Odd Velvet, by Mary E. Whitcomb, illustrated by Tara Calahan King (Chronicle Books), ages 3 to 8
Velvet brings a milkweed pod for show-and-tell at school while the other girls bring dolls. Her orange flyaway braids, gigantic glasses and secondhand dress (hurray for reuse!) add to the aura of odd that surrounds her. But through adorable, whimsical artwork and a non-preaching tone, odd translates into unique and wonderful. The light-hearted, yet deeply important, lessons in non-materialism and acceptance of differences abound; her imaginative and simple birthday parties are a new and fun experience for her high-priced party classmates, and Velvet wins a school art prize with only eight crayons.

Perhaps the real gem in this book is the fact that Velvet is quietly confident and consistent in her own being and soon wins her classmate’s friendship, not through heroics or bribes or compliance, but through her own strong sense of self. It turns out to be a lot of fun to try things the Velvet way.

In Every Moon There is a Face, by Charles Mathes, illustrated by Arlene Graston (Illumination Arts), ages 4 and beyond
Countless wonders of the world have been created from the internal landscape of imagination, and what better way to honor that inner realm than with this combination of a subtle poem and stunning illustrations that are over-the-top creative. Gentle and few are the words of the poem, but scarce does not mean sparse. The words are a giant trampoline that serve as a springboard for illustrations that will make you sound like you are at a spectacular Fourth of July fireworks celebration.

The imaginative imaginings in this book are a celebration of the inner world that only an artist’s muse seems privy to until the illustrations and words explode onto paper.

I can definitely say, "Thanks for sharing!" Even the author’s dedication is fun to ponder: "This book is dedicated to the Silence within us all whose luminous Presence within our own presence shines." While all of this may seem a bit abstract to younger readers, I believe that the mystery of the words and pictures is creative food for young minds that love to think big.

Copyright © 2005 Paula Jo Behr. All rights reserved.

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