Book review: The Boy and the Whale, by Mordicai Gerstein

Gerstein, Mordicai. The Boy and the Whale. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9781626725058. Ages 5-8. P8Q10

A boy and his father discover a whale tangled in their only fishing net. The father suggests that they wait for the whale to die and then try to salvage the net. The boy, remembering when he almost drowned from being entangled in a net, disobeys his father, taking the family’s fishing boat, freeing the whale, and destroying the net in the process.  Caldecott Medal winner Mordicai Gerstein created luminous paintings that show warm sunlight bathing a poor village and contrasting dappled light shining through ocean waves, carrying a sense of hope for not only the whale, but for father and son.

Verdict: The traits of courage and empathy shine through this timely story. Be prepared to discuss the issues raised with child readers. Highly recommended for elementary school and public library collections.

September 2018 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: A Heart Just Like My Mother’s, by Lela Nargi, illustrated by Valeria Cis

Nargi, Lela. A Heart Just Like My Mother’s. Illustrated by Valeria Cis. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781512420982. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P6 Q7

Anna’s family celebrates many occasions, from Rosh Hashanah to the last day of school. Whenever they have a special occasion, they visit Mr. Reuben’s Market. People tell Anna how creative her mother was when she was younger and how she made people smile. Anna feels discouraged because she wants to be like her mother but doesn’t feel like she is. When Anna has compassion for a hungry man and saves up money so he can have bagels when he is hungry, she realizes this is what makes her just like her mother. While most of the illustrations are in color, when the characters think back to the past, their memories are illustrated in black and white. This contrast helps the reader know what is in the present and what is in the past. This book, rich in Jewish culture, celebrates family and the importance of passing down traditions and how traditions can add to our lives and to the lives of those around us.

Verdict: Tzedakah, meaning charity or righteousness, is an act of giving to someone in need. To give without any expectation or expectation of thanks is the highest form of Tzedakah. Children will benefit from hearing how Anna had compassion for a man in need. This book can stimulate conversation on how we can help others without expecting anything back in return. It can also be used in teaching about Jewish culture.

March 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: How to Heal a Broken Wing, by Bob Graham

Graham, Bob. How to Heal a Broken Wing. Candlewick, 2017. $7.99. ISBN 9780763698416. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P7 Q8

Sometimes we are so busy with our lives that we forget to look around and notice things. Will, a young child, is coming out of the subway when he notices a bird laying on the ground with a broken wing. Will takes the bird home and with the help of his family, cares for the bird until it is able to be released back into the world. The book starts out with muted tones, except for Will, who is in vibrant color. Bright colors surround Will as he picks up the bird. Some pages have two words, “with rest” and the pages show in boxes what the family is doing to care for the bird. On the next page it says, “with time” and at the top of the page, there are different stages of the moon, showing the passage of time. Very well illustrated to show all the families does to help the bird.

Verdict: I highly recommend this book about compassion for any library with young children. It is a simple book to read to young children about how they can care for others. It can also stimulate conversation on why did Will stop and help the bird when others didn’t? What are some things we can do to help others?

December 2017 review by Tami Harris