Category Archives: Perfect Pairing

Perfect Pairing – Celebrates the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yesterday, we celebrated the birthday of the religious and civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In memory of his words and actions, I thought I’d share two picture books that feature the collaborative nature of the late, great Dr. King.

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

Author: Barry Wittenstein

Illustrator: Jerry Pinkney

Publisher/Date: Neal Porter Books (Holiday House Publishing, Inc.)/2019

Ages: 7-10

Themes: Martin Luther King, Civil Rights, March on Washington, I Have a Dream speech

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Much has been written about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 1963 March on Washington. But there’s little on his legendary speech and how he came to write it. Find out more in this gripping book with illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was once asked if the hardest part of preaching was knowing where to begin. No, he said. The hardest part is knowing where to end. “It’s terrible to be circling up there without a place to land.”
Finding this place to land was what Martin Luther King, Jr. struggled with, alongside advisors and fellow speech writers, in the Willard Hotel the night before the March on Washington, where he gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. But those famous words were never intended to be heard on that day, not even written down for that day, not even once.

Barry Wittenstein teams up with legendary illustrator Jerry Pinkney to tell the story of how, against all odds, Martin found his place to land.

Read a review at Picture Books Help Kids Soar.

As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom

Author: Richard Michelson

Illustrator: Raul Colón

Publisher/date: Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books/2008

Ages: 7-10

Themes: Martin Luther King, Jr., freedom, Judaism, social activism

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel. Their names stand for the quest for justice and equality.

Martin grew up in a loving family in the American South, at a time when this country was plagued by racial discrimination. He aimed to put a stop to it. He became a minister like his daddy, and he preached and marched for his cause.

Abraham grew up in a loving family many years earlier, in a Europe that did not welcome Jews. He found a new home in America, where he became a respected rabbi like his father, carrying a message of peace and acceptance.

Here is the story of two icons for social justice, how they formed a remarkable friendship and turned their personal experiences of discrimination into a message of love and equality for all.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because both highlight times when the late Dr. King collaborated with others. In A Place to Land, readers see Dr. King agonizing over his upcoming speech surrounded by loving friends and confidantes. In As Good as Anybody, the Polish-born, Jewish rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, joined the African-American, Protestant preacher on the 1965 Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery. In an afterword, readers learn that Rabbi Heschel spoke at Dr. King’s funeral three short years later. I think it’s important that young people understand that Dr. King strengthened and furthered his mission of equality and freedom for all through these collaborations, that by working together for what we believe we all can achieve more.

Looking for similar reads? See my Perfect Pairing from last fall, Perfect Pairing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Speeches and Martin & Anne: The Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank (Nancy Churnin, 2019).

 

 

 

Perfect Pairing Seeks Soup

It’s winter, here in North America, a season when I often cook soup for supper. But what do those without soup ingredients do? Perhaps, like creatures all over the world, they start with one simple ingredient.

Bone Button Borscht

Author: Aubrey Davis

Illustrator: Dušan Petričić

Publisher/Date: Kids Can Press/1995

Ages: 4-8

Themes: kindness, resourcefulness, Stone Soup, Judaism

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

On a dark winter’s night, a poor beggar arrives in town and wanders from house to house seeking food and shelter. But the townspeople–who don’t think they have anything to give–prove to be as cold as weather. Even the caretaker in the synagogue turns him away. Undaunted, the beggar removes five bone buttons from his threadbare coat and announces that he can make a delicious soup–enough to feed the whole town–with just one more button.

Read a review in The New York Times.

 

Quill Soup

Author: Alan Durant

Illustrator: Dale Blankenaar

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: One Story Many Voices, animals, folk tale, generosity, hospitality

Short Synopsis (from Tiny Owl’s website):

Quill Soup is a witty tale about the benefits of sharing our resources, and opening our arms to strangers.

Noko, the porcupine, is very hungry. On arriving at a village, he asks the other animals for some food and shelter. But, despite their full bellies, all the animals say they have nothing to spare. Never mind: he’ll just have to make do and cook a pot of soup from the quills off his back – a soup so tasty even the king likes it. Once the villagers hear of his plan they offer just enough ingredients to make a soup worthy of them all…

This African version of Stone Soup celebrates generosity and kindness – and the message that we can all benefit if we share our resources. It’s part of our One Story, Many Voices series, which explores well-known tales told from different cultural perspectives.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they are both versions of the popular folktale, Stone Soup. Set in eastern Europe in winter, Bone Button Borscht features a beggar who needs one more bone button, a pot, and water to make soup in a village where none of the residents will feed him or bring him in from the cold and even the synagogue caretaker, the shamas, is wary of the stranger and unwilling to help, at first. Set somewhere in Africa, Quill Soup features a cast of animals who, like the villagers of Bone Button Borscht, are wary and unwilling to help a stranger, until he pulls a few quills from his own back to make soup fit for a king. I like how these stories differ in location and some particulars, but both further the message that kindness and sharing help everyone.

Looking for similar reads? Please share your favorite Stone Soup version in the comments.

 

Perfect Pairing – of Thought-Provoking Picture Books

As we start a new month (and decade), I can’t help but think back to the picture books I’ve read that have stuck with me and caused me to reconsider my place in this world. The two I’ve paired below are two of the most thought-provoking ones I’ve read recently.

I Am Henry Finch

Author: Alexis Deacon

Illustrator: Viviane Schwarz

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press, 2015 (British edition: Walker Books)

Ages: 5-8

Themes: Finches, thinking for yourself, individuality, greatness, social movement

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

This is a book about Henry Finch who strives for greatness, gets it all a bit wrong, then makes it right again in a very surprising way – truly becoming great. Henry Finch is a total inspiration. This is an inspirational book. It is also very funny. I Am Henry Finch is a book for everyone – from the very young to the very old. It is for dreamers, philosophers, artists, the foolish and the enlightened. And anyone with a big bright idea. Vegetarians will love it too.

Read my review.

 

The Fate of Fausto: A Painted Fable

Author & Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers

Publisher/date: Philomel Books/2019

Ages: 5 and up

Themes: greed, justice, environmentalism

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

There was once a man who believed he owned everything and set out to survey what was his.

“You are mine,” Fausto said to the flower, the sheep and the mountain, and they bowed before him. But they were not enough for Fausto, so he conquered a boat and set out to sea…

Working for the first time in traditional lithography, Oliver Jeffers, combines art with prose, hand set using traditional lead type, to create a modern-day fable.

Read a review by Jilanne Hoffmann.

I paired these books because they both are thought-provoking, philosophical picture books. While children will enjoy these books, adults will not only enjoy them, but I think they will continue to think about the issues raised long afterwards. In I Am Henry Finch, Henry reasons his way out of a problem and, in the process, changes the status quo and the mindsets of his fellow finches. In The Fate of Fausto, Fausto doesn’t think enough about the attributes of his environment, allowing aspects of that environment, themselves characters in the story, to better him. Justice triumphs in both cases, as well as some wonderful discussion opportunities.

Looking for similar reads? See Quill Soup, in which a quick-thinking porcupine spreads the message of sharing by giving of himself.

Perfect Pairing – of Family Favorites for Christmas

Every year, several new holiday picture books appear to the delight of young children and their families. But if your family is like my family, you probably have a few favorite classics that you read, and reread, year after year. Following are two of my family’s favorites. Happy reading this holiday season and see you in 2020!

Santa Cows

Author: Cooper Edens

Illustrator: Daniel Lane

Publisher/Date: Green Tiger Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster/1991

Ages: 4-8+

Themes: holidays, Christmas, family, cows, humor

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Cooper Edens and Daniel Lane have created their own madcap Night Before Christmas with some inspiration from (but no apologies to) Clement Clarke Moore. Full color throughout.

Read a review at Publishers Weekly.

Santa Cow Island

Author: Cooper Edens

Illustrator: Daniel Lane

Publisher/Date: Green Tiger Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster/1994

Ages: 4-8+

Themes: holidays, Christmas, family, cows, humor, tropical island

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The Santa Cows come to the rescue as Ruby Schwartz and her family are whisked off for a South Sea adventure, in this bizarre sequel to Santa Cows and Santa Cows Studios. Full color.

Read a review at Publishers Weekly.

I paired these books because they’re so much fun to read together! The off-beat humor, cultural references, zany illustrations, and fun-to-read rhymes of both books make them go-to picture books to revisit year after year. I hope your family enjoys reading them as much as our family does!

Perfect Pairing – Heals Injured Birds

As we think about how to foster empathy in children, what better animal to highlight than a small, injured bird. Who could resist helping one? I know I couldn’t!

How to Heal a Broken Wing

Author & Illustrator: Bob Graham

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2008

Ages: 3-7

Themes: injured pigeon, empathy, animal rescue, letting go

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In a spare urban fable, Bob Graham brings us one small boy, one loving family, and one miraculous story of hope and healing.

“No one saw the bird fall.”

In a city full of hurried people, only young Will notices the bird lying hurt on the ground. With the help of his sympathetic mother, he gently wraps the injured bird and takes it home. In classic Bob Graham style, the beauty is in the details: the careful ministrations with an eyedropper, the bedroom filled with animal memorabilia, the saving of the single feather as a good-luck charm for the bird’s return to the sky. Wistful and uplifting, here is a tale of possibility — and of the souls who never doubt its power.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

The Scarecrow

Author: Beth Ferry

Illustrator: The Fan Brothers

Publisher/date: HarperCollins Children’s Books/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: scarecrow, injured crow, seasons, friendship, animal rescue, rhyming

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

All the animals know not to mess with old Scarecrow. But when a small, scared crow falls from midair, Scarecrow does the strangest thing. . . .

Bestselling author Beth Ferry and the widely acclaimed Fan Brothers present this tender and affectionate tale that reminds us of the comforting power of friendship and the joy of helping others.

Read a review at Gathering Books and a guest post and cover reveal by Beth Ferry at Mr. Schu Reads.

I paired these books because they both involve injured birds who are helped by a friend. In How to Heal a Broken Wing, that friend is a small boy, the only one who notices it on a busy street and convinces his parents to help him save it. With the family’s loving care, the pigeon recovers to fly off with the other birds, leaving the boy sad, but also hopeful. In The Scarecrow, the scarecrow stands alone, friendless, scaring off the animals, until a baby crow falls near him. Uncharacteristically, the scarecrow saves the baby crow. The two become friends until, like the pigeon, the healed crow flies off. There the two books diverge, but I won’t spoil the ending of The Scarecrow for you. You’ll have to read it to find out – I highly recommend that you do!

 

Perfect Pairing – Thinks Small

With the rush of shoppers and tourists and selfie-sticks in midtown Manhattan this weekend, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed. Maybe you felt similarly, wherever you ventured.

 

Small in the City

Author & Illustrator: Sydney Smith

Publisher/Date: Neal Porter Books, an imprint of Holiday House Publishing/2019

Ages: 6-10

Themes: size, city living, feeling lost, pet cat

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

It can be a little scary to be small in a big city, but this child has some good advice for a very special friend in need.

When you’re small in the city, people don’t see you, and loud sounds can scare you, and knowing what to do is sometimes hard. But this little kid knows what it’s like, and knows the neighborhood. That makes for some pretty good advice for an even smaller friend.

Like, alleys can be good shortcuts, but some are too dark.

Or, there are lots of good hiding places in the city, like under a mulberry bush or up a walnut tree.

And, if the city is too loud and scary, a small one can always just go back home, where it’s safe and quiet.

In his first author-illustrated picture book, Sydney Smith tells a contemplative, quiet story from the perspective of a child.

Read a review at Picture Book Builders.

 

Small World

Author: Ishta Mercurio

Illustrator: Jen Corace

Publisher/Date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: size, shapes, growing up, perspective

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When Nanda is born, the whole of her world is the circle of her mother’s arms. But as she grows, the world grows too. It expands outward—from her family, to her friends, to the city, to the countryside. And as it expands, so does Nanda’s wonder in the underlying shapes and structures patterning it: cogs and wheels, fractals in snowflakes. Eventually, Nanda’s studies lead her to become an astronaut and see the small, round shape of Earth far away. A geometric meditation on wonder, Small World is a modern classic that expresses our big and small place in the vast universe.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews and an interview with Mercurio at Writing for Kids (While Raising Them).

I paired these books because both deal with the concept of being small, and they both include amazing illustrations. Smith’s low word-count debut, Small in the City, follows a young child as she navigates a snowy city, reflects on being small in that city, and searches for a special someone. In contrast, Small World, Mercurio’s picture book debut, is more concept book and shows how Nando’s world expands from the circle of her mother’s arms to encompass the entire world.

Looking for similar reads? See Kirkus Reviews list of Best Picture Books of 2019 about Small People in a Big World.

 

Perfect Pairing – is Feeling Thankful

Whether you’re preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, gathering in the harvest, or thinking about the calendar year drawing to a close, late November is a wonderful time to stop, reflect and give gratitude for blessings, big and small.

Thanku: Poems of Gratitude 

Authors: various

Editor: Miranda Paul

Illustrator: Marlena Myles

Publisher/Date: Millbrook Press, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group/2019

Ages: 6-10

Themes: poetry, gratitude, #WNDB

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

This poetry anthology, edited by Miranda Paul, explores a wide range of ways to be grateful (from gratitude for a puppy to gratitude for family to gratitude for the sky) with poems by a diverse group of contributors, including Joseph Bruchac, Margarita Engle, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Naomi Shihab Nye, Charles Waters, and Jane Yolen.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews and see an interview with debut illustrator Myles at Kidlit 411.

 

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

Author: Traci Sorell

Illustrator: Frané Lessac

Publisher/date: Charlesbridge/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: gratitude, seasons, nature, Cherokee, #OwnVoices

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A look at modern Native American life as told by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation

The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences.

Appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, originally created by Sequoyah.

Read a review at Miss Marple’s Musings.

I paired these books because both express feelings of gratitude in this season of giving thanks. And if you want to delve more into the subject matter of either of these books, Paul includes a glossary of the various poetry forms used in Thanku, and Sorell includes backmatter about Cherokee culture and its language in We Are Grateful.

Looking for similar reads? See Thank You, Omu!