The Three Sunflowers

Three Sunflowerscropped-tts-cover-for-website-headerThe Three Sunflowers

Janet Lucy, Author

Colleen McCarthy-Evans, Illustrator

Publishing by the Seas, Fiction, November 2012

Suitable for Ages: 4 and up

Themes:  Sunflowers, Life Cycles, Nature, Courage,  Faith, Harmony, Peace, Patience, Wisdom

Opening:  “Dawn awoke early one morning washing the summer sky in fresh new shades of pink, orange and lavender.” 

Synopsis:  Life in the garden was alive with activity.   Gloria, a tall and wise sunflower, sprung up earlier in the season near a pepper tree.  She was once a black and white seed in one of the bird feeders.  She was dropped by a bird to the ground where she planted herself and grew.  Two smaller sunflowers, Sunny and Solita, grew beside Gloria.  Their day was peaceful until a hawk swooped down to the feeders and disturbed the tranquility in the garden.  The birds flew off.  Solita and Sunny  were frightened and shouted at the hawk.  But, Gloria reminded them “We are sunflowers, golden and radiant.”  “Our job is to be loving and peaceful wherever we stand.”   Peace returned to the garden, but later that afternoon a thunderstorm darkened the skies and threatened the strength and stability of the sunflowers.   Once again Sunny and Solita held on by their roots afraid they might tumble.  Gloria reached for their stalks and pulled them close.  Their resiliency was tested in the face of a big storm.

Why I like this book:  Janet Lucy has created an inspiring book for children with many gentle life lessons about staying centered when turbulence is swirling around you, being who you are supposed to be, living in the moment, being present with those we love and being thankful.   These are all concepts children will grasp.  There is so much depth to this story and I had to be careful not to give it away.  With spring around the corner, it is also a story about life cycles, death, and transformation.  Colleen McCarthy-Evans’s watercolor illustrations are exquisite and perfect for the story.

Resources:   Sunflowers are an international symbol of Peace.  Lucy urges children to plant seeds of peace in their gardens.  You only need to visit The Three Sunflowers website to find wonderful resources, activities and a teaching guide to share with children.   I was intrigued with how many virtues are included in this story, all great topics for 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.

Because Amelia Smiled

Because Amelia Smiled178344784Because Amelia Smiled

David Ezra Stein, author and illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction,  September 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 4 -8

Theme:  A child’s smile inspires happiness, kindness and love

Opening/Synopsis“Because Amelia smiled, coming down the street…Mrs. Higgins smiled, too.  She thought of her grandson, Lionel, in Mexico and baked some cookies to send to him.”  Lionel shares the cookies with his class and teaches them an English song.  His act inspires a student in his class to film her kickboxing skills, who in turn inspires a ballet club in England.  These acts of kindness start a ripple effect that takes the reader to England, Israel,  Paris, Italy and back to New York City and Amelia.  It only takes one big smile from a little girl to ignite a chain reaction from people around the world.

Why I like this book:  Stein’s book shows children the power of how we are all connected to people we know and don’t know.  Everything thing we do has an impact on someone else.   And, with the internet and social media, our actions within our global family becomes even more important.   With Amelia her unknowing act of kindness spreads like wildfire around the world.  Too often we see the negative and it is an inspiring message to share with children and adults.  And Stein urges readers of his book to “Pass it on.”  The illustrations are very detailed and done with pencil, water-soluble crayons, and watercolor.  Stein is the author-illustrator of Interrupting Chicken, which was awarded a Caldecott Honor.

Resources:  This picture book alone stands as a powerful tool for parents and teachers to encourage children to do acts of kindness at home, school,  and in their neighborhoods and communities. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is a great resource for classroom activities.  Candlewick has a page about the story behind the book.

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.

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

The Next Place – Grief

The Next Place

Warren Hanson, Author and Illustrator

Waldman House Press, Fiction, 1997

Suitable for:  Ages 5 and Up

Theme:  Grief and Bereavement, Celebration of Life

Opening and Synopsis:  “The next place I go will be as peaceful and familiar as a sleepy summer Sunday and a sweet, untroubled mind.  And yet…it won’t be anything like any place I’ve ever been…or seen… or even dreamed of in the place I leave behindI won’t know where I’m going, and I won’t know where I’ve been as I tumble through the always and look back toward the when.”   This is a beautiful picture book for children and adults about letting go to a place where  light and love will shine forever.  After 9/11,  a grassroots effort formed called “The Next Place Network, and this book was given to surviving families.

Says Warren Hanson about his book:  ““The Next Place is a peaceful, comforting, quiet and hopeful book for times when we face the loss of someone we love. Or for when we face the reality of our own certain death. It is very deliberately not a traditionally religious look at death and the hereafter. We live in a world of many beliefs and backgrounds. I did not want the book to leave anyone out of its message of comfort. So I created the words and the illustrations in such a way that I hoped the reader would bring his or her own faith to it. Since the book came out, it has been embraced by people of many different religions and beliefs.”

Why I like this book:  Warren Hanson’s book is a celebration of life and portrays an afterlife in a non-religious, beautiful and soft  way.  It is an inspirational and poetic journey about death.    The illustrations are gorgeous.   This is a book I would give to a family that is dealing with the loss of a loved one.  It is an uplifting  book to read and discuss with children when they have lost a member of a family through war, an illness, an accident.  It would also be helpful to share if you have a family will soon making a transition.  This book brings hope and puts a smile on your face.  Kids will be so much more open to talking and asking questions.

Activities:  Have children plant a special tree in memory of a loved one.  Have them draw or  write about special memories so they won’t forget.   Make a memory box where you can put something special that belonged to a loved one inside.  You may want to add photos, cards/letters written to the child by the loved one.   That way kids can touch, read, and look at the items, and keep their memories alive.

Bucketfilling — Family and Classroom Books Encourage Positive Behavior

I stumbled upon two very similar books based on a concept I admit I was not familiar with, bucketfilling, designed to help parents and teachers focus on building character in pre-school and elementary school children.   I did further research and discovered that there is a programs for teachers to use the concept in their classrooms — and there are examples of how it is being used in schools.  Since I just wrote a post July 5 on The Family Virtue Guide, I thought this would be a nice companion.  It essentially works with many virtues/values we hope to instill in children.   This is a great school project!

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?  A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids,  is written by Carol McCloud and illustrated by David Messing for pre-schoolers to age 8 years.   Actually the author says that  filling the bucket begins at birth when parents love, hold, touch, care, play, and read to their children.  You are filling an invisible bucket for your child as well as your own.   As children grow, it is important that they are also taught to love, be kind, helpful, unselfish and respectful of others.   McCloud wrote this book and designed a program to teach the daily practice of bucketfilling David Messing’s illustrations  are colorful, bold and captivating and support the message.  The characters are multi-cultural and have disabilities.  There also is a companion guide for young children, Fill a Bucket.

This book visually conveys a very simple but profound message children will understand — and it’s fun because the illustrations speak to you!   Everyday people from all over the world, walk around carrying an invisible bucket.  You can’t see it, but it’s there.  That means children,  parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, neighbors, classmates and people you don’t even know, all have an invisible bucket.  There is only one purpose for the bucket — to hold your good thoughts and feelings about yourself.   You fill your bucket when you  are kind to someone, smile, give someone a hug, listen when they are sad, run an errand or say hello to a stranger.  You fill someone else’s bucket, but you also fill your own bucket.   When you feel sad, upset and lonely your bucket is empty.   It also can be empty when you are mean or hurtful to someone.  That’s called “bucket dipping.”   Then everyone’s bucket is empty.   But, when you are a bucket filler, you make your home, school, community and world  a better place to be.   

How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids, is written by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer, Ph.D.  and illustrated by Maurie J. Manning.   Rath co-wrote the book with the late Dr. Donald O. Clifton, who has shared his “bucket” story since the 1960s.  The original book was an adult non-fiction, which became the basis for this children’s story book.  Reckmeyer  is Executive Director of the Donald O. Clifton Child Development Center for 25 years, and has helped thousands of kids build lives around their strengths.  The authors have written this book in story form.

Felix is building a block tower and his persistent little sister wants to help.  He repeatedly tells her NO!    Fed up, feisty Anna grabs her doll and takes a big whack at the tower and it tumbles.   Felix yells for Grandpa, who  begins to tell Felix about the invisible buckets that everyone has over their heads.  He tells Felix he  just emptied his sister’s bucket with his actions.  The next morning  Felix wakes up and  sees a small bucket floating above his head.  The bucket is full and as he goes through his day,  he begins to see how his interactions with other kids, empty and fill his bucket, drop by drop.   He  wonders what it feels like when you have an empty bucket.  Once he learns how easy it is to be helpful to his classmates and his sister, he is excited and happy.   As Felix realizes that every drop he helped put into someone else’s bucket, he felt a drop in his own bucket.

Unstoppable Me! and No Excuses! Mental Health Awareness Month

Unstoppable Me!  10 Ways to Soar Through Life, is written by Dr. Wayne Dyer, with Kristina Tracy, and is published by Hay House, Inc.   The illustrations by Stacy Heller Budnick, are colorful and enchanting.  Although Dr. Dyer would like the concepts in his books introduced to children as early as two years of age, I believe kids ages  4 to 8 years, benefit most– and parents.  This book is based on Dr. Dyer’s adult book What Do You Really Want for Your Children?

Dr. Dyer has effectively used rhyme in a fun way to communicate the 10 concepts in his book.   It is a heartwarming  book that encourages kids to become the most that they can be.    He begins with “You’re great-no matter what,  persistence pays off, welcome to the unknown, you have a choice, farewell to worry, peace begins with you, enjoy the here-and-now, healthy me, creativity is the key, and what can you give.”    Dyer’s messages build such positive self-esteem for children, in ways that a child will easily and eagerly understand.  For example he says, “change is a good thing and if you embrace it instead of fear it, life will always be an adventure.”    His challenge to children is to think about what “you can give and not what you can get.”   At the end of the book is a very important section where children and parents can answer questions about how they might handle a situation.  A great way for a parent to learn about what is on their child’s mind. 

No Excuses!: How What You Can Say Can Get in Your Way  is another book written by Dr. Wayne Dyer with Kristina Tracy and illustrated by Stacy Heller Budnick.  It is for children 4 to 8 years of age. 

This is a  story about a boy who loves turtles and wants to become a marine biologist,  but isn’t supported and encouraged by those around him.  He begins to doubt himself  and gives up on his dream saying  “I’m not smart enough…it’s too hard…it will take too long and cost too much .”   While visiting an aquarium, the boy meets a marine biologist who changes his life,  and gives him the first encouragement he needs to begin to work through his excuses and gain self-confidence.  This book delivers a  powerful message.  It’s well-suited for parents and teachers to use with children, to help them name the excuses they make that prevent them from reaching their full potential.  As with all Dr. Dyer’s books, there is a list and a quiz at the end where kids can discuss whether a sentence is an excuse.

I believe we are undergoing a major paradigm shift in how we teach our children.  Children are so open and receptive to new thoughts and ideas.  Dr. Dyer’s book would be great tools for teachers to use with pre-schoolers through elementary.   After giving this more thought, it would be good for parents to start introducing his books at age two, and continue to read them repeatedly through elementary school.   What better way to affirm your child’s greatness, encourage possibility and reach their full potential.

Incredible You!

Dr. Wayne Dyer’s picture book “Incredible You,” is an uplifting, feel good about yourself picture book that helps children explore the 10 ways to let your greatness shine through. The book illustrations by Melanie Siegel, are bold and colorful.

Everything is possible in the hearts and minds of a child. That is what makes this the perfect book to boost a child’s self-esteem. Dr. Dyer, “believes that you cannot start early enough to teach the essential lessons for living a successful and peaceful life.”

Parents can introduce their children to 10 concepts that include: share the good, find what you love, find a quiet place inside, make today great, take care of yourself, everyone is special, especially you and many more. Each idea is presented very simply and is numbered. At the end, Dr. Dyer, has a list of questions related to each idea, where parents and teachers can help the child relate in his//her own special way.

This is a beautiful book filled with love, insight and purpose. It’s a simple message that kids will get.

It is Dr. Dyer’s wish that “these precious souls close the book and feel that nothing is impossible for them.” “It would be even more thrilling for me if this becomes the book they choose each night.”

The first week of May is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, declared by the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. This week emphasized the importance of family and youth involvement in the children’s mental health movement.  National Mental Health Month will run through May.