When Grandfather Flew by Patricia MacLachlan

When Grandfather Flew

Patricia MacLachlan, Author

Chris Sheban, Illustrator

Neal Porter Books, Fiction, Jul. 27, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Bird watching, Grandfathers, Nature, Grief

Opening: “When we were younger — before his hair turned white and when he could still see — my older brother, Aidan, and I called him “birdman.”

Synopsis:

Grandfather loves birds and spending time with his youngest grandson, Milo. Together they marvel over the brisk wing beat of the sharp-shinned hawk, the hovering kestrel, and Grandfather’s favorite, the soaring bald eagle. But in time Grandfather’s eyes grow dim, and he needs to rely on his sharp ears and the eyes of others to help him identify the cedar waxwing, the bluebird, and the junco. But one day when Milos comes home from school, his grandfather isn’t there. 

Why I like this book:

When Grandfather Flew is such a loving tribute to a grandfather, who shared his passion of bird watching and nature with his grandchildren, Aiden, Emma and Milo. Patricia MacLachlan’s text is poetic and fills readers with many joyful moments. The moments become memories that deliver a beautiful response at the end.  

This is  heartwarming tale is narrated by Emma. Milo, is the youngest, and he carefully listens to everything his grandfather teaches them about birds, their beaks, wings, and their songs. They quietly step into nature and enjoy their time together outdoors observing the birds on the farm. Grandfather’s favorite bird is the high-soaring bald eagle. “Look up,” he’d say to Milo. “The eagle sees the full sky, he sees the world.”  

Chris Sheban’s soft watercolor and pastel illustrations make this book breathtaking celebration of life. Make sure you check out the endpapers with the gorgeous drawings of a variety of birds.  When Grandfather Flew may be a gentle and reassuring story for children who’ve lost a close family member. It is an inspiring  story that focuses on so many beautiful memories. I plan to give this book to great grandchildren.  

This book is also a timely book to introduce children to bird counting and conservation. The 122nd annul Christmas Bird Count is inspired by a national citizen science project in which everyone can participate. This year it runs from Dec. 14 until Jan. 5, 2022.  Many hold special Christmas bird counts for kids. And there is a Great Backyard Bird Count  a February 18-21, 2022 and many other counts throughout the years.

Resources: Take children bird watching. Sometimes you only need to look in your own backyard. Ask them what’s their favorite bird. Have them draw a picture. They can check out the endpapers to see Sheban’s pencil drawings. Remember to introduce your kids to the annual Christmas Bird Count and The Great Backyard Bird Count. Visit the Audubon website for a list of count circles near you.  And visit the Sonoma Birding website and the eBird website to do you own bird count any day of the year and track your counts. 

Patricia MacLachlan is the author of many novels for children, including the Newbery Medal-winning Sarah, Plain and Tall; Baby; Waiting for Magic; and The Truth of Me. Among her picture books are  Snowflakes Fall, The Iridescence of Birds, Someone Like Me, and What You Know First. She lives in Western Massachusetts.

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.

Our Table by Peter H. Reynolds

Our Table

Peter H. Reynolds, Author and Illustrator

Orchard Books, Fiction, Nov. 2, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Table, Memories, Family, Togetherness, Technical devices, Creativity, Fable 

Opening: “Violet fondly remember the table.”

Synopsis:

Violet reminisces about the many meals that she shares around the table with her family. She remembers the time they spend setting the table, preparing meals and sharing their days. Gathering with her family was a joyful part of Violet’s day.

Things begin to change and her father is planted in an over-sized chair in front of his big screen. Her mother sits on the stairway texting friends. And her brother is in his room playing games with friends. Her family is not communicating with each other. Violet is lonely as she sits at the table by herself. 

One day Violet notices that the table looks smaller. Everyday she checks the table and it continues to shrink and NO ONE in her family seems to notices because they are involved with their technical devices. Then one day “poof” the table is gone. Violet is courageous and comes up with a creative plan (a big idea) to help her family connect with one another again. She begins by climbing onto her father’s lap and asks if they can watch a special program together… (No Spoilers beyond this point.)

Why I love this book:

Our Table is a modern fable that is timeless for children and adults. It is a heartfelt, uplifting and important message for all families to balance their time connecting with each other and setting limits on their use of technical devices.  

Reynolds is a master at using spare text with his emotive illustrations that really show the story. At the beginning of the story when Violet remembers her good memories of family gatherings around the table, the illustrations are full color. When her family begins to drift, the watercolor illustrations are painted in shades or purple, showing the depth of Violet’s despair. But, Reynolds writes hopeful stories, so the illustrations return to joyous color at the end.  Our Table is an important story about human connections. With the holidays quickly approaching it offers an opportunity to be grateful. I love the quote on the back cover of the book: Remember the gift of time shared together.

Resources: Talk about fun memories you share at your table. I remember that the table in my home was the center for all family meals and talking about our day. There was always after-school treats waiting on the table. We did homework, played board and card games, did artwork projects, made homemade pinatas, gingerbread houses, baked Christmas cookies, and made gratitude trees. What are some of the memories you have about your table? 

Peter H. Reynolds is the author and illustrator of many books for children, parents, and educators alike, including The Dot, Ish, the New York Times bestseller The Word Collector and The Peace Train. He lives in Dedham, Massachusetts, where he owns a bookshop, the Blue Bunny. Learn more about Reynolds at his website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
 
*Reviewed from a purchased copy.

My Story Friend by Kalli Dakos

My Story Friend

Kalli Dakos, Author

Dream Chen, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, May 2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Boy, Compassion, Listening, Self-acceptance

Opening: “There is the person who tells the story. This is the story teller. / And there is the person who listens to the story. This is the story friend.”

Publisher’s Synopsis

When a child treks across the land in search of someone to tell his sad story to, he meets a gruff mountain man who can’t stand unhappy stories and a too busy to be bothered farmer.  Finally he meets an old woman, who tells stories herself and is willing to  listen. She becomes his story friend. The act of telling the story leads the child to look at the other side and make what was dark lighter and full of hope and positivity.

The true potency of needing to express one’s unhappiness and the power of having someone else listen and help is a strong message for young readers. Like a favorite teacher or mentor, they may not be around forever, just for a short but meaningful time.

What I like about this story:

My Story Friend is beautifully written in free verse by poet Kalli Dakos. Her gentle and compelling storytelling will capture the hearts of readers of all ages. Kids will cheer for the boy when he finds the old woman who will let him unload his burden. When the old woman patiently listens, the boy gains some of his own insights about himself. Dream Chen’s textured illustrations are colorful and emotive and perfectly suit the boy’s journey.

Everyone has a story to tell, whether it is sad, joyful, or humorous. Everyone needs to have someone to listen. Dakos’s story encourages  children to listen with empathy and compassion when their friends and siblings need to talk. And it also encourages readers to seek out a trusting friend or tteacher if they want to share something that is troubling them. 

Favorite quote: “We talked all afternoon, and I learned that when we tell our stories over and over again to someone who listens with a big heart, then our stories become softer like butter melting in the sun, and if we are really lucky, the story tells us what to do.”

Resources: This is a perfect classroom book. Encourage children to write about their own lives. Sharing is up to them. But, pairing kids with a buddy might work well. It is also an excellent book for parents to use if they think their child is being bullied or is troubled about something. The book will guide discussions.

Kalli Dakos is a children’s poet and educator. She visits schools across the United States and Canada to encourage children and teacher to write about their own lives. She has written many collections of school poems that include six ILA?CBC Children’s Choice selections, such as If You’re Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand, and They Only See the Outside. She lives in Ottawa Canada, and has an office in Ogedensburg, NY.  Visit her Dakos 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 Magination Press in exchange for a review.

What Boys Do by Jon Lasser

What Boys Do

Jon Lasser, Author

Robert Paul Jr., Illustrator

Magination Press,  Fiction, Nov. 9, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Boys, Embracing individuality, Diversity, Self-esteem, Kindness, Friendships, Rhyme

Opening “There are many ways to be a boy, and so many more ways to be you!”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

What exactly do boys do?

The answer is ANYTHING and EVERYTHING!

From eating to dreaming, making mistakes to exploring, to hurting and loving, there is more to being a boy than meets the eye.

In this fun, affirming book that holds no restraints to traditional norms about what it means to be a boy, readers will rejoice at all of the possibilities.

Why I like this book:

Jon Lasser’s inspiring book celebrates boyhood and encourages boys to embrace all the many things that make them each unique.  Readers will meet boys who love to create, explore, try new things, ask questions, share feelings, team-up with others, pursue dreams and do things they’ve never tried. It’s all about letting go and being themselves.

The rhyming is exceptional, with each sequence ending in a question to readers. What a clever way to encourage discussion on every page. “Do you share a story or something to eat? / Notice your feelings when you gather and meet?” Do they listen to others? Are they kind? Can they overcome hardships. Are they okay with being different? Are they making a difference in their world? This is definitely a read aloud.

This is book speaks to boys, but Robert Paul’s illustrations are inclusive and represent all kinds of kids — even girls. His large expressive and vibrant illustrations include a diverse cast of characters representing different cultures and those who are differently abled. And look at that spectacular cover!

Resources: This book is a resource and will spark many interesting discussions at home and in the classroom. Make sure you check out the Reader’s Note at the end which includes information on how gender role stereotypes can be harmful to boys and how parents and teachers can “support healthy emotional development in boys by supporting their personhood rather than a more narrowly defined boyhood.”

Jon Laser is a school psychologist and professor at Texas State University in San Marcos. Jon is the co-author of Grow Happy, Grow Grateful, and Grow Kind. He lives in Martindale, Texas. Visit him @JonSLasser on Twitter.

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 Magination Press in exchange for a review.

Twitchy Witchy Itch by Priscilla Tey

Twitchy Witchy Itch

Priscilla Tey, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Jun. 24, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Witches, Tea Party, Cleaning, Being yourself, Friendship

Opening: “In just ten minutes, the clock would chime tea o-clock. In just ten minutes, Itch the witch would have two witchy neighbors over for tea.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Tick, tock! / Three cups. / Tick tock! / Three saucers.

With nine minutes left, everything is ready. Or is it? As the clock counts down to tea o’clock, Itch the witch’s mind is in a tizzy: Is her house too twitchy? If her home to itchy? Zippity-zoom! Itch grabs a duster and broom. What spell will she say? The guests are already on their way!

Why I like this book:

Priscilla Tey’s charming story carries a sweet message for kids about how important it is to be yourself at all times. Witchy Itch’s neighbors love her home just as it is and have a grand time at tea.  

The language is entertaining and repetitive, includes a few tongue twisters and a lot of fun words: Swish, swash,  zipity-zoom, kaboom, witchity-woosh, ka-boosh, itchy, and twitchy. This will make for a delightful read aloud. It is a perfect seasonal read with Halloween approaching.

Tey’s lively illustrations are quirky colorful, and a tad eccentric. Just look at that cover! The expression on Itch’s face shows the growing panic she feels as spells go wrong and mayhem wins. I also love the mice, bugs, spiders. lizards and cute monkey that live in her home. Make sure you study each page because there may be some other hidden animals.

Resources: With Halloween approaching encourage kids to draw a picture of a witch doing something unusual and fun: having a pajama party, riding a skateboard, racing a car/broom, or sitting by a campfire roasting something. Be creative.

Priscilla Tey is a graduate of the  Rhode Island School of Design. Her first book for children, In-Between Thing, was called “unique and thought-provoking” by School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly praised her “quirky, ingenious, and highly disciplined” aesthetic. A native of Singapore, Priscilla Tey returned home after completing her degree and splits her time between illustrating and teaching.

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 Candlewick in exchange for a review.

Ferry Boat by Michael Garland

Ferry Boat (I Like to Read)

Michael Garland, Author and Illustrator

Holiday House, Fiction, Jan. 5, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Ferry Boat, Passengers, Manhattan, NYC

Opening: “We go on the ferry.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

A blow-by-blow account of one of the most famous ferry rides in the world, this Level F book is perfect for kindergarteners and first graders to read on their own.

Breathtaking scenes illustrate and illuminate a text that is just right for new readers:

We go on the ferry.
Let’s go to the window.
We see a fort.
We see a long, long bridge.

Realistic digital etchings of the Manhattan skyline, the escalator to a gangplank, New York City crowds, and landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and more give new readers an experience that builds skills, boosts confidence, and shows how reading is fun!

This book has been officially leveled by using the Fountas & Pinnell Text Level Gradient(TM) Leveling System.
The award-winning I Like to Read series features guided reading levels A through G, based upon Fountas & Pinnell standards. Acclaimed author-illustrators—including winners of Caldecott, Theodor Seuss Geisel, and Coretta Scott King honors—create original, high-quality illustrations that support comprehension of simple text and are fun for kids to read again and again with their parents, teachers or on their own!

Level F books, for early first graders, feature longer, more varied sentences than Level E. Level F books encourage kids to decode new multi-syllable words in addition to recognizing sight words. Stories are more complex, and illustrations provide support and additional detail. When Level F is mastered, follow up with Level G.

Why I like this book:

Michael Garland’s Ferry Boat is perfect for early readers. It is told from the viewpoint of a child taking a first ferry boat ride from Manhattan to the Staten and back. Through the child’s eyes readers will view the hustle and bustle of passengers boarding the ferry, peering out of large windows, viewing the skyline of Manhattan, passing Ellis Island, Castle Williams, the Verrazzano Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty. 

Young readers will be enticed to explore Garland’s stunning signature illustrations. Just look at that gorgeous cover of the Ferry Boat! Each unique spread exhibits a wood grain effect that adds texture to the colorful Staten Island ferry boat, the sites and the happy activities on  passengers, who reflect the diversity of New York City. The artwork is simply beautiful!

Make sure you check out a picture of a grinning five-year-old Michael Garland’s first ferry boat ride at the end of the story. His book is a labor of love and a keepsake for many.  I remember my first ride as a teen..   

Resources: Autumn is the perfect time to take your child for a ride on the Staten Island Ferryboat, if you visit or live near New York City. We don’t have ferry boats in Ohio, but we have historic steam boats (paddle boats) cruises along the Ohio River. You may find ferry boats and riverboats in your area if you live in Michigan, Missouri, Texas, Virginia, Seattle, WA, South Carolina and Florida. Do some research.  Encourage kids to make their own boats. Check out this kid’s activities blog.

Michael Garland has written and illustrated many books for children, including Fish Had a Wish (Kirkus Reviews Top 25 Children’s Books), Tugboat (Best Children’s Books for Family Literacy), Pizza Mouse (Junior Library Guild Selection), and Birds Make Nests (Correll Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Informational Text and NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book). His art for James Patterson’s Santa Kid inspired Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas Holiday windows. He has also written many wonderful Christmas books.  Visit his website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website. 

13 Ways to Eat a Fly by Sue Heavenrich

13 Ways to Eat a Fly

Sue Heavenrich, Author

David Clark, Illustrator

Charlesbridge, Nonfiction, Feb. 26, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Flies, Predators, Subtraction, Counting, STEM

Opening: “Big flies, small flies, fat flies, thinner. / Yum! These flies are someone’s dinner.” 

Book Jacket Synopsis:

A swarm of 13 flies buzzes by, losing one member to each predator along the way, whether the unfortunate insects are zapped, wrapped, liquefied, or zombified, the science is real — and hilariously gross.

Science meets subtraction in this clever reverse counting book about predators and prey.

Why I like this book:

Sue Heavenrich’s novel perspective on flies will delight children of all ages — and some adults too. Flies may be annoying, but you may want to think twice before you reach for a fly swatter because there are a host of insects, animals and plants who depend upon them for food — frogs, spiders, fish, birds, bats, and the Venus flytrap. Flies are full of protein and an important part of the food chain. And oops, even people eat these harmless flies by mistake.

I have a  4-year-old great nephew in Florida who loves everything bugs. So this was a MUST June birthday book for him! He has committed the facts to memory and has a great time telling the story in his own words — especially to his older sister. My niece especially loves the counting aspect of the book. So far he hasn’t asked her to bake a cake with fly protein powder — yes, it exists.

The layout of the book is delightful, with fun rhymes and a few lines of informational text. The book counts backwards starting with 13 flies. David Clark’s humorous and embellished illustrations show flies being gobbled up by predators. They are also very colorful and lively. Did you know that frogs use their eyeballs to push flies down their throat and garden spiders catch them in their webs and inject venom to kill it! When thousands of tiny flies hatch over a stream, a trout can devour five hundred in one day. That’s impressive.

Resources: There are so many ways to use this book with young children — at home and school.  Encourage kids to draw a picture of a fly being eaten for dinner. Ask kids if they’ve knowingly swallowed a fly by accident while playing outdoors. Make sure you check out the backmatter, as Heavenrich includes a humorous section on the edible parts of a fly, a Non-Human guide to fine dining, and other books, website and resources. Visit her at her website.

Sue Heavenrich is a curious naturalist and is particularly amazed by the diversity of insects that visit her garden. After years as a journalist she is trading in her reporter’s notebooks and writing for children. Her 2018 book, Diet for a Changing Climate: Food for Thought (co-authored with Christy Mihaly) shows how we can help reduce greenhouse gases – and maybe help solve global hunger – by putting bugs, weeds, and invasive species on our plates. Recipes included. When not writing, Sue volunteers as a citizen scientist, counting bees and other pollinators. Follow her blog Archimedes Notebook where she shares a lot of science, nature  and STEM books for 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.

*Reviewed from a library copy I asked my library to order. 

Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter by Jamie Michalak

Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter

Jamie Michalak, Author

Kelly Murphy, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Jun. 23, 2021

Suitable for ages: 3-7

Themes: Animals, Mouse, Adventure, Art, Museum

Opening: “In the Great, Big City, / in the great big museum, / a clock tick-tocks past midnight. / Doors are locked. / Guards keep watch. / All is still, until…”

Synopsis:

In the dark of night, in the big museum, a tiny creature emerges from the shadows. Who is this mouse of mystery? It’s Dakota Crumb, scurrying through the great halls, hunting for treasure with a map in and sack in hand. Hundreds of eyes peer from paintings and follow this mouse as she searches for a famous priceless treasure, that is hidden somewhere in the museum and is marked with an X on her map.

Along the way she spots other treasures left behind by daytime’s human visitors and Dakota pops them in her sack. Will this be the night she will finally find the purple jewel of Egypt she’s been searching for? The sun is rising and off she scampers into her mouse home. And what a home it is!

Why I like this story:

What a delightful and entertaining picture book that will remind readers of the “Night in the Museum” theme. Children will love the suspense of what is lurking around each gallery corner, as Dakota makes her way past exhibits of knights in armor, frozen statues, stuffed animals, pyramids and mummies.

Readers will enjoy guessing just what she does with all the hidden treasures in her mouse hole. Such a clever story with beautiful double-page illustrations that support her nightly journey. Kelly Murphy’s eye-popping art really gives the reader a sense of drama and movement as Dakota scampers about. At the end of the story, readers will get a peek at Dakota’s list of treasures and can go on their own seek-and-find hunt looking for a lot of the treasures on her list. This is a perfect read aloud.  

Resources: Kids will have fun searching for all of the hidden items in the book on Dakota’s list.  Parents can help them invent their own rainy-day treasure inside the house or outside. I use to hide items with clues that kids can follow to find the treasures in our yard.  A nature theme would be fun for outside.

Jamie Michalak is the author of numerous books for children, including the Joe and Sparky series, and Frank and Bean.  Jamie lives in the smallest state, Rhode Island.

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 Candlewick Press in exchange for a review.

A Feel Better Book for Little Sports by Holly Brochmann and Leah Bowen

A Feel Better Book for Little Sports 

Holly Brochmann and Leah Bowen, Authors

Shirley Ng-Benitez, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Aug. 24, 2021

Suitable for ages: 2-5

Themes: Sportsmanship, Teamwork, Resilience, Fun, Rhyme

Opening: All over the world, / in all different places, / people of all ages, genders, and races… / Share a love for SPORTS — they’re so much fun! / Yippee! Hooray! / Your team has won!

Book Jacket Synopsis:

The acclaimed Feel Better Books for Little Kids series now offers an upbeat rhyming story that tackles the fun and the not-so-fun parts of sports: winning, losing, being a good sport, and even resilience. This is a helpful book for little ones who are just entering the world of competitive play, so that they can get the most out of their activities.

Why I like this book:

Brochmann and Bowen’s picture book  is a perfect read for young children who get involved in sports at an early age. What child doesn’t like to run, swim, dance, skateboard, and play soccer, baseball, football, and tennis?  Sports can be a BIG deal for a little child, especially if they have older siblings who are sport enthusiasts!

What I love about this book is that it focuses more on what sports do for children and not so much on winning — although that’s fun too. It brings kids together. It helps them exercise their body and brain and work on their coordination. It teaches kids respect and consideration for others, especially when they win and an opponent loses. This is a very balanced and important book for at home or school.

The rhyming text is snappy and Shirley Ng-Benitez illustrations are lively and colorful. The children represent a diverse group of sport enthusiasts and those who are differently-abled. 

Resources: The author offers an insightful Note to Parents and Caregivers at the end of the book with more information about ways to help kids get the most out of sports while they have fun learning.

Holly Brochmann  and Leah Bowen are sisters and co-athors. This is the sisters’ fourth book in the Feel Better Books for Little Kids series: For Little Tears, For Little Worriers, Little Poopers, and For Little Tempers. Leah is a licensed professional counselor and registered play therapist. Holly has a degree in journalism and has a career in public relations. Both sisters live in Texas. You can visit them at their 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 publisher in exchange for a review.”

Mr. Quigley’s Keys by Barbara Gruener

Mr. Quigley’s Keys

Barbara Gruener, Author

Audrye Williams, Illustrator

EduMatch Publishing, Jun. 8, 2021

Suitable for ages: 5-10

Themes: Handyman, Deaf, School, Work ethic, Kindness, Empathy, Service 

Opening: “He’s almost heeeeere!” I called out cheerfully as soon as I heard the clanging cadence of Mr. Quigley’s keys.” 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Adapted from the real-life story of an unsung hero, Mr. Quigley’s Keys invites you to walk in the work shoes of a beloved handyman as he quietly jingles through the school hallways, listening for ways to serve and connecting by heart.

Bask in the admiration and pride that the students feel for their Navy veteran, whose war injury left him deaf, and watch as his every move models the school’s keys to connection: love, perseverance, work ethic, empathy, goodness, and peace.

Spend a birthday in the cafeteria and experience the joy of receiving a Quigley creation, then savor the sweetness as the can-doer classmates turn the tables to thank their faithful fix-it friend. Turn the final page for a key twist that’ll wrap you up in a huge hug of gratitude and love.

What’s to love about this book:

Barbara Gruener has written an inspiring story that is full of heart, kindness, humor and connection. Her narrative is rich and lyrical. And to hear Gruencer read her book aloud is a special experience (video trailer below). Audrye Williams’s bright and cheery illustrations illuminate Gruener’s storytelling. This picture book belongs in every classroom because there are many themes that will lend themselves to important classroom discussions.

Mr Quigley’s Keys is based on the life of a beloved school maintenance man who spends his days interacting with students through his acts of kindness and compassion. Mr. Quigley is deaf, but that doesn’t interfere with his ability to connect with students. He is very sensitive to emotions, doesn’t mind tying a shoe lace, and makes sure every student has a hand-drawn card on their birthday.  

You can feel the students’ excited anticipation when they hear Mr. Quigley’s keys jingle in the hallway before he enters their classroom to help fix a problem. His keys are special, because each is engraved with positive traits that fit him perfectly. The students  love him so much they want to do something very special for his upcoming birthday. It’s a BIG surprise!

Mr. Quigley’s deafness touched me immediately. There are few books where deaf or hearing impaired children can see themselves represented. And to have Mr. Quigley as a role model is very special. His story reminded me of our daughter, who grew up with a hearing impairment and wore hearing aids. I noticed very early that she studied people, could sense their emotions and read lips from a distance. She perceived things at a rapid rate — long before most people. And I sensed that same special gift in Mr. Quigley and so much more. I can hardly wait to share this book with my grown daughter.    

Resources: Make sure you check out the end pages, where teachers and parents will find wonderful activities: Comprehension Curiosities, Key Character Questions, and Writing Prompts. There is a page with American Sign Language Alphabet and Numbers and New Vocabulary. There is a picture of Don Pittman, whose real-life story inspired this book. And there is a special message from the Quigley family. There are many themes that will lend themselves to important discussions at home and school.

Barbara Gruener is the author of the Corner on Character blog and the book What’s Under Your Cape? She is a beloved school counselor, speaker, mentor and coach who works passionately to influence school culture and climate change, while helping to foster healthy habits and nurture caring connections among school families and their stakeholders. She positively thrives on encouraging empathy. In addition to spending time connecting with family and friends, Barbara loves inspiring people to savor being in the moment as they unwrap the present with gratitude and hope. She and her husband live in Friendswood, Texas, where they raised their three 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.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.