You and Me – Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds

You and Me9781419711978_p0_v1_s260x420You and Me

Susan Verde, Author

Peter H. Reynolds, Illustrator

Abrams Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Jan. 6, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Best Friends, Cats, Friendship, Fate, Rhyme

Opening: “Sometimes I think of how things came to be. / How we met. / How we became best friends. / You and me.”

Publisher’s SynopsisYou and Me is a loving tribute to how fate brought two best friends together. An adorable cat muses about the what-ifs in life: What if he had slept late that one special morning? What if he’d missed his train on that fateful day? Then he might never have met his favorite person in the world, and his entire life would be different!

Why I like this book: Susan Verde has written a charming tale about a serendipitous meeting between two cats at a train station– one yellow and the other purple. It is a heartwarming story about a friendship.

  • You and Me introduces children to the curious concept of life encounters that are due to chance meetings, perfect timing, fate or serendipity. The theme may seem a little big for children, but it is a concept they will quickly grasp, question and have great fun discussing.
  • Children will be amused with the yellow cat’s “what if’s.” “What if I had slept in, cover pulled up to my chin?…If I had sung opera in the shower…Or if the clock had been slow and I was late, lingering over my breakfast plate…”  Would they have ever become friends forever?
  • Verde’s narrative text is lyrical, sweet and simple for children. Adults will enjoy reading this lighthearted tale to children and reminiscing over serendipitous moments and magical encounters in their own lives.
  • Peter H. Reynolds’ illustrations are lively, whimsical and add a joyful spirit to the special friendship between the two cats.  His colorful illustrations are rendered in pen and ink, watercolor, and are playful and expressive. Great collaboration between Reynolds and Verde.
  • Visit Verde and Reynolds at their websites.

Resources: Who doesn’t like to think about fate, destiny, chance meetings, fate and serendipity. Big words for kids, but easily understood and fun to play with.  This story will trigger interesting conversations with children about the role of perfect timing plays out in their own lives. Ask them how they met some of their friends. Was it unplanned or unexpected? Was it a surprise? Did it lead to a friendship? This would make for a fun family or classroom discussion.

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.

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.

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.

Armond Goes to a Party

ArmondGoesToAPartyArmond Goes to a Party: A Book about Asperger’s and Friendship

Nancy Carlson, Author and Illustrator, and her friend Armond Isaak

Free Spirit Publishing, Fiction, Apr. 15, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Asperger’ syndrome, Autism Spectrum, Friendship, Socialization, Coping

Opening: “You can read any time,” his mom said. “But parties make me nervous,” Armond said. “What if balloons pop?” “And parties are disorganized. I don’t like when things are disorganized.”

Synopsis: Armond has been invited to his best friend Felicia’s birthday party. Instead of being excited, Armond is anxious and worried. He recites all the reasons about why he shouldn’t go. The party may be too noisy.  He may feel invisible and lonely. And, he always plays basketball every Saturday. Armond’s mother reminds him that Felicia will feel sad if he doesn’t attend.  After all, Felicia is his best friend, doesn’t care that he has Asperger’s, and talks all the time about dinosaurs. Armond decides to attend the party. With the support of Felicia and her mother, he is able to make it through the party and have fun.

Why I like this book:  This is a realistic and humorous portrayal of what it’s like for a child with Asperger’s to socialize with other children. The story is inspired by Armond Isaak, who participated in Nancy Carlson’s writing classes when he was seven years old. The author was inspired by Armond’s stories about his life with Asperger’s syndrome.  When he approached her a few years later to help him turn his stories into a book, she agreed.  The book is about learning how to cope in situations where you are uncomfortable, learning to be a better friend and realizing your aren’t alone. Nancy Carlson’s illustrations are vivid, colorful, emotive and include diversity. Armond’s facial expressions are priceless. This is an excellent book that offers helpful coping advice to  children on the autism spectrum and for those who care about them. This is an ideal book  for classrooms.

Nancy Carlson is an accomplished children’s book author and illustrator who has published 65 children’s books.

Armond Isaak is now 14 years old and in middle school. Besides reading books, he loves Legos, acting, and playing the trumpet. He is also a proud Boy Scout.

Resources: There is a note for parents and teachers at the end of the book with suggestions about helping children make friends, learn social skills, and encourage empathy.  Armond shares his thoughts about living with Asperger’s syndrome with the hopes it will help other kids.  You may want to visit Nancy Carlson’s website for more information and a video of Nancy and Armond being interviewed on television.

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.

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord

Half a Chance9780545035330_p0_v2_s260x420Half a Chance

Cynthia Lord, Author

Scholastic Press, Fiction, Feb. 25, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Moving, Photography, Friendship, Dementia

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Lucy Emery’s family has moved to an old cottage on a New Hampshire lake. Her father is a famous photographer and takes off on another travel shoot before the family settles. Lucy misses her father and is tired of starting over again.  When she discovers that her father is judging a photography contest for youth, she is eager to enter to see if she has talent.  She enters anonymously. She studies the photo scavenger hunt list and begins to take photos of her new lake surroundings. Lucy meets her neighbor Nate and his family, who visit their  Grandmother Lilah at her cottage every summer. Nate likes Lucy’s photographs and wants to help her with the contest. Lucy enjoys being with Nate’s family and learns that his grandmother is a naturalist. Since Grandmother Lilah is in poor health, Nate invites Lucy to help with the family “Loon Patrol.” Their goal is to help keep the endangered loons safe, carefully document their activity in a journal and report their findings. Lucy photographs the loons and  the birth of their chicks. Through her photos of the loons, the mountains, the lake and the community, Lucy also captures pictures of Grandmother’ Lilah’s memory loss, something that Nate’s not ready to see.

Why I like this book: This is a heartwarming coming of age story by Cynthia Lord, author of the 2007 Newbery Honor book Rules. It is a lazy summer read that is so captivating that you feel like you’re there with Lucy, Nate and the lake. Half a Chance is packed with adventure, wonder, friendship, artistic endeavors, and nature. Lord’s characters are realistic and engaging. The story is narrated by Lucy who gives readers a good feel for life on the lake. She struggles with ambivalence towards her father and a need for him to notice her photographic work. She encounters rivalry and the complexities of new friendships. Nate deals with Grandmother Lilah’s dementia. The plot is well-paced and readers won’t want the story to end. It is a fresh concept for a story with a satisfying ending. I highly recommend this book for tweens. Click here to visit Cynthia Lord’s website.

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.

While You Were Out

While You Were Out9780142406281_p0_v1_s260x420While You Were Out

J. Irvin Kuns, Author

Dutton Children’s Books, Fiction, 2006

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes:  Loss of a friend, Grief, Family, Hope, Healing, School

Synopsis: Penelope is about to start fifth grade without her best friend, Tim, who died of cancer during the summer. Not only is she dealing with the grief of losing Tim, she is also dealing with the fact that her quirky father will be the new school janitor. And her irritating next door neighbor, Diane, thinks she can replace Tim as her best friend.  Memories of Tim are everywhere, including the empty desk right next to her and their favorite oak tree near the playground. Finding a way to cope with her loneliness, she begins to write notes to Tim on her pink While You Were Out notepad, folds them and puts them inside Tim’s empty desk — “I hugged our tree today. I think it hugged me back.”  After receiving a mysterious note with a poem about grief on her desk one day, she realizes someone else misses Tim as much as she does.  Perhaps she will be able to survive fifth grade without Tim.

Why I like this story: J. Irvin Kuns has written a very sensitive and realistic story about grief, loneliness, hope, healing and the power of words that help a child move forward again.  Written in first person, Penelope is authentic, smart and beautifully expresses her feelings, mixed with some sarcasm and humor. Her overactive father is imperfect and embarrassing when he jumps rope and plays marbles on the playground. He acts more like a student than the janitor. The book does show how Penelope finds a way of moving forward after losing her best friend and schoolmate.  This is a very moving story that would help children deal with loss.