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.

Cubbie Blue and His Dog Dot

Cubbie Blue2940015722376_p0_v1_s260x420Cubbie Blue and His Dog Dot, Book 1

Randa Handler, Author and Illustrator

Premier Digital Publishing, Dec. 12, 2012

Available eBook on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple, Google and Sony

Suitable for Ages:  5-8 years

Themes: Friendship, Diversity, Magic, Right and Wrong, Problem-Solving, Equality

Opening: “In the mists of Cylon, the oldest Antarctic iceberg, was the enchanted land of Baltar, with diamond-faceted ice stalactites and stalagmites that twinkled in any light.  The sky-blue-skinned Baltarians were always happy, doing cartwheels as they walked and giggling when they talked.  They were only a few inches tall but big in knowledge.”

SynopsisCubbie Blue and His Dog Dot is a story about Cobalt, a 150-year-old child, who stands three inches tall, is blue and has a long blue beard.  “Cubbie” has a family and a miniscule dog, Dot, who has multiple tails.  They live in a peaceful nation of Baltar, which is on an iceberg in Antarctica.  The Baltarians communicate telepathically.  There is another nation, Aryon, which wants to capture Baltar.  Therefore, Baltar has a protective energy field around it and all Baltarians are warned not to leave.   While playing in his father’s transport vehicle,  Cubbie” pushes too many buttons and finds himself far away from Baltar and in a land of people who are friendly, but are giants.  Cubbie finds an unlikely friendship with three multi-racial boys, Brian, Chris and Derek, who find their new friend quite unique.  Cubbie can read minds, disappear, and create magical transport bubbles to explore his new environment (cities, mountains and rivers) with his friends.  They have a lot to learn about each other, including right and wrong, tolerance, equality and problem-solving.

Why I like this book:  Author Randa Handler has written a magical and quirky story that will not only entertain children, but will teach them about diversity, problem solving, multicultural differences, and social justice issues.  In fact today marks the UN World Day of Social Justice.  To celebrate, Randa Handler and Premier Digital Publishing are giving away the first book in her new eBook series that promotes diversity, tolerance and equality.   Says Handler, “If children are taught early on that being different is cool, the world will be a better place to live in.”   This is an excellent book to encourage kids to use their imaginations.  Her illustrations are bold, funny and colorful.  Cubbie Blue can be downloaded for free by “liking” Premier Digital Publishing’s Facebook page from Feb. 20-28, 2013.   You may visit Randa Handler at her website and view her other books in the Cubbie Series and another book If I Were King.  A portion of the proceeds from the sale of her first three books will go to the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition.

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

I Have a Dream

Martin Luther King9780375858871_p0_v1_s260x420I Have A Dream

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kadir Nelson, illustrator

Schwartz & Wade Books, Oct. 2012

Suitable for Ages: 5-10

Themes:  Dr. Martin Luther King, African-Americans, Civil Rights, Freedom, Diversity

Opening/Synopsis:  “I say to you today, my friends, that even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.  It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.  I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Book CoverFrom Dr. Bernice A. King:  “My father’s dream continues to live on from generation to generation, and this beautiful and powerful illustrated edition of his world-changing “I Have a Dream” speech brings his inspiring message of freedom, equality, and peace to the youngest among us — those who will one day carry his dream forward for everyone.”

Why I like this book:  Artist Kadir Nelson has taken one of the most powerful and inspirational speeches in history, and created a  beautifully illustrated book set to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic speech delivered on Aug. 28, 1963.   Nelson’s oil paintings are masterpieces  and a feast for the eyes and soul.  I was mesmerized by the strength and power in each painting.  Now a new generation of children will have the opportunity to learn about this great civil rights leader.

Resources:  There is a CD that accompanies this book.  The entire speech is printed at the end of the book.  With the inauguration of President Barak Obama, our first African-American President,  falling on Jan. 21, Martin Luther King Day, it is right to combine the two.  In honor of both, tomorrow, January 19, has been named a National Day of Service, and Americans are being urged to get involved in a local community service project.   Just check on the website for information

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.