Monthly Archives: September 2019

PPBF – Wallpaper

I discovered today’s Perfect Picture Book while reading a blog post at Gathering Books. The title and cover intrigued me, and, luckily, I was able to obtain a copy through the interlibrary loan network (what would we do without it!).

Title: Wallpaper

Written & Illustrated By: Thao Lam

Publisher/Date: Owlkids Books, a division of Bayard Canada/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: moving, making friends, fantasy, courage

Opening:

Blah-blah, blah-blah-blah, blah-blah

Brief Synopsis: In this virtually wordless picture book, a young girl struggling to adapt to a new home and neighborhood discovers a fantastical world hidden under the wallpaper of her new bedroom.

Links to Resources:

  • Sometimes we all feel shy or afraid. What scares you? What do you do when you’re scared or feeling shy?
  • Design a wallpaper pattern for your bedroom;
  • Create a collage with wallpaper scraps.

Why I Like this Book:

Moving is one of the more difficult transitions anyone can undertake. And for a shy person, as the unnamed main character in Wallpaper undoubtedly is, it’s even more difficult. When she notices children playing in a tree house near her window and waving at her, the poor girl is too shy or frightened to wave back. Instead, she enters a world that she uncovers hidden within layers of wallpaper in her new bedroom. There she discovers a monster. A lively chase entails until the young girl discovers that if a monster can be a friend, perhaps the children in her new neighborhood can be friends, too.

Because it’s virtually wordless, Wallpaper will be a wonderful read together story that creates an opportunity to discuss overcoming the fear of something that is unknown or different, including moving to a new home, neighborhood and school. For those who haven’t experienced a move, it hopefully will help them empathize with new neighbors and classmates and welcome them.

Illustrated with bright, intricate collages, Wallpaper invites readers to marvel at what may lie hidden below the surface of wherever they may find themselves.

A Note about Craft:

I’m not an illustrator, and I’m always in awe of the emotions an illustrator can evoke via pictures. By limiting the text to a few sounds only, I think Lam enables readers to tell the story via their own words, and perhaps, in doing so, share what’s troubling them.

Visit Lam’s website to view more of her work.

Owlkids Books is a Canadian publisher that “publishes entertaining, unique, high-quality books and magazines that nurture the potential of children and instill in them a love of reading and learning — about themselves and the world around them.”

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

 

Perfect Pairing Visits Polar Bears

I generally think about the subject of today’s Perfect Pairing in winter time, when it’s cold outside. But given the increased warming of our world, I think any time of year is a good time to learn about these Arctic creatures. Don’t you agree?

Polar Bear Island

Written By: Lindsay Bonilla

Illustrated By: Cinta Villalobos

Publisher/DateSterling Children’s Books/2018

Ages: 3 and up

Themes: inclusivity, polar bears, penguins, differences, immigration, welcoming others

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When Kirby, a fun-loving penguin, arrives on Polar Bear Island, she shakes things up—much to the dismay of Parker, the mayor. Will Parker learn to see how great it is to make new friends? Or will he chase Kirby away . . . forever? 
“Welcome to Polar Bear Island. NO OTHERS ALLOWED!” Parker is the mayor of this peaceful, predictable island, and he wants to keep it just the way it is. But Kirby, a penguin, thinks the place is paradise, and she wants to stay. Parker says no, but the other polar bears love Kirby —and soon they’re begging Parker to let Kirby (and her family) move in. Will Parker agree . . . and make the island fun for EVERYONE? With its gentle message of inclusivity, this playful and lighthearted story will delight children.

Read my review.

 

Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival

Author & Illustrator: Lindsay Moore

Publisher/Date: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers/2019

Ages: 4-9

Themes: polar bears, family, perseverance, nonfiction, climate change

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Imagine you are a polar bear.

Your coat is thick. Your teeth are sharp.

Your front paws are paddles, your back paws are rudders, and you can swim for miles.

Your home has always been the sea and the ice.

A sea bear, far north in the Arctic, hunts and naps and raises her young. She moves with the ice, swimming, running, stalking seals, resting. She follows the rhythm of the sea and the seasons.

But what happens when those rhythms change? What happens when there is no ice?

Lindsay Moore shares the story of one polar bear’s journey for survival in this stunning picture book.

Imagine. 

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because both feature polar bears. While Polar Bear Island is a work of fiction and its main themes are welcoming others and immigrants, climate change is causing some people and animals to flee their homes and search for better lives elsewhere. With its emphasis on climate change, its informative back matter, and its text told in lyrical language from the perspective of a polar bear, Sea Bear is, I think, a wonderful book to pair with it.

PPBF – Sea Prayer

The news, tragically, continues to be dominated by stories of refugees, whether those fleeing violence, those seeking better lives for themselves or for their children, or those displaced by climate change. Today’s Perfect Picture Book features a pair of refugees with prayers for a better life.

Title: Sea Prayer

Written By: Khaled Hosseini

Illustrated By: Dan Williams

Publisher/Date: Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House/2018

Suitable for Ages: 8 and up

Themes/Topics: refugees, family, Syria

Opening:

My dear Marwan, in the long summers of childhood, when I was a boy the age you are now, your uncles and I spread our mattress on the roof of your grandfather’s farmhouse outside of Homs.

Brief Synopsis: A father addresses his sleeping son to share his memories of the life they’re leaving in Syria and his hopes for a future free of conflict.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about the geography and rich history of Syria before the current conflicts;
  • Learn more about the refugee experience with materials from Amnesty International;
  • If you were going on a journey, what would you bring? Choose three favorite toys or books that you’d bring along.

Why I Like this Book:

With lyrical, heartfelt text, an unnamed father addresses his young son, as the pair await a boat to flee from the conflict in Syria. First recalling his hometown of Homs, as it was before the war and as he believes his son will never experience it, the father then anticipates the future, starting with the sea voyage itself. Like parents everywhere trying to protect their children from fear, Marwan’s father downplays the dangers of the journey, and he pledges to protect Marwan. The story ends as the father prays that the sea realizes how precious a cargo is about to embark. And there the story ends, leaving the reader to hope, and pray, that the pair arrive safely on a welcoming shore, and that, at some future time, they are able to return to a Homs free from war.

Although Sea Prayer clearly is targeted to an older audience, I think it’s a wonderful way to build understanding and empathy for the plight of refugees, whether, as here, they are fleeing conflict, or whether they’re forced to flee due to economic need or climate change.

Williams’ haunting watercolors are a perfect accompaniment to Hosseini’s emotional text. The image of a small, crowded dingy on roiling seas is particularly effective.

A Note about Craft:

In an end note, Hosseini shares that he was inspired to write Sea Prayer in response to the death of Alan Kurdi, the young Syrian boy who drowned enroute to Europe in 2015 and whose photograph on the beach appeared worldwide. From this inspiration, Hosseini, an Afghan and author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns who has spent much of his life in the United States, penned this story. He utilizes first-person point-of-view which draws the reader into the scene, encouraging us to hope, and pray, that the unnamed father’s prayer is answered and that young Marwan does not suffer the fate of Alan Kurdi and so many other children and adults.

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

 

Perfect Pairing Celebrates Creativity and International Dot Day.

It’s September 15-ish, give or take 2 days, a perfect time to celebrate creativity and International Dot Day! And how better to celebrate than by featuring the original story and another one by their original creator.

The Dot

Author & Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2003

Ages: 4-8

Themes: creativity, art, self-confidence

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

With a simple, witty story and free-spirited illustrations, Peter H. Reynolds entices even the stubbornly uncreative among us to make a mark — and follow where it takes us.

Her teacher smiled. “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.”

Art class is over, but Vashti is sitting glued to her chair in front of a blank piece of paper. The words of her teacher are a gentle invitation to express herself. But Vashti can’t draw – she’s no artist. To prove her point, Vashti jabs at a blank sheet of paper to make an unremarkable and angry mark. “There!” she says.

That one little dot marks the beginning of Vashti’s journey of surprise and self-discovery. That special moment is the core of Peter H. Reynolds’s delicate fable about the creative spirit in all of us.

Read a review at Life Lessons for Little Ones.

 

Happy Dreamer

Author & Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds

Publisher/Date: Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc./2017

Ages:  4-8

Themes: day dreams, creativity, self-expression

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A celebration of the colorful spectrum of what it means to dream and the many ways to find happy!

While the world tells us to sit still, to follow the rules, and to color inside the lines, Happy Dreamer celebrates all those moments in between when the mind and spirit soar and we are free to become our own true dreamer maximus!

Read a review at Children’s Books Heal.

I paired these books because both celebrate creativity and the joy that arises when you make your mark on the world.

Looking for similar reads?

Visit Peter H. Reynolds’ website to discover more of his inspiring books. See also my post for Dot Day last September, when I paired The Dot with one of my favorite books about the power of creativity, When I Coloured in the World.

And my dot, you ask? I call it dawn at sea, as I dream of a healthy world filled with love and peace.

PPBF – Sleep Well, Siba & Saba

I’m keeping with the back-to-school theme this week, as I always think of school in September. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that they both start with the letter S, as do the names of the main characters of today’s Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Sleep Well, Siba & Saba

Written By: Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl

Illustrated By: Sandra van Doorn

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing Ltd./2017

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: school, lost possessions, dreams, #ReadYourWorld

Opening:

Siba and Saba lost things. Not a day slipped by when the sisters hadn’t lost something…somewhere.

Brief Synopsis: Two sisters in Uganda dream of items they’ve lost each day, until one day their dreams are of the future.

Links to Resources:

  • Discover Uganda, in central Africa, the setting for this story;
  • Have you ever lost something? What did you do? Describe or draw something you’ve lost. Did you find it? How did you feel?
  • Describe or draw a dream you’ve had.

Why I Like this Book:

With its two loving sisters and snippets of their lives in Uganda, Sleep Well, Siba & Saba acts as a window into a place and lifestyle that many of us probably may never experience. As the story begins, the reader learns that the two sisters constantly are losing things, like scarves and shoes, everything except what really matters: each other. Each night, the sisters dream of the items they’ve lost. Often these dreams incorporate colorful scenes from Uganda, including the savannah and landmarks like Sipi Falls and Ssese Islands.

But one night, the girls’ dreams turn from past lost items to the future, including, for Saba, a new school uniform. In the final spread, the sisters encounter a signpost with several international cities, Mount Everest and the moon featured – as they dream of the future, who knows what they’ll see.

I love the positivity of this story. Incorporating Ugandan phrases and names and utilizing lyrical language, Sleep Well, Siba & Saba transported me into their fantasy-filled world. I especially loved the whimsical and colorful illustrations filled with the fabrics, wildlife and plants native to Uganda. And I think younger children will enjoy finding their pet dog in most scenes. Even she dreams of future treats!

A Note about Craft:

As mentioned above, Isdahl includes Ugandan phrases, names, and landmarks to place us in the story. Van Doorn furthers this by including sweeping savannahs and colorful fabrics throughout the spreads. By incorporating dreams and fantastical illustrations, I think the author and illustrator heighten the sense that we’re visiting a unique world where dreams, in fact, come true. That a school uniform is part of that dream shows, I think, that education is the way for Siba and Saba, and all readers, to reach their goals – even the moon.

Sleep Well, Siba & Saba is Isdahl’s debut picture book. Isdahl, an American-born writer of Ugandan descent who now lives and works in Africa, is also the author of Sing to the Moon, illustrated by van Doorn. View more of van Doorn’s illustrations at her website.

Lantana Publishing is an independent UK publisher, “an award-winning social enterprise with a mission to see all children reflected in the books they read.”

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

Perfect Pairing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Speeches

As we approach another anniversary of one of the saddest dates in history, I couldn’t help but remember the days that followed, during which world leaders and preachers attempted to bring comfort and courage to many. Although Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not among those preachers, his words spoken decades before were in my mind and heart then, and they continue to bring comfort and courage to many now, as he preached of dreams and unity and hope for all.

A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that inspired a Nation

Author: Barry Wittenstein

Illustrator: Jerry Pinkney

Publisher/Date: Neal Porter Books (Holiday House Publishing, Inc.)/2019

Ages: 7-10

Themes: Martin Luther King; Civil Rights; March on Washington; I Have a Dream speech

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Much has been written about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 1963 March on Washington. But there’s little on his legendary speech and how he came to write it. Find out more in this gripping book with illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was once asked if the hardest part of preaching was knowing where to begin. No, he said. The hardest part is knowing where to end. “It’s terrible to be circling up there without a place to land.”
Finding this place to land was what Martin Luther King, Jr. struggled with, alongside advisors and fellow speech writers, in the Willard Hotel the night before the March on Washington, where he gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. But those famous words were never intended to be heard on that day, not even written down for that day, not even once.

Barry Wittenstein teams up with legendary illustrator Jerry Pinkney to tell the story of how, against all odds, Martin found his place to land.

Read a review at Picture Books Help Kids Soar.

 

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968

Author: Alice Faye Duncan

Illustrator: R. Gregory Christie

Publisher/Date: Calkins Creek (an imprint of Highlights)/2018

Ages: 9-12

Themes: Martin Luther King, Civil Rights, protest

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

This historical fiction picture book presents the story of nine-year-old Lorraine Jackson, who in 1968 witnessed the Memphis sanitation strike–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final stand for justice before his assassination–when her father, a sanitation worker, participated in the protest.
In February 1968, two African American sanitation workers were killed by unsafe equipment in Memphis, Tennessee. Outraged at the city’s refusal to recognize a labor union that would fight for higher pay and safer working conditions, sanitation workers went on strike. The strike lasted two months, during which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was called to help with the protests. While his presence was greatly inspiring to the community, this unfortunately would be his last stand for justice. He was assassinated in his Memphis hotel the day after delivering his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon in Mason Temple Church. Inspired by the memories of a teacher who participated in the strike as a child, author Alice Faye Duncan reveals the story of the Memphis sanitation strike from the perspective of a young girl with a riveting combination of poetry and prose.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because I believe that reading them together will help children gain a more complete picture of this epic era and the legacy of Dr. King and his dreams. In A Place to Land, Wittenstein explores the genesis of King’s most well-known speech and shows that its impact arises not just from the ideas of Dr. King but also from the preacher’s passion that infused his speech and inspires us still. In Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, Duncan “mined” history books and the “memories of a Memphis teacher” who had marched as a young girl and whose father was a striking sanitation worker. Duncan tells the story in short, poetic vignettes (quotations from Introduction). Both texts include wonderful backmatter to further readers’ experiences.

Looking for similar reads?

See, I Have a Dream, the words of Dr. King’s well-known speech paired with paintings by Kadir Nelson (2012) and Martin Rising: Requiem for a King, Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney (2018).

PPBF – Neema’s Reason to Smile

I was fortunate to win today’s Perfect Picture Book in a giveaway late last year from Pragmatic Mom. It was reviewed for Children’s Multicultural Book Day this past January by my friend, Vivian Kirkfield, so I wanted to wait until just the right time to review it, too. Because so many kids are returning to school this month, I think today is the perfect time. I hope you agree!

Title: Neema’s Reason to Smile

Written By: Patricia Newman

Illustrated By: Mehrdokht Amini

Publisher/Date: Lightswitch Learning, a Sussman Education company/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: school, Africa, poverty, dreams

Opening:

Mama and I climb the hill to our favorite rock overlooking the savanna. We dream of the future while elephant take mud baths in the fading light.

Brief Synopsis:

Young Neema dreams of attending school to better her life, and, with her Mama, works hard to fill the Dream Basket to collect money for school fees.

Links to Resources:

  • Create your own Dream Basket, by following the instructions in the book. What will you do with the money you collect? Buy something for yourself, a family member or friend? Donate to a favorite cause?
  • Neema walks to and from school each day. How do you get to school? Describe in words or pictures your route to school;
  • Describe in words or pictures something that makes you smile;
  • Learn about the real school on which Neema’s school is based, the Jambo Jipya School in Mtwapa, Kenya, and see how you might support its work through the reason2smile organization.

Why I Like this Book:

As children in much of the world head back to school this month, I think this is a perfect book to explore how much education means to so many in this world. Set in an unnamed African village, Neema’s Reason to Smile follows young Neema as she dreams of attending school. But attending school in her region costs money, for school fees, supplies, and a uniform. So Neema helps by selling fruit that she carries on her head to the village, and Mama sews to add, slowly, to the Dream Basket of coins.

Just as Neema worries that they’ll never earn enough to pay for school, they learn that maybe the Basket holds enough after all (I won’t spoil the ending by sharing any details).

Newman peppers the story with references to local characters and comparisons to animals found in the savannah, like the lion, gazelle, egret, and zebra.

Amini’s vibrant and colorful illustrations made me feel like I was journeying with Neema to the village and school.

Whether you read this at home with your school-aged child or in a classroom setting, I think kids and adults will enjoy learning about how one girl dreams of a better future and how she works hard to achieve that goal. Included are Discussion Questions, Activities, a Group Activity, Author’s Note and Glossary to further your knowledge.

A Note about Craft:

In an Author’s Note, Newman informs readers that the idea for Neema’s Reason to Smile arose from a phone call with a librarian in New York City who wanted to share the story of a real school in Kenya, on which Neema’s school is based. After many telephone calls with the school’s founders and teachers and after viewing many videos of the school and students, Newman wrote this fictional story which highlights the desire for learning exhibited by the real students and their perseverance to attend school. Creating a fictional main character and story while remaining true to the experiences of actual students enables Newman to draw a more complete picture of the school, I think, and better incorporate universal themes into the story.

Visit Newman’s website to see more of her books that “empower young readers to act”.

Amini was born in Iran but currently lives in England. Visit her website to see more of her 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!