animals, culture, family, social-emotional

Spotlight – A Perfect Wonderful Day With Friends/Brand New Bubbe

A Perfect Wonderful Day With Friends (Gecko Press)
Written & Illustrated by Philip Waechter

For ages: 4-8
Raccoon decides he wants to bake an apple cake to cure his boredom. However, there are no eggs in the house. Fox owns chickens, so maybe she will help him out. When Raccoon arrives at Fox’s home, he finds she has a leaky roof that needs repairs. The two head to Badger’s house, hoping he has a ladder. Well, Badger is having difficulty with a crossword puzzle. Fox thinks Bear might solve it, and the trio heads to visit him. They stop for a delicious blackberry picnic and find Bear isn’t home when they reach their destination. Crow is circling overhead and guides them to Bear, who is fishing along the river. Unfortunately, he’s not having luck catching anything. So, the friends jump into the water for a refreshing swim. 

This light-hearted, easy-going book is about embracing the moment and not getting lost in anxieties. In these times, it’s easy for even our children to get caught up in legitimate uncertainty and fear. However, we can’t lose sight of hope and find precious moments of joy in simple pleasures. Whenever a problem arises, the characters roll with it and seek solutions by bringing more people into the circle. In the end, they manage to solve their problems and never break a sweat about them. Most importantly, they had fun and enjoyed fellowship with each other. 

Activities

1. This is a perfect story to map on a graphic organizer. It’s a little more complex than most, as it has multiple problems with multiple solutions that behave almost like a domino chain.

2. Students can write a reflective journal about a favorite lazy day they remember. This is an excellent opportunity to emphasize Descriptiveness in their writing. For example, words that describe the weather and emotions would make a perfect focus.

3. Have students write a sequel to this book. Using the same characters, students can imagine what day they might have in a different season and the problems they could encounter because of that change in weather.


Brand New Bubbe (Charlesbridge)
Written by Sarah Aronson
Illustrated by Ariel Landy

For ages: 4-8
Blended families can have considerable challenges, but they often lead to bigger groups of people caring for each other. It can be confusing for children who are taught simplistic narratives about families through the culture. In this text, Jillian’s mom has married her boyfriend, bringing a third pair of grandparents into the mix. The little girl likes her new step-grandfather, but her step-grandmother is another thing entirely. Jillian sees her Bubbe as trying to take the place of her other grandmothers, which is not the case. The girl is of Italian-Mexican descent and doesn’t like Bubbe’s claims that she makes the best matzo ball soup in the world because her other grandmothers make great food too. After spending more time with her new grandmother and making & tasting food with her, Jilian learns that adding more people to the family only helps enrich life for everyone.

This lovely story is about embracing change and learning to see the positive outweighs the negative when we open our hearts and grow our families. There’s also an excellent representation of multiple cultures in the book that presents everything in a positive context. The illustrations by Ariel Landry are fun & expressive and help add humor to the situation. For children going through changes in their family, particularly from divorce and remarriage, this book is a beautiful reminder that while they may be scared of these shifts, it can ultimately be one of the best things to ever happen to them.

Activities

1. Have students pick someone in their family they love to spend time with. On a sheet of paper, students can draw this person. Then add details and labels to the person that show why they like spending time with them. For instance, if they enjoy fishing with grandpa, they should draw him with a fishing pole in his hand and maybe a tackle box by his feet. If the student likes baking in the kitchen with an aunt, they could draw her making dough or taking a fresh loaf of bread out of the oven.

2. Have students write a reflective journal about a time their family changed (death, birth, divorce) and how they felt about that change. Some good guiding questions would be “What was something that made you dislike the change?”, “What was a positive thing to happen from this change?” and “If you could go back, what is one thing you might do differently? Why?”

3. This blog features a review of the book plus a recipe for matzo ball soup that you can try at home with your kids or make and bring in to share with your class.

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