Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson

Hattie Ever After9780375850905_p0_v1_s260x420Hattie Ever After

Kirby Larson, Author

Delacorte Press, Fiction, 2013

Suitable for ages: 12-17

Themes: Self-reliance,  Orphans,  Dreams, Reporter, San Francisco, Friendships, Historical Fiction

Book Jacket Synopsis: Great Falls, Montana, 1919. When Hattie mails off her last check to Mr. Nefzger, her uncle’s debt is paid in full. Now she is free to go anywhere, away from Mrs. Brown’s boarding house and the less-than-glamorous life of a chambermaid.  Hattie’s dear friend Perilee urges her to do the sensible thing and join her family in Seattle. But Hattie is not prone to the sensible. What sensible girls would say yes to spending a year under Montana’s big sky trying to make a go of a long-lost uncle’s homestead claim? And what sensible girl would say no to Charlie, who is convinced he and Hattie are meant to grow old together?

For all its challenges and sorrows, Hattie’s time on the homestead gave her a taste of what it might be like to stake her own claim on life.  She hasn’t yet confessed it to anyone, not ever to Perilee, but Hattie has thrown a lasso around a dream even bigger than a Montana farm.  She wants to be a big-city reporter.  Thanks to a vaudeville vanishing act, a mysterious love token, an opera star, and her unique ability to throw a snake ball, it looks like Hattie just might have a chance.  And it is an opportunity for her to discover the truth about her “scoundrel” uncle and in the process learn more about herself.

What I love about this book:

  • Kirby Larson returns with a sequel to her Newbery Honor Book, Hattie Big Sky. She couldn’t leave her readers wondering what happened to her memorable character, Hattie Inez Brooks, after she leaves the Montana homestead.
  • The author brings history alive in this sequel, accurately recreating the setting for San Francisco in 1919. Readers will experience the inequality of women in the workplace, the shortening of dresses and bobbed hairstyles, an earthquake, the smells of China Town, the clanging of street cars, and the bay area before the Golden Gate Bridge is constructed.
  • Hattie’s character grows in self-confidence after her year on the prairie. She is spunky and even more determined to follow her dreams to become a big-city newspaper reporter in a man’s world, where women write society columns. That’s not for strong-willed Hattie, who pays her dues as she moves up from a fact finder at the Chronicle to covering baseball games,  rides in a Boeing seaplane, and snags an exclusive interview with President Woodrow Wilson.
  • Her story is packed with action and tension. There is a mystery, an unexpected betrayal , a romantic under current, and other twists that kept me quickly turning the pages.  Hattie Ever After is a very satisfying conclusion to Kirby’s Hattie Big Sky.  Hattie is no longer the orphan trying to find home.

Kirby Larson is the author of Hattie Ever After, Duke, Dash, The Fences Between Us and The Friendship Doll.  Check out Kirby Larson’s website and my reviews of Hattie Big Sky and Dash.

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.

Exclamation Mark!

Exclamation Mark9780545436793_p0_v1_s260x420Exclamation Mark!

Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Author

Tom Lichtenheld, Illustrator

Scholastic Press, Fiction, March 2013

Suitable for Ages: 5 and up

Themes: Fitting In, Standing Out, Punctuation

Opening “!  He stood out from the very beginning.”

Synopsis:  An exclamation point feels that he stands out from all the periods.  Although he tries to fit in, he isn’t like the other marks.  He is depressed until one day he meets a question mark ?, who pellets him with questions until he yells Stop!  He tries bigger words: Wow!  Yippee!  Way to Go!  Cool!  Boo!  Then more exclamations rush from his mouth and he shows all his friends what he can do.  At last he’s found his purpose.

Why I like this book:  Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld have teamed up to create another very simple and creative  story that both children and adults will find an entertaining way to understand the role of a period, question mark and exclamation mark. The story idea is brilliant. I also think their humorous story will spark many meaningful discussions at home and in the classroom about fitting in, self-expression and finding one’s place in the world.  Lichtenheld’s illustrations really bring the punctuation marks to life in a delightful way for kids.  The background looks like lined homework paper. The marks all have facial expressions.  The art is simple and progresses to an explosion of colorful words at the end.  This book is a must for the classroom.  Visit Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld at their websites.

The Weird Series

Weird9781575423982_p0_v1_s260x420Weird!

Erin Frankel, Author

Paula Heaphy, Illustrator

Free Spirit Publishing, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages:5 and up

Themes: Bullying, Fear, Courage, Self-Confidence,  Accountability

Opening/Synopsis:   “Hi.  My name is Luisa and I have a problem.  There is a girl in my class named Sam who thinks that everything I do is WEIRD!”   When Luisa raises her hand to answer a question, tells a joke to her friends, hugs her mom after school, or wears her favorite polka dot boots, Sam says she’s WEIRD.   Luisa tries to change what she does, but Sam continues to call her WEIRD.  Luisa doesn’t feel like herself anymore.  “Everyone misses  the way I used to be.  Everyone else, including me.”  After talking with her mother, Luisa makes some positive changes and throws Sam a curve ball.

Dare9781575423999_p0_v1_s260x420DARE!

Book 2

Opening/Synopsis: “Hi.  My name is Jayla and I’m scared.  See that girl?  That’s Sam.  She’s tough.   She picked on me a lot last year, but I never stood up for myself.  I didn’t DARE!  No one stood up for me, either.  They didn’t DARE.”   Jayla is relieved when Sam stops bullying her, but feels bad when she sees Luisa the next target.  Jayla remembers too well how it feels when no one dares to stand up for her.  Even though Jayla tries to mind her own business, Sam begins to DARE Jayla to say mean things to Luisa.   Jayla is scared and caves into Sam.  Jayla feels bad for Luisa.  “This isn’t the kind of person I want to be.”   Jayla musters the courage to make her own DARE and reclaims her power from Sam.

Tough9781575424002_p0_v1_s260x420TOUGH!

Book 3

Opening/Synopsis“What are you staring at?  I’m not the weird one.  My name is Sam and I’m TOUGH!  That Luisa.  She’s weird.  She dresses weird.  Acts weird.  She talks weird.  Someone has to tell her, so I do.”  Sam has had a lot of practice learning to be TOUGH.  Her brother bullies her and she’s had to learn to stand up to him.  Sam acts tough so people won’t mess with her.  She discovers that people aren’t following her rules anymore, so things are getting a bit tough for Sam.  Her teachers want to help her, but is she through with being TOUGH?

Why I like this series:  Erin Frankel has written a very powerful series on bullying.  The Weird Series shows kids bullying from three different points of view:  Luisa who is bullied in WEIRD!, Jayla who is the bystander in DARE!, and Sam who is the bully in TOUGH!  The books can stand-alone, or be used as a series.  I recommend that classrooms read the books as a series because the stories are interwoven.   Readers will identify with the name-calling, insults, threats, fear, and anger.  The characters are realistic and the language is simple, but edgy.  These books are going to be hits in the classroom.  Paula Heaphy’s black and white illustrations are highlighted with splashes of color, usually focusing on a specific character.  They are bold, emotive and capture the great body language of the characters.

Resources:  Each book has extensive pages of backmatter for kids, parents and teachers on the topic at hand (i.e. victim, bystander and bully).  There are summaries of lessons learned, discussion points, activities, suggestions for courage, confidence and kindness clubs, and role-playing.  Visit Erin Frankel at her website.  Teachers can download a free  Leader’s Guide  from Free Spirit Publishing.  The following is an interesting interview with both author and illustrator that I believe you will find interesting.

These books have been provided to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work.

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.

Making Friends Is an Art!

Making Friends9781934490303_p0_v1_s260x420Making Friends Is an Art!

Julia Cook, Author

Bridget A. Barnes, Illustrator

Boys Town Press, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes:  Friendship, Interpersonal relations in children, Life Skills

Opening/Synopsis:  “My name is Brown.  I spend a lot of time in a pencil box with a bunch of other colors.  We are all different.  Some of us are sharper than others.  Some of us are long and others are short.”   Brown is the tallest pencil in the box.  This means he is the least used pencil in the box.  And he doesn’t feel like he fits in very well with the others.  “I don’t have much to smile about.  I am Brown, tall geeky and lonely…that’s me!”  Brown envies Red, BlueOrange, Yellow, Green, and Purple who color and play together.  Blue gives hugs.  Orange likes to have fun.  Green is honest. White keeps the peace.  Pink listens.  And everyone loves Red.  When Brown talks to Blue and Green, he learns that if wants good friends, he has to be a good friend.  So he asks all the other pencils why they don’t like him and learns a lot of surprising things about himself.  It is Black who points out that “when all the colors are mixed together they make Brown.”  He has all the colors inside him.  Will he be able to use all the other colors to like himself, recognize his own strengths and be a better friend?

Why I like this book:  Julia Cook has written a humorous fun and colorful book that all kids will identify with.   What better way to teach kids about differences than through art.  There are tall kids, short kids, popular kids,  shy kids, happy kids and sad kids in every classroom.  Differences add to the dynamics of the classroom.  This book really focuses on helping children building interpersonal relationships with other children.   Bridget Barnes’ illustrations are bright, lively and expressive.   This title is the first in a new series of Julia Cook’s books focusing on relationship-building  skills for children.  It is perfect for the classroom.

Resources:  There is a backpage at the back of the book with constructive tips for parents, teachers and counselors to work with kids in building the life skills they require to be a good friend.  In the classroom, ask each child to pick the color of a pencil he/she feels they could identify with most and why.   This will make for an interesting classroom discussion.  Visit Julia Cook’s website,  to view the many books she has written.

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.

Tattle Tongue51yXm1g5xwL__SL500_AA300_Divorce9781931636766_p0_v1_s260x420Just Don't Like the Sound of NO115871425

The Dot — International Dot Day

The Dot

Peter H. Reynolds, author and illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 15, 2003

Suitable for: Ages 5 and up

Themes:  Art, Imagination, Self-Confidence, Inspiration

Opening/Synopsis “Art class was over, but Vashti sat glued to her chair.  Her paper was empty.  Vashti’s teacher leaned over the blank paper.  ‘Ah! A polar bear in a snow storm,’ she said. ‘  ‘Very funny!  said Vashti.  ‘I just can’t draw!”  Her teacher asks Vashti to just make a mark.  Vashti angrily gives the paper a jab.  She asks Vashti to sign it.  One morning Vashti walks into art class and sees her signed “dot” hanging in a frame behind the teacher’s desk.  She decides she can make a better dot and begins to paint dots of all colors and sizes.

Why I love this book:  Peter Reynolds has written and illustrated an inspirational book that encourages children of all ages to be brave and “make their mark.”  There is no right or wrong way.   He wants kids of all ages to imagine, dream and create.  And this week over 500,000 children in all 50 states and around the globe  will be participating in International Dot Day, whether in their classrooms or at home.   Many kidlit bloggers will be making their dots this week.  My dot is below.

Resources:  Create your own dot.  Visit http://www.thedotclub.org/dotday/ to learn more about International Dot Day, activity suggestions, resources, a global map showing participants and a peek at the dots being created by celebrities.  There also is a Facebook page devoted to International Dot Day with frequent updates.   There also is a teacher’s resource guide for Reynold’s The Dot and Ish.  Below is the dot I created on my iPad with ArtRage.  Check out the dot made by my colleague  Beth Stilborn , who also encouraged bloggers to post their dots.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

My Dot

Patricia Howe Tilton 2012

Keep Your Ear on the Ball – Perfect Picture Book

Keep Your Ear on the Ball

Genevieve Petrillo, Author

Lea Lyon, Illustrator

Tilbury House Publishers, Fiction, 2007

Suitable for:  Grades 3 to 6

Theme: Visual Impairment, Disability, Self-reliance, Sports

Opening/Synopsis:  “Davey looked like every other new kid that ever came into our class.  Ms. Madison walked him in and said, ‘Boys and girls, this is Davey.’  He was medium height.  He had medium brown hair and medium brown eyes.  A regular kid.”   When Davey asks the teacher if he can look around, he walks around the room touching the book-case, blackboard and his desk.   Davey is blind.  The students realize that Davey is very resourceful and can do just about everything the others do.  All of the kids try to be helpful and offer to do things for Davey.  His response is always “Thanks, but no thanks.”  When they play kickball, things escalate a bit and no one wants him on their team.

Why I like this book:  Based on a true story, Genevieve Petrillo has created a heartfelt story about how students respond to a blind student.   Lea Lyon’s illustrations are colorful, expressive and full of action.  Once again she uses students from a visually impaired classroom to act out scenes for her sketches.  Davey is determined to be self-reliant.  He doesn’t want anyone doing anything for him.  He wants the kids to see what he can do.  When he has difficulty playing kickball and still refuses help, the kids are frustrated.  But together they begin to observe Davey, recognize what he can do, and figure out how to help him in an unusual and respectful way.

Resources:  Click on Reach and Teach  for special classroom activities designed especially to go with Keep Your Ear on the Ball.   There is more information about the real Davey.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture 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.

Just a reminder for May 7:   I will be interviewing NYT bestselling author Kristin Hannah about her new book Home Front.  There will be a book giveaway.  Her interview will launch my focus on Military Families in May.