Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out and Back9780061962790_p0_v2_s260x420Inside Out & Back Again

Thanhha Lai, Author

Harper Collins Children, Fiction, 2011

Suitable for Ages:  8-12

Themes:  Vietnamese Americans, Immigration, Refugees, Alabama, Resilience

Synopsis from Book Jacket:  For all the ten years of her life, Ha has only know Saigon: The thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by…and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.   But now the Vietnam War has reached her home.  Ha and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope.  In America, Ha discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape…and the strength of her very own family.  This is the moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.

Why I like this book:  Thanhha Lai has written the story of Ha, in short free verse narrative, which is exquisitely executed. Her images are both rich and humorous.  It was the winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. This is a remarkable  story based on  Thanhha Lai’s own vivid childhood memories of fleeing Saigon and sailing to a strange new country. She vividly captures Ha’s rich and confusing emotional life. In Vietnam she’s an outstanding student. In America Ha is put into a lower grade because she can’t speak English. She feels dumb. There are so many rules in English that make absolutely no sense to Ha. She says “Whoever invented English,/ should be bitten/ by a snake.”  Ha is humiliated after the class claps for her when she recites the ABC’s and counts to twenty.  “I’m furious,/ unable to explain,/ I already learned/fractions/and how to purify river water./So this is/ what dumb feels like./ I hate, hate, hate it.”  This is a story about the resilience of the feisty spirit of a child told with such simplicity.

Resource:  You may be interested in reading an interview with Thanhha Lai when she won the 2011 National Book Award.

This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration

This is Rope9780399239861_p0_v2_s260x420This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration

Jacqueline Woodson, Author

James Ransome, Illustrator

Nancy Paulsen Books, Fiction, Aug. 29, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Theme: Migration of African-Americans north, Jump rope, Family, Moving

Opening:  “This is the rope my grandmother found beneath an old tree a long time ago back home in South Carolina. This is the rope by grandmother skipped under the shade of a sweet-smelling pine.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: When a little girl in South Carolina finds a rope under a tree, she has no idea it will become part of her family’s history. But for three generations, that rope is passed down, used for everything from jump rope games to tying suitcases onto a car for the big move north to New York City, and even for a family reunion where that first little girl is now a grandmother.

Why I like this story: Jacqueline Woodson calls This is the Rope a fictive memoir. She writes a very lyrical and engaging story based on the dreams of the many African-Americans who journeyed from the south to northern cities from the 1900s to mid 1970s to find better jobs and lives for their families.  Woodson’s mother and father left South Carolina in 1968 and moved to Brooklyn. I like how she uses the image of the rope repeatedly as a symbol of family linking one generation to the next. Ransome’s rich and colorful oil paintings vividly highlight scenes of the south and north in an uplifting manner.  His double-page spreads  are filled with expression and details of each period of history. This is a beautiful collaborative book by Woodson and Ransome. Visit Jacqueline Woodson at her website.

Resources:  There is an author’s note in the beginning of the book that talks about the great migration of African-American families. Woodson has a teacher’s guide on her website about using her books 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 with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

The House on Dirty-Third Street

House on Dirty-Third Street9781561456192_p0_v1_s260x420The House on Dirty-Third Street

Jo S. Kittinger, Author

Thomas Gonzalez, Illustrator

Peachtree Publishers, Fiction, 2012

2013 Christopher Award and the Social Justice Literature Award

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Moving into an older house, Repair and reconstruction, Neighbors, Hope

Opening:  Mom said starting over would be an adventure, so I imagined a tropical island with palm trees and buried treasure.  Not thisAll the houses on Thirty-third Street were old and run down, but the one with the For Sale sign was the worst.  I’d call the whole place “Dirty-third Street.”

Synopsis:  A mother and daughter work to turn a hopeless, rundown, and dirty old house into a loving family home with hard work, faith, hope and the support of their new friends and neighbors.

Why I like this book:  This is a moving story by Jo S. Kittinger that taps into the deep disappointment a girl feels when she has to move into a house that is falling a part. It is a timely story for children about moving, and starting over after the loss of a home due to divorce, job loss or weather events like  floods, fires, tornadoes and hurricanes.  It also is a story about hope,  faith and community.  Thomas Gonzalez captures the girl’s disappointment on the book cover as she peers through a window into the house.  His beginning illustrations are drab and somber sketches with hints of pale pastel blue against the pen and ink sketches.  The girl’s expressions are priceless.  However, as neighbors and church members lend a hand to fix the house, color subtly appears in the illustrations.  The House on Dirty-Third Street is an excellent collaboration between author and illustrator. Visit Jo Kittinger at her website.  It is also a great book to share with kids during World Habitat Week.

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Resources:  The United Nations has declared the first Monday of October World Habitat Day , which will be celebrated Oct. 7.  It is a time to recognize the basic need for adequate housing worldwide.  Habitat for Humanity will sponsor activities Oct. 6-12, 2013.  This is a wonderful opportunity for families to understand, sign up and participate in building and renovating homes in their local community.   Lesson plans and activities can be found at Habitat LearnsFormer President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn will focus their work projects in California, Colorado,, New York and New Jersey.  The Carters have participated for 30 years.

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.

Little Daisy’s Worst/Best Day

Daisy Worst Best Day20f252b73c66e1ed19c11e6846035df8_k1jc_aqq4Little Daisy’s Worst/Best Day

Kathleen Edick and Paula Johnson, Authors

Wee the People Publishing, LLC, 2012

Suitable for ages: 3 and up

Themes:  Moving, Leaving Family, Friends and Pets, Starting New Schools, Making New Friends

Opening “We’re at Grandma and Grandpa’s house today.  Mommy’s home packing; We’re moving away.  This is the Worst Day I’ve ever had.  I don’t want to move?  It’s making me sad.” 

Synopsis:  A sister and brother are moving far away and leaving behind their dog, Daisy, who they’ve had since she was a puppy.  One day an older couple comes to take Daisy home with them to their big farm.  It is Daisy’s WORST DAY ever.  She won’t eat, play, and ignores her new family.  Then one day the new owner feeds her a bowl of spaghetti.  And the farmer takes Daisy for a ride through the fields in the back of his truck.  Daisy discovers a whole new world of digging, exploring and chasing rodents.  At the same time the children learn similar lessons and make new friends.  And they keep in touch with their grandparents by writing letters until they are reunited during vacation.

Why I like this book:  This charming book is part of the “We Serve Too!” series written in verse for military children by two loving grandmothers, Kathleen Edick and Paula Johnson.  The characters remain the same in all four books.  Relocation and moving is a theme shared by both military and civilian children.  And this is a true story about the author’s real-life “Daisy Dog,” who comes to live on their farm when a family moves.  The authors are very clever to use Daisy to help children express their feelings about moving.  This beautiful story will help ease the fear and anxiety of moving.  It offers hope that things will work out.  The illustrations are colorful and show a lot of love and emotion.   Visit the Wee Serve Too! website.

And, I want to give a shout-out for the other three Wee Serve Too! books I’ve reviewed:  A Child’s Deployment Book, A Child’s Reunion Book, and The Homecoming Box.  These are quality books that have helped many military children through tough times.  I have donated all the of my books to my local library.  They were thrilled to receive them and ordered another set for the other branch.

Resources:  The authors have a free discussion guide that can be downloaded free from their website.  Just click on Little Daisy’s Worst/Best Day to get access to the guide.  This book  is a great tool for discussing a move with any child.

This book has been provided to me free of charge by the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work.

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.