Tag Archives: friendship

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.

 

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!