Tag Archives: imagination

PPBF – Sand Sister

As the warm summer days draw to a close and teachers start preparing classrooms, I couldn’t help focusing on one more summer-filled picture book, choosing a Perfect Picture Book about a fun day at the beach. Enjoy!

sand-sister_fc_pb_wTitle: Sand Sister

Written By: Amanda White

Illustrated By: Yuyi Morales

Publisher/Date: Barefoot Books/2004

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: sisters; beach; imagination

Opening:

One hot, bright summer day Paloma’s Mom and Dad told her, “We are going to a very special beach.”

Sure enough, when they got there Paloma thought it was the most beautiful place in the whole wide world.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl wishes for a sister to play with at the beach, and thanks to the magic of Old Daddy Rock, her wish is realized, but just for the day.

Links to Resources:

  • Imagine a perfect day at the beach. Who would be with you? What would you do?
  • Create sand art;
  • Can’t travel to the beach? Grab a swim suit, towel and picnic, and head to a local pool, a backyard pool or sprinkler, or even your tub!

Why I Like this Book:

In Sand Sister, White combines imagination, art and magic in the form of Old Daddy Rock to create a sister, Sandy, for an only child, Paloma, visiting a beach with her parents. The two enjoyed a variety of beach pursuits, but, like real sisters, they also “became silly”, “started pushing each other”, and “went their separate ways”. Realizing that Sandy would disappear when the tide came back in, Paloma finds Sandy, apologizes, and the two part as friends. And while Sandy does, indeed, disappear with the incoming tide, Paloma learns that playing with and resolving disputes with her sand sister may be good practice for getting along with a real sibling.

I think that whether they are only children or have several siblings, kids will relate to Paloma’s desire for a sister and recognize the scenes of playfulness and anger. I think they also will enjoy the bits of magic that permeate the “special beach” where Paloma’s adventures occur.

Morales’ soft, acrylic paintings capture the movement of the waves upon the beach and the love reflected in the sisters’ eyes.

A Note about Craft:

The first line of Sand Sister had me hooked – I knew something special, something magical was about to take place when I read that this was a “very special beach.” While leaving the particulars of how the scene looked to the illustrator, White put the reader on notice that this was going to be a special day for Paloma, somehow. I was eager to learn more.

When I read Sand Sister and met Old Daddy Rock, I couldn’t help thinking of the magical beings in so many fairy tales, like the fairy godmother in Cinderella.  As in a fairy tale, Old Daddy Rock is a magical being who grant wishes. His name conjures up images of ancient wisdom – seemingly as old as the rocks. But while Old Daddy Rock conjures Sandy into being for the day, it’s Paloma who first draws the image of a sister in the sand, thus showing the power of art & imagination in helping her dreams come true.

Visit Morales’ website to see more of her illustrations and 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!

 

PPBF – Chalk Eagle

I spent this past weekend with my family in the mountains, where eagles and imaginations soar. Surrounded by green hills and skies unblemished by the glare of city lights, unplugged from the internet and the world’s problems, we basked in nature and imagined a simpler time and place.

chalk-eagleTitle: Chalk Eagle

Written & Illustrated By: Nazli Tahvili

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: wordless picture book; imagination; eagles; freedom; #ReadYourWorld

Brief Synopsis: After a young child watches an eagle soar overhead, he uses chalk to draw an eagle and an image of himself so that he, too, can fly.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about eagles and other birds;
  • Watch the book trailer;
  • Using chalk, create wings in your home or classroom as a group project that encourages all of the children to imagine themselves flying;
  • Close your eyes & imagine you are flying over your home, school or the town where you live. What do you see? How do you recognize it from above? What adventures will you enjoy?

Why I Like this Book:

Using only silkscreened variants of three colors, sky blue, grassy green, and chalky white, Tahvili shows the reader the empowering freedom achieved when a young child lets his imagination soar. By telling the story only with images, Tahvili leaves space for the reader – a parent, teacher or even a child – to imagine why a young child leaves his home to soar above the mountains: is he remembering a special place? Seeking a special someone or something in a far-away land? Or perhaps tired of city noises and smells and seeking solitude in nature? And because the silk-screening process leaves the edges indistinct, the reader can fill in the details and imagine that the mountain scenery is, perhaps, a favorite location that s/he has visited in the past.

Chalk-Eagle-2

Interior spread from Chalk Eagle

I like that Chalk Eagle is no mere flight of fancy. Rather, the boy sees the eagle and then uses his creative powers, his artistic skills, to recreate it and himself. Thus, through art, the boy, and the reader, gain freedom.

I also like that through images alone, Tahvili tells a story that anyone can enjoy and share with others, regardless of where s/he lives, the language s/he speaks, and even whether s/he is literate.

A Note about Craft:

In an Afterword, award-winning Iranian artist Tahvili shares that Chalk Eagle was inspired by her husband’s childhood reminiscences of drawing eagles on his rooftop and flying with them in his imagination. What childhood reminiscences can you mine for story ideas that soar?

While I’m not an illustrator and won’t pretend to critique the stylistic components of Chalk Eagle, I learned so much by examining each spread and the page turns to see how Tahvili paces the story and draws readers into it.

Tiny Owl Publishing is an independent children’s publisher whose editors believe “that stories act as bridges – providing pathways to new experiences whilst connecting us to here and there.” Chalk Eagle is part of Tiny Owl’s wordless picture book campaign, which celebrates the power and possibilities of wordless picture 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!

PPBF – Mommy’s Khimar

It’s Mother’s Week (we deserve more than a one-day celebration, don’t you agree?), and Ramadan. I can’t think of a better time to review a new picture book that celebrates a special mother-daughter bond and provides a window into the lives of these Muslim American characters.

mommys-khimar-9781534400597_lgTitle: Mommy’s Khimar

Written By: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Illustrated By: Ebony Glenn

Publisher/date: Salaam Reads (an imprint of Simon & Schuster Inc)/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Islam, #WNDB, mother-daughter bond, imagination

Opening:

A khimar is a flowing scarf that my mommy wears. Before she walks out the door each day, she wraps one around her head.

Brief Synopsis: A young Muslim American girl dresses up in her mother’s head scarves.

Links to Resources:

  • Create a dress-up corner or dress-up box with ties, hats, scarves, jewelry and other fun-to-wear accessories and clothing (a friend had a collection of bridesmaids’ dresses from a second-hand shop that my daughters loved);
  • Find Ramadan coloring pages here;
  • Find daily Ramadan craft ideas at A Crafty Arab.

Why I Like this Book:

Mommy’s Khimar is a joyful book exploring the bonds of daughter and mother as the narrator, an unnamed child, wears a favorite khimar, scarf, that belongs to her mother. I love the exuberance of the young girl, and I love that the politics about whether to cover or not are absent from this heartwarming story.

I think kids will love how the narrator wears her mother’s khimar in so many imaginative ways: as a queen’s “golden train,” to “shine like the sun”, as a “shooting star” diving into clouds, as “golden wings” shielding her baby brother, as a superhero dashing “at the speed of light.” And adults will love the opportunities to discuss differing forms of dress and religious practices, including a Christian grandmother who doesn’t go to the mosque, but “we love each other just the same.” Also, as Thompkins-Bigelow notes in a blog post, black Muslims are the largest group of Muslims in the US, but the post-9/11media focus on Muslims as “foreigners” means that few representations of religious black Muslims exist in children’s literature. Mommy’s Khimar is a most welcome exception.

Starting with the welcoming cover that invites the reader to open the book, Glenn fills the pages with smiling faces and a sunny-yellow palette mixed with other bright pastels that further the celebratory feel of Mommy’s Khimar.mommys-khimar-9781534400597.in03

A Note about Craft:

Thompkins-Bigelow combines two universal themes, the bond between mother and child and a child’s desire to be like a parent by dressing in her or his clothing, and explores these themes as they play out in a specific cultural group, African-American Muslims. As we write our own stories, what universal themes can we explore?

Thompkins-Bigelow utilizes one item of clothing, the khimar, to be a lens, focused on the life and love within the family she portrays. What unique items could you highlight to help explore your particular cultural or ethnic group?

Although I’m not an illustrator, I can’t help noting the effect of Glenn’s sunny color scheme that renders the entire reading experience so joyful. What a different reading experience this might have been if Glenn hadn’t used yellow throughout or if Thompkins-Bigelow hadn’t highlighted the color in her text.

Mommy’s Khimar received starred review from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly and Shelf Awareness.

Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow is a former English teacher and current program director of Mighty Writers South, a Philadelphia not-for-profit that helps children write with clarity. Mommy’s Khimar is Thompkins-Bigelow’s debut picture book. Read about her inspiration for Mommy’s Khimar and see interviews with her at CityWide Stories, bookish.com, and Cynsations.

Illustrator Ebony Glenn “seeks to create enchanting visual stories with whimsical illustrations to incite more beauty, joy, and magic in people’s lives.” Read an interview with her at The Brown Bookshelf.

Founded in 2016, Salaam Reads is an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Salaam Reads’ mission is “to introduce readers of all faiths and backgrounds to a wide variety of Muslim children and families and offer Muslim kids an opportunity to see themselves reflected positively in published works.” Salaam Reads also published Yo Soy Muslim, which I reviewed last September.

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 – Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote

My pick for today is not the tale of a refugee nor does it cast a spotlight on a place experiencing conflict. It does, however, shed light on the Spanish-language author equivalent to Shakespeare, and offer hope and insights to those experiencing personal and/or societal conflict or pain.  I hope you agree that it’s a Perfect Picture Book:

MiguelsBraveKnight_mainTitle: Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote

Poems Written By: Margarita Engle

Illustrated By: Raúl Colón

Publisher/date: Peachtree Publishers/October 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes/Topics: imagination; poetry; historical fiction; hope; resilience

Opening:

Happiness

When I close my eyes,

I ride up high

on a horse the color of moonrise!

But then I open my eyes,

and all I see is Papá, selling

the last of the horses from his stable—

Brief Synopsis: Through free-verse poetry, the life and dreams of young Miguel Cervantes are explored, offering a clue into what inspired the writing of Don Quixote, the first modern novel.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the Teacher’s Guide, including a Vocabulary Puzzle Game, Windmill drawing activity, and poetry prompt;
  • An Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, Historical Note, Biographical Note, and “Don Quixote, a Cultural Icon” provide context;
  • Create your own windmill;
  • Young Cervantes was a dreamer. What do you imagine when you dream? Who are you and what do you do? Write a poem setting out these ideas (“When I dream…,” or “Sometimes I imagine…”, or, the prompt suggested in the Teacher’s Guide, “In my daydreams, I…”).

Why I Like this Book:

Miguel’s Brave Knight is a beautiful book – both the free verse poems exploring young Cervantes’ fears and dreams and the gorgeous water-colored pen and ink illustrations that accompany the text. While many children may not know firsthand the story of Don Quixote, I think they will be keen to learn more about this seminal book after reading Miguel’s Brave Knight.

In addition, by juxtaposing young Miguel’s family circumstances with his dreams and writing, I think Engle’s poems will speak to children who themselves are experiencing family or societal hardships firsthand. In “Hunger,” Engle writes, They even took our beds and plates./ Where will we sleep?/ How will we eat? Reading these words, I can’t help but picture children living in impoverished households with one or more caregiver incarcerated, those whose parents face deportation, and refugees. Thankfully, Engle also posits in “Comfort,” the spark of a story…/A tale about a brave knight/ who will ride out on/ a strong horse/ and right/ all the wrongs/ of this confusing/ world.

A Note about Craft:

Engle, the Young People’s Poet Laureate, wrote Miguel’s Brave Knight as a series of free verse poems, told from a first-person Point of View. I think this works well for a fictionalized biography (fiction, because Engle shares Cervantes’ thoughts and feelings), especially of an author.

In an Author’s Note, Engle shares that she visited the windmills of Spain as a teen with her family, grew up surrounded by the images of Don Quixote, and “wrote Miguel’s Brave Knight to show how the power of imagination can be a great source of comfort and hope in times of struggle and suffering.” What draws you to write or illustrate a story and what further themes can you pull from that story?

In Reading Picture Books with Children (Charlesbridge, 2015), Megan Dowd Lambert champions the whole book approach, and counsels that everything about a picture book can help tell the story. In Miguel’s Brave Knight, the endpapers are particularly relevant, and readers are treated to an imaginative surprise when they peek under the jacket cover.

Learn more about Margarita Engle and Raúl Colón. See my reviews of Engle’s All the Way to Havana and Bravo!: Poems about Amazing Hispanics.

97816277964229780805098761_p0_v4_s118x184

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 – Why Am I Here?

I found today’s Perfect Picture Book at my local library. Regular readers know that all of the books I’ve reviewed this year have involved refugees, people and stories from areas affected by the US travel ban, and migrants, especially from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Today’s Perfect Picture Book doesn’t exactly fit within these parameters. It is, however, a book first published outside the US. I also think it promotes so much empathy for refugees and migrants that it almost is a book about them. I hope you agree!

9780802854773_p0_v2_s192x300Title: Why Am I Here?

Written By: Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen

Illustrated By: Akin Duzakin

Translated By: Becky Crook

Publisher/date: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers/2016 (first published by Magikon in Norwegian/2014)

Suitable for Ages: 5-9 (or older)

Themes/Topics: empathy, compassion, imagination, philosophy, social justice

Opening:

I wonder why I am here, in this exact place.

Brief Synopsis: A young child journeys to many places, asking what it would be like to live as s/he sees others living.

Links to Resources:

  • Become Globe Smart, and learn about life in other areas of the world;
  • Draw a picture of a person or place that you have visited.

Why I Like this Book:

Why Am I Here? is a book that begs to be read, and reread. Many of us have a child who has asked questions non-stop, who has stumped us time and time again with one three-letter word: WHY. While I think of the “why” stage for younger children more than for the school-aged kids for whom this book is written, curious children, and adults, never stop wondering.

Rather than wondering just about the natural world, Why Am I Here? invites us to consider differences in time, place, and social circumstance. In one poignant spread, the narrator asks what it would be like to live in a large city, alone, “on the street or under a bridge.” Similarly, the narrator wonders what it would be like to leave home as a refugee, to survive a natural disaster and be without food or water, or to labor as children do in other places in the world.

This is an introspective book, sensitive and thought-provoking. But while many of the places and peoples visited are suffering, the overall tenor is positive and hopeful, in large part, most likely, due to the dreamy, peaceful watercolor illustrations that help soften the reality of the words.

HEJH-Øy_båt.R-210x210

Interior spread, reprinted from Duzakin’s website

HEJH-By.R.W_edited-1-210x210

Interior spread, reprinted from Duzakin’s website

A Note about Craft:

Why Am I Here? has an other-world feel to it, in part, I think, because the “I” in the story is alone and identified by neither name nor gender. I think this helps readers identify better with the narrator and imagine themselves in his or her situation.

In Reading Picture Books with Children, Megan Dowd Lambert invites readers to contemplate the Whole Book when sharing picture books with children. In Why Am I Here? the text appears solely on the left side and the illustrations, looking like landscape paintings, appear on the right side of the gutter. This invites the reader, I believe, to think about the words before seeing what the words imply. For an introspective book, when author, illustrator and editor want the reader to contemplate the text, I think this is a wonderful technique that adds to the reading experience.

Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen is a Norwegian freelance jouralist and children’s author.

Akin Duzakin is a Turkish illustrator living since 1987 in Norway.

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: When I Coloured in the World

Last month, I celebrated my birthday & my son visited secondary school friends in London during his spring break. What does this have to do with Perfect Picture Book Friday? In my quest to feature authors, illustrators, books, and/or stories about regions affected by immigration bans or from regions affected by conflict or other disasters, I pre-ordered books available in the UK but not for sale in the US. I then sent my son to pick them up. Best birthday gift ever! I’m happy to share one of these gifts today as a Perfect Picture Book:
9781910328071-150x150Title: When I Coloured in the World
Written By: Ahmadreza Ahmadi
Illustrated By: Ehsan Abdollahi
Translated By: Azita Razi (2015)
Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd/2017 (first published in Persian, Nazar Publisher/2010)
Suitable for Ages: 3 and up
Themes/Topics: imagination, diverse books, creating positive change, Iranian author, power of art
Opening:
My mum gave me a box of crayons for colouring, and an eraser to rub things out with. So guess what I did?
Desert
I rubbed out the word ‘desert.’
I wrote the word ‘roses’.
Roses
Red
With my red crayon I made roses grow all over the world!
I gave the world red.
Brief Synopsis:
A child uses an eraser to rub out things she doesn’t like in the world, like hunger, and crayons and colored pencils to replace them with things that make the world better, like green wheat to feed people.
Links to Resources:

  • Draw a picture of something you don’t like. Think about how you can change the picture to make it something you like better;
  • Pick a few favorite colors. Draw things that make you happy or that you think will make life better or happier for others using your favorite colors;
  • Think of things that make you happy, sad or angry. What colors do you think of when you think of those things?
  • Discover more about Iran, where the author and illustrator live.

Why I Like this Book:
This is a deceptively simple book in which an unnamed child changes the world one word at a time through art. I think the simplicity and repetition will appeal to young children and empower them to believe that they can change things for the better, too. I also like that Ahmadi starts the book with a gift from mother to child, the gift of imagination and power to better the world.
Full-page illustrations with backgrounds the color of the child’s crayon choice and vibrant images appear on the left side of each spread with the accompanying words set poem-like on the right. This makes When I Coloured in the World appear to be a book of poetry, and, indeed, each spread can be read, and discussed, separately. I think this adds to the enjoyment and utility of this book. I can envision parents or teachers picking one of the negative terms, brainstorming with children words that are the opposite, and then discussing how that word can be illustrated and how change can occur.

photo-4-e1438784720570
A Note about Craft:
As mentioned above, When I Coloured in the World has no story arc, per se, and is essentially a series of free verse poems that show how the reimagining of a bad thing can turn it into good. While each poem can be read on its own, I like that they also work together through repetitive language and that they follow the same format. By doing this, I think Ahmadi helps his readers better envision a child imagining these changes and allows for readers to follow his example and replace a word with another in a color and with an explanation that follows the pattern.
I also like that he has used simple, neutral objects, eraser and crayons, to effect change. This is a wonderful reminder to children’s writers to keep it simple, and reminded me, in many ways, of Peter H. Reynolds’ The Dot.
Find out more about the author, Ahmadreza Ahmadi, one of Iran’s “greatest and most famous contemporary poets”.
Discover more books published by Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd , an independent publishing company in the UK “committed to producing beautiful, original books for children”, founded on the “belief that stories act as bridges – providing pathways to new experiences whilst connecting us to here and there” and publishing a number of books by Iranian authors and illustrators.
While not currently available in US book shops, When I Coloured in the World is available through the Book Depository, which ships to the US.

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 -What to Do With a Box

It’s November, time to:

  • Elect our next president and fill other state and federal offices;
  • Turn back the clocks;
  • Head indoors as outside temperatures fall;
  • Give thanks and share our blessings with others.

So why have I chosen to feature a picture book about a BOX?

  • Countless school & community groups are hosting food drives now –  filling cardboard boxes with meals for less-fortunate neighbors;
  • Boxes are a great indoor escape from cold, rainy fall weather, especially as the sun retreats earlier each afternoon; and
  • If you live in a contested state, or listen to, read or watch any news sources, you may by now just want to curl up in a box – or perhaps you may want to do so next Wednesday.

Without further ado, off to unpack today’s Perfect Picture Book:

9781568462899_p0_v2_s118x184Title: What to Do With a Box

Written By: Jane Yolen

Illustrated By: Chris Sheban

Publisher/date: Creative Editions/2016

Suitable for Ages: 6-8 (or younger)

Themes/Topics: rhyming picture book, cardboard boxes, imagination, creativity, adventure, recycling

Opening: “A box! A box is a strange device. You can open it once. You can open it twice.”

Brief Synopsis: A “how to” play with an empty cardboard box

Links to Resources:

  • Use your imagination to repurpose a cardboard box as a vehicle, costume or other  item
  • Think of other things you can recycle into toys or other items.

Why I Like this Book:

In fewer than 200 words, Jane Yolen opens the box on creativity, inviting children to imagine, explore, set off on adventures. The only characters in the book are two unnamed children, a boy and a girl, with a dog, and the suggestion is that “you” can participate in adventures, journeys and imaginative play with a box, too.

Chris Sheban’s soft illustrations mimic the colors of a cardboard box and complement Ms. Yolen’s text well. As one reviewer noted, the pair combine “soft words and soothing visuals”, providing “inspiration without instruction.”

A Note about Craft:

I immediately was struck by two things when I read What to Do With a Box: the quiet, lyrical language and the lack of character names. Concerning the latter, I think by leaving the characters nameless, Ms. Yolen makes it easier for young listeners to envision themselves in the story – something she encourages further by inviting “you” to join in on the action. This reminded me of the directives in A Child of Books, Oliver Jeffers/Sam Winston (Candlewick Press, 2016), in which the narrator, a nameless “child of books,” will journey with “you” to discover the joys of literature.

And while What to Do With a Box is an action story, all of the actions require thought and contemplation. This isn’t hurried, slapstick action. Rather, the children and you think about what to do with the box and, harnessing creativity, repurpose it in many imaginative ways.

Finally, no review of this book would be complete without a note about word choice. Ms. Yolen seemingly chooses her words not just to keep the rhythm and rhyme, but to draw the reader in, to paint a picture as one child “crayon[s] an egret” and the other sails not just anywhere, but “to Paris and back”. Such beautiful images!

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!