by Kelly J Carey
I remember a preschool mother coming out of a teacher conference annoyed that the word “shy” had become a bad label. Her daughter was shy, but she was a happy shy child. In Alicia Potter’s book, Miss Hazeltine welcomes the shy cats of the world and while she gently helps them with lessons like “How Not to Fear the Broom”, she doesn’t “mind if some cats only watched.” It is perfectly fine to be shy and fearful at Miss Hazeltine’s home.
With humor and giggle worthy illustrations, Miss Hazeltine’s home proves to be a safe place free of judgment and full of encouragement and love. Miss Hazeltine even shares her own fears: mushrooms, owls and the dark. A mishap during a milk run finds Miss Hazeltine face to face with all three! With a charming loop back to the lesson’s Miss Hazeltine has taught them, the cats set out on a rescue mission. The feared broom even comes into play.
This story is as much about growing and being brave as it is accepting who we are and being happy with ourselves. Share this book with children who may be shy or fearful and you may hear a gentle purr of contentment.
Potter does a wonderful job of creating loops in her story. Miss Hazeltine’s shared fears come back to haunt her, the lessons she taught the cats become necessary for her rescue and yet the cats solve the final problem without the help of the adult in the story.
Potter executes a complete story arc with sweet humor, and quiet wit; perfect for skittery cats. Her lovely lesson is so neatly tucked into the story about Miss Hazeltine and the shy cats that it will curl into the readers lap without them even realizing it.
I’ve read it again and again – and I'm allergic to cats!
~by Amanda Smith
In LITTLE RED WRITING by Joan Holub (2013, Chronicle Books), a little red pencil tries to stay on the precarious path of storytelling, but gets side tracked into numerous adventures until she ends up in Principal Granny’s office. But my, Principal Granny has quite a growly voice, a long, tangly tail and big sharp teeth! Whatever happened to Principal Granny and will Red complete her journey on the story path in time to read her story to her classmates?
Along her journey, Red and the readers are playfully introduced to story structure, vivid verbs and other parts of speech, and their effect on storytelling. The colorful, brilliant illustrations by Melissa Sweet add punch to each of the parts of speech. The leaves in the descriptive forest are covered in adjectives and the glue drops emphasize the conjunctions in a run on sentence. Different fonts, bright pages, and at times a comic book-style lay out make each page-turn a surprise. Every page is a party for the eyes!
Joan Holub uses humor, playfulness and tongue-in-cheek puns to teach concepts that children might think of as dry and lifeless. This book is a complete and fun adventure that can be appreciated purely as an entertaining read-aloud story, but it offers an extra layer that makes it a boon for language arts teachers.
This fractured fairy tale filled my storyteller soul with warm fuzzies and made my grammar teacher heart pump chocolates. Kids will love it for the vivid art and frolicking adventure.
Joan’s newest picture book, THE KNIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS will be on shelves September 2015.
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