Why Am I Here? by Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen

Why Am I Here?

Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen, Author

Akin Duzakin, Illustrator

Erdmans Books for Young Readers, Oct. 14, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Curiosity, Wonder, Compassion, Empathy

Opening: “I wonder why I am here, in this exact place. What if I were somewhere else — somewhere completely different from here.”

Synopsis: A child wonders why they are here, living the life they do. They could be on the other side of the globe living a very different life. Would they have been a different person? What if the lived in a city with millions of people? What if they lived in a place where there was a war and had to hide? What if they were a refugee on their way to an unfamiliar place? What if they lived where there were deserts, floods or earthquakes?  Is the child meant to live in some other place or are they right where they are supposed to be?

Why I like this book:

Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen has written a beautiful and quiet book for children who like to think big thoughts. It is a thought-provoking and contemplative story where the child imagines how different life would be if they lived in a variety of settings with a different family. The text is sensitive and powerful.

I fell in love with the book when Patricia Nozell reviewed it on her website, Wander, Ponder, Write. It would have been the type of picture book that would have touched my heart and tickled my curiosity as a child. Like the child in the story, I was introspective and pondered many of the same big questions.

The story is written in first person, with the child narrating. The story doesn’t identify the gender of the child. The child’s soft facial features, light brown skin and shaggy hair allows both boys and girls to identify with the character.

Akin Duzakin’s dreamy illustrations are rendered in pencil and soft pastels which soften the harsh realities of a world of homelessness, children working in an underground mines, war, refugees and natural disasters.  They evoke compassion from readers, but also convey warmth and hope at the end.

Resources: This is a good introduction book about the different lives children live in other parts of the world. It could lead to many interesting discussions between children and parents. It will also give kids a  better understanding of their place in the world.

The Green Umbrella by Jackie Azúa Kramer

The Green Umbrella

Jackie  Azúa Kramer, Author

Maral Sassouni, Illustrator

North South Books, Inc., Fiction, Jan. 31,  2017

2017 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year

Suitable for Ages: 4 – 8

Themes: Elephant, Animals, Favorite objects, Sharing, Imagination, Friendship

Opening: One rainy day an Elephant was taking a walk with his green umbrella. Along came a Hedgehog. “Excuse me,” said the Hedgehog. “I believe you have my boat.” “Your what?” asked the Elephant.

Synopsis:  When Elephant takes a peaceful walk with his green umbrella, he’s interrupted by Hedgehog, Cat, Bear, and Rabbit — all claiming that they’ve had exciting adventures with his umbrella. After all, it is an umbrella, and it certainly hasn’t been on any adventures more exciting than a walk in the rain. Or has it?

Why I like this book:

A charming and humorous debut picture book for Jackie Azúa Kramer about the power of imagination and sharing. It is a playful and clever story about friendship and compromise. Each animal in the book believes that the green umbrella belongs him or her. After all it was hedgehog’s boat, Cat’s tent, Bear’s flying machine and Rabbit’s sturdy walking cane. Elephant is a good sport and patiently indulges his friends as they each tell grandiose stories of how they used his umbrella.

This book has heart. Through lyrical text it teaches children compassion, how to play together, share, and have fun planning a whopping adventure.

Wow, what a beautiful and whimsical cover by Maral Sassouni. The cover drew me to this charming story along with her lively, colorful acrylic illustrations that will tickle young imaginations. The book is a perfect read-aloud.

Resources:  This story is about encouraging kids to use their imaginations as they play together. Give kids a box, a jump rope, chalk, a bottle of bubbles and let them create something together.

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.

This is Sadie

This is Sadie9781770495326_p0_v1_s192x300This is Sadie

Sara O’Leary, Author

Julie Morstad, Illustrator

Tundra Books, Fiction, May 12, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Imagination, Inspiration, Creativity

Opening: This is Sadie. No, not that. That’s a box. Sadie is inside the box. Wait, do you hear? Sadie says she’s not inside the box at all. “I’m on an enormous boat,” she says, “crossing a wide, wide sea.”

Synopsis: Sadie has a huge imagination. The days are not long enough for Sadie because she has so many things to make, do and be.  She likes to make boats of boxes. She chats with birds, builds things, and has wings that can fly her anywhere. She has been a boy raised by wolves, lived under the sea, and been the hero in fairy tales. Sadie likes stories best because she can make them from nothing at all.

Why I like this story:

Sara O’Leary has written an endearing story that encourages girls to try everything and be who ever they want to be. Sadie is irresistible. Her story is rich in imagination and will inspire many little girls to find their own “Sadie” within. I also appreciate that many of Sadie’s adventures and undertakings are non-gender specific. How fun would it be to build a contraption with a hammer and nails or be a boy raised by wolves? If you begin to think like Sadie, the possibilities are endless. And being yourself is pretty special.

The text is sparse, encouraging children to think outside the box. I am always drawn to books that inspire and celebrate a child’s imagination — especially when so many kids are plugged into gadgets. Julie Morstad’s illustrations are lush and magical. They beautifully capture Sadie’s story.

Resources: Give your child several big empty boxes to play with. Fill other boxes with non-gender specific dress-up clothing, toys and art supplies. Many of Sadie’s adventures may be related to her reading stories like the Little Mermaid, Alice in Wonderland, and Jungle Book. Teachers and parents can use these books to jump-start a discussion about favorite stories and characters.

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.

Billy’s Booger

billys-booger-9781442473515Billy’s Booger: A Memoir (sorta)

William Joyce (and his younger self) Author and Illustrator

Athenum Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Jun. 2, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Imagination, Books and reading, Authorship, Memoir, School, Contest

Opening:Once upon a time, when TV was in black and white, and there were only three channels, and when kids didn’t have playdates — they just roamed free in the “out-of-doors” — there lived a kid named Billy.”

Synopsis: Billy has a huge imagination and thinks about class rooms in tree houses, gravity shoes, jet packs and automatic page turners. He likes to draw on his math tests and homework, read comic books, study the newspaper “funnies,” watch monster movies and invents his own sports. His teacher and principal find Billy the most challenging student — ever. The librarian announces a contest to see which student can create the best book. Billy is excited and researches, writes and illustrates his masterpiece. He is living his dream! Perhaps this will be Billy’s chance to show his talent.

Why I like this book:

This inspiring and highly entertaining picture book is about the young William (Billy) Joyce. Readers are given a peek at the man Billy will someday be. Joyce’s richly painted and expressive illustrations give readers a sense of life in the 1960s.

This book is about Billy’s childhood.  Children will fall in love with Billy’s overactive imagination, unconventional antics and his determination to march to his own drum beat. It is also a story about Billy’s first attempts to write his first book, Billy’s Booger: The Memoir of a Little Green Nose Buddy. Who would have ever thought that his journey as an author would begin with a quirky book about a booger.

The original fourth grade book is inserted inside the book on manila paper. Billy’s story is packed with spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors which adds a certain charm to reading about the super booger that gives Billy amazing super powers in math. Children are going to cheer Billy’s wacky imagination and pour over the details of his book.

Joyce’s book carries a very strong message for children not to give up on their dreams and be true to themselves. It also emphasizes that not everyone will like your work (especially teachers and librarians,) but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an audience out there. There’s a great ending to this story, but you’ll have to read the book to find out.

Resources: Parents and teachers check out the suggestions and Activity Sheets for using Billy’s Booger in the classroom. I’d love to see this book in every school library.  I hope teachers and librarians use Joyce’s book in their lesson plans to encourage students to write a book about anything that inspires them. What a wonderful way to encourage children to dream big.

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.