Tag Archives: Family

PPBF – Home is a Window

Have you ever wondered what makes a house a home? As someone who has moved more times than I can count, including several moves when our kids were young, the desire to create a home is never far from my mind. Especially as we head into a season filled with family holidays, feeling at home wherever you live is so important. Which is why I knew I had to read and review today’s Perfect Picture Book which addresses just that question.

Title: Home is a Window

Written By: Stephanie Parsley Ledyard

Illustrated By: Chris Sasaki

Publisher/Date: Neal Porter Books, Holiday House/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: home, family, community, moving, comfort

Opening:

Home is a window, a doorway, a rug, a basket for your shoes.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl reflects on what’s special about her urban home, and when she moves, discovers special aspects of her new home.

Links to Resources:

  • Describe with words or pictures what you like best about the house or apartment where you live;
  • If you could change one thing about your home, what would it be? Why?
  • Have you ever wanted to design features of your own home? Check out these kid-friendly DIY design ideas;
  • Check out the Educator’s Guide for more ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

As the first lines of Home is a Window make clear, home can mean many things, as long as they contribute to feelings of comfort and safety. In the first section of this picture book, we see the many things that make this living space a home from the perspective of a young girl and her family. They include such universal pleasures as comfortable furniture, tasks done together, neighbor’s lights shining warmly into your bedroom, and a “table with something good and the people gathered there.” As the text makes clear, “Home is what feels the same each day”.

But what happens when you have to leave the comfort and safety of a familiar living arrangement and move someplace new? By bringing our traditions and the things we love with us, we can recreate home in a new place, as Home is a Window shows.

I love that Sasaki features the family coming together in the new house to share a meal. They might sit on a “patched-up quilt” on the floor and eat take-out food, but it’s clear that this family is well on their way to establishing a home in their new house.

With its low word count and earth-toned images of a loving mixed-raced family and their home, I think Home is a Window is a wonderful book to share with your littles, whether you’re contemplating a move, adapting to a new living situation, or wanting to share what makes your house or apartment a home.  

A Note about Craft:

I love the imagery and symbolism of the title, that home is a window – a means to look in to see the lives lived within its walls, and to look out to view the family’s interactions with their old and new communities.

Note the use of background colors: they become increasingly darker as moving day looms, and then lighten as the family creates a home in their new house.

A House, written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books/2021) would be a good book to pair with Home is a Window, especially with younger children.

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 – My Two Border Towns

A few weeks ago, I shared Yuyi Morales’ latest picture book, Bright Star, about the Sonoran borderlands between Mexico and the United States. Today’s Perfect Picture Book showcases the similarities, and differences, of two communities in a more urban area of the borderlands.

Title: My Two Border Towns

Written By: David Bowles

Illustrated By: Erika Meza

Publisher/Date: Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: US-Mexico border, immigration, family, community

Opening:

Every other Saturday, my dad wakes me up early. “Come on, m’ijo,” he says. “Vamos al Otro Lado.”

Brief Synopsis: The narrator and his father cross from the US into Mexico to run errands.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you ever run errands with a parent? Where do you usually go and what do you do or purchase there?
  • Have you ever traveled across a border? Describe in words or pictures how you felt crossing from one state or country to another, and what seemed the same or different;
  • Check out the Teacher’s Guide for more ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

In My Two Border Towns, Bowles showcases the fluidity of the US-Mexican border for families with ties to both sides of the border, while offering a glimpse into the difficulties faced by those who find themselves unable to cross that border.

As the story opens, readers meet the young narrator and his father who, every other Saturday, cross the border to run errands in a sister town. Brightly colored and detailed illustrations show the similarities and differences between the two towns. The text, in English with Spanish terms sprinkled through, further indicates that this is one metropolitan area, with a border in the middle. As the narrator remarks about the Mexican town, it’s “a twin of the one where I live, with Spanish spoken everywhere just the same, but English mostly missing till it pops up like grains of sugar on a chili pepper.”

Breakfast in a favorite restaurant is followed by a trip to visit relatives in their jewelry store, a pick-up soccer match with primos (cousins), and icy treats from a paletero. All of this, and more, will show young readers that life on one side of the border or the other may not differ much – in so many ways, people everywhere are the same.

But from the beginning, there are clues to another reality: With the right passports, the narrator and his father are able to cross the border whenever they desire. Others, including friends the narrator has met during his frequent crossings, are not as fortunate. For these friends, the narrator purchases candies, and he shares beloved comics. Sadly, the friend’s “hair is longer than when we first met, almost six months back”, and the friend’s family relies on the generosity of people like the narrator and his father for necessities like food and medicine.

With its showcasing of these two realities, I think My Two Border Towns is a wonderful mixture of celebrating the richness of cultures in border communities while introducing the complexities of the border crisis.

A Note about Craft:

As noted above, Spanish terms are sprinkled throughout the text, which, I think, is further evidence of the close relationship among residents of these border communities.

Starting with the cover with its mirror images of the narrator sitting in front of the main shopping streets of these towns, Meza’s illustrations highlight many similarities and differences of these twin cities, and, I think, brilliantly capture the conflicting emotions that many people with ties to both sides of the border must feel.

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 – Watercress

With Earth Day approaching, I had planned to review a picture book with a more overtly environmental theme. But when I read today’s picture book, I had to share it straight away. And as I mention below, there is an environmental theme if you look for it, one of the many layers of this Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Watercress

Written By: Andrea Wang

Illustrated By: Jason Chin

Publisher/Date: Neal Porter Books, a division of Holiday House/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: immigrants, Asian-Americans, family, memories, family history

Opening:

We are in the old Pontiac, the red paint faded by years of glinting Ohio sun, pelting rain, and biting snow.

Brief Synopsis: Picking watercress for dinner becomes an opportunity to share some difficult family history.

Links to Resources:

  • Ask a parent, grandparent, or other adult to share a happy or sad memory from their childhood;
  • The family in Watercress prepares and eats sauteed watercress with garlic. Ask an adult to help you prepare a similar dish (note, fresh watercress is now available in some grocery stores);
  • Food and scent often bring back memories. Draw a picture of a happy time when you ate a favorite food.

Why I Like this Book:

In this gorgeous new picture book based on an incident from Andrea Wang’s childhood, an unnamed narrator recounts an afternoon when she unhappily helped her immigrant parents pick watercress by the side of a rural Ohio roadway. Wang sprinkles the text with descriptive adjectives  such as “biting”, “abrupt”, “jerking”, “rusty”,  and “dirty” that show the narrator’s distaste for the task and embarrassment that her family gathers food, rather than visiting a grocery store, as the narrator’s classmates do. But when the narrator’s mother recounts a difficult period from her past in China, the narrator tries the foraged watercress and realizes it is “delicate and slightly bitter”, much like her mother’s memories of China.

Reading Watercress will help children of immigrants, and other children, too, better understand the hardships their parents may have endured. With its Asian-American main character, reading and discussing Watercress is a wonderful way to encourage empathy for people of Asian descent. And as someone who grew up in a family in which money was often tight, Wang’s discussion of hand-me-down clothes, “roadside trash-heap furniture”, and “dinner from a ditch” resonated with me. I think it will resonate with children in households dealing with financial issues today, too.

Finally, the discussion of famine in China when the narrator’s parents were young may help children realize that climate change and its effect on weather systems and crop yields can affect some regions disproportionately. Perhaps this will lead to greater understanding of climate migration and empathy for those most affected by climate change.

Chin’s soft, earth-hued illustrations are gorgeous and wonderfully detailed. Interweaving scenes of China with scenes from the narrator’s life adds so much to the reader’s understanding of why foraging for watercress may not be as bad as the narrator first portrays it.

A Note about Craft:

In a note from the author, Wang reveals that Watercress is based on a childhood memory. Although the story is fiction and although Wang’s mother did not share her sad memories of life in China with Wang as a child, it’s clear that the feeling of being different is very real for Wang, and because of that, I think she is able to convey that very effectively.

Although not poetry per se, Wang uses very lyrical and emotion-filled language – Wang truly writes from the heart! Using first person point-of-view, it’s clear that the unnamed narrator views picking watercress as an unpleasant task, and she clearly is embarrassed by her heritage and ashamed of her family’s situation until she realizes what they’ve endured to survive.

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 – The Paper Kingdom

I read this newish picture book late last year, and it struck me how few picture books tackle income inequality and the difficulties that unskilled workers and their children face. Then when I read the Author’s Note and learned that this picture book is based on the author’s own childhood, you know that I had to review it!

Title: The Paper Kingdom

Written By: Helena Ku Rhee

Illustrated By: Pascal Campion

Publisher/Date: Penguin Random House/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: imagination, cleaners, night shift, family, #OwnVoices

Opening:

Mama and Papa were night janitors. While they got ready for work, Daniel got ready for sleep.

Brief Synopsis: When the babysitter cancels, Daniel accompanies his parents to their job as nighttime office cleaners.

Links to Resources:

  • Daniel’s parents imagine that a king rules over a large office and that small dragons have been messy. Imagine a creature that creates a mess and draw a picture of it or tell a story about it;
  • Imagine a creature that battles messiness, dust, and dirt. How is this creature different from the messy creature?
  • Use household items, like a broom, vacuum cleaner, or an empty box to create your own kingdom;
  • Explore more ideas in the Reader’s Guide.

Why I Like this Book:

In The Paper Kingdom, Rhee presents a difficult situation, a young child who has to accompany his parents to clean in an “angry” looking building in the middle of the night, and shows how, with imagination, it can be turned into a hope-filled story. Although it’s clear at the outset that the parents are also tired and most likely aren’t looking forward to cleaning messy office space in the middle of the night, the parents don’t complain. Instead, they turn their chores into a game for Daniel, as he searches for the king, the queen, and the messy dragons. And as Daniel sits on the throne at the end of the story, he, and the readers, imagine a world when the dragons pick up “their litter” so that people like his parents don’t need to do so.

I think The Paper Kingdom is a picture book that can help raise awareness about the dignity of work, and how people, including children, can ease burdens for those who keep our schools and other public areas clean and safe. Despite his age, Daniel noticed that papers were strewn about the conference room and that the cafeteria was a total mess with items like banana peels left on the floor. Hopefully, after reading this story, kids will become more aware of the impact their action, or inaction, has on others.

Campion’s detailed illustrations complete the picture of this hard-working family. At the outset, readers see that Daniel sleeps in a bed in the kitchen, that Mama cooks on what seems to be a hotplate, but that a flower-filled vase and houseplant cheer the surroundings while books appear on a shelf and Papa reads a book at the small kitchen table. It’s clear that these hardworking parents have dreams to better their lives, and Daniel’s.

A Note about Craft:

Per the Author’s Note, The Paper Kingdom is based on Rhee’s experiences accompanying her own parents to work as night janitors in an office building. I think this experience has enabled Rhee to be particularly empathetic to kids in this situation and renders this fictional story more relatable.

Interestingly, the ethnic and even racial heritage of Daniel and his parents have been kept vague. I think that’s a good choice, as it will enable more children to see themselves in Daniel, and it may prevent readers from stereotyping that people from a particular ethnic or racial background are more likely to work as cleaners.

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 and Multicultural Children’s Book Day, 21 Cousins

Today, for Multicultural Children’s Book Day, I have the pleasure to review a soon-to-be-released picture book that celebrates family and mestizo heritage.

New to Multicultural Children’s Book Day? Learn more about this special day at the end of this post.

Title: 21 Cousins

Written By: Diane de Anda

Illustrated By: Isabel Muñoz

Publisher/Date: Star Bright Books/1 April 2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: family, cousins, Latin Americans, mestizo heritage

Opening:

This is our family photo album, filled with the faces of grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and 21 cousins. Our mom and dad each have a brother and two sisters, and they have children too. This makes us all cousins.

Brief Synopsis: Two cousins in a large Latinx family describe their many cousins, as the family gathers to celebrate a special event.

Links to Resources:

  • Plan a visit, or a virtual visit, with one or more extended family members;
  • Create a family tree to help learn about your family history;
  • Do you have cousins (or close family friends that you call cousins)? How is each cousin the same as or different than you? What makes each cousin special?

Why I Like this Book:

21 Cousins is a celebratory exploration of family and mestizo heritage. Readers meet each cousin in this loving family in turn, making it a perfect book to explore how we are the same and different. I love that physical attributes, skills, and passions are highlighted – I think readers may find someone who is just like them (or like one of their own family members).

Spanish terms are sprinkled throughout and are either defined in the text or clear from the illustrations. As de Ande explains in the first spread, this is a mestizo family, meaning “that we share a mixture of the different people and cultures in Mexico: Indian, Spanish, French, and others. This is the reason people in our family look different in many ways. But we are still one family, our familia.”

Muñoz’s bright illustrations bring each cousin to life. I love how the details she provides to each vignette-like spread capture each cousin in turn. Along with de Ande’s descriptive text, these detailed illustrations invite readers to pause and explore each cousin’s world more fully. I think this makes 21 Cousins a wonderful read-aloud for classrooms and families as readers and listeners can discuss how they know from the surrounding items the passions and skills of each cousin.

Whether you’re from a large mestizo family looking to read about a family like your own, or whether you want to introduce your kids to a large, loving family with members of different physical attributes, including skin tone, and interests, I think you’ll enjoy 21 Cousins.

A Note about Craft:

Diane de Anda introduces readers to the 21 cousins one by one, focusing on aspects that make each person unique and special, and also on how they are the same. By including such a large number of cousins, de Anda is able to showcase many different activities enjoyed by kids, kids in different age groups, and different physical attributes. By including a child with Down Syndrome and one in a wheelchair, I think she expands the focus and celebratory message of 21 Cousins by showing how differently-abled relatives bring joy to and experience happiness within families.

21 Cousins will be available in Spanish as 21 primos.

Star Bright Books is “an independent publishing company dedicated to producing the highest quality books for children.” In business since 1994, this Massachusetts publisher endeavors “to include children of all colors, nationalities, and abilities” in its books, which are published in 29 languages.

From the publisher:

Diane de Anda is a professor emerita of social welfare at UCLA and a community voice on violence prevention and stress management among adolescents. She has written eight children’s books and edited four books on multicultural social work. Her work focuses on empowering Latino youth. Diane lives in Playa del Rey, California. 21 Cousins is her first book with Star Bright Books. https://deandabookshop.com/

Isabel Muñoz is a lifelong artist and children’s book illustrator. She studied fine arts at the Complutense University in Madrid, Spain. Isabel loves to dwell on the details of children’s stories that cannot be seen with the naked eye. She lives in Spain. 21 Cousins is her first book with Star Bright Books. https://thebrightagency.com/us/publishing/artists/isabel-munoz

I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

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!

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2021 (1/29/21) is in its 8th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.

Eight years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues. Read about our Mission & History HERE.

MCBD 2021 is honored to be Supported by these Medallion Sponsors!

FOUNDER’S CIRCLE: Mia Wenjen (Prgamaticmom) and Valarie Budayr’s (Audreypress.com)

Platinum Sponsors: Language Lizard Bilingual Books in 50+ Languages, Author Deedee Cummings and Make A Way Media

Gold Sponsors: Barefoot Books, Candlewick Press, CapstoneHoopoe Books,  KidLitTV, Peachtree Publishing Company Inc.

Silver Sponsors: Charlotte Riggle, Connecticut Association of School Librarians, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Pack-N-Go Girls

Bronze Sponsors: Agatha Rodi and AMELIE is IMPRESSED!, Barnes Brothers Books, Create and Educate Solutions, LLC, Dreambuilt Books, Dyesha and Triesha McCants/McCants Squared, Redfin Real Estate, Snowflake Stories, Star Bright Books, TimTimTom Bilingual Personalized Books, Author Vivian Kirkfield, Wisdom Tales Press, My Well Read Child 

MCBD 2021 is honored to be Supported by these Author Sponsors!

Poster Artist: Nat Iwata

Authors: Author Afsaneh Moradian, Author Alva Sachs & Three Wishes Publishing Company, Author Angeliki Stamatopoulou-Pedersen, Author Anna Olswanger, Author Casey Bell , Author Claudine Norden, Author Debbie Dadey, Author Diana Huang & IntrepidsAuthor Eugenia Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Green Kids Club,  Author Gwen Jackson, Author Janet Balletta, Author Josh Funk, Author Julia Inserro, Karter Johnson & Popcorn and Books, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, Author Keila Dawson, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture Groove, Author Mia Wenjen, Michael Genhart, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Natalie Murray, Natalie McDonald-Perkins, Author Natasha Yim, Author Phe Lang and Me On The Page Publishing, Sandra Elaine Scott, Author Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay FletcherTales of the Five Enchanted Mermaids, Author Theresa Mackiewicz, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Author Toshia Stelivan, Valerie Williams-Sanchez & The Cocoa Kids Collection Books©, Author Vanessa Womack, MBA, Author Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series

MCBD 2021 is Honored to be Supported by our CoHosts and Global CoHosts!

MCBD 2021 is Honored to be Supported by these Media Partners!

Check out MCBD’s Multicultural Books for Kids Pinterest Board!

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Diversity Book Lists & Activities for Teachers and Parents

Homeschool Diverse Kidlit Booklist & Activity Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Activism and Activists Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Empathy Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Kindness Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Physical and Developmental Challenges Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Poverty Kit

Gallery of Our Free Posters

FREE Diversity Book for Classrooms Program

TWITTER PARTY! Register here!

Perfect Pairing Stays Home

Two recent picture books explore the concept of home, which, as a serial mover, is a topic near and dear to my heart, especially now, as so many of us are spending most of our time at home.

Home in the Woods

Author & Illustrator: Eliza Wheeler

Publisher/Date: Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: family, home, Great Depression, poverty

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

This picture book from Eliza Wheeler is based on her grandmother’s childhood and pays homage to a family’s fortitude as they discover the meaning of home.

Eliza Wheeler’s book tells the story of what happens when six-year-old Marvel, her seven siblings, and their mom must start all over again after their father has died. Deep in the woods of Wisconsin they find a tar-paper shack. It doesn’t seem like much of a home, but they soon start seeing what it could be. During their first year it’s a struggle to maintain the shack and make sure they have enough to eat. But each season also brings its own delights and blessings–and the children always find a way to have fun. Most importantly, the family finds immense joy in being together, surrounded by nature. And slowly, their little shack starts feeling like a true home–warm, bright, and filled up with love.

Read reviews at Miss Marple’s Musings and Leslie Leibhardt Goodman’s blog.

 

Home Is a Window

Author: Stephanie Parsley Ledyard

Illustrator: Chris Sasaki

Publisher/Date: Neal Porter Books, an imprint of Holiday House Publishing/2019

Ages: 4-7

Themes: home, family, moving

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A family learns what home really means, as they leave one beloved residence and make a new home in another.

Home can be many things—a window, a doorway, a rug…or a hug. At home, everything always feels the same: comfortable and safe.

But sometimes things change, and a home must be left behind.

Follow a family as they move out of their beloved, familiar house and learn that they can bring everything they love about their old home to the new one, because they still have each other. This heartfelt picture book by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard is richly illustrated by former Pixar animator Chris Sasaki.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because they explore the concept of home. Based on the life of author-illustrator Wheeler’s grandmother, Home in the Woods follows a mother and her children who relocate to a shack in the woods when they lose their home during the Great Depression. In Home is a Window, a mixed-race family relocates from a beloved home in the city to a new house in the suburbs. Both books make clear that home is a place where one’s loving family lives & shares happy times together, and even, as in times like these, finds safety and security.

 

 

 

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.