Picture a Tree – Earth Day, April 22

Picture a Tree9780807565261_p0_v1_s260x420Picture a Tree

Barbara Reid, Author and Illustrator

Albert Whitman & Company, Fiction, 2013

Suitable for ages: 4-7

Themes: Trees, Imagination, Nature, Seasons

Opening: “There is more than one way to picture a tree. You may see a drawing on the sky. A game of dress-up.”

Summary: Picture a tree–what do you see?  A tree can be so many things: a drawing in the sky, a tunnel hovering over a neighborhood,  a home for  birds and animals, a clubhouse, a pirate ship, a great place to climb and think and shade from the heat.

Why I like this book: This is a perfect Earth Day book because it a celebration of trees, one of our most important resources.  Barbara Reid encourages her young readers to stretch their imaginations to see that a tree can be any thing as they change with each season.  Her text is simple and the artwork is gorgeous and lively. Her unique Plasticine creations are pressed onto an illustration board showing layered textures and color for a special visual effect. Both children and adults will study the expressive detail on the pages of this extraordinary book. And, make sure you check out the gorgeous end papers which are filled with pictures of trees. This is a wonderful book for the classroom and home.

Resources: Have children draw pictures of trees for each season and something special about the season.  Visit Barbara Reid’s website where there is a students/teacher artwork page, a picture a tree memory game, videos and a page devoted to working with Plasticine material.

 

 

The Tree Lady — Arbor Day, April 25

The Tree Lady9781442414020_p0_v4_s260x420The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever

H. Joseph Hopkins, Author

Jill McElmurry, Illustrator

Beach Lane Books, Biography, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 5-10

Themes: Kate Olivia Sessions, Horticulturists, Trees, San Diego, Nature

Opening: “Katherine Olivia Sessions grew up in the woods of Northern California. She gathered leaves from oaks and elms. She collected needles from pines and redwoods. And she braided them together with flowers to make necklaces and bracelets.”

Book Synopsis: Trees were Kate Sessions’ best friends.  She spent a lot of time in the woods in the 1860s. Her passion for the natural world led her to study science in college at the University of California.  She was the first woman to graduate with a degree in 1881. Her first teaching job took her to San Diego in 1883. You can imagine her shock when she arrived in this desert town. Most San Diegans didn’t think trees could grow, but Kate did.  She left her teaching job and began to research trees that could grow in a hot and dry desert. This young woman began to collect seeds of trees that would grow in San Diego from all over the world.  She began to garden and plant trees. Soon people began to buy trees from Kate’s nursery and planted them in their yards and around the city. In 1909 the city leaders announced that a great fair was coming to San Diego’s Balboa Park in 1915. The entire town volunteered to plant trees — millions to be exact. Kate became known as the Mother of Balboa Park.

Why I like this book:  This is a perfect book Arbor Day book.  H. Joseph Hopkins has written a story that portrays Kate as gutsy and passionate conservationist who literally transformed a desert town into the beautiful, lush green city it is today. More importantly his story teaches kids that if you have vision, determination, perseverance, you can make a difference in the world. That’s what Kate did. This is a wonderful classroom book and can be used in many different ways.  Jill McElmurry’s beautiful illustrations match the era and will certainly appeal to children.

Resources: There is a more detailed Author’s Note at the end of the book that gives the reader a lot more information about Kate Session and the celebrated work she did during her lifetime.  With Arbor Day and Earth Day close together, it is a great time to plant trees in areas in need of greenery.  This is a great project for kids to do through school, scouting programs and with families. Check out the Arbor Day Foundation for ways to get involved at home and in your community.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

A Snicker of Magic

A Snicker of Magic9780545552707_p0_v3_s260x420A Snicker of Magic

Natalie Lloyd, Author

Scholastic Press, Fiction, Feb. 25, 2014

Suitable for ages: 8-12 (Grades 3-7)

Themes: Magic, Single-parent families, Moving, Mothers and daughters, Friendship

Synopsis: Felicity Juniper Pickle and her mama, sister and dog are on the move again. They’ve been moving all over the country ever since her father left them five years earlier. Felicity feels her mother is cursed with a wandering heart. And she’s tired of starting over in a new town, a new school and with new friends. When Mama’s van, the Pickled Jalapeno, heads to her Aunt Cleo’s home in Midnight Gulch, Felicity feels that her luck may be changing. She loves hearing Mama’s stories about Midnight Gulch being a magical place where people sing up thunderstorms, make ice cream that brings back sweet and sour memories, and bake secrets into pies. One day the city is cursed and the magic leaves. The only kind of magic Felicity is interested in is the kind that would make her mama stay put.

Felicity, who is 12 years old, collects words and writes them in her blue book and on her tennis shoes. She sees words hover around people light as feathers or heavy as burdens. Other words sparkle, dance and shine like stars. But in Midnight Gulch Felicity sees words like magical, bittersweet, sorrowful, splendiferous, factofabulous, believe, stay, friend and home. Felicity still feels the magic in the town and knows it is hiding.  At school she becomes best friends with Jonah Pickett, who navigates the town in his wheelchair doing acts of kindness. Together they begin to unravel the town’s secrets of the curse of the mysterious Brothers Threadbare. Will Felicity and Jonah find a way to release the curse, bring back the joy and magic to Midnight Gulch, and find a permanent home for the gypsy Pickles?

Why I like this book: Once in a while you discover a book that touches your soul and you know from the start that it is something very special to read. And when you finish that book, you want to go back to the beginning and start all over. This charming and delicious debut novel by Natalie Lloyd is magical from the first page and full of child appeal. Its literary style will captivate many adults. The language is lyrical and the plot is strong. There is a large cast of lovable, quirky and very talented characters who deal with real-life issues of loss, divorce, disabilities, bullying and loneliness.  This is an inspiring story about family, friends, and hope. A Snicker of Magic is an extraordinary magical experience and spindiddly fabulous!

Visit Natalie Lloyd at her website.

Henny

Henny9781442484368_p0_v11_s260x420Henny

Elizabeth Rose Stanton, Author and Illustrator

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Book, Fiction Jan. 7, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Chickens, Individuality, Self-acceptance, Humor

Opening: “Henny was not a typical chicken. Henny was born with arms. Henny’s mother was very surprised, but she loved Henny anyway.”

Synopsis: It’s not every day that a chicken is born with arms. Henny likes being different…and she doesn’t like being different.  She tries to strut around like the other chickens and fit in, but Henny has to be herself. As she grows, she worries about being right-handed or left-handed….wearing long sleeves or short sleeves…using buttons or zippers…and needing deodorant. She helps the farmer by milking a cow, feeding the chicks and the pigs. She discovers she can cross her arms, brush her teeth, comb her comb, carry a purse hail a taxi and ice skate. But, can she do the one thing she want to do most — fly?

Why I like this book: In her debut picture book, Elizabeth Rose Stanton has written a fresh and lovable character in Henny.  This is a charming story about differences, self-acceptance and self-discovery. But it is also about a journey,  wonder and dreams. Kids will relate to Henny and laugh at her antics and cheer her as she slowly discovers that with arms she can experience the world in a way the other chickens can’t. Being different can have it’s pluses and nothing is going to stop this curious chick. The language is very simple and a great book for young readers. Stanton’s pencil and watercolor illustrations are lively, expressive and tickle the imagination. She is an author/illustrator to watch.

Resources: Encourage your child to be imaginative and draw some animals that wouldn’t normally have arms, or legs.  A fish with legs…a frog with arms…a bear with a beak and so on.  Doodling can be fun.  Check out Tara Lazar’s interview with Stanton last November and Joanna Marple’s illustrator’s interview with Stanton last September.  Stanton gives some insight into her artistic process.  You can visit Stanton on her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

The Impossible Knife of Memory

The Impossible Knife9780670012091_p0_v1_s260x420The Impossible Knife of Memory

Laurie Halse Anderson, Author

Viking, Fiction, Jan. 7, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 12-17

Themes:  Father-daughter relationship,  Family problems, PTSD, Veterans

Book Jacket Synopsis: “For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road trying to outrun the memories that haunt them both.  They move back to Andy’s hometown to try a “normal” life, but the horrors he saw in the war threaten to destroy their lives. Hayley watches, helpless, as her father turns to drugs and alcohol to silence his demons. And then her own past creeps up, and everything falls apart. How do you keep your father alive when death is stalking him?  What are you supposed to do when your father stops acting like an adult?”

Why I like this book: Laurie Halse Anderson’s heart-wrenching novel sensitively addresses the harsh reality of a family broken by war. Her plot is riveting and realistic. Her characters are well-developed with 17-year-old Hayley, an angry yet fragile teenager, who is dealing with very deep wounds — the death of her mother, abandonment by her father’s girlfriend, and parenting a father who suffers severe PTSD. She has watched her father go from the superhero soldier who made the world safe to the sobbing, raging and alcoholic father that she can’t depend upon. Hayley’s only school friend, Finn, brings some stability to her teenage life and the hope  she can believe in someone. Finn is a quirky character that provides the welcomed comic relief to the story. The book is a timely page turner with an unexpected twist at the end. The Impossible Knife of Memory will resonate with young people, but especially those dealing with parents suffering with PTSD.

Visit Laurie Halse Anderson at her website.

Every Day is Malala Day

Malala Day9781927583319_p0_v1_s260x420Every Day is Malala Day

Rosemary McCarney with Plan International

Second Story Press, Nonfiction, Apr. 1, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Educating Girls, Letter from girls around the world to Malala Yousafzai

Opening: “Dear Malala, We have never met before, but I feel like I know you.  I have never seen you before, but I’ve heard your voice.  To girls like me, you are a leader who encourages us. And you are a friend.”

Synopsis:  This book is an inspiring letter written to Malala Yousafzai from girls worldwide who have experienced educational and inequality barriers.  Malala may be the most famous and outspoken girl in the world campaigning for the rights of girls.  She is their hero, friend and role model in demanding change.  McCarney opens the book describing how the fifteen-year-old was shot in the head by the Taliban on her way to school in Pakistan on Oct. 9, 2012. They wanted to silence her. They failed and she survived and became even more determined to work on behalf of children. In 2013, she was the youngest person ever nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Why I like this book:  This is a beautiful and timely book written in the form of a letter from girls around the world expressing their gratitude to Malala for bringing attention to the barriers they face in receiving an education — poverty, violence, early  marriage, and discrimination. It is a wonderful book to use in the classroom to introduce girls (and boys) to the issues of gender inequality and to promote the rights of all girls to attend school. Malala clearly demonstrates that children everywhere can change the world. Each page of the book is a beautiful photograph of a girl representing a different culture and race with a very simple and powerful statement that they too have rights. Many photographers contributed to this book. My favorite photos are those of the girls raising their hands in support of Malala to show the world what girls can achieve if they stand together. I highly recommend this book.

Resources: The book is a wonderful resource. There is an introduction about “Who is Malala” in the front of the book. And it ends with the speech Malala delivered on her 16th birthday, Jul. 12, 2013, to the United Nations’ Youth Assembly. This book belongs in every elementary school library. It is a great way to discuss the plight of girls in other countries with students.  Encourage students to write a letter to Malala.

The author, Rosemary McCarney, is president and CEO of the Plan Canada team, where she launched the important Because I am a Girl campaign and led the initiative to have the United Nations designate an International Day of the Girl to draw attention to their problems and lift millions of girls out of poverty. Proceeds from this book will go to Plan International.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

World Autism Awareness Day – April 2

World-autism-awareness-dayToday is World Autism Awareness Day, designated in 2007 by the United Nations to promote global awareness.  Autism has no racial, ethnic or socio-economic boundaries, so it is important to focus on AWARENESS.  It’s also an important time to highlight the talents and gifts of those on the Autism Spectrum.

Since April is National Autism Awareness Month in the U.S., I will be reviewing a few autism books this month and throughout the year.

Today I will share the titles and authors of 22 books that I have reviewed in the Autism Spectrum.  You can click on Autism Spectrum and Asperger’s Syndrome in the “Topics” side bar to the right of my blog to find all the reviewed and recommended books.  The titles include Picture Books (PB), Middle Grade (MG), Young Adult (YA) and books for Parents.

Picture Books

Anthony Best, Davene Fahy

Ellie Bean: The Drama Queen, Jennie Harding

Ian’s Walk, Laurie Lears

I’m Here, Peter Reynolds

In Jesse’s Shoes, Beverly Lewis

My Brother Charlie, Holly and Ryan Elizabeth Peete

Russel’s World: A Story for Kids about Autism, Charles A. Amenta, III, M.D.

Understanding Sam and Asperger’s Syndrome, Clarabelle van Niekerk & Liezl Venter, MA, CCC-SLP

Wings of Epoh, Gerda Weissmann Klein

Middle Grade

Autism, The Invisible Chord, Barbara Cain

Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes, Jennifer Elder

How to Talk to an Autistic Kid, Daniel Stefanski

Mocking Bird, Katherine Erskine

Rules, Cynthia Lord

The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders, by Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve, M.D.

Young Adult Fiction and Nonfiction

Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism, Arthur and Carly Fleischmann (YA/Adult)

I Am in Here: The Journey of a Child with Autism, Elizabeth M. Bonker and Virginia Breen

Marcelo in the Real World, Francisco X. Stork

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, Sy Montgomery (MG/YA/Adult)

Wild Orchid, Waiting for No One, and White Bicycle, Beverly Brenna (YA Trilogy)

Parents

A Friend Like Henry, Nuala Gardner

Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism, Arthur and Carly Fleischmann (Also for parents)

Following Ezra: What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism and Love from His Extraordinary Son, Tom Fields-Meyer

Not My Boy, Rodney Peete

Resources:  There are many local and national organizations promoting Autism Awareness Month.  Check out Autism Speaks, the Autism SocietyThe Arc,  The Autism Now Center for information, resources, research and tool kits.

Gatsby’s Grand Adventures: Books 1 and 2

Gatsby's book1 9781616333508_p0_v1_s260x420Gatsby’s Grand Adventures:Winslow Homer’s Snap the Whip

Barbara Cairns, Author

Eugene Ruble, Illustrator

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc., Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 7-12

Themes: Cat, Art gallery, Famous paintings, Mischief

Opening:”Gatsby the cat lived in Miss Annabelle’s art gallery.  At night, he had the most peculiar habit. He jumped into famous paintings.” 

Synopsis: In Book 1, Gatsby was an art gallery cat who loved exploring famous paintings at night. One night his long tail twitched, his nose itched and his haunches hitched as he leaped into Winslow Homer’s Snap the Whip picture. He darted between the boy’s tripping and knocking four of them down. The boys chased Gatsby and he jumped out of the painting as the sun rose. Miss Annabelle was shocked to find the boys struggling to stand.  Gatsby returned repeatedly to fix the painting, but each attempt ended in another cat-astrophe.  Will Gatsby restore Homer’s painting so Miss Annabelle doesn’t think she has lost her mind?

Gatsbys 2 Book9781616333874_p0_v1_s260x420.jpg.Book 2 published 2013

Gatsby’s Grand Adventures: Auguste Renoir’s The Apple Seller

Synopsis: Ever since Gatsby leaped into his first painting, he wanted to visit another painting.  When he discovered Renoir’s Apple Seller, his tail  twitched, his whiskers itched and his haunches hitched. He jumped into the painting after absent-minded Miss Annabelle had gone to bed. The girls seated with the apple seller in the painting are excited to see a cat and stroked Gatsby’s head. When Jasper the dog barked at Gatsby, he ran and climbed up a tree. The girls caught their dog and Gatsby leaped out of the painting after the sun had risen. Oops! He looked back and the painting was a mess.  There would be more trips to restore this picture. Poor Miss Annabelle.

Why I like these  books: Barbara Cairns books  introduce children to art in a fun way.  Both books combine art history and education with adventure and humor. Children who enjoy animals and art will learn about an artist’s work through the adventures of a mischievous cat named Gatsby. His name suits him well because he is one cat with personality. I am sure there will be many more Gatsby adventures in this series. Eugene Ruble’s lovely pastel paintings are lively and colorful. He captures the essence of both famous artists with his own style.

Resources: The author has provided information about Homer and Renoir in the back of the book, along with helpful websites for children.  For activities check out a site Cairns suggested: Art Smarts 4 Kids.  These books are a great way to introduce children to famous artwork before they visit an art gallery.

Barbara Cairns is a former K-6 school teacher, a special education teacher for the deaf, and a retired elementary school principal. You can find interesting facts about Gatsby and cats on her website.

 

Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout

yellshout1Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout: A Kid’s Guide to Feelings

Peggy Kruger Tietz, Ph.D., Author

Rebecca Layton, Illustrator

CreateSpace, Mar. 25, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 5 and up

Themes: Learning about emotions and feelings

Opening:What makes you laugh, or blush, or run and hide? What makes your eyes open wide? Can you guess? Do you know? Whatever you feel inside will show…Feelings tell you what’s happening to you. Learn all their names because each is there to take care of YOU.”

Book Synopsis: Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout is an essential guidebook for adults in steering children through the different facets of emotions. Each of the eight emotions is clearly defined through vignettes and illustrations, keeping both adult and child captivated, thus creating an opportune time for discussion. By recognizing that all humans experience these emotions throughout their lives, the book provides a true sense of comfort.  The different ranges of emotions are not to be shunned but rather embraced and explained to provide a positive development environment for all children.

Why I like this book: Peggy Kruger Tietz, Ph.D., has written a very clever and important guide to help children identify eight different emotions: anger, fear, shame, sadness, happiness, love, disgust and surprise. I hope I have your attention because I know when I mentioned emotions you immediately thought of negative ones. This isn’t the case because the author also deals with positive emotions. I also like her consistent and simple format. Each emotion has a color. She identifies an emotion like shame with the color gray. Shame “tells us we’ve done something wrong and helps us say we’re sorry.” On the following page you are asked how you might respond or what happens to you when you feel ashamed: turn bright red, hang your head, look away or try to leave. Then there are examples of what you might do when you feel ashamed: lying, not seeking help when a friend is bullied or calling someone a mean name. Then it ends with a question to the child, “What might make You ashamed?

This guide offers parents, teachers and counselors a peek into the inner emotional lives of children. I believe that both children and adults lack the language to express what they are feeling. It is a relief for children to have a way to describe their experiences. And a blessing for  parents to have some insight in how to deal with puzzling behavior.  Excellent team work between author and illustrator. Rebecca Layton’s illustrations are simple black and white drawings with a splash of color that matches the emotion being discussed.  The drawings also are lively and expressive.  I highly recommend this book.

Visit Peggy Kruger Tietz at her website.  She is a psychologist and has counseled parents and children for over 30 years.

 

Little Bird Lost

Little Bird Lost9781492762829_p0_v1_s260x420Little Bird Lost

Kate Larkinson, Author

Steve Larkinson, Photographer

CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes: Nature, Birds, Sibling Rivalry

Opening: “1..2..3 little birds but there should be more. Three baby birds in the nest but there should be four.”

Synopsis (Book Description) : One of the baby birds seems to be missing. His greedy siblings have pushed him out of view! A tale of sibling rivalry and their parents love all their offspring.

Why I like this book: I loved Kate Larkinson’s simplicity and rhyming text for young children. This is a charming story about nature, a mother bird feeding her young ones and sibling rivalry. According to the book, Steve Larkinson “saw the nest in the eaves of a bakery in south-west France,” and decided to capture the life of a family of swallows through his beautiful photography. This is the perfect spring read for beginning readers. They  will feel triumphant over mastering this beautiful book.  Make sure you check out Kate and Steve Larkinson’s website.

Resources: Walk around your house and yard and look for nests of birds.  You can watch the birds busily building nests right now. Bird watch and write down the variety of bird you see in your yard this spring.

There is a Goodreads Giveaway for a copy of this book at https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/83442-little-bird-lost-a-rhyming-picture-story  that ends March 24.

There is also a LibraryThing Giveaway for the ebook edition at http://www.librarything.com/er_list.php?program=giveaway&sort=enddate which expires on March 28.

Erik from This Kid Reviews Books, also reviewed Little Bird Lost last fall.  He has included some excellent activities for children that I won’t repeat.