Perfect Pairing – of Lively Grandparent Books

Although National Grandparents Day was earlier this fall, I think we should celebrate lively and fun grandparents every day. Don’t you agree?

 

I Love My GlamMa

Author: Samantha Berger

Illustrator: Sujean Rim

Publisher/Date: Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: grandmothers, fashion, family, young at heart

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A celebration of EVERY grandma’s glamorous ways — and the special love that glam-mas share with everything they do!
“Glam-mas don’t just come over… they make a grand entrance!
Glam-mas don’t just celebrate holidays… they celebrate everything!
Glam-mas don’t just carry a purse… they carry a treasure chest!”
A joyful celebration of grandmothers who are young at heart, adventurous, and find a bit of glamour in everything they do. Whether these glam-mas are building sandcastles, riding with dolphins, or turning blankets into reading forts and super capes, they live each day with a playful spirit — just like their grandchildren.
From the writer of Crankenstein and the illustrator of Birdie’s Big-Girl Shoes comes a playful and heartwarming ode to grandmas and grandchildren everywhere… because there’s nothing more glamorous than being a grandma.

Read a review at Grand: Living the Ageless Life.

 

The Truth About Grandparents

Author & Illustrator: Elina Ellis

Publisher/Date: Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: grandparents, family, stereotypes

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In this perfect gift for grandparents and grandchildren alike, a loving child reveals the truth behind assumptions that old people just aren’t any fun.

Grandparents are slow. Grandparents are scared of new things. And grandparents definitely don’t dance — right? A simple, playful storyline that children will love anticipating makes this a perfect read-aloud for modern families to share together. With sly humor and breezy, dynamic artwork in the tradition of Quentin Blake, this book is a fresh celebration of the special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because both shatter misperceptions that grandparents are decrepit, boring, old-fashioned, and resist new ideas. These are fun, quick reads that grandparents will enjoy sharing with their grandchildren, either when they visit in person, or perhaps via Skype or Facetime.

For more books about age-defying seniors and positive images of aging in children’s literature, see A is for Aging, B is for Books.

 

 

PPBF – The Proudest Blue

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the publication of this picture book since I first learned about it in a blog post last year. It’s finally in print, and I’m happy to share it here.

Title: The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family

Written By: Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali

Illustrated By: Hatem Aly

Publisher/Date: Little, Brown and Company/September 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: hijab, faith, Islam, sisters, bullying, rite of passage

Opening:

Mama holds out the pink. Mama loves pink. But Asiya shakes her head. I know why.

Behind the counter is the brightest blue. The color of the ocean, if you squint your eyes and pretend there’s no line between the water and the sky.

Brief Synopsis: When her older sister wears hijab for the first day of school, young Faizah is happy and proud, until some schoolmates use unkind words, and she must find a way to keep strong and true to her faith and family.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about hijab, the focus of this story, and the religious reasons for it;
  • What did you wear for the first day of school? Why did you choose that outfit? Draw a picture of yourself, a sibling, or a friend on the first day of school.

Why I Like this Book:

The Proudest Blue is a wonderful story of sisterly love, pride in one’s faith and religious practices, and the strength to be yourself. As Muhammad shares in an Author’s Note, she wrote this story so that young Muslim girls would see themselves in a picture book and take pride in their own choice of hijab, and to celebrate differences. I think she does this and more.

In Asiya, readers meet a young teen who celebrates her religious beliefs, her heritage, and her connection to her mother and older female relatives. She doesn’t follow blindly, however. Mama chooses pink, but Asiya desires the blue scarf. She wears it proudly.

Narrator and younger sister Faizah knows that blue is the color of the ocean and the sky, fit for a princess, like the sky on a sunny day, and a color that signifies strength. I especially loved how Faizah admires Asiya and looks forward to the day when she can wear hijab, too.

Aly’s colorfully vibrant illustrations change the focus from up close to further away and bring in an aspect of fantasy, as evidenced by the boat and blue waves in the cover illustration.

A Note about Craft:

Muhammad and Ali use first person point of view to tell this story. But the narrator isn’t the hijab-wearing Asiya, but her younger sister, Faizah. By letting readers experience this story through the eyes of Faizah, the authors add another layer to this coming-of-age story, the bond of sisterhood, and add a main character more relatable for the target picture book age group.

For an insightful review of this book, see Miss Marple’s Musings. 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!

Perfect Pairing – is Bicycling

Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday, and he loves to bicycle. So I thought I’d share two picture books featuring children who also love to cycle.

 

In a Cloud of Dust

Author: Alma Fullerton

Illustrator: Brian Deines

Publisher/Date: Pajama Press/2015

Ages: 4-8

Themes: bicycles, diversity, education, disappointment, compassion

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In a Tanzanian village school, Anna struggles to keep up. Her walk home takes so long that when she arrives, it is too dark to do her homework. Working through the lunch hour instead, she doesn’t see the truck from the bicycle library pull into the schoolyard. By the time she gets out there, the bikes are all gone. Anna hides her disappointment, happy to help her friends learn to balance and steer. She doesn’t know a compassionate friend will offer her a clever solution—and the chance to raise her own cloud of dust. Brought to life by Brian Deines’ vivid oil paintings, Alma Fullerton’s simple, expressive prose captures the joy of feeling the wind on your face for the first time. Inspired by organizations like The Village Bicycle Project that have opened bicycle libraries all across Africa, In a Cloud of Dust is an uplifting example of how a simple opportunity can make a dramatic change in a child’s life.

Read my review.

 

 

The Patchwork Bike

Author: Maxine Beneba Clarke

Illustrator: Van T. Rudd

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2018 (first published in Australia by Hachette Australia/2016)

Ages: 6-9

Themes: bicycle, resourcefulness, play, poverty, imagination, North Africa, multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

What’s the best fun in the whole village? Riding the patchwork bike we made! A joyous picture book for children by award-winning author Maxine Beneba Clarke.

When you live in a village at the edge of the No-Go Desert, you need to make your own fun. That’s when you and your brothers get inventive and build a bike from scratch, using everyday items like an old milk pot (maybe mum is still using it, maybe not) and a used flour sack. You can even make a numberplate from bark, if you want. The end result is a spectacular bike, perfect for going bumpity-bump over sandhills, past your fed-up mum and right through your mud-for-walls home.

A delightful story from multi-award-winning author Maxine Beneba Clarke, beautifully illustrated by street artist Van T Rudd.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they feature bicycles and children, and, in both cases, economic hardship necessitates the use of either a homemade or donated bicycle. While the focus of In a Cloud of Dust is riding bikes to and from a rural school, the children in A Patchwork Bike use their creation to explore and have fun. In both books, I think readers learn the importance and joy of bicycles, even if they aren’t shiny and new.

PPBF – Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border

I first learned of today’s Perfect Picture Book when I read a wonderful review last month on Jilanne Hoffmann’s blog. Thank you, Jilanne, for sharing this timely picture book.  After reading your review and the book, I just had to feature it here, too.

Title: Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border

Written By: Mitali Perkins

Illustrated By: Sara Palacios

Publisher/Date: Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: border, family, separation, Latinx, grandmother, holidays, #OwnVoices

Opening:

Abuela stars in all of Mamá’s stories, but my only memory is a voice calling me “angelita.” We haven’t seen my grandmother in five years. But today is La Posada Sin Fronteras, and we are taking a bus to the border to meet her.

Brief Synopsis:

US residents María and her younger brother Juan haven’t seen their Mexican grandmother in five years, but they celebrate with her across a border fence on the holiday of La Posada Sin Fronteras.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about Las Posada, the nine-day festival leading up to Christmas, and La Posada Sin Fronteras (“The Inn Without Borders”) celebrated one day along the border between the United States and Mexico in the Author’s Note;
  • When you visit an older relative or friend, draw a picture to give to them;
  • Check out the additional resources on Mitali’s website.

Why I Like this Book:

Between Us and Abuela is a heart-warming story of love between family members separated by a border, and of one girl’s efforts to surmount the border to bring joy to her Mexican grandmother and her younger brother, Juan.

Despite the fact that the US-Mexican border has dominated the news these past few years, I had never heard of the tradition of La Posada Sin Fronteras and the comfort it must give to so many. And although stories about separated families have been in the media, including children’s picture books, I think Between Us and Abuela highlights aspects of this separation that aren’t apparent to many children or adults. For instance, María and her Abuela communicate on the telephone, but like other families separated by vast distances, María hasn’t seen her in person for many years. How must that feel? And what a wonderful discussion opportunity this presents to help children empathize with these separated families.

I also love that the children make presents for Abuela and when Juan’s gift doesn’t fit through the fence, María finds a way to deliver it. What a quick-thinking young heroine!

Palacios’ blue and sand-colored palette conjured up images of the California-Mexico border. I also loved the small details she included: the Christmas tree on the cover, signaling the time of year; Abuela’s photograph on the cover; and the gulls who can soar over borders and fences.

A Note about Craft:

When I first saw the title, Between Us and Abuela, I wasn’t sure whether “between” referred to a family bond, love or a physical barrier, especially as the subtitle references the border. In hindsight, I think “between” refers to all of the above! What a great way to draw a reader into this poignant story, by focusing on the bonds and love that is affected, but not severed, by a physical border separating this family.

Perkins’ shares this story using first person point-of-view. This helped me feel like I was right there, experiencing this family reunion. I also found myself brainstorming a solution with María to deliver Juan’s picture to Abuela.

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!

Perfect Pairing – of Picture Books about New Homes

Moving house is such a difficult transition for adults and kids, so when I found two recent picture books about moving, I just had to pair them!

Ella Who?

Author: Linda Ashman

Illustrator: Sara Sanchez

Publisher/Date: Sterling Children’s Books/2017

Ages: 4-8

Themes: moving, making friends

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Mom . . . there’s an elephant in the living room.
It’s moving day—and look who slipped in the door: an elephant! But when a little girl tries to tell her family about their unusual guest, the distracted grown-ups just say, “Ella WHO?” Even as children giggle at the girl’s adventures with the smallish pachyderm, and at the fun, recurring refrain, they’ll relate to the poignant theme about making—and sometimes letting go of—new friends.

Read a review at Gathering Books.

 

Wallpaper

Author & Illustrator: Thao Lam

Publisher/Date: Owlkids Books, a division of Bayard, Canada/2018

Ages:  3-7

Themes: moving, making friends, fantasy, courage

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

New from the creator of Skunk on a String comes Wallpaper, a wordless picture book in Thao Lam’s signature paper collage style. It tells the story of a young girl whose family moves into a new house. Outside, she can hear other kids playing, but she’s too shy to say hello. So she picks at the old wallpaper in her room―revealing an entryway to a fantastic imaginary adventure world behind the walls.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they both feature main characters who are in the process of moving into a new home. In Ella Who? the unnamed main character finds a baby elephant among the boxes and potted plants, but her family is unable to see this new friend. In the wordless Wallpaper, the unnamed main character uncovers worlds hiding beneath the wallpaper in her new bedroom. Both books address the desire of children who have recently moved to find friendship in their new neighborhoods with fantasy and fun.

PPBF- In a Cloud of Dust

With its cooler but not yet cold temperatures and the promise of multi-colored leaves on the trees, October can be one of the best months to take a bike ride. I think it’s also a wonderful time to read about bicycling, as featured in today’s Perfect Picture Book.

Title: In a Cloud of Dust

Written By: Alma Fullerton

Illustrated By: Brian Deines

Publisher/Date: Pajama Press/2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: bicycles, diversity, education, disappointment, compassion

Opening:

In a Tanzanian village, a little schoolhouse sits at the end of a dusty road.

Brief Synopsis:

When the bicycle library arrives at her school, Anna hopes to find a bicycle to ride to and from school, but she is too late to find a bicycle of her own.

Links to Resources:

  • Try drawing a bicycle or creating a bicycle with colorful accordion wheels;
  • Ride your bicycle to school and back, around a park, or in your neighborhood;
  • Learn about Tanzania, the setting of this story;
  • Read the Author’s Note to learn more about bike sharing and giveaway programs;
  • Discover more ideas in the Reading Guide.

Why I Like this Book:

In a Cloud of Dust provides a window into life for children lacking transportation to and from a rural school in Tanzania. Readers learn that Anna, the main character, does her homework during the lunch break, as her journey by foot to and from school is so long that it’s dark by the time she reaches her home, a home without electric lights. When a “Bicycle Library” visits her school during the lunch break, the other students already have chosen all of these used bicycles. It’s clear that these children are excited about the bicycles and eager to learn how to ride them. But what about Anna? Her disappointment leaps from the page. What does she do?

If I were reading In a Cloud of Dust aloud to a group of children, I think I’d stop at this point and ask them what they’d do if they were Anna or if they were the other children. By including this universal feeling of disappointment at the heart of the story, I think Fullerton broadens the appeal and offers an opportunity to discuss what’s fair or not, how to handle disappointment, and how to be a true friend.

Because Anna overcomes her disappointment with the help of her friends, the story has a happy ending. I won’t spoil it by revealing how she overcomes this disappointment or the solution – you’ll have to read In a Cloud of Dust yourself!

Deines’ earth-toned illustrations transported me to Tanzania and expressed the emotions that the children felt.

A Note about Craft:

Fullerton utilizes spare, lyrical text to tell Anna’s story. By using few words, she enables the illustrations to do much of the storytelling, which added to the emotional appeal for me.

In a Cloud of Dust is a work of fiction based on bicycle lending and give-away programs that help those without access to transportation in places like Tanzania. I think by wrapping the information about these programs in a fictional account that includes disappointment and compassion, Fullerton gives a more complete picture of the importance of these programs to so many people throughout the world.

Visit Alma Fullerton’s website to see more of her works.

See more of Brian Deines’ artwork on his website.

Independent, Canadian publisher Pajama Press “is a small literary press” that “produce[s] many formats popular in children’s publishing across a fairly broad range of genres”.

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!

Perfect Pairing – Loves to Dance

I love to dance into a new month, don’t you? Here’s two picture books to help!

Lena’s Slippers

Author & Illustrator: Ioana Hobai

Publisher/Date: Page Street Kids/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: ballet, dancing shoes, perseverance, economic hardship, determination

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Lena can’t wait to twirl and swirl on stage for her school dance recital, but her family does not have the money to pay for new dance slippers. Despite this, nothing is going to stop Lena from dancing. As the day of the recital draws closer, Lena works hard come up with a creative solution and enjoys her shining moment on stage, learning along the way that what you do is more important than what you wear.

Lena’s passion for performing will inspire readers, especially aspiring dancers. Parents will love that it teaches kids not to get caught up in artificial, materialistic ideals. With lovely illustrations, this heartwarming story highlights the power of perseverance and the joy of creativity.

Read a review at The Picture Book Buzz.

 

The Wonder Shoes

Author: Eva Bernatová

Illustrator: Fiona Moodie

Publisher/Date: Farrar Straus Giroux/1990

Ages:  4-8

Themes: ballet, dancing shoes, loneliness, persistence

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A story of a young girl named Emma who is enraptured by the Circus Umberto, which has come to her village featuring a beautiful young dancer wearing bright red dancing shoes. Emma dreams of becoming a dancer herself, and wonderful things happen when she receives her own pair of dancing shoes.

Because of the date of publication, I didn’t find a review of The Wonder Shoes, but my kids loved it when they were young.

I paired these books because both feature dancers and the desire to obtain dance shoes. In Lena’s Slippers, economic hardship and the realities of life in a country with bare-shelved stores leaves Lena scrambling to find the right white dance slippers to join with her ballet classmates. In The Wonder Shoes, lonely newcomer Emma dreams of life as a dancer, and finds friends, and an opportunity to dance, through perseverance and creativity. Both books highlight the joys of dancing and the desire to be part of a group.

Looking for similar reads?

See Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins (Michelle Meadows/Ebony Glenn, 2019) and Firebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance Like the Firebird (Misty Copeland/Christopher Myers, 2014), featured here last spring, and Danza! Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México (Duncan Tonatiuh, 2017).