So, as you all most likely know, the FNCers are pretty much YA/MG people, although Janine's written a beautiful picture book and the rest of us (or at least some of the rest of us?) have pondered the idea now and again.
But, you might not know that when I'm not saving the world and writing, I'm a first grade teacher. Which means I read A LOT of picture books. During my 5 years of teaching elementary level education, I feel like I've developed a pretty refined taste for quality picture books. And let me tell you: they're hard to find!
My birthday was a few weeks ago, and my lovely husband and lovely parents banded together and got me an iPad. Now, I'm staunchly anti-e-reader, at least for me personally. I think digital readers have definitely brought a new life to the book world and book reading, but I know I'll always be a physical paper-bound book person.
So, while I won't be using my iPad as a digital reader for book that are already out there, I am using it for something equally awesome: getting ARCs from NetGalley! Yay, free ARCs! Yay, books!
So how does an iPad and NetGalley and being a first grade teacher all come together?
Because while browsing the Children's section on NetGalley, I found a picture book looked really interesting. And with the awesomeness that is NetGalley, I was able to get a full-color, fully illustrated digital copy of the picture book. And guess what? My kids loved it!
Check out my review of I AM TAMA, LUCKY CAT by Wendy Henrichs (Beware, there are spoilers!):
I am Tama, Lucky Cat by Wendy Henrichs is told from the point of view of a cat in Japan in search of a home. He approaches a dilapidated temple one evening, where he is found by an old monk. Tama greets the monk in his usual way--by raising one paw in a waving motion. The monk names him Tama, which means luck, and takes him in. By living with his master, Tama learns Buddha's ways.
Tama brings good luck in small ways throughout the book--for example, but catching the mice that invade the temple's rice supply. At the end of the book, a warrior on horseback happens by the temple during a storm. Tama raises his paw in greeting, and the warrior approaches the temple, feeling that the cat is calling him forward. Just after, a bolt of lightning strikes the tree the warrior had taken shelter under, and a large branch falls where the warrior had been standing. The warrior feels that Tama has saved his life, and in turn, he helps the temple thrive. There's a nice symmetry between the beginning and the end of the book. The master saves Tama's life in the beginning. Tama, in turns, "pays it forward" in a way and saves the warrior's life, which in turn saves the temple and his master's life.
I Am Tama, Lucky Cat is a beautiful and quiet picture book. In a time when the publishing industry is cutting down on the amount of picture books they publish, and the emphasis is on quick & lean writing, it's hard to find new books with the kind of poetic writing Henrichs uses. That being said, the story certainly doesn't drag. Each page moves us along nicely as we learn about Tama's role in the temple, as well as what the master has to teach the farmers of the area where he lives.
Although I knew of the Asian tradition that waving cats are meant to be good luck, I have never heard the legend behind this tradition. Henrichs does a nice job of illuminating the tale is a way that is informative for children, but still holds high interest level and does not feel didactic. I showed this story to my first grade class (on my digital reader) and they enjoyed the story greatly.
The illustrations of this book are lovely. The attention to detail in the pictures brings the temple alive on the page, and the soft color palette used invokes the fairy tale feeling of a fable on an intrinsic level. With the combination of the illustrations and the kid-friendly way this legend is retold, I could definitely see this book being one pulled off a shelf for read aloud again and again.
(Based on review copy received for free from NetGalley.)