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

Opening:

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

Opening:

Hello!

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

Opening:

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

Opening:

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

Opening:

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

Opening:

FOR EVERY LITTLE THING (Nancy Tupper Ling)

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!

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2022 (1/28/22) is in its 9th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those books into the hands of young readers and educators.

MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves. Read about our Mission & History HERE.

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This epically fun and fast-paced hour includes multicultural book discussions, addressing timely issues, diverse book recommendations, & reading ideas.

We will be giving away an 8-Book Bundle every 5 minutes plus Bonus Prizes as well! *** US and Global participants welcome. **

Follow the hashtag #ReadYourWorld to join the conversation, connect with like-minded parts, authors, publishers, educators, organizations, and librarians. See you all very soon on Twitter!

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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

Opening:

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!

PPBF – The Gift Shop Bear

For my final post of 2021 and as my gift to you, dear readers, I’m featuring a classic new picture book that I think is the Perfect Picture Book for this festive season. I hope you agree! Happy Holidays!

Title: The Gift Shop Bear

Written & Illustrated By: Phyllis Harris

Publisher/Date: WorthyKids (Hatchette Book Group)/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Christmas, teddy bear, home, friendship

Opening:

Nestled on the edge of town sat a little gift shop.

Brief Synopsis: Every Christmas season, Bear leaves his spot in the attic to decorate a gift shop and play with his best friend, Annie. But when the shop closes for good, Bear’s future seems uncertain.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

Bear waits all year for Christmas, something that I think every kid, and adult, will understand. But it’s not just the sights, sounds, and smells of the season that appeal to Bear. Rather, for Bear, Christmas is the time of year when he decorates the gift shop where he lives, and, more importantly, spends together-time with his best friend, Annie. I love all of the activities that the pair undertake, and I can imagine kids mimicking them later with their own stuffed friends.

But like holiday celebrations, small gift shops don’t last forever. When Bear overhears that the shop is closing, he worries about where he’ll end up and whether he’ll ever see his friend Annie again. As this is a picture book, you know Bear will find a place to belong, but I won’t spoil the ending by telling you how or where he finds his “forever home”.

In this time when we’re all craving cozy reprieves from the craziness of this world, I think the nostalgic feel of this picture book will appeal to kids and their adults. Harris’ softly-hued illustrations complete this lovely package. The spreads featuring snowflakes especially helped me to get in the holiday spirit.

A Note about Craft:

The Gift Shop Bear is told from the point of view of Bear, a stuffed animal. This helps bring immediacy to Bear’s predicament and enables kids to empathize with him more easily. Although Bear never speaks, Harris shows readers what he sees, smells, hears, and thinks, bringing the reader along into the shop and other scenes.

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 – Ojiichan’s Gift

Tis the season of giving, so I think a picture book about a gift is a Perfect Picture Book!

Title: Ojiichan’s Gift

Written By: Chieri Uegaki

Illustrated By: Genevieve Simms

Publisher/Date: Kids Can Press/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Japan, gardening, intergenerational, adapting to changes

Opening:

When Mayumi van Horton was born, her grandfather built her a garden.

It sat behind a tidy brown house nearly halfway around the world, and it was unlike any other garden she knew.

Brief Synopsis:

Mayumi’s grandfather built her a garden made of stones behind his home in Japan. But when age and health made it difficult to remain in the home, Mayumi had to figure out a way to take the garden along.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about, and make, your own Japanese garden;
  • Do you have an activity that you enjoy doing with a grandparent or other elderly relative or family friend? Learn a favorite recipe or a special craft from that person;
  • Check out the Teaching Guide for more ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

In this gentle, intergenerational picture book, young Mayumi tends her garden each summer with her grandfather, Ojiichan, who lives in Japan. I love how the garden acts as a means to bond two family members separated by oceans for much of the year. I also love how this activity helps Mayumi learn more about her Japanese heritage. And I especially love that Ojiichan gifts the garden to Mayumi at the outset, which enables her to gift something special to him.

But during one visit, Mayumi and her parents realize that Ojiichan is no longer able to live alone and to care for the garden. At first, Mayumi is angry, a response I think many children (and adults) will understand. She tries to knock over rocks and kicks up gravel. But as she notices the mess that she’s made, she determines to clean up the garden and “a tiny idea took root”. I won’t ruin the ending by sharing what she did, but in the end, she manages to create not just one, but two remembrances of this special shared garden.

Accompanied by Simms’ soft watercolor illustrations, Uegaki’s text provides a gentle roadmap for kids separated from loved ones and for those trying to hold on to special memories.

A Note about Craft:

Perhaps because a Japanese garden is at the center of Ojiichan’s Gift, the story has a calm and peaceful feel to it, perfect for children who are struggling to adapt to changes in their lives, be it aging elders, a move, or some other major life change. 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 – A Sled for Gabo

It’s that time of the year when our thoughts turn to the wonder of winter’s first snowfall. I think I’ve found the Perfect Picture Book to help get you in the mood!

Title: A Sled for Gabo

Written By: Emma Otheguy

Illustrated By: Ana Ramírez González

Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: snow, sledding, multicultural, overcoming shyness, moving

Opening: The day it snowed Gabo followed the whistling sound of an old steam radiator into the kitchen.

Brief Synopsis:

Gabo, a young boy experiencing a snowy day for the first time, longs to join school friends on sleds, but he’s shy, and he lacks a sled and warm winter gear.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

In A Sled for Gabo, Otheguy captures the excitement of experiencing snow and sledding for the first time, and she raises the issue the that you need warm clothes and a sled to enjoy the wintry activity.

From the outset, with the mention of an “old steam radiator”, it’s clear that money isn’t plentiful in Gabo’s household. Readers soon learn that Gabo didn’t have a sled, he wore thin cotton socks, he lacked waterproof boots, and his winter hat was too small. But his Mami improvised, as parents often do, and bundled him into layers of socks and his father’s larger hat, and she used plastic bags tied with string to keep Gabo’s sneakers dry. I love how Gabo smiled at the bags and displayed no hints of being self-conscious about his make-shift winterwear.

Gabo then set off to find a sled. He was too shy to approach the other children to ride on their sleds. He visited adult neighbors and asked them for a sled. But no one had one. Instead, one resourceful adult presented Gabo with a cafeteria tray, which, as anyone who grew up among snowy hills knows, can be even faster and more fun than an actual sled. As snow and sledding were new to Gabo, though, he didn’t realize this, until, that is, a new friend showed him.

I think both children who have experienced sledding and those who are new to wintry weather will enjoy A Sled for Gabo. The story not only brought back many memories of snowy days from my youth, but it also helped me empathize with children who have lived in warmer climates and are experiencing snow for the first time, especially if they lack the right gear and the money to pay for it. I also love how Otheguy weaves together the themes of friendship, experiencing a new environment, and overcoming hesitancy.

Bright primary colors warm up the wintry scenes and highlight the friendliness of Gabo’s welcoming neighbors.

A Note about Craft:

Otheguy’s choice of words helps readers recognize several important aspects of the story: an old steam radiator whistles – clearly this isn’t a fancy new or updated house. We feel the wintry weather with Gabo when “his warm breath bloomed a cloud of fog onto the glass.” Mami converses in Spanish, and Gabo answers a neighbor with “No gracias.” Gabo and his new friend share warmed dulce de leche after playing in the snow.

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!