Back in April I was lucky enough to have coffee with Kathi Appelt, who was in the area for a school visit. We had a great time talking about books, writing, and blogging. Before parting ways, Kathi told me she had a book I absolutely must read. She said she knew I would love Bella & Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. I wrote down the title and promised to look for it. Of course, I promptly forgot about all of this in the chaos that is the end of the school year.
Last week I was at a district meeting and was thrilled when the supervisor pulled out Bella & Bean for a read-aloud! Of course, I immediately remembered Kathi’s recommendation (and then felt bad for forgetting!). After listening to the story, I was hooked. Kathi was 100% right- I loved it! I can not wait to share this book with my students this year.
Bella and Bean are best friends. Bella is a writer- a poet- always playing with words and concentrating on her writing. She begins each day ready to sit at her window-side desk, writing about the beauty around her. her best friend Bean is outgoing, fun, and hands-on. She’s always trying to get Bella to put her writing aside to come and play by the pond. All day long Bean pokes her head through the window of Bella’s house and tries to get her attention. She shows Bella her new hat, shows off her “cute toes”, and tries to convince Bella to think of the word “Bean” if she is concentrating on words. Bean is adorable and I wanted to run off with her! The illustrations by Aileen Leijten are precious and you just want to dive into the book with Bean.
But Bella will not be distracted. She even gets grumpy with Bean!
I don’t have time for hats, Bean,’ said Bella. ‘I’m writing new poems…I can’t think about rivers and moons when you are talking about hats,’ said Bella.”
Bella perseveres through the distractions and is rewarded- her poems are stunning!
But what about Bean? And their friendship? I won’t spoil the ending for you because it is absolutely perfect. I admit I couldn’t wait to find out what happened while we were being read to! I will just tell you to get this book ASAP.
I can not wait to use this picture book in my 6th grade classroom this upcoming year. There are so many ways I foresee using it. Of course, it will be wonderful during our poetry unit. Bella’s poems are not only wonderful but her methods and wordplay will inspire many students. It will be a great mentor text for my 6th graders. One of my favorite lines says,
“The sky poured stars like sugar…”
How gorgeous is that? I love it! I can already see Bella inspiring many of my writers. She certainly inspired me.
Bella & Bean is also a window into the writing process. I think I will start our writing workshop this year with this book. What a wonderful way to introduce my students to the workshop we will be a part of during the year.
But the story is not just about writing. It’s beautiful on so many levels. It’s also about friendship and tolerance. It’s about taking time to live life, not just watch it go by. It’s about being disciplined but also having fun. It’s about opposites attracting. Due to the multi-layered text, this book is perfect for kids of all ages, from preschool to high school. In fact, the adults at my meeting all fell in love with it! There is no age limit on this one. And anyone who aspires to be a writer can’t help but be inspired by Bella & Bean. Be sure to pick this up for your classroom library! And maybe even for your teacher library.