Category Archives: Susanna Hill

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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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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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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Always Remember by Cece Meng

Always Remember by Cece Meng

Today’s pick for Perfect Picture Book Friday is Always Remember 

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Written by: Cece Meng

Illustrated by: Jago

Publisher: Philomel Books (2016)

Suitable for ages: Preschool and up

Themes/Topics: Life, death, grief, remembrance, legacy

Brief Synopsis: In the end, Old Turtle takes his last swim, and his last breath and he was gone. But is he? Physically yes, but his legacy lives on when all those he touched share their memories of him.  Other turtles he taught to swim, otters remember he loved to play, a manatee remembers how Old Turtle rescued him when tangled in a net.

Opening pages:  In the end,  on his very last day, Old Turtle swam his last swim and took his last breath. With his life complete, the gentle waves took him away.

 By dawn, everyone who knew Old Turtle knew he was gone.

Why I like this book: This book is tender and deals with an emotional topic in a very kid friendly way. Although death is a part of life, and can be unexpected or expected, grieving is part of the process.  The author showcases a way to grieve, by remembering how those departed have touched our lives. The illustrations are wonderfully tender and quiet.

Resources:

A gallery of art from the illustrator may be found here.

Advice about discussing death with children from a Hospice site may be found here and from the National Funeral Directors Association 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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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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5th Annual Halloweensie Contest – BOO-YAH!

5th Annual Halloweensie Contest – BOO-YAH!

It’s the end of October and writers know what that means.  Halloween-sie time! At this time of the year author Susanna Hill hosts a writing contest. Participates submit a short story using 100 words or less in poetry or prose that must use specific vocabulary, for a chance to win prizes. This year the words are haunt, dark, and costume. Read my entry below, then click here to check out Susanna’s page for some delightful stories created by some amazing kidlit writers and writer-illustrators.

anigh02                                 BOO-YAH!

“What are you working on Boo?” asked Spooky.

“Tweaking this Fright-O-Meter I created after the haunt contest last year.” she said. “It measures scare responses.”

“Such a dark day losing to those deadbeat zombies.” said Spooky. “Let’s go to the mall to test it.”

Boo set the instrument to super scary. They used chain clangs, shrill shrieks, and windy woos to frighten shoppers. The machine flashed.  Her invention worked.

“We’ll lose again over my dead body!” said Spooky.

Boo could see his spirit lift.

On Halloween night, they scared the pants off every human in costume winning 1st place. BOO-YAH!

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