Abracadabra! The Magic of Trying

Abracadabra! The Magic of Trying

Maria Loretta Giraldo, Author

Nicoletta Bertelle, Illustration

Magination Press, Fiction, Apr. 23, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Animals, New experiences, Fear, Practice, Setbacks, Courage, Perseverance

Opening: “Today was an important day at the little birds’ school. Today was the day they all learned how to fly!”

Book Synopsis:

All of the little birds have learned to fly…except one. Little Owl can’t do it! He is too afraid of falling. Blackbird, Robin, Sparrow and Hummingbird explain that it’s easy. All he has to do is say “abracadabra!”

At first, it doesn’t work, and Little Owl thinks the “magic” word is broken! But as he gets better and better, he realizes that the real magic is in himself. This book teaches children how to face challenges and keep trying, despite setbacks.

An empowering story of gradually overcoming fear that will resonate with young children. A great purchase for most collections.

Why I like this book:

Maria Loretta Giraldo’s engaging picture book realistically depicts how slow Little Owl’s progress may be, yet how rewarding it is when he overcomes his fear and succeeds in the end.  He glides through the sky and his self-confidence soars.

This story has a memorable cast of forest characters — the birds, a turtle, a mouse, hedgehog — who turn out to encourage Little Owl to take the leap and flap his wings. They offer suggestions and continue to support him. Each one tells him to say the magic word, “abracadabra,” but it doesn’t work.  No matter how many times Little Owl tries, he fails and crashes. But he doesn’t give up and keeps trying.

This book is a useful book for parents to have on hand when their child tries to do something new, like riding a bike or swimming. Some children may be afraid of failing, hurting themselves and don’t want to try. Like Little Owl, trying something new takes practice and perseverance, no matter the setbacks. It is so important to support a frustrated child. Practice takes time, but is well worth the effort.

Nicoletta Bertelle’s signature illustrations are colorful and whimsical and compliment the story. She is a long-term artistic partner with the author.

Resources: The book includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers with tips for encouraging kids to practice and persevere.

Maria Loretta Giraldo is an Italian children’s writer based in Verona, Italy. She is the author of more than 100 books published and translated all over the world. Nicoletta Bertelle has illustrated more than 80 books for many Italian and foreign publishers.

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 copy of this book was provided by Magination Press.

Phoebe’s Heron by Winnie Anderson

Phoebe’s Heron

Winnie Anderson, Author

Crispin Books, Historical Fiction, Feb. 5, 2018

Pages: 226

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Nature, Birds, Wildlife, Colorado, Conservation, Friendship, Courage

It is 1900. Twelve-year-old Phoebe Greer, her family and Nurse Daisy move from their home in Denver to a newly built cliff-top cabin in Ridge, at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The doctors recommend that the dry, fresh, clean air in the mountains may be the cure for her mother’s tuberculosis.

While Phoebe wants her mother to get well, she misses her busy city life in Denver (a dusty cow town) and her best friend Lisbeth, whose parents own Denver’s finest millinery store. The two girls have spent hours in front of the looking-glass parading with fancy feathered hats on their heads. They also have fun trying to teach the millinery shop parrot to curse.

Phoebe loves to draw. Her father gives her a sketchbook so she can explore her new surroundings. She follows Bearberry Trail which winds along Bear Creek and ends up at a breathtaking lake. There she meets a local boy, Jed.  However, Jed is a plume hunter, a commercial hunter of birds. He desperately wants to find a great blue heron, whose feathers are in great demand for women’s hats.

The two youth gradually become friends. Jed shows Phoebe the delights of the natural world in the Colorado Rockies, and their friendship deepens. They meet at a large flat rock in the lake, where she sketches and he catches large trout with his swift bare hands. Her views of living in the wild and nature begin to change her and blend nicely with her passion for capturing its beauty in her artwork. One day, Phoebe sees a magnificent great blue heron in the creek, which she sketches in her book. She does not tell Jed about spotting this bird, because she can’t bear the thought of this majestic creature losing its freedom even though it is “survival” for Jed.

Phoebe hears about the Audubon club that wants laws to protect birds from being killed for their feathers. Phoebe’s mother tells her that the movement has come to Denver and a chapter is forming. But Phoebe’s mother grows worse, and soon, things may change.

What I love about this book:

Winnie Anderson’s debut novel is wistful and poetic. Her beautiful words create vivid imagery of Phoebe’s new life on the mountain top. The setting is so appealing that it becomes a beloved character. The rich dialogue paints a picturesque view of Colorado in 1900.  You want to leap into the story and observe the untamed country with Phoebe and Jed.

This hopeful and heartwarming coming of age story is about a teen dealing with a sick mother, family relationships, friendships and her passion to draw everything around her. I enjoyed watching her transformation from a privileged Denver teen to a thoughtful one who observes and develops her own beliefs. The characters are authentic, most are good-hearted but others are privileged and snobby.  This creates a dilemma for Phoebe in her friendship, with Jed, when her father tells her to stay away from him.

Phoebe’s view about use of bird feathers in the women’s millinery business becomes unbearable for her.  She takes a stand with both of her friends, Lisbeth and Jed, and tells them she wants to work with the Audubon club to protect the birds. The author makes short references to the early Audubon Society throughout the book.

Phoebe’s story is loosely based on Sarah Orne Jewett’s “A White Heron,” written in 1886. This book will be of interest to birders, Audubon Society members, and anyone interested in the early conservation movement at the beginning of the 1900s. This is the sixth middle grade novel I’ve reviewed in the past year that includes birding and conservation. It is an excellent novel for teens interested in environmental and conservation issues. This is a thoughtful story to read as Earth Day approaches April 22.

Resources: There is a detailed “Author’s Note” at the end the delves more into the Audubon Society. This book is an excellent classroom discussion book because of the many themes.

Winnie Anderson holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University, and has had stories published in various children’s magazines. This is her first novel. She lives in Baltimore, MD, and Evergreen, CO. Visit Anderson’s website.

Greg Pattridge is the host for  Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

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

My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo

My Beautiful Birds

Suzanne Del Rizzo, Author and Illustrator

Pajama Press, Fiction, Mar. 8, 2017

Suitable for ages: 6-10

Themes: Refugees, Refugee camps, Syria, Birds, Hope

Opening: “The Ground rumbles beneath my slippers as I walk. Father squeezes my hand. “It will be okay, Sami. Your birds escaped too,” he repeats. His voice sounds far away. I squeeze back, hoping it will steady my wobbly legs.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: Behind Sami, the Syrian skyline is full of smoke. The boy follows his family and all his neighbors in a long line as they trudge through the sands and hills to escape the bombs that have destroyed their homes. But all Sami can think of is his pet pigeons — will they escape too?

When they reach a refugee camp and are safe at last, everyone settles into the makeshift city. But though the children start to play and go to school again, Sami can’t join in. When he is given paper and paint, all he can do is smear his painting with black. He can’t forget his birds and what his family has left behind.

One day a canary, a dove, and a rose finch fly into the camp. They flutter around Sami and settle on his outstretched arms. For Sami it is one step in a long healing process at last.

Why I like this book:

Suzanne Del Rizzo offers a timely, compassionate and poignant story of a Syrian child refugee who flees his beloved home with his family and leaves behind his pet pigeons. Sami’s story is a journey of hardship, sorrow, and hope for a better future. The text is lyrical at times, but mostly it is honest. Conditions are cramped in the tent city, but Sami and his family are safe. But he has trouble adjusting to his new life. He continues to worry about his pigeons, until three birds appear one day and he finds his joy again. This is a turning point for Sami.

Del Rizzo’s exquisite polymer clay illustrations add depth and a life-like dimension to Sami’s story . Her stunning  sunset with vibrant colors of pink, purple and golden hues remind Sami of his sky at home. He even sees his fluffy cloud-like pigeons.

I appreciated that the author focused on the refugee crisis that is affecting the most innocent and vulnerable, children. She doesn’t address political themes in the book, but focuses on the humanity of the situation for children displaced from their homes in Syria. Instead, her story is based on an article she read about a boy who found comfort in connecting with wild birds at the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.

My Beautiful Birds is an excellent addition to any school library. It is age-appropriate and an introductory story about children who are displaced because of war or natural disasters.

Resources: Make sure you check out the Author’s Note at the end of the book. She talks about the displaced refugees in Syria that flee to nearby countries,  but she also talks about the 65.3 million people who are displaced worldwide.  For more information and resources about the Syrian conflict, visit the Pajama Press website.

Suzanne Del Rizzo has always loved getting her hands messy. She traded her job in scientific research for a career in children’s illustration with her first picture book, Skin on the Brink, which won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award and was a finalist for the Rainforest of Reading Award. Suzanne’s dimensional illustrations use Plasticine, polymer clay, and other mixed media to bring rich texture and imagination to her books. Suzanne and her family live in Oakville, Ontario.

*I was captivated by Patricia Nozell’s lovely review of My Beautiful Birds on her website, Wander, Ponder Write.  Check out her website, because she is reviewing a lot of books about child refugees and immigrants stories from all over the globe.

Animal School: What Class Are You?

Animal School9780823430451_p0_v1_s260x420Animal School: What Class Are You?

Michelle Lord, Author

Michael Garland, Illustrator

Holiday House, Nonfiction, July 1, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Vertebrates, Reptiles, Fish, Mammals, Birds, Amphibians, Animals, Rhyming text

Opening: “Vertebrates have spines. Elephants to pygmy wrasses, vertebrates are grouped by classes. Vertebrates have spines like you, mammals, fish and reptiles too!”

Synopsis:  Animal School begins with very detailed illustrations of the skeletons of five classifications of vertebrates with spines like  mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. Some walk on legs, while others swim, crawl, scamper or fly. Some breathe air while others live in water where oxygen flows through gills. With rhythmic text the author explores a subject many children will find fascinating.

I like this book because: it introduces children to the intriguing world of vertebrates. Michelle Lord’s knowledge of vertebrates is captured in her catchy and entertaining rhyming in each classification.  She provides the appealing facts about the special characteristics of each vertebrate classification: reptiles, fish, mammals (including humans), bird, amphibians, and animals.  Verses describe whether the vertebrae is cold-blooded or warm-blooded, scaly or furry,  hatched or birthed from an animal. Her language is understandable and kid-friendly. Michael Garland’s “digital woodcut” illustrations of the animals and reptiles add a dramatic touch that is eye-catching and suits the preferred natural habitat. The texture really adds realism to the story. His double-page spreads are simply stunning, complimenting the story. The cover is regal.

Favorite verses and illustrations:

Reptiles: “But alligators / raise their young. / Hatchlings ride on / Mother’s tongue. / Every noise / a reptile hears / through covered holes, / not floppy ears.”

Garland Gator6-7Compliments of Michael Garland

Fish: Underwater / fishes roam. / Rivers, lakes, or seas are home. / Oxygen flows/ through their gills./ Water passes/ through these frills. /Fish are cloaked / in flaky scales, / lacking hair or / furry tails.”

Garland Fish 8-9Compliments of Michael Garland

Resources: At the end of the book is a chart with all five classifications, their characteristics, some of the species, examples, an afterword about “invertebrates (spineless),” and suggested websites to check out. Use this book before you take your children on a visit to a zoo, aquarium or on a walk through the woods.  Visit Michelle Lord and Michael Garland’s websites to learn more about their 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.

How to Heal a Broken Wing

How to Heal a Broken Wing9780763639037_p0_v1_s260x420How to Heal a Broken Wing

Bob Graham, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, 2008

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes: Birds, Compassion, Healing

Opening: “High above the city, no one heard the soft thud of feathers against glass.  No one saw the bird fall.  No one looked down…except Will.”

Synopsis:  When Will finds a bird with a broken wing lying on the pavement, he gently picks it up and takes it home to care for it.  His  parents help bandage the wing and Will  lovingly feeds and nurtures the bird back to health.  With rest and a little hope, the bird may fly again.

Why I like this book:  Bob Graham’s lyrical tory celebrates the compassion of a small boy for an injured bird.  Graham writes with such simplicity (text is under 75 words) and with double page spreads that show the story with contrasts and beautiful detail.  Many spreads have no words just rich illustrations done in pen, watercolor and chalk.   Children are loving by nature and like caring for injured animals.  They will enjoy pouring over the detail on each page to see if Will is able to save the bird. This is such a touching and uplifting story for children.  Bob Graham is a leading Australian author and illustrator recognized internationally for his work.

Resources:  Visit the Audubon website for activities and resources about birth watching, bird counting at home and at school.  You can even adopt a bird. They have a range of activities for all ages groups that fit the core curriculum.   Visit a pond to teach kids about water birds.  Observe migratory birds in the spring and autumn. Make bird houses, set up bird baths and make winter bird treats.

Every Friday authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  Although PPBF is on a summer break until September, you can still view a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Little Bird Lost

Little Bird Lost9781492762829_p0_v1_s260x420Little Bird Lost

Kate Larkinson, Author

Steve Larkinson, Photographer

CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes: Nature, Birds, Sibling Rivalry

Opening: “1..2..3 little birds but there should be more. Three baby birds in the nest but there should be four.”

Synopsis (Book Description) : One of the baby birds seems to be missing. His greedy siblings have pushed him out of view! A tale of sibling rivalry and their parents love all their offspring.

Why I like this book: I loved Kate Larkinson’s simplicity and rhyming text for young children. This is a charming story about nature, a mother bird feeding her young ones and sibling rivalry. According to the book, Steve Larkinson “saw the nest in the eaves of a bakery in south-west France,” and decided to capture the life of a family of swallows through his beautiful photography. This is the perfect spring read for beginning readers. They  will feel triumphant over mastering this beautiful book.  Make sure you check out Kate and Steve Larkinson’s website.

Resources: Walk around your house and yard and look for nests of birds.  You can watch the birds busily building nests right now. Bird watch and write down the variety of bird you see in your yard this spring.

There is a Goodreads Giveaway for a copy of this book at https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/83442-little-bird-lost-a-rhyming-picture-story  that ends March 24.

There is also a LibraryThing Giveaway for the ebook edition at http://www.librarything.com/er_list.php?program=giveaway&sort=enddate which expires on March 28.

Erik from This Kid Reviews Books, also reviewed Little Bird Lost last fall.  He has included some excellent activities for children that I won’t repeat.