La La La: A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo

La La La: A Story of Hope

Kate DiCamillo, Author

Jaime Kim, Illustrator

Candlewick, Fiction, Oct. 3, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Loneliness, Connecting, Hope

Synopsis: “La la la . . . la.” A little girl stands alone and sings, but hears no response. Gathering her courage and her curiosity, she skips farther out into the world, singing away to the trees and the pond and the reeds — but no song comes back to her. Day passes into night, and the girl dares to venture into the darkness toward the light of the moon, becoming more insistent in her singing, climbing as high as she can, but still there is silence in return. Dejected, she falls asleep on the ground, only to be awakened by an amazing sound. . . . She has been heard. At last.

Why I like this story:

Kate DiCamillio and Jaime Kim team up to create this strikingly beautiful wordless picture book that highlights a girl’s journey to connect with life — the trees, the pond, the woods, and the moon. The girl is persistent, curious and endearing. Her journey is about overcoming loneliness and never giving up hope no matter how rejected she may feel. She sings out a very simple call “La la la,” and listens for a response.

Jaime Kim’s gracefully captures the girl’s longing through her captivating illustrations. They breathe life into this expressive young adventurer and send her off on a captivating journey.

Resources: Make sure you read the author and illustrator notes at the end of the book to gain greater understanding about their lovely collaboration. Children will relate to the feelings of loneliness and will imagine the wordless story. This is a great discussion book.

Kate DiCamillo is the beloved author of many books for children, including Flora & Ulysses and The Tale of Despereaux, both of which received Newbery Medals. A former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, she lives in Minneapolis.

Jaime (Jimyung) Kim was born and raised in Korea before moving to the United States at the age of eighteen. She works in gouache and acrylics to create her beautiful, tender, and dreamlike landscapes and characters. Jaime Kim lives in North Carolina.

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.

Stolen Words by Melanie Florence

Stolen Words

Melanie Florence, Author

Gabrielle Grimard, Illustrator

Second Story Press, Sep. 5, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Intergenerational relationship, Grandfather, Indigenous history, Cree language, Residential schools, Healing

Opening: She came home from school today. Skipping and dancing. Humming a song under her breath. Clutching a dream catcher she had made from odds and ends. 

Synopsis: As a young girl skips down the street clutching her grandfather’s hand, she asks him, “How do you say grandfather in Cree?” He is sad that he can not remember. He tells her he lost his words a long time ago. He shares with her how he was taken from his family to a residential school for Indigenous children where they were not permitted to speak their native language. The girl sets out to help him find his native language again.

Why I like this book:

This is a warm and touching intergenerational story about a devoted granddaughter who is determined to help her grandfather remember his lost Cree language. Melanie Florence’s story will make you teary as the girl lovingly discovers a way to help him remember and begin to heal.

Florence’s language is simple and has a beautiful rhythm to it. But it delivers an emotional punch as readers learn about how the girl’s Cree grandfather was taken from the loving arms of his family and put into a Canadian residential school. He was forced to forget his language and culture.

Readers will be moved by Gabrielle Grimard’s tender and emotive watercolor illustrations. She captures the sadness in the grandfather’s face and the love and joy of the granddaughter as she springs into action to help him remember.  The illustrations of the words being stolen from the children are very symbolic and powerful.

Florence wrote Stolen Words in honor of her grandfather. She never had the opportunity to talk with him about his Cree background. The story she wrote is about the healing relationship she wishes she had been able to have with her grandfather.

Resources: This is an excellent book to talk with children about the history of residential schools in the 1920s. A powerful look at Canadian history and First Nation children, this book would work well paired with I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer, and When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton.

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

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Pizza Mouse by Miachael Garland — PPBF

Pizza Mouse

Michael Garland, Author and Illustrator

Holiday House, Fiction, Sep. 5, 2017

Series: I Like to Read

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Mice, City life, Food

Opening: No one likes mice.

Synopsis: Life is a challenge for a city mouse. There are daily dangers and he has to survive dogs, cats, owls, and people. But when the whiskered hero of this story uncovers one of the greatest treats New York City has to offer a forager―a discarded slice of pepperoni pizza―the danger is all worth it! Now it’s up to the tiny Pizza Mouse to get the gigantic slice safely home to his family.

Why I like this book:

Michael Garland has written and illustrated a humorous book with very simple text and an engaging plot for children learning to read on their own. This city mouse narrates his story with a little bit of attitude and a lot of determination. After all, he has a family depending upon him for dinner. Mouse’s expressions are priceless. Garland’s digital illustrations are very expressive and a visual feast for children — messy trash spilling out of the can, running from a man with a broom, and darting the myriad of feet in the subway station. This story is fun and full of action as Mouse scurries about the big city. Garland’s early reader is inspired by the viral “pizza Rate” YouTube video.

Garland has published other early reader books, Big and Little Are Best Friends, Fish Had a Wish, Car Goes Far, Tugboat, and Lost Dog, which are appealing and create a positive experience or kids in preschool and kindergarten. Visit Michael Garland at his website.

Resources: Visit the Holiday House website for flashcards and activities.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book on author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit her website. 

Reena’s Rainbow by Dee White

Reena’s Rainbow

Dee White, Author

Tracie Grimwood, Illustrator

EK Books, Fiction, Sep. 30, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8 years

Themes: Friendship, Dog, Inclusion, Deaf, Homeless, Differences

Opening: In Reena’s world, sounds scattered and scrambled and made no sense. But her clear blue eyes saw everything.

Synopsis: Reena is deaf and Dog is homeless, but they are so much more than that. At first Reena and Dog feel like they don’t belong. But when they are a team they help each other. Reena is very observant and doesn’t miss a thing. When they play hide and seek with the other hearing children in the park, Dog shows the kids the best hiding places and Reena always finds them.  Their special bond and friendship helps them discover that everyone is different and special in their own way.

Why I like this book:

Dee White’s endearing story is about Reena’s abilities and not her disability.

The bond between Reena and Dog is unbreakable and heartwarming.  They find each other’s strengths and work together as a team so that Reena interacts more easily with other hearing children.

Reena has skills and heightened senses that help her navigate her world.  She notices things other children don’t, like a branch that breaks and nearly injures another child. When playing hide-and-seek, she’s clever because she notices “eyes peeping through pampas,” and a” pink cardigan camouflaged in cherry blossoms.”

The is a beautiful story of inclusion that teaches children how to respect and celebrate their strengths and differences. The rainbow symbolically embraces the range of differences in our colorful human family. It is a heartwarming story that also shows children the importance of acceptance and friendship.

Tracie Grimwood’s soft, pastel illustrations are lively and add a joyful spirit to the special friendship between a girl and her dog.  This is a beautiful collaboration between author and illustrator.

Resources: The book is an excellent is an excellent resource. Learning about differences offers new experiences and fosters compassion in children. Ask children if they know anyone with a disability. Make a list of the disabilities or differences they have seen. It will help them realize that we’re all humans, even if we may need to wear hearing aids, use a walking device or wheelchair, have Down Syndrome or autism.

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

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

I Want to Be in a Scary Story by Sean Taylor

I Want to Be in a Scary Story

Sean Taylor, Author

Jean Jullien, Illustrator

Candlewick, Fiction, Jul. 11, 20017

Suitable for ages: 2-5

Themes: Monster, Scary story, Courage, Halloween

Opening: Hello, Little Monster. What do you want to do today? 

Publisher Synopsis: Our author would like to write a funny story, but his main character — Monster — has a different idea. He wants to be the star of a chilling, petrifying, utterly terrifying SCARY story. But scary stories . . . well, they can be very scary — especially for their characters! Particularly when they involve dark forests and creepy witches and spooky houses . . . Oh yikes and crikes, this is definitely not the scary story Monster had in mind! Maybe he wants to be in a funny story after all!

Why I like this book:

Sean Taylor has written a playful and clever story about the antics of a Monster who wants to star in a scary story, as long as he is the one doing the scaring. Taylor assumes the role of the narrator and commentator for Monster. The story is character driven and focuses entirely upon Monster. The text flows nicely as the narrator tries to help the Monster set the scene and select the characters. There is only one problem, the Monster doesn’t like dark forests, haunted houses, ghosts and witches.

This is a great example where Jean Jullien’s colorful, bold and creepy illustrations deliver a funny response, much to the delight of readers. The words and illustrations depend upon each other. Readers will focus on the hilarious facial expressions.  I Want to Be in a Scary Story is adorable and has a great ending. It is a perfect Halloween book for children.

Resources: Read the book again and have them help make up other stories for Monster. Give them paper and markers and let them make their own scary story. This is also a time to talk about what scares your child and what makes them feel safe.

Sean Taylor is an author, storyteller, and teacher who has written more than forty books for young children, including Don’t Call Me Choochie Pooh!, A Brave Bear and Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise.

*I won I Want to Be in a Scary Story on Mia Wenjen’s website, Pragmatic Mom. Visit her wonderful diverse children’s literature site.

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 her website.

Jacqueline and the Beanstalk: A Tale of Facing Giant Fears

Jacqueline and the Beanstalk: A Tale of Facing Giant Fears

Susan D. Sweet and Brenda S. Miles, Authors

Valeria Docampo, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Sep. 12, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Facing fears and anxieties, Fractured Fairy Tale, Princess, Beanstalk

Opening: Once upon a time there lived a princess named Jacqueline. The royal knights protected her — from EVERYTHING! “Shields up! There mighteth be danger!”

 Synopsis: A princess named Jacqueline is surrounded by overprotective knights. They want to protect her from danger, but they’re not even sure if there is any danger! When Jacqueline climbs up a beanstalk, she meets a giant who is just as afraid of the knights! Soon Jacqueline shows them all that there is nothing to fear at the other end of the beanstalk.

What I like about this book:

The authors’ modern retelling of this humorous and enchanting classic fairy tale helps children face their fears, through a curious, adventurous, and fearless Princess Jacqueline.

The use of repetition by the knights is very effective. “Shields up! There mighteth be danger!” But the princess repeatedly responds, “But there might not be, and I can’t see…twirl…reach…”  This spunky princess feels smothered by helicopter knights who protect her. And this princess doesn’t like it one bit!

Puzzled by her knights fear, she slips away and climbs a beanstalk only meet a BIG giant who shouts “AHHHHH! Human! Different! Danger!” What’s a princess to do? You got it — coax the giant to climb down the beanstalk with her.  But how will her kingdom react? This princess has some serious challenges on her hands. I won’t spoil the ending.

Docampo’s illustrations are colorful, bold and gorgeous! She shows cowardly knights and a giant shuttering in fear. So much expression and emotion are poured into her inspiring illustrations. They are a feast for children’s  eyes.

Resources: There is a Note Parents and Caregivers at the end with worry-busting strategies and calming tools.  Many children struggle with worries and anxiety, so they will enjoy seeing the tables turned in this tantalizing fairy tale with the knights, giant and kingdom fearful. But the message won’t be lost and Jacqueline will be their hero!

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

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

A Different Pond

Bao Phi, Author & Poet

Thi Bui, Illustrator

Capstone Young Readers, Fiction, Aug. 1, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 6-8

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

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

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

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

Why I like this book:

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

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

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

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

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.