Tag Archives: #ReadYourWorld

PPBF – Alive Again


Yesterday was National Poetry Day in the UK. What better time to celebrate a picture book by a noted Iranian poet and picture book author that was published in the UK!

cover-alive-again-294x300Title: Alive Again

Written By: Ahmadreza Ahmadi

Illustrated By: Nahid Kazemi

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing, Ltd/2105 (first published in Persian, Salis Publisher, Tehran, Iran/2013)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: loss, regeneration, poetry, WNDB, ReadYourWorld, Iran


Last night the wind blew the blossom from the trees.

“When blossom goes, does the word ‘blossom’ die?” asked a boy.

“Can there ever be blossom again?”

Brief Synopsis: (from the publisher’s website)

When the blossom disappears, a little boy wonders, will it ever return? And when the rains stop, have they gone forever? This is a story about understanding the world and learning to trust. How do we find that grain of hope that good things might return?

Links to Resources:

  • Discover more about Iran, where the author and illustrator live.
  • Make a list of things, like flowers or migrating animals, that seem to disappear and then reappear.
  • Draw a tree in summer and winter. What’s the same? What’s different?
  • Kazemi uses fabric swatches to make collage illustrations. Try making a bug from photographs in food magazines.

Why I Like this Book:

Alive Again is a deceptively simple book that poses the question of what happens to things when they disappear or cease to happen. Are they gone forever? And if they’re gone, do we still need their names? For instance, if no one travels, do we need the word “journey”? Will that word cease to exist?

Alive Again is a wonderful book to share with children in the “why”, “what if”, questioning phase. I think it’s also a great introduction to discussing seasons or other cyclical events, and, perhaps most importantly, it’s a sympathetic introduction to concepts of loss and holding on to what or who we love.

Kazemi’s collaged artwork pares well with the sparse text. I especially loved the blossoms that reminded me of winged insects or birds and made me wonder about the connections among the plant and animal inhabitants of the natural world.


Illustration from Alive Again, reprinted from Tiny Owl’s website

A Note about Craft:

With his thought-provoking, sparse text, Ahmadi causes the reader to wonder not only about the things that disappear, like the blossom, but also about the boy and his father, the only characters in the story. In an afterward, the publisher reminds us that “it is exactly those gaps in the narrative that leave room for the child’s imagination to fill out the story”. How do we as authors and/or illustrators leave room for children’s imaginations?

Find out more about Ahmadreza Ahmadi here , one of Iran’s “greatest and most famous contemporary poets” and see my review of his book When I Coloured in the World here.9781910328071-150x150

Discover more books published by Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd, “an independent publishing company 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, Alive Again is available through the Book Depository which ships for free 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 – A Bird Like Himself

Today is International Dot Day, a world-wide celebration of creativity inspired by Peter H. Reynold’s classic picture book, The Dot, that invites readers to “make your mark, and see where it takes you.”

I chose today’s Perfect Picture Book because I love the themes and the illustrations, because the main character learns to be “himself”, and also because its author/illustrator hails from a wonderfully-creative part of the world about which many readers in the US know little about. For me, the author/illustrator makes her mark with today’s Perfect Picture Book:

abirdlikehimself-300x297Title: A Bird Like Himself

Written & Illustrated By: Anahita Teymorian (Taymourian)

Translated By: Azita Rassi

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd./2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: growing up; foster families; becoming yourself; finding love; #ReadYourWorld


One day something pale and oval was left all on its own and with nobody to look after it. The oval thing was warm, and it rocked a little back and forth before suddenly…CRACK! Out of the egg came a fat little chick.

Brief Synopsis: A menagerie of animals looks after a baby bird that is born alone in their midst, but none of the animals knows how to teach “Baby” to fly.

Links to Resources:

  • The Cornell Lab of Ornithology publishes educator resources about birds;
  • Learn about foster families;
  • Discover more about Iran, where the author/illustrator lives.

Why I Like this Book:

A Bird Like Himself is a deceptively simple, gorgeously illustrated, multi-layered picture book that’s fun to read, and reread. I find more clues to the ending each time I reread it! Baby, the bird that hatches from an abandoned egg, is raised by a group of loving animals that functions like a foster family. The ways they try to care for Baby and teach him to fly are hilarious! But until he finds a fellow bird, and strikes up a friendship with her, he is unable to fly and totally be himself. In a funny, gentle way, A Bird Like Himself shows children that we can learn from many people and many experiences, but until we’re true to ourselves, we won’t be complete. It shows adults that we, as caregivers, need to let children experience life and learn on their own.

The illustrations in A Bird Like Himself look as if they are telling a story within a story. There is no natural background to the illustrations, there is a limited palette, and there is a repeated checkerboard pattern that, in the end, ties everything together.


Illustration from A Bird Like Himself

A Note about Craft:

As writers, we’re often instructed to be specific, but leave room for the illustrations. Teymorian includes several scenes with sparse text illuminated by wonderful illustrations. For instance, Teymorian writes, “They tried this…and this.” Illustrations show an elephant trying to rock Baby on tusks and Baby perched in a loop of a snake or giraffe neck. Similarly, “I’m hungry,” precedes an amusing illustration of Baby scratching his head as he stares at a picnic that may appeal to other animals, but probably not him.

Although the story seemingly occurs in a forest or on a farm (we’re never sure exactly where), Teymorian includes several details that will cause older readers to question the location. It isn’t until the end that we learn where the story has occurred. I think this appeals to young children, as they don’t question finding a cow living with an elephant, for instance, or repeated checkerboard motifs that don’t seem to have anything to do with animals or birds at all (or do they?).

Finally, Teymorian addresses the reader in several instances with open-ended questions, such as “So guess what Baby did?” This helps draw the reader into the story, I believe, and creates instances during group readings to pause and engage with young listeners.

Read reviews and interviews with Teymorian here.

I mentioned above that I chose today’s Perfect Picture Book because of the creativity on display. For another wonderful example of creativity, and a book, I’d argue, should also be celebrated world-wide, see When I Coloured in the World, which I reviewed in April9781910328071-150x150

Discover more books published by Tiny Owl Publishing, “an independent publishing company 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.  Tiny Owl is open to submissions now through 31 October 2017 for authors and illustrators with stories and illustrations on the “theme of finding hope in a scary world.”

While not currently available in US book shops, A Bird Like Himself is available through the Book Depository, which ships for free 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 – A Bottle of Happiness


Today’s Perfect Picture Book is another self-import. As regular readers may recall, I reviewed When I Coloured in the World in April. Ehsan Abdollahi is the illustrator of that hauntingly gorgeous picture book as well, and I had intended to purchase today’s Perfect Picture Book on my next trip to London. When Abdollahi’s visa to visit the United Kingdom and attend events in London and the Edinburgh Book Festival was denied (see the details here), I joined the social media outcry and promptly moved up my timeline to purchase today’s book to show support. Like many others, I was thrilled when the denial was reversed.

The book arrived late last week, and I read it with visions of Charlottesville and social discord filling my twitter and news feeds. Oh that we could bottle happiness & learn to share our resources! Hopefully, the children who read today’s Perfect Picture Book will be emboldened to find a way.


Title: A Bottle of Happiness

Written By:  Pippa Goodhart

Illustrated By: Ehsan Abdollahi

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd/2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: fable; sharing; happiness; true wealth; #ReadYourWorld


There was once a big mountain.

The people on one side of the mountain caught fish and mined jewels and grew crops.

They were rich, and they worked hard at getting richer. They had a big market where they sold things to each other.

Brief Synopsis: Pim, a young boy living on the poor side of a big mountain, journeys to find a new story. He finds, instead, a wealthy society that lacks the one thing that’s abundant in his community: happiness.

Links to Resources:

  • Pim collects laughter, music and love in a bottle to share. What happy things or thoughts would you include in a Bottle of Happiness?
  • The bright, patchwork illustrations were inspired by “the environment, fabrics and clothes” of southern Iran. Find out more about Iran and its rich cultural heritage
  • Try creating a Persian “carpet”.

Why I Like this Book:

I love the positive message and vibrant illustrations of A Bottle of Happiness.


Republished from Tiny Owl’s website

When Pim sets forth from his impoverished community to find new stories, he finds, instead, a wealthy community that lacks happiness. Despite having more to eat, and working “hard at getting richer”, the people on the other side of the mountain look less happy than those in Pim’s homeland. As in a popular song from those rather famous Liverpool philosophers, this child hero of A Bottle of Happiness realizes that worldly riches, money, “can’t buy me love” or happiness, and that happiness is something Pim’s community can share.

I also love Pim’s response to the request to bring some happiness, and his pivot when only silence and nothingness flow out of the bottle.  As in all good stories, Goodhart circles back to the beginning, and the tale ends with Pim sharing a story with both communities.

Abdollahi’s unique illustrations impart a timeless feel to this fable. By setting the multi-coloured figures against brightly-hued backgrounds (Abdollahi used orange backgrounds for happy scenes, gray for sad ones, and red to show love and sharing), A Bottle of Happiness could be taking place anywhere at any time, somewhat like the land of Oz.


Republished from Tiny Owl’s website

A Note about Craft:

Goodhart utilizes a journey and a child hero to tell this tale. Setting off on a journey seeking stories, Pim instead discovers what is good about his home, shares with those who lack that happiness, and ends up creating a new story.

While Goodhart juxtaposes two “peoples” or communities, I think older children and adults can read A Bottle of Happiness as describing two ways of life, countries, or even continents. I like the vagueness as I think it lends itself to differing interpretations and renders it more understandable for younger children.

Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd, is 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. The Tiny Owl editors deliberately paired Goodhart and Abdollahi as part of a new “Intercultural Bridge project”, “where a British author collaborates with an Iranian illustrator (or vice versa) to develop a picture book, see the story from their own cultural angles and reflect them in the book.” A Bottle of Happiness is a gorgeous addition to children’s literature. I look forward to reading further intercultural collaborations.

Read interviews with Goodhart and Abdollahi, and visit Goodhart’s blog post about building bridges through picture books.  See reviews of A Bottle of Happiness here and here.

While not currently available in US book shops, A Bottle of Happiness is available through the Book Depository, which ships for free to the US.

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!