Tag Archives: coping

PPBF – Lubna and Pebble

Regular readers know that I’ve read and reviewed many picture books from the past few years that recount the refugee experience. So when I saw reference in a recent Kidlit Frenzy post to one I hadn’t read yet, you can guess what I immediately did…

Title: Lubna and Pebble

Written By: Wendy Meddour

Illustrated By: Daniel Egnéus

Publisher/Date: Dial Books for Young Readers/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: refugees; coping; friendship


Lubna’s best friend was a pebble. It was shiny and smooth and gray.

Brief Synopsis: When a young girl and her father arrive in a tent city, the girl finds a pebble which helps her adjust to life in a strange location, far from the life and family she had known.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have a beloved stuffed animal, pet or other favorite object? What do you like to do with that pet or thing? How is your pet or favorite thing the same as or different from Pebble?
  • Try making Taino petroglyphs, and learn about this ancient Caribbean artform;
  • Explore rock and pebble crafts and try making some of your own.

Why I Like this Book:

Lubna and Pebble is a poignant new addition to the growing array of picture books that explore the refugee experience. Lubna’s story begins as she and Daddy land on a beach at night. Meddour leaves unstated the location of that beach, the origin of the ship, the reason why Lubna and Daddy left, and the fate of other family members. Instead, Meddour focuses on Pebble – the first thing Lubna finds and, along with her Daddy’s hand, something that Lubna knows would “keep her safe” at the refugee camp. Like a good friend, “Pebble always listened to her stories” about her brothers, home and war. “Pebble always smiled when she felt scared.” In short, Pebble was her “best friend”.

When a new boy arrives at the camp with “no words”, just “blinks and sneezes and stares”, Lubna knows what to do: she introduces him to Pebble, who elicits a smile from Amir. Lubna also knows what to do when she learns that she and Daddy have found a new home which means leaving Amir. I won’t spoil the ending, except to share that Lubna finds a way to comfort Amir, as only a friend can.

I really appreciate Meddour’s exploration of how a child who has lost almost everyone and everything finds comfort in an object, even a hard object like a pebble. I can envision many interesting conversations with even young children about what they find comforting and/or joyful, and what it means to find a true friend.

A Note about Craft:

Even before I knew the topic of today’s Perfect Picture Book or had seen the cover, I knew from the title that I had to read it, as I just had to know what, or who, Pebble was and what type of person, pet or object would be named “Pebble”. By personifying an object – using the object name as a proper name (the pebble v Pebble) and painting on a smile, Meddour makes Pebble into a character, encouraging readers to view Pebble as Lubna does.

I think it’s also interesting that Pebble is a new object, or friend, rather than a comforting relic from Lubna’s past. Doing this, I think, shows a break from the past, a new beginning that, hopefully, will help Lubna separate from the horrors she has experienced. And a pebble, unlike a rock or a stone, reminds me of stones I find at the beach, that are tossed around in the sea, tumbled until smooth, and cleansed of their hard-edged past, as, hopefully, the young refugees, Lubna and Amir, will be.

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 – Grumpy Pants

Today is Veteran’s Day in the US and Sunday is Remembrance Sunday in the UK and Commonwealth countries – both occasions to honor military veterans, to remember those who died serving their countries, and to reflect on peace and conflict. Rather than choose a book that highlights military service, war or peace, I’ve chosen a book that, I believe, will help kids express and overcome the negative feelings which, if left unchecked, spiral into negative action against themselves or others. Onto today’s Perfect Picture Book:

9780807530757_p0_v1_s118x184Title: Grumpy Pants

Written & Illustrated By: Claire Messer

Publisher/date: Albert Whitman & Company/2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Grumpiness, coping, self-soothing, penguins, moods

Opening: “Penguin was in a bad mood. A very bad mood.”

Brief Synopsis: Penguin is in a bad mood, and he tries different solutions to overcome his negative feelings.

Links to Resources:

  • Think about what you do when you feel grumpy, sad, angry or anxious;
  • Draw faces that express feelings of grumpiness, sadness, angriness, nervousness;
  • Try coping skills, like a stress ball, blowing bubbles, etc.

Why I Like this Book: With few words combined with hand-printed illustrations, Grumpy Pants shows kids, and maybe a few adults, ways to calm down and feel better when they’re feeling grumpy. I think the simplicity of the illustrations will focus even the fussiest kid’s eyes on Penguin and the steps he takes to feel better. The words and simple illustrations are a perfect blueprint to feeling better or could act as a discussion prompt for ways children might help themselves feel better.

A Note about Craft: Like Jane Yolen and What to Do With a Box, author-illustrator Claire Messer does not name the Main Character: he simply is “penguin.” Because he has no name, I think kids will be able to better identify with him.

I mentioned above that I like this book because it acts as a blueprint. But blueprints are only helpful if they can be read. So what techniques does Ms. Messer use to enable young children to read her blueprint to beat the grumpies? First, she uses few words and very simple language and sentence structure. She even breaks a few rules, including in the first sentence (“Penguin was in a bad mood.”), telling, not showing and using a form of “to be.” She also repeats the term “grumpy” quite often, in a good way, leaving no doubt as to Penguin’s true feelings. Penguin addresses his readers midway through the book after a scene that’s sure to bring chuckles or at least a smile, “I’m still grumpy, you know”, thereby luring the readers further into the story. Finally, to accompany the sparse, very direct text, Ms. Messer utilizes simple linoleum prints, with a limited but bright color palette, set against a white background – Penguin could be anywhere, perhaps right in your home.

Grumpy Pants is Claire Messer’s debut picture book. It received starred reviews from Kirkus,  Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal, and was included in a review about moody picture books in the New York Times Book Review.

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!