Monday, January 14, 2008

My First Review

I was approached by Rebecca of Barefoot Books recently to do a review and tell you about Barefoot. I love children’s books and told her I would love to give it a go.

Barefoot Books seems to be a great company that picks and chooses which books to sell based on their mission statement, part of which includes the following:

"...we celebrate art and story that opens the hearts and minds of children from all walks of life, inspiring them to read deeper, search further, and explore their own creative gifts. Taking our inspiration from many different cultures, we focus on themes that encourage independence of spirit, enthusiasm for learning, and sharing of the world's diversity.”

I received a package in the mail with two books. The first was Motherbridge of Love illustrated by Josée Masse. The text was submitted anonymously to the charity Mother Bridge of Love, which seeks to connect kids adopted from China with their homeland. The second book was Winter King, Summer Queen, written by Mary Lister and illustrated by Diana Mayo.

Motherbridge of Love is a beautifully illustrated book about the love two mothers have for their Asian daughter, the one mother who created her and cared enough for her to give her a better life, and the other mother who, through adoption, gave her the love she needed to grow up happy and healthy.

When I first saw the book, I personally loved it but wasn’t sure it would fly with Noah, a typical boy of 5 who likes Star Wars and dinosaurs. I seem to have a hard time winning him over to books with fantastic illustrations. For some reason he goes for the more simple style.

But I sat down with him for his bedtime book, and as we went through it, he loved explaining how both mothers gave different gifts to this child. He also loved how he could find pictures of the birth mother in the landscape of the adoptive mother’s life: in one picture she was the face in the moon, in another, the adoptive mother and the girl run over a hill shaped as the birth mother’s content face in profile.

When the book was done, I asked him if he liked it and he told me he “LOVED it!” I asked if there was anything about it he didn’t like, and he said, “No, I liked ALL of it!” Then he begged me to go back over the illustrations so we could find hints of the birth mother in every page. He also wanted to talk about adoption and how it works and why people give up their children. The book served as a wonderful platform to introduce this concept.

This book would be a wonderful gift to mothers and their adopted children. It would be such a sweet way to explain and explore feelings about where they came from, and how adoption affects their family.

The second book, Winter King and the Summer Queen, is a fanciful fable that explains where our seasons come from.

Queen Goldenlight and King Icicle both rule kingdoms in the sky above Earth, one supplying light and heat to the happy people below and the other wreaking havoc with is icy storms and blustery winds. When the King gets a bit too carried away, he covers the world in snow and ice until the people are all unhappy. When Queen Goldenlight and her friends see this, they send out animals with the gift of warmth and light to spread around the world. When the Queen and her friends create a lovely rainbow that stretches across the sky to the King’s realm, the two meet and dance and come to a compromise: that each will rule the Earth’s weather for half the year, taking turns.

This book, too, had some gorgeous illustrations. Each monarch has friends with names like Clarence Cloud and Maya Monsoon, Serena Sky and Harry Hurricane. Noah really enjoyed perusing over their costumes and especially liked the companions of the King, each a different kind of storm.

I do have to say, I found the telling of the story a bit uninspired. There was some language that was a bit above my son’s level, even though he is linguistically ahead of the game. I found myself changing some of the sentences so he would understand what they were trying to say. Also, at one point, the Queen asks the King a riddle. The answer to the riddle was “the rainbow”, and I asked Noah what he thought the answer was. He couldn’t figure it out, and so we turned the page to see the answer, and the text said something like, “Of course the King told her the answer, and they all danced together.” It never really answered the riddle. I had to stop and tell Noah what the answer was since the book didn’t do it for him. I also wish it didn’t give winter such a “bad guy” image, but showed him simply as an opposite to what the Summer Queen was all about.

But, the book was still very enjoyable, explaining the concepts of sharing, compromise, and why we have a change of seasons in a very fanciful way. This book also came with a CD so that Noah can listen to the reading of the book with cues telling him when to turn the page. We haven’t done that yet, but he is very excited about giving it a try.

Check Barefoot Books out. They have an awesome collection of books. They categorize them by age, and teach kids about other cultures, ecology, fitness, religions around the world, family relationships, vegetarianism and they even have the classic fairy tales. They also sell books in Spanish, board books, puzzles, stickers, calendars and other fun items. And there is a big winter sale going on right now on 69 different items.

You can find Barefoot Books here.


gail said...

Very nice. Thank goodness for books that make the world bigger for our little ones. I already 'sold' a copy of the 'Motherbridge' book to a coworker who says she is ordering it today. I expect that I will check the Barefoot site often for books for my own precious grandchildren. Book buying is one of my (many) weaknesses, and this looks like a good book supplier to support!

Snowbird said...

Nice reviews Karen. Maybe you have a future as a reviewer! I especially love the one about the adoptee. Did you inform Noah that his Grandpa was adopted?

Cloudscome said...

I found your blog today looking for other reviews of Mother Bridge. Your son has great insight into the illustrations! I enjoyed this review very much and I am linking it in mine. Thanks!

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