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.

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.

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.

The Black Book of Colors

blackbookThe Black Book of Colors

Menena Cottin, Author

Rosana Faria, Illustrator

Elisa Amado, Translator

Groundwood Books, Fiction, 2008

Suitable for Ages: 5-10

Themes: Experiencing what it’s like to be blind, Exploring senses

Opening: “Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick’s feathers…Thomas likes all the colors because he can hear them and smell them and touch them and taste them.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: It is very hard for a sighted person to imagine what it is like to be blind. This groundbreaking, award-winning book endeavors to convey the experience of a person who can only see through his or her sense of touch, taste, smell or hearing.

Why I like this book: Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria’s have teamed up to create an extraordinary book for sighted children to help them experience what it is like to be blind and depend upon their senses. The entire book is on black paper. The pages on the left have white text at the bottom where Thomas describes a color using his senses and beautiful imagery. There is Braille at the top of the page which helps a sighted child to imagine what it is like to read by touch.  On the corresponding pages the illustrations are elegant and delicate raised black line drawings which are meant to be revealed by the touch of finger tips. This book is a masterpiece that teaches children how to describe colors by using all of their senses. The book is not intended for visually impaired children.

Resources: I would use this book to discuss visual impairments. The book alone is a resource. It asks readers to be blind. It a remarkable way for children to experience the world through touch, smell, taste and sound. At the end of the book is a raised braille alphabet.  Activity: Create a class book of colors and ask children to draw a picture of something that represents a color and write a sense that corresponds to their picture.

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.

Fred Stays with Me!

Fred Stays with Me!9780316077910_p0_v1_s260x420Fred Stays with Me!

Nancy Coffelt, Author

Tricia Tusa, Illustrator

Little, Brown and Company, Fiction, 2007

Suitable for Ages: 4- 8

Themes:  Divorce, Girl and her dog, Parenting, Different Families

Opening “Sometimes I live with my mom.  Sometimes I live with my dad.  My dog, Fred, stays with me.”

Synopsis:  A little girl learns to deal with her parent’s divorce with her very mischievous dog, Fred.  She still goes to the same school and has the same friends.  But, she alternates living between her parent’s homes.  At each home she has a different bedroom, meals and activities.  Fred is a troublemaker – he barks constantly at the neighbor’s dog, steals socks and makes messes.  Both her parents wonder what they’re going to do with Fred.  But, Fred is the girl’s constant companion and stability.  They are inseparable.  “Fred is my friend. We walk together. We talk together. When I am happy, Fred is too. And when I’m sad, Fred is there.”  The girl will have to come up with a solution or lose her best friend.

Why I like this book:  Nancy Coffelt has written a very charming and sensitive story for children experiencing a divorce in their family.   The text is simple and the language childlike. Yet through showing and narration, the word “divorce” is never used in the text.  Divorce is confusing for children and they would resonate with this upbeat book. Fred is lively and a true friend and troublemaker. Tricia Tusa’s illustrations are warm and comforting watercolors  done in soft brown hues and they compliment the story. There are also no pictures of parents in her illustrations.

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.

My Amazing Day: A Celebration of Wonder and Gratitude

My Amazing Day51l75jxemhL__SX258_BO1,204,203,200_My Amazing Day: A Celebration of Wonder and Gratitude

Karin Fisher-Golton, Author

Lori A. Cheung, Photographer and Elizabeth Iwamiya, Designer

Pacific Dogwood Press, Fiction,  Nov. 1, 2013

Suitable for ages: 0-3

Themes: Wonder, Beauty, Gratitude

Opening“Today was amazing. In the morning, I heard singing.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: Every day is amazing! The ordinary world is extraordinary when seen through little one’s eyes. My Amazing Day is a remarkable everyday journey that ends with a happy burst of gratitude. People have long experienced that expressing gratitude brings them happiness. Now scientific studies show that  expressing gratitude leads to many health benefits as well. Sharing My Amazing Day can be a joyful way to help establish habits of gratitude with the youngest people in your life.

Why I like this book: Karin Fisher-Golton has written a charming and beautiful story about a toddler who experiences wonder in her day. Young children easily live in the moment. The text is very vivid and simple as a little girl awakens to a bird singing, eats a squishy banana for breakfast, bursts bubbles, plays with a furry pet and sees pictures in the clouds. The book ends with a beautiful “thank you” from the child for each experience she’s had during her day. This book is a gem and a perfect first book to gift a new mother. The photographs by Lori A Cheung  are luminous, joyful and a feast for the eyes. The design by Elizabeth Iwamiya is clean and fun. It is a board book toddlers can easily hold in their hands.

Resources: Visit Karin Fisher-Golton at her website. Use this book as a starting point because it is a resource to help your child notice the beauty and joy in the world around them–jumping in a puddle, eating an ice cream cone or picking a fistful of flowers. Show them how to cultivate gratitude by saying thank to the puddle, the ice cream cone and flower. This will come easily for children and be a good reminder for parents to cultivate the same virtue within themselves.

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 Happy Hat – Perfect Picture Book Friday

A Happy Hat9781433813382_p0_v1_s260x420A Happy Hat

Cecil Kim, Author

Joo-Kyung Kim, Illustrator

Imagination Press, Fiction, Sep. 28, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes:  Hats, Resilience, Self-worth, Contentment, Optimism, Hope

Opening: “I am a hat. I am worn out here and there. I have a few holes, and even a few weeds sticking out. But I am still very much a hat. A very happy hat. I have lots of stories to tell.”

Synopsis: This is the story of a very happy and stylish hat made by the most popular hat maker in town. It is a  black silk hat decorated with peacock feathers. There are many gentlemen who want to buy the hat.  But, its first owner is a new groom on his wedding day. The hat feels very special to be worn for such a festive occasion.  As time passes the hat ends up in a second-hand store for sale where it is purchased by a magician. The hat feels lucky that it can make so many children laugh. The hat eventually ends up with a street musician who turns it upside down to collect coins to feed his hungry family. The hat is joyful to have children dance and giggle around it. One day a dog steals the hat and abandons it in the woods where it weathers the seasons with a positive attitude, until a mother bird makes her nest in the hat. What will happen to the hat?

Why I like this book:  Cecil Kim has written a beautiful story about an extraordinary hat that manages to find the good in life no matter its challenges. I love that it is told from the hat’s upbeat viewpoint. There are many teachable moments for children to learn about disappointment, challenges, self-worth, self-discovery, hope and optimism — all presented in the tale of a silk top hat. Before it was translated, it was originally published in Korean in 2011.  Joo-Iyung Kim’s illustrations are bold and colorful and remind me of a collage.

Resources: The book itself is a resource. The tale ends with a double-page spread of illustrations that give children the opportunity to imagine and write a caption about what the hat, the magician and street musician are thinking.  After the baby bird leaves the hat, children are encouraged to draw a picture of who they think should be the hat’s next owner. There also is a double-page spread written by Mary Lamia, PhD, for parents, teachers and caregivers on how to teach children about disappointment, encourage hope, and develop a positive outlook on life.

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 Dance Like Starlight

A Dance Like Starlight9780399252846_p0_v1_s260x420.jpbA Dance Like Starlight

Kristy Dempsey, Author

Floyd Cooper, Illustrator

Philomel Books, Fiction, Jan. 2, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Ballet dancing, African-Americans, Discrimination, Janet Collins

Opening: “Stars hardly shine in the New York City sky, with the factories spilling out pillars of smoke and streetlights spreading bright halos around their pin-top faces.  It makes it hard to find a star, even harder to make a wish, the one wish that if I could just breathe it out loud to the first star of night, I might be able to believe it true.”

Synopsis:  A little girl living in Harlem in the 1950s has a dream of becoming a ballerina. Her mama works all day long and some times into the night for the ballet school, cleaning and stitching costumes for dancers. The girl spends a lot of time around costume fittings and rehearsals, watching every move and practicing in the wings. One day  the Ballet Master sees her talent and arranges for her join the lessons, even though she can’t perform onstage with white girls. When the first African-American prima ballerina Janet Collins performs at the Metropolitan Opera House, the aspiring dancer and her mother attend. The girl is inspired and realizes that she doesn’t need to wish on stars in the sky because dreams are possible.

Why I like this book: This book is a keeper for any child who has a dream of becoming a dancer, musician or artist. Kristy Dempsey ‘s lyrical text is so beautiful with lines like “It’s like Miss Collins is dancing for me, only for me showing me who I can be,” and “You don’t need stars in the sky to make your dreams come true.” Janet Collins inspires the dreams of young ballerinas everywhere, showing them that talent and hard work, not the color of their skin, lead to success. Floyd Cooper’s lively and passionate illustrations are painted in hues of brown and pink and beautifully capture the child’s dream of dancing on the stage.

Resources:   There is an author’s note at the end of the book.  One interesting note, Janet Collins danced at the Met four years before singer Marian Anderson made her debut.  Visit Kristy Dempsey’s website.  This is a good book to pair with When Marian Sang by Pamela Munoz Ryan and Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell during black history month.

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.

This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration

This is Rope9780399239861_p0_v2_s260x420This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration

Jacqueline Woodson, Author

James Ransome, Illustrator

Nancy Paulsen Books, Fiction, Aug. 29, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Theme: Migration of African-Americans north, Jump rope, Family, Moving

Opening:  “This is the rope my grandmother found beneath an old tree a long time ago back home in South Carolina. This is the rope by grandmother skipped under the shade of a sweet-smelling pine.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: When a little girl in South Carolina finds a rope under a tree, she has no idea it will become part of her family’s history. But for three generations, that rope is passed down, used for everything from jump rope games to tying suitcases onto a car for the big move north to New York City, and even for a family reunion where that first little girl is now a grandmother.

Why I like this story: Jacqueline Woodson calls This is the Rope a fictive memoir. She writes a very lyrical and engaging story based on the dreams of the many African-Americans who journeyed from the south to northern cities from the 1900s to mid 1970s to find better jobs and lives for their families.  Woodson’s mother and father left South Carolina in 1968 and moved to Brooklyn. I like how she uses the image of the rope repeatedly as a symbol of family linking one generation to the next. Ransome’s rich and colorful oil paintings vividly highlight scenes of the south and north in an uplifting manner.  His double-page spreads  are filled with expression and details of each period of history. This is a beautiful collaborative book by Woodson and Ransome. Visit Jacqueline Woodson at her website.

Resources:  There is an author’s note in the beginning of the book that talks about the great migration of African-American families. Woodson has a teacher’s guide on her website about using her books in the classroom.

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.

Erik the Red Sees Green

Erik the Red9781480453845_p0_v1_s260x420Erik the Red Sees Green

Julie Anderson, Author

David Lopez, Illustrator

Albert Whitman & Company, Fiction, Oct. 15, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 2-7

Themes: Color Blindness, School, Friendship, Teamwork

Opening: “Erik the Red was a wonderful kid. Ask anyone. He wondered if fish got thirsty. He wondered why he couldn’t tickle himself…Sometimes he wondered what life would be like without a nickname, but from the day he was born he was Erik the Red.”

Synopsis: At school, everything seems to be going wrong for Erik.  In soccer, he kicks the ball to the wrong team. In class he messes up his reading homework and misses half the math problems written on the board. Erik is teased in art class when he draws a self-portrait and paints his own hair green. A trip to the doctor confirmed that Erik’s painting isn’t wrong — he is color blind.

What a like about this book: Julie Anderson’s book is an uplifting story about a strong and self-confident boy  who seems to do everything wrong, but doesn’t know why. Once he understands his visual issues, he takes charge and talks to his class about his color blindness and invites them to ask questions. Erik sees colors, but just differently. He says, “I like to think I am color vision quirky!” Because his color deficiency is diagnosed, his teacher makes black-and-white copies of math assignments. His parents and friends jump in with other solutions to help Erik in a positive way.  This is an excellent story about everyone working together to help Erik. Even young children will understand the language. David Lopez’s illustrations are colorful and create a happy atmosphere for Erik.

Resources:  The author has included a double-page spread of information about color vision deficiency. The book is a great resource for parents, teachers and children. Visit the Color Blind Awareness website, where you can actually experience color deficiency and learn about why it effects more men then women.

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.