Tag Archives: imagination

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.

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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!

PPBF – The Wonder

As any parent, grandparent or caregiver can attest, early childhood is a time of questioning: “Why…”, “Where…” “When…” Sometimes it seems as if the questioning is never-ending. At such times, we will do the child, and ourselves, a favor by stepping back, taking a deep breath, closing our eyes, and wondering – just like the young child in today’s Perfect Picture Book.

9780763679576_p0_v1_s118x184Title: The Wonder

Written & Illustrated By: Faye Hanson

Publisher/date: Candlewick Press/2015 (originally published in the UK, Templar Books/2014)

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: Imagination, creativity, art, dreams

Opening: “This is a boy whose head is filled with wonder. On the way to the bus stop, he wonders where the birds are flying to.”

Brief Synopsis: A young boy imagines many different sights on his journey to school and during the school day, only to be rebuffed by most of the adults he encounters.

Links to Resources:

  • Use your imagination to draw or color on a blank sheet of paper
  • Tell a story about a picture in a museum or an old photograph you find at home

Why I Like this Book:

The Wonder captures the questioning of a young child and reminds adult readers that it’s ok to stop and smell the roses, to daydream, to wonder. And it’s a reminder to young listeners that it’s ok to share your dreams and to persevere in dreaming.

While it could be easy to focus on the negative reactions of the classroom and science teachers in the story, I’d prefer to focus on the positive influence of the art teacher who has left a “blank sheet of paper” waiting for the children, who encourages the boy to “use your imagination,” and who praises his work when the boy hesitantly shares it. As is visible on the blackboard of this school art room, “‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.’ Picasso” In this debut picture book, author/illustrator Faye Hanson, who hails from northern England, shows that she has solved Picasso’s dilemma.

A Note about Craft:

The Wonder is a perfect example of the essence of a picture book: the story exists as much in the illustrations as the text, perhaps even more so. From the sepia tones of the real world to the fanciful, colorful images in the child’s head, including the five double-spread illustrations midway through the book (which reminded this reader of certain album cover artwork from the late ‘60s, early ‘70s psychedelic era), the illustrations show the wonder in the unnamed protagonist’s head as he journeys through his day. 

Interestingly, the book deviates from the usual 32 page norm, and is, instead, 40 pages in length. Ms. Hanson has put these extra pages to good use with double spreads incorporating the nay-saying adults the child meets into the imaginary worlds where he believes they belong. Children and adults will find much to savor in these spreads. And for those who have read Megan Dowd Lambert’s Reading Picture Books with Children, the use of boxes to frame some of the encounters and full-bleed double page spreads for the scenes of wonder are well worth pointing out during a read-aloud session.

Note: Faye Hanson’s new picture book, Midnight at the Zoo, debuted recently. I can’t wait to read it and explore the illustrations!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Beyond the Pond

As the days lengthen, as buds and tiny shoots appear, and as a greater variety of birds visit the feeder each day, the urge to wander, to explore outside, returns. What better way to embrace the spirit of adventure and exploration than through this Perfect Picture Book Friday.

 

9780062364272_p0_v1_s192x300Title: Beyond the Pond
 

Written & Illustrated By: Joseph Kuefler

Publisher/date: Balzer + Bray, 2015

 

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Exploration, nature, imagination, adventure

Opening: “Just behind an ordinary house filled with too little fun, Ernest D. had decided today would be the day that he’d explore the depths of his pond.”

Brief Synopsis: A young boy, Ernest D. is bored with his ordinary, too little fun house, so he decides to explore the depths of the pond. He discovers a different, exciting world on the other end. But when he returns home, will he view it the same as when he left?

Links to Resources: Children of all ages love to explore! But what do you need to explore?

Discuss and assemble the tools necessary for an exploration of the back garden, the local park, a body of water, or even the basement or attic of your own home.

Try a scavenger hunt.

Older children in warmer climates could don a mask and explore the bottom of a local pond, stream, or bay.

Why I Like this Book: In this debut picture book, Joseph Kuefler combines words and pictures to describe a perfect day out for any would-be explorer. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Ernest D. leaves his everyday, ho-hum backyard and enters a big, raucous, colourful world. As in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna (Harper Collins, 2009), the doorway to this other world is through Ernest D.’s pond. I especially love that the adventures begin, and end, where all the best ones do: at home (which may just be a little less ordinary than we thought!).

 

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!