The Sour Grape (HarperCollins)
Written by Jory John
Illustrated by Pete Oswald
For ages: 4-8
You are likely already familiar with the Food Group series of picture books, and this is the latest (as of this writing) addition to the collection. The Sour Grape is a grumpy person who spends time explaining how they ended up this way. It started when the Grape planned an elaborate birthday party, but no one showed up. The Grape went from being sweet to bitter and then sour, lashing out at anyone who crossed their path. A relatable situation.
The Grape lets minor misunderstandings become long-standing grudges. However, things change when Grape’s friend Lenny Lemon exhibits the same sour behavior as our protagonist. The Grape suddenly recognized their nastiness when they saw someone else doing it. They didn’t feel very good about how they treated their friends. Then the most crucial revelation occurs: Grape realizes they never sent the invitations, which is why no one came. They just made a mistake, but they let a misunderstanding turn them into someone mean.
Pete Oswald has mastered the art style for these books and does it again here. There are some clever visual puns with food, as always. The series has done a great job of keeping things fresh and never feeling like it’s running out of steam. I particularly enjoyed that Grape’s grandparents were depicted as shriveled-up raisins. The books can be preachy, but it’s written with kids in mind and trying to be direct so that the theme doesn’t get lost.
1. This story is perfect for tracking the plot points. Have students map Grape’s character arc, from nice to sour back to nice again, with important moments from the text.
2. Have students pick an interaction of their choice from the book. They should summarize what Grape does and then rewrite the situation to show how Grape should have handled the problem in a way that didn’t upset the other person.
3. Reflective writing is always good with these books. Students can write/draw in response to this prompt: Share a time when someone was sour with you. How did you feel? Why did you feel that way? How did you react? Share a time you have been sour with someone else. What would you tell yourself if you could return to that moment? How would that help you?
Donuts: The Hole Story (Familius)
Written & Illustrated by David W. Miles
For ages: 5-9
This is an excellent silly nonsense book that kids will love. From beginning to end, this is chock full of puns galore. Everything changes when the donuts realize how short their lives will be and how the humans will eat them. It’s time to live life to its fullest. The main text describes the antics these fried confections get up to while the donuts themselves chime in via speech bubbles. This is where much of the punniness comes from in the story. Eventually, life becomes too good for them to give up, so they hatch a plan to escape.
The illustrations here combine hand-drawn art, photographs, and some digital manipulation. It reminded me a lot of some of the artwork in The Amazing World of Gumball. There are some great visual gags, like a donut Peter Pan letting a cannonball go through his hole from an irate Captain Hook donut. The donut Hook responds, “Come down here and get yer just desserts.” There’s even a donut hole dog named Sprinkles who pops up throughout the book. At one point, we see vehicles and trains made from donuts, complete with donuts for wheels, which begs the question, “Are all the donuts sentient or just some?”
While your students may mull over the ethical implications of eating self-aware donuts, I suspect they will also be laughing and wanting to pour over this book at their leisure to capture all the details in the images. As I said above, this is the dumb fun kids need after working hard in the classroom all day or taking a brain break between tasks.
1. Have students pick out their favorite image from the book and jot down why it is their favorite. If that image was a cartoon, what would happen next? Have students write or draw a continuation.
2. Make a list of words associated with donuts that could be used to make puns (hole, ring, glaze, filling, sprinkle). Then have students create their donut pun with an illustration. (Example: a donut flying over the city in a hole-icopter, A donut goes to see a movie in three dough-mensions)
3. Finally, have students write in response to this prompt: Imagine this is your last day on Earth as a donut. What kind of donut are you? What do you plan to do with this final day of life? Why?