My Storee by Paul Russell

My Storee: Just Because You Can’t Spell Doesn’t Mean you Can’t Write

Paul Russell, Author

Aska, Illustrator

EK Books, Fiction, Oct. 2, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Dyslexia, Spelling, Reading, Writing stories, Creativity

Opening: “Storees keep me awaik at nite and counting sheep neva helps becos I no a grand adventur is allways waiting four me at the end ov my pencil.”

Book Synopsis:

A boy has a big imagination and loves to write down his stories. He writes about unicorns, dragons laying rainbow eggs, robotic pirates and gruesome ogres. When he writes them down and turns them into his teacher, they come back covered with red marks circling his spelling.  He becomes discouraged that his dyslexia keeps him from sharing his stories.

One day a new teacher arrives at his school full of energy and enthusiasm Mr. Watson tells magical stories about objects he has hidden in his briefcase and covers the chalk board with his funny drawings.  Mr. Watson makes the students feel safe and inspires them to be themselves. So the boy decides to share his dragon story. Instead of red marks, Mr. Watson asks the boy about his dragon story.

Why I like this book:

Paul Russell has written an inspiring and hopeful story for children who are dyslexic and  find spelling challenging. It also is a story for all children who are learning to spell and write. It encourages kids to use their imaginations and creativity to express all of the ideas that want to be heard.

And Russell “gets” the struggle dyslexic students and reluctant writers face when putting their ideas onto paper. He was that dyslexic boy who was inspired to become a writer and  teacher because one special teacher believed in him.

Aska’s colorful illustrations that are infused with imagination, humor and expression. I chuckled my way through these detailed beauties. Aska worked with around 70 children, many of whom were dyslexic or had reading difficulties. The children helped her design the book’s imaginary world through the stories they created! Make sure you check out the end pages as they are a lot of fun!

Resources: Encourage kids to write an imaginative story without worrying about spelling. The idea is not to be perfect, but just to have fun with writing something silly or serious. This book belongs in every school library.

Paul Russell is a teacher, artist, playwright, author and father of two. His book, Grandma Forgets, was a CBCA Notable book.

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.

You Are Light by Aaron Becker

You Are Light

Aaron Becker, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Studio, Fiction, Mar. 26, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Light, Color, Imagination, Board Book

Opening: This is the light that brings the dawn / to warm the sky and hug the land.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

With a wondrously simple die-cut book, the Caldecott Honor–winning creator of the Journey trilogy brings his talents further into the light.

This is the light that brings the day.

Open this beautiful book to find a graphic yellow sun surrounded by a halo of bright die-cut circles. Now hold the page up to the light and enjoy the transformation as the colors in those circles glow. In an elegant, sparely narrated ode to the phenomenon of light, Aaron Becker follows as light reflects off the earth to warm our faces, draws up the sea to make the rain, feeds all the things that grow, and helps to create all the brilliant wonders of the world, including ourselves.

Why I love this book:

Aaron Becker’s board book is a celebration of light. It is magical and creates a sense of wonder for young children, who will want to hold the book up to the light and read the story repeatedly. Becker stimulates children’s senses and imaginations with his flowing verse that allows for open discussion on each carefully crafted page. It is beautifully designed. The spare and beautiful text ends with, “This is the light that dwells inside all the brilliant wonders of the world, including YOU!”

Resources: Children can create some of their own light pages by cutting a shape and placing a piece of  colorful cellophane behind it. Cut out shapes of stars, butterflies, animals, flowers and attach them to a window pane. Hang prisms in near a sunny window, so children can see the light reflected on their walls.

Aaron Becker is the Caldecott Honor–winning author-illustrator of the Journey trilogy and of A Stone for Sascha. He lives in western Massachusetts with his family.

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 copy provided by the publisher.

** I am in the processing of moving this month, so I won’t be releasing many reviews. I should be back on line in June. Thank you for following my reviews.

Say Something! by Peter H. Reynolds

Say Something!

Peter H. Reynolds, Author & Illustrator

Orchard Books/Imprint of Scholastic Inc. , Fiction, Feb. 26, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Using your voice, Making a difference, Diversity

Opening: The world needs your voice. 

Book Synopsis: The world needs your voice. Say something, with your words, with your music, with your poetry, with your courage and with your presence. It doesn’t need to be perfect as long as it’s from your heart. If you see someone lonely or being hurt, say something. If you have a great idea, share it with others.

Why I love this book:

Peter H. Reynolds’ newest gem, Say Something, is an inspiring, powerful and thought-provoking story that encourages children to use their voices to make a difference in their communities and world. Say Something pairs beautifully with Reynolds’ books Happy Dreamer and The Word Collector. Written for young readers, children have the power to make a difference through their thoughts, voices and actions. Reynolds’ text is lyrical and spare. His expressive illustrations feature diverse characters and will help kids see themselves. They will enjoy pouring over the detail and a fun word bubbles. Check out the endpapers.

This is my favorite kind of picture book because it introduces children to activism. Children naturally want to be involved and do things that help others or a greater cause. Say Something encourages children to be kind, creative, imaginative, bold, brave and step outside of their comfort zone to make their world a better place. This is an excellent classroom read-aloud and discussion book.

Resources: After reading the book, explore with children the many ways the characters say something. There is a detailed Teacher’s Guide that is packed with ideas about using all three books in the classroom. It will easily support school curriculums and encourage kids to find and use their voices in many unique ways. Visit

Peter Hamilton Reynolds is a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of many books for children, including The Dot, Ish, Playing from the Heart, Happy Dreamer and The Word Collector. His books have been translated into over twenty-five languages around the globe and are celebrated worldwide. In 1996, he founded FableVision with his brother, Paul, as a social change agency to help create “stories that matter, stories that move.” He lives in Dedham, Massachusetts, with his family. Visit Reynolds at his 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.

Salamander Sky by Katy Farber

Earth Day, April 22, 2019

Theme for Earth Day — Protect our Species

Salamander Sky

Katy Farber, Author

Meg Sodano, Illustrator

Green Writers Press, Fiction, Mar. 9, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Spotted salamanders, Migration, Nature, Environment, Rescue

Opening: “I watch the rain / slide down the glass / pitter, patter / drip, drop. / A flutter in my heart / of hope / that this is the day, / my day to help the salamanders.”

Synopsis: On a rainy day in early spring in the eastern regions of the U.S., warmer nights with steady rain bring the migration of thousands of spotted salamanders to ponds and pools.

April anticipates her chance to be part of one of nature’s most magical events — the migration of the spotted salamanders hiding beneath layers of earth and tree roots. They face many challenges in their journey, including roads and speeding cars. It can be a perilous crossing and April wants to help them to safety. Will you join April and her scientist mother in search of the spotted salamanders? They are fascinating creatures that can teach everyone a lot about the natural world.

Why I like this book:

Katy Farber’s poetic text has a lovely rhythm that encourages the girl’s excitement to help the spotted salamanders along their journey. It is a quiet and reverent book that will touch the hearts of children and inspire them to explore their own backyards, neighborhoods and communities for opportunities to help wildlife. Readers will share in April’s joy and loving efforts to increase the chances of survival for these mysterious spotted salamanders which matter to our environment. This book is an important tool in getting children involved in conservation.

Meg Sodano’s irresistible illustrations capture the wonder and adventure of April’s rescue mission. They create a hushed feeling with flashlights sweeping the road for little black bodies with yellow spots.  There is a special spread devoted to the development of the salamanders from egg to larvae to terrestrial adult. And there is a map showing states where there are spotted salamanders. Her illustrations are rendered with colored inks, crayon, water-soluble pencils and digital techniques.

Resources: Teachers, check out the Green Writer’s Press guide in the back of the book. It covers many school curriculum requirements including life cycles, wetland habitats, and human impact in these fragile environments. It is an excellent resource for science teachers, environmental educators and parents to inspire students to get involved in saving unnoticed species.

Katy Farber is a professional development coordinator, author, and blogger from Vermont. She writes about education, parenting, the environment and sustainability for various websites and publications. Her middle grade novel, The Order of the Trees (Green Writers Press 2015), was an Honor Book in the Nature Generation’s Green Earth Book Awards. Visit Katy 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.

*Book: Library Copy

Pippa’s Passover Plate by Vivian Kirkfield

Pippa’s Passover Plate

Vivian Kirkfield, Author

Jill Weber, Illustrator

Holiday House, Feb 5, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Animals, Passover meal, Seder Plate, Jewish Holiday,

Opening: Hurry, scurry, Pippa Mouse, / washing, scrubbing cleaning house. / Passover starts at six tonight, / Seder meal by candlelight.

Publisher Synopsis:

Sundown is near, and it’s almost time for Seder to begin. Where is Pippa’s special Passover Plate?

Pippa the Mouse has been working hard all day– cleaning her house, setting the table, cooking the meal. Everything looks great– but her special Seder plate is missing!

Searching through her tiny house turns up nothing, so Pippa ventures out to ask her neighbors if they can help. Bravely, she asks the other animals for help, but the snake, owl, and cat haven’t seen her plate, either. But it’s almost time for the Seder to begin, so she keeps looking– and when she finds it, she invites all the other animals home to join her celebration.

A charming story with a happy ending, Pippa’s Passover Plate pairs simple, rhyming text with bright paintings by Jill Weber, illustrator of The Story of Passover and The Story of Esther. In bravely facing her animal neighbors, this adorable little mouse finds not only her missing Seder plate– but new friends along the way.

Why I like this book:

Vivian Kirkfield’s charming picture book will help children learn about joyful Passover traditions. The story is fun and lively and flows effortlessly in rhyme.  It is a perfect book to read aloud, as the words will roll off your tongue. Jewish or not, readers will relate to the how busy Pippa is in preparing for a holiday meal and the memories made with friends and family.

I especially enjoyed learning about the Seder plate and the six symbolic items that are carefully arranged for Passover: beitzah,(an egg), zeroah (a roasted bone), maror (horseradish root), and charoset (chopped apple, walnut, and red wine), chazeret (Romaine lettuce), and karpas (a sprig of parsley or onion or boiled potato).

Jill Weber’s brightly painted illustrations accentuate the feeling of spring. Most important, they show a very expressive and brave Pippa as she journeys around the woodland searching for her Seder plate. And they showcase Kirkfield’s beautiful text. Make sure you check out the endpapers.

Resources:  Encourage children to participate in preparing the food items for the family Seder Plate. Or you can give them a plain white plate and paint pens to draw the food items on their very-own Seder Plate. It is an easy craft and keepsake for kids and family.

Vivian Kirkfield is a children’s picture book author and a former kindergarten teacher and early childhood educator. A passionate advocate for children and reading, she is the creator of the popular blog Picture Books Help Kids Soar and the author of Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking, and her newly released, Sweet Dreams, Sarah.

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 book won in a giveaway on Diane Tulloch’s website, Writer and Dreamer at Work.

Being You by Alexs Pate

Being You

Alexs Pate, Author

Soud, Illustrator

Capstone Editions, Fiction, Oct. 1, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-9

Themes: Individuality, Self-discovery, Interpersonal relationships, Hope, Diversity

Opening: This story is about you and / the way your eyes will shower light / to open a path through the noisy night. 

Synopsis:

When you are a kid, it can be hard to be who you really are. In Being You, two kids learn that they have a choice about how the world sees them. They can accept the labels that others try to put on them, or they let their inner selves shine. Are they powerful, smart, strong, capable, talented? Together these kids find people who see their value and help them face the world on their own terms.

But in this world, there are whispers

that move through the air

like paper planes or falling leaves

They swirl around you

Sometimes they tell you

who you are

But only you and love decide

Why I like this book:

Being You is a celebration about what makes children unique individuals and how they can use their voices to communicate who they are to others. It is a contemplative book that gently nudges kids to find their own inner greatness, with the support from the adults and friends in their lives.

The book is poetic with occasional punctuation and open-ended expressions. The spare text is lyrical and packs a powerful punch. It questions, probes, and encourages readers to look at their own lives. This is a beautiful story that encourages self-discovery and builds self-esteem.

Soud’s illustrations are breathtaking and add to the depth of Pate’s theme of individuality. They are colorful and expressive and shine a light on diversity.

Resources: This is a beautiful discussion book belongs in elementary classrooms. Make sure you read the comments from the author at the end of the book. Ask children if they had a sign on their chest what would it say? And then ask them to list five things. Then encourage each child share.

Alex Pape grew up in Philadelphia. He is the author of several books, including Losing Absalom, named Best First Novel by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and winner of the Minnesota Book Award. He has been a corporate executive, small-business owner, and college professor. In 2012 he launched Innocent Classroom, a program that seeks to end educational disparaities by closing the relationship gap between educators and students of color. You may also want to visit his personal 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.

My Quiet Ship by Hallee Adelman

 

My Quiet Ship

Hallee Adelman, Author

Sonia Sánchez, Illustrator

Albert Whitman & Company, Fiction,  Oct. 1, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes: Conflict, Yelling, Anger, Coping skills, Family relationships, Imagination

Opening: Whenever I hear the yelling, I run to the spot.

Synopsis:

When the arguments begin between his parents gets bad, Quinn escapes to his special place, the Quiet Ship, where he’s the commander. Together with his faithful stuffed animal crew, Quinn can shut out the yelling that makes him sad and scared, and travel somewhere else — his imagination. His Quiet Ship takes him far away from the yelling.

But one day, the ship breaks. Quinn must be brave and find a way to tell his parents how their fighting makes him feel.

Why I like this book:

Hallee Adelman has written a sensitive and heartfelt story about a boy, Quinn, who builds a safe haven for himself when his parents start arguing. When their yelling escalates,  Quinn’s quiet spaceship allows him to blast off and travel through the clouds, stars and universe to a place that is peaceful. “Far, far away / from here… / From there… / From that yelling.”

The narrative is simple and imaginative and speaks a language children will easily understand. Through Quinn, children will learn coping skills to help them share their fears, sadness and worries.  Quinn bravely works through his anger towards his parents, finds his voice and confronts his parents.

Resources: This powerful book is an excellent conversation starter for both children and parents about handling conflict. Is yelling necessary? Are there more effective ways of dealing with anger? It is important that a children feels safe to discuss their feelings.

Sonia Sánchez’s illustrations are magnificent and really give this story life. The are bold and the yelling takes the form of angry, jagged streaks or heavy clouds that suffocate Quinn. Quinn’s desperate expressions are priceless as they communicate his anguish. She uses both traditional and digital media in her artwork.

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.

Everybody’s Favorite Book by Mike Allegra

 

Everybody’s Favorite Book

Mike Allegra, Author

Claire Almon, Illustrator

Imprint/Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC, Fiction, Oct. 30, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-6

Themes: Heroes, Humor, Mystery, Fantasy, Big words, Poop jokes

Opening: “You are very lucky. You are reading Everybody’s Favorite Book. There is not one person anywhere who has a different favorite book. Do you want to know why this is everybody’s favorite book? I’ll explain. ”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Anyone who says, “You can’t please everybody,” isn’t trying hard enough. At least, that’s what the cheeky narrator of this meta picture book thinks!

A “good” book may have a spaceman or a ninja or a cowboy, but Everybody’s Favorite Book has something better: a Space Ninja Cow. And that’s only the beginning. You like princesses? We got ‘em. Prefer a mystery? No sweat. Want the definition of gallimaufry? A good poop joke? A giant, carnivorous guinea pig? Spy kids? Check, check and check. And there’s more! Much more! This book has everything, for everybody! At least that’s what the cheeky narrator thinks!

Here’s hoping things don’t go awry. (Spoiler, they do.)

Why I like this book:

This clever and humorous picture book will appeal to kids who like to make up their own stories. And, they couldn’t have a better teacher — the outrageous and quirky author, Mike Allegra, who loves to think outside-the-box and make kids laugh. His book would make a great read-aloud in an elementary classroom.

A narrator guides readers through the story. With every page turn the story keeps changing because some readers don’t like violence, others want princesses, some prefer a mystery (missing Space Ninja Cow) and others want big words. As more characters appear, so does the chaos and the book becomes quite crowded. It becomes clear the narrator has lost control of his readers and finally shouts “STOP!”  How will the narrator regain control? Or will he?

Claire Almon’s cartoon-like illustrations are lively, colorful and hilarious. They add life to the story.

Resources: This is rambunctious and silly story will inspire reader’s imaginations. Encourage kids to choose a scene and write their own ending. Or have them draw the scene on paper. Make sure you check out Allegra’s website.

Mike Allegra is the author of the picture book, Sarah Gives Thanks. Under the pseudonym Roy L. Hinuss, Mike not-so secretly pens the Prince Not-So Charming chapter book series. He was the winner of the 2014 Highlights for Children Fiction Contest, a recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council for the Arts, and a nominee for a 2017 Pushcart Prize.

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.

*Copy won in a book giveaway.

Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor

Women’s History Month – Mar. 1 – 31, 2019

Turning Pages: My Life Story

Sonia Sotomayor, Author

Lulu Delacre, Illustrator

Philomel Books, Nonfiction, Sep. 4, 2018

Pages: 40

Suitable for Ages:  4-12

Themes: Sonia Sotomayor, Hispanic-American judges, Supreme Court, Autobiography, Pursuing Dreams

Opening: My story is a story about books — of poems and comics, of law and mystery of science and science fiction — written both in Spanish and in English.

Synopsis:

Sonia Sotomayor has inspired young people around the world to reach for their dreams. But what inspired her? For young Sonia, the answer was books! They were her mirrors, her maps, her friends, and her teachers.

Her first memory of how words mesmerized her came from her Abuelita (grandmother), who recited poems written long ago about the tropical island home her family left behind. When Sonia was diagnosed with diabetes at seven and had to give herself shots, she found comic books with super heroes her best medicine. Books became her “loyal friends.” They helped her to connect with her family in New York and in Puerto Rico,

When her father died, Sonia was nine. She found refuge in a neighborhood library. A neighbor surprised her with a complete set of encyclopedias that added to the home library. She also became a big Nancy Drew fan and decided that she could figure out mysteries too. Books took her all over the world and to the moon.  They taught her right from wrong. She learned about inequality. And she began to dream of a future for herself where anything was possible.

What I like about this book:

Turning Pages is an inspiring book that will leave readers hopeful and excited about their own dreams.  The written word is important to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, which is reflected in her lyrical and rhythmic text.  She writes with love, enthusiasm and candor. I am thrilled to see such a deeply personal book for young people. But I believe fifth – seventh grade students would benefit. She is an important role model for youth.

This is the first time Sotomayor shares her own personal story with young readers. It is a down-to-earth story about the magical power of reading and how it shapes periods of her life. In her words: “Books were the magic potions that could fuel me with the bravery of superheroes / little boats that helped me to escape sadness at home / my snorkel and flippers, helping me get there / my time machine, inspiring me to imagine what I would be when I grew up / my launchpad, blasting me straight into my dreams / lenses, bringing into focus truths about the world around me / mirrors of my very own universe.” 

Sotomayor was born in the Bronx with humble beginnings. Her family was from Puerto Rico and she spoke Spanish at home. Children of immigrants will relate to her struggle to learn English, balance two languages and learn to fit in with others. It was her love of books that helped her make sense of her life and her world.

Lulu Delacre’s beautiful and vibrant illustrations perfectly echoes the rich textures of Sotomayor’s life.

Resources: This book is a treasure and would be a great read-aloud for classroom discussions about  women in power, the Supreme Court or government service. There is a Timeline of Justice Sotomayor’s life and a lot of photographs on the front and back endpapers.

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

*Library Copy.

The Little Blue Dragon by Colleen McCarthy-Evans

The Little Blue Dragon

Colleen McCarthy-Evans, Author and Illustrator

Seven Seas Press, Fiction, Nov. 5, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Hurricane, Separation, Loss, Childhood trauma, Courage, Friendship

Opening: In a land not so far away / and not too long ago, / a powerful hurricane / with winds swirling in all directions / separated the Little Blue Dragon / from her mother.

Synopsis: The Little Blue Dragon becomes separated from her mother after a hurricane. When things settle down, she realizes she’s alone in an unfamiliar place. The Little Blue Dragon embarks upon a journey to search for her mother. She flies to south, east, west and north where she meets a variety of friends who guide and loan her a cave to sleep in — monkeys, ducks, dogs, bats, polar bears and a chameleon.

Why I like this book:

This is a lovely book that addresses trauma, separation and loss in a comforting manner. Sometimes scary things happen to children and they don’t know how to cope with the situation. That is when a book like The Little Blue Dragon can be useful in helping children express their feelings and fear.

Colleen McCarthy-Evans’ colorful illustrations take readers on a visual journey through the dragon’s loss and despair to her making a new friend in a chameleon, who is separated from her little ones in a flood. Together they search for their families and find healing along the way. Friendship and courage allows them both to move forward. I like that the story is open-ended and allows children to make up their own ending.

I want to give a little more detail about the unique artwork, which beautifully compliments the story. McCarthy-Evans’ multi-media illustrations are a specialized photographic treatment of dioramas with animals she hand-paints from stones collected from the Pacific Coast of California.

Resources: There is a discussion guide at the end of the book with six great questions that help children and parents take a deeper look into the story. The discussion encourages children to share their feelings and explore how they handle difficult times. This book is also a good resource for teachers and counselors. There also is a list of activities that accompany the story. Children are encouraged to collect rocks and paint them to recreate the animals from the story.

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.

*A review copy was provided by the author.