Tag Archives: friendship

PPBF – My Grandma and Me

As regular readers know, I love intergenerational stories. And when I find one that showcases the bond between a grandparent and grandchild that also includes a cultural tradition different from my own, you know it’s bound to become a Perfect Picture Book!

 

Title: My Grandma and Me

Written By: Mina Javaherbin

Illustrated By: Lindsey Yankey

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: grandmothers, friendship, Iran, autobiographical, tradition, religion

Opening:

When I was growing up in Iran, my grandma lived with us. I followed her everywhere. When she swept, I swept. When she cooked, I cooked. When she prayed, I prayed like her, too.

Brief Synopsis:

In little snippets of her life in Iran, Mina explores the special bond between a granddaughter and grandmother, and the joys that occur in everyday activities.

Links to Resources:

  • What do you enjoy doing with a grandparent or other older family member or friend?
  • This story is based on the author’s childhood in Iran. Learn about Iran;
  • Invite a friend and his or her grandparent to spend time with you and your grandparent. Do you think your activities will be the same as that of the older women or men?
  • Check out the Activity Kit.

Why I Like this Book:

My Grandma and Me provides a window into home life several years ago in Iran, told from the perspective of the narrator, a child. Although many of the activities are particular to the narrator’s experiences with her grandmother, like praying at dawn with a prayer rug or purchasing fresh bread from a delivery boy on a bicycle, the love that is evident between grandparent and child is a universal experience to which children will relate.

I particularly liked the inclusion of Islamic religious practices and the scenes that highlighted the respect and affection for those of different faith traditions. Interestingly, as the narrator played with her friend, their grandmothers knitted blankets together and then “donated them to my grandma’s mosque and Annette’s grandma’s church.” I also love the narrator’s conclusion that even as an adult, she still wants to be just like her grandmother who was “kind, generous, and full of love.” What a wonderful role model she describes!

I think My Grandma and Me will be a terrific conversation starter as parents and children, or perhaps grandparents and grandchildren, read this book together and discover how their lives are similar to those in Iran in the not-too-distant past. I also think this book will appeal to anyone wishing to learn more about the day-to-day practice of Islam and religious tolerance.

The delicate and detailed illustrations in soft colors include lovely Persian details that remind the reader that although the love that shines through the text is universal, the narrator’s story and the relationship with her grandmother are uniquely their own.

A Note about Craft:

Javaherbin utilizes first-person point-of-view to tell this largely autobiographical story. As always, this viewpoint draws readers into the story enabling them to better imagine Mina’s activities with her grandmother and think about the things they do with their own grandparents.

A space motif runs through the story, including a scene with the narrator imagining a flight into space. The book culminates with a comparison between the “big universe full of many moons” and the many wonders in the world, and the all-encompassing love the narrator feels for her grandmother.

Learn more about Iranian-born, US-based Javaherbin. See more of Yankey’s illustrations on her website.

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 Moose of Ewenki

When I first learned of today’s Perfect Picture Book, I was fascinated by its far-away setting and the chance to learn more about a lifestyle and culture about which I knew very little.

Title: The Moose of Ewenki

Written By: Gerelchimeg Blackcrane

Illustrated By: Jiu Er

Translated By: Helen Mixter

Publisher/Date: Aldana Libros, an imprint of Greystone Kids/2019

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes/Topics: Moose, Inner Mongolia, friendship, disappearing lifestyles, human-animal bonds, being different, taking responsibility for actions

Opening:

The Reindeer Ewenki people live in the vast forest of the Greater Hinggan Mountains in northern China. They hunt and raise reindeer.

Brief Synopsis: When a reindeer herder and hunter accidentally shoots a mother moose, he adopts her orphaned baby, Xiao Han (Little Moose), and raises her.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about Inner Mongolia, a semi-autonomous area of northwest China and the setting of this story;
  • Gree Shek, the main human character in this story, lives with dogs and reindeer in a camp in a forest. Do you have animals in your home? Have you ever had an unusual pet or befriended an unusual wild animal?
  • Learn about moose, the largest of the deer family;
  • View scenes from a reindeer camp in Mongolia, which may have been similar to Gree Shek’s camp.

Why I Like this Book:

The Moose of Ewenki is a story in translation from Inner Mongolia, in northwest China, based on a true story from the region. In the story, we meet an elderly hunter and herdsman, Gree Shek, who lives alone in a camp with the reindeer and hunting dogs. When Gree accidently shoots and kills a female moose with a fawn, Gree takes responsibility for the young moose, raising her in the camp among the reindeer.

This is a gentle story in which children can learn about a disappearing lifestyle and a culture vastly different from their own. The foods Gree eats and shares with Xiao Han, his living accommodations, and his clothing differ from that of a typical western family, and the text and illustrations offer numerous opportunities for discussion.

The important theme of taking responsibility for our actions runs through this story, even to the point of letting go of a friend when necessary.

Jui Er’s soft, earth-toned illustrations bring this world to life, from the wilderness scenes that show the vastness and isolation of the region to the camp and village scenes which highlight this indigenous way of life.

A Note about Craft:

Per the jacket flap, The Moose of Ewenki is based on a true tale of an older hunter buried in the rugged forests of Inner Mongolia, his faithful dog, who guarded the grave, and the lone moose that wandered the forests there. From this tale, Blackcrane and Jui Er have crafted a picture book that is a window into a disappearing lifestyle that celebrates the natural world and humans’ place among the animals, and our responsibility to it.

From the publishers, Blackcrane is a multi-award-winning author from Inner Mongolia, who raises and trains Mongolian shepherd dogs. Jiu Er is an award-winning fine artist from Beijing, China.

Aldana Libros, an imprint of Greystone Kids (part of Greystone Books), is a Canadian publisher that brings “outstanding books to the English-speaking market, by international authors and illustrators who want to communicate their own cultural realities.”

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 – Heals Injured Birds

As we think about how to foster empathy in children, what better animal to highlight than a small, injured bird. Who could resist helping one? I know I couldn’t!

How to Heal a Broken Wing

Author & Illustrator: Bob Graham

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2008

Ages: 3-7

Themes: injured pigeon, empathy, animal rescue, letting go

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In a spare urban fable, Bob Graham brings us one small boy, one loving family, and one miraculous story of hope and healing.

“No one saw the bird fall.”

In a city full of hurried people, only young Will notices the bird lying hurt on the ground. With the help of his sympathetic mother, he gently wraps the injured bird and takes it home. In classic Bob Graham style, the beauty is in the details: the careful ministrations with an eyedropper, the bedroom filled with animal memorabilia, the saving of the single feather as a good-luck charm for the bird’s return to the sky. Wistful and uplifting, here is a tale of possibility — and of the souls who never doubt its power.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

The Scarecrow

Author: Beth Ferry

Illustrator: The Fan Brothers

Publisher/date: HarperCollins Children’s Books/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: scarecrow, injured crow, seasons, friendship, animal rescue, rhyming

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

All the animals know not to mess with old Scarecrow. But when a small, scared crow falls from midair, Scarecrow does the strangest thing. . . .

Bestselling author Beth Ferry and the widely acclaimed Fan Brothers present this tender and affectionate tale that reminds us of the comforting power of friendship and the joy of helping others.

Read a review at Gathering Books and a guest post and cover reveal by Beth Ferry at Mr. Schu Reads.

I paired these books because they both involve injured birds who are helped by a friend. In How to Heal a Broken Wing, that friend is a small boy, the only one who notices it on a busy street and convinces his parents to help him save it. With the family’s loving care, the pigeon recovers to fly off with the other birds, leaving the boy sad, but also hopeful. In The Scarecrow, the scarecrow stands alone, friendless, scaring off the animals, until a baby crow falls near him. Uncharacteristically, the scarecrow saves the baby crow. The two become friends until, like the pigeon, the healed crow flies off. There the two books diverge, but I won’t spoil the ending of The Scarecrow for you. You’ll have to read it to find out – I highly recommend that you do!

 

Perfect Pairing – of Ice Cream Adventures

I was walking in the city a few days ago and was pleasantly surprised to pass not one, not two, but three ice cream trucks. Listening to their jingly tunes compete with church bells, car horns and the other city sounds reminded me of long-ago summer evenings when I’d race down my suburban street, chasing the jingly-jangly music and a cool ice cream cone.

Saffron Ice Cream

Author & Illustrator: Rashin Kheiriyeh

Publisher/Date: Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc./June 2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: immigrant, moving home, summer, beach, ice cream, customs, friendship

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Rashin is excited about her first visit to the beach in her family’s new home. On the way there, she remembers what beach trips were like in Iran, the beautiful Caspian Sea, the Persian music, and most of all, the saffron ice cream she shared with her best friend, Azadeh. But there are wonderful things in this new place as well — a subway train, exciting music… and maybe even a new friend!

Read my review.

Scoop the Ice Cream Truck

Author & Illustrator: Patricia Keeler

Publisher/Date: Sky Pony Press/2018

Ages: 3-6

Themes: ice cream, being needed, friendship

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Scoop the Ice Cream Truck has seen a lot of summers selling his vanilla ice cream cones across the city. But he’s getting old, and the new trucks are getting fancier. Now they have waffle cones, jumbo sundaes, flash frozen ice cream, twenty-seven flavors and six special toppings. Feeling like he’s fallen behind, Scoop decides that it’s time for a redesign. But when his old frame can’t handle the new upgrades, can Scoop discover his own value and find the right spot to sell his vanilla cones?

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because of the focus on ice cream, and because they both are written by illustrator-authors. But, thinking about them together, I realize there’s a bigger connection, too. In Saffron Ice Cream, the main character, young Rashin, leaves her homeland and journeys to the United States where she discovers that ice cream trucks exist here, even if they don’t feature her favorite flavor, saffron, as do new friends. In Scoop, where the ice cream truck itself is the main character, the journey is less about distance than about time: Scoop feels left behind by a world that prefers super-sized treats of more flavors and types than I remember from my childhood (or even my kids’ childhoods). But even if “old fashioned”, Scoop has a role to fulfill and a young child to befriend. I hope you enjoy both books – with a scoop or two of your favorite ice cream!

Looking for similar reads?

See, The Ice Cream King, Steve Metzger/Julie Downing (Tiger Tales/2011).

Perfect Pairing Loves Lemonade

I saw this display at a garden center recently, and I suddenly grew thirsty for lemonade. How about you?

The Lemonade Club

Author & Illustrator: Patricia Polacco

Publisher/Date: Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group/2007

Ages: 6-9

Themes: lemonade, friendship, cancer, teacher, making the best of a bad situation

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Everyone loves Miss Wichelman’s fifth-grade class, especially best friends Traci and Marilyn. That’s where they learn that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade! They are having a great year until Traci begins to notice some changes in Marilyn. She’s losing weight, and seems tired all the time. She has leukemia, and a tough road of chemotherapy ahead. It is not only Traci and Miss Wichelman who stand up for her, but in a surprising and unexpected turn, the whole fifth-grade class, who figures out a way to say we’re with you. In true Polacco fashion, this book turns lemons into lemonade and celebrates amazing life itself.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree

Author: Jamie L.B. Deenihan

Illustrator: Lorraine Rocha

Publisher/Date: Sterling Children’s Books/2019

Ages: 3-7

Themes: birthday, gifts, intergenerational, gardening, making the best of a bad situation

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When Grandma gives you a lemon tree, definitely don’t make a face! Care for the tree, and you might be surprised at how new things, and new ideas, bloom. 

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” In this imaginative take on that popular saying, a child is surprised (and disappointed) to receive a lemon tree from Grandma for her birthday. After all, she DID ask for a new gadget! But when she follows the narrator’s careful—and funny—instructions, she discovers that the tree might be exactly what she wanted after all. This clever story, complete with a recipe for lemonade, celebrates the pleasures of patience, hard work, nature, community . . . and putting down the electronic devices just for a while.

Read a review at Jilanne Hoffmann’s blog.

I paired these books because both refer to that old saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. On the surface, these are very different picture books. Based on a true story, The Lemonade Club deals head on with a very difficult topic: cancer. In contrast, When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree is humorous fiction with the “bad situation” being the receipt of an unusual birthday gift, a lemon tree. But both books feature main characters who grow and show empathy, and both feature surprise endings. Also, in a note at the beginning of When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree, debut author Deenihan reveals that as she was writing and revising, her family was dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Thankfully, all is well now.

 

 

 

Perfect Pairing is Moonstruck

With the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing approaching, there’s been increased interest in stories about our relationship with the moon. I recently read two new picture books that had me moonstruck, too.

A Kite for Moon

Authors: Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple

Illustrator: Matt Phelan

Publisher/Date: Zonderkidz/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: moon; historical fiction; space exploration; friendship

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A Kite for Moon, written by New York Times bestselling author of How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? Jane Yolen and her daughter, Heidi E. Y. Stemple, tells a heartfelt story about a young boy’s fascination and unlikely friendship with the moon. With whimsical illustrations by award-winning artist Matt Phelan, the story begins when the little boy, who is flying his kite, notices a sad Moon. He sends up kites to her, even writing notes to Moon promising he will come see her someday. This promise propels him through years and years of studying, learning, and training to be an astronaut! Dedicated to Neil Armstrong, and a perfect children’s book to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first United States moon landing, the cover of this book will captivate readers with eye-catching spot UV, foil, and embossing.

Read a review and an interview with Yolen and Stemple at Writing for Kids (While Raising Them).

Music for Mister Moon

Author: Philip C. Stead

Illustrator: Erin E. Stead

Publisher/Date: Neal Porter Books (Holiday House Publishing, Inc.)/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: moon; shyness; friendship; music; courage; imagination

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

What if you threw your teacup out your window…and what if it accidentally knocked the moon out of the sky? 
A girl named Harriet longs to play her cello alone in her room. But when a noisy owl disrupts her solitude, Harriet throws her teacup out the window and accidentally knocks the moon out of the sky in frustration. Over the course of an evening, Harriet and the moon become fast friends. Worried that he’ll catch a chill, Harriet buys the moon a soft woolen hat, then takes him on a boat ride across a glistening lake, something he’s only dreamed of. But can she work up the courage to play her music for the moon?

Read a review at The Picture Book Buzz.

I paired these books because they are dreamy, lyrical books, perfect for bedtime, that personify the moon and treat it as a character (a her, in A Kite for Moon and a him, in Music for Mister Moon). Interestingly, the moon is envisioned as lonely in both books, and friendship is a strong theme in both. As the unnamed boy in A Kite for Moon works hard to realize his dream to visit the moon as an adult, shy Hank works hard to overcome her fear of performing as she plays her cello on the moon in Music for Mister Moon. Both books thus show children that dreams are attainable.

Looking for similar reads?

To find out more about our quest to reach the moon, see Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon by Suzanne Slade/Thomas Gonzalez (Peachtree Publishers/2018), and a “galaxy” of fiction and non-fiction children’s books about space exploration in a recent post in Publishers Weekly.

Perfect Pairing – of Friendly Ships

During the recent Reading for Research month, I saw the first book featured here in a post about quiet books. When I read that book, it brought to mind another book I’d read, and reviewed, a few years ago. I think you’ll understand why when you read these books together.

The Antlered Ship

Author: Dashka Slater

Illustrator: The Fan Brothers

Publisher/Date: Beach Lane Books/2017

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Curiosity, adventure, animals, and friendship.

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

An inquisitive fox sets off on a seafaring voyage with a crew of deer and pigeons in this enchanting tale of friendship and adventure.
Marco the fox has a lot of questions, like: how deep does the sun go when it sinks into the sea? And why do birds have such lizardy feet? But none of the other foxes share his curiosity. So when a magnificent ship adorned with antlers and with a deer for a captain arrives at the dock looking for a crew, Marco volunteers, hoping to find foxes who are as inquisitive as he is that can answer his questions. The crew finds adventure and intrigue on their journey. And, at last, Marco finds the answer to his most important question of all: What’s the best way to find a friend you can talk to?

Read a review at The Picture Book Buzz.

The Friend Ship

Author: Kat Yeh

Illustrator: Chuck Groenink

Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion/2016

Ages: 3-5

Themes: friendship; journey; hedgehogs; loneliness

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Little Hedgehog is very lonely. But then she overhears passersby talking about something that gives her hope-something called a Friend Ship!
Hedgehog imagines a ship filled with friends of all kinds, and soon she’s ready to hit the open seas in a boat of her own to track it down. Along the way, she meets other lonely animals eager to join her quest.
They search north. They search south. They search east. But Hedgehog and her new friends can’t find the Ship anywhere! Until she realizes she knows just where the Friend Ship is. . .
This heartwarming tale by Kat Yeh, with charming illustrations by Chuck Groenink, proves that sometimes, what you’re searching for is right in front of you.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they involve animal characters seeking something and embarking on journeys. In The Antlered Ship, the deer seek an island with tasty food, the pigeons seek adventure, and Marco the fox seeks answers to his many questions. In The Friend Ship, Hedgehog undertakes a journey to find friendship and ends up finding it on a ship filled with friends. Both books feature imaginative journeys that aren’t quite what the travelers, and the readers, expect at the outset.