Wednesday, October 28, 2020

A Familius Trio (Including The Runaway Shirt, Florence and Her Fantastic Family Tree, and No Matter What: A Foster Care Tale)

I was recently introduced to Familius Publishing -- a company whose mission is to "help families be happy by creating beautiful books that teach, inspire, and bring families together."  I mean, how can you not fall in love with that mission, am I right?  They sent me a few books to get a feel for their company, and I thought I'd review a few of them here, including The Runaway Shirt, Florence and Her Fantastic Family Tree, and No Matter What: A Foster Care Tale.   All books were given to me for free in exchange for an honest review and none of our links are affiliate links.

The Runaway Shirt - Kathy MacMillan & Julia Castaño (Illus.)

Summary: Laundry is a chore, but when a child climbs in the basket, everything becomes a game.  Follow along as this mother takes a break from folding clothes ot join her child in the delightful laghter of imagination.  In The Runaway Shirt housework and pretend play come together to transport readers to a kid's world of wonder and excitement.  Each page of charming illustration is a work in joy nd mirth.  Who knew folding laundry could be so fun?

My Review:  The Runaway Shirt tells the story of a young boy and his mother who engage in imaginative play while she is folding the laundry.  Setting aside her task, the mother playfully pretends to "fold" the shirt her son  has pilfered from the laundry and is currently wearing.  He is thrilled and giggles ensue, with the "shirt" resisting all attempts to be folded. 

The first thing I noticed about The Runaway Shirt was its beautiful cover art and crisp, colorful illustrations, that really draw the eye.  The story itself is charming, whimsical, and just a little bit silly, which is sure to delight younger readers.  I also loved the gentle reminder that sometimes chore time can be set aside for quality time.  I would recommend The Runaway Shirt to anyone with preschool age kiddos in search of a good bedtime or anytime story.   

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader: All clear.


Florence and Her Fantastic Family Tree - Judy Gilliam & Laura Addari (Illus)

Summary:  Florence and Her Fantastic Family Tree explores the idea of what it means to have a big, messy, complicated, and remarkable family.  As a young girl tries to complete her family tree assignment for school, she comes to appreciate her family and all its branches.  With adorable drawings and the succinct words of a child, you cna't help but love your own family tree, no matter how large or small, simple or chaotic.

My Review: When Florence's teacher asks her to create a family tree to display in the classroom she's not quite sure what to do.  You see, Florence's family tree has a lot of extra branches and she is more than a little worried.  What her teacher gets confused?  Or it won't fit on the wall.  What if she has to explain it or people don't believe her?  

In Florence and Her Fantastic Family Tree, Florence explains how her family tree might not look like everyone else.  She has a mom and a dad like most of her classmates, and a little brother, Fred, but she also has a several step-parents, step-siblings, adopted siblings, and half-siblings to boot.  Florence decides to complete the assignment and display her entire family tree for the whole class to see.  In her words, "with all the parts -- stems, branches, leaves, trunk, berries, and nuts. It might not be simple and might not be easy to describe, but these are my people...but you know what the best part is? That's me, right in the middle of this great, big, loud, colorful, fun, crazy, family that I call mine."  

My one criticism is that the book begins rather abruptly, without really introducing the main character.  I actually flipped the pages a bit to make sure I hadn't missed one.   That aside, Florence and Her Fantastic Family Tree easy to read with an engaging font, and is another one of those books (like this one) that I am so glad exists. It addresses a specific need for young children from homes and families that feel less than "traditional" to feel a sense of belonging and inclusion.  I love that Florence doesn't "come to appreciate" her unique family; she already appreciates them. Now, she learns how to share their wild and crazy branchiness with the world. 

My Rating : 4 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  Florence briefly mentions her parents breaking up, her parents' remarriages, and her father's later divorces.


No Matter What: A Foster Care Tale - Josh Shipp with David Tieche & Yuliya Pankratova (Illus.)

Summary:  Josh was a squirrel without a family.  Between the pelicans, the leopards, the otters, the snakes, and many more, no one seemed to want a squirrel like him.  Josh didn't want a family, either.  He did everything he could to scare those families away first, but the elephants weren't like other families.  The elephants were very large and very patient, and they wanted Josh to be part of their family today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow.  When Josh takes his plans a little too far and gets into a sticky situation, will Josh finally be convinced that his family is his?

From award-winning motivational speaker and bestselling author Josh Shipp comes a mostly autobiographical tale about finding home.  With hilarious illustrations anda heartwarming message, No Matter What: A Foster Care Tale is sure to have your own family in peals of laughter and holding each other tight.

My Review:  No Matter What: A Foster Care Tale follows Josh the Squirrel and Grace the Heron in their search for Josh's forever home. At first, Josh is placed with several families that aren't the right fit. The young squirrel is so convinced that no one will want him, he decides to push everyone away with his behavior and pushes back, hoping they will crack.  Josh's antics create quite an uproar in the animal kingdom until he finally lands with the Elephant family. He tries his darndest to get them to crack, but even when his plans go awry, the Elephant family reassure him with a hopeful, encouraging message: No matter what you do, we love you.  And we're not going anywhere.

Isn't that message just the best?! Now, I thought this book was pretty special, but I don't really have any experience with the foster care system or how a foster care family might receive this message, so I appealed to a good friend of mine who has adopted three children from the foster care system.  Her response to this book?  OMGosh this is fabulous!!!!!...This book forces the reader to see the pain of the child and their defense mechanisms/coping skills from abandonment, and not focus on the "bad behavior" which pain is spoken through.  For isn't to be welcomed and loved what we all want?  No matter what..."  There you have it folks.  Foster-parent approved.  It doesn't get much better than that.

My Rating: 4.25 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader: Some discussion of foster care and the struggle to find a place to belong.


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