Category Archives: Perfect Pairing

Perfect Pairing for the Autumn of the Year

the days grow short
I’m in the autumn of the year

So sang Frank Sinatra in It Was a Very Good Year, one of my favorite Sinatra songs, especially as my son sang it solo in concert on my birthday several years ago (proud Mama moment!).

While for many, fall signals sugary holidays and the promise of family get-togethers, for others, the falling leaves and withered blooms signal mortality. That Halloween, All Saints Day, All Souls Day and Día de los Meurtos all loom may be no coincidence. For our family, both of my parents entered life in September, and my father left us in September 1997 and my mother this past October. My mother-in-law’s passing was 30 Novembers ago. If I read, and review, a few more serious books these next few weeks, perhaps you’ll understand why. And thankfully, there are several heart-filled picture books that tackle the difficult subjects of aging, memory loss and death, and grief.

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Grandad’s Island

Author & Illustrator: Benji Davies

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2016

Ages: 4-8

Themes: loss; death; intergenerational; grandparent

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

With subtlety and grace, Benji Davies paints a poignant and ultimately uplifting picture of loss.

At the bottom of Syd’s garden, through the gate and past the tree, is Grandad’s house. Syd can let himself in any time he likes. But one day when Syd comes to call, Grandad isn’t in any of the usual places. He’s in the attic, where he ushers Syd through a door, and the two of them journey to a wild, beautiful island awash in color where Grandad decides he will remain. So Syd hugs Grandad one last time and sets sail for home. Visiting Grandad’s house at the bottom of the garden again, he finds it just the same as it’s always been — except that Grandad isn’t there anymore. Sure to provide comfort to young children struggling to understand loss, Benji Davies’s tale is a sensitive and beautiful reminder that our loved ones live on in our memories long after they’re gone.

Read my review here.

 

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The Remember Balloons

Author:  Jessie Oliveros

Illustrator:  Dana Wulfekotte

Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/September 2018

Ages:  5-9

Themes: aging; memory loss; intergenerational

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

What’s Happening to Grandpa meets Up in this tender, sensitive picture book that gently explains the memory loss associated with aging and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.

But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!

Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.

Read an interview with Jessie Oliveros on Susanna Leonard Hill’s Tuesday Debut.

I paired these books because both are intergenerational, showcasing the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren. In Grandad’s Island, Davies utilizes a sea journey and a beautiful tropical island as metaphors for death and the afterlife. In The Remember Balloons, Oliveros utilizes balloons as metaphors for memories that pass from the elderly to younger family members. Both deal sensitively with topics that are difficult for children (and adults). It’s clear that both authors had a special relationship with their grandparents – these picture books are filled with heart.

Looking for similar reads?

See Lane Smith’s Grandpa Green, reviewed at Children’s Books Heal; Glenn Ringtved/Charlotte Pardi’s Cry Heart But Never Break, reviewed at Brain Pickings;  Oliver Jeffers’ The Heart and the Bottle, also reviewed at Brain Pickings; and Maria Shriver/Sandra Speidel’s What’s Happening to Grandpa, reviewed by Richard R Blake.

Perfect Pairing for International Dot Day 2018

I’m deviating from my usual practice of posting Perfect Pairing on Tuesday in order to celebrate an important day: the 10th Annual International Dot Day! I hope you enjoy the post and join Peter H. Reynolds, the author/illustrator of The Dot, and close to 13 million people in 177 countries celebrating creativity and the joy of “making your mark.”

the-dot103606801The Dot

Author & Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2003

Ages: 5-8 (and older)

Themes: art; creativity; confidence; making your mark

 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 more about celebrating Dot Day at Children’s Books Heal and By Word of Beth.

 

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When I Coloured in the World

Author:  Ahmadreza Ahmadi

Illustrator:  Ehsan Abdollahi

Translated By: Azita Razi (2015)

Publisher: Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd/2017 (first published in Persian, Nazar Publisher/2010)

Ages: 3 and up

Themes: imagination, diverse books, creating positive change, power of art

Short Synopsis (from Book Depository):

This is a story that is told with poetic simplicity, offering beautiful images but also raising questions to set thoughts going in readers’ imaginations as a child uses an eraser and crayons to bring happier colours to the world, replacing bad with good.

Read my review from April 2017.

I paired these books because the celebration of creativity permeates both books.  The teacher in The Dot encourages Yashti to tap into her inner artist and share her creativity with others. The mother gave the unnamed young narrator in When I Coloured in the World crayons and an eraser, which the child then used to change the bad and sad in the world to good and happy. Both children make their marks – how will you make your mark in the world?

And my DOT for 2018? A combination of my favorite place and my hope for this world.

 

My Dot 2018

Perfect Pairing Heads Back to School

Happy September! Happy Two-fer Tuesday!  Happy Back to School!

With temperatures moderating and the scent of fresh-pressed cider in the air, September promises Fall harvests and new beginnings in school. I couldn’t think of a better time to add this new feature on my blog – two picture books that, like certain foods and beverages, are a Perfect Pairing.

Think milk and cookies.

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Image reproduced from freeimages.com

Tea and scones.

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Image reproduced from freeimages.com

Red wine and chocolate (you may want to save that for when the kids are asleep!).

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Image reproduced from freeimages.com

You get the idea.

In upcoming Tuesday posts, I’ll be highlighting some picture books that I think are a Perfect Pairing (my blog, my choice!):

  • Some I’ve read but haven’t reviewed;
  • Others I’ve reviewed, but they reminded me of other books that I thought you’d enjoy reading with them;
  • Some are similar in some way (subject, style, illustrator – you name it);
  • while others are different in one or more ways (fiction/non-fiction, diverse/non-diverse, animal/human characters, and so forth).

So many possibilities – like a blank notebook at the start of a new class!

I hope caregivers, teachers, librarians, and other picture book lovers will find some new (to them) picture books here, read these books together, and perhaps offer suggestions of other books they’d read with one or both of these Perfect Pairs. And if you have a picture book that you’d like to see paired – including one of your own, please let me know!

Since it’s Back to School time, let’s start off in school, shall we?

ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL: Real-Life Journeys of Students from Around the World

36373259Authors: Baptiste & Miranda Paul

Illustrator: Isabel Muñoz

Publisher/Date: little bee books, an imprint of Bonnier Publishing USA/2018

Ages: 4-8+

Themes: diversity; #ReadYourWorld; non-fiction (including informative sidebars, authors’ note, and a select bibliography); school 

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Kids around the world get to school in unique ways. Take a peek inside this book and see how they reach their destinations!

Children all around the world go to school. Whether they’re from Japan, Ukraine, Ethiopia, or the United States, all students have the desire to learn about the world and shape the future. In Bhutan, children walk for three hours to make it to school, and in Pakistan, children travel by rickshaw. Some children in China must climb a heaven ladder, while children in Nepal must walk over a wire bridge. The treks of these students are unique, extraordinary, and even dangerous, and they signify the common determination, perseverance, and sense of adventure shared by young people around the world.

Read along as students from thirteen different nations embark on their journeys to get to school in the morning, and learn about the diverse landscapes and cultures of these countries along the way!

Read reviews at The Picture Book Buzz and Picture Books Help Kids Soar, and an interview with the Pauls at The Picture Book Buzz. 

 

ALL ARE WELCOME

36959643Author: Alexandra Penfold
Illustrator: 
Suzanne Kaufmann
Publisher: 
Random House Children’s Books2018
Age: 
4-8
Themes: diversity; inclusivity; kindness; school

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A warm, welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids.

Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yamulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.

Read reviews at Julie Rowan-Zoch’s blog and The Picture Book Buzz, and learn the inspiration behind Suzanne Kaufmann’s creation of the poster that turned into this picture book at Pragmatic Mom’s blog.

 

I paired these books because they present universal scenes of traveling to and arriving at school. In Adventures to School, we meet a small sample of children from across the world who, as highlighted in this eye-opening book, undertake unique, at times strenuous, journeys that differ from the “usual” bus, car or walking journeys of most kids in the United States. In All Are Welcome, readers meet a fictional and diverse group of children happily arriving at an inclusive US school. But while the journeys and even some of the day-to-day experiences may differ, the joy of learning and desire for an education are universal, as evidenced in these paired picture books.

Looking for other back-to-school reads?

See a recent list in Horn Book and this review in the New York Times Book Review.