Tag Archives: rhyming

PPBF – Yusra Swims

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, and as the 2020 Summer Olympics have been in the news this week, I thought this was a timely, new picture book biography to feature as a Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Yusra Swims

Written By: Julie Abery

Illustrated By: Sally Deng

Publisher/Date: Creative Editions/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: swimming, refugee, Olympics, Syria, biography, rhyming, persistence, hope, dreams

Opening:

Just a girl/With a dream./Olympic Games/Swimming team.

Brief Synopsis: The true story of Yusra Mardini, a Syrian swimmer, who fled Syria for Europe and who competed in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics as part of the Refugee Olympic Team.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about the Refugee Olympic Team and watch a short video featuring the athletes, including Yusra Mardini, who competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics;
  • Learn about the geography and rich history of Syria before the current conflicts;
  • Learn more about the refugee experience with materials from Amnesty International;
  • Yusra’s dream was to swim for her country in the Olympics. Do you have a dream? Describe your dream in words or pictures.

Why I Like this Book:

Yusra Swims is a hopeful story of one young woman’s persistence and courage to overcome overwhelming obstacles. Especially as we and our children navigate the uncertainties, difficulties, and fear during this unprecedented pandemic and global shutdown, I found it particularly heartening to learn about this talented and courageous young woman.

As a teenager, Yusra fled a war-torn region, she used her swimming skills to save fellow refugees when their overloaded boat lost its motor and began to sink, she resettled in Germany, despite, presumably, not knowing the language, and then she competed in the first Refugee Olympic Team in history. If Yusra doesn’t inspire all of us to use our talents to succeed and benefit others, I don’t know who could!

Abery relates Yusra’s story in short, rhyming text, which makes this an ideal picture book to share even with younger children. Deng’s blue-palette illustrations provide further context as we journey with Yusra to the Olympics.

A Note about Craft:

Aspiring writers often hear that agents and editors are not interested in rhyming text. And rhyming picture book biographies are few and far between. But rhyme works well in this case, and I applaud Abery for utilizing it to quicken the pace to match Yusra’s sport, swimming. It also enables readers to navigate the difficult parts of Yusra’s journey more quickly and focus sooner on the hopeful aspects of her life.

In one poignant spread, Deng adds a kid-relatable detail to the jettisoned possessions: a stuffed animal. My eyes focused on that immediately, and I think kids will be drawn to that, too.

Visit Julie Abery’s website to see more of her children’s books. See interior spreads from Yusra Swims and learn about Deng at her website.

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 – Dare

I found today’s Perfect Picture Book in London, but it’s also available in the US. After reading it, I wanted to get up and DO something, take positive action. I hope others feel that way, too!

Title: Dare

Written By: Lorna Gutierrez

Illustrated By: Polly Noakes

Publisher/Date: Tiny Owl Publishing/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: social activism, self-esteem, rhyming, poetry, multicultural

Opening:

Dare to dream. Dare to aspire.

Dare to trust… Dare to inspire!

Brief Synopsis: Short rhyming text encourages and inspires children to be true to themselves, to be the best they can be, and to help others and speak out for a better world.

Links to Resources:

  • Try something new: an activity, a food, an outfit, or even visit a new place;
  • Watch the book trailer;
  • Check out the suggested activities in this Teacher Resource.

Why I Like this Book:

In just 93 words divided into short, active, rhyming phrases, Dare encourages all children to be true to themselves, to support causes important to them, and to take action to make the world better. Dare features both small actions, like reading, reaching out a hand to someone who appears to be a newcomer, and stopping to smell a flower, and big actions, like participating in a protest march.

I think the rhyming text will appeal to young children. I also think the illustrations will encourage activity. I especially like that these bright illustrations feature details that stretch the text: the girl on the cover is wearing a hearing aid; several children carry protest signs; a child in a tutu appears to be male; skin colors and hair types span a wide spectrum.

Dare is a positive, hopeful book, that, I think, will be a great addition to home and school libraries, whether you’re looking to encourage positive self-images and the pursuit of dreams or to spur social activism.

A Note about Craft:

Gutierrez uses short, rhyming phrases to encourage action. Verbs dominate the text: dare, dream, aspire, inspire, see, speak, sing, dance, lend a hand, and more.

Gutierrez also leaves a lot of room for the illustrator. I especially appreciated the phrase, “Dare to do what hasn’t been done,” accompanied by an illustration of several children in a cardboard “boat” exploring the world. And nowhere does the text state “save the environment”, but the illustrations add that layer to the book.

Learn more about the author and illustrator of Dare.

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!

Perfect Pairing – Heals Injured Birds

As we think about how to foster empathy in children, what better animal to highlight than a small, injured bird. Who could resist helping one? I know I couldn’t!

How to Heal a Broken Wing

Author & Illustrator: Bob Graham

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2008

Ages: 3-7

Themes: injured pigeon, empathy, animal rescue, letting go

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In a spare urban fable, Bob Graham brings us one small boy, one loving family, and one miraculous story of hope and healing.

“No one saw the bird fall.”

In a city full of hurried people, only young Will notices the bird lying hurt on the ground. With the help of his sympathetic mother, he gently wraps the injured bird and takes it home. In classic Bob Graham style, the beauty is in the details: the careful ministrations with an eyedropper, the bedroom filled with animal memorabilia, the saving of the single feather as a good-luck charm for the bird’s return to the sky. Wistful and uplifting, here is a tale of possibility — and of the souls who never doubt its power.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

The Scarecrow

Author: Beth Ferry

Illustrator: The Fan Brothers

Publisher/date: HarperCollins Children’s Books/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: scarecrow, injured crow, seasons, friendship, animal rescue, rhyming

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

All the animals know not to mess with old Scarecrow. But when a small, scared crow falls from midair, Scarecrow does the strangest thing. . . .

Bestselling author Beth Ferry and the widely acclaimed Fan Brothers present this tender and affectionate tale that reminds us of the comforting power of friendship and the joy of helping others.

Read a review at Gathering Books and a guest post and cover reveal by Beth Ferry at Mr. Schu Reads.

I paired these books because they both involve injured birds who are helped by a friend. In How to Heal a Broken Wing, that friend is a small boy, the only one who notices it on a busy street and convinces his parents to help him save it. With the family’s loving care, the pigeon recovers to fly off with the other birds, leaving the boy sad, but also hopeful. In The Scarecrow, the scarecrow stands alone, friendless, scaring off the animals, until a baby crow falls near him. Uncharacteristically, the scarecrow saves the baby crow. The two become friends until, like the pigeon, the healed crow flies off. There the two books diverge, but I won’t spoil the ending of The Scarecrow for you. You’ll have to read it to find out – I highly recommend that you do!

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Under the Same Sky

 

Regular readers know that I often feature picture books dealing with tougher topics. But this week, I needed to read a hopeful book that focuses on community, how aspects we share unite us, regardless of species. When I picked up today’s Perfect Picture Book in the Children’s Room of the New York Public Library, I knew I found that book.

Title: Under the Same Sky

Written & Illustrated By: Britta Teckentrup

Publisher/Date: Tiger Tales/2018 (originally published in Great Britain, Caterpillar Books/2017)

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: rhyming, shared hopes, shared dreams, community, animals, imagination

Opening:

We live under the same sky…in lands near and far. We live under the same sky…wherever we are.

Brief Synopsis: A lyrical celebration of the bonds that unite us all.

Links to Resources:

  • Think of some of the ways that you are the same as a family member, friend, someone you pass on a playground;
  • The sun shines during all seasons, all over the world. Draw pictures showing the sun shining on a snowy day, in the desert, on a lake or ocean, by your own home.

Why I Like this Book:

In short, poetic text, using lovely illustrations of different animal species, Teckentrup celebrates the many natural elements that unite the world. A quiet book, Under the Same Sky will be a reassuring bedtime favorite for families with younger children. I especially liked the last spread, showing all of the animals together under a full moon and starlit sky and its message of unity. What a wonderful way to fall asleep, reminded that our hopes and dreams unite us.

The collaged illustrations in soft, pastel hues provide soothing accompaniments to the gentle text. I think kids will enjoy the cut outs, as they follow along on this exploration of community.

A Note about Craft:

Teckentrup uses animals as the main characters in Under the Same Sky. I think this will appeal to young children, especially as many young animals are depicted.

Cut outs are used in the pages to great effect, as phrases, such as that shown above, appear on one page and then after the page turn to emphasize text.

This Perfect Picture Book entry will be added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

 

Perfect Pairing – Visits the Library Lions

I live in the New York metropolitan region and have had the pleasure of visiting the New York Public Library and seeing the lions who are the stars of this pairing. For those who aren’t able to visit New York City, I think these books, read together, will introduce you to this amazing duo who welcome readers into this wonderful library.

 

Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience & Fortitude

Author: Josh Funk

Illustrator: Stevie Lewis

Publisher/Date:

Ages: 5-7

Themes: New York Public Library, library lions, fantasy, imagination, rhyming

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Steadfast Fortitude and curious Patience are waiting every morning to greet visitors of the Library.

That is until, one early morning, when Fortitude finds Patience is missing. The city is about to awake, and the lions absolutely must be in their places before the sun rises. Now, Fortitude must abandon his own post to find his best friend in the Library’s labyrinthine halls.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

The Night Library

Author: David Zeltser

Illustrator: Raul Colón

Publisher/Date: Random House/2019

Ages:  3-7

Themes: New York Public Library, grief, magic of books, library lions, fantasy, imagination

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The Polar Express meets The Night at the Museum in this fantastical picture-book adventure about the magic of books and libraries, perfect for book lovers of all ages!

After a young boy goes to sleep upset that he’s getting a book for his birthday, he’s visited in the night by Patience and Fortitude, the two stone lions who guard the New York Public Library. Soon, he’s magically whisked away from his cozy home in the Bronx, and the two mighty lions show him the wonder of the library. There, the inquisitive Latino boy discovers the power of books and their role not only in his own life, but also in the lives of the people he loves.

Raul Colon’s gorgeous, rich art creates an immersive world in this book about books, which is sure to capture the imaginations of kids and adults and inspire them to grab their library cards and dive into the worlds of stories.

Read a review at The Picture Book Buzz.

I paired these books because they both feature the two famous lions that flank the entrance of the main branch of the New York Public Library: Patience and Fortitude. But while the focus of Lost in the Library is the pair of lions, a young boy who has stopped reading because he misses his deceased grandfather is the main character of The Night Library.

Looking for similar reads?

See my pairing of two other picture books featuring stone lions that come to life.

Perfect Pairing – heads to the Countryside

As the temperatures have been soaring throughout much of the US, I think it’s time to leave the city and head to the countryside!

 

Hey, Hey, Hay! A Tale of Bales and the Machines that Make Them

Author: Christy Mihaly

Illustrator: Joe Cepeda

Publisher/Date: Holiday House Publishing Inc./2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: hay, farm life, girl power, seasons, rhyming

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Every bale of hay has a little bit of summer sun stored in the heart of it— learn from a mother-daughter team how hay is made! 

Feeding her horses one cold and wintry day, a girl thinks about all the hard work that went into the fresh-smelling bales she’s using. The rhyming text and brilliant full-page paintings follow the girl and her mother through the summer as they cut, spread, dry and bale in the fields.

Mower blades slice through the grass./A new row falls with every pass./Next we spread the grass to dry./The tedder makes those grasses fly!

This celebration of summer, farming, and family, illustrated by Pura Belpré honor artist Joe Cepeda, includes a glossary of haymaking words, and a recipe for making your own switchel— a traditional farm drink, to cool you down in the summer heat.

Read a review at Picture Books Help Kids Soar.

Mowing

Author: Jessie Haas

Illustrator: Jos. A. Smith

Publisher/Date: Greenwillow Books/1994

Ages: 4-8

Themes: hay, farm life, intergenerational, wildlife

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Nora helps her grandfather mow the field by watching for little animals in the tall grass and warning him to circle the horses and mowing machine around them.

Read a review at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.

I paired these books because both provide insight into farm life and an essential activity on many farms, and they both feature female main characters. Told from the first-person point-of-view, the recently-published Hey, Hey, Hay! provides information on the process of baling hay and the seasons on a farm, all in lyrical, rhyming text. The older Mowing focuses on one day when young Nora and her grandfather cut the hay, while making sure they don’t harm any of the local wildlife. Read together, I think they provide insight into life on a farm, something many of us have not experienced.

Perfect Pairing –  Robots at the Beach

It may not be beach weather where you’re at (YET!), but it’s never too early to “think Summer” and think about who, or what, you’ll bring to your favorite beach.

Bitty Bot’s Big Beach Getaway

Author: Tim McCanna

Illustrator: Tad Carpenter

Publisher/Date: Paula Wiseman Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)/2018

Ages: 3-7

Themes: robots; making friends; innovation; beach; rhyming

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The world’s cutest robot goes on a rhyming, deep-sea adventure with two new friends in this sweet and silly companion to Bitty Bot.
Fish and coral. Crabs and snails.
Stingrays, turtles, sharks, and whales. 
Giant squid! A sunken ship!
“Now we’re talking. What a trip!”

Bitty Bot is back—and he is not excited about his family vacation to Botco Bay. Luckily, new friends make everything better. Bitty Bot and his new pals build a submarine using supplies they find at the beach:
Bottles, barrels, buggy, bench, 
hammer, pliers, socket wrench, 
soda cans, a coil of rope, 
drainpipe for a periscope.
Off they go on an underwater adventure!

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

How to Code a Sandcastle

Author: Josh Funk

Illustrator: Sara Palacios

Publisher/Date: Viking, Penguin Young Readers (an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC)/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: coding; robots; sand castles; beach; STEM

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

From the computer science nonprofit Girls Who Code comes this lively and funny story introducing kids to computer coding concepts.
Pearl and her trusty rust-proof robot, Pascal, need to build a sandcastle before summer vacation is over, and they’re going to do it using code. Pearl breaks the big we-need-a-sandcastle problem into smaller steps, then uses conditionals, loops, and other basic coding concepts to tell Pascal exactly what to do. But building a sandcastle isn’t as easy as it sounds when surfboards, mischievous dogs, and coding mishaps get in the way! Just when it looks like the sandcastle might never work, Pearl uses her coding skills to save the day and create something even better: a gorgeous sandcastle kingdom!

Read a review at Biracial Bookworms.

I paired these books because it’s not every day that you see a robot at the beach! Written in quick-paced rhyme, Bitty Bot’s Big Beach Getaway features a bored robot who uses his skills to build a submarine with friends. In How to Code a Sandcastle Pearl brings her “trusty rust-proof robot, Pascal” to the beach and codes him to build a sandcastle. Written by software engineer/picture book author Funk and filled with coding how-to information (including a terrific Guide to Coding), How to Code a Sandcastle is a Girls who Code Book with a Foreword by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code. Both books involve problem solving, and both are humorous read-alouds.

Looking for similar reads?

See Tim McCanna’s Bitty Bot and Josh Funk’s Albie Newton.