Ollie: The Purple Elephant by Jarrett Krosoczka #BookADay

By Jarrett Krosoczka

Title: Ollie: The Purple Elephant

Author: Jarrett Krosoczka

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, Random House Children’s Book
Publication year: 2011
Category: Picture Book (fiction)
Source: Monroe 1 BOCES Overdrive E-Book Collection

Summary: A family adopts a purple elephant, but they are separated by a jealous cat.

Review: I really love Krosoczka’s Lunch Lady graphic novels, so last year I bought Ollie for my library at the AASL Conference in Hartford, where Krosoczka hosted a Comic Book breakfast and signing. This book was just wonderful. A parents walking their children in the park agree to their children’s seemingly unlikely request to adopt a Purple Elephant. To their great surprise they stumble onto to a homeless purple elephant on their walk. The parent’s facial expression were fantastic in this scene and many others. Krosoczka is master storyteller and his illustrations masterfully expand and suport his writing.

Classroom Use: I would use this story with my PK-3 students. It is a fun, read-a-loud and great for discussions of inference, jelousy, fact-checking and conflict resolution.




Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize #Bookaday review

By Kathy-Jo Wargrin & Zachary Pullen

Title: Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize

Author: Kathy-Jo Wargin (writer), Zachary Pullen (illustrator)

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication year: 2009
Category: Picture Book (non-fiction)
Source: Monroe 1 BOCES Overdrive E-Book Collection

Summary: Biographical account of Alfred Nobel's life from his refinement of nitroglycerin into Dynamite to his decision to try to change what he would be known for after his death.

Review: I was decidedly underwhelmed by this book. I felt the story was dull and did not match the tone of the illustrations. While the book presented the facts of Alfred's life plainly, it felt incomplete, as it didn't address why Alfred Nobel chose to honor the fields he did, outside a passing refrence in the initial pages to the fact that he loved writing and poetry as much as science and chemistry as young man.

Classroom Use: While I would like to have picturebook biography of Alfred Nobel, this would not be my first choice.


Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne & Eric Puybaret

Manfish cover

by Jennifer Berne & Eric Puybaret

Title: Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau

Author: Jennifer Berne (writer), Ėric Puybaret (illustrator)

Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication year: 2008
Category: Picture Book (non-fiction)
Source: Monroe 1 BOCES Overdrive E-Book Collection

Summary: A biographical account of Jacques Cousteau's life from his childhood fascination with water to his life activist and film-maker.

Review: I liked the introduction of Cousteau as curious child, whose interest in the ocean was matched by his interest in mechanical engineering & film making. I wish more time was spent on his development of the aqualung. The illustrations were elegant and subdued, but still captured the vibrancy of ocean teeming with life.

Classroom Use: I would use this as a non-fiction read-a-loud with students 4-8th grade. It will also be a wonderful addition to units on the ocean.


Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown & John Parra

Cover of Waiting for the Biblioburro

By Monica Brown & John Parras

Title: Waiting for the Biblioburro
Author: Monica Brown (Writer) & John Parra (Illustrator)
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books, Trycycle Press
Publication year: 2011
Category: Picture Book (Fiction)
Source: Monroe 1 BOCES Overdrive E-Book Collection

Summary: Ana re-reads the one book she owns till the unexpected arrival of moving library. A librarian and two burros bring books into her village. While she impatiently waits for their return, she writes her own book about then Biblioburros.

Review: This story was inspired by the real life story of Luis Soriano Borhórquez ‘s Biblioburro Foundation and its work promoting literacy by brining books to remote and isolate villages in Columbia.

I really loved the classic story conventions Brown uses through out the book to establish this story as “cuento”, a fiction. While we read Ana’s story these conventions reminds us that this story could be told of hundreds of other children who wait for the Biblioburro. I also enjoyed spotting references to traditional Spanish teaching songs, such as “Un Elefante se Balanceaba” . Parra’s art was rich and whimsical. I enjoyed particularly that the contrasts between Ana’s story-world and her home village was clear without removing its color and lushness.

I plan to use this book in a couple of different ways. I will use is it with my Lower-Elementary students, as part of our introduction to the library unit. I will also add it to my writing picture books unit, to highlight the value of research in both fiction and non-fiction picture books.


Sparky! by Jenny Offill & Chris Appelhans

Daughter badgers mom for a pet

By Jenny Offill and Chris Appelhans


Title: Sparky!
Author: Jenny Offill (Writer) & Chris Appelhans (Illustrator)
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books,  Schwartz & Wade Books
Publication year: 2014
Category: Picture Book (Fiction)
Source: Monroe 1 BOCES Overdrive E-Book Collection

Summary: A little girl badger her mother for a pet. She adopts a sloth she names Sparky.

Review: Although I bought Offill’s “11 Experiments That Failed” for the RCS Library’s collection, this is the first of her book that I have read.  I was really engaged in the un-named little’s girl’s quest for a pet. The first person narration was witty and gently self-deprecating. The whole book was fun to read.  I enjoyed the librarian shout-out and how the little girl comes to accept her pet for what he is, not what other want it to be.

I will be sharing this book with K-3 students, particularly as fun preparation for Pet Research Projects.  I can see pairing it with non-fiction book on sloths.