Tag Archives: home

PPBF – The Gift Shop Bear

For my final post of 2021 and as my gift to you, dear readers, I’m featuring a classic new picture book that I think is the Perfect Picture Book for this festive season. I hope you agree! Happy Holidays!

Title: The Gift Shop Bear

Written & Illustrated By: Phyllis Harris

Publisher/Date: WorthyKids (Hatchette Book Group)/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Christmas, teddy bear, home, friendship

Opening:

Nestled on the edge of town sat a little gift shop.

Brief Synopsis: Every Christmas season, Bear leaves his spot in the attic to decorate a gift shop and play with his best friend, Annie. But when the shop closes for good, Bear’s future seems uncertain.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

Bear waits all year for Christmas, something that I think every kid, and adult, will understand. But it’s not just the sights, sounds, and smells of the season that appeal to Bear. Rather, for Bear, Christmas is the time of year when he decorates the gift shop where he lives, and, more importantly, spends together-time with his best friend, Annie. I love all of the activities that the pair undertake, and I can imagine kids mimicking them later with their own stuffed friends.

But like holiday celebrations, small gift shops don’t last forever. When Bear overhears that the shop is closing, he worries about where he’ll end up and whether he’ll ever see his friend Annie again. As this is a picture book, you know Bear will find a place to belong, but I won’t spoil the ending by telling you how or where he finds his “forever home”.

In this time when we’re all craving cozy reprieves from the craziness of this world, I think the nostalgic feel of this picture book will appeal to kids and their adults. Harris’ softly-hued illustrations complete this lovely package. The spreads featuring snowflakes especially helped me to get in the holiday spirit.

A Note about Craft:

The Gift Shop Bear is told from the point of view of Bear, a stuffed animal. This helps bring immediacy to Bear’s predicament and enables kids to empathize with him more easily. Although Bear never speaks, Harris shows readers what he sees, smells, hears, and thinks, bringing the reader along into the shop and other scenes.

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 Blue House

I’m continuing with the theme of houses, and homes, and families this week, as my guess is those are themes on all of our minds this holiday season. I think I’ve found the Perfect Picture Book to do so.

Title: The Blue House

Written & Illustrated By: Phoebe Wahl

Publisher/Date: Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House Children’s Books/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: moving, home, single-parent household, urban renewal, overcoming loss

Opening:

Leo lived with his dad in an old blue house next to a tall fir tree.

Brief Synopsis: When Leo and his father are evicted from their beloved rental home, they are sad, but eventually find home in their new house.

Links to Resources:

  • What do you most like about your house? Draw a picture showing your favorite room or feature;
  • If you could change one thing about your home or room, what would it be? Why?
  • Leo and his father bake pie together. Try making this kid-friendly apple pie.

Why I Like this Book:

With its colorful, detailed illustrations and poignant story, The Blue House is a wonderful new picture book about moving and recreating home in a new location.

It’s clear at the outset that Leo and his father love living in the old blue house, despite the peeling paint, “leaks and creaks”, and the old heater that cuts out in the middle of winter. But sadly, they’re renters, and their landlord sells the house out from under them to make way for a bigger, newer, multi-family structure in its stead. With older children, this situation presents a wonderful opportunity to discuss the issues of urban renewal, the need for more multi-family units in many urban centers, and the pros and cons of tear-downs.

I love how Wahl shows readers that many activities can serve different purposes. Leo and his father bake a pie to warm up the old house and to help make the new house feel like home. They dance to keep warm, they “danced and stomped and raged” to feel “a little less mad” about the upcoming move, and they “danced and stomped and sang” in the new house. And they draw on the walls for different purposes, too, which I won’t share here as I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone.

For those who are in the midst of a move, just moved, or, like me, move often, I think Wahl’s description of the old house as “echoey and drafty like a hollow shell” will resonate. So, too, will her description of the new house as “empty, too. It didn’t feel like home”, at least not yet.

With its themes of making a house into a home, the bond between a loving parent and child, and overcoming loss, I think The Blue House is a perfect picture book for all families to savor and share.

A Note about Craft:

I love the thinly-veiled references to well-known books and music that Wahl, an author-illustrator, includes in the book. From The Hobbin to Talking Hens and Corn in the USA, I think adults will love spotting cultural references in the illustrations and sharing them with their little ones.

The Blue House features a father and son living on their own and dealing with the loss of their beloved rental home. No reference is made to a second parent and why he or she is not there. In my mind, this adds another layer to this heartfelt story, making me wonder whether that third family member may have resided in the blue house with Leo and his father.

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 – 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 – Hardly Haunted

I think regular readers know that I’m rather obsessed with themes of moving and what makes a house a home. So when I saw a review of today’s Perfect Picture Book on Susanna Hill’s blog a few weeks ago, you know that I immediately requested it from my local library and switched around the review schedule to feature it today. Happy Halloween!

Title: Hardly Haunted

Written & Illustrated By: Jessie Sima

Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: loneliness, home, Halloween, haunted

Opening:

There was a house on a hill, and that house was worried.

Brief Synopsis: An old house fears she is empty because she is haunted.

Links to Resources:

  • Have you ever heard strange noises at night like creaking, rapping on a window, or drip-drip-drips? What do you think causes those noises? Draw a picture of a scary or a friendly monster that might be the cause;
  • Bake and decorate your own haunted cookie house for Halloween;
  • Check out these downloadable activities.

Why I Like this Book:

Told from the point-of-view of a lonely old house that fears that she is haunted, Hardly Haunted is filled with not-too-scary scenes and loads of onomatopoeia that will have kids asking you to read it one more time.

I love that the house thinks that if she’s on her “very best behavior”, people won’t notice “how spooky” she is. Although there are things she can’t change, like the cobwebs and dust, the house determines to keep very still to avoid the creaks, squeaks, and groans that could frighten others. In many ways this reminded me of things kids, and even adults, do to minimize “bad” behaviors or traits to find affirmation and friendship.

But when things beyond her control cause new sounds, the house notices that these sounds could be fun, and that she, like a rambunctious kid, “liked being noisy.” And by embracing her uniqueness, she realizes that maybe a family would like to live in a haunted home after all.

Sima’s purply-blue-gray palette with splashes of orangy-yellow are perfect for this story, and her depiction of the outside of the house made me feel like I was looking at a face. The inclusion of a cat on almost every page completes this delightful package.

A Note about Craft:

A story about a family moving into a house filled with all sorts of spooky sounds would be interesting. But a story told from the point-of-view of that house is much more interesting and enables Sima to include an additional theme about being true to yourself.

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 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 – King of the Sky

I’ve been meaning to review this book ever since I first saw it last year. As it’s Earth Day on Sunday, and as a pigeon that travels between sunny, southern Italy and a bleak, northern town that smells of coal dust is the title character, I thought it was a Perfect Picture Book for today:

kingofthesky_thumbTitle: King of the Sky

Written By: Nicola Davies

Illustrated By: Laura Carlin

Publisher/date: Candlewick Press/2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: immigrant, intergenerational, homing pigeons; home; loneliness

Opening:

It rained and rained and rained. Little houses huddled on the humpbacked hills. Chimneys smoked and metal towers clanked. The streets smelled of mutton soup and coal dust and no one spoke my language.

Brief Synopsis: A young immigrant is befriended by an elderly neighbor who shares his knowledge and love of homing pigeons, and helps him settle into his new home.

Links to Resources:

  • Discover homing pigeons;
  • Find Wales and Italy, the two places where the narrator has lived, on a map of Europe;
  • Map a route between home and school, or to a friend’s or relative’s house;
  • The narrator misses gelato from his home in Italy. Draw a picture of a favorite food you missed when you traveled or moved;
  • Find more ideas in the Teachers’ Notes.

Why I Like this Book:

King of the Sky is a lovely picture book that will help children gain empathy for newcomers to their school or neighborhood and that will offer hope to children who are migrants or have recently moved.

The narrator, an unnamed Italian boy who has moved from a southern land of sun, fountains and gelato to a northern land of chimneys, towers and coal mines, finds pigeons there that remind him of home. He gradually learns English from their owner who, after a “lifetime working in a coal mine” speaks “slow enough” for the narrator to understand.  I love how the two become friends, bonding over their love of pigeons, and that each brings something to the intergenerational relationship: The “crumpled,” weakening Mr. Evans shares his language and pigeon-racing knowledge with the narrator as the narrator takes over the pigeon racing tasks. That an elderly, working class man shares his passion with a young immigrant is especially poignant, given the immigration debates in many regions today. It’s also very moving that the aptly-named pigeon, King of the Sky, travels to the narrator’s beloved Italy, but then finds his way home to the boy in the gritty, coal-filled village.

Carlin’s dreamy, mixed-media illustrations switch from landscapes to small vignettes, at times focusing in on small details, while at other times soaring at pigeon-level above the action. King of the Sky is 42 pages, and includes five wordless spreads, plus 16 other wordless pages.

0763695688.int.2

Reprinted from: Candlewick Press

A Note about Craft:

Davies tells King of the Sky using first-person point of view. As is evident from the very descriptive opening, this point of view helps draw the reader into the story, to stand in the narrator’s shoes, to feel the sadness of no one speaking his language, of not belonging. Interestingly, the point of view changes to third person on the last page, perhaps to allow the reader to step back and leave the narrator’s world, happy to see that he now belongs.

In the opening scene, Davies utilizes descriptive, lyrical language to show the perceived bleakness of the narrator’s new home: the repetitive rain, “houses huddled”, smoking chimneys and towers that “clanked.” She even brings in smells, of acrid coal dust and mutton soup, which must have been a huge disappointment compared to the “vanilla smell of ice cream in my nonna’s gelateria” that the narrator mentions later in the story.

Finally, as is evident from the many themes and topics listed above, King of the Sky is a multi-layered picture book: the story of an immigrant adjusting to life in a new country; an intergenerational story, with a weakening, presumably soon-to-be-dying older man; a story about pigeons, that find their way home; a story of contrasts between a sunny, southern country and a bleak, northern region.

Visit Davies’ website to see more of her books. Visit Carlin’s website. King of the Sky was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2017.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Alfredito Flies Home

Happy New Year! It’s amazing to think that the holidays are “done and dusted”, as many of my English friends say. Did you travel over the holidays? Our family journeyed to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – my first, but hopefully not last, visit to Brazil and South America. In addition to sightseeing and enjoying sun and warm temperatures, we celebrated our daughter’s recent marriage to a Brazilian with his family and friends. Like the main character in today’s Perfect Picture Book, I’m sure my son-in-law anticipated the trip with much excitement. Hopefully, too, he also feels that New York, although much, much colder than Rio, is now a home where he belongs.

9780888995858_1024x1024Title: Alfredito Flies Home

Written By: Jorge Argueta

Illustrated By: Luis Garay

Translated By: Elisa Amado

Publisher/date: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press)/2007

Suitable for Ages: 4-9

Themes/Topics: El Salvador; immigrants; home

Opening:

My name is Alfredo, just like my father, but everyone calls me Alfredito. I am as happy as a bird today because I’m going back home. Finally, after four whole years in San Francisco, my mother, Adela, my father, my grandmother Serve and I are going to climb on a plane tomorrow and fly back to El Salvador.

Brief Synopsis:

A young boy and his family who fled their home in El Salvador journey back to visit relatives and friends.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about El Salvador, the country from which Alfredito’s family fled and to which they journey back;
  • Alfredito and his family enjoy many native dishes when they visit their family, including pupusas, corn tortillas with a filling. Make pupusas y su curtido (filled corn tortillas with pickled cabbage);
  • Describe in words or pictures a visit to family or friends. How did you feel before the journey? How did you feel when it was time to go back home?
  • Alfredito knows he is close to home when he spies Quezaltepec, a beloved volcano in El Salvador. Learn about volcanoes.

Why I Like this Book:

Although the word count is high by today’s standards, Alfredito Flies Home is a heart-warming story about refugees who journey back for a visit to their home country several years later. I found it particularly interesting that Alfredito’s family fled initially overland with the aid of smugglers, but journeyed back via plane. I think it’s also important for kids, both those who fled and those learning about refugees, to see that, as in Alfredito’s case, only part of his family left El Salvador. Upon his return, he was able to see his older sister for the first time in four years, see cousins and meet some who were born while he was in the US, visit the grave of a grandmother whose funeral they could not attend, and reunite with a beloved pet dog. Most importantly, by journey’s end, Alfredito comes to the realization that he has not one, but two homes, one in El Salvador and one in San Francisco.

Garay’s colorful acrylic on canvas paintings complement Argueta’s descriptions of Alfredito’s life in San Francisco and El Salvador.

A Note about Craft:

As mentioned above, Alfredito Flies Home has a much higher word count than many picture books published today. A native El Salvadoran and Pipil Nahua Indian, Jorge Argueta is an Own Voices poet and children’s author who inserts many details into the story that someone less familiar with El Salvador may have overlooked, such as how Alfredito’s family home looks, including the parakeets in the hibiscus bush that squawk to welcome the family back. Luis Garay is of Nicaraguan descent, and has also lived in Canada. That both men know what it’s like to leave one country and straddle cultures adds to the authenticity of Alfredito Flies Home.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Amelia’s Road

I’m enjoying the late summer bounty at local farmers’ markets, reveling in the many fruits and vegetables available. My favorite market is at an orchard where late-harvest peaches, a variety of plums, and early apples can be picked now. I have many fond memories of apple picking with my children when they were young, and I even remember picking grapes as a child for my father’s attempts to make “wine.” It was hard work, but it was once a year, for a few hours only, and we kept what we picked.

Today’s Perfect Picture Book also involves picking fruits and vegetables, but as a job, not for fun, and by families who follow the harvests, who mark time, not in calendar months or days, but by harvest cycles.

9781880000274_p0_v1_s192x300Title: Amelia’s Road

Written By: Linda Jacobs Altman

Illustrated By: Enrique O. Sanchez

Publisher/date: Lee & Low Books/1993

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: migrant farm workers; Latina; home; #WNDB

Opening:

Amelia Luisa Martinez hated roads. Straight roads. Curved roads. Dirt roads. Paved roads. Roads leading to all manner of strange places, and roads leading to nowhere at all. Amelia hated roads so much that she cried every time her father took out the map.

Brief Synopsis: Amelia, the daughter of migrant farm workers, dreams of a permanent home.

Links to Resources:

  • Draw your home, or a place you’d like to live;
  • Amelia doesn’t like maps, because they are a sign the family is moving again; maps can be fun, though, especially when you learn mapping skills
  • Find a small box (shoe boxes work well); decorate the outside of the box with pictures of things you like; fill the box with things that are important to you;
  • Check out the Teacher’s Guide.

Why I Like this Book:

Amelia’s Road is a realistic look at the lives of migrant farm families, who move from place to place following the harvests. Despite the difficulty of the topic matter, Altman imbues the story with a note of hope, in the form of a sympathetic teacher who welcomes Amelia into her classroom, bothers to learn her name and praises the drawing of something Amelia holds most dear: a white house with blue shutters with a large tree in the yard. I think this shows the impact an act of kindness can have to better the life of another. I also loved that Amelia stumbled upon a large tree in a field, at the end of a path-like, “accidental” road, a place where Amelia could feel at home, where she buried a treasure box, as a sign that she would return to this place she belonged.

Sanchez’ acrylic on canvas illustrations work well with the rural setting and difficult lives of the migrant farm workers.

spread-02

A Note about Craft:

Altman’s opening provides clues about the issues of the story and piques the reader’s interest. She uses Amelia’s full name, thus letting us know that Amelia is a Latina. We also learn that Amelia hates roads, leaving us to wonder why. Finally, Altman provides a subtle clue: Amelia cries when her father takes out a map. Could it be that Amelia’s family is on the road too much? If so, is that why the book is entitled Amelia’s Road? Could a road be both a problem and provide a solution? I, for one, wanted to read on & find out.

Even without looking at its publication date, it’s clear from the longer text, almost 1,100 words, that Amelia’s Road is an older picture book. Despite its length and slower pacing, however, I think its subject matter, migrant farm workers, and themes, including the desire for home and community, a sense of “belonging”, make it relevant for today’s readers. By addressing multiple themes, ie, adding layers, I think Altman has lengthened the shelf life of Amelia’s Road.

Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books https://susannahill.com/for-teachers-and-parents/perfect-picture-books/list provides reviews of picture books by topic. While Susanna is taking a break for the summer, you can still check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – The Map of Good Memories

I thought I’d kick off Memorial Day weekend with a book from across the Pond, from Spain, to be exact. What does Spain have to do with Memorial Day, you ask? Probably not much, as there doesn’t seem to be a comparable holiday there. But Memorial Day is about remembering, and it’s also the “official” start of the summer vacation season, at least here in the United States. Both relate in certain ways to today’s Perfect Picture Book.

First, today’s Book is about remembering. It also reminded me of a special vacation journey I took one summer with my two older children when they were 4 and 6 (my husband met us mid-trip). We traveled among several German, Czech and Austrian cities by train. While I kept a written diary, the girls drew pictures of their favorite activities each day – a kind of Book of Good Memories.

May you make and remember many good memories this Memorial Day weekend and on your travels this summer. And now, today’s Perfect Picture Book:

9788416147823_p0_v2_s192x300Title: The Map of Good Memories

Written By: Fran Nuño

Illustrated By: Zuzanna Celej

Translated By: Jon Brokenbrow

Publisher/date: Cuento de Luz/2016 (Spanish edition also available)

Suitable for Ages: 7-10

Themes/Topics: refugees; war; home; maps; remembering; saying farewell

Opening:

Zoe had lived in the city since she was born. But now, because of the war, she had to flee with her family and take refuge in another country.

Brief Synopsis: As her family prepares to flee the war-torn city of her birth, Zoe maps out the favorite places where she has spent the happiest times of her life.

Links to Resources:

  • Map your classroom, home, city or favorite picture book;
  • Learn mapping skills; a good resource to learn is a newly-published picture book, Mapping My Day, written by Julie Dillemuth, illustrated by Laura Wood, and published by Magination Press (2017);
  • When you travel, keep a “favorite places” diary by drawing a picture each evening of someplace you enjoyed seeing or something you enjoyed doing;
  • In the Author’s Note, Nuño states that The Map of Good Memories is “about saying farewell.” Think about what or to whom you would say “farewell” if you were traveling or moving house.

Why I Like this Book:

This is a poignant story about treasuring the little things you enjoy about the place where you live. On the eve of her family’s departure, ten year-old Zoe looks back at all of the happy times she has enjoyed in her hometown.

Unlike other refugee books that focus on the journey (The Journey and Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey come to mind) or a better life ahead, The Map of Good Memories focuses on the past, on the positive aspects of life in Zoe’s home city before the war. Most of these are small, everyday occurrences that kids will relate well to, like going to school, visiting the library and bookstore, playing in the park, and enjoying favorite films in the movie theatre. As Zoe maps out the special memories of her childhood, she finds a special surprise and comes to the realization that these memories will always be with her, wherever she lives, and that someday she will return.

I love this hopeful message for refugee children. I also think it’s a good reminder for all of us that places that currently are wracked by war or other disasters have a history, and potential future, that are peaceful and positive.

Celej’s soft, watercolor images impart a sense of peacefulness and reflection to the story, and will encourage multiple readings.

Images and text about the war are few, so this is a wonderful book to share with kids who are moving for other reasons as well.

Source: Cuenta de Luz

 

A Note about Craft:

Interestingly, neither Nuño’s text nor Celej’s illustrations clearly reveal the setting or era of The Map of Good Memories. While the city appears European and while most people depicted are fair-haired Caucasians who wear neither veils nor headscarves, the time period is not obvious. In a review reprinted by Barnes & Noble, one reviewer guesses World War II. I’d guess the Bosnian conflict instead, given that Zoe is portrayed in jeans in one scene and wearing a bike helmet in another. Regardless, by not naming the conflict or even the city, I think Nuño makes the action more immediate: this could happen anywhere, at any time, to any of us.

Even though they leave two key elements of the story vague, Nuño and Celej weave many small details into The Map of Good Memories. For instance, not only does Zoe remember many films she enjoyed at the movie theatre, but Nuño mentions “the candy counter, the big seats, the lady who showed you to your seat with a flashlight…” Despite this detailed description, he leaves room for the illustrations, with bookshelves “full of real treasures” that Celej then fills in with dreamy characters surrounding Zoe as she reads. Nuño also leaves the depiction of the theatre to Celej, who completes it with a marquee heralding The Wizard of Oz, a brilliant cultural reference, as, after all, “there’s no place like home.”

Cuento de Luz, “based in Madrid, Spain but with an international outlook,” is a publishing company specializing in children’s literature, primarily picture books. Its philosophy is to publish stories that are “full of light that bring out the inner child within all of us. Stories that take the imagination on a journey and help care for our planet, respect differences, eliminate borders and promote peace.” Cuento de Luz is a B Corporation that uses “stone paper” in the production of its books – no trees, no water, no bleach.

Fran Nuño is the author of over 30 children’s books and owner of a bookstore in Seville, Spain.

Zuzanna Celej is a children’s book illustrator of Polish descent, educated and working in Spain.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Blue Rabbit and Friends

As a pre-published picture book author, I seek out the newest releases at my local library and in bookstores. At every conference and in every webinar, we’re told to read, read, read, BUT only books published in the past few years, as the market constantly evolves and, for picture books especially, the optimum word counts change.

Every once in a while, though, an older book captures my interest, and I find that it could as easily have been published today as back in the day. I’m happy to feature one of these “oldies but still goodies” as a Perfect Picture Book.

9780142300794_p0_v1_s118x184Title: Blue Rabbit and Friends

Written & Illustrated By: Christopher Wormell

Publisher/date: Jonathon Cape Ltd/1999 (UK); Phyllis Fogelman Books (Penguin Books for Young Readers)/2000 (US)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8, or younger

Themes/Topics: home, trading, problem-solving

Opening: “Once there was a Blue Rabbit who lived in a cave in the middle of a dark forest.”

Brief Synopsis: Blue Rabbit decides he doesn’t like living in a cave in a dark forest and sets off to find a new home. He finds that Bear, Goose and Dog are also unhappy in their homes, and together, the animals reach a solution that suits everyone – with a twist.

Links to Resources:

  • Draw your perfect home – what makes it perfect for you?
  • Build your perfect home using found materials like empty boxes, old blankets, etc.
  • Try block printing

Why I Like this Book: This is a simple story about finding one’s place in the world, exploring the concept of home – what makes one setting or dwelling perfect for one person (or animal) but not another. It’s also a terrific lesson in the power of group problem solving. With all of the text on the left side and the vibrant linoleum block print illustrations on the right, it’s also a lovely book to read aloud.

A Note about CraftAs noted above, Blue Rabbit and Friends is an older book, but for me, at least, its style and story still resonate. While its word count, around 600, is longer than the norm and while, arguably, some repetitive language could be cut, on the whole, the text does not seem too long.

In addition, Blue Rabbit has a problem, and it’s an age-old problem – he isn’t happy at home, something just isn’t right. Through the course of the book, he realizes he isn’t the only one with that problem; and he solves the problem on his own. The story then ends with a twist that could, and in fact did, lead to a sequel. To this reader, at least, Blue Rabbit and Friends seems just like the sort of well-executed picture book story line popular today.

Christopher Wormell is a prolific English illustrator, artist and children’s author. Check out his other books here.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!