Perfect Pairing Takes on a Tough Subject: The Death of a Pet, 23Oct18

Every pet owner knows that at some point the time arrives to say goodbye to a beloved pet – a dog, cat, hamster or even goldfish who has stolen our hearts. After all, odds aren’t in our favor, as the lifespans of most of these critters is far less than that of humans. And when that dreaded time arises, it’s tough on the adults, and kids. Thankfully, there are some empathetic, pet-loving picture book creators out there. I’ve paired two today.

 

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The Rough Patch

Author & Illustrator: Brian Lies

Publisher/Date: Greenwillow Books (an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers)/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: pets; loss; grieving; nature

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Evan and his dog do everything together, from eating ice cream to caring for their award-winning garden, which grows big and beautiful. One day the unthinkable happens: Evan’s dog dies. Heartbroken, Evan destroys the garden and everything in it. The ground becomes overgrown with prickles and thorns, and Evan embraces the chaos.
But beauty grows in the darkest of places, and when a twisting vine turns into an immense pumpkin, Evan is drawn out of his misery and back to the county fair, where friendships—old and new—await.

Read a review at Picture Book Builders.

 

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A Stone for Sascha

Author & Illustrator: Aaron Becker

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2018

Ages: 5-9

Themes: pets; loss; history; wordless picture book; nature; grieving

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A girl grieves the loss of her dog in an achingly beautiful wordless epic from the Caldecott Honor–winning creator of Journey.
This year’s summer vacation will be very different for a young girl and her family without Sascha, the beloved family dog, along for the ride. But a wistful walk along the beach to gather cool, polished stones becomes a brilliant turning point in the girl’s grief. There, at the edge of a vast ocean beneath an infinite sky, she uncovers, alongside the reader, a profound and joyous truth. In his first picture book following the conclusion of his best-selling Journey trilogy, Aaron Becker achieves a tremendous feat, connecting the private, personal loss of one child to a cycle spanning millennia — and delivering a stunningly layered tale that demands to be pored over again and again.

Read a review at Common Sense Media.

I paired these books because they both deal with the loss of a pet, something that’s a difficult topic for children and their parents. In The Rough Patch, Evan, a gardening fox, angrily destroys his garden when his dog dies. But as the garden regrows, first as weeds and then with a pumpkin vine, Evan heals and makes peace with his loss. In A Stone for Sascha, a young girl who lost her pet dog grieves at the beach, but gains peace when a golden stone washes ashore, connecting her loss to those of history.

Looking for similar reads?

See My Old Pal, Oscar (Amy Hest, Amy Bates, 2016); Sammy in the Sky (Barbara Walsh/Jamie Wyeth, 2011); and about aging pets: Big Cat, Little Cat (Elisha Cooper, 2017); Stay: A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List (Kate Klise/M. Sarah Klise, 2017).

PPBF – Peace and Me

Today’s Perfect Picture Book debuted one month ago, on 21 September, the International Day of Peace. I think this is a perfect day to review it as the 66th annual Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Ceremony takes place in New York City this afternoon.

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Title: Peace and Me

Written By: Ali Winter

Illustrated By: Mickaël EL Fathi

Publisher/Date: LantanaPublishing/September 2018

Suitable for Ages: 7-11

Themes/Topics: peace; Nobel Laureates; #NF; biography

Opening:

ALFRED NOBEL invented a substance that helped countries go to war, but he is best remembered for his amazing contribution to world peace. How did this happen?

Brief Synopsis: A collection of 12 short biographies of winners of the Nobel Peace Prize of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Links to Resources:

  • Complete the sentence “Peace is…” by writing or drawing what you think peace means;
  • View the book trailer;
  • Learn more about the Nobel Prizes and check out the teacher resources for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.

Why I Like this Book:

Arranged chronologically, Peace and Me introduces children to 12 well-known and lesser-known winners of the Nobel Peace Prize from around the world. Linked together with tag lines that explore what “peace is” in the context of each winner, the one-page biographies highlight the impact the winners had on the world.

From such well-known figures as Bishop Desmond Tutu (1984 winner), whose peace includes “finding ways to forgive” and Jane Addams (1931 winner), whose peace includes “giving people the skills to thrive”, to lesser-known Fridtjof Nansen of Norway (1922 winner), whose peace is “making sure everyone has a home”, Peace and Me provides not only important biographies of peace builders but also explores the various aspects of peace their work represented.

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Photograph of interior spread from Peace and Me

Filled with gorgeous, full-page, vibrant collaged illustrations, Peace and Me will be a valuable resource for classrooms, libraries and home. I particularly love how each biography shows what one person can do to help the world and support an aspect of peace, and how it also encourages readers to take action to promote peace in some way. I also like that Peace and Me begins with a brief biography of Alfred Nobel and his bequest to fund Prizes, thus providing context for the biographies. The addition of a timeline, world map, and endnote summarizing what peace is and asking “What does peace mean to you?” further the impact of this timely and beautiful book.

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Photograph of interior spread from Peace and Me

A Note about Craft:

A compilation of 12 (really 13, including Nobel) short biographies could quickly become tedious and boring, too listy. How does Winter avoid that? I think by starting with a definition of peace, “Peace is…”, for each honoree, and then relating that definition to a particular individual, Winter draws the reader into the narrative and provides a framework for examining each person and the concept of peace.

For younger children and more visually-minded readers, EL Fathi has hidden a young girl in every illustration.

From the book jacket, Ali Winter is “an experienced anthologist and non-fiction writer from the United Kingdom”. View more of French-Moroccan illustrator EL Fathi’s work on his website.

UK-based Lantana Publishing “is a young, independent publishing house producing inclusive picture books for children.” Lantana’s books are distributed in the US and Canada by Lerner Publisher Services.

Amnesty International has endorsed Peace and Me. Read a review at The Book Activist.

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!

 

Perfect Pairing of Bird Books

I chose today’s Perfect Pairing books for several reasons: to coincide with my husband’s birthday, as we lived for several years near the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s wild bird refuge, Sapsucker Woods, and enjoyed many visits there; to celebrate the author, who is a keynote speaker at a conference I’ll be attending this upcoming Saturday; and to mark the season when so many birds migrate to warmer climes. Binoculars ready?

ODP-3Dview-LROn Duck Pond (On Bird Hill and Beyond #2)

Author: Jane Yolen

Illustrator: Bob Marstall

Publisher/Date: The Cornell Lab Publishing Group (an imprint of Wundermill, Inc.)/2017

Ages: 3-5

Themes: birds; nature; rhyming

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In On Bird Hill, Yolen and Marstall took readers on a surreal journey with a boy and his dog, as they stopped, looked, and noticed things along their path—ultimately discovering the miracle of the birth of a baby bird. On Duck Pond continues the journey of the boy and dog story, this time in a new place—a serene pond, filled with birds, frogs, turtles and other creatures going about their quiet business. Their intrusion stirs the pond into a cacophony of activity, reaching climactic chaos, before slowly settling back to it’s quiet equilibrium.

Read a review at Unleashing Readers.

 

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On Gull Beach (On Bird Hill and Beyond #3)

Author: Jane Yolen

Illustrator: Bob Marstall

Publisher/Date: The Cornell Lab Publishing Group (an imprint of Wundermill, Inc.)/2018

Ages: 4-7

Themes: shore birds; nature; rhyming

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Together again! On Gull Beach reunites bestselling children’s author Jane Yolen and award-winning illustrator Bob Marstall for the third installment of the acclaimed On Bird Hill and Beyond series of children’s books written for the renowned Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

On Gull Beach brings us to an idyllic shoreline in Cape Cod, where gulls hover, dive, and chase with pitched acrobatics in pursuit of a seastar. This enchanting sequel in a brand new habitat will delight readers young and old.
As with all Cornell Lab Publishing Group books, 35% of net proceeds from the sale of this title goes directly to the Cornell Lab to support projects such as children’s educational and community programs.

Read a review at Miss Marple’s Musings.

I paired these books because they feature nature and encounters with birds, but in different locations, with different types of birds. And who doesn’t love to think about birds and read books about them? Both books feature rhyming, lyrical text by a master of the craft, as well as the same illustrator. I think it’s fun and instructive to think about the different types of birds found in these locations and the moods evoked in the two settings – woodland and beach. There’s also interesting back matter to explore further in both books.

Looking for similar reads?

See the first book of the series, On Bird Hill. Visit Jane Yolan’s website to find more of her 365+ (and counting) published books.

PPBF – Bookjoy Wordjoy

Before National Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close, I want to share a recently published book of poetry that bridges languages and celebrates the power of words to bring joy to all.

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Title: Bookjoy Wordjoy

Written By: Pat Mora

Illustrated By: Raul Colón

Publisher/Date: Lee & Low Books Inc./2018

Suitable for Ages: 6-12 (or younger)

Themes/Topics: reading; writing; poetry; multicultural

Opening:

Books and Me

We belong/ together,/ books and me,/ like toast and jelly/ o queso y tortillas./ Delicious! ¡Delicioso!/ Like flowers and bees,/ birds and trees,/ books and me.

Brief Synopsis: In a series of 14 poems, Mora explores the joys of reading and writing.

Links to Resources:

  • Mora defines “bookjoy” as the “fun of reading” in her “Welcome” to Bookjoy Wordjoy; share a book you enjoy with a friend or family member;
  • Wordjoy is the “fun of listening to words, combining words, and playing with words – the fun of writing”, Mora explains in the “Welcome”. Think of the words you enjoy hearing or speaking aloud. Try to combine them in a fun, silly or serious poem;
  • Mora is a founder of a literacy initiative called “Children’s Day, Book Day, in Spanish, El día de los niños, el día de los libros, [which] is a year-long commitment to celebrating all our children and to motivating them and their families to be readers, essential in our democracy”; check out the Día resources;
  • Discover Mora’s tips to create a bookjoy family.

Why I Like this Book:

This is a fun book to read aloud and share in the home, library or classroom. As Mora reveals in an acrostic poem entitled “Wordjoy”, it’s “música” she hears when she reads and writes. And it’s her love of words, reading and writing that fill this book with the joy that leaps from each page.

In a poem entitled “Writing Secrets”, Mora shares tips to encourage children of all ages and abilities to think about their own unique experiences, write and revise what they’ve written, and then share their stories with “family and friends.” In “Jazzy Duet/Dueto de jazz”, she follows each English line with its Spanish translation, which, I think, will help English or Spanish speakers learn the other language and find beauty in it: Play/ Juega/ with sounds./ con sonidos.

Most of the poems appear opposite Colón’s full-page, watercolor and Prismacolor pencil illustrations that capture the exuberant joy of Mora’s poetry.

A Note about Craft:

Bookjoy Wordjoy is a compilation of 14 poems about the joys of reading and writing. I love how the poems differ but follow this theme. As readers and creators, I think it’s important to consider how reading and creating inform each other.

Mora is a Latina of Mexican heritage and Colón was born and lived as a child in Puerto Rico. From Spanish words sprinkled through the poetry to Colón’s inspiration from “the works of some Central American artists, including Rufino Tamayo”, Latinx heritage flows through the pages.

Visit Mora’s website to see more of her many books. Read a recent interview with Colón in Publishers Weekly and see a recent interview with Mora and Colón about Bookjoy Wordjoy.

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!

Perfect Pairing – Focuses on the Little Things in Life

Sometimes, when life gets hectic or the newsfeed seems overwhelming, I find it helps me to take a deep breath, take a walk, and look for the beauty that is everywhere in nature. And when we can share the beauty of nature with others, that’s even better.

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Sidewalk Flowers

Author: Jon Arno Lawson

Illustrator: Sydney Smith

Publisher/Date: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press)/2015

Ages: 4-7

Themes: wordless picture book; finding beauty; nature; generosity

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In this wordless picture book, a little girl collects wildflowers while her distracted father pays her little attention. Each flower becomes a gift, and whether the gift is noticed or ignored, both giver and recipient are transformed by their encounter. “Written” by award-winning poet JonArno Lawson and brought to life by illustrator Sydney Smith, Sidewalk Flowers is an ode to the importance of small things, small people, and small gestures.

Read a review at Katie Reviews Books.

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tiny, perfect things

Author: M.H. Clark

Illustrator: Madeline Kloepper

Publisher/Date: Compendium, Inc./2018

Ages: 3-7

Themes: finding beauty; nature; intergenerational; multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The whole world is a treasure waiting to be found. Open your eyes and see the wonderful things all around. This is the story of a child and a grandfather whose walk around the neighborhood leads to a day of shared wonder as they discover all sorts of tiny, perfect things together. With rhythmic storytelling and detailed and intricate illustrations, this is a book about how childlike curiosity can transform ordinary days into extraordinary adventures.

Read a review at Brain Pickings.

I paired these books because both feature walks by a child and adult, in which small things are noted, such as the flowers growing between the cracks of sidewalks, birds, leaves and even shadows. To be present in the moment and to appreciate nature and one’s neighborhood are gifts for children, and adults, to share.

Looking for similar reads?

See Ask Me (Bernard Waber/Suzy Lee, 2015) and Be Still, Life (Ohara Hale, 2017).

PPBF – Me and My Fear

When I saw today’s Perfect Picture Book advertised, I couldn’t wait to find, read  and review it. I hope you find it as captivating as I did!

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Title: Me and My Fear

Written & Illustrated By: Francesca Sanna

Publisher/Date: Flying Eye Books (an imprint of Nobrow Ltd.)/September 2018

Suitable for Ages: 5+

Themes/Topics: fear; immigrant; moving; empathy

Opening:

I have always had a secret. A tiny friend called Fear.

Brief Synopsis:

When a young girl and her family arrive in a new country, the girl’s fear grows and keeps her from making friends and adjusting to her new life, until she realizes that she’s not the only one with fear.

Links to Resources:

  • Sometimes we all are afraid. What scares you? What do you do when you’re scared?
  • How do you welcome newcomers to your neighborhood or school? Try one or more of the 20 Simple Acts to learn more about refugees or help one or more of them feel welcome;
  • See the Classroom Guide for more ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

With warm, retro-feeling illustrations and short text, Sanna personifies the fear that everyone experiences at times in a very kid-relatable way. As the story begins, Fear is a “tiny friend”, a helpful being that keeps the unnamed MC safe. But after “we came to this new country,” Fear grows and keeps the girl from experiencing the new neighborhood and making friends at school. It’s Fear that “hates” the new school, that “grows angry” when the girl’s name is mispronounced, that keeps the girl alone at break times. Through sharing art with another student, though, the young girl begins to reach out and then discovers that others have their own fears. As she does so, Fear reverts to its old, smaller self as “school is not so difficult anymore”.

I think Me and My Fear will help kids who experience fear in unfamiliar situations understand that they aren’t alone. It also will help other kids empathize with newcomers or those who keep to themselves, when they understand that it may be fear that holds these loners back. While the young MC is a newcomer to a country and school, I think the story will resonate with others, too, as they face any new situations.

Sanna’s warm color palate and the rounded curves she uses to depict Fear exude a feeling of comfort.

A Note about Craft:

As in her debut picture book, The Journey, Sanna has chosen to not name the Main Character, thus providing an Everyman-type of story. She also uses first-person point of view which, I think, brings an immediacy to the story. Interestingly, the MC in Me and My Fear is the same MC as in The Journey, so that this book is, in effect, a continuation of the refugee’s journey.

An illustrator-author, Sanna tells much of the story in illustrations only, and it’s a low word-count picture book. Sanna pictures Fear as a ghost-like creature, similar, in my mind, to Beekle, in Dan Santat’s The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. By making Fear a character, Sanna can show readers how Fear accompanies the young girl, demonstrate how it grows, and even, in one full-page spread, show how the MC must carry Fear on her back.

When I first read the title, Me and My Fear, I was a bit perplexed. Wouldn’t “I and My Fear,” or “My Fear and Me” be more grammatically correct? But then it struck me: the title hearkens back to an old song title: Me and My Shadow. It thus puts the MC’s experience into context: Fear has accompanied people throughout history and in many places, and it continues to do so.

From the publisher’s website, I learned that Me and My Fear “is based on research that creator Francesca Sanna did in classrooms—asking children to draw their fears and encouraging them to talk about what made them afraid.” I also learned that Amnesty International has endorsed it.

The publisher, Flying Eye Books (FEB, for short),  “is the children’s imprint of award-winning visual publishing house Nobrow. Established in early 2013, FEB sought to retain the same attention to detail in design and excellence in illustrated content as its parent publisher, but with a focus on the craft of children’s storytelling and non-fiction.”

Visit Sanna’s website to see more of her work, including illustrations from The Journey, one of the first picture books to shed light on the current refugee crisis in Europe.

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!

Perfect Pairing – Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month

As we’re midway through National Hispanic Heritage Month, I’m celebrating with picture books about Mexican visual and performing artists by a talented Mexican & American illustrator/author.

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Danza!: Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México

Author & Illustrator: Duncan Tonatiuh

Publisher/Date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/2017

Ages: 6-10

Themes: dancer; biography; Mexican culture

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Award-winning author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh tells the story of Amalia Hernández, dancer and founder of El Ballet Folklórico de México. 
Published in time for the 100th anniversary of Hernández’s birth, Danza! is the first picture book about the famous dancer and choreographer.
Danza! is a celebration of Hernández’s life and of the rich history of dance in Mexico. As a child, Amalia always thought she would grow up to be a teacher, until she saw a performance of dancers in her town square. She was fascinated by the way the dancers twirled and swayed, and she knew that someday she would be a dancer, too. She began to study many different types of dance, including ballet and modern, under some of the best teachers in the world. Hernández traveled throughout Mexico studying and learning regional dances. Soon she founded her own dance company, El Ballet Folklórico de México, where she integrated her knowledge of ballet and modern dance with folkloric dances. The group began to perform all over the country and soon all over the world, becoming an international sensation that still tours today….

With Tonatiuh’s distinctive Mixtec-inspired artwork and colorful drawings that seem to leap off the page, Danza! will enthrall and inspire young readers with the fascinating story of this important dancer and choreographer.

Read my review. Danza! is the 2018 Américas Award winner, which was presented in Washington, DC, this past Friday, 28 September.

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Diego Rivera: His World and Ours

Author & Illustrator: Duncan Tonatiuh

Publisher/Date: Abrams/2011

Ages: 5-9
Themes: artist; biography; Mexican culture

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

This charming book introduces one of the most popular artists of the twentieth century, Diego Rivera, to young readers. It tells the story of Diego as a young, mischievous boy who demonstrated a clear passion for art and then went on to become one of the most famous painters in the world.
Duncan Tonatiuh also prompts readers to think about what Diego would paint today. Just as Diego’s murals depicted great historical events in Mexican culture or celebrated native peoples, if Diego were painting today, what would his artwork depict? How would his paintings reflect today’s culture?

Read a review at CCBC.

I paired these books because they celebrate important figures of Mexican culture, and Tonatiuh brought both artists to life with his distinctive Mixtec illustration style.

Looking for similar reads? See the list of past Américas Award winners and honor picture books, including All the Way to Havana (Margarita Engle/Mike Curato, 2017). See other books by Duncan Tonatiuh, including Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s TaleThe Princess and the Warrior, and Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight.