Tom’s Tree


Author: Gillian Shields

Illustrator: Gemma Raynor

Publishing Information: Good Books, 2009

Number of Pages: 24

Genre: Fantasy



Tom’s Tree tells the story of a young boy named Tom who plants a tree and tells the reader all of the fantastical things he will be able to do in his tree when it grows. However, he becomes discouraged when the tree takes longer to grow than he had hoped, and his dreams are dashed. In the end, he finds that the tree will grow just as big and strong as he had hoped, and he is able to share this moment with his son when he is grown.

This is a very imaginative story, with illustrations that work well with the text to assist in the storytelling. Frankly, I found that the illustrations were additive, as the text alone would not have been able to tell the story as well. There are bright illustrations that cover both pages, and personify all the hopefulness Tom has for the future of his tree. Furthermore, we are able to see Tom’s changing facial expressions as time goes on and the process of the tree growing is taking longer than he had hoped. All of the illustrations are done without frames, letting us really dive into Tom’s fantasies with him. I found it interesting that readers were able to see the parallels between the size of Tom and the size of his tree as they changed over time; as Tom got older, the tree grew larger, showing the connection between the two rather than merely the passing of time.

The story can certainly serve to teach children to allow their imaginations to flourish, and that patience is a virtue. Although Tom’s tree did not grow as quickly as he had hoped it would, it still grew to just the size and splendor that he was hoping for as a boy. Furthermore, in my opinion, it was even more special because he got to share the tree and his ideas for it with his son when it had finally grown large enough. Therefore, I found that this was an imaginative story with valuable undertones that would be a fun read for young readers.

“Slowly, Slowly, Slowly” said the Sloth

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Author: Eric Carle

Illustrator: Eric Carle

Publishing Information: Philomel Books, 2002

Number of Pages: 24

Tags: Animals, Fiction, K-1, Picture Book

Genre: Fable


This book tells the story of a sloth living in the jungle, and going about his daily activities. The other animals wonder why he does things so differently than the other animals and start to ask him questions about it. Finally, the sloth explains that he enjoys his lifestyle and does things at his own pace.

This story is illustrated with bright watercolors, as the plot is fairly lighthearted. It also provides both a picture of each animal that is featured in the story, along with their name on the back pages. An interesting thing to note, however, is that the sloth is always featured on the left page of the book, until the other animals start to question his lifestyle. This shows readers that the sloth is secure with himself until this point. Once the other animals begin questioning him, he is featured on the right page, indicating that he is less secure and faces more of a conflict than he did prior.

My initial perception of this book was that it was merely a simple children’s picture narrative, for beginning readers. I felt this way because the text was fairly simple, and there was not an elaborate storyline to go along with the pictures. Furthermore, the illustrations were very eye-catching, leading me to believe that they were the intended focus. However, when analyzing the text on a deeper level, I was able to see a more important message reflected by the sloth and his story. The story provides children with a window to see that different people have different ways they like to do things, and that is perfectly acceptable; different people like different things. It is also a mirror to show them that they are unique and have a unique way of going about things that they like best. This book teaches children the importance of accepting your differences, and being happy in what you choose to do. As a result, I’ve found that while the illustrations are certainly to be admired, there is a deeper context to be found in this simple story of a sloth in the jungle.

A Storm Called Katrina

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Author: Myron Uhlberg

Illustrator: Colin Bootman

Publishing Information: Peachtree, 2011

Number of Pages: 34

Tags: Culture, Family, Historical Fiction, K-5, Picture Book

Genre: Historical Fiction


A Storm Called Katrina introduces us to a boy named Louis and his parents who are living in New Orleans at the time that the infamous Hurricane Katrina hits town. Louis and his parents must flee their home to find safety and shelter, all while trying not to get separated in the midst of all the panic and confusion that surrounds the community.

As we all know, Hurricane Katrina was a real storm that hit the New Orleans communities in the early 2000’s that had a profound impact. This story provides a window for children to learn about the tragedy and some of the struggles faced by families in the form of a children’s story. The book provides real pictures and information about Hurricane Katrina in the back flaps, but also does a good job at depicting the different conflicts faced by families in the story of Louis and his family.

The illustrations in the book are painted very dark, in reflection of the dire circumstances. One often sees looks of sadness, panic, and distress in the faces of the characters as well, that work together with the text to show raw emotions of the family members. Furthermore, the illustrations are large but framed, emphasizing the power of the plot but also that we, as readers, are experiencing the story from the outside.

Due to the circumstances Louis must learn to be brave in how he copes with the natural disaster and its effects. He follows the instructions his parents give to him, although he is afraid. He also takes the initiative to play his cornet in the Superdome to help his father find him when he is separated from Louis and his mother. In this way, children are taught the value of being brave in the face of a scary situation. Throughout the book, the family remains close and works together, therefore, teaching children the importance of family and sticking together even when times are tough.

Initially, the book may come across as only one of historical fiction to teach children about some of the events of Hurricane Katrina, but when reflecting deeper on the story, one will be able to see the life lessons that are also embedded in the plot. As a result, I think this is a very educational and impactful story for children, despite a few moments that are a little scary for young readers.

Toot & Puddle: A New Friend

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Title: Toot & Puddle: The New Friend

Author: Holly Hobbie

Illustrator: Holly Hobbie

Publishing Information: Little, Brown and Company, 2004

Number of Pages: 29

Genre: Fable


Toot and Puddle are two pigs that are spending some time playing with their friend Opal, who introduces them to her new friend Daphne. Daphne seems to be very good at everything she does, and she certainly knows it as she shows off her talents and skills to the three other pigs, making her come across as a snob. Eventually, a conflict occurs in which Opal demonstrates a skill that Daphne does not have, and the friends realize that everyone has different skills and talents that they are good at.

This story serves as a window for children to understand that, although someone may be very talented at one thing, they should not view this as a shortcoming on their part; no one is good at everything, and different people have different talents. In the beginning of the story, Daphne has most of the power, because everyone is impressed that she has so many talents. However, this shifts when she begins to be a bit snobbish, and the friends are less enthralled with her because they dislike her attitude. This is evident, as the facial expressions and negative body language are reflected nicely in the illustrations.

In the beginning of the story, the colors are very bright and warm, signaling a freedom and happiness among Toot, Puddle, and Opal. However, there is a noticeable absence of illustrations and the colors begin to dull as the story proceeds, as a result of the frustration that emerges when Daphne is introduced. At the end of the story, Opal is seen looking out the window, which symbolizes her growth from the beginning of the story, as she finds a skill she is best at and learns the moral of the story.

As I touched upon, this story teaches children that everyone has different skills, and no one is better or worse than another person because of their individual skills. I perceived this book as one that had a conflict with showing off and how that impacted friendships when I read it for the first time, which is still a theme that is worth acknowledging. The illustrations are primarily framed, so they are experiencing the story as an outsider who can glean the message from our own point of view. I think that this book provides a creative way to teach children about the impacts of bragging, and how everyone has different abilities that make them special.


Clumsy Duck

Author: Britta Teckentrup

Illustrator: Britta Teckentrup

Publishing Information: Boxer Books Limited, 2013

Number of Pages: 20

Genre: Fable

3 4


Clumsy Duck is a small duck who has big feet, which causes her to fall quite a bit and bump into things. Her friend, Chick, tries to do different activities with Clumsy Duck in order to see just how clumsy she is, and if there are any activities she can do without being so clumsy. In the end, Chick and Clumsy Duck discover that Clumsy Duck’s big feet are perfect for swimming very gracefully in the water.

The story starts with Clumsy Duck feeling bad about herself, because she thinks she has a flaw (her feet) that prevents her from doing things that everyone else can. However, she finds in the end that this very thing she initially viewed as a flaw was actually one of her best strengths when she used it in a different context. This can serve as both a window and a mirror for children, as it teaches them that being different can work to their advantage, and they should not feel bad about the parts of them that are different. Furthermore, the story highlights the ways in which Chick assures her friend that they will find something she is good at and tries different activities to figure out what that is. This provides a door for children to apply the same practices with their peers, rather than treating their differences in a negative way. This book definitely reflects a theme of friendship and self-acceptance that can help kids with their self-perception.

The illustrations have bright colors that help to show the hopefulness that is seen throughout the process of finding Clumsy Duck’s best use for her big feet. Also, the illustrations are not framed, allowing the reader to experience the story with the characters. I thought it was also encouraging that both Clumsy Duck and Chick were always the same size as one another throughout the story, which shows readers that they are equals (despite Clumsy Duck’s differences). Finally, I found it interesting that, for most of the story, Clumsy Duck is on the right side of the page, as this indicates the conflict she is facing within herself throughout the story.

I had the phrase “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” as a mantra in my head as a reflected on the storyline, because of Chick’s persistence to find something her friend would do well. This can also help children to not be discouraged by their shortcomings, and to pick themselves up and move forward. Due to the ideologies of self-acceptance, acceptance of others, and friendship that were embedded in the story, I thought this book was a very cute way to present valuable life-lessons for young children.