Tag Archives: curiosity

Perfect Pairing Celebrates Earth Day

As we celebrate Earth Day this week, I’m sharing two thought-provoking picture books that help us consider our roles in this world.

Carl and the Meaning of Life

Author & Illustrator: Deborah Freedman

Publisher/Date: Viking, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers/2019

Ages: 3 & up

Themes: earthworms; curiosity; environmentalism

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Carl is an earthworm. He spends his days happily tunneling in the soil until a field mouse asks him a simple question that stops him short: “Why?” Carl’s quest takes him on an adventure to meet all the animals of the forest, each of whom seems to know exactly what they were put on this earth to do, unlike the curious Carl. But it’s not until the world around him has changed that Carl begins to realize everyone, no matter how small, makes a big difference just by being themselves.

Read a review in The Horn Book.

I Am Henry Finch

Author: Alexis Deacon

Illustrator: Viviane Schwartz

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2016 (originally published in the UK by Walker Books)

Ages: 5-8

Themes: Finches, thinking for yourself, individuality, greatness, social movements, philosophy

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

This is a book about Henry Finch who strives for greatness, gets it all a bit wrong, then makes it right again in a very surprising way – truly becoming great. Henry Finch is a total inspiration. This is an inspirational book. It is also very funny. I Am Henry Finch is a book for everyone – from the very young to the very old. It is for dreamers, philosophers, artists, the foolish and the enlightened. And anyone with a big bright idea. Vegetarians will love it too.

Read my review.

I paired these books because both feature small creatures that we often may not think much about, and both include subtle environmental themes. With childlike simplicity, Carl questions the other animals to find out why he burrows through the earth, “turning hard dirt into fluffy soil”. Only when the soil becomes hard as rock does he understand that his actions are essential to the ecosystem. Thinking great thoughts and seeking “greatness”, Henry attacks a large beast that threatens his species. He convinces it to be aware of its actions on the other birds and animals and to change its behavior. With their philosophical questions and reasoning, I think both picture books will spur lively discussion about our roles on this earth and our duty to it.

Looking for similar reads?

See a recent list of children’s books for Earth Day at Pragmatic Mom.

Perfect Pairing – of Friendly Ships

During the recent Reading for Research month, I saw the first book featured here in a post about quiet books. When I read that book, it brought to mind another book I’d read, and reviewed, a few years ago. I think you’ll understand why when you read these books together.

The Antlered Ship

Author: Dashka Slater

Illustrator: The Fan Brothers

Publisher/Date: Beach Lane Books/2017

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Curiosity, adventure, animals, and friendship.

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

An inquisitive fox sets off on a seafaring voyage with a crew of deer and pigeons in this enchanting tale of friendship and adventure.
Marco the fox has a lot of questions, like: how deep does the sun go when it sinks into the sea? And why do birds have such lizardy feet? But none of the other foxes share his curiosity. So when a magnificent ship adorned with antlers and with a deer for a captain arrives at the dock looking for a crew, Marco volunteers, hoping to find foxes who are as inquisitive as he is that can answer his questions. The crew finds adventure and intrigue on their journey. And, at last, Marco finds the answer to his most important question of all: What’s the best way to find a friend you can talk to?

Read a review at The Picture Book Buzz.

The Friend Ship

Author: Kat Yeh

Illustrator: Chuck Groenink

Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion/2016

Ages: 3-5

Themes: friendship; journey; hedgehogs; loneliness

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Little Hedgehog is very lonely. But then she overhears passersby talking about something that gives her hope-something called a Friend Ship!
Hedgehog imagines a ship filled with friends of all kinds, and soon she’s ready to hit the open seas in a boat of her own to track it down. Along the way, she meets other lonely animals eager to join her quest.
They search north. They search south. They search east. But Hedgehog and her new friends can’t find the Ship anywhere! Until she realizes she knows just where the Friend Ship is. . .
This heartwarming tale by Kat Yeh, with charming illustrations by Chuck Groenink, proves that sometimes, what you’re searching for is right in front of you.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they involve animal characters seeking something and embarking on journeys. In The Antlered Ship, the deer seek an island with tasty food, the pigeons seek adventure, and Marco the fox seeks answers to his many questions. In The Friend Ship, Hedgehog undertakes a journey to find friendship and ends up finding it on a ship filled with friends. Both books feature imaginative journeys that aren’t quite what the travelers, and the readers, expect at the outset.

PPBF – A Rainbow in My Pocket

Continuing the celebration of poetry for National Poetry Month, I’m so happy to feature a poetic picture book that was published April 2016 in English and that I received from the publisher when I visited London last month. Poem in Your Pocket Day is coming up on April 26th (as I was reminded when I visited the poets.org website and checked out their 30 ways to celebrate national poetry month). You’ll see below that the young girl in today’s Perfect Picture Book is set to celebrate – writing a poem each day to keep in her pocket.

9781910328125-768x767Title: A Rainbow in My Pocket

Written By: Ali Seidabadi

Illustrated By: Hoda Haddadi

Translated By: Azita Rassi

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd/ 2016 (first published in Persian, Ofogh Publications/2007)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: poetry; #ReadYourWorld; curiosity

Opening:

If you can’t
Fit the Rainbow
In your pocket,
Instead
Make your dreams
So big
You can put
What you like
Inside them!

I’ll write
My dreams,
My wishes,
And my thoughts
On a small piece of paper
And put it in my pocket.
I feel the rainbow
Rising from my pocket.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl shares her observations, hopes, and dreams by writing a poem each day and storing the paper in her pocket.

Links to Resources:

  • Discover Iran, home of the author and illustrator;
  • Write about or draw a picture of something you like or wish to have or do;
  • Keep a journal to write down your thoughts each day;
  • View the book trailer here.

Why I Like this Book:

A Rainbow in My Pocket is a happy, hopeful collection of whimsical observations about the little things in life, questions about nature, and musings about more universal themes. The young, unnamed narrator records her of-the-moment thoughts each day and shares them as distinct free-verse poems with the reader. They range from the everyday experience of waiting for a favorite dress to be washed, dried and ready to wear, dreaming about a hat her mother hasn’t bought her yet, to wondering why ants “queue in such a neat line.” Similarly, she wonders why the sky is blue, as a bird “in a smoky city” answers, “why isn’t the sky blue?”

Like curious young children everywhere, the narrator’s mind flits between small, everyday observations to more thought-provoking ideas. I couldn’t help thinking of that phrase, “out of the mouths of babes” as I read,

I wish people
Would talk using only nice words –
Poetry,
Songs,
Not use harsh words
That prod
And poke you.

I think all of us share this wish, as we encourage our children to let their minds wander, to ponder and question both everyday happenings and big, universal ideas, and to hope for a future as magical as a rainbow following a rain shower.

Seidabadi’s short, lyrical verses are paired well with Haddadi’s colorfully dreamy, mixed- media collages. Haddadi leaves plenty of white space, too, to let readers’ minds wander and wonder.

2016_dg_a-rainbow-in-my-pocket

Interior spread from the text, as reproduced in Mirrors, Windows, Doors

A Note about Craft:

Seidabadi wrote A Rainbow in My Pocket from the first-person point of view. The narrator remains nameless, and even Haddadi’s evocative illustrations give no indication of her exact age or location. This combination, I believe, enables readers and listeners to share in the narrator’s thoughts, and, perhaps let their minds wander among ideas big and small. Likewise, there is no plot, per se. There is, however, movement among ideas, and between everyday questions & bigger picture dreams.

An End Note introduces the Iranian author and illustrator to Western readers.

See also an interview with Haddadi here, and view more illustrations on her Facebook page. In addition to other awards and recognition, Haddadi won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award 2017 for best illustration of a picture book in the North American market for Drummer Girl, by Hiba Masood; illustrated by Hoda Hadadi (Daybreak Press, 2017).

Read an interview with Seidabadi here, a chat with him here, and visit his Facebook page.

Discover more books published by Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd, “an independent publishing company committed to producing beautiful, original books for children”, founded on the “belief that stories act as bridges – providing pathways to new experiences whilst connecting us to here and there”. They’ve published a number of books by Iranian authors and/or illustrators, including When I Coloured in the World, Alive Again,  A Bottle of Happinessand The Drum.

While not currently available in US book shops, A Rainbow in My Pocket is available through the Book Depository which ships for free to the US and around the world.

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 – The Little Black Fish

Susanna Hill asked on Facebook the other day what everyone was reading on a snowy winter’s day. I thought about what’s been on my nightstand, and what would be a good, longer story for parents and children to share. Today’s Perfect Picture Book came to mind, especially as we acknowledge the one-year anniversary of the current administration in the US, and think about what we tell kids about questioning authority, respecting others, and being receptive to those who are different from us.

9781910328194Title: The Little Black Fish

Written By: Samad Behrangi

Illustrated By: Farshid Mesghali

Translated By: Azita Rassi

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd./2016 (first published in Persian, Kanoun Parvaresh Fekri, Iran/1968)

Suitable for Ages: 7 and up

Themes/Topics: daring to be different; curiosity; exploration; death; #ReadYourWorld

Opening:

As the nights grew longer and the year turned towards winter once more, an old fish settled herself to tell a story. She was telling the story to her twelve thousand grandchildren fishes. It was an exciting story full of danger and some sadness, but it was a story that also carried wisdom. The old fish wanted her grandchildren to learn from Little Black Fish’s story without them having to go into the dangers and sadnesses of life themselves.

Brief Synopsis:

The Little Black Fish dreams of a world beyond the stream. He ventures forth to learn what lies downstream, and in so doing, he encounters many wonderful things, and overcomes, many, but not all, dangers.

Links to Resources:

  • Discover more about Iran, where the author lived and the illustrator still lives;
  • Learn about rivers and streams;
  • Explore a new place or see what’s beyond the next hill or up the next street. Draw a picture of something new that you discover.

Why I Like this Book:

Although the word count is high in this story within a story, the many layers of The Little Black Fish make it well worth reading. I think even very young kids will relate to the Little Black Fish and his desire to see the world and meet other, different creatures. Behrangi captured the boredom, questioning and curiosity of young children in this spunky fish, and perceptive children will view it as a mirror into their own behavior.

I also like that this fish states clearly what many dreamers, social activists, and others have only thought: “I don’t want to spend my life swimming up and down and around, and then grumbling that there isn’t anything more to life. Perhaps there is more to life, and perhaps the world is more than our stream!”

Mesghali’s graphic illustrations date to 1968, but seem fresh and contemporary. Young children will enjoy picking out the distinctive Little Black Fish as he is depicted on his journey.

In “About the Book”, the editors reveal that the Shah’s government in Iran banned The Little Black Fish in 1968 when it first was published as it “was written and read as an allegory for a nation in which it was dangerous to dare to be politically different.” Even today, the story of a fish who dares to be different, to mingle with creatures of different species (or we could substitute race/religion/nationality/class), question his elders and leave the protective stream (or we could substitute home/neighborhood/school/country) to see the world will resonate with children, and adults, of all ages, I think.

A Note about Craft:

I mentioned above that The Little Black Fish is a story within a story. This works well, as it allows for a happy ending, even though, spoiler alert, the black fish dies at the end of his story. Interestingly, one of the 12,000 grandchildren listening to the story kept thinking about the Little Black Fish, the stream and the wonderful creatures described. That little red fish was female – a good reminder that curiosity is not gender-restricted.

Death figures prominently in this story. Not only does the Little Black Fish die, but he accuses his mother of killing his friend, a snail, the Fish encounters a doe wounded by a hunter, a crab munches on a frog, and pelicans devour small fish. Although death and the circle of life are depicted in American picture books, I found Behrangi’s depictions to be less sugar-coated than that of most contemporary writers for young children. As author Matt de la Peña asked in a recent article in Time, however, is the role of the writer to expose children to difficult topics, “to tell the truth or preserve innocence?” I think by reading books like The Little Black Fish, we can learn how authors from different cultures and/or times handle this question and learn from these approaches.

Azita Rassi translated The Little Black Fish into English for this edition, which is very helpful for those of us who don’t read Persian. Translations such as this are essential for those hoping to #ReadYourWorld and learn about important works and traditions from other cultures.

Discover more books published by Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd, “an independent publishing company committed to producing beautiful, original books for children”, founded on the “belief that stories act as bridges – providing pathways to new experiences whilst connecting us to here and there” and publishing a number of books by Iranian authors and illustrators.

According to his website, Meshghali continues to create art today in his Tehran studio. He has been awarded the first Graphic Prize, Sixth International Children Books’ Fair in Bologna, for The Little Black Fish
 in 1968, an Honorary Diploma, Bratislava Biannual, Czechoslovakia, for The Little Black Fish in 1971, and the “Hans Christian Anderson Award” for his contribution to children’s books illustration in 1974.

While not currently available in US book shops, The Little Black Fish is available through the Book Depository which ships for free to the US.

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!