Tag Archives: Persistence

Perfect Pairing – Heads to the Hen House

I think we all know the story of the little red hen. But have you seen these two recent twists on the traditional tale?

 

Holy Squawkamole! Little Red Hen Makes Guacamole 

Author: Susan Wood

Illustrator: Laura González

Publisher/Date: Sterling Books/2019

Ages: 3 and up

Themes: fractured folktale, hard work, self-reliance, persistence, Spanish words

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

This tasty take on the classic Little Red Hen story has a deliciously spicy twist! 
Yum, guacamole! That’s what Little Red Hen craves, and she could use some help gathering and mashing the ingredients. So she asks her friends, including an armadillo, snake, and iguana, to lend a hand. Everyone just says “no.” But after Little Red Hen works hard to make the scrumptious fresh guac, all the animals want a taste. In a fun departure from the original tale, Little Red Hen cooks up a comeuppance for the slackers that they’ll never forget!

Read a review by Susanna Leonard Hill.

The Little Green Hen

Author & Illustrator: Alison Murray

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2019 (originally published by the Watts Publishing Group, Great Britain/2018)

Ages: 2-5

Themes: environment, helping others, fractured folktale

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A fun-filled retelling of The Little Red Hen with important messages about caring for our environment and working together!

Read a review at New York Journal of Books.

I paired these books because they are timely and ingenious takes on a traditional tale. Set in Mexico, Holy Squawkamole! tells the tale of the red hen (gallinita roja) who needs help making guacamole. As in the original tale, her friends won’t help until she teaches them a lesson. In The Little Green Hen, the hen tends her apple tree home and establishes an orchard with the help of a dog, sparrow and squirrel. But other animals refuse to help, until disaster strikes, and they learn the lesson of caring for the environment. I love how both authors updated the original tale by setting it in a new locale, Mexico and an apple tree, and adding timely twists, the addition of Spanish terms and a Mexican food in Holy Squawkamole! and an environmental theme in Little Green Hen.

 

 

PPBF – Ayobami and the Names of the Animals

I saw this picture book last fall on a “best illustrated” list, and the title and cover intrigued me. Thankfully, my local library has a copy, and I’m able to share it with you.

Title: Ayobami and the Names of the Animals

Written By: Pilar López Ávila

Illustrated By: Mar Azabal

Translated By: Jon Brokenbrow

Publisher/Date: Cento de Luz SL/2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: education; literacy; overcoming danger; persistence; war; jungle animals

Opening:

When the war finally came to an end, the teacher went from house to house, telling everyone that the children could go back to school the next day.

Brief Synopsis: When a young African girl, Ayobami, becomes lost on her way to school, she promises the animals she meets in the jungle that she will write their names for them, if they let her pass.

Links to Resources:

  • Ayobami meets several jungle animals on her walk to school. Learn about African jungle animals;
  • What jungle animal do you resemble most? Take this fun quiz to find out;
  • Ayobami was happy to return to school to learn to read and write. What makes you happy at school? What subject do you most want to learn?
  • Compare your journey to school with Ayobami’s journey. How are they the same? How are they different?

Why I Like this Book:

In fable-like prose, complete with talking animals who long to learn their names, Ayobami and the Names of the Animals features a determined young girl who convinces the dangerous jungle animals she encounters that she will write down their names for them if they allow her to pass. Not only will young children learn the names of several African jungle animals, such as crocodile, snake, and mosquito, but I think they will appreciate Ayobami’s tenacity as she negotiates with each animal in turn to reach her goal of learning to read and write. Even young children will be able to follow along as they identify different animals and search the illustrations for the many hidden letters.

I love that Ayobami kept her promises and shared the literacy she gained with the animals by naming them – a sign of dignity or perhaps order that indicates the power of education to bring peace and stability to the world. I especially love López Ávila’s description of how Ayobami learned to read and write by learning “the letters of the alphabet”, learning “how to put them together to make sounds”, joining “the sounds to make words”, and mixing “the words together to make sentences.” The result? “And she heard the music that comes from making words.”

Azabal’s colorful illustrations include letters sprinkled throughout most of the illustrations. And don’t miss the lined yellow endpapers that include the cursive alphabets that many of us might remember from our school days.

A Note about Craft:

You’ll note from the Opening above that the main character does not appear in the first lines. In fact, she doesn’t appear until page three. I think López Ávila does this to give context to Ayobami’s story, to show how the education of one girl can restore order after the cessation of war.

Per the publisher’s website, López Ávila is a Spanish author and doctor of veterinary medicine.

Visit Azabal’s website to see more of her work. Ayobami and the Names of the Animals was a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2018.

Cuento de Luz  is an independent publisher based in Spain that “publishes stories that take the imagination on a journey, help care for our planet, respect differences and promote peace.” It’s a certified B corporation, which means that it uses its business as a source for good, including by printing its books using special “stone paper”.

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 – The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid

None of my children is a visual artist or an architect, but all enjoyed designing and re-designing special places when they were young. From my daughters’ connected castles (with a third, for my husband and me, in the middle), to my son’s over-sized drawing of a zoo, to many hours spent together on the computer designing Syms’ homes and even “real” homes with home design software, my children loved architecture and design. I wish today’s Perfect Picture Book had been available when they were young – I know they would have savored every page!

148144669XTitle: The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid

Written & Illustrated By: Jeanette Winter

Publisher/date: Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster)/2017

Suitable for Ages: 5-10

Themes/Topics: STEAM; biography; architecture; persistence

Opening:

In Iraq, rivers flow through green marshes. Wind swoops across sand dunes and through ancient cities. Zaha Hadid sees the rivers and marshes and dunes and ruins with her father and imagines what cities looked like thousands of years ago.

Brief Synopsis: As a child in Iraq, Zaha Hadid loved nature; as an architect, she incorporated the swoosh, zoom and flow of nature into her designs.

Links to Resources:

  • Discover Iraq, the country where Hadid grew up;
  • Learn about architecture and elements of design here and here;
  • See illustrations of some of Hadid’s creations and learn where they are in an Afterword, explore more in the Sources, and see photographs of 10 of Hadid’s best buildings;
  • Find discussion questions and curriculum connections in this review;
  • Design and draw your dream house, classroom, park, or other favorite place.

Why I Like this Book:

In The World is Not a Rectangle, Winter combines sparse, lyrical text with gorgeous, often-full page illustrations to tell the story of architect Zaha Hadid. Like Hadid’s nature-inspired designs, Winter’s text flows and swoops across the pages and recounts Hadid’s journey to become a world-renowned architect, despite being a woman in a male-dominated field and a Muslim. I love how Winter shows the reader the natural scenes that inspired Hadid, and I love the many details Winter shares in her text and illustrations. A particular favorite includes reams of scribbled designs and text that highlight the sense of movement in Hadid’s creations and her belief that “the world is not a rectangle.” This spread, and several others, can be viewed at Simon and Schuster (but are not reproducing well here!).

The text and illustrations work together on many levels to highlight the work of a Muslim female pioneer; to inspire children to persevere and reach for their dreams; and to appreciate these architectural gems.

A Note about Craft:

Winter tells Hadid’s story in the present tense, from her childhood in Iraq, to her days as a student and struggling architect, to her time at the pinnacle of success, to the night when “the light in Zaha’s window goes dark.” Only then does Winter switch to past tense, “[s]he has left this world” before returning to present tense with the revelation that Hadid’s colleagues “keep their lights on…keeping her flame burning bright.” Not only does Winter’s choice of present tense render the story more immediate (similar to using first person point of view, I think), but I believe it’s particularly effective in the biography of a woman whose creations will endure for centuries.

Winter uses sparse, lyrical text interspersed with quotations in this longer than usual, 56-page picture book. I particularly think her verb choices are important ways to incorporate movement in the text, as Hadid, herself, incorporates movement in her architectural designs.

The World is Not a Rectangle is an NCTE 2018 Orbis Pictus honor book.

See a review of another book by Winter:  Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan.

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: Looking for Bongo

I discovered today’s perfect picture book on the “New” shelf at the local library yesterday. The cover drew me in; I brought it home, read it right away, and decided that the sprinkling of Spanish words is perfect for the day after Cinco de Mayo, this is a wonderful example of a diverse book, and it shows an elderly person in a positive light (see Lee & Low Books’ the open book for a fascinating discussion of ageism in children’s literature).

9780823435654_p0_v2_s192x300Title: Looking for Bongo

Written & Illustrated By: Eric Velasquez

Publisher/date: Holiday House, February 2016

Suitable for Ages: 3-6

Themes/Topics: Loss, intergenerational family, reunion, persistence, multiculturalism

Opening: “Where is Bongo? I need Bongo to watch TV with me.”

Brief Synopsis: When a young Afro-Latino boy’s favourite stuffed animal goes missing, he asks family members for help and searches for it; when he finds the animal, he takes the further step of trying to discover how it went missing.

Links to Resources:

  • Color a Bongo
  • The grandmother, called Wela, plays a significant role in this story (per the Endnote, Wela is derived from the Spanish word for grandmother, “abuela”). Discuss the different names children call their grandparents and the roles they play in their lives and/or homes. Check out grandparents.com for a listing of names used for grandparents throughout the world.
  • Velasquez provides clues to the boy and his family through illustrations. Draw a picture of yourself, a family member or your home and include clues to describe yourself, that person or place.

Why I Like this Book: This is a simple story of a favourite toy gone missing and what the owner does to find and protect if from further loss. I love, though, how the boy persists in his quest, even asking the family pets where Bongo has disappeared. I also love how the boy journeys from family member to family member of this intergenerational family and throughout the apartment. In detailed illustrations, the apartment comes alive and we get to know the family through their possessions that show them to be readers, lovers of music and lovers of fashion. A few Spanish phrases are included, just as one would expect to hear in a multi-lingual family. And in an endnote we learn that there’s a real animal called a Bongo – who knew!

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!