Monthly Archives: August 2019

PPBF – Tahmineh’s Beautiful Bird

As we near the “unofficial” end of summer with September looming and kids heading back to school, I want to feature a Perfect Picture Book that captures the joy and beauty of summer landscapes. I think today’s choice does just that.

Title: Tahmineh’s Beautiful Bird

Written and Illustrated By: Parviz Kalantari

Publisher/Date: Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd./2015 (originally published in Persian, Chekkeh Publisher, Tehran, Iran/2012)

Translated By: Azita Rassi

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Iran, nature, handicrafts, memory, #ReadYourWorld

Opening:

It was summer, and Tahmineh’s tribe were living with their animals on the grassy high pastures. When winter came they would pack everything up, and move down to the lower plains. But Tahmineh liked the summer pastures best.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl tries to preserve the lovely sounds of a beautiful bird of summer using her artistic skills.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

In this vibrantly illustrated picture book, Kalantari introduces readers to a little-known people, the nomadic Qahqai tribespeople, while exploring a universal theme, the desire to capture beauty, but doing so in a way that doesn’t harm the natural world. Like the main character, Tahmineh, I think children will be charmed by the appearance of a beautiful songbird that shares its gorgeous melody. I think, too, that they will be intrigued by the idea of capturing the “memory” of the bird and by Tahmineh’s method of doing so.

Although capturing the memory as Tahmineh does may not occur to many young readers, they will understand the need to keep the memory, while allowing the bird to remain free. And the magical ending is sure to please young and old readers alike.

A Note about Craft:

While focusing on the lives and traditional crafts of a little-known nomadic tribe, Kalantari manages to explore a universal issue, too: enjoying nature without harming it. I think Kalantari manages this duality well: I was intrigued to learn more about Tahmineh and her tribal culture, and I was so happy to learn that she and her family care about something that I care about. I think that by showing how we are similar to Tahmineh and her fellow Qahqai tribespeople, it encourages readers to want to learn more about them.

Per the publisher, Kalantari is a prominent Iranian writer, illustrator and painter who focuses on the “everyday life of nomad tribes, desert people, and those living by the sea.”

Tiny Owl Publishing is a UK-based independent publisher of beautiful and thought-provoking picture books, many of them by Iranian authors and/or illustrators.

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 – Caribbean Canvas

I found today’s Perfect Picture Book in my local library, and I was excited to see that it’s illustrated by a favorite artist who has long painted this beautiful part of the world.

Title: Caribbean Canvas

Written  & Illustrated By: Frané Lessac

Publisher/Date: J.B. Lippincott, a division of Macmillan Publishers/1987

Suitable for Ages: all

Themes/Topics: poetry, Caribbean islands, multicultural

Opening:

The Song of the Banana Man

Up in de hills, where the streams are cool,/ Where mullet an’ janga swim in de pool,/ I have ten acres of mountain side,/ An’ a dainty-foot donkey dat I ride,/ Four Gros Michel, an’ four Lacatan,/ Some coconut trees, and some hills of yam,/ An’ I pasture on dat very same lan’/ Five she-goats an’ a big black ram. (Evan Jones)

Brief Synopsis: A series of poems and proverbs featuring Caribbean stories and culture and accompanied by paintings by Lessac.

Links to Resources:

  • Draw a picture of a place you enjoy living or visiting;
  • Learn more about the many varied islands of the Caribbean region.

Why I Like this Book:

In this classic collection of 19 poems written by various Caribbean-based poets and a few proverbs paired with her colorfully-detailed, folk-art paintings, Lessac introduces several Caribbean islands to young readers. I love how the various cultures are shared through the words and pictures, depicting a multicultural world of villages, farms and market squares, and the sea.

In Una Marson’s poem, Kinky Hair Blues, the poet shares that she “don’t envy gals/What got dose locks so fair” and instead prefers her own “kinky hair”.  I love the empowering self-acceptance! Similar to the story of the Big Bad Wolf, a West Indian proverb notes that you don’t need to worry about a hurricane if you’ve prepared and live in a cement house. And a few poets discuss their hesitation to leave small islands via emigration or death.

Although the vernacular poetry is at times difficult to read aloud (see the opening, above), I appreciate that it includes the rhythms and vocabulary of island speakers. I also was pleased to discover a celebration of the multicultural aspects of this region, published over 30 years ago.

A Note about Craft:

More anthology than picture book per se, Lessac’s exploration of the Caribbean islands truly is a “canvas” of this varied region. By pairing her own vibrant paintings with the words of native poets, I think she offers a celebration for those who call or called the Caribbean islands “home” and an introduction for those not familiar with the region.

Visit Lessac’s website to view more of her artwork and books.

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!

Perfect Pairing – of Grandparents & Balloons

I saw the first book featured today on a shelf in my local library, and I immediately thought of one of my favorite picture books from last year – the recipe, in my mind, for a perfect pairing! Note, too, the publication date of the first book featured and its inclusion of a multicultural family.

 

A Balloon for Grandad

Author: Nigel Gray

Illustrator: Jane Ray

Publisher/Date: Orchard Books, a division of Franklin Watts, Inc./1988

Ages: 4-7

Themes: intergenerational, multicultural, balloons, family, imagination

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Unhappy when he loses his silver and red balloon, Sam is comforted by imagining it on its way to visit his grandfather in Egypt.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

The Remember Balloons

Author: Jessie Oliveros

Illustrator: Dana Wulfekotte

Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/2018

Ages: 5-9

Themes: intergenerational, memories, balloons, family

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.

But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!

Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.

Read a review at Children’s Books Heal.

I paired these books because they feature intergenerational stories in which balloons play an important role. In A Balloon for Grandad, the thought that his lost balloon may be traveling to visit Grandad far away consoles Sam, whereas in The Remember Balloons, the balloons symbolize the memories that bind James and his beloved grandfather. Both books feature loving families and deal with difficult topics: the distance that separates many loved ones and memory loss in older relatives.

Looking for similar reads? See Grandad’s Island.

PPBF – Seven Pablos

I’ve wanted to read, and review, today’s Perfect Picture Book from the first day that I learned about it. I put in a hold request at my local library, and there it sat, unfilled for months, until it arrived…when I was traveling! Imagine my surprise when the book magically appeared on the New Books shelf late last week: maybe a staff member read it and decided that my little library needed a copy of its own perhaps?

Title: Seven Pablos

Written By: Jorge Luján

Illustrated By: Chiara Carrer

Translated from Spanish By: Mara Lethem

Publisher/Date: Enchanted Lion Books/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: names, South America, immigrants, multicultural

Opening:

Pablo is eight years old and lives in Chile. His father works in a copper mine, where he spends his days drilling into the rock half a mile underground It is cold down there, but he sweats nonstop.

Brief Synopsis: Short vignettes featuring seven different boys named Pablo leading different lives across the Americas, but sharing similarities.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn more about the countries in South America where many of the Pablos live;
  • Do you share a name with someone? How are you the same or different?
  • Ask a parent or caregiver about the meaning of your name and why they chose that name for you.

Why I Like this Book:

In Seven Pablos, Luján provides glimpses into the lives of seven young boys living in Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, New York City, and Peru. All face economic and other hardships. Pablo in Brazil rummages through garbage in a favela in Rio de Janeiro. He doesn’t attend school, because he lacks paper, a pencil, and shoes. One Pablo in Mexico is a refugee from the Argentinian dictatorship and lost several relatives during that regime. Another Pablo in Mexico is attempting to cross the border to follow his parents into the US.  Pablo in New York City is the son of immigrants from Guyana, living in one room with his parents for half of each day, while cousins occupy the room for the other half. The Pablos in Chile, Ecuador and Peru also face hardships.

Despite these hardships, the Pablos share not only their names but also loving families, even when the families consist of a single parent only or are in a different location. And it’s clear that these Pablos share dreams of a better life – whether in the United States, in school in Brazil, or in an Ecuadoran village listening to the music of traveling musicians. As Luján notes at the end, Inside of each is a heart that beats with the same rhythm as the ocean’s waves and the rotations of the planet.

Although there is little story line and only snippets of information about each Pablo, I think Seven Pablos is a timely and important book for classroom and family discussion as issues of immigration and race feature on the news each night. With its message of hope and inclusion at the end, and Carrer’s child-like color and graphite illustrations, I found Seven Pablos to be a haunting read, whose glimpses into these varied lives will linger.

A Note about Craft:

Luján uses one name to tie the stories of seven different South and Central American children together. Although he could have focused on just one of the children, by featuring seven, I think he brings breadth to the issues facing children in economically-challenged households in a way that focusing on one child may not have done.

Luján is an Argentinian poet, novelist and musician living in Mexico.

Carrer is an award-winning Italian illustrator.

Enchanted Lion Books is an independent children’s book publisher based in Brooklyn, New York, that publishes “illustrated books from around the world”.

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!

Perfect Pairing – for a Cloudy Day

I found these two new picture books sitting on a shelf near each other in the Children’s Room at the New York Public Library. Perhaps it was a hint that they’d make a perfect pairing?

Lola Shapes the Sky

Author: Wendy Greenley

Illustrator: Paolo Domeniconi

Publisher/Date: Creative Editions/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: clouds, imagination, creativity, weather, acceptance

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A cloud with a mind of her own and a gift for making awe-inspiring shapes encourages her friends to go beyond their practical functions and expand their imaginative horizons.

Read a review by Julie Rowan-Zoch.

Picture the Sky

Author & Illustrator: Barbara Reid

Publisher/Date: Scholastic Canada/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: sky, clouds, environment, emotions, art, weather

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In this companion to the bestselling Picture a Tree, Barbara Reid has us look up . . . way up

Wherever we may be, we share the same sky. But every hour, every day, every season, whether in the city or the forest, it is different. The sky tells many stories: in the weather, in the clouds, in the stars, in the imagination. Renowned artist Barbara Reid brings her unique vision to a new topic – the sky around us. In brilliant Plasticine illustrations, she envisions the sky above and around us in all its moods.

Picture the sky. How do you feel?

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because they both encourage readers to imaginatively look up at the sky, and find magic in the clouds. But while the folks down on the ground are the main characters of Picture the Sky, the clouds, and in particular, Lola, take center stage in Lola Shapes the Sky.

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Under the Same Sky

 

Regular readers know that I often feature picture books dealing with tougher topics. But this week, I needed to read a hopeful book that focuses on community, how aspects we share unite us, regardless of species. When I picked up today’s Perfect Picture Book in the Children’s Room of the New York Public Library, I knew I found that book.

Title: Under the Same Sky

Written & Illustrated By: Britta Teckentrup

Publisher/Date: Tiger Tales/2018 (originally published in Great Britain, Caterpillar Books/2017)

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: rhyming, shared hopes, shared dreams, community, animals, imagination

Opening:

We live under the same sky…in lands near and far. We live under the same sky…wherever we are.

Brief Synopsis: A lyrical celebration of the bonds that unite us all.

Links to Resources:

  • Think of some of the ways that you are the same as a family member, friend, someone you pass on a playground;
  • The sun shines during all seasons, all over the world. Draw pictures showing the sun shining on a snowy day, in the desert, on a lake or ocean, by your own home.

Why I Like this Book:

In short, poetic text, using lovely illustrations of different animal species, Teckentrup celebrates the many natural elements that unite the world. A quiet book, Under the Same Sky will be a reassuring bedtime favorite for families with younger children. I especially liked the last spread, showing all of the animals together under a full moon and starlit sky and its message of unity. What a wonderful way to fall asleep, reminded that our hopes and dreams unite us.

The collaged illustrations in soft, pastel hues provide soothing accompaniments to the gentle text. I think kids will enjoy the cut outs, as they follow along on this exploration of community.

A Note about Craft:

Teckentrup uses animals as the main characters in Under the Same Sky. I think this will appeal to young children, especially as many young animals are depicted.

Cut outs are used in the pages to great effect, as phrases, such as that shown above, appear on one page and then after the page turn to emphasize text.

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!

 

Perfect Pairing – Visits the Library Lions

I live in the New York metropolitan region and have had the pleasure of visiting the New York Public Library and seeing the lions who are the stars of this pairing. For those who aren’t able to visit New York City, I think these books, read together, will introduce you to this amazing duo who welcome readers into this wonderful library.

 

Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience & Fortitude

Author: Josh Funk

Illustrator: Stevie Lewis

Publisher/Date:

Ages: 5-7

Themes: New York Public Library, library lions, fantasy, imagination, rhyming

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Steadfast Fortitude and curious Patience are waiting every morning to greet visitors of the Library.

That is until, one early morning, when Fortitude finds Patience is missing. The city is about to awake, and the lions absolutely must be in their places before the sun rises. Now, Fortitude must abandon his own post to find his best friend in the Library’s labyrinthine halls.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

The Night Library

Author: David Zeltser

Illustrator: Raul Colón

Publisher/Date: Random House/2019

Ages:  3-7

Themes: New York Public Library, grief, magic of books, library lions, fantasy, imagination

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The Polar Express meets The Night at the Museum in this fantastical picture-book adventure about the magic of books and libraries, perfect for book lovers of all ages!

After a young boy goes to sleep upset that he’s getting a book for his birthday, he’s visited in the night by Patience and Fortitude, the two stone lions who guard the New York Public Library. Soon, he’s magically whisked away from his cozy home in the Bronx, and the two mighty lions show him the wonder of the library. There, the inquisitive Latino boy discovers the power of books and their role not only in his own life, but also in the lives of the people he loves.

Raul Colon’s gorgeous, rich art creates an immersive world in this book about books, which is sure to capture the imaginations of kids and adults and inspire them to grab their library cards and dive into the worlds of stories.

Read a review at The Picture Book Buzz.

I paired these books because they both feature the two famous lions that flank the entrance of the main branch of the New York Public Library: Patience and Fortitude. But while the focus of Lost in the Library is the pair of lions, a young boy who has stopped reading because he misses his deceased grandfather is the main character of The Night Library.

Looking for similar reads?

See my pairing of two other picture books featuring stone lions that come to life.