Category Archives: Perfect Picture Books

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!

PPBF – Numenia and the Hurricane: Inspired by a True Migration Story

As families everywhere hunker down and shelter in place, it’s a true treat to read a story that involves a journey. When that journey is affected by a life-threatening hurricane, something arguably made more severe by climate change, I think this story is especially timely as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day. I hope you enjoy some armchair traveling via today’s Perfect Picture Book!

Title: Numenia and the Hurricane: Inspired by a True Migration Story

Written & Illustrated By: Fiona Halliday

Publisher/Date: Page Street Kids/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: migration, birds, hurricanes, separation, reunion, determination, rhyming

Opening:

Three sisters born/ By arctic shore/ On bare, cold rock/ As spring winds roar.

Bandit-eyed,/ They slip unseen/ Through beckoning moors/ Of tangled green.

Hunting bugs in/ Thawing creeks./ Spearing, gobbling,/ Growing beaks.

Five weeks old,/ They’ve reached the sky!/ “Curlee, curlee,/ Curloo,” they cry.

Brief Synopsis:

A brave, young whimbrel migrates from the Arctic to the Caribbean, but when a hurricane separates her from her flock, she must persevere to reach her destination.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

In gentle, rhyming text, Numenia and the Hurricane recounts the story of a young whimbrel, a small, Artic bird, from her birth through her first migration to the Virgin Islands, in the Caribbean. But as readers learn, this isn’t just any continent-spanning migration. Instead, Numenia and her flock encounter a hurricane. During the storm, the poor bird is separated from her family and the flock. How will she survive to complete her journey and reunite with her sisters? You’ll have to read this gorgeous picture book to find out! But rest assured, since it’s geared to young children, this story has a happy ending.

But before we reach that ending, readers are in for a treat with Halliday’s lyrical imagery, including two of my favorites: a “great stampede” of “ten thousand hissing raindrops”, and “storm-tossed birds like ragged ghosts”.

Halliday’s illustrations in soft tones of blues, golds, greens, ivory and gray drew me into this story. If only I could have joined Numenia at her final destination!

Numenia and the Hurricane is based on a true story, which Halliday shares in an Author’s Note, along with information about this fascinating species.

A Note about Craft:

A non-fiction picture book about Hope, the inspiration for Numenia, would have been an interesting story. But Halliday ups the stakes by including fictional elements, most especially the inclusion of Numenia’s sisters. What child isn’t  interested in a creature who has not only lost her way, but also her family?

Fictionalizing this story also enables Halliday to anthropomorphize Numenia, again enabling children to more readily identify with her reactions to her problem and to learn from her hope and determination.

The use of rhyme quickens the pace, I think, which is perfect for a story about a bird, and it suits the lyrical images Halliday utilizes. And in the Author’s Note, we learn that the name, Numenia, is a derivation of Numenius phaeopus, the Latin name for whimbrels. What great attention to detail!

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 – Boundless Sky

In these days of staying at home, I think many of us are reading more to escape confinement. And when I find a book that involves travel, and especially one, like today’s featured picture book, that involves a great journey through the skies, I know that it must be a Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Boundless Sky

Written By: Amanda Addison

Illustrated By: Manuela Adreani

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-6

Themes/Topics: migration, birds, refugees, welcoming, friendship

Opening:

Nobody knew, nobody dreamed, nobody even considered the possibility that a bird which fits in your hand might fly halfway round the world—and back again.

Brief Synopsis:

A tiny swallow migrates from the United Kingdom to southern Africa, and back, as a young girl leaves her African home to flee to safety in the United Kingdom.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about English swallows, the bird featured in this story;
  • Swallows fly great distances in an annual migration. What other animals migrate? Why do you think certain animals migrate? Draw a picture of an animal that migrates;
  • Check out the Teaching Resources (link near bottom of the page).

Why I Like this Book:

In Boundless Sky, author Amanda Addison reminds readers that one sky unites birds, animals, and people across this vast world. The initial focus is on Bird, a small English swallow that is about to embark on a journey from the northern part of the northern hemisphere across vast and varied landmasses and waters to arrive, and winter, in the southern part of the southern hemisphere in Africa.

Midway through her flight, as she was crossing a great desert, “the hardest part of the journey”, Bird reached an oasis, a place of refuge where Leila, a young girl, welcomed her with a drink of life-giving water.

But on the return journey, Bird discovers that Leila has disappeared. Thirsty, Bird flew on, to fly, once more, across vast waters, now stormy, and landmasses, to return home. There, she discovers that a familiar friend has also crossed stormy seas and found a new home.

I think even young children will enjoy following along on Bird’s journey, even if they don’t understand that Boundless Sky is the story of parallel journeys. Older children can delve deeper into the topic of migration – of birds, other animals, and people, like Leila, who risk all to seek safety and friendship in a new home.

I found Adreani’s soft pencil palette of blues and beiges to be calming and peaceful, the perfect accompaniment to this story of hope and friendship.

A Note about Craft:

Regular readers know that I’ve read, and reviewed, many picture books about refugees. Although many of these end on a welcoming note, I’m not sure any draw the parallel between animal or bird migration and human migration. Drawing this parallel enables Boundless Sky to function on multiple layers and to be of interest to children older than the target age range.

In addition to the parallel journey recounted in Boundless Sky, I found the choice of Leila’s original home, an oasis, to be particularly poignant. I think most of us think of an oasis as a life-giving island in a sea of desert. But here, the oasis presumably has not protected Leila, which, I think, adds a further layer to this story.

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 – Like the Moon Loves the Sky

During this unprecedented period when fears understandably are running high, I’ve been on the lookout for picture books that provide calm and reassurance. Thankfully, today’s Perfect Picture Book was part of my haul from the library shortly before it closed. I hope you can find and read this book soon.

Title: Like the Moon Loves the Sky

Written By: Hena Khan

Illustrated By: Saffa Khan

Publisher/Date: Chronicle Kids/2020

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes/Topics: diversity, parent-child relationship, hopes, dreams

Opening:

Inshallah you are all that is gentle and good.

Brief Synopsis: A mother shares her hopes and dreams for her children.

Links to Resources:

  • Think of somewhere you’d like to travel. Why do you want to go there? What do you need to bring? Draw a picture of your special place;
  • How do you “speak truth” and work to uphold it?
  • Think about the title. How does the moon love the sky? Why do you think Khan chose this title?
  • The term Inshallah, which means “if God wills it” in Arabic, runs through this book. Does your family have a special term that you use, like “ojalá” in Spanish or “God willing” in English? Try writing a story or poem, repeating your special term in each line;
  • Several motifs run through the illustrations. Count the books in several spreads, or look for leafy branches (olive branches, perhaps) that appear throughout the book;
  • Learn about Islam, the religious tradition highlighted here, and discover Arabic books, crafts, and other resources at A Crafty Arab;
  • Download the poster to decorate your reading space.

Why I Like this Book:

With its gently repeating phrase, Inshallah, a mother shares her hopes and dreams for her children as they grow and navigate childhood. I love watching the baby grow from spread to spread through toddlerhood to learn the skills and navigate the challenges of childhood. I also love the gentle support provided by the parents at each step of the way, and the gentle affirmation of love and togetherness at the end.

Soft-hued illustrations in beiges, greens, blues and reds further the gentle feel of Like the Moon Loves the Sky. Of particular note is the inclusion of natural elements that tie the spreads together, and the appearance of books in several spreads.

A Note about Craft:

With its repeated opening term, Inshallah, Hena Khan addresses her, our, children directly, conveying hopes, dreams, and expectations in one-line statements. This low word-count picture book reads like free-verse poetry, or a prayer, as the parents pictured (which are a man and woman, but aren’t specified in the text) help a child navigate childhood. The soft repetition makes this ideal for a bedtime read, and I think it will stand up to multiple readings.

With its low word count, Hena Khan leaves much to the illustrator, including, as noted, the choice of adult(s). Details supplied by the illustrator, Saffa Khan (no relation to Hena), include the choice of a friend that accompanies the text “reach out to make a new friend”, and the choice of “destination” that accompanies the phrase “travel to thrilling new places”. I was especially happy to see a child in a wheelchair appear in the travel spread.

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 – Yusra Swims

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, and as the 2020 Summer Olympics have been in the news this week, I thought this was a timely, new picture book biography to feature as a Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Yusra Swims

Written By: Julie Abery

Illustrated By: Sally Deng

Publisher/Date: Creative Editions/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: swimming, refugee, Olympics, Syria, biography, rhyming, persistence, hope, dreams

Opening:

Just a girl/With a dream./Olympic Games/Swimming team.

Brief Synopsis: The true story of Yusra Mardini, a Syrian swimmer, who fled Syria for Europe and who competed in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics as part of the Refugee Olympic Team.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about the Refugee Olympic Team and watch a short video featuring the athletes, including Yusra Mardini, who competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics;
  • Learn about the geography and rich history of Syria before the current conflicts;
  • Learn more about the refugee experience with materials from Amnesty International;
  • Yusra’s dream was to swim for her country in the Olympics. Do you have a dream? Describe your dream in words or pictures.

Why I Like this Book:

Yusra Swims is a hopeful story of one young woman’s persistence and courage to overcome overwhelming obstacles. Especially as we and our children navigate the uncertainties, difficulties, and fear during this unprecedented pandemic and global shutdown, I found it particularly heartening to learn about this talented and courageous young woman.

As a teenager, Yusra fled a war-torn region, she used her swimming skills to save fellow refugees when their overloaded boat lost its motor and began to sink, she resettled in Germany, despite, presumably, not knowing the language, and then she competed in the first Refugee Olympic Team in history. If Yusra doesn’t inspire all of us to use our talents to succeed and benefit others, I don’t know who could!

Abery relates Yusra’s story in short, rhyming text, which makes this an ideal picture book to share even with younger children. Deng’s blue-palette illustrations provide further context as we journey with Yusra to the Olympics.

A Note about Craft:

Aspiring writers often hear that agents and editors are not interested in rhyming text. And rhyming picture book biographies are few and far between. But rhyme works well in this case, and I applaud Abery for utilizing it to quicken the pace to match Yusra’s sport, swimming. It also enables readers to navigate the difficult parts of Yusra’s journey more quickly and focus sooner on the hopeful aspects of her life.

In one poignant spread, Deng adds a kid-relatable detail to the jettisoned possessions: a stuffed animal. My eyes focused on that immediately, and I think kids will be drawn to that, too.

Visit Julie Abery’s website to see more of her children’s books. See interior spreads from Yusra Swims and learn about Deng 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 – The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

During this unprecedented time of stress and worry, a gentle reminder of the power of compassion may be just what we need. Thankfully, there’s a new picture book releasing next week written by and about a world expert in that practice.

Title: The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Written By: His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Illustrated By: Bao Luu

Publisher/Date: Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House/March 2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: compassion, peace, Tibet, autobiography, Buddhism

Opening:

I was born in Taktser, in the Amdo province of northeastern Tibet. It was a place of tall mountains, clear streams, blue skies, and many animals—mastiffs, sheep, horses, yaks, scorpions, chickens, and cows.

Our home was in the shadow of the Ami-chiri, The Mountain That Pierces the Sky.

Brief Synopsis: Written by His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, The Seed of Compassion recounts early memories with his mother who planted the seed of compassion within him and includes ideas for children to help nurture compassion and improve the world.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about the 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and read some fun facts about him. There’s also a timeline of his life in back matter, as well as a note to readers at the front of this book;
  • Discover Tibet;
  • Learn about Buddhism and try some activities that help you become more aware of the natural sights and sounds that surround you;
  • How can you nurture the seed of compassion and inclusivity in your school, at the playground, or in your family?
  • Listen to a sample reading of The Seed of Compassion (found near the bottom of the page).

Why I Like this Book:

In straightforward language, His Holiness the Dalai Lama shares scenes from his rural childhood during which his mother showed him by example the importance of kindness towards others. I love the analogy to planting a seed that will grow, something that I think kids will relate to and understand.

I also appreciate that His Holiness addresses children directly and with respect in the latter part of the book, recognizing that they have within themselves the seed which can grow into compassion, for their peers and the world. As an example, he rhetorically asks children whether they would rather approach a smiling group or a scowling group on the playground. Of course, they would rather approach the smiling, welcoming group. The leap to becoming one who shares a smile is obvious. From there, His Holiness states, “When you approach someone with true warmheartedness, they can feel it. Doing so only brings more joy to you and them.”

And with practice, like with a sport or musical instrument, His Holiness assures children that compassion will grow.

Golden tones run through this picture book, tying His Holiness’ early life to his later ministry. I think caregivers and teachers will appreciate the diversity of children presented, including in a final scene showing His Holiness part of a circle of multicultural children.

A Note about Craft:

I’ve already mentioned a few of the tools that His Holiness utilizes to share his message, the seed and growing analogy and addressing children directly. These techniques, I believe, encourage children to believe that they have the power within themselves to practice compassion. Perhaps as importantly, His Holiness also reminds these children that if they slip and fail to act compassionately, tomorrow is another opportunity to “try again.”

A relatively new imprint of Penguin Random House, “Kokila (pronounced KO-ki-la) brings together an inclusive community of authors and illustrators, publishing professionals, and readers to examine and celebrate stories that reflect the richness of our world.”

I reviewed an electronic review copy of this book, downloaded from Edelweiss+.

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 Traveler’s Gift: A Story of Loss and Hope

My guess is that few of you are traveling these days. But what’s better than a good story to pass the time at home (and help anxious parents forget about the viral news)? How about a story about storytelling that’s filled with travel and adventure, like today’s Perfect Picture Book.

Title: The Traveler’s Gift: A Story of Loss and Hope

Written By: Danielle Davison

Illustrated By: Anne Lambelet

Publisher/Date: Page Street Kids/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: storytelling, travel, grief, loneliness, friendship

Opening:

Liam’s father was a sailor. After returning from sea, he’d weave tales for Liam of the faraway places he’d been and the curious things he’d seen, using just his words.

Someday, Liam would join his father. They would travel to faraway places, and Liam would have stories of his own to tell. But for now, he was happy retelling his father’s stories to anyone who would listen.

Brief Synopsis: Liam loves listening to his father’s stories. But when his father dies, Liam’s interest in stories dies with him, until Liam meets a traveler who weaves stories so engaging that Liam’s love of stories revives.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have favorite family stories? Or favorite stories about someplace you’ve traveled or an adventure you’ve experienced? Share some of these with your friends;
  • Ask an older relative or friend to share some of their favorite stories.

Why I Like this Book:

In text and illustrations, The Traveler’s Gift transports readers to mythical faraway places and shows the transformative power of stories.

As the story begins, young Liam experiences the world through the fantastical stories woven by his seafaring father. But when his father dies, Liam’s interest in life and travel and his love of stories fade. How can he find these again?

When he hears a new storyteller, the traveler Enzo, weaving tales by the docks, Liam takes a chance, and turns his life around, by volunteering to travel with Enzo to “listen to the world”, “see things…with more than just his eyes”, and experience places “not found on a map”. As the pair share Liam’s first voyage and Enzo’s last voyage, Liam gains the courage to tell his own story of his father, his newfound friend, and the adventures shared.

The woodcut-like illustrations and vivid colors add to the mythic qualities of this tale that is sure to transport young and old readers alike to a faraway place, where a storyteller can transform feelings of loss to hope.

A Note about Craft:

For many of us, the power of storytelling is fantastic, a magical way to recount happenings or make sense of a senseless world. But how does one convey that in a story about storytelling? In The Traveler’s Gift, Davison uses the term “magic” at two particular points in the story to convey this. After Liam’s father’s death, “[a]ll the magic he once felt retelling his father’s stories faded.” After Enzo asked him to try telling stories, “Liam felt the magic of storytelling he thought he’d lost.”

The illustrations also help convey the magic of storytelling and lend a mythic air to Liam’s experiences. There’s no indication in the text of how to show the Traveler’s gift, but readers will see and understand what it is through Lambelet’s fantastic details that weave through this story.

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 – Dare

I found today’s Perfect Picture Book in London, but it’s also available in the US. After reading it, I wanted to get up and DO something, take positive action. I hope others feel that way, too!

Title: Dare

Written By: Lorna Gutierrez

Illustrated By: Polly Noakes

Publisher/Date: Tiny Owl Publishing/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: social activism, self-esteem, rhyming, poetry, multicultural

Opening:

Dare to dream. Dare to aspire.

Dare to trust… Dare to inspire!

Brief Synopsis: Short rhyming text encourages and inspires children to be true to themselves, to be the best they can be, and to help others and speak out for a better world.

Links to Resources:

  • Try something new: an activity, a food, an outfit, or even visit a new place;
  • Watch the book trailer;
  • Check out the suggested activities in this Teacher Resource.

Why I Like this Book:

In just 93 words divided into short, active, rhyming phrases, Dare encourages all children to be true to themselves, to support causes important to them, and to take action to make the world better. Dare features both small actions, like reading, reaching out a hand to someone who appears to be a newcomer, and stopping to smell a flower, and big actions, like participating in a protest march.

I think the rhyming text will appeal to young children. I also think the illustrations will encourage activity. I especially like that these bright illustrations feature details that stretch the text: the girl on the cover is wearing a hearing aid; several children carry protest signs; a child in a tutu appears to be male; skin colors and hair types span a wide spectrum.

Dare is a positive, hopeful book, that, I think, will be a great addition to home and school libraries, whether you’re looking to encourage positive self-images and the pursuit of dreams or to spur social activism.

A Note about Craft:

Gutierrez uses short, rhyming phrases to encourage action. Verbs dominate the text: dare, dream, aspire, inspire, see, speak, sing, dance, lend a hand, and more.

Gutierrez also leaves a lot of room for the illustrator. I especially appreciated the phrase, “Dare to do what hasn’t been done,” accompanied by an illustration of several children in a cardboard “boat” exploring the world. And nowhere does the text state “save the environment”, but the illustrations add that layer to the book.

Learn more about the author and illustrator of Dare.

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 Little Island

I picked up today’s Perfect Picture Book when I visited London last fall. It may not be available in the US yet, but I think it’s publishing here soon. Hopefully, US readers will be able to find it!

Title: The Little Island

Written By: Smriti Prasadam-Halls

Illustrated By: Robert Starling

Publisher/Date: Andersen Press/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: community, island, working together, barriers, bridges, fable

Opening:

There was once a farm where all the animals were friends. They worked hard and each was at liberty to live and work where they chose. Together they looked after the farm and each other.

Brief Synopsis: When a flock of geese on an island at the edge of a farm remove a bridge to keep other animals off of the island, they are happy at first, until they realize that perhaps life is better when they are together with the other animals.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have a favorite farm animal? How do you think that animal could help another one, like a goose?
  • Have you ever visited an island? What animals did you see there? How do you think each type of animal contributes to island life?
  • This story is a fable. What do you think the moral of this fable is? Think of other fables that include animals;
  • Check out the Teaching Notes for more insights.

Why I Like this Book:

When I think of kids at play, I often think about how they play at keeping some friends near and other kids further away. Who hasn’t seen the “Keep Out” signs on forts or play structures, or the dreaded “No XXXs Allowed”?

In similar fashion, the geese in The Little Island grew tired of sharing their island with the larger animals on the farm. But instead of building a wall or posting a sign, they destroyed the only route to the island for non-swimming farm animals: the bridge.

I think even young children will understand a discussion about this exclusionary action. I think they’ll also understand how this action hurts not just the other animals, those kept away from the island, but most especially the geese and ducks left alone there. And for adults or older children reading this story, my guess is that the impetus behind it, the exclusionary antics of certain politicians and governments building barriers and/or leaving multilateral organizations, will engender spirited comparisons.

Starling’s bright illustrations are engaging, and I especially loved the map on the endpapers.

A Note about Craft:

A straight-forward book about keeping others out may get to the point, but setting the situation on a farm with animal characters will, in my opinion, better engage young children and better show the ill consequences for both those excluded and those who exclude others.

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!