Book Review: Shelter



By Céline Claire

Illustrated by Qin Leng

42 pages

Published by Kids Can Press

Age range: 3+

Publication date: 3rd October 2017

Summary: (from Goodreads)

As a big storm approaches, two strangers arrive in the forest. All the animal families, safe in their homes, are worried. They wonder, What are they doing there? What do they want? So, as the pair knocks at the door of one home after another asking for shelter, all the animals turn them away, leaving them to fend for themselves. But then an accident suddenly forces the fox family out into the snow and the wind, and the foxes find they must ask these outsiders for help. Will they find it in their hearts to give it?

Céline Claire’s heartwarming picture book story delivers a timeless and timely message about the importance of kindness and generosity. With simple and evocative language, it explores how even small gestures can make a big difference to the strangers or outsiders in a community. Artist Qin Leng uses a warm, soft palette in her ink and watercolor illustrations creating a charming and inviting visual narrative that is perfect for young children. This book provides a wonderful opportunity for discussions about being welcoming and helping others in need, including how children can put this into practice by reaching out to the “new kid” or the one who seems different. It also works well for character education lessons on kindness, caring and empathy.

Over breakfast, everyone catches up on the latest news: A STORM IS COMING!

But all is well. The animals are safe and sound in their homes.

“What if others are still outside?” Little Fox asks.

This is a beautifully illustrated book with a deceptively simple message. Two bears are searching for shelter as a storm blows in. Each household they ask has a reason (or excuse) why they cannot come in. One child offers them something to help them ,even though they cannot give them shelter. This small kindness is repaid in full, when that child’s family need help.

First of all, I love the colours used in the illustrations, from the warm autumnal colours used before the storm, to the colder, darker colours used as the weather blows in. I liked how the bears reacted to the snowstorm and the fact that Little Fox, in the way of so many children, says what others might be thinking.

On the surface the message for children is that of sharing and helping one another in times of need. I did wonder, on a second reading, if there was any significance to the animals looking for shelter being polar bears – could it be they have had to leave their home because of global warming?

As this is a topic I have discussed with my Year 3 class, bringing in a number of books about environmental awareness, I would like to read this book with them, observing if they notice anything about the characters and drawing out those connections. Children might also pick up on how the adults in each scenario lie (“We have no food!” when there is clearly a lot). This could also be an interesting discussion point in a time when the media is saturated with negative stories about immigration – what exactly is it that people are afraid of? What are they trying to protect?

“The wind is cold and the night is dark. In exchange for some cookies, would you share your shelter with us?”


What I liked: Illustrations, message of empathy, environmental and political links that could be drawn out

Even better if: Think it is perfect just as it is!

How you could use it in your classroom: Could be read alongside other books to highlight environmental issues (Why have the polar bears been forced from their home?), or to discuss immigration (Why might someone seek shelter in another country?). Could also be read with younger children simply for the main message of sharing and empathy.

(Thank you to Netgalley and Kids Can Press for my review copy)

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