Mini-Book Reviews: Finding Spring and Red: A Crayon's Story

Over the past year or so, I have started to do more recommendations than reviews. I read so much that I can't review everything. However, when posting about books, I try to focus on books that I really love so that it becomes a strong recommendation or endorsement. Here are two that I have read recently that I enjoyed for very different reasons. 

Finding Spring
by Carin Berger
Greenwillow Books (January 27, 2015)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8 years old
Bears * Spring * Nature
IndieBound | WorldCat

Description from publisher: 
Instead of hibernating as he should, a little bear cub goes out in search of spring—and he thinks he's found it! Gloriously illustrated with dioramas and cut-paper collages by the award-winning designer and illustrator Carin Berger, this stunning picture book celebrates the changing of the seasons.

A baby bear cub named Maurice is curious about spring—and he's upset when Mama tells him that before he can experience his first spring, he has to hibernate through his first winter! Mischievous Maurice decides to leave their warm den and go find spring for himself. He asks all his friends for help . . . and finally finds something beautiful and full of magic and light. Spring! He wraps it up and takes it home, determined to show Mama and everyone else. The only problem? When Maurice wakes up, his little piece of spring (a snowball) has melted. This gloriously illustrated book celebrates friendship, curiosity, discovery, and the meaning and beauty of two seasons—winter and spring. Ideal for the classroom, seasonal story times, and bedtime reading.

Thoughts on this book
Give me a bear in a story and I will probably love it. Give me cut paper illustrations/artwork and the chance of loving it increases. Carin Berger's new book FINDING SPRING has both of these elements - a little bear that wants to go on the search for spring instead of hibernate and cut paper artwork. 

FINDING SPRING is a perfect read aloud for preschool and kindergarteners and a perfect tie-in with young learners when discussing seasons. As I read the story, I thought about ways that I could use this one in the classroom for assisting students in making predictions, and inferences. In addition to the wonderful story, Berger's art is beautiful and this alone can provide for another layer of discussion as teacher and student discuss how the art was made and what decisions were made by the artist in selecting and cutting the paper. 

Definitely a book to share with students.

Red: A Crayon's Story
by Michael Hall
Greenwillow Books (February 3, 2015)
Audience: Ages 4 to 8 years old
Social Issues * Emotions * Differences
IndieBound | WorldCat

Description from Publisher:
A blue crayon mistakenly labeled as "red" suffers an identity crisis in the new picture book by the New York Times–bestselling creator of My Heart Is Like a Zoo and It's an Orange Aardvark! Funny, insightful, and colorful, Red: A Crayon's Story, by Michael Hall, is about being true to your inner self and following your own path despite obstacles that may come your way. Red will appeal to fans of Lois Ehlert, Eric Carle, and The Day the Crayons Quit, and makes a great gift for readers of any age!

Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue. His teacher tries to help him be red (let's draw strawberries!), his mother tries to help him be red by sending him out on a playdate with a yellow classmate (go draw a nice orange!), and the scissors try to help him be red by snipping his label so that he has room to breathe. But Red is miserable. He just can't be red, no matter how hard he tries! Finally, a brand-new friend offers a brand-new perspective, and Red discovers what readers have known all along. He's blue! This funny, heartwarming, colorful picture book about finding the courage to be true to your inner self can be read on multiple levels, and it offers something for everyone!

Thoughts on this book
Every year, I look for additional books to add to my collection that will prompt discussion about differences and what it means to be different. When I worked at an inclusion school for students with special needs, there was always a challenge in helping students to excel at what they were strong at and be accepted for their unique gifts. 

Michael Hall's new book RED: A CRAYON'S STORY is perfect for opening up the path to numerous discussions on differences and perception. In this case, the story is about a crayon that wears the label of red but is actually a blue crayon. Parents, teachers and others think he is not trying hard enough to be a good red crayon.  Sadly, I have heard too many parents and teachers tell a challenge that they are not trying hard enough, despite how hard they were trying.  Also, despite convincing ourselves that we are open to various differences, we are mostly comfortable with things being the same or uniform. 

Children will likely notice, even before we mention it, that the crayon is blue and not red. They will relate with the messages being given the crayon even if there situation is not identical to their own challenges. 

RED: A CRAYON'S STORY will be a great read aloud and also a wonderful discussion starter for classrooms everywhere.

Look for these books at your local indie bookstore or community library and consider including them in a classroom or school library as well. - Happy Reading!