Category Archives: Perfect Picture Books

PPBF – Hello Goodbye, Little Island

Today’s Perfect Picture Book is set on the island of Singapore, a place I sadly have not visited…yet! But I think readers still wary/unable to stray far from home will enjoy this virtual visit. I know I did!

And while reading is a wonderful way to escape the confines of home, our library is only open on a limited basis for the foreseeable future with no interlibrary loan service (my “local” is one of the smaller libraries, so most books I review I order through interlibrary loan). In light of the difficulty of obtaining books to review at present, I’ve decided to take a break for the summer. If I’m able to get my hands on a book or two to review, I may post periodically, but otherwise, I look forward to resuming in the fall. Enjoy the summer! Happy reading!

Title: Hello Goodbye, Little Island

Written By: Leila Boukarim

Illustrated By: Barbara Moxham

Publisher/Date: Marshall Cavendish Children/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: moving, friendship

Opening:

Maja had moved to the little island with her family not long ago.

Brief Synopsis: Sad to have left her former home, Maja begins to like living in her new island home when she meets a friend. But when that friend moves away, Maja is again sad and lonely, until she finds a new friend.

Links to Resources:

  • Have you moved to a new house, school, or community? How did you feel? Draw a picture of something that you like about your new home, school, or community;
  • If there’s a new student in your class at school this fall, try to help them feel welcome. Think of some favorite activities that you could share with them;
  • This story takes place on the island nation of Singapore. Singapore icons are incorporated into the illustrations, and they are explained in the back matter. Readers can search the illustrations for them as a seek-and-find game.

Why I Like this Book:

Moving homes, schools, and countries is difficult for anyone, but especially so for young children. So it is that Maja, the main character of Hello Goodbye, Little Island finds the food, vegetation, and climate strange in her new home, and she repeatedly asks when the family can return to their old, familiar home.

When Maja starts a new, larger school and meets a friend through whose eyes she can see the little island, “it was not so strange anymore.” But like several places where my family lived when our children were young, Maja’s new school was filled with expat families, who remained only a few years in one location. Maja’s new friend was leaving!

Once again, Maja “found herself in a strange land”, with everything seeming “different”. Until, that is, Maja discovered a new friend.

Boukarim captures Maja’s dejection at losing a friend and her happiness at finding a new friend, two feelings that children who have moved house, schools, or communities will be able to relate to well. I also like that Maja and Nour, her new friend, expand their friend circle to include a lonely boy who also is new and misses a friend.

Because Hello Goodbye, Little Island is set in Singapore, an island nation in which many expatriates live and work for a few years at a time, Boukarim populates the story with children from diverse backgrounds and cultures. I like how these characters see the beauty in their differences and learn from each other.

Moxham’s unique illustrations are a combination of collaged photographs and black and white illustrations, with icons of Singapore scattered throughout.

A Note about Craft:

In addition to featuring an endearing main character, Maja, who enjoys quiet time spent with friends, Boukarim features many items and activities found in Singapore. I think these specifics, which are new to Maja, help readers understand and empathize with her feelings of loneliness and being in a “strange” place. Adding the seek and find layer to the story increases its re-readability, and this also may expand the age range to older children interested in learning about Singapore.

This Perfect Picture Book entry will be added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

 

PPBF – Acknowledges Juneteenth and World Refugee Day 2020

I perused my bookshelves to choose a Perfect Picture Book for today, which was no small feat, as our local library hasn’t reopened yet and even upon reopening, it’s unclear if interlibrary loans will be possible. But even if I had a pile of books at hand, it’s clear that any book I’d choose to review today would need to be special.

To honor the significance of Juneteenth and support and further the movement to fight systemic racism taking place in my local community, our country, and in many parts of the world, while not forgetting to mark World Refugee Day, and the ongoing, and even worsening, plight of the many refugees in the world – I frankly couldn’t choose just one picture book. I add to that the importance of ensuring that our children acquire the passion and tools to advocate for justice, to empathize with others, and to promote peace.

So, dear readers, instead of just one Perfect Picture Book today, I want to share a few picture books that I’ve read and reviewed in the past year, and that, I believe, are resources for some, but by no means all, of the momentous issues facing our children today. Please share some of the picture books that speak to you on these issues in the comments.

Dare

 

Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

 

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights

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

 The Unexpected Friend: A Rohingya Children’s Story

Wherever I Go

Yusra Swims

 

Check out the other great picture books featured at Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list, to which this post also will be linked.

 

PPBF – Your Name is a Song

When I saw the title of today’s Perfect Picture Book and its gorgeous cover, and when I saw who wrote it, I knew that I had to read it as soon as possible. So I reached out to the publisher on a site for reviewers, and I requested an electronic copy (in exchange for a fair and unbiased review). I’m so happy I did so, and I know you won’t be disappointed when you get your hands on this not-yet-released picture book!

Title: Your Name is a Song

Written By: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Illustrated By: Luisa Uribe

Publisher/Date: The Innovation Press/July 2020 (note: this launch date may be delayed due to Covid-19)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: names, self-esteem, pride, heritage, multicultural

Opening:

“I’m not coming back ever again!” The girl stomped.

Brief Synopsis:

On the first day of school, a young girl is upset because neither her teacher nor fellow classmates can pronounce her name, until her mother reminds her of the musicality and beauty of her name and others like it and empowers her to sing it.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have a name that others have trouble saying or spelling? How do you feel when someone mispronounces your name? How do you think a classmate feels if you can’t pronounce their name?
  • Try tapping out each syllable of your name or singing your own name;
  • Try these name games;
  • Check out the interview Thompkins-Bigelow had with Mr. Schu about the meaning and importance of names.

Why I Like this Book:

I think any child, and even adult, feels awful when peers or an adult can’t pronounce or spell their name, or when someone uses a nickname not generally used or liked. A name is such a personal aspect of identity, which even young children recognize, I think.

In Your Name is a Song, Thompkins-Bigelow captures that feeling and offers solutions that help the young main character find beauty in her name and others that some people may have difficulty pronouncing. The words of her mother empower this young girl to sing her name, and others, when her teacher stumbles on her name once again, and to help her teacher and classmates find beauty in names that had seemed unfamiliar at first.

I particularly like how Thompkins-Bigelow addresses not just the inability of someone’s mouth to form words, but the reality that some names arise from the heart.

Uribe’s colorful illustrations show the young girl and her mother journeying from school to home and then back again the next day, and include magical scenes in which made-up names come from dreams and emanate from the sky, appearing in clouds through which our young girl travels.

Your Name is a Song is a joyous celebration that will help bolster the self-esteem of children whose names are difficult to pronounce or which reflect a particular culture. It also provides a way for other children and adults to think about the importance and beauty of names that may, at first, seem difficult to pronounce or different, and a solution, via song, to overcome that difficulty.

A Note about Craft:

Thompkins-Bigelow doesn’t name the main character until near the end of the book (I’m not going to spoil the ending and reveal it here). I think she does this to keep the reader wondering what name has caused the other children, and even the teacher, to stumble on the pronunciation and to build tension.

A glossary of the names mentioned, their origins, and their pronunciations is included as back matter. The pronunciations also appear in parentheses within the text, to help readers who might stumble while reading.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

 

PPBF – Come with Me

With the barrage of heart-wrenching newscasts these past few months, I think many of us may want to curl up in a ball and try to tune it all out. But neither we, nor our children, can do so. So, what can we do? Today’s Perfect Picture Book may provide a few ideas.

Title: Come With Me

Written By: Holly M. McGhee

Illustrated By: Pascal Lemaître

Publisher/Date: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group/2017

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: kindness, overcoming fear, making a difference, diversity

Opening:

All over the world, the news told and told and retold of anger and hatred—People against people.

And the little girl was frightened by everything she heard and saw and felt.

Brief Synopsis: After watching the news on television, a young girl asks her parents what she, a young girl, can do to overcome the hatred and anger evident in the world.

Links to Resources:

  • Think about a few everyday activities you can do to show you care about others. Perhaps it’s including a person from another background or with another skin color in your group, perhaps it’s saying hello to someone who looks or speaks differently than you, or perhaps it’s just a smile on your face for everyone you meet;
  • Describe in words or pictures a time you felt afraid. Why did you feel afraid? What did you do to stop feeling afraid?
  • Describe in words or pictures a time you reached out to someone who looked frightened, lonely, or sad. How did you feel after you did so?
  • Watch the book trailer.

Why I Like this Book:

Written in the aftermath of the 9/11 and Brussels bombings, Come with Me features small, everyday actions that even children can undertake to overcome their own fears and spread kindness in the world. But while these twin aims certainly feature in the book, I think its message goes further: there are small, everyday actions we all can take to make the world better and more inclusive. Whether it’s thinking of others by wearing a mask in public, or wishing strangers a good day, we all can show kindness to others, especially those who may not look, speak, or act the same as we do.

Written from the point of view of a frightened child who doesn’t know what to do, I think Come with Me presents a unique opportunity for adults and even young children to discuss what children see on the television or what they overhear adults talking about, and how to overcome the fear or inaction that can grip any of us.

A Note about Craft:

Come with Me is a low-word count picture book that leaves lots of space for the illustrator to show the small and big ways the unnamed main character shows bravery in the face of fear, and is welcoming of others who differ from her. It’s unclear whether it was the illustrator’s choice to feature what seems to be a multiracial family or a neighbor who seems to be black, but in both cases, there’s nothing in the text that specifies these attributes.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

 

PPBF – Nimesh the Adventurer

It’s Friday, the start of what is probably another weekend of social distancing and staying at or close to home for many of us. But with a book at hand, especially a picture book like today’s Perfect Picture Book, who knows what adventures await!

Title: Nimesh the Adventurer

Written By: Ranjit Singh

Illustrated By: Mehrdokht Amini

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-6

Themes/Topics: imagination, adventure, multicultural

Opening:

Hello Nimesh, is school over?

School? My friend, this is not a school! It’s an ancient cave, and shhhh! Or you’ll wake…the DRAGON!

Brief Synopsis: Nimesh, a young school boy, has many adventures as he departs his classroom to journey home at the end of the day.

Links to Resources:

  • Take a walk and think about the many familiar sights along the way. Perhaps you see a neighbor’s cat, trees shading the sidewalk, or a favorite shopkeeper. Think about what these could be, such as a tiger, a haunted forest, or an entertainer, and draw a picture or write a story to show what adventures may lie hidden around you;
  • If you were an adventurer, where would you travel? What would you explore?
  • Discover some Famous Firsts by members of The Explorers Club, an international organization founded in 1904 and headquartered in New York City to promote “the scientific exploration of land, sea, air, and space by supporting research and education in the physical, natural and biological sciences”;
  • Download the Teaching Resources and activity for more ways to enjoy this book.

Why I Like this Book:

In Nimesh the Adventurer, the reader follows along as a young school boy turns the everyday into the exotic. Like a magician, Nimesh conjures up fantastical situations and creatures, from the shark-infested waters of the school’s science wing hallway, to an unusually tall street crossing guard who formerly served a Maharaja, to a pirate ship that comes to life from a ship-shaped cake in a Pastry Shop window.

I especially enjoyed the opening spreads, where the illustration that accompanies the first lines of text quoted above shows Nimesh reading a book about dragon taming. What a wonderful way to show readers how books can spark imagination and transport us to new worlds!

In another particularly engaging scene, Amini’s bright, collaged and painted illustration shows an older woman on a park bench who, in Nimesh’s mind, is a princess. What a wonderful way to highlight the inherent beauty of the elderly!

And for those wondering what Nimesh finds when he reaches home, what fantastical things his imagination conjures, perhaps “a cave full of gold”, or an “emperor’s castle”, or even “a lush forest”, you’ll have to read Nimesh the Adventurer to find out.

Amini’s brightly-detailed illustrations render this picture book truly stunning, as they show how one child’s imagination can transform everyday scenes into the sites of true adventures.

A Note about Craft:

As evident from the first lines, the entire picture book is told in a question and answer dialogue, with Nimesh informing the unnamed questioner, “my friend”, of the marvelous things he encounters traveling from school to home. By keeping the text minimal, Singh leaves more room for the illustrator. By letting the reader in on the conversation, Singh places readers more immediately into the action of the story, as we wonder what Nimesh will encounter next.

Page turns are particularly important in this book, as scenes change from the reality of the journey to the imagined adventures.

This is Singh’s debut. Learn more about Iranian-born, UK-based Amini’s illustrations in this blog post and see more of her work and some of the interior spreads at her website.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Ariba: An Old Tale About New Shoes

This holiday weekend marks the start of the summer travel season in many places. But for most of us, travels may be out of the question, if not for the entire summer, at least for now. So, I thought I’d share a Perfect Picture Book that includes travel, adventure, and maybe even some ideas to enjoy our time at home.

Title: Ariba: An Old Tale About New Shoes (Based on a story that has traveled around the world)

Written & Illustrated By: Masha Manapov

Publisher/Date: Enchanted Lion Books/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: favorite shoes, storytelling, intergenerational, multicultural

Opening:

From the moment Marcus put on his new shoes, he couldn’t stop moving. He bounced all the way from the living room to the kitchen, circled the house 3 times and the shed 3 times more, climbed the tree in Billy’s backyard, ran up and down the 19 steps to his front door, and accidentally stepped on Carlo’s tail.

Brief Synopsis:

When Marcus tells his grandpa about his new shoes, his grandpa shares an old tale about a pair of shoes, discarded by their owner, that keep returning to him.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have a favorite possession? Why is it a favorite of yours? Draw a picture of it;
  • In his new shoes, Marcus moves all about his house and yard. Create an obstacle course around your house for your family to enjoy;
  • Marcus’ grandpa tells an old tale about new shoes. Ask an older relative to share a tale with you, either from their own childhood, or a tale they remember hearing when they were young;
  • Ask older relatives to tell you about favorite toys or outfits from when they were young.

Why I Like this Book:

In this quirky tale within a tale, young Marcus’ grandpa transports Marcus, and readers, to a village that seems to be in Africa. There, we meet Ariba, a youth similar in age to Marcus, who, like Marcus, has just been gifted a new pair of shoes. As this tale proceeds, the reader journeys with Ariba, wearing the shoes, of course, to a big city. Here the shoes seem out-of-place. Ariba replaces them, or at least tries to do so. Because every time he tries to donate or discard them, some kindly person remembers how much Ariba valued those shoes and thoughtfully returns them.

I think kids will enjoy guessing how the shoes return each time. I think adults will value the opportunity to discuss how we value our possessions and why we should strive to be our own person, even if our sense of fashion, or our family’s ability to “buy the newest thing”, isn’t the same as everyone else’s.

I won’t spoil the ending, but trust that everything comes together as the story circles back to Marcus and his beloved grandpa.

This is Manapov’s debut as an author/illustrator. The brightly-colored, collaged illustrations lend an air of fantasy to this story-within-a-story.

A Note about Craft:

I mentioned above that this is a story within a story. The tag line notes that it’s “based on a story that has traveled around the world.” I confess that I don’t recognize the folktale, but Ariba’s story certainly feels like one that could have been around, in some form or another, for ages.

Note that for much of the story, Ariba is an adult. So is the storyteller, Marcus’ grandpa. But Ariba and grandpa both exhibit child-like qualities and, perhaps more importantly, the story begins, and ends, with Marcus, a child.

Enchanted Lion Books “is an independent children’s book publisher based in Brooklyn, New York. We publish illustrated books from around the world, convinced by the power of cultural exchange to inspire curiosity, awareness, and wonder in children everywhere. We reach across time and oceans to find new authors and old treasures to share with a new generation of readers.”

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Wherever I Go

I’m always so happy when I’m able to feature a new picture book by a debut author, especially when I’ve had the pleasure of meeting that author and discussing the book before it was published (or even under contract for publication). I know you’ll agree that my selection today truly is a Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Wherever I Go

Written By: Mary Wagley Copp

Illustrated By: Munir D. Mohammed

Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Children, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Publishing/2020

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: refugee, resilience, imagination, resettlement

Opening:

I AM QUEEN ABIA of the Shimelba Camp. Of all my friends, I have been here the longest—seven years, four months, and sixteen days. That’s what Papa says.

“Too long,” he adds.

I think it’s the perfect amount of time to become a queen.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl recounts her experiences as queen of a refugee camp, sharing the skills she’s acquired that will help her settle in a new country and home.

Links to Resources:

  • Try one or more of the 20 Simple Acts to learn about refugees or help one or more of them feel welcome in your school or community (for Refugee Week 2020, 15-21 June, the listed activities can be done at home);
  • Are you a queen or king? Make a crown from a paper plate, or make a real or paper daisy crown;
  • Queen Abia balances a large pail of water on her head. Try placing a book or a container of water on your head (you might want to do this outside!), and then try walking while balancing it there. How does doing this make you feel?
  • Queen Abia helps her mother to prepare fufu, a traditional African food. Try making fufu;
  • Learn more about the refugee experience in the Note from the Author and in the books for young readers listed.

Why I Like this Book:

In Wherever I Go, the imaginative, young Abia introduces readers to her life in a refugee camp. We learn how she marches with friends, pumps and carries water to her mother, helps prepare meals, watches her young cousin, drums while waiting for food distributions, howls at hyenas, and sleeps on a prickly mat. She even wears a crown because she is Queen Abia, who has remained in the camp longer than any of her friends. And when she and her family leave the camp to resettle in a new country and home, she will bring the stories of her reign and the many skills she has learned, because she’ll still be a queen.

In young Abia, Wagley Copp has created a narrator who is imaginative, brave, and resilient. Neither Wagley Copp nor Abia sugarcoat life in the camp. But Wagley Copp reminds readers that refugees, like Abia, are survivors who will thrive and enrich any community where they settle. For they are not victims but authors of their own destinies, who will still be queens or kings wherever they go.

Mohammed’s acrylic paintings transported me to Africa where much of this story takes place. Paired with Wagley Copp’s lyrical text, this debut picture book that tackles the difficult subjects of life in a refugee camp and resettlement afterwards is a must have for schools, libraries, and the homes of everyone who cares about those displaced by war or anhy other reason.

A Note about Craft:

As with many of the picture books about the refugee experience, Wagley Copp uses first-person point-of-view to bring immediacy to the story, to enable readers to experience life in the refugee camp from Abia’s perspective. I think this helps build reader empathy and greater understanding of the refugee experience.

In the Note from the Author, Wagley Copp explains that she never has been a refugee. She has, however, visited a refugee camp and met resettled refugees in her role as a documentary filmmaker. This first-hand knowledge helps bring authenticity to the story, as does the inclusion of small details, like the number of years, months, and days the family has been in the camp and the type of tree branches that form Abia’s crown.

Visit Wagley Copp’s website to learn more about this debut author and read an interview with her on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.

The author provided a digital copy in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – The New Neighbours

You may not have “new” neighbors right now. But if, like me, you’re staying at home most of the time, you may be noticing your neighbors more, and maybe you’re even annoyed by some of their behaviors. If so, this is  just the Perfect Picture Book for you!

Title: The New Neighbours

Written & Illustrated By: Sarah McIntyre

Publisher/Date: David Fickling Books/2018 (republished in the US as The New Neighbors, Penguin Workshop, an imprint of Penguin Random House/2019)

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: preconceptions, prejudice, neighbors, gossip

Opening:

High on the roof, above the city, Mr. Pigeon had the latest news.

“You’ve got rats in your flats!” he burbled with glee. “They moved in today on the ground floor.”

Brief Synopsis: When rats move into an apartment building, the other animals react with dread, fearing the worst from these rodents.

Links to Resources:

  • Has someone new moved into your neighborhood recently? Draw a picture to help them feel welcome;
  • Think of 3 things that make your neighborhood special. Why are these places or activities important to you?
  • The new neighbors in this story are rats. Learn about them here. Why do you think McIntyre features rats in this story?
  • Download activity sheets from McIntyre’s website.

Why I Like this Book:

With hopping, and trotting, and tottering, a variety of animal neighbors rush to the ground floor of their apartment building to meet their new neighbors: rats. And as each neighbor joins the group, they share preconceptions about these new neighbors.

Using traits that kids will understand and relate to, the animal residents reveal that rats are messy, smelly, steal food, and more. With short sentences and loads of active verbs, the misconceptions and mayhem grow until everyone tumbles to the rats’ front door. I won’t spoil the ending, but as you can imagine, the reality does not match the escalating fear.

I think kids will enjoy this fast-paced and humorous story with its bright color palette and expressive animal characters. The New Neighbours also is a great introduction to a classroom or family discussion about prejudice, gossiping, and what it means to be a good neighbor or friend.

A Note about Craft:

McIntyre sets her story in an apartment building, where new neighbors, with new preconceptions, join a parade-like group that grows floor by floor. I think using this cumulative format helps build tension leading up to the encounter with the rats. I also love the expressive and kid-friendly language that quickens the pace and makes the text especially appropriate for younger children.

Discover more of McIntyre’s work at her website.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

 

PPBF – It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way

Every time I sit down to write either a book review or a Perfect Pairing post, I am so grateful to the interlibrary loan system that enabled me to find so many wonderful picture books, and to my local library, that allowed me to check them out for the duration of the current closure. I truly don’t know how I’d be coping now if I didn’t have these books at hand as well as the many wonderful picture books I’ve been fortunate to have purchased in the past. And I’m grateful, too, to those who have created these treasures, including the subject of today’s Perfect Picture Book.

Title: It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way

Written By: Kyo Maclear

Illustrated By: Julie Morstad

Publisher/Date: HarperCollins Children’s Books/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Japanese-American, biography, women’s history, illustration, artist, diversity, trailblazer

Opening:

It began with a page, bright and beckoning.

Brief Synopsis: The biography of Gyo Fujikawa, a Japanese-American female illustrator who produced picture books filled with young children of all races in the early 1960s.

Links to Resources:

  • Find a page, “bright and beckoning” and draw a picture. What did you draw? How did it feel to create your picture?
  • Gyo visited Japan to study art, including wood block printing. Try this woodblock printing art project;
  • Gyo’s family, although not Gyo herself, were interned in a camp for people of Japanese descent during World War II. Learn about these internment camps.

Why I Like this Book:

From her discovery of the magic of drawing as a five-year old to the creation of the first of her ground-breaking picture books fifty years later, It Began With a Page recounts the life and passion of trailblazing children’s book creator, Gyo Fujikawa. A woman pursuing a field dominated by men, a Japanese American who did not see herself, or others like her, in books for young children, Gyo made her living as a commercial artist and illustrator at a time when the stereotypical American woman was a housewife and mother. Perhaps because she existed outside these norms, Gyo noticed the lack of diversity in children’s picture books.

Realizing that a book “can be anything that anyone imagines it to be”, Gyo set out to write and illustrate a picture book featuring babies of all colors interacting. In the early 1960s in America, the publishers did not believe such a book could sell. But Gyo kept pressuring until they relented. After the first book launched successfully, Gyo continued publishing children’s picture books, creating over fifty books for children in her lifetime.

I confess to having no knowledge of Gyo before reading this biography, although I’m sure I must have read some of her books, either as a young child or as a parent. I appreciated learning about her persistence, about her desire to create art, and most especially about her need to see herself in picture books.

In back matter, the author and illustrator explain that they both loved Gyo’s work and “were full of questions” about her. I think this picture book answers these questions, for the creators and readers.

Morstad’s illustrations hearken back to the eras when Gyo was creating art. Although most of the spreads are full color, those dealing with the internment of Gyo’s family in the 1940s and the social unrest of the early 1960s are in black and white or with a limited, dark palette, lending gravity to those periods of Gyo’s life.

A Note about Craft:

Rather than focusing on one or two scenes from Gyo’s fascinating life, Maclear starts the narrative with a scene featuring Gyo drawing at an early age and continues the narrative through the publication of Gyo’s first children’s books as an author/illustrator. I think this long timeline shows readers how Gyo honed her craft, enables readers to empathize with Gyo’s sense of existing outside the mainstream American narrative, and helps focus our attention on Gyo’s persistence.

Gyo did not experience internment firsthand. But it’s clear that this deeply affected her worldview and made her sympathetic to the civil rights movement of the early 1960s. Adding information about the internment adds another layer to this fascinating biography, I think, and it helps to explain why a successful artist and illustrator would persevere to create inclusive books for children.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – The Mess That We Made

Although in-person beach clean-ups and other activities to show our concern about the world are on hold at the moment, I hope you and yours were able to participate in some of the many virtual events held for Earth Day 2020. One important way we can stay involved is by reading about the problems of pollution and how we can help, in books such as today’s Perfect Picture Book.

Title: The Mess That We Made

Written By: Michelle Lord

Illustrated By: Julia Blattman

Publisher/Date: Flashlight Press/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: environment, pollution, oceans, plastic, garbage, activism, rhyming

Opening:

THIS is the mess that we made.

Brief Synopsis: A rhyming, cumulative tale that recounts the impact that trash has on our oceans and marine life, and what we can do about it.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the informative back matter that explains ocean pollution and includes many ideas to take action;
  • We may be sheltering at home now, but we can still take action by starting a home garden, by looking for items around the house that we can reuse, or by writing to corporations and/or legislators to keep our waters clean and safe for everyone;
  • Watch the book trailer.

Why I Like this Book:

With its cumulative rhyming text and bright underwater scenes, The Mess That We Made is a wonderful call to action to safeguard our oceans and marine life. I love that children are at the center of the cover illustration and evident on each spread – all of our actions are important, whether we’re young or old. And unlike many books that focus on either the problem side or the solution side, The Mess That We Made makes clear that even though we got our world into the mess, we also have the means to get us out of it.

The Mess That We Made is a wonderful addition to ecology literature, particularly well-suited for younger classrooms and homes.

A Note about Craft:

Saving the earth is a huge, and daunting topic. How many of us have asked the questions, “What can I do?” “How can my actions make a difference?” By relating this daunting topic in lilting rhyme, that builds to a dismal scenario but then reverses to a hopeful one, and by wrapping the story in bright illustrations with children central to the action, the author and illustrator, I think, leave the reader with a feeling of hope and a desire to take action. That they provide many ways to do so without sounding preachy adds to this book’s appeal.

Flashlight Press publishes children’s books that “explore and illuminate the touching and humorous moments of family situations and social interactions through captivating writing and outstanding illustrations.”

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!