Bumblebee Bike

Bumblebee Bike9781433816468_p0_v1_s260x420Bumblebee Bike

Sandra Levins, Author

Claire Keay, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: Stealing, Bicycle, Behavior, Guilt, Honesty

Opening: David was impatient. When he saw something he wanted, his teeth clenched. His fists tightened. His heart raced. When he wanted something, he wanted it right away.

Synopsis: David has a secret treasure box in his closet where he keeps the things he borrows from people without asking — like the Superman he snatches from his best friend Payton, the blinking reindeer pin from Aunt Rhonda, and a green rubber ball from his neighbor Charlie. To lessen his guilt, David tells himself that he will give it all back someday. When his prized yellow bicycle is missing he feels sick inside and wonders how someone can take something that belongs to someone else. He remembers the things he’s taken and realizes what he’s done is wrong.  He knows he has to make things right.

Why I like this book: Sandra Levins’ book belongs in every home. Children are unaware of the value of an item until they lose something they cherish. A common conflict among children is the proverbial “I see, I want, and I take,” with no sense of consequence. Levins’ book addresses this common occurrence in a child’s development with simplicity and compassion.  Claire Keay’s illustrations are colorful pastels, full of detail and they compliment the storyline.

Resources: The book is a resource. There is a two-page spread of helpful information, strategies, activities and discussion questions parents can use with their children.

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

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match – Marisol McDonald no combina

Marisol McDonald9780892392353_p0_v1_s260x420

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match

Monica Brown, Author

Sara Palacios, Illustrator

Children’s Book Press, Imprint of Lee & Low Books, Fiction, 2011

Suitable for Ages: 4-8 years

Themes: A bilingual, Peruvian-Scottish-American soccer-playing girl celebrates her individuality

Opening: My name is Marisol McDonald, and I don’t match. At least that’s what everyone tells me./Me llamo Marisol McDonald y no combino. Al menos eso es lo que me dicen todos.

Book Synopsis: Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin. Polka dots and stripes are her favorite combination. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos in her lunch box. To Marisol, these seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together. Other people wrinkle their nose in confusion at Marisol — can’t she just choose one or the other? Try as she might, in a world where everyone tries to put this biracial, Peruvian-Scottish-American girl into a box, Marisol McDonald doesn’t match. And that’s just fine with her.

Why I like this book: Monica Brown has written a charming story about a strong, spunky and carefree girl who embraces her multiracial heritage. You want to cheer for Marisol. It is inspired by Brown’s own Peruvian-American heritage. Did I mention the book is bilingual, so that Hispanic children can read the story and American children can learn Spanish? Like Marisol, some of the paragraphs are mismatched and include bilingual words.  For example Marisol even likes speaking Spanish and English at the same time. “Can I have a puppy? A furry, sweet perrito?” I ask my parents. “Por favor?” When Marisol tries to match her clothes so she fits in at school, she is miserable.  This book is a creative and beautiful example about how important it is to be comfortable and proud of who you are. Sara Palacios’s lively and colorful illustrations capture Marisol’s personality — just look at that cover! Great collaborative effort between the illustrator and author.

Resources: Lee & Low Books has a wonderful teachers guide page for Marisol McDonald with a lot of ideas and activities for using the book 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 (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Armond Goes to a Party

ArmondGoesToAPartyArmond Goes to a Party: A Book about Asperger’s and Friendship

Nancy Carlson, Author and Illustrator, and her friend Armond Isaak

Free Spirit Publishing, Fiction, Apr. 15, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Asperger’ syndrome, Autism Spectrum, Friendship, Socialization, Coping

Opening: “You can read any time,” his mom said. “But parties make me nervous,” Armond said. “What if balloons pop?” “And parties are disorganized. I don’t like when things are disorganized.”

Synopsis: Armond has been invited to his best friend Felicia’s birthday party. Instead of being excited, Armond is anxious and worried. He recites all the reasons about why he shouldn’t go. The party may be too noisy.  He may feel invisible and lonely. And, he always plays basketball every Saturday. Armond’s mother reminds him that Felicia will feel sad if he doesn’t attend.  After all, Felicia is his best friend, doesn’t care that he has Asperger’s, and talks all the time about dinosaurs. Armond decides to attend the party. With the support of Felicia and her mother, he is able to make it through the party and have fun.

Why I like this book:  This is a realistic and humorous portrayal of what it’s like for a child with Asperger’s to socialize with other children. The story is inspired by Armond Isaak, who participated in Nancy Carlson’s writing classes when he was seven years old. The author was inspired by Armond’s stories about his life with Asperger’s syndrome.  When he approached her a few years later to help him turn his stories into a book, she agreed.  The book is about learning how to cope in situations where you are uncomfortable, learning to be a better friend and realizing your aren’t alone. Nancy Carlson’s illustrations are vivid, colorful, emotive and include diversity. Armond’s facial expressions are priceless. This is an excellent book that offers helpful coping advice to  children on the autism spectrum and for those who care about them. This is an ideal book  for classrooms.

Nancy Carlson is an accomplished children’s book author and illustrator who has published 65 children’s books.

Armond Isaak is now 14 years old and in middle school. Besides reading books, he loves Legos, acting, and playing the trumpet. He is also a proud Boy Scout.

Resources: There is a note for parents and teachers at the end of the book with suggestions about helping children make friends, learn social skills, and encourage empathy.  Armond shares his thoughts about living with Asperger’s syndrome with the hopes it will help other kids.  You may want to visit Nancy Carlson’s website for more information and a video of Nancy and Armond being interviewed on television.

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

Gifts from the Enemy

Gifts from the Enemy9781935952978_p0_v2_s260x420Gifts from the Enemy

Trudy Ludwig, Author

Craig Orback, Illustrator

White Cloud Press,  Biography, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Alter Wiener, Poland, Jews, Holocaust, Survivor, Courage, Kindness

Opening: “There are those who say that what I’ve lived through never happened. But I’m here to tell you that it did. My name is Alter Wiener and I am an ordinary person with an extraordinary past.”

Synopsis: Alter Wiener was a 13-year-old boy living with his family in Chrzanow, a small town in southwest Poland. His home was filled with love, laughter, food and books. Every Friday they shared their Sabbath dinner with a student or homeless person. When the German Nazi soldiers invaded and occupied Poland in 1939, Hitler ordered his army to imprison and kill millions of Jews. Alter’s father and older brother were taken when he was 13. The Nazis came for him when he was 15. He was moved to many different prison labor camps where the conditions were deplorable.  The prisoners wer treated cruelly, given very little food and forced to work long hours. Years passed and he found himself working in a German factory. One day he began receiving a daily gift from a stranger who he thought was his enemy. Her kindness gave Alter the hope to survive.

Why I like this book: Trudy Ludwig has treated Alter Wiener’s story about surviving the Holocaust with great compassion and dignity. Since it is a picture book, she doesn’t go into detail about the atrocities that occurred during WW II.  Instead she focuses on the fact that not all Germans were filled with the hatred and risked their lives to help the Jews. Gifts from the Enemy is an excellent introduction to the Holocaust for young readers. It also is a timely classroom book for children to understand the dangers of hatred, prejudice and intolerance. It is critical that as a society we begin to encourage kindness, compassion, and goodwill among our children so they will have the tools to stand up to social injustice and make sure genocide is a thing of the past. Craig Orback’s illustrations are breathtaking and realistic. His oil paintings capture the fear and darkness of that time in history.

Resources: There is a beautiful afterword from Alter Wiener, who wrote his memoir From a Name to a Number: A Holocaust Survivor’s Autobiography. Trudy Ludwig provides a wealth of resources for teachers to use in the classroom. She includes information about the Holocaust, questions for discussion and recommended activities for young readers. You may want to visit Trudy Ludwig on her website. She is a nationally acclaimed speaker and author whose work helps empower children to cope with and thrive in their social world. Craig Orback  has illustrated over 20 children’s books, including The Can Man and Nature’s Paintbox.

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

Grandfather Gandhi

Grandfather Ghandi9781442423657_p0_v5_s260x420Grandfather Gandhi

Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, Authors

Evan Turk, Illustrator

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Biography, Mar. 11, 2014

Themes: Arun Gandhi’s memories of living with  his revered grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Opening: “We arrived at Sevagram, Grandfather’s service village, dusty and dirty. Father insisted we be taken straight to Grandfather’s hut. Bapuji sat serenely on the floor. I hung back, afraid to be in his presence, but Ela, took my hand and we rushed to him. We bent to touch his feet, a sign of respect.” 

Book Jacket Synopsis: Arun Gandhi lives with his family in Grandfather Gandhi’s village, where the days are thick and hot. Silence fills the air–but peace feels far away for young Arun. When an older boy pushes him on the soccer field, Arun’s anger fills him in a way that surely a true Gandhi could never imagine. Can Arun ever live up to the Mahatma? Will he ever make his grandfather proud?

Why I like this book: It is a true story that Arun Gandhi worked on for 10 years with Bethany Hegedus about his own intimate  relationship with his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi. It is an endearing story about a boy’s memories of his grandfather and his mixed emotions about living up to the Gandhi name. The narrative is beautiful and told in first person. Living in Bapuji’s village is hard for Arun. The food is simple and bland. The day begins at 4 a.m. with prayer and is followed by chores and lessons. This is a demanding life for an energetic 12-year-old boy who misses John Wayne movies, electricity and real soccer games with friends.  Most of all he misses having access to his grandfather, who is surrounded by aides. He is teased by the other kids and erupts in anger. But there are touching moments when Gandhi  checks on his grandson, listens to his frustrations, wipes his tears and talks about how he handles his own anger. Gandhi tells Arun how he can use his anger to make change. “We can all work to use our anger, instead of letting it use us.” This is a picture-book biography that stands out because it is a glimpse of a grandson’s personal account of his relationship with his famous grandfather. Evan Turk’s illustrations are  stunning, bold and expressive. He uses water colors and mixed media collages with paper, cotton, cloth, yarn and tin foil. I highly recommend this unique story.

Resources:  Use this book to celebrate International Day of Peace on September 21.  Talk about what anger feels like. Draw pictures of your anger. List ways that you can channel or turn anger and negative feeling into positive action, as Gandhi suggests. Talk about non-violence and peace. Visit Arun Gandhi at his website where you will find a wealth of information.

Arun Gandhi, born in 1934, is the fifth grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. As a journalist for more than thirty years for the India Times, Arun now writes a blog for the Washington Post. He serves as president of the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute and travels the world speaking to governmental leaders, as well as university and high school students about the practices of peace and non-violence.

Bethany Hegedus is the author of Between Us Baxters and Truth with a Capital TGrandfather Gandhi is her debut picture book. She heard Arun Gandhi in October 2001, a month after 9/11., after he spoke in New York City’s Town Hall about his relationship with his grandfather. A story he shared “hit her hard” and she contacted Arun and asked him to work with her on a children’s book. Visit Bethany Hegedus at her website.

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

Our Rights: How Kids are Changing the World

Our Rights9781926920955_p0_v1_s260x420Our Rights: How Kids are Changing the World

Janet Wilson, Author and Illustrator

Second Story Press, Nonfiction, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 7-10

Themes: Children, Social reformers, Human rights workers, Civil rights workers, Children’s rights

Opening: “The star thrower is one of a galaxy of bright stars — children who are part of a powerful and growing force daring to create a better world by standing up and speaking out for their right to be treated equally, to live in dignity, and to have their opinions respected.”

Synopsis:  Everyday children around the world are standing up for their rights and making a difference in their communities. Meet Emanuel Bagual from the Philippines who fought against the bullies in the slums and founded Mind Your Rights to help reduce the cycle of abuse and neglect of children by teaching parents, educators and children their basic rights.  Nujood Ali of Yemen escaped from an arranged marriage and went to a courthouse and asked the judge for a divorce, which was granted. Her book, I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, inspired other girls to come forward to sue for divorce. She wants to become a lawyer and help other girls.  Dylan Mahalingam from the USA started an online charity to raise money to fight child poverty. Anita Khushwaha of India became a beekeeper (male work) to pay for her for schooling and inspired other families to take up beekeeping. She became a role model for millions of girls in India. Zach Bonner of the USA collected water for the homeless following a hurricane — 27 truckloads.

Why I like this book: I will admit I am a fan of Janet Wilson’s books. Our Rights is packed with inspiring, true-life stories about children around the world who are standing up for their rights and daring to make a difference in their own lives, communities and world.  These children are working for the rights of children in a peaceful way.  Wilson captures their powerful stories in a double-page spread which features a warm and beautifully painted illustration of the featured child on the left and text and photographs about the child in action on the right.  This is an excellent book to use during International Day of Peace, September 21. This book belongs in every classroom.

Resources: The book closes with “Kids Take Action!” and “What YOUth Can Do” to become activists. It will spark many lively discussions and encourage kids to think about what they can do in their communities. These children are our superheroes who will change the world.  Janet Wilson is a well-known Canadian author and illustrator. Visit Janet Wilson’s website.

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

Big Announcement: On Monday I will review PPB contributor Barbara Gruener’s new book on character development, What’s Under Your Cape: Superheroes of the Character Kind.  There will be a book giveaway.

 

 

 

Oh No, School!

Oh No, School!9781433813337_p0_v1_s260x420Oh No, School!

Hae-Kyung Chang, Author

Josee Bisaillon, Illustrator

Magination  Press, Fiction, 2014

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Kindergarten, Anxiety, School Problems

Opening:  One morning, Holly banged and stomped her feet, and her eyes fill up with tears. “I don’t want to go to school,” she wailed.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: Oh no! Holly does not want to go to school one morning. Her friends are taking her toys and her teacher speaks too loudly. Everything is just too new and too different for Holly!  Through gentle reassurances and coaching, her mother encourages her to think differently about the things that are bothering her at school.  Holly begins to feel better about her new routines, new classmates, and new expectations, and soon she is off to school!

Why I like this book: Hae-Kyung Chang addresses common childhood jitters about going to school in a creative, realistic and engaging manner. Children wonder if they will like their new teacher. Will other kids want to sit with them on the school bus? They worry about making friends and sharing toys. Will they make mistakes?  Reading the book with your child before they start school can be a fun way to encourage them to talk about their anxiety. I especially like the last double-page spread where children are invited to write or draw their reasons for not wanting to go to school and what they find fun and exciting about school.  I recommend Oh No, School! for parents preparing their children for the new school year. Josee Bisaillon’s colorful collages are made from rich textures that really set the mood for the story. This is a beautifully illustrated book.

Resources:  The book is a helpful resource for parents. At the end, psychologist Elizabeth McCallum, PhD, offers parents many tips and guidelines that may help children easily transition to school with more self-confidence.