„The Beeman“ by Laurie Krebs

Did you know that I was an official Barefoot Book Ambassador in 2016? As someone who constantly has her nose in a book, promoting literacy and working with the great Barefoot community was the perfect fit! Well, that being said – I quickly discovered that direct marketing isn’t for me. A year later I still love Barefoot books and miss the discounts I got as an Ambassador. That doesn’t change that I’m not a seller, so I keep on reading and reviewing.

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Imagine my delight when I was offered review copies of the newest Barefoot books by one of the literacy agencies I’m working with! Sure, I said yes – and quickly re-discovered my love for Barefoot Books. Is there something better than unconventional, diverse children’s literature? Finja chose the first two books to read and review. One of them: “The Beeman” by Laurie Krebs, illustrated by Valeria Cis. “The Beeman” is one of the wonderful non-fiction books that teaches children about the real world and score with delightful pictures, an attention-grabbing storyline and rhymes.

Do you know where our honey comes from? Bees not only provide us with honey, their work as pollinator is important for our environment – but bees are critically endangered. “The Beeman” teaches little ones about bees, a bee man’s everyday life and why bees are neither scary nor dangerous, but important for our environment.

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The story: Grandpa, the bee-man, teaches his young grandson the basics of beekeeping. His relationships to his bees is one of friendship and respect. They are family. We discover the boxes where bees live and sleep – the “beehive”. We learn about different kinds of bees and their duties: What are worker bees for, how do you recognize drone bees and why is the queen so important for a bee colony? Did you know that the house bees dry up the nectar brought by worker bees to make honey? How will the bees survive in winter and how does the honey get from the honey comb into the bottle? Author Laurie Krebs wrote her rhyming story easy to understand, several pages of endnotes full of essential facts about bees and beekeeping are perfect for children and parents that have more questions. The recipe for “Grandma’s Apple and Honey Muffins” is a tasty activity for hungry readers.

I re-discovered my love for non-fiction when Finja started to ask questions about our world. “The Beeman” is one of the books I love for my preschool-aged daughter: Easy to understand and awakening curiosity. She’s able to discover “The Beeman” by herself, even if she’s not able to read yet. The illustrations by Valeria Cis are colorful and grasp her attention, but they are also true to fact. The publisher recommends “The Beeman” for age 5 to 9, in my opinion the book is already perfect for preschool aged children.

A wonderful book for curious children (and parents)!

“The Beeman”
Written By: Laurie Krebs
Illustrated By: Valeria Cis
Publisher: Barefoot Books
ISBN-13: 978-1846862601

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“Bear’s house of books” by Poppy Bishop

You probably already saw a picture of Finja’s bookshelves on this blog. I’m really jealous of her, because I don’t have a bookshelf anymore since my office was turned into Finja’s room in 2012… Well, we are trying to change that and in the process of cleaning and staging our home so we can finally move into a bigger home and the days of working on the dining room table are over. Yeah! Moving always means throwing away and donating lots of stuff. It’s always hard to prioritize, I even recycled my old diaries… There is one thing that we won’t throw away though: Our books. Finja always enjoys when we bring some copies to one of our local “Little Free Library”, but in general her bookshelf keeps growing and growing…

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It’s kind of interesting how real life and the books you are reading sometimes come together. The reality of how much work staging a home has just sunk in and I started dreaming of an office with a huge bookshelf when we received “Bear’s house of books” as a review copy. And bear has exactly what lots of us book lovers are dreaming of… But let’s start at the beginning.

Not everyone can enjoy a huge library of hundreds of books like Finja. Fox, rabbit, mouse and hedgehog are good friends and as they all enjoy stories they read the same worn-out storybook repeatedly. It’s they favorite book, although the pages are a bit sticky after years of reading. The friends would like some new books to enjoy. But where do you find new books? Do they grow on trees or do they fall from the sky like shooting stars? Do you dig them out like potatoes? So fox, mouse, rabbit and hedgehog set out on a book hunt. Heavily armed with sandwiches and the eagerness to discover new stories they start their adventure and search the woods high and low. Just before they are ready to give up they find – a book! The fantastic story catches they attention right away, but the book belongs to someone else: A label on the first page says that their new favorite book belongs to bear, who lives at the other side of the woods… Although the friends would love to keep the book a little longer they start their way to bear’s home. After a long hike, they finally arrive – and discover a wonderful library in bear’s abandoned home… A book lovers dream! The friends start reading right away, until bear arrives back home.

“Who left sticky paw prints on this cover?” “And a sandwich in the middle!” “Who’s been reading my books?”

These quotes may remind you of the story of snow-white and the seven dwarfs – and just like in this fairytale bear and fox, mouse, hedgehog and rabbit become good friends after discovering their shared love for books. After bear learns that the friends just have one book to read at home he allows them to read one more book – and soon the animals are cuddled together, enjoying one story after another. And they have a wonderful idea about how to share the love of books with other animals in the woods!

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“Bear’s house of books” by Poppy Bishop is a great book about sharing the love of reading. The board book features a friendly fox, rabbit, mouse and hedgehog and makes it easy for preschoolers to identify themselves with the protagonists. Even the grumpy bear comes over as extremely likable and his decision to open a library for other animals sends an important message about sharing. After all, a library is wonderful – but isn’t it even better to spread the joy of reading and discovering new stories? Another great read by “Tiger Tales”!

“Bear’s house of books”
written by Poppy Bishop
illustrated by Alison Edgson
Publisher: Tiger Tales
ISBN-13: 978-1680100389

„We are family“ by Patricia Hegarty

Children should see themselves and their families in the books they read. Unfortunately, traditional books focus too much on the average child and the traditional family. People of color, disabilities and non-traditional families are hard to find in the average bookshelf… We accidentally exclude a huge number of children from our stories and unintentionally suggest that the “normal” family has white skin color, mom and dad are married, living in a big home and have one to two children, all of them spared by disabilities or anything else out of the “ordinary”.

But this is not the reality. These days it’s more important than ever to talk to our children about stereotypes and hidden racism. I should be honest: Being grown up in the 80s and 90s in rural Germany by bookshelf was full of books – none of them of people of color. Same-sex-marriages weren’t a topic back then. I like today’s more diverse world better and am sure that it’s better for our children to grow up being aware of and interested in other cultures. It wasn’t until my short time as Barefoot Book Ambassador though that I really learned to love diverse children books. Our children benefit from knowing that there is no “average”, no “right” or “wrong”.

Enough said. I’m so happy to see more and more publishers pick up diverse books, the result being thoughtful books with wonderful illustrations that are fun to read and introduce our children to a more diverse world. One of them: The picture book “We are family” by Patricia Hegarty, published by Tiger Tales.

From page one on we accompany ten families from breakfast to bed time, through good and bad times. These families are as colorful and lively as they come: Patchwork-families, families with multiple children and with just one or two. Adopted families and parents of every age. Families of color, families with disabilities. Two-parent- and One-parent-families and families with parents of the same gender. All the families in this book have a different life, a different journey, a different goal in life. They have one thing in common: Times are not always easy, but families “stick together. Through thick and thin, happy and sad.” They are “there for each other, in good times and bad.” Life can be fun, but life can be difficult, too. Sometimes we are in a rush to get to work, sometimes we enjoy a movie together, sometimes a tragedy brings on tears. “We handle things together, we feel each other’s pain. Family is the silver lining, the sunshine after the rain.” And at the end, when we are tucked in bed at night, we know that we are loved – safe and sound.

Patricia Hegarty not only picks up the issue “family”, which is important for preschoolers, but created another wonderful diverse book. Her rhymes are wonderful to read and calming especially during bedtime. A most important part of this book are the illustrations by Ryan Wheatercroft: He pictures families of every background and their everyday life. He portraits people of not every ethnicity (what would be basically not possible), but at least a good selection of them.

“We are family” is perfect for children preschool-age – especially after three- to four-year olds already pick up on stereotypes. Patricia Hegarty’s gently rhyming text is fun to read out aloud and my four-year-old daughter didn’t have a problem to grasp the meaning. She loved the illustrations, pointed out the different activities she likes to do, too and how our day goes in comparison. And she was overly worried about the family who lost their dog…  🙂 That doesn’t mean that older children would not profit from this book in their family library. “We are family” is a wonderful conversation starter within the family, for preschools and school classes!

“We are family” is a wonderful book for parents who want to introduce their children to a more diverse world. We can highly recommend this read – another great book by Tiger Tales!

„We are family“
written by Patricia Hegarty
illustrated by Ryan Wheatercroft
Hardcover
Publisher: Tiger Tales
ISBN-13: 978-1680100549