You Weren’t With Me by Chandra Ghosh Ippen

You Weren’t with Me

Chandra Ghosh Ippen, Author

Erich Ippen Jr., Illustrator

Piplo Productions, Fiction, Feb. 12, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Separation, Fear, Understanding, Love, Healing

Book Synopsis:

Little Rabbit and Big Rabbit are together after a difficult separation, but even though they missed each other, Little Rabbit is not ready to cuddle up and receive Big Rabbit’s love. Little Rabbit needs Big Rabbit to understand what it felt like when they were apart. “Sometimes I am very mad. I don’t understand why you weren’t with me,” says Little Rabbit. “I worry you will go away again.” Big Rabbit listens carefully and helps Little Rabbit to feel understood and loved. This story was designed to help parents and children talk about difficult separations, reconnect, and find their way back to each other.

What I like about this book:

Chandra Ghosh Ippen’s timely book addresses  a wide variety of painful situations in which a child is separated from a parent: divorce, military deployments, parental incarcerations, parental drug abuse and immigration-related separations. Indeed it is a treasure!  We need more stories like this to help jump-start the important conversations about challenging separations between children and parents. Only then can healing begin.

The animals characters make this book a perfect choice in dealing with tough issues. It isn’t a happy homecoming story, as both Little Rabbit and Big Rabbit have to learn to deal with their feelings and get use to each other. Little Rabbit is angry that Big Rabbit left, worries he/she may leave again and doesn’t trust it won’t happen again. The author gives Little Rabbit time to share his concerns before Big Rabbit responds and they find a way to reconnect.

Ippen’s illustrations are rendered in soft pastels and are priceless. The text is minimal with the illustrations carrying much of the story. There is an occasional burst of color that signals the feelings being shared. I especially like the physical distance and space between the rabbits throughout the story.  Little Rabbit needs time and space until trust is established again.  Slowly they move closer to one another. And the facial expressions are spot on for the feelings being communicated. Great collaboration between the author and illustrator.

Resource: This book is a resource due to the way it is written. It will encourage many important discussions. I think it would be fun to take some of the expressive illustrations and have children fill in their own dialogue.

Chandra Ghosh Ippen combines her love of story and cute creatures with her training in clinical psychology. She is the author of Once I Was Very Very Scared. She has also co-authored over 20 publications related to trauma and diversity-informed practice and has over 10 years of experience conducting training nationally and Internationally.

Erich Ippen Jr. was always interested as a boy to drawing cartoons and character designs. In his professional career, he has created visual effects for movies like Rango, Harry Potter, The Avengers, Star Wars and many other films. He is also a singer, songwriter, music producer and founding member of the local San Francisco band, District 8.

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 author.

Terrific Toddlers Series – Boo-Boo! – Bye-Bye! – All Mine!

The Terrific Toddlers is a new series of books, written by Carol Zeavin and Rhona Silverbush and illustrated by Jon Davis. The  explore important topics for active and curious  toddlers ages 2-3 — injury, sharing and separation anxiety — all a big deal for little ones. They are perfect lap books for children when they seek comforting and support.

Boo-Boo!

Magination Press, Fiction, Oct. 30, 2018

JoJo likes to fun FAST! When she falls down and hurts her chin, her dad tries to help her boo-boo. But JoJo is scared! JoJo screams when Daddy tries to wash her boo-boo.  And she doesn’t want a Band-Aid! JoJo puts a Band-Aid on Daddy’s nose. Her dad helps her understand that boo-boos aren’t so scary. Boo-Boo! is a book for toddlers about small cuts and scrapes.  The book includes information about helping toddlers with minor injuries.

Bye-Bye!!

Magination Press, Fiction, Oct. 30, 2018

Sometimes It’s hard for JoJo, Kai and Ava to say goodbye to Mom and Dad! There are tears and anger. Even if it’s for a short amount of time, Mom and Dad reassure them not to worry because they will always come back. When their parents return there are hugs and kisses. Bye-Bye! is a book written for toddlers about separation. The story includes information about helping toddlers with saying goodbye.

All Mine!

Magination Press, Fiction, Oct. 30, 2018

Ava, Kai, and JoJo are playing with their toys at school, but they aren’t ready to share and take turns! Ava wants the fancy hat Kai is wearing and grabs it. The teacher offers Ava  a sparkly necklace. In the kitchen Ava is playing puts a carrot on a plate. JoJo grabs the carrot. Can the teacher help them out? All Mine! is a book written for toddlers and their caregivers about toddlers’ need to feel ownership, so they can better navigate this tricky time in their development when everything is “All Mine!”

What I like about this series:

The Terrific Toddlers  books are 12 pages long, perfect for short attention spans. Each book is 8×6 inches,  just the right size for toddlers small hands. This is a great go-to series when children are dealing with scary feelings that they don’t understand and have a difficult time communicating.  Everything is a big deal.

Carol Zeavin and Rhona Silverbush books are written in simple, childlike language which is reflective of children’s everyday realities. The Terrific Toddlers series is based on understanding the developmental level of young toddlers.

JoJo, Kai and Ava all appear in the series, lending a familiarity and continuity for toddlers. I like the diversity throughout the books and the emphasis on gender neutrality as the toddlers play together. The soft and soothing pastel illustrations Jon Davis by are expressive and playful.

Resources: Each book includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers about helping and supporting their toddlers through difficult moments.

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.

Wish by Barbara O’Connor

Wish

Barbara O’Connor, Author

Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Aug. 30, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Separation, Dogs, Family Relationships, Friendship, Social Issues, Hope

Synopsis: Charlemagne (Charlie) Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. Charlie knows all the ways to make a wish, like looking at a clock at exactly 11:11, finding a four-leaf clover, spotting a shiny penny in the dirt, observing a black cat cross the road or blowing on a dandelion. But when she is sent to live with and aunt and uncle she barely knows in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in danger of discovering that what she though she wanted may not be at all what she needs.

Why I like this book:

Wish is a richly textured an emotionally honest story about separation. Charlie’s father is in jail. Her mother is depressed and unable to care for her. Barbara O’Connor weaves together a moving story about friendship, belonging and finding family.

Wish is told from Charlie’s viewpoint. The narrative is seamless and the plot is well-paced with just the right amount of adventure and tension to keep readers turning pages.  It is also a beautiful story that is filled with heart and teaches the power and bond of community. Add a dog and you have the perfect read for teens.

Charlie is a spunky and resilient character with a temper, which she believes she inherited. She later regrets the mean and hurtful things she says. At first she hates Colby, N.C., the hillbilly kids and the ugly house she lives in that sits on the edge of a cliff. But she also shows her compassion to people and animals who are worth caring about — even though they are different or may be a scrawny stray dog she names Wishbone.  Howard is a great balance for Charlie. He has one leg shorter than the other and has dealt with mean kids and teasing his whole life.  He is kindhearted and has learned to forgive and accept others for who they are — a big lesson for Charlie. She even tests Uncle Gus and Aunt Bertha with her outbursts, but their love and patience give Charlie a sense of belonging.

Barbara O’Connor was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. She has written many award-winning books for children, including How to Steal a Dog and The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester. Visit Barbara O’Connor at her website.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.