This first one really knocked me out. It's called "Saved by the Boats" by Julie Gassman and illustrated by Steve Moore. It's a short picture book about September 11 in NY. It's not about the terrorists or even about the people who were killed, it's about a group of people who wanted to help (and if you can remember that day as clearly as I do, just about everybody wanted to help, but there just wasn't much to do from a distance). This group of people were boat captains. It turns out that when the planes crashed into the buildings, the debris falling completely closed car traffic in the area and the public transportation was also closed. So how would all the people in the area get home safely? It turns out that since NY is an island, boats were a pretty good strategy to move people. Hundreds of boat owners and captains volunteered their boats and time to get people to safety. What's really great about this book is the pictures. They are line drawings with a very simple color palette-just blue, white, and shades of grey and black, but the drawings manage to convey all the emotion (ok, maybe not ALL but a lot) of that day, without being too scary or overly graphic. For someone who watched this event on TV, I can remember clearly watching all the people covered with ash, leaving them all gray so it's just genius to have these pictures to talk to kids about this event. It's also great to have a story that can help kids understand the deep emotion, fear, and overwhelming generosity of the people of NY. I LOVED this one.
The second one is a fun little biography about a Chinese American man who supported the people who were setting up the National Park system, it's called "Mountain Chef" by Annette Bay Pimentel. It's about a man named Tie Sing who was a completely amazing cook and he was asked to cook for a journey into the mountains in 1915. It was a big job-feed 30 people, three meals a day for 10 days. You can imagine that might be a difficult task, even now, with modern equipment and pre-packaged food. But Tie Sing was well known for his abilities to cook outdoors, and cook well. So they planned to bring lots of amazing food with them-sides of beef, peaches, cantaloupes, heavy cream... these were people they needed to impress. They were very impressed with Tie Sing's cooking and then one of the mules carrying the supplies fell over a cliff. It goes on to describe some of the many complications that Tie Sing faced and overcame. I liked the watercolor illustrations but I admit that I might be biased for a story like this since I'm married to a chef. But I liked the perseverance and I liked the fact that he was Chinese American. I also think it's a good idea to have the kids thinking about some of the services that people provide for others and what that might look like as a job.
The last one is a funny little rhyming book about a girl named Martha who really wants a moose as a pet. It's called "Mail Order Moose" by Lisa M. Bakos. The text has a great rhyme and rhythm to it. There is also some great alliteration going on. The kids are going to love predicting what's going to happen next. It turns out that one moose is so much fun that Martha decides to get another moose and then maybe one more. The results are somewhat predictable (it turns out THERE IS a limit on how much fun it can be to have moose in the house) but I think the kids will still have fun guessing about what's coming next. The pictures are super cute too, lots of high energy and bright colors. I think the kids are going to like this one a lot. Here's a link to the illustrator's blog, where he shows some of the drawings he's been making for the book.