Smoky Night


Author: Eve Bunting

Illustrator: David Diaz

Publishing Information: Voyager Books, 1994

Number of Pages: 28

Genre: Historical Fiction



                        Smoky Night is the Caldecott Award-winning book that tells the story of a young boy and his mother witnessing the rioting in the streets below their apartment building. When a fire breaks out they must flee for safety all while taking in the wreckage the rioters have caused in their neighborhood. They find safety in a shelter, and the incident unifies the people of the neighborhood.

The book was published in 1994, which led me to wonder if there was a particular incident that could have inspired the story. Sure enough, the story was inspired by the rioting that took place in 1992 after an incident of alleged police brutality against Mr. Rodney King. I think this book does an exceptional job of providing children with a window to look at this piece of history, as it gives the perspective of a child living through that chaos without being too detailed or frightening for young readers. The story mainly focuses on the child’s search for his cat, who gets lost in the midst of tenants fleeing from the apartment, which can be both problematic and useful. I can see where readers may find this problematic as it shifts focus away from the riots and focuses more on the lost cat. However, this can be useful as it makes the story more accessible to a younger audience.

The illustrations of the book were certainly eye-catching and very additive to the text. The background of each page featured real-life objects (such as hangers, plastic bags, and wooden signs) that conveyed the point that this story is based off of real-world happenings. Furthermore, the illustrations are done in dark paint and are always featured on the right-hand page which demonstrates the mood of chaos and dreariness that surrounds the events in the story. The illustrations are framed with thick, black paint, so readers are looking in on this story from afar. In addition, although the text is always featured on the left-hand page, it is written on a crumpled paper which further demonstrates the mess of the situation playing out in the story.

This book provides children with an accessible window to examine a real-life event through the eyes of a child living through it. Furthermore, they are taught the value of coming together in a tough time, as the neighbors in the story demonstrate.

All My Stripes


Author: Shawna Rudolph and Danielle Royer

Illustrator: Jennifer Zivon

Publishing Information: Magination Press, 2015

Number of Pages: 34

Genre: Realistic Fiction



            All my stripes tells the story of a zebra named Zane, and his experiences with autism in a classroom setting. Zane can tell he is different from his classmates, and begins worry as he feels that they only see his autism stripe (a red stripe on his forehead that indicates he has autism). It isn’t until his mother explains his many other wonderful stripes that Zane learns that his autism stripe is just one of many stripes, and does not define who he is.

This is quite possibly my favorite book of the ones I have analyzed, as it gives children a way to understand autism and the everyday differences and hardships of people who are effected by the condition. For example, it portrays Zane’s distress when the fire alarm sounds, whereas his classmates were able to remain calm and quiet. Also, the author creates a scene in which the classmates cannot understand why Zane wants to use a paintbrush instead of his hoof when doing a painting activity, because Zane does not like the feeling of paint. The back of the book provides an explanation of these scenes, and how they connect to the behaviors of real people with autism. Furthermore, it provides a guide for how caretakers can help to address and aid with these behaviors for their students/child. This provides an excellent door for both children and adults to respond to those with autism in a caring and understanding manner.

The illustrations are unframed, so readers are able to really put themselves in the scene with Zane. One is able to see the distressed look on his face as he shares his concerns with his mother, and is self-conscious around his classmates. I thought it was interesting as well that on the first page when Zane addresses his concerns to his mother, it is raining which can signify the sadness he feels.

Zane’s mother goes on to explain that the autism stripe is not his only stripe, and he has many other wonderful stripes; his “pilot stripe” that makes him good with directions, his “caring stripe” that reflects his concern for others, his “honesty stripe” which reflects his willingness to tell the truth, and his “curiosity stripe” that shows his eagerness to learn. This teaches children that no one aspect of their life defines them, and the value of self-acceptance. Furthermore, they are learning about autism and how to help in a way that they can better understand at a younger age.

Monster Knows Please & Thank You


Author: Connie Colwell Miller

Illustrator: Maira Chiodi

Publishing Information: Picture Window Books, 2014

Number of Pages: 20

Genre: Fable


This book gives the story of a group of monster friends who are invited to a party to participate in a variety of activities. While participating in different activities and socializing with the other partygoers, each monster is sure to remember to say “please” and “thank you” where it is warranted. As a result, all the monsters are able to get along nicely and are invited back in the end.

This book struck me as a cute and fun type of introductory to a lesson in manners for children. I thought having monsters as the main characters in the story was an interesting choice, but also tactful. Monsters are typically seen by children as mean and/or scary, so it was even more impactful that these monsters were very well-mannered; if even monsters can say “please” and “thank you,” so can the children reading the story. This provides children with a window to see how others behave in a social setting, a mirror so they may reflect on their own manners, and a door to continue to practice good manners in their everyday lives and social settings.

The illustrations in the book are quite interesting, as the text is integrated within the illustrations. The words “please” and “thank you” are in different colors than the rest of each of the words in the sentences they are included in, and are in large, capital letters. This puts extra emphasis on the importance of these words, and makes them stand out from the rest of the text so children pay more attention to them. Furthermore, the pictures are unframed, allowing children to really put themselves in the scene with the characters. As for the illustrations themselves, the colors remain bright throughout the story, giving a fun and lighthearted feel as the good manners the monsters demonstrate help them to avoid conflict.

I found that this book is certainly a fun and easy way for children to learn proper manners, and how having good manners can help them in social situations. It is easily accessible and quite applicable to the everyday lives of young readers.


Tweak Tweak

9 10

Author: Eve Bunting

Illustrator: Sergio Ruzzier

Publishing Information: Clarion Books, 2011

Number of Pages: 40

Genre: Folktale


            Tweak Tweak tells the story of a baby elephant and her mother as they wander through the jungle and encounter a variety of different animals that live there as well. Tweak Tweak’s curiosity is piqued each time she sees an animal displaying a skill/behavior that she is unfamiliar with, and she asks her mother if she is capable of doing the same thing as each animal she sees. Although her mother explains that Tweak Tweak cannot do the same thing as the other animal, she enlightens her on the different skills/behaviors that Tweak Tweak is able to do that are just as unique.

The illustrations in the story are noteworthy, as I was able to see a variety of picture codes that could be applicable to different aspects of the illustrations. For example, each time Tweak Tweak asks her mother, “Can I do that?”, she is pictured on the right-hand side of the page, indicating a lack of security. Then, when her mother explains a skill that she is able to do instead of the one she has seen the other animal display, Tweak Tweak is pictured on the left-hand side of the page to demonstrate a greater sense of security now that she is reassured of her own talents. Additionally, there is always a round frame surrounding Tweak Tweak and her mother on the page that follows the mother’s explanation of Tweak Tweak’s unique skill, as they move on from their current location. This indicates a contentedness that is felt by Tweak Tweak and her mother after they are both aware of a skill that Tweak Tweak has that is unique to her, rather than focusing on the skill the other animal has. Furthermore, the illustrations are done in bright watercolors, and the facial expressions of the two elephants are always jovial.

The story teaches children that everyone has their own unique set of abilities, and provides them with a mirror to reflect on their own. The lack of a frame around the illustrations helps children to also put themselves into the scenario with Tweak Tweak, so they can reflect further on this lesson. Also, it teaches them that instead of focusing on what someone else can do that they cannot do, they should focus on those abilities that they do possess and make them unique.

Families, Families, Families


Author: Suzanne Lang

Illustrator: Max Lang

Publishing Information: Random House Children’s Books, 2015

Number of Pages: 24

Genre: Realistic Fiction



This Monarch Award-winning children’s book provides a glimpse at the various kinds of families that people may belong to, as an alternative to the nuclear family dynamic. With explanations such as “Some families have two moms,” “Some families have one dad,” and “Some families are children living with the aunt,” children are able to see that families come in a multitude of sizes and have can be made up in all different kinds of ways. Furthermore, it ends by explaining that no matter who or how many people make up one’s family, they are all bonded by love.

This gives children a mirror that allows them to see their own family demonstrated in the text. It is helpful because it can, therefore, make them feel included and have their family composition validated to themselves and other readers. It also provides a window to show them a multitude of different ways a family can be structured, all while stressing the importance that no one family structure is better or worse than any of the others. I especially appreciated the book’s inclusion of same-sex parents, as that is a structure that society is still working toward accepting today. By including these types of families, children who belong to a family with same-sex parents can feel more accepted and appreciate that their family is recognized by the book. Additionally, by including all different kinds of families throughout the book, it provides children with a door to practice inclusion and acceptance for all types of family structures, even if they do not mirror the one they see at home.

The illustrations in the book are unframed, with the exception of a frame that surrounds each family in a way that is designed to give it the appearance of a family portrait. Although the text could exist alone, the illustrations mirror the text and are able to provide a visual representation of each family composition that is being described by the text. Additionally, the illustrations are done in bright watercolors to mirror the happiness and freedom within the story. Facial expressions on the characters are all smiles to reflect this theme as well.

The Little Cookie


Author: Margaret Hillert

Illustrator: Donald Charles

Publishing Information: Modern Curriculum Press, 1981

Number of Pages: 32

Genre: Folktale



The Little Cookie is a classic tale of an elderly woman who bakes a cookie that comes to life as she finishes making him. Once he realizes he is alive and active, he runs off across the land meeting a variety of new animals and taking in all the scenery he could not have otherwise seen if he was confined to the kitchen. His adventure comes to an end after he accepts a ride across the stream from a sneaky fox, leaving readers to conclude for themselves what happens next.

            The story only uses a total of forty eight basic words, which are counted and listed in a guide at the end of the book, which evidences that it is a story meant for beginning readers to enjoy. Furthermore, the text is rather repetitive as the cookie goes along his different adventures, making it an easy and fun read for younger children.

The illustrations are done in brighter colored paint, reflecting the lighthearted and fun tone of the story as the cookie goes about his adventure out of the kitchen. He is typically featured on the right-hand side of the page, which interested me because he had seemed so free and excited throughout the story. This leads me to believe that perhaps he is not as secure as one may believe him to be, since he is unfamiliar in the outside world. It is not until the very end (when the fox is giving him a ride across the stream) that the cookie is featured on the left-hand side of the page, although they are moving to the right. This could show that although the cookie thinks he is secure, he is headed toward danger as the fox has other plans for him. There are some instances in which the text does not even inform the reader of who is doing the speaking, which leads me to conclude that the story is mostly a picture book narrative where the pictures could tell the story with little to no help from the text.

Although there is certainly the ideology of the dangers of wandering away from one’s caretaker demonstrated in the story, I feel as though this is mostly a fun book to engage beginning readers.

Young Cam Jansen & the Dinosaur Game

3 4

Author: David A. Adler

Illustrator: Susanna Natti

Publishing Information: Scholastic, 1996

Number of Pages: 32

Genre: Mystery


The story of Young Cam Jansen and the Dinosaur Game follows Cam and her friend David as they attend a birthday party that features a guessing game. When one of the partygoers guesses the exact number of little toy dinosaurs in the glass jar, Cam is suspicious that there was cheating involved and decides to use her detective skills to investigate. She comes to find that the boy who won the game placed a second bet after the number had already been revealed, and the mystery is solved.

The illustrations are done in fairly basic colors (blue, red, yellow, green) and are featured in rectangular frames. This gives readers a more limited glimpse at the scenarios unfolding, which is similar to that of the limited information Cam begins her investigation with. Furthermore, the rectangular frames indicated less security than that of round frames, which is fitting for the plot as there is a mystery that has presented itself and has not yet been solved. These illustrations are additive to the text, as some reveal more information and visuals that the text could not have provided alone. For example, one of the illustrations features the slip of paper that had the exact number of dinosaurs on it where one can see smudges of chocolate on the paper. This is important because the guessing game required the children at the party to place their guess before cake was served, and clearly this guess was made afterwards.

This story is broken down into five short chapters, which introduces younger readers to the breakdown of traditional chapter books. Furthermore, the story teaches children a way to engage in more critical thinking as they follow along with Cam’s thought processes as she is solving the mystery. At the end of the story, the person who had the next closest guess is awarded the jar of dinosaurs and opts to share them with everyone else at the party, including the boy who cheated to win the game. This teaches children the value of sharing, as well as not holding a grudge against someone who did not act fairly toward others.

Fancy Nancy: Spectacular Spectacles


Author: Jane O’Connor

Illustrator: Robin Preiss Glasser and Ted Enik

Publishing Information: Harper Collins, 2010

Number of Pages: 32

Genre: Realistic Fiction


This book introduces readers to Fancy Nancy, and the changes that occur when Nancy’s friend is told that she must wear glasses from now on. At first her friend is less than thrilled, but comes to like her glasses when people react positively to seeing her wear them. The only trouble arises when Nancy becomes a bit jealous and wants a pair of glamorous glasses of her own as well.

The narrative includes a variety of adjectives, such as “spectacular,” “spectacles,” and “glamorous” that may be new for early readers who are more accustomed to general descriptions of things in a story. However, there is a guide in the back of the book that lists each new word, and a definition that can break it down in a way that is easier for children to understand. By doing this, the book teaches children new words in a fun and effective way to enhance their vocabulary.

The illustrations remain unframed throughout the story, and are typically painted in a bright and flamboyant way–I believe this reflects Nancy’s personality perfectly. The only page that was done a bit darker was the one in which the text is describing the jealousy that Nancy feels as she tells her mother that she also wants her won pair of glasses. The illustrations work with the text so that neither could necessarily exist alone in the book.

This book provides children with a mirror that can show them that if they have glasses, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Initially, the friend was worried that the other children would make fun of her, but instead she grows more comfortable with her glasses as people compliment her and she grows more accepting of them. This story also teaches children a bit more about the process of getting glasses, as Nancy’s mother explains that her friend needs them to see and the way it will improve her vision and make things easier for her. In the end, Nancy comes to accept that she should not be jealous that people are flattering her friend after she starts to wear glasses, as there were struggles that the friend had to face up until that point and she deserves to feel accepted and comfortable among her peers.


Will Princess Isabel Ever Say Please?


Author: Steve Metzger

Illustrator: Amanda Haley

Publishing Information: Holiday House, 2012

Number of Pages: 30

Genre: Fantasy



            Isabel is a beautiful princess who is seemingly perfect, except for her bad manners and refusal to ever say “please.” Although she has many suitors that initially wish to marry her, each one changes his mind as soon as he realizes how rude she is and marries a kinder princess. It is not until the end of the story that she learns the importance of saying “please” and having good manners, which helps her find a prince who will love her.             I think this story sends a good message to children that contrasts the typical theme of princess stories. In most stories of a princess, she is praised for her beauty and marries a prince because she is a beautiful princess. However, in the case of Princess Isabel, her beauty is not enough for the princes to marry her, as they are turned off by her rudeness. It is not until the very end of the story, when Isabel finally says “please” that she is able to woo one of the princes. The author notes, “When the prince heard Isabel say ‘please,’ he was so impressed by her humility and fine manners that he fell in love with her on the spot” (pg. 28). Although the “love at first sight” critique is apparent, this sends a much better message to children as it explicitly states that it was the humility and fine manners that led the prince to fall in love with Princess Isabel. As a result, children are able to see that inner beauty and being a good person is more important than outer beauty. Furthermore, it teaches them the value of manners, and that a lack of manners will yield consequences even for a beautiful princess who seems to have it all.

The illustrations are done in bright watercolors, and remain unframed to allow readers to really experience this story from within. However, more detail and brighter colors are given to the illustrations of Isabel, symbolizing her central importance to the story. Despite the nicely done illustrations, the text could exist alone and still convey all of the messages to readers that it is intended to.

As a whole, I believe the ideologies of manners and the importance of inner beauty make this a refreshing change of pace from the typical princess fairytales children see more often.

How to Get Married


Author: Sally Lloyd-Jones

Illustrator: Sue Heap

Publishing Information: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2009

Number of Pages: 32

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

Genre: Realistic Fiction



This story serves as a step-by-step guide for how to find someone you’d like to marry, and how to, then, plan out a wedding. The story is told from the perspective of the “bride” and the strategies she uses for planning out her marriage.

I must admire the fact that the book is very inclusive, as the bride states a very diverse range of people you can marry, and brushes on the topic of polygamy as well when she says, “Usually, you’re not allowed to marry lots of people at once. Except sometimes you are” (Lloyd Jones, 8). As a result, I found that this would serve as a window to teach children to be very open-minded in terms of who another person chooses to marry, and the different types of families that result from those marriages. Also, it becomes both a mirror and a door, as they assess their own preferences in marriage and can practice both their own preferences and a tolerance for the preferences of others. As a result, I think that this simple how-to book can be a fun and more lighthearted way to teach children about an event that happens all the time.

Although the book is meant to be a silly and fun way to approach the topic, I did find bits of the story to be a bit problematic. The bride provides different lists of things you should not do in front of the person you like, or they won’t want to marry you. This could send a negative message to children that tells them that they must act a particular way to impress someone, rather than being themselves. Also, she creates a list of people you should not marry, which backpedals on the inclusiveness of the story, and teaches children that some people are less deserving of marriage/love than others. As a result, I think it sends the wrong message in some aspects, and I’m not sure I would want to read this to children in my classroom.

As a whole, I found this book to be a fun way for children to learn about the topic of marriage in terms they could understand. While I did have some critiques in some areas of the storyline, I was not completely turned off by the book and still found parts that I believe children can really benefit from.