Tag Archives: Non-fiction

Perfect Pairing is Hands On

There are so many ways to think about what we do and how we do things. Today’s perfectly paired Picture Books look at one important tool that we all share: our hands!

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Whose Hands Are These? A Community Helper Guessing Book

Author: Miranda Paul

Illustrator: Luciana Navarra Powell

Publisher/Date: Lerner Publishing Group/2016

Ages: 4-9

Themes: hands; rhyming; concept book; helping occupations; non-fiction

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

If your hands can mix and mash, what job might you have? What if your hands reach, wrench, yank, and crank? The hands in this book–and the people attached to them–do all sorts of helpful work. And together, these helpers make their community a safe and fun place to live. As you read, keep an eye out for community members who make repeat appearances! Can you guess all the jobs based on the actions of these busy hands?

Read a review at The Grog.

 

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With My Hands: Poems About Making Things

Author: Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

Illustrators: Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson 

Publisher/Date: Clarion Books/2018

Ages: 4-7

Themes: hands; poetry; art; creativity

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

For young makers and artists, brief, lively poems illustrated by a NYT bestselling duo celebrate the pleasures of working with your hands.
Building, baking, folding, drawing, shaping . . . making something with your own hands is a special, personal experience. Taking an idea from your imagination and turning it into something real is satisfying and makes the maker proud.
With My Hands is an inspiring invitation to tap into creativity and enjoy the hands-on energy that comes from making things.

Read a review at Enjoy and Embrace Learning.

I paired these books because…Who knows the answer? Hands up! Yep, the hands have it! Looking at their hands, Paul explores community helpers in a question-and-answer format that will engage young readers. VanDerwater encourages creativity in With My Hands, a collection of 26 poems that celebrate the joy of being a maker and making such things as a birdhouse or boat. How will you use your hands to help others and be a creator?

PPBF – People of Peace: 40 Inspiring Icons

Happy #PeaceDay! How will you celebrate? I can’t think of a better way than learning about folks from throughout the world who have promoted peace. And how can we do that? By reading about them, of course! Starting with today’s Perfect Picture Book:

36205142Title: People of Peace: 40 Inspiring Icons

Written By: Sandrine Mirza

Illustrated By: Le Duo

Publisher/Date: Wide Eyed Editions, an imprint of The Quarto Group/2018 (first published in French, Gallimard Jeunesse, France/2017)

Suitable for Ages: 7-10

Themes/Topics: Peace; non-fiction; biography

Opening:

These women and men, enlightened thinkers, engaged citizens and revolutionary leaders, have all forcefully denounced the atrocity and absurdity of war, and fought against slavery, racial oppression and social injustice. They have spoken out against the violation of human rights everywhere with their rallying cry for non-violence.

Brief Synopsis: A collection of 40 people of peace, with information about each person’s identity, action, and context.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn more about the UN International Day of Peace;
  • Check out some of the suggested activities, including some ideas for children and students, participating in a one-minute silence for peace at noon in your local time-zone, creating and sharing a Peace Crane,  and hosting a Feast for Peace;
  • This year’s #peaceday celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “The Right to Peace- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70.” Learn more here;
  • Did you know we have a US Institute of Peace that is “America’s nonpartisan institute to promote national security and global stability by reducing violent conflicts abroad”? Check out their student resources and ideas to promote peace;
  • Take the #PeaceDayChallenge;
  • Follow the format of People of Peace and present information about someone you think is a Person of Peace.

Why I Like this Book:

People of Peace includes snapshots of well-known, and less well-known, people (“icons”) who promote or promoted peace in their lifetimes. I love the international focus of the book, with people from almost every continent represented, and I love that they represent different pathways to peace. For instance, are you a sports fan? See how Muhammad Ali championed civil rights in the US and was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. A music lover? Learn about folk singer Joan Baez, rock legend John Lennon, and pianist/composer Daniel Barenboim, who co-founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, comprised of members from Palestine, Israel and other Middle Eastern nations.

Because of the diverse assortment of peace builders highlighted, I think People of Peace is a wonderful addition to school libraries and classrooms. Told in a series of text boxes for each person, I think this format will appeal to older elementary and middle school students, and it could act as a template for a project highlighting other People of Peace.

Computer-generated “iconic” illustrations complete the snapshots of these peace builders.

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Rosa Luxemburg, reprinted from People of Peace

A Note about Craft:

As noted above, People of Peace uses a unique format to present a variety of peace builders. Given its vast breadth, both historically and geographically (not to mention gender, race, ethnicity, and professional), this could have been a muddled mess. Instead, the uniform formatting makes it easy to navigate, learn more, and compare these peace builders. Sadly, although there is a timeline in the back, there is no bibliography. Hopefully, an e-version with click-through bibliographies will be forthcoming.

Per the publisher’s website, Mirza “holds a Master’s degree in History from the University of Paris and is a graduate of the Institut Français de Presse. After six years of working at a publisher, she is now a full-time author, specialising in history. Sandrine lives in Paris.”

Also from the publisher’s website, “Le Duo is an illustration partnership between Alberic and Leopoldine, who trained at the Esag-Penninghen (Paris) and the Chelsesa College of Art and Design (London). They specialise in advertising (clients include Monoprix, Thalys and Nestlé) and editorial illustrations, having being featured in The Good LifeMen’s Health and Le MondeLe Duo are based in Paris.”

“The leading global illustrated non-fiction book publishers”, the Quarto Group “makes and sells great books that entertain, educate and enrich the lives of adults and children around the world.”

Check out more multicultural kids’ books about peace at Colours of 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 – Ramadan

 

I found today’s Perfect Picture Book at a lovely, local independent book store in Hoboken, NJ, Little City Books, when I was attending an author’s visit. Although I generally don’t review board books, I couldn’t resist the colorful cover and, knowing that Ramadan begins next week, I thought this is a Perfect Picture Book to help explain this important month of fasting and prayer to young children.

ramadan-9781534406353Title: Ramadan

Written By: Hannah Eliot

Illustrated By: Rashin

Publisher/date: Little Simon (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)/April 2018

Suitable for Ages: 2-4 (and older)

Themes/Topics: Islam; #WNDB; Ramadan; celebration; non-fiction

Opening:

In the ninth month of the year, when the crescent moon first appears in the sky, it’s time to celebrate Ramadan!

Brief Synopsis: A non-fiction explanation of the Muslim celebration of Ramadan from a child’s perspective.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

Ramadan is the first in a new board book series from Little Simon, Celebrate the World, which highlight “celebrations across the world.” In her upbeat, cultural exploration of Ramadan, Eliot focuses on the aspects of the holiday that I think will resonate with young children without delving into dogma. While Eliot notes that we “pray”, no deity is mentioned nor are there any references to a mosque or other places of worship. Instead, the text moves joyously through the “special month” that Eliot’s narrators clearly enjoy, from the first sighting of the crescent moon, through the Eid al-Fitr, or “Sweet Feast”, when Ramadan ends. Eliot helpfully focuses on the aspects of Ramadan, such as fasting and eating only while it is dark outside, that kids will notice, and ask about. As she does so, Eliot highlights “what is most important to us”: family, prayer and good deeds.

Eliot’s text provides a wonderful introduction to Ramadan and is suitable for practicing Muslims and people of other faiths (or no faith) who want to introduce their children to this important religious holiday. Rashin’s colorful illustrations bring this board book to another level. Rather than focusing on one family in one place, Rashin fills Ramadan with families from across the world, including families of color and families of differing social backgrounds. I especially enjoyed the spread, shown below, of a family enjoying suhoor, the meal before dawn, in a suburban home, complete with pet dog, and a family breaking fast at their iftar, in their tented home, complete with a cat.

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Interior spread from Ramadan, reprinted from Simon & Schuster

A Note about Craft:

Eliot introduces Ramadan to young children by inviting them into the celebration through her focus on what “we” do. Use of the inclusive “we” is furthered via Rashin’s choice (or perhaps the choice of an editor) to focus not just on one family but on many families throughout the world.

Check out Eliot’s Author’s Page.

Among many other awards for her illustrations, Iranian-born and educated, US-based Rashin Kheiriyeh, the illustrator/author of 70 children’s books, was a 2017 Sendak Fellow. Visit her website to view more of her work, and check out a 2017 interview on Kathy Temean’s blog. See also my review of her 2013 picture book, Two Parrots.

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 – Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey

Today’s perfect picture book is another find from Books of Wonder in New York City. It’s also a tale about a beloved pet – something near and dear to me, as we rescued a dog who undertook a long journey to join our family just a few weeks ago.

9781524715472_p0_v1_s192x300Title: Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey

Written By: Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes

Illustrated By: Sue Cornelison

Publisher/date: Crown Books for Young Readers (Penguin Random House)/2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: non-fiction, Iraqi refugees, cat, pet

Opening:

Late one night in August 2015, a car driven by a smuggler snuck out of the city of Mosul, in the country of Iraq. The smuggler’s passengers were a mother and her four daughters and one son.

Brief Synopsis: A family fleeing from fighting in Iraq lose a beloved pet cat while on their journey to safety in Europe. With the help of many people, the family and pet finally reunite.

Links to Resources:

  • This story begins in Iraq and ends in Norway. Find out more about these countries;
  • Draw a picture of your pet;
  • Have you ever lost or found an animal? What characteristics (size, color, name, etc.) did you share to help find your pet or find a lost animal’s owner?
  • Create a Lost or Found poster.

Why I Like this Book:

Lost and Found Cat is one of the few non-fiction picture books to address the current refugee crisis. It also is a touching story about the feelings one family has for its beloved pet cat, and the kindness of strangers who find Kunkush, foster him in Greece and Germany, use social media to find his family, and then reunite them. I think kids will enjoy experiencing the journey through the cat’s perspective, and will be relieved and amazed at the outcome – after all, not every pet survives life in a war zone let alone the journey over land and sea to a new life.

A Note about Craft:

As revealed in an Author’s Note, Kuntz and Shrodes were working with refugees in Greece when they found Kunkush. I love how they feature him as the focus of the story without anthropomorphizing him. By doing so, they keep the story non-fiction and keep the attention on the cat, where it belongs.

Interestingly, although neither author appears to be a professional writer, a major US publisher, Penguin Random House, published Lost and Found Cat. To my knowledge, Lost and Found Cat is one of the first picture books focused on the current refugee journey that has been published by a major US publisher (Canadian publishers have published many more). I think that the focus on a lost pet adds a universal theme that appealed to the editors.

If you enjoyed Lost and Found Cat, you may also enjoy:

9781600609985_p0_v2_s192x300The Three Lucys, about a boy’s three pet cats in Lebanon and how they coped during a violent period there

The-Jasmine-Sneeze-Cover-3-300x295The Jasmine Sneeze, about a cat in Damascus, Syria

9781772780109_p0_v2_s192x300My Beautiful Birds, about a boy’s pet birds that are left behind in Syria and the birds he adopts in a refugee camp in Jordan

51vdxeKM7CL._AA160_The Story of Moose, about a shelter dog in the Virgin Islands whose Facebook page helped him find a new, loving family in Massachusetts

Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list provides reviews of picture books by topic. While Susanna is taking a break for the summer, you can still check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees

This past Tuesday marked the United Nations’ #WorldRefugeeDay. In many countries, programs to illuminate the plight of refugees are being held this week (19-25 June 2017), and designated #RefugeeWeek. But while the numbers of refugees is at an all-time high, the act of leaving one’s home to escape danger or to discover a better life elsewhere is not new. Today’s Perfect Picture Book puts this current refugee crisis into historical perspective:

9781554518951_p0_v3_s192x300Title: Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees

Written By: Mary Beth Leatherdale

Illustrated By: Eleanor Shakespeare

Publisher/date: Annick Press Ltd/2017

Suitable for Ages: 10-12

Themes/Topics: refugees, non-fiction, war, immigration

Opening:

At last, Ruth was free. She breathed a sigh of relief as she walked up the gangplank of the SS St. Louis. After trying to get out of Germany for two years, her family had finally secured passage on a ship headed to Havana, Cuba.

Brief Synopsis: Stormy Seas is a collection of five true stories about young people who fled their homelands by boat from World War II until today.

Links to Resources:

  • Leatherdale includes a Resources page in Stormy Seas, with links to organizations that work with refugees and organizations that maintain databases of refugee experiences;
  • Learn more about the Syrian refugee crisis
  • Read (or reread) the Paddington Bear stories and discuss how this orphaned bear must have felt as he left his home in Peru and traveled alone by boat to England, with a note around his neck, “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” (with thanks to Sun Hats and Wellie Boots for pointing out the connection between Paddington Bear and refugees);
  • Try drawing pictures of refugee children in a boat. What do you think the boat looks like? Is it large or small? New or old? What have the children brought with them? What would you carry if you were journeying to a new home?
  • Check out the artworks at Counterpoint Arts that have been designed to draw attention to the plight of refugees and/or created by refugees.

Why I Like this Book:

Stormy Seas is not a picture book that you’d pick up lightly to read to young children at bedtime. Rather, Stormy Seas is a timely resource written for school-aged children that puts the current refugee crisis into context and puts faces on, and tells the true stories of, five young refugees who left their homelands in boats during several periods of recent history. A timeline of earlier refugee streams also is included.

Ruth was an 18-year-old Jew fleeing Nazi Germany, whose ship was turned away from Havana harbor in 1939, but whose family found refuge first in Great Britain and then in the United States. Phu, a 14-year-old boy, traveled alone from Vietnam in 1979, and finally joined family in the United States. Thirteen-year-old Jose and his family fled Cuba in 1980 as part of the Mariel boat lift to Florida. Najeeba, an 11-year-old member of the Hazara minority in Afghanistan, fled in 2000 with her family via Pakistan and Indonesia to Australia.  Mohamed, a 13-year-old orphan from the Ivory Coast, traveled alone across northern Africa to Libya, where, four years after he started, he traveled across the Mediterranean to Italy in 2010.

Told in their own words with sidebars explaining terms and context, and accompanied by collaged maps, photographs, newspaper articles, illustrations, and timelines, these stories, “give readers insight into the courage and fortitude of individual boat refugees, and a better understanding of how political and cultural conflicts force children and families into these untenable situations.” (interview with Leatherdale, in School Library Journal)

Stormy Seas will be a valuable addition to home, school, and community libraries seeking to illuminate the refugee journey for children.

Watch the book trailer here

A Note about Craft:

Stormy Seas is a unique compilation picture book, unlike any of the stories the vast majority of us will write and/or illustrate. Like the stories we tell, however, Leatherdale’s text and Shakespeare’s images need to pull on readers’ and listeners’ heartstrings – the pair had to find the emotional core of each story. By sprinkling quotations through the text and including photographs of these refugees as children, I think the pair has done so. Anyone writing non-fiction and/or biographies will learn much from studying Stormy Seas.

In addition to emotional pull, Leatherdale highlighted a common theme, escape via boat, to tie the individual stories together, while also focusing on differences in the refugees’ experiences, to keep the stories from seeming repetitive. Anyone writing about multiple subjects can learn from her focus on common threads and unique facts.

Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books provides reviews of picture books by topic. While Susanna is taking a break for the summer, you can still check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF: Bravo!: Poems about Amazing Hispanics

It’s National Poetry Month, so I thought I’d kick off the month with a new poetry anthology that I believe is a Perfect Picture Book:

9780805098761_p0_v4_s118x184Title: Bravo!: Poems about Amazing Hispanics

Written By: Margarita Engle

Illustrated By: Rafael López

Publisher/date: Henry Holt and Co (BYR)/March 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes/Topics: poetry, American history, non-fiction, biography, Hispanics, diversity

Opening:

First Friend (Juan de Miralles, 1713-1780)

I believe in the good cause

of American independence from England.

Thousands of soldiers from Spain

and all the regions of Latin America

are fighting side by side with George Washington’s men,

as we struggle to defeat the British.

Brief Synopsis: A collection of biographical poems about Hispanic Americans, “a variety of amazing people who lived in geographic regions now included in the modern United States.” (quoting Author’s Note)

Links to Resources:

  • Find out more about Latin America;
  • Hispanic is a designation used by the US Census Bureau. Discover what it means to identify as a Latino or Hispanic in the United States for Census purposes;
  • The US Census Bureau maintains a website with activities and teacher resources by education level;
  • Write a poem about a famous or not-so-famous person or write a poem about yourself.

Why I Like this Book:

Engle includes biographical poems about famous and less well-known Hispanics arranged chronologically from the founding of the United States. Shared dreams and lasting contributions to the United States tie these 18 poems together. Bravo! also includes helpful “Notes About the Lives”, that are short prose biographies of those featured, and “More and More Amazing Latinos”, a poetic celebration of other famous Hispanics.

I learned facts that generally are left out of historic accounts, like that Aida de Acosta flew a powered aircraft months before the Wright Brothers’ historic flight; that in addition to Lafayette and his French comrades, Cuban merchant Juan de Miralles helped the American revolutionary cause by shipping fresh citrus to his friend George Washington and his Yorktown troops; and that baseball great Roberto Clemente was also a humanitarian who organized relief efforts following natural disasters.

López’ full-page, brightly-colored portraits complement and contextualize Engles’ poems by surrounding these subjects with the tools of their trades and providing glimpses into the eras in which they lived.

This anthology is a useful resource for homes and classrooms, as Engle has paired the details of these lives with more universal themes. Following are some favorites:

Sometimes friendship

is the sweetest form

of courage. (Juan de Miralles, 1713-1780; Cuba)

When my friend and I walk arm in arm,

it is a wordless statement of equality,

Martí’s light skin and my dark skin

side by side. (Paulina Pedroso, 1845-1925; Cuba)

Nothing makes me feel more satisfied

than a smile on the face of a child who holds

an open book. (Pura Belpré, 1899-1982; Puerto Rico)

I find poetry in tomato fields,

and stories in the faces

of weary workers. (Tomás Rivera, 1935-1984; Mexico)

A Note about Craft:

Engle uses First Person POV in her poems. I believe this helps readers more easily connect with the subjects and the historical moments. I think this is particularly helpful for the intended audience of 8-12 year olds to encourage empathy with and understanding of the lives of these notable Hispanics.

Is Bravo! a picture book? While it is a marriage of illustrations, or more accurately portraits, and words, the words comprise separate poems, or vignettes. They hang together with a common theme, Hispanics who dreamed and left their marks on US culture and history, as an anthology of poems perfect for National Poetry Month or anytime.

Bravo! has been published simultaneously in English and Spanish.

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 -Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist

March is Music in our Schools Month– a time to celebrate the role music plays in enhancing life, the educational benefit of learning to appreciate and play music, and the composers and musicians whose works speak to us. As stated on the National Association of Music Education site:

The purpose of MIOSM is to raise awareness of the importance of music education for all children – and to remind citizens that schools is where all children should have access to music.  MIOSM is an opportunity for music teachers to bring their music programs to the attention of the school and the community, and to display the benefits that school music brings to students of all ages.

As both the subject and illustrator of today’s selection lived on both sides of the Mexican and US border and as their contributions to the arts enhance life for Mexicans and US citizens, I think this is a Perfect Picture Book to kick off MIOSM:

9781580896733_p0_v1_s192x300Title: ESQUIVEL! Space-Age Sound Artist

Written By: Susan Wood

Illustrated By: Duncan Tonatiuh

Publisher/date: Charlesbridge/2016

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: music, composer, bandleader, Mexican immigrant, non-fiction, biography

Opening:

When Juan Garcia Esquivel was a small boy, he lived with his family in Tampico, Mexico, where whirling mariachi bands let out joyful yells as they stamped and strummed.

Brief Synopsis: Bandleader Esquivel! (1918-2002) composed and played music in his native Mexico where he rose to fame, and then gained prominence in the 1950s and 1960s in the United States.

Links to Resources:

  • Listen to music, make instruments, or try one of the many other activities suggested in the Esquivel!  Educator’s Guide
  • Listen to Esquivel!’s compositions, including music composed for short films
  • Learn about other musicians who immigrated to the US (David Bowie; George Harrison; John Lennon; Bob Marley, to name just a few)

Why I Like this Book: Esquivel! is a multi-sensory exploration of a talented but little-known composer, bandleader and musician who began his craft as a child, disabling the paper roll in a player piano at age 6 so he could play it; who combined traditional folk music and jazz with “space age” innovations, including the newly-invented stereo system; who pushed the boundaries of his craft by utilizing different instruments and sound combinations; and who built a fan base and successful career in his native Mexico and in the United States.

Like Esquivel! (who dropped his first names and adopted the name Esquivel!), Tonatiuh combines tradition, in this case the artistic style found in the Mixtec Codex, with collaged textures and photographs that are inserted via computer. The inclusion of psychedelic word-art and fashion from the 1950s and 1960s is particularly effective.

An Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note and Resources page are included.

A Note about Craft:

Esquivel! was a successful composer, bandleader and musician whose genre was “lounge music” and who liked art, fast cars, elegant clothes and “especially pretty women” – not generally the “stuff” of picture books! So how did Wood, with a background in music journalism, and Tonatiuh render this story kid-friendly?

  • Starting at the beginning when Esquivel! was a child & showing how his talents were evident then and how he worked to achieve success;
  • Focusing on the era when Esquivel! first achieved his lasting success, the 1950s and 1960s, and using language and images to place Esquivel! and his music in context – starting with the subtitle “Space Age…” and using similes to compare his music to era-specific items, e.g., it “sounded like a crazy rocket ride…”;
  • Incorporating similes that render the story understandable to even those who don’t understand musical composition:

He was an artist, using dips and dabs of color to create a vivid landscape. But instead of paint, Juan used sound. Weird and wild sounds! Strange and exciting sounds!

Esquivel! was a 2017 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book. Esquivel! is also available in Spanish.

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!