PPBF – Farmhouse

As I continue the transition into a new house, I’m still focusing on picture books that address the concepts of house and home. And I think I found a Perfect Picture Book that does just that, and more!

Title: Farmhouse

Written & Illustrated By: Sophie Blackall

Publisher/Date: Little Brown and Company/2022

Suitable for Ages: 4-8 and older

Themes/Topics: home, family, farmhouse, stories, what we leave behind


Over a hill, at the end of a road, by a glittering stream that twists and turns, stands a house

Brief Synopsis: A lyrical visit to an old farmhouse that once housed a large family.

Links to Resources:

  • Watch a behind-the-scenes description of the making of Farmhouse;
  • Try constructing miniature furniture, a room, or a house from found materials;
  • Write a true story about your home and family, or, if you live in or have visited an older house, write a story about the people who lived there using clues found in the house;
  • Read the Author’s Note to learn more about the actual farmhouse that inspired this picture book.

Why I Like this Book:

From the book jacket, with its raised lettering and window frames showing views into the farmhouse, to the cover underneath, with its view inside the farmhouse, and on to the endpapers and story, Farmhouse is a treat to read and reread. Not surprisingly given its creator, the illustrations are gorgeous and so full of details. Children and adults of all ages can spend hours examining them and will find new details each time.

But focusing only on the illustrations risks missing the story, the imagined history of the family that lived in the farmhouse, based on the clues left behind when the last of the twelve children left home as an older woman.

Blackall could have ended the farmhouse’s story with this last departure, but, instead, she remained with the house, sharing how nature and wildlife took over, until “I came and cut a path” to “what remained of the old farmhouse”. Finding treasures among the leaves, nuts, and animal droppings, Blackall’s imagination and artistry took over, as she used “gifts from the falling-down house” to set the scene and fill in the story of the farmhouse’s family.

Addressing readers directly, she then reminded us that the family’s story lives on, just as our stories will, if we tell them. After reading Farmhouse, I think both children and adults will be inspired to follow Blackall’s suggestion.

From the items Blackall found, including hand-sewn clothes, an organ, wallpaper scraps, old books, and even “a button that was once a shell in the sea”, she constructed a narrative that convinces readers (at least this reader) that this farmhouse was not a mere house but a home, filled with work and play and laughter and love. What a wonderful message for kids of all ages!

A Note about Craft:

As Blackall notes in the Author’s Note, the inspiration for Farmhouse was the abandoned, falling-down farmhouse on a farm she purchased. She describes how she first encountered the house and why it inspired her. She even used materials she found in the house to create the artwork. What an insight into her creative process!

The text is one long sentence. Although readers certainly will need to pause for breath, writing it this way ties the whole together, driving home Blackall’s belief that places and people live on in the stories we tell.

Finally, Blackall herself appears towards the end of the text as the first-person narrator who creates this book.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – A Home Named Walter

For anyone in moving mode, like me, I found a Perfect Picture Book, told from the perspective of a unique character. Enjoy!

TitleA Home Named Walter

Written By: Chelsea Lin Wallace

Illustrated By: Ginnie Hsu

Publisher/DateFeiwel and Friends/2022

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: home, loss, overcoming loss, feelings, moving


Walter was once a home.

He treasured the noise. He relished the mess. He liked the hustle and bustle.

But what he loved most was the warmth of family.

Brief SynopsisWhen his family moves away, an empty house named Walter feels sad, and he decides he doesn’t want anyone else to move in, at least at first.

Links to Resources:

  • Does your house have a name? If so, why does it have that name and how do you think that name suits it? If it doesn’t have a name, think of one for it;
  • Plant in or clean up a garden, hang pictures or photographs, or add other decorations to make your house feel loved and more like a home;
  • Check out the Educator’s Guide;
  • Enjoy A Song Named Walter by Tara Trudel, based on A Home Named Walter.

Why I Like this Book:

As many adults know, moving is one of the most difficult life transitions that we undertake. And when a move involves separation from loved ones or other life transitions, as it often does, a move is even more difficult, especially for children. So I was very happy to find A Home Named Walter that, I think, will help children dealing with a move and the many emotions involved.

Starting with the title, Wallace draws a distinction between a home that is cozy, lived in, and loved, and a house that is merely a structure in which people live. I love that the various phases of moving are highlighted: the emptiness when the first family moves out; the feeling that the new house is different, and presumably unsuitable, when Little Girl and her mother first move in; and the feeling of coziness when pictures are hung, plants appear, and boots and jackets find their place near the front door. 

Because Walter is unable to express his feelings except by the way he looks, Hsu’s illustrations have an especially important role to play. I love seeing how Walter’s appearance changes, from a happy home filled with a busy family, to an empty, abandoned-looking house, to a house filled with moving boxes, to a cozy home again. Note that the first family is multiracial, and the second is comprised of a single mother and daughter.

I think A Home Named Walter will appeal to families who are undergoing moves, and is an important book to share with all children as we think about what makes a dwelling a home.

A Note about Craft

Wallace tells Walter’s story from his point-of-view. It’s clear that the unnamed Little Girl and her mother are dealing with a difficult transition, too. But by focusing on the house’s feelings, I think Wallace helps readers who may be dealing with their own traumatic transitions to step back and realize that they aren’t alone, that others, including pets, family members, or friends, may be facing similar issues and experiencing similar emotions.

Because Walter is personified but is unable to move, Wallace and Hsu use a number of techniques to show his feelings: first by stating outright what he likes and dislikes; next by showing how his appearance changed when he “let his grass turn brown” and became a “cold, quiet, empty house”; and then by focusing on actions that a house could do, including blinds and an oven door that don’t open, a fireplace that doesn’t work, and pipes that burst.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Pigeon & Cat

After a brief pause that lasted longer than anticipated, I’m happy to be back and to share this recently-published Perfect Picture Book. Regular readers may notice that one of the themes is a recurrent one for me: home. Given that I’m about to embark on the third move of 2022, I guess neither I, nor you, should be surprised that I return to this theme so often.

Title: Pigeon & Cat

Written & Illustrated By: Edward Hemingway

Publisher/Date: Christy Ottaviano Books, an imprint of Little Brown & Co/2022

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: friendship, creativity, home, community, compassion


In an abandoned city lot there sits a cardboard box. Inside the box lives Cat.

Brief Synopsis: Cat and Pigeon become unlikely friends and roommates. When Pigeon flies away, Cat leaves the only home he has ever known, faces his fears, and sets off in search of his friend.

Links to Resources:

  • Cat uses materials that Pigeon finds to creatively decorate the city lot where they live. Use materials you find to decorate your home. What will you make?
  • Make your mark by participating in International Dot Day and creating your special dot;
  • Discover ways to help your community by weeding or planting in a community garden, cleaning up a park, contributing to a food or clothing drive, or visiting a senior facility;
  • Use only symbolic pictures to tell a story, as Pigeon does and as the ancient Egyptians did with Hieroglyphics.

Why I Like this Book:

The first things that drew me to this book were the old-time cartoony features of the main characters, the retro color palate combined with what looks to be an emoji on the book jacket, and the title – I wanted to know what a book with such an unlikely pair of characters was about.

At the outset, we meet Cat, who lives in a cardboard box, the one set off to the side of the first spread. It’s clear he’s alone, set in his ways, and wary of others. But as he says, the lot is “his home and his alone.” (emphasis in the original). But when Cat finds an egg and Pigeon hatches from it, Cat discovers a friend.

As their friendship grows, Pigeon gifts Cat discarded treasures, which spark Cat’s creativity. Readers see the lot begin to transform, even as we feel Cat’s solitary heart begin to embrace beauty and the joys of friendship.

But when Pigeon goes missing, Cat’s true transformation begins. He ventures out into the scary city to find his friend, only to discover that the city isn’t as scary and noisy and awful as he had imagined. What a wonderful message for kids of all ages who fear the unknown!

I won’t spoil the ending, but I will recommend that you compare the first and last spreads after you finish reading to discover the transformative power of friendship, creativity, and community.

Hemingway created the detailed illustrations with oil on board with hand-cut paper and Photoshop. The textured backdrops as well as the inclusion of emoji-like speech bubbles and artwork adds to the appeal of this poignant picture book that, I think, kids of all ages will love.

A Note about Craft:

Hemingway deftly combines the old with the new in Pigeon & Cat. In addition to a soft palette of yellows, oranges, and aquas that brought to mind the 1960s and 70s, Cat wears a bowler hat and suspenders. Pigeon, on the other hand, speaks in what appear to be emojis. The use of small, emoji-like pictures to translate Pigeon’s speech has the effect of making Pigeon seem youthful, which he is, and also caused at least this reader to pay closer attention to the detailed illustrations.

Hemingway also uses present tense, rather than the usual past tense found in picture books. I felt closer to the action because of this, similar to the effect of first-person point-of-view.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness

As the Dog Days of Summer near, I think this is a wonderful time to discover what it means to be a dog in today’s Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness

Written By: Maria Gianferrari

Illustrated By: Pete Oswald

Publisher/Date: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers/2022

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: dogs, mindfulness, emotions


Can you be like a dog? Being like a dog is BE-ing. Right now.

Brief Synopsis: Follow a dog and its person through the day as they experience each moment.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the back matter that encourages experiencing nature and the seasons like a dog, and offers a mindful breathing exercise;
  • Do you have a dog? What makes it happy and how does it show it? How does your dog show that it’s sad or scared? How do you show these emotions?

Why I Like this Book:

From the first line, Gianferrari addresses the reader directly and invites them to discover what being a dog is all about. The story begins not “before”, when the pup sleeps, or “after”, when he eats, but “now” when he and his person stretch and greet the day. From there, readers discover how the unnamed dog savors every moment. The text encourages us to join in the fun, whether it’s wagging your body, playing with friends, or being curious. Gianferrari also shows how dogs feel and express emotions, barking when worried, growling when angry, yowling when sad, but singing when happy. Text and illustrations show how you can do the same.

I especially like the idea of relaxing and letting “the wind ruffle your fur”. I think parents will enjoy the suggestion to “sleep like a dog” at the end of a day spent being in each moment, just like a dog.

Using cutout paper and scanned watercolor textures, Oswald deftly captures each moment. The child could be male or female, and the dog doesn’t appear to be any particular breed.

In the back matter, Gianferrari encourages readers to take a “mindful nature walk” and use their senses like a dog in every season, and provides a helpful breathing exercise.

Whether read at bedtime or in a library or classroom setting where kids can practice wagging, yowling, and howling, Being a Dog is a wonderful reminder to live in the moment, just like our furry friends.

A Note about Craft:

From the first line, Gianferrari draws the reader in by addressing us directly and asking us a question: can we be like a dog. She then explains that being like a dog means to BE, to live fully in the moment. Gianferrari then follows a dog and its owner through a day, and she shows readers how a dog lives fully in the moment and how we can, too. It’s clear that Gianferrari is a dog-lover and knows them well. To learn why she wrote this book, see interviews at Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) and on Picture Book Builders.

As August is a month to be out and about and enjoying the Dog Days of Summer, I’ll be taking a break, with plans to be back with more Perfect Picture Books in September.

This Perfect Picture Book entry will be added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Lou

It may not be the dog days of summer yet, but I seem to have gravitated towards stories involving dogs and other pets during my recent picture book buying spree. You’ll note that the main character in today’s Perfect Picture Book is not a dog or other animal, but dogs do play a vital role in the story. Enjoy!

Title: Lou

Written & Illustrated By: Breanna Carzoo

Publisher/Date: Harper, an imprint of Harper Collins/2022

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: feeling unappreciated; discovering your inner hero; sharing talents



Can you see me down here?

My name is Lou, and I’m…

a toilet.

Brief Synopsis: A fire hydrant used as a toilet by the neighborhood dogs believes he has more to offer the world, and, when disaster strikes, he saves the day.

Links to Resources:

  • Lou is a story about a fire hydrant, like those found in most cities and towns. Take a walk near your home and see what other useful things like fire hydrants you can find along the streets;
  • Have you ever been called a hero? What did you do and how did it feel to be called a hero?
  • Enjoy coloring fire hydrants, like Lou, here and here.

Why I Like this Book:

I walk my dogs several times a day along city streets. I think I’m fairly observant, but I confess to never having really noticed or appreciated fire hydrants, until now.

In Lou, debut author-illustrator Carzoo has created an adorable character – a fire hydrant named Lou. Surrounded by a diverse cast of dogs and owners, Lou seemingly has one role in life. Readers watch dogs sniff, twist, twirl, lift, and…you know what comes next. I know kids will, too, and I’m sure, like me, they’ll find it hilarious.

Lou knows his role as a toilet is important, but he believes he has a larger role to play. I think kids who dream of scoring the winning goal or growing up to do great things will relate to Lou’s frustrations and desires, especially those whose talents may not be readily evident now. But if, like Lou, they believe in themselves, they may find that their talents gush out at just the right time, as his do.

I won’t spoil the ending by telling you how Lou discovers his inner talents and becomes a hero, but even young kids may suspect the ending (especially with the many clues Carzoo gives readers in the illustrations).

I would be remiss not to mention that humor really adds to the appeal of Lou. Even the name, a homonym for the British slang for toilet, is hysterical, as are many of the spreads.

Lou is a delightful book for home and school reading and rereading. The primary color illustrations pop against the white background, making it easy for even very young children to follow the story. You’ll never be able to walk by a fire hydrant again without smiling and thinking of Lou!

A Note about Craft:

Using limited text and bright illustrations, Carzoo has crafted a story that will captivate readers. How did she do it, especially with an inanimate main character? I think using first-person point of view, letting Lou tell his own story, causes the reader to empathize with him from the first spread. Lou also addresses the reader directly, “can I tell you something? Just between you and me?” We’re now in on a secret, there with Lou, worrying, as he does, that he’ll never be more than a toilet. But in the illustrations, Carzoo shows what talents Lou will share, how he will be a hero, even as he worries that he’ll “never do anything more important”.  Lou is a terrific mentor text for authors and/or illustrators trying to bring inanimate objects to life, to add humor to their writing, and to relay big ideas to young children.

This Perfect Picture Book entry will be added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Luli and the Language of Tea

I was so excited to find a signed copy of today’s Perfect Picture Book to gift my new grandson and his multilingual, tea-loving parents. And I couldn’t wait to share it with you!

Title: Luli and the Language of Tea

Written By: Andrea Wang

Illustrated By: Hyewon Yum

Publisher/Date: Neal Porter Books, a division of Holiday House/2022

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: tea, language, immigrants


The playroom was quiet. Luli couldn’t speak English. Neither could the others. All around the room, children played alone.

Brief Synopsis: In an English as a second language class, young Luli notices that the children can’t communicate with one another. So she devises a plan to overcome the language barrier.

Links to Resources:

  • Host a backyard tea party for friends, pets, or even favorite stuffed animals;
  • Do you have a friend or relative who speaks a language other than English? Ask them to teach you some common words and/or phrases in their primary language;
  • Check out the Educator’s Guide.

Why I Like this Book:

In her latest picture book, Wang highlights a problem, non-English speakers unable to communicate with one another, and offers a practical and heartwarming solution. Luli realizes that none of the children in the class can communicate with one another because they all speak different languages. So she devises a plan to bridge the linguistic barrier via a universal language, the language of tea.

Until I read this story, I confess that I had no idea that the word for tea is similar in so many languages across the globe. Thankfully, the editors have chosen to include the pronunciation of the term in each language.

Luli also encounters a problem as she passes the tea to each child. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I will share that Lili’s kindness to the other children is reciprocated.

Yum’s expressive illustrations help show how Lili’s kindness reverberates through the classroom. And the endpapers filled with teacups from the countries featured are charming. Backmatter includes a note from the author, information about the children and languages featured, and information about immigration to the US from the regions featured, as well as how they drink tea in their home regions.

A Note about Craft:

I love how Wang focused on a drink enjoyed around the world, tea, researched how people use similar words for it, and created a storyline showing how sharing this beverage could bring children closer together. In an author’s note, she also shares that she was familiar with classes for new immigrants because her parents moved to the US from China before she was born. That personal connection added to her research enabled Wang to craft a story that is heartwarming and informative.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – The Crab Ballet

Summer holidays are in full swing. So let’s head to the beach to catch a show in today’s Perfect Picture Book.

Title: The Crab Ballet

Written By: Renée LaTulippe

Illustrated By: Cécile Metzger

Publisher/Date: Cameron Kids, a division of Abrams/2022

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: ballet, the sea, sea creatures, poetry


Welcome. Enter. Sit right there

upon our finest driftwood chair.

Enjoy our sunset seaside show –

our dancers are beyond compare.

Brief Synopsis: Sea creatures perform a sunset show.

Links to Resources:

  • Visit the seashore and see how many of the featured creatures you can find;
  • Synchronized swimming combines dance moves with swimming. Watch some moves and an explanation of the sport here.

Why I Like this Book:

With lyrical language and an AABA rhyming scheme that is a joy to read aloud, LaTulippe transports readers to a seaside show featuring a cast of familiar sea creatures. As an avid snorkeler and lover of ballet, I know I’ll never look at sea creatures again without wondering if they’re performing in “tidal roles.”

I love that the text incorporates French ballet terms as well as information about the sea creatures. For instance, fans “sit stunned” watching an urchin’s en pointe dance, starfish use their “tube feet”, and the dolphins, as they often do, dance as a pair further out in the water.

Metzger’s dreamy watercolor illustrations transported me straight to the sea and are the perfect accompaniment to LaTulippe’s lyrical text.

The Crab Ballet is wonderful for lovers of dance and the sea. Its quieter storyline is perfect to lull children to sleep with visions of dancing crabs swirling through their heads. Its glossary of ballet terms enhances its appeal.

A Note about Craft:

LaTulippe deftly combines two unrelated subjects, dance and sea creatures, to create a magical picture book. She weaves in ballet terms throughout the text, and she pairs the dances with the appropriate sea creatures.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – A Grandma’s Magic

Greetings dear readers! It’s been a while since I’ve posted, several months to be exact. This year has been filled with too many moves, even for this serial mover, as we remain in temporary housing several months after vacating our New Jersey condo of over four years.

But we’ve also been busy celebrating happy family events – first, the wedding of our eldest child in mid-May, and then the birth of our first grandchild, the precious Louie, in mid-June.

To say that this new grandmother is over the moon in love with this beloved bundle is an understatement. And luckily, not long before I traveled to meet him, I saw a post on Pragmatic Mom for a giveaway of today’s perfect picture book.

Title: A Grandma’s Magic

Written By: Charlotte Offsay

Illustrated By: Åsa Gilland

Publisher/Date: Doubleday Books for Young Readers/2022

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: babies, grandmothers, diversity


When a child is born…

…a grandma is born too.

Brief Synopsis: A celebration of grandmothers and their grandchildren as they do magical things together.

Links to Resources:

  • Discover 50 activities for grandparents and grandchildren to enjoy together;
  • Create a photo book or scrapbook of your life, your extended family, and/or your heritage to share with your grandchildren;
  • Check out the Activity Sheet on Offsay’s website;
  • Write a letter to your grandchild on each birthday, sharing your hopes for them.

Why I Like this Book:

From the outset, when readers learn that grandmas “aren’t like regular grown-ups,” Offsay proceeds to show how they are “filled with magic.” They arrive and “sweep” grandchildren “away to adventure.” Reading that phrase, I felt swept along with the grandmothers and children and eager to discover what adventures awaited us!

I love how the adventures include many everyday activities, like meeting a dog, gardening, and baking a favorite recipe. But Offsay also includes less ordinary moments, like viewing baby birds in a nest. And she doesn’t shy away from disappointments that may seem too big for even a magical grandma to fix. But when that happens, a grandma’s hugs can make us feel better. What a wonderful reminder to share with our grandchildren!

For those whose grandmas don’t live nearby, which, these days, seems to be the majority, Offsay leaves readers with the comforting thought that a grandma’s love remains with you always as you continue to enjoy the activities you shared.

Gilland’s colorful illustrations expand the inclusiveness of this story by featuring a multicultural array of families, as well as grandmas of differing ages and physical abilities.

A Grandma’s Magic is a wonderful book for grandchildren and grandmas to share, as well as a lovely gift for new grandmothers.

A Note about Craft:

By focusing on several relatable activities and by featuring an assortment of grandparents and grandchildren, Offsay and Gilland have created a picture book in which many children will picture themselves and reflect on the happy times they’ve shared with their own grandmothers. Addressing the reader directly furthers the feeling that you are part of the action.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – For Every Little Thing: Poems and Prayers to Celebrate the Day

As the title of today’s Perfect Picture Day indicates, today is a day to celebrate! Not only am I excited to share this lovely new anthology, but I’m excited to participate in Multicultural Children’s Book Day (see below for more about this annual celebration).

Title: For Every Little Thing: Poems and Prayers to Celebrate the Day

Written & Edited By: June Cotner & Nancy Tupper Ling

Illustrated By: Helen Cann

Publisher/Date: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-10

Themes/Topics: gratitude, family, nature, blessings, friendship



For morning song and gentle brook,/ a faithful friend, a favorite book,/ for robin’s eggs and swinging trees/, the daffodils and dancing bees—

Brief Synopsis: An anthology of poems and prayers to celebrate and express gratitude.

Links to Resources:

  • Try writing your own poem or prayer of gratitude beginning with the words, “May you always be blessed by” or “I am kind like”.
  • What do you like to see or feel when you wake up in the morning? Is it the smiling face of a loved one, a purring kitten, the sun lighting up the room, or maybe puppy kisses? Try describing your favorite morning sight in words or pictures.
  • One of the poems describes dreams as a “nighttime quest”. Where do you like to wander in your dreams? Describe a dream in words or pictures.

Why I Like this Book:

In this lovely anthology of over 50 poems and prayers, the authors have written and chosen works that celebrate family, friends, and nature and that express gratitude for life’s many blessings.

I especially loved the first morning poem, My Day Begins with Kisses (Susanne Wiggins Bunch) with its image of “kisses, the slobbery, doggy kind.” What child could resist that wake-up call?

In I Can Be Kind (Leslie Paramore), we read in the opening lines that “I can be kind, although I am small, I can be kind, to one, or to all”. And in the final self-affirming lines, we learn that “I can be kind, as kind as can be, I can be kind, to you and to me!” What a wonderful reminder for kids of all ages to love ourselves as well as others!

As day ends and we prepare to drift off to sleep, we can set off on a Sea of Dreams (Susanne Wiggins Bunch) as “[w]aves of slumber and welcome rest invite me on a night-time quest.” Even the most reluctant sleepers will be excited for that journey!

From a Navajo Night Way Song, to a poem by Emily Dickinson, to reflections by Helen Keller and Rabbi Rami M Shapiro, and to a selection from the Chandogya Upanishad, For Every Little Thing includes traditions of gratitude from many cultures. Several poems and prayers mention “God”, but none is preachy nor sectarian. Diversity is present in the gorgeously-detailed illustrations, too. Rich shades of blue and yellow infuse each page, including the endpapers. I can envision children pouring over these illustrations, especially the finely-drawn flora and fauna, as they find joy in ordinary moments and appreciate the small wonders of their worlds.

Divided into seven sections that span a day from morning to nighttime and dreams, For Every Little Thing includes poems and prayers that families will enjoy reading again and again.

A Note about Craft:

In “A Note about this Book,” the authors share that “When a child expresses gratitude, the world feels like a better place….Our hope is that families will celebrate the wonders of the universe as they read together.” I think that by including a wide variety of poems and prayers by a diverse selection of voices, and by arranging the selections into seven distinct categories that span an entire day, the authors achieve their goal.

*I received a copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an unbiased review.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

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PPBF – Dumplings for Lili

Happy New Year! I hope your year is off to a super start!

To say that 2021 ended with a bang is a bit of an understatement. From Covid striking 4 of our 7 family members right after Christmas to a mad dash through 110 MPH winds past the Boulder wildfires to the safety of our daughter’s home, and an early return to the east coast, the end of our holidays were not, to say the least, as we’d planned. BUT, we are all safe, recovering, and thankful for being spared the worst of these disasters.

Now, it’s upward and onward, as I scramble to coordinate a move to a rental home I haven’t seen in a part of the country I’ve never visited (Florida, just north of Miami). “Never a dull moment,” so sayeth this Serial Mover!

None of this has anything to do with today’s Perfect Picture Book. But it’s the reason I’m posting this review earlier than originally intended, which was late January, to celebrate Lunar New Year. Thankfully, I thought ahead and wrote it in early December. Hopefully, I’ll carve out a few minutes in the next week or so to write a few more for the month. And if for some reason I don’t post one week (like being buried under boxes or lost along the I-95 corridor), I will be back!

Title: Dumplings for Lili

Written & Illustrated By: Melissa Iwai

Publisher/Date: Norton Young Readers/2021

Suitable for Ages: 6-8

Themes/Topics: dumplings, cooking, grandmothers, sharing, multicultural, intergenerational


It’s a special day when Nai Nai says, “Lili, do you want to help me make baos?”

Brief Synopsis: Lili is happy to help her grandmother make baos, but when they lack cabbage for the recipe, Lili is off to visit the many other grandmothers in the building who also lack ingredients for their special dumpling recipes.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn how to make bao with Iwai by watching this YouTube video;
  • Celebrate Lunar New Year, this year on 1 February 2022, with these activities and by making Chinese dumplings;
  • Ask an older relative or friend to share a favorite family recipe, and bake or cook it together.

Why I Like this Book:

In this charming intergenerational picture book, Iwai takes readers on a journey to visit older women of many nationalities as Lili seeks missing ingredients for different types of dumplings. I love how Iwai has chosen one type of food, dumplings, and shows how they vary across culinary traditions. I also love how this community of women help each other by sharing ingredients.

As the story begins, Lili’s Nai Nai invites Lili to help her prepare baos, Chinese dumplings. It’s clear that the two enjoy the process, as the dumpling dough ingredients become “friends”, the filling dances “with joy” in the wok, and the pair have big smiles on their faces. But when the pair lack cabbage to include in the steamer, Lili is off and running to visit the friendly neighbors, each of whom needs to borrow something from someone else for a special recipe.

Readers see the various ethnicities displayed in the many kitchens. Each grandmother bears an ethnically-distinct name, and each prepares a type of dumpling from her culture, including pierogi, fatayer, tamales, ravioli, and beef patties. Interestingly, many of these dishes include foods used by several of the women.

Although all of the back and forth and characters could get confusing, Iwai helpfully includes an illustrated map of Lili’s journey, along with a chart showing the grandmothers and their creations. She also includes a simplified bao recipe within the text and a more detailed version in the back matter.

I won’t spoil the ending by telling you why Lili and Nai Nai were making baos, but you can be sure that there is a celebration involved.

Dumplings for Lili is a perfect choice for classroom and family reading, as it showcases so many cultures and delicious foods, and as it is filled with such joy.

A Note about Craft:

Like a bao recipe, Dumplings for Lili includes so many ingredients that make this a Perfect Picture Book. From the loving and joy-filled relationship of Lili and Nai Nai evident from the text, to the helpful neighbors and the colorful illustrations, Iwai layers the story in a way that showcases Lili’s cultural traditions and shows how several other cultures share similar ingredients and traditions.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!