Tag Archives: Friday Five

Friday Five: Death

I am part of a group on Facebook that is for a bunch of moms (and a few dads). We ask all kinds of questions about kids and about life and use the hive mind to help us through parenting. One question that has come up at least three times are picture books that deal with the subject of death. Here are five books that can help you talk with your child about death, plus three bonus books since I feel like you can’t have too many in the arsenal to help you through a difficult discussion. Plus there is bound to be one that will work for your family.

Hugs on the Wind1. Hugs on the Wind wirtten by Marsha Diane Arnold and Vernise Elaine Pelzel, illustrated by Elsa Warnick

In this book a small bunny and his mother spend the day together in a field. As they go about their day the little bunny expresses sadness over missing his grandfather. His mother helps him see that he can send his grandfather hugs and thoughts through the wind, the stream, and the grass. It isn’t stated if the grandfather has moved away or if he died, but it certainly works in either case. The soft pastel illustrations reinforce the gentle tone of the book.

 

 

My Father's Arms2. My Father’s Arms Are a Boat written by Stein Erik Lunde, illustrated by Oyvind Torseter, translated by Kari Dickson

A small boy tosses and turns in his bed after being tucked in by his father. The boy returns to the living room to find his father also struggling to sleep. The two discuss the birds outside and the foxes. Then, tentatively, the boy asks if his mother is also asleep and will never wake. After confirming the truth, the father gathers the boy up in his arm and carries him outside for the two to enjoy a few minutes outside in the cold night. Then they come in and curl up together.

The black background and small, subtle color accents in the cut-paper diorama illustrations create a sombre tone in the story. The slumped posture of the father and the gently closed eyes drawn on their faces give the reader a sense of the weight of the death. The book is not flashy or obvious, in fact it’s quite contemplative. I think My Father’s Arms does a really lovely job of showing how grief can be shared between loved ones and celebrates the simplicity of a child’s understanding of death. 

Duck, Death and the Tulip3. Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch 

This book is particularly philosophical. Death appears one day behind Duck. Death is a charming small child-like body with a skull for a head and face wearing a checkered robe and skirt, black slippers and carrying a black tulip in it’s black hands. At first Duck is leery of Death, but slowly she comes to accept Death’s presence and discovers Death is not frightening. The two talk and visit the pond. Duck even offers Death a kindness and warms him. The two discuss what might happen after death. As summer comes to a close Duck begins to feel cold and asks Death to return her favor and keep her warm. In a moment Duck has passed. Death gently carries her to the river, places the tulip oh her breast and pushes her down the river. As Death watches Duck disappear he muses “But that’s life”. So true. The illustrations have few embellishments and feature the Duck and Death very prominently. Erlbruch does an incredible job showing emotion and expression on the faces of the their faces considering they have few facial features and change very little from one page to the next. 

Cry Heart4. Cry, Heart, But Never Break written by Glenn Ringtved, illustrated by Charlotte Pardi

Along the same lines as Duck, Death and the Tulip is Cry, Heart, But Never Break. In this story three children are living in a house with their elderly grandmother. Death arrives on their door step one evening and in an attempt to prevent him from taking their beloved grandmother they try to keep death awake all night with tea. The soft watercolor illustrations are washes of grey, black and small pops of color. This soft palette and the flowing lines of the paint set a quiet, thoughtful mood for the book. Death, knowing the children are stalling, tells them a parable to help them understand that without death life has very little meaning. As the children grasp his meaning they allow him to take their grandmother. 

This is such an amazing book. It does such a good job of explaining why death is a necessary part of life and why life should be celebrated when we have it. It also encourages readers to mourn for their loss, but not to be consumed by it. 

Rabbityness5. Rabbityness written and illustrated by Jo Empson

In this book Rabbit is loved by all his friends. He is creative and fun. But one day he just isn’t there. The rabbits mourn for their loss of their friend, but realize he has left them with the gift of creativity in their hearts and they feel close to him despite his absence. The bright splashy illustrations match the upbeat presentation of death. 

 

 

Bonus books:

Sonya's ChickensSonya’s Chickens written and illustrated by Pheobe Wahl

A newer book about a girl who raises chickens from chicks. One night a fox sneaks into the coop and takes a chicken. Sonya is devastated until her father explains that the chicken nourished the fox and his family. It’s all in how you think about death in nature. 

 

Boats for PapaBoats for Papa written and illustrated by Jessixa Bagley

This is a story where it isn’t apparent that the father is dead. A little beaver send boats he has made out to sea for his papa to find. He believes that if the boat does not return to shore by morning it means his father has found them at sea and kept them. Over the course of a year he sends many out until one day he discovers his mother has been collecting them off the beach and stashing them. From this the beaver makes new meaning realizing that while he misses his papa he is grateful for his mother who has supported him and created a loving home. 

Friday Five: Makerspace

While I’m technically a stay at home mom I have cobbled together a few jobs that I do get out of the house for. One of these jobs is running the lower school makerspace at the school I’ve worked on and off for. A makerspace, if you are not familiar with the term, is simply a place you can make things. Sometimes they are high tech and for adults, sometimes they are full of recycled materials and art supplies for kids. If it’s truly a makerspace there is very little direction given to the people who use the space. Participants bring their own ideas and make them happen. Oftentimes there are people available to help teach a new skill (sometimes these are other members, sometimes they are staff) or lend a hand. But for the most part what goes on in the space is entirely student or participant driven. For kids, whose lives are often highly scheduled and directed, a makerspace can be both intimidating (what do you mean you aren’t going to tell me exactly what to do?) and liberating (wait, I can take this styrofoam block and make it into this invention in my head?!). 

For our kids, our makerspace falls somewhere in between the high tech and low tech. We have a mix of things like art supplies, cardboard, plastics, and even 3D printers. It was originally meant for students across our Pre-K through 12 school to use, but it’s been hard getting it up and running. So far it’s just been me in there with my lower school kids (2nd-5th graders). The kids absolutely adore the space and it’s been a very popular after school class. 

If you are interested in setting up your own makerspace I highly recommend looking at Tinkerlab. Either the book or the website. Rachel Doorley is awesome and totally gets it. 

This Friday I have five books that embody the makerspace spirit to get you into the mood for making.

Not A Box1. Not A Box by Antoinette Portis

An off-page narrator talks to a small rabbit about the box they are playing with. The narrator doesn’t quite get it, but the rabbit shows that the box is more than meets the eye. This is basically the whole idea of a makerspace. You have a need or find a thing and it inspires you to create.

 

 

Idea2. What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada

To be sure, this one is a little more abstract, but it’s a representation of how an idea can grow and become something. It’s very interesting and I highly recommend using it to spark discussion. 

 

 

 

 

Magnificent Thing

3. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Again another book, this time featuring a little girl, about making something out of odds and ends. She gets frustrated, but after a little bit of time and a walk she comes back to the project. I think this is really important for encouraging kids to stick with projects. They often have a picture in their head of how something is going to turn out and more often than not it doesn’t work out quite how they had imagined. But that’s okay, we need to be flexible when making. 

 

 

Questions Questions4. Questions, Questions by Marcus Pfister

I know this one is very simple, but I think it really emphasizes that questions can come from anywhere and that they are worth exploring. I also like to use this in the library at the beginning of the research process. 

 

 

Doug Unplugged5. Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarnio

This is a story about a little robot who has been stuck in a room plugged into the computer learning facts. But when he sees a pigeon on the windowsill he becomes curious and unplugs to follow the bird outside. Doug ends up exploring his city, reinforcing what he’s learned, but also learning that there is nuance in the world and that it’s important to have experiences as well as learning from books and computers. This book encourages hands on experiences which the makerspace is all about. 

Friday Five: Books for Spring

I know spring may be slow in other parts of the country, but it’s here in California. My garden is getting going and the chickens are laying again. Plus the days are noticeably longer. Here’s a list of five books to help you welcome Spring in. For more books about spring check out this list on Goodreads. Many are about the four seasons and their circle, but many are specifically about spring. 

FloatFloat illustrated by Daniel Miyares

From Goodreads: A little boy takes a boat made of newspaper out for a rainy-day adventure. The boy and his boat dance in the downpour and play in the puddles, but when the boy sends his boat floating down a gutter stream, it quickly gets away from him. So of course the little boy goes on the hunt for his beloved boat, and when the rain lets up, he finds himself on a new adventure altogether.

This is such a beautiful book that celebrates those rainy spring days. Don’t discount wordless picture books. They give your child a lot of freedom to tell the story and add in their own details. Float contains a lot of interesting details within it’s illustrations that give you clues about what is going on and what will happen next. Those provide a good opportunity for you to draw your child’s attention to them as you notice them by asking questions and having them make predictions and really read the pictures. These skills then translate over into reading harder, longer books. But really, just curl up on the sofa with this one on a rainy day and then head out to make your own newspaper boat. 

Happy DayThe Happy Day written by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Marc Simont

From Goodreads: The woodland animals awake from their deep winter’s sleep to discover the first sign of spring: a flower blooming in the snow.

This story builds up beautifully as the animals of the forest wake up one early, early spring day. They rush off to see a sight which is not revealed until the final page. It’s the first flower of spring, a herald of the season to come. Even though our first flowers pop up in late January we understand the anticipation of spring. The feeling of a breath finally being let out after being held for so long. I love how it celebrates that joy of the very first sign of the end of winter. 

Rabbits and RaindropsRabbits and Raindrops written and illustrated by Jim Arnosky

From Goodreads: It’s the first day outside the nest for Mother rabbit’s five babies, and all sorts of new creatures and adventures await them. But when a sudden rain shower sends the rabbits scurrying for shelter under the hedge, the other wild animals come to visit them!

Another story that celebrates the rainy season. The illustrations in this are glorious. There are some small details to notice in them, but it’s the colors that will draw you in and the incredible ability of Arnosky to render such accurate and realistic scenes. The focus on the babies and their wonder at all that is new to them I think mirrors the wonder of children and childhood and is very relatable to young children. 

SpringSpring illustrated by Gerda Muller

I think I plug these every time I do a season post, but they really are great books. As with Float, this one is wordless. This time around there is less of a story being told and more vignettes that show various activities through the season. I will say they skew pretty European (thatching the roof?!) and Christian, but they are very beautiful and certainly capture the magic of the season. My daughter loves to look at these during quiet time and remember times she has dyed eggs or played outside in the spring which is a nice way to make a connection between real life and books.  

 


PancakesPancakes for Supper
written by Anne Issacs, illustrated by Mark Teague

From Goodreads: When her family’s wagon hits a bump, golden-haired Toby Littlewood is hurled into the sky and lands deep in the snowy forest. There she meets a prickly porcupine, an enormous bear, and a hungry cougar, among other fearsome creatures. Cleverly, she talks each one out of eating her by offering up her fancy clothes. In the end, in a competition to be the grandest beast, the vain animals chase each other around and around a maple tree, where they turn into maple syrup!

This one is set during the early spring just as the snow is melting, it also ties in nicely with Fat Tuesday if you celebrate that. The story itself is a retelling of Little Black Sambo, a deeply deeply racist story. Thankfully this one is not and does a good job of updating the story and making it funny. I highly recommend reading it and then having pancakes for supper. The “information” about maple syrup isn’t quite accurate, but you could talk about how maple syrup is made after reading this too.