Mini-Review: Ivy in Bloom, Vanita Oelschlager & Kristin Blackwood (2009)

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Give me sunbeams dazzling!

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book for review through NetGalley.)

I’m a child of New York, where winters are cold, miserable, protracted affairs. By the time spring arrives (some time in May!), we’ve long since run out of places to pile the snow, and even the promise of weekends spent snowboarding aren’t enough to ease the seasonal depression. I moved to Missouri more than a decade ago, but even these mild winters are sometimes more than I can bear. The cabin fever kicks in mid-January, when all the fun holidays have come and gone, leaving nothing but grey skies and biting air in their wake.

So, Ivy? I feel ya.

Ivy in Bloom is an adorable little picture/poetry book that’s sure to lift the spirits of children and adults alike. It’s March, and cute-as-a-button Ivy Van Allsberg can’t wait for spring to bust up her winter monotony. The story kicks off with longing poetry penned by Vanita Oelschlager, and then transitions into lines sampled from the greats: Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, to name a few.

(While the poets aren’t credited in the body of the text, so as not to interrupt the flow, the back matter reprints the poems, with the borrowed lines highlighted. It’s a neat way to get younger readers interested in poetry without overwhelming them, I think.)

As lovely and cunningly crafted as the text is, the artwork might just be my favorite part of the book. Kristin Blackwood’s illustrations are cute as all get out, and she does a skillful job of reflecting the changing tone of the story. Dreary shades of grey give way to rich browns and (eventually) vibrant, life-affirming greens and yellows and reds as spring blossoms.

Read it: from the bottom of a cozy dog pile; with a cup of warm tea; when you’ve had your first daffodil sighting of the year.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Mini-Review: A Tale of Two Mommies, Vanita Oelschlager & Mike Blanc (2013)

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

Family is as Family Does

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book from review through NetGalley.)

If you have a momma and a mommy, who fixes things when they break?

Oh, Mommy has all the tools. There’s nothing she can’t fix or make.

The young and super-adorable protagonist of this picture book lives in a non-traditional family, a same-sex household with two moms. As they play on the beach, his friends ask which of his moms – momma or mommy – help him with various tasks. Just as in a family with one mom and one dad, we come to see that each parent has different strengths and talents: Mommy makes a mean rice and beans, while momma is aces at climbing trees. (But kiddo empties his own pockets, mkay!) Of course, both moms are there when he needs to talk; there’s no shortage of tender loving care in this family.

When I reviewed A Tale of Two Daddies back in April, I hadn’t realized that Oelschlager and Blanc had already written a sequel. Happily, A Tale of Two Mommies shows much greater racial diversity than the original: the MC is a little boy of color, and one of his friends looks to be of Asian descent. (The third member of the trio is a cute little red-headed girl.) The two mommies are presumably white, making this a nice selection for families of interracial adoption, as well as those headed by same-sex couples. It also helps to bust up gender roles, as the moms perform both “masculine” and “feminine” tasks.

Of course, this isn’t to suggest that A Tale of Two Mommies is just for adopted kids or LGBTQ families: children from all backgrounds can benefit from its simple yet compassionate message. Non-traditional families are just like yours, at least in the ways that count most.

As a vegan, I could have done without the panel on fishing, but otherwise I recommend A Tale of Two Mommies wholeheartedly.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

(More below the fold…)

Mini-Review: A Tale of Two Daddies, Vanita Oelschlager, Kristin Blackwood & Mike Blanc (2010)

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Bold & Vivid Graphics Paired with a Sweet & Simple Message

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book for review through NetGalley.)

When a young girl’s classmate inquires about her two daddies, the pair go through a rhyming checklist of tasks to see which daddy – Poppa or Daddy – will likely come to her aid in each scenario.

Who’s the dad who helps with homework?
And which dad helps when you’re covered in dirt?
Both my dads help with my math.
But Poppa’s the dad who helps in the bath.

While it soon becomes clear that each father has his own special strengths and areas of expertise (just as with same-sex couples), there’s no shortage of TLC in this family.

This picture book pairs catchy verses with bold, vivid digital graphics to impart a message that’s as simple as it is (sadly) necessary. It’s a heartwarming little book that’s sure to appeal to younger readers.

Though I feel a little weird singling out a book with such a small cast of characters (two; four if you include the dads, who only appear as disembodied arms and legs) for lack of racial diversity, I think it’s worth noting that the girl and her friend are both light-skinned – a fact which might limit this book’s appeal to white families.

I viewed this on my laptop (a .pdf file accessed through NetGalley) – but the artwork is so clean, and the text so sparse, that it seems like it should be easy to read on a Kindle as well. That said, you’re sure to get the maximum aesthetic impact with a PC, laptop, iPad, or similar device.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)