Weslandia, a small but powerful masterpiece
by acclaimed author Paul Fleischman, can win the hearts of both bullies and victims. In this wondrous story, enlivened by Kevin Hawkes’ fabulous paintings, Wesley is an inventive boy whom the neighborhood kids torture for being different. Yet, as we older ones know, nothing stays the same. In time, the bullies give in to their curiosity about the unique civilization Wesley is busy creating and grow to admire his ingenuity. Wesley, in turn, discovers his games are more fun when they involve others. Recommended read-aloud for ages 7 to 10.
Steven Kellogg, beloved for his humorous Pinkerton picture books, reached a new, more nuanced height when he created Island of the Skog. This fabulous, must-read picture book lends itself to important discussions of multiple themes, on a range of development levels. A group of mice, tired of living in fear, sail off to find a peaceful home. They land on an island inhabited by one “skog.” Noone knows what a skog is, but the immediate reaction of one aggressive mouse is to destroy the creature before it conquers them. In time, they discover how wrong they were to follow such a plan. Discuss the qualities of a good leader and identify which mouse exemplifies these qualities. How did Jenny’s approach differ from that of the loud-mouthed bully? Why should we refrain from making hasty assumptions? Discuss the importance of making good choices and effecting positive change.
The Boy Who Drew Cats: A Japanese Folktale, retold by Arthur A. Levine, is an unforgettable tale featuring a creative, misunderstood protagonist. The child, taunted even by his own siblings, does not seem to belong anywhere. After his mother takes him to a monastery, he angers a monk who resents the boy for wasting time with drawing. The other monk, though, gives him a special farewell gift and a message that will help the boy survive a frightening night and even reclaim a village from a monster. Clement’s haunting illustrations include calligraphy that relates to the dramatic unfolding events. The folktale serves to remind us to value each person’s unique gifts, and to imagine how those gifts can transform the world. Recommended for ages 8 to 10 — and chilling enough for a Halloween read.