Tag Archives: compassion

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- 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 visits Korea

Although much in the news lately, I’ve seen very few picture books written in English about North Korea and South Korea. Following are two recent ones that I’ve enjoyed reading, as I learn more about the fascinating history of this divided peninsula.

Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans

Author: Tina Cho

Illustrator: Keum Jin Song

Publisher/Date: Little Bee Books, an imprint of Bonnier Publishing USA/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: South Korea, North Korea, hunger, rice, compassion, making a difference

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Rice from Heaven is based on a true story about compassion and bravery as a young girl and her community in South Korea help deliver rice via balloons to the starving and oppressed people in North Korea.

We reach a place where mountains become a wall. A wall so high, no one dares to climb. Beyond that wall and across the sea live children just like me, except they do not have food to eat.

Yoori lives in South Korea and doesn’t know what North Korea is like, but her father (Appa) does. Appa grew up in North Korea, where he did not have enough food to eat. Starving, he fled to South Korea in search of a better life. Yoori doesn’t know how she can help as she’s only a little “grain of rice” herself, but Appa tells her that they can secretly help the starving people by sending special balloons that carry rice over the border.

Villagers glare and grumble, and children protest feeding the enemy, but Yoori doesn’t back down. She has to help. People right over the border don’t have food. No rice, and no green fields.

With renewed spirit, volunteers gather in groups, fill the balloons with air, and tie the Styrofoam containers filled with rice to the tails of the balloons. With a little push, the balloons soar up and over the border, carrying rice in the darkness of the night over to North Korea.

Read a review at Picture Books Help Kids Soar.

 

When Spring Comes to the DMZ

Author & Illustrator: Uk-Bae Lee

Translators: Chungyon Won and Aileen Won

Publisher/Date: Plough Publishing House/2019 (originally published in Korean/2010)

Ages: 4-12

Themes: South Korea, North Korea, nature, demilitarized zone, division, barriers

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Korea’s demilitarized zone has become an amazing accidental nature preserve that gives hope for a brighter future for a divided land.

This unique picture book invites young readers into the natural beauty of the DMZ, where salmon, spotted seals, and mountain goats freely follow the seasons and raise their families in this 2.5-mile-wide, 150-mile-long corridor where no human may tread. But the vivid seasonal flora and fauna are framed by ever-present rusty razor wire, warning signs, and locked gates–and regularly interrupted by military exercises that continue decades after a 1953 ceasefire in the Korean War established the DMZ.

Creator Uk-Bae Lee’s lively paintings juxtapose these realities, planting in children the dream of a peaceful world without war and barriers, where separated families meet again and live together happily in harmony with their environment. Lee shows the DMZ through the eyes of a grandfather who returns each year to look out over his beloved former lands, waiting for the day when he can return. In a surprise foldout panorama at the end of the book the grandfather, tired of waiting, dreams of taking his grandson by the hand, flinging back the locked gates, and walking again on the land he loves to find his long-lost friends.

When Spring Comes to the DMZ helps introduce children to the unfinished history of the Korean Peninsula playing out on the nightly news, and may well spark discussions about other walls, from Texas to Gaza.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because they tell stories based in fact about the divided Korean Peninsula. In Rice from Heaven, a young girl and her father in South Korea help send rice via helium balloons to hungry North Koreans across the demilitarized zone. Here the DMZ acts as a barrier which compassion breaches. In When Spring Comes to the DMZ, the DMZ is portrayed as a nature preserve, an Eden flourishing between the divided Koreas and signaling the possibility of future peace. Both books also include informative back matter to help explain the complex issues that remain decades after the international conflict that divided the land into two vastly different countries.

Looking for similar reads? See Sergeant Reckless: The True Story of the Little Horse Who Became a Hero (Patricia McCormick/Jacobo Bruno, 2017) about the Korean War.

 

PPBF – Why Am I Here?

I found today’s Perfect Picture Book at my local library. Regular readers know that all of the books I’ve reviewed this year have involved refugees, people and stories from areas affected by the US travel ban, and migrants, especially from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Today’s Perfect Picture Book doesn’t exactly fit within these parameters. It is, however, a book first published outside the US. I also think it promotes so much empathy for refugees and migrants that it almost is a book about them. I hope you agree!

9780802854773_p0_v2_s192x300Title: Why Am I Here?

Written By: Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen

Illustrated By: Akin Duzakin

Translated By: Becky Crook

Publisher/date: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers/2016 (first published by Magikon in Norwegian/2014)

Suitable for Ages: 5-9 (or older)

Themes/Topics: empathy, compassion, imagination, philosophy, social justice

Opening:

I wonder why I am here, in this exact place.

Brief Synopsis: A young child journeys to many places, asking what it would be like to live as s/he sees others living.

Links to Resources:

  • Become Globe Smart, and learn about life in other areas of the world;
  • Draw a picture of a person or place that you have visited.

Why I Like this Book:

Why Am I Here? is a book that begs to be read, and reread. Many of us have a child who has asked questions non-stop, who has stumped us time and time again with one three-letter word: WHY. While I think of the “why” stage for younger children more than for the school-aged kids for whom this book is written, curious children, and adults, never stop wondering.

Rather than wondering just about the natural world, Why Am I Here? invites us to consider differences in time, place, and social circumstance. In one poignant spread, the narrator asks what it would be like to live in a large city, alone, “on the street or under a bridge.” Similarly, the narrator wonders what it would be like to leave home as a refugee, to survive a natural disaster and be without food or water, or to labor as children do in other places in the world.

This is an introspective book, sensitive and thought-provoking. But while many of the places and peoples visited are suffering, the overall tenor is positive and hopeful, in large part, most likely, due to the dreamy, peaceful watercolor illustrations that help soften the reality of the words.

HEJH-Øy_båt.R-210x210

Interior spread, reprinted from Duzakin’s website

HEJH-By.R.W_edited-1-210x210

Interior spread, reprinted from Duzakin’s website

A Note about Craft:

Why Am I Here? has an other-world feel to it, in part, I think, because the “I” in the story is alone and identified by neither name nor gender. I think this helps readers identify better with the narrator and imagine themselves in his or her situation.

In Reading Picture Books with Children, Megan Dowd Lambert invites readers to contemplate the Whole Book when sharing picture books with children. In Why Am I Here? the text appears solely on the left side and the illustrations, looking like landscape paintings, appear on the right side of the gutter. This invites the reader, I believe, to think about the words before seeing what the words imply. For an introspective book, when author, illustrator and editor want the reader to contemplate the text, I think this is a wonderful technique that adds to the reading experience.

Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen is a Norwegian freelance jouralist and children’s author.

Akin Duzakin is a Turkish illustrator living since 1987 in Norway.

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!