Skip to main content

Swap! by Steve Light

Swap! is the fifth picture book I have reviewed by Steve Light and I think it just might be my favorite of them! Swap! is simple and elegant in its story and execution and Light's trademark use of thick lined black and white drawings with well chosen chunks of color are at their best here. I was a bit nervous about reading Swap! out loud to groups of students because the story relies so much on the richly detailed illustrations, but it turned out to be completely engaging for my students and a great way to talk about the history of bartering and synonyms for the word swap. 

A youngster (I honestly could not tell if it was a boy or a girl and discussed this with my students, who always were of mixed opinion, telling them that I loved the ambiguity) with a peg leg wants to help a sad friend, a seafaring fellow with a run down old vessel and a mischievous monkey that readers should be sure to keep their eyes on. Swap! begins, "An old ship. A sad friend. A button . . . An idea. Let's swap!" The boy trades his friend's button for two tea cups. Two teacups become three coils of rope. Two coils of rope - the ship needs a new coil of rope and the intricacies of the trades make this counting book a challenge for readers - are traded for six oars.

Oars become flags, then flags become anchors. Sails, hats, ship's wheels, hats, birds and carved figureheads but a smile on the boy's and the sailor's faces. The industry exhibited in Light's illustrations as the friends make their way through the village trading with various craftsmen and craftswomen is marvelous. And Light's sparse but well chosen text leaves much room for imagination and storytelling by little listeners and readers, not to mention the opportunity to discuss bartering and economics. Swap! is a brilliant picture book with a timeless feel that is a joy to read over and over!

More Books by Steve Light!


Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…