Tag Archives: differences

PPBF – Beegu

Today, many of us in the US head out for the last weekend of summer before the kids start back to school. So when I found a book that includes travel and a school yard setting, I couldn’t resist. And a big “thank you” to the friend who recommended today’s Perfect Picture Book!

w204Title: Beegu

Written & Illustrated By: Alexis Deacon

Publisher/Date: Red Fox/2004 (originally published by Hutchinson, an imprint of Random House Children’s Publishers, UK/2003)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: alien; differences; friendship; loneliness; belonging

Opening:

Beegu was not supposed to be here. She was lost.

Brief Synopsis: A young alien crashes her ship on earth. Lonely, she seeks her family and friendly creatures.

Links to Resources:

  • Beegu is an alien, something that is not native to an area, in this case, earth. Draw what you think an alien looks like;
  • Look at the book’s cover that includes a picture of Beegu. Does she remind you of any other creature? Does how she looks make you more or less interested in meeting her? More or less afraid of her?
  • Have you ever been lost? Can you describe or draw where you were and/or how you felt?

Why I Like this Book:

Beegu is a sweet story that brought to mind sitcoms from my childhood (anyone else remember My Favorite Martian?). I think most people at some point in their lives have wondered about life on other planets and about what would happen if any creatures from another planet visited earth. I think, too, that most kids would find it perfectly reasonable to have a three-eyed creature that appears fuzzy as a lovey show up in their school yard. Which is one reason, I think, kids will enjoy reading Beegu.

Because only the kids and a few puppies welcome Beegu, with adults either ignoring her or shooing her away, Beegu offers an opportunity to discuss how we treat those different from us – especially those who may not speak our language or dress and look like us. With few words and expressive illustrations, Deacon has created a story that may help even young children understand that we should welcome others, like migrants or refugees, into our schools and communities, and that differences and language barriers can be overcome. If you’re looking for a book to approach the topic of the refugee crisis without including dark images of war or sea crossings, Beegu is a great choice.

Deacon is an illustrator/author whose bright yellow creation stands out against the drab blues and grays of earth.

A Note about Craft:

Beegu is such an appealing character. But what makes one empathize with her? The first things I noticed were her eyes – big, bright and searching. Her long, trailing ears make her look like a rabbit, a creature that is totally non-threatening. That these ears can shoot up when Beegu is excited and/or happy, and drag on the ground when she is sad, lonely and/or scared helps convey her emotions and helps tell the story with few words – an important feature when the intended audience is so young.

Deacon draws a sharp distinction between the welcoming attitude of puppies and young children and the unwelcoming attitude of adults in this story. With few words (Beegu has eight wordless pages and only a few words on the other pages), Deacon shows how we can welcome others: by snuggling (the puppies) and welcoming others into our play (the kids). As for the adults, they either ignore her or kick her out. Which leads Beegu to observe, towards the end of the story, that “Earth creatures were mostly big and unfriendly, but there were some small ones who seemed hopeful.”

Check out Deacon’s website and read answers to questions about his illustration and storytelling style here. View a CLPE video of Deacon here. Among other picture books, Deacon is the author of I Am Henry Finch, which I reviewed in 2016.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Friends

Since I’m still helping my kids move house, I thought I’d stay on the subject of moving. The perfect picture book for today focuses on what happens after the move, or more specifically, on how one finds friends.

9780807525500_p0_v2_s192x300Title: Friends

Written & Illustrated By: Aiko Ikegami

Publisher/date: Albert Whitman & Company/2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Moving, making new friends, differences

Opening: “One day…a new student came. She was different. And alone.”

Brief Synopsis: A student who arrives at a new school is different and eats alone until, one by one, friends join her.

Links to Resources:

  • Have a picnic and invite your friends, including animal friends
  • Compare pictures of yourself and a friend, a sibling, or a child from another place. How are you different? How are you the same?

Why I Like this Book:

With its sparse language and gorgeous watercolour illustrations, Friends spreads the simple message that even as we are different, shared experiences, like food eaten together or games played, unite us.

A Note about Craft:

Friends is a perfect example of how “less is more.” The text consists of 60 words – only 60 words, including a few phrases that are repeated. No one is named, nor do we even know the origin of the new student who arrives. In short sentences that are more phrases than sentences, and using simple words (came, play, stay, eat), the author/illustrator helps us feel the newcomer’s sadness, her feeling of difference and longing for a friend with whom she can eat and play. As writers, we constantly are admonished to leave room for the illustrator. Friends is a perfect mentor text of how to do so from the very talented illustrator/author Aiko Ikegami. This is Ms. Ikegami’s first English-language picture book.

When reading Friends, I also was reminded of a comment by PiBoIdMo-founder Tara Lazar  that she didn’t know what species Norman in Normal Norman was when she wrote the story. Likewise, the friends here could be anything – and are!