Why Am I Here? by Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen

Why Am I Here?

Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen, Author

Akin Duzakin, Illustrator

Erdmans Books for Young Readers, Oct. 14, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Curiosity, Wonder, Compassion, Empathy

Opening: “I wonder why I am here, in this exact place. What if I were somewhere else — somewhere completely different from here.”

Synopsis: A child wonders why they are here, living the life they do. They could be on the other side of the globe living a very different life. Would they have been a different person? What if the lived in a city with millions of people? What if they lived in a place where there was a war and had to hide? What if they were a refugee on their way to an unfamiliar place? What if they lived where there were deserts, floods or earthquakes?  Is the child meant to live in some other place or are they right where they are supposed to be?

Why I like this book:

Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen has written a beautiful and quiet book for children who like to think big thoughts. It is a thought-provoking and contemplative story where the child imagines how different life would be if they lived in a variety of settings with a different family. The text is sensitive and powerful.

I fell in love with the book when Patricia Nozell reviewed it on her website, Wander, Ponder, Write. It would have been the type of picture book that would have touched my heart and tickled my curiosity as a child. Like the child in the story, I was introspective and pondered many of the same big questions.

The story is written in first person, with the child narrating. The story doesn’t identify the gender of the child. The child’s soft facial features, light brown skin and shaggy hair allows both boys and girls to identify with the character.

Akin Duzakin’s dreamy illustrations are rendered in pencil and soft pastels which soften the harsh realities of a world of homelessness, children working in an underground mines, war, refugees and natural disasters.  They evoke compassion from readers, but also convey warmth and hope at the end.

Resources: This is a good introduction book about the different lives children live in other parts of the world. It could lead to many interesting discussions between children and parents. It will also give kids a  better understanding of their place in the world.

Jacob’s Eye Patch

Jacob's Eye Patch9781476737324_p0_v3_s260x420Jacob’s Eye Patch

Beth Kobliner Shaw & Jacob Shaw, Authors

Jules Feiffer, Illustrator

Simon & Schuster, Fiction, Sept. 24, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Wearing an eye patch, Curiosity, Feeling different

OpeningJacob and his mom were on their way to the science store to buy the most amazing thing ever — a light-up globe. “

Book Synopsis:  Jacob is in a hurry — a really big hurry — to get to the store and buy the toy he’s always wanted.  Along the way, people keep slowing him down to ask him questions about his eye patch.  It’s natural to have questions when some one looks different…but do they have to ask right now?

Why I love this book:  I wore an eye patch as a child and I love sharing this upbeat and winning book!  Beth Kobliner Shaw co-authored the book with her nine-year-old son, Jacob.  They wrote a charming, funny and encouraging story to show that every one has something that makes them unique.  This will be a welcomed and very helpful book for the many children who wear eye patches to strengthen an eye.  You have to admire Jacob’s courage and strength as he’s not going to let his eye patch get in his way of getting to the science store before it closes.  Yes, Jacob understands people are curious about why he’s wearing and eye patch, and normally he doesn’t mind answering their questions. But he’s on a mission and there are too many amusing  obstacles that get in his way.  You’ll find yourself cheering for Jacob!  Jules Feiffer’s illustrations are lively and bold.  The artwork is done in pen and watercolor and convey Jacob’s urgency and frustration to get to the store!  It is an excellent book to use with kids to teach them about differences.

A special thank you to my friend and colleague, Beth Stilborn, who writes the blog By Word of Beth.  She recommended this book to me for review.

Resources:  There are author notes at the end from Beth and Jacob.  For more fun, visit the Jacob’s Eye Patch link where you can find resources, an activity kit and tip sheet .

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