Malala – Iqbal, by Jeanette Winter

malala-a-brave-girl-from-pakistan-iqbal-a-brave-9781481422949_lgMalala: A Brave Girl From Pakistan

Iqbal: A Brave Boy from Pakistan

Jeanette Winter, Author and illustrator

Beech Lane Books, Biography, Nov. 4, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Children speaking out about injustice, Bravery, Malala, Iqbal, Pakistan, Taliban

Openings: Two children from Pakistan spoke out against injustice in their world. Their bravery in the face of great danger is an inspiration to all who know their stories.

“Who is Malala?” the Taliban demands, looking into the school van. 

“Twelve dollars!  Until the twelve-dollar loan to his parents is repaid, four-year-old Iqbal must work in the carpet factory. Twelve dollars for a boy’s freedom.”

Beech Lane Books Synopsis:  Meet two heroes of Pakistan who stood up for the rights to freedom and education in these inspirational nonfiction tales from acclaimed author-illustrator Jeanette Winter. Two stories of bravery in one beautiful book—including the story of Malala Yousafzai, a winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize!

One country: Pakistan. Two children: Iqbal Masih and Malala Yousafzai. Each was unafraid to speak out. He, against inhumane child slavery in the carpet trade. She, for the right of girls to attend school. Both were shot by those who disagreed with them—he in 1995, she in 2012. Iqbal was killed instantly; Malala miraculously survived and continues to speak out around the world.

Why I like this book:

  • It is an illustrated picture book biography.
  • Great pairing of two very brave children in one book.  Read Malala’s Yousafzai’s story first and then flip the book over and read Iqbal Masih’s  story.
  • The text is very simple and childlike; the words powerful. This is an inspiring book that will introduce children to the courageous boy and girl who share a common interest–they want to attend school at a high cost to their lives.
  • The colorful digital illustrations capture the story in a manner that won’t frighten children. Mid-way through the book where the stories meet, an illustration depicts Malala and Iqbal flying kites on a double-page spread. Malala is holding onto to the string of her kite, while Iqbal (a shadow of a boy) lets go of his string. This page is symbolic of their intertwined lives and a kind of passing of the torch to Malala who refuses to be silenced by bullets and becomes the voice for human rights.
  • This is an excellent introductory book to use in the classroom.

Resources: There is an author’s note at the beginning of each story that highlights each child with more detail. This belongs in every school library. It is a great way to discuss the plight of children living in other countries. How are their lives similar and different? Encourage students to write a letter to Malala.

Jeanette Winter is the acclaimed author/illustrator of many highly regarded picture books, including The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq; Mama: A True Story in Which a Baby Hippo Loses His Mama During a Tsunami, but Finds a New Home and a New Mama; Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa; Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan; Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia; Henri’s Scissors, and Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes. 

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.

Taking Flight

TTaking Flight9780385755115_p0_v3_s260x420aking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina

Michaela DePrince with Elaine DePrince, authors

Alfred A. Knopf,  Memoir, Oct. 14, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 12-17

Themes: Michaela DePrince, Ballet, War orphan, Sierra Leone, Adoption, Vitiligo, Courage, Hope

Synopsis: Michaela DePrince was born in 1995 in war-torn Sierra Leone and named Mabinty Bangura.  She was born with Vitiligo, a medical condition that causes blotchy spots on her skin. To the villagers she was a curse and called a spotted leopard. However, she had loving parent who taught her to read, write and speak four different languages. When the rebels killed her father and her mother died, her uncle sold her to an orphanage, where she became #27 .  She was starved, abused, and faced incredible dangers from the rebels. One day she found a picture of a ballerina in a magazine which affected her life forever. At four, she and her best friend Mia were adopted by an American family. The family encouraged her love of dancing and made it possible for her to study at the Rock School for Dance Education and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre.  She is now a member of the world-famous Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam.

What I like about this book:

  • The heart of this story is the strong mother/daughter relationship which translates into a remarkable collaboration and a gripping memoir about Michaela’s journey from Mabinty Bangura, a war orphan in Sierra Leone, to a 17-year-old professional ballerina.
  • The story’s real strength lies in Michaela’s lifelong passion to become a ballerina and her remarkable determination to break through racial barriers to dance classical and neo-classical ballet with a professional company.  She shows great discipline and sacrifice to be the best.
  • The narrative about Michaela’s journey is compelling and unforgettable. Taking Flight is written in such a manner that young readers would be able to handle the details of war and be interested in learning some history about West Africa.
  • The story is simply told in prose, but is filled with satisfying detail. The pacing is perfect and the book is a page-turner.  This book is ideal for any reader, but young black ballet dancers will especially find hope in Michaela’s story.
  • I found Taking Flight a joy to read because of its authenticity and honesty. Michaela thought America was wonderful until she began to notice the bigotry she experienced while living with her white family, especially when they went out in public. But it took true grit to face the racial discrimination and profiling she encountered in the ballet world. She heard comments that “black women are too athletic for classical ballet…to muscular…and aren’t delicate enough to become  world-class dancers.” She still struggles with “the racial bias in the world of ballet.”
  • There is a section of photos in the middle of the book documenting her life — from the African orphanage, her new home and family, to her ballet training and dancing. These photos will help young readers better grasp her life.

Resources:  Michaela DePrince starred in the ballet documentary First Position, which can be found in many libraries.  She hesitated to be featured but decided that it was something that she could do to help African-American children who dream of dancing.  She felt she had a responsibility to write a memoir and share the “hardy dose of hope” she had been blessed with.  Visit Michaela DePrince at her website.

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Hana Hashimoto9781894786331_p0_v1_s260x420Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Chieri Uegaki, Author

Qin Leng, Illustrator

Kids Can Press, Fiction, Aug. 1, 2014

Winner: Asian/Pacific American Award Picture Book Winner 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Violin, Talent Show, Practice, Teasing,  Self-confidence, Courage, Individuality

Opening: “When Hana Hashimoto announced that she had signed up for the talent show and that she would be playing the violin, her brothers nearly fell out of a tree.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: When Hana announces that she’ll be playing violin in the school talent show, her brothers laugh so hard they nearly fall out of a tree. But Hana doesn’t let that stop her — she practices and practices, inspired by memories of the time she spent in Japan with her ojiichan, a professional violinist. But when the day of the performance arrives, will she be able to overcome a sudden case of nerves?

Why I like this book: This is a charming and creative story from author Cheri Uegaki. Hana is a sensitive, yet spunky and determined character. Many children will easily relate to the teasing from siblings, the jitters of performing in a talent show, and the courage to try anyway. No matter how much Hana’s brothers think she is “loopy,” she practices and perseveres despite everyone’s doubts.  She remembers listening to her ojiichan (grandfather) play the sounds of chirping crickets, squawking crows, plucking rain, and squeaking mice. These memories help Hana to find her own way of playing her violin and making the performance her very own. Kids will cheer for Hana. Quin Leng’s illustrations are warm, whimsical, playful and capture the personality of each character and the tone of the story.  Her pencil and digitally colored illustrations include details of both Hana’s Japanese and American life.

Resources: Introduce your child to music, take them to a children’s symphony so they can hear the various instruments. Encourage them to try an instrument in their school music program. Let them decide what instrument they would like to play. Encourage young children to play a harmonica, drums, a kazoo, or a marimba.

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.

Love Will See You Through: Martin Luther King Jr.

love-will-see-you-through-9781416986935_lgLove Will See You Through: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Six Guiding Beliefs

Angela Farris Watkins, PhD., Author

Sally Wern Comport, Illustrator

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Nonfiction, Jan. 6, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 6-11

Themes: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Beliefs, Courage, Equality, Love, Nonviolence, Tolerance

Opening: ‘Martin Luther King Jr.  is recognized as one of the greatest men in history. I’m proud to say that he was also my uncle.”

Publisher Synopsis: The niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. reveals six timeless and universal principles that encompass the civil rights leader’s greatest legacy: Love will see you through. Growing up as the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Farris Watkins witnessed firsthand the principles and values that “Uncle M.L.” practiced and lived by throughout his fight for equality. Drawing from experiences and episodes both personal and well-known, Dr. Watkins artfully details the guiding beliefs of one of the greatest men in history. Including “have courage” and “love your enemies,” these six hallmarks of virtue and nonviolence reinforce the truth that “the universe honors love” and will inspire readers of all ages.

Why I like this book:

  • Dr. Angela Farris Watkins’ book is heartfelt and compelling. She shares with children the guiding beliefs that her uncle lived every day of his life.
  • The six beliefs are universal, inspirational and very easy for children to understand: Face adversity with Courage; Love your enemies; Fight the problem not the person who caused it; When innocent people are hurt, others are inspired to help; Resist violence of any kind; and the Universe honors love.
  • Watkins uses real events in King’s life (the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, the burning of his home, protesting segregation in Birmingham in 1963, his letter from the Birmingham jail, the voter registration drive in Selma) to emphasize the importance of how her uncle acted upon his beliefs of love and nonviolence. Her narrative is powerful and conversational.
  • Comport’s vivid double-page illustrations are strong and colorful mixed media collages that are compelling and capture the theme, tension and emotion of the book.
  • The book is an inspiring and excellent choice for school children to discuss during this particularly turbulent time in our history. Children will grasp that his beliefs are applicable to most any situation in life.

Favorite Passage: “Uncle Martin was a man of peace. Love was his way of life. Uncle Martin’s six guiding beliefs teach us that love has power. His life was proof that…Love Will See You Through.” 

Resources:  Check out the National Education Association website for classroom activities, tools and resources for children K-5. Many schools and communities will sponsor activities and walks on Martin Luther Kind Day, January 19. This would also be a good book to compare with Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus.

Angela Farris Watkins, PhD, is the niece of Martin Luther King Jr. She is an associate professor of psychology at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Watkins is a certified trainer of Kingian Nonviolence, the principles and steps of social change espoused by her uncle. Her books for children include My Uncle Martin’s Words for America; and My Uncle Martin’s Big Heart.

Sally Wern Comport has illustrated many picture books and novels, including Brave Margaret: An Irish Adventure; Hanging Off Jefferson’s Nose: Growing Up on Mt. Rushmore; and the Spy Mice series.

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.

Rain Reign – Middle Grade

Rain Reign9780312643003_p0_v2_s260x420Rain Reign

Ann M. Martin, Author

Feiwel and Friends, Fiction, Oct. 7, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 9-12

Winner: 2015 Charlotte Huck Award Winner and the 2015 Schneider Family Book Award

Themes: Animals, Autism Spectrum, Homonyms, Separation, Friendship, Family Relationships, Bravery, Hope

Pages: 223

Opening: “I am Rose Howard and my first name has a homonym. To be accurate, it has a homophone, which is a word that’s pronounced the same as another word but spelled differently My homophone names is Rows.

Book Jacket Synopsis: Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms. She’s thrilled that her own name is a homonym, and she purposely gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein) which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Not everyone understands Rose’s obsessions, her rules, or the other things that make her different–not her teachers, not other kids, and not her single father. When a storm hits their rural town, rivers overflow, roads are flooded, and Rain goes missing. Rose’s father should not have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search.

Why I like this book: Rain Reign is told from Rose’s point of view. Superb storytelling by Ann Martin who helps her readers experience Rose’s high-functioning mind as she navigates her autistic world. This is not a story about disability, or autism, but a story about a fifth grader who uses her unique abilities and strengths to break some of her rules and routines to search for her lost dog, Rain. Martin’s narrative is seamless and gripping.  Her characters are believable with strong personalities, characteristics and quirks. The story is as captivating and creative as it is heartbreaking. It is set in a small rural town that is ravaged by a hurricane. The plot is well-paced with just the right amount of tension to keep readers intrigued, engaged and guessing. This is a realistic story that is emotionally honest and filled with heart.

Ann M. Martin is the author of Ten Rules for Living with My Sister, Ten Good and Bad Things About My Life, and Everything for a Dog, all from Feiwel and Friends. She won a Newbery Honor Award for A Corner of the Universe, and is the author of the beloved Baby-sitters Club series.

Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

IIce Doge9780547899268_p0_v1_s260x420ce Dogs

Terry Lynn Johnson

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fiction, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 10-14

Themes: Sled dogs, Alaska, Wilderness, Survival, Grief

Opening: All eight of my dogs are stretched in front of me in pairs along the gangline. They claw the ground in frustration as the loudspeaker blares. “Here’s team number five. Our hometown girl, fourteen-year-old Victoria Secord!”

Synopsis:  Victoria is a dogsled racer in Alaska. Since the recent death of her father, who taught her everything she knows about being a musher, she pours herself into training her dogs and preparing for the White Wolf Classic. On a routine run, she comes across Chris who is injured in a snowmobile accident. A fast-approaching blizzard catches Victoria by surprise and covers her sled trails. She finds herself lost in the frozen wilderness with little food or protection. Her real race becomes one of survival against time. Will she be able to save Chris and herself?

Why I like this book: This inspiring and gripping story by Terry Lynn Johnson, is a page turner. Johnson, who once owned  and raced 18 Alaskan huskies, knows how beautiful, peaceful and unforgiving the wilderness can be. Reading a novel based on Johnson’s knowledge and experience makes for great realistic fiction and a very vivid setting. Her plot is fast-paced with high-adventure, danger, courage and hope. Her main characters, Victoria and Chris, are well-developed. The story is narrated by Victoria, a fiercely independent, strong, brave, and smart teen coping with the tragic death of her father in the wilderness. She is determined to carry on his legacy as a musher. Chris, a city boy from Toronto, offers a bit of comic relief. Their relationship is full of tension, emotion and complexity. He steps up to the plate and works with Victoria in a race for their survival. Ice Dogs is a spellbinding story that will appeal to young readers. Visit Terry Lynn Johnson at her website where you can view a video, read interesting information, and check out her blog.  Johnson is a conservation officer in Whitefish Falls, Ontario, Canada.

A special thank you to Amanda at Born Bookish, who first introduced me to Ice Dogs. Click on her blog to read her review.

Willow’s Whispers

Willow27606548Willow’s Whispers

Lana Button, Author

Tania Howells, Illustrator

Kids Can Press, Fiction, 2010

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes:  Soft-spoken, Shyness, Bravery, Courage, Compassion

Opening: ” Willow’s words came out in whispers.  They were just too tiny to hear.”

Synopsis: Willow’s voice is very soft. She wishes her words would come out strong and loud so that everyone would notice her.  She is tired of sitting by herself at lunch, not being called on in class, playing by herself and getting the wrong juice at snack time because her teacher, Mrs. Post, and other children can’t hear her whispers. Her father is reassuring and tells Willow “one day your voice will wiggle its way out.”  One night she comes up with a plan and makes a magic microphone out of a cardboard tube and practices talking. When she uses her microphone at school the next day, everyone can hear her…until her magic microphone breaks. Is the magic gone? When it’s her turn to be a line leader will she find the courage to be heard?

Why I like this book: Lana Button has written a powerful and encouraging book for shy children.  I like how the font in the text becomes very tiny every time Willow speaks to exaggerate Willows painfully shy voice. I love that Willow is so desperate to have friends and participate in school activities, that she tries to find a solution to help herself. She makes the magic microphone and practices so that she can project her voice.  This is an excellent book to read in the classroom because many children will relate to Willow and it teaches them about compassion! Tania Howells simple digital characters are colorful, whimsical and show Willow’s longing to be heard. I especially love the cover where Willow is only half on the page emphasizing the book theme.

Resources: Click here to visit Lana Button’s website. Button suggests several resources to use with her book. Make magic microphones with children. All you need is a paper towel tube, markers, stickers, glitter, glue and construction paper. The author of The Crafty Crow shows how her students made microphones when they read Willow Whispers.  Button says this opens the conversation to whether the microphone was truly magic. Talk with children about how much courage it took Willow to speak up the first time, and how the microphone gave her the courage to do it.  As she practiced, it got easier. So in the end, she didn’t need it as she’d found her own voice.

Button says another effective teacher resource is creating a character map for Willow. It’s a terrific way to open discussion on how Willow feels, and what her struggles are. The children draw a picture of Willow and then add her character traits and her feelings in a web around her. Not only is this an effective language arts activity it’s a great activity for encouraging positive social relations with children and developing empathy. Here is an example of a teacher using a character map in class.
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Lana Button is also the author of a 2013 book, Willow Finds a Way, about bullying.
Willow Finds a Way9781771380850_p0_v1_s260x420
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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.