Thursday, May 12, 2016

Fetch! (These 5 Picture Books about Sticks)

Friendship. Loneliness. Family. Imagination. Perseverance. These are a few of the powerful and moving themes found in this darling collection of books featuring sticks. I think that you and your child will find that these common pieces of wood can be extraordinary, indeed. Enjoy!

1. Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)

This heartwarming rhyming book begs to be read again and again. Stick and Stone are alone, until they meet each other. They become fast friends, and Stick, well, "sticks up" for Stone when a meanie teases him. Their bond grows, but then there is a frightful storm, and Stick is blown away. Will Stone be able to find him?

Ferry's sparse use of words and sweet rhythmic verse convey an incredibly moving story of friendship. And the pairing of text and illustrations in this book is touching and meaningful. The reader hears and sees the delight and significance of a good friendship, as well as the power of defending those close to you. And then, wonderfully, the illustrations show reconciliation with that bully at the end. So great. This one is certainly a "10" in my book. ;)

2. Stick Man by Julia Donaldson; illustrated by Axel Scheffler (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2008)

From the author/illustrator duo that brought us The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom, Stick Man tells the story of a stick who is taken farther and farther away from his family in a series of mishaps: a dog who thinks he is a fun toy to fetch, a swan who wants to use him in her nest, a family who brings him inside for their fireplace. Will Stick Man be able to survive and return to his family?

Told in the well-paced, rollicking rhyme that is characteristic of Donaldson's storytelling, this is a tale with adventure and tension and lots of heart. The use of repetition gives this story a structure that is captivating for kids, and they can chant along with the refrain: "I'm Stick Man, I'm Stick Man, I'M STICK MAN, that's me, And I want to go home to the family tree!" And you will love Scheffler's endearing, detailed portrayal of this adorable stick. :)

3. Papa Gave Me a Stick by Janice Levy; illustrated by Simone Shin (Star Bright Books, 2015)

This is a beautiful book and story. Antonio wants his own guitar (guitarra), like the ones he's seen in the mariachi band. But his papa says they don't have the money for such things. Instead, with a wink, he hands him a stick. In a series of events, Antonio helps animals and people around the town, who in turn gift him little items. When he finds a gold ring lost by a groom, he is gifted the thing he wished for the most.
This book is unique and diverse and provides a glimpse at another culture. While children will already relate to the themes of family, love, and longing, they will also be exposed to Spanish terms and Mexican symbols and traditions. A heartwarming story with beautiful illustrations -- I hope you'll check this one out.

4. Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis (Harper Collins, 2008)

In this sparsely-illustrated, minimalist picture book, there exists an unseen narrator who repeatedly warns the main character, a pig, about the potential dangers of the stick he is carrying. Each time, the pig retorts, "It's not a stick!" And for each spread in which the pig tells the reader it is not a stick, the illustrations expose the triumphant imagination of the stick wielder -- for he is imagining the stick is a fishing rod to catch a shark, or a paintbrush for a masterpiece, or a sword with which to fight a dragon. This seemingly simple book is incredibly powerful in concretely revealing the imagination at work -- perfect for reading with children and celebrating the power of imagining. I love it.

5. Stick! by Andy Pritchett (Candlewick Press, 2013)

Another minimalist picture book, this one features a dog with a stick. And he wants someone to play with him. With one word per spread, he tempts the various barnyard animals with "Stick?" but they all have their own entertainment ("Mud!"). Discouraged, he flings the stick away -- but it is thrown back! And now he has a new friend.

It is amazing how a story can be told in such spare wording, but this one will have you rooting for the dog to find a playmate and delighting in the emotions that the illustrations convey. A great book for repeat-reading with kiddos!

Happy reading!


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