PPBF – My Favorite Memories

Regular readers know that I gravitate to stories about moving, so when I find a new picture book about this topic, I just have to review it!

Title: My Favorite Memories

Written By: Sepideh Sarihi

Illustrated By: Julie Völk

Translated By: Elisabeth Llauffer

Publisher/Date: Blue Dot Kids Press/2020 (German edition, Beltz & Gelberg/2018)

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: moving, memories, change, resilience

Opening:

I was brushing my hair when Papa came in and told me we were moving. Mama was very excited. Papa too.

Brief Synopsis:

When a young girl and her family move to a new country, she wants to bring everything she loves with her.

Links to Resources:

  • What are your most favorite things? Make a list or draw a few of them;
  • Do your favorite things fit in a bag, box, or suitcase? How would you pack them if you, like the narrator in the story, were moving house or even country?
  • Have you and your family moved, or do you live far from close relatives or friends? How did you feel if you moved? How do you keep in contact with close relatives who live far away?

Why I Like this Book:

Change is difficult for everyone, especially when it’s a big change, like moving house or countries. And when leaving is expected to be permanent, it’s especially difficult to determine what to bring to your new home to remind you of your old life.

Such is the dilemma explored in My Favorite Memories. Narrated by an unnamed young girl in spare, direct text, this story draws readers in and helps children empathize with those who leave everything behind to seek safety and economic well-being in a new place.

The soft palette of the illustrations add to the beauty of this book. Whether you’re contemplating a move, just moved, or seeking to welcome others into your community, My Favorite Memories is a wonderful picture book to share at home or in the classroom.

A Note about Craft:

Sarihi’s use of first-person point-of-view brings an immediacy to the text which, I think, will help children empathize with the narrator. Per the jacket flap, Sarihi was born in Iran but immigrated to Germany in 2012. My Favorite Memories is thus an #OwnVoices work.

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 Thousand Glass Flowers: Marietta Barovier and the Invention of the Rosetta Bead

I always love reading about women who break barriers, as regular readers know. But you may not know that I collect colored glass vases and that I had the opportunity several years ago to try glassblowing and make my own vase.

I made the bright green vase on the right!

So when I saw this new picture book about a female glassmaker, you know I had to read and share it!

Title: A Thousand Glass Flowers: Marietta Barovier and the Invention of the Rosetta Bead

Written & Illustrated By: Evan Turk

Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster/2020

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes/Topics: glassmaking, biography, women, glass beads, persistence, breaking barriers

Opening:

Marietta loved to watch the sun. It was like a glowing ball of glass that rose each morning to give light and color to the world.

She lived with her family on the island of Murano, as all the glassmakers did, cut off from the main city of Venice.

Brief Synopsis:

Young Marietta grew up in a family of Murano glassmakers during the Renaissance, but glassmaking was a male profession. With her father’s encouragement and much determination, Marietta became one of the first female professional glassmakers and invented a beautiful glass bead.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about Venice and the glass-making islands that surround this city of canals;
  • Check out the kid-friendly activities at Corning Museum of Glass;
  • Watch a fun video about the chemistry of glass and how it is made.

Why I Like this Book:

Pluck, persistence, a craft that combines science and artistic skill, and gorgeous illustrations – what’s not to like about the latest from the talented author-illustrator Evan Turk?

A Thousand Glass Flowers is the story of a young girl, Marietta, growing up in a family of male glassmakers at a time when glassmaking, like the vast majority of crafts and professions, was solely a male profession. But young Marietta was fascinated by the glass-making process, despite the noise and the heat of the furnace. Her father, a master glassmaker, not only noted her interest but encouraged her to learn more and test her skills.

After his death, Marietta continued his glassmaking processes. She also furthered the profession by learning to make delicate beads that looked like a thousand flowers, the so-called rosetta beads, or “millefiori” in Italian. Many readers may be familiar with these beads, which are still popular today.

I think children and adults will enjoy learning more about the fascinating process of glassmaking and the influence one woman had on its process and art in an era when men dominated the craft.

Turk’s jewel-toned with gold-accented illustrations really bring this story, glassmaking, and the era to life.

A Note about Craft:

As noted in an Author’s Note, little is known about Marietta’s early life, so Turk imagined several scenes in which Marietta’s father taught her the trade. A Thousand Glass Flowers therefore is not strictly-speaking a biography or pure non-fiction.

Despite the lack of information about Marietta’s early life, Turk went above and beyond doing research, including visiting Venice and Murano, meeting one of Marietta’s descendants (who happens to be an antique glass expert), and even visiting the world-famous Corning Museum of Glass, where he tried glassblowing himself.

Finally, regular readers know that the vast majority of the books I choose as Perfect Picture Books have a social justice theme. In addition to exploring historic barriers to careers for women, Turk explains in the Author’s Note that the beads Marietta invented were used by Columbus on his journeys and as payment for, among other items, slaves in Africa. I believe this information is important to consider, even as we marvel at the beauty of Marietta’s creations.

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!

Saving Halloween – a Halloweensie Tale

What a week it’s been! And it’s all leading up to the most important day of the year for many of you dear readers…the day I post my Halloweensie entry.

While many of you have been busy choosing a pumpkin, carving it, and then decorating like there’s no tomorrow, I’ve been busy whittling a full story into a mere 100 words. Or should I say 99, as that’s the word count this go-round.

And what, you ask, is a Halloweensie? In the words of its intrepid creator, the talented Susanna Leonard Hill who conjured up the concept ten years ago (happy 10th anniversary!):

“The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in the 100 words), using the words skeleton, creep, and mask.  Your story can be scary, funny, sweet, or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people….”

The best part about this Contest? Reading all of the amazing entries, which you can do here. So go ahead, satisfy your sweet tooth with no concern for calories or social distancing.

Without further ado, may I present my humble entry of 99 words (plus title) and wish you all a Happy Halloween!

Saving Halloween

Bones rattling, teeth chattering, Skeleton quivered, “Is it Halloween yet?”

“T minus thirteen hours,” howled Ghost.

“And we’re locked in this creepy closet,” cackled Witch.

“Cat! Slink outside! Report back!”

“Millions of masks, BUT

  • NO costumes;
  • NO candy;
  • NO pumpkins or pumpkin-spice anything!

Halloween is CANCELLED!”

“Cancelled,” Skeleton groaned.

“NOOOO,” Ghost moaned.

“Poor kids,” Witch intoned.

“WE’VE GOTTA SAVE HALLOWEEN!”

“Ghost! Float through, unlock, then let us out!”

“Witch! Concoct a spooky potion – get this holiday in motion!”

“Cat! Nab costumes! Candy! Pumpkins! Spice!”

“And I’ll scare up some kids with this Skeleton Dance!”

“Halloween Party’s starting…

                        NOW!”

PPBF – Gustavo the Shy Ghost

I read a review of today’s Perfect Picture Book on Children’s Books Heal a few weeks ago, and I knew I had to find and review it during this spirit-filled season. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Title: Gustavo the Shy Ghost

Written & Illustrated By: Flavia Z. Drago

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2020

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: Day of the Dead, Mexico, shyness, loneliness, friendship, ghosts

Opening:

Gustavo was a ghost. He enjoyed doing the normal things that paranormal beings do – passing through walls, making objects fly, and glowing in the dark.

Brief Synopsis: Gustavo, a ghost, loves to play the violin, but otherwise is very shy and must find the courage to make friends.

Links to Resources:

  • Gustavo glows when he plays the violin. What makes you glow with happiness?
  • The other monsters don’t notice Gustavo because he is invisible. Do you ever feel invisible? What do you do to get noticed by classmates, friends, or a sibling?
  • Check out the fun activities in the Activity Kit;
  • Try some Day of the Dead craft ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

Gustavo is such an endearing character with a problem that I think many kids will be able to relate to: shyness and feeling invisible. I found myself rooting for Gustavo in the scene in which he is afraid to join the other kids ordering eye-scream. And a scene with a sad-faced Gustavo alone on a teeter-totter made me want to hug him and tell him everything will be all right.

But mixed in with these empathy-inducing scenes are many funny things, too, like the scenes in which Gustavo tries to get the others to notice him by pretending to be other objects, including a balloon.

In addition to the unexpected and heartwarming ending, I think kids and their adults will love learning about the Day of the Dead celebrations during which this story unfolds. And Drago’s detailed and colorful artwork will have kids asking for many re-readings.

A Note about Craft:

In this debut picture book, Drago has created the perfect character to discuss a topic that will resonate with so many kids (and adults): feeling shy and invisible, but craving friendship. I think many of us have felt like a wallflower or an invisible creature at some point in our lives, and choosing a ghost to “display” these feelings is so perceptive. And having Gustavo excel and want to share a talent that involves hearing instead of sight is a terrific way to show kids that looks may not be everything.

Not only does Gustavo the Shy Ghost explore the problem of being shy but craving friendship, but anyone wanting to find out about the Day of the Dead festivities will learn so much by reading this picture book.

A Spanish-language version is also available. Also, for a fun surprise, peek under the dust jacket!

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!

#PBCritiqueFest: A Fabulous Opportunity for Picture Book Creators

I don’t often post on Wednesdays, and regular readers know that I rarely post about my own writing journey. But I’m participating in a fabulous opportunity for picture book creators, and I just had to share!

An annual event, the Picture Book Critique Fest offers 36 lucky picture book creators a critique from one of 36 published authors, artists, and agents. It’s hosted by pbspotlight.com and the brainchild of Brian Gehrlein, whose first picture book, The Book of Rules, debuts in 2021. Per the website, the “purpose is to celebrate the critique and revision process and to help build our kidlit community.”

In my humble opinion, #PBCritiqueFest is a win-win for all involved, as pre-published, unagented folks, like myself, revise away at a manuscript, meet many generous folks in the picture book world, and maybe win a critique. This also gives more established creatives a chance to give back to the kidlit community, as well as the opportunity to have their books and names in front of a group of creators as passionate about picture books as they are.

Registration closes this Friday promptly at 9 AM CST, so don’t delay: polish up your picture book manuscript and apply today! Details here.

PPBF – Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built

Today, I’m so happy to feature a newly-published, debut picture book, that I know you’re going to love. It’s truly a Perfect Picture Book!

Title: Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built

Written By: Angela Burke Kunkel

Illustrated By: Paola Escobar

Publisher/Date: Schwartz & Wade Books/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: library, books, community problem solving, Columbia, Latinx, biography

Opening:

In the city of Bogotá, in the barrio of La Nueva Gloria, there live two Josés.

Brief Synopsis: Based on the true story of José Alberto Gutiérrez, a trash collector in Bogotá, Columbia, who collected books along his route and opened the first library in his impoverished neighborhood.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the many resources, including facts about Columbia, a Digging word search, suggestions for similar books, and more in the Educator’s Tool Kit;
  • Learn more about José Alberto Gutiérrez and the library he created in the Author’s Note;
  • What do you wish for? What does Paradise mean to you? Describe with words or draw a picture of something that means Paradise to you.

Why I Like this Book:

In Bogotá, Columbia, a boy named José grew up without education but loving to read with his Mamá every night. As an adult, he collects discarded books along his garbage route to read and to share with children in his barrio, an impoverished neighborhood.

One of those children, also named José, eagerly awaits the arrival of Saturday, the day when he and other children are welcome to visit Señor José’s house. There, stacks and stacks of books await. Paradise!  

Filled with city scenes and fantastical scenes of the pair’s literary journeys, Digging for Words celebrates books and the imaginative journeys they inspire. It also shows the power of persistence and how one determined man is able to share his love of books with the children who crave them in his poor neighborhood.

Filled with colorful and detailed illustrations by Columbian native Escobar, I think Digging for Words will be read, and reread, by children who love to journey through books. Although technically a work of fiction, the many facts about José Alberto Gutiérrez and the library he created make this a wonderful choice for schools and libraries, too.

A Note about Craft:

Often this is my favorite section to write when I review picture books. Today it is especially so! In this debut, Kunkel follows and breaks so many rules – I think I could do an entire post about craft using Digging for Words (and I think she could do some podcasts and workshops about it, too).

For starters, this is a parallel story with two main characters, two Josés: the real adult and the fictional child. As with many biographies, scenes from Gutiérrez’ childhood are included. But another child, the fictional José, is featured, too.

The book begins in present tense, but there’s a flashback to Señor José’s childhood (authors who are admonished to avoid flashbacks take note of how well this works here). Kunkel also includes several richly-illustrated scenes in which the characters imagine worlds based on the books they read. These books, Anna Karenina, One Hundred Years of Solitude, and The Little Prince, are even highlighted in the back matter.

I think most importantly, at least for me, is the realization that the addition of fictional elements is the best way to tell Gutiérrez’ true story. Only by doing so are we able to see the effect of his work on the children who benefit from it.

Finally, Kunkel sprinkles Spanish words throughout the text, which even this non-Spanish speaker was able to understand because of the context and illustrations. A Spanish-language version also has been published.

Digging for Words is a Junior Library Guild Selection.

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 – Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles

I’ve had the good fortune to view sea turtles in their natural habitat while snorkeling. And while I’m not currently traveling to anywhere I can snorkel, I can satisfy my desire to learn more about them by reading informative picture books, like today’s Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles

Written By: Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson

Illustrated By: Meilo So

Publisher/Date: Chronicle Books/2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-6 (and older)

Themes/Topics: sea turtles, environmental activism, moving

Opening:

I always need help finding my way, especially in a new place.

“Before long you’ll feel right at home, Viv.”

I WASN’T SO SURE.

Brief Synopsis: When Viv moves to a new community and school near the beach and the teacher assigns a class project to spur community action, Viv learns about the local sea turtles, the issues turtle hatchlings face, and how she, and her class, can help.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the fabulous back matter including a Letter to Young Activists, a note to Parents and Teachers, and information about Loggerheads and other Sea Turtles;
  • Find more ideas in the Teacher Guide;
  • “Swim” along on an online snorkeling trip in the Virgin Islands National Park to view marine life, including sea turtles;
  • What problems do people in your local community face? Even with many schools operating remotely and social distancing the norm right now, there may be ways you can help by organizing a food or holiday gift drive, coordinating a socially-distanced park cleanup, or sending cards and other encouraging messages to nursing or other group homes.

Why I Like this Book:

Follow the Moon Home is a multi-layered informational picture book with hooks to engage anyone. If you, like the narrator, Viv, have recently moved, read how she connected with her new classmates and community through the class project to help the sea turtles. If you love sea turtles and want to learn more about them, the book has plenty of facts and engaging watercolor illustrations to lure you in. If you’re interested in helping others or in environmentalism, read on and follow the steps Viv and her classmates took to spur community action. Interestingly, the problem the class tackles, the lights from beachfront homes that confused the turtles, is not one I’ve seen discussed much in picture books about protecting sea turtles.

Because Follow the Moon Home offers so much on so many levels, I think it would be a tremendous resource in classrooms, as well as a terrific family read (note that the actions taken are initiated by a class, but a family easily could identify a community problem to solve).

A Note about Craft:

Although primarily an informational picture book about sea turtles and environmental activism, Follow the Moon Home is also a story about Viv, who settles into a new home, school, and community by rallying her classmates and neighbors to help the sea turtle hatchlings. Using first person POV, the authors forge an immediate connection between the reader and Viv, as we empathize with her desire to find her way. This, in turn, helps the reader connect with the young sea turtles, who also struggle to find their way to the sea.

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 – Sharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello

I don’t know about you, but after months of staying at home, I’m ready for some travel – some virtual travel to a new place and time. And what better way to do that than by reading this new Perfect Picture Book biography set in Peru!

Title: Sharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello

Written By: Monica Brown

Illustrated By: Elisa Chavarri

Spanish Translation: Adriana Domínguez

Publisher/Date: Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books/2020

Suitable for Ages: Grades 1-6

Themes/Topics: biography, archaeology, indigenous culture, bilingual, persistence, curiosity, #OwnVoices

Opening:

This is the story of Julio C. Tello, one of the most important archaeologists in all the Americas. He was born in Peru on April 11, 1880, in the rugged highlands just outside the capital city of Lima, in the shadow of the Andes mountains.

Brief Synopsis: The bilingual biography of Julio C. Tello, the first indigenous archaeologist of South America, who persevered to prove the longevity of the country’s indigenous cultures, who celebrated his ancestors’ accomplishments, and who shared his findings with Peruvians and the world.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the comprehensive Teacher’s Guide;
  • Sharuko, which means “brave” in Julio’s native Quechuan language, explored and found bones and other artifacts from his ancestors. Explore your home or yard to find objects that belonged to your family and/or are culturally significant. Ask an older family member to explain more about them;
  • Check out these family history activities;
  • Learn about Peru, where Sharuko lived and worked.

Why I Like this Book:

With its focus on persistence, treasure hunting, and honoring the past, this picture book biography, about a man most of us never knew existed, and a country few, if any of us, have visited, left this reader eager to read on and learn about Sharuko, Peru, and the indigenous cultures that flourished there.

Targeting a slightly older reader than the typical picture book, Sharuko is a wonderful resource to encourage kids to explore their pasts, honor indigenous cultures, and be curious. I love how Brown shows Julio’s courage and persistence. We learn that he left his rural home as a child to study in Lima, the capital of Peru. Even with his aunt living there, how difficult this must have been!

As a young man, Julio worked many jobs, including carrying travelers’ luggage and working in a library. He studied medicine, and then he used that knowledge as a springboard to learn more about the artifacts he had seen in the mountains and caves of his youth. Perhaps as importantly, he shared that knowledge, so that the children of Peru could be proud of the civilizations that flourished there in the pre-Columbian era.

Filled with brightly-colored images of the artifacts Julio uncovered, studied, and shared with the world, this new bilingual picture book biography of the founder of modern Peruvian archaeology is a wonderful resource for home and school libraries.

A Note about Craft:

I noted above that Sharuko is targeted to a slightly older age range than the typical picture book. So why do I think Julio’s story is best told with words and images? Given the wealth of objects that Julio uncovered and its setting in a country with which most North American and European readers may be unfamiliar, I found the illustrations to be an invaluable part of this story. Especially for those of indigenous descent, seeing these artifacts must be a real treasure. And for those of us who don’t share that heritage, how wonderful to see and experience these pre-Columbian cultures in these pages.

Note that Brown does not gloss over the killings and destruction by the invading Spaniards, so this book is best read with an adult. Note though, too, that Brown also informs readers that “[a]lthough the Spanish tried to destroy Peru’s Indigenous language, culture, and customs, they were kept alive and passed on from generation to generation by families such as Sharuko’s.”

Brown is the daughter of a Peruvian immigrant, and Chavarri was born in Peru, so this truly is an #OwnVoices work. Among other works, Chavarri illustrated Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del arcoíris, which I reviewed in 2017.

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 – Jacob Riis’s Camera: Bringing Light to Tenement Children

For today’s Perfect Picture Book, I’m happy to share a biography of a man whose name you may not recognize, but whose photographs live on and show how one person’s actions can improve the lives of many.

Title: Jacob Riis’s Camera: Bringing Light to Tenement Children

Written By: Alexis O’Neill

Illustrated By: Gary Kelley

Publisher/Date: Calkins Creek, an imprint of Boyds Mills & Kane/2020

Suitable for Ages: 7-10

Themes/Topics: social justice, immigrants, photojournalism, biography, New York City, tenements, STEAM

Opening:

Twelve-year-old Jacob hated Rag Hall. The rest of Ribe, Denmark, was filled with trim homes, sweet grass meadows, and fresh wind blowing from the sea.

But Rag Hall was a rat-infested, ramshackle dwelling.

As soon as he earned extra money, Jacob donated it to the poor in Rag Hall to help tidy things up.

Brief Synopsis: Jacob Riis, a Danish immigrant and newspaper reporter in late 19th century New York City, used flash photography to shine a light on the poor conditions in tenements crowded with new immigrants.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the amazing back matter including a timeline, glossary, and much more;
  • Take or find a photograph of your home and compare it to one of Riis’s photographs of the tenements. What’s the same? What’s different? Where would you rather live?
  • Take a photograph of a darkened space without using flash and then with the flash working. How do these photographs differ? Which one more effectively shows the scene?
  • Try these photography activities for kids.

Why I Like this Book:

I first learned about Jacob Riis when I was a university student many, many years ago. His photos of New York City tenements, and the immigrant families who inhabited them, have haunted me ever since.

As readers learn in Jacob Riis’s Camera, though, Riis was a reporter first, and he only began taking photographs when he discovered that words alone were not enough to show people, including policy makers, the awful living conditions in the tenements. Through persistence, Riis mastered the new art of flash photography to shine a light on the filth and overcrowding that impoverished families endured, and he helped change conditions for the better.

As debates about fake news and immigration swirl around us, and as inequality has become more visible during this pandemic, I think the story of Jacob Riis and his desire to clean up the tenements, his persistence to find a way to do that using new technology to combine photographs with words, and his work with Teddy Roosevelt to effect reforms are important to share with children. Whether at home or in a classroom setting, this picture book biography is a wonderful resource to spur conversations about these topics, especially with the rich back matter.

Kelley’s etched ink and pastel illustrations really made me feel like I was there with Jacob in the tenements. In many ways they reminded me of Riis’s photos, a few of which are reproduced in the back matter.

A Note about Craft:

With longer text than the typical picture book, Jacob Riis’s Camera is targeted to a slightly older age group. Given the difficult subject matter, this is understandable.

Given Riis’s status as a founder of photojournalism, the illustrations in this picture book are particularly important. Kelley’s muted palate and renderings of Riis’ photos drew me back to the late 19th century and vividly highlight the conditions Riis was trying to alleviate.

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 – KHALIDA and the Most Beautiful Song

As I remember the events of nineteen years ago and reflect on the crises the world faces today, I find solace when I read picture books such as today’s Perfect Picture Book that reminds us of the power of creativity and the arts.

Title: KHALIDA and the Most Beautiful Song

Written & Illustrated By: Amanda Moeckel

Publisher/Date: Page Street Kids/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: music, piano, creativity, determination, unscheduled moments, the power of art

Opening:

Perhaps it was the twinkling of a bright star or the wings of a high-flying owl that awoke the song one night.

It was time.

Brief Synopsis: An elusive song awakens a young pianist, but she struggles to capture it as the demands of everyday life get in the way.

Links to Resources:

  • Carve out some space and time to be creative, with musical instruments or art supplies;
  • Try to schedule some unscheduled “me” time each day or week and let your inner artist loose;
  • Read, or reread, Peter H. Reynolds’ The Dot, and join in the fun of International Dot Day 2020.

Why I Like this Book:

KHALIDA and the Most Beautiful Song is a lyrical, joyous celebration of creativity and a reminder that we need to step back from everyday tasks, schedules, and concerns to enable our creativity to flourish.

I was hooked from the opening, as the song mysteriously found young Khalida. As Moeckel notes in the opening scene, neither the song nor the reader knows why the song was awakened. But once awakened, and once it “tickled” Khalida’s “fingers and dipped into her ear”, Khalida knew that she had to recreate it on the piano, and share it with others.

I think even young children will relate to the obstacles that Khalida faces as she tries to express the creative impulse growing inside her. And I think everyone will appreciate the results of her determination as listeners “forgot everything else,” including meetings, being bullied, and a sick relative.

Moeckel rendered the illustrations in graphite, watercolor, and digitally. I especially loved how the song, depicted as graceful swirls, weave through the pages and become more colorful as Khalida performs them for an audience comprised of a diverse group of listeners.

A Note about Craft:

Moeckel begins this story not with Khalida, the over-programmed, talented pianist, but with the song that struggles to be played. By doing so, Moeckel encourages young children to think of their creative output as a character – a “thing” that needs to be out in the world. Switching the perspective in this way helps readers understand that creative individuals need to create, that society benefits when they are able to do so, and that we need to break down barriers to creativity.

I love the lyrical name, Khalida, and, because it is an Arabic name, I think this adds a multicultural layer to this beautiful story.

See a blog post about the creation and publication of this picture book at Writing and Illustrating. Note that Khalida finally plays the song in a park, where she performs it on a piano set there. In New York City, where Moeckel resides per the jacket flap, a not-for-profit, Sing for Hope, sets up artist-embellished pianos in public spaces for all to enjoy and donates pianos to city schools. Although this isn’t mentioned anywhere in the book, I’d like to think that Khalida is playing one of these pianos.

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!