Category Archives: Perfect Pairing

Perfect Pairing – Safe & Snug With Me

As winter holds sway in the northern hemisphere, I’ve paired two picture books from a talented author and illustrator duo that are perfect for a cozy read by a fireplace.

You’re Safe With Me

Author: Chitra Soundar

Illustrator: Poonam Mistry

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: animals; stormy weather; environment; reassurance

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When the moon rises high and the stars twinkle, it is bedtime for the baby animals of the Indian forest. But tonight, when the skies turn dark and the night grows stormy, the little ones can’t sleep. SWISH-SWISH! CRACK-TRACK! FLASH-SNAP! goes the storm. Only Mama Elephant with her words of wisdom can reassure them, “You’re safe with me.”

Read a review at Library Mice.

 

You’re Snug With Me

Author: Chitra Soundar

Illustrator: Poonam Mistry

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2018

Ages:  4-8

Themes: animals; polar bears; Arctic; conservationism; reassurance

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

At the start of winter, two bear cubs are born, deep in their den in the frozen north. “Mama, what lies beyond here?” they ask. “Above us is a land of ice and snow.” “What lies beyond the ice and snow?” they ask. “The ocean, full of ice from long ago.” And as they learn the secrets of the earth and their place in it, Mama Bear whispers, “You’re snug with me.”

Read a review at Read It, Daddy!

I paired these books because they’re beautifully written and illustrated by the same pair and feature similar ecological themes. But while You’re Safe With Me features several different jungle animals in tropical India, You’re Snug With Me focuses on one polar bear Mama and her cubs in the frozen north. I enjoyed Soundar’s lyrical storytelling in both, and I especially appreciated how Mistry adapted her distinctive illustration style to two radically different environments. Although these may not technically be a series yet, I hope that this talented pair collaborate on a future environmental tale.

Perfect Pairing of Fathers and Sons

Last week, I paired two picture books about the final months of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, in honor of his birthday yesterday. In that post, I pointed out the centrality of economic equality to Dr. King’s dream and how he was in Memphis to support sanitation workers. So today, in honor of that aspect of his message, I’ve paired two picture books in which economic insecurity is a central, but unstated, part of the story:

 

A Different Pond

Author: Bao Phi

Illustrator: Thi Bui

Publisher/Date: Capstone Young Readers/2017

Ages: 6-8

Themes: economic insecurity;  immigrants; fishing; father-son relationship; Vietnam; family traditions

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

As a young boy, Bao Phi awoke early, hours before his father’s long workday began, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Unlike many other anglers, Bao and his father fished for food, not recreation. A successful catch meant a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, Bao’s father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam.

Read my review.

 

Night Job

Author: Karen Hesse

Illustrator: G. Brian Karas

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2018

Ages: 3-7

Themes: economic insecurity; father-son relationship; school custodian

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

With lyrical narration and elegant, evocative artwork, Newbery Medalist Karen Hesse and illustrator G. Brian Karas share the nighttime experience of a father and child.

When the sun sets, Dad’s job as a school custodian is just beginning. What is it like to work on a Friday night while the rest of the city is asleep? There’s the smell of lilacs in the night air, the dusky highway in the moonlight, and glimpses of shy nighttime animals to make the dark magical. Shooting baskets in the half-lit gym, sweeping the stage with the game on the radio, and reading out loud to his father in the library all help the boy’s time pass quickly. But what makes the night really special is being with Dad. Newbery Medalist Karen Hesse’s quietly powerful story of a boy and his father is tenderly brought to life by G. Brian Karas in this luminous tribute to an enduring, everyday sort of love.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because they provide empathetic portraits of father-son relationships and are slice-of-life stories in which economic insecurity plays a central, but unstated, role. In A Different Pond, a young boy and his dad go fishing in the darkness of early morning. We also learn, though, through subtle clues, that the family is not only recent immigrants from Vietnam, but that they are struggling financially: the boy and his father seek to catch fish for the family’s dinner, and the father works multiple jobs. In Night Shift, the family’s economic situation is less clear, but the young narrator accompanies his custodian father to a school at night and stays with him through the shift, perhaps because there is no other family member to care for the child then or because the father can’t afford to pay someone to stay with the boy. As the pair work, they listen to a ball game that is “played miles away”, even as the father proceeds to clean the school “from stem to stern”.  In both stories, the parent-child bond is strong, the boys are proud of their fathers’ work, and it’s clear that everyone cherishes the time spent together.

Perfect Pairing – Reflections on the Last Days of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday next Monday, almost fifty years after the assassination that cut short his life far too soon, two new picture books recount the last weeks of his life, one in a series of poems, the other in a combination of snapshot-like prose and poetry.

 

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King

Author: Andrea Davis Pinkney

Illustrator: Brian Pinkney

Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press/2018

Ages: 8+

Themes: Martin Luther King Jr.; Civil Rights; protest

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In a rich embroidery of visions, musical cadence, and deep emotion, Andrea and Brian Pinkney convey the final months of Martin Luther King’s life — and of his assassination — through metaphor, spirituality, and multilayers of meaning.
Andrea’s stunning poetic requiem, illustrated with Brian’s lyrical and colorful artwork, brings a fresh perspective to Martin Luther King, the Gandhi-like, peace-loving activist whose dream of equality — and whose courage to make it happen — changed the course of American history. And even in his death, he continues to transform and inspire all of us who share his dream.
Wonderful classroom plays of Martin Rising can be performed by using the “Now Is the Time” history and the 1968 timeline at the back of the book as narration — and adding selected poems to tell the story!

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

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 Jr.; 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 Martin Rising, Andrea Pinkney crafts a series of “docu-poems” (her term) using religious and folkloric imagery combined with Brian Pinkney’s abstract visuals to recount the last months of the sainted icon of the Civil Rights movement. She also sought to “honor the lives and spirits of the sanitation workers” whose fight Dr. King took up (quotations from the Author’s Reflections). 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 also tells the story in short, poetic vignettes (quotations from Introduction). Both texts include wonderful back matter to further readers’ experiences, and both remind readers of the centrality of economic equality to Dr. King’s dream.

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).

Perfect Pairing – Peace

For the first Perfect Pairing of the new year, I couldn’t think of a better topic than Peace: May you find it in your own life and may we work together to promote it in our world in 2019. Happy New Year!

Peace and Me: Inspired by the Lives of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates

Author & Illustrator: Ali Winter

Illustrator: Mickaël El Fathi

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2018

Ages: 7-11

Themes: peace; peace builders; non-fiction; Nobel Peace Prize

Short Synopsis (from publisher’s website):

What does peace mean to you? This illustrated collection of inspirational ideas about peace is based on the lives of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates of the 20th and 21st centuries, among them Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and Malala Yousafzai. A must for anyone interested in exploring this essential issue of our times, this child-friendly exploration of what peace means to you and me is a book for every bookshelf.

Amnesty International endorses this book because it shows how standing up for other people makes the world a better, more peaceful place.

Read my review from last October.

 

Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts About Peace

Author & Illustrator: Anna Grossnickle Hines

Publisher/Date: Henry Holt and Company/2011

Ages:  4-8

Themes: peace; peace builders; quilts; poetry; non-fiction

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In this evocative collection of poems illustrated by beautiful handmade quilts, Anna Grossnickle Hines explores peace in all its various and sometimes surprising forms: from peace at home to peace on a worldwide scale to peace within oneself.  Pondering the meaning of peace and its fleeting nature, this book compels each of us to discover and act upon peace ourselves.

Read a review and see a Readers’ Guide at Poetry for Children.

I paired these books because both feature peace builders and invite readers to contemplate how they build peace in their own communities. Arranged chronologically, Peace and Me introduces children to 12 Nobel Peace Prize winners. Linked together with taglines that explore what “peace is” in the context of each winner, the one-page biographies highlight the impact the winners had on the world leading to their awards. In Peaceful Pieces, Grossnickle Hines explores peace via a series of poems about the meaning of peace and about the work of peace builders. How will you find peace in your life and promote peace in your community?

Looking for similar reads?

See, People of Peace: 40 Inspiring Icons  (Sandrine Mirza, 2018).

Perfect Pairing: Christmas is for the Birds (Count)

I think I mentioned at the outset of this blog series that one of my goals is to pair two different books that complement each other because of theme, common author and/or illustrator, or for some other reason. One of today’s books is non-fiction, and the other book is fiction, but they converge on one topic: the Christmas bird count. I think it’s a perfect time to feature these books, as readers can participate in the count now, regardless of whether you live in the country, the city or somewhere in between.

Happy counting, happy holidays to those celebrating Christmas next week, and happy New Year’s to all! As both of the next two Tuesdays are holidays in the US, I’ll be back with my next perfect pairing in January. 

Counting Birds: The Idea that Helped Save our Feathered Friends

Author: Heidi E.Y. Stemple

Illustrator: Clover Robin

Publisher/Date: Sea Grass Press (an imprint of The Quarto Group)/2018

Ages: 3-7

Themes: non-fiction; biography; birds; citizen science; Christmas bird count

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Every day kids learn how they can help protect bird species, near and far, with Counting Birds—the real-life story of bird counting and watching.

What can you do to help endangered animals and make a positive change in our environment? Get counting! Counting Birds is a beautifully illustrated book that introduces kids to the idea of bird counts and bird watches. Along the way, they will learn about Frank Chapman, who used his bird knowledge and magazine Bird-Lore to found the first annual bird count.
 
Bird counting helps professional researchers collect data, share expertise, and spread valuable information to help all kinds of birds around the world, from condors to hawks to kestrels and more.
 
Counting Birds introduces kids to a whole feathered world that will fascinate and inspire them to get involved in conservation and become citizen scientists.

Read a review and an interviewwith Heidi E.Y. Stemple at Picture BookBuzz.

Finding a Dove for Gramps

Author: Lisa J. Amstutz

Illustrator: Maria Luisa Di Gravio

Publisher/Date: Albert Whitman and Company/2018

Ages: 5-7

Themes: Christmas bird count; intergenerational; family; loss

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A boy and his mom continue the family tradition of participating in the annual bird count. Since Gramps went South for the winter, the boy hopes to spot Gramps’s favorite bird for him—a dove! But with so many different birds in the nature preserve, will he be able to spot one? This heart-warming family story about nature celebrates a holiday census that was first started in 1900 and happens every year.

Read a review and an interview with Lisa Amstutz at Picture Book Buzz.

Hawk seen in park across Hudson River from New York City

I paired these books because readers can learn the history of the Christmas bird count in the non-fiction Counting Birds and see its importance to one boy and his family in the fictional story, Finding a Dove for Gramps. Utilizing the information in the back matter of both books, readers then can participate in the bird count themselves.

Looking for similar reads?

See, Owl Moon, Jane Yolen (1987) (the daughter in the story is the author of Counting Birds) and Crow Not Crow, Jane Yolen & Adam Stemple (2018).

Perfect Pairing of Poetry Picture Books

I’ve been serving as a Round 1 panelist for the Cybils Awards poetry section these past few months, reading almost 50 picture book, middle grade and young adult books of poetry and novels in verse. I had known about the first book I feature below, but hadn’t had the pleasure of reading it until it was nominated to that list. I’m so glad I’ve now read it! Not only was the publication of this collection a gift from a daughter to her late mother, but the haiku themselves are a gift to kids young and old. I hope you read and enjoy both of these picture books – I certainly did.

H is for Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z

Author: Sydell Rosenberg

Illustrator: Sawson Chalabi

Publisher/Date: Penny Candy Press/2018

Ages: 5-11

Themes: haiku; poetry; nature

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, the late poet Sydell Rosenberg, a charter member of the Haiku Society of America and a New York City public school teacher, and illustrator Sawsan Chalabi offer an A-Z compendium of haiku that brings out the fun and poetry in everyday moments.

Read a review and interview with Rosenberg’s daughter, Amy Losak, at Picture Books Help Kids Soar.

 

Poems in the Attic

Author: Nikki Grimes

Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon

Publisher/Date: Lee & Low Books/2015

Ages: 7-8

Themes: poetry; family history; intergenerational

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

During a visit to her grandma’s house, a young girl discovers a box of poems in the attic, poems written by her mother when she was growing up. Her mother’s family often moved around the United States and the world because her father was in the Air Force. Over the years, her mother used poetry to record her experiences in the many places the family lived. Reading the poems and sharing those experiences through her mother’s eyes, the young girl feels closer to her mother than ever before. To let her mother know this, she creates a gift: a book with her own poems and copies of her mother’s. And when she returns her mother’s poems to the box in the attic, she leaves her own poems too, for someone else to find, someday. Using free verse for the young girl’s poems and tanka for her mother’s, master poet Nikki Grimes creates a tender intergenerational story that speaks to every child’s need to hold onto special memories of home, no matter where that place might be.”

Read a review and an interview with Nikki Grimes about this book in the Horn Book.

I paired these books because they are both poetry collections, perfect for reading together, and because they offer differing perspectives on an intergenerational theme: In H is for Haiku, Rosenberg wrote the poems for children, but they were collected and published by her daughter, Amy Losak – an act of filial love and a gift to readers. In Poems in the Attic, a grandchild exploring her grandmother’s attic finds letters written by her mother as a girl and through them learns more about her mother. It also involves a gift, in this case, the original poems and the daughter’s responses, compiled into a book.

Looking for similar reads?

See Nikki Grimes’ A Pocketful of Poems (2001), which pairs haiku and free verse poems; Seeing Into Tomorrow, Nina Crews (2018), the haikus of Richard Wright with photographs by Crews; Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up, Sally M. Walker (2018).

Perfect Pairing – Feeling Blue?

In a favorite passage in Emilie Boon’s Ella & Monkey at Sea, young Ella utilized “angry black”, “scared gray” and “cold blue” crayons to color as a storm raged. Since reading these descriptions and writing a review of this awesome, new picture book, these images have haunted me. Blue is a favorite color, and I rarely associate it with coldness, sadness or angry feelings. But depending on shade, blue can be sad or happy, angry or peaceful, and so much more, as evident in these two recent picture books. How do you feel blue?

Blue

Author & Illustrator: Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Publisher/Date: Neal Porter Books, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press/2018

Ages: 3-6 (and older)

Themes: low word count; loss; dogs; blue

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

How many shades of blue are there?

There’s the soft blue of a baby’s cherished blanket, the ocean blue of a romp in the waves, the chilly blue of a cold winter’s walk in the snow, and the true blue of the bond that exists between children and animals.

In this simple, sumptuously illustrated companion to Caldecott Honor Book Green, award-winning artist Laura Vaccaro Seeger turns her attention to the ways in which color evokes emotion, and in doing so tells the story of one special and enduring friendship.

Read a review by Julie Danielson at Kirkus Reviews.

The Blue Hour

Author & Illustrator: Isabelle Simler

Publisher/Date: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers/2017 (originally published in France as Heure Bleue, Éditions courtes et longues, Paris/2015)

Ages:  4-8

Themes: nature; evening; quiet; blue

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A lovely and tranquil celebration of nature

The sun has set, the day has ended, but the night hasn’t quite arrived yet. This magical twilight is known as the blue hour. Everything in nature sky, water, flowers, birds, foxes comes together in a symphony of blue to celebrate the merging of night and day.

With its soothing text and radiant artwork, this elegant picture book displays the majesty of nature and reminds readers that beauty is fleeting but also worth savoring.

Read a review at Waking Brain Cells.

I paired these books because they evoke feelings and emotions through various shades of the color blue. In the almost-wordless Blue, Seeger traces the lifespans and love of a boy and his dog from infancy, with a baby blue blanket, to the end, utilizing differing shades and descriptive words for blue. In The Blue Hour, Simler provides snapshots of many animals preparing for the darkness of night. Both of these picture books are quiet, and because of the illustrations, merit multiple readings and re-readings.

Looking for similar reads?

See Seeger’s Green and Aree Chung’s Mixed: A Colorful Story.