Tag Archives: Hope

PPBF – Tomorrow

Regular readers may recall that I reviewed The Jasmine Sneeze, written and illustrated by Nadine Kaadan, in March 2017. When I learned that she had written and illustrated a new picture book set in Syria, her homeland, I reached out to the publisher for a review copy. I’m so happy that today’s Perfect Picture Book is releasing next week and that Lantana Publishing’s books, including Kaadan’s books, are now available in the US (See below).

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Title: Tomorrow

Written & Illustrated By: Nadine Kaadan

Translated By: Nadine Kaadan

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing Ltd/16 August 2018 (originally published in Arabic by Box of Tales Publishing House, Syria/2012)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Syria; war; art; hope; #OwnVoices

Opening:

Yazan no longer went to the park, and he no longer saw his friend who lived next door.

Everything was changing around him.

Brief Synopsis:

Yazan, a young boy in Damascus, Syria, is stuck in the house because of the escalating conflict, but he’s desperate to go outside, visit the park, play with his friends, and even return to school.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about the geography and rich history of Syria before the current conflicts;
  • What do you do when you’re stuck at home? See a list of ideas to end indoor boredom;
  • Draw a picture of your “happy place”;
  • Yazan makes paper airplanes to pass the time. Make, and fly, your own paper airplanes.

Why I Like this Book:

Tomorrow provides a child’s-eye view of life in a Syrian neighborhood when war disrupts everyday activities. We learn that Yazan can no longer go outside by himself, play with friends, or go to school. His artist mother “stopped painting” and spends her days watching the news. At first, Yazan tried to amuse himself, even making “142 paper planes.” But despite his best efforts, we learn he was “BORED!” Finally frustrated at the lack of things to do, Yazan escapes outside, only to learn that the neighborhood, his world, has changed. But through the love of his parents and the creativity of his mother, Yazan learns to imagine his neighborhood as it was, before the conflict began, thus offering the reader hope that a better day will come at some future time, some tomorrow.

While several picture books published in the past several years have focused on the traumatic onset of war, the journey from a war zone, the plight of refugees, and/or the need to welcome refugees to our communities and schools, Kaadan’s focus is on the immediate onset of the conflict. She reveals only those aspects of war that would be visible to a young child sheltered at home. Rather than depicting injury, death, or flight – occurrences that could overwhelm young children, Kaadan highlights the inability to play outside and interact with friends, disruptions to education, and experiencing loud newscasts – all very kid-relatable occurrences. Through text and her evocative illustrations, she shows the emotions Yazan feels: confusion, anger, fear, and even boredom. I think kids will relate to both the changes highlighted and the emotions Yazan displays. Tragically, these are affecting both children still in conflict zones, like many places in Syria, and those who have fled to refugee camps and/or other communities and countries.

Kaadan’s watercolor and pencil illustrations have a child-like sense to them, as if Yazan is not only experiencing the situation, but recording it, too. Utilizing color, oozing dark grays and blues for the escalating conflict, bright yellows and greens for times and places of safety and comfort, Kaadan depicts both the changes and Yazan’s emotional reactions to them.

A Note about Craft:

Kaadan is an #OwnVoices author/illustrator who depicts her home city of Damascus as war erupts. Because she is so familiar with the locale, I think she includes details in the story that help place the reader in the situation. In a note to readers, Kaadan writes, “I wrote this story because I saw children like Yazan in my hometown of Damascus. Their lives were changing, and they couldn’t understand why.”

Kaadan also focuses on disruptions to normal “kid stuff,” rather than on the aspects of war that often grab headlines. I especially appreciated the focus on Yazan’s boredom – an emotion not often mentioned in stories dealing with conflict but that is an understandable reaction to the loss of freedom to leave the house to play outside, visit with friends or even attend school. That Yazan tries to “keep himself busy” with pursuits most kids can relate to, such as doodling, building a castle from pillows, and making paper airplanes, will help kids empathize with his situation, I think.

Finally, Kaadan utilizes different color palates to contrast conflict and comfort and to display feelings, and she depicts items, like the paper airplanes and Yazan’s unused red bike, to symbolize freedom and its absence.

Visit Kaadan’s website to view more of her artwork. View a video of Kaadan discussing Tomorrow and the displaced children of Syria.

Lantana Publishing, is an independent publishing company in the UK “producing award-winning diverse and multicultural children’s books”. Both Tomorrow and The Jasmine Sneeze are available in the US, through Lantana’s US distributor, Lerner Books.

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!

Another Holiday – a Valentiny Contest Submission

To help celebrate the season, and snap us out of our mid-winter doldrums, the wonderful and talented Susanna Hill has conceived of, and orchestrates, the best-ever Valentine’s Day treat for kidlit writers and readers: the Valentiny Writing Contest.

With Hopeful Heart! 

The 3rd Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!!!

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Quoting Susanna:

The Contest:  since writing for children is all about “big emotion for little people” (I forget who said that, but someone did so I put it in quotes!) and Valentine’s Day is all about emotion, write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone is hopeful!  Your someone can hope for something good or something bad.  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone hopeful (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentine’s Day). You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)

Check out the many fabulous entries at Susanna’s site. And I hope you enjoy my heartfelt entry, coming in at 213 words (and posted on 2/13!), 

ANOTHER HOLIDAY

“Another holiday? There’s too many holidays in this school,” Aaliyah grumbled.

She remembered the Thanksgiving feast. All of the food disappeared, except Mama’s Baba Ghanoush. She cringed as she recalled the winter concert, and the finger-pointing at Bibi’s abaya.

“What’s wrong?” asked Mama. She read the note Aaliyah held, slowly. Twice.

“It’s cards. For your classmates. You can make them. Here’s paper and your brother’s pens. They’ll be beautiful.”

Mama was right. The Valentines were beautiful, especially the one for Teacher. Aaliyah grinned.

She skipped into school on Valentine’s Day. But then she saw the chocolates on Teacher’s desk and her classmates’ store-bought Valentines. Tears trickled down Aaliyah’s cheeks. The homemade Valentines didn’t look as beautiful now.

She tried to hide the Valentines in her backpack, but Teacher said, “Please drop them in your classmates’ bags.”

“The bags look full,” Aaliyah mumbled.

“There’s space.”

“My tummy hurts,” Aaliyah complained.

“You can visit the nurse’s office, after you hand out the Valentines.”

With trembling hands, Aaliyah held out the last Valentine, for Teacher.

“What a gorgeous Valentine!” Teacher exclaimed. “Did you make it? Will you share your talent, please, and teach us how to draw these swirling letters?”

Aaliyah grinned, wiped her tears and hoped that the next holiday would be like Valentine’s Day.

♥♥♥

Perfect Picture Book Friday: The Story of Moose

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Title: The Story of Moose: How a Big Dog on a Little Island Found Love…After Nearly 5 Years in a Shelter
 

Written By: Laurie Damron

Illustrated By: Photographs

Publisher/date: Self-published (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform), 28 February 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: Dogs, Animal Shelters, Hope, Perseverance, Community

Opening: “I am Moose. I was brought to the Animal Care Center (ACC) in February 2011 when I was found running with the head of a pack of 1000 runners getting ready for the Islands’ annual ‘8 Tuff Miles’ road race. We put me in a kennel hoping to find my owner. My owner never came for me.”

Brief Synopsis: This is the true story of Moose, who spent almost 5 years in a no-kill animal shelter in St. John, US Virgin Islands, and of the efforts of ACC staff and friends, staff of Last Hope K9 Rescue in Boston, and the community of Moose lovers to find Moose a home.

Links to Resources:

  • Visit a local no-kill animal shelter;
  • The ACC participates in voluntourism – providing volunteer opportunities for tourists visiting St. John – if traveling, check to determine if there is a shelter where you can walk dogs or pet kittens or donate items or if there are other community organizations or schools that can use your help or donations (gently used books are often most welcome in more remote destinations, for instance).
  • Discuss with older children what it means to support a Cause: how would they work together to promote and achieve something important to them.

Why I Like this Book: I know this is a true story, because I have met, and walked with, Moose. When his Facebook page was first promoted, I followed and shared the posts often. I didn’t choose The Story of Moose as a Perfect Picture Book just because I already knew the story, however. Told from Moose’s perspective, this story highlights the power of community and an important lesson for children of all ages to persevere, work together and never give up hope: “Everyone can make a difference.”

This book is available for purchase on Amazon.com. All proceeds benefit ACC and Last Hope K9Rescue. Moose’s family has continued his Facebook page, now called Moose Found a Family – The Next Chapter.
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!