Monthly Archives: June 2020

PPBF – Hello Goodbye, Little Island

Today’s Perfect Picture Book is set on the island of Singapore, a place I sadly have not visited…yet! But I think readers still wary/unable to stray far from home will enjoy this virtual visit. I know I did!

And while reading is a wonderful way to escape the confines of home, our library is only open on a limited basis for the foreseeable future with no interlibrary loan service (my “local” is one of the smaller libraries, so most books I review I order through interlibrary loan). In light of the difficulty of obtaining books to review at present, I’ve decided to take a break for the summer. If I’m able to get my hands on a book or two to review, I may post periodically, but otherwise, I look forward to resuming in the fall. Enjoy the summer! Happy reading!

Title: Hello Goodbye, Little Island

Written By: Leila Boukarim

Illustrated By: Barbara Moxham

Publisher/Date: Marshall Cavendish Children/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: moving, friendship

Opening:

Maja had moved to the little island with her family not long ago.

Brief Synopsis: Sad to have left her former home, Maja begins to like living in her new island home when she meets a friend. But when that friend moves away, Maja is again sad and lonely, until she finds a new friend.

Links to Resources:

  • Have you moved to a new house, school, or community? How did you feel? Draw a picture of something that you like about your new home, school, or community;
  • If there’s a new student in your class at school this fall, try to help them feel welcome. Think of some favorite activities that you could share with them;
  • This story takes place on the island nation of Singapore. Singapore icons are incorporated into the illustrations, and they are explained in the back matter. Readers can search the illustrations for them as a seek-and-find game.

Why I Like this Book:

Moving homes, schools, and countries is difficult for anyone, but especially so for young children. So it is that Maja, the main character of Hello Goodbye, Little Island finds the food, vegetation, and climate strange in her new home, and she repeatedly asks when the family can return to their old, familiar home.

When Maja starts a new, larger school and meets a friend through whose eyes she can see the little island, “it was not so strange anymore.” But like several places where my family lived when our children were young, Maja’s new school was filled with expat families, who remained only a few years in one location. Maja’s new friend was leaving!

Once again, Maja “found herself in a strange land”, with everything seeming “different”. Until, that is, Maja discovered a new friend.

Boukarim captures Maja’s dejection at losing a friend and her happiness at finding a new friend, two feelings that children who have moved house, schools, or communities will be able to relate to well. I also like that Maja and Nour, her new friend, expand their friend circle to include a lonely boy who also is new and misses a friend.

Because Hello Goodbye, Little Island is set in Singapore, an island nation in which many expatriates live and work for a few years at a time, Boukarim populates the story with children from diverse backgrounds and cultures. I like how these characters see the beauty in their differences and learn from each other.

Moxham’s unique illustrations are a combination of collaged photographs and black and white illustrations, with icons of Singapore scattered throughout.

A Note about Craft:

In addition to featuring an endearing main character, Maja, who enjoys quiet time spent with friends, Boukarim features many items and activities found in Singapore. I think these specifics, which are new to Maja, help readers understand and empathize with her feelings of loneliness and being in a “strange” place. Adding the seek and find layer to the story increases its re-readability, and this also may expand the age range to older children interested in learning about Singapore.

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 – Acknowledges Juneteenth and World Refugee Day 2020

I perused my bookshelves to choose a Perfect Picture Book for today, which was no small feat, as our local library hasn’t reopened yet and even upon reopening, it’s unclear if interlibrary loans will be possible. But even if I had a pile of books at hand, it’s clear that any book I’d choose to review today would need to be special.

To honor the significance of Juneteenth and support and further the movement to fight systemic racism taking place in my local community, our country, and in many parts of the world, while not forgetting to mark World Refugee Day, and the ongoing, and even worsening, plight of the many refugees in the world – I frankly couldn’t choose just one picture book. I add to that the importance of ensuring that our children acquire the passion and tools to advocate for justice, to empathize with others, and to promote peace.

So, dear readers, instead of just one Perfect Picture Book today, I want to share a few picture books that I’ve read and reviewed in the past year, and that, I believe, are resources for some, but by no means all, of the momentous issues facing our children today. Please share some of the picture books that speak to you on these issues in the comments.

Dare

 

Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

 

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights

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

 The Unexpected Friend: A Rohingya Children’s Story

Wherever I Go

Yusra Swims

 

Check out the other great picture books featured at Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list, to which this post also will be linked.

 

Perfect Pairing Observes Refugee Week 2020

This Saturday, 20 June 2020, is the United Nations’ World Refugee Day 2020, and in the United Kingdom and other countries, this week is Refugee Week, a “festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees.” As regular readers know, I read, and review, many picture books about the refugee experience. I’m happy to pair two of these recent books this week.

Boundless Sky

Author: Amanda Addison

Illustrator: Manuela Adreani

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2020

Ages: 4-6

Themes: migration, birds, refugees, welcoming, friendship

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Nobody knew, nobody dreamed, nobody even considered the possibility that a bird that fits in your hand might fly halfway around the world looking for a place to nest . . . or that a young girl from northern Africa might flee halfway around the world looking for safety. This is the story of Bird. This is the story of Leila. This is the story of a chance encounter and a long journey home.

Read my review.

Wherever I Go

Author: Mary Wagley Copp

Illustrator: Munir D. Mohammed

Publisher/date: Atheneum Books for Young Children, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Publishing/2020

Ages: 6-9

Themes: refugee, resilience, imagination, resettlement

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A hopeful and timely picture book about a spirited little girl living in a refugee camp.

Of all her friends, Abia has been at the Shimelba Refugee Camp the longest—seven years, four months, and sixteen days. Papa says that’s too long and they need a forever home. Until then, though, Abia has something important to do. Be a queen.

Sometimes she’s a noisy queen, banging on her drum as she and Mama wait in the long line for rice to cook for dinner. Sometimes she’s a quiet queen, cuddling her baby cousin to sleep while Auntie is away collecting firewood. And sometimes, when Papa talks hopefully of their future, forever home, Abia is a little nervous. Forever homes are in strange and faraway places—will she still be a queen?

Filled with hope, love, and respect, Wherever I Go is a timely tribute to the strength and courage of refugees around the world.

Read my review.

I paired these books because, though they differ in their storytelling techniques, and though neither sugarcoats the refugee experience, both leave the reader feeling hopeful about the fates of the refugees highlighted. In Boundless Sky, Addison parallels the migration of a bird with the journey of young Leila who migrates from Africa to Britain. In Wherever I Go, Wagley Copp reminds readers that refugees, like the narrator, Abia, are survivors who will enrich the community where they eventually settle.

Looking for similar reads? See The Unexpected Friend, about a young Rohingya refugee, and Yusra Swims, about a refugee who competed in the Olympics.

 

 

PPBF – Your Name is a Song

When I saw the title of today’s Perfect Picture Book and its gorgeous cover, and when I saw who wrote it, I knew that I had to read it as soon as possible. So I reached out to the publisher on a site for reviewers, and I requested an electronic copy (in exchange for a fair and unbiased review). I’m so happy I did so, and I know you won’t be disappointed when you get your hands on this not-yet-released picture book!

Title: Your Name is a Song

Written By: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Illustrated By: Luisa Uribe

Publisher/Date: The Innovation Press/July 2020 (note: this launch date may be delayed due to Covid-19)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: names, self-esteem, pride, heritage, multicultural

Opening:

“I’m not coming back ever again!” The girl stomped.

Brief Synopsis:

On the first day of school, a young girl is upset because neither her teacher nor fellow classmates can pronounce her name, until her mother reminds her of the musicality and beauty of her name and others like it and empowers her to sing it.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have a name that others have trouble saying or spelling? How do you feel when someone mispronounces your name? How do you think a classmate feels if you can’t pronounce their name?
  • Try tapping out each syllable of your name or singing your own name;
  • Try these name games;
  • Check out the interview Thompkins-Bigelow had with Mr. Schu about the meaning and importance of names.

Why I Like this Book:

I think any child, and even adult, feels awful when peers or an adult can’t pronounce or spell their name, or when someone uses a nickname not generally used or liked. A name is such a personal aspect of identity, which even young children recognize, I think.

In Your Name is a Song, Thompkins-Bigelow captures that feeling and offers solutions that help the young main character find beauty in her name and others that some people may have difficulty pronouncing. The words of her mother empower this young girl to sing her name, and others, when her teacher stumbles on her name once again, and to help her teacher and classmates find beauty in names that had seemed unfamiliar at first.

I particularly like how Thompkins-Bigelow addresses not just the inability of someone’s mouth to form words, but the reality that some names arise from the heart.

Uribe’s colorful illustrations show the young girl and her mother journeying from school to home and then back again the next day, and include magical scenes in which made-up names come from dreams and emanate from the sky, appearing in clouds through which our young girl travels.

Your Name is a Song is a joyous celebration that will help bolster the self-esteem of children whose names are difficult to pronounce or which reflect a particular culture. It also provides a way for other children and adults to think about the importance and beauty of names that may, at first, seem difficult to pronounce or different, and a solution, via song, to overcome that difficulty.

A Note about Craft:

Thompkins-Bigelow doesn’t name the main character until near the end of the book (I’m not going to spoil the ending and reveal it here). I think she does this to keep the reader wondering what name has caused the other children, and even the teacher, to stumble on the pronunciation and to build tension.

A glossary of the names mentioned, their origins, and their pronunciations is included as back matter. The pronunciations also appear in parentheses within the text, to help readers who might stumble while reading.

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 Two Books Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

Imagine my surprise when I was shelving a picture book that I reviewed a few weeks ago and discovered that the illustrator had illustrated another picture book I had reviewed last year. Could this be the reason for a perfect pairing, perhaps?

Neema’s Reason to Smile

Author: Patricia Newman

Illustrator: Mehrdokht Amini

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

Ages: 4-8

Themes: school, Africa, poverty, dreams, multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Every day, Neema balances a heavy basket of fruit on her head and traces the dusty path to town that unwinds like a cheetah’s tail. She wants to go to school, but Mama cannot afford the uniform and supplies. Neema saves her money and dreams big dreams, until one day hope skips down the street wearing a red skirt and white shirt.

Read my review.

 

Nimesh the Adventurer

Author: Ranjit Singh

Illustrator: Mehrdokht Amini

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2019

Ages: 4-6

Themes: imagination, adventure, multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Nimesh is walking home from school. Except…there happens to be a shark in the corridor. And a dragon in the library! And why would crossing the road lead to the North Pole? A fun-filled story about a little boy with a BIG imagination, Nimesh the Adventurer will surely make even the dullest journey a dazzling adventure.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they feature the work of one illustrator, Mehrdokht Amini. In Neema’s Reason to Smile, Amini’s vibrant and colorful illustrations made me feel like I was journeying with Neema to the village and school. In Nimesh the Adventurer, Amini’s brightly-detailed illustrations render this picture book truly stunning, as they show how one child’s imagination can transform everyday scenes into the sites of true adventures. In both cases, Amini features main characters of color, and her illustrations transported this reader to another time and place.

 

 

 

 

PPBF – Come with Me

With the barrage of heart-wrenching newscasts these past few months, I think many of us may want to curl up in a ball and try to tune it all out. But neither we, nor our children, can do so. So, what can we do? Today’s Perfect Picture Book may provide a few ideas.

Title: Come With Me

Written By: Holly M. McGhee

Illustrated By: Pascal Lemaître

Publisher/Date: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group/2017

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: kindness, overcoming fear, making a difference, diversity

Opening:

All over the world, the news told and told and retold of anger and hatred—People against people.

And the little girl was frightened by everything she heard and saw and felt.

Brief Synopsis: After watching the news on television, a young girl asks her parents what she, a young girl, can do to overcome the hatred and anger evident in the world.

Links to Resources:

  • Think about a few everyday activities you can do to show you care about others. Perhaps it’s including a person from another background or with another skin color in your group, perhaps it’s saying hello to someone who looks or speaks differently than you, or perhaps it’s just a smile on your face for everyone you meet;
  • Describe in words or pictures a time you felt afraid. Why did you feel afraid? What did you do to stop feeling afraid?
  • Describe in words or pictures a time you reached out to someone who looked frightened, lonely, or sad. How did you feel after you did so?
  • Watch the book trailer.

Why I Like this Book:

Written in the aftermath of the 9/11 and Brussels bombings, Come with Me features small, everyday actions that even children can undertake to overcome their own fears and spread kindness in the world. But while these twin aims certainly feature in the book, I think its message goes further: there are small, everyday actions we all can take to make the world better and more inclusive. Whether it’s thinking of others by wearing a mask in public, or wishing strangers a good day, we all can show kindness to others, especially those who may not look, speak, or act the same as we do.

Written from the point of view of a frightened child who doesn’t know what to do, I think Come with Me presents a unique opportunity for adults and even young children to discuss what children see on the television or what they overhear adults talking about, and how to overcome the fear or inaction that can grip any of us.

A Note about Craft:

Come with Me is a low-word count picture book that leaves lots of space for the illustrator to show the small and big ways the unnamed main character shows bravery in the face of fear, and is welcoming of others who differ from her. It’s unclear whether it was the illustrator’s choice to feature what seems to be a multiracial family or a neighbor who seems to be black, but in both cases, there’s nothing in the text that specifies these attributes.

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 Ideals that Matter

I don’t know about the rest of you, but this past week I’ve experienced feelings of profound disbelief, sorrow, outrage, anger, and so much more. As I perused my bookshelf looking for books that may empower others to action and/or bring healing, these two stood out.

Equality’s Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America

Author: Deborah Diesen

Illustrator: Magdalena Mora

Publisher/Date: Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/2020

Ages: 5-8

Themes: voting rights, activism, people of color, rhyming, non-fiction

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Learn all about the history of voting rights in the United States—from our nation’s founding to the present day.

A right isn’t right
till it’s granted to all…

The founders of the United States declared that consent of the governed was a key part of their plan for the new nation. But for many years, only white men of means were allowed to vote. This history of voting rights looks back at the activists who answered equality’s call, working tirelessly to secure the right for all to vote, and it also looks forward to the future and the work that still needs to be done.

Read a review at Miss Marple’s Musings.

Peace and Me: Inspired by the Lives of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates

Author & Illustrator: Ali Winter

Illustrator: Mickaël El Fathi

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2018

Ages: 7-11

Themes: peace, peace builders, non-fiction

Short Synopsis (from publisher’s website):

What does peace mean to you? This illustrated collection of inspirational ideas about peace is based on the lives of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates of the 20th and 21st centuries, among them Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and Malala Yousafzai. A must for anyone interested in exploring this essential issue of our times, this child-friendly exploration of what peace means to you and me is a book for every bookshelf.

Amnesty International endorses this book because it shows how standing up for other people makes the world a better, more peaceful place.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they highlight differing aspects of the issues facing us today and how they have been dealt with by those with the courage to fight racism, injustice, and inequality.

Looking for similar reads? See, People of Peace, Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights.