Tag Archives: Family

PPBF – Miguel and the Grand Harmony

A true confession: I picked up today’s Perfect Picture Book before I realized it’s based on the Pixar movie Coco that released this week. Sometimes happy coincidences happen!

615U6mYKdwL._SX414_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Miguel and the Grand Harmony

Written By: Matt de la Peña

Illustrated By: Ana Ramírez

Publisher/date: Disney Press/2017

Suitable for Ages: 6-8

Themes/Topics: music, Mexico, family, #WNDB

Opening:

First comes the sound. A single string plucked or a note blown or beat rapped.

And suddenly I am. Where there is music, there is color.  And where there is color, there is life.

Brief Synopsis: A boy living with no music in his home longs for it and finally finds a way to play and share it with his family and community.

Links to Resources:

  • Discover the musical instruments used to create Mexican music;
  • Make your own Maracas, guitar or drum;
  • Listen to Mexican children’s music and poetry;
  • View the Coco trailer. How are Coco and Miguel and the Grand Harmony the same? How do they differ?

Why I Like this Book:

Miguel and the Grand Harmony is a lovely story that celebrates the roles of music and family in Mexican culture. Told from the point of view of the music itself (more about that below), La Musica embarks on an exploration of the many facets of Mexican music before introducing us to the main character, Miguel, whose great-grandmother, Mamá Coco, abhors music due to bad memories associated with it. Not surprisingly, in the end music triumphs, and even Mamá Coco is happy.

The illustrator, Ana Ramírez, also worked on Coco, and brings the exuberant colors of the film to the printed page. Read an interview with Ramírez, to learn more about this young, Latina Pixar artist.

A Note about Craft:

As mentioned above, Miguel and the Grand Harmony is told from the point of view of La Musica, the music itself. This enables Newberry Medal-winner de la Peña to explore the many facets of Mexican music and culture and tell the particular story of Miguel and his family, too. La Musica acts, in a way, as an omniscient narrator, which works well to provide a context and enrich the story.

Also as mentioned above, Miguel and the Grand Harmony is “inspired by Disney Pixar’s Coco”, and features the family from that film. Per the New York Times and NPR reviews I’ve read (I haven’t had the opportunity to see the film yet), death figures prominently in the movie, with ghosts and dia de los muertos celebrations taking center stage, and Miguel embarking on a journey to the afterlife. De la Peña has eliminated the fantastical afterlife and focuses, instead, on the community, Miguel’s family, and Miguel’s desire to experience music. By doing so, he enables Miguel to play more of a role in his own transformation. I also think this renders the story more universally appealing, and, I believe, will resonate better with young listeners and music and culture lovers.

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 – All the Way to Havana

I had the pleasure of visiting Havana earlier this year with my husband and riding in a vintage automobile like the one featured in today’s Perfect Picture Book. Since then, I’ve been eagerly awaiting its Book Birthday. Thankfully, that day arrived last week, and today’s Perfect Picture Book zoomed into my mailbox a few days ago. My husband, who barely notices the piles of books “decorating” my workspaces, oohed and aahhed at this one. I know you will, too!

9781627796422Title: All the Way to Havana

Written By: Margarita Engle

Illustrated By: Mike Curato

Publisher/date: Godwin Books (Henry Holt and Company/Macmillan Publishing Group)/August 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8 (and older)

Themes/Topics: Cuba; family; vintage automobiles; journey; resourcefulness

Opening:

We have a gift, and we have a cake, and today we’re going to drive all the way to the big city to see my new baby cousin on his zero-year birthday!

Some of this island’s old cars purr like kittens, but ours is so tired that she just chatters like a busy chicken – cara cara, cara cara, cluck, cluck, cluck…

Brief Synopsis:

A boy and his family drive from the Cuban countryside to the big city of Havana in their vintage automobile to welcome a new baby to the family.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about Cuba;
  • View the book trailer here;
  • View an interview with Mike Curato on All the Wonders;
  • Color a car, like Cara Cara, the classic car of All the Way to Havana.

Why I Like this Book:

All the Way to Havana is a beautifully written and illustrated book that brought back wonderful memories of the few days I spent in Havana, Cuba this past spring. Its simple tale of a boy helping his father fix an old car to carry them to visit a new family member paired with the lovely old cars in the picturesque city will appeal to kids and car lovers of all ages, I think. And the messages of family togetherness and caring for family treasures, like the old car, will resonate with young and old, too.

In a blog post, Curato stated that he loved drawing cars as a young child and still enjoys it today. That love shines through in All the Way to Havana, from the cover, to the end papers filled with many colorful makes and models, to the 1950s color palette, and even to a surprise if you “lift the hood” by peeling back the jacket cover.

In that same blog post, Curato wrote:

Margarita said this book is about peace, about bringing two neighbors together: the Cubans in the book, and the Americans reading it. Neighbors should be friends. While some of this book may seem very foreign to some, I hope that they can also see the universal themes of family and the roads we take, some bumpy and others smooth. If one neighbor can see the road the other is traveling on and discover a familiar feeling, then maybe that is enough for me.

A Note about Craft:

The opening lines of All the Way to Havana are among the best I’ve read as they set the scene and highlight the issues of the story. There is a gift and a cake, so the reader is on alert that there’s a party, without mention of that term. We learn that the narrator is driving “all the way” to the big city – ie, a long distance, to celebrate a “zero-year birthday”. What a lovely way to herald a birth! Reading further, we meet Cara Cara, a character in herself, and learn that she doesn’t purr like a kitten, but clucks like a chicken. What wonderful images these words evoke! And these images will be easily recognized by children and evoke the rural setting of the story’s beginning. What a wonderful way to hook readers in the first lines!

All the Way to Havana garnered four starred reviews and considerable attention in the press. Justifiably so!

Visit Mike Curato’s website here and Margarita Engle’s site here, and read an interview with both in Publisher’s Weekly .

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 – Deep in the Sahara

My local library is displaying books about Islam in the wake of the recent immigration ban. I found today’s featured book there. It also appears on a helpful list of children’s books, Refugees Welcome Here, published recently by Horn Book.

Without further ado, today’s Perfect Picture Book:

9780375870347_p0_v1_s192x300Title: Deep in the Sahara

Written By: Kelly Cunnane

Illustrated By: Hoda Hadadi

Publisher/date: Schwartz & Wade Books (Random House)/2013

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Islam; clothing; Mauritania; family; growing up; Sahara

Opening:

Deep in the Sahara, sky yellow with heat,

rippled dunes slide and scorpions scuttle.

In a pale pink house the shape of a tall cake,

you watch Mama’s malafa

flutter as she prays.

More than all the stars in a desert sky,

You want a malafa so you can be beautiful too.

Brief Synopsis: A young Muslim girl dreams of wearing the malafa garment worn by the women in her Mauritanian village.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

Deep in the Sahara is a lovely, non-didactic introduction to Islamic practices in a part of the world Americans typically know little about. It also helps answer the question of why women wear clothing that partially or totally covers their hair and/or faces. I appreciate the desire of young Lalla to emulate the women she admires in her village, and I think Ms. Cunnane does a wonderful job explaining this. Written in lovely, poetic language, Deep in the Sahara provides a glimpse into village life as well. A glossary of the Hassaniya words (an oral dialect of Arabic) that are sprinkled through the text is included.

Hadadi’s bright, collaged images upend the stereotype of dark, drab Islamic female dress, and showcase each woman’s individuality. As noted in several reviews, Deep in the Sahara is an important introduction to Islamic practices for young children, that highlights the regional differences in the Muslim world.

A Note about Craft:

Ms. Cunnane wrote Deep in the Sahara after she lived and taught in Mauritania. She refers to the main character, Lalla, in the second person, thus helping young readers empathize with Lalla’s quest to don the malafa. By doing so, I think she also broadens the appeal of this book to include children in Mauritania and perhaps other Muslim countries.

The issue of who can tell a person’s story rages within the Kidlit world. Kelly Cunnane is a caucasian American, writing about a practice and region to which she is an outsider. To her credit, she includes an author’s note about her preconceptions about covering, ie, wearing a veil or other head/face-covering item of clothing and how her perceptions changed after living in Mauritania. She also thanks many native Mauritanians for sharing “wonderful stories” and explaining their religion.

The editors at Schwartz & Wade Books chose Hoda Hadadi, an Iranian illustrator who resides in Tehran, to illustrate Deep in the Sahara. While also an outsider to Mauritania, according to the short bio on the book jacket, Ms. Hadadi has worn a head scarf since childhood, and so, presumably, understands Lalla’s desire to emulate her mother and other women.

Among other accolades, Deep in the Sahara received a Kirkus starred review and was a Kirkus Best Children’s Book of 2013.

See an interesting review on a site that only reviews children’s books about Africa (a good site to keep bookmarked!).

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 -Have you seen Elephant?

I spent many enjoyable hours reading picture books by English authors and author/illustrators with my young family when we lived outside London many years ago. When I have the good fortune to find an English picture book on this side of the Pond, I’m eager to share it. Sometimes it’s the setting, sometimes the English humour, and sometimes it’s a word or scene that transports me back.

Today’s Perfect Picture Book reminded me of the humour evident in such British classics as Monty Python or Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean series – but targeted to the playground set. And for those in the mood for some hysterical English-American word comparisons, check out a wonderfully witty post at Picture Book Den.


9781776570089_p0_v1_s192x300-1Title
: Have you seen Elephant?

Written & Illustrated By: David Barrow

Publisher/date: Gecko Press, NZ/2015

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes/Topics: hide and seek, elephants, playtime, family, all-dialogue, humorous

Opening: “Would you like to play hide and seek?” “OK. You hide.” “I must warn you though. I’m VERY good.”

Brief Synopsis: An elephant who is very good at hiding challenges his human friend to find him in a game of hide and seek.

Links to Resources:

  • Play hide and seek with a friend or family member
  • Hide something and challenge a friend, family member or even a pet to find it
  • Elephant is good at hiding. Is there something you are very good at that would surprise others? Show these friends or family members what you are good at & ask them to show you what they can do well.

Why I Like this Book:

Have you seen Elephant? is an engagingly simple picture book with a humorous plot. Young hide-and-seek fans will delight in finding the elephant that the unnamed boy and his parents don’t see (or perhaps choose not to see – a possibility raised by Barrow in a 2015 interview on the Playing by the Book blog). Their parents will enjoy the message that someone can be good at something even if he/she doesn’t fit a stereotype of someone who would succeed at that task.

A Note about Craft:

Have you seen Elephant? is a story with a very low word count, told all in dialogue, with 13 of its 28 pages comprised solely of engaging water colour illustrations. While the story could, perhaps, have been told wordlessly, the sparse dialogue adds tension and humor as the unnamed boy asks first his father, then his mother if they’ve seen Elephant. The observant dog is the perfect foil to the clueless family. And the twist at the end leaves this reader hoping that a sequel will be forthcoming.

This is a perfect example of a mentor text for all-dialogue, low word count, humorous picture books.

David Barrow was the winner of the Sebastian Walker Prize from Cambridge School of Art for most promising children’s illustrator in 2015. This is his debut picture book, and it’s short-listed for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2016 and long-listed for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2016.

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday: One Family

I learned of this book last fall, just as we were heading into that prime family time: the holidays. I looked in the library, couldn’t find it there (yet), but I luckily managed to find it at a favorite indie bookstore while (theoretically) shopping for holiday gifts. I’m so happy I did, as this is a book that will be at the front of our family bookshelves for generations to come.

9780374300036_p0_v1_s118x184Title: One Family

Written By: George Shannon

Illustrated By: Blanca Gómez

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-6

Themes/Topics: Family; Counting; Diversity; Inclusivity; Community

Opening: “One is one. One lamp. One clock. One book to share.”

Brief Synopsis: In this richly-illustrated counting book, one stretches to ten, as collective nouns contain increasing numbers of items and the family illustrated in each two-page spread increases in number until, finally, we return to one world, one earth, one family, in which we all are included.

Links to Resources: Find other collective nouns and look to see whether all items in each group are the same or different; draw a picture of your family; make a family tree (note: this could include pictures of family members and ancestors, or could creatively show each family member’s character).

Why I Like this Book: The sparse, poetic language and rich illustrations make this a beautiful book. The diversity of families and settings and inclusivity add to its appeal. And the illustrated portraits on the inside covers create a story unto themselves. This truly is “one book to share” with children and grandchildren.

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!