Tag Archives: Hope

PPBF – There’s Room for Everyone

We celebrated World Kindness Day this past Tuesday. In the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving next Thursday, and family and friends will travel on crowded planes, trains and roads to enjoy festive meals together. With these two special days in mind, I want to share this new Perfect Picture Book.

Title: There’s Room for Everyone

Written & Illustrated By: Anahita Teymorian

Publisher/Date: Tiny Owl Publishing/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4+

Themes/Topics: kindness; sharing; hope; peace

Opening:

Before I was born, there was only a little space in my mummy’s tummy…But there was enough room for me.

Brief Synopsis: As a boy grows from a baby to old age, he reflects on how people and animals interact with our environments and concludes that with love and kindness, “there’s room for everyone”.

Links to Resources:

  • Have you ever been told that there’s no room for you to sit with your friends or play a game with them? Or have you ever told someone that there’s no room for her or him? How did you feel? Think about how you could add a chair, move to a larger table, find another game piece, or otherwise find space for yourself or someone else;
  • Practice being kind, by performing acts of kindness;
  • Visit Teymorian’s studio and see how she makes room for all of her illustrations and stories;
  • Watch the book trailer;
  • In a Message at the back of the book, Teymorian explains how the idea for this book began: she was angry at the images on the television showing people fighting for a piece of land. What makes you angry? What do you do when you’re angry? Draw a picture of something that helps you feel less angry.

Why I Like this Book:

With kid-relatable text and images, Teymorian invites children to think about physical spaces, those they inhabit, like their homes, those that are public, like a library, and those in nature, like the sky, seas, and land. The unnamed narrator notes that there’s enough room in all of those spaces for whatever needs to be there – even for plentiful things, like stars and the moon, for necessary things, like books, and for large things, like giant animals. So why isn’t there enough room for everyone here?

Teymorian shows people arguing over physical spaces, like an elevator or train, or even a bathroom. Some of these arguments are squabbles over a small space, some escalate to armed conflict, and some involve beliefs about which public restroom is appropriate to use.

As the narrator points out, though, he knows a “secret” that he wants to share – and what child can resist a secret! And what parent, caregiver or teacher can resist a picture book with such a positive message: if we love and act with kindness, “there’s room for everyone”.

Photo of interior spread

An author-illustrator, Teymorian spreads her message as much through the vibrant, colorful, full-page illustrations as through the simple text. Using repeated patterns and elongated limbs, Teymorian depicts people, animals and objects fitting into a variety of spaces, discovering room for everyone.

A Note about Craft:

Teymorian utilizes first-person point-of-view that brings an immediacy to the action and that made me feel like I was with the narrator, visiting the many spaces referenced. The narrator also addresses the reader directly, imparting the book’s message in a straight-forward call to join in with “those in the know” and act with kindness and love. This call to action empowers children, I think, to be the change, to ensure that “there’s room for everyone”.

The narrator is a young child through part of the book, but he also grows up and travels the world as a sailor. Although this life-spanning story is unusual for a picture book, I think it works well here as it enables Teymorian to show aspects of life that a child generally would not experience first-hand. The narrator, depicted as a kindly, grandfather-like man at the end of the story, can then also share his secret, discovered through his many years of life and travels.

Teymorian is an Iranian illustrator-author. Read an interview with her here. See my review of Teymorian’s A Bird Like Himself.

There’s Room for Everyone is the first in Tiny Owl Publishing’s Hope in a Scary World series that is intended to “show hope and how to cope with the problems in this scary world in a very simple and subtle and childish way.”

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 – Marwan’s Journey

With the scent of holidays in the air, November always reminds me of journeys – those taken, to visit family and friends, and those yet to come. But as I reflect on these generally happy journeys in my own life, I can’t help but think of those people undertaking difficult journeys for other reasons, whether fleeing from violence or poverty or seeking a better life in some new location. Today’s Perfect Picture Book recounts the journey of one such child.mne_DE_Marwan's Journey_Cov_z_Layout 1

Title: Marwan’s Journey

Written By: Patricia de Arias

Illustrated By: Laura Borràs

Publisher/Date: minedition (Michael Neugebauer Publishing, Ltd)/2018 (first published in Spanish as El Camino de Marwan, Amanuta, Chile/2016)

Suitable for Ages: 5-7 (or older)

Themes/Topics: refugees; war; courage; hope

Opening:

I take giant steps even though I am small. One, two, three…crossing the desert.

Brief Synopsis: When the cold darkness of war arrives at Marwan’s house, he flees on foot, joining a caravan of refugees, but always remembering happy times with his family and dreaming of a peaceful future, of returning to his homeland.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn more about the refugee experience with materials from Amnesty International;
  • If you were going on a journey, what would you bring? Choose three favorite toys or books that you’d bring along;
  • Marwan travels mainly on foot. Think of other ways that people travel, and draw a picture of your favorite way to travel.

Why I Like this Book:

With its young, named main character traveling by foot to escape war, Marwan’s Journey is a haunting window into the refugee experience. Although the setting is not named, the reader learns that Marwan crosses a desert and reaches a border with the sea. And although he seemingly travels without parents or other relatives, it’s clear that Marwan is one of many undertaking this journey.

Told in sparse, lyrical prose, Marwan’s Journey enables the reader to walk along with Marwan, as he places one foot in front of the other, “one, two, three,” a “line of humans like ants crossing the desert”. He doesn’t look back, but he knows that, without hesitation, one day, he will return to “plant a garden with my hands, full of flowers and hope.”

With its glimpses of happy memories, its focus on the act of traveling, and its promise of a hopeful future, I think de Arias presents a believable portrait of a child refugee while not focusing too much on issues that would be difficult for children.

Borràs’ ink and color-washed illustrations have a child-like quality, at times seeming even surrealistic. Utilizing primarily sepia tones as Marwan crosses the desert, she adds pops of color as he remembers life before the war and as he looks forward to a life back in his homeland and prays “that the night never, never, never goes so dark again.”

A Note about Craft:

Like most of the refugee picture books, de Arias utilizes first-person point-of-view which renders the narrator’s experience more immediate. Unlike refugee stories such as Francesca Sanna’s The Journey or Nicola Davies’ The Day War Came, de Arias names the narrator, choosing a male name of Arabic origin that means “flint stone,” a stone used to start fires.

Interestingly, de Arias includes a flashback to life before the conflict which, while providing relief from the tedium of the long march, may be difficult for younger children to follow and is not a technique usually found in picture books.

Per the jacket cover, de Arias is a Spaniard currently residing in Brazil, where she has published a number of children’s books.

Borràs is an “internationally acclaimed illustrator who has published numerous books in many countries”.

minedition publishes picture books of the highest quality that “open the door to the world” for children….After 10 years with the Swiss Nord Sud Publishing, minedition – michael neugebauer edition – was founded 2004, first as an imprint with Penguin and now independent and distributed in North America by IPG.”

Marwan’s Journey received a Special Mention at the Bologna Ragazzi Awards in 2017 and a starred review in Kirkus.

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 – Dreamers

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of today’s Perfect Picture Book. When I learned that the book launch was occurring this past Tuesday evening at Books of Wonder in NYC, a favorite indie children’s book store not far from my home, I just had to attend. IMG_1480While I can’t begin to capture the evening’s excitement in this post, I hope my review will encourage you to read today’s Perfect Picture Book, share it with others, and share your own story, too.

dreamers-book-des1-final-253x300Title: Dreamers

Written & Illustrated By: Yuyi Morales

Publisher/Date: Neal Porter Books (Holiday House Publishing, Inc.)/September 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: immigration; storytelling; libraries; books; hope

Opening:

I dreamed of you, then you appeared. Together we became Amor Love Amor. Resplendent life, you and I.

Brief Synopsis: A baby and his mother immigrate to the United States from Mexico, and at the local libraries, they learn a new language and find home and hope in a world of books.

Links to Resources:

  • If you were moving or traveling to a new city or country, what gifts would you bring with you?
  • Share a favorite book with a friend. Note that Morales shares a list of books that inspired her in the back matter;
  • Find more activities in the Dreamers’ Event Kit, including tips to tell your own story;
  • Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins on September 15th, with these Teacher Resources.

Why I Like this Book:

In sparse, lyrical prose and stunning mixed-media illustrations, Morales captures the hopes and fears of new immigrants to the United States. I love how Morales relates just a few details of the journey, including one gorgeous spread showing the young mother and her child crossing “a bridge outstretched like the universe” which holds such metaphorical meaning. I also love how the pair discover a world of knowledge within the library. I think this will resonate with kids – even those who aren’t newcomers or non-English speakers. As the pair note:

Books became our language.

Books became our home.

Books became our lives.

Morales’ vibrant, mixed-media illustrations bring heart and life to her words. In an afterword, she explains her process, lists some of the personal items that she photographed and scanned in, and even indicates that she used a nib pen that once belonged to Maurice Sendak to draw some of the artwork. Morales includes so many details – kids and adults will want to pour over the illustrations again and again (hint: look for favorite kids’ books, monarch butterflies, and other items repeated through many spreads).

A Note about Craft:

Morales utilizes first-person Point of View that brings an immediacy and intimacy to the story. Although the “you” of the text refers to her infant son, the inclusion of “you” made me feel as if I were journeying with the pair. As the story progresses, Morales often uses “we” to include her child as narrator, to help, I think, kids view Dreamers as not just a mother’s story but also her child’s story.

In her presentation, Morales shared her belief that we all bring gifts when we travel or move. Before reading Dreamers aloud to the audience, she shared a bag of surprises that held items she had enjoyed as a child in Mexico, and which she had brought as gifts to the US. This visual representation of gifts and talents resonated with me, and, I think, will encourage kids, especially newcomers, to realize that they have gifts and skills they can share.

Morales is an #OwnVoices author. In her presentation, she encouraged everyone to tell their stories, and reminded us that all authors and immigrants should be sharing their stories. And we are all immigrants.

Interestingly, Morales shared that she hesitated to tell her story, but that she did so in an attempt to “take our humanity back”, to show what immigrants bring, what they give, to their new homelands. At the encouragement of Neal Porter and her agent, Morales created Dreamers. Read Porter’s Editor’s Letter for more insights.

Dreamers is a journey story, complete with an actual bridge, that functions as a metaphor for entering a new life/new world, and a “surprising”, “unbelievable” place, the library. By making these spaces seem other-worldly, I think Morales highlights the importance of these locations and events to her journey and life.

As an illustrator/author, Morales understandably tells much of the story in the illustrations. I especially appreciate how she brings humor to the story through illustrations, such as in a favorite scene showing the young mother bathing her son in a public fountain with the simple text “we made lots of mistakes.”

Dreamers has received many starred reviews, and it’s the September book pick of Margarita Engle, Young People’s Poet Laureate. Dreamers is also available in Spanish as Soñadores. View a video of Morales discussing Dreamers and visit her website to see more of her work. Last month, I reviewed Sand Sister, a picture book Morales illustrated.

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 – 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).

Tomorrow-807x1024

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!!!

valentiny-writing-contest-2018

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!