Monthly Archives: October 2019

Perfect Pairing – of Environmental Picture Books

A friend has undertaken the no-plastic challenge this month, and she has featured some terrific new picture books about the environment on her blog. I couldn’t help pairing two of them here to help get the word out that someone is never too young to reduce waste.

 

Join the No-Plastic Challenge! A First Book of Reducing Waste 

Author & Illustrator: Scot Ritchie

Publisher/Date: Kids Can Press/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: no-plastic challenge, waste, pollution, ocean, environmental action

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

For his birthday celebration, Nick has challenged his friends – Yulee, Sally, Pedro and Martin – to spend the day without using any single-use plastic. This means they use their own cloth bags for shopping, they say no thanks to plastic straws and, instead of balloons, they decorate with kites and streamers made of natural materials. The children discover that not using plastic is not that hard. They also learn about what plastic is made of, how much of it surrounds us and how it’s polluting our oceans and affecting the food chain. Most importantly, the five friends learn ways to use less – including just saying NO! The book concludes with fun ideas for readers to do a No-Plastic Challenge of their own!

This friendly introduction to a timely and urgent topic is part of Scot Ritchie’s popular Exploring Our Community series. It will raise awareness of just how much plastic we use every day, and why that matters. Rather than focusing on the negative, however, the book takes a positive, proactive approach to the subject, empowering children with ideas for what they can do about it. As with all the books in the series, this one features friendly, appealing illustrations and the same diverse cast of characters. It has strong curriculum ties in science, including environmental awareness, sustainability and stewardship. It also offers terrific character education lessons in responsibility, citizenship and initiative.

Read a review at Miss Marple’s Musings.

What a Waste: Trash, Recycling, and Protecting our Planet

Author & Illustrator: Jess French

Publisher/Date: DK Publishing (Penguin Random House)/2019

Ages: 6-11

Themes: recycling, trash, pollution, environmental action, oceans

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Everything you need to know about what we’re doing to our environment, good and bad, from pollution and litter to renewable energy and plastic recycling.

This environmental book will teach young ecologists about how our actions affect planet Earth. Discover shocking facts about the waste we produce and where it goes. Did you know that every single plastic toothbrush ever made still exists? Or that there’s a floating mass of garbage twice the size of Texas drifting around the Pacific Ocean?

It’s not all bad news though. As well as explaining where we’re going wrong, What a Waste shows what we’re doing right! Discover plans already in motion to save our seas, how countries are implementing schemes that are having a positive impact, and how your waste can be turned into something useful. Every small change helps our planet!

Read a review at Miss Marple’s Musings.

I paired these books because both encourage young children to be concerned about, and to take action to help, the environment. Combining fictional characters and a birthday party at the beach with information about plastic waste and the oceans, Join the No-Plastic Challenge! is particularly well-suited to very young children, as more in-depth information is set apart from the story line, and there are many places in the illustrations that could give rise to discussion (I particularly liked a spread pointing out the many plastics found in a home). At 72 pages and with a glossary, “find out more” section, and index, What a Waste is better suited to a somewhat older audience, I think, and would be a tremendous resource in a classroom or for a school library. Both books, I think, will foster discussion about pollution and encourage even young children to use fewer single-use plastics.

Halloweensie Contest Entry – Mirror, Mirror

Unless you’ve been hiding under an apple barrel, I think you know what time of year it is. That’s right: leaves are falling, creatures are crawling, so it must be Halloweensie week!

OOOOOOHHHHH!

THE 9TH ANNUAL HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST!!!

~ FOR CHILDREN’S WRITERS ~ 

            Writers near and far are sharpening their pencils and exercising their typing fingers and minds to create, in the words of the extraordinary contest creator, Susanna Hill, “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 potion, cobweb, and trick.  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!).”

Please stop by Susanna’s blog to read more awesome entries!

Without further ado, my 96-word entry, the idea for which, true confession, occurred to me when I saw an advertisement for a magic, internet-connected mirror (now that is one scary mirror, in my humble opinion):

Mirror, Mirror

 

“Mirror, mirror on the wall! Make me ghastly and gruesome for the Hallow’s Eve Ball.”

“Try this potent lotion, your shadow will glow green. Then sip this toad’s blood potion to grow warts never seen.”

“If you add a cobweb necklace and braid eels through your hair, you can be the death of the party — a real howling scare.”

“Mirror, mirror on the wall! If this isn’t a trick, I’ll be the ghost of the Ball.”

“A trick not a treat? That would be such a foul feat! But you’re a ghost, so we’ll see…

                           MAYBE!”

 

 

 

PPBF – Boat of Dreams

Today’s perfect picture book has been on my “to review” shelf for a while now, awaiting the right time to review it. It’s not about refugees, those affected by immigration bans, or even by an author from a region affected by war. But its haunting illustrations, focus on journeys, and ambiguous storyline make it a perfect read as leaves begin to fall in the northern hemisphere, nights grow longer, and imaginations run wild.

Title: Boat of Dreams

Written & Illustrated By: Rogério Coelho

Publisher/Date: Tilbury House Publishers/2017

Suitable for Ages: 4 and up

Themes/Topics: wordless, aging, dreams, journeys, imagination, fantasy, loneliness

Opening: (from jacket flap)

How does an old man with an umbrella come to live on a desert island, his only companion a seagull? Ho do a boy and his cat come to live in an apparently deserted city? Are the man and the boy separated only by distance, or also by time? Are they the same person – the boy dwelling in the man’s memory? Between them, in a stoppered bottle, floats a piece of paper on which the man draws a flying boat and the boy imagines himself aboard.

Brief Synopsis: A fantastical, wordless picture book in which an older gentleman draws a ship and sends it to a young boy who adds himself to the picture, and then visits the man.

Links to Resources:

  • Design your own ship;
  • Plan a visit to an older relative or friend. How will you journey there? What will you do once you arrive?
  • Draw a picture for an older relative or friend of something you’d like to do with her or him;
  • Start a “chain” picture, with each person in the chain adding something to the original artwork until, at the end, you have a masterpiece created by two or more persons.

Why I Like this Book:

With its haunting, sepia-toned, intricate images and ambiguous storyline, Boat of Dreams is a wordless picture book that has stayed in my mind long after each reading.

As the story begins, an elderly man on a seemingly deserted island finds an empty piece of paper in a bottle. He draws a detailed flying boat and launches his creation into the sea by setting it afloat in the bottle. When an unnamed young boy living somewhere in an unnamed city finds the picture on his doorstep, he adds himself and his sidekick cat to the image. Either dreaming while asleep or actually journeying in this fantastical tale, the boy and his cat visit the gentleman, hand him the completed drawing, and then depart, leaving the picture behind, fastened to the wall above the man’s bed.

Coehlo never reveals who the two characters are or whether they’re one person at different stages of life. We never know where the story occurs, or if the journey actually happens. But the reader does know that two seemingly lonely people come together to create a piece of art that reflects both of them.

I personally would like to believe that the boy and the older man are grandson and grandfather, separated by distance but drawn together by a love of each other and creativity. I view the story as a way to show how togetherness is possible, despite distance or possibly even political barriers.

What’s wonderful about Boat of Dreams is that it’s open to interpretation, so children reading it may come to a different meaning that speaks to them.

A Note about Craft:

Whether the title refers to an imaginary journey undertaken while asleep, whether the aspirations of the young boy culminate in the life of the older man, or whether the older man is reflecting on the hopes he felt as a boy, I think the title, Boat of Dreams, is an apt one. I also think Coehlo’s use of color to indicate moods, from sepia to shades of blue, serves as a tool to further his storytelling and alert the reader to important happenings in the story.

Visit Coelho’s website to view more of this Brazilian illustrator’s 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!

Perfect Pairing – of Lively Grandparent Books

Although National Grandparents Day was earlier this fall, I think we should celebrate lively and fun grandparents every day. Don’t you agree?

 

I Love My GlamMa

Author: Samantha Berger

Illustrator: Sujean Rim

Publisher/Date: Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: grandmothers, fashion, family, young at heart

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A celebration of EVERY grandma’s glamorous ways — and the special love that glam-mas share with everything they do!
“Glam-mas don’t just come over… they make a grand entrance!
Glam-mas don’t just celebrate holidays… they celebrate everything!
Glam-mas don’t just carry a purse… they carry a treasure chest!”
A joyful celebration of grandmothers who are young at heart, adventurous, and find a bit of glamour in everything they do. Whether these glam-mas are building sandcastles, riding with dolphins, or turning blankets into reading forts and super capes, they live each day with a playful spirit — just like their grandchildren.
From the writer of Crankenstein and the illustrator of Birdie’s Big-Girl Shoes comes a playful and heartwarming ode to grandmas and grandchildren everywhere… because there’s nothing more glamorous than being a grandma.

Read a review at Grand: Living the Ageless Life.

 

The Truth About Grandparents

Author & Illustrator: Elina Ellis

Publisher/Date: Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: grandparents, family, stereotypes

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In this perfect gift for grandparents and grandchildren alike, a loving child reveals the truth behind assumptions that old people just aren’t any fun.

Grandparents are slow. Grandparents are scared of new things. And grandparents definitely don’t dance — right? A simple, playful storyline that children will love anticipating makes this a perfect read-aloud for modern families to share together. With sly humor and breezy, dynamic artwork in the tradition of Quentin Blake, this book is a fresh celebration of the special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because both shatter misperceptions that grandparents are decrepit, boring, old-fashioned, and resist new ideas. These are fun, quick reads that grandparents will enjoy sharing with their grandchildren, either when they visit in person, or perhaps via Skype or Facetime.

For more books about age-defying seniors and positive images of aging in children’s literature, see A is for Aging, B is for Books.

 

 

PPBF – The Proudest Blue

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the publication of this picture book since I first learned about it in a blog post last year. It’s finally in print, and I’m happy to share it here.

Title: The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family

Written By: Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali

Illustrated By: Hatem Aly

Publisher/Date: Little, Brown and Company/September 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: hijab, faith, Islam, sisters, bullying, rite of passage

Opening:

Mama holds out the pink. Mama loves pink. But Asiya shakes her head. I know why.

Behind the counter is the brightest blue. The color of the ocean, if you squint your eyes and pretend there’s no line between the water and the sky.

Brief Synopsis: When her older sister wears hijab for the first day of school, young Faizah is happy and proud, until some schoolmates use unkind words, and she must find a way to keep strong and true to her faith and family.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about hijab, the focus of this story, and the religious reasons for it;
  • What did you wear for the first day of school? Why did you choose that outfit? Draw a picture of yourself, a sibling, or a friend on the first day of school.

Why I Like this Book:

The Proudest Blue is a wonderful story of sisterly love, pride in one’s faith and religious practices, and the strength to be yourself. As Muhammad shares in an Author’s Note, she wrote this story so that young Muslim girls would see themselves in a picture book and take pride in their own choice of hijab, and to celebrate differences. I think she does this and more.

In Asiya, readers meet a young teen who celebrates her religious beliefs, her heritage, and her connection to her mother and older female relatives. She doesn’t follow blindly, however. Mama chooses pink, but Asiya desires the blue scarf. She wears it proudly.

Narrator and younger sister Faizah knows that blue is the color of the ocean and the sky, fit for a princess, like the sky on a sunny day, and a color that signifies strength. I especially loved how Faizah admires Asiya and looks forward to the day when she can wear hijab, too.

Aly’s colorfully vibrant illustrations change the focus from up close to further away and bring in an aspect of fantasy, as evidenced by the boat and blue waves in the cover illustration.

A Note about Craft:

Muhammad and Ali use first person point of view to tell this story. But the narrator isn’t the hijab-wearing Asiya, but her younger sister, Faizah. By letting readers experience this story through the eyes of Faizah, the authors add another layer to this coming-of-age story, the bond of sisterhood, and add a main character more relatable for the target picture book age group.

For an insightful review of this book, see Miss Marple’s Musings. 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 – is Bicycling

Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday, and he loves to bicycle. So I thought I’d share two picture books featuring children who also love to cycle.

 

In a Cloud of Dust

Author: Alma Fullerton

Illustrator: Brian Deines

Publisher/Date: Pajama Press/2015

Ages: 4-8

Themes: bicycles, diversity, education, disappointment, compassion

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In a Tanzanian village school, Anna struggles to keep up. Her walk home takes so long that when she arrives, it is too dark to do her homework. Working through the lunch hour instead, she doesn’t see the truck from the bicycle library pull into the schoolyard. By the time she gets out there, the bikes are all gone. Anna hides her disappointment, happy to help her friends learn to balance and steer. She doesn’t know a compassionate friend will offer her a clever solution—and the chance to raise her own cloud of dust. Brought to life by Brian Deines’ vivid oil paintings, Alma Fullerton’s simple, expressive prose captures the joy of feeling the wind on your face for the first time. Inspired by organizations like The Village Bicycle Project that have opened bicycle libraries all across Africa, In a Cloud of Dust is an uplifting example of how a simple opportunity can make a dramatic change in a child’s life.

Read my review.

 

 

The Patchwork Bike

Author: Maxine Beneba Clarke

Illustrator: Van T. Rudd

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2018 (first published in Australia by Hachette Australia/2016)

Ages: 6-9

Themes: bicycle, resourcefulness, play, poverty, imagination, North Africa, multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

What’s the best fun in the whole village? Riding the patchwork bike we made! A joyous picture book for children by award-winning author Maxine Beneba Clarke.

When you live in a village at the edge of the No-Go Desert, you need to make your own fun. That’s when you and your brothers get inventive and build a bike from scratch, using everyday items like an old milk pot (maybe mum is still using it, maybe not) and a used flour sack. You can even make a numberplate from bark, if you want. The end result is a spectacular bike, perfect for going bumpity-bump over sandhills, past your fed-up mum and right through your mud-for-walls home.

A delightful story from multi-award-winning author Maxine Beneba Clarke, beautifully illustrated by street artist Van T Rudd.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they feature bicycles and children, and, in both cases, economic hardship necessitates the use of either a homemade or donated bicycle. While the focus of In a Cloud of Dust is riding bikes to and from a rural school, the children in A Patchwork Bike use their creation to explore and have fun. In both books, I think readers learn the importance and joy of bicycles, even if they aren’t shiny and new.

PPBF – Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border

I first learned of today’s Perfect Picture Book when I read a wonderful review last month on Jilanne Hoffmann’s blog. Thank you, Jilanne, for sharing this timely picture book.  After reading your review and the book, I just had to feature it here, too.

Title: Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border

Written By: Mitali Perkins

Illustrated By: Sara Palacios

Publisher/Date: Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: border, family, separation, Latinx, grandmother, holidays, #OwnVoices

Opening:

Abuela stars in all of Mamá’s stories, but my only memory is a voice calling me “angelita.” We haven’t seen my grandmother in five years. But today is La Posada Sin Fronteras, and we are taking a bus to the border to meet her.

Brief Synopsis:

US residents María and her younger brother Juan haven’t seen their Mexican grandmother in five years, but they celebrate with her across a border fence on the holiday of La Posada Sin Fronteras.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about Las Posada, the nine-day festival leading up to Christmas, and La Posada Sin Fronteras (“The Inn Without Borders”) celebrated one day along the border between the United States and Mexico in the Author’s Note;
  • When you visit an older relative or friend, draw a picture to give to them;
  • Check out the additional resources on Mitali’s website.

Why I Like this Book:

Between Us and Abuela is a heart-warming story of love between family members separated by a border, and of one girl’s efforts to surmount the border to bring joy to her Mexican grandmother and her younger brother, Juan.

Despite the fact that the US-Mexican border has dominated the news these past few years, I had never heard of the tradition of La Posada Sin Fronteras and the comfort it must give to so many. And although stories about separated families have been in the media, including children’s picture books, I think Between Us and Abuela highlights aspects of this separation that aren’t apparent to many children or adults. For instance, María and her Abuela communicate on the telephone, but like other families separated by vast distances, María hasn’t seen her in person for many years. How must that feel? And what a wonderful discussion opportunity this presents to help children empathize with these separated families.

I also love that the children make presents for Abuela and when Juan’s gift doesn’t fit through the fence, María finds a way to deliver it. What a quick-thinking young heroine!

Palacios’ blue and sand-colored palette conjured up images of the California-Mexico border. I also loved the small details she included: the Christmas tree on the cover, signaling the time of year; Abuela’s photograph on the cover; and the gulls who can soar over borders and fences.

A Note about Craft:

When I first saw the title, Between Us and Abuela, I wasn’t sure whether “between” referred to a family bond, love or a physical barrier, especially as the subtitle references the border. In hindsight, I think “between” refers to all of the above! What a great way to draw a reader into this poignant story, by focusing on the bonds and love that is affected, but not severed, by a physical border separating this family.

Perkins’ shares this story using first person point-of-view. This helped me feel like I was right there, experiencing this family reunion. I also found myself brainstorming a solution with María to deliver Juan’s picture to Abuela.

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!