Tag Archives: differences

Perfect Pairing Visits Polar Bears

I generally think about the subject of today’s Perfect Pairing in winter time, when it’s cold outside. But given the increased warming of our world, I think any time of year is a good time to learn about these Arctic creatures. Don’t you agree?

Polar Bear Island

Written By: Lindsay Bonilla

Illustrated By: Cinta Villalobos

Publisher/DateSterling Children’s Books/2018

Ages: 3 and up

Themes: inclusivity, polar bears, penguins, differences, immigration, welcoming others

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When Kirby, a fun-loving penguin, arrives on Polar Bear Island, she shakes things up—much to the dismay of Parker, the mayor. Will Parker learn to see how great it is to make new friends? Or will he chase Kirby away . . . forever? 
“Welcome to Polar Bear Island. NO OTHERS ALLOWED!” Parker is the mayor of this peaceful, predictable island, and he wants to keep it just the way it is. But Kirby, a penguin, thinks the place is paradise, and she wants to stay. Parker says no, but the other polar bears love Kirby —and soon they’re begging Parker to let Kirby (and her family) move in. Will Parker agree . . . and make the island fun for EVERYONE? With its gentle message of inclusivity, this playful and lighthearted story will delight children.

Read my review.

 

Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival

Author & Illustrator: Lindsay Moore

Publisher/Date: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers/2019

Ages: 4-9

Themes: polar bears, family, perseverance, nonfiction, climate change

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Imagine you are a polar bear.

Your coat is thick. Your teeth are sharp.

Your front paws are paddles, your back paws are rudders, and you can swim for miles.

Your home has always been the sea and the ice.

A sea bear, far north in the Arctic, hunts and naps and raises her young. She moves with the ice, swimming, running, stalking seals, resting. She follows the rhythm of the sea and the seasons.

But what happens when those rhythms change? What happens when there is no ice?

Lindsay Moore shares the story of one polar bear’s journey for survival in this stunning picture book.

Imagine. 

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because both feature polar bears. While Polar Bear Island is a work of fiction and its main themes are welcoming others and immigrants, climate change is causing some people and animals to flee their homes and search for better lives elsewhere. With its emphasis on climate change, its informative back matter, and its text told in lyrical language from the perspective of a polar bear, Sea Bear is, I think, a wonderful book to pair with it.

PPBF – Polar Bear Island

As my last Perfect Picture Book post of 2018, I wanted to feature a new picture book that I first learned about from two friends who had interviewed the author and reviewed the book, that concerns welcoming others in a very kid-friendly way, and that is full of wintry fun. I think I’ve succeeded! And, as it’s my last post of 2018, I want to wish all who celebrate a blessed Christmas and everyone a wonderful New Year! See you in 2019!

Title: Polar Bear Island

Written By: Lindsay Bonilla

Illustrated By: Cinta Villalobos

Publisher/Date: Sterling Children’s Books/2018

Suitable for Ages: 3 and up

Themes/Topics: inclusivity; polar bears; penguins; differences; immigration; welcoming others

Opening:

POLAR BEAR ISLAND was peaceful and predictable. Parker, the mayor, planned to keep it that way.

But Kirby waddled where the wind blew, and today she was floating toward paradise.

Brief Synopsis:

When a penguin lands on Polar Bear Island, shares new items and ideas, and then her family joins her, the polar bears are happy to try the newcomers’ treats, except Mayor Parker, at least at first.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the maze, word search, and other activities in the Activity Kit;
  • Become an AmBEARssador and welcome newcomers, learn about other countries, and much more;
  • Check out the Discussion Guide for more ways to explore the themes in Polar Bear Island;
  • Enjoy some wintry fun: sledding, skiing, ice skating, hot cocoa, and maybe even a snow cone or two. Like Kirby and the penguins, you even could design your own wintry gear.

Why I Like this Book:

Polar Bear Island is a fun book to read and reread, but it contains an important message about welcoming others, too. Kids, like young polar bears, are often open to new ideas and new friends. But narrow-minded adults, or polar bear mayors, may have other ideas and try to keep things always the same or to themselves. But when the newcomers come to the rescue, even a grumpy old bear can’t resist.

Among the many picture books about immigration and welcoming newcomers I’ve read (and regular readers know that is many), I think Polar Bear Island is one of the better ones for younger children to help build empathy for newcomers, as it provides concrete examples of how newcomers enrich communities, and it shows how ridiculous and wrong grumpy old bears (and people) can be. I think kids especially will enjoy reading about the penguins’  inventions that are fun to say and try to picture (or even make). Who doesn’t love “Flipper Slippers”? Or a sled that’s a bed?

Villalobos’ illustrations are equally fun and child-friendly. And although the setting is a white snow-covered island set in a blue sea inhabited by, you guessed it, white polar bears, Villalobos manages to include many bright and colorful details, like the bright Flipper Slippers and hats on every penguin.

A Note about Craft:

In Polar Bear Island, Bonilla makes difficult subjects, immigration and welcoming “others”, accessible to young children. How does she do it? First, she introduces readers to Parker, the mayor, who is a caricature of a character: the proverbial grumpy old bear who even underlines “other” in the sign that states they are not welcome. Bonilla then sets up an absurd situation: a penguin, normally found in the Antarctic, travels by boat (suitcase in flipper) to the Artic. As the pair, and others, interact, Bonilla slips in playful language, like Flipper Slippers, my all-time favorite. Finally, Bonilla and the team at Sterling created an awesome Activity Kit, a Discussion Guide for teachers, parents and librarians, and even an AmBEARssadors Program – sign me up!

Visit Bonilla’s website to learn more about this storyteller and children’s author; see also an interview and review of Polar Bear Island at Maria Marshall’s The Picture Book Buzz, and an interview and review by Kathy Halsey at the Grog.

Villalobos is a Spanish illustrator. See more of her work at her website.

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 – Beegu

Today, many of us in the US head out for the last weekend of summer before the kids start back to school. So when I found a book that includes travel and a school yard setting, I couldn’t resist. And a big “thank you” to the friend who recommended today’s Perfect Picture Book!

w204Title: Beegu

Written & Illustrated By: Alexis Deacon

Publisher/Date: Red Fox/2004 (originally published by Hutchinson, an imprint of Random House Children’s Publishers, UK/2003)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: alien; differences; friendship; loneliness; belonging

Opening:

Beegu was not supposed to be here. She was lost.

Brief Synopsis: A young alien crashes her ship on earth. Lonely, she seeks her family and friendly creatures.

Links to Resources:

  • Beegu is an alien, something that is not native to an area, in this case, earth. Draw what you think an alien looks like;
  • Look at the book’s cover that includes a picture of Beegu. Does she remind you of any other creature? Does how she looks make you more or less interested in meeting her? More or less afraid of her?
  • Have you ever been lost? Can you describe or draw where you were and/or how you felt?

Why I Like this Book:

Beegu is a sweet story that brought to mind sitcoms from my childhood (anyone else remember My Favorite Martian?). I think most people at some point in their lives have wondered about life on other planets and about what would happen if any creatures from another planet visited earth. I think, too, that most kids would find it perfectly reasonable to have a three-eyed creature that appears fuzzy as a lovey show up in their school yard. Which is one reason, I think, kids will enjoy reading Beegu.

Because only the kids and a few puppies welcome Beegu, with adults either ignoring her or shooing her away, Beegu offers an opportunity to discuss how we treat those different from us – especially those who may not speak our language or dress and look like us. With few words and expressive illustrations, Deacon has created a story that may help even young children understand that we should welcome others, like migrants or refugees, into our schools and communities, and that differences and language barriers can be overcome. If you’re looking for a book to approach the topic of the refugee crisis without including dark images of war or sea crossings, Beegu is a great choice.

Deacon is an illustrator/author whose bright yellow creation stands out against the drab blues and grays of earth.

A Note about Craft:

Beegu is such an appealing character. But what makes one empathize with her? The first things I noticed were her eyes – big, bright and searching. Her long, trailing ears make her look like a rabbit, a creature that is totally non-threatening. That these ears can shoot up when Beegu is excited and/or happy, and drag on the ground when she is sad, lonely and/or scared helps convey her emotions and helps tell the story with few words – an important feature when the intended audience is so young.

Deacon draws a sharp distinction between the welcoming attitude of puppies and young children and the unwelcoming attitude of adults in this story. With few words (Beegu has eight wordless pages and only a few words on the other pages), Deacon shows how we can welcome others: by snuggling (the puppies) and welcoming others into our play (the kids). As for the adults, they either ignore her or kick her out. Which leads Beegu to observe, towards the end of the story, that “Earth creatures were mostly big and unfriendly, but there were some small ones who seemed hopeful.”

Check out Deacon’s website and read answers to questions about his illustration and storytelling style here. View a CLPE video of Deacon here. Among other picture books, Deacon is the author of I Am Henry Finch, which I reviewed in 2016.

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 – Friends

Since I’m still helping my kids move house, I thought I’d stay on the subject of moving. The perfect picture book for today focuses on what happens after the move, or more specifically, on how one finds friends.

9780807525500_p0_v2_s192x300Title: Friends

Written & Illustrated By: Aiko Ikegami

Publisher/date: Albert Whitman & Company/2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Moving, making new friends, differences

Opening: “One day…a new student came. She was different. And alone.”

Brief Synopsis: A student who arrives at a new school is different and eats alone until, one by one, friends join her.

Links to Resources:

  • Have a picnic and invite your friends, including animal friends
  • Compare pictures of yourself and a friend, a sibling, or a child from another place. How are you different? How are you the same?

Why I Like this Book:

With its sparse language and gorgeous watercolour illustrations, Friends spreads the simple message that even as we are different, shared experiences, like food eaten together or games played, unite us.

A Note about Craft:

Friends is a perfect example of how “less is more.” The text consists of 60 words – only 60 words, including a few phrases that are repeated. No one is named, nor do we even know the origin of the new student who arrives. In short sentences that are more phrases than sentences, and using simple words (came, play, stay, eat), the author/illustrator helps us feel the newcomer’s sadness, her feeling of difference and longing for a friend with whom she can eat and play. As writers, we constantly are admonished to leave room for the illustrator. Friends is a perfect mentor text of how to do so from the very talented illustrator/author Aiko Ikegami. This is Ms. Ikegami’s first English-language picture book.

When reading Friends, I also was reminded of a comment by PiBoIdMo-founder Tara Lazar  that she didn’t know what species Norman in Normal Norman was when she wrote the story. Likewise, the friends here could be anything – and are!