The Hugging Tree by Jill Neimark

hugging-tree-coverThe Hugging Tree: A Story of Resilience

Jill Neimark, Author

Nicole Wong, Illustrator

Magination Press, Sep. 22, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Trees, Nature, Determination, Resilience, Hope, Compassion

Opening: “On a bleak and lonely rock / by a vast and mighty sea / grew a lonely little tree / where no tree should ever be.”

Synopsis: This is a story about a lonely little tree planting its roots on a high cliff above a beautiful and unforgiving sea. The tree basks in the spring and summer sunbeams and endures the raging storms and the cold winters. It thrives with the ebbs and flows of the sea.  It provides a home for a loon family. Over time the harsh environment begins to tear its exposed roots and weakens the tree. One day a boy discovers the tree high on the cliff. Everyday he brings rich soil and tends to the tree until it one day it fulfills its greatness.

Why I like this book:

The Hugging Tree is an inspiring story about a tree’s resilience to thrive and survive the harsh challenges of being the only tree at the top of a cliff. Jill Neimark’s poetic and rhythmic text sings off the pages as we follow a tree through its many seasons. The story is a beautiful metaphor of the natural world that children will understand and embrace as they face challenges in their daily lives.  It will introduce them to themes of resilience, determination and standing tall during difficult times.

The story is also a triumphant reminder of the inescapable connection between people’s actions and nature. The boy shows love and compassion in his tender care for the tree so that it begins to thrive and realize its full potential. It is also reminds children that they too can make a difference.

Nicole Wong’s watercolors are exquisite, lively and expressive and contribute significantly to the story. There is power in her illustrations of the stormy sea and windy coast, and sensitivity when the tree is ragged and barely standing. This is an exceptional pairing of art and text.

My Favorite Lines:

Soft gold sunbeams / kissed her crown, / warm as honey pouring down. / At night she raised her branches high / to greet the moon up in the sky.

“Mighty cliff, hold me tight. / Don’t let me blow away.” / “Little tree, with all my might, ‘ I’ll hold you close, / night and day.”

Now every day new people stop / to rest beneath the little tree / and dream the things we all dream of. / To love, to share, to give, to dare / to grow just where we are. /

And to this very day they come. / For on a splendid sunny rock / by a warm and bright blue sea / a great big hugging tree / grows just where she was meant to be.

Resources: There is A Note to Parents and Caregivers in the back pages, which is a perfect resource for parents, teachers and counselors helping children build resilience. It provides suggestions to help children talk about the challenges they face daily (i.e. bullying, disappointments, loss, etc.) and tools to cope. Make sure you also read Neimark’s remarks at the beginning of the book about the conception of The Hugging Tree. Visit Jill Neimark 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.

*Please Note: My website will be on hiatus until October 19.

Daniel and His Starry Night Blanket

September 2015 is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Daniel and Starry Blanket 51fb4nqSz3L__SX384_BO1,204,203,200_Daniel and His Starry Night Blanket: A Story of Illness and Sibling Love

Sally Loughridge, Author and Illustrator

Maine Authors Publishing, Fiction, Aug. 1, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-8, Parents

Themes: Children with a seriously ill sibling, Cancer, Exploring feelings, Jealousy

Opening: “Just before Daniel was born, his grandmother made him a soft blanket that danced with brilliant stars. His mother wrapped him in the blanket when they brought him home from the hospital. It was just right, with room to grow. His father called it Daniel’s Starry Night Blanket.”

Synopsis: Daniel and His Starry Night Blanket is a story about a boy whose older sister, Kate, is diagnosed with cancer. He is sad and worried that Kate is so sick and not interested in playing with him anymore. His parents include him in the hospital visits for Kate’s chemotherapy, but he soon tires of going. Daniel is upset that his parents cook Kate’s favorite foods. When Kate receives cards and gifts, Daniel is angry that he doesn’t receive anything. His Dad takes Daniel to a ball game and spends “special” time with him. Daniel begins to find quiet projects that he and Kate can do together. Daniel wants to do something special for Kate and comes up with a secret plan and asks his grandmother to help.

Why I like this book:

Sally Loughridge has written a compassionate and sensitive story for families who are dealing with a child diagnosed with cancer and the challenges for siblings. Daniel is representative of all siblings dealing with confusing feelings of sadness, anger, fear and jealousy. For children like Daniel, it can be a roller coaster ride.

Daniel has the support of his parents and grandmother to help guide his journey through the highs and lows of a Kate’s cancer treatments. With their support Daniel is able to participate more fully in Kate’s care. It is significant when Daniel wants to share his special blanket with his sister forever– a signal of his own progress, growth and maturity. He asks his grandmother to help with his secret plan for Kate. I won’t spoil the secret. The soft watercolor illustrations are expressive, emotive and compliment the story. I highly recommend this book for families who have a seriously ill child.

Resources: The book can be used in many ways to support young children during a siblings illness. It is a valuable resource for parents, therapists and counselors working with children and families. Loughridge includes two pages of suggestions and activities about ways to use Daniel and His Starry Night Blanket. Visit Sally Loughridge 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.

I Am Yoga by Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds

September is National Yoga Month

i-am-yoga-coverI Am Yoga

Susan Verde, Author

Peter H. Reynolds, Illustrator

Abrams Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Sep. 8, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 3-9

Themes: Yoga, Children, Yoga poses, Quiet Mind, Relaxation, Imagination. Creativity

Opening: “When I feel small in a world so big, I calm my mind, my body, my breath. I can create and imagine. I am Yoga.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: An eagle soaring among the clouds or a star twinkling in the night sky…a camel in the desert or a boat sailing across the sea. Yoga has the power of transformation. Not only does it strengthen bodies and calm minds, with a little imagination it can show us that anything is possible.

Why I like I Am Yoga:

I Am Yoga is another home run for the creative team of Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds. Verde’s text is sparse, lyrical and creative. You feel peaceful reading the story about a young girl trying to cope with a world that is spinning around her. She is busy with school, homework, sports, music lessons and household chores. Through yoga she learns to close her eyes, quiet her mind, and focus on her breathing. Reynolds’ expressive and soothing watercolors compliment the story. He gracefully captures the girl practicing the 16 yoga poses as she imagines herself in nature standing tall as the trees, soaring among the clouds, dancing with the moon, and opening like a flower.

I am drawn to Verde’s beautiful story because I believe in the benefits of teaching yoga and mindfulness to young children. If children learn a yoga practice early in their developing years, it becomes a natural part of a who they are. It teaches them tools that bring balance into their busy lives. They learn to recognize stress and use well-known practices to still, calm and relax their bodies, thoughts and emotions. Yoga will benefit children for a lifetime and help them change their world…the world.

Resources: There is a kid-friendly guide at the end of the book that features 16 yoga poses to strengthen, calm and inspire children to live happier and healthier lifestyles. Each pose includes instructions. This is a terrific practice for both children and parents to do together. Since September is National Yoga Month, many yoga studios, teachers and recreational centers are offering free yoga classes and events in their communities.

Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds will officially launch  I Am Yoga, Saturday, September 19 at 11 a.m. Join the celebration, which will be held at The Blue Bunny, in Dedham, MA.  They have collaborated on two other books, The Museum and You and Me. Visit their websites.

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.

The Way to School

WTS_backcover.inddThe Way to School

Rosemary McCarney with Plan International, Author

Second Story Press, Nonfiction, Sept. 1, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes: How children from around the world travel to school

Opening: “You probably enjoy going to school. Even if you have a bad day now and then, wouldn’t you miss it if you could never go? Did you know that lots and lots of kids around the world would love to go to school, but can’t?”

Synopsis: As the new school year begins, many children eagerly prepare for school. In America and Canada, most ride school buses, travel by car or walk.  But, children all over the world don’t have a yellow school bus picking them up each day. For many children, the journey to school is not very easy. It can be long, arduous and dangerous. They travel though earthquake and tsunami areas, wade or paddle across rivers, climb mountains and slippery cliffs, cling to ziplines that dangle over gorges, and ride dog sleds.

Why I like this book:

Rosemary McCarney has once again written a beautiful and remarkable book that will be an eye-opener for many children. I was surprised at the extreme dangers children face daily because they are so determined to attend school. They want to improve their lives and help their communities.

I like McCarney’s minimal use of text and her emphasis on the beautiful photographs that speak more than words ever could. Every photograph in this stunning picture book shows the commitment children are willing to make to go to school. This is a magnificent book for teachers to use in the classroom at the start of a new school year. It will jump-start many interesting discussions about extreme modes of transportation for children in third world countries.  It will also help children appreciate what they have. This book belongs in every school library.


Photo Courtesy of Second Story Press

Resources/Activities: After reading the book and showing children each detailed photograph, ask them some lively questions: “What would you do to get to school?” “How important is school to you? Why do children in poor villages want to go to school?” Ask kids to choose one of modes of transportation in the book, draw a picture and write a paragraph about going to school by boat, dog sled or ziplines. Today is a National Day of Service. How will you be involved?

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.

Not This Bear: A First Day of School Story

not this bear22718686Not This Bear: A First Day of School Story

Alyssa Satin Capucilli, Author

Lorna Hussey, Illustrator

Henry Holt and Company, Fiction, Jun. 23, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 2-6

Themes: First day at school jitters, Bears, Separation,  Friendship

Opening: “It was Bear’s first day of school. Mama gave Bear an extra big hug and extra big kiss. Bear held on to Mama tightly.”

Synopsis: Bear is unsure about his first day at school. He’d rather stay at home with Mama. Bear soon discovers that school can be fun. He paints, listens to stories, builds block towers, dresses up, gives a doll a bath, makes a new friend and plays on the playground. After school, Mama is waiting and Bear has a surprise for her.

Why I like this book:

Alyssa Satin Capucilli has written a charming book for children who may be reluctant to attend preschool or kindergarten for the first time. The book sweetly deals with separation anxiety from Mama and is comforting. As Bear hesitantly explores the new and exciting wonders of school, he makes a friend. What I appreciate most about this book is that Bear doesn’t choose gender specific toys and activities. He dresses up like a pirate, plays in the kitchen, and gives a doll a bath. When Bear goes to the playground he prefers to blow bubbles with another bear and make rainbows with chalk instead of swinging and climbing with the other cubs. This is an excellent book to help prepare little ones for school.  Lorna Hussey’s watercolor and ink illustrations are expressive, fun, and endearing. They really contribute to the cozy charm of the story.

Resources: Reading this book to your child is a good way to jump-start a conversation about going to school for the first time. Like Bear, encourage your little cub to paint or draw without coloring books, learn to put things away, play games to learn to take turns, or make a book together about school. Most important, attend an orientation or visit the school ahead of time.

Even though Perfect Picture Books is on vacation until September 11, you can still visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books to see a complete listing of all thePerfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources. 

Ice Cream Summer

Ice Cream Summer9780545731614_p0_v2_s192x300Ice Cream Summer

Peter Sis, Author and illustrator

Scholastic Press, Fiction, May 26, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Ice Cream, Summer, Writing, Counting, Exploring, History

Synopsis: “Dear Grandpa, Thank you for your letter. So far, it’s been a delicious summer. I am very busy. But don’t worry, I am not forgetting about school.”

Synopsis: Joe is eager to join his grandfather on a special trip at the end of the summer, so he shares his “delicious” summer in his letter. He reassures his grandfather that he is staying current with his studies during his vacation. He is reading, writing, practicing his math, charting maps and learning history. What he doesn’t tell his grandfather is that he studying his favorite tasty treat, ice cream.

Why I like this book:

The wonderful Peter Sis dishes up a yummy story about everything you want to know about ice cream. His whimsical story is a refreshing celebration of children’s favorite frozen treat. Told with minimal text, children will follow Joe on his journey of reading the lists of flavors at a local Ice Cream store, writing and illustrating a book with ice cream artwork, practicing math problems with the addition and subtraction of ice cream scoops, and studying the ancient history and invention of ice cream.

Sis’s lively pastel illustrations are in delightful shapes: waves appear as colorful scoops of ice cream, sand castles resemble ice cream cones, hammocks strung between two cones, and the Statue of Liberty holds a torch filled with ice cream. Children will have a ball studying each exquisitely detailed picture and spying delicious treats. Ice Cream Summer will appeal to a variety of ages. This is a perfect hot-summer read and is best read with a bowl of ice cream.

Resources: What I like about this book is how easily it can be used in the classroom. Ask children to write a story about their favorite flavor and draw a picture. Talk about how the first ice cream was made 2,000 years ago in China with snow, milk, rice and fruit. Chart a map that shows how ice cream began to travel to different cultures worldwide. There’s some great history there. Visit Peter Sis at his website.

Peter Sis is an internationally acclaimed author, illustrator and filmmaker. Ice Cream Summer is a light-hearted and fun book for the author of The Wall, Tibet Through the Red Box, The Tree of Life, Three Golden Keys and Madlenka.

Even though Perfect Picture Books is on vacation until September 11, you can still visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books to see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources.

Sharing Our Homeland

Sharing Our Homeland9781584302605_p0_v1_s260x420Sharing Our Homeland: Palestinian and Jewish Children at Summer Peace Camp

Trish Marx, Author

Cindy Karp, Photographer

Lee & Low Books Inc., Nonfiction, Jun. 1, 2010

Pages: 42

Suitable for Ages: 8 and up

Themes: Peace Camp, Friendships between Jewish and Arab children, Tolerance, Respect, Multicultural

Opening: “Summer is here, and Alya and Yuval are off to camp. They will swim and play games, sing and make crafts, go on field trips and spend a night sleeping in tents. They will have fun with their friends and make new ones.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: Summer is here, and Alya, an Israeli Palestinian girl, and Yuval, and Israeli Jewish boy, are off to Peace Camp. They are excited, but their excitement is mixed with apprehension. The area in which they live has been fought over by Palestinians and Jews for a hundred years. What will campers from the “other side” be like? the children wonder.

At camp, Alya, Yuval, and the other campers enjoy two weeks of fun in close contact with one another. They participate in sports, create arts and crafts projects, and go on field trips. The children begin to understand what their homeland means to both sides. They learn not to be afraid and to respect one another.

What I like about this book:

  • Trish Marx has written a compelling and thought-provoking book for youth about a Peace Camp for children in one of the most complex parts of the world. It is heartwarming to know that there are both Jews and Muslims living in Israel who would like a peaceful coexistence.
  • The book focuses on a Muslim girl, Alya, and a Jewish boy,Yuval, who happen to live in neighboring settlements and probably would never meet, except through camp. Readers are introduced to their families, learn a little about their daily lives, occupations, culture and traditions.
  • The author gives a brief history about the Middle East and the context for the conflict in the region. As she does so, she explains how Alya and Yuval live in the midst of this ongoing conflict and the impact on their lives.
  • The goal of Givat Haviva’s Menashe Summer Peace Camp is to build “bridges and understanding among the campers.” It reaches out to children with the hopes of creating a foundation for peace, tolerance and respect for each other.
  • Cindy Karp’s vivid and colorful photographs are filled with laughter and chronicle the activity of the campers. The campers’ days are filled with swimming, water slides, a day at the beach, arts and crafts projects, climbing, and games. There are field trips to a kibbutz (Jewish settlement) and an Arab village where they learn to bake challah bread and taboon, a round flatbread. There is a sleepover the last night.
  • Readers will gain insight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and feel hope that solutions may come with younger generations. I highly recommend this book and hope that it has a home in every school library.

Resources: The author provides further reading, websites of interest, and a glossary at the end.  You may visit Trish Marx at her Lee  & Low website.