Monthly Archives: October 2018

Perfect Pairing – Focuses on the Little Things in Life

Sometimes, when life gets hectic or the newsfeed seems overwhelming, I find it helps me to take a deep breath, take a walk, and look for the beauty that is everywhere in nature. And when we can share the beauty of nature with others, that’s even better.

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Sidewalk Flowers

Author: Jon Arno Lawson

Illustrator: Sydney Smith

Publisher/Date: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press)/2015

Ages: 4-7

Themes: wordless picture book; finding beauty; nature; generosity

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In this wordless picture book, a little girl collects wildflowers while her distracted father pays her little attention. Each flower becomes a gift, and whether the gift is noticed or ignored, both giver and recipient are transformed by their encounter. “Written” by award-winning poet JonArno Lawson and brought to life by illustrator Sydney Smith, Sidewalk Flowers is an ode to the importance of small things, small people, and small gestures.

Read a review at Katie Reviews Books.

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tiny, perfect things

Author: M.H. Clark

Illustrator: Madeline Kloepper

Publisher/Date: Compendium, Inc./2018

Ages: 3-7

Themes: finding beauty; nature; intergenerational; multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The whole world is a treasure waiting to be found. Open your eyes and see the wonderful things all around. This is the story of a child and a grandfather whose walk around the neighborhood leads to a day of shared wonder as they discover all sorts of tiny, perfect things together. With rhythmic storytelling and detailed and intricate illustrations, this is a book about how childlike curiosity can transform ordinary days into extraordinary adventures.

Read a review at Brain Pickings.

I paired these books because both feature walks by a child and adult, in which small things are noted, such as the flowers growing between the cracks of sidewalks, birds, leaves and even shadows. To be present in the moment and to appreciate nature and one’s neighborhood are gifts for children, and adults, to share.

Looking for similar reads?

See Ask Me (Bernard Waber/Suzy Lee, 2015) and Be Still, Life (Ohara Hale, 2017).

PPBF – Me and My Fear

When I saw today’s Perfect Picture Book advertised, I couldn’t wait to find, read  and review it. I hope you find it as captivating as I did!

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Title: Me and My Fear

Written & Illustrated By: Francesca Sanna

Publisher/Date: Flying Eye Books (an imprint of Nobrow Ltd.)/September 2018

Suitable for Ages: 5+

Themes/Topics: fear; immigrant; moving; empathy

Opening:

I have always had a secret. A tiny friend called Fear.

Brief Synopsis:

When a young girl and her family arrive in a new country, the girl’s fear grows and keeps her from making friends and adjusting to her new life, until she realizes that she’s not the only one with fear.

Links to Resources:

  • Sometimes we all are afraid. What scares you? What do you do when you’re scared?
  • How do you welcome newcomers to your neighborhood or school? Try one or more of the 20 Simple Acts to learn more about refugees or help one or more of them feel welcome;
  • See the Classroom Guide for more ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

With warm, retro-feeling illustrations and short text, Sanna personifies the fear that everyone experiences at times in a very kid-relatable way. As the story begins, Fear is a “tiny friend”, a helpful being that keeps the unnamed MC safe. But after “we came to this new country,” Fear grows and keeps the girl from experiencing the new neighborhood and making friends at school. It’s Fear that “hates” the new school, that “grows angry” when the girl’s name is mispronounced, that keeps the girl alone at break times. Through sharing art with another student, though, the young girl begins to reach out and then discovers that others have their own fears. As she does so, Fear reverts to its old, smaller self as “school is not so difficult anymore”.

I think Me and My Fear will help kids who experience fear in unfamiliar situations understand that they aren’t alone. It also will help other kids empathize with newcomers or those who keep to themselves, when they understand that it may be fear that holds these loners back. While the young MC is a newcomer to a country and school, I think the story will resonate with others, too, as they face any new situations.

Sanna’s warm color palate and the rounded curves she uses to depict Fear exude a feeling of comfort.

A Note about Craft:

As in her debut picture book, The Journey, Sanna has chosen to not name the Main Character, thus providing an Everyman-type of story. She also uses first-person point of view which, I think, brings an immediacy to the story. Interestingly, the MC in Me and My Fear is the same MC as in The Journey, so that this book is, in effect, a continuation of the refugee’s journey.

An illustrator-author, Sanna tells much of the story in illustrations only, and it’s a low word-count picture book. Sanna pictures Fear as a ghost-like creature, similar, in my mind, to Beekle, in Dan Santat’s The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. By making Fear a character, Sanna can show readers how Fear accompanies the young girl, demonstrate how it grows, and even, in one full-page spread, show how the MC must carry Fear on her back.

When I first read the title, Me and My Fear, I was a bit perplexed. Wouldn’t “I and My Fear,” or “My Fear and Me” be more grammatically correct? But then it struck me: the title hearkens back to an old song title: Me and My Shadow. It thus puts the MC’s experience into context: Fear has accompanied people throughout history and in many places, and it continues to do so.

From the publisher’s website, I learned that Me and My Fear “is based on research that creator Francesca Sanna did in classrooms—asking children to draw their fears and encouraging them to talk about what made them afraid.” I also learned that Amnesty International has endorsed it.

The publisher, Flying Eye Books (FEB, for short),  “is the children’s imprint of award-winning visual publishing house Nobrow. Established in early 2013, FEB sought to retain the same attention to detail in design and excellence in illustrated content as its parent publisher, but with a focus on the craft of children’s storytelling and non-fiction.”

Visit Sanna’s website to see more of her work, including illustrations from The Journey, one of the first picture books to shed light on the current refugee crisis in Europe.

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

Perfect Pairing – Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month

As we’re midway through National Hispanic Heritage Month, I’m celebrating with picture books about Mexican visual and performing artists by a talented Mexican & American illustrator/author.

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Danza!: Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México

Author & Illustrator: Duncan Tonatiuh

Publisher/Date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/2017

Ages: 6-10

Themes: dancer; biography; Mexican culture

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Award-winning author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh tells the story of Amalia Hernández, dancer and founder of El Ballet Folklórico de México. 
Published in time for the 100th anniversary of Hernández’s birth, Danza! is the first picture book about the famous dancer and choreographer.
Danza! is a celebration of Hernández’s life and of the rich history of dance in Mexico. As a child, Amalia always thought she would grow up to be a teacher, until she saw a performance of dancers in her town square. She was fascinated by the way the dancers twirled and swayed, and she knew that someday she would be a dancer, too. She began to study many different types of dance, including ballet and modern, under some of the best teachers in the world. Hernández traveled throughout Mexico studying and learning regional dances. Soon she founded her own dance company, El Ballet Folklórico de México, where she integrated her knowledge of ballet and modern dance with folkloric dances. The group began to perform all over the country and soon all over the world, becoming an international sensation that still tours today….

With Tonatiuh’s distinctive Mixtec-inspired artwork and colorful drawings that seem to leap off the page, Danza! will enthrall and inspire young readers with the fascinating story of this important dancer and choreographer.

Read my review. Danza! is the 2018 Américas Award winner, which was presented in Washington, DC, this past Friday, 28 September.

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Diego Rivera: His World and Ours

Author & Illustrator: Duncan Tonatiuh

Publisher/Date: Abrams/2011

Ages: 5-9
Themes: artist; biography; Mexican culture

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

This charming book introduces one of the most popular artists of the twentieth century, Diego Rivera, to young readers. It tells the story of Diego as a young, mischievous boy who demonstrated a clear passion for art and then went on to become one of the most famous painters in the world.
Duncan Tonatiuh also prompts readers to think about what Diego would paint today. Just as Diego’s murals depicted great historical events in Mexican culture or celebrated native peoples, if Diego were painting today, what would his artwork depict? How would his paintings reflect today’s culture?

Read a review at CCBC.

I paired these books because they celebrate important figures of Mexican culture, and Tonatiuh brought both artists to life with his distinctive Mixtec illustration style.

Looking for similar reads? See the list of past Américas Award winners and honor picture books, including All the Way to Havana (Margarita Engle/Mike Curato, 2017). See other books by Duncan Tonatiuh, including Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s TaleThe Princess and the Warrior, and Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight.