The Night Before The Night Before Christmas – Book Giveaway

The Night Before Christmas9780989810821_p0_v1_s260x420The Night Before The Night Before Christmas

Jay Dee, Author

Darren Geers, Illustrators

Kraine Kreative, Fiction, Nov. 3, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 3 and up

Themes: Santa, Elves, Workshop, Christmas

Opening: “At the North Pole — buried deep in glistening, powdery white snow– lies the cabin of Santa Claus. Outside, not a sound could be heard…But inside, on this night –the night before the night before Christmas — Santa’s cabin was anything but quiet.”

Book Synopsis: At Santa’s workshop, the night before the night before Christmas is hardly a time to rest. The elves work tirelessly to get the final toys made before Christmas Eve, but Elfie just can’t keep pace. He spends too much time making his toys perfect, and when Santa comes to check on production, all the elves are surprised by his reaction.

ElfieTNBTNBC_4_5

Illustrations Courtesy of Darren Geers

Why I like this book: Children worldwide know about the night before Christmas, but have they ever wondered about the night before that night at the North Pole? Jay Dee has written a heartwarming Christmas story about Elfie who makes sure that his toys are flawless and that gets him in trouble with the head elf, Nathan. Elfie is behind the other elves and shutters when he hears Santa is on his way to inspect the progress in the workshop. I like the book’s theme about doing your best no matter how others feel.  Giving your best is all the counts. The story is very creative reminder about the true meaning of Christmas and the holiday season.  Darren Geers illustrations are eye-popping, expressive and gorgeous — just look at the expression on Elfie’s face on the cover. Geers sketches his illustrations with ink and digitally colors them.  They really make this book a standout for children. Visit Jay Dee at his website.ElfiePage8_9_revision1

Resources/Activities:  After reading the book, provide your kids with paper, crayons, scissors, glitter and glue and encourage them to draw a favorite Christmas scene related to the book or to the true story of Christmas. Make an elf mobile. Have children make a Christmas list, but a list that they would give to a special child in need.  Drop off a toy to “Toys for Tots” or look at programs your church may sponsor to help the less fortunate.

Book Giveaway:  Participants must be U.S. residents. All you need to do is leave a comment and indicate that you are interested in receiving a copy.  A winner will be selected randomly. Comment by 11:59 EST December 4.  I will announce the winner on my blog December 7.  Please make sure I know how to get in touch with you (via Blog, FB, E-mail, Twitter) if you are selected.

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.

Dash

Dash9780545416351_p0_v1_s260x420Dash

Kirby Larson, Author

Scholastic Press, Fiction, Aug, 26, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Japanese-American Children, Evacuation, Relocation, Concentration Camps,  Dogs, WW II

Synopsis: After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Mitsi Kashino is separated from her home, friends, schoolmates, community and her beloved dog, Dash. There is a lot of fear in America. Because Mitsi is of American-Japanese descent, she and her family are forced to pack their suitcases and are evacuated from their home.  They are relocated to two different concentration camps that are overcrowded, unhealthy, and surrounded by tall fences. Mitsi is forced to leave her dog, Dash, with Mrs. Bowker, an older neighbor who cares for him. Mrs. Bowker sends Mitsi weekly letters from Dash. Mitsi’s strong family ties and her letters from Dash give her hope that one day she will be reunited with her pet.

Why I like this book: Kirby Larson has created a strong heart-felt connection for her readers with Mitsi’s attachment to Dash. Dash adds an authentic touch to this deeply emotional story about a dark period in America’s history. Larson shows Mitsi going to school, playing with her two best friends until the attack occurs on Pearl Harbor occurs. Mitsi feels the prejudice from her best friends who begin to bully her with facial expressions, racial slurs and nasty notes. Larson’s characters are well-developed. Mitsi’s voice remains determined  and strong even when she’s struggling and balancing so many issues. She finds solace in her artwork and writing.  Larson’s depiction of life at the internment camps is very realistic with over-crowded living conditions, long lines, heat, dirt, fleas, smelly latrines,  and minimal food (oatmeal and Vienna Sausages). The plot is engaging, heartbreaking, and packed with adventure. Larson’s powerful story is based on the true story of Mitsue “Mitsi” Shiraishi, who loved her dog, Chubby and left him behind with a neighbor, who wrote the real “Mitsi” letters from Chubby. I highly recommend this important story about the resilience of the human spirit.

Kirby Larson is the acclaimed author of the 2007 Newbury Honor book Hattie Big Sky; its sequel, Hattie Ever After; The Friendship Doll; Dear America: The Fences Between Us; and Duke.  Visit Kirby Larson at her website.

Father’s Chinese Opera

Father's Chinese Opera9781628736106_p0_v2_s260x420Father’s Chinese Opera

Rich Lo, Author and Illustrator

Skyhorse Publishing,  Inc., Fiction, Jun. 3, 2014

Suitable for ages: 3-8

Themes: Chinese opera, Acrobatics, Father and son, Perseverance

Opening: “Father was the band leader and composer of the Chinese opera in Hong Kong.  Sometimes I sat on top of the instrument cases and watched the actors onstage.”

Book Synopsis: The Chinese opera is anything but boring. Songs, acrobatics, acting, and costumes make the opera a truly spectacular show to behold. Spending a summer backstage at his father’s Chinese opera, a young boy yearns to be a part of the show. Rehearsing his acrobatic moves day and night with the show’s famous choreographer, the boy thinks he is soon ready to perform with the others. But the choreographer doesn’t agree. Upset, the boy goes home to sulk.  What will he do next? Will he give up?

Chinese OperSpread_1

Artwork Compliments of Rich Lo

Why I like this book: This autobiographical story is based on Rich Lo’s childhood. His father, Lo Tok, was a famous opera composer in China before the family immigrated to the United States in 1964. The author is the child backstage longing to be a performer. This dramatic, expressive and colorful art form will be new to many readers. The story is narrated by the boy who is determined to become an acrobat. The text is simple so that the illustrations showcase the action in the story. It is a realistic story that encourages children to practice hard and not give up on their dreams. The boy’s disappointment turns into determination, perseverance and success. Every page is filled with colorful, evocative and detailed watercolors which highlight the traditional costumes, make-up, and dramatic action of the performers. Lo’s book is an inspiring tribute to his father and culture, and an introduction for children to the beautiful traditions in Chinese opera.

Chinese OperaSpread_2

Resources: Make sure you check out the “Author’s Note”about Chinese Opera at the end of the book.  There is also detailed information about the author’s father, Lo Tok, who was a famous opera composer and great musician. He shares the family’s struggles to immigrate from Communist China, and what it was like for his father being “a renowned writer of poetry and music to being illiterate.” The author lists other reading resources about Chinese Opera. Visit Rich Lo at his website for more information. Children can make their own Chinese Opera masks if they click [HERE] on the First Palette website.

Chinese OperaSpread_10

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.

Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming9780399252518_p0_v2_s260x420Brown Girl Dreaming

Jacqueline Woodson, Author

Nancy Paulsen Books, Memoir, Aug. 28, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 10 and up

Themes:  Jacqueline Woodson, Childhood, Family relationships, Living in the north and south, Finding one’s voice, From girl to author

Pages: 366

Opening“I am born on a Tuesday at University Hospital/Columbus, Ohio./USA– a country caught/ between Black and White.”

Synopsis: Jacqueline Woodson shares what it is like to grow up in the 1960s and 1970s in both Brooklyn, NY and Greenville, SC.  The south is home for Jacqueline and her brother and sister as they spend the summers with their grandparents. Children tease Jacqueline and her siblings about their northern accents. She struggles with the subtle prejudices in the South as her  awareness of the civil rights movement grows. In Greenville there are loving grandparents, friends, and a lot of love. In Brooklyn she’s teased about being a Jehovah Witness and having to follow rules that her  friends don’t understand. And living in the shadow of her sister’s academic performance in school presents another challenge. Jacqueline has difficulty with schoolwork. It is through her poetry and storytelling that a teacher tells  her “You’re a writer.” Jacqueline’s voice begins to grow stronger with each word she pens because she wants to believe.  Readers will find Jacqueline Woodson’s journey to become an author engaging and inspiring.

Every dandelion blown

each Star light, star bright,

The first star I see tonight.

My wish is always the same.

Every fallen eyelash

and first firefly of summer…

The dream remains.

What did you wish for?

To be a writer.”

What I like about this book: Brown Girl Dreaming is a deeply personal and authentic memoir for teens struggling with race, prejudice, absent fathers, and finding their place in the world. Jacqueline Woodson’s determined and uplifting voice is eloquent. Her use of free verse compliments the theme in her memoir.  Her story is lyrical, emotional, and powerful. Each page is a clever, lively or soulful poem about a growing girl’s identity; her struggle with reading, a love of stories, and a desire to become a writer. She gives her readers hope and the sweet taste of what it’s like to follow your dreams.

Jacqueline Woodson is the winner of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults, the recipient of three Newberry Honors for After Tupac and D Foster, Feathers and Show Way, and a two-time finalist for the National Book Award for Locomotion and Hush.  Other awards include the Coretta Scott King Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Miracle’s Boys. Visit Jacqueline Woodson at her website.

Animal School: What Class Are You?

Animal School9780823430451_p0_v1_s260x420Animal School: What Class Are You?

Michelle Lord, Author

Michael Garland, Illustrator

Holiday House, Nonfiction, July 1, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Vertebrates, Reptiles, Fish, Mammals, Birds, Amphibians, Animals, Rhyming text

Opening: “Vertebrates have spines. Elephants to pygmy wrasses, vertebrates are grouped by classes. Vertebrates have spines like you, mammals, fish and reptiles too!”

Synopsis:  Animal School begins with very detailed illustrations of the skeletons of five classifications of vertebrates with spines like  mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. Some walk on legs, while others swim, crawl, scamper or fly. Some breathe air while others live in water where oxygen flows through gills. With rhythmic text the author explores a subject many children will find fascinating.

I like this book because: it introduces children to the intriguing world of vertebrates. Michelle Lord’s knowledge of vertebrates is captured in her catchy and entertaining rhyming in each classification.  She provides the appealing facts about the special characteristics of each vertebrate classification: reptiles, fish, mammals (including humans), bird, amphibians, and animals.  Verses describe whether the vertebrae is cold-blooded or warm-blooded, scaly or furry,  hatched or birthed from an animal. Her language is understandable and kid-friendly. Michael Garland’s “digital woodcut” illustrations of the animals and reptiles add a dramatic touch that is eye-catching and suits the preferred natural habitat. The texture really adds realism to the story. His double-page spreads are simply stunning, complimenting the story. The cover is regal.

Favorite verses and illustrations:

Reptiles: “But alligators / raise their young. / Hatchlings ride on / Mother’s tongue. / Every noise / a reptile hears / through covered holes, / not floppy ears.”

Garland Gator6-7Compliments of Michael Garland

Fish: Underwater / fishes roam. / Rivers, lakes, or seas are home. / Oxygen flows/ through their gills./ Water passes/ through these frills. /Fish are cloaked / in flaky scales, / lacking hair or / furry tails.”

Garland Fish 8-9Compliments of Michael Garland

Resources: At the end of the book is a chart with all five classifications, their characteristics, some of the species, examples, an afterword about “invertebrates (spineless),” and suggested websites to check out. Use this book before you take your children on a visit to a zoo, aquarium or on a walk through the woods.  Visit Michelle Lord and Michael Garland’s websites to learn more about their books.

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.

Rachel’s Hope

Rachel's Hope9781927583425_p0_v1_s260x420Rachel’s Hope (The Rachel Trilogy)

Shelly Sanders, Author

Second Story Press, Historical Fiction, September 1, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 12 and up

Themes: Russian Jews, Persecution, Separation, Immigration. Family, Love, Hope

Synopsis: Rachel Paskar flees the antisemitic violence and persecution against Jews in her Russian village and makes the long journey by train across Siberia with her family to a refugee camp in Shanghai. Rachel makes a name for herself as a journalist. After her mother dies in Shanghai, she and her surviving family members save enough money to sail to San Francisco in 1905. Rachel also leaves behind her boyfriend, Sergei, in St. Petersburg. He becomes involved in the revolution against the Tsarist Russians.

Rachel and her family find freedom from persecution in San Francisco, but are challenged with learning a new language and strange American customs, while trying to hang on to their family’s Russian traditions. Rachel works as a maid, meets a group of women’s voter activists, and makes friends with a female journalist who encourages her writing and introduces her to newspaper editors. She meets a student, Alexander, who she cares about, but Sergei remains in her thoughts. What has happened to him and will she ever see him again? Then the great San Francisco earthquake strikes and Rachel and her family lose everything.  Starting over is hard, yet this determined young woman never loses sight of her dream to attend the university.

Why I  like this book:  Rachel’s Hope marks the culmination of the The Rachel Trilogy. You can read my reviews of  Rachel’s Secret and Rachel’s Promise here. Shelly Sanders’ fictionalized trilogy is based on a true story about her courageous grandmother who faces persecution as a Russian Jew, escapes from Russia and journeys to America, where she becomes the first Jewish woman accepted into the University of California, Berkeley’s science program.  Sanders masterfully reconstructs life in early 20th century Russia, Shanghai and America, weaving the personal with the historical into a compelling story that creates a rich reading experience. She is fastidious in her research of different cultural customs and details of every day life (i.e. food, clothing, dwellings, and work conditions). Her heroine is a strong and courageous character.  Her plot is moving as she brilliantly writes two parallel stories — Rachel’s changing life in America and Sergei’s hard life in revolutionary Russia — and gives the reader a clear and realistic portrayal of a period in history that few people know. Yet, Rachel’s Hope brings a positive conclusion to the story of a Russian family immigrating to America where possibilities are limitless. I highly recommend this important series to teachers for use in the classroom. Resources: Visit Sanders’ website for teachers guides on the trilogy and more information.

Shelly Sanders has worked as a freelance writer for almost 20 years. The Rachel Trilogy was an “intense three-year journey” for her. She learned about her grandmother’s story when she was 16 years old, after her grandmother had died. It wasn’t until after Sanders had a family, that she felt a compulsion to get to know her grandmother.

The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm

Rhino9780990539506_p0_v2_s260x420The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm

LeVar Burton and Susan Schaefer Bernardo, Authors

Courtenay Fletcher, Illustrator

Reading Rainbow, Fiction, Oct. 7, 2014

Themes: Comforting a child after a tragedy, Dealing with emotions and feelings

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Opening: “In the middle of the morning, Mica Mouse trembled under her blanket. A storm boomed outside her window. Rain crashed against the glass. Wind rattled the shutters.”  

Synopsis: Mica mouse is afraid of storms because she lost her home the year before to a powerful hurricane.  Papa reassures Mica that they are safe and the storm will soon pass. To calm Mica, Papa reads her a story about a little Rhinoceros who lives happy and carefree until one day a raging storm destroys everything around him. Angry, he opens his jaws and swallows the storm.  He digs himself into a deep hole until some friends pull him out. Swallowing the storm makes him feel awful, so the little Rhino sets out on a journey to heal himself. Along the way he meets wise animal friends who guide him.

Why I like this book: Sometimes scary things happen to children and they don’t know how to cope. LeVar Burton and Susan Schaefer Bernardo have co-authored this powerful and compelling story that will help children deal with tragic events in their lives. The book  is really two stories in one. The opening is written in prose. And, I detect Bernardo’s beautiful and lifting rhyme in the little Rhino’s story. I love the metaphor of the storm and the Rhino burying his feelings until his friends encourage him to let them go. Even the typeset words and lines have movement that mirror the action. Courtenay Fletcher’s stunning and colorful  illustrations take the reader on a visual journey through the darkest moments of death and destruction of the ravine, the Rhino’s loneliness and despair, to his steps towards healing and making new friendships. This picture book is a beautiful collaboration between the authors and illustrator. It is a book I would recommend parents add to their book shelves because it can be used for many different situations to comfort a frightened child.

Resources: At the end of the book is a discussion section with eight great questions that help children and parents take a deeper look inside the story. The discussion encourages children to share their feelings and explore how they handle difficult times. This book is also a good resource for teachers and counselors.

LeVar Burton: Actor, director, and educator LeVar Burton has been an icon for more than 35 years. It’s his 31 years as host, producer, and now co-owner of Reading Rainbow that have given Burton his greatest impact, delivering the message of the importance of literacy and reading to generations of children.

Co-author and poet Susan Schaefer Bernardo and illustrator Courtenay Fletcher created their first book Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs to help children deal with separation and loss.  It’s one of my favorite healing books for children. Click here to read the review.

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.