Laura’s Book Reviews: Catalina and the King’s Wall AND Mela and the Elephant

Please welcome author and teacher (and Frog on a Blog follower) Laura Roettiger! Laura is the author of the forthcoming picture book Aliana Reaches for the Moon. She’s also a mentor for reading and writing at a STEM school in Colorado. She likes to use books in pairs or threes to encourage her students to make connections by comparing and contrasting them.

Today, Laura shares two books that celebrate kindness in very different ways.

I love the idea of reviewing two or more books on the same theme together. And books on kindness are some of my favorites. But what makes Laura’s reviews really special is that she’s shared the books with her students and has based her reviews, partially, on their responses to the books. As she says, “It’s an authentic way to talk about the books.” I’m thrilled to have Laura as a reviewer on Frog on a Blog!


As a teacher and curriculum developer, I don’t think of books in isolation. We always ask our students to “make connections.” In the younger grades, we ask students to make text to text, text to self, and text to world connections.

As a picture book writer, I’ve been studying picture books this year. Many, I’ve discovered on this blog (Frog on a Blog)! I like to think of how books relate to each other or something happening in the classroom or larger world.

Two books I really enjoyed this year are Catalina and the King’s Wall (Eifrig Publishing, 2018) by Patty Costello (ill. by Diane Cojocaru), and Mela and the Elephant (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018) by Dow Phumiruk Ng (ill. by Ziyue Chen). On the surface, they are very different books; one is like a many layered cake, while the other is beautifully simple. I like sharing two seemingly different books and asking my students to find similarities.

Catalina, a baker, needs to outsmart the king who wants to build a wall to keep out foreigners. (Yes, there is a political undertone, and according to the author, this was the inspiration for her book.) Lucky for Catalina, the King has a sweet tooth and she is able to use this weakness to her advantage. The illustrations are vibrant and children will be charmed by the abundance of colors, baked goods, and a tiny mouse who can be found on each page. The lessons of inclusion and acceptance are woven throughout, but the overarching theme of kindness is what my second and third graders took note of.

Mela is a little girl who wants to go on an adventure down the river without her little brother. A simple, negative exchange between them at the beginning allows the reader to anticipate what will happen when Mela gets lost and needs help. This Thai folktale is a more obvious story of kindness, but is in no way preachy, and the students were easily able to relate to Mela. The illustrations are also charming, but simpler, to match the story.

Personally, I give each of these books 5 stars because they both work as a good combination of text and illustration, telling compelling stories that work for a variety of ages.

Laura RLaura Roettiger is the author of the picture book Aliana Reaches for the Moon (Eifrig Publishing, 2019) She has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where she worked in Environmental Education and is now a mentor for reading and writing at a STEM school. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and letting them know she believes in them. Laura has three children of her own, all of whom were led by curiosity and creativity into STEM-related professions. Laura is also a part of #PictureBookBuzz, a group of authors with books being released in 2019.

Find Laura on Twitter @ljrwritenow and at her website LauraRoettigerBooks.com.

Keep an eye out for Aliana Reaches for the Moon, available February 19, 2019!