Category Archives: Perfect Pairing

Perfect Pairing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Speeches

As we approach another anniversary of one of the saddest dates in history, I couldn’t help but remember the days that followed, during which world leaders and preachers attempted to bring comfort and courage to many. Although Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not among those preachers, his words spoken decades before were in my mind and heart then, and they continue to bring comfort and courage to many now, as he preached of dreams and unity and hope for all.

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.

 

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968

Author: Alice Faye Duncan

Illustrator: R. Gregory Christie

Publisher/Date: Calkins Creek (an imprint of Highlights)/2018

Ages: 9-12

Themes: Martin Luther King, Civil Rights, protest

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

This historical fiction picture book presents the story of nine-year-old Lorraine Jackson, who in 1968 witnessed the Memphis sanitation strike–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final stand for justice before his assassination–when her father, a sanitation worker, participated in the protest.
In February 1968, two African American sanitation workers were killed by unsafe equipment in Memphis, Tennessee. Outraged at the city’s refusal to recognize a labor union that would fight for higher pay and safer working conditions, sanitation workers went on strike. The strike lasted two months, during which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was called to help with the protests. While his presence was greatly inspiring to the community, this unfortunately would be his last stand for justice. He was assassinated in his Memphis hotel the day after delivering his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon in Mason Temple Church. Inspired by the memories of a teacher who participated in the strike as a child, author Alice Faye Duncan reveals the story of the Memphis sanitation strike from the perspective of a young girl with a riveting combination of poetry and prose.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because I believe that reading them together will help children gain a more complete picture of this epic era and the legacy of Dr. King and his dreams. In A Place to Land, Wittenstein explores the genesis of King’s most well-known speech and shows that its impact arises not just from the ideas of Dr. King but also from the preacher’s passion that infused his speech and inspires us still. In Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, Duncan “mined” history books and the “memories of a Memphis teacher” who had marched as a young girl and whose father was a striking sanitation worker. Duncan tells the story in short, poetic vignettes (quotations from Introduction). Both texts include wonderful backmatter to further readers’ experiences.

Looking for similar reads?

See, I Have a Dream, the words of Dr. King’s well-known speech paired with paintings by Kadir Nelson (2012) and Martin Rising: Requiem for a King, Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney (2018).

Perfect Pairing – Promotes Social Action

I met both of these authors at a fabulous recent Highlights Foundation Master Class for Non-Fiction writers. When I read these books, I knew I had to pair them! And for those heading back to school now, note that the first book features a classroom setting.

Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You

Author: Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrator: James E. Ransome

Publisher/Date: Bloomsbury Children’s Books/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., social justice, take action, multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

You can be a King. Stamp out hatred. Put your foot down and walk tall.

You can be a King. Beat the drum for justice. March to your own conscience.

Featuring a dual narrative of the key moments of Dr. King’s life alongside a modern class as the students learn about him, Carole Weatherford’s poetic text encapsulates the moments that readers today can reenact in their own lives. See a class of young students as they begin a school project inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and learn to follow his example, as he dealt with adversity and never lost hope that a future of equality and justice would soon be a reality. As times change, Dr. King’s example remains, encouraging a new generation of children to take charge and change the world . . . to be a King. 

Read a review in School Library Journal.

 

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights

Author: Rob Sanders

Illustrator: Jared Andrew Schorr

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

Ages: 4-8

Themes: protest, equal rights, concept book, multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A primer for peaceful protest, resistance, and activism from the author of Rodzilla and Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

Protesting. Standing up for what’s right. Uniting around the common good—kids have questions about all of these things they see and hear about each day. Through sparse and lyrical writing, Rob Sanders introduces abstract concepts like “fighting for what you believe in” and turns them into something actionable. Jared Schorr’s bold, bright illustrations brings the resistance to life making it clear that one person can make a difference. And together, we can accomplish anything.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they both prompt children to take action to promote social justice. While Be a King encourages children to follow the lead of the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights emphasizes actions through an A to Z of social activism. Read together, these picture books will have children ready to boycott, be a friend, march, protest and create a better, more inclusive world, including in their own classrooms.

Perfect Pairing – of Grandparents & Balloons

I saw the first book featured today on a shelf in my local library, and I immediately thought of one of my favorite picture books from last year – the recipe, in my mind, for a perfect pairing! Note, too, the publication date of the first book featured and its inclusion of a multicultural family.

 

A Balloon for Grandad

Author: Nigel Gray

Illustrator: Jane Ray

Publisher/Date: Orchard Books, a division of Franklin Watts, Inc./1988

Ages: 4-7

Themes: intergenerational, multicultural, balloons, family, imagination

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Unhappy when he loses his silver and red balloon, Sam is comforted by imagining it on its way to visit his grandfather in Egypt.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

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 balloons play an important role. In A Balloon for Grandad, the thought that his lost balloon may be traveling to visit Grandad far away consoles Sam, whereas in The Remember Balloons, the balloons symbolize the memories that bind James and his beloved grandfather. Both books feature loving families and deal with difficult topics: the distance that separates many loved ones and memory loss in older relatives.

Looking for similar reads? See Grandad’s Island.

Perfect Pairing – for a Cloudy Day

I found these two new picture books sitting on a shelf near each other in the Children’s Room at the New York Public Library. Perhaps it was a hint that they’d make a perfect pairing?

Lola Shapes the Sky

Author: Wendy Greenley

Illustrator: Paolo Domeniconi

Publisher/Date: Creative Editions/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: clouds, imagination, creativity, weather, acceptance

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A cloud with a mind of her own and a gift for making awe-inspiring shapes encourages her friends to go beyond their practical functions and expand their imaginative horizons.

Read a review by Julie Rowan-Zoch.

Picture the Sky

Author & Illustrator: Barbara Reid

Publisher/Date: Scholastic Canada/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: sky, clouds, environment, emotions, art, weather

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In this companion to the bestselling Picture a Tree, Barbara Reid has us look up . . . way up

Wherever we may be, we share the same sky. But every hour, every day, every season, whether in the city or the forest, it is different. The sky tells many stories: in the weather, in the clouds, in the stars, in the imagination. Renowned artist Barbara Reid brings her unique vision to a new topic – the sky around us. In brilliant Plasticine illustrations, she envisions the sky above and around us in all its moods.

Picture the sky. How do you feel?

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because they both encourage readers to imaginatively look up at the sky, and find magic in the clouds. But while the folks down on the ground are the main characters of Picture the Sky, the clouds, and in particular, Lola, take center stage in Lola Shapes the Sky.

Perfect Pairing – Visits the Library Lions

I live in the New York metropolitan region and have had the pleasure of visiting the New York Public Library and seeing the lions who are the stars of this pairing. For those who aren’t able to visit New York City, I think these books, read together, will introduce you to this amazing duo who welcome readers into this wonderful library.

 

Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience & Fortitude

Author: Josh Funk

Illustrator: Stevie Lewis

Publisher/Date:

Ages: 5-7

Themes: New York Public Library, library lions, fantasy, imagination, rhyming

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Steadfast Fortitude and curious Patience are waiting every morning to greet visitors of the Library.

That is until, one early morning, when Fortitude finds Patience is missing. The city is about to awake, and the lions absolutely must be in their places before the sun rises. Now, Fortitude must abandon his own post to find his best friend in the Library’s labyrinthine halls.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

The Night Library

Author: David Zeltser

Illustrator: Raul Colón

Publisher/Date: Random House/2019

Ages:  3-7

Themes: New York Public Library, grief, magic of books, library lions, fantasy, imagination

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The Polar Express meets The Night at the Museum in this fantastical picture-book adventure about the magic of books and libraries, perfect for book lovers of all ages!

After a young boy goes to sleep upset that he’s getting a book for his birthday, he’s visited in the night by Patience and Fortitude, the two stone lions who guard the New York Public Library. Soon, he’s magically whisked away from his cozy home in the Bronx, and the two mighty lions show him the wonder of the library. There, the inquisitive Latino boy discovers the power of books and their role not only in his own life, but also in the lives of the people he loves.

Raul Colon’s gorgeous, rich art creates an immersive world in this book about books, which is sure to capture the imaginations of kids and adults and inspire them to grab their library cards and dive into the worlds of stories.

Read a review at The Picture Book Buzz.

I paired these books because they both feature the two famous lions that flank the entrance of the main branch of the New York Public Library: Patience and Fortitude. But while the focus of Lost in the Library is the pair of lions, a young boy who has stopped reading because he misses his deceased grandfather is the main character of The Night Library.

Looking for similar reads?

See my pairing of two other picture books featuring stone lions that come to life.

Perfect Pairing – Visits Andy Warhol

I read a recent review of the first picture book featured today (thanks, Jilanne!), but when I checked my local library’s catalog, I found another picture book by the same author that’s similar. You know what that means…

 

Uncle Andy’s: A faabbulous visit with Andy Warhol 

Author & Illustrator: James Warhola

Publisher/Date: G. P. Putnam’s Sons/2003

Ages: 4-8

Themes: pop art, family, artistic influences, humor

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When James Warhola was a little boy, his father had a junk business that turned their yard into a wonderful play zone that his mother didn’t fully appreciate! But whenever James and his family drove to New York City to visit Uncle Andy, they got to see how “junk” could become something truly amazing in an artist’s hands.

Uncle Andy’s offers an exciting and unique perspective on one of the most influential artists of our time. Through James’ eyes, we see the things that made his family visits memorable-including the wonderful disarray of Andy’s house, waking up surrounded by important art and incredible collected objects, trying on Andy’s wigs, sharing the run of Andy’s house with his twenty-five cats (all named Sam), and getting art supplies from Andy as a goodbye present. James was lucky enough to learn about art from an innovative master and he shows how these visits with Uncle Andy taught him about the creative process and inspired him to become an artist.

Read a review at Jilanne Hoffmann’s blog.

 

Uncle Andy’s Cats

Author & Illustrator: James Warhola

Publisher/Date: G. P. Putnam’s Sons/2009

Ages:  4-8

Themes: cats, problem-solving, pop art, humor

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

It all started with a little blue cat named Hester. Then along came Sam, and it was love at first sight — and lots of little Sams! While the cats are perfectly happy stampeding through Uncle Andy’s art studio and frolicking among his soup boxes, the humans know things have to change. So Uncle Andy devises a brilliant plan to make his cats famous — and easier to find homes for. James Warhola’s childhood memories of trips to New York City to visit his uncle, Andy Warhol, inspired this warm, funny story of the famous artist’s house full of cats. Kids will pore over the illustrations trying to spot all the Sams, as well as some very clever mice.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because they are by the same author/illustrator, both are based on visits with his famous uncle, artist Andy Warhol, but they highlight different aspects of the author’s and Warhol’s lives. In Uncle Andy, the narrator, a young boy, describes a particular visit to his uncle’s house in New York City and the awe and wonder experienced  by a young child from a rural, hectic family along with the reactions of Warhol, who lived an artist’s life in the city. In Uncle Andy’s Cats, Warhola shifts the focus to be more on Warhol. Warhola tells the story of how his famous uncle and his grandmother acquired too many cats, but then Uncle Andy solved the problem using his artistic skills. Both are based on fact. For a fascinating history of the book of cat prints that Warhol published, see Fully Feline.

Perfect Pairing – heads to the Countryside

As the temperatures have been soaring throughout much of the US, I think it’s time to leave the city and head to the countryside!

 

Hey, Hey, Hay! A Tale of Bales and the Machines that Make Them

Author: Christy Mihaly

Illustrator: Joe Cepeda

Publisher/Date: Holiday House Publishing Inc./2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: hay, farm life, girl power, seasons, rhyming

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Every bale of hay has a little bit of summer sun stored in the heart of it— learn from a mother-daughter team how hay is made! 

Feeding her horses one cold and wintry day, a girl thinks about all the hard work that went into the fresh-smelling bales she’s using. The rhyming text and brilliant full-page paintings follow the girl and her mother through the summer as they cut, spread, dry and bale in the fields.

Mower blades slice through the grass./A new row falls with every pass./Next we spread the grass to dry./The tedder makes those grasses fly!

This celebration of summer, farming, and family, illustrated by Pura Belpré honor artist Joe Cepeda, includes a glossary of haymaking words, and a recipe for making your own switchel— a traditional farm drink, to cool you down in the summer heat.

Read a review at Picture Books Help Kids Soar.

Mowing

Author: Jessie Haas

Illustrator: Jos. A. Smith

Publisher/Date: Greenwillow Books/1994

Ages: 4-8

Themes: hay, farm life, intergenerational, wildlife

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Nora helps her grandfather mow the field by watching for little animals in the tall grass and warning him to circle the horses and mowing machine around them.

Read a review at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.

I paired these books because both provide insight into farm life and an essential activity on many farms, and they both feature female main characters. Told from the first-person point-of-view, the recently-published Hey, Hey, Hay! provides information on the process of baling hay and the seasons on a farm, all in lyrical, rhyming text. The older Mowing focuses on one day when young Nora and her grandfather cut the hay, while making sure they don’t harm any of the local wildlife. Read together, I think they provide insight into life on a farm, something many of us have not experienced.