Tag Archives: Family

PPBF – The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story

Happy Valentine’s Day! Some folks associate this day with romantic love. Others fondly remember the treats and Valentine’s Day cards shared among classmates. I think of it as a day to celebrate love and acceptance in all of its manifestations, including that among family members and that among friends, new and old. In the spirit of the day, I’d like to share a new Perfect Picture Book that showcases the love among family members and the friendship that can blossom in a new land.

Title: The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story

Written By: Aya Khalil

Illustrated By: Anait Semirdzhyan

Publisher/Date: Tilbury House Publishers/February 2020

Suitable for Ages: 6-8

Themes/Topics: immigrants, family, treasured objects, feeling welcome, acceptance, cultural heritage, quilts, poetry

Opening:

“Kanzi, habibti, you’re going to be late to the first day of school,” Mama calls. “I’m coming, Mama.” Kanzi stuffs her notebook into her backpack and quickly but carefully folds her quilt—the special one Teita made in Egypt.

Brief Synopsis: A young immigrant struggles to adapt to a new school in America, but finds comfort in , and a way to fit in, by showing her classmates the precious quilt her grandmother had made her.

Links to Resources:

  • Try making paper quilts;
  • Kanzi’s family moved from Egypt to the United States. Learn more about this North African country;
  • Does your family speak a language other than English at home? Share some words in that language with friends and classmates;
  • Do you have an object from a relative or friend that is special to you? Draw a picture of it or write a poem about it.

Why I Like this Book:

I believe that fitting in is so important when children start a new school, whether in a new neighborhood, town, or even country. And when language used or customs followed at home seem different from those of the other children, I think it’s even more difficult for the new child.

That’s the situation Kanzi finds herself in as The Arabic Quilt begins. Thankfully, Kanzi has some things that help console her when she’s feeling down: the soft quilt that her beloved grandmother made her and a love of poetry. When an astute teacher picks up on these things, she helps Kanzi, and Kanzi’s classmates, realize that having different customs and speaking a language other than English at home are positive circumstances that enrich us all.

Maybe this heart-warming story of love and acceptance resonates so much with me because my mother made afghans for each of my children or maybe it’s because we lived abroad during two periods when my children were young. But I think it also will resonate with anyone who’s ever felt different for whatever reason and with anyone who’s struggled to find a way to fit in, while keeping true to her or his family, religious beliefs, and/or cultural heritage.

Beautiful illustrations, including of the beloved quilt, and a glossary of Arabic words complete this heart-warming and timely new picture book.

A Note about Craft:

Per Tilbury House’s website, Khalil based The Arabic Quilt on events from her own childhood. Doing so renders this story more believable and enables the strong connection between a grandmother and granddaughter separated by oceans to shine through.

To console herself after a difficult day at school, Kanzi writes a poem about her beloved quilt. I love how she turns to writing when she’s feeling sad, and I especially love how this adds another layer to this immigration story: that by journaling or writing poetry, a child may feel better about whatever situation she or he encounters.

Visit Khalil’s website to learn more about this debut picture book author. See more of Semirdzhyan’s art on her website.

I read an electronic version of this picture book, downloaded via Edelweiss, a resource for book reviewers. This book is scheduled to publish next week.

This Perfect Picture Book entry will be added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

Perfect Pairing – of Family Favorites for Christmas

Every year, several new holiday picture books appear to the delight of young children and their families. But if your family is like my family, you probably have a few favorite classics that you read, and reread, year after year. Following are two of my family’s favorites. Happy reading this holiday season and see you in 2020!

Santa Cows

Author: Cooper Edens

Illustrator: Daniel Lane

Publisher/Date: Green Tiger Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster/1991

Ages: 4-8+

Themes: holidays, Christmas, family, cows, humor

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Cooper Edens and Daniel Lane have created their own madcap Night Before Christmas with some inspiration from (but no apologies to) Clement Clarke Moore. Full color throughout.

Read a review at Publishers Weekly.

Santa Cow Island

Author: Cooper Edens

Illustrator: Daniel Lane

Publisher/Date: Green Tiger Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster/1994

Ages: 4-8+

Themes: holidays, Christmas, family, cows, humor, tropical island

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The Santa Cows come to the rescue as Ruby Schwartz and her family are whisked off for a South Sea adventure, in this bizarre sequel to Santa Cows and Santa Cows Studios. Full color.

Read a review at Publishers Weekly.

I paired these books because they’re so much fun to read together! The off-beat humor, cultural references, zany illustrations, and fun-to-read rhymes of both books make them go-to picture books to revisit year after year. I hope your family enjoys reading them as much as our family does!

PPBF – My Shoes and I: Crossing Three Borders/Mis Zapatos Y Yo: Cruzando Tres Fronteras

As we enter the holiday season when many people around the world give and receive gifts, I think today’s Perfect Picture Book is a wonderful reminder of the power of gifts to help us accomplish our dreams and open our hearts to those seeking better lives.

Title: My Shoes and I: Crossing Three Borders/Mis Zapatos Y Yo: Cruzando Tres Fronteras

Written By: René Colato Laínez

Illustrated By: Fabricio Vanen Broeck

Publisher/Date: Piñata Books, an imprint of Arte Público Press/2019 (originally published in 2010)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: immigration, journey, family, bilingual, #OwnVoices

Opening:

For Christmas, Mamá sent me a new pair of shoes from the United States.

I love my new shoes. They walk everywhere I walk. They jump every time I jump. They run fast as me. We always cross the finish line at the same time.

It’s a very long trip to where Mamá lives. We need to travel across three countries. No matter how far, my shoes will take me there.

Brief Synopsis: (from jacket flap)

As a boy and his Papá travel from El Salvador to the United States to be reunited with Mamá, his wonderful new shoes help distract him from the long and difficult journey.

Links to Resources:

  • The narrator travels across three countries to be reunited with his mother. Describe or draw a picture of a journey you’ve made;
  • What would you bring and/or wear on a journey?
  • Draw a picture of your favorite pair of shoes. Why are they your favorite shoes?
  • The narrator and his father travel from El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico to the United States. Find and color maps from these regions and trace a path their journey may have followed.

Why I Like this Book:

My Shoes and I provides a seemingly realistic glimpse into the journey that those fleeing the violence and poverty of El Salvador face while not overwhelming young readers with the difficulties they encounter. Few, if any of us, have undertaken or even contemplated the journey which Laínez describes. But we can empathize with a young boy who loves the new shoes sent by his mother who clearly loves him. And we can cheer him and his father on as these shoes enable the narrator to travel long distances, overcome obstacles, and finally reach their goal, even as the shoes become dirty and dusty, and develop holes in the soles.

Based on Laínez’ own experience of emigrating with his father from El Salvador in 1985 wearing new shoes sent from his mother, Laínez recounts in an Author’s Note that he is

writing this book to tell readers about the hard journey that immigrant children and families face. They are escaping from violence and crime. Their journey is not a choice but a necessity to look for a better place, where they can accomplish their dreams.

Vanden Broeck’s rich illustrations on distressed paper or board capture the cities and countryside through which the narrator and his father travel, as well as focus our attention on the narrator’s beloved shoes.

A Note about Craft:

As noted above, My Shoes and I is written by an #OwnVoices author who not only was an immigrant but who undertook a journey like that he describes. This perspective not only makes him the perfect one to write this picture book, but it also helps us better understand the fatigue and fear that accompany this young immigrant.

Laínez uses first-person point-of-view to bring immediacy to the story, but by personifying a kid-relatable sidekick, the shoes, he shows us that the narrator isn’t alone, that the narrator shares an interest with kids reading the story, and that, like the shoes, the narrator himself is worn down by the journey.

Visit Laínez’ website to learn more about him and his other books. Visit Vanden Broeck’s website to see more of his illustrations.

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 – features Grandparents & Memory Loss

As the holidays loom and family gatherings feature in many children’s lives, I thought it would be helpful to feature two picture books that might help if those gatherings include older relatives suffering from memory loss.

Grandma Forgets

Author: Paul Russell

Illustrator: Nicky Johnston

Publisher/Date: EK Books, an imprint of Exisle Publishing/2017

Ages: 4-8

Themes: intergenerational, memory, family, dementia

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When your grandmother can’t remember your name it should be sad, but maybe it is just an opportunity to tell her more often how much you love her. Grandma Forgets is the heart-warming story of a family bound by love as they cope with their grandma’s dementia. Over the years, the little girl has built up a treasure trove of memories of time spent with Grandma: sausages for Sunday lunch, driving in her sky-blue car to the beach, climbing her apple trees while she baked a delicious apple pie, and her comforting hugs during wild storms. But now, Grandma can’t remember those memories. She makes up new rules for old games and often hides Dad’s keys. Sometimes Dad is sad because he has to hold onto the memories for both him and his mother now, but fortunately his daughter is only too happy to help him make new memories to share. This is a warm, hopeful story about a family who sometimes needs to remind their grandmother a little more often than they used to about how much they care. She might have trouble remembering any of their names but she will always know how much she is loved.

Read a review in The Guardian.

 

The Remember Balloons

Author: Jessie Oliveros

Illustrator: Dana Wulfekotte

Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/2018

Ages: 5-9

Themes: intergenerational, memories, balloons, family

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.

But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!

Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.

Read a review at Children’s Books Heal.

I paired these books because they feature intergenerational stories in which the grandparents are suffering from memory impairment. In Grandma Forgets, the narrator remembers good times with her grandmother and shares that even if Grandma can’t remember her or her family, they have “so many memories of her” and they can always remind Grandma that she is loved. In The Remember Balloons, the balloons symbolize the memories that bind James and his beloved grandfather. Both books feature loving families and deal with the difficult topic of memory loss in older relatives in helpful, positive ways.

Perfect Pairing – of Lively Grandparent Books

Although National Grandparents Day was earlier this fall, I think we should celebrate lively and fun grandparents every day. Don’t you agree?

 

I Love My GlamMa

Author: Samantha Berger

Illustrator: Sujean Rim

Publisher/Date: Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: grandmothers, fashion, family, young at heart

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A celebration of EVERY grandma’s glamorous ways — and the special love that glam-mas share with everything they do!
“Glam-mas don’t just come over… they make a grand entrance!
Glam-mas don’t just celebrate holidays… they celebrate everything!
Glam-mas don’t just carry a purse… they carry a treasure chest!”
A joyful celebration of grandmothers who are young at heart, adventurous, and find a bit of glamour in everything they do. Whether these glam-mas are building sandcastles, riding with dolphins, or turning blankets into reading forts and super capes, they live each day with a playful spirit — just like their grandchildren.
From the writer of Crankenstein and the illustrator of Birdie’s Big-Girl Shoes comes a playful and heartwarming ode to grandmas and grandchildren everywhere… because there’s nothing more glamorous than being a grandma.

Read a review at Grand: Living the Ageless Life.

 

The Truth About Grandparents

Author & Illustrator: Elina Ellis

Publisher/Date: Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: grandparents, family, stereotypes

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In this perfect gift for grandparents and grandchildren alike, a loving child reveals the truth behind assumptions that old people just aren’t any fun.

Grandparents are slow. Grandparents are scared of new things. And grandparents definitely don’t dance — right? A simple, playful storyline that children will love anticipating makes this a perfect read-aloud for modern families to share together. With sly humor and breezy, dynamic artwork in the tradition of Quentin Blake, this book is a fresh celebration of the special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because both shatter misperceptions that grandparents are decrepit, boring, old-fashioned, and resist new ideas. These are fun, quick reads that grandparents will enjoy sharing with their grandchildren, either when they visit in person, or perhaps via Skype or Facetime.

For more books about age-defying seniors and positive images of aging in children’s literature, see A is for Aging, B is for Books.

 

 

PPBF – Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border

I first learned of today’s Perfect Picture Book when I read a wonderful review last month on Jilanne Hoffmann’s blog. Thank you, Jilanne, for sharing this timely picture book.  After reading your review and the book, I just had to feature it here, too.

Title: Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border

Written By: Mitali Perkins

Illustrated By: Sara Palacios

Publisher/Date: Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: border, family, separation, Latinx, grandmother, holidays, #OwnVoices

Opening:

Abuela stars in all of Mamá’s stories, but my only memory is a voice calling me “angelita.” We haven’t seen my grandmother in five years. But today is La Posada Sin Fronteras, and we are taking a bus to the border to meet her.

Brief Synopsis:

US residents María and her younger brother Juan haven’t seen their Mexican grandmother in five years, but they celebrate with her across a border fence on the holiday of La Posada Sin Fronteras.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about Las Posada, the nine-day festival leading up to Christmas, and La Posada Sin Fronteras (“The Inn Without Borders”) celebrated one day along the border between the United States and Mexico in the Author’s Note;
  • When you visit an older relative or friend, draw a picture to give to them;
  • Check out the additional resources on Mitali’s website.

Why I Like this Book:

Between Us and Abuela is a heart-warming story of love between family members separated by a border, and of one girl’s efforts to surmount the border to bring joy to her Mexican grandmother and her younger brother, Juan.

Despite the fact that the US-Mexican border has dominated the news these past few years, I had never heard of the tradition of La Posada Sin Fronteras and the comfort it must give to so many. And although stories about separated families have been in the media, including children’s picture books, I think Between Us and Abuela highlights aspects of this separation that aren’t apparent to many children or adults. For instance, María and her Abuela communicate on the telephone, but like other families separated by vast distances, María hasn’t seen her in person for many years. How must that feel? And what a wonderful discussion opportunity this presents to help children empathize with these separated families.

I also love that the children make presents for Abuela and when Juan’s gift doesn’t fit through the fence, María finds a way to deliver it. What a quick-thinking young heroine!

Palacios’ blue and sand-colored palette conjured up images of the California-Mexico border. I also loved the small details she included: the Christmas tree on the cover, signaling the time of year; Abuela’s photograph on the cover; and the gulls who can soar over borders and fences.

A Note about Craft:

When I first saw the title, Between Us and Abuela, I wasn’t sure whether “between” referred to a family bond, love or a physical barrier, especially as the subtitle references the border. In hindsight, I think “between” refers to all of the above! What a great way to draw a reader into this poignant story, by focusing on the bonds and love that is affected, but not severed, by a physical border separating this family.

Perkins’ shares this story using first person point-of-view. This helped me feel like I was right there, experiencing this family reunion. I also found myself brainstorming a solution with María to deliver Juan’s picture to Abuela.

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 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.