Baby Blue by Judi Abbot

Baby Blue

Judi Abbot, author/illustrator

Magination Press, Feb. 9, 2021

Suitable for ages: 3-6

Themes: Children, Color, Curiosity, Diversity, Emotions, Friendship

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Baby Blue lives in a blue world— everything is blue, from the trees, to the flowers, to the animals. When he accidentally tears a hole and a strange light pours in, he can see someone that isn’t blue—another little person like him, only they are yellow. Scared but curious, he overcomes his fear and introduces himself to Baby Yellow. With his new friend, he realizes that the world is full of new and wonderful things to discover. This sweet story encourages children to conquer their fear of the unknown and take a chance on new and different things.

Why I like this book:

Judi Abbot has written and illustrated a beautiful book for young children about being curious and brave as they explore their surroundings. Her use of color has many meanings in the book. First of all it is a way to teach little one colors. It also shows how curious little kids are and how scary it can be to meet someone new —  especially if they look different. Baby Blue doesn’t know what to do when he meets Baby Yellow, Baby Green and so on. I love how Abbot tackles diversity through her colorful artwork.  Abbot’s text is spare for young children and her illustrations are filled with colorful shapes that are simply gorgeous and will keep kids turning the pages!  

This book is the perfect gift book for new parents and toddler birthdays! It is a welcome addition to any home or school library because it introduces children to the many new and beautiful people they will meet as they begin preschool and school.

Resources: Encourage kids to name the colors.  Give them crayons and ask them to draw a picture of themselves, a friend or a favorite pet in any color they wish.

Judi (Giuditta) Abbot went to art school in Italy. She is the author/illustrator of I Am, We Are Family, Snow Kissess, I Love you, Baby, Hugs and Kisses, and My Grandparents Love Me.  She has illustrated many more and many of her  published books have been translated around the world. Judi’s highly recognizable style features simple shapes and bright colors rendered in acrylics, colored pencils, and digitally. She lives in London, UK. Visit Abbot’s website and visit her on Facebook @judiabbotbooks and on Instagram @judiabbot.

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 The Pig War: How a Porcine Tragedy Taught England and America to Shareauthor Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by Magination Press in exchange for a review.

When Water Makes Mud: A Story of Refugee Children by Janie Reinart

When Water Makes Mud: A Story of Refugee Children

Janie Reinart, Author

Morgan Taylor, Illustrator

Blue Whale Press, Fiction, Jun. 1, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Children, Refugee settlement, Play, Imagination, Hope, Uganda

Opening: “We come, little sister and me, with nothing…but our dreams.”

Synopsis

When war forces two sisters to fee their home in South Sudan with nothing but the clothes they are wearing, Big Sister strives to help Little Sister smile again at the refugee settlement in Uganda. But as quickly as Little Sister’s smile appears, it disappears: that is until water makes mud. In the end, Big Sister’s artistry and kindness brings hope to their situation. 

This title is a tribute to the resourcefulness of children who have no toys, but continue to play and is dedicated to the 200,000 refugee children living at the Bidibidi settlement in Uganda.

What to love about this book:

A hopeful and heartfelt story about Big Sister helping Little Sister overcome the scarcity, poverty, starvation, and harsh reality of living in a refugee camp — through imagination.  If you can imagine and dream, you can create anything. With a stick Big Sister draws a story from home in the dirt. Pebbles become a puzzle. A bag becomes a balloon. A cardboard box becomes a car. And with mud, you can make just about anything and put a smile on Little Sister’s face. Big Sister makes joy out of nothing. 

Janie Reinart’s writing is lyrical as she draws readers more deeply into the difficult life of children displaced by war around the world. This is an excellent classroom discussion book for students to learn about the refugee situation. Children are resilient and resourceful, as Big Sister demonstrates. All kids need time to play and have fun. 

Morgan Taylor’s bold and colorful illustrations show both the sadness of the situation and the joy found in play.

An important reason to purchase a copy of When Water Makes Mud, is that that the publisher’s profits are being donated to Unicef.  

Resources: There are free downloadable resources at http://www.janiereinart.com under the Books tab. Think about all the things you could do with mud. You could make mud pies, mud balls to throw at targets, mud bricks to build a small fort, paint with mud, slide in mud, and make pretend mud cookies. Use your imagination like Big Sister does.

Janie Reinart is also the author of Love You More Than You Know, a book for military families. She has worn many hats, performing as a clown in children’s hospitals, sharing original tales in schools as a musical storyteller, and helping children find their voice as a poet in residences. But most of fall, she loves writing for children. She lives in Ohio with her husband and delights in playing with her 16 grandchildren. To learn more about Janie, visit her website. 

Morgan Taylor is a Philadelphia-area native who graduated from Arcadia University’s Bachelor of Arts Program for illustration. She enjoys working mainly in oil paint and digital mediums. Her main focus is portraiture, nature, and things from everyday life. She lives in eastern Pennsylvania. You can learn more about her by visiting her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
 
*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review. 

I Want Everything! – Big Little Talks series – by Alberto Pellai and Barbara Tamborini

Perfect Picture Book Friday

I Want Everything!, Oh Brother! and I Don’t Want to Go to School! are three new books in the Big Little Talks series published by Magination Press Oct, 13, 2020, for children 4 to 8 years old. The empowering series is written by Alberto Pellai, MD, PhD, and Barbara Tamborini  and illustrated by Elisa Paganelli.

I Want Everything! 

Opening: “I want the moon as my kickball, snow in the summer, and the sound of the ocean as my lullaby!  You think that tricycle is yours? It’s not, it’s mine. I’m the king of everything, not you.”

Publisher’s Synopsis: A boy wants everything in the world, but his parent tries to help him realize that maybe he’s okay with what he already has and that he cannot have everything that he wants. As the boy’s tantrum persists and he wants to be and roar like a lion, he is gently brought back down to earth by a parent who says, “But, you are acting rude when you roar like a lion and frighten everyone with your angry voice.”

Oh Brother!

Opening“Your baby brother is finally here.” / “Big deal. He doesn’t talk. He makes funny faces, sleeps a lot, and he only cries like a big baby! And you have to carry him all the time.”

Publisher’s Synopsis: This charming story about a new addition to the family will help older siblings appreciate their expanded family. The little brother has arrived, and all he does is sleep and cry! He doesn’t play ball or swim or do anything a little brother is supposed to do. And he takes up all the parents’ time. But the little brother smiles when his big brother makes faces and claps when he plays the drums. Maybe being a big brother will be great?

I Don’t Want to Go to School

Opening: “Everyone says kids need to go to school. But it’s better to stay home. I don’t want to go! Everyone says that teachers don’t let you talk or play. They are mean. They are loud. And the let bats fly around the classroom!”

Publisher’s Synopsis: Going to school can be a really big deal to a little kid. New routine, new friends, new places, and new faces can be a lot to handle at first! It’s hard for kids to handle that transition and see that school might be fun and that their parent will always come back.

This sensitive book will help kid and parents talk about this big step and transition to being apart during the day—and maybe even have fun at school!

Why I like these books:

Big emotions can be overwhelming for children facing life-changing moments! This fun, engaging and interactive series shows children voicing their thoughts, fears and frustrations (in orange ink) while an empathetic parent listens in the background and offers the child a reassuring message (black ink) to help them feel calm, validate an achievement, adapt to change, and set necessary limits with inappropriate behavior.

The narrative will engage children from the first page to the last. And they will be captivated by Elisa Paganelli’s colorful, lively and expressive illustrations.

Resources: The Big Little Talk series is a wonderful tool for parents, counselors and teachers. Make sure you check out the Reader’s Note at the end of each book, which further explains the common behavioral and emotional stages of childhood.

Alberto Pellai, MD, PhD, is a child psychotherapist and a researcher at the Department of Bio-medical Sciences of the University of Milan. In 2004 the Ministry of Health awarded him the silver medal of merit for public health. He is the author of numerous books for parents, teachers, teenagers, and children. He lives in Italy. Visit him at albertopellailibri.it and on Instagram @alberto_pellai.

Barbara Tamborini, is a psycho-pedagogist and writer. She leads workshops in schools for teachers and parents. She is the author with Alberto Pellai of several books aimed at parents. She lives in Somma, Italy. Visit her on Facebook @Barbara Tamborini.

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 copies provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

War is Over by David Almond

War is Over

David Almond, Author

David Litchfield, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, May 12, 2020

Pages: 128

Suitable for ages: 9-12

Themes: Children, Effects of War, Women, WW I effort, Homefront, Community

Synopsis:

It’s 1918, and war is everywhere. John’s father is fighting in the trenches far away in France, while his mother works in a menacing munitions factory just along the road. His teacher says that John is fighting, too, that he is at war with enemy children in Germany. But John struggles. “I am a child. How can I be at war?”

One day, in the wild woods outside town, John has an impossible moment: a dreamlike meeting with a German boy named Jan. John catches a glimpse of a better world, in which children like Jan and himself can one day scatter the seeds of peace.

David Almond brings his ineffable sensibility to a poignant tale of the effects of war on children, interwoven with David Litchfield’s gorgeous black-and-white illustrations.

What I like about this book:

David Almond’s short novel, War is Over, is a both a poignant and sensitive novel. It explores the emotions of a boy and the attitudes of his community about war and peace. This novel raises many questions for readers and is a timely discussion topic in classrooms.

John is conflicted about the war. His father has been gone so long that he can’t remember what he looks like. He just wants the war over. So he writes letters to the King of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury and asks them when the war will end — no answers.

The book addresses the impact of the war on the homefront. There is fear and hatred for the Germans that carries over into the classroom. Especially when the teacher tells his students “they are children at war” and makes John and his classmates march like soldiers as they go on an outing to visit the munitions factory, where most of their mothers work making bombs. Some of the boys play war after school, but not John.

John and his classmates encounter a friend’s Uncle Gordon, who is ridiculed because he’s a conscientious objector. Uncle Gordon traveled to Germany before the war, and has a fist full of drawings of young German children. He impresses upon the students that “children aren’t monsters and are children like you.” John manages to snatch a picture of a boy named “Jan from Düsseldorf.” He writes Jan a friendly letter. He dreams of Jan and a better world. He imagines seeing Jan in the forest, which becomes a coping mechanism for John until the war ends.

Almond’s lyrical text meanders around the beautiful pen and ink drawings by David Litchfield, which fill  every page. Doves fly above and turn into falling bombs and tears turn into shrapnel. His artwork shows the starkness of the factory as shifts begin and end and women make their way home. A somber topic, but presented so sympathetically and poetically.

David Almond is the acclaimed author of many award-winning novels for children, including Skellig, Kit’s Wilderness, and My Name is Mina. David Almond’s books are beloved all over the world, and in 2010 he was the recipient of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award. He lives in England.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

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

Liesl’s Ocean Rescue

Liesl's Ocean 51Go9YPulaL__SX348_BO1,204,203,200_Liesl’s Ocean Rescue

Barbara Krasner, Author

Avi Katz, Illustrations

Gihon River Press, Nonfiction, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes: Liesl Joseph, Jewish children and families, Refugees, MS St. Louis, Seeking Asylum, Cuba, America

Opening: “What fun we had last night,” Josef Joseph, said. “It was the best birthday yet.” “You’re very old now, Father, “Liesl said. “You’re 56!” Mother placed breakfast plates in front of them.

Synopsis: Ten-year-old Liesl and her family were enjoying breakfast when two uniformed men wearing Nazi swastika armbands burst into their home and arrested her father. That 1938 night in Rheydt, Jewish businesses were destroyed and synagogues were burned. It was called the “Night of the Broken Glass.” Liesl’s father was eventually released from jail.  Her family along with 1,000 Jewish refugees, fled Germany in May 1939, aboard the MS St. Louis ocean liner, for temporary asylum in Havana, Cuba and later in America. But when they approached the island that looked like a paradise to Liesl, the ship wasn’t permitted to dock. They were stranded for weeks sailing back and forth between Cuba and the United States not knowing if they’d be sent back to Germany.

Why I like this book:

Barbara Krasner has written a compelling story based on the true experiences of Liesl Joseph, a courageous and endearing 10-year-old, who is heroic in her own way. Despite her own fear, she does her best to keep up the spirits of the children aboard the ship. She plays games and reassures them things will turn out okay. Her father, a lawyer, is busy negotiating arrangements with the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Paris, for safe passage to other European countries.

I am drawn to Holocaust stories, especially those involving children. Liesl’s story is one I had a hard time understanding. Why would the United States deny these refugees a home away from the tyranny of Hitler? Since this is a story about a child’s experience, that question is not addressed. However the story delivers a powerful message for older children about remaining brave in the midst of fear and uncertainty.

Liesl’s Ocean Rescue is an excellent addition to any school’s Holocaust collection. Although this is a picture book, I believe it would also serve well as a chapter book for older children. My only negative comment is that I felt the story ended abruptly.

Avi Katz’s black and white illustrations are expressive and capture emotions ranging from the fear during the German raids to the anxious moments of the refugees aboard the ship.

Resources: Make sure you read the Author’s Note at the end of the book to learn more about Liesl’s journey and fate. The author interviews Liesl Joseph Loeb at her home. Krasner also provides information on other resources to use with this story. There is a Teacher’s Guide at Gihon River Press.  Visit Krasner 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 Perfect Picture Books.

The Night Dad Went to Jail by Melissa Higgins

Dad in Jail9781479521425_p0_v1_s260x420The Night Dad Went to Jail:  What to Expect When Someone you Love Goes to Jail

Melissa Higgins, author

Wednesday Kirwan, illustrator

Picture Window Books, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes:   Children of Prisoners, Prisons, Separation, Family Relationships

Opening:   This is one of my before drawings.  Before means “before my dad went to jail.”  Dad and I didn’t catch anything, but we had fun anyway.

Synopsis:  Family life is disrupted one night for Bailey and his siblings when police officers arrive at their dad’s apartment. They arrest their dad, put him in handcuffs, put him a police car, and take him to jail.  An officer remains behind until their mother arrives.  Naturally, Bailey is upset, scared and wants to know “why and what happened?”  He even asks if it is his fault.  His mother explains that their father made a bad choice, broke a law and would be in jail.  Attending school the next day and dealing with the teasing from the other kids angers and embarrasses Bailey.  On their first visit with their dad, a glass window separates them and they talk to him by phone.  When he’s transferred to a prison, they walk through a metal detector, can hug and spend time with their dad.  Their dad will be in jail for six years,  so Bailey and his siblings join a support group and find ways keep in touch by writing letters and drawing pictures.

Why I like this book:  I’ve been looking for a book like this for a while.  There are roughly two million children in the country who have a mom or a dad in prison for a variety of reasons.  Melissa Higgins has written a sensitive and compassionate book for children facing such a difficult separation.  All of the characters in the book are animals, which makes the story easy to read to a child.  Although the children have done nothing wrong and may not even understand  what has happened, they feel responsible.  They are teased at school and associated with a crime they haven’t committed.   Wednesday Kirwan’s illustrations are especially warm, caring and show the stages of feelings the children work though. Throughout the books she offers facts at the bottom, like “One in every 43 kids in the United States has had a mom or dad in prison.”  This is an excellent book for parents, teachers and counselors.

Resources:  The author has included a glossary of terms to use with children.  She suggests some helpful internet sites and resources. With so many children with parents incarcerated, Sesame Street has created a video for children and a tool kit for parents, caregivers and therapists.  There is also the National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated.

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

Healing Days: A Guide for Kids Who Have Experienced Trauma

Healing Days9781433812934_p0_v1_s260x420Healing Days: A Guide for Kids Who Have Experienced Trauma

Susan Farber Straus, Ph.D., Author

Maria Bogade, Illustrator

Magination Press., Fiction, May 18, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 5 -11

Themes: Children facing trauma and tragedy, PTSD, Anxiety, Fear, Anger, Healing

Opening“Something bad happened to me.  I did not want anyone to know.  I was scared.  I was sad.  I was angry.  I was embarrassed.  I was hurt and confused.  I tried to forget.  I tried to sleep and not wake up.” 

Synopsis:  A child has had something scary happen.  We follow the child through feelings of hurt, confusion, anger and fear that the bad thing might happen again.  The child has bad dreams and is afraid of the dark.  At school there are run-ins with the teachers.  Friends notice the child isn’t fun to play with.  The child is lonely.  Finally an aunt notices differences and takes the child to talk with a therapist who helps the child share the secret.  Only then can intervention and healing begin for the child.

Why I like this book:  I am thrilled to find Susan Farber Straus’ very sensitive and comforting book due to its relevance in our world today.   Although the story is told from the viewpoint of one child, each page features pictures of a diverse group of children of all ages acting out the narrative.  This book is a fabulous tool for parents, guidance counselors and therapists to read with a child when they may suspect a trauma.  And that trauma could range from abuse, an accident, school and home violence, bullying, the sudden death of a parent or sibling to natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes and floods that are prevalent today in the world.  The book also helps children know they aren’t alone and that they can find ways to heal.  Maria Bogade’s illustrations are warm, and comforting, and beautifully show the emotion of the children.

Resources:  The book alone is a resource as the author is a clinical psychologist.  The American Psychological Association also has a list of helpful resources available online.  Also be sure to read the Note to Readers at the beginning of the book and check out the jacket flaps on the front and back pages.

Note:  I will be attending the Northern Ohio SCBWI conference this weekend, so I won’t be able to respond to your comments or posts until I return.

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

International Dot Day – Sept. 15, 2012

More than 620,000 children worldwide have signed up to celebrate International Dot Day in their classrooms around September 15.  And, I’m sure that number will grow as the day approaches.  In the U.S., kids in all 50 states have signed up.  It’s inspiring that so many children (and grown-up kids) will be using their imaginations to draw special dot creations during this global event.  And, this is a perfect time to issue a challenge to all the KidLit bloggers to make and publish a dot on their websites Sept. 15-ish.

Peter H. Reynolds, author and illustrator,  published The Dot, on Sept. 15, 2003.  The book is about a girl who doesn’t think she can draw.  The idea for International Dot Day grew out of this powerful story and has become an annual event, with more kids participating each year.  This is a wonderful opportunity to help kids open their eyes to the world of creativity and self-worth,” says Terry Shay,  Dot Day Ambassador.  Shay is a teacher who is passionate about the event and the enthusiastic educators who make this event happen in their schools.

If you are a teacher and want to participate, there is still time to sign up your  students at  http://fablevisionlearning.com/dotday/signup.html.  If you are a student  and want to participate, talk with your teacher and parent.

Visit http://fablevisionlearning.com/dotday/ to learn more about International Dot Day, activity suggestions, resources, a global map showing participants and a peek at the dots being created by celebrities.  There also is a Facebook page devoted to International Dot Day with frequent updates.