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.

Yes I Can!: A Girl and Her Wheelchair

Yes I can!: A Girl and Her Wheelchair

Kendra J. Barrett, Jacqueline B. Toner and Claire A. B. Freeland, Authors

Violet Lemay, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Nov. 20, 1018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Disabilities, Self-confidence, Abilities, School, Curiosity, Interaction, Kindness

Opening: This is Carolyn. Like many kids her age, Carolyn loves animals, castles, and building with blocks. She is helpful to her mom and dad and even to her baby brother.

Synopsis

Carolyn is a happy, energetic, caring first-grader who just happens to be in a wheelchair. She’s excited to start her new year of school and make new friends. The other students are curious about Carolyn because she uses a wheelchair. Some are accepting, while other kids are reluctant. Yes I Can! follows Carolyn on a typical day at home, at school, and even on a field trip! She can do almost everything the other kids can, even if sometimes she has to do it a little differently. The other kids become used to Carolyn and notice what she can do.

Why I like this book:

The authors have written a very uplifting story that focuses more on what Carolyn can do, than what she can’t do. Carolyn is very outgoing, social and wants to participate. And there are many things available to help children with disabilities adapt and participate.

I like how the teacher in the story handles Carolyn’s disability in her classroom. She makes sure Carolyn  feels included when she asks her to pass out papers, when she invites her to help with the morning song and when she makes sure she can accompany the class on a field trip.  This helps Carolyn feels less  isolated.

And the teacher has to deal with the other students’ curiosity.  Kids are naturally very curious about someone they may perceive as different. Some feel cautious and awkward. They don’t know what to say or how to act. And Carolyn’s teacher is very supportive, so that her school friends feel comfortable including her in school activities, recess, and lunch. The students hardly notice her disability.

The illustrations are expressive, warm and endearing. They show diversity which compliment the book’s theme.

Resources: The book includes a Note to Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers with more information on discussing disabilities with children and helping them to build positive, empathic relationships. I especially like the lists of questions with suggested answers that teachers can use.

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.

What You Can Do With A Chance? by Kobi Yamada

What Do You Do With a Chance?

Kobi Yamada, Author

Mae Besom, Illustrator

Compendium, Inc., Jan. 10, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Taking a chance, Conquering fear, Risks, Courage, Opportunity

Opening: “One day, I got a chance. It just seemed to show up. It acted like it knew me, as if it wanted something.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:  What do you do with a chance? Especially one that seems too big or too wild or just out of reach?

Do you hold back? Do you act like you don’t care? Do you let it slip away?

This is the story of some remarkable chances and the child who doesn’t know quite what to do with them. But the more chance come around, the more the child’s fascination grows. And then, one day, a little courage makes all the difference in the world.

This is a story for anyone, at any age who has ever wanted something, but was afraid of wishing too much to get it. It’s a story to inspire you to embrace the chances that come into you life. Because you never know when a chance, once taken, might be the one to change everything.

What I like about this book:

This inspiring book challenges kids to find their courage, step outside of their comfort zones and take some risks. Chances are fleeting and may not appear in the same manner. It is a special book that is soulful and moving.

The tone of the text is simple and straightforward. The story takes children on a journey of self-discovery. Each step along the way, we can feel the child moving forward, holding back and finally taking the leap to victory over self-doubt and fear. Children will relate to this story

There is so much beauty in this book. Mae Besom’s pastel abstracts are wistful and wondering, yet carry the child’s raw emotions that culminate in excitement and exhilaration. The color yellow appears in the beginning of the story in a butterfly, and gradually explodes into yellow and gold as the child succeeds. Creative teamwork between author and illustrator.

Resources: This is a wonderful discussion book for home and classrooms. Taking a chance isn’t easy and Yamada opens the door for kids to explore the topic with the chances they have taken –riding a bike without training wheels, riding a roller coaster, singing a solo, writing a poem, and making a new friend.

Kobi Yamada is the award–winning creator of The New York Times best sellers What Do You Do With an Idea? and What Do You Do With a Problem?  He is the president of Compendium, a company of amazing people doing amazing things. He happily lives with the love of his life and their two super fun kids in the land of flying salmon where he gets to believe in his ideas all day long. He thinks he just might be the luckiest person on the planet.

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 Tiptoeing Tiger by Philippa Leathers

The Tiptoeing Tiger

Philippa Leathers, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick, Fiction, Feb. 6, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Animals, Tigers, Siblings, Self-Confidence

Opening: Everyone in the forest knew that tigers were sleek, silent, and totally terrifying. When a tiger prowled through the forest, everyone found other places to be.

Book Jacket Synopsis: Everyone knows that tigers are sleek, silent, and totally terrifying . . . most tigers, that is. But no one is afraid of Little Tiger. He’s just too small and clumsy to frighten anyone. Determined to prove that he is terrifying, Little Tiger sets out on tiptoe, creeping through the forest to find someone to scare. He gets yawned at and laughed at, but Little Tiger won’t give up. Is there any animal in the forest who will find him just as sleek, silent, and totally terrifying as the bigger tigers?

Why I like this book:

Little Tiger is an endearing hero anxious to use his voice and do what tiger’s do best, ROAR!  Only his roar is not so big and no one jumps or runs away. Wanting to prove to his brother he CAN scare someone, Little Tiger, makes a valiant effort. He finally finds someone to scare, but you’ll have to read the book to find out. This is an adorable story many children will relate too — especially those who like to sneak up on someone and yell “roar” or “boo!”

The pacing is perfect. Each word of the text has been carefully chosen and the simplicity of the language is quite appealing. This entertaining story is highlighted with expressive and lively watercolor illustrations which add to the fun and tension.  This book is a perfect classroom story-time share or an individual read-aloud. They will enjoy the anticipation and acting out the ROARS!

Resources: Children will have fun acting out Little Tiger’s ROARS!  Make a circle and have them parade around the room on their tiptoes and practice their quiet and loud roars. There are many other jungle animals in the story that Little Tiger meets. Ask children to move around like different animals in the story.

Philippa Leathers is a freelance animator and illustrator, as well as the author and illustrator of The Black Rabbit and How to Catch a Mouse. She lives in England with her husband and their young children.

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 Month of Mondays by Joëlle Anthony

A Month of Mondays

Joëlle Anthony, Author

Second Story Press, Fiction, Mar. 7, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Abandonment, Family Relationships, Courage, Self-confidence, Healing

Opening: I have three women who think they’re my mom. My sister Tracie has mothered me since I was three, when ours left us. Aunt Jenny steps in when an authority figure is needed and she thinks my dad’s being a slacker. Caroline, the one who gave birth to me? She sends the checks.

Book Jacket Synopsis: This can’t be good! Suddenly Suze’s mom wants back into her life and her teacher wants her to “try harder”?”

As if middle school wasn’t hard enough, Suze Tamaki’s life gets turned upside down where her mother reappears after a ten-year absence. Once Suze gets over her shock, she thinks it might be cool to get to know her mom. But her older sister Tracie is determined not to let her back into their lives, after she walked away without an explanation.

At school things aren’t much better. One of her teachers decides the way to cure Suze’s lack of motivation is to move her into Honors English — a development Suze finds both inspiring and distressing. When she’s paired with straight-A student Amanda on an English assignment, she finds herself caring about people’s expectations like she’s never done before.

Why I like this book:

Joëlle Anthony’s has written a complex and heartwarming story that focuses on the impact of parental abandonment, complicated family relationships and healing.

There is a great cast of quirky characters, who are believable and well-crafted. Suze, is an engaging and edgy narrator. She perceives herself as an underdog at school. But she is smart, curious, and determined character who takes risks that often land her in detention. Her older sister, Tracie, is protective and makes Suze sign a contract to never have contact with their mother. No one in the family talks about her mother, Caroline, including her father, or aunt and uncle. Her friends Jessica and Amanda provide some normalcy in her life. Readers will relate to Suze and her quest to know her mother.

The plot is realistic, the tension is palpable, and the solutions flow organically.  Suze wants to get to know her mother, but is a conflicted. Their first contacts are awkward. Caroline is late, leaves to make phone calls, or has to work late. She sends gifts that aren’t appropriate.  But they work at their relationship and Suze begins to find answers to her questions. The pacing is a bit slow in the beginning, but it picks and keeps the reader turning pages. The ending is unexpected and very satisfying.

Joëlle Anthony is the author of Restoring Harmony, The Right & the Real, and Speed of Life (writing as J. M. Kelly). Visit Anthony at her website.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

*I was provided with a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Cinderstella: A Tale of Planets Not Princes

Cinderstella: A Tale of Planets Not Princes

Brenda S. Miles and Susan D. Sweet, Authors

Valeria Docampo, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Oct. 17, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Gender Roles, Self-Confidence, Stepfamilies, Family Relationships, Dreams

Opening: Once upon a time there lived a  girl named Cinderstella. She had two stepsisters who made her work every day. But every night, Cinderstella climbed to her treehouse to be close to the stars.

Book Jacket Synopsis: Cinderstella has plans for her own happily ever after and a future princess she is not. She’d rather be an astronaut.

In this modern retelling of a beloved fairy tale, children are encouraged to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Cinderstella dares to be different, has a sense of curiosity, and knows what she wants. A universe of opportunities.

Why I like this book:

The authors have created a meaningful and entertaining retelling of the classic fairy tale, but with an inspiring twist. The text flows nicely and rhymes in places.  Cinderstella dreams of becoming an astronaut. While her stepsisters keep her busy sewing gowns for the ball, shining jewelry and styling their hair during the day, at night she studies the stars and planets and creates her own universe of dreams. She convinces her fairy godmother that she doesn’t want a gown and a carriage, but prefers a spacesuit and a rocket so that she can travel into space.

Cinderstella dreams big and steps outside gender specific pursuits. Refreshing. Her interest in science, technology and becoming an astronaut, should be encouraged in young children of either gender who show an interest.

Valeria Docampo’s colorful, lively and dreamy illustrations capture the wonder of what happens when you have a big dream. The authors and illustrator team up to produce a winning book for children.

Resources: There is a Note to Readers that provides suggestions for parents, caregivers, and educators to spark children’s interest in science and to encourage the pursuit of any career despite lingering stereotypes about what boys and girls can and should do.  This should help parents who may not know where to begin. Encourage kids to dream big. Take them outside to gaze at the stars. If you have a trunk of dress-up clothing for kids, add an astronaut costume. Use the book to help children draw their own space ship.

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.

The Very Fairy Princess: Valentines from the Heart

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Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, Co-authors

Christine Davenier, Illustrator

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Fiction, December 22, 2015

  • Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Valentine’s Day, Creativity, Compassion, Kindness, Friendship

Opening: “One of my FAVORITE days is coming up — Valentine’s Day! Fairy princesses are at their sparkly best making people smile, and what better way to do that than with a FABULOUS homemade card?”

Synopsis: Gerry makes home-made valentines for her classmates using glitter, sequins, glue and sparkly markers. Her mother gives her one of her father’s folders, to protect her valentines. When there is a mix-up in folders at home, Gerry needs to find another way to deliver her valentine message to her friends.

Why I like this book:

  • Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton have written a delightful reminder that gifts from the heart are meaningful, especially when delivered by a spunky and engaging character, Geraldine. Gerry believes she is a fairy princess because “the sparkle I feel inside tells me that it’s TRUE.” It is impressive how a special word like sparkle, can convey so much self-confidence to a child.
  • Gerry creatively personifies the power of compassion when she delivers her special sparkly message to each classmate. Her friends respond with surprise, kindness and generosity towards Gerry. This kind of authentic interaction between children just doesn’t get any better! Coming from Gerry, it is believable.
  • The book has a new format with bonus stickers and is perfectly suited for young readers. It is an excellent gift for Valentine’s Day.
  • Christine Davenier’s warm, expressive and whimsical pastel illustrations beautifully capture the compassionate tone of this timeless story of friendship for children.

Make sure you check out the other seven books and two Early Readers in the New York Times bestselling Very Fairy Princess series. The books hallmark self-confidence, creativity, problem-solving and radiate inner sparkle. They can be read in any order, but I encourage you to start with the very first book — that is where all the magic begins with Gerry, a passionate and memorable character. They are beautiful gift books. For more information, visit the Julie Andrews Collection and Emma Walton Hamilton’s website.

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Stickley Sticks To It!

StStickley Sticks9781433819117_p0_v1_s192x300ickley Sticks To It!: A Frog’s Guide to Getting Things Done

Brenda S. Miles, Ph.D., Author

Steve Mack, Illustrator

Magination Press, Feb. 28, 2015, Fiction

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Sticking with a task and seeing it through, Perseverance, Life Skills, Self-confidence

Opening: Meet Stickley. He’s a frog. Every day he wears shorts and a fancy bowtie.

Book Jacket Synopsis: Stickley the frog has the gift of stick-to-it-ness. His sticky toes help him stick to windows, ceilings and surfboards — even under plates! But Stickley’s toes aren’t the only way he sticks to things. His attitude helps him stick with projects — no matter how frustrating or hard they may be — so he can reach his goals.

Why I like this book:

This is a clever and upbeat story that introduces children to the idea of sticking with a task or challenge and seeing it through to completion. This ultimately helps children feel proud about what they are doing. There are many humorous examples of Stickley participating in a science fair, a spelling bee and giving a speech.  Some projects require Stickley to take his time, test his patience, make him look at what he’s doing from a different perspective, and sometimes start over.  This is an excellent book for teachers to use in the classroom with students. I can see many great questions and lively discussions with students. Steve Mack’s illustrations are colorful, whimsical and expressive. They are entertaining and add to the story’s appeal.

Resources: The book includes a lengthy Note to Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers with more information about perseverance and strategies for encouraging children to plan, take breaks, ask for help and work with others to complete a task.

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.

Don’t Put Yourself Down in Circus Town

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Frank J. Sileo, Author

Sue Cornelison, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Feb. 28, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Building self-confidence, Making mistakes, Developing positive beliefs

Opening: Ringmaster Rick was excited for the big show at Circus Town! He visited the big tent to see all the performers practicing their acts.

Book Jacket Synopsis: Welcome to Circus Town, where it’s okay to bumble, stumble, and fumble. But no put downs! Give yourself a break! Everyone makes mistakes! Join Ringmaster Rick, Larry the Lion Tamer, Polka Dot Patti, and world-famous trapeze artists Jan and Juanita as they practice more, ask for help, think helpful thoughts, and bounce back from mistakes and mishaps to feel more confident!

Why I like this book:

Ringmaster Rick calls an emergency meeting after overhearing Circus Town’s several performers put themselves down for mistakes made while rehearsing their acts. “I’m the worst lion tamer…I can’t do this!…I am such a loser!…I’m such a klutz!…”  Does this self-defeating statement sound familiar?  This realistic story about making mistakes is something children can relate to as they participate in sports, dance, painting/drawing, practicing a musical instruments, helping in the kitchen and doing chores. I especially resonate with author Frank Sileo’s themes, “anyone can make a mistake and that self-defeating behavior is like bullying yourself.”  Sue Cornelison’s illustrations are bold, colorful and very expressive. They set the mood for the story and change as the story progresses. This is another important book for parents to have at home and for teachers to put on their bookshelves to help boost self-esteem in children. Well done!

Resources: The book includes a Note to Parents and Other Caregivers with more information and strategies for fostering self-confidence in children and helping them develop positive feelings and beliefs about themselves.

The Honest Truth

September 2015 is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

The Honest Truth415Wpdo3ejL__SX341_BO1,204,203,200_The Honest Truth

Dan Gemeinhart, Author

Scholastic Press, Fiction, Jan. 27,  2015

Suitable for Grades: 4 – 7

Pages: 229

Themes: Boy with cancer, Choices, Goals, Self-confidence, Dog, Friendship, Mount Rainier

Opening: “The mountain was calling me. I had to run away. I had to. And, I didn’t need anyone to go with me.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: In all the ways that matter, Mark is a normal kid. He’s got a dog named Beau and a best friend, Jessie. He likes to take photos and write haiku poems in his notebook. He dreams of climbing a mountain one day. But, in one important way, Mark is not like other kids at all. Mark is sick. The kind of sick that means hospitals. And treatments. The kind of sick some people never get better from. So Mark runs away. He leaves home with his camera, his notebook, his dog, and a plan. A plan to reach the top of Mount Rainier. Even if it’s the last thing he ever does.

Why I like The Honest Truth:

Debut author Dan Gemeinhart has written a powerful and inspiring novel about a 12-year-old boy who has cancer. Mark’s dealt with chemo treatments since he was five years old. His options are running out. He’s angry. He’s lost.  His parents and doctors are making decisions for him. Mark feels out of control and wants to make some choices about his life — and that may include how he dies. He confides his pain and secrets to his best friend, Jessie.

The setting is realistic to the Pacific Northwest and the unpredictable weather. The theme is raw and honest. The plot is fraught with danger and obstacles. Mark runs away with his dog, Beau, and embarks upon a journey to climb the summit of Mount Rainier — a dream he can focus on. His choice may seem selfish because of the pain and worry he causes his parents. He also creates a dilemma for his friend, Jessie –does she tell his parents or keep his secret. And he puts his dog and himself at risk during a dangerous snowstorm on the mountain.

Mark, Jessie and Beau are memorable characters. Beau is devoted and protective of Mark. The alternating chapters, with Jessie’s occasional half chapters, works well. You hear about Mark’s parents anxiety and pain through Jessie. But, you experience Jessie’s struggle to interpret what Mark wants her to do. Does she share her suspicions with his parents or honor her friend’s request.

It took Gemeinhart guts to write a book with such depth. It is a tough book to review, even though it grabbed me from the first page.  Mark grapples with life and death questions as he works through anger and fear. Which will he choose? The Honest Truth will make readers think. It is an excellent classroom discussion book for teens.

Thank you Greg Pattridge! I won The Honest Truth in a giveaway on Greg’s website, Always in the Middle.