Once Upon a Garden Series by Jo Rooks

Once Upon a Garden Series

Jo Rooks, Author and Illustrator

Magaination Press, Fiction

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Sophie’s Shell

Aug. 20, 2019

Book Synopsis: Sophie was always ponders big questions, like
Why is the sky blue?
Why are raindrops wet?
and What are stars made of?

But when Sophie starts school, there’s a wobbly feeling in her tummy and she can’t help popping back into her shell.  She is left with one big question Why am I so shy?

When Sophie meets Stanley, she realizes that she’s not the only one who feels shy. Can she gain the confidence to help a new friend?
A heart warming tale about a sensitive snail who overcomes her shyness with a little help from her new friends.

Lucy’s Light

Aug. 20, 2019

Book Synopsis: Lucy is a lightning bug and the most talented flyer in the squad. There’s just one problem: she doesn’t light up! When it’s time to learn night flying, Lucy is anxious. She tries everything to get her light to shine but nothing works. Lucy is about to give up when her friends are captured by a nasty toad and his gang, who hatched a plan to brighten up their bog. Does Lucy have what it takes to save her friends? Or is she just an “ordinary” bug after all? A sweet story which shines a light on inner confidence, self-acceptance, and courage. Lucy learns that doing a good deed will always make you shine bright!

Doug’s Dung

Mar. 21 2020

Book Synopsis: Doug has trouble lifting heavy balls of dung. He just doesn’t feel as strong as the other dung beetles. When Doug feels down that he isn’t tough enough, a passing butterfly helps him see things in a different light and he realizes that strength comes in many forms.

An uplifting story of a determined dung beetle who finds his unique strength in creating beautiful things inspired by nature, flowers, friends, and the garden.

Layla’s Luck

Mar. 21, 2020

Book Synopsis: Layla is a ladybug with a lucky charm for ever occasion: lucky socks for running races, a lucky pencil for test, and a lucky watering can for her flowers. When Layla enters a baking event, she is counting on her good luck to help her bake a delicious cake. But is luck the only ingredient that matters?

A clever tale of a ladybug who learns that success comes form her own smarts, skill and hard work — not lucky charms and chance.

Why I like this series:

Explore the the world of self-discovery with four adorable creatures from the natural world — Layla, Doug, Lucy and Sophie — in the Once Upon a Garden series by author-illustrator, Jo Rooks. The four curious characters are fun-loving and appear in all of the stories. The series is perfect for young children who are working with issues of shyness, self-acceptance, and courage, and discovering new talents, skills and hard work. There is simplicity in the text and the illustrations are happy and bright, and compliment the emotions and themes in each book. This series is sure to boost the self-confidence of children.

Resources: Visit your backyard and identify the insects visiting your flower beds, gardens and trees. Draw a picture of your favorite insect or make up story about what the insect is doing. The books alone are excellent resources for parents and teachers.

Jo Rooks is an award-winning author-illustrator who studied graphic design and illustration at Bath School of Art and Design. She has illustrated several books including A Box of Butterflies and Hector’s Favorite Place.

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 website.

*Review copies from the publisher.

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford

Black History Month

Freedom in Congo Square

Carole Boston Weatherford, Author

R. Gregory Christie, Illustrator

Little Bee Books, Fiction, 2016

Coretta Scott King Honorees

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Slavery, Congo Square, New Orleans, Day of freedom, Celebration, Dance, Music, Culture

Opening: “Mondays, there were hogs to slop, mules to train, and logs to chop. / Salvery was no ways fair. Six more days to Cong Square.”

Book Synopsis:

As slaves in New Orleans, Louisiana, relentlessly toiled in an unjust system, they all counted down the days until Sunday, when at least for half a day they were briefly able to congregate in Congo Square. Here they were free to set up an open market, sing, dance and play music. They were free to forget their cares, their struggles, and their oppression. This poetic, little-known story expresses a humans capacity to find hope and joy in different circumstances and demonstrates how Congo Square was indeed freedom’s heart.

Why I like this book:

Carole Boston Weatherford’s rhyming celebratory text is a chant as readers count down each day until Congo Square day arrives. Excitement builds as slaves work the fields and inside homes until Sunday, their one free day to gather with family and friends and celebrate their heritage and speak their languages. Paired with R. Gregory Christie’s breathtaking illustrations, the book is a ballet of movement and rhythm.

This book is beautiful, lyrically and visually. Both young and old alike will enjoy reading it together. It is also a wonderful introduction to the topic of slavery for young children.

There is an infomative Foreword at the beginning of the book by Freddi Williams Evans, a historian and Congo Square expert. Make sure you check out the history of Congo Park, now located within Louis Armstrong Park in New Orelans. The Louisiana African slaves in the mid-1800s were captured in West and Central West Africa, separated from their families, chained aboard slave ships and brought to America to be sold as property. New Orleans set aside Sunday afternoons so that Africans could come together to celebrate with friends and family.

Resources: There is an Author’s Note at the end of the book.

Carole Boston Weatherford is an award-winning poet and author who wrote her first poem in the first grade and hasn’t stopped since. She has received a Caldecott Honor for Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom and a Coretta Scott King Award Honor for Becoming Billie Holiday, as well as the NAACP’s Image Award. She is currently a professor and director of professional writing at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina. You can find more about Carole 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 website.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Sumo Joe by Mia Wenjen

Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Jan. 31, 2020

#ReadYourWorld

Sumo Joe

Mia Wenjen, Author

Nat Iwata, Illustrator

Lee & Low Books, Fiction, Jun 11, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: Sumo, Aikido, Wrestling, Martial Art Forms, Rhyme, Multicultural

Opening: Get up early, have to hurry. / Sumo Joe.

Synopsis:

On Saturday mornings, Sumo Joe is a gentle big brother to his little sister. But on Saturday afternoons, he and his friends are sumo wrestlers! They tie on make-shift mawashi belts, practice drills such as teppo, and compete in their homemade ring. They even observe sumo’s ultimate rule: no girlsl allowed! But when Sumo Joe’s sister wants to join the fun, Sumo Joe is torn between the two things he’s best at: sumo, and being a big brother.

Why I like this book:

Mia Wenjen’s debut book, Sumo Joe, is an original, lively and heartwarming multicultural story about sibling relationships and martial arts for children. I knew little about sumo wrestlers, so I enjoyed learning about this ancient Japanese sport.

The rhyming text is clever and simple enough for children to read on their own. Nat Iwata’s big colorful illustrations are perfect for Sumo Joe. They are bold, expressive and humorous. They show the bond between the siblings, as well as the competitiveness.

Sumo Joe is gentle and kind. His determined sister, Aikido Jo, uses her training in aikido to take on her brother in the sacred ring, even though “no girls” are allowed.  And you will have to read the book to find out what happens with his spitfire little sister, who has some moves of her own.

Readers will learn about wrestling, blessing the makeshift ring of pillows with sacred salt, sumo techniques and the traditional apparel – black  mawashi belts.

Resources: Make sure you check out the Author’s Note about the sport of sumo wrestling. There is a Glossary of terms about sumo wrestling moves. Visit Wenjen’s page for Sumo activities. Also check out Lee & Low’s Teacher Guide.

Note: Mia Wenjen would love to do Skype visits with school classrooms. Her visits are free. Please email her at pragmaticmomblog@gmail.com if you would like to arrange a visit.

Mia Wenjen is an entrepreneur, children’s author and a blogger at Pragmatic Mom, a popular online resource for parents and educators. As the cofounder of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia is passionate about diverse representation in children’s picture books.

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 website.
*Review copy provided by the author.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 (1/31/20) is in its 7th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.

Seven years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues.

MCBD 2020  is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board

 Super Platinum

Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings,

Platinum

Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls,

Gold

Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS : A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Jo, Candlewick Press,

Silver

Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe,

Bronze

Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard. Barnes Brothers Books,  TimTimTom, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books,  Charlesbridge Publishing, Barefoot Books Talegari Tales

Author Sponsor Link Cloud

Jerry Craft, A.R. Bey and Adventures in Boogieland, Eugina Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Kenneth Braswell & Fathers Incorporated, Maritza M. Mejia & Luz del mes_Mejia, Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Josh Funk and HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture GrooveLauren Ranalli, The Little Green Monster: Cancer Magic! By Dr. Sharon Chappell, Phe Lang and Me On The Page, Afsaneh Moradian and Jamie is Jamie, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, TUMBLE CREEK PRESS, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Gwen Jackson, Angeliki Pedersen & The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 by Mia Wenjen, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher (Founders of Inner Flower Child Books), Ann Morris & Do It Again!/¡Otra Vez!, Janet Balletta and Mermaids on a Mission to Save the Ocean, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo & Bruna Bailando por el Mundo\ Dancing Around the World, Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Teresa Robeson  & The Queen of Physics, Nadishka Aloysius and Roo The Little Red TukTuk, Girlfriends Book Club Baltimore & Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club, Finding My Way Books, Diana Huang & Intrepids, Five Enchanted Mermaids, Elizabeth Godley and Ribbon’s Traveling Castle, Anna Olswanger and Greenhorn, Danielle Wallace & My Big Brother Troy, Jocelyn Francisco and Little Yellow Jeepney, Mariana Llanos & Kutu, the Tiny Inca Princess/La Ñusta Diminuta, Sara Arnold & The Big Buna Bash, Roddie Simmons & Race 2 Rio, DuEwa Frazier & Alice’s Musical Debut, Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series  Green Kids Club, Inc.

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

Crafty Arab, Afsaneh Moradian, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Bethany Edward & Biracial Bookworms, Michelle Goetzl & Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Educators Spin on it, Shauna Hibbitts-creator of eNannylink, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joel Leonidas & Descendant of Poseidon Reads {Philippines}, Imagination Soup, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Serge Smagarinsky {Australia}, Shoumi Sen, Jennifer Brunk & Spanish Playground, Katie Meadows and Youth Lit Reviews

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

TWITTER PARTY! Register here

The Twitter Party is Jan. 31, 2020 from 9 pm to 10 pm. ET. Follow the twitter  #ReadYourWorld hashtag to join and win.

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Bear’s Book by Claire Freedman

Bear’s Book

Claire Freedman, Author

Alison Friend, Illustrator

Templar Books, Fiction, May 14, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Bear, Animals, Reading, Writing, Helping, Friendship

Opening: Once upon a time, there was a bear whose favorite thing to do was read.

Book Synopsis:

Bear loves to read. Unfortunately, he has read his big book of stories so many times that it’s falling apart. One day, all the pages blow away in a gust of wind.

Bear decides to create his own story. But when he sits dow to write, he can’t think of a single idea.

Will bear’s animal friends be able to help him think of ideas for his book?

What I like about this book:

Claire Freedman has penned a tender story about friends helping friends. Bear goes for a walk through the forest to help his writer’s block. He hopes that  a back-scratch, a swim, and climbing a tree might be just what he needs. But he runs into some endearing friends who need his help — a mouse who needs help with a dance, a rabbit in a boat who needs a tow, and a little owl stuck on a tree limb. He still can’t think of a story until he recalls his day.

Bear does write and illustrate a book. It appears as a fold-out towards the end of the book. Children will be able to read his book and learn about how a story has a beginning, middle and end. The ending is sweet.

Alison Friend’s happy illustrations are warm, cozy and show how friends help each other. The cover is beautiful and appealing.

Resources: This is an excellent story to read out loud to at home or in a classroom. Use Bear’s book to talk about the structure of a book. Write a group book in the classroom and ask students to draw the illustrations.

Claire Freedman is the author of more than 100 books for young readers. She is best known for her award-winning Underpants series, She lives in Essex, England.

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 website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

The Brave Princess and Me by Kathy Kacer

The Brave Princess and Me

Kathy Kacer, Author

Juliana Kolesova, Illustrator

Magination Press, Historical Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 8 and up

Themes: Princess Alice of Greece, Deaf, WW II, Jewish Girl, Nazis, Compassion, Bravery

Opening: There once was a princess who lived in Greece. Her full name was Victoria Alice Elizabeth Julia Marie, but she was called Princess Alice. When she was young her family discovered that she was deaf.

Book Synopsis:

In 1943, the Second World War is raging, and the Nazi’s have taken control of most of Europe — including Athens, where Princess Alice of Greece lives. Princess Alice is kind and accepting of different types of people. Something the Nazis are not. Born deaf, she knows what it is like to be discriminated against.

With the arrival of the Nazis, all the Jews living in Greece are in danger, including young Tilde Cohen and her mother. On the run, they must find a safe place to hide. When they arrive unannounced, on Princess Alice’s doorstep and beg her to hide them, the princess’s kindness is put to the test. Will she risk her own life to save theirs?

Why I like this book:

I love true stories about women who were heroes during the war, without even realizing it. They did what they knew was morally right in their hearts with little thought of the consequences. Princess Alice’s story is engaging and will encourage readers to wonder if they had the courage to risk their lives to save someone. The illustrations are stunning and perfectly match the mood of the story.

Princess Alice’s story is narrated by Tilde Cohen. The narration is quite wordy, but it fits the period of the story beautifully. Readers will want to know the details. Tilde and her mother are given a two-room apartment with a small kitchen. Every afternoon Princess Alice has tea with them and they talk about happy times in Greece before the Nazis invade. Through Tilde we learn that the princess can read lips in three different languages, but keeps it a secret. Everyday the princess leaves to help feed the poor and visit the sick.  When the stakes get high and two Nazi soldiers pound on the door and ask the princess if she’s hiding Jews, Princess Alice uses her deafness to trick the soldiers and make them think she’s not smart and can’t understand them.

Make sure you read the fascinating backmatter about Princess Alice’s life at the end of the book. She was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, the mother of Prince Phillip (husband of Queen Elizabeth), grandmother to Prince Charles, and great grandmother of Princes William and Harry. The author includes photographs of Princess Alice — with additional surprises. There is also information about Tilde Cohen’s family.

Resources: Encourage children to interview their parents and grandparents and ask them about family history. Write or record the information. I remember my grandmother and great aunt writing me letters about growing up in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but I lost the letters. I know information, but it is the stories about their every day lives I wish I knew. Good family project.

Kathy Kacer is the author of numerous books that tell true stories of the Holocaust for young readers of all ages, including The Secret of Gabi’s Dress, The Magician of Auschwitz, and To Look a Nazi in the Eye. A former psychologist, Kathy has travelled the globe speaking to children and adults about the importance of keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive.

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 website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

The Gifts of the Animals: A Christmas Tale by Carole Gerber

The Gifts of the Animals: A Christmas Tale

Carole Gerber, Author

Yumi Shimokawara, Illustrator

Familius, Fiction, Oct. 1, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes: Christmas tale, Animals, Nativity, Rhyming, Religious, Holiday

Opening: “The gentle beasts of sky and earth / prepare their stable for Christ’s birth.”

Book Synopsis:

The Gifts of the Animals shares the miraculous offerings the humble animals in the manger gave to the baby Jesus.

The birds on the roof of the lowly shed / prepare a pillow for His head, / with feathers pulled from downy breats; / mice carry them to where He’ll rest.

Celebrating the Savior’s birth, this beautiful reimagining of the nativity story is a must-have addition to any family’s Christmas library and Christmas Eve traditions.

Why I like this book:

Carole Gerber’s The Gifts of the Animals is a beautiful and elegant tale! She creatively imagines how the animals lovingly prepare for the birth of baby Jesus. The ox fills the manger with straw. The sheep share bits of wool. The birds pull downy feathers from their breasts and the tiny mice carefully arrange the offerings in the bed, as they all wait with anticipation for the baby’s birth.

Gerber’s fluid and poetic narrative is both soothing and joyous as the angels announce the arrival to the shepherds. Her rhyming story is condensed from The Book of Luke.  Yumi Shimokawara’s stunning watercolors are realistic, warm, joyful and celebratory. The gorgeous book cover is exquisite and heavenly. Children will delight in pouring over all of the details of this quiet and contemplative Christmas book. It is a perfect gift book that will surely become a family favorite.

Resource: Make sure you read the postscript of the story from the Book of Luke, Chapter 2, at the end of the story. Ask children what special gift that they might leave in the manger (a song, a poem etc.)  Hand them paints, markers and crayons and encourage children them to draw their own scene and their unique offering.

Carole Gerber has written sixteen picture books, three chapter books, and more than one hundred elementary science and reading texts for major publishers. Her most recent picture book, A Band of Babies, was named a 2017 Best Book for Children by Amazon editors. She holds a BS in English education and an MA in journalism from Ohio State, and  has taught middle school and high school English as well as college newswriting and factual writing at OSU. Learn more about Carole 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 website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

Dasher by Matt Tavares

Dasher

Matt Tavares, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Animals, Reindeer, Circus, Nature, Santa, Christmas

Opening: “Life was not easy for the reindeer family of J.P. Finnegan’s Traveling Circus and Menagerie.”

Synopsis:

Dasher is a brave little doe with a wish in her heart. She spends her days with family under the hot sun in a traveling circus, but she longs for a different life. Dasher listens to Mama’s story of a “magical place” where she and Papa were free to roam under the glow of the North Star, and yearns to go there. One night a strong wind opens the gate to the circus pen. Dasher knows this is her chance to escape, so she runs into the forest with the North Star as her guide.

It’s not too long before she meets a nice man in a red suit with a big sleigh. The sleigh is heavy with toys for children and is pulled by a tired horse, Silverbell. Dasher offers her help. She likes the idea of making children happy.  Santa attaches her harness and before she realizes it, she’s looking at the ground beneath her and the stars before her. And, soon, with the help of a powerful wish, Christmas will never be the same.

Why I like this book:

Matt Tavares has crafted an original new holiday tale that focuses on the origins of Dasher, Santa’s first reindeer. It is a visual journey that will delight children and the young at heart. It’s message is perfect for the holiday season.

Everything about Dasher is gorgeous and elegant. Tavares’ has beautifully designed his book with luscious illustrations that resemble paintings in muted and soulful colors. The illustrations are done in watercolor, gouache, pencil, and pastel.  Some pages have double-spreads with minimal text and others have artwork on one side of the page and the story printed on a pure white page. The story is a little longer, but I doubt children will mind at all. They will be holding onto every word of this magical story. The front cover and the illustrations are simply stunning.

Tavares’ story is also about family and the meaning of home. Dasher is the youngest reindeer in her family and is filled with a lot of heart. She has big dreams, a love of family and a wish for a better life for her family. After she helps Santa with the deliveries, Santa brings her to her new home of snow and cold air — the place in Mama’s stories.  Even though is wonderful, Dasher “misses her family and wishes they could be together” under the glow of the North Star. I won’t spoil the story.

This enchanting story is sure to become a Christmas treasure that you will look forward to reading aloud to your family each year.

Matt Tavares is the author-illustrator of Crossing Niagara, Henry Aaron’s Dream, There Goes Ted Williams, Becoming Babe Ruth, and Growing Up Pedro, as well as Zachary’s Ball, Oliver’s Game, and Mudball. He is the illustrator of “Twas the Night Before Christmas, Over the River and Through the Woods, Lady Liberty by Doreen Rappaport, The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup, and Jubilee! by Alicia Potter. Most recently he wrote and illustrated the enchanting Christmas tale Red & Lulu.

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 website.
*Review copy provided by the publisher.

Sweet Dreams, Sarah by Vivian Kirkfield

Sweet Dreams, Sarah

Vivian Kirkfield, Author

Chris Ewald, Illustrator

Creston Books, Fiction,

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Inventor, African-American woman, Patent, Sarah E. Goode, Cabinet bed, Post Civil War history

Opening: “Before the Civil War, Sarah obeyed her owner. / Hurry up. / Eyes down. / Don’t speak.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Sarah E. Goode was one of the first African-American women to get a US patent. Working in her furniture store, she recognized a need for a multi-use bed and through hard work, ingenuity, and determination, invented her unique cupboard bed. She built more than a piece of furniture. She built a life far away from slavery, a life where her sweet dreams could come true.

Why I like this book:

Vivian Kirkfield has written a compelling story about a gutsy African-American woman and a true trailblazer who built and patented her cabinet bed in 1885 — before women had the right to vote.

Kirkfield’s well-researched story shows the hurdles black women had to overcome to own a store, become an inventor and obtain a patent. Make sure you check out the back matter which provides more detailed information for discussion about Sarah Goode, the  time period in which she lived in Chicago, and other notable patent holders who were also African-American women.

Kirkfield’s lyrical text is beautiful and emotional. Her narrative showcase’s Sarah’s relentless determination to actualize her dreams and earn an important place in African-American history. Chris Ewalds’s rich illustrations add another layer of beauty to Sarah’s remarkable story.

Resources: Encourage children to draw a picture of something they’d like to invent.  Visit Kirkfield at her website.  There is a Teachers’ Guide available for download.

Vivian KirkfieldWriter For Children – Reader Forever. Even as a young child, I knew that books would always be an important part of my life. They were my window on the world.

When I grew up, I realized how important it is to step out of one’s comfort zone. Although I was afraid of heights, I went skydiving with my son and parasailing with my husband. Although I am a non-swimmer and afraid of the water, I walked under the ocean with a Jules Verne-like helmet on my head. Although I had never traveled internationally, last year I flew 24 hours to Singapore to speak at an SCBWI conference.

In my school visits, my parent/teacher workshops and with the books that I write, I hope to help every young child become a lover of books and reading…because books help kids soar!

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 website.
*Reviewed from a purchased copy.

Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos

Planet Earth is Blue

Nicole Panteleakos, Author

Wendy Lamb Books, Fiction, May 14, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Pages: 240

Themes: Sisters, Autism, Loss, Foster families, Astronomy, Challenger space shuttle, Accidents

Opening: Bridget was gone. And Nova was broken.

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Nova is eagerly awaiting the launch of the space shuttle Challenger. Nova and her big sister, Bridget, love astronomy, and they planned to watch the launch together. But Bridget has run away, and now Nova is in another new foster home.

Nova is autistic. Speaking is hard for her. Teachers and foster families have always believed that she isn’t as smart as other kids. They don’t realize that she can read, count, and understand conversations. If they listened more intently, they’d realize that she can speak. She really wants to read the Bridge to Terebithia and A Wrinkle in Time, but teachers keep reading her picture books. She’s fallen through the cracks. Only Bridget knows how very wrong they are. But now, as the liftoff draws closer, others begin to see how intelligent Nova is. And every day, she’s counting down to the launch of the first teacher into space, and to the moment when she’ll see Bridget again. Will Bridget keep her promise to Nova?

What I like about this book:

Nicole Panteleakos’s debut novel is a sensitive, captivating and heartbreaking tale that begins 10 days before the fateful launch of the Challenger Space Shuttle in 1986. Nova has two reasons to be excited about the launch — her love of space travel and her big sister’s promise to return to watch the event with her.

Panteleakos realistically portrays Nova’s challenges — based on her own experiences of being on the spectrum — while always emphasizing her strengths. Nova is a resilient, imaginative and intelligent protagonist, who is non-verbal. Unfortunately Nova’s social worker and teachers underestimate her abilities and label her “mentally retarded.” They fail her. Only her older sister, Bridget, patiently works with Nova, knows how to communicate with her, and sees her abilities. She calls Nova a “thinker not a talker.” But Bridget is gone and Nova is alone.

Through a series of letters written by Nova to her sister in the story, readers experience the world through Nova’s inner voice — including her emotions, frustrations, anger, fears and imagination. The letters are a window into Nova’s desire for a “forever home”and her fear of disappointment if she becomes too attached. And readers will see the many important breakthroughs for Nova as she learns to trust and connect with her loving foster family — the 11th family in seven years.

Readers will learn about astronomy, space travel, the history of the space program, the first teacher chosen to go into space, Christa McAuliffe, and the Challenger Program, which “taught kids anyone could have a dream.” They will also learn what it’s like to be autistic in the mid-80s, and the foster home system. There is so much to love about this book — the setting, the characters, and the plot. And there is a huge twist at the end, that even blindsided me.  Make sure you check out the interesting Author’s Note at the end of the book, because there is important information about the Challenger launch, the author’s experiences with Asperger’s, and the history of autism over the past century.

Nicole Panteleakos is a middle-grade author, playwright, and Ravenclaw whose plays have been performed at numerous theaters and schools in Connecticut and New York City. She earned her BA in Theatre Scriptwriting from Eastern Connecticut State University and is currently working toward her MFA in Children’s Literature at Hollins University. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and has three awesome godchildren, two quirky cats, and at least one Broadway song stuck in her head at all times. Planet Earth Is Blue is her debut novel. Visit Nicole at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

You Are Your Strong by Danielle Dufayet

You Are Your Strong

Danielle Dufayet, Author

Jennifer Zivoin, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Mar. 19, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Emotions, Self-control, Courage, Coping skills

Opening: “When puppy’s woofs turn into whimpers, Worry whispers in my ears.”

Book Synopsis:

A soothing and empowering exploration of children’s emotions that will help them develop self-awareness, self-confidence, peace, and inner calm.

With diverse characters and scenes featuring a range of different family relationships — from parents, to grandparents, to an older sister in the military — this books shows kids that they will have help along the way to be strong and in control.

You Are Your Strong helps kids understand a range of emotions ranging from worry, fear, to sadness and anger. And it highlights the benefit of developing inner strength and confidence in themselves.

Why I like this book:

First of all, the cover really grabs your attention because you feel the strength. The breathtaking illustrations that follow are vibrant, diverse and expressive and compliment the author’s very lyrical text. “If I’m shivering with SCARED about monsters and dark, I find BRAVE by making up a funny story. Or I rat-a-tap-tap my favorite song until Scared slips away.”

You are Your Strong is a perfect to jump-start conversations with children about their big emotions. It is a good book for families to read together, because parents will find themselves relating and sharing their own stories. This is a book for all ages.

This is an excellent educational resource for teachers and parents of Pre-K children. The earlier you help children identify and address emotions, the easier it will be for them to find their own coping skills.

Resource: There is an extensive Note to Parents and Caregivers at the end, with advice for building skills to navigate and cope with big emotions. It’s important for kids to address scary emotions, but it is also important for them to identify their happy emotions.

Danielle Dufayet teaches English and public speaking/self-empowerment classes for kids. This is her first book. She lives in San Jose, California. Visit 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 website.

*Review copy provided by publisher.