Islandborn by Junot Diaz


Islandborn

Junot Díaz, Author

Leo Espinosa, Illustrator

Dial Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Mar. 18, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Immigration, Community, Culture, Memory, Diversity, Imagination, Belonging

OpeningEvery kid in Lola’s school was from somewhere else. Hers was a school of faraway places.

Synopsis: When Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families emigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember the Island she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories — joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening — Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to the Island. As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”

Why I like this book:

Junot Díaz has written a poetic and nostalgic story about Lola’s family immigrating from their home on the Island (likely the Dominican Republic) to build a new life in New York City.  Lola’s lively and exuberant curiosity leads her on an enchanting journey of discovery of self-discovery. She relies upon the memories of her family, friends and neighbors to help her imagine an Island and a culture that has bats the size of blankets, music, dancing, bright colors, sweet mangoes, beautiful beaches, tropical sunsets, hurricanes and a terrifying monster (dictator) who hurts the people. Leo Espinosa’s dazzling illustrations bring Lola’s Island to life. They are a beautiful celebration of creativity and diversity. Brown children will see themselves in the many different skin-tones. Beautiful collaborative effort between the author and illustrator. This book belongs in school libraries.

Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and immigrated to New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This is How you Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award Finalist. Visit him 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 website.

Heal the Earth by Julian Lennon

Happy Earth Day, Apr. 22, 2018

Heal the Earth

Julian Lennon with Bart Davis, Authors

Smiljana Coh, Illustrator

Sky Pony Press, Fictions, Apr. 3, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-6

Themes: Nature, Environment, Conservation, Ocean reefs, Rain forest, Medicines, Green spaces

Opening: Welcome to our planet Earth.

Book Synopsis:

The magical White Feather Flier is back on a new adventure to heal the Earth! Use your imagination power to make it fly and take you on a great helping journey.

The Flier’s mission is to transport readers around the world, to engage them in helping to save the environment, and to teach one and all to love our planet. Just press a button printed on the page, and point the plane up in the air to fly, or down to land it!

Bring medicine to people in need!
Dive below the ocean to bleached coral reefs!
Visit the city to cultivate green spaces!
Help the rain forest return and give its animals a home!
Explore the planet, meet new people, and help make the world a better place!

An inspiring, lyrical story, rooted in Lennon’s life and work, Heal the Earth is filled with beautiful illustrations that bring the faraway world closer to young children.

Why I like this book:

It beautiful interactive book that speaks directly to younger children and empowers them to be part of the magic of healing and loving our planet and its inhabitants. The spare text is lyrical and skillfully written with vivid imagery. Smiljana Coh’s gorgeous illustrations will appeal to children’s senses. She includes a diverse cast of characters and children will see someone who looks like them.

Readers are asked questions and invited to join the adventure.  They will be encouraged to use their imaginations and push buttons at the bottom of the pages to transport them to areas of the earth that are in need of healing. They  see the problems that exist and then are given the opportunity to make a positive impact. Every time they succeed, they are congratulated for a job well done.

There is age-appropriate geographical information about the planet and how it is divided into continents. Kids are encouraged to touch each continent, say its name and pick the continent where they live.

The book includes words to a new, special poem written by Julian Lennon, specifically for Heal the Earth. It is a lovely addition to the book and could be a stand-alone-book.

A portion of the proceeds from book sales will go to support the environmental and humanitarian efforts of the White Feather Foundation, the global environmental and humanitarian organization that Lennon founded to promote education, health, conservation, and the protection of indigenous culture.

Resources: The book is a great way to approach the subject of caring for the earth, during Earth Day. It is a resource because it encourages children to discuss problems around the globe and ask a lot of questions about getting involved in preserving their planet.

Julian Lennon is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, photographer, documentarian, philanthropist, and author of the New York Times bestselling children’s book Touch the Earth. Born in Liverpool, England, Lennon is an observer of life in all its forms developing his personal expression through his artistic endeavors. He hopes that his kids book trilogy will inspire and educate children to preserve our planet for future generations.

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 Cooked-Up Fairy Tale by Penny Klostermann

A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale

Penny Parker Klostermann, Author

Ben Mantle, Illustrator

Random House Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Sep. 5, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Fairy Tale, Food, Chef, Baking, Pursuing Dreams, Imagination

Opening: Although William lived in the magical land of fairy tales, he preferred pastries to princesses, kitchens to kingdoms, and recipes to the Royal Reporter.

Book Jacket Synopsis: In the magical land of fairy tales, William doesn’t quite fit in. He’d rather poach pears than pursue princesses, and he values gnocchi over knighthood. . . .

When he stumbles on a delivery of food destined for Fairy-Tale Headquarters (a pumpkin, apples, and a few measly beans), he decides to spice things up and whips the paltry ingredients into delectable dishes. But as you might have guessed, Snow White’s wicked stepmother doesn’t exactly want her magic apple baked and drizzled with caramel.

The team that brought you There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight delivers a hilariously fractured, whipped, and souffléed fairy tale that is chock-full of delicious details and jokes to satisfy every appetite!

Why I like this book:

Today I’m giving a little more book love to A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale. It is a charming and clever take on some beloved fairy tales. William wants to be a chef and changes the fairy tales by using some apples, beans and a pumpkin to create delicious creations for Fairy Tale Headquarters. Instead he cooks up trouble. Now fairy tales must have a happy ending, so William must succeed without compromising his dreams to be a chef. Klostermann’s magical story-telling is original, entertaining and full of mouth-watering food wordplay that will satisfy readers. There is a gentle flow to the text.  Ben Mantle’s colorful illustrations are comical, expressive and will tickle kid’s imaginations.

Penny Parker Klostermann is the author of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight, also illustrated by Ben Mantle. A love of eating led Klostermann to notice food items in fairy tales. She digested this information and came up with the idea for this story. Visit Klostermann on her website.

Resources: I have reviewed many new books recently that feature cooking themes. It is a great way to encourage kids to help bake gingerbread cookies, an apple dumpling or pumpkin pie.

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.

The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse

The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse

Mac Barnett, Author

Jon Klassen, Illustrator

Candlewick, Fiction, Oct. 10, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Animals, Humor, Cooperation,

Opening: Early one morning, a mouse met a wolf, and he was quickly gobbled up.

Publisher Synopsis: When a woeful mouse is swallowed by a wolf, he quickly learns he is not alone: a duck has already set up digs, and, boy, has that duck got it figured out! Turns out it’s pretty nice in there, with delicious food and elegant table settings, courtesy of the wolf’s unchecked gluttony. And there’s something even better: no more fear of being eaten by a wolf! In fact, life is pretty good, until a hunter shows up. . . . With a nod to traditional fables and a wink to the reader, the award-winning Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen offer a tale of cooperation and creative cuisine that is sure to go down easy.

Why I like this story:

Have you ever wondered why wolves howl at the moon? Mac Barnett and John Klassen’s modern-day fable offers an answer in their quirky tale that is filled with dark and outrageous humor. The old-fashioned fairy tale language, “Oh woe is me,” and “Oh shame,” adds drama and charm to the storytelling.

Mouse meets Duck in the wolf’s belly and quickly discovers it is a home of sorts. Says Duck, “I live well! I may have been swallowed, but I have no intention of being eaten.” So the two create a kind of ruckus that make’s the wolf’s tummy ache and manage to get all the food and items they need to live high on the hog.  Readers will laugh out loud at their shenanigans and feel sorry for the gullible wolf.  When a hunter shoots at the wolf, the mouse and duck save the wolf’s life in a very unconventional way.

Klassen’s trademark sepia-toned mixed-media artwork perfectly suits Barnett’s story. There are a lot of details to explore both inside and outside of the wolf, and they add to the humor of the story. The expressive illustrations are priceless. Visit Mac Barnett’s website and Jon Klassen’s website to see illustrations from the book.

Mac Barnett is the author of three books illustrated by Jon Klassen: Extra Yarn, which won a Caldecott Honor and a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award; Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, which won a Caldecott Honor and an E. B. White Award; and Triangle. With Jory John, he is the co-author of the New York Times best-selling series The Terrible Two.

Jon Klassen is the author-illustrator of I Want My Hat Back, a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book; This Is Not My Hat, winner of the Caldecott Medal and the Kate Greenaway Medal; and We Found a Hat. He also illustrated two Caldecott Honor Books, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and Extra Yarn, as well as Triangle, all written by Mac Barnett.

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 Band of Babies by Carole Gerber

A Band of Babies

Carole Gerber, Author

Jane Dyer, Illustrator

Harper Collins, Fiction, Jun. 6, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 2-5

Themes: Toddlers, Music, Social Skills, Rhyme

Opening: “Play-group morning. Babies fret — not sure what to do just yet. In struts Benny — new in town. Babies’ frowns turn upside down.”

Synopsis: It was just an ordinary day at daycare…until Benny arrived. Benny is ready for action. He spies a box with drums and sticks. With a flute in hand, the fun begins as babies follow Benny out the door beating on their drums as they march down the street. He teaches all the babies how to put on a show. Toot! Whee! This is one musical band of babies you’ll have to see! This musical journey will have readers of all ages snapping their fingers and tapping their toes!

Why I like this book:

Carole Gerber has written a lively and humorous story for toddlers. Her rhyming and minimal text flows nicely and mimics toddler gibberish!  Babies hungry, want to eat. / “Walk!” says Benny. / “Find a treat.” She also uses a lot of fun words and sounds, that give Jane Dyer’s joyful color-pencil illustrations time to deliver their funny response.  The facial expressions are priceless. This band of babies will charm you from the first spread to the last — and create a little mayhem in between.  This book is the perfect bedtime read, as parents and toddlers giggle at the antics of this fun-loving band of musical babies.

Carole Gerber is a poet and author of nearly two dozen books for children.  Carole has also spent time as an English teacher, a journalism professor, a marketing director, a magazine editor, and a creative ad agency team member.  She lives in Columbus, Ohio, To learn more about Carole Gerber, visit her website.

Resources: Children love to play with musical instruments. Put a tub with drums, a flutophone, a kazoo, a harmonica, old pots and pans, and spoons.  It may get noisy, but your kids will enjoy expressing themselves as the dance and march around the room.

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.

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

Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds

Happy Dreamer

Peter H. Reynolds, Author and Illustrator

Orchard Books, Fiction, Mar. 28, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Imagination, Inspiration, Creativity, Day dreamer

Opening: “I am a Happy Dreamer. I’m really good at dreaming. Daydreams. Big Dreams. Little dreams. Creative Dreams.”

Publisher Synopsis: “While the world tells us to sit still, to follow the rules, and to color inside the lines, Happy Dreamer celebrates all those moments in between when the mind and spirit soar and we are free to become our own true dreamer maximus! In Peter’s signature voice and style, this empowering picture book reminds children of how much their dreams matter, and while life will have ups and downs, he enlists readers to stay true to who they are, to tap into their most creative inner selves, and to never ever forget to dream big!”

Why I like this book: Another original and inspiring story by Peter H. Reynolds that celebrates individuality and encourages readers to dream big and fulfil their potential.  Skillfully penned and illustrated, Happy Dreamer will delight readers of all ages. His text is lyrical and entertaining. His illustrations are energetic, joyful and transport readers into their creative inner selves. Reynolds’ urges children to be forward thinkers, believe, show the world who they are and dream with abandonment.  Midway through their book there is a magical four-page surprise to help children identify the type of dreamer they are.

Reynolds calls himself a dreamer. He was inspired to write Happy Dreamer after he discovered he could identify with many symptoms associated with ADHD. His original title for the book was Amazing Delightful Happy Dreamer (ADHD), which he shortened to Happy Dreamer. Reynolds doesn’t label the character, but shows his unique abilities.

Resources: The book is a beautiful resource for parents and teachers to use in the classroom.  It will lead to many interesting discussions as children identify their inner dreamer. Encourage children to share their dreams, write a paragraph or draw a picture about their big dreams. Make sure you check out the front and end pages for all of the wonderful detail.

Peter H. Reynolds is a New York Times-bestselling author and illustrator of many books, including The Dot, Ish, The North Star, Playing from the Heart, and Sky Color.  Around September 15th-ish, nearly 9 million children from 168 countries will celebrate creativity, courage and collaboration as they participate in the 9th year of International Dot Day. Visit the website to see how you and your classroom can get involved.

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.

The Green Umbrella by Jackie Azúa Kramer

The Green Umbrella

Jackie  Azúa Kramer, Author

Maral Sassouni, Illustrator

North South Books, Inc., Fiction, Jan. 31,  2017

2017 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year

Suitable for Ages: 4 – 8

Themes: Elephant, Animals, Favorite objects, Sharing, Imagination, Friendship

Opening: One rainy day an Elephant was taking a walk with his green umbrella. Along came a Hedgehog. “Excuse me,” said the Hedgehog. “I believe you have my boat.” “Your what?” asked the Elephant.

Synopsis:  When Elephant takes a peaceful walk with his green umbrella, he’s interrupted by Hedgehog, Cat, Bear, and Rabbit — all claiming that they’ve had exciting adventures with his umbrella. After all, it is an umbrella, and it certainly hasn’t been on any adventures more exciting than a walk in the rain. Or has it?

Why I like this book:

A charming and humorous debut picture book for Jackie Azúa Kramer about the power of imagination and sharing. It is a playful and clever story about friendship and compromise. Each animal in the book believes that the green umbrella belongs him or her. After all it was hedgehog’s boat, Cat’s tent, Bear’s flying machine and Rabbit’s sturdy walking cane. Elephant is a good sport and patiently indulges his friends as they each tell grandiose stories of how they used his umbrella.

This book has heart. Through lyrical text it teaches children compassion, how to play together, share, and have fun planning a whopping adventure.

Wow, what a beautiful and whimsical cover by Maral Sassouni. The cover drew me to this charming story along with her lively, colorful acrylic illustrations that will tickle young imaginations. The book is a perfect read-aloud.

Resources:  This story is about encouraging kids to use their imaginations as they play together. Give kids a box, a jump rope, chalk, a bottle of bubbles and let them create something together.

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.

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.

Peddles by Elizabeth Rose Stanton

Peddles 41x-wf3oC-L__SY497_BO1,204,203,200_Peddles

Elizabeth Rose Stanton, Author and Illustrator

Paula Wiseman Books/ Simon & Schuster, Fiction, Jan. 6, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Pigs, Barnyard animals, Dreams, Dancing, Friendship, Humor

Opening: “Peddles was just a pig. He lived on a farm with the other pigs, doing the usual pig things: eating and sleeping and oinking and rooting and wallowing and…”

Synopsis: Unlike the other barnyard pigs, Peddles sees life differently. He thinks about eating pizza, soaking in a bath tub, sitting on a toilet and going into space. The other pigs tease him, but Peddles’ dreams even bigger. One night he hears a joyous sound coming from the barn and watches humans stomping and twirling. He wants to dance. When he finds a pair of red boots in a bag of shoes, he tries them on, stands up, falls over on his back  and can’t get up. His friends step in and give him a nudge.

Why I like this book:

Elizabeth Rose Stanton has written a playful and adorable story about Peddles, a pig with big dreams. Peddles will charm you from the first to the last page. What child would not giggle at the sight of pig poop! And look at that cover!

This is a humorous story about self-discovery and friendship. Children will cheer for Peddles for his big ideas and seeing a life for its possibilities. They will ache when he falls down on his back and they will smile when his friends nudge him forward. Children will identify with Peddles and laugh at the unexpected ending. The text is spare with humorous and expressive illustrations that will melt your heart. This is a wonderful example of how Stanton’s colored-pencil and watercolor illustrations really show the story.

Elizabeth Rose Stanton is the author of Henny, a rollicking story about a chicken with arms. Visit Stanton at her website.