PPBF – Sand Sister

As the warm summer days draw to a close and teachers start preparing classrooms, I couldn’t help focusing on one more summer-filled picture book, choosing a Perfect Picture Book about a fun day at the beach. Enjoy!

sand-sister_fc_pb_wTitle: Sand Sister

Written By: Amanda White

Illustrated By: Yuyi Morales

Publisher/Date: Barefoot Books/2004

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: sisters; beach; imagination

Opening:

One hot, bright summer day Paloma’s Mom and Dad told her, “We are going to a very special beach.”

Sure enough, when they got there Paloma thought it was the most beautiful place in the whole wide world.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl wishes for a sister to play with at the beach, and thanks to the magic of Old Daddy Rock, her wish is realized, but just for the day.

Links to Resources:

  • Imagine a perfect day at the beach. Who would be with you? What would you do?
  • Create sand art;
  • Can’t travel to the beach? Grab a swim suit, towel and picnic, and head to a local pool, a backyard pool or sprinkler, or even your tub!

Why I Like this Book:

In Sand Sister, White combines imagination, art and magic in the form of Old Daddy Rock to create a sister, Sandy, for an only child, Paloma, visiting a beach with her parents. The two enjoyed a variety of beach pursuits, but, like real sisters, they also “became silly”, “started pushing each other”, and “went their separate ways”. Realizing that Sandy would disappear when the tide came back in, Paloma finds Sandy, apologizes, and the two part as friends. And while Sandy does, indeed, disappear with the incoming tide, Paloma learns that playing with and resolving disputes with her sand sister may be good practice for getting along with a real sibling.

I think that whether they are only children or have several siblings, kids will relate to Paloma’s desire for a sister and recognize the scenes of playfulness and anger. I think they also will enjoy the bits of magic that permeate the “special beach” where Paloma’s adventures occur.

Morales’ soft, acrylic paintings capture the movement of the waves upon the beach and the love reflected in the sisters’ eyes.

A Note about Craft:

The first line of Sand Sister had me hooked – I knew something special, something magical was about to take place when I read that this was a “very special beach.” While leaving the particulars of how the scene looked to the illustrator, White put the reader on notice that this was going to be a special day for Paloma, somehow. I was eager to learn more.

When I read Sand Sister and met Old Daddy Rock, I couldn’t help thinking of the magical beings in so many fairy tales, like the fairy godmother in Cinderella.  As in a fairy tale, Old Daddy Rock is a magical being who grant wishes. His name conjures up images of ancient wisdom – seemingly as old as the rocks. But while Old Daddy Rock conjures Sandy into being for the day, it’s Paloma who first draws the image of a sister in the sand, thus showing the power of art & imagination in helping her dreams come true.

Visit Morales’ website to see more of her illustrations and books.

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

 

PPBF – Drawn Together

I first learned of today’s Perfect Picture Book from a blog post interview (cited below) with the talented author and illustrator. I knew right away that I had to read and review this newly-published picture book. I’m so glad I did!

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Title: Drawn Together

Written By: Minh Lê

Illustrated By: Dan Santat

Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion (an imprint of Disney Book Group)/2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-5 (and older)

Themes/Topics: grandparents; communication; connections; art

Opening:

So…what’s new, Grandpa?

Brief Synopsis: A young boy and his non-English speaking grandfather bridge their communication divide through art and a shared love of fantasy.

Links to Resources:

  • Watch a video of Dan Santat discussing his art process for Drawn Together;
  • Draw a picture of, or for, a grandparent or special person in your life;
  • Lê’s grandparents and parents emigrated from Vietnam. Santat is of Thai descent. Discover these two Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam and Thailand;
  • Find more ideas in the Educator Guide.

Why I Like this Book:

Drawn Together is a visually stunning picture book that tackles an important question: how to bridge a generational divide, especially when the parties don’t speak the same language. In this case, the unnamed young narrator doesn’t speak Thai, the language of his grandfather, the grandfather speaks no English, and the two seem far apart and rather unhappy together as the story begins. But a shared love of creating art unites the two, even though the art they create differs stylistically. In the book’s dramatic turning point, the grandfather surprises his grandson “by revealing a world beyond words.” The boy notes that “in a FLASH” the pair see each other through their art, through the fantastical characters and scenes they create with markers, pen and ink.

What starts as a fairly quiet book becomes a rousing adventure as the pair work together to draw and defeat a “roaring” serpent monster. I think the inclusion of these epic action-filled scenes will appeal to kids (and adults), whether or not they’ve experienced communication problems with older relatives, new kids at school, or anyone else.

Santat created the detailed illustrations in traditional mixed media. I especially enjoyed how the beginning illustrations were wordless panels, like stills from a cartoon video, but then became intricate, full-page and double-page spreads with the boy’s and grandfather’s creations interacting to create “a new world that even words can’t describe.”

A Note about Craft:

With text comprising about 100 words and not starting until page 4, to say that this is a low word-count picture book or that Lê left plenty of space for the illustrator is a bit of an understatement. Nowhere in the text does it explicitly dictate how the two artists’ creations will come together to “build a new world”. Lê seemingly gave no direction to his illustrator, letting Santat create the new world from old, pen & ink, black & white, Asian warriors, and new, colorful markers and a young wizard reminiscent of Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia.

The title is, as you’ve probably discovered, a double entendre, a play on words, that drew this reader in & reminded me of the importance of an evocative, memorable title.

Finally, as I examined the endpapers, lifted the jacket cover, and poured over Drawn Together, I was reminded of Megan Dowd Lambert’s Whole Book Approach, and the many opportunities Lê and Santat offer readers to delve deeper into this wonderful collaboration.

Visit Minh Lê’s website. Read the transcript, or listen to the audio, of an All Things Considered (NPR) interview with Lê about Drawn Together and the importance of connecting with others.

Visit Dan Santat’s website to see more of his books and artwork.

For an insightful Q&A with Lê & Santat, see Think Quick.

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

PPBF – Tomorrow

Regular readers may recall that I reviewed The Jasmine Sneeze, written and illustrated by Nadine Kaadan, in March 2017. When I learned that she had written and illustrated a new picture book set in Syria, her homeland, I reached out to the publisher for a review copy. I’m so happy that today’s Perfect Picture Book is releasing next week and that Lantana Publishing’s books, including Kaadan’s books, are now available in the US (See below).

Tomorrow-807x1024

Title: Tomorrow

Written & Illustrated By: Nadine Kaadan

Translated By: Nadine Kaadan

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing Ltd/16 August 2018 (originally published in Arabic by Box of Tales Publishing House, Syria/2012)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Syria; war; art; hope; #OwnVoices

Opening:

Yazan no longer went to the park, and he no longer saw his friend who lived next door.

Everything was changing around him.

Brief Synopsis:

Yazan, a young boy in Damascus, Syria, is stuck in the house because of the escalating conflict, but he’s desperate to go outside, visit the park, play with his friends, and even return to school.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about the geography and rich history of Syria before the current conflicts;
  • What do you do when you’re stuck at home? See a list of ideas to end indoor boredom;
  • Draw a picture of your “happy place”;
  • Yazan makes paper airplanes to pass the time. Make, and fly, your own paper airplanes.

Why I Like this Book:

Tomorrow provides a child’s-eye view of life in a Syrian neighborhood when war disrupts everyday activities. We learn that Yazan can no longer go outside by himself, play with friends, or go to school. His artist mother “stopped painting” and spends her days watching the news. At first, Yazan tried to amuse himself, even making “142 paper planes.” But despite his best efforts, we learn he was “BORED!” Finally frustrated at the lack of things to do, Yazan escapes outside, only to learn that the neighborhood, his world, has changed. But through the love of his parents and the creativity of his mother, Yazan learns to imagine his neighborhood as it was, before the conflict began, thus offering the reader hope that a better day will come at some future time, some tomorrow.

While several picture books published in the past several years have focused on the traumatic onset of war, the journey from a war zone, the plight of refugees, and/or the need to welcome refugees to our communities and schools, Kaadan’s focus is on the immediate onset of the conflict. She reveals only those aspects of war that would be visible to a young child sheltered at home. Rather than depicting injury, death, or flight – occurrences that could overwhelm young children, Kaadan highlights the inability to play outside and interact with friends, disruptions to education, and experiencing loud newscasts – all very kid-relatable occurrences. Through text and her evocative illustrations, she shows the emotions Yazan feels: confusion, anger, fear, and even boredom. I think kids will relate to both the changes highlighted and the emotions Yazan displays. Tragically, these are affecting both children still in conflict zones, like many places in Syria, and those who have fled to refugee camps and/or other communities and countries.

Kaadan’s watercolor and pencil illustrations have a child-like sense to them, as if Yazan is not only experiencing the situation, but recording it, too. Utilizing color, oozing dark grays and blues for the escalating conflict, bright yellows and greens for times and places of safety and comfort, Kaadan depicts both the changes and Yazan’s emotional reactions to them.

A Note about Craft:

Kaadan is an #OwnVoices author/illustrator who depicts her home city of Damascus as war erupts. Because she is so familiar with the locale, I think she includes details in the story that help place the reader in the situation. In a note to readers, Kaadan writes, “I wrote this story because I saw children like Yazan in my hometown of Damascus. Their lives were changing, and they couldn’t understand why.”

Kaadan also focuses on disruptions to normal “kid stuff,” rather than on the aspects of war that often grab headlines. I especially appreciated the focus on Yazan’s boredom – an emotion not often mentioned in stories dealing with conflict but that is an understandable reaction to the loss of freedom to leave the house to play outside, visit with friends or even attend school. That Yazan tries to “keep himself busy” with pursuits most kids can relate to, such as doodling, building a castle from pillows, and making paper airplanes, will help kids empathize with his situation, I think.

Finally, Kaadan utilizes different color palates to contrast conflict and comfort and to display feelings, and she depicts items, like the paper airplanes and Yazan’s unused red bike, to symbolize freedom and its absence.

Visit Kaadan’s website to view more of her artwork. View a video of Kaadan discussing Tomorrow and the displaced children of Syria.

Lantana Publishing, is an independent publishing company in the UK “producing award-winning diverse and multicultural children’s books”. Both Tomorrow and The Jasmine Sneeze are available in the US, through Lantana’s US distributor, Lerner Books.

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

PPBF – Her Right Foot

Today’s Perfect Picture Book is another library find, and like Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight that I reviewed last week, written for a slightly older picture book reader.

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Image reproduced from wbur.org 

Title: Her Right Foot

Written By: Dave Eggers

Illustrated By: Shawn Harris

Publisher/Date: Chronicle Books/2017

Suitable for Ages: 6-9 (and older)

Themes/Topics: immigration; famous landmarks; Statue of Liberty

Opening:

You have likely heard of a place called France.

If you have heard of France, you may have heard of the French. They are the people who live in France.

You may have also heard of something called the Statue of Liberty.

Brief Synopsis: This is a detailed, but fun, non-fiction exploration of the Statue of Liberty, ultimately focused on one of its lesser-known traits, that embodies an important message about immigration and the character of the United States.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

Just as the Statue of Liberty, at 305 feet tall, is much larger than the “average” statue, so, too, at 104 pages and over 1,500 words, Her Right Foot is larger than the average picture book – even non-fiction picture books. But because of the longer page count filled, primarily, with engaging images, and because, I think, of Egger’s conversational tone, this book is a fast-paced read, that, I think, will draw kids into the story of the Statue of Liberty, her history and meaning.

I especially enjoyed how Eggers often stated that “you” may know, or have known, or probably know facts about the Statue of Liberty. Even though I didn’t know some (true confession: many) of these facts, I felt as if I did. By the point that Eggers got to the facts that gave title to the book, the statue’s “right foot”, I felt like a true insider, as anxious to discover what I didn’t know as a kid tearing open a present. That this small facet, this moving foot, is the key to the meaning of the Statue of Liberty, that she is moving forward to welcome immigrants, the “tired and poor” arriving at our shores, is an important lesson that children, I think, will “get” from this book. As Eggers writes,

After all, the Statue of Liberty is an immigrant, too. And this is why she’s moving. This is why she’s striding.

That the “big reveal” occurs in a two-page wordless spread shows how Her Right Foot is a true marriage of text and illustrations. I was especially happy to see that a young, dark-skinned boy is the one who points to Lady Liberty’s heel, raised, in mid-stride, off of the pedestal. I also loved how Harris’ construction paper and India ink illustrations include many details, including one scene that features a surprised-looking pup staring at the moving Statue (I can only imagine my two pups barking in that situation. I’ll be on the lookout, as we regularly walk in a park only a few miles upriver from Liberty Island!).

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Interior spread from Her Right Foot

A Note about Craft:

Eggers employs many techniques that make Her Right Foot a fun and informative non-fiction read. He begins by addressing the reader, using second-person point-of-view: “You…” I think this draws the reader immediately into the story. At least this reader felt a part of the action.

Like another wonderful storyteller, Arlo Guthrie – who spent almost an entire song about the Vietnam War and the draft (Alice’s Restaurant), focused on a Thanksgiving feast and a trial about littering – Eggers starts not with Lady Liberty’s foot, but in France, the country of her origin. Eggers thus shows us from the outset that she is an immigrant, too. From there, he explores her history and various features, until finally focusing on one small detail to find meaning for the whole.

And how did Eggers discover that detail? As he revealed in an NPR interview, he was with his family visiting Liberty Island and, in his words,

I never had noticed until we were up close that she’s in mid-stride, and that she seems to be walking and walking with great purpose out to the sea. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s gotta mean something.’

Writers take note: A family outing to a new place may spur a story idea for you, too, especially if you pay attention to small details!

Finally, I think the humor in Her Right Foot is what will keep kids reading, and thinking about, not just the Statue of Liberty, but about how we welcome immigrants and what it means to be American.

Learn more about Dave Eggers, his publications and philanthropic pursuits on his website. See a July 2016 Guardian newspaper article by Eggers about why the Statue of Liberty’s welcome “must not end.”

Visit Shawn Harris’ website to see more of his art. Her Right Foot is his debut picture book.

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

PPBF -Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight

When I first learned the title of today’s Perfect Picture Book and discovered the name of the author/illustrator, I knew this was a “must read and review” for me. So, I reached out to the publisher, and in exchange for an unbiased review, received an advance copy. I hope you find it as insightful and inspiring as I did, and that you’ll look for it in early August!

51sOxhTCEGL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight

Written & Illustrated By: Duncan Tonatiuh

Publisher/Date: Abrams ComicArts (an imprint of Abrams Books)/7 August 2018

Suitable for Ages: 14-18 (per one book seller website, or, in my opinion, as young as 8)

Themes/Topics: immigrants; workers’ rights; undocumented workers; Codex; #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Opening:

You don’t know our names but you’ve seen us. In this country we build houses, we harvest crops, we cook, we clean, and we raise children. Some people want to kick us out and some act like we don’t exist, but we are here, compañeros. We may not have documents, but we all have a story and we all have a name. This is my story. I am Juan.

Brief Synopsis:

Juan, an undocumented worker who relocates from Mexico to a city in the United States, recounts his experiences being underpaid and his fight for better pay and working conditions in the restaurant industry.

Links to Resources:

  • The illustrations in Undocumented form a Codex, a long sheet of paper gathered into an “accordion” fold; try writing your own Codex book;
  • Tonatiuh mentions several types of work that Juan considers, including one dream position. What kind of work would you like to do? Describe it in words or pictures;
  • In an Author’s Note, Tonatiuh provides background and context for the story. There’s also a short bibliography.

Why I Like this Book:

Combining his classic illustration style with a compelling story of one representative undocumented worker, Tonatiuh tackles a timely, controversial topic in a way that will resonate with tween and teen readers. Unlike his earlier works, several of which are listed below, the target age is older than the typical picture book age range. But I think the combination of pictures and text is a powerful way to approach this complicated topic, especially for reluctant readers and those for whom English is not a first language.

In Undocumented, we meet Juan, the narrator, and learn that he worked in the fields of Mexico to support his mother and siblings after the death of his father, when Juan “was a niño.” We follow young Juan across the border with a coyote, a smuggler, to reach his uncle who lives in a poor neighborhood of an unknown city. Using short text and pictures, Tonatiuh depicts Juan considering several low-paying, low-skilled jobs, plus “[f]amous músico” with a parenthetical below, indicating that “we all have dreams…” I love the inclusion of this picture and phrase, as I think it alleviates some of the tension of the story and provides a touchpoint for young readers, many of whom may dream of being a famous musician.

The bulk of Undocumented concerns Juan’s attempts to organize fellow restaurant workers to procure better wages and working conditions, a fight, Tonatiuh makes clear in the text, that benefits all workers – not just those from Mexico or who may be undocumented.  Tonatiuh also includes instances of workers of different ethnicities working together, and learning from each other.

Tonatiuh illustrates Undocumented in his signature style that combines imagery from the Mixtec Codices with digitally-collaged artwork. I especially appreciated the inclusion of newspapers serving as a background as Juan contemplated various job possibilities and the use of woven fabrics to depict blankets. Finally, Tonatiuh and/or his editors at Abrams produced Undocumented as a codex, with the story unfolding poster-like across the front and back of the accordion-folded paper.  61ePqqq35bL

A Note about Craft:

As mentioned above, Tonatiuh tackles a tough, contemporary issue in Undocumented. How does he draw the reader into the story and achieve his goals of building empathy for, and understanding of, undocumented workers, and according them dignity?

To begin, he addresses the reader directly, “You” and “compañeros,” companions. He then recounts the group experience, before reminding the reader that “we” have names and stories.

After he sets the stage, Tonatiuh introduces the narrator, Juan, who proceeds to tell his story. To further encourage reader empathy, Tonatiuh adds compelling details: Juan’s father died when Juan was young; Juan is beaten by border guards and hassled by police officers; Juan dreams of being a musician; Juan’s wife is pregnant; Juan rejects an easy payout and instead seeks compensation for all of the workers; and Juan volunteers to help others.

To wrap things up, Tonatiuh returns to the group narrative, reminding the reader that “we” work hard, pay bills, and pay taxes. Tonatiuh packages his text and images into Codex form, a pre-Columbian style of writing utilized by Mixtec, Aztec and Mayan people, and thereby ties Juan’s story to the rich cultural history of his ancestors.

To view more of multi-award winning Tonatiuh’s work, visit his website, and see the following:

For another contemporary story told in Codex form, see Migrant, also published by Abrams, under its Abrams Books for Young Readers imprint.

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

PPBF – Leaf

I discovered today’s Perfect Picture Book at my local library and was, frankly, surprised I hadn’t learned of it sooner. Not only does it include themes of current importance and interest, it’s also beautiful. Enjoy!

Leaf_RGB-728x623Title: Leaf

Written & Illustrated By: Sandra Dieckmann

Publisher/Date: Flying Eye Books (an imprint of Nobrow Ltd)/2017

Suitable for Ages: 3-5 (or older)

Themes/Topics: newcomer; polar bears; nature; global warming

Opening:

Crow saw it first. The strange white creature, carried upon the dark waves towards the shore.

Brief Synopsis:

When a solitary polar bear arrives in a forest, the woodland creatures are afraid and avoid him because he is different, until some clever crows realize the reason he’s there and how they may help him.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about polar bears and the disappearance of polar ice;
  • Draw some of the gorgeous leaves shown in the illustrations, or visit a garden or park to find leaves you can draw and color;
  • Sometimes people are afraid of people, places or things that seem different. Describe or draw a picture of a time when you encountered something or someone “different;”
  • See a lesson plan using Leaf to help children think about differences and overcoming prejudices.

Why I Like this Book:

Leaf is a contemporary fairy tale, set in a lush, exotic forest, inhabited by a community of animals. A polar bear arrives to this strange woodland, retreats to a cave on a hill, and keeps apart from the woodland creatures. They, however, view and judge the bear, fleeing “in fear” when he approaches, calling him “monster,” and naming him Leaf, not only due to his strange habit of collecting leaves but also “because they wanted him to leave”.

I think kids will notice right away that the animals rush to judgment about this newcomer without learning Leaf’s story. Particularly poignant and instructive is a two-page spread in which a few small creatures voice compassion and offers of help while others term him “dangerous” and “destructive” and focus on his “teeth.”

I think kids also will be happy to see how the crows, a bird species not generally thought of as compassionate (at least not by me), lead the efforts to learn the truth about Leaf and help him. This made me realize that it isn’t always the creature that we expect to be a hero who steps up to help, and that sometimes small creatures can have big impacts.

Finally, I think the environmental message of Leaf, of animals separated from their native environment and of other animal groups learning to live with these newcomers, will resonate with kids and offer important opportunities to discuss global warming and its effects on nature and people, and to discuss the current refugee and immigration crises.

Dieckmann’s detailed and colorful spreads are gorgeous! The deep blues are haunting, and the contrast of the white polar bear against the lush background focused my attention immediately on the main character. The image of Leaf covered in leaves made me cheer his determination to fly home, even as it reminded me of the mythological Icarus.

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Interior spread from Leaf, reproduced from Dieckmann’s website

A Note about Craft:

Dieckmann populates her modern fairy tale with animals instead of people.  I think using animals as protagonists helps kids relate to the issues of non-acceptance and fear of newcomers who are different. Because climate change is affecting animals, especially those in the colder climes, so much, I think the choice of a polar bear as the main character is particularly effective.

Interestingly, Leaf engages in almost no dialogue in the story. We learn what he’s feeling through the illustrations and the crows’ comments. While this could, arguably, provide distance from his plight, it also has the laudable effect of encouraging children to think about how they perceive newcomers and to see that they, like many of the animals depicted, view newcomers through a lens of prejudice.

Dieckmann is a German-born, London-based illustrator/author and artist, “deeply inspired by all that’s weird and wonderful in nature, drifting thoughts and dreams”. Leaf, her debut picture book, has been “nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal, long listed for the Klaus Flugge Prize and short listed for the Waterstones Children’s book prize as well as the AOI World Illustration Award.”

Flying Eye Books focuses “on the craft of children’s storytelling and non-fiction” and is the children’s imprint of London-based, “award-winning visual publishing house” Nobrow Ltd.

For a picture book presenting similar themes, see Barroux’ Welcome.

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

PPBF – I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness

The weather tells me it’s summer in the northern hemisphere – a time of relaxation and rejuvenation for many. But the news feed is anything but relaxing, as we – adults and children, learn of families being torn apart, young children housed with strangers, and long-time allies acting and speaking more like enemies than friends.

The past few weeks I’ve reviewed multicultural fairy tales, as, I believe, we can uncover truths, make sense of the bad in the world, and gain empathy for others through these ancient, ever-evolving tales.

Today, I’m reviewing a book that’s written and illustrated in the US and doesn’t deal directly with refugees, war, or regions of the world affected by travel bans. But hopefully you’ll agree that, like fairy tales, this Perfect Picture Book will help you deal with the bad in the world and find and share peace.

9781419727016_s2Title: I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness

Written By: Susan Verde

Illustrated By: Peter H. Reynolds

Publisher/date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8, and older

Themes/Topics: mindfulness; meditation; self-care; peace

Opening:

There are times when I worry about what might happen next and what happened before.

Brief Synopsis: A young child expresses feelings of being worried and upset, and shows readers how to find peace.

Links to Resources:

  • Try the Guided Meditation that appears as an Afterword or is downloadable here;
  • Draw a peaceful scene. What colors do you use? Picture yourself in that place – why does it help you feel calm and happy?
  • Find, print, and photograph yourself or friends with downloadable peace signs.

Why I Like this Book:

A lyrical monologue, I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness is a “how to” guide to mindfulness, to “being fully engaged in the present moment,” experiencing our surroundings and feelings “without judgment, but with kindness and curiosity.” The nameless, genderless main character starts as a sad-faced worrier with thoughts rushing like water in a boat “being carried away.” But s/he pauses, reflects, steadies him or herself to focus on the “here” and “now.” As s/he finds peace, s/he is able to share kindness and make a difference.

I Am Peace is a quiet book that, I think, will appeal to kids and adults needing to calm down – whether from a tantrum, a hectic day at child care, camp or school, or from the news bombarding us constantly. I think its message of peace for oneself and for others is an important one, too. How often do we hear that we’ve done something wrong when, instead, the message should be “It’s alright”? So even if no one else says it, say it to yourself, let those worries go and be at peace.

Set against white backgrounds, Reynolds’ expressive illustrations show kids how they can make a difference, whether by feeding birds or by planting a tree. I especially love how they incorporate peaceful symbols. Per the copyright page, they were created with “ink, gouache, watercolor, and tea.”

A Note about Craft:

As mentioned above, Verde crafted her meditative text as a first-person monologue. I think this point of view promotes immediacy and lets the narrator, and reader, focus on his or her own feelings, without interruption from other characters.

The symbols in Reynolds’ illustrations include doves and peace signs worn on a necklace and hat. The peace signs, in particular, combined with the narrator’s style of dress, reminded me of the 1960s and the protest movements prevalent in my youth. This helped solidify the connection in my mind between promoting inner peace and peace in the world.

See a lovely review of I Am Peace by Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal.

Visit Verde’s website to see more of her books, including The Water Princess, a collaboration with Reynolds, which I reviewed last year, and her upcoming collaboration with Reynolds, I Am Human: A Book of Empathy (Abrams Books for Young Readers, October 2018).

Read Reynolds’ blog post about I Am Peace and see more of his art on his website.

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