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  • 2014 Wanda Gág Read Aloud Honor Books

     How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans written by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mark Fearing, and published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group, 2013.

    How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green BeansThe adventure begins with Martha's grim existence on an average Tuesday evening struggling with the challenge of eating her vegetable – green beans. Despite her parents' encouraging suggestions to consume the "healthy" green beans, Martha believes that green beans are VERY bad. The adventure continues with a mean, swaggering gang of green beans who kidnap Martha's parents.

    The bright and colorful illustrations create a visually pleasing detailed journey of Martha and the evil gang of green beans. The intricate textures in the pictures add to the humor and horror of the spirited characters – both the green beans and Martha.

    Children ages 6 to 9 found the book enticing, exciting, and humorous. The story kept them enthralled throughout the entire book. Teachers commented that the book "was suspenseful for the students" and they enjoyed the eyes on the lettuce; a perfect segue into Martha's second adventure.

    David LaRochelle was born and raised in Minnesota. After a short career as an elementary school teacher, David became a full-time illustrator and author and currently lives in White Bear Lake, MN. Mark Fearing was raised in Minnesota and is an author and illustrator of books in his favorite genres of science fiction, horror, and humor. HEATHER NESEMEIER

     Mr. Tiger Goes Wild written and illustrated by Peter Brown, and published by Little, Brown and Company, 2013.

    Mr. Tiger Goes WildMr. Tiger lives in a drab Victorian village where his bright orange color and black stripes stand out among the other animals. He grows tired of being so proper, "He wanted to be . . . wild." On a dramatic double-page spread Mr. Tiger appears lower and lower on the page and then a page turn shows him on all fours! Now he is ready to explore a new kind of life. He scampers about with abandon and roars like a real tiger. His friends finally lose their patience when he jumps into a fountain and climbs out "naked." Mr. Tiger run away to the wilderness where he enjoys his new found freedom until he becomes lonely. When he returns home, he finds that his friends have also changed. They have discovered the joy of just being themselves.

    From the wrap-around jacket to the textured book cover, sporting huge orange and black stripes, to the endpapers which change from dull bricks to the greens of the wilderness, to the heavy weight of the paper, this picture book is a perfect example of book design. Peter Brown created the illustrations with India ink, watercolor, gouache, and pencil, then composed and colored them digitally. Children will enjoy comparing Brown's wilderness with that of Henri Rousseau's painting entitled "Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!)," where there are many similarities in color and shape.

    Children in preschool through age eight enjoyed the story and superb art. They roared with Mr. Tiger and giggled at his antics, saying "Oh, no, Mr. Tiger is naked!" Most of all they appreciated the message: "We are all special. We can't be someone else. Home is great." One kindergarten teacher commented: "I have a sign in my room. If you can't be brilliant be odd. This book fits that sign." An eight-year-old Peter Brown fan exclaimed: "Peter Brown is awesome." He added that Peter must like black and orange (thinking also about "Creepy Carrots"). The following comment from a second grader sums up the children's enthusiasm: "Make this book win the award!" CAROL SIBLEY

     Wilfred written and illustrated by Ryan Higgins and published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group, 2013.

    WilfredOnce upon a time in a faraway land lived a lonesome, hairy giant named Wilfred. Wilfred's massiveness and hairiness frightened many away. Wilfred was lonely. That is, until one day he happens upon a little town with unusual people; they are all bald, even the women and children. One brave young boy befriends Wilfred and realizes that Wilfred is a very obedient and lovable creature. Greedy townspeople see Wilfred's hair as a way to end their baldness and convince Wilfred to shear away all of his hair. Cold and hairless, Wilfred is bound to his cave to keep warm near the fire. Seeing some of the citizens wearing wigs, the little boy realizes why his big, hairy friend has not returned to play. In an effort to save his friend from freezing, the little boy makes Wilfred giant mittens. The courageous boy gets caught in a blizzard on the way to deliver the mittens to Wildred. The townspeople search and search and finally find the boy safe and warm. Wilfred had saved the little boy. The townspeople finally realize that Wilfred is a hero and not a monster. The whole town comes together, covering Wilfred in blankets to keep warm, while others busily sew their wigs together in order to make a coat for Wilfred.

    Higgins' detailed illustrations range from double-page spreads with Wilfred's body extending to both pages to vignettes showing Wilfred complying with his friend's commands. The large illustrations made this book perfect for a read aloud. The illustrations enhance the text by showing characters' emotions and portraying just how lovable Wilfred really is.

    This book was really engaged children ages five to nine. The fantastic illustrations and humorous characters drew them in. Children were enamored with and immobilized by the book. This book stirs up compassion in students and sends a wonderful message about friendship. Readers highly recommended this book, and children begged for it to be read again.

    Ryan Higgins, the author and illustrator of Wilfred, resides in Southern Maine with his family. ELIZABETH BAKKEN