Book Review: What Is Given from the Heart

Patricia C. McKissack’s final book is a harmony of thoughtfulness and feeling that speaks to the resilience of children.

 
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Here is the publisher’s summary:

This final, magnificent picture book from three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Newbery Honor author Patricia McKissack is a poignant and uplifting celebration of the joy of giving. 

“Misery loves company,” Mama says to James Otis. It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service– the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temple’s “love box,” but what does he have worth giving? With her extraordinary gift for storytelling, McKissack–with stunning illustrations by Harrison–delivers a touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart, reaches the heart.

I was first struck by the illustrations of this book. Harrison’s use of collage works brilliantly. Each page is filled with bittersweet texture that not only appeals to kids, but also nods to nostalgia. Fabrics, papers, and photograph snippets all serve as vehicles back in time for older readers and sources of wonder for younger readers. Harrison’s colors and patterns beg us to turn the page, if only to see what the next visual will convey. The diversity of media used in the illustrations also serves McKissack’s story - give to those in a variety of situations, with a variety of backgrounds. Give to those who are trying to piece together a world from scraps.

McKissack is unflinching from the first page. A note to parents: this book contains some heavy material, but McKissack handles it with grace and nuance while maintaining accessibility. While this is a story about some pretty painful things that happen in the life of a child, this isn’t one of those books that are about-kids-but-for-adults. No, this is a story for children, and James Otis’s intelligent, matter-of-fact voice allows it to move seamlessly from childlike curiosity to tough truths of life and back again.

The story also breaks down what it means to give “from the heart,” a phrase adults often present to children and then leave floating in their brains as a complete abstraction. The reader follows James Otis as he tries to think of anything he might give to a girl who lost her home in a fire. We see his careful choosing process and his doubling back, his excitement and his second guessing. We see him learn from Mama’s actions and explanations that to give from the heart is to give thoughtfully and sincerely.

What is Given from the Heart is a story that trusts its child readers to accompany James Otis on his quest for a heartfelt gift. It trusts kids to match its intelligence. How fantastic, to teach children that both emotion and logic exist side by side in the act of giving!

As always, happy reading!

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Book Review: Lola Dutch: When I Grow Up

The newest Lola Dutch book, out January 15, 2019, celebrates the sincere grandeur of a child’s imagination with charming characters and lovely illustrations.

 
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Here is a summary from the publisher:

Lola Dutch is always bursting with grand plans--so of course she has many ideas for what she wants to be when she grows up!

She could be a magnificent performer . . . 
or a daring inventor . . . 
or a brilliant botanist . . . 
there are exciting ideas all around! But Lola is too excited--she wants to try EVERYTHING. How will she ever decide what she is destined to become?

The curious and creative Lola Dutch is inspired to imagine every way to explore the wonder of her world. And she doesn't have to wait until she grows up!

Just like the Wright’s first Lola book, Lola Dutch: When I Grow Up is bursting with energy and imagination. The characters readers fell in love with in book one are back, and while the enthusiasm is the same, book two avoids feeling redundant or monotonous. The Wrights manage to create a fresh adventure without losing any of their signature charm.

Much like Lola herself, Sarah Jane Wright’s illustrations don’t shy away from being colorful and grandiose. She mixes minimalism and maximalism with expert fluidity. The important parts of Lola’s imagination are highlighted with bright, eclectic patterns and fearless detail, while the backgrounds remain gracefully airy, a canvas for everything Lola can dream up.

This brings me to perhaps the best thing about both the Lola Dutch books: they provide a space to celebrate the sincerity and grandeur of a child’s imagination. Lola Dutch may be a little bit much, but the story never tries to reign her in, and her friends - Bear, Gator, Pig, and Crane - are up for whatever adventures Lola comes up with next, loving her all the while.

If this book sounds as adorable to you as it does to us, good news! Author and illustrator team Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright will be at The Story Shop on January 16 at 6:00 p.m. for a fantastic party and book signing in honor of the release of Lola Dutch: When I Grow Up! You won’t want to miss it - join in the fun by registering here:

And as always, happy reading!

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Mini-List: Gift Ideas from The Story Shop

The Story Shop is full of bookish gifts for all your holiday needs!

Here is a mini-list of items and book pairings we think are pretty great:

 
 
This  Under Water  book + these adorable sea-creature knee socks (Bonus: reverse the book to read  Under Earth !)

This Under Water book + these adorable sea-creature knee socks (Bonus: reverse the book to read Under Earth!)

 
 
 
Would You Rather Be a Princess or a Dragon?  + these colorful party crowns

Would You Rather Be a Princess or a Dragon? + these colorful party crowns

 
 
 
BabyLit’s precious  Moby-Dick  board book + this felt white whale ornament

BabyLit’s precious Moby-Dick board book + this felt white whale ornament

 
 
 
Time for Bed, Miyuki  + the Really Tiny Book Light (This works for any of our bedtime books - just pick a book and a book light in a cute pastel color!)

Time for Bed, Miyuki + the Really Tiny Book Light
(This works for any of our bedtime books - just pick a book and a book light in a cute pastel color!)

 
 
 
Curious George  onesie + library checkout card socks with grippies shaped like date stamps (We realize this one isn’t technically a book/item combo, but Evelyn’s outfit was on point, so we had to include it.)

Curious George onesie + library checkout card socks with grippies shaped like date stamps
(We realize this one isn’t technically a book/item combo, but Evelyn’s outfit was on point, so we had to include it.)

 
 

Stop by The Story Shop to pick up these great gifts, and many others!

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Staff Picks: Lana and Andie

If you don’t know where to start when it comes to the wide world of children’s literature, we’ve got your back! Reading staff picks is a great way to find a variety of books curated by devoted bookworms. This week, celebration facilitator Lana and bookseller Andie share some of their favorites!

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Lana's Favorites

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Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World

I absolutely LOVE this book! The illustrations are adorable, and it is a great read about so many impactful, strong, and brilliant women throughout history. From scientists and inventors to artists and writers, there are so many incredible women featured in this book. If you are looking for an inspirational read for the little dreamer in your life, this one is perfect!

 
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Turning Pages

This kid-friendly autobiography by Sonia Sotomayor is one of my all-time favorite children’s books. Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina U.S. Supreme Court Justice, tells her life story, and the courage, perseverance, and tenacity it took for her to achieve her success. It is also a great introduction for little readers to learn about the Supreme Court and what the Justices do.


 
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Andie's favorites

Fly by Night

Inspired by 18th-century England, Fly by Night is a thought-provoking and courageous fantasy-mystery. You’ll fall in love with protagonist Mosca and her (homicidal) pet goose Saracen as they discover conspiracies, colorful characters, secret schools, and floating coffeehouses. Soon, Mosca becomes a very important agent in the town of Mandelion’s impending revolution.

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May Bird Book 1: The Ever After

This has been one of my favorite books for over a decade. I just love the world Anderson has created, and the characters are lovable and so unique. 10-year old May discovers a portal to the world of the dead in her small West Virginia town, and when she falls through, she finds herself (along with her hairless cat, Somber Kitty) entangled in a struggle so much bigger than she herself has ever been.

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Harbor Me

Jacqueline Woodson has written what is sure to become an American classic. 6 kids from a variety of backgrounds record their unsupervised conversations with each other about their lives and their thoughts, big and small. The strongest thing about this book is Woodson’s decision to let the kids lead it - through their words, we get crucial insights about life in present-day America.

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If You Liked: Lola Dutch

If you loved Lola Dutch and are looking for your next read, look no further! If you’re unique, imaginative, and a little bit much, you’ll love these books. (Hover over the pictures for descriptions!)

If You Liked

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Try These Titles:

Princesses Wear Pants  follows the unflappable Princess Penelope Pineapple, who knows how to get the job done while staying true to herself. Princess Penelope lives in a beautiful palace with a closet full of beautiful dresses. But being a princess is much, much more than beauty. In fact, every morning Princess Penelope runs right past her frilly dresses to choose from her beloved collection of pants!  What she wears each day depends on which job she has to do. Will she command the royal air force sporting her sequined flight suit? Will she find her zen in her yoga pants and favorite tee? Or, will she work in the kingdom’s vegetable garden with pocketed overalls for all of her tools?  Unfortunately for Princess Penelope, not everyone in the Pineapple Kingdom thinks pants are always appropriate princess attire. When the grand Lady Busyboots demands that Princess Penelope must wear a gown to the annual Pineapple Ball, the young royal finds a clever way to express herself. Penelope’s courage (and style choices) result in her saving the day!

Princesses Wear Pants follows the unflappable Princess Penelope Pineapple, who knows how to get the job done while staying true to herself. Princess Penelope lives in a beautiful palace with a closet full of beautiful dresses. But being a princess is much, much more than beauty. In fact, every morning Princess Penelope runs right past her frilly dresses to choose from her beloved collection of pants!

What she wears each day depends on which job she has to do. Will she command the royal air force sporting her sequined flight suit? Will she find her zen in her yoga pants and favorite tee? Or, will she work in the kingdom’s vegetable garden with pocketed overalls for all of her tools?

Unfortunately for Princess Penelope, not everyone in the Pineapple Kingdom thinks pants are always appropriate princess attire. When the grand Lady Busyboots demands that Princess Penelope must wear a gown to the annual Pineapple Ball, the young royal finds a clever way to express herself. Penelope’s courage (and style choices) result in her saving the day!

 
When Princess Penelope Pineapple receives an SOS from Princess Sabrina Strawberry, Princess Penny learns that the Strawberry Kingdom’s bees have disappeared. Without bees, how will they enjoy their most precious fruit?  Penny knows the power of teamwork, so she calls a meeting of the Fruit Nations! And princesses from around the land—from Princess Beatrice Blueberry to Princess Kira Kiwi—answer the call to help a friend in need. With a little creative thinking and a whole lot of girl power, the princesses work together for  bee -utiful results.  TODAY ’s beloved coanchor Savannah Guthrie and educator Allison Oppenheim have crafted another irresistible tale that celebrates how nothing is sweeter than friendship.

When Princess Penelope Pineapple receives an SOS from Princess Sabrina Strawberry, Princess Penny learns that the Strawberry Kingdom’s bees have disappeared. Without bees, how will they enjoy their most precious fruit?

Penny knows the power of teamwork, so she calls a meeting of the Fruit Nations! And princesses from around the land—from Princess Beatrice Blueberry to Princess Kira Kiwi—answer the call to help a friend in need. With a little creative thinking and a whole lot of girl power, the princesses work together for bee-utiful results. TODAY’s beloved coanchor Savannah Guthrie and educator Allison Oppenheim have crafted another irresistible tale that celebrates how nothing is sweeter than friendship.

 
Meet Nancy, who believes that more is ALWAYS better when it comes to being fancy. From the top of her tiara down to her sparkly studded shoes, Nancy is determined to teach her family a thing or two about being fancy and using fancy words.  How Nancy transforms her parents and little sister for one enchanted evening makes for a story that is funny and warm—with or without the frills.

Meet Nancy, who believes that more is ALWAYS better when it comes to being fancy. From the top of her tiara down to her sparkly studded shoes, Nancy is determined to teach her family a thing or two about being fancy and using fancy words.

How Nancy transforms her parents and little sister for one enchanted evening makes for a story that is funny and warm—with or without the frills.

 
Following the death of her mother, Coco spent her early life in an orphanage, where she was taught how to use a needle and thread. From there, she became a cabaret singer, seamstress, hat maker, and, eventually, the world's most famous fashion designer. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the designer's life.  Little People, BIG DREAMS is a best-selling series of books and educational games   that   explore the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.

Following the death of her mother, Coco spent her early life in an orphanage, where she was taught how to use a needle and thread. From there, she became a cabaret singer, seamstress, hat maker, and, eventually, the world's most famous fashion designer. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the designer's life.

Little People, BIG DREAMS is a best-selling series of books and educational games that explore the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.

 
When Lucy spots a string, she can't help but give it a yank, and before she knows it, she meets Hank! But this bear isn't quite sure what to make of Lucy, especially because the string is attached to his pants, and they're unraveling fast!   Now Lucy must dream up the perfect solution to Hank's missing pants, and hopefully win this dubious bear's heart along the way.

When Lucy spots a string, she can't help but give it a yank, and before she knows it, she meets Hank! But this bear isn't quite sure what to make of Lucy, especially because the string is attached to his pants, and they're unraveling fast!

Now Lucy must dream up the perfect solution to Hank's missing pants, and hopefully win this dubious bear's heart along the way.

 
When Natsumi's family practices for their town's Japanese arts festival, Natsumi tries everything. But her stirring is way too vigorous for the tea ceremony, her dancing is just too imaginative, and flower arranging doesn't go any better. Can she find just the right way to put her exuberance to good use?  This heartwarming tale about being true to yourself is perfect for readers who march to their own beat.

When Natsumi's family practices for their town's Japanese arts festival, Natsumi tries everything. But her stirring is way too vigorous for the tea ceremony, her dancing is just too imaginative, and flower arranging doesn't go any better. Can she find just the right way to put her exuberance to good use?

This heartwarming tale about being true to yourself is perfect for readers who march to their own beat.

 

As always, happy reading!

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The Story Shop Subscription

Stumbling upon a package at your doorstep is a magical feeling. The only thing that could make it more magical? If that package was also a book.

Good news: book subscriptions from The Story Shop are now available — just in time for Christmas!

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The Story Shop Subscription is our fancy new mailing program that brings the magic of The Story Shop to your doorstep or mailbox. Receive one book per month for a customizable length of time. Whether it’s a picture book or a middle grade chapter book is up to you!

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More Details:

  • Receive a monthly subscription for a period of 1 month, 3 months,
    6 months, 9 months, or 1 year

  • Picture books recommended for ages 1-9

  • Middle grade books recommended for ages 8-12

  • Subscription will contain 1 recently-released book per month

  • Each subscription shipped out on the 15th of each month

  • Cost is $24.99 per month (shipping is included in this price)

  • Automatic recurring payments will be set up upon purchase of a
    several-month subscription

  • Billing will go through on the 10th of each month

  • Our first box will ship December 15th!

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Whether you need the perfect gift for your bookworm or you simply never want to run out of reading material, The Story Shop Subscription has you covered.

As always, happy reading!

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