Change Sings by Amanda Gorman


Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem

Amanda Gorman, Author

Loren Long, Illustrator

Viking Books for Young Readers, Poetry, Sep. 21, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8 

Themes: Poetry, Change, Community service, Activism, Tolerance, Healing

Opening:

I can hear change humming
In its loudest, proudest song.

I don’t fear change coming,
And so I sing along.”

Book Jacket Synopsis
In this stirring, much-anticipated picture book by presidential inaugural poet and activist Amanda Gorman, anything is possible when our voices join together. As a young girl leads a cast of characters on a musical journey, they learn that they have the power to make changes—big or small—in the world, in their communities, and in most importantly, in themselves.

With lyrical text and rhythmic illustrations that build to a dazzling crescendo by #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator Loren Long, Change Sings is a triumphant call to action for everyone to use their abilities to make a difference.

A lyrical picture book debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author and presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman and #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator Loren Long

Why I love Change Sings:

Change Sings is just that, a call to action for the youngest of children. Richly textured rhymes speak directly to children of love, hope and the power within to make the change in the world they want to see. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. They too can each make a contribution to better their communities and world. Their spirit can spread into a very large movement.

Loren Long’s joyful and colorful spreads of artwork bring Gorman’s text to life. Readers will follow a young Black girl with an oversized guitar as she gathers a group of children to help her clean up the playground, offer food to hungry children, bring groceries to an elderly woman, and build a ramp for a child in a wheelchair. The diverse group of children grows, with each claiming an instrument, as they march on to clean windows, paint and plant flowers. They are in harmony with one another.

Resources: There is a wonderful Teacher’s Guide for Change Sings, provided by Random House (click here).  Children may wonder why child hunger, intolerance and vandalism addressed in the book exist. Children are altruistic and will want to respond. There are so many ways they can in their own neighborhoods and at school.

Amanda Gorman is the youngest presidential inaugural poet in US history. She is a committed advocate for the environment, racial equality, and gender justice. Amanda’s activism and poetry have been featured on The Today Show, PBS Kids, and CBS This Morning, and in The New York Times, Vogue, Essence, and O. The Oprah Magazine.  In 2017, Urban Word named her the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States. She is also the author of a poetry collection and a special edition of her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb.” After graduating cum laude from Harvard University, she now lives in her hometown of Los Angeles. Visit her online at her website or on Twitter @amandascgorman.

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.

They’re So Flamboyant by Michael Genhart

They’re So Flamboyant

Michael Genhart, Author

Tony Neal, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Oct. 19, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Birds, Diversity, Discrimination, Tolerance, Inclusion, Humor

Opening: “When a flamboyance of flamingos flew into the neighborhood…a gaggle of geese gathered to gab.” 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

flam·boy·ant – (of a person—or bird!—or their behavior) tending to attract attention because of their confidence, exuberance, and stylishness

This fun and funny bird’s-eye tome to individuality, community, and harmony follows the reactions of a neighborhood full of birds when a “flamboyance” of flamingos moves in. Each band of birds—a gaggle of geese, a dole of doves, a charm of finches, a brood of chickens, a scream of swifts, and an unkindness of ravens—all have their feathers ruffled and express their apprehension about the new and different arrivals. Bright pink colors, long legs, how dare they!

Even a watch of nightingales patrols after dark. When the band of jays decides it is time to settle down the neighborhood, the pride of peacocks takes the lead, with support from a waddle of penguins, a venue of vultures, a mob of emus, and a gulp of cormorants.

Finally, they all land at the flamingos’ welcome party only to realize that they had all been birdbrained. Their new neighbors are actually quite charming, and not so scary and different after all. 

Why I love this book:

Michael Genhart has written a hilarious and clever picture book that will help children learn about accepting others, avoiding stereotypes and assumptions, and being friendly to new classroom members and neighbors. Genhart’s text is brilliant with entertaining wordplay and alliteration. Each bird group responds with “bubble” comments that exaggerates the gossiping. Some of my favorites: “Flamingos? Really? In our backyard?”…”Well, there goes the neighborhood!”…”Our peace has been totally disrupted!”…”They’re so pink!”…”Stay in your own neighborhood! Gawk!”  But the flamingos remain pretty, pink and proud! And what a surprise there will be when the other birds are ready to take on the flamingos. 

Tony Neal’s expressive and funny illustrations are delightful! They really make this story sing!

Make sure you check out Genhart’s Sampling of Bird Groups at the end of the book. Readers will also have fun with the list of birds and their associated collective nouns. For example: Crows (murder, congress, horde, muster, cauldron); Pelicans (squadron, pod, scoop);  and Turkeys (rafter, gobble, gang, posse.) Another fun class activity.

Resources: There are so many wonderful ways to use this book in the classroom. Make sure you check out the Note to Readers at the end. The author suggests that teachers and parents start with age-appropriate conversations about diversity, differences, and discriminating behaviors like race, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation and body types. Ask children to list the hurtful things that they see and hear at their own school. What causes kids to hurt others — are they afraid? This is such a great way to talk about exclusion and inclusion with children.   

Michael Genhart, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in San Francisco. He has also written Rainbow; Cake & I Scream!; Mac & Geeez!; Peanut Butter & Jellyous: Ouch! Moments: I See You: So Many Smarts!; and Accordionly. He lives with his family in Marin County, California. Visit Genhart at his website, @MJGenhart on FB, @MGenhart on Twitter and @MichaelGenhart on Instagram.

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.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Wishtree

Katherine Applegate, Author

Feiwel & Friends, Fiction, Sep. 26, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Trees, Wishes, Crows, Animals, Friendship, Tolerance

Opening: It’s hard to talk to trees. We’re not big on chitchat. That’s not to say we can’t do amazing things, things you’ll probably never do. Cradle downy owlets. Steady flimsy tree forts. Photosynthesize. But talk to people? Not so much.

Synopsis:

Red is an oak tree who is 216 rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree.” Every May 1 people come from all over town to write their most private wishes on pieces of paper, cloth, and socks and tie them to Red’s branches. He holds their hopes and dreams in his limbs. Then, they whisper their wish. Red listens but never responds. It’s against the rules for a tree to speak to a human.

Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood. Red has seen a lot of change over 200 years.

When a Muslim family moves in, Red observes how Samar and her family are treated by neighbors. Not everyone is welcoming.  Nasty threats are carved on his trunk, eggs are thrown, and ugly words shouted from passing cars.  More than ever, Red wants to fulfill Samar’s wish to find a friend. When Red learns the property owner may have some plans for him, he breaks some rules and ask his friends for help.

Why I like this book:

Katherine Applegate’s heartwarming middle grade novel is magical and conveys a message that is relevant today. It also reminds us of our common humanity.

The story is narrated by Red, a red oak tree, with compassion, concern, wisdom, and a sense of humor; no easy task for an author. Red’s branches and hollows are home to a birds and a furry cast of comical characters (owls, raccoons, opossums, skunks, cats and a crow) who live to together in harmony — most of the time. Red and his residents communicate openly with each other, but not with humans. Once a year Red is a wishtree for the town. Red’s world is vibrant and harbors a secret that needs to be shared.

Wishtree is a quiet and thoughtful read aloud with the entire family or in the classroom. It has a strong plot that with themes the encourage readers think about diversity, inclusion, acceptance, kindness and the true nature of friendship. It is a delightful mix that will keep readers turning pages. The story has Common Core connections.

For the next few months Greg Pattridge will be hosting Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Thank you Greg for keeping MMGM active while author Shannon Messenger is on tour promoting her sixth book, Nightfall, in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, which was released November 7.