PPBF: Middle Bear

Author: Susanna Isern
 Manon Gauthier
Publisher: Kids Can Press, 2015
Themes: bears, siblings, middle child

Opening: see image below.

Summary: (from my library catalog) A middle child discovers his own unique gifts. He was the second of three brothers. “He was not big, but he was not little, either. Neither strong nor weak, neither tall nor short, neither a lot nor a little … He was the middle one.” And when you’re always in the middle, sometimes it’s hard to feel special. Until one day, his parents needed an important task to be done. And suddenly, middle-sized was the perfect size to be. Kids will be reassured by this powerful message: No matter your age, you’re always the best at being you!

I picked this book because: I’m the middle child, of course! And this text handles the sensitivities so beautifully. The positives and negatives a child feels about their place in the family, their size, and the responsibilities and privileges attributed. The illustrations are highly engaging and invite young readers to try their own hand at creating collages too! In fact I will add that to the resources below! Find it, enjoy it, share it!

Resources/activities! especially due to the pandemic children need to find ways to express their feelings, and I think reading this together, discussing the pros and cons of one’s placement within a family and what we feel would be a great prompt for a personal collage assignment in which each child may depict a scene form their pandemic experience in relation to their family. Look for more titles illustrated by Manon Gauthier for more inspiration.

For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.

PPBF: Animal Masquerade

Author/Illustrator: Marianne Dubuc
Kids Can Press, 2012 (Originally under Au carnaval des animaux, 2011)
: animals, disguises, masquerade

Age Level: 3-7, but my teens loved this too!
see image below

Synopsis: from Kids Can Press: The lion is going as an elephant, the elephant as a parrot, and the parrot as a turtle! Each costume gives way to another, yielding new surprises on every page, and revealing a menagerie of familiar and unusual animals. Young children will delight in the absurd and amusing images (who wouldn’t love a ladybug dressed as a hippopotamus?) and will also appreciate the gags (a fish costumed as a cat is dubbed a “catfish”) and other bits of silly sweetness. Recapping this reading adventure: a detailed panorama at book’s end, showing all the party guests in their fanciful finery.

Why I am recommending this book again: I could not believe my eyes last week when I noticed this book is out of print! I have hand-sold numerous copies and truly enjoy it EVERY time I read it. I’m so incredibly sad about this! It’s so much fun and even the youngest hang in for all 120 pages! So if you find a copy (for sale, little thieves!) snap it up! And again: If anyone out there ever makes a costume of an animal ‘in costume’ send me a photo!

Resource/Activity: make your own costumeshttp://crafts.kaboose.com/holidays/halloween/costumes/Blog: My Disguises great photos and ideas for kids of ALL ages.

For more links to posts on Perfect Picture Books and resources, visit Susanna Hill’s blog every Friday.

PPBF: Not Little

Author: Maya Myers
 Hyewon Yum
Publisher: Neal Porter/HH, 2021
Themes: size, bullying, self-awareness

Opening: see image below.

Summary: (from my library catalog) Dot proves she is not little by standing up to a school bully. (*might be one of the shortest summaries, but it packs the punch!)

I picked this book because: I admire all of Hyewon Yum’s work and will always pick up one of her books, BUT this story totally stole my heart. Maybe because I was little in elementary school too (spurt came late), maybe because I experienced a fair amount of bullying (“you have freckles, you can’t play with us!”), or maybe because the author just captured the feelings so well. Not just maybe! This will certainly remain a personal fave and I can’t wait to share it with “little” people again!

Resources/activities: If your space is safe, the book lends itself to a good discussion starter on the different forms of bullying, and might encourage kids to share their experiences; discuss strategies for addressing it as well as strategies for how to listen to and be an ally for our friends; read companion books like Stick and Stone by Ferry/Lichtenheld, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Lovell/Catrow, Chrysanthemum by Henkes; draw about our experiences.

For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.

PPBF: I Can Make a Train Noise

Authors and Illustrators: Michael Emberley and Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House, 2021
Themes: railroad trains, imagination, read-aloud

Opening: see image below.

Summary: (from my library catalog) A girl transforms a cafe into a train by making train noises with words.

I picked this book because: it’s absolutely perfect for storytime! I loved reading books with toddlers/pre-schoolers in the bookstore, but I have not been able to since the pandemic and wow, do I miss it! So this will be on the tippy-top of my list when we start up again! What a fantastic way to engage kids with crescendo/de-crescendo, beautiful visuals, and physical movement! Woohoo!!!

Resources/activities: Turn your classroom or living room into a train! Listen to all different kinds of trains on youtube, HERE; make train crafts like the one below – instructions/suggestions HERE

For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.

PPBF: The Invisible Alphabet

Author: Joshua David Stein
 Ron Barrett
Publisher: Rise/PRH, 2020
Themes: alphabet, 2-color palette, concept book

Opening: see image below.

Summary: (from my library catalog) Illustrations and simple text for each letter of the alphabet represent invisible items, some that are gone and some that have not arrived, such as a bus that has been delayed–or missed. (A lack of passion here, I’d say!)

I picked this book because: the cover intrigued me, especially the hint that it might have a VERY limited palette! I love to see someone tackle a visual challenge, and the concept must have been quite the puzzle too! But both author and illustrator make it look deceptively simple! I also appreciate visuals that are easy for the very young to read – not that I don’t like beautifully detailed illustrations, but it’s not only important to get a message across, it also teaches us something about the power of being concise. I’ve already read it multiple times with a consistent smile on my face!

plenty of detail but easy to read

Resources/activities! see if you can come up with more words to use for each letter and drawings to go with them!

For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.

PPBF: Rocket says Look Up!

Author: Nathan Bryon
 Dapo Adeola
Publisher: Random House, 2019
Themes: siblings, astronomy, meteors

Opening: Mom tells me that I never stop looking up and my head is always floating in the clouds.

Summary: (from my library catalog) Aspiring astronaut Rocket draws her community together to see a rare appearance of the Phoenix Meteor Showers, hoping especially that her big brother, Jamal, will look up from his phone.

I picked this book because: First let me say the description in the summary above is a bit misleading. Rocket wants her brother to engage with her and take interest in something she is passionate about. We all want to be seen, I don’t see this as an indictment about phones, but about family, siblings and wanting to share that which excites us! and Rocket is excited about space, so much so she shares her enthusiasm throughout with fun facts – and I know kids like her and the adults they have become! Also, the illustrations are adorable! (I do wish they had used white text on dark backgrounds though!) I hope Rocket will warm your heart too!

Resources/activities! Can you watch the Perseid meteor showers from where you are tonight? Otherwise look up when the best time is for your area!

For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.

PPBF: My Winter City

Author: James Gladstone
 Gary Clement
Publisher: Groundwoodl, 2019
Themes: winter, city life, sledding

Opening: see spread below.

Summary: (from my library catalog) A young boy wakes up in the early light of a winter morning, pulls on his boots and mittens, and steps out into the snowy city with his dad. They trudge through the snow, their dog bounding along beside them, then a slushy, steamy bus ride takes them to the tobogganing hill for some winter fun. The boy describes all the sights and sounds of the day, from the frost in Dad’s beard and the snow “pillows” in the park, to the noisy clunking snow plows and the singing buskers they pass on their way home. That night, the boy lies awake under cozy covers, reflecting on the day, as snow blankets the world outside his window. This is winter in the city.

I picked this book because: it’s so hot here (again) I needed some snow! At this point I would welcome it in real life! And this title did not disappoint. Even on a hot day, it pays to slow down. Told from the point of view of a city child, the reader is invited to make connections with their own experiences (though I’d love to hear back from someone who hasn’t lived in an area with winter weather!) A walk through any city offers us a plethora of details if we pay attention, and the illustrations here are delightful and refreshing, yet warm the heart like a cup of cocoa.

Resources/activities! discuss what parts of the globe experience snow in winter, the differences in our experiences to snow in the country or suburbs, mountains or plains – even the seaside. I would pair it with a reading of Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales (so many beautifully illustrated editions and a delightful film!), even if you don’t celebrate Christmas.

For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.

SCBWI Big Five Oh Conference Sketches

There is so much to be gained from sketching speakers at conferences, and while I enjoy being there in person the virtual sessions allow a much better closeup for features. I enjoyed myself immensely this year!

Peter Brown, TeMika Grooms, Saho Fujii
Cecilia Yung, Barbara Marcus, Sophie Blackall
Laurent Linn, Ann Whitford Paul, Mike Curato
Don Tate, Linda Sue Park, Paul O. Zelinsky

PPBF: The Caiman

2″ wider than HARE! No wonder I was drawn to it!

Author: María Eugenia Manrique, transl. Amy Brill
 Ramón Paris
Publisher: Amazon Crossing Kids, 2021; orig. Ediciones Ekaré, 2019
Themes: alligators, pets, Venezuela,
Opening: see opening page below image of title page.

Summary: (from my library catalog) When Faoro the clockmaker adopts a baby caiman, he has no idea that someday their story will travel far and wide. But the town of San Fernando de Apure would never forget this kind young man and his adoring alligator, who played with the neighborhood children, took part in Faoro’s wedding, and, eventually, mourned his loss.

I like this book because: I was hooked by the cover (and format!). The bold colors and use of black and white, but also because of the author’s own real life experience with this story and her intriguing bio. The story did not disappoint. I love examples of human-animal connection, as I’m sure many others do, but also of cultures other than my own. There is sadness, but so much love in this beautiful tale – no pun intended!

Resources/activities: Look into the life-cycle of Caimans, their habitat, and how they might be different than other alligators. Are there other real-life stories of bringing an alligator into a home? What does a Caiman egg look like? Does it take as long to hatch as a chicken’s egg? All fun facts to discover together.

For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog  HERE. 

PPBF: The Smile Shop

Author/Illustrator: Satoshi Kitamura
Publisher: Peachtree, 2021 (orig. Scallywag Press, 2019)
Themes: pocket money, markets, smiles

Opening: see spread below.

Summary: (from my library catalog) A small boy has saved all his pocket money and visits the market with high expectations. When disaster strikes and he loses his money, he feels very devastated. But wait, what’s that? A Smile Shop? He could really do with a smile. What will happen if he goes in?

I like this book because: it’s a sweet story that may introduce to young readers that we are indeed in charge of our outlook on life. AND the illustrations: rendering, composition, gentle palette, legibility are perfect! Pretty vague? Read it!

Resources/activities! Great jumping off point for discussion questions on spending money, allowance, shopping, street markets, attitudes, and outlook on life. Make a play market in the classroom and give everyone a chance to spend as they see fit (would actually LOVE to see a classroom act it out!).

For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.