“Strictly No Elephants” by Lisa Mantchev

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A boy has a pet. It’s a Pet Club Day. Clearly, the boy should head out to the Pet Club, right? Wrong. The boy has a little elephant for a pet and those are excluded. As the two rejected friends walk back home, they meet another pair of unwanted Pet Club members, a girl with a skunk. The children  share their sadness regarding the ungrounded exclusion. However, instead of wasting time on sulking, they decide to open their own Pet Club, where everyone is welcome. Quite a popular Pet Club indeed.

A very relevant story for readers of all ages. Diversity, however present in our lives, is still a controversial topic.  Are we afraid of differences?  Do we find sameness superior? What could happen if we started including instead of excluding?

With her warm and subtle story about loyalty and friendship, complemented by equally warm and subtle illustrations by Teagan Yoo, Lisa Mantchev succeeded in sending a very clear message to our children. She vividly pictured how misleading  and hurtful prejudices can be and how profusely our society could benefit from embracing diversity. Including can be so inspiring.

 

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“Maple & Willow Apart” by Lori Nichols

 

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Maple is a big sister and starts a big-girl school. Willow is a little sister and has to stay at home. Maple brings home endless exciting stories about kindergarten. Willow has to learn to have fun around the house by herself. Maple makes new friends at school, Willow meets Pip by an oak tree. Now Willow has stories to share too. As the girls learn to build their separate routines, they realize that they miss each other and find a way to reconnect and share their new worlds. Willow might be too small to go to school with Maple, but Pip isn’t. 

Yesterday was my son’s last day of the summer vacation. However nervous he felt this morning when I dropped him off at school,  I am positive that when I pick him up, he will be bursting with excitement.  I’m sure that his younger brother, a preschooler, will notice the difference between the summer with his brother and the fall without him.   And that’s why we will read the story of Maple and Willow tonight, to remind my boys that they should never allow the school routine to drift them apart.

“Maple and Willow Apart”, with its sweet pencil illustrations, is certainly a heart-warming celebration of the sisterly bond.  And it is a wonderful book to read at this time of the year, to prevent the school-separation drama.