virginia does not want to see anyone, get out of bed, or do anything. Vanessa does everything she can to try and make her feel better. Eventually, she decides to paint a mural of all the beautiful things Virginia likes and says would make her feel better. Vanessa’s creative plan, helps Virginia feel better and a lot less wolfish. It is an absolutely beautiful story about depression, tackled very tastefully.

Although I love the story and the message behind it, I absolutely love the colorful images and the way the text is utilized as well to add more drama when needed. The illustrations have a very Alice in Wonderland feel to them, which I love. I also love the fact that the illustrator starts off using color and then as Virginia falls into a deeper depressive state of mind, the illustrations become more monotone and darker. Once Vanessa realizes how to help Virginia, the illustrations become colorful and lively again. Everything was so well thought out and executed.

This week’s books both tackle subjects that are sometimes regarded as being taboo, but the author and illustrator manage to present them in such a respectful and beautiful way. I recommend both these books to everyone.


Please be sure to check back every Friday to see what book(s) I selected as my Books of the Week for Originality in the Writing and Illustrations. Feel free to make any recommendations on books I should check out.