Monthly Archives: December 2020

PPBF – Story Boat

I love the work of both the author and illustrator of today’s Perfect Picture Book. And as we journey towards a new year ahead, what could be better than a story about a journey towards a new home.

Title: Story Boat

Written By: Kyo Maclear

Illustrated By: Rashin Kheiriyeh

Publisher/Date: Tundra Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: refugees, migration, journey, imagination

Opening:

Here we are.

What’s that? Well, here is…

Here is just here.

Brief Synopsis:

A young girl creates a story from everyday objects for her younger brother as they and their family journey to a new home.

Links to Resources:

  • The unnamed narrator and her brother have left their home to journey to another one. What would you bring with you if you had to leave your home?
  • Find a few common objects in your home, like a bowl or plate, a blanket or pillow, or a book. What else could these things be or become? Perhaps a flying saucer? A billowing cloud? A bird that takes flight?
  • Check out the Educator’s Guide for more activity ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

In lyrical language and soft illustrations, two children journey with their family from an unnamed home to a new land. In trying to answer her younger brother’s questions about where they are, where they are going, and where “home” is, the narrator weaves a story from everyday objects that accompany them – the cup from which they drink is a boat to carry them towards their destination. A soft blanket covers them at night and acts as a sail for their boat. A bright light becomes a lighthouse, illuminating their journey. And a story helps buoy them as they await the journey’s end and the promise of a new home.

With its focus on imaginative storytelling and everyday objects, Story Boat is a hope-filled addition to the picture books portraying the refugee experience. There’s no mention of the horrors that the family left, and no sense of an unwelcoming reception at their new home. This story is filled with objects and community scenes that will resonate with young children, and that, I think, will help readers empathize with these young refugees.

A Note about Craft:

Maclear uses first-person point of view to tell this story, which helps readers journey along with the children and empathize with them. Who hasn’t wondered at some point where they are and what being “here” really means?

But while the point of view draws the reader into the story, the focus on the children’s storytelling and imagination helps keep the story hope-filled. It also adds an element of fantasy that renders this difficult topic more kid-friendly.

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!

Star – a Holiday Helper Story

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, because, dear friends, Susanna Hill is hosting her world-famous 10th Annual Holiday Contest! Take a break from the hustle and bustle of holiday prep. Don cozy slippers, grab cocoa and cookies, and savor the best children’s holiday stories over at her blog. And just think – you can do all of this while social distancing from the comfort of your own home!

The rules? Create a kid-friendly story in 250 words or less (not including the title), featuring a Holiday Helper. Without further ado, may I present my 249-word entry:

STAR

Star dreamt of becoming a star of the circus, the rodeo, or the theater.

But Star was a miniature horse. Not big enough to jump through hoops or hold riders. Not fast enough for the rodeo. And who needs a tiny horse on the stage?

“I’ll never be a star,” she sighed.

“Star, you’re a therapy horse,” Misty said. “Your gentle nature brings comfort and joy to the injured, lonely, sick, and sad. You listen when others don’t notice or are too busy to care.”

 “But I want to DO something. Run! Jump! Feel that I matter.”

“You do matter, Star. Every day, in so many ways. But if you want to try the theater, the children’s nativity play needs live animals. You’re just the right size!”

Star loved every moment of rehearsals. She practiced prancing onto the stage and bowing to the babe.

Everything was perfect, until Joey, playing Joseph, broke his leg. He was recast as a shepherd, stuck on crutches at the back of the flock.

As the curtain rose, Star’s eyes shone under the bright stage lights. Her big moment had arrived!

But Star could think only about the tears in Joey’s eyes, his soft sobs, and his pain.

On cue, Star pranced and bowed to the babe. She then disappeared behind the flock. There, she nuzzled Joey, felt his warm tears on her neck, and listened as his sobs ceased.

“Thank you,” he whispered. “You’re my star!”

Star glowed like a star, with happiness.

PPBF – A Story About AFIYA

Today’s Perfect Picture Book is one of a handful of picture books included in the New York Times’ list of top 25 children’s books of 2020. I think you’ll agree that it deserves this honor!

Title: A Story About AFIYA

Written By: James Berry

Illustrated By: Anna Cunha

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2020

Suitable for Ages: 3+

Themes/Topics: fantasy, nature, multicultural, poetry

Opening:

Afiya has fine black skin that shows off her white clothes and big brown eyes that laugh and long limbs that play.

She has a white summer frock she wears and washes every night that every day picks on something to collect, strangely.

Brief Synopsis:

Each day, as young Afiya ventures forth, the wonders of nature that she experiences imprint themselves upon her white dress.

Links to Resources:

  • Decorate a white sheet or other cloth or paper with the scenes of nature you experienced today;
  • Do you have a favorite outfit? Why is it your favorite? Draw a picture of yourself wearing this outfit;
  • Read and enjoy poems about winter.

Why I Like this Book:

Poetic language and dreamy illustrations combine to chronicle the wonders of nature as experienced by a young black girl, Afiya. On the title page, readers learn that Afiya (Ah-fee-yah) is a Swahili name that means health.

Like a young child’s mind, the “white as new paper” dress transforms each day, bearing the imprints of all that Afiya explores and enjoys, from colorful flowers to tigers at the zoo. And as a child’s mind resets after a good night’s rest, so, too, does the dress become a blank slate each morning, after Afiya has washed it each night.

I love the pure joy expressed in the text and the soft illustrations. Afiya almost appears to dance off of the page. I also find the focus on nature so refreshing.

If you’re looking for a picture book to help you forget about our current stress-filled times, I highly recommend A Story About AFIYA.

A Note about Craft:

James Berry (1924-2017) was a celebrated Jamaican poet who lived most of his adult life in Britain. In his text, I think he utilizes the white dress as a metaphor for an inquisitive child’s mind, that soaks up the wonders of nature each day and is washed clear each night, ready to absorb more of nature’s refreshing tonic the following day.

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!