Cinderstella: A Tale of Planets Not Princes

Cinderstella: A Tale of Planets Not Princes

Brenda S. Miles and Susan D. Sweet, Authors

Valeria Docampo, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Oct. 17, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Self-Confidence, Stepfamilies, Family Relationships, Dreams

Opening: Once upon a time there lived a  girl named Cinderstella. She had two stepsisters who made her work every day. But every night, Cinderstella climbed to her treehouse to be close to the stars.

Book Jacket Synopsis: Cinderstella has plans for her own happily ever after and a future princess she is not. She’d rather be an astronaut.

In this modern retelling of a beloved fairy tale, children are encouraged to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Cinderstella dares to be different, has a sense of curiosity, and knows what she wants. A universe of opportunities.

Why I like this book:

The authors have created a meaningful and entertaining retelling of the classic fairy tale, but with an inspiring twist. The text flows nicely and rhymes in places.  Cinderstella dreams of becoming an astronaut. While her stepsisters keep her busy sewing gowns for the ball, shining jewelry and styling their hair during the day, at night she studies the stars and planets and creates her own universe of dreams. She convinces her fairy godmother that she doesn’t want a gown and a carriage, but prefers a spacesuit and a rocket so that she can travel into space.

Cinderstella dreams big and steps outside gender specific pursuits. Refreshing. Her interest in science, technology and becoming an astronaut, should be encouraged in young children of either gender who show an interest.

Valeria Docampo’s colorful, lively and dreamy illustrations capture the wonder of what happens when you have a big dream. The authors and illustrator team up to produce a winning book for children.

Resources: There is a Note to Readers that provides suggestions for parents, caregivers, and educators to spark children’s interest in science and to encourage the pursuit of any career despite lingering stereotypes about what boys and girls can and should do.  This should help parents who may not know where to begin. Encourage kids to dream big. Take them outside to gaze at the stars. If you have a trunk of dress-up clothing for kids, add an astronaut costume. Use the book to help children draw their own space ship.

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.

Prince Preemie by Jewel Kats

Prince Preemie: A Tale of a Tiny Puppy Who Arrives Early

Jewel Kats, Author

Claudia Marie Lenart, Illustrator

Loving Healing Press, Fiction, Dec. 1, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: Animals, Premature babies, Special Needs, Princes, Hope

Opening: The King and Queen were expecting a boy. Prince Puppy would be their first child. He was considered a miracle because he was the only puppy in the Queen’s womb.

Book Synopsis: The King and Queen of Puppy Kingdom are joyfully awaiting the arrival of their Prince. But the couple and their kingdom are thrown into upheaval when it is learned that Prince Puppy will arrive early, before his important crown is completed. How can they call him Prince without a crown? How will they solve their problem when their puppy is in an incubator and hooked up to feeding tubes and wires?

Why I like this book:

A premature birth can be a confusing and scary time for families as they deal with worry and joy at the same time. This inspiring story has an element of a fairy tale. It is a gentle way to help young children understand the early birth of a sibling and why the sibling must be taken care of in a hospital.  It can also be used to help prepare siblings for the day a new baby is ready to come home and join family life.  It is also a wonderful way to explain to a child their premature birth.

Claudia Marie Lenart’s adorable illustrations really make this story sing. I love her soft woolen sculptures as they add a dreamy and soothing quality to the story and add to the book’s appeal. Lenart is a fiber artist who pokes wool and other natural fibers, like alpaca, with a barbed needle to sculpt her soft characters and scenes.  This is the perfect medium for a fairy tale. Lenart will author and illustrate her first book in April: Seasons of Joy: Every Day is for Outdoor Play.

Resources: The book is a resource for parents to use with siblings. It helps parents answer simple questions for young children. And, it is a good book to use with a preemie child to discuss their early birth. Links to organizations that support preemie families: The Graham’s Foundation, Miracle Babies and the March of Dimes.

Jewel Kats has authored a dozen books-eight are about disabilities. Among  her books are Jenny and Her Dog Both Fight Cancer: A Tale of Chemotherapy and Caring and Hansel and Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist. Preemie Prince was her final gift to readers. Jewel Kats was the pen name of Michelle Meera Katyal, who passed away in 2016 as the result of complications of surgery. She too had a disability. Please visit her at her website to see her collection of 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 Perfect Picture Books.

Teacup by Rebecca Young

teacup9780735227774-jpbTeacup

Rebecca Young, Author

Matt Ottley, Illustrator

Dial Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Oct. 4, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Leaving Home, Sea, Immigrant, Hope

Opening: Once there was a boy who had to leave his home…and find another.

Synopsis: A boy has to leave his home and sets off on a journey into the unknown with a backpack, a book, a bottle, a blanket and a teacup filled with the earth from his homeland.  His life at sea changes daily. Some days the sea is gentle and other days it is rough and unforgiving. Some days the light is bright and some nights are so dark he wishes to see the stars. He listens to the call of the whales and watches changing cloud formations.  One day a sprout appears in his teacup. It grows into a tree that gives him shelter, apples to eat and branches to climb so he can search the horizon for land. The boy finally finds land and he makes it home. He is alone, until…

Why I like this book:

Rebecca Young has written an inspiring and timely tale with spare text, allowing readers to use their imaginations. The language is poetic and hints at the mystery and wonder of the boy’s journey. She doesn’t say why the boy has to leave his home, which leaves this book open for age-appropriate discussions about the reasons people leave their homes. The fact that the boy has to leave his home, makes readers wonder if the boy is an immigrant or refugee. Perhaps he is pursuing a dream. There are many possibilities. This story can also be used to discuss topics like moving, separation, divorce, and homelessness. This is book for all ages and the perfect bedtime story.  The conclusion is very satisfying and hopeful. Matt Ottley’s oil paintings are luminous and show the light and darkness, the loneliness and joy of the boy’s journey.

Resources: This is an excellent discussion book for home and school. Why did the boy leave his home? Ask children to identify reasons.  How did the boy feel sailing in the small rowboat  on the endless ocean? How would they feel sailing in a rowboat on the sea? Encourage them to use their imaginations and make up a short story or draw a picture about their ideas.

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. 

King Calm: Mindful Gorilla in the City

king-calm-51mvy3t4nel__sx398_bo1204203200_

King Calm: Mindful Gorilla in the City

By Susan D. Sweet and Brenda S. Miles, Authors

Bryan Langdo, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Oct. 17, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Distractions, Slowing down, Paying attention to the present moment,  Mindfulness

OpeningIn a Great Big City, there lived a gorilla named Marvin. Marvin wasn’t like other gorillas. He didn’t stomp his feet, he never wanted to fight, and he never pounded his chest with a thump thump roar! 

Book Synopsis: Meet Marvin. He’s a gorilla living in a Great Big City. He is peaceful and composed and enjoys every minute of his day. He doesn’t approach life with a thump thump roar. Instead Marvin experiences the world mindfully through his senses. He’s the King of Calm.

Why I like this book:

The authors have written an engaging and entertaining book about Marvin, who is a calm and gentle character who notices things other people miss because they are distracted or too busy to care. When Marvin slowly eats his banana he notices the bright yellow outside and the sweet ripe inside. His grandfather doesn’t understand Marvin because he’s impatient with life, gobbles his food and is ready to move on to their next activity. While Marvin  is very observant, Grandpa never really takes a moment to stop to enjoy his surroundings until…

I am pleased to see the growing number of books that encourage kids to slow down, pay attention to whatever they are doing in the moment, and notice the beautiful world around them. It is good to introduce mindfulness practice to children. Start at a young age, when they are open and eager to explore everything they see, smell, taste, touch, and hear.

Bryan Langdo’s illustrations are colorful, lively, diverse and expressive. Children will enjoy studying the detail on each page. As parents and teachers read this book to children, the illustrations are a great place to ask questions. What are the people at the fountain doing and does anyone notice its beauty except Marvin? What happens to the other people in the illustrations when they are distracted in the city scene? How do they react? Are they calm or reactive?

Resources: The book includes a Reader’s Note filled with information about learning to pay attention to your life through your senses by living mindfully.  Start by paying attention to what you are eating rather than gobbling it down. Be more observant when you take a walk and notice the smells in the air, the cloud formations, or look into a stream. Is it a cool or sticky day? Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you.  What do you hear? Sit on a bench and observe. How do you feel?

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.

Under the Same Sun by Sharon Robinson

under-the-same-sun51bay5xc9kl__sx434_bo1204203200_

Under the Same Sun

Sharon Robinson, Author

AG Ford, Illustrator

Scholastic Press, Fiction, Jan. 7, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: African-American, Family Relationships, Multigenerational, Multicultural, Tanzania, Safari

Opening: The sun rose in the sky like an orange ball of fire. The rooster crowed. Then the dawn light gave way to an early-morning blue. “Nubia! Busaro! Onia! Wake up!” Father called. “Rachel! Rahely! Faith! The plane will soon be landing!”

Synopsis: Auntie Sharon and Grandmother Bibi are coming to Tanzania from America to visit their family. It will soon be Bibi’s eighty-fifth birthday and her seven grandchildren are planning a big surprise! They spend the next few days telling stories, exchanging gifts, making trips to the markets and preparing spicy meals.

Finally the big day arrives, and three generations of family pack their bags and pile into their father’s jeep for a safari trip in the Serengeti National Park. They view beautiful animals in the wild — hippos, crocodiles, exotic birds, gazelle, a pride of lions, elephants, zebras and giraffes. They make a final stop on their return home to Bagamoyo, a slave-trading post along the Indian ocean.  It is a meaningful stop, because Bibi’s African-born grandchildren learn about how their great-great grandparents were captured and shipped to Georgia to pick cotton on a southern plantation.

Why I like this book:

This is a personal book for Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson, the first black major league baseball player. She shares the story of the trips she and her mother make to visit her brother David, who returned to Tanzania to raise his family. Readers will get a strong sense of the rich cultural heritage, customs and language. This is a heart-felt multigenerational story with a twist, showing Sharon’s African nieces and nephews learning about their ancestral heritage. AG Ford’s oil paintings are exquisite. Just study the vibrant and lively book cover. His brush captures the love and joy among the Robinson family.

Resources: There is an Author’s Note, family photos, a map of Tanzania, a glossary of Swahili words spoken in East Africa, and a page about Tanzanian history and meals. This is a great read for Black History Month. Encourage children to talk with great grandparent, grandparents and family members about their family history. Record the stories told, or write them down.

Favorite Quote: Bibi gathered her children and grandchildren in her arms. “We may be separated by land and sea, but we are always under the same sun,” she said. And she hugged them all at once.

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 where you will find lists of books by categories.

Somebody Cares by Susan Farer Straus

somebody-cares-51wgy9uf0l

Somebody Cares: A Guide for Kids Who Have Experienced Neglect

Susan Farber Straus, PhD, Author

Claire Keay, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Mar. 14, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Child abuse, Neglect, Child safety, Diverse characters

Opening: There were times I felt good about being me. I did a lot on my own. I told myself, “‘I’m big. I can take care of myself.” But that’s not how I felt all the time. Lots of times I needed help and there was no help.

Publisher Synopsis: Useful to read with a caring adult, Somebody Cares is a book for children who have experienced parental neglect and have taken care of many things on their own. It helps them understand their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors and prepares them for changes in their families. Most importantly, Somebody Cares teaches children that they are not to blame and were brave to do so much on their own.

Why I like this book:

This is the first picture book I’ve read that deals with young children who feel dismissed or neglected by parents. Out of necessity many children have to prepare their own meals, go home to an empty house after school, care for younger siblings, are left at home alone when a parent goes out at night, and worry about parental substance abuse problems. These children are brave, courageous, and strong.  But neglect leads to loneliness, anxiety and behavior problems.  Neglect can be found in all socio-economic groups.

The author has written the narrative in first person, which is very effective. Children express their thoughts and feelings about what it’s like to be on their own. When neighbors and teachers ask them if they are okay, they clam up so they don’t make their parents mad or get in trouble. Help arrives when an adult calls a social worker, who intervenes and talks with the child and parents.  Things begin to change as they all work together.

The illustrator shows a diverse group of children throughout the book, thus eliminating any stereotypes. The illustrations are rendered in warm, colorful pastels. The author has written a must-needed book for children experiencing neglect. Children shouldn’t have to carry such a big burden alone.

Resources: This book is an important tool for grandparents, a caring adult, teachers, school counselors, and therapists to read with a child. In the story the children are encouraged to develop a “Safety Plan,” and a “Feel Good Plan” of deep breathing exercises and relaxation. There are fun after-school activities for kids. There is a “Note to Readers” at the beginning of the book. This book belongs in every school library and counselor’s office.

Favorite Quotes:

“Sometimes I thought everyone forgot about me. Sometimes I thought it was because I was bad.” 

“I thought this was the way it would be forever. Then something happened and things changed.”

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 Grand Wolf by Avril McDonald

grand-wolf-51ox8zufq7l__sy407_bo1204203200_

The Grand Wolf

Avril McDonald, Author

Tatiana Minina, Illustrator

Crown House Publishing Limited, Fiction, Apr. 26, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: Animals, Wolf, Death, Dealing with Grief, Accepting Change, Friendship

Opening: “Once in a while, / on a clear sunny day, / Wolfgang would go / to the Grand Wolf’s to play.”

Synopsis: Wolfgang and his friends enjoyed visiting the Grand Wolf.  Grand Wolf always had fresh bread baking in his house and toys in his shed. He’d take Wolfgang on long walks and show him things in the forest. But one day when Wolfgang and his friends went for their visit, they sensed something was wrong. The Wise Owl tells them that Grand Wolf has died. At first they are angry and don’t believe Owl.  Spider helps them deal with their grief and reminds them Grand Wolf will always be in their hearts and memories.

Why I like this book:

I am in awe of Avril McDonald’s tender and wise book about dealing with grief. The lovely rhythmic language and the beautiful illustrations blend perfectly to explore the emotional journey of love and loss, breaking your heart and then helping it to heal.  The book is so well written and talks about death in such a way that is perfect for children.  Wolfgang and his friends express their disbelief and anger and share their tears as Wise Owl and Spider support them, help them deal with this major change in their lives and remind them that just because someone is gone doesn’t mean they have left your heart.  Tatiana Minina’s colorful, bold and expressive illustrations really contribute to the book’s message.

The Grand Wolf is part of McDonald’s Feel Brave Series of books which are designed to help children deal with real life situations, manage tough emotions and reach their potential. Each book tells a story about a real life situation that children may face and offers simple coping strategies.  Each of the five books helps children deal with self-confidence, anxiety and fears, change, grief, loss, worries and bullying.  Follow Avril McDonald on her Feel Brave website.

Resources: This book is a great discussion book and resource for families and educators to use to talk about death with young children.  It is a helpful book for a family dealing with grief, approaching grief or separation. There is also a Feel Brave Teaching Guide available along with a CD.

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.