My Storee by Paul Russell

My Storee: Just Because You Can’t Spell Doesn’t Mean you Can’t Write

Paul Russell, Author

Aska, Illustrator

EK Books, Fiction, Oct. 2, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Dyslexia, Spelling, Reading, Writing stories, Creativity

Opening: “Storees keep me awaik at nite and counting sheep neva helps becos I no a grand adventur is allways waiting four me at the end ov my pencil.”

Book Synopsis:

A boy has a big imagination and loves to write down his stories. He writes about unicorns, dragons laying rainbow eggs, robotic pirates and gruesome ogres. When he writes them down and turns them into his teacher, they come back covered with red marks circling his spelling.  He becomes discouraged that his dyslexia keeps him from sharing his stories.

One day a new teacher arrives at his school full of energy and enthusiasm Mr. Watson tells magical stories about objects he has hidden in his briefcase and covers the chalk board with his funny drawings.  Mr. Watson makes the students feel safe and inspires them to be themselves. So the boy decides to share his dragon story. Instead of red marks, Mr. Watson asks the boy about his dragon story.

Why I like this book:

Paul Russell has written an inspiring and hopeful story for children who are dyslexic and  find spelling challenging. It also is a story for all children who are learning to spell and write. It encourages kids to use their imaginations and creativity to express all of the ideas that want to be heard.

And Russell “gets” the struggle dyslexic students and reluctant writers face when putting their ideas onto paper. He was that dyslexic boy who was inspired to become a writer and  teacher because one special teacher believed in him.

Aska’s colorful illustrations that are infused with imagination, humor and expression. I chuckled my way through these detailed beauties. Aska worked with around 70 children, many of whom were dyslexic or had reading difficulties. The children helped her design the book’s imaginary world through the stories they created! Make sure you check out the end pages as they are a lot of fun!

Resources: Encourage kids to write an imaginative story without worrying about spelling. The idea is not to be perfect, but just to have fun with writing something silly or serious. This book belongs in every school library.

Paul Russell is a teacher, artist, playwright, author and father of two. His book, Grandma Forgets, was a CBCA Notable book.

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 publisher.

You Are Light by Aaron Becker

You Are Light

Aaron Becker, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Studio, Fiction, Mar. 26, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Light, Color, Imagination, Board Book

Opening: This is the light that brings the dawn / to warm the sky and hug the land.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

With a wondrously simple die-cut book, the Caldecott Honor–winning creator of the Journey trilogy brings his talents further into the light.

This is the light that brings the day.

Open this beautiful book to find a graphic yellow sun surrounded by a halo of bright die-cut circles. Now hold the page up to the light and enjoy the transformation as the colors in those circles glow. In an elegant, sparely narrated ode to the phenomenon of light, Aaron Becker follows as light reflects off the earth to warm our faces, draws up the sea to make the rain, feeds all the things that grow, and helps to create all the brilliant wonders of the world, including ourselves.

Why I love this book:

Aaron Becker’s board book is a celebration of light. It is magical and creates a sense of wonder for young children, who will want to hold the book up to the light and read the story repeatedly. Becker stimulates children’s senses and imaginations with his flowing verse that allows for open discussion on each carefully crafted page. It is beautifully designed. The spare and beautiful text ends with, “This is the light that dwells inside all the brilliant wonders of the world, including YOU!”

Resources: Children can create some of their own light pages by cutting a shape and placing a piece of  colorful cellophane behind it. Cut out shapes of stars, butterflies, animals, flowers and attach them to a window pane. Hang prisms in near a sunny window, so children can see the light reflected on their walls.

Aaron Becker is the Caldecott Honor–winning author-illustrator of the Journey trilogy and of A Stone for Sascha. He lives in western Massachusetts with his family.

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. 

*Reviewed from a copy provided by the publisher.

** I am in the processing of moving this month, so I won’t be releasing many reviews. I should be back on line in June. Thank you for following my reviews.

Say Something! by Peter H. Reynolds

Say Something!

Peter H. Reynolds, Author & Illustrator

Orchard Books/Imprint of Scholastic Inc. , Fiction, Feb. 26, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Using your voice, Making a difference, Diversity

Opening: The world needs your voice. 

Book Synopsis: The world needs your voice. Say something, with your words, with your music, with your poetry, with your courage and with your presence. It doesn’t need to be perfect as long as it’s from your heart. If you see someone lonely or being hurt, say something. If you have a great idea, share it with others.

Why I love this book:

Peter H. Reynolds’ newest gem, Say Something, is an inspiring, powerful and thought-provoking story that encourages children to use their voices to make a difference in their communities and world. Say Something pairs beautifully with Reynolds’ books Happy Dreamer and The Word Collector. Written for young readers, children have the power to make a difference through their thoughts, voices and actions. Reynolds’ text is lyrical and spare. His expressive illustrations feature diverse characters and will help kids see themselves. They will enjoy pouring over the detail and a fun word bubbles. Check out the endpapers.

This is my favorite kind of picture book because it introduces children to activism. Children naturally want to be involved and do things that help others or a greater cause. Say Something encourages children to be kind, creative, imaginative, bold, brave and step outside of their comfort zone to make their world a better place. This is an excellent classroom read-aloud and discussion book.

Resources: After reading the book, explore with children the many ways the characters say something. There is a detailed Teacher’s Guide that is packed with ideas about using all three books in the classroom. It will easily support school curriculums and encourage kids to find and use their voices in many unique ways. Visit

Peter Hamilton Reynolds is a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of many books for children, including The Dot, Ish, Playing from the Heart, Happy Dreamer and The Word Collector. His books have been translated into over twenty-five languages around the globe and are celebrated worldwide. In 1996, he founded FableVision with his brother, Paul, as a social change agency to help create “stories that matter, stories that move.” He lives in Dedham, Massachusetts, with his family. Visit Reynolds 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.

Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera

April is National Poetry Month

Imagine

Juan Felipe Herrera, Author

Lauren Castillo, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Poetry, Sep. 25, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Poetry, Juan Felipe Herrera, Imagination, Migrant workers, Moving, Multicultural

Opening: If I picked chamomile flowers / as a child / in the windy fields and whispered / to their fuzzy faces, / imagine.

Synopsis:

Have you ever imagined who you might be when you grow up?

When Juan Felipe Herrera was very young, he picked flowers, helped his mama feed the chickens, slept under the starry sky, and learned to say good-bye to his amiguitos each time his migrant family moved on. When he grew up, Juan Felipe Herrera became a poet.

Why I like this book:

Doesn’t that cover just tug at your heart? This beautiful book is taken from Juan Felipe Herrera’s poem, “Imagine.” It depicts Herrera’s life as the  young boy of migrant workers spending time outside exploring nature, traveling across country with his parents in search of work, learning to read, write and speak a new language when he attends school. He is a curious dreamer who loves life, nature and words. As a teen his words become stories, poetry and lyrics to songs. As an adult, he  becomes the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017.

Written in free verse, each page begins with “If I picked…if I walked.. if I practiced…If I wrote ” and ends with “imagine.” His poetry beckons children to be dreamers of their futures — to “imagine” their own stories as they read his beautiful lyrics.  What stories will they write for themselves? Will they be poets, scientists, artists, lawyers, doctors and musicians? They only need to imagine what they can do.

Lauren Castillo’s ink and foam monoprint illustrations are warm and cozy and beautifully compliment  Herrera’s poem. Her earth-toned illustrations are in soft shades of tan and brown, with yellows, blues and greens highlighting each page. Make sure you check beneath the book jacket to discover a dreamy blue cover speckled with stars.

Resources: This book can be used in many different ways by educators. Different pages will inspire students. Encourage kids to pick a page and imagine who might they be when they grow up. The “If I…” prompts are a great opener for writing a few paragraphs about their stories. Other students may want to draw a picture about themselves and their story.

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 publisher.

My Quiet Ship by Hallee Adelman

 

My Quiet Ship

Hallee Adelman, Author

Sonia Sánchez, Illustrator

Albert Whitman & Company, Fiction,  Oct. 1, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes: Conflict, Yelling, Anger, Coping skills, Family relationships, Imagination

Opening: Whenever I hear the yelling, I run to the spot.

Synopsis:

When the arguments begin between his parents gets bad, Quinn escapes to his special place, the Quiet Ship, where he’s the commander. Together with his faithful stuffed animal crew, Quinn can shut out the yelling that makes him sad and scared, and travel somewhere else — his imagination. His Quiet Ship takes him far away from the yelling.

But one day, the ship breaks. Quinn must be brave and find a way to tell his parents how their fighting makes him feel.

Why I like this book:

Hallee Adelman has written a sensitive and heartfelt story about a boy, Quinn, who builds a safe haven for himself when his parents start arguing. When their yelling escalates,  Quinn’s quiet spaceship allows him to blast off and travel through the clouds, stars and universe to a place that is peaceful. “Far, far away / from here… / From there… / From that yelling.”

The narrative is simple and imaginative and speaks a language children will easily understand. Through Quinn, children will learn coping skills to help them share their fears, sadness and worries.  Quinn bravely works through his anger towards his parents, finds his voice and confronts his parents.

Resources: This powerful book is an excellent conversation starter for both children and parents about handling conflict. Is yelling necessary? Are there more effective ways of dealing with anger? It is important that a children feels safe to discuss their feelings.

Sonia Sánchez’s illustrations are magnificent and really give this story life. The are bold and the yelling takes the form of angry, jagged streaks or heavy clouds that suffocate Quinn. Quinn’s desperate expressions are priceless as they communicate his anguish. She uses both traditional and digital media in her artwork.

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 publisher.

Relaxation and Meditation Books for Children

Relaxations: Big Tools for Little Warriors

Mamen Duch,  Author

Raúl Nieto Guridi, Illustrator

Magination Press, Jun. 4, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Breathing, Relaxation, Mindfulness, Concentration

Synopsis: Relaxations is a guide on mindfulness techniques for children ages 4 to 8. Creative metaphors work to help children achieve a state of calm and concentration through breathing, relaxation, and visualization. This book uses gentle affirmations to improve and enhance confidence, self-esteem, concentration, and creativity!

Bee Still: An Invitation to Meditation

Frank J. Sileo, Author

Claire Keay, Illustrator

Magination Press, Aug. 13, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Meditation, Mindfulness, Soothing feelings

Synopsis: Bentley the bee lives in a busy, bustling hive. One day, when the other bees rush out to make honey, Bentley decides to meditate first. The other animals are curious about what Bentley is doing — so he teaches them how he uses meditation to focus, feel calm, and soothe difficult feelings.

Just like adults, children can benefit from turning off electronic devices and being present to what is happening to them in the moment. Bee Still is a child-friendly introduction to meditation.

Why I like these books:

Children and parents will fall in love with both charming books. The world can be a noisy place for young minds. These books are great resources that help children cultivate a little more peace in their lives and learn to just “be.”  Each book offers practical approaches to applying the skills of mindfulness and compassion to live with more wonder, love and joy. The books are nicely paired because of their unique perspectives.

Learning to relax and meditate is a quiet activity that children and parents can do together — even if it is only for five minutes a day. All family members can benefit in this age of social media and electronic devices. It is quality time spent together.

The illustrations in each book are stunning. The artwork in Relaxations is simple and bold.  In Bee Still, the artwork is whimsically detailed and stunning.

Resources: Both books contain a guide for simple meditation and exercises for young readers at the end in a Note to Parents.

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 copies of both books were provided by the publisher.

International Dot Day – Sep. 10 -15, 2018 – #MakeYourMark #DotDay

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL DOT DAY — Sep. 10 -15, 2018


 

This week is the 15th anniversary of Peter H. Reynold’s international bestselling book, The Dot, about a girl named Vashti, who doesn’t think she can draw. Her teacher believed in Vashti and asked her to make a dot. She stabbed her dot on a piece of paper and handed it to her teacher. Her teacher asked her to sign it. A few days later, Vashti saw her “dot” framed and hanging at the front of the class.
Fifteen years later, Vashti’s act of courage continues to inspire children worldwide.

It is also the 10th annual celebration of International Dot Day, started by teacher T. J. Shay. Nearly 13 million students from 177 countries will be participating. Each year is bigger and better. It will be a fun  week for children worldwide to read The Dot in 12 different languages and braille, sing the Dot Song, use their imaginations to make their unique and creative dots, and share their masterpieces. Many classrooms have signed up to SKYPE and connect with each other in the U.S. and around the world. Make sure you visit Dot Central.

Authors have created Celebri-Dots. KidLit bloggers are making their marks today and all week. Please remember to post your dots on your websites, Facebook and Twitter using @DotClubConnect, #dotday and #makeyourmark. Check out Beth Stilborn’s website to read her Dot Day post and view her creative dot.

Follow International Dot Day on:
Facebook: Share on the Dot Day Facebook page (facebook.com/InternationalDotDay)
Twitter: Connect on Twitter using (twitter.com/DotClubConnect)
Use the hashtags: #DotDay and #Makeyourmark

My 2018 Dot

Happy International Dot Day from Children’s Books Heal!

Line and Dot by Veronique Cauchy

Line and Dot

Véronique Cauchy, Author

Laurent Simon, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Mar. 12, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Creativity, Imagination, Diversity, Cooperation, Respect

Opening: One day, Line met Dot…and they decided to play together!

Synopsis:

The story begins with a white Line and a black Dot. They begin to make bold and brand new things. It is so much fun that Line and Dot decide to invite their friends — big and small, young and old — the more the merrier. They bring with them more ideas. With so many new friends they realize that together they sky is the limit and they are empowered to create so much more. Soon they have built a large city.  But something is missing. Line and Dot have another big idea. They invite their friends who live in distant lands. They arrive from all of the corners of the world to their city. The lines and dots are a festival of color — blue, yellow and pink, black and white — and they create something very wonderful.

Why I like this book:

Line and Dot is a joyful and engaging book for young children and one that belongs in classrooms. It encourages creativity and imagination. It cleverly shows the importance of accepting differences, learning something new from others, and living peacefully while maintaining individuality, differences and diversity. With simple text and whimsical illustrations, this story demonstrates the importance of mutual respect and cooperation.

Resources: This is a great classroom resource with endless possibilities for use. Teachers can simply focus on creativity and imagination by encouraging children to draw a picture using line and dots. Put kids on teams and encourage them to work together to come up with an idea and paint or draw it with lines and dots. There are no right or wrong answers, just the fun of creating something together.

Véronique Cauchy was born in Normandy in 1969. She had a penchant for writing at a very early age…but instead she studied business, going from Paris to Berlin via Reims and Sacramento! An expert in international trade, she directed a human resources company in her native Normandy, but her life changed when she had children. She discovered children’s literature and threw herself into the crazy adventure of writing for  young readers.

*Copy provided by the publisher.

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.

Breathe by Inês Castel-Branco

Breathe

Inês Castel-Branco, Author & Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Apr. 30, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8 and up

Themes: Breathing, Stretching, Relaxation

Opening: “Mom, I can’t sleep!” / “Why not?” / ” don’t know… I’m nervous and I can’t stop thinking, thinking, thinking…”

Synopsis:

Do you know how to breathe? Do you really know how to breathe?

When a young boy can’t sleep, his mother teaches him how to breathe with his whole body. He learns new ways to move his body, notice his breath, and calm himself.

He can pretend he is a ringing bell, a cat, a rocket…any number of things! The activities combine controlled breathing, stretches, and visualization, and are an introduction to mindfulness and meditation that can be used to help induce sleep or just to calm the body and mind.

Why I like this book:

The story is a conversation between a boy and his mother when he can’t relax and go to sleep. The mother is a shadow in the background on the first page as she teaches her son how to breath properly. If you teach children how to breathe and relax at a young age, they will have tools to use throughout their lives. Focusing on breathing helps them to stop thinking and quiet their minds.

The book helps children learn to visualize and use their imaginations. The exercises the mother uses to guide the boy — floating on a wave, smelling roses, blowing up balloons, launching a rocket and breathing with vowel sounds — are shared at the end of the book with detailed information on how to do each exercise and how they help children work through fear and anxiety. This is a wonderful family activity.

Author Inês Castel-Branco’s illustrations are joyful, peaceful and simply beautiful. Readers will feel the positive energy flowing from the boy just by studying each illustration and the exercise he is attempting. Make sure you check out the end papers as they are filled with poses taught in the book.

Resources: Breathe is a picture book that helps children work through worries and fears by playful breathing, stretching and relaxation techniques.  There is a Note to Parents and Caregivers at the end that includes exercise techniques based on yoga, tai chi, chi kung and meditation.

Inês Castel-Branco founded Fragmenta Editorial in Barcelona with Ignasi Moreta, and so submerged herself in the fascinating world of the typography and layout of books. With the birth of their three children, Inês returned to making models (now of castles, zoos, and doll houses) and they discovered the marvels that can be made with recycled objects, which are explained on Ines’s Spanish blog, “Mama Recicla.” Their love of children’s books also grew, until they decided to start this collection. One morning during breakfast, she “saw” in her mind the book that you now have in your hands, and she once again took up her brushes and painted.

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 the publisher.

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

The Stars Beneath Our Feet

David Barclay Moore, Author

Knopf Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Sep. 19, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 12 and up

Awards: Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent

Themes: African-American, Family relationships, Harlem, Gangs, Grief, Self-discovery, Friendship

Book Synopsis: It all started with two garbage bags full of Legos. Or not, maybe it started with the two thugs following 12-year-old Lolly down 125th that night.

Or maybe it was Jermaine’s dying. Or that fight they had before ‘Maine got shot. Yeah, probably it was that.

Lolly’s having a hard time knowing how to be without his older brother around. Seems like he’s either sad or mad. The thing that helps most is building. His mom’s girlfriend, Yvonne, gave him two huge bags of Legos for Christmas, and Lolly’s working on an epic city — a project so big it outgrows his apartment. The community center lets him work on his magical Lego city in a storage room which provides Lolly with an escape—and an unexpected bridge back to the world from his grief.

But there are dangers outside that persist. There are older guys who harass, beat up and rob Lolly and his friend Vega on the street. They pressure the boys to join a crew (gang), like his brother Jermaine. What would Jermaine want him to do? Get with a crew and take revenge? Or build a different kind of world for himself. Lolly’s going to have to figure this one out on his own.

Why this book is on my shelf:

David Barclay Moore has penned a powerful debut novel with a gripping plot and timely, real-life issues for young people of color. He opens readers eyes to how 12-year-old boys are easily targeted and drawn into gangs/crews as a way to survive. They don’t want to be part of gangs, but they are beaten, robbed, threatened and bullied into submission. It’s a way of life in many inner city neighborhoods where opportunities are limited. They believe that having the protection of a gang can save their lives, but it can also kill them, like Lolly’s brother, Jermaine.

I like how the author helps Lolly deal with his brother’s loss through imagination, creativity, and his love of architecture. Lolly builds epic cities with fantastic stories. He doesn’t realize that he is a gifted artist and storyteller headed for great things.

The relationship between two very unlikely friends, Lolly, who doesn’t know what to do with his anger and grief, and Big Rose, who is on the autism spectrum, is my favorite part of the story. Lolly is furious about the center’s director giving Rose permission to build Lego cities in the storage room with Lolly. But, then he begins to see her talent and speed at building. They end up traipsing all over New York City studying, photographing and drawing its unique architecture. They need each other and are important to each other’s growth healing.

A major reason the author wanted to write this novel is because he feels “there aren’t enough books that speak with the voices of the characters in his story.” For instance a slang word in one Harlem neighborhood may not even be used in another neighborhood a few blocks away. So the narrative is richly textured and thought-provoking, and offers hope and an opportunity for self-discovery.

This novel belongs in the hands of every teenager and middle grade and high school. It offers students the opportunity to engage in important discussions about real life and modern social issues.

David Barclay Moore was born and raised in Missouri. After studying creative writing at Iowa State University, film at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and language studies at l’Université de Montpellier in France, David moved to New York City, where he has served as communications coordinator for Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone and communications manager for Quality Services for the Autism Community. He has received grants from the Ford Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, Yaddo, and the Wellspring Foundation. He was also a semi-finalist for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. David now lives, works, and explores in Brooklyn, N.Y.  You can follow him at his 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.