A Snicker of Magic

A Snicker of Magic9780545552707_p0_v3_s260x420A Snicker of Magic

Natalie Lloyd, Author

Scholastic Press, Fiction, Feb. 25, 2014

Suitable for ages: 8-12 (Grades 3-7)

Themes: Magic, Single-parent families, Moving, Mothers and daughters, Friendship

Synopsis: Felicity Juniper Pickle and her mama, sister and dog are on the move again. They’ve been moving all over the country ever since her father left them five years earlier. Felicity feels her mother is cursed with a wandering heart. And she’s tired of starting over in a new town, a new school and with new friends. When Mama’s van, the Pickled Jalapeno, heads to her Aunt Cleo’s home in Midnight Gulch, Felicity feels that her luck may be changing. She loves hearing Mama’s stories about Midnight Gulch being a magical place where people sing up thunderstorms, make ice cream that brings back sweet and sour memories, and bake secrets into pies. One day the city is cursed and the magic leaves. The only kind of magic Felicity is interested in is the kind that would make her mama stay put.

Felicity, who is 12 years old, collects words and writes them in her blue book and on her tennis shoes. She sees words hover around people light as feathers or heavy as burdens. Other words sparkle, dance and shine like stars. But in Midnight Gulch Felicity sees words like magical, bittersweet, sorrowful, splendiferous, factofabulous, believe, stay, friend and home. Felicity still feels the magic in the town and knows it is hiding.  At school she becomes best friends with Jonah Pickett, who navigates the town in his wheelchair doing acts of kindness. Together they begin to unravel the town’s secrets of the curse of the mysterious Brothers Threadbare. Will Felicity and Jonah find a way to release the curse, bring back the joy and magic to Midnight Gulch, and find a permanent home for the gypsy Pickles?

Why I like this book: Once in a while you discover a book that touches your soul and you know from the start that it is something very special to read. And when you finish that book, you want to go back to the beginning and start all over. This charming and delicious debut novel by Natalie Lloyd is magical from the first page and full of child appeal. Its literary style will captivate many adults. The language is lyrical and the plot is strong. There is a large cast of lovable, quirky and very talented characters who deal with real-life issues of loss, divorce, disabilities, bullying and loneliness.  This is an inspiring story about family, friends, and hope. A Snicker of Magic is an extraordinary magical experience and spindiddly fabulous!

Visit Natalie Lloyd at her website.

My New Granny

My New Granny184520174My New Granny

Elisabeth Steinkellner, Author

Michael Roher, Illustrator

Connie Straddling Morby, Translation

Sky Pony Press, Fiction, September 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 4-8

Themes:  Grandmother, Aging, Dementia, Family, Love, Acceptance

Opening/SynopsisMy old Granny used to make a fuss about my hairdo.  “Fini, what have you done to your beautiful hair again?”  she sighed and shook her head, not understanding.”  Fini’s Granny used to comment on her strange hair styles, help her feed the ducks in the park and cooked exotic meals from the strange places she visited.  Fini’s Granny has changed.  She likes her unusual hairdo, eats the bread crumbs instead of feeding them to the ducks and moves into Fini’s house.  Fini is puzzled by Granny’s strange behavior and isn’t sure how she feels about the changes.  Granny used to take care of her, now she and her family have to help Granny.

Why I like this book:  Elisabeth Steinkellner has written a touching and empathetic story about an aging grandparent who is suffering from dementia.  She realistically captures Fini’s confusion about the changes that occur when her Granny is diagnosed with dementia.  But Fini learns to love and accept the changes of her new Granny.   With the growing number of older adults affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia, this is a helpful resource for children.  The author is from Austria and the book has been translated into English by Connie Straddling Morby.

Michael Roher’s illustrations have  an Austrian flavor.  His technique is unusual and he offered to share his process.  “I used colored ink (fine-pen and marker) as well as red and brown pencils and pastels,” says Roher.  “For some surfaces I used a monoprint-technique to create interesting structures.  I used a roll to apply the color (water-soluble color for linoleum-prints) on the paper, cut out the pieces I needed and glued them onto my pictures.”  His illustrations are unique, warm and show compassion among the characters.

Resources:  Parents may want to check out the Kids and Teen page of the Alzheimer’s Association and a post from the Carolina Parent blog about  Talking to Kids About Aging Grandparents.

This book has been provided to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work. 

 

GreenBean: True Blue Family

GreenBean180801648GreenBean:  True Blue Family

Elizabeth Blake, author and illustrator

Nisse Press, LLC, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 4 and up

Themes:  Adoption, Different Families,  Identity, Visual Impairment

Opening/Synopsis:   “Oh No! Green Bean thought.  Maybe I don’t belong in this family.  I am green.  They are blue.”  GreenBean one days realizes that she doesn’t look like the other members of her family.    She has long ears and they have short ears.  She frets about all the differences and compares herself to her friend Anna who is the same color as her family.   It isn’t until GreenBean’s blind brother is surprised by her statement and offers her a new perspective of family.  GreenBean begins to see the diversity among her friends.  And, she learns that being loved and accepted by her blue family is what counts.

What I like about this book:  This is the first book written and illustrated by Elizabeth Blake.   The language is simply written as are her bold and colorful illustrations.   Both my children are adopted and struggled with identity issues and feeling different.  I would have welcomed her book.  In today’s world, there are many different kinds of families — divorced, single-parent, foster, mixed multicultural and ethnic, and gay families.  Blake’s excellent book  helps children understand diversity is part of who we are globally.   Otherwise we’d be pretty boring.   Blake’s credits her blind brother  “who taught her that sight is not necessary for insight.”   He has been inspiration to her in learning about uniqueness and differences.  Visit Elizabeth Blake at her website.

This book has been provided to me free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review of the work. 

Migrant

Migrant

Maxine Trottier, author

Isabelle Arsenault, illustrator

Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press,  2011, Fiction

Suitable for: Ages 4-8

Theme:  Migrant workers, Mennonites, Mexico and Canada

Opening/Synopsis“There are times when Anna feels like a bird.  It is the birds, after all, that fly north in the spring and south every fall, chasing the sun, following the warmth.  Her family is a flock of geese beating its way there and back again.”  Anna is the daughter of a special group of Mennonite migrants from Mexico that travel to Canada to work in the agricultural fields each spring.  Anna  wonders what it would be like to stay in one place, to have her own bed, to ride her own bicycle.  Anna sometimes feels like a jack rabbit without a burrow, a bee and not a worker bee, and a kitten sharing a bed with siblings. Most important, she wonders what it would feel like to be a tree with firmly planted roots so that she could watch the seasons pass and never have to be uprooted when spring and fall arrive.

Why I like this book:  Maxine Trottier has written a very unique and whimsical book about a little girl who wants to live somewhere permanently.   Trottier’s text is simple and lyrical.  Isabelle Arsenault’s illustrations are beautiful and have a sense of humor –even the geese wear prayer caps.  Migrant has won of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2011.  I have written many newspaper articles over the years about migrant workers, the hardships, and the challenges for the children.  But, I never knew the story about the Canadian Mennonites that moved to northern Mexico in the 1920s with the hope of farming and finding religious freedom.  They maintained their dual citizenship, which has allowed them to return to Canada each spring to work in the agricultural fields planting and harvesting crops.  It is difficult for them to earn a living in Northern Mexico due to droughts during the summer months.  Some find jobs in industry.  Life is hard life for these peace-loving Mennonites, especially the children.  Many speak Low German.   They wear plain clothing, and the women and girls wear white caps and the men wear hats.  They cling to their old ways and peace-loving traditions.  There is background information on the Low-German Mennonites from Mexico in the back of the book.

Operation Marriage – Perfect Picture Book

Operation Marriage

Cynthia Chin-Lee, Author

Lea Lyon, Illustrator

Reach and Teach and PM Press, Fiction, 2011

Suitable for:  Ages 4 and Up

Themes:  Equality, Gay Parents, Difficulty for Children, Loving Families

Synopsis:  After school my best friend Zach said to me, “We can’t be best friends anymore.”  “Why not?”  “It’s your parents, Alex.  They’re…they’re not really married.”  “Of course they’re married,”  I said.  My face got red-hot.  “No, they’re not.  My dad says two women can’t be married.”  He dashed away.  Alex and Nicky are confused when they realize their parents had a commitment ceremony, but had not been able to get married at the time.  They tell Mama Lee and Mama Kathy that they want them to get married and start planning their “Operation Marriage,” campaign.  Because Proposition 8 might pass in California, their parents decide to get married in a church.  Alex is a bridesmaid, and Nicky is the ring bearer.  They shop for dressy clothing, flowers, and baked special foods.  Alex and Nicky get to invite two friends.  At school Alex shows her friends the wedding photos, including Zach.

The children live in San Francisco, and their mothers get married in 2008, when California briefly authorized same-sex marriages, then revoked the right with Proposition 8.  The author shows how difficult it was for children of gay parents.  I can only imagine how confused the children must have been with all the negativity they heard from kids at school, on television, and the signs that appeared in their neighborhood.  This book is such an honest and raw portrayal of one such loving and resilient family.  I highly recommend this book.  There are loving families everywhere that are not typical.  There are families with two Dads, or two Moms.  There are also families with single parents, and families where grandparents and aunts and uncles are raising the children.  They share one thing in common — love.

Why I like this book:  Based on a true story, Cynthia Chin-Lee has captivated the difficulties that children face living in a same-sex marriage family.  Lea Lyon’s illustrations are colorful, bold and evoke the emotion of the story.   What I found interesting was that this book involved a community.   The family depicted in the story was a member of First Presbyterian Church Palo Alto.  Cynthia invited the families and individuals from the church and from her neighborhood to come to church on a Sunday.   They all acted out the scenes from the book that happened in the church.  Lea photographed everything.  They went to Cynthia’s house to act out the rest of the book, with Lea directing and photographing.  Lea did pencil sketches of the scenes and author/publisher/illustrator worked together on the storyboard.  Lea painted (water-color) over the sketches and the team worked together to fine tune the book.  Their teamwork demonstrates how committed the author, illustrator and community were in publishing this book.   Their story was published in four Bay Area newspapers in the  Mercury News family.

Activity Resources:  Click on  What Makes a Family, and Celebrating our Own Families and Understanding Other Families.

For more books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.