Tag Archives: friendship

PPBF – Birdsong

For my first Perfect Picture Book of the spring, I chose a quiet book filled with friendship and nature. Enjoy!

Title: Birdsong

Written & Illustrated By: Julie Flett

Publisher/Date: Greystone Books/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: moving, #OwnVoices, nature, intergenerational, creativity, friendship

Opening:

Spring

It’s a mucky spring morning as we pack up the last of our belongings and leave our little home in the city by the sea.

I’m going to miss my friends and cousins and aunties and uncles. I’m going to miss my bedroom window and the tree outside.

“Goodbye, tree friend,” I whisper.

Brief Synopsis:

When a lonely young girl moves to a new home, she becomes friends with an elderly neighbor who helps her discover the beauty of her new surroundings.

Links to Resources:

  • Have you moved from one house or neighborhood to another one? Draw a picture of something you miss from your old house or something you like in your new home;
  • In the summer time, Katherena’s new home “hums with peeps and whistles and ribbits and chirps.” What do you hear when you’re outside?
  • Check out the Teachers Guide for more resources.

Why I Like this Book:

Arranged by seasons and incorporating a few Cree words, Birdsong is a beautiful and multi-layered picture book that explores how one young girl adapts to her new home and life through her interactions with a kindly neighbor. As a serial mover whose kids have trouble naming their hometown, I can relate to Katherena’s sadness at leaving family and friends behind and venturing to a new, unfamiliar location.

An art lover, Katherena has no desire to draw in her new home until she meets Agnes, an elderly neighbor who shares her own creative endeavors and the beauty of her garden. Through Agnes, Katherena learns to appreciate the beauty of her new surroundings, and the two share their art and cultures.

I love that Flett highlights the power of intergenerational friendship, especially as both friends learn from each other and benefit from the relationship. I also love how nature, including the birds in the title, provides a bond between these neighbors.

The soft pastel and pencil illustrations provide sweeping views of nature, a lovely invitation to go outside and explore our own bit of the world.

A Note about Craft:

Flett perfectly ties together so many themes in this quietly beautiful picture book: moving, loneliness, creativity, Cree language and culture, friendship, and intergenerational relationships.

She arranges Birdsong by seasons, an apt metaphor, I think, for life as the two main characters, young Katherena and elderly Agnes, are in the different seasons of their lives.

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 – Poetree

Spring will be here soon. I hope! And while we’re awaiting its arrival, I found a Perfect Picture Book to get you in a springtime mood!

Title: Poetree

Written By: Shauna LaVoy Reynolds

Illustrated By: Shahrzad Maydani

Publisher/Date: Dial Books for Young Readers/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: poetry, friendship, nature, spring, loneliness

Opening:

The snow had melted, the buttercups were blooming, and Sylvia celebrated winter’s end by writing a poem about spring.

Brief Synopsis: When a birch tree seemingly responds to the poems Sylvia had left for it, she is thrilled, until she realizes that someone other than the tree may be the mysterious poet.

Links to Resources:

  • Read or write a poem about a favorite place or season;
  • Take a walk and discover signs that the seasons are changing;
  • Do you know someone who can’t explore outdoors, like an elderly relative or neighbor? Send a poem, picture, or letter to that person, to help him or her experience the beauty of nature.

Why I Like this Book:

With lyrical language, Reynolds presents young poet, Sylvia, who shares poems with a nearby birch tree. Imagine Sylvia’s surprise when the tree seemingly answers each poem with one of its own! But Sylvia’s joy is short-lived when she discovers who really wrote the poems.

I won’t spoil the story by revealing the answer here, but this lovely picture book features not just beautiful poetry but also a reminder that friends can be found where you least expect to find them and that two people can bond over the beauty of words and nature.

Maydani’s graphite pencil and watercolor illustrations in muted shades perfectly complement the lyrical text and reveal the thoughts swirling through the young poet’s mind.

A Note about Craft:

In Poetree, Reynolds celebrates nature and poetry, and she reminds readers that friends can be found in unlikely places and that classmates aren’t always what they seem to be. The text blends poems that feature child-like simplicity with lyrical language such as “rhymes falling like autumn leaves” and “words…blossomed into her mind”. Although the individual poems are distinct from the lyrical language, including both encourages word-loving readers (and aren’t all readers word lovers?) to read this lovely picture book again and again.

Per the jacket flap, Poetree is Reynolds’ debut picture book. Maydani, of Iranian and English descent, grew up in Niger and Kenya, but currently resides in the US.

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 Day Saida Arrived

Since it’s still Valentine’s Day week, I thought it was the perfect time to feature a picture book about friendship. Enjoy!

Title: The Day Saida Arrived

Written By: Susana Gómez Redondo

Illustrated By: Sonja Wimmer

Translated By: Lawrence Schimel

Publisher/Date: Blue Dot Kids Press/2020 (originally published in Spain, El día que Saída Ilegó, Takatuka SL/2012)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: friendship, immigration, language, empathy, respect

Opening:

The day Saida arrived, it seemed to me that she had lost all her words. So, I tried to look for them in every nook cranny corner drawer seam to see if, between them and me, we might get rid of her tears and throw away her silence.

Brief Synopsis: When a new girl, Saida, arrives at the narrator’s school, the two become friends as the narrator shares English words with Saida and learns words in Saida’s native Arabic.

Links to Resources:

  • Try to learn some words in another language from a relative, friend, or neighbor;
  • Saida has traveled to her new school from Morocco. Discover Morocco here;
  • Saida speaks Arabic and teaches the narrator some Arabic words. Check out the activities at A Crafty Arab to learn more Arabic words and discover Arabic culture;
  • Discover other ideas in the Teacher’s Guide.

Why I Like this Book:

With lyrical language and effective repetition, The Day Saida Arrived recounts the journey undertaken by the narrator and her new friend, Saida, as they explore each other’s language. I love that the narrator welcomes the young immigrant, Saida, and that she seeks to help her learn the language spoken at her new school. But rather than heading down a one-way street to teach her new friend this new-to-her language, the narrator seeks to bridge the language divide by learning Saida’s language, Arabic. Together, the girls forge a friendship by sharing both languages, learning about each other’s culture, and dreaming of a day when they can visit Saida’s home country of Morocco together.

With Arabic words and pronunciations sprinkled throughout the text, and English and Arabic alphabets set side by side at the end, I think The Day Saida Arrived is a wonderful introduction to Arabic language and culture. I also think it’s a good reminder that children, and adults, can welcome newcomers to their country by sharing their culture and by being open to learning about the immigrants’ culture. That way, everyone can learn a “world of new words.”

With its dreamy, surrealistic illustrations, The Day Saida Arrived is a gorgeous picture book. The inclusion of words in English and Arabic, with pronunciations, scattered within the illustrations makes this a book that I think kids and adults will want to reread numerous times.

A Note about Craft:

In The Day Saida Arrived, Redondo utilizes first-person point-of-view, telling the story of Saida’s arrival from the perspective of the young girl who befriends the newcomer. I think this perspective is particularly effective because it provides a roadmap to readers showing how they can welcome newcomers to their schools or neighborhoods.

Intrigued by the newcomer and wanting to help her, the narrator tells her parents all about Saida that evening. I love how Mama finds Morocco on a globe and how Papa explains that perhaps Saida doesn’t want to speak because she’s aware her words are different, just as the narrator’s words would be different and wouldn’t work in Morocco. Including these sympathetic adults, I think, strengthens the story because it shows the importance of supportive adults to expand children’s horizons.

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 – Gustavo the Shy Ghost

I read a review of today’s Perfect Picture Book on Children’s Books Heal a few weeks ago, and I knew I had to find and review it during this spirit-filled season. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Title: Gustavo the Shy Ghost

Written & Illustrated By: Flavia Z. Drago

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2020

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: Day of the Dead, Mexico, shyness, loneliness, friendship, ghosts

Opening:

Gustavo was a ghost. He enjoyed doing the normal things that paranormal beings do – passing through walls, making objects fly, and glowing in the dark.

Brief Synopsis: Gustavo, a ghost, loves to play the violin, but otherwise is very shy and must find the courage to make friends.

Links to Resources:

  • Gustavo glows when he plays the violin. What makes you glow with happiness?
  • The other monsters don’t notice Gustavo because he is invisible. Do you ever feel invisible? What do you do to get noticed by classmates, friends, or a sibling?
  • Check out the fun activities in the Activity Kit;
  • Try some Day of the Dead craft ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

Gustavo is such an endearing character with a problem that I think many kids will be able to relate to: shyness and feeling invisible. I found myself rooting for Gustavo in the scene in which he is afraid to join the other kids ordering eye-scream. And a scene with a sad-faced Gustavo alone on a teeter-totter made me want to hug him and tell him everything will be all right.

But mixed in with these empathy-inducing scenes are many funny things, too, like the scenes in which Gustavo tries to get the others to notice him by pretending to be other objects, including a balloon.

In addition to the unexpected and heartwarming ending, I think kids and their adults will love learning about the Day of the Dead celebrations during which this story unfolds. And Drago’s detailed and colorful artwork will have kids asking for many re-readings.

A Note about Craft:

In this debut picture book, Drago has created the perfect character to discuss a topic that will resonate with so many kids (and adults): feeling shy and invisible, but craving friendship. I think many of us have felt like a wallflower or an invisible creature at some point in our lives, and choosing a ghost to “display” these feelings is so perceptive. And having Gustavo excel and want to share a talent that involves hearing instead of sight is a terrific way to show kids that looks may not be everything.

Not only does Gustavo the Shy Ghost explore the problem of being shy but craving friendship, but anyone wanting to find out about the Day of the Dead festivities will learn so much by reading this picture book.

A Spanish-language version is also available. Also, for a fun surprise, peek under the dust jacket!

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 – Hello Goodbye, Little Island

Today’s Perfect Picture Book is set on the island of Singapore, a place I sadly have not visited…yet! But I think readers still wary/unable to stray far from home will enjoy this virtual visit. I know I did!

And while reading is a wonderful way to escape the confines of home, our library is only open on a limited basis for the foreseeable future with no interlibrary loan service (my “local” is one of the smaller libraries, so most books I review I order through interlibrary loan). In light of the difficulty of obtaining books to review at present, I’ve decided to take a break for the summer. If I’m able to get my hands on a book or two to review, I may post periodically, but otherwise, I look forward to resuming in the fall. Enjoy the summer! Happy reading!

Title: Hello Goodbye, Little Island

Written By: Leila Boukarim

Illustrated By: Barbara Moxham

Publisher/Date: Marshall Cavendish Children/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: moving, friendship

Opening:

Maja had moved to the little island with her family not long ago.

Brief Synopsis: Sad to have left her former home, Maja begins to like living in her new island home when she meets a friend. But when that friend moves away, Maja is again sad and lonely, until she finds a new friend.

Links to Resources:

  • Have you moved to a new house, school, or community? How did you feel? Draw a picture of something that you like about your new home, school, or community;
  • If there’s a new student in your class at school this fall, try to help them feel welcome. Think of some favorite activities that you could share with them;
  • This story takes place on the island nation of Singapore. Singapore icons are incorporated into the illustrations, and they are explained in the back matter. Readers can search the illustrations for them as a seek-and-find game.

Why I Like this Book:

Moving homes, schools, and countries is difficult for anyone, but especially so for young children. So it is that Maja, the main character of Hello Goodbye, Little Island finds the food, vegetation, and climate strange in her new home, and she repeatedly asks when the family can return to their old, familiar home.

When Maja starts a new, larger school and meets a friend through whose eyes she can see the little island, “it was not so strange anymore.” But like several places where my family lived when our children were young, Maja’s new school was filled with expat families, who remained only a few years in one location. Maja’s new friend was leaving!

Once again, Maja “found herself in a strange land”, with everything seeming “different”. Until, that is, Maja discovered a new friend.

Boukarim captures Maja’s dejection at losing a friend and her happiness at finding a new friend, two feelings that children who have moved house, schools, or communities will be able to relate to well. I also like that Maja and Nour, her new friend, expand their friend circle to include a lonely boy who also is new and misses a friend.

Because Hello Goodbye, Little Island is set in Singapore, an island nation in which many expatriates live and work for a few years at a time, Boukarim populates the story with children from diverse backgrounds and cultures. I like how these characters see the beauty in their differences and learn from each other.

Moxham’s unique illustrations are a combination of collaged photographs and black and white illustrations, with icons of Singapore scattered throughout.

A Note about Craft:

In addition to featuring an endearing main character, Maja, who enjoys quiet time spent with friends, Boukarim features many items and activities found in Singapore. I think these specifics, which are new to Maja, help readers understand and empathize with her feelings of loneliness and being in a “strange” place. Adding the seek and find layer to the story increases its re-readability, and this also may expand the age range to older children interested in learning about Singapore.

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 Observes Refugee Week 2020

This Saturday, 20 June 2020, is the United Nations’ World Refugee Day 2020, and in the United Kingdom and other countries, this week is Refugee Week, a “festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees.” As regular readers know, I read, and review, many picture books about the refugee experience. I’m happy to pair two of these recent books this week.

Boundless Sky

Author: Amanda Addison

Illustrator: Manuela Adreani

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2020

Ages: 4-6

Themes: migration, birds, refugees, welcoming, friendship

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Nobody knew, nobody dreamed, nobody even considered the possibility that a bird that fits in your hand might fly halfway around the world looking for a place to nest . . . or that a young girl from northern Africa might flee halfway around the world looking for safety. This is the story of Bird. This is the story of Leila. This is the story of a chance encounter and a long journey home.

Read my review.

Wherever I Go

Author: Mary Wagley Copp

Illustrator: Munir D. Mohammed

Publisher/date: Atheneum Books for Young Children, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Publishing/2020

Ages: 6-9

Themes: refugee, resilience, imagination, resettlement

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A hopeful and timely picture book about a spirited little girl living in a refugee camp.

Of all her friends, Abia has been at the Shimelba Refugee Camp the longest—seven years, four months, and sixteen days. Papa says that’s too long and they need a forever home. Until then, though, Abia has something important to do. Be a queen.

Sometimes she’s a noisy queen, banging on her drum as she and Mama wait in the long line for rice to cook for dinner. Sometimes she’s a quiet queen, cuddling her baby cousin to sleep while Auntie is away collecting firewood. And sometimes, when Papa talks hopefully of their future, forever home, Abia is a little nervous. Forever homes are in strange and faraway places—will she still be a queen?

Filled with hope, love, and respect, Wherever I Go is a timely tribute to the strength and courage of refugees around the world.

Read my review.

I paired these books because, though they differ in their storytelling techniques, and though neither sugarcoats the refugee experience, both leave the reader feeling hopeful about the fates of the refugees highlighted. In Boundless Sky, Addison parallels the migration of a bird with the journey of young Leila who migrates from Africa to Britain. In Wherever I Go, Wagley Copp reminds readers that refugees, like the narrator, Abia, are survivors who will enrich the community where they eventually settle.

Looking for similar reads? See The Unexpected Friend, about a young Rohingya refugee, and Yusra Swims, about a refugee who competed in the Olympics.

 

 

Perfect Pairing Stays Home

Week six, and counting, at least in my neck of the woods. How’s everyone holding up? Or should I write “holing up”, as we all hole-up in our respective homes? Luckily, before the library closed, I stocked up on quite a few picture books, including the two I’m pairing today about, you guessed it, different houses. Enjoy!

The Full House and the Empty House

Author & Illustrator: LK James

Publisher/Date: Ripple Grove Press/2019

Ages: 4-7

Themes: houses, belongings, differences, inequality, friendship

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The Full House and the Empty House are very good friends— when they dance they admire in each other the qualities they lack within themselves. Even though the houses are different on the inside, it doesn’t reflect how they feel on the outside. The bathroom of the full house
was full of many bathroom-y things. There was a big bathtub with gold clawed feet, a sink shaped like a seashell, a hairbrush and comb made of bone, and cakes of lilac soap. In the bathroom of the empty house was just a toilet and a sink. In the evening when the two houses
grew tired of dancing, they would rest on the hillside and look out at the world together.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews and one by Betsy Bird at School Library Journal.

The One Day House

Author: Julia Durango

Illustrator: Bianca Diaz

Publisher/date: Charlesbridge/2017

Ages: 3-7

Themes: intergenerational, house, beautifying, volunteerism, neighbors

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Wilson dreams of all the ways he can help improve his friend Gigi’s house so that she’ll be warm, comfortable, and happy.
One day, friends and neighbors from all over come to help make Wilson’s plans come true. Everyone volunteers to pitch in to make Gigi’s house safe, clean, and pretty.
Inspired by a friend’s volunteerism, author Julia Durango tells a story of community and togetherness, showing that by helping others we help ourselves. Further information about Labor of Love, United Way, and Habitat for Humanity is included at the end of the book.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because they both explore houses. In The Full House and the Empty House, the houses themselves are the main characters, and, despite their differences, find joy and friendship with each other. By contrast, in The One Day House, young Wilson dreams of how he can fix up his elderly neighbor’s once majestic home and restore its former beauty. Both books provide glimpses into how we inhabit homes, an apt topic as we currently spend so much time in them.

Looking for similar reads? See my recent pairing of Home in the Woods and Home is a Window.

PPBF – Boundless Sky

In these days of staying at home, I think many of us are reading more to escape confinement. And when I find a book that involves travel, and especially one, like today’s featured picture book, that involves a great journey through the skies, I know that it must be a Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Boundless Sky

Written By: Amanda Addison

Illustrated By: Manuela Adreani

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-6

Themes/Topics: migration, birds, refugees, welcoming, friendship

Opening:

Nobody knew, nobody dreamed, nobody even considered the possibility that a bird which fits in your hand might fly halfway round the world—and back again.

Brief Synopsis:

A tiny swallow migrates from the United Kingdom to southern Africa, and back, as a young girl leaves her African home to flee to safety in the United Kingdom.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about English swallows, the bird featured in this story;
  • Swallows fly great distances in an annual migration. What other animals migrate? Why do you think certain animals migrate? Draw a picture of an animal that migrates;
  • Check out the Teaching Resources (link near bottom of the page).

Why I Like this Book:

In Boundless Sky, author Amanda Addison reminds readers that one sky unites birds, animals, and people across this vast world. The initial focus is on Bird, a small English swallow that is about to embark on a journey from the northern part of the northern hemisphere across vast and varied landmasses and waters to arrive, and winter, in the southern part of the southern hemisphere in Africa.

Midway through her flight, as she was crossing a great desert, “the hardest part of the journey”, Bird reached an oasis, a place of refuge where Leila, a young girl, welcomed her with a drink of life-giving water.

But on the return journey, Bird discovers that Leila has disappeared. Thirsty, Bird flew on, to fly, once more, across vast waters, now stormy, and landmasses, to return home. There, she discovers that a familiar friend has also crossed stormy seas and found a new home.

I think even young children will enjoy following along on Bird’s journey, even if they don’t understand that Boundless Sky is the story of parallel journeys. Older children can delve deeper into the topic of migration – of birds, other animals, and people, like Leila, who risk all to seek safety and friendship in a new home.

I found Adreani’s soft pencil palette of blues and beiges to be calming and peaceful, the perfect accompaniment to this story of hope and friendship.

A Note about Craft:

Regular readers know that I’ve read, and reviewed, many picture books about refugees. Although many of these end on a welcoming note, I’m not sure any draw the parallel between animal or bird migration and human migration. Drawing this parallel enables Boundless Sky to function on multiple layers and to be of interest to children older than the target age range.

In addition to the parallel journey recounted in Boundless Sky, I found the choice of Leila’s original home, an oasis, to be particularly poignant. I think most of us think of an oasis as a life-giving island in a sea of desert. But here, the oasis presumably has not protected Leila, which, I think, adds a further layer to this story.

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 Traveler’s Gift: A Story of Loss and Hope

My guess is that few of you are traveling these days. But what’s better than a good story to pass the time at home (and help anxious parents forget about the viral news)? How about a story about storytelling that’s filled with travel and adventure, like today’s Perfect Picture Book.

Title: The Traveler’s Gift: A Story of Loss and Hope

Written By: Danielle Davison

Illustrated By: Anne Lambelet

Publisher/Date: Page Street Kids/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: storytelling, travel, grief, loneliness, friendship

Opening:

Liam’s father was a sailor. After returning from sea, he’d weave tales for Liam of the faraway places he’d been and the curious things he’d seen, using just his words.

Someday, Liam would join his father. They would travel to faraway places, and Liam would have stories of his own to tell. But for now, he was happy retelling his father’s stories to anyone who would listen.

Brief Synopsis: Liam loves listening to his father’s stories. But when his father dies, Liam’s interest in stories dies with him, until Liam meets a traveler who weaves stories so engaging that Liam’s love of stories revives.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have favorite family stories? Or favorite stories about someplace you’ve traveled or an adventure you’ve experienced? Share some of these with your friends;
  • Ask an older relative or friend to share some of their favorite stories.

Why I Like this Book:

In text and illustrations, The Traveler’s Gift transports readers to mythical faraway places and shows the transformative power of stories.

As the story begins, young Liam experiences the world through the fantastical stories woven by his seafaring father. But when his father dies, Liam’s interest in life and travel and his love of stories fade. How can he find these again?

When he hears a new storyteller, the traveler Enzo, weaving tales by the docks, Liam takes a chance, and turns his life around, by volunteering to travel with Enzo to “listen to the world”, “see things…with more than just his eyes”, and experience places “not found on a map”. As the pair share Liam’s first voyage and Enzo’s last voyage, Liam gains the courage to tell his own story of his father, his newfound friend, and the adventures shared.

The woodcut-like illustrations and vivid colors add to the mythic qualities of this tale that is sure to transport young and old readers alike to a faraway place, where a storyteller can transform feelings of loss to hope.

A Note about Craft:

For many of us, the power of storytelling is fantastic, a magical way to recount happenings or make sense of a senseless world. But how does one convey that in a story about storytelling? In The Traveler’s Gift, Davison uses the term “magic” at two particular points in the story to convey this. After Liam’s father’s death, “[a]ll the magic he once felt retelling his father’s stories faded.” After Enzo asked him to try telling stories, “Liam felt the magic of storytelling he thought he’d lost.”

The illustrations also help convey the magic of storytelling and lend a mythic air to Liam’s experiences. There’s no indication in the text of how to show the Traveler’s gift, but readers will see and understand what it is through Lambelet’s fantastic details that weave through this story.

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 – of Talented Female Voices

As our celebration of Women’s History Month continues, I’m pairing two new picture book biographies that feature cultural icons from the mid to late twentieth century.

Making their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

Author: Vivian Kirkfield

Illustrator: Alleanna Harris

Publisher/Date: Little Bee Books/2020

Ages: 4-8

Themes: friendship, following dreams, helping others, social justice, biography, cultural icons, singing

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. On the outside, you couldn’t find two girls who looked more different. But on the inside, they were alike–full of hopes and dreams and plans of what might be.

Ella Fitzgerald’s velvety tones and shube-doobie-doos captivated audiences. Jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington couldn’t wait to share the stage with her, but still, Ella could not book a performance at one of the biggest clubs in town–one she knew would give her career its biggest break yet.

Marilyn Monroe dazzled on the silver screen with her baby blue eyes and breathy boo-boo-be-doos. But when she asked for better scripts, a choice in who she worked with, and a higher salary, studio bosses refused.

Two women whose voices weren’t being heard. Two women chasing after their dreams and each helping the other to achieve them. This is the inspiring, true story of two incredibly talented women who came together to help each other shine like the stars that they are.

Read a review at The Picture Book Buzz.

 

A Voice Named Aretha

Author: Katheryn Russell-Brown

Illustrator: Laura Freeman

Publisher/Date: Bloomsbury Children’s Books/2020

Ages: 4-8

Themes: biography, cultural icon, singer, African-American history, respect

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

From acclaimed author and illustrator pairing comes a beautiful picture book biography about the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin and how she fought for respect throughout her life.

Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul, a legend. But before she became a star, she was a shy little girl with a voice so powerful it made people jump up, sway, and hum along.

Raised in a house full of talking and singing, Aretha learned the values that would carry her through life–from her church choir in Detroit to stages across the world. When she moved to New York City to start her career, it took years of hard work before she had a hit song. In the turbulent 1960s, she sang about “Respect” and refused to perform before segregated audiences. The first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Aretha always remembered who she was and where she came from.

In this stirring biography of a true artistic and social icon, award-winning creators Katheryn Russell-Brown and Laura Freeman show young readers how Aretha’s talent, intelligence, and perseverance made her a star who will shine on for generations to come.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because they both recount the stories of women who were entertainment icons. While A Voice Named Aretha is almost a cradle-to-grave biography of this singing legend, Making Their Voices Heard is a dual biography focused on the friendship between Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. Read together, I think these new biographies shed light on the struggles these female performers had to overcome to succeed.