A Different Pond by Bao Phi

A Different Pond

Bao Phi, Author & Poet

Thi Bui, Illustrator

Capstone Young Readers, Fiction, Aug. 1, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 6-8

Themes: Father and son, Fishing, Immigrants, Refugees, Vietnam

Opening: Dad wakes me quietly so Mom can keep sleeping.  It will be hours before the sun comes up. In the kitchen the bare bulb is burning. Dad has been up for a while, making sandwiches and packing the car. “Can I help?” I ask “Sure,” my dad whispers and hands me the tackle box.

Publisher Synopsis: Acclaimed poet Bao Phi delivers a powerful, honest glimpse into a relationship between father and son―and between cultures, old and new. A Different Pond is an unforgettable story about a simple event―a long-ago fishing trip. As a young boy, Bao Phi awoke early, hours before his father’s long workday began, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Unlike many other anglers, Bao and his father fished for food, not recreation. A successful catch meant a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, Bao’s father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam.

The New York Times has said that Bao Phi’s poetry “rhymes with the truth.” Together with graphic novelist Thi Bui’s striking, evocative art, Phi’s expertly crafted prose reflects an immigrant family making its way in a new home while honoring its bonds to the past.

Why I like this book:

Phi first wrote the book as a poem. I enjoyed the spare and poetic language throughout this inspiring autobiographical story about his first-generation family who immigrated from Vietnam to a new life in Minnesota. Graphic novelist Thi Bui’s stunning and expressive illustrations capture the mood of this remarkable story.

Phi’s story is a beautiful and memorable story about the powerful bond between a father and son as they rise early in the morning to go fishing to feed his family. The story is multi-layered as the father works two jobs to support his family, adjusts to a new and unfamiliar culture and cherishes the time spends with his son. While they fish, the father is transported back to his memories of fishing with his brother in a different pond in Vietnam.  He talks about the war and how he and his brother fought together.

Resources: Talk with your children about your own family immigration stories. We are a nation of immigrants and we all have stories. Share family photographs. This is another poignant immigration story for teachers to use in their diverse classrooms.

*The publisher provided me with an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest 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 site.

The Adventures of a Girl and Her Dog by Dagny McKinley

The Adventures of a Girl & Her Dog

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Dagny McKinley, Author

Ostap Stetsiv, Illustrator

Brigham Distributing,  Fiction, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: A girl and her dog explore nature

Opening: These are the adventures of a girl and her dog / That played together in rain, snow and fog / Nature was their home / high in the mountains / Away from / cities, subway, planes, cars and trains.

Synopsis: A girl and her dog explore the mountains with abandonment. With no adults to restrict their explorations, they can roam through fields full of flowers, cross streams, climb trees, dig in the earth, splash in streams, watch bears, dodge bee hives, laugh, scream, and get dirty. When the girl and her dog visit the city, they have to look hard for natures’ beauty in the flowers living in the cracks of the sidewalks and in the bird’s nests sitting in gutters.

Favorite Verse: “The girl’s soul lived in the mountains / where trees grow into the clouds / Where there are rocks, there are birds / but nothing loud.”

Adventures-snow…in the Snow

Brigham Distributing, Fiction, 2015

Opening: These are the adventures of a girl and her dog / Who play together in the snow, sleet and fog / Who love to wander where no one else goes / In temperatures of five, ten, even twenty below.

Synopsis: A girl explores the winter wonderland with her dog.  As the snow begins to fall, they relish the possibilities all around them. They watch the clouds transform the landscape and find stories in the tracks left by cougars, foxes, and rabbits. While the temperatures dip, bears, marmots and chipmunks, hibernate in dens. The girl and her dog dance in the snow, run without a care, dig caves in the snow, make snow and dog angels, and watch the sun set. The world changes around them, each day they explore.

Favorite Verse: “Together they set off through the white / as light as a feather / That dances around their feet / like sugar and glitter.

Why I like this series: Dagny McKinley has written a charming series about the joy found in the changing seasons. Children will love the delicious rhyming and words choices. They will delight in romping through the natural world with the girl and dog, feel the peace and tranquility as they explore the mountains and navigate the quiet, winter snow-covered woodlands. The author is clever not to name the girl or dog, as it allows children to imagine that they are the ones having this grand adventure. Ostap Stetsiv’s illustrations are colorful, whimsical and show the wonder on the girl’s face.  The warm, bright colors of summer and cool colors of winter, highlight the different seasons. Exquisite images! Nice collaborative work on this heartwarming series for children and adults.

Resources: Take children on a nature walk to explore the many wonders found in the fields, forests and streams.  Since autumn is here look at the colorful leaves on trees and talk about the life cycles.  Take along a camera and a journal and encourage kids to record birds and animals they see. In the winter, kids can track animal footprints in the snow, make snow angels and build a snowman.

Dagny McKinley has lived many places, but found a home in the expansive granite landscape of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. McKinley stays current on environmental issues, women’s issues and is an avid animal rights supporter. She believes all lives are interconnected and each person, landscape and insect has something to offer and teach.  She is the author of The Springs of Steamboat: Healing Waters, Mysterious Cave and Sparkling Soda, and  Wild Hearts: Dog Sledding the Rockies – written while working as a dog sled tour guide for three years. Visit Dagny McKinley 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.

The Tiny Wish

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Lori Evert, Author

Per Breiehagen, Illustrator

Random House, Fiction, Jan. 6 2015

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Animals, Wishes, Nature, Spring, Travels

Opening: Long, long ago, in the days when you could only see as much of the world as a horse could take you, lived a curious little girl named Anja.

Synopsis: Anja, the kind and brave heroine of the bestselling book, The Christmas Wish, sheds her winter skis and returns in a magical springtime Scandinavian adventure. Anja visits her two cousins at their mountain farm. The three-some ride off on a big horse to check on the family’s goats. Once the goats have been accounted for, the children play a game of hide-and-seek. When Anja wishes to be tiny to win the game, her wish comes true! Just a few inches tall, she must find her way home with the help of some new animal friends.

Why I like this book:

Lori Evert and her husband, Per Breiehagen, have teamed up to create another breathtaking and enchanting story featuring their daughter. Anja looks like she’s stepped out of a Scandinavian fairy tale as she celebrates and explores the arrival of Spring in the mountains and valleys.

Evert’s text is simple and magical. She inspires reader’s to use their imaginations. During a game of hide-and-seek with her cousins, Anja’s favorite goat follows her and gives away her hiding places. She wants to be small, so her cousins can’t find her. When her wish comes true she has the most extraordinary adventures. She climbs onto the back of a finch and flies over fields of cotton grass, she eats wild strawberries bigger than she is, and has conversations with the most adorable gigantic animals who guide her journey home.

Breiehagen’s photographs are lush and exquisite. The gorgeous scenery of green meadows, snow-capped mountains draining into overflowing streams, goats grazing in fields of cotton grass, and Anja sitting in grass as tall as trees, really make this story sing of springtime. This is a perfect book to read to children as the sun warms their faces and nature blooms around them.

Resources: Visit Random House Kids for more information about the book and for activities that can be downloaded. Go on a nature walk at a nearby park and search for plants and trees that are blooming in the woods.  Observe how busy the animals are. Look for birds tending to nests and listen for the sounds of new life.

Check out my review of The Christmas Wish.

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

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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.

Little Bird Lost

Little Bird Lost9781492762829_p0_v1_s260x420Little Bird Lost

Kate Larkinson, Author

Steve Larkinson, Photographer

CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes: Nature, Birds, Sibling Rivalry

Opening: “1..2..3 little birds but there should be more. Three baby birds in the nest but there should be four.”

Synopsis (Book Description) : One of the baby birds seems to be missing. His greedy siblings have pushed him out of view! A tale of sibling rivalry and their parents love all their offspring.

Why I like this book: I loved Kate Larkinson’s simplicity and rhyming text for young children. This is a charming story about nature, a mother bird feeding her young ones and sibling rivalry. According to the book, Steve Larkinson “saw the nest in the eaves of a bakery in south-west France,” and decided to capture the life of a family of swallows through his beautiful photography. This is the perfect spring read for beginning readers. They  will feel triumphant over mastering this beautiful book.  Make sure you check out Kate and Steve Larkinson’s website.

Resources: Walk around your house and yard and look for nests of birds.  You can watch the birds busily building nests right now. Bird watch and write down the variety of bird you see in your yard this spring.

There is a Goodreads Giveaway for a copy of this book at https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/83442-little-bird-lost-a-rhyming-picture-story  that ends March 24.

There is also a LibraryThing Giveaway for the ebook edition at http://www.librarything.com/er_list.php?program=giveaway&sort=enddate which expires on March 28.

Erik from This Kid Reviews Books, also reviewed Little Bird Lost last fall.  He has included some excellent activities for children that I won’t repeat.

Mama Grizzly Bear

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Margot Finke, Author

Gloria Gaulke Swan, Illustrator

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc., October 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 6-12 yrs.

Themes: Grizzly Bears, Conservation,Nature, Threats, Protection

Opening/Synopsis“The great grizzly mama is awesome and wild/She’ll tear you to bits if you threaten her child/With her shaggy coat flying, she hunts down a meal/Her sharp teeth and claws make it look like a steal.”  Follow Mama Grizzly bear through the year as she hunts for food, prepares for winter hibernation and gives birth to her cubs.   By spring the cubs are ready to play and explore their new world.  But, Mama will spend the spring and summer teaching them lessons in survival, foraging for food and fishing.

Why I like this book:  Margot Finke is known for her beautiful rhyming picture books.  She has written a charming and informative book for children about Grizzly bears.  It is a great classroom book to teach children about the North American Grizzly bears.  Finke’s goal is to inspire a new generation of children to feel compassion towards animals that are threatened or endangered.  She hopes that some day they will want to take an active role in protecting them from their fiercest enemy — man — who cuts down their habitat.  The illustrations by the late GLoria Gaulke Swan, are rich and warm in color, and the detail is inviting.

Resources:  Margot Finke has created a fun section For Cool Kids at the end of the book where children can find resources on conservation for Grizzly Bears, free Grizzly Screensavers, and Grizzly Bear eCards.  The last page of the book is a Word Puzzle.  She also has a fun place on her website called Wild US Critters, where children can learn about grizzlies and other US animals.

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.

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow

Joyce Sidman, Author

Beth Krommes, Illustrator

Houghton Mifflin Company, Fiction, 2006

Suitable for: Ages 6 and up

Themes: Meadows, Science, Nature, Poetry

Opening/Synopsis:  “On calm, clear summer nights, the meadow cools down quickly.  Grasses, flowers, leaves, and even insects become cooler than the warm air around them. Just as it does on a cold can of soda pop, water vapor in the air condenses on those cool surfaces, forming dew.  Then, as dawn comes and the sun touches them, the dew drops evaporate back into the air.”  Written in both verse and prose, this is story of a living and breathing meadow that is dependent and connected to life, and is constantly changing.  There are beautiful poems about the awakening meadow, the animal life, birds and insects, the flowering plants and grasses that offer a feeding frenzy for all, and trees that provide shade.   Children are taken on a journey into the meadow from sunrise to sunset.  Each poem brings science to life.  The poems vary from mysterious and captivating, to silly and magical.

What I like about this book:  Both author and illustrator fell in love with meadows as young children and found them enchanting. Joyce Sidman has written such a magical book, alternating between double spreads of verse and prose that add interesting  science details about how life coexists in the meadow.  Children will find that each poem is a riddle to solve about butterflies, snakes, rabbits, fox and deer.  The text that follows provides the answers and interesting facts.  Krommes illustrations are a feast for the eyes.  Each illustration is made by a scratchboard technique that is rich and colorful.  Children will enjoy studying every detail on the page.  With Earth Day April 22, and Poetry Month in April, I found this book a lovely celebration of both.  The author and illustrator have also released a book in 2011, Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature.

Activities:  Since this is Earth Day weekend, it would be a nice time for a spring outing with your child.   Visit a meadow in your area.   Many local Park and Recreation Divisions, and Nature Preserves provide guided tours and  programs.   Let you child hunt for treasures that they can take home and make a collage of their own meadow as an earth day contribution.  For Earth Day resources, click on this Earth Day link .

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.