When Penny Met POTUS by Rachel Ruiz

When Penny Met POTUS 51Q6dLkRC5L__SX409_BO1,204,203,200_When Penny Met POTUS

Rachel Ruiz, Author

Melissa Manwill, Illustrator

Capstone Young Readers, Fiction, July 1, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-9

Themes: Going to work with mother, POTUS, White House, Political Season, Imagination

Opening:”Penny jumps out of bed extra early, even though she doesn’t have school today. Why? Because today she gets to go to work with her mom!”  

Synopsis: Penny’s mother works in a big white house for a boss called POTUS.  She thinks it is a funny name (POE-TUS), but she can’t imagine what he may look like. She imagines a blue, superhero monster, because after all he has his own secret service agents. She hopes she gets to meet POTUS and practices how to bow and what to say.  She imagines they may even have a tea party together. Once she arrives at her mom’s office, she’s impatient to meet POTUS and sneaks off to find this mysterious creature. Will she be disappointed or surprised with her discovery?

Why I like this book:

The timing is perfect for the release of Rachel Ruiz’s imaginative, entertaining, and very informative book that will introduce young children to the President, the job and the election year. It is a clever and animated story about Penny, an imaginative and curious brown-skinned girl, wondering what her mother does at work every day in a big white house with someone important named POTUS. When Penny finally tracks down the president and discovers POTUS is not a blue monster, her expressions are priceless! You sense some disappointment, until the POTUS invites Penny to visit the kitchen. There are other surprises that I won’t spoil.  The ending is humorous and satisfying.

Melissa Manwill’s illustrations are large, bold, lively and colorful. They significantly contribute to Penny’s larger-than-life imagination of what is a POTUS. I also enjoyed Manwill’s depiction of diversity among the White House staff.

Ruiz was inspired to write her picture book after spending most of 2012 working on President Obama’s re-election campaign. “After long days at the office, I would rush home to my inquisitive three-year-old daughter, who often showered me with questions like, ‘Did you see the President today? What did he have for lunch? Is he allergic to peanut butter?’ and on and on,” said Ruiz. “When my daughter met President Obama at a campaign rally the weekend before the election, the brief but oh-so-memorable exchange between POTUS and the 3-year-old was the exact moment when the idea for this book took hold.”

Resources: Check out this delightful video about kids thoughts on who and what is a POTUS! It will inspire discussions and activities for you to do with your children. You might add FLOTUS, VPOTUS, and SCOTUS to the list of political acronyms.  This is a great book to pair with President Squid by Aaron Reynolds and Diana’s White House Garden, by Elisa Carbone.

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.

Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World

Rachel Carson 61AB358vSJL__SY446_BO1,204,203,200_Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World

Laurie Lawlor, Author

Laura Beingessner, Illustrator

Holiday House, Biography, Reprint, Aug. 31, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 6 – 9

Themes: Rachel Carson, Biologist, Environmentalist, Nature, Change

Opening: Early one morning in May 1922, young Rachel Carson discovered a secret place deep in the woods fragrant with pine needles. “Witchity-witchity-witchity!” called a yellowthroat.

Book Jacket Synopsis: “Once you are aware of the wonder and beauty of earth, you will want to learn about it,” wrote Rachel Carson, the pioneering environmentalist. Rachel found many adventurous ways to study nature. She went diving to investigate coral reefs and tracked alligators on a rumbling “glades buggy” through the Florida Everglades. She worked for the U.S. Fish and Service. However, one of the bravest things she did was to write and publish Silent Spring, a book pointing out the dangerous effects of chemicals on the living world. Powerful men tried to stop the publication of the book, but Rachel and her publishers persisted, and Silent Spring went on to become the book that woke up people to the harmful impact humans were having on our planet.

Why I like this book:

  • I love true stories about strong girls who find a passion, pursue it into adulthood, and end up changing the world. That’s exactly what Rachel Carson did. She is an inspiring role model for children, especially for girls. Her story is inspirational for children who love nature and want to help protect the environment.
  • Laurie Lawlor has written a beautiful and extraordinary biography that tells the story of a young Rachel Carson (born in 1897) whose love of nature is nurtured by her mother. Rachel’s mother encourages her to explore the family’s 65 acres of orchards and woods, watch the starry nights and recognize the melodies of favorite birds. Laura Beingessner’s warm and colorful illustrations are true to the time period of  the early 20th century.
  • Rachel attends college and graduate school at great sacrifice to her family. She becomes a biologist, travels the world, studies and writes about the oceans. She begins to notice disturbing trends and wonders how they are effecting the web of life. She questions the rising ocean temperatures, investigates the deadly impact of insecticides on birds, wildlife and people. Her discoveries lead her to write a courageous book that the average person can understand, Silent Spring, in 1962. Her mission to warn people of threats caused by humans creates a big commotion. Unfortunately, she didn’t live to see the positive environmental changes she made in the world.

Resources: This book is really best suited for older children in the third to fifth grades. Don’t miss the lengthy Epilogue at the end about what happens after the book is published. There are other listed resources. Visit a national, state or local wildlife, waterfowl or marine life refuge in your area. Many have youth programs. Visit the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge website. Check out the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a Conservation Kids page.

Liesl’s Ocean Rescue

Liesl's Ocean 51Go9YPulaL__SX348_BO1,204,203,200_Liesl’s Ocean Rescue

Barbara Krasner, Author

Avi Katz, Illustrations

Gihon River Press, Nonfiction, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes: Liesl Joseph, Jewish children and families, Refugees, MS St. Louis, Seeking Asylum, Cuba, America

Opening: “What fun we had last night,” Josef Joseph, said. “It was the best birthday yet.” “You’re very old now, Father, “Liesl said. “You’re 56!” Mother placed breakfast plates in front of them.

Synopsis: Ten-year-old Liesl and her family were enjoying breakfast when two uniformed men wearing Nazi swastika armbands burst into their home and arrested her father. That 1938 night in Rheydt, Jewish businesses were destroyed and synagogues were burned. It was called the “Night of the Broken Glass.” Liesl’s father was eventually released from jail.  Her family along with 1,000 Jewish refugees, fled Germany in May 1939, aboard the MS St. Louis ocean liner, for temporary asylum in Havana, Cuba and later in America. But when they approached the island that looked like a paradise to Liesl, the ship wasn’t permitted to dock. They were stranded for weeks sailing back and forth between Cuba and the United States not knowing if they’d be sent back to Germany.

Why I like this book:

Barbara Krasner has written a compelling story based on the true experiences of Liesl Joseph, a courageous and endearing 10-year-old, who is heroic in her own way. Despite her own fear, she does her best to keep up the spirits of the children aboard the ship. She plays games and reassures them things will turn out okay. Her father, a lawyer, is busy negotiating arrangements with the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Paris, for safe passage to other European countries.

I am drawn to Holocaust stories, especially those involving children. Liesl’s story is one I had a hard time understanding. Why would the United States deny these refugees a home away from the tyranny of Hitler? Since this is a story about a child’s experience, that question is not addressed. However the story delivers a powerful message for older children about remaining brave in the midst of fear and uncertainty.

Liesl’s Ocean Rescue is an excellent addition to any school’s Holocaust collection. Although this is a picture book, I believe it would also serve well as a chapter book for older children. My only negative comment is that I felt the story ended abruptly.

Avi Katz’s black and white illustrations are expressive and capture emotions ranging from the fear during the German raids to the anxious moments of the refugees aboard the ship.

Resources: Make sure you read the Author’s Note at the end of the book to learn more about Liesl’s journey and fate. The author interviews Liesl Joseph Loeb at her home. Krasner also provides information on other resources to use with this story. There is a Teacher’s Guide at Gihon River Press.  Visit Krasner 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 Perfect Picture Books.

The Stranded Whale

Stranded Whale51zH+DEwRZL__SY444_BO1,204,203,200_The Stranded Whale

Jane Yolen, Author

Melanie Cataldo, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, July 16, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Whales, Nature, Death, Anger, Grief

Opening:We were walking home from school, hurrying along the top of the dunes because Ma always hates when we’re late for supper.”

Synopsis: While walking home from school along the dunes in Maine, Sally and her brothers spot an enormous whale stranded on the beach. The siblings take off their sweaters, dip them into the cold briny water and rush back to wet down the whale. Realizing they need more help, Josh runs for help and returns with many people carrying buckets. The Coast Guard arrives and begins to help. But the tide is going out quickly and the whale is just too big. Time is running out.

Why I like this book:

  • Jane Yolen has written a touching story that will tug at your heart. The story is set in 1971 and it reminds me of lengthier picture books written at that time. Yolen carefully chooses her language. Her text is rich, lyrical and carries you like a poem. Melanie Cataldo’s uses muted tones in her oil and pencil illustrations. They contribute to the emotion and vulnerability of the story.
  • Because it is 1971, the three siblings don’t have modern cell phones to call for help. This adds to the tension because so much time is lost. Sally and her brothers have to rely upon their own resources to help the whale. Josh has to run a mile to find an emergency telephone. It takes a while before the town people and Coast Guard arrive with buckets to wet down the whale. They all try to push the whale back into the ebbing sea. There are no fire hoses or lifts. This is a nice contrast/comparison story for readers.
  • The story is narrated by Sally, who is brave and strong. While Josh is sad about the situation, Sally is mad at everything. She’s mad at the ocean for deserting the whale. She’s mad that they didn’t have a boat and long ropes to pull it into the sea. Sally is also compassionate and looks deeply into the whales eye and sees a tear. She continues wetting down the whale “one sweater, two sweaters at a time.” She tells the whale it is “beautiful and strong, how much she would miss it, whatever happened next.”
  • The ending is realistic. (Spoiler alert) Despite their efforts to rescue the whale, Sally and her brothers learn that not all living creatures can be saved. This is an important truth for children.

Resources: Yolen has an Author’s Note at the end. She talks about why she chose the setting and time frame. She also gives a lot information about how many whales are found on beaches annually and the many reasons for why they beach. There are many good discussion points for parents/teachers and children in this story.  Today is Endangered Species Day.  Make sure you check out the Endangered Species Coalition 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 Perfect Picture Books.

Playing from the Heart

Playing from the Heart 51ja1uzrNWL__SY495_BO1,204,203,200_Playing from the Heart

Peter H. Reynolds, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Apr. 12, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4 – 99

Themes: Music, Piano lessons, Creativity, Family relationships, Father and son

Opening: “The piano stood quietly in the living room for years. Until the day Raj first plunked and pushed the keys, delighted by every sound.”

Synopsis: A boy discovers the beautiful sounds he can make when he thumps the keys of the family piano. His father notices his son, Raj, has a gift for playing from his heart and signs him up for lessons. Raj begins to read notes, learn scales, studies hard and plays classical music. He practices  hard and becomes an excellent pianist over the years. One day he realizes that he doesn’t experience the joy he used to feel and stops playing. Years pass and Raj takes a job in the city. When he receives a call that his father is ill, he hurries home. His father makes a special request for Raj to play the music that first brought him joy.

Why I like this book:

Peter H. Reynolds’ newest treasure, Playing from the Heart, is a timeless story for both children and adults. He hopes that as children become more involved with a musical instrument, “they won’t forget their original joy” and learn to “bend a few rules.” The lyrical text sings from the pages. Reynolds’ illustrations are joyful, serious, emotive and lovingly rendered in black ink with splashes of color. His ample use of white space gives one a sense of freedom.

Playing from the Heart will touch a chord in both young and old who have played an instrument and given it up. I played the piano for years, took a break because of burn out, and returned to my lessons with  renewed enthusiasm. When my husband read Reynolds’ story it stirred up memories of giving up his trumpet in college.

The ending is endearing as Raj sits down to the piano and hopes his heart will remember the joyful melodies he played with such abandonment as a child. There’s heart, there’s love, and there’s a deep connection between father and son. Playing from the Heart is a winner!

Resources: Introduce your child to a musical instrument. It can be a simple as a kazoo, harmonica, drums or xylophone. Encourage your children to be creative and make their own music. If you have a piano, let them play without teaching them. According to  Reynolds, “Creativity thrives on bravery and originality. Let that flow and see where you go.” Visit the award-winning author and illustrator 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 Perfect Picture Books.

This is the Earth

Earth Day, April 22, 2016!

This is the Earth61y9PNfPY3L__SY498_BO1,204,203,200_This is the Earth

Diane Z. Shore and Jessica Alexander, Authors

Wendell Minor, Illustrator

Harper Collins, Nonfiction, Feb. 23, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Pages: 40

Themes: Caring for the planet, Living in harmony with the environment, Pollution, Conservation, Respect, Healing

Opening: “This is the land, / fertile, alive, / crawling with creatures / that help it to thrive.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: This Is the Earth takes readers on a journey through hundreds of years as it explores how humans have affected the environment and shows the ways in which we can all care for the planet. Every action we take has an impact on our surroundings — and everyone can help save the world.

This is the Earth

that we treat with respect,

where people and animals

interconnect,

where we learn to find balance

between give and take

and help heal the planet

with choices we make.

Why I like this book:

Diane Shore and Jessica Alexander have written a very sensitive and uplifting story for children about the condition of the land, air and water of our planet. The text is beautifully written in rhyming verse and makes it easy for young children to digest. Their goal is to help children realize the importance of living in harmony with our planet in a positive way.

This is a good introductory book for children. Each double-page spread gently focuses on how our planet has changed from its beginning pristine state. It shows how the arrival of the busy industrial age and the modernization of the planet have affected the earth. The book helps children understand and respect the interconnection between humans and all life.

This Is the Earth is about choices. It shows how every little action we take impacts the ecosystems and environment. Everyone can help heal the planet. The story encourages children to take action and live a greener life by riding bicycles, using less water in the shower, turning off lights in unused rooms, recycling trash, planting trees and gardens, and treating wildlife with respect. This is a hopeful book about taking care of  our precious home.

Wendell Minor’s illustrations are breathtaking and support the books very positive message. His rich and colorful watercolors convey a power that will captivate and appeal to children.

Resources: This is a great classroom book.  Involve students in cleaning up the school yard, planting trees on the property, and separating recyclable items. For more ideas about how you can make a difference, visit the Earth Day 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 Perfect Picture Books.

Mother Bruce

Mother Bruce 61S+QYjJeoL__SY373_BO1,204,203,200_Mother Bruce

Ryan T. Higgins, Author and Illustrator

Disney Hyperion, Fiction, Nov. 24, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 2-5

Themes: Bears, Eggs, Goslings, Geese, Different families

Opening: “Bruce was a bear who lived all by himself. He was a grump.”

Synopsis: Bruce doesn’t like anything or anyone. The one thing Bruce likes to do is cook fancy recipes he finds on the internet. He comes across a recipe that calls for hard-boiled goose eggs. He takes Mrs. Goose’s eggs home to cook on his stove. To his surprise, the eggs talk back. “Mama!” He wants hard-boiled eggs, not goslings. He returns the goslings to their nest, but Mrs. Goose has flown south. What’s a bear gonna do?

Why I like this book:

Ryan Higgins has written a witty and playful story about a grumpy bear who has become MAMA to four goslings who trail him around — everywhere. This quirky bedtime book will elicit ROARS of laughter from children as they turn the pages to see what Mama Bruce’s tries next to get rid of the goslings. He’s stuck with them. Uh-oh! Bruce is becoming attached to them even though he maintains his grumpy demeanor throughout. This endearing story is about heart, connections and different families. It is character-driven with spare text and great pacing. Higgins’ bold and colorful illustrations are comical and will delight youngsters and adults alike. Mother Bruce is a winner! Visit Ryan Higgins at his website.

Resources:  Visit a local nature preserve or pond where children can watch geese. Talk about the migration of geese from the north to south. Geese lay their eggs in the north. When the eggs hatch, the goslings follow their first caretaker. Watch the DVD Fly Away Home, about a girl who adopts abandoned goslings and helps them fly south.

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.