Category Archives: Perfect Pairing

Perfect Pairing – features Grandparents & Memory Loss

As the holidays loom and family gatherings feature in many children’s lives, I thought it would be helpful to feature two picture books that might help if those gatherings include older relatives suffering from memory loss.

Grandma Forgets

Author: Paul Russell

Illustrator: Nicky Johnston

Publisher/Date: EK Books, an imprint of Exisle Publishing/2017

Ages: 4-8

Themes: intergenerational, memory, family, dementia

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When your grandmother can’t remember your name it should be sad, but maybe it is just an opportunity to tell her more often how much you love her. Grandma Forgets is the heart-warming story of a family bound by love as they cope with their grandma’s dementia. Over the years, the little girl has built up a treasure trove of memories of time spent with Grandma: sausages for Sunday lunch, driving in her sky-blue car to the beach, climbing her apple trees while she baked a delicious apple pie, and her comforting hugs during wild storms. But now, Grandma can’t remember those memories. She makes up new rules for old games and often hides Dad’s keys. Sometimes Dad is sad because he has to hold onto the memories for both him and his mother now, but fortunately his daughter is only too happy to help him make new memories to share. This is a warm, hopeful story about a family who sometimes needs to remind their grandmother a little more often than they used to about how much they care. She might have trouble remembering any of their names but she will always know how much she is loved.

Read a review in The Guardian.

 

The Remember Balloons

Author: Jessie Oliveros

Illustrator: Dana Wulfekotte

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

Ages: 5-9

Themes: intergenerational, memories, balloons, family

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

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 a review at Children’s Books Heal.

I paired these books because they feature intergenerational stories in which the grandparents are suffering from memory impairment. In Grandma Forgets, the narrator remembers good times with her grandmother and shares that even if Grandma can’t remember her or her family, they have “so many memories of her” and they can always remind Grandma that she is loved. In The Remember Balloons, the balloons symbolize the memories that bind James and his beloved grandfather. Both books feature loving families and deal with the difficult topic of memory loss in older relatives in helpful, positive ways.

Perfect Pairing – of Architects

I love it when I can pair a female trailblazer with a male icon in the same field. Don’t you agree?

Prairie Boy: Frank Lloyd Wright Turns the Heartland into a Home

Author: Barb Rosenstock

Illustrator: Christopher Silas Neal

Publisher/Date: Calkins Creek, an imprint of Highlights/2019

Ages: 7-10

Themes: organic architecture, STEAM, biography

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Frank Lloyd Wright, a young boy from the prairie, becomes America’s first world-famous architect in this engaging and inspirational nonfiction picture book introducing organic architecture–a style he created based on the relationship between buildings and the natural world–and transformed the American home.

Frank Lloyd Wright loved the Wisconsin prairie where he was born, with its wide-open sky and waves of tall grass. As his family moved across the United States, young Frank found his own home in shapes: rectangles, triangles, half-moons, and circles. When he returned to his beloved prairie, Frank pursued a career in architecture. But he didn’t think the Victorian-era homes found there fit the prairie landscape. Using his knowledge and love of shapes, Frank created houses more organic to the land. He redesigned the American home inside and out, developing a truly unique architecture style that celebrated the country’s landscape and lifestyle. Author Barb Rosenstock and artist Christopher Silas Neal explore the early life and creative genius of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, highlighting his passion, imagination, and ingenuity.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

 

The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid

Author & Illustrator: Jeanette Winter

Publisher/Date: Beach Lane Books/2017

Ages: 5-10

Themes: STEAM, biography, architecture

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Get to know Zaha Hadid in this nonfiction picture book about the famed architect’s life and her triumph over adversity from celebrated author-illustrator Jeanette Winter.

Zaha Hadid grew up in Baghdad, Iraq, and dreamed of designing her own cities. After studying architecture in London, she opened her own studio and started designing buildings. But as a Muslim woman, Hadid faced many obstacles. Determined to succeed, she worked hard for many years, and achieved her goals—and now you can see the buildings Hadid has designed all over the world.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they are picture book biographies of world-famous architects, both of whom changed the practice of architecture. In Wright’s case, he originated the idea of a prairie home that was part of and complemented its natural surroundings. Hadid was not only the first female architect to head her own firm, but her designs were rooted in her Muslim and Middle Eastern heritage. Interestingly, Wright’s Guggenheim Museum and Hadid’s residential building along New York City’s High Line combine curved facades which complement their surroundings well.

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

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.

Perfect Pairing – of Picture Books about New Homes

Moving house is such a difficult transition for adults and kids, so when I found two recent picture books about moving, I just had to pair them!

Ella Who?

Author: Linda Ashman

Illustrator: Sara Sanchez

Publisher/Date: Sterling Children’s Books/2017

Ages: 4-8

Themes: moving, making friends

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Mom . . . there’s an elephant in the living room.
It’s moving day—and look who slipped in the door: an elephant! But when a little girl tries to tell her family about their unusual guest, the distracted grown-ups just say, “Ella WHO?” Even as children giggle at the girl’s adventures with the smallish pachyderm, and at the fun, recurring refrain, they’ll relate to the poignant theme about making—and sometimes letting go of—new friends.

Read a review at Gathering Books.

 

Wallpaper

Author & Illustrator: Thao Lam

Publisher/Date: Owlkids Books, a division of Bayard, Canada/2018

Ages:  3-7

Themes: moving, making friends, fantasy, courage

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

New from the creator of Skunk on a String comes Wallpaper, a wordless picture book in Thao Lam’s signature paper collage style. It tells the story of a young girl whose family moves into a new house. Outside, she can hear other kids playing, but she’s too shy to say hello. So she picks at the old wallpaper in her room―revealing an entryway to a fantastic imaginary adventure world behind the walls.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they both feature main characters who are in the process of moving into a new home. In Ella Who? the unnamed main character finds a baby elephant among the boxes and potted plants, but her family is unable to see this new friend. In the wordless Wallpaper, the unnamed main character uncovers worlds hiding beneath the wallpaper in her new bedroom. Both books address the desire of children who have recently moved to find friendship in their new neighborhoods with fantasy and fun.

Perfect Pairing – Loves to Dance

I love to dance into a new month, don’t you? Here’s two picture books to help!

Lena’s Slippers

Author & Illustrator: Ioana Hobai

Publisher/Date: Page Street Kids/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: ballet, dancing shoes, perseverance, economic hardship, determination

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Lena can’t wait to twirl and swirl on stage for her school dance recital, but her family does not have the money to pay for new dance slippers. Despite this, nothing is going to stop Lena from dancing. As the day of the recital draws closer, Lena works hard come up with a creative solution and enjoys her shining moment on stage, learning along the way that what you do is more important than what you wear.

Lena’s passion for performing will inspire readers, especially aspiring dancers. Parents will love that it teaches kids not to get caught up in artificial, materialistic ideals. With lovely illustrations, this heartwarming story highlights the power of perseverance and the joy of creativity.

Read a review at The Picture Book Buzz.

 

The Wonder Shoes

Author: Eva Bernatová

Illustrator: Fiona Moodie

Publisher/Date: Farrar Straus Giroux/1990

Ages:  4-8

Themes: ballet, dancing shoes, loneliness, persistence

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A story of a young girl named Emma who is enraptured by the Circus Umberto, which has come to her village featuring a beautiful young dancer wearing bright red dancing shoes. Emma dreams of becoming a dancer herself, and wonderful things happen when she receives her own pair of dancing shoes.

Because of the date of publication, I didn’t find a review of The Wonder Shoes, but my kids loved it when they were young.

I paired these books because both feature dancers and the desire to obtain dance shoes. In Lena’s Slippers, economic hardship and the realities of life in a country with bare-shelved stores leaves Lena scrambling to find the right white dance slippers to join with her ballet classmates. In The Wonder Shoes, lonely newcomer Emma dreams of life as a dancer, and finds friends, and an opportunity to dance, through perseverance and creativity. Both books highlight the joys of dancing and the desire to be part of a group.

Looking for similar reads?

See Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins (Michelle Meadows/Ebony Glenn, 2019) and Firebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance Like the Firebird (Misty Copeland/Christopher Myers, 2014), featured here last spring, and Danza! Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México (Duncan Tonatiuh, 2017).