Birds of Paradise by Pamela S. Wight

Birds of Paradise

Pamela S. Wight, Author

Shelley A. Steinle, Illustrator

Borgo Publishing, May 1, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Birds, Overcoming fear and danger, Self-confidence, Bullying, Friendship

Opening: “Bessie and Bert are Birds — sparrows, humans call them. They just call themselves birds.” 

Synopsis:

Bessie and her brothers and sisters hatch from their shells, while their parents feed them fat bugs and  warn them about the danger that lurks around them. Thunderstorms and Blue Jays scare Bessie. But so do cats. When it’s time to fly from the nest, Bessie is hesitant to leave its security and needs some nudging from her mom. Still she stays close to the tree, afraid to explore the world around her.

Bessie meets Bert, a risk taker who finds joy in life. He dives for grass seed and soars high above the forest listening to the wind.  Bert is so busy enjoying life that he lets his guard down and nearly becomes dinner for a prowling cat. After he loses his tail to the cat, Bert is bullied by the other birds for his recklessness. Bessie and Bert become friends and encourage each other. Together they explore the world.

Why I like this book:

Pamela Wight’s Birds of Paradise is a heartwarming story for children about balancing fear with the simple joys of life.  And chirping sparrows are the perfect medium to tell a beautiful story of friendship and taking care of each other — all valuable life lessons. This is a story for all ages.

Wight is a lyrical author. Her captivating prose simply transport her readers. “Like the sunrise after a snowstorm?” Bert asks with excitement. “Or the flock of birds diving together in the summer sunshine?” 

Shelley A. Steinle’s illustrations are beautiful, lively and expressive. She depicts a variety of bird species with intricate detail. There is a lot to study on each page. Children will enjoy searching for the lady bug Steinle has hidden on each page.

Resources: Birds of Paradise will encourage children to observe birds in their own backyards. Summer is ending and birds are preparing for the winter. Some will migrate. Take a walk in the woods and listen to their bird chatter. Search the skies for the migrating bird formations. Draw a picture of what you observe.

Pamela Wight is a successful author of romantic suspense as well as the author of the illustrated children’s book, Birds of Paradise, enjoyed by readers ages 3 to 93. She earned her Master’s in English from Drew University, continued with postgraduate work at UC Berkeley in publishing, and teaches creative writing classes in Boston and San Francisco. The gorgeously illustrated book was a  finalist in the 2018 International Book Awards. Visit Wight 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 website.

*Review copy provided by the author.

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.

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.

Healing Days: A Guide for Kids Who Have Experienced Trauma

Healing Days9781433812934_p0_v1_s260x420Healing Days: A Guide for Kids Who Have Experienced Trauma

Susan Farber Straus, Ph.D., Author

Maria Bogade, Illustrator

Magination Press., Fiction, May 18, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 5 -11

Themes: Children facing trauma and tragedy, PTSD, Anxiety, Fear, Anger, Healing

Opening“Something bad happened to me.  I did not want anyone to know.  I was scared.  I was sad.  I was angry.  I was embarrassed.  I was hurt and confused.  I tried to forget.  I tried to sleep and not wake up.” 

Synopsis:  A child has had something scary happen.  We follow the child through feelings of hurt, confusion, anger and fear that the bad thing might happen again.  The child has bad dreams and is afraid of the dark.  At school there are run-ins with the teachers.  Friends notice the child isn’t fun to play with.  The child is lonely.  Finally an aunt notices differences and takes the child to talk with a therapist who helps the child share the secret.  Only then can intervention and healing begin for the child.

Why I like this book:  I am thrilled to find Susan Farber Straus’ very sensitive and comforting book due to its relevance in our world today.   Although the story is told from the viewpoint of one child, each page features pictures of a diverse group of children of all ages acting out the narrative.  This book is a fabulous tool for parents, guidance counselors and therapists to read with a child when they may suspect a trauma.  And that trauma could range from abuse, an accident, school and home violence, bullying, the sudden death of a parent or sibling to natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes and floods that are prevalent today in the world.  The book also helps children know they aren’t alone and that they can find ways to heal.  Maria Bogade’s illustrations are warm, and comforting, and beautifully show the emotion of the children.

Resources:  The book alone is a resource as the author is a clinical psychologist.  The American Psychological Association also has a list of helpful resources available online.  Also be sure to read the Note to Readers at the beginning of the book and check out the jacket flaps on the front and back pages.

Note:  I will be attending the Northern Ohio SCBWI conference this weekend, so I won’t be able to respond to your comments or posts until I return.

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.

The Ghost-Eye Tree

Ghost-Eye Tree19729604The Ghost-Eye Tree, is an excellent book by the late Bill Martin and John Archambault, and superbly illustrated by Ted Rand for children over age four.  Martin wrote children’s books for nearly 60 years.  I am a bit nostalgic as this was my daughter’s favorite spooky Halloween book.  I was so happy to find her copy and to know it is still available on Amazon and in libraries.  Written in verse by the authors in 1988, it is packed with imagery and suspense with each  turn of the page.  The illustrations are dark, eery and perfectly fit the mood of the story.   The book  is also a great read around any camp fire.  It remains on my bookshelf because it shows kids that being scared is okay.

A brother and sister are sent by their mother one night to fetch a pail of milk from a farmer in town.  They are jumpy,  edgy  and tease each other on their long walk.  They don’t want to admit they’re scared, but their imaginations are engaged.   I love the brother’s comment “Oooo… I dreaded to go… I dreaded the tree… Why does Mama always choose me when the night is so dark and the mind runs free?”  Trying to be brave they know they will have to pass the largest tree in town.  They arrive without incident and collect the milk.  Upon their return,  the ghost-tree appears to come to life when the wind causes it to creek,  groan, and wildly wave its branches about them.   Just enough tension to make this a good Halloween read.

I discovered a short film was made of the Ghost-Eye Tree in 2008 by Nusomfilms.  Here is the trailer.

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved