Islandborn by Junot Diaz


Islandborn

Junot Díaz, Author

Leo Espinosa, Illustrator

Dial Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Mar. 18, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Immigration, Community, Culture, Memory, Diversity, Imagination, Belonging

OpeningEvery kid in Lola’s school was from somewhere else. Hers was a school of faraway places.

Synopsis: When Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families emigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember the Island she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories — joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening — Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to the Island. As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”

Why I like this book:

Junot Díaz has written a poetic and nostalgic story about Lola’s family immigrating from their home on the Island (likely the Dominican Republic) to build a new life in New York City.  Lola’s lively and exuberant curiosity leads her on an enchanting journey of discovery of self-discovery. She relies upon the memories of her family, friends and neighbors to help her imagine an Island and a culture that has bats the size of blankets, music, dancing, bright colors, sweet mangoes, beautiful beaches, tropical sunsets, hurricanes and a terrifying monster (dictator) who hurts the people. Leo Espinosa’s dazzling illustrations bring Lola’s Island to life. They are a beautiful celebration of creativity and diversity. Brown children will see themselves in the many different skin-tones. Beautiful collaborative effort between the author and illustrator. This book belongs in school libraries.

Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and immigrated to New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This is How you Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award Finalist. Visit him 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.

Feel Better Books for “Little Worriers” and for “Little Tempers”

Today I am sharing  two Feel Better Books written by authors Holly Brochmann and Leah Bowen and illustrated by Shirley Ng-Benitez. Both books compliment each other and can be used together. They are written for children ages 3 to 6.

A Feel Better Book for Little Worriers

Magination Press, Fiction, Aug. 7, 2017

Themes: Worry, Anxiety, Rhyme

Opening: How’s it going today, / are you doing all right? / Are you fantastic, and happy and bright?

Synopsis: Worries can feel like a BIG problem to a LITTLE kid! This book helps little ones who are just beginning to recognize and identify their emotions to understand how worry feels and affects them. Do they feel butterflies in their tummies? Is their heart beating fast?  Worries differ for each child. Some children worry about going to bed, finishing homework, learning to swim, and speaking in front of the class.  And some worries can be important and protect them from harm.

A Feel Better Book for Little Tempers

Magination Press, Fiction, Mar. 19, 2018

Themes: Anger, Tempers, Rhyme

Opening: Is it one of those days / you feel misunderstood? / You’re huffy and puffy / and just plain not good.

Synopsis: Sometimes the LITTLEST kids can have the BIGGEST tempers! This books helps young children who are just beginning to recognize and identify their emotions understand how anger feels and affects them.  Are they clenching their fists?  Are they so mad they feel like they may explode? Readers are taught that it’s okay to get mad, if you know what to do.

Why I like these two books:

They are told in catchy rhymes that are joyful and fun to read out loud. The narration is gentle and calming and introduces the subject of worry and temper in a very simple and straightforward manner.  Each book first identifies the feelings of worry and anger through a diverse group of children doing a variety of activities. And then the children are introduced to activities like jumping up and down, spinning, stretching, wiggling, dancing, running, taking deep breaths and giving themselves a BIG hug.

The lively and expressive illustrations will charm children from the start. They are bold, colorful and perfectly capture each story.

Resources: Both books include a “Note to Parents and Caregivers” that gives information about recognizing worry and anger, and offers tools to help manage anxiety and anger. This is an excellent discussion book for home and at school.

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.

The publisher provided me with advanced copies of the books.

Bye Bye Pesky Fly

Bye Bye Pesky Fly

Lysa Mullady, Author

Janet McDonnell, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, May 14, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Animals, Insects, Annoying behavior, Frustration, Tolerance, Friendship

Opening: Some days are good days. Calm, peaceful, and happy.

Synopsis: Pig is having a happy summer day thinking about the sunshine, rainbows and rolling around in a cool mud bath, until  Pesky Fly decides to BUZZ Pig’s nose and ears and follows Pig around the meadow. Suddenly Pig isn’t calm and peaceful anymore. He’s angry. What is a Pig going to do?  If he yells at the fly to go away, it will make matters worse. Running away doesn’t help. Pig wants to swat Pesky Fly, but he knows it isn’t a nice to hurt the fly. How is Pig going to solve this annoying situation.

Pig finds his happy space again and decides to ignore Pesky Fly. As Pig walks along the path whistling a happy tune, Pesky Fly continues to BUZZ Pig’s ears and lands on his nose. Pig takes a big risk and confronts Fly.  How will Pesky Fly respond? Will they be able to respect each other’s space and have a happy day together?

Why I like this book:

Lysa Mullady has written an empowering book that will help children learn to handle annoying situations. Children will absolutely relate to having a pesky fly buzzing in their faces or a classmate annoying them. This is a lovely analogy to someone invading your personal space — something kids may feel but not have the words to explain. It may not feel right and they back away.

I enjoyed how the story shifts from Pig’s to Fly’s perspective, which emphasizes empathy and compassion. Maybe Fly wasn’t buzzing to bully Pig on purpose, but wanted a new friend. This is a satisfying story with a feel-good ending.

Mullady’s engaging and witty text wraps itself creatively around Janet McDonnell’s cleverly exuberant and playful illustrations. The artwork is expressive, as you can tell by the cover. I like her use of white space. This book will elicit many giggles!

Resources: The book includes “A Note Parents and Caregivers” about helping children work through the frustrations and build positive friendships. This is a lively discussion book for home and school. The story teaches children social skills and working through problems together, with the hopes they can solve problems on their own.

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. 

The publisher provided me with an advance copy of the book.

Ten Cents a Pound by Nhung N. Tran-Davies

Ten Cents a Pound

Nhung N. Tran-Davies, Author

Josée Bisaillon, Illustrator

Second Story Press, Fiction, Apr. 18, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Family Relationships, Love, Sacrifice, Educating girls, Poverty, Multicultural

Opening: Mama, I see your hands / Coarsened and scratched, / By the twigs and bark of the trees, row on row, / By the leaves and berries, picked one by one. / I will stay with you.

Synopsis: A young girl is torn by her desire to stay home with her family and the familiarity of their village, and her desire to go to school and discover the world beyond the mountains that surround them.

Every time the girl insists that she will stay, her mother repeats that she must go — that there is more to life than working in the coffee fields. Their loving exchange reveals the struggles and sacrifices that they both will have to make. But her mother is determined to give her a better future.

Why I like this book:

Nhung N. Tran-Davies’ endearing tale is about an Asian mother who works in the coffee fields to earn ten cents a pound to buy her daughter books, pencils and shoes that will make it possible for her  to attend school. She wants to give her daughter the opportunities that she never had. The daughter is concerned because she sees her mother’s stooped back, calloused hands, and strained eyes. She can’t bear to leave her mother, but she knows that education is the only way for her to make a better life for herself and her family. There is love, heart and a deep bond between mother and daughter.

This lyrical and sensitive picture book begs to be shared and discussed with children. It is important for readers to understand the difficulties children face in order to attend school around the world. Josée Bisaillon’s  illustrations are exquisite and expressively depict the mother’s struggle, while showing the whimsy of the girl reading and dreaming of far away places. They work beautifully with the text and illuminate the message in the story.

Resources: This story will generate lively classroom discussions. and is a great exercise in empathy. Ask children what would they do to get to school? How important is school to you? Why do children in poor villages want to go to school? Ask children about how they would feel if they didn’t have a pair of shoes to wear to school?

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. 

The Art Garden by Penny Harrison

The Art Garden

Penny Harrison, Author

Penelope Pratley, Illustrator

EK Books, Fiction, Feb. 6, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: Art, Creativity, Individuality, Self-acceptance, Friendship

Opening: More than anything, Sadie wanted to be an artist.

Synopsis: Sadie wants to be a painter, just like her best friend, Tom. She loves playing with color and finding shapes in unlikely places. But whenever Sadie picks up a paintbrush she makes a big mess. She spends her time working in the garden or playing with Tom, but, one day, Sadie gets a look at things from a different perspective–and makes a big discovery about herself and her own creativity.

What I like about this book:

Penny Harrison has written a playful story about a girl who wants to be an artist like her best friend.  Sadie’s fingers are very nimble at playing with color in baking and decorating cupcakes, arranging flowers, exploring patterns in nature, and planting flowers in pots. So why can’t she draw like Tom? The harder this determined protagonist tries to paint, she creates even bigger messes. Discouraged, she climbs to the top of a tree.  She stares down at a garden beneath her and sees something she hasn’t seen before. Sadie realizes that if she can’t draw her dreams there are many other ways to express herself.

The language is simple and lyrical. The pacing will keep readers in suspense. Prately’s colorful watercolor illustrations are lively and encourage readers to see the world through Sadie’s eyes. Make sure you check out the endpapers.

Resources: This book is an excellent read-aloud in the classroom. Teachers can encourage kids to name the many ways they enjoy expressing their creativity like baking, sewing beautiful clothing, planting beautiful gardens, trimming topiary bushes, knitting blankets, carving wooden figures, making pottery, designing buildings, birdwatching, quilting, music and dance. Children will enjoy sharing their ideas as they realize art is individual and all around them.

Penny Harrison is a children’s author, book reviewer, garden writer and lifestyle journalist. A professional writer for more than 20 years, she has contributed to a range of magazines, newspaper, and books, writing about everything from raising toddlers to raising chickens.

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.

The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds

The Word Collector

Peter Hamilton Reynolds, Author & Illustrator

Orchard Books, Fiction, Jan. 30, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Collecting words, Sharing, Individuality, Imagination, Kindness

Opening: Collectors collect things… coins…art…comic books.  And Jerome?

Synopsis:

Some people collect stamps. Some people collect bugs. Some people collect baseball cards. Not Jerome. He collected words. Printed words. Short and multi-syllable words. Words that roll off your tongue and feel good to say. Words that sing. Words that make you laugh. He organized and filled scrapbooks with his favorite words. One day he was carrying an armload of scrapbooks when he slipped.  His words went flying through the air and landed in a mess around him. He began stringing the words together and made a powerful discovery. Perhaps his words weren’t so mixed up.

Why I like this book:

Reynolds captures the magic of words in Jerome’s pure joy of sharing words with others. There is a charm in this book. There is kindness. The tone of the text is wistful and alluring, inviting the reader along Jerome’s magical journey of discovery and possibilities. This book fosters a curiosity for  words and a love of language! It is both empowering and heartwarming with a satisfying ending that will put a smile on a children’s faces. It is spindiddly!

Jerome is a child of color, but the story has nothing to do with his color or ethnicity. The supporting characters in the story are all diverse, which lends itself to inclusiveness. It is so important for children to see themselves in a story.

Reynolds’ pen and ink illustrations are playful and contribute to the joyful spirit of Jerome’s journey. Make sure you check out the endpapers.

Resources: After reading the book, look at the endpapers which are packed with words.  Reynolds urges children “Reach for your own words / tell the world who you are / and how you will make it better.”  Each word is strung together on separate pieces of paper.  Encourage kids to write four or five words that they like on separate index cards. They may be familiar, happy, caring, loud, funny and so on. Then ask them to share what the word means to them.

Peter Hamilton Reynolds is a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of many books for children, including The Dot, Ish, and Happy Dreamer. 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. 

My Friend, Mi Amigo by Kristin Tripathy

My Friend, Mi Amigo

Kristin Tripathy, Author

Denise Turu, Illustrator

Authors as Heroes Publishing, Fiction, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Bilingual story, Play, Zoo, Friendship

Opening: Hola!…Huh? / Hello!…Eh?

Synopsis: Interacting with others who don’t speak the same language can sometimes be challenging. However, when an English-speaking boy encounters a Spanish-speaking boy at the zoo, nothing can stop them from having an engaging and playful time…not even a language barrier. After all, friendship speaks louder than words.

What I like about this book:

This is a clever bilingual book for both English- and Spanish-speaking children. Kristin Tripathy features two boys visiting the zoo. Each double-spread page shows the boys visiting animals at the zoo with bubble comments highlighting their conversation. When one boy says, “Look! A gray elephant.” The other responds “Como?”  On the opposite page the Spanish-speaking boy says “Mira! Un elefante gris.”  This makes translation easy for children.

This is a book about friendship and the creative way two boys overcome a language barrier so that they  have a grand time exploring the zoo together. It has humor and a great theme.  Denise Turu’s large, colorful and bold illustrations compliment the story. Visit the author at her website, Authors As Heroes.  The book is also published in English and Hindi, which you will find by visiting the website.

Photos courtesy of Kristin Tripathy.

Resources: The book is a resource. Both English- and Spanish-speaking children will learn new vocabulary as it is simply presented in bubble comments. It definitely can be used in the classroom to teach both language and animals

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.

*The author provided me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Heal the Earth by Julian Lennon

Happy Earth Day, Apr. 22, 2018

Heal the Earth

Julian Lennon with Bart Davis, Authors

Smiljana Coh, Illustrator

Sky Pony Press, Fictions, Apr. 3, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-6

Themes: Nature, Environment, Conservation, Ocean reefs, Rain forest, Medicines, Green spaces

Opening: Welcome to our planet Earth.

Book Synopsis:

The magical White Feather Flier is back on a new adventure to heal the Earth! Use your imagination power to make it fly and take you on a great helping journey.

The Flier’s mission is to transport readers around the world, to engage them in helping to save the environment, and to teach one and all to love our planet. Just press a button printed on the page, and point the plane up in the air to fly, or down to land it!

Bring medicine to people in need!
Dive below the ocean to bleached coral reefs!
Visit the city to cultivate green spaces!
Help the rain forest return and give its animals a home!
Explore the planet, meet new people, and help make the world a better place!

An inspiring, lyrical story, rooted in Lennon’s life and work, Heal the Earth is filled with beautiful illustrations that bring the faraway world closer to young children.

Why I like this book:

It beautiful interactive book that speaks directly to younger children and empowers them to be part of the magic of healing and loving our planet and its inhabitants. The spare text is lyrical and skillfully written with vivid imagery. Smiljana Coh’s gorgeous illustrations will appeal to children’s senses. She includes a diverse cast of characters and children will see someone who looks like them.

Readers are asked questions and invited to join the adventure.  They will be encouraged to use their imaginations and push buttons at the bottom of the pages to transport them to areas of the earth that are in need of healing. They  see the problems that exist and then are given the opportunity to make a positive impact. Every time they succeed, they are congratulated for a job well done.

There is age-appropriate geographical information about the planet and how it is divided into continents. Kids are encouraged to touch each continent, say its name and pick the continent where they live.

The book includes words to a new, special poem written by Julian Lennon, specifically for Heal the Earth. It is a lovely addition to the book and could be a stand-alone-book.

A portion of the proceeds from book sales will go to support the environmental and humanitarian efforts of the White Feather Foundation, the global environmental and humanitarian organization that Lennon founded to promote education, health, conservation, and the protection of indigenous culture.

Resources: The book is a great way to approach the subject of caring for the earth, during Earth Day. It is a resource because it encourages children to discuss problems around the globe and ask a lot of questions about getting involved in preserving their planet.

Julian Lennon is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, photographer, documentarian, philanthropist, and author of the New York Times bestselling children’s book Touch the Earth. Born in Liverpool, England, Lennon is an observer of life in all its forms developing his personal expression through his artistic endeavors. He hopes that his kids book trilogy will inspire and educate children to preserve our planet for future generations.

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.

I Am Enough by Grace Byers

I Am Enough

Grace Byers, Author

Keturah A. Bobo, Illustrator

Balzer + Bray, Fiction, Mar. 6, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes:  Individuality, Love, Respect, Kindness, Diversity

Opening: “Like the sun, I’m here to shine.”

Book Synopsis: I Am Enough is an essential book for everyone — an inspiring lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another.

Why I like this book:  Grace Byers’ soulful book is a magnificent poem to girls encouraging self-esteem, individuality, respect and kindness. It empowers girls to be themselves and encourages them to realize their endless potential. Readers will learn how each day is filled with possibilities to dream, soar, love, use their voices, fail, succeed, disagree, and love.  The poetic tone of the text is celebratory, inviting the reader on an adventure of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Keturah Bobo’s expressive and vibrant illustrations showcase racial and cultural diversity and shows a girl playing jump rope in a wheelchair.  They compliment the uplifting and positive affirmation that “I am enough!” And that cover just draws you into the story. This is a perfect gift book.

Resources: This is an ideal discussion book. Ask girls what it means to be enough. Let this conversation evolve into what is uniquely beautiful about her and every other girl. Although written for girls, I believe boys will enjoy this book.

Grace Byers is an actor and activist who stars in Fox’s hit series Empire. As a multiracial young girl and a child of deaf adults, Grace was bullied throughout her childhood. This book was born out of her desire to empower young girls against the effects of bullying. In her spare time, she volunteers with the nonprofit anti-bullying organization Saving Our Daughters. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, actor Trai Byers.

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.

Big, Brave, Bold Sergio — Baxter and Danny Stand Up to Bullying

Today I am sharing two new books about bullying, published by Magination Press. They both deal with different aspects of bullying and compliment each other well. They are both great classroom discussion books.

Big, Brave, Bold Sergio

Debbie Wagenbach, Author

Jamie Tablason, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Mar. 19, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Turtles, Animals, Bullying, Peer Pressure, Taking a stand, Kindness

Opening: Sergio liked swimming with the Snappers. He felt BIG when they scattered the minnows.

Synopsis: Sergio and The Snappers are the toughest turtles in the pond! Swimming with them makes Sergio feel Big, Brave and Bold! But soon he starts to notice how the other animals run and hide when the Snappers swim by; frogs flee, tadpoles tremble, and ducks depart the pond! Sergio doesn’t like it, and stands up to his friends, only to become the new target of the gang’s bullying, especially after he befriends some of the fish. But then something happens to one of the Snappers and Sergio has a choice to make.

Baxter and Danny Stand Up to Bullying

James M. Foley, Author

Shirley Ng-Benitez, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Mar. 15, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Animals, Bullying, Taking a stand,  Problem-solving, Friendship

Opening: Baxter the Bunny was the fastest animal in the forest. Danny the Bear was the best dancer.

Synopsis:  When Baxter, Danny and the rest of the forest animals are picked on by Buford Blue Jay and his bird friends, they have to figure out what to do. The piercing “screech, screech” of the Blue Jays was loud and their name calling was hurtful. With the support of all the forest animals and Queen Beth of the Bees, they all learn to stand up to Buford’s bullying in a positive way.

Why I like these bullying books:

Each book approaches bullying from a different perspective — the bully and the victims. In the first book Sergio is a bully until his conscience begins to bother him. He deals with peer pressure from the other Snappers and soon  becomes their target. In the second book the animals of the forest are the target of bullying by the Blue Jays. Working together helps empower the animals and gives them the confidence to take a stand.

Readers will identify with the name-calling, insults, threats, fear and anger. They will learn how to cope with peer pressure, assert themselves, build self-esteem, problem solve and find solutions that  work. I also like the emphasis on learning to have compassion.

Children will be delighted with the large, bold and expressive artwork. There is so much detail to explore. Both illustrators ably capture the lively action in the stories and compliment the authors’ text.

Resources: Both books include “Note to Parents and Caregivers” about how to prevent bullying, cope with peer pressure, become resilient and develop an attitude of kindness towards others. Theses are great discussion books for home or classroom reading.

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.

*I received a review copies of  Big, Brave, Bold Sergio and Baxter and Danny Stand Up to Bullying from the publisher. The opinions in this review are entirely my own.