Category Archives: Perfect Picture Book Friday

A SONG FOR GWENDOLYN BROOKS by Alice Faye Duncan

A SONG FOR GWENDOLYN BROOKS by Alice Faye Duncan

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is…

A SONG FOR GWENDOLYN BROOKS

Written by: Alice Faye Duncan

Illustrated by: Xia Gordon

Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books (January 2019)

Suitable for ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: biography, poetry, African-American life

Brief Synopsis:

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks is about the African-American poet and author Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) who wrote about the urban African-American experience.

The book is part of the “People Who Shaped Our World” series. Alice Faye Duncan captured the life and work of Brooks, beginning in 1925 at age eight, ending in 1950, the year she became the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Why I like this book:

Duncan writes in lyrical text and shows observations informed the poet’s writing, even from an early age.

The author also gives examples of the kinds of struggles Brooks faced as a young, gifted writer as well as the support she received from her family. Brooks struggled with her confidence and her words. A teacher once accused Brooks of plagiarism so her mother had the young poet write a poem in front of her. As a teen when others were looking for work, Gwendolyn’s parents supported her dream and allowed her to “sit and think”. And from all her years of hard work, an adult Brooks realizes her dream and became a professional writer.

Back matter includes an author’s note, timeline, suggested readings by Gwendolyn Brooks and bibliography to learn more about one of America’s most influential writers.

I read the ARC for this review; the book release date is January 1, 2019. This book would be a great addition to the home, school, and library.

Resources:

  • For more about poetry for kids, see the Poetry4kids website.

  • A lesson plan about Gwendolyn Brooks  (grades 3-12).

  • A lesson plan for Gwendolyn Brooks (grades 5-6).

To read lots more Perfect Picture Book Friday reviews visit author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

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How the Squid Got Two Long Arms by Henry Herz

How the Squid Got Two Long Arms by Henry Herz

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is…

HOW THE SQUID GOT TWO LONG ARMS.

Written by: Henry Herz

Illustrated by: Luke Graber

Publisher: Pelican Publishing Company, Inc. (September 2018)

Suitable for ages: 3-8

Themes/Topics: greed, ocean animals, pourquoi story

Brief Synopsis: In this pourquoi tale, Herz tells the story of how the squid, who once had 10 arms “all of equal length”, ended up with 2 long arms. A shivering squid, one scarf, and the need to stay warm in the cool ocean water set this tale in motion. When the squid steals clothes from other animals, he ends up learning a lesson, “if you do bad things, bad things will happen to you.”

Why I like this book: A fun read to help kids think twice about greed! Luke Graber’s illustrations are bold, expressive, and the details are hilarious. Herz weaves in ocean vocabulary throughout the story and includes information about squid in the back matter. Elementary teachers will be able to use the story as supplemental reading in a science lesson related to ocean animals.

Herz gives credit Jon Klassen’s THIS IS NOT MY HAT for the last spread. No spoilers here…read it to find out what happens.

I read the digital ARC for this review, the book release date is September 4, 2018.

Resources:

To read lots more Perfect Picture Book Friday reviews visit author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

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BE QUIET! by Ryan T. Higgins

BE QUIET! by Ryan T. Higgins

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is BE QUIET!.

 

Written/illustrated by: Ryan T. Higgins

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion, April 4, 2017

Suitable for: Preschool – Kindergarten

Themes/Topics: Friendship, Frustration, Patience

Brief Synopsis:  Higgins writes a laugh out loud story about Rupert, Thistle and Nibbs, the mice he introduced in Hotel Bruce. Rupert wants to star in a book without words that is “visually stimulating” but Thistle and Nibbs cannot stop talking about being quiet.

 

Opening pages: 

Rupert: “FINALLY! I get my very own book to star in.

This is going to be great!

 I’m going to make it a wordless book.

They are very artistic.

This book will have NO WORDS at all. Starting…NOW.”

Why I like this book: These mice are hilarious!  Reading it aloud is so much fun. When Rupert uses vocabulary like “vishery strigulating” it is mistaken for “visually stimulating”.  “Ima-gonna-pee-a” is mistaken for “onomatopoeia” as the mice banter.

Higgins entertains readers with visual puns like on the spread when Rupert tries to explain visually stimulating means strong illustrations and the mice suddenly have the physique of body builders.

Resources:

Happy reading!

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HER RIGHT FOOT by Dave Eggers

HER RIGHT FOOT by Dave Eggers

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is  HER RIGHT FOOT by Dave Eggers. I am often asked, “Where are you from?” Sometimes I respond, “If you tell me your immigrant story, I will tell you mine.”

HER RIGHT FOOT is an important reminder that the majority of Americans are descendants of emigrants and immigrants. Maybe your ancestors were part of the early British-American colonies or the French and Spanish colonies as mine were. Maybe they came via the Gulf of Mexico as my great-grandfather did during the 19th century, or were greeted by the Statue of Liberty in the Atlantic upon arrival from a distant land. Regardless of your family origin, this story reminds us of the early motto of the United States, E pluribus unum, “out of many, one”.


Written by: Dave Eggers

Illustrated by: Shawn Harris

Publisher: Chronicle Books (September 2017)

Suitable for ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: Statue of Liberty, US History, Immigration

Brief SynopsisDave Eggers tells the story behind the making of the Statue of Liberty. As the story progresses, readers learn the history behind this gift from France and most importantly, that it represents how the United States is a country that embraces and welcomes emigrants and immigrants.

Opening pages“You have likely heard of a place called France.

If you have heard of France, you may have heard of the French. They are the people who live in France.

You may have also heard of something called the Statue of Liberty.

Did you know that the Statue of Liberty comes from France?

This is true. This is a factual book.”

Why I like this book: Written in second person, the narrator addresses readers directly. The author uses a playful but instructive approach to introducing kids to fun facts about the design, construction and transportation of the Statue of Liberty. It artfully teaches the fact that our country is populated with people from many different countries and cultures from around the world and ties in the symbolism of Lady Liberty as a beacon that welcomes everyone to the United States.

Resources:  

Read other perfect picture book Friday reviews at author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

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Arturo and the Bienvenido Feast by Anne Broyles

Arturo and the Bienvenido Feast by Anne Broyles

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is Arturo and the Bienvendio Feast. Arturo and his grandmother, Abue Rosa, return in this sequel to Arturo and the Navidad Birds. This is the  perfect month to share a story about family and food. Every November families gather to give thanks for one another and share a Thanksgiving feast. Children will enjoy reading about Arturo and his family’s feast.

Written by: Anne Broyles

Illustrated byKE Lewis 

Translator: Maru Cortes

Publisher: Pelican Publishing Co., Inc. (August 2017)

Suitable for ages: 3-8

Themes/Topics: family, Latin American culture culture & food

Brief Synopsis:  Arturo and Abue Rosa plan a special feast to welcome Michael, the fiancé of his aunt, Tía Inés.  Their menu includes Pupusas, curtido, fried plantains, chocolate almond cake and more. While cooking Abue Rosa gets a headache so she takes a nap. But Arturo can’t wake her up and the guests are coming. What can he do? Arturo saves the day of course!

Opening pages“Arturo stole a glance at his grandmother as he popped a handful of shredded cheese in his mouth.” 

“Arturo echó una miradita a su abuela mientras se metía un bocado de queso rallad a la boca.” 

“Leave some for the pupusas.” Abue Rosa threw the dough into the mixing bowl – thwack! – and massaged the masa into a smooth ball.” 

“Deja un poco para las pupuses.” Abue Rosa ventó la masa al tazón – jzas! – masajendo la masa hata formar una bala suave.” 

Why I like this book: The tender relationship between Arturo and his grandmother continues in this sequel. Reading about Arturo and Abue Rosa reminded me of the special bond shared between my son and my mother when they cooked Louisiana Creole Filé Gumbo together. Food and family are important to culture and celebrations. Anne Broyles brings both together in this sweet story told in English and Spanish. In addition to recipes for Curtido (slaw) and Pupusas (stuffed, fried corn cakes), there is an author’s note. Also included is a glossary with phonetic pronunciations and definitions for the Spanish words used in the story.

The illustrations are warm, and earthy colors represent Latin American culture.

Resources:  

  • Lu and Bean Read podcast 11/16/2017 interview with author Anne Broyles.

  • Mr. Donn’s Free lessons, games, presentations about Latin America.

Read other perfect picture book Friday reviews at author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

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Goodnight, Numbers by Danica McKellar

Goodnight, Numbers by Danica McKellar

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is Goodnight, Numbers.

What does the Hallmark channel, popular TV shows The Wonder Years, The West Wing, Dancing with the Stars and math have in common? Actress, mathematician and author Danica McKellar!


Written by: Danica McKeller

Illustrated by:  Alicia Padrón

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers (2017)

Suitable for ages: 2-5

Themes/Topics: bedtime, numbers, counting

Brief SynopsisGoodnight, Numbers is a bedtime book and concept book about numbers.  Using the same pattern as the classic book Goodnight Moon, children say goodnight to things familiar to them – two hands, three wheels on a tricycle, four paws on a cat. The book highlights the fact that numbers are all around us.

Opening pages“Goodnight, one fork, Goodnight, one spoon, Goodnight, one bowl, I’ll see you soon.”

Why I like this bookGenius! Really, the book and McKellar. The rhyme is perfect. The illustrations are soft and gentle and include diverse families. Children can see numbers are everywhere and practice counting along on every spread.

A letter to parents, grandparents and caretakers as well as an author’s note with suggestions on how to use the book is included.

Resources:

Read other perfect picture book Friday reviews at author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

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FRIENDS (Mostly) by Barbara Joosse

FRIENDS (Mostly) by Barbara Joosse

It’s back to school time! So today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is FRIENDS (Mostly). As new students start school and old students return to new classrooms, children will make new friends, some will lose old friends all will hopefully learn what friendship means and how to keep them intact.

Written by: Barbara Joosse

Illustrated by:  Tomaso Milian

Publisher: Greenwillow Books, 2010

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Friendship, Jealousy, Kindness and Caring

Brief SynopsisThis book is about how two best friends make up when one allows jealousy to tear them apart.

Opening pages:

Ruby and Henry, 

Henry and Ruby,

Usually we’re friends, but sometimes we’re unfriends.

It all depends.

Why I like this book The title tells all, you can be friends (mostly) and you can be unfriends too. Friendships often hit rough patches and kids need to find a way to work through those times. When Ruby is teased because she can’t float like her best friend Henry, she lashes out at him. And then she decides to walk away from their friendship. In the end, the two friends work out how to remain friends. A wonderful lesson for showing children what friendship looks like and how friendships work. And even when bad feelings come between friends, sometimes only one act of kindness can save a relationship.

Resources

To read other Perfect Picture Book Friday reviews from today, head over to author Susanna Hill’s page

Happy reading!

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She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World. 

When Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) voiced her objections about the nomination of Jeff Sessions for US Attorney General during his confirmation hearing on February 7, 2017, she was silencedSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) interrupted Senator Warren as she read from the letter written in 1986 by civil rights leader Coretta Scott King. That letter helped prevent the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as a federal judge for his home state of Alabama. McConnell accused Warren of making statements that impugn the character of Sessions which he determined was against Senate rules. 

The senator presiding over the hearing advised Warren that she was out of order under Senate Procedural Rule 19. “I’m reading a letter from Coretta Scott King to the Judiciary Committee from 1986 that was admitted into the record,” Senator Warren argued. “I’m simply reading what she wrote about what the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be a federal court judge meant and what it would mean in history for her.” 

Senator McConnell asked for a vote. After a 49-43 vote split across party lines, Senator Warren was not allowed to finish nor speak again. Instead, she continued reading the letter outside the door of the Senate floor. 

Defending his actions, Mitch McConnell later explained, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”  

Inspired by that event, Chelsea Clinton wrote this book and featured thirteen other women in America who also faced opposition and or adversity but succeeded because they persisted

Written by: Chelsea Clinton

Illustrated by:  Alexandra Boiger

Publisher: Philomel Books (May 2017)

Suitable for ages: 3-8

Themes/Topics: Women in US history, perseverance, resilience 

Brief Synopsis:  In She Persisted, Chelsea Clinton introduces young readers to thirteen American women throughout history who, despite resistance from others or society, made positive contributions to our nation because of their persistence. 

Opening pages“Sometimes being a girl isn’t easy. At some point, someone probably will tell you no, will tell you to be quiet and may even tell you your dreams are impossible. Don’t listen to them. These thirteen American women certainly did not take no for an answer. They persisted.” 

Why I like this bookShe Persisted is an inspirational tribute to thirteen women whose contributions to our nation deserve recognition. Some of the women featured are well known and others are not. The colorful illustrations by Alexandra Boiger include a diverse cast of characters, girls and boys, that reflect our nation’s multicultural population. 

Perseverance, persistence, fairness, and dreaming big are common themes in children’s books. I enjoyed the inclusion of women in a book that also teaches US history. As a non-fiction book, there are endless opportunities for educational use. Students could conduct more in-depth study of each character, or research other lesser known female figures who have also helped shape our nation. The adults in this book are role models children should know about and look up to. The author includes a quote that explains why every child, especially girls, should read this picture book, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” -Astronaut Sally Ride 

Resources

Read other perfect picture book Friday reviews at author Susanna Hill’s blog

Happy reading!

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ANYWHERE FARM by Phyllis Root

ANYWHERE FARM by Phyllis Root

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is Anywhere Farm. It’s spring! And we know what that brings. Time to plant. Do you know what food you’ll grow?

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Written by: Phyllis Root

Illustrated by:  G. Brian Karas

Publisher: oooCandlewick (March 2017)

Suitable for ages: 2– 5  

Themes/Topics: community supported agriculture, urban environments, cooperation, farmer’s market

Brief Synopsis:  This book introduces young children to the idea of community supported agricultural more than farming and shows how urban areas are used to grow food.  

Opening pages“For an anywhere farm, here’s all you need:

                                      soil

                    and sunshine,

                                            some water,

                               a seed.”  

 Why I like this book We joined a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), last year. The produce we get is abundant and so tasty. Anywhere Farm is an informational book. Kids learn it’s not hard to grow food, you need soil, sun, water, and a seed. An empty lot surrounded by buildings is transformed into a community garden. Food can be grown anywhere and in anything. Kale in  pail. Corn in a horn.

Children and adults work together. They re-purpose items found in the garbage to use as pots. Children also learn about insects and animals found in an urban garden. And when there’s plenty of food, the neighbors start a farmer’s market to sell to other neighbors.

The rhythm and rhyme is playful and the illustrations inclusive. A delightful book for young children to learn about growing food in an urban environment through a community effort.

Resources

Read more of today’s reviews at author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

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The Ring Bearer by Floyd Cooper

The Ring Bearer by Floyd Cooper

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is THE RING BEARER. It’s normal for the bride and groom to be nervous on their big day, but imagine a young child who is part of a wedding party feeling nervous. Now imagine it’s his mother’s wedding!  

Written/Illustrated by:  Floyd Cooper

Publisher: Philomel Books (April 2017)

Suitable for ages: 3– 7

Themes/Topics: overcoming fear, anxiety, dealing with change, love, weddings, blended family

Brief Synopsis:  Jackson’s mother is getting married. And he is an important part of the ceremony. Jackson is the ring bearer! But he’s worried. What if something goes wrong? He could trip. He could drop the rings. Sophie, his younger new stepsister is part of the ceremony too. She’s the flower girl. But Sophie isn’t worried at all. In fact, she’s having fun.  

Opening pages“Mama is having a wedding, and Jackson is worried. What will it be like to call Bill “Dad”? And share stuff with Sophie, his new little sister? Things won’t be the same around here anymore.” 

 Why I like this book This story made my heart smile. I adore the cover with a cautious Jackson and playful Sophie. Through text and illustrations, Floyd Cooper created an endearing story about the power of family. Readers will love his inter-generational characters and blended family because they express their love of one another throughout the story.

With the support of his family, old and new, Jackson is able to overcome his fear. And because of the wonderful examples in his life, Jackson even saves the day!

Resources

  • Find answers to your burning questions about having children in a wedding party here.

  • Find the article from the site, Today’s Parent, Kids at weddings: Essential do’s and don’ts here

  • Find an article, Children’s feelings about blended families, here.

Read more of today’s reviews at author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

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PUG meets PIG by Sue Lowell Gallion

PUG meets PIG by Sue Lowell Gallion

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is PUG meets PIG

Written by:  Sue Lowell Gallion

Illustrated  by:  Joyce Wan

Publisher: Beach Lane Books (2016)

Suitable for ages: 2- 6

Themes/Topics: sharing, kindness, adapting to change, acceptance, friendship

Brief Synopsis:  Pug is quite happy with his life until Pig moves in. What’s a Pug to do when a Pig who moves into his home eats from his bowl, interrupts his routine, and sleeps on his bed? 

Opening pages:

“This is Pug’s home. This is where Pug lives.

This is Pug’s bowl. This is where Pug eats.

This is Pug’s yard. This is where Pug works.

This is Pug’s bed. This is where Pug sleeps.

Pug is happy hear at home with his bowl, his yard, and his bed. But one day when the door opens…” 

 Why I like this book Delightful story! The easy to read text delivers a powerful message about kindness, adapting to change, sharing, acceptance, and friendship. The illustrations are adorable and expressive. They show exactly how kids look when someone else wants what they have.

PUG meets PIG is a wonderful story to share with kids who are expecting a sibling, or learning to share, or who are having difficulty resolving conflicts. It is also a perfect story to introduce the concepts of empathy and kindness to very young children.

The easy to read text coupled with fun illustrations also makes this book a great pick for beginners to practice independent reading.

Resources

  • Find an activity guide to accompany the book here

  • We’ll see more of this dynamic duo in a second book “Pug & Pig Trick or Treat,” in July 2017.

Read more of today’s reviews at author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

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Miss Paul and the President by Dean Robbins

Miss Paul and the President by Dean Robbins

Today’s Perfect Picture Book pick is Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote. 

Written by: Dean Robbins

Illustrated by:  Nancy Zhang

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers  (September 2016)

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Activism, Right to vote, Women’s suffrage, US history

Brief Synopsis:  As a child Alice Paul saw her father go off to vote but not her mother. Why?  She studied the nation’s laws and knew they needed to change to allow women the right to vote. Alice protested in different ways and convinced other women to join her.

One day in 1914 she organized a parade that upstaged the arrival of the newly elected President, Woodrow Wilson. He asked to meet her. However the president told her he had more pressing issues to deal with that working on the women’s right to vote . But that didn’t stop Alice Paul. She persisted. Even the president’s daughter Margaret agreed with Alice Paul. Then one day in 1918, President Wilson agreed too!

Opening pages:

Alice Paul hurried up and down Pennsylvania Avenue in a purple hat.

She wanted to make everything perfect for her parade. A parade in Washington D. C. no one would ever forget!”

 Why I like this book This is a wonderful introduction to a female activist who was instrumental in the fight for the right to vote for women. Through scenes that are both playful and serious, Robbins tells the story of activism by describing the actions and persistence of Alice Paul. 

The book is a wonderful introduction to this period in history and could spark discussion about the US Constitution as well as the role of Congress in making laws. 

Resources

  • Scroll down the author’s website for Activities for Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote. 

  •  A teaching unit about women’s suffrage movement can be found from Rutgers: Teach a Girl to Lead

  • Head over to A Mighty Girl to find girl-empowering resources such as toys, movies, music and books. 

Read more of today’s reviews at author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

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The Girl with a Parrot on her Head

The Girl with a Parrot on her Head

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is The Girl with the Parrot on her Head

Written/Illustrated  by:  Daisy Hirst

Publisher: Candlewick (2016)

Suitable for ages: 2- 5

Themes/Topics: Coping with loss, anger, fear, anxiety, friendship

Brief Synopsis:  Isabel, who wears a parrot on her head, has a best friend named Simon who moves away. At first she hates everything and is able to cope by sorting and labeling her things into cardboard boxes.  Except she and her parrot worry about the box of wolves, especially what to do with one big wolf. Until she finds a big box. And inside that box is a boy named Chester who helps her deal with the wolf.

Opening pages:

“Once there was a girl with a parrot on her head. Her name was Isabel, and she had a friend named Simon, who was very good with newts.

But one day Simon went away in a truck and never came back.”

 Why I like this book This story addresses the range of emotions kids experience when coping with loss, anger, fear, and anxiety in a unique way.  The use of symbolism for anxiety and fear using boxes and wolves may be quirky, but effective. The illustrations cleverly show time through the seasons demonstrating coping while finding a solution to a problem takes time. Kids learn about different difficult feelings they may encounter when disappointed or hurt by the loss of a friend, but also that those feelings don’t always last. In the end, new friendships do come along.

Resources

Read more of today’s reviews at author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

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I YAM A DONKEY by Cece Bell

I YAM A DONKEY by Cece Bell

Although I read today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick last week, I YAM still laughing!

Title: I YAM A DONKEY story, pictures, and bad grammar

Written & Illustrated by:  Cece Bell

Publisher: Clarion Books (June 16, 2015)

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Wordplay, grammar, dialogue, humor

Brief Synopsis:  A yam, yes, a vegetable, determined to correct the grammar of an oblivious donkey fails because it’s just an impossible feat. The frustrated yam enlists other vegetables to help but remains unsuccessful. Alas, all good things must end and the surprise ending to this story is laugh out loud funny.

Opening pages:

YAM:  What did you say?  “I yam a donkey?” The proper way to say                               that is “I am a donkey.”

DONKEY: You is a donkey, too? You is a funny-looking donkey.

YAM:  No, I am a yam. You are the one who said, “I am a donkey.” 

Why I like this book It is laugh out loud funny! As the publisher’s blurb pointed out, I YAM A DONKEY can be compared to the comedic routine of the“Who’s on first.” about baseball by Abbott and Costello. What a fun way to teach grammar and dialogue. The ending is hilarious. I double dare you not to laugh while reading this book.


  • Find a comprehensive list of resources here with a links to Cece Bell’s school presentation reading the book, activities, crafts, material about yams and sweet potatoes, and other books on grammar, etc.

  • TeachersPayTeachers has a book companion unit here.

  • Find a free ESOL resource here.

  • After learning all about grammar, make some yam or sweet potato fries. Read the story and you’ll know why!

To read more reviews of today’s picks, visit author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

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The Littlest Streetcar by Vernon Smith

The Littlest Streetcar by Vernon Smith

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is The Littlest Streetcar by author-illustrator Vernon Smith. What a sweet story!

Written & Illustrated by:  Vernon Smith

PublisherPelican Publishing Company, Inc. (February 2017)

Suitable for ages: 3 and up

Themes/Topics: Self-Concept, Self-esteem, New Orleans, Louisiana, Streetcars & Trains, Transportation

Brief SynopsisThis is a story about a little streetcar named Charlie who wasn’t as popular as other streetcars because he was a maintenance vehicle. Convinced he was “just a worker car”, Charlie didn’t feel worthy or as important as the other streetcars until his skills helped them out of trouble. Charlie then realized he is appreciated and valuable and special, just they way he is.

 Opening pages:

“Charlie the Streetcar liked to roll down the tracks and enjoy his day. It made him very happy, because he didn’t go out all the time like the other streetcars.

Some days, Charlie was called upon to put sand on the rails. This would create traction, so the other streetcars could move without the wheels slipping and sliding.” 

 Why I like this book This is such an endearing story with a wonderful message. The Littlest Streetcar reminds readers that there is something special about each and every one of us. The artwork is colorful and expressive showing every character’s personality. See if you can find the spread where Vernon Smith gives a shout out to The King Cake Baby the first book we both published with Pelican; he as the illustrator.

In the back matter Smith gives a brief history about New Orleans streetcars and his inspiration for writing the story.

Resources

  • Learn more here about New Orleans Streetcars. And if you are ever in the city take a ride on one!

  • Read the history of trams, trolleys, and streetcars here and or visit your local train museum.

  • See this KidsHealth PreK-2 Teacher’s Guide on Self-esteem

  • Extension activities to help children develop self-esteem.

  • Extension crafts from Pinterest to help children develop self-esteem.

Read more today’s reviews at author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

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Chicory and Roux: The Creole Mouse and the Cajun Mouse

Chicory and Roux: The Creole Mouse and the Cajun Mouse

I was so pleased to receive an advanced copy of Chicory and Roux: The Creole Mouse and the Cajun Mouse to review for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday.  What a fun retelling of Aesop’s fable, The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, told Louisiana style!

Written by:  Todd-Michael St. Pierre

Illustrated byLee Brandt Randall

PublisherPelican Publishing (February 10, 2017)

Suitable for ages5-8

Themes/TopicsLouisiana, Creole and Cajun culture, animal folk tale, city vs. country living

Brief SynopsisThis is a story about two mice, Chicory from the city of New Orleans and Roux from the countryside of Southwest Louisiana. One day, Chicory fell asleep in a picnic basket and ended up in the countryside where she met Roux. They explored Roux’s hometown. Chicory found Roux’s food boring, and yikes…there were alligators in the swamp!  Chicory invited Roux to explore the city of New Orleans. Although they did pass a good time during Mardi Gras, Roux prefers the way the tradition is celebrated back home. The city may have fancy food but there were dangers Roux was not used to! Chicory and Roux parted ways but promised to keep in touch. They agreed that where they live is exactly where they’re meant to be.

Opening pages:

“Once upon a Louisiana time, there lived a Creole mouse named Chicory. One morning she climbed into a picnic basket to nibble on some French bread, and she feel fast asleep. A nice New Orleans family had packed the basket with their favorite foods, such as roast-beef po’boys, Creole tomatoes, and pecan pralines. As Chicory napped, she was carried away to a picnic on a humid day!

When she awoke, Chicory discovered that the basket was smackdab in the middle of a swamp!”

 Why I like this book Author Todd-St. Pierre cleverly adapted Aesop’s fable, The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, to create Chicory and Roux: The Creole Mouse and the Cajun Mouse. He highlighted city vs. country life through the lens of Louisiana culture.

When people find out I’m from New Orleans, often they ask, “What’s the difference between a Louisiana Creole and Louisiana Cajun?” And I always reply that the difference is similar to any region’s city vs. country living. Simply, where you choose to live influences how you live. As a city girl I attended undergraduate school in Lafayette, Louisiana located in the southwestern corner of the state. I had a wonderful experience, but I’m a New Orleans girl and identify with Chicory, the Creole Mouse! Yet I have friends and family who are like Roux, the Cajun Mouse, who would never leave the countryside. Truthfully, whether folks live in the city or the country we all celebrate the same wonderfully unique Louisiana culture.

There are two original songs at the end of the book, “Song of Roux: The Cajun Mouse and Song of Chicory: The Creole Mouse.

Resources

To read more reviews of today’s picks, visit author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

 

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Penguin Problems by Jory John

Penguin Problems by Jory John

Today’s pick for Perfect Picture Book Friday is… Penguin Problems

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Written by:  Jory John

Illustrated by: Lane Smith

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (September 2016)

Suitable for ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: penguins, grumpiness, pessimism, attitude

 

Brief Synopsis: One penguin’s pleasures are another penguin’s problems. The story follows a pessimistic penguin who complains about penguin life. The snow is too cold, the sea is too salty, and waddling makes him look silly. When he meets a wise walrus who helps him look on the bright side of life, the penguin changes his attitude. Or does he? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

 

Opening pageIt’s way too early.

                               My beak is cold.

                              What’s with all the squawking you guys?

 

Why I like this book: It’s hilarious! We’ve all met, um, penguins like this. You may live with one. You may work with one.  Maybe you’re a penguin! And Lane’s illustrations capture this little penguins attitude on every page.

Even if you are not a penguin, we’ve all certainly had penguin days, um, or weeks. One thing I’ve learned when that happens is to focus on doing something for someone else. I think giving your time or talent to help another person in is an uplifting experience, whether a planned activity or a random act of kindness.

 

Resources: It’s Not Fair! Tackling Your Child’s Complaints from Parents.com gives tips about how to deal with children who complain. 

 

Whine? Not! Four Ways to Deal with Whining Children from Parents.com gives tips about how to deal with children who whine.

 

5 WAYS TO TEACH GRATITUDE IN YOUR CLASSROOM shows creative ways to incorporate gratitude in your home or classroom. 

 

Find a lesson on gratitude for middle grade students here from Heart-Mind Online. 

 

To read more reviews of today’s picks, visit author Susanna Hill’s blog here.

 

Happy reading!

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Maneki Neko: the Tale of the Beckoning Cat

Maneki Neko: the Tale of the Beckoning Cat

Today’s pick for Perfect Picture Book Friday is Maneki Neko: the Tale of the Beckoning Cat 

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Written by:  Susan Lendroth

Illustrated by: Kathryn Otoshi

Publisher: Shen’s Books (July 2010)

Suitable for ages: 5 and up

Themes/Topics: Japan, legend of Maneki Neko, folk tale, gratitude

Brief Synopsis: A cat named Tama lives in a small Japanese village with a poor monk at the Kotoku Monastery. During a great storm a samurai takes cover under a tree not far from the temple. Tama is also stranded outside. When Tama is cleaning her face with her paw, the samurai sees the cat beckoning him. He moves toward the cat and the tree is hit by lightning. He believes the cat saved his life. 

In his gratitude, the samurai shared his wealth with the monk who then shared the riches with his village. When the cat died, the monk created the legend of Maneki Neko  “beckoning cat” or “lucky cat” to honor Tama. 

This is one of many versions of the Japanese legend of Maneki Neko, the beckoning cat. 

Opening page: You have come to the wrong place, little one, for I am as poor as you with few scraps to share,” said the monk when he first saw the cat sunning herself outside his door. Still, he smiled, scratching the thin fur behind her ears and the spot on her back, round as a child’s ball. 

The cat rolled, rubbing her head between the monk’s hand and the hard-packed earth, then immediately sat up to polish the dust from her face. One curled paw dipped and rose, beckoning to the monk like an old friend. 

Why I like this book: The artwork by Kathryn Otoshi captures the peacefulness and serenity of the landscape in many rural areas in Japan. 

The story is a beautiful memory of my years living and working there. These small figurines are found all over Japan and throughout Asia. Homes and businesses have Maneki Neko statues displayed with either its left or right paw raised. Businesses display cats with the left paw raised to bring in customers. A raised right paw is said to bring luck and money. The figurines come in a variety of colors that symbolize a different kind of luck. White is for happiness, gold brings money, black is for good health, and red is for love and relationships. 

The book introduces readers to Japanese culture and folklore.

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Photo : Sarah on Flickr

Resources:

See Sushi Cat for concentration and memory games. 

See DLTK for directions for making a Maneki Neko craft Education.com and Coloring Castle for a coloring pages. 

See Mr. Dunn‘s site for links, PowerPoint presentations, maps, and lesson plans about Japan for students of all ages. 

For more reviews of today’s picks, visit author Susanna Hill’s blog here.

Happy reading!

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Little Red Cuttlefish

Little Red Cuttlefish

Perfect Picture Book Friday is back! Today’s pick is Little Red Cuttlefish.

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Written by:  Henry Herz, Josh Herz, and Harrison Herz 

Illustrated by: Kate Gotfredson

Publisher: Pelican Publishing Company, Inc. (September 2016)

Suitable for ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: bravery, marine life, fractured fairy tale

Brief Synopsis: Little Red takes crab cakes to Grandmother Cuttlefish’s corral, but when she gets there, the big, bad, hungry tiger shark threatens to eat them. Little Red’s quick thinking and smooth moves saves the day!

Life under the sea is captured beautifully in the colorful and detailed illustrations by Kate Gotfredson. The movement and vibrant depiction of marine life brought back many fond memories of my experiences diving and snorkeling around the world.

Why I like this book: Little Red Cuttlefish is a fun, lively aquatic retelling of the classic Little Red Riding hood tale. Ocean references and active language is used throughout the story. The author’s note includes information about cuttlefish and tiger sharks and provides online resources for further reading. A nice addition for any home, elementary school, or classroom library.

Resources: The BBC, NOVA, PBS, etc. has cool videos on cuttlefish here.

The book also includes links to learn more about oceans and sea life from Oceana, Animal Planet, National Geographic and many others.

For more reviews of today’s picks, visit author Susanna Hill’s blog here.

Happy reading! Read the rest of this entry

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Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood

Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood

Today’s pick for Perfect Picture Book Friday is Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

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Written by: Susan Hood

Illustrated by: Sally Wern Comport

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (2016)

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Resilience, Poverty, Compassion, Courage, Community, Creativity, Paraguay, Music

Brief Synopsis: This is the true story of Ada Ríos and the start of The Recycled Orchestra from the small town of Catuera in Paraguay. Catuera isn’t like most places, it is part of a landfill made of trash. Poverty surrounds the people who live there and so does crime. As one can imagine, Ada and her parents worry about their future. Her grandmother took care of Ada before she was old enough for school while her parents worked. Her abuela loved to sing to Ada. Her whole family loved music. One day Ada’s grandmother saw a sign at the chapel from a music teacher named Favio Chávez offering free music lessons. She signed Ada up. But many children showed up for lessons and there only three guitars and two violins to share. Ada dreamed of playing the violin, but knew she needed an instrument of her own to practice. Her family had no money to spend on such a luxury. Then Señor Chávez had an idea. He knew of a band that made its own instruments so he asked a ganchero, a carpenter named Nicolás Gómez to help. With much experimentation, soon there were enough instruments, made from trash, for anyone who wanted to learn to play! Ada finally got a violin, made from recycled trash, of her very own. Readers follow Ada and her fellow musicians through their plight to learn to play these instruments all the way to their success taking the stage for audiences to hear them perform.

Opening pages:  “Ada Ríos grew up in a town made of trash.

Every morning at dawn, Ada heard the first garbage trucks rumble and roll down the road to Cateura. Beep, beep, beep! Backing into the landfill, they tipped their loads up and up and-CRASH! The trash came tumbling down-fifteen hundred tons each day.” 

Why I like this book: I spent last week in Paraguay. Music is a very important part of the culture. Although I did not see any musicians from Cateura play, I was fortunate to see a young man play a Paraguayan harp. And young women perform traditional dances. I am thrilled Susan Hood has shared this story of The Recycled Orchestra.

Families live in poverty all over the world. The story, Ada’s Violin, allows readers to empathize with their lives and witness their fight against such undesirable conditions. In this story we are witnesses to the power of courage, community, and creativity to overcome insurmountable odds.

 

Resources:

There is an author’s note that tells more about Ada, her family and the orchestra. She also adds url’s for websites and videos.

 

See the 60 Minute segment The Recyclers: From Trash Comes Triumph here.

 

For more of today’s reviews, see author Susanna Hill’s blog here.

Happy reading!

 

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Let Them Play by Margot Theis Raven

Let Them Play by Margot Theis Raven

Today’s pick for Perfect Picture Book Friday is Let Them Play

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Written by: Margot Theis Raven

Illustrated by: Chris Ellison

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press (2005)

Suitable for ages: 7 and up

Themes/Topics: Little League Baseball, US history, segregation, racism, Jim Crow south, Civil Rights, perseverance, resistance, resilience

Brief Synopsis: The story depicted in Let Them Play is true. In 1955, a segregated South Carolina had sixty-two official Little League teams. Only one of them, the Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars had African-American players. Like most young boys who loved baseball, they wanted to play, but the other white teams didn’t want to play them. After the sixty-one white teams pulled out of the Little League and formed another program, the Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars became state champs by default. However they did not qualify to play in the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania because they hadn’t actually won any games or their state’s tournament. The team ended up going to the World Series anyway in hopes of taking the field. The title Let Them Play is what the boys heard from the crowds in attendance who wanted to see them play.

Opening pages:  “Most folks say it was Coach Ben Singleton who pulled the all-star dreams from the sky over Harmon Field and sprinkled them in the eyes of 14 boys the summer of 1955. Not that baseball dreams weren’t already rising high as the heat waves on noonday porches all over Charleston’s Upper Westside.

Boys wanted to be Jackie Robinson playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and mothers like Flossie Bailey on Strawberry Lane wanted to find their missing mop handles. Stickball players like her son John used the handles as bats to hit half-rubber balls and sandlot player made mitts from paper bags or cardboard sewn with shoelaces.” 

Why I like this book: Its baseball season and opening days are happening all over the country. My kids participated in team sports because we wanted them to learn about rules, and what it takes to be a team player as well as other life lessons.  There is much to learn from sports, like sportsmanship and playing fair. We also know kids learn that sometimes life can be unfair and even harsh.

Let Them Play is about the true life events of young athletes who were treated differently based solely on the color of their skin.  The bigotry and discrimination these young players experienced were common during this time, especially across the southern United States.  This story gives readers specific examples of what it was like for African-Americans who lived in the Jim Crow south during segregation where racism was so prevalent. It also shows readers examples of pride, perseverance, resilience and resistance. For those looking for a story with wonderful examples of how oppressed people navigated life under adverse conditions, this one hits a home-run.

 

Resources:

See discussion questions and activities from the William Allen White Children’s Book Award  here.

Check out author Susanna’s Hill’s Perfect Picture Book page here to read more of today’s book reviews.

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Ask Me by Bernard Waber

Ask Me by Bernard Waber

Ask Me is my pick for today’s for Perfect Picture Book Friday review!

Written by: Bernard Waber

Illustrated by: Suzy Lee

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (July 14, 2015)

Suitable for ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: parent-child relationship, father-daughter bonding, curiosity, patience, wonder

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Brief Synopsis:  “Ask me what I like,” a little girl asks her father as they take a stroll through the neighborhood on a cool fall day. And so he asks, “What do you like?” The child answers, the father sometimes probe for more information, and they continue the dialogue over and over throughout the book. You can feel the child’s energy as she provides list after list of things she likes each time she sees something different. This is a wonderful story that shows the special parent-child bond between a father and his daughter.

Opening pages:

Ask me what I like,”

“What do you like?”

“I like dogs.”

“I like cats.”

 “I like turtles.”

Why I like this book: This story captures a precious moment in time every parent is bound to recognize. It reminds us of the innocence of childhood and all the wonders in the world they see, even when on a simple walk.

The illustrations are delightful and colorful. A lovely read aloud and bedtime book.

To read other Perfect Picture Book Friday picks from today, head over to author Susanna Hill’s page here. Check out her new blog for the New Year!

Happy reading!

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Picture Books for the Holiday & Ever After

Picture Books for the Holiday & Ever After

There are many lists out there for all your holiday reading needs. Many from well known sources. Most books never make those lists. As a new author, I know the importance of getting the word out about your work. We certainly can’t buy every book published, but we can support authors, illustrators, and bookstores by sharing those we read and enjoy. Blogging or writing reviews on sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads also helps spread the word. So I created my own list.

Gingerbread books

It’s not just books, but people who blog frequently about books. People who are passionate about picture books and what they mean to kids and parents and teachers and librarians.

Anyone looking for a gift or simply love to read and or collect picture books, below are links to some fabulous titles.

Goodreads with Ronna has two posts about Christmas books Roundup Part 1 and Part 2

Just Us Books put together a list of holiday books with diverse themes and or character or by authors least represented in the world of publishing.

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) launched a Book Party event to help support their membership in an effort to market 2015 releases.

What about after the holiday? Below are my go to blogs for learning about books by reading reviews. It’s a very diverse list because I am a huge supporter of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #ReadYourWorld campaigns.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day  is January 27, 2016. This site showcases new and old releases with diverse content.

Mia Wenjen aka Pragmatic Mom , Co-Founder of Multicultural Children’s Book Day blogs about parenting, books, and education.

Valarie Budayr Jump Into A Book, Co-Founder of Multicultural Children’s Book Day. Valarie says, “Jump into a Book is a site about the love of children’s books and how they can incorporate them into our everyday lives through play, crafting, cooking, movies, games, traveling and author visits. At JIAB, we strive to pull books off shelves and stories off pages to create reading experiences for families.”

Susanna Hill hosts Perfect Picture Book Friday. Authors and writers share weekly book reviews. She has an extensive list of books by category.

Patricia Tilton, Children’s Books Heal. Looking for a book that addresses a tough topic? Search this blog. Patricia says, “I want my blog to be a resource for parents, grandparents and teachers who are searching for a special gem that will help a child through a tough time.” And it is indeed.

Juliana Lee’s Crafting Stories. From her Books Alive! page or Celebrate Every Day with a Picture Book page, or easy reader and early chapter book reviews from her 2015 Cybils page, Juliana has something current for everyone.

Tiffa blogs about picture books she reads with her two sons at her site, The Picture Book Review. Note: They read a lot of books!

Goodreads with Ronna by Ronna Mandel who is a former Associate Editor at L.A. Parent, and a team of reviewers keep us up to date on current releases. She reviews inclusive books with characters and or topics specific to a population with special needs.

Danielle Davis blogs at This Picture Book Life, She says, “This blog brings picture books to life through crafts, book pairings, interviews, recipes, and other fun stuff.” Her reviews are thought provoking and honest.

See my picture book reviews here and my perfect picture book pairs here or on Facebook.

These are a few of my favorites, there are so many, many more.

Happy Holiday reading! Happy reading in 2016!

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Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules

Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules
DUCK FOR TURKEY DAY is my pick for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday post!

Written: Jacqueline Jules   9780807517345

illustrated by: Kathryn Mitter

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company (2009)

Suitable for ages: 6-8

Topics/Themes: Vietnamese culture, American Thanksgiving, cultural awareness, cultural diversity, acceptance, assimilation, acculturation

Brief Synopsis: DUCK FOR TURKEY DAY is the story of a girl of Vietnamese heritage who learns about Thanksgiving in school. The class makes a turkey from pine cones, sing Turkey songs, and her teacher refers to the day as turkey day, but her family always serves duck. Tuyet’s plan is to convince her family to eat turkey, known by many as the ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving food. But they end up using her grandmother’s recipe for duck like they always do and Tuyet even has a second helping. When school resumes after the holiday, Tuyet is reluctant to talk about her holiday meal until other classmates tell about their dinners that included lamb, enchiladas, and noodles.

Opening pages:  To get ready for Thanksgiving, Tuyet’s class sang Turkey songs. They made pine cone turkeys. They talked about Pilgrims and Native Americans.

“See you Monday.” Mrs. Cook said when the bell rang. “Have a good Turkey Day.”

Why I like this book: DUCK FOR TURKEY DAY is a delightful book which introduces children to Vietnamese culinary traditions. It is a perfect fit to include in a  #weneeddiversebooks list. In addition to addressing cultural diversity, there is multi-generational component weaved into the story that I also enjoyed. It’s is a wonderful story that demonstrates there is no ‘right way’ to celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving.  The day is also about giving thanks and spending time with family, not  only eating turkey!

Resources:

Click here for the Children’s Choice Award lesson plan on page 12.

Click here for the library sparks lesson plan.

Click here for multicultural Thanksgiving Songs by the Jacqueline Jules.

Click here to see the book trailer.

For more of today’s book reviews, click here go to author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book page.

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I AM A BEAR by Jean-François Dumont

I AM A BEAR by Jean-François Dumont

I AM A BEAR  is my pick for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday post!

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Written/Illustrated by: Jean-François Dumont

Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, English Edition 2015
Originally published in France under the title Je Suis un Ours by Kaléidoscore, 2010

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: homelessness, poverty, compassion, kindness, friendship, hope

Brief Synopsis: I AM BEAR is a story written from a bear’s point of view who sleeps on the sidewalk, on cardboard boxes, in old clothes. We learn early on people do not like this dirty, smelly, hungry, homeless bear which makes him sad until he meets a little girl.

Opening pages:  “I don’t know how I got here… I have no memory of my life before, just a few images that flash before my eyes from time to time, like the car headlights that sweep over my bed at night. All I know is that one morning I woke up here, on this street, and I haven’t left since.”

Why I like this book: This is a heartwarming story about what life is like for someone who is homeless and sleeps on the streets. It allows readers to experience the despair many homeless feel when trying to find food and or shelter. And the humiliation they feel when asking strangers to help. The bear realizes that people no longer pay attention to him but on one day when sitting on the sidewalk feeling grumpy, a little girl walks up to him and asks, “Why do you look so sad?” She reminds her of a ”teddy bear”. Unlike the adults bear encountered, this act of kindness gives him hope.

This is a wonderful story to introduce young children to a difficult topic. The bold illustrations keep readers engaged and helps deliver a message about social ills such as homelessness and poverty that exist everywhere.

Resources:

Click here for The Teddy Bear Project based on another book, The Teddy Bear about a boy who gives a bear to a homeless man.

Click here for teaching kids about poverty using chocolate. Especially good at this time of year when those of us celebrate Thanksgiving by overindulging in food.

Click here for lesson plans from Teaching Tolerance: A Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center geared toward grades 3-5 about poverty and homelessness.

For more of today’s book reviews, click here  to go to author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book page.

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