Monthly Archives: January 2021

PPBF – Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies

I always love picture books that relay facts, encourage kids to take action, and include a compelling story line. I think you’ll agree that today’s Perfect Picture Book is just such a book!

Title: Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies

Written By: Deborah Hopkinson

Illustrated By: Meilo So

Publisher/Date: Chronicle Books/2020

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: butterflies, environment, migration, immigrant

Opening:

Spring

Last spring, we took a class picture./ That’s me in the back./ I was a little like a caterpillar then:/ quiet and almost invisible./ I didn’t like to stand out or be noticed.

Brief Synopsis: The narrator, a new immigrant, loves butterflies and becomes more self-assured in her new school as she researches Monarch Butterflies and helps organize a schoolyard monarch way station.

Links to Resources:

Check out the fabulous back matter, including Author’s Note, Quick Guide to Making a Schoolyard Monarch Way Station, Miscellaneous Monarch Facts, and lists of books and internet resources for children and adults.

Why I Like this Book:

Butterflies Belong Here is an empowering picture book that shows how one passionate child can make a difference in our world. That the child is a recent immigrant adds to the story. I love how she finds her voice through sharing her knowledge and passion about monarch butterflies. I also love that her classmates rally to join her in a class project to help  build a way station for migrating monarch butterflies to recharge and refresh themselves on plants such as milkweed.

I think Butterflies Belong Here will appeal to nature lovers and to children wanting to learn about ways they can better their world. Filled with interesting monarch butterfly facts and concrete ways to help these lovely creatures, Butterflies Belong Here is a marvelous addition to classrooms and home libraries.

So’s detailed illustrations beautifully capture the worlds of the two travelers, the young narrator and the monarch butterflies she loves.

A Note about Craft:

The unnamed narrator of Butterflies Belong Here is a new immigrant, struggling to learn English. By choosing this narrator as the main character and main impetus for the monarch butterfly project, Hopkinson reminds readers that new immigrants have valuable ideas and talents to share and that stepping outside oneself and embracing a cause is a terrific way to adapt to a new land. Interestingly, both the narrator and the butterflies have migrated and changed by the story’s end.

Hopkinson shares many facts about monarch butterflies within the text. But rather than weaving them into the story or separating them completely in side boxes, these facts appear as “book pages” (ie, text being read by the narrator) on 4 double spreads. If you’re reading to a younger audience, these pages could be skipped to accommodate shorter attention spans. Older listeners, especially nature lovers, will find much to learn there, though.

Hopkinson and So also teamed up on Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles.

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!

PPBF – Salma the Syrian Chef

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve been cooking, and eating, way too much these past few holiday weeks. But while I was visiting my daughter recently, I perused her copy of The Immigrant Cookbook, which has inspired me to try some healthy, new-to-me recipes. After reading today’s Perfect Picture Book, I think I’ve found another new recipe to ring in the new decade, too.

Title: Salma the Syrian Chef

Written By: Danny Ramadan

Illustrated By: Anna Bron

Publisher/Date: Annick Press/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: cooking, recipe, Syria, refugees, home

Opening:

Salma watches the Vancouver rain from her apartment window in the Welcome Center. It’s different than the sunny days back in Syria.

She still can’t pronounce “Vancouver,” but her friends tell her that her ways of saying it are more fun.

Brief Synopsis: To cheer up her mother, Salma, a young Syrian refugee living in Vancouver, Canada, decides to make a beloved Syrian dish with the help of friends from the Welcome Center.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have a favorite food that reminds you of a special place or person? With the help of an adult, try preparing it for family or friends;
  • Salma prepares foul shami (pronounced “fool shammy”), fava beans prepared in the style eaten in Damascus, Syria. Check out the recipe;
  • Salma originally lived in Damascus, Syria; learn more about this ancient city.

Why I Like this Book:

In Salma the Syrian Chef, Salma, a young Syrian refugee, notices that her mother has stopped smiling. After numerous attempts to cheer her mother up and make their adopted city of Vancouver feel more like home, including drawing pictures, telling jokes, and jumping out from a hiding spot to surprise Mama, Salma thinks about what may be making her Mama sad: they no longer are in their home, and Papa isn’t with them. Salma realizes that she can’t change either of those by herself, but she can make Mama a favorite food from home.

I love how Salma realizes that her Mama is sad, that she determines to cheer her up, and that she understands that a favorite food from home can brighten someone’s day. As a young child, though, Salma isn’t able to shop and cook by herself. Other adults and children at an immigrant Welcome Center rally to help her, showing how important a new community can be to help refugees and other immigrants resettle.

I think children reading Salma the Syrian Chef will enjoy this story, will empathize with children, like Salma, who are struggling to resettle in a foreign land, and will learn that small actions, like cooking a favorite recipe or helping someone else do so, will, like raindrops in a puddle, spread through a community to cheer everyone.

Bron’s soft palette of beiges and browns from the Syrian desert and the grays and blues of often-rainy Vancouver effectively show the dichotomy of these two places. I especially enjoyed the tiled frames that appear on most spreads.

A Note about Craft:

In Salma the Syrian Chef, Ramadan presents a classic, kid-friendly problem for the main character, Salma: cheering up her mother who is sad to be away from home and so far from Salma’s Papa. The solution, cooking her Mama’s favorite dish, isn’t something that Salma can do by herself, however, as she needs help finding the recipe, sourcing some of the ingredients, and chopping vegetables. Although a picture book main character should solve her or his own problem, by presenting a solution that requires community involvement, I think Ramadan adds an important layer to this story and strengthens its impact.

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!