PPBF – Like the Moon Loves the Sky

During this unprecedented period when fears understandably are running high, I’ve been on the lookout for picture books that provide calm and reassurance. Thankfully, today’s Perfect Picture Book was part of my haul from the library shortly before it closed. I hope you can find and read this book soon.

Title: Like the Moon Loves the Sky

Written By: Hena Khan

Illustrated By: Saffa Khan

Publisher/Date: Chronicle Kids/2020

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes/Topics: diversity, parent-child relationship, hopes, dreams

Opening:

Inshallah you are all that is gentle and good.

Brief Synopsis: A mother shares her hopes and dreams for her children.

Links to Resources:

  • Think of somewhere you’d like to travel. Why do you want to go there? What do you need to bring? Draw a picture of your special place;
  • How do you “speak truth” and work to uphold it?
  • Think about the title. How does the moon love the sky? Why do you think Khan chose this title?
  • The term Inshallah, which means “if God wills it” in Arabic, runs through this book. Does your family have a special term that you use, like “ojalá” in Spanish or “God willing” in English? Try writing a story or poem, repeating your special term in each line;
  • Several motifs run through the illustrations. Count the books in several spreads, or look for leafy branches (olive branches, perhaps) that appear throughout the book;
  • Learn about Islam, the religious tradition highlighted here, and discover Arabic books, crafts, and other resources at A Crafty Arab;
  • Download the poster to decorate your reading space.

Why I Like this Book:

With its gently repeating phrase, Inshallah, a mother shares her hopes and dreams for her children as they grow and navigate childhood. I love watching the baby grow from spread to spread through toddlerhood to learn the skills and navigate the challenges of childhood. I also love the gentle support provided by the parents at each step of the way, and the gentle affirmation of love and togetherness at the end.

Soft-hued illustrations in beiges, greens, blues and reds further the gentle feel of Like the Moon Loves the Sky. Of particular note is the inclusion of natural elements that tie the spreads together, and the appearance of books in several spreads.

A Note about Craft:

With its repeated opening term, Inshallah, Hena Khan addresses her, our, children directly, conveying hopes, dreams, and expectations in one-line statements. This low word-count picture book reads like free-verse poetry, or a prayer, as the parents pictured (which are a man and woman, but aren’t specified in the text) help a child navigate childhood. The soft repetition makes this ideal for a bedtime read, and I think it will stand up to multiple readings.

With its low word count, Hena Khan leaves much to the illustrator, including, as noted, the choice of adult(s). Details supplied by the illustrator, Saffa Khan (no relation to Hena), include the choice of a friend that accompanies the text “reach out to make a new friend”, and the choice of “destination” that accompanies the phrase “travel to thrilling new places”. I was especially happy to see a child in a wheelchair appear in the travel spread.

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!

Perfect Pairing Stays Home

Two recent picture books explore the concept of home, which, as a serial mover, is a topic near and dear to my heart, especially now, as so many of us are spending most of our time at home.

Home in the Woods

Author & Illustrator: Eliza Wheeler

Publisher/Date: Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: family, home, Great Depression, poverty

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

This picture book from Eliza Wheeler is based on her grandmother’s childhood and pays homage to a family’s fortitude as they discover the meaning of home.

Eliza Wheeler’s book tells the story of what happens when six-year-old Marvel, her seven siblings, and their mom must start all over again after their father has died. Deep in the woods of Wisconsin they find a tar-paper shack. It doesn’t seem like much of a home, but they soon start seeing what it could be. During their first year it’s a struggle to maintain the shack and make sure they have enough to eat. But each season also brings its own delights and blessings–and the children always find a way to have fun. Most importantly, the family finds immense joy in being together, surrounded by nature. And slowly, their little shack starts feeling like a true home–warm, bright, and filled up with love.

Read reviews at Miss Marple’s Musings and Leslie Leibhardt Goodman’s blog.

 

Home Is a Window

Author: Stephanie Parsley Ledyard

Illustrator: Chris Sasaki

Publisher/Date: Neal Porter Books, an imprint of Holiday House Publishing/2019

Ages: 4-7

Themes: home, family, moving

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A family learns what home really means, as they leave one beloved residence and make a new home in another.

Home can be many things—a window, a doorway, a rug…or a hug. At home, everything always feels the same: comfortable and safe.

But sometimes things change, and a home must be left behind.

Follow a family as they move out of their beloved, familiar house and learn that they can bring everything they love about their old home to the new one, because they still have each other. This heartfelt picture book by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard is richly illustrated by former Pixar animator Chris Sasaki.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because they explore the concept of home. Based on the life of author-illustrator Wheeler’s grandmother, Home in the Woods follows a mother and her children who relocate to a shack in the woods when they lose their home during the Great Depression. In Home is a Window, a mixed-race family relocates from a beloved home in the city to a new house in the suburbs. Both books make clear that home is a place where one’s loving family lives & shares happy times together, and even, as in times like these, finds safety and security.

 

 

 

PPBF – Yusra Swims

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, and as the 2020 Summer Olympics have been in the news this week, I thought this was a timely, new picture book biography to feature as a Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Yusra Swims

Written By: Julie Abery

Illustrated By: Sally Deng

Publisher/Date: Creative Editions/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: swimming, refugee, Olympics, Syria, biography, rhyming, persistence, hope, dreams

Opening:

Just a girl/With a dream./Olympic Games/Swimming team.

Brief Synopsis: The true story of Yusra Mardini, a Syrian swimmer, who fled Syria for Europe and who competed in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics as part of the Refugee Olympic Team.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about the Refugee Olympic Team and watch a short video featuring the athletes, including Yusra Mardini, who competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics;
  • Learn about the geography and rich history of Syria before the current conflicts;
  • Learn more about the refugee experience with materials from Amnesty International;
  • Yusra’s dream was to swim for her country in the Olympics. Do you have a dream? Describe your dream in words or pictures.

Why I Like this Book:

Yusra Swims is a hopeful story of one young woman’s persistence and courage to overcome overwhelming obstacles. Especially as we and our children navigate the uncertainties, difficulties, and fear during this unprecedented pandemic and global shutdown, I found it particularly heartening to learn about this talented and courageous young woman.

As a teenager, Yusra fled a war-torn region, she used her swimming skills to save fellow refugees when their overloaded boat lost its motor and began to sink, she resettled in Germany, despite, presumably, not knowing the language, and then she competed in the first Refugee Olympic Team in history. If Yusra doesn’t inspire all of us to use our talents to succeed and benefit others, I don’t know who could!

Abery relates Yusra’s story in short, rhyming text, which makes this an ideal picture book to share even with younger children. Deng’s blue-palette illustrations provide further context as we journey with Yusra to the Olympics.

A Note about Craft:

Aspiring writers often hear that agents and editors are not interested in rhyming text. And rhyming picture book biographies are few and far between. But rhyme works well in this case, and I applaud Abery for utilizing it to quicken the pace to match Yusra’s sport, swimming. It also enables readers to navigate the difficult parts of Yusra’s journey more quickly and focus sooner on the hopeful aspects of her life.

In one poignant spread, Deng adds a kid-relatable detail to the jettisoned possessions: a stuffed animal. My eyes focused on that immediately, and I think kids will be drawn to that, too.

Visit Julie Abery’s website to see more of her children’s books. See interior spreads from Yusra Swims and learn about Deng at her website.

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!

Perfect Pairing – Features the Poetry of Emily Dickinson

I’d planned to feature two new picture book biographies about Emily Dickinson today, before the pandemic upended the normalcy of most of our lives. Thankfully, I picked up one of these before our local library closed, and I have a copy of the other one.

May you find plenty of poetry on your bookshelves or via internet sources to bolster your spirits during this time of crisis! Stay healthy, stay home, and read!

Emily Writes: Emily Dickinson and Her Poetic Beginnings

Author: Jane Yolen

Illustrator: Christine Davenier

Publisher/Date: Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt and Company/2020)

Ages: 6-8

Themes: Emily Dickinson, poetry, nature, writing

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Jane Yolen’s Emily Writes is an imagined and evocative picture book account of Emily Dickinson’s childhood poetic beginnings, featuring illustrations by Christine Davenier.

As a young girl, Emily Dickinson loved to scribble curlicues and circles, imagine new rhymes, and connect with the natural world around her. The sounds, sights, and smells of home swirled through her mind, and Emily began to explore writing and rhyming her thoughts and impressions. She thinks about the real and the unreal. Perhaps poems are the in-between.

This thoughtful spotlight on Emily’s early experimentations with poetry offers a unique window into one of the world’s most famous and influential poets.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

 

On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson

Author: Jennifer Berne

Illustrator: Becca Stadtlander

Publisher/date: Chronicle Books/2020

Ages: 5-8

Themes: Emily Dickinson, biography, poetry, nature, writing

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

An inspiring and kid-accessible biography of one of the world’s most famous poets.

Emily Dickinson, who famously wrote “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul,” is brought to life in this moving story. In a small New England town lives Emily Dickinson, a girl in love with small things—a flower petal, a bird, a ray of light, a word. In those small things, her brilliant imagination can see the wide world—and in her words, she takes wing. From celebrated children’s author Jennifer Berne comes a lyrical and lovely account of the life of Emily Dickinson: her courage, her faith, and her gift to the world. With Dickinson’s own inimitable poetry woven throughout, this lyrical biography is not just a tale of prodigious talent, but also of the power we have to transform ourselves and to reach one another when we speak from the soul.

Read a starred review at Shelf Awareness for Readers and read an interview with Berne at Kidlit411 (which is how I received a copy of this book. Thank you!).

I paired these books because they explore the life and writings of Emily Dickinson. In Emily Writes, Yolen explores Emily’s early childhood and envisions Emily creating scribbled poetry before she could form letters or words. On Wings of Words is a cradle-to-grave biography with Emily’s poetry woven into the narrative. Read together, these new picture books provide greater appreciation and understanding of the genius that is Emily Dickinson. Author’s Notes and other back matter in each book provide greater context about the life and writings of this iconic poet.

Looking for similar reads? See My Uncle Emily, by Jane Yolen.

 

 

PPBF – The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

During this unprecedented time of stress and worry, a gentle reminder of the power of compassion may be just what we need. Thankfully, there’s a new picture book releasing next week written by and about a world expert in that practice.

Title: The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Written By: His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Illustrated By: Bao Luu

Publisher/Date: Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House/March 2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: compassion, peace, Tibet, autobiography, Buddhism

Opening:

I was born in Taktser, in the Amdo province of northeastern Tibet. It was a place of tall mountains, clear streams, blue skies, and many animals—mastiffs, sheep, horses, yaks, scorpions, chickens, and cows.

Our home was in the shadow of the Ami-chiri, The Mountain That Pierces the Sky.

Brief Synopsis: Written by His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, The Seed of Compassion recounts early memories with his mother who planted the seed of compassion within him and includes ideas for children to help nurture compassion and improve the world.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about the 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and read some fun facts about him. There’s also a timeline of his life in back matter, as well as a note to readers at the front of this book;
  • Discover Tibet;
  • Learn about Buddhism and try some activities that help you become more aware of the natural sights and sounds that surround you;
  • How can you nurture the seed of compassion and inclusivity in your school, at the playground, or in your family?
  • Listen to a sample reading of The Seed of Compassion (found near the bottom of the page).

Why I Like this Book:

In straightforward language, His Holiness the Dalai Lama shares scenes from his rural childhood during which his mother showed him by example the importance of kindness towards others. I love the analogy to planting a seed that will grow, something that I think kids will relate to and understand.

I also appreciate that His Holiness addresses children directly and with respect in the latter part of the book, recognizing that they have within themselves the seed which can grow into compassion, for their peers and the world. As an example, he rhetorically asks children whether they would rather approach a smiling group or a scowling group on the playground. Of course, they would rather approach the smiling, welcoming group. The leap to becoming one who shares a smile is obvious. From there, His Holiness states, “When you approach someone with true warmheartedness, they can feel it. Doing so only brings more joy to you and them.”

And with practice, like with a sport or musical instrument, His Holiness assures children that compassion will grow.

Golden tones run through this picture book, tying His Holiness’ early life to his later ministry. I think caregivers and teachers will appreciate the diversity of children presented, including in a final scene showing His Holiness part of a circle of multicultural children.

A Note about Craft:

I’ve already mentioned a few of the tools that His Holiness utilizes to share his message, the seed and growing analogy and addressing children directly. These techniques, I believe, encourage children to believe that they have the power within themselves to practice compassion. Perhaps as importantly, His Holiness also reminds these children that if they slip and fail to act compassionately, tomorrow is another opportunity to “try again.”

A relatively new imprint of Penguin Random House, “Kokila (pronounced KO-ki-la) brings together an inclusive community of authors and illustrators, publishing professionals, and readers to examine and celebrate stories that reflect the richness of our world.”

I reviewed an electronic review copy of this book, downloaded from Edelweiss+.

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!

 

Perfect Pairing – for St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, a day when we are all Irish, or wish we were. As so many parades and festivities are cancelled across the world, I thought I’d share two picture books to help you celebrate.

Irish Legends for Children 

Retold By: Yvonne Carroll

Illustrator: Lucy Su

Publisher/Date: Gill & Macmillan Ltd/1995

Ages: 4-8

Themes: myths, legends, Ireland, magic, compilation

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Once upon a time, kings, knights,
and dragons roamed the verdant hills of Ireland, and druids used their sorcery
for both good and evil. It was a time of magic. It was a time of warriors. It
was a time of legends.
The six legends presented here are
taken primarily from two cycles in Irish lore: An Rrai1/2ocht (The Red
Branch Knights Cycle) and An Fhiannai1/2ocht (The Fianna Cycle). These
stories have been passed down from generation to generation in Ireland but will
delight children of any heritage. They deal with many diverse topics, yet they
all share an underlying theme: the journey into adulthood.

 

 

Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato: An Irish Folktale

Retold & Illustrated By: Tomie dePaola

Publisher/date: A Whitebird Book (GP Putnam’s Sons)/1992

Ages: 4-8

Themes: folktale (Irish), laziness, luck, making assumptions, humor

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When his wife injures her back and can’t do all the work, Jamie O’Rourke–the laziest man in all of Ireland–is sure he’ll starve to death. A wiley leprechaun intervenes, and one wish later, Jamie is the proud owner of a potato as big as a house! An engaging read-aloud choice for St. Patrick’s Day.

Read a review by Susanna Leonard Hill.

I paired these books because they feature Irish legends on a day when we celebrate all things Irish!

Looking for similar reads? See all-med.net which features free downloads of Irish Legends for Children and other books containing Irish legends.

 

 

PPBF – The Traveler’s Gift: A Story of Loss and Hope

My guess is that few of you are traveling these days. But what’s better than a good story to pass the time at home (and help anxious parents forget about the viral news)? How about a story about storytelling that’s filled with travel and adventure, like today’s Perfect Picture Book.

Title: The Traveler’s Gift: A Story of Loss and Hope

Written By: Danielle Davison

Illustrated By: Anne Lambelet

Publisher/Date: Page Street Kids/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: storytelling, travel, grief, loneliness, friendship

Opening:

Liam’s father was a sailor. After returning from sea, he’d weave tales for Liam of the faraway places he’d been and the curious things he’d seen, using just his words.

Someday, Liam would join his father. They would travel to faraway places, and Liam would have stories of his own to tell. But for now, he was happy retelling his father’s stories to anyone who would listen.

Brief Synopsis: Liam loves listening to his father’s stories. But when his father dies, Liam’s interest in stories dies with him, until Liam meets a traveler who weaves stories so engaging that Liam’s love of stories revives.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have favorite family stories? Or favorite stories about someplace you’ve traveled or an adventure you’ve experienced? Share some of these with your friends;
  • Ask an older relative or friend to share some of their favorite stories.

Why I Like this Book:

In text and illustrations, The Traveler’s Gift transports readers to mythical faraway places and shows the transformative power of stories.

As the story begins, young Liam experiences the world through the fantastical stories woven by his seafaring father. But when his father dies, Liam’s interest in life and travel and his love of stories fade. How can he find these again?

When he hears a new storyteller, the traveler Enzo, weaving tales by the docks, Liam takes a chance, and turns his life around, by volunteering to travel with Enzo to “listen to the world”, “see things…with more than just his eyes”, and experience places “not found on a map”. As the pair share Liam’s first voyage and Enzo’s last voyage, Liam gains the courage to tell his own story of his father, his newfound friend, and the adventures shared.

The woodcut-like illustrations and vivid colors add to the mythic qualities of this tale that is sure to transport young and old readers alike to a faraway place, where a storyteller can transform feelings of loss to hope.

A Note about Craft:

For many of us, the power of storytelling is fantastic, a magical way to recount happenings or make sense of a senseless world. But how does one convey that in a story about storytelling? In The Traveler’s Gift, Davison uses the term “magic” at two particular points in the story to convey this. After Liam’s father’s death, “[a]ll the magic he once felt retelling his father’s stories faded.” After Enzo asked him to try telling stories, “Liam felt the magic of storytelling he thought he’d lost.”

The illustrations also help convey the magic of storytelling and lend a mythic air to Liam’s experiences. There’s no indication in the text of how to show the Traveler’s gift, but readers will see and understand what it is through Lambelet’s fantastic details that weave through this story.

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!