Drum Dream Girl

Drum Dream Girl9780544102293_p0_v4_s260x420Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music

Margarita Engle, Author

Rafael Lopez, Illustrator

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Mar. 31, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-9

Themes: Drummers, Music, Cuba, Gender equality, Diversity

Opening: “On and island of music / in a city of drumbeats / the drum dream girl / dreamed…”

Book Jacket Synopsis: Girls cannot be drummers. Long ago on an island filled with music and rhythm, no one questioned that rule — until the drum dream girl. She longed to play tall congas and small bongos and silvery, moon-bright timbales. She had to keep her dream quiet. She had to practice in secret. But when at last her music was heard, everyone sang and danced and decided that boys and girls should be free to drum and dream.

Why I like this book: Margarita Engle’s Drum Dream Girl is an inspirational and beautiful work of free-verse historical fiction. As you read this melodic poem out loud, you are drawn to the rhythmic beat of the text about a girl who made a difference. Millo Castro Zaldarriaga is so infused by the music and sounds around her, she can’t help herself.  When she walked under / wind-wavy palm trees / in a flower-bright park / she heard the whir of parrot wings / the clack of woodpeckers breaks / the dancing tap / of her own footsteps / and the comforting pat / of her own / heartbeat. When her sisters hear her drumming, they invite her to join their dance band. Her father says only boys can play drums, but relents and takes her to a teacher.

I applaud Engle for focusing on Zaldarriaga’s young life instead of her career. It is important for children to see how a 10-year-old girl dares to make a difference in 1932 and paves the way for Cuban women to become drummers. There is a historical note about Zaldarriaga and her musical career at the end of the book. Rafael Lopez’s creates his own magic with his vibrant, colorful and dreamy illustrations. His artwork beautifully compliments the story.

Resources: Children love music as much as they enjoy making things.  Make a drum or other musical instruments to encourage creativity and play. Visit the Kinder Art site for steps to make a variety of easy homemade drums.

Author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books (PPB) Fridays will be on hiatus this summer. This will be the last PPB review until September, although you will still be able to visit the link. I will continue to review books throughout the summer.

Tilt Your Head, Rosie the Red

Tilt Your Head Rosie9781927583593_p0_v1_s260x420Tilt Your Head, Rosie the Red

Rosemary McCarney, Author

Yvonne Cathcart, Illustrator

Second Story Press, Fiction, Apr. 1, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-9

Themes: Bullying, Standing up for what is right, Differences, Friendship, Self-confidence, Diversity, Tolerance

Opening: Every night at bedtime, Rosie took off her special red cape and hung in on the bedpost. And every morning, she tied it over her shoulders before leaping out of bed to start the day.

Synopsis: Rosie arrives at school wearing her red cape and is stunned to see kids on the playground teasing the new girl Fadimata, who is Muslim and wears a hijab. Not all her classmates are being mean, but they seem afraid to stop the bullying. Before Rosie can say anything, the bell rings. She comes up with a plan to help her friend feel welcome. Rosie asks Fadimata if she will make her cape into a headscarf and wears it all day amidst the whisper of the other students. When Rosie arrives at school the next day, she realizes her solution proves that anything is possible and that differences can be celebrated.

Why I like this book:

Rosie is an optimistic, self-confident and strong role model for girls. She’s not afraid to stand up for what is right. If she sees something wrong, she tilts her head, looks at the situation from every angle before she takes action. She’s a superhero for girls. The character Rosie, is based on author Rosemary McCarney, who as a child had and “amazing sense of social justice.” Tilt Your Head, Rosie the Red, is the first of a three picture books starring Rosie the Red. Yvonne Cathcart’s illustrations are colorful and vibrant. They beautifully capture Rosie’s positive and expressive character. This is an inspiring book for home and school.

Resources: This is a great character book to use in the classroom. It addresses diversity, bullying, tolerance and the courage to do what is right. Do some role-playing and ask children to walk in Fadimata’s shoes? How would they feel if they looked different and were teased? Have they been teased and why? Have they ever been a bystander and afraid to help someone being teased? How did that make them feel? Is it hard to stand up to their friends? Did they like how Rosie stood up for Fadimata?

Rosemary McCarney is President and CEO of the Toronto-based Plan Canada, where she spearheads the Because I am a Girl Movement. She is the author of Every Day is Malala Day and Because I am a Girl: I Can Change the World.

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.

Peace, Bugs, and Understanding

Peace, Bugs9781937006631_p0_v3_s260x420Peace, Bugs, and Understanding: An Adventure in Sibling Harmony

Gail Silver, Author

Youme Nguyen Ly, Illustrator

Parallax Press, Fiction, Dec. 9, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Anger, Sibling Rivalry, Mindfulness

Opening: Lily was having a picnic with her father and her little sister, Ruby, but it wasn’t much fun. Ruby was lying on the checkerboard.

Book Jacket Synopsis: Lily and her sister are having a picnic when Ruby spoils their game of checkers. Lily lashes out but soon gets absorbed in a wonderful book, the story of her great-grandfather Lahn’s encounter with a strong-looking frog-like creature called Anger. The precious old journal teaches Lily about Metta, a technique that has helped people transform anger into loving kindness for thousands of years.

Why I like this book:

  • Gail Silver, author of Ahn’s Anger, has written a positive and resourceful book for children and adults about transforming negative feelings. This book focuses on anger, but I believe it can be used with feelings of jealousy, frustration, anxiety, disappointment or any negative feeling that causes disharmony. It’s a book children and parents will want to read together.
  • Peace, Bugs and Understanding, introduces its readers to a very simple calming technique called “Metta,” which means loving kindness. Silver suggests “that when you practice Metta,  sit quietly and become aware of your own breath.” Once you calm yourself, you focus on the person you are angry with and wish for them “to be happy, be strong, be safe and live with peace.” 
  • This is a wonderful tool for children and adults to cultivate forgiveness towards others and even themselves. How can you be angry at someone when you are sending them kind, happy and loving thoughts?
  • The book is a story within a story. Therefore, Youme Nguyen Ly’s illustrations are colorful and warm watercolors in Lily’s world, but are gray and white pen and ink for Lahn’s journal.  The illustrations project a sense of calm that fits beautifully with the theme. This is a lovely collaboration between author and illustrator.

Resources: My favorite part of the book is a “Reader’s Guide” at the end that helps parents teach “Metta” to their children. There is also a page of discussion questions to use with children. This is also a book to pair with Ahn’s Anger, which I reviewed in 2013. You can visit Gail Silver and Youme Nguyen Ly at their websites.

Gail Silver is the founder of Yoga Child, a program that develops curriculum for school-based yoga and mindfulness programs. She is the author of Anh’s Anger and its sequel Steps and Stones.

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.

Queen of the Diamond: The Lizzie Murphy Story

Queen of the Diamond9780374300074_p0_v2_s260x420Queen of the Diamond: The Lizzie Murphy Story

Emily Arnold McCully, Author and Illustrator

Farrar Straus Giroux Books, Biography, Feb. 17, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-8 years

Themes: Lizzie Murphy, Baseball, Women baseball players

Opening: “In 1900, baseball was America’s national pastime…In Warren, Rhode Island, there were several amateur teams and Lizzie Murphy followed all of them. Her father had played on one as a young man. Her brother, Henry, was a shortstop on one of the best boys’ teams. To sharpen his game, he played catch with Lizzie.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: Lizzie Murphy was good at baseball. In fact, she was better than most of the boys. But she was born in 1894, and everyone said baseball was not a game for girls.

Lizzie practiced with her brother anyway, and then she talked her way onto the local boys’ team, first as a batboy, then as a player. Everyone was impressed by her hard catches and fast pitches. By the time she turned fifteen, she playing for two different amateur boy’s teams. When she turned eighteen, Lizzie did something else that women didn’t do, she signed with a professional baseball team determined to earn her living playing the game.

Why I like this book:

  • It’s time to play ball and I can’t think of a more inspiring story to share than Emily Arnold McCully’s Queen of the Diamond.  Lizzie Murphy’s true story can only happen in America. It is historically accurate to the 1900 time period.
  • The story is definitely character-driven with Lizzy, a strong, self-confident and determined eight-year-old, who believes in herself, her abilities and follows her dream to play a boy’s game. Lizzy defies the social mores of the time.  Her father is supportive, her mother says “It’s not a game for girls.”
  • McCully also shows the inequality that Lizzie faces when she is signed with a major league team. Even though Lizzie is a phenomenon, draws large crowds and fans, the manager won’t pay her. She confronts him, demands equal pay and her team supports her.  Professional baseball  is her job for the next 17 years and she’s paid the same as men.
  • The narrative is a bit wordy, but it doesn’t feel inappropriate for the time period.  In fact I wanted to know the detail. I loved baseball as a girl and could catch a mean hardball.  I would have worn out the pages in this book if I had a copy.
  • McCully’s acrylic pen and ink drawings are warm, expressive and emotive. She captures the attire worn during the early 20th Century. Lizzie plays baseball in dresses and wears high-topped laced shoes.

Resources/Activities: There is a very  interesting Author’s Note at the end about Lizzie and women playing baseball.  Take children to a baseball game, if they’ve never attended a game. If they are interested in playing, sign them up for local Little League team. More girls are showing interest in playing Little League.  There are also Softball Little Leagues for girls. Visit Emily Arnold McCully 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.

Never Say a Mean Word Again

Never Say Mean Word9781937786205_p0_v2_s260x420Never Say A Mean Word Again: A Tale from Medieval Spain

Jaqueline Jules, Author

Durga Yael Bernhard, Illustrator

Wisdom Tales, Fiction, May 7, 2014

Awards: 2015 Sydney Taylor Honor Books Award; 2014 National Jewish Books Award Finalist; 2014 Middle East Book Awards Honorable Mention

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Conflict Resolution, Justice, Fathers and sons, Friendship, Historical Spain

Opening: Samuel, the son of the grand vizier, walked into the castle courtyard wearing a flowing purple robe. His eyes were on the flowers and the fountains, not where he was walking. “OUCH!” Too late. 

Synopsis:  Samuel accidentally bumps into Hamza, the tax collector’s son. Samuel apologizes, but Hamza doesn’t believe him. Later that day, they are seated beside each other for lunch.  Samuel’s goblet slips out of his hand and stains Hamza’s shirt. Hamza is angry, calls Samuel mean names and won’t accept his apology. Samuel asks his father, the vizier, if he will punish Hamza. Instead the vizier tells his Samuel to “make sure Hamza never says a mean word to you again.”  How will Samuel deal with Hamza so he isn’t insulted again?

Why I like this book:

  • It is an inspiring multicultural tale of two lively boys, one Jewish and one Muslim, trying to solve their differences.
  • Jules’ story is inspired by a medieval legend about the Jewish poet Samuel Ha-Nagid, (993-1056) who was the vizier in Muslim Granada, a city in Spain. 
  • It explores the challenges of friendship across cultures and social status.
  • The ending is unexpected. Without realizing it, Samuel finds himself playing with Hamza daily. Samuel’s attempt to obey his father turns into an unexpected quest to make a friend out of his enemy.
  • The message of Samuel’s attempts to find a peaceful resolution to his differences with Hamza, is relevant today. Children will resonate with this timeless issue of making a bully into a friend.
  • Bernhard’s colorful and vivid illustrations capture the culture of this Medieval period. They are lively and show the tension and humor in the story.

Resources: There is a beautiful history about the Medieval legend and the history of Spain at the end of the book. This is a great book for teachers to use in the classroom to discuss peaceful ways to resolve conflict. Visit Jacqueline Jules’ website for information, a teacher’s guide and other materials to use with Never Say a Mean Word Again.

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.

Hansel and Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist

Hansel & Gretel9781615992508_p0_v2_s260x420Hansel 0& Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist

Jewel Kats, Author

Claudia Marie Lenart, Illustrator

Loving Healing Press, Fiction, Oct. 10, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Down syndrome, Fairy tale, Special needs

Opening: “One fateful night, a storm ripped through Cottage Country…The rain finally stopped pouring days and days later. Cottage Country was deserted. The only people left were the fisherman and his family.”

Synopsis: A storm sweeps through a village and a fisherman and his two children, Hansel and Gretel, are the only survivors. Their food runs out and Hansel and Gretel are sent to search for food in the forest. Their mother protests that Hansel is sick and too young for such an adventure. But, Hansel’s father disagrees and says he has Down syndrome and that they can’t always protect him forever.  Hansel takes the lead and bravely runs into the forest and stumbles upon the witch’s candy house.  Will Hansel be able to outwit and negotiate with the witch?

Why I like about this book:

  • Jewel Kats retells this magical story with the main character, Hansel, who has Down syndrome — a different ability.
  • It is the perfect read for World Down Syndrome Day, March 21.
  • This book will help readers look beyond disabilities and see Hansel as a clever, capable, determined and successful hero, who faces the witch with wit and kindness.
  • The story breaks stereotypes and touches on prejudices about what a child with a disability can achieve. And there is an unexpected twist with the witch, who also shouldn’t be judged by her appearance.
  • Claudia Lenart’s illustrations are breathtaking, whimsical, and contribute to the book’s appeal. Lenart is a fiber artist who pokes wool and other natural fibers, like alpaca, with a barbed needle to sculpt her soft characters and scenes.  This is the perfect medium for a fairy tale.

Resources: Check out the website for World Down Syndrome Day, where you can find information, personal stories, worldwide events and how to participate. And visit Jewel Kats and Claudia Marie Lenart at their websites.

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.