Category Archives: Emotional intelligence

Books that can help children to read emotions and expressions and/or understand better how to react or manage them

Day 87 – Happy Easter!

It feels a little bit too early to be celebrating Easter before March is even over, but here we are! In honor of the holiday, we celebrated with some egg hunting, some paper crafts, and – of course – storybooks! It’s been a holiday-filled month, with several days that merited their own book bundles: Pi Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and National Quilting Day. For Easter, however, we went a step further. After sprinkling our reading list with rabbit and egg-themed books over the past week, today we read four books specifically about Easter.

The first book, “Easter” by Gillian Houghton, was a brief primer on the holiday in English and Spanish, providing some background regarding the religious significance of the day and some of the symbols and traditions that people associate with Easter. With that groundwork laid, we moved on to three charming picture books which were enjoyed by all.

Bunny’s Easter Egg by Anne Mortimer

bunny“Bunny’s Easter Egg” is a sweet and simple story about a tired little bunny looking for a quiet place to rest after a long night of hiding eggs. Too exhausted to do any more work, bunny puts one final egg in her own basket and settles in for a nice snooze…but the egg starts crackling and bumping! Seeking a more peaceful location for her well-deserved nap, bunny hops from one potential resting place to another – but whether due to noisy birds, a prickly hedgehog, squeaky mice, or any number of other disturbances, no location is quite as nice as her basket. Eventually, she returns home for a brief snooze before waking to find that the last egg has hatched her a brand new friend – a fluffy little duckling!

We liked Ms. Mortimer’s cute and fluffy illustrations. There is also some repetitive text in the book which is nice for beginning readers, and creates a fun way to interact when reading aloud with little ones. After reading it through a few times, you can ask little listeners to help you to fill in the blanks (for example: “oh no, I can’t sleep here, it’s far too…noisy, squeaky, busy, etc.”)

The Easter Egg by Jan Brett
easter egg“The Easter Egg” by Jan Brett is a charming parable about a little rabbit named Hoppi with big dreams and an even bigger heart. Every year the Easter Bunny selects the rabbit with the most amazing egg to help him hide eggs for the children to find on Easter morning. Seeking inspiration for his first egg, Hoppi hops from one house to the next observing how each rabbit applies his or her special talent to create spectacularly decorated eggs. Before Hoppi can decide how to start on his own project, however, he comes across an egg that has fallen from Mother Robin’s nest. Hoppi offers to keep Mother Robin’s egg safe and warm while she tends to her other eggs still in the nest, and he stays with it until it hatches into a little baby bird. When the Easter Bunny arrives to judge everyone’s creations he is impressed with all the beautifully decorated eggs. However, it is the empty blue shell of Hoppi’s egg that the Easter Bunny selects as the most special of all.

“The Easter Egg” is a beautiful book, richly adorned with Ms. Brett’s characteristically detailed and beautiful illustrations. As in other Jan Brett books we have read, we found stories taking place not only in the middle of the page but in the margins as well. We also appreciated how, with all of the artistic talent displayed by the other rabbits in the story, it is Hoppi’s kindness that makes his egg exceptional. It may be an inspirational message for some children to hear that attributes like a big heart or a kind soul can be “talents” just as much as skill at painting or woodworking.

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward and illustrated by Marjorie Flack

Contry bunny“The Country Bunny” is a delightful book whose bright colors and vintage illustrations are particularly inviting. There is something about the look and feel of this book that just makes you want to pick it up and page through it; it has been a favorite selection in our house ever since we acquired a copy.

The story centers on Mrs. Cottontail (the “Country Bunny” of the title) and her childhood dream of one day becoming an Easter bunny. She grows up, gets married, and has twenty-one (!) children, and presumably lets go of her dream. Once her children are old enough and well trained enough to run the house on their own, however, Mrs. Cottontail is presented with an opportunity: one of the five Easter bunnies has grown too slow, and Grandfather Bunny must select a replacement. While she has no expectation of being chosen, and while there is no shortage of applicants who are swift enough for the job, it is only Mrs. Cottontail who is singled out by Grandfather Bunny as also being kind enough and wise enough. Eventually, Mrs. Cottontail also proves herself the bravest of the bunnies, earning Grandfather Bunny’s admiration and the golden shoes of the title.

Originally published in 1939, “The Country Bunny” has an endearing old-time feel, although the feminist theme that you can have it all as a woman – motherhood and a successful career – seems like a more modern concept. I found it to be a soothing, reassuring story – even if suspension of disbelief was a challenge at times (twenty-one children left home alone who keep the house spotless and tuck themselves into bed on time?). Most of all, however, I am glad we have the book because we all like to hold the book and look at it. Everyone in our house agreed that this one is our favorite.


Day 68 – Just Being Audrey

“I never think about myself being an icon…I just do my thing.” This  simple but profound quotation from Audrey Hepburn is a fitting introduction to “Just Being Audrey”, a biographical picture book written by Margaret Cardillo and exquisitely illustrated by Julia Denos. audrey (2)

In “Just Being Audrey” Ms. Cardillo pens a tribute to a woman whom she finds intriguing not just for the classic films which first brought Audrey Hepburn to her attention, but also for the woman that Ms. Hepburn was off the screen. The book follows the remarkable story of Audrey’s life from her time as a child in Belgium where she worked assiduously at ballet, to hiding from the Nazis during WWII, to her brilliant film career and the popularity of her iconic style, to her dream role as a mother of two, and finally to her tireless efforts working on behalf of underprivileged children around the world. What shines through most clearly in “Just Being Audrey” is not Audrey’s remarkable achievements, but the simple nobility and strength of her character – her unique grace and kindness, her love of children (especially her two sons), and the fact that she remained true to herself throughout her life regardless what was happening around her. I think it is this strength of character perhaps more than anything else that has made her unique style (the “Audrey look”) so popular, so timeless, and still relevant today.

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Julia Denos’ ink and watercolor illustrations that cover every page do a remarkable job of capturing that “Audrey look” and conveying the essence of Audrey Hepburn. In many instances throughout the book the pictures portray the sense that Ms. Hepburn was not afraid to stand alone and be her own person, even when she was different from everyone around her. As a ballet student in Belgium she twirls away focused on her craft while her classmates watch and giggle; standing in the middle of a bustling Manhattan sidewalk, she almost seems to float above the gray mass of activity that surrounds her; and, she exudes as much class and charm in her role as mother to her two sons as she does in any or her glamorous movie roles. These illustrations add so much to the book and beautifully capture the way Audrey embraced her uniqueness and followed her own path.manhattan

We picked out this well-loved storybook for Day 68 in honor of International Women’s Day to inspire our own girls to embrace their individuality, accept life’s challenges with grace, and nurture their kind hearts, like Audrey.


Day 66 – Laura Purdie Salas “Can Be” Books

The “Can Be” collection by Laura Purdie Salas is a trilogy of beautifully illustrated, poetic,  and wonderfully informative reality-based picture books which includes “A Leaf Can Be”, “A Rock Can Be”, and our Day 55 selection “Water Can Be”. waterIn each book, Mrs. Salas presents the reader with the ways which water, leaves, or rocks appear or are used in the world around us. Thinking metaphorically, she comes up with some delightfully creative examples – many of which will make you stop and think – and presents them in rhyming prose against the ethereal, glowing backdrop of illustrator Violeta Dabija’s artwork. Her books are an entertaining combination of poetry, beauty, and science and we love them – even more so after getting the chance to listen to (and watch) Mrs. Salas discuss her background, her books, and her creative process during the latest online Author Event at Read Aloud Revival earlier today.leaf can be

There were so many great insights packed into today’s one-hour event; I am looking at a list of notes right now which may be literally as long as my arm. Among our favorite “shares” by Mrs. Salas were her box of rejection letters (a remarkable collection of turn-downs for someone who has had over 125 books published), and her list of authors and books that have inspired her. She talked about how science-related topics really stir her up, causing a visceral reaction, and that in writing about science she tries to provide enough information to spark a sense of wonder without overwhelming the reader. We thought her description of librarians as magicians was particularly apt; in the process of researching her many books, Mrs. Salas has learned that librarians know where to find everything. And her advice to aspiring young writers? Read a ton and write all the time; no matter how bad you think your writing is, just dive in and let the process make you better and better.

rock can beI could go into greater detail, but I won’t. If you are interested in finding out more, Read Aloud Revival posts a replay of each author event for audio or video download in the members area, along with all sorts of related links to works by the authors or to subjects or materials referenced in the webcasts. As I have discussed here previously, we are really impressed with the quality of the online events hosted by Sarah Mackenzie at Read Aloud Revival. We have now attended events with Jonathan Bean, Anne Ursu, and Laura Purdie Salas – and in each case the authors have been astonishingly open and candid. They have all been thoughtful and thorough in the way they answer the many questions from children and parents alike, and they all seem genuinely appreciative of the opportunity to talk directly to so many people who love their books and are interested in hearing what they have to say. We can’t recommend these events enough.

We also suggest visiting Mrs. Salas’ site – laurasalas.com. She has a number of resources there for writers and teachers, including a page about writing your own “Can Be” books. On the webcast she introduced the idea of having your children write “Can Be” books about themselves and all the things they can be or do. It’s a great idea for developing self-regard – which is a component of emotional intelligence – and a great example of the kind of extension activity these books encourage.

 


Day 58 – Ida, Always

“He listens to (the) city pulsing around him. He remembers that Ida said you don’t have to see it to feel it. The sidewalks tap and the streets hum. Gus’s heart beats…and Ida is there, always.”ida

A fictional story inspired by two real-life polar bears who once lived together at the Central Park Zoo in New York City, “Ida, Always” by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso is a profoundly touching and beautiful book about friendship, love, loss, grief, and – ultimately – life. The two polar bears, Gus and Ida, live in the same enclosure at the zoo and spend every day together playing, splashing in the water, and flopping on the rocks to listen the “heartbeat” of the city. Every day is the same, until one day Gus is informed that Ida is dying.

Ms. Levis’ prose is poetic in its simplicity as she manages to approach the complicated feelings leading up to and following the death of a loved one in a deeply moving way, without a single wasted word. The nature of her writing was such that the power of the story she was telling snuck up on me; it built quietly through the course of the book and then washed over me suddenly as I turned the last page, at which point I choked up and had a hard time reading the last sentence aloud. I don’t know that everyone will have the same reaction I did, but when I looked around our room at the end I was not the only one with tears in my eyes.

Mr. Santoso’s illustrations add to the beauty and appeal of the story and do so much to help convey the feelings of the characters. He fills many pages with lush and occasionally gauzy panoramic views of broad skies, towering city skylines, and the polar bears’ verdant habitat. These images are punctuated with more intimate portraits of the bears snuggling, or of Gus struggling with his grief. Birds, flying overhead or sitting quietly near the two polar bears, are also a common element. He manages to convey very human emotions through Gus and Ida’s expressions, and embodies their thoughts and conversations with images in the clouds overhead.

This is an amazing book. Only recently released (February 23), “Ida, Always” is already an all-time favorite in our home. Everyone should have a copy on the shelf. A word of caution, however: do not begin reading without a box of tissues handy.

Update: I failed to mention that February 27th was International Polar Bear Day! An especially fun aspect of A Storybook Year so far has been all the national and international “holidays” and other dedicated days that we have discovered. Any additional excuse to celebrate is welcome!