Category Archives: Uncategorized

PPBF – A Grandma’s Magic

Greetings dear readers! It’s been a while since I’ve posted, several months to be exact. This year has been filled with too many moves, even for this serial mover, as we remain in temporary housing several months after vacating our New Jersey condo of over four years.

But we’ve also been busy celebrating happy family events – first, the wedding of our eldest child in mid-May, and then the birth of our first grandchild, the precious Louie, in mid-June.

To say that this new grandmother is over the moon in love with this beloved bundle is an understatement. And luckily, not long before I traveled to meet him, I saw a post on Pragmatic Mom for a giveaway of today’s perfect picture book.

Title: A Grandma’s Magic

Written By: Charlotte Offsay

Illustrated By: Åsa Gilland

Publisher/Date: Doubleday Books for Young Readers/2022

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: babies, grandmothers, diversity

Opening:

When a child is born…

…a grandma is born too.

Brief Synopsis: A celebration of grandmothers and their grandchildren as they do magical things together.

Links to Resources:

  • Discover 50 activities for grandparents and grandchildren to enjoy together;
  • Create a photo book or scrapbook of your life, your extended family, and/or your heritage to share with your grandchildren;
  • Check out the Activity Sheet on Offsay’s website;
  • Write a letter to your grandchild on each birthday, sharing your hopes for them.

Why I Like this Book:

From the outset, when readers learn that grandmas “aren’t like regular grown-ups,” Offsay proceeds to show how they are “filled with magic.” They arrive and “sweep” grandchildren “away to adventure.” Reading that phrase, I felt swept along with the grandmothers and children and eager to discover what adventures awaited us!

I love how the adventures include many everyday activities, like meeting a dog, gardening, and baking a favorite recipe. But Offsay also includes less ordinary moments, like viewing baby birds in a nest. And she doesn’t shy away from disappointments that may seem too big for even a magical grandma to fix. But when that happens, a grandma’s hugs can make us feel better. What a wonderful reminder to share with our grandchildren!

For those whose grandmas don’t live nearby, which, these days, seems to be the majority, Offsay leaves readers with the comforting thought that a grandma’s love remains with you always as you continue to enjoy the activities you shared.

Gilland’s colorful illustrations expand the inclusiveness of this story by featuring a multicultural array of families, as well as grandmas of differing ages and physical abilities.

A Grandma’s Magic is a wonderful book for grandchildren and grandmas to share, as well as a lovely gift for new grandmothers.

A Note about Craft:

By focusing on several relatable activities and by featuring an assortment of grandparents and grandchildren, Offsay and Gilland have created a picture book in which many children will picture themselves and reflect on the happy times they’ve shared with their own grandmothers. Addressing the reader directly furthers the feeling that you are part of the action.

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 – For Every Little Thing: Poems and Prayers to Celebrate the Day

As the title of today’s Perfect Picture Day indicates, today is a day to celebrate! Not only am I excited to share this lovely new anthology, but I’m excited to participate in Multicultural Children’s Book Day (see below for more about this annual celebration).

Title: For Every Little Thing: Poems and Prayers to Celebrate the Day

Written & Edited By: June Cotner & Nancy Tupper Ling

Illustrated By: Helen Cann

Publisher/Date: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-10

Themes/Topics: gratitude, family, nature, blessings, friendship

Opening:

FOR EVERY LITTLE THING (Nancy Tupper Ling)

For morning song and gentle brook,/ a faithful friend, a favorite book,/ for robin’s eggs and swinging trees/, the daffodils and dancing bees—

Brief Synopsis: An anthology of poems and prayers to celebrate and express gratitude.

Links to Resources:

  • Try writing your own poem or prayer of gratitude beginning with the words, “May you always be blessed by” or “I am kind like”.
  • What do you like to see or feel when you wake up in the morning? Is it the smiling face of a loved one, a purring kitten, the sun lighting up the room, or maybe puppy kisses? Try describing your favorite morning sight in words or pictures.
  • One of the poems describes dreams as a “nighttime quest”. Where do you like to wander in your dreams? Describe a dream in words or pictures.

Why I Like this Book:

In this lovely anthology of over 50 poems and prayers, the authors have written and chosen works that celebrate family, friends, and nature and that express gratitude for life’s many blessings.

I especially loved the first morning poem, My Day Begins with Kisses (Susanne Wiggins Bunch) with its image of “kisses, the slobbery, doggy kind.” What child could resist that wake-up call?

In I Can Be Kind (Leslie Paramore), we read in the opening lines that “I can be kind, although I am small, I can be kind, to one, or to all”. And in the final self-affirming lines, we learn that “I can be kind, as kind as can be, I can be kind, to you and to me!” What a wonderful reminder for kids of all ages to love ourselves as well as others!

As day ends and we prepare to drift off to sleep, we can set off on a Sea of Dreams (Susanne Wiggins Bunch) as “[w]aves of slumber and welcome rest invite me on a night-time quest.” Even the most reluctant sleepers will be excited for that journey!

From a Navajo Night Way Song, to a poem by Emily Dickinson, to reflections by Helen Keller and Rabbi Rami M Shapiro, and to a selection from the Chandogya Upanishad, For Every Little Thing includes traditions of gratitude from many cultures. Several poems and prayers mention “God”, but none is preachy nor sectarian. Diversity is present in the gorgeously-detailed illustrations, too. Rich shades of blue and yellow infuse each page, including the endpapers. I can envision children pouring over these illustrations, especially the finely-drawn flora and fauna, as they find joy in ordinary moments and appreciate the small wonders of their worlds.

Divided into seven sections that span a day from morning to nighttime and dreams, For Every Little Thing includes poems and prayers that families will enjoy reading again and again.

A Note about Craft:

In “A Note about this Book,” the authors share that “When a child expresses gratitude, the world feels like a better place….Our hope is that families will celebrate the wonders of the universe as they read together.” I think that by including a wide variety of poems and prayers by a diverse selection of voices, and by arranging the selections into seven distinct categories that span an entire day, the authors achieve their goal.

*I received a copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an 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!

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2022 (1/28/22) is in its 9th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those books into the hands of young readers and educators.

MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves. Read about our Mission & History HERE.

MCBD 2022 is honored to be Supported by these Medallion Sponsors!

SUPER PLATINUM: Make A Way Media

PLATINUM: Language Lizard

GOLD: Barefoot Books, KidLitTV, Candlewick, Capstone, Abrams Books

SILVER: Pack-n-Go Girls, Charlotte Riggle, Kimberly Gordon Biddle  

BRONZE: Carole P. Roman, Patrice McLaurin, Dyesha and Triesha McCants/McCants Squared, Redfin.com, Redfin Canada, Redfin Mortgage, Redfin/Title Forward, Create & Educate, Star Bright Books, Vivian Kirkfield, Dr. Eleanor Wint, Kind World Publishing, Snowflake Stories, Lisa Wee, SONGJU MA, Melissa Stoller, J.C. Kato and J.C.², Crystel Patterson, Audrey Press, Pragmaticmom, TimTimTom, Wisdom Tales 

MCBD 2022 is honored to be Supported by these Author Sponsors!

Charlene Mosley (official MCBD2022 Poster Creator)
Illustrator Isabelle Roxas (Class Kit Poster Creator)

Alva Sachs, Brianna Carter, Ebony Zay Zay, Rita Bhandari, Gwen Jackson, Lois Petren/The 5 Enchanted Mermaids, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Josh Funk, Afsaneh Moradian, Eugenia Chu, Maritza Martínez Mejía, Diana Huang, Kathleen Burkinshaw, CultureGroove, Sandra Elaine Scott, Dorena Williamson, Veronica Appleton, Alejandra Domenzain, Lauren Muskovitz and Sandfish Publishing, Tonya Duncan Ellis, Kimberly Lee, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher, Nancy Tupper Ling, Winsome Hudson-Bingham, Amanda Hsiung-Blodgett, Sivan Hong, Michael Genhart, Debbie Dadey, Elizabeth Cureton, Stephanie Wildman, Maryann Jacob, Sherri Maret, Rochelle Melander, Dia Mixon, Kiyanda and Benjamin Young, Shereen Rahming, Linda Thornburg and Katherine Archer,  Rebecca Flansburg and BA Norrgard , Maxine Schur  Natalie McDonald-Perkins

MCBD 2022 is Honored to be Supported by our CoHosts and Global CoHosts!

MCBD 2022 is Honored to be Supported by these Media Partners!

Check out MCBD’s Multicultural Books for Kids Pinterest Board!

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Diversity Book Lists & Activities for Teachers and Parents

Homeschool Diverse Kidlit Booklist & Activity Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Activism and Activists Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Empathy Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Kindness Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Physical and Developmental Challenges Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Poverty Kit

FREE Homeschool Diverse Kidlit Booklist & Activity Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Raising Awareness on Systemic Racism in America Classroom Kit

Gallery of Our Free Posters

FREE Diversity Book for Classrooms Program

Join us on Friday, Jan 29, 2021, at 9 pm EST for the 8th annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day Twitter Party! Be sure and follow MCBD and Make A Way Media on Twitter!

This epically fun and fast-paced hour includes multicultural book discussions, addressing timely issues, diverse book recommendations, & reading ideas.

We will be giving away an 8-Book Bundle every 5 minutes plus Bonus Prizes as well! *** US and Global participants welcome. **

Follow the hashtag #ReadYourWorld to join the conversation, connect with like-minded parts, authors, publishers, educators, organizations, and librarians. See you all very soon on Twitter!

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

PPBF – Dumplings for Lili

Happy New Year! I hope your year is off to a super start!

To say that 2021 ended with a bang is a bit of an understatement. From Covid striking 4 of our 7 family members right after Christmas to a mad dash through 110 MPH winds past the Boulder wildfires to the safety of our daughter’s home, and an early return to the east coast, the end of our holidays were not, to say the least, as we’d planned. BUT, we are all safe, recovering, and thankful for being spared the worst of these disasters.

Now, it’s upward and onward, as I scramble to coordinate a move to a rental home I haven’t seen in a part of the country I’ve never visited (Florida, just north of Miami). “Never a dull moment,” so sayeth this Serial Mover!

None of this has anything to do with today’s Perfect Picture Book. But it’s the reason I’m posting this review earlier than originally intended, which was late January, to celebrate Lunar New Year. Thankfully, I thought ahead and wrote it in early December. Hopefully, I’ll carve out a few minutes in the next week or so to write a few more for the month. And if for some reason I don’t post one week (like being buried under boxes or lost along the I-95 corridor), I will be back!

Title: Dumplings for Lili

Written & Illustrated By: Melissa Iwai

Publisher/Date: Norton Young Readers/2021

Suitable for Ages: 6-8

Themes/Topics: dumplings, cooking, grandmothers, sharing, multicultural, intergenerational

Opening:

It’s a special day when Nai Nai says, “Lili, do you want to help me make baos?”

Brief Synopsis: Lili is happy to help her grandmother make baos, but when they lack cabbage for the recipe, Lili is off to visit the many other grandmothers in the building who also lack ingredients for their special dumpling recipes.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn how to make bao with Iwai by watching this YouTube video;
  • Celebrate Lunar New Year, this year on 1 February 2022, with these activities and by making Chinese dumplings;
  • Ask an older relative or friend to share a favorite family recipe, and bake or cook it together.

Why I Like this Book:

In this charming intergenerational picture book, Iwai takes readers on a journey to visit older women of many nationalities as Lili seeks missing ingredients for different types of dumplings. I love how Iwai has chosen one type of food, dumplings, and shows how they vary across culinary traditions. I also love how this community of women help each other by sharing ingredients.

As the story begins, Lili’s Nai Nai invites Lili to help her prepare baos, Chinese dumplings. It’s clear that the two enjoy the process, as the dumpling dough ingredients become “friends”, the filling dances “with joy” in the wok, and the pair have big smiles on their faces. But when the pair lack cabbage to include in the steamer, Lili is off and running to visit the friendly neighbors, each of whom needs to borrow something from someone else for a special recipe.

Readers see the various ethnicities displayed in the many kitchens. Each grandmother bears an ethnically-distinct name, and each prepares a type of dumpling from her culture, including pierogi, fatayer, tamales, ravioli, and beef patties. Interestingly, many of these dishes include foods used by several of the women.

Although all of the back and forth and characters could get confusing, Iwai helpfully includes an illustrated map of Lili’s journey, along with a chart showing the grandmothers and their creations. She also includes a simplified bao recipe within the text and a more detailed version in the back matter.

I won’t spoil the ending by telling you why Lili and Nai Nai were making baos, but you can be sure that there is a celebration involved.

Dumplings for Lili is a perfect choice for classroom and family reading, as it showcases so many cultures and delicious foods, and as it is filled with such joy.

A Note about Craft:

Like a bao recipe, Dumplings for Lili includes so many ingredients that make this a Perfect Picture Book. From the loving and joy-filled relationship of Lili and Nai Nai evident from the text, to the helpful neighbors and the colorful illustrations, Iwai layers the story in a way that showcases Lili’s cultural traditions and shows how several other cultures share similar ingredients and traditions.

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 Gift Shop Bear

For my final post of 2021 and as my gift to you, dear readers, I’m featuring a classic new picture book that I think is the Perfect Picture Book for this festive season. I hope you agree! Happy Holidays!

Title: The Gift Shop Bear

Written & Illustrated By: Phyllis Harris

Publisher/Date: WorthyKids (Hatchette Book Group)/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Christmas, teddy bear, home, friendship

Opening:

Nestled on the edge of town sat a little gift shop.

Brief Synopsis: Every Christmas season, Bear leaves his spot in the attic to decorate a gift shop and play with his best friend, Annie. But when the shop closes for good, Bear’s future seems uncertain.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

Bear waits all year for Christmas, something that I think every kid, and adult, will understand. But it’s not just the sights, sounds, and smells of the season that appeal to Bear. Rather, for Bear, Christmas is the time of year when he decorates the gift shop where he lives, and, more importantly, spends together-time with his best friend, Annie. I love all of the activities that the pair undertake, and I can imagine kids mimicking them later with their own stuffed friends.

But like holiday celebrations, small gift shops don’t last forever. When Bear overhears that the shop is closing, he worries about where he’ll end up and whether he’ll ever see his friend Annie again. As this is a picture book, you know Bear will find a place to belong, but I won’t spoil the ending by telling you how or where he finds his “forever home”.

In this time when we’re all craving cozy reprieves from the craziness of this world, I think the nostalgic feel of this picture book will appeal to kids and their adults. Harris’ softly-hued illustrations complete this lovely package. The spreads featuring snowflakes especially helped me to get in the holiday spirit.

A Note about Craft:

The Gift Shop Bear is told from the point of view of Bear, a stuffed animal. This helps bring immediacy to Bear’s predicament and enables kids to empathize with him more easily. Although Bear never speaks, Harris shows readers what he sees, smells, hears, and thinks, bringing the reader along into the shop and other scenes.

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 – Ojiichan’s Gift

Tis the season of giving, so I think a picture book about a gift is a Perfect Picture Book!

Title: Ojiichan’s Gift

Written By: Chieri Uegaki

Illustrated By: Genevieve Simms

Publisher/Date: Kids Can Press/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Japan, gardening, intergenerational, adapting to changes

Opening:

When Mayumi van Horton was born, her grandfather built her a garden.

It sat behind a tidy brown house nearly halfway around the world, and it was unlike any other garden she knew.

Brief Synopsis:

Mayumi’s grandfather built her a garden made of stones behind his home in Japan. But when age and health made it difficult to remain in the home, Mayumi had to figure out a way to take the garden along.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about, and make, your own Japanese garden;
  • Do you have an activity that you enjoy doing with a grandparent or other elderly relative or family friend? Learn a favorite recipe or a special craft from that person;
  • Check out the Teaching Guide for more ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

In this gentle, intergenerational picture book, young Mayumi tends her garden each summer with her grandfather, Ojiichan, who lives in Japan. I love how the garden acts as a means to bond two family members separated by oceans for much of the year. I also love how this activity helps Mayumi learn more about her Japanese heritage. And I especially love that Ojiichan gifts the garden to Mayumi at the outset, which enables her to gift something special to him.

But during one visit, Mayumi and her parents realize that Ojiichan is no longer able to live alone and to care for the garden. At first, Mayumi is angry, a response I think many children (and adults) will understand. She tries to knock over rocks and kicks up gravel. But as she notices the mess that she’s made, she determines to clean up the garden and “a tiny idea took root”. I won’t ruin the ending by sharing what she did, but in the end, she manages to create not just one, but two remembrances of this special shared garden.

Accompanied by Simms’ soft watercolor illustrations, Uegaki’s text provides a gentle roadmap for kids separated from loved ones and for those trying to hold on to special memories.

A Note about Craft:

Perhaps because a Japanese garden is at the center of Ojiichan’s Gift, the story has a calm and peaceful feel to it, perfect for children who are struggling to adapt to changes in their lives, be it aging elders, a move, or some other major life change. 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 – A Sled for Gabo

It’s that time of the year when our thoughts turn to the wonder of winter’s first snowfall. I think I’ve found the Perfect Picture Book to help get you in the mood!

Title: A Sled for Gabo

Written By: Emma Otheguy

Illustrated By: Ana Ramírez González

Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: snow, sledding, multicultural, overcoming shyness, moving

Opening: The day it snowed Gabo followed the whistling sound of an old steam radiator into the kitchen.

Brief Synopsis:

Gabo, a young boy experiencing a snowy day for the first time, longs to join school friends on sleds, but he’s shy, and he lacks a sled and warm winter gear.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

In A Sled for Gabo, Otheguy captures the excitement of experiencing snow and sledding for the first time, and she raises the issue the that you need warm clothes and a sled to enjoy the wintry activity.

From the outset, with the mention of an “old steam radiator”, it’s clear that money isn’t plentiful in Gabo’s household. Readers soon learn that Gabo didn’t have a sled, he wore thin cotton socks, he lacked waterproof boots, and his winter hat was too small. But his Mami improvised, as parents often do, and bundled him into layers of socks and his father’s larger hat, and she used plastic bags tied with string to keep Gabo’s sneakers dry. I love how Gabo smiled at the bags and displayed no hints of being self-conscious about his make-shift winterwear.

Gabo then set off to find a sled. He was too shy to approach the other children to ride on their sleds. He visited adult neighbors and asked them for a sled. But no one had one. Instead, one resourceful adult presented Gabo with a cafeteria tray, which, as anyone who grew up among snowy hills knows, can be even faster and more fun than an actual sled. As snow and sledding were new to Gabo, though, he didn’t realize this, until, that is, a new friend showed him.

I think both children who have experienced sledding and those who are new to wintry weather will enjoy A Sled for Gabo. The story not only brought back many memories of snowy days from my youth, but it also helped me empathize with children who have lived in warmer climates and are experiencing snow for the first time, especially if they lack the right gear and the money to pay for it. I also love how Otheguy weaves together the themes of friendship, experiencing a new environment, and overcoming hesitancy.

Bright primary colors warm up the wintry scenes and highlight the friendliness of Gabo’s welcoming neighbors.

A Note about Craft:

Otheguy’s choice of words helps readers recognize several important aspects of the story: an old steam radiator whistles – clearly this isn’t a fancy new or updated house. We feel the wintry weather with Gabo when “his warm breath bloomed a cloud of fog onto the glass.” Mami converses in Spanish, and Gabo answers a neighbor with “No gracias.” Gabo and his new friend share warmed dulce de leche after playing in the snow.

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 Blue House

I’m continuing with the theme of houses, and homes, and families this week, as my guess is those are themes on all of our minds this holiday season. I think I’ve found the Perfect Picture Book to do so.

Title: The Blue House

Written & Illustrated By: Phoebe Wahl

Publisher/Date: Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House Children’s Books/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: moving, home, single-parent household, urban renewal, overcoming loss

Opening:

Leo lived with his dad in an old blue house next to a tall fir tree.

Brief Synopsis: When Leo and his father are evicted from their beloved rental home, they are sad, but eventually find home in their new house.

Links to Resources:

  • What do you most like about your house? Draw a picture showing your favorite room or feature;
  • If you could change one thing about your home or room, what would it be? Why?
  • Leo and his father bake pie together. Try making this kid-friendly apple pie.

Why I Like this Book:

With its colorful, detailed illustrations and poignant story, The Blue House is a wonderful new picture book about moving and recreating home in a new location.

It’s clear at the outset that Leo and his father love living in the old blue house, despite the peeling paint, “leaks and creaks”, and the old heater that cuts out in the middle of winter. But sadly, they’re renters, and their landlord sells the house out from under them to make way for a bigger, newer, multi-family structure in its stead. With older children, this situation presents a wonderful opportunity to discuss the issues of urban renewal, the need for more multi-family units in many urban centers, and the pros and cons of tear-downs.

I love how Wahl shows readers that many activities can serve different purposes. Leo and his father bake a pie to warm up the old house and to help make the new house feel like home. They dance to keep warm, they “danced and stomped and raged” to feel “a little less mad” about the upcoming move, and they “danced and stomped and sang” in the new house. And they draw on the walls for different purposes, too, which I won’t share here as I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone.

For those who are in the midst of a move, just moved, or, like me, move often, I think Wahl’s description of the old house as “echoey and drafty like a hollow shell” will resonate. So, too, will her description of the new house as “empty, too. It didn’t feel like home”, at least not yet.

With its themes of making a house into a home, the bond between a loving parent and child, and overcoming loss, I think The Blue House is a perfect picture book for all families to savor and share.

A Note about Craft:

I love the thinly-veiled references to well-known books and music that Wahl, an author-illustrator, includes in the book. From The Hobbin to Talking Hens and Corn in the USA, I think adults will love spotting cultural references in the illustrations and sharing them with their little ones.

The Blue House features a father and son living on their own and dealing with the loss of their beloved rental home. No reference is made to a second parent and why he or she is not there. In my mind, this adds another layer to this heartfelt story, making me wonder whether that third family member may have resided in the blue house with Leo and his father.

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 – Home is a Window

Have you ever wondered what makes a house a home? As someone who has moved more times than I can count, including several moves when our kids were young, the desire to create a home is never far from my mind. Especially as we head into a season filled with family holidays, feeling at home wherever you live is so important. Which is why I knew I had to read and review today’s Perfect Picture Book which addresses just that question.

Title: Home is a Window

Written By: Stephanie Parsley Ledyard

Illustrated By: Chris Sasaki

Publisher/Date: Neal Porter Books, Holiday House/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: home, family, community, moving, comfort

Opening:

Home is a window, a doorway, a rug, a basket for your shoes.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl reflects on what’s special about her urban home, and when she moves, discovers special aspects of her new home.

Links to Resources:

  • Describe with words or pictures what you like best about the house or apartment where you live;
  • If you could change one thing about your home, what would it be? Why?
  • Have you ever wanted to design features of your own home? Check out these kid-friendly DIY design ideas;
  • Check out the Educator’s Guide for more ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

As the first lines of Home is a Window make clear, home can mean many things, as long as they contribute to feelings of comfort and safety. In the first section of this picture book, we see the many things that make this living space a home from the perspective of a young girl and her family. They include such universal pleasures as comfortable furniture, tasks done together, neighbor’s lights shining warmly into your bedroom, and a “table with something good and the people gathered there.” As the text makes clear, “Home is what feels the same each day”.

But what happens when you have to leave the comfort and safety of a familiar living arrangement and move someplace new? By bringing our traditions and the things we love with us, we can recreate home in a new place, as Home is a Window shows.

I love that Sasaki features the family coming together in the new house to share a meal. They might sit on a “patched-up quilt” on the floor and eat take-out food, but it’s clear that this family is well on their way to establishing a home in their new house.

With its low word count and earth-toned images of a loving mixed-raced family and their home, I think Home is a Window is a wonderful book to share with your littles, whether you’re contemplating a move, adapting to a new living situation, or wanting to share what makes your house or apartment a home.  

A Note about Craft:

I love the imagery and symbolism of the title, that home is a window – a means to look in to see the lives lived within its walls, and to look out to view the family’s interactions with their old and new communities.

Note the use of background colors: they become increasingly darker as moving day looms, and then lighten as the family creates a home in their new house.

A House, written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books/2021) would be a good book to pair with Home is a Window, especially with younger 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 Pond

Transitioning to a new home or community is a recurrent theme of many of the picture books I review. But as frequent movers know, moving generally doesn’t occur in the absence of other difficult transitions, as today’s Perfect Picture Book shows.

Title: The Pond

Written By: Nicola Davies

Illustrated By: Cathy Fisher

Publisher/Date: Graffeg Limited/2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: death, grief, moving, new beginnings, nature, healing

Opening:

Dad talked a lot about the pond. “There will be tadpoles,” he said, “and dragonflies.” Mum told him that our garden was too tiny and my brother said that ponds were gross and stinky.

Brief Synopsis: The narrator’s father dreamt of creating a pond in the back garden. But when he died, the pond was just a messy hole until it wasn’t.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out these fun pond-themed activities;
  • Do you enjoy a particular place or activity with a parent or grandparent? Draw a picture of what you enjoyed together.

Why I Like this Book:

When the young narrator’s father dies, he finds comfort in his father’s dream of building a pond in their back garden. At first, the pond is little more than “a muddy messy hole that filled our garden…that filled our hearts.” Neither the narrator’s mother nor his brother are interested in fulfilling the dream of a pond. When a duck lands in the muddy hole and the narrator adds water from a hose, more mess ensues, and the narrator runs to his room “and screamed at Dad for dying.”

Then, one day the following spring, someone, presumably Mum, lined the hole with plastic and shored up the edges. The narrator filled it with water, expecting no more by this point than “a hole with water in it.” But nature had other thoughts, “our pond had come to life.”

From the text and the gorgeously-dark illustrations, it’s clear that nature has provided the family hope in the midst of grief. I think this is a wonderful and soothing reminder to children who have lost loved ones to seek solace in nature and to continue pursuing their loved one’s dreams.

But there’s more to this poignant journey through grief. After finally finding solace in nature, the family move from the house, obviously unable to bring the pond with them. I’m sure you can guess their first activity in the new house, but I urge you to read The Pond to find out, and to share it with anyone grieving or moving.

A Note about Craft:

Davis could have ended the story when the pond came to life and provided solace to the grieving family. But she upped the tension with the addition of a move and the necessity of leaving the pond behind.

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 – Wishes

As many of us plan holiday travel to visit far-flung family and friends, today’s Perfect Picture Book is a stark reminder that people travel for many reasons and under varied circumstances.

Title: Wishes

Written By: MƯỢN THỊ VĂN

Illustrated By: Victo Ngai

Publisher/Date: Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic, 2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: kindness, refugees, bravery, Vietnam, hope

Opening:

The night wished it was quieter.

The bag wished it was deeper.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl and her family journey from Vietnam in search of a better life.

Links to Resources:

  • If you had to leave your home in the middle of the night, what would you grab to bring with you?
  • Many children fleeing conflicts leave everything behind. Those affected by  natural disasters often lose many or all of their possessions. Discover ways you and your family can help those in need.
  • Learn about Vietnam, the country where this story begins.

Why I Like this Book:

With sparse, lyrical text and haunting illustrations, VĂN and Ngai tell the story of a young girl and her family who flee from their home in Vietnam in the middle of the night, travel to the coast, board an overcrowded boat, and journey to freedom in Hong Kong. Because of the brevity of the text (only 75 words, according to a note from the artist in an Afterword), much of the story is told via the illustrations.

Because the text recounts the wishes primarily of inanimate objects, this opens up a tremendous opportunity for adult readers to ask children what they see in the illustrations and why the objects might have wished as they did. For instance, in the scene accompanying the text, “The bag wished it was deeper”, readers see women placing parcels of food in a backpack while a young girl looks on. Might the women fear hunger on the journey?

Readers learn that “The dream wished it was longer” as a mother awakens sleeping children. Why did she awaken them and why leave in the middle of the night, readers ponder as the journey begins.

Particularly poignant, the “clock wished it was slower” as teary-eyed children hug a teary-eyed grandfather, and a dog seems to ask what’s going on.

Thankfully, the story ends with a wish full of hope. You’ll have to read Wishes to learn who made that wish and what they wanted.

Whether read at home or in a classroom setting, Wishes offers adults and children a chance to experience one family’s flight to freedom and better understand the choices made each step of the way.

A Note about Craft:

In an Author’s Note, VĂN explains that Wishes is based on the experiences of her own family fleeing Vietnam in the early 1980s. By leaving so much room for the illustrator, I think she enables readers to experience the journey more fully and to add their own wishes to the 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!