Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads, Realistic Fiction

What is it that Lou can’t do?

louThe Thing Lou Couldn’t Do, by Ashley Spires, (May 2017, Kids Can Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781771387279

Recommended for ages 3-7

Lou and her friends are adventurers! They run faster than airplanes, build mighty fortresses, and rescue wild animals. One day, though, Lou’s friends decide to make a nearby tree the location of their pirate ship, and Lou balks. She’s never climbed a tree before. She likes her adventures to be down, on the ground. Her friends scurry up the tree, but Lou’s not going. What will it take for Lou to get up that tree?

Kids will recognize themselves in Lou, whose got a vibrant imagination, a great group of friends, and a healthy fear of a climbing a tree, which – let’s be honest – can be a pretty scary thing. Like most kids, Lou tries to divert her friends’ attention by suggesting “not-up-a-tree games” and stalling (changing her shoes, claiming an injury, spotting an asteroid heading right for them). With her friends’ encouragement, Lou does attempt that climb – and when she doesn’t make it, her friends are right there for her, heading for a playground to continue their game. Is Lou defeated? Nope. She’s going to try again, maybe even tomorrow. Showing a child overcome her fear and her self-reliance when she doesn’t succeed the first time sends a positive message to kids who may struggle with anxiety over new situations; surrounding her main character with supportive friends sends a message to all kids, to support one another and to compromise.

The digital art is fun and will appeal to all kids; the group of friends is diverse and no one is relegated to “girl” or “boy” roles here – they’re all pirates, race car drivers, or deep sea divers. They’re kids, playing together, like kids do.

I loved Ashley Spires’ award-winning book, The Most Magnificent Thing, and her Binky the Space Cat series has been a winner at any library I’ve worked at. I love her positive messages of self-reliance and the power of imagination, and I can’t wait to get this book on the shelves next to my other Spires books. A great book for elementary collections and kids who are learning that it’s okay to be scared sometimes.

Check out Ashley Spires’ website for more of her artwork and information about her books.

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized

The Most Magnificent Thing teaches kids perspective

the most magnificent thingThe Most Magnificent Thing, by Ashley Spires. Kids Can Press (2014), $16.95, ISBN: 9781554537044

Recommended for ages 4-8

One day, a girl and her dog set out to make the “most magnificent thing” – the girl draws up schematics (her dog is the assistant), gets materials, and sets up on the street, getting to work. When she’s finished, she takes a look at it – it’s not really what she had in mind. She tries again. And again. And again. She just can’t make her vision come to life, and she gets MAD. At this point, her assistant suggests a walk, where she starts to feel better; she finds she has regained self-control and even more, perspective, allowing her to go back and look at her previous creations with a refreshed eye.

Ashley Spires, who some may know from her Binky the Space Cat series, looks at the frustrating process of working on something and not having it turn out the way you envision it. It is something everyone can relate to, from a LEGO structure to a Science Fair project to a PowerPoint presentation for the big client meeting. Children, who are still learning the delicate art of self-control, will recognize themselves in these pages, as the girl becomes increasingly frustrated with her work, and once she injures herself, loses her temper. Her dog/assistant serves as comic relief and ends up saving the day by having her walk away and clear her head. The book teaches a valuable lesson to kids and grownups alike; walking away and returning when you’re calmer often allows the ability to see things are not so bad after all, and maybe, you can even find things you liked in the project you were about to crumple up and throw out.

The digital art is adorable. The characters have large, expressive faces, and are set against a mostly line-art, blue and black or white and black background, so they really stand out. There are some beautiful spreads and the font itself is a curvy font with a quirky personality and fits perfectly with the story. The endpapers display the row of brownstones where the story takes place, leading the reader into the story.

This is a good book to use for a storytime on patience or feelings. Perhaps a small LEGO craft afterward, or a construction paper assembly craft will help young minds create their own most magnificent things.