Ears Up, Ears Down by Ralph da Costa Nunez with Margaret Menghini and illustrated by Madeline Gerstein Simon. Ages 5 – 8 (Appropriate for all ages.) White Tiger Press. 2012. 37 pages. Fiction. ISBN-13: 978-0982553329 $4.95
About this Picture Book: This book is about a dog named Ears Up who works at a junkyard. He loves his life here and all is going well until the junkyard is foreclosed. Ears Up, after 10 years of being a junkyard dog, is now homeless and jobless. He hits the road and to his surprise meets other adults and children who have had similar things happen to them. He discovers that they live in cars and campsites. He then comes upon a camp where there are even more people who are homeless. This makes him very sad and the children rename him Ears Down because his ears hang down. He doesn’t understand why so many people are homeless. The next morning at the camp he smells food. He sees a big blue van and people standing in a line and learns that this is the breakfast van here to help feed the adults and children without homes. He meets Ms. Grace, who works at the van, and asks the dog if he would like a job. She brings him to work for her and his new name is Ears Up, Ears Down. The dog asks that his new name be Ears Up because he’s happy about his new job and house, but also Ears Down because he will not forget all the people he met who are still looking for homes. So until every dog and person has a home, his ears will be up and down.
The Short: We really like this picture book! My two-year-old son loves books with dogs in them and this one is no exception. We’ve had this book for two days and have read it six times now. My son loves to say, “Ears Up! Ears Down!” After reading it the first time, he immediately asked for us to read it again. The same thing happened again when we read it this morning. It’s an excellent picture book, we recommend it!
The Long: After reading this book yesterday I heard my son say, “Ears Up! Ears Down!” while playing by himself. It was the first book we read this morning and to my surprise, when we were interrupted and came back to reading he wanted to finish this book. (Usually, when this happens, he’s already moved on to another book, but not this time.) I received this book to review from the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, but waited for my son to approach me and ask me to read it to him. (I do that with most books. I choose the books that come in the house, but he chooses which books we read.) This book is a little longer and the topic is a bit more serious than we normally read, but it didn’t seem to phase him in the least. He’s now picked up the book and asked me to read it to him at three different times.
This book is a collaboration among White Tiger Press, the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, and Homes for the Homeless. It’s a great book to start talking with children about what being homeless means and what I really appreciate about this book is that it shows how being homeless can be a transient rather than permanent state of being. Often times the homeless are portrayed as this faceless mass of people who will always be homeless and that it is an insurmountable problem that is just too big and too difficult and depressing to think about — much less discuss with a child. This book effectively talks about being homeless in a matter-of-fact and approachable way for children. While the book addresses a difficult topic, it is not a difficult book to read. The illustrations are beautiful. I’m most taken with the way Madeline Gerstein Simon illustrated the characters’ eyes. It welcomes the reader to make eye contact with each character and see them as an individual.
This is a perfect picture book for talking with children of all ages about homelessness.
Please visit their website to see other picture books they’ve written and to learn more about their organization: http://www.icphusa.org/Bookstore/Home-at-Last/
FTC Disclosures: I received a review copy from the author. No other compensation was received. The opinions expressed here are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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- Such a Cool Book: Who Put the B in the Ballyhoo? by Carlyn Beccia (thepicturebookreview.com)