On a recent flyover, Clover heard some super news while hovering over the library, where there’s lots of buzz about the summer reading program which kicked off this month. The program’s theme is “All Together Now,” a celebration of unity and the marvelous connections we share, one with another. Clover immediately got sweet on the theme and adopted it as her Book Buddy focus for June.
Page On and read about human and animal characters who fit together like puzzle pieces in this great adventure we call life.
The Community Literacy Foundation, in partnership with Neighborhood Reads and with support from its sponsors, provides these books to 40 school and public libraries in Washington, Union, Pacific, St. Clair and surrounding communities. Learn more at CommunityLiteracyFoundation.org.
Everyone, no matter their age, wants to belong, to be accepted and understood. That’s all Rumi desires when he walks through the door of a new school in “The Together Tree,” by Aisha Saeed.
It’s early spring when Rumi joins Ms. Garza’s class, a boy from San Francisco whose new home is far away from where he previously lived. As the teacher introduces Rumi to the other students the concern on his face is glaringly obvious. Rumi feels out of place, and his classmates do nothing to quell his discomfort. “The kids stared at Rumi, but Rumi stared out the window.”
At recess, things get worse. The other students play tag and have fun on the playground equipment, but Rumi goes off by himself, sitting “… beneath a shady old willow tree,” using a twig to draw in the dirt. The kids tease him about his shoes, which are embellished with vivid rainbows, cars and balloons, pictures he and his old friends drew that remind him of his former home.
The next day the bullying continues, and Rumi again takes refuge beneath the willow tree, swirling a twig in the dirt. The kids have no idea what Rumi is doing to escape their taunts, until the bullying goes from bad to worse. Upset is paramount, until one boy extends a hand of friendship and change blooms like flower petals opening.
Expressive illustrations by LeUyen Pham convey the emotions the students channel through in this important book that stresses how cruelty cuts to the core.
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“A Bed of Stars,” by Jessica Love, beautifully illustrates the blessings of familial bonds, and our ties to nature, when a father and his child go on a camping trip in the desert.
Soft illustrations, and subtle words hint at the child having worries.
There’s a new baby in the house, and perhaps there’s not as much time for the parents to dote on the older child as there used to be. In bed at night, the child’s worries intensify, “… I would imagine the whole universe stretching on endlessly …The bigger it got, the smaller I felt. I was too worried to fall asleep.”
To show his love and quell the pesky anxiety, Dad arranges a one-on-one getaway in his old pickup truck ‘Darlin,” “To shake hands with the universe.” The journey is interesting, the terrain changing, the dad identifying wildflowers along the way.
Once the two reach their destination there’s active fun in store, the young-at-heart dad playing right along with his offspring, jumping in sand dunes, drawing birds they see in the sand, building a campfire, and bedding down under the stars in the truck’s bed, snuggled under comfy blankets.
In the still, quiet night, the child draws solace from the stars they see. Thanks to the wise words the father shares, the child finally realizes all things are made from the “same stuff,” and draws comfort from being part of the universe, rather than feeling apart from it.
The rewards are great when honored author Katherine Applegate releases a new book. Among the jewels in her literary crown are stories of characters who meet at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. She wrote about Ivan the silverback gorilla and followed that book with a pageturner about his canine sidekick, Bob. The author wins hearts again with “The One and Only Ruby,” the tale of a little orphaned elephant.
Once upon a time, Ruby lived with Ivan, Bob and Stella, the elephant, at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Their fates drastically changed for better when they were moved to an animal sanctuary, where Ruby could roam with her herd. The sanctuary was Ruby’s third home. She was born in Africa, where her mother passed away, and Ruby was captured and sent to America.
Ruby still misses her mother, and her adoptive mom Stella, who cared for her at the mall, but she now has a handful of elephant aunts who look out for her. They are currently trying to prepare Ruby for her Tuskday—a coming-of-age ceremony that Ruby wants nothing to do with. Ruby sees no reason to want to get older and grow tusks. It’s tusks that are valued by poachers, and Ruby has traumatic memories of what happened in Africa when humans who craved tusks gave no thought to elephants’ wellbeing, but struck at them with malice.
With guidance from wise elephants in her herd, Ruby learns valuable truths in a dear book that’s both entertaining and educational, with a few rhymes thrown in for good measure. Brave, adorable Ruby opens our eyes as she emulates strong values, and comes to understand that “An elephant alone is not an elephant.”
Written by Chris Stuckenschneider. Copyright 2023, Community Literacy Foundation.