The Art Garden by Penny Harrison

The Art Garden

Penny Harrison, Author

Penelope Pratley, Illustrator

EK Books, Fiction, Feb. 6, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: Art, Creativity, Individuality, Self-acceptance, Friendship

Opening: More than anything, Sadie wanted to be an artist.

Synopsis: Sadie wants to be a painter, just like her best friend, Tom. She loves playing with color and finding shapes in unlikely places. But whenever Sadie picks up a paintbrush she makes a big mess. She spends her time working in the garden or playing with Tom, but, one day, Sadie gets a look at things from a different perspective–and makes a big discovery about herself and her own creativity.

What I like about this book:

Penny Harrison has written a playful story about a girl who wants to be an artist like her best friend.  Sadie’s fingers are very nimble at playing with color in baking and decorating cupcakes, arranging flowers, exploring patterns in nature, and planting flowers in pots. So why can’t she draw like Tom? The harder this determined protagonist tries to paint, she creates even bigger messes. Discouraged, she climbs to the top of a tree.  She stares down at a garden beneath her and sees something she hasn’t seen before. Sadie realizes that if she can’t draw her dreams there are many other ways to express herself.

The language is simple and lyrical. The pacing will keep readers in suspense. Prately’s colorful watercolor illustrations are lively and encourage readers to see the world through Sadie’s eyes. Make sure you check out the endpapers.

Resources: This book is an excellent read-aloud in the classroom. Teachers can encourage kids to name the many ways they enjoy expressing their creativity like baking, sewing beautiful clothing, planting beautiful gardens, trimming topiary bushes, knitting blankets, carving wooden figures, making pottery, designing buildings, birdwatching, quilting, music and dance. Children will enjoy sharing their ideas as they realize art is individual and all around them.

Penny Harrison is a children’s author, book reviewer, garden writer and lifestyle journalist. A professional writer for more than 20 years, she has contributed to a range of magazines, newspaper, and books, writing about everything from raising toddlers to raising chickens.

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 Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds

The Word Collector

Peter Hamilton Reynolds, Author & Illustrator

Orchard Books, Fiction, Jan. 30, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Collecting words, Sharing, Individuality, Imagination, Kindness

Opening: Collectors collect things… coins…art…comic books.  And Jerome?

Synopsis:

Some people collect stamps. Some people collect bugs. Some people collect baseball cards. Not Jerome. He collected words. Printed words. Short and multi-syllable words. Words that roll off your tongue and feel good to say. Words that sing. Words that make you laugh. He organized and filled scrapbooks with his favorite words. One day he was carrying an armload of scrapbooks when he slipped.  His words went flying through the air and landed in a mess around him. He began stringing the words together and made a powerful discovery. Perhaps his words weren’t so mixed up.

Why I like this book:

Reynolds captures the magic of words in Jerome’s pure joy of sharing words with others. There is a charm in this book. There is kindness. The tone of the text is wistful and alluring, inviting the reader along Jerome’s magical journey of discovery and possibilities. This book fosters a curiosity for  words and a love of language! It is both empowering and heartwarming with a satisfying ending that will put a smile on a children’s faces. It is spindiddly!

Jerome is a child of color, but the story has nothing to do with his color or ethnicity. The supporting characters in the story are all diverse, which lends itself to inclusiveness. It is so important for children to see themselves in a story.

Reynolds’ pen and ink illustrations are playful and contribute to the joyful spirit of Jerome’s journey. Make sure you check out the endpapers.

Resources: After reading the book, look at the endpapers which are packed with words.  Reynolds urges children “Reach for your own words / tell the world who you are / and how you will make it better.”  Each word is strung together on separate pieces of paper.  Encourage kids to write four or five words that they like on separate index cards. They may be familiar, happy, caring, loud, funny and so on. Then ask them to share what the word means to them.

Peter Hamilton Reynolds is a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of many books for children, including The Dot, Ish, and Happy Dreamer. 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. 

I Am Enough by Grace Byers

I Am Enough

Grace Byers, Author

Keturah A. Bobo, Illustrator

Balzer + Bray, Fiction, Mar. 6, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes:  Individuality, Love, Respect, Kindness, Diversity

Opening: “Like the sun, I’m here to shine.”

Book Synopsis: I Am Enough is an essential book for everyone — an inspiring lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another.

Why I like this book:  Grace Byers’ soulful book is a magnificent poem to girls encouraging self-esteem, individuality, respect and kindness. It empowers girls to be themselves and encourages them to realize their endless potential. Readers will learn how each day is filled with possibilities to dream, soar, love, use their voices, fail, succeed, disagree, and love.  The poetic tone of the text is celebratory, inviting the reader on an adventure of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Keturah Bobo’s expressive and vibrant illustrations showcase racial and cultural diversity and shows a girl playing jump rope in a wheelchair.  They compliment the uplifting and positive affirmation that “I am enough!” And that cover just draws you into the story. This is a perfect gift book.

Resources: This is an ideal discussion book. Ask girls what it means to be enough. Let this conversation evolve into what is uniquely beautiful about her and every other girl. Although written for girls, I believe boys will enjoy this book.

Grace Byers is an actor and activist who stars in Fox’s hit series Empire. As a multiracial young girl and a child of deaf adults, Grace was bullied throughout her childhood. This book was born out of her desire to empower young girls against the effects of bullying. In her spare time, she volunteers with the nonprofit anti-bullying organization Saving Our Daughters. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, actor Trai Byers.

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.

Grace and Katie by Susanne Merritt

Gracie and Katie

Susanne Merritt, Author

Liz Anelli, Illustrator

EK Books, Fiction, Nov. 1, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Twins, Art, Creativity, Sisterhood, Individuality

Opening: “Grace and Katie loved to draw. Grace’s drawings were filled with straight lines, squares and angles. Katie’s drawings were filled with patterns, squiggles and swirls.”

Publisher Synopsis: Grace and Katie are twins who love to draw. Grace loves everything to be organized and neat, while Katie loves everything to be bright, bold and messy. When they want to draw a map of their home and street, the girls can’t agree on how it should be done so they each decide to create their own map. But that doesn’t work out as well as they’d planned. Perhaps working together might be more fun after all!

Why I like this book:

Grace and Katie is an imaginative exploration of individuality, sisterhood, creativity and appreciating each other’s talents.  It will win the hearts of many budding artists.

The book focuses on twins in a way that emphasizes each girl’s individual strengths. Each sister has a unique perspective on art. And they have a different ways of expressing themselves. When Katie adds colorful touches to Grace’s map, and Grace gives Katie’s map more structure, they learn that working together can be a lot more fun.

Grace and Katie encourages kids to express their creativity and realize that there is no right or wrong way to be an artist. The topic of map making is woven throughout the story, making this a valuable resource to explore visual literacy. Children will find this story a very satisfying read.

Liz Anelli’s delightful illustrations combine both heart and design. They are delightfully bold and appealing. There is such vivid detail, especially in the cityscape scenes.  You can tell Anelli has a flare for architecture which blends beautifully with this empowering story of individuality.

Resources: This is a great resource to celebrate creativity at home and school. It is also a great resource to teach children about creating and reading maps.

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.

So Many Smarts! by Michael Genhart

So Many Smarts!

Michael Genhart, PhD, Author

Holly Clifton-Brown, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Sep. 12, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Individuality, Smarts, Abilities, Differences, Social skills, Friendship

Opening: Did you know there’s more than one kind of Smart? In fact, there are many! Where do we start? No two people show their Smarts the same way. Each of us is different, and that’s A-Okay!

SynopsisSo Many Smarts! introduces kids to a variety of “smarts” and teaches them that there is more than one way to be smart. It encourages readers to look at their own combination of brain power and skills to determine how they might learn best, excel, and be themselves. Based on the theory of multiple intelligences, this book shows kids that all of the different skills they have require various types of smarts as well as how they can celebrate their differences.

Why I like this book:

Today I am singing the praises of Michael Genhart’s book. It wowed me! While reading, writing and  mathematics are important skills, there are other skills that make children smart. So Many Smarts inspires children to explore a variety of skills through a delightful array of animals who show them many ways to be smart. There is a bear detective following clues. A flamingo playing a ukulele. A pelican playing catch on an iceberg. A fox reading a book. An ape drawing a rocket. A rabbit band playing and dancing to music.

The book emphasizes how the animals are good at different things. Children will have fun identifying the skills that make them unique.  It encourages them to hone in on their own special capabilities and talents — their own special Smarts. This story will really resonate with children, parents and teachers.

Holly Clifton-Brown combines traditional painting, mixed media and collage with contemporary technique to create imaginative visual language. Genhart’s rhyming text flows nicely giving the bold illustrations time to tease children’s imaginations.

Favorite lines:

No one Smart is better than another.

Your own mix of Smarts will take you far, help you learn, do your best, and be who you are.

References: A Note to Parents, Caregivers, and Educators offers more information about the different smarts outlined in the book and ways to support children exploring their unique strengths. This is a perfect classroom book.

Michael Genhart PhD, is the author of Peanut Butter & Jellyous, Cake & I Scream!, Mac & Geeeez!, I See You, and Ouch Moments: When Words Are Used in Hurtful Ways.

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.

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Hana Hashimoto9781894786331_p0_v1_s260x420Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Chieri Uegaki, Author

Qin Leng, Illustrator

Kids Can Press, Fiction, Aug. 1, 2014

Winner: Asian/Pacific American Award Picture Book Winner 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Violin, Talent Show, Practice, Teasing,  Self-confidence, Courage, Individuality

Opening: “When Hana Hashimoto announced that she had signed up for the talent show and that she would be playing the violin, her brothers nearly fell out of a tree.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: When Hana announces that she’ll be playing violin in the school talent show, her brothers laugh so hard they nearly fall out of a tree. But Hana doesn’t let that stop her — she practices and practices, inspired by memories of the time she spent in Japan with her ojiichan, a professional violinist. But when the day of the performance arrives, will she be able to overcome a sudden case of nerves?

Why I like this book: This is a charming and creative story from author Cheri Uegaki. Hana is a sensitive, yet spunky and determined character. Many children will easily relate to the teasing from siblings, the jitters of performing in a talent show, and the courage to try anyway. No matter how much Hana’s brothers think she is “loopy,” she practices and perseveres despite everyone’s doubts.  She remembers listening to her ojiichan (grandfather) play the sounds of chirping crickets, squawking crows, plucking rain, and squeaking mice. These memories help Hana to find her own way of playing her violin and making the performance her very own. Kids will cheer for Hana. Quin Leng’s illustrations are warm, whimsical, playful and capture the personality of each character and the tone of the story.  Her pencil and digitally colored illustrations include details of both Hana’s Japanese and American life.

Resources: Introduce your child to music, take them to a children’s symphony so they can hear the various instruments. Encourage them to try an instrument in their school music program. Let them decide what instrument they would like to play. Encourage young children to play a harmonica, drums, a kazoo, or a marimba.

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.

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match – Marisol McDonald no combina

Marisol McDonald9780892392353_p0_v1_s260x420

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match

Monica Brown, Author

Sara Palacios, Illustrator

Children’s Book Press, Imprint of Lee & Low Books, Fiction, 2011

Suitable for Ages: 4-8 years

Themes: A bilingual, Peruvian-Scottish-American soccer-playing girl celebrates her individuality

Opening: My name is Marisol McDonald, and I don’t match. At least that’s what everyone tells me./Me llamo Marisol McDonald y no combino. Al menos eso es lo que me dicen todos.

Book Synopsis: Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin. Polka dots and stripes are her favorite combination. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos in her lunch box. To Marisol, these seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together. Other people wrinkle their nose in confusion at Marisol — can’t she just choose one or the other? Try as she might, in a world where everyone tries to put this biracial, Peruvian-Scottish-American girl into a box, Marisol McDonald doesn’t match. And that’s just fine with her.

Why I like this book: Monica Brown has written a charming story about a strong, spunky and carefree girl who embraces her multiracial heritage. You want to cheer for Marisol. It is inspired by Brown’s own Peruvian-American heritage. Did I mention the book is bilingual, so that Hispanic children can read the story and American children can learn Spanish? Like Marisol, some of the paragraphs are mismatched and include bilingual words.  For example Marisol even likes speaking Spanish and English at the same time. “Can I have a puppy? A furry, sweet perrito?” I ask my parents. “Por favor?” When Marisol tries to match her clothes so she fits in at school, she is miserable.  This book is a creative and beautiful example about how important it is to be comfortable and proud of who you are. Sara Palacios’s lively and colorful illustrations capture Marisol’s personality — just look at that cover! Great collaborative effort between the illustrator and author.

Resources: Lee & Low Books has a wonderful teachers guide page for Marisol McDonald with a lot of ideas and activities for using the book in the classroom.

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.

Henny

Henny9781442484368_p0_v11_s260x420Henny

Elizabeth Rose Stanton, Author and Illustrator

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Book, Fiction Jan. 7, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Chickens, Individuality, Self-acceptance, Humor

Opening: “Henny was not a typical chicken. Henny was born with arms. Henny’s mother was very surprised, but she loved Henny anyway.”

Synopsis: It’s not every day that a chicken is born with arms. Henny likes being different…and she doesn’t like being different.  She tries to strut around like the other chickens and fit in, but Henny has to be herself. As she grows, she worries about being right-handed or left-handed….wearing long sleeves or short sleeves…using buttons or zippers…and needing deodorant. She helps the farmer by milking a cow, feeding the chicks and the pigs. She discovers she can cross her arms, brush her teeth, comb her comb, carry a purse hail a taxi and ice skate. But, can she do the one thing she want to do most — fly?

Why I like this book: In her debut picture book, Elizabeth Rose Stanton has written a fresh and lovable character in Henny.  This is a charming story about differences, self-acceptance and self-discovery. But it is also about a journey,  wonder and dreams. Kids will relate to Henny and laugh at her antics and cheer her as she slowly discovers that with arms she can experience the world in a way the other chickens can’t. Being different can have it’s pluses and nothing is going to stop this curious chick. The language is very simple and a great book for young readers. Stanton’s pencil and watercolor illustrations are lively, expressive and tickle the imagination. She is an author/illustrator to watch.

Resources: Encourage your child to be imaginative and draw some animals that wouldn’t normally have arms, or legs.  A fish with legs…a frog with arms…a bear with a beak and so on.  Doodling can be fun.  Check out Tara Lazar’s interview with Stanton last November and Joanna Marple’s illustrator’s interview with Stanton last September.  Stanton gives some insight into her artistic process.  You can visit Stanton on her website.

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.