Tag Archives: imagination

Perfect Pairing Observes Refugee Week 2020

This Saturday, 20 June 2020, is the United Nations’ World Refugee Day 2020, and in the United Kingdom and other countries, this week is Refugee Week, a “festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees.” As regular readers know, I read, and review, many picture books about the refugee experience. I’m happy to pair two of these recent books this week.

Boundless Sky

Author: Amanda Addison

Illustrator: Manuela Adreani

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2020

Ages: 4-6

Themes: migration, birds, refugees, welcoming, friendship

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Nobody knew, nobody dreamed, nobody even considered the possibility that a bird that fits in your hand might fly halfway around the world looking for a place to nest . . . or that a young girl from northern Africa might flee halfway around the world looking for safety. This is the story of Bird. This is the story of Leila. This is the story of a chance encounter and a long journey home.

Read my review.

Wherever I Go

Author: Mary Wagley Copp

Illustrator: Munir D. Mohammed

Publisher/date: Atheneum Books for Young Children, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Publishing/2020

Ages: 6-9

Themes: refugee, resilience, imagination, resettlement

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A hopeful and timely picture book about a spirited little girl living in a refugee camp.

Of all her friends, Abia has been at the Shimelba Refugee Camp the longest—seven years, four months, and sixteen days. Papa says that’s too long and they need a forever home. Until then, though, Abia has something important to do. Be a queen.

Sometimes she’s a noisy queen, banging on her drum as she and Mama wait in the long line for rice to cook for dinner. Sometimes she’s a quiet queen, cuddling her baby cousin to sleep while Auntie is away collecting firewood. And sometimes, when Papa talks hopefully of their future, forever home, Abia is a little nervous. Forever homes are in strange and faraway places—will she still be a queen?

Filled with hope, love, and respect, Wherever I Go is a timely tribute to the strength and courage of refugees around the world.

Read my review.

I paired these books because, though they differ in their storytelling techniques, and though neither sugarcoats the refugee experience, both leave the reader feeling hopeful about the fates of the refugees highlighted. In Boundless Sky, Addison parallels the migration of a bird with the journey of young Leila who migrates from Africa to Britain. In Wherever I Go, Wagley Copp reminds readers that refugees, like the narrator, Abia, are survivors who will enrich the community where they eventually settle.

Looking for similar reads? See The Unexpected Friend, about a young Rohingya refugee, and Yusra Swims, about a refugee who competed in the Olympics.

 

 

Perfect Pairing – of Two Books Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

Imagine my surprise when I was shelving a picture book that I reviewed a few weeks ago and discovered that the illustrator had illustrated another picture book I had reviewed last year. Could this be the reason for a perfect pairing, perhaps?

Neema’s Reason to Smile

Author: Patricia Newman

Illustrator: Mehrdokht Amini

Publisher/Date: Lightswitch Learning, a Sussman Education company/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: school, Africa, poverty, dreams, multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Every day, Neema balances a heavy basket of fruit on her head and traces the dusty path to town that unwinds like a cheetah’s tail. She wants to go to school, but Mama cannot afford the uniform and supplies. Neema saves her money and dreams big dreams, until one day hope skips down the street wearing a red skirt and white shirt.

Read my review.

 

Nimesh the Adventurer

Author: Ranjit Singh

Illustrator: Mehrdokht Amini

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2019

Ages: 4-6

Themes: imagination, adventure, multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Nimesh is walking home from school. Except…there happens to be a shark in the corridor. And a dragon in the library! And why would crossing the road lead to the North Pole? A fun-filled story about a little boy with a BIG imagination, Nimesh the Adventurer will surely make even the dullest journey a dazzling adventure.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they feature the work of one illustrator, Mehrdokht Amini. In Neema’s Reason to Smile, Amini’s vibrant and colorful illustrations made me feel like I was journeying with Neema to the village and school. In Nimesh the Adventurer, Amini’s brightly-detailed illustrations render this picture book truly stunning, as they show how one child’s imagination can transform everyday scenes into the sites of true adventures. In both cases, Amini features main characters of color, and her illustrations transported this reader to another time and place.

 

 

 

 

PPBF – Nimesh the Adventurer

It’s Friday, the start of what is probably another weekend of social distancing and staying at or close to home for many of us. But with a book at hand, especially a picture book like today’s Perfect Picture Book, who knows what adventures await!

Title: Nimesh the Adventurer

Written By: Ranjit Singh

Illustrated By: Mehrdokht Amini

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-6

Themes/Topics: imagination, adventure, multicultural

Opening:

Hello Nimesh, is school over?

School? My friend, this is not a school! It’s an ancient cave, and shhhh! Or you’ll wake…the DRAGON!

Brief Synopsis: Nimesh, a young school boy, has many adventures as he departs his classroom to journey home at the end of the day.

Links to Resources:

  • Take a walk and think about the many familiar sights along the way. Perhaps you see a neighbor’s cat, trees shading the sidewalk, or a favorite shopkeeper. Think about what these could be, such as a tiger, a haunted forest, or an entertainer, and draw a picture or write a story to show what adventures may lie hidden around you;
  • If you were an adventurer, where would you travel? What would you explore?
  • Discover some Famous Firsts by members of The Explorers Club, an international organization founded in 1904 and headquartered in New York City to promote “the scientific exploration of land, sea, air, and space by supporting research and education in the physical, natural and biological sciences”;
  • Download the Teaching Resources and activity for more ways to enjoy this book.

Why I Like this Book:

In Nimesh the Adventurer, the reader follows along as a young school boy turns the everyday into the exotic. Like a magician, Nimesh conjures up fantastical situations and creatures, from the shark-infested waters of the school’s science wing hallway, to an unusually tall street crossing guard who formerly served a Maharaja, to a pirate ship that comes to life from a ship-shaped cake in a Pastry Shop window.

I especially enjoyed the opening spreads, where the illustration that accompanies the first lines of text quoted above shows Nimesh reading a book about dragon taming. What a wonderful way to show readers how books can spark imagination and transport us to new worlds!

In another particularly engaging scene, Amini’s bright, collaged and painted illustration shows an older woman on a park bench who, in Nimesh’s mind, is a princess. What a wonderful way to highlight the inherent beauty of the elderly!

And for those wondering what Nimesh finds when he reaches home, what fantastical things his imagination conjures, perhaps “a cave full of gold”, or an “emperor’s castle”, or even “a lush forest”, you’ll have to read Nimesh the Adventurer to find out.

Amini’s brightly-detailed illustrations render this picture book truly stunning, as they show how one child’s imagination can transform everyday scenes into the sites of true adventures.

A Note about Craft:

As evident from the first lines, the entire picture book is told in a question and answer dialogue, with Nimesh informing the unnamed questioner, “my friend”, of the marvelous things he encounters traveling from school to home. By keeping the text minimal, Singh leaves more room for the illustrator. By letting the reader in on the conversation, Singh places readers more immediately into the action of the story, as we wonder what Nimesh will encounter next.

Page turns are particularly important in this book, as scenes change from the reality of the journey to the imagined adventures.

This is Singh’s debut. Learn more about Iranian-born, UK-based Amini’s illustrations in this blog post and see more of her work and some of the interior spreads at 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 – Wherever I Go

I’m always so happy when I’m able to feature a new picture book by a debut author, especially when I’ve had the pleasure of meeting that author and discussing the book before it was published (or even under contract for publication). I know you’ll agree that my selection today truly is a Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Wherever I Go

Written By: Mary Wagley Copp

Illustrated By: Munir D. Mohammed

Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Children, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Publishing/2020

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: refugee, resilience, imagination, resettlement

Opening:

I AM QUEEN ABIA of the Shimelba Camp. Of all my friends, I have been here the longest—seven years, four months, and sixteen days. That’s what Papa says.

“Too long,” he adds.

I think it’s the perfect amount of time to become a queen.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl recounts her experiences as queen of a refugee camp, sharing the skills she’s acquired that will help her settle in a new country and home.

Links to Resources:

  • Try one or more of the 20 Simple Acts to learn about refugees or help one or more of them feel welcome in your school or community (for Refugee Week 2020, 15-21 June, the listed activities can be done at home);
  • Are you a queen or king? Make a crown from a paper plate, or make a real or paper daisy crown;
  • Queen Abia balances a large pail of water on her head. Try placing a book or a container of water on your head (you might want to do this outside!), and then try walking while balancing it there. How does doing this make you feel?
  • Queen Abia helps her mother to prepare fufu, a traditional African food. Try making fufu;
  • Learn more about the refugee experience in the Note from the Author and in the books for young readers listed.

Why I Like this Book:

In Wherever I Go, the imaginative, young Abia introduces readers to her life in a refugee camp. We learn how she marches with friends, pumps and carries water to her mother, helps prepare meals, watches her young cousin, drums while waiting for food distributions, howls at hyenas, and sleeps on a prickly mat. She even wears a crown because she is Queen Abia, who has remained in the camp longer than any of her friends. And when she and her family leave the camp to resettle in a new country and home, she will bring the stories of her reign and the many skills she has learned, because she’ll still be a queen.

In young Abia, Wagley Copp has created a narrator who is imaginative, brave, and resilient. Neither Wagley Copp nor Abia sugarcoat life in the camp. But Wagley Copp reminds readers that refugees, like Abia, are survivors who will thrive and enrich any community where they settle. For they are not victims but authors of their own destinies, who will still be queens or kings wherever they go.

Mohammed’s acrylic paintings transported me to Africa where much of this story takes place. Paired with Wagley Copp’s lyrical text, this debut picture book that tackles the difficult subjects of life in a refugee camp and resettlement afterwards is a must have for schools, libraries, and the homes of everyone who cares about those displaced by war or anhy other reason.

A Note about Craft:

As with many of the picture books about the refugee experience, Wagley Copp uses first-person point-of-view to bring immediacy to the story, to enable readers to experience life in the refugee camp from Abia’s perspective. I think this helps build reader empathy and greater understanding of the refugee experience.

In the Note from the Author, Wagley Copp explains that she never has been a refugee. She has, however, visited a refugee camp and met resettled refugees in her role as a documentary filmmaker. This first-hand knowledge helps bring authenticity to the story, as does the inclusion of small details, like the number of years, months, and days the family has been in the camp and the type of tree branches that form Abia’s crown.

Visit Wagley Copp’s website to learn more about this debut author and read an interview with her on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.

The author provided a digital copy in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

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 – Boat of Dreams

Today’s perfect picture book has been on my “to review” shelf for a while now, awaiting the right time to review it. It’s not about refugees, those affected by immigration bans, or even by an author from a region affected by war. But its haunting illustrations, focus on journeys, and ambiguous storyline make it a perfect read as leaves begin to fall in the northern hemisphere, nights grow longer, and imaginations run wild.

Title: Boat of Dreams

Written & Illustrated By: Rogério Coelho

Publisher/Date: Tilbury House Publishers/2017

Suitable for Ages: 4 and up

Themes/Topics: wordless, aging, dreams, journeys, imagination, fantasy, loneliness

Opening: (from jacket flap)

How does an old man with an umbrella come to live on a desert island, his only companion a seagull? Ho do a boy and his cat come to live in an apparently deserted city? Are the man and the boy separated only by distance, or also by time? Are they the same person – the boy dwelling in the man’s memory? Between them, in a stoppered bottle, floats a piece of paper on which the man draws a flying boat and the boy imagines himself aboard.

Brief Synopsis: A fantastical, wordless picture book in which an older gentleman draws a ship and sends it to a young boy who adds himself to the picture, and then visits the man.

Links to Resources:

  • Design your own ship;
  • Plan a visit to an older relative or friend. How will you journey there? What will you do once you arrive?
  • Draw a picture for an older relative or friend of something you’d like to do with her or him;
  • Start a “chain” picture, with each person in the chain adding something to the original artwork until, at the end, you have a masterpiece created by two or more persons.

Why I Like this Book:

With its haunting, sepia-toned, intricate images and ambiguous storyline, Boat of Dreams is a wordless picture book that has stayed in my mind long after each reading.

As the story begins, an elderly man on a seemingly deserted island finds an empty piece of paper in a bottle. He draws a detailed flying boat and launches his creation into the sea by setting it afloat in the bottle. When an unnamed young boy living somewhere in an unnamed city finds the picture on his doorstep, he adds himself and his sidekick cat to the image. Either dreaming while asleep or actually journeying in this fantastical tale, the boy and his cat visit the gentleman, hand him the completed drawing, and then depart, leaving the picture behind, fastened to the wall above the man’s bed.

Coehlo never reveals who the two characters are or whether they’re one person at different stages of life. We never know where the story occurs, or if the journey actually happens. But the reader does know that two seemingly lonely people come together to create a piece of art that reflects both of them.

I personally would like to believe that the boy and the older man are grandson and grandfather, separated by distance but drawn together by a love of each other and creativity. I view the story as a way to show how togetherness is possible, despite distance or possibly even political barriers.

What’s wonderful about Boat of Dreams is that it’s open to interpretation, so children reading it may come to a different meaning that speaks to them.

A Note about Craft:

Whether the title refers to an imaginary journey undertaken while asleep, whether the aspirations of the young boy culminate in the life of the older man, or whether the older man is reflecting on the hopes he felt as a boy, I think the title, Boat of Dreams, is an apt one. I also think Coehlo’s use of color to indicate moods, from sepia to shades of blue, serves as a tool to further his storytelling and alert the reader to important happenings in the story.

Visit Coelho’s website to view more of this Brazilian illustrator’s work.

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 – is Bicycling

Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday, and he loves to bicycle. So I thought I’d share two picture books featuring children who also love to cycle.

 

In a Cloud of Dust

Author: Alma Fullerton

Illustrator: Brian Deines

Publisher/Date: Pajama Press/2015

Ages: 4-8

Themes: bicycles, diversity, education, disappointment, compassion

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In a Tanzanian village school, Anna struggles to keep up. Her walk home takes so long that when she arrives, it is too dark to do her homework. Working through the lunch hour instead, she doesn’t see the truck from the bicycle library pull into the schoolyard. By the time she gets out there, the bikes are all gone. Anna hides her disappointment, happy to help her friends learn to balance and steer. She doesn’t know a compassionate friend will offer her a clever solution—and the chance to raise her own cloud of dust. Brought to life by Brian Deines’ vivid oil paintings, Alma Fullerton’s simple, expressive prose captures the joy of feeling the wind on your face for the first time. Inspired by organizations like The Village Bicycle Project that have opened bicycle libraries all across Africa, In a Cloud of Dust is an uplifting example of how a simple opportunity can make a dramatic change in a child’s life.

Read my review.

 

 

The Patchwork Bike

Author: Maxine Beneba Clarke

Illustrator: Van T. Rudd

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2018 (first published in Australia by Hachette Australia/2016)

Ages: 6-9

Themes: bicycle, resourcefulness, play, poverty, imagination, North Africa, multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

What’s the best fun in the whole village? Riding the patchwork bike we made! A joyous picture book for children by award-winning author Maxine Beneba Clarke.

When you live in a village at the edge of the No-Go Desert, you need to make your own fun. That’s when you and your brothers get inventive and build a bike from scratch, using everyday items like an old milk pot (maybe mum is still using it, maybe not) and a used flour sack. You can even make a numberplate from bark, if you want. The end result is a spectacular bike, perfect for going bumpity-bump over sandhills, past your fed-up mum and right through your mud-for-walls home.

A delightful story from multi-award-winning author Maxine Beneba Clarke, beautifully illustrated by street artist Van T Rudd.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they feature bicycles and children, and, in both cases, economic hardship necessitates the use of either a homemade or donated bicycle. While the focus of In a Cloud of Dust is riding bikes to and from a rural school, the children in A Patchwork Bike use their creation to explore and have fun. In both books, I think readers learn the importance and joy of bicycles, even if they aren’t shiny and new.

Perfect Pairing – of Grandparents & Balloons

I saw the first book featured today on a shelf in my local library, and I immediately thought of one of my favorite picture books from last year – the recipe, in my mind, for a perfect pairing! Note, too, the publication date of the first book featured and its inclusion of a multicultural family.

 

A Balloon for Grandad

Author: Nigel Gray

Illustrator: Jane Ray

Publisher/Date: Orchard Books, a division of Franklin Watts, Inc./1988

Ages: 4-7

Themes: intergenerational, multicultural, balloons, family, imagination

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Unhappy when he loses his silver and red balloon, Sam is comforted by imagining it on its way to visit his grandfather in Egypt.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

The Remember Balloons

Author: Jessie Oliveros

Illustrator: Dana Wulfekotte

Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/2018

Ages: 5-9

Themes: intergenerational, memories, balloons, family

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.

But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!

Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.

Read a review at Children’s Books Heal.

I paired these books because they feature intergenerational stories in which balloons play an important role. In A Balloon for Grandad, the thought that his lost balloon may be traveling to visit Grandad far away consoles Sam, whereas in The Remember Balloons, the balloons symbolize the memories that bind James and his beloved grandfather. Both books feature loving families and deal with difficult topics: the distance that separates many loved ones and memory loss in older relatives.

Looking for similar reads? See Grandad’s Island.

Perfect Pairing – for a Cloudy Day

I found these two new picture books sitting on a shelf near each other in the Children’s Room at the New York Public Library. Perhaps it was a hint that they’d make a perfect pairing?

Lola Shapes the Sky

Author: Wendy Greenley

Illustrator: Paolo Domeniconi

Publisher/Date: Creative Editions/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: clouds, imagination, creativity, weather, acceptance

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A cloud with a mind of her own and a gift for making awe-inspiring shapes encourages her friends to go beyond their practical functions and expand their imaginative horizons.

Read a review by Julie Rowan-Zoch.

Picture the Sky

Author & Illustrator: Barbara Reid

Publisher/Date: Scholastic Canada/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: sky, clouds, environment, emotions, art, weather

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In this companion to the bestselling Picture a Tree, Barbara Reid has us look up . . . way up

Wherever we may be, we share the same sky. But every hour, every day, every season, whether in the city or the forest, it is different. The sky tells many stories: in the weather, in the clouds, in the stars, in the imagination. Renowned artist Barbara Reid brings her unique vision to a new topic – the sky around us. In brilliant Plasticine illustrations, she envisions the sky above and around us in all its moods.

Picture the sky. How do you feel?

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because they both encourage readers to imaginatively look up at the sky, and find magic in the clouds. But while the folks down on the ground are the main characters of Picture the Sky, the clouds, and in particular, Lola, take center stage in Lola Shapes the Sky.

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Under the Same Sky

 

Regular readers know that I often feature picture books dealing with tougher topics. But this week, I needed to read a hopeful book that focuses on community, how aspects we share unite us, regardless of species. When I picked up today’s Perfect Picture Book in the Children’s Room of the New York Public Library, I knew I found that book.

Title: Under the Same Sky

Written & Illustrated By: Britta Teckentrup

Publisher/Date: Tiger Tales/2018 (originally published in Great Britain, Caterpillar Books/2017)

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: rhyming, shared hopes, shared dreams, community, animals, imagination

Opening:

We live under the same sky…in lands near and far. We live under the same sky…wherever we are.

Brief Synopsis: A lyrical celebration of the bonds that unite us all.

Links to Resources:

  • Think of some of the ways that you are the same as a family member, friend, someone you pass on a playground;
  • The sun shines during all seasons, all over the world. Draw pictures showing the sun shining on a snowy day, in the desert, on a lake or ocean, by your own home.

Why I Like this Book:

In short, poetic text, using lovely illustrations of different animal species, Teckentrup celebrates the many natural elements that unite the world. A quiet book, Under the Same Sky will be a reassuring bedtime favorite for families with younger children. I especially liked the last spread, showing all of the animals together under a full moon and starlit sky and its message of unity. What a wonderful way to fall asleep, reminded that our hopes and dreams unite us.

The collaged illustrations in soft, pastel hues provide soothing accompaniments to the gentle text. I think kids will enjoy the cut outs, as they follow along on this exploration of community.

A Note about Craft:

Teckentrup uses animals as the main characters in Under the Same Sky. I think this will appeal to young children, especially as many young animals are depicted.

Cut outs are used in the pages to great effect, as phrases, such as that shown above, appear on one page and then after the page turn to emphasize text.

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

 

Perfect Pairing – Visits the Library Lions

I live in the New York metropolitan region and have had the pleasure of visiting the New York Public Library and seeing the lions who are the stars of this pairing. For those who aren’t able to visit New York City, I think these books, read together, will introduce you to this amazing duo who welcome readers into this wonderful library.

 

Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience & Fortitude

Author: Josh Funk

Illustrator: Stevie Lewis

Publisher/Date:

Ages: 5-7

Themes: New York Public Library, library lions, fantasy, imagination, rhyming

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Steadfast Fortitude and curious Patience are waiting every morning to greet visitors of the Library.

That is until, one early morning, when Fortitude finds Patience is missing. The city is about to awake, and the lions absolutely must be in their places before the sun rises. Now, Fortitude must abandon his own post to find his best friend in the Library’s labyrinthine halls.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

The Night Library

Author: David Zeltser

Illustrator: Raul Colón

Publisher/Date: Random House/2019

Ages:  3-7

Themes: New York Public Library, grief, magic of books, library lions, fantasy, imagination

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The Polar Express meets The Night at the Museum in this fantastical picture-book adventure about the magic of books and libraries, perfect for book lovers of all ages!

After a young boy goes to sleep upset that he’s getting a book for his birthday, he’s visited in the night by Patience and Fortitude, the two stone lions who guard the New York Public Library. Soon, he’s magically whisked away from his cozy home in the Bronx, and the two mighty lions show him the wonder of the library. There, the inquisitive Latino boy discovers the power of books and their role not only in his own life, but also in the lives of the people he loves.

Raul Colon’s gorgeous, rich art creates an immersive world in this book about books, which is sure to capture the imaginations of kids and adults and inspire them to grab their library cards and dive into the worlds of stories.

Read a review at The Picture Book Buzz.

I paired these books because they both feature the two famous lions that flank the entrance of the main branch of the New York Public Library: Patience and Fortitude. But while the focus of Lost in the Library is the pair of lions, a young boy who has stopped reading because he misses his deceased grandfather is the main character of The Night Library.

Looking for similar reads?

See my pairing of two other picture books featuring stone lions that come to life.