The Invisible Boy is one of the most phenomenal picture books about friendship, the power of kindness, and the significance of making sure no one child is ever made to feel invisible. Check it out!Read More
I've always loved the newness that arrives on the first of January, the way the year opens up overflowing with wonder and promise, pure as a cloudless sky. It's a blank canvas, right? Maybe your surroundings look the same - you're waking up under the same comforter, brewing that first cup of coffee in your chipped but cherished mug, making your kids their favorite Mickey waffles - but the day ahead is filled with an almost tangible feeling of hope. And as each year slides -- whether whisper soft or with a deafening bang -- into the next, we are given a fresh start. A clean slate. A new chance.
Enter What Do You Do With a Chance?, by Kobi Yamada, featuring gorgeous illustrations by Mae Besom. Can this team do no wrong? Each book in this trilogy has moved me deeply, with words and illustrations that came into my life at exactly the perfect time. In Chance, a child gets just that - a chance - that appears out of nowhere. But the boy doesn't embrace it; he is uncertain, and thus pulls away. When the next chance comes around, he reaches for it and falls. He is overcome with fear, never wanting to feel so foolish again. The chances keep appearing, though, but because he keeps ignoring them, they eventually cease. Only then, of course, does the boy realize that as scared as he is, he does want to take a chance. Will he be brave enough to seize a new opportunity? You've got to read it to find out.
"If only I had a chance to [insert the myriad of things you or your kids or your students desire but never actually do HERE]." How many times have you heard this? How many times have you said it yourself? What Do You Do With A Chance? is the perfect book to challenge this way of thinking - to change our mindsets from "I wish I could" to "of course I can." We all have it in us to take chances, to embrace new opportunities. And we have to remember that though we may fall, or even fail, the beauty of seizing a chance lies in embracing the intertwined feelings of fear and excitement that come with trying again. Here's to this brilliant conversation starter, a stunning conclusion to a breathtaking and inspiring trilogy. And, of course, here's to seizing chances in 2018.
Want the book? Get it here! What Do You Do With a Chance?, by Kobi Yamada. *HEE received an advanced review copy of What Do You Do With A Chance, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own. Check out our review of What Do You Do With an Idea?, the first book in the trilogy, HERE!
Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming is one of those novels that's been on my shelf for a couple of years now, but for one reason or another, I just never got around to reading. What on earth was I waiting for?!? A ton of my students checked this out last year, all returning it breathlessly and recounting how much they loved it with stars in their eyes. Well, I have to say that this book's beauty captivated me too, and it will undoubtedly be a forever favorite of mine.
Brown Girl Dreaming is a fictionalized memoir about brilliant author Jacqueline Woodson. Woodson writes about growing up as an African American child in the sixties and seventies during the height and aftermath of the civil rights movement - first in Ohio, then in South Carolina and, eventually, New York. The remnants of Jim Crow are everywhere, and as Woodson navigates her own identity and worth, she is also faced with a country battling racism, animosity and segregation. A powerful and mesmerizing read, Woodson's poetry reflects a young woman's journey to find not just her voice, but her place at home, in school and in society at large.
Some children get nervous about reading poetry and novels in verse, but what is so remarkable about Brown Girl Dreaming is Woodson's ability to keep each of her poems both accessible and relatable. Despite their richness and her beautiful use of language, her poems never feel too cerebral or heady for a child reader. Instead, a young one can so easily grasp Woodson's poignant verses and, most importantly, her yearning- for family, for friends, and most importantly, for writing. A sensitive, beautiful memoir about finding oneself amidst the backdrop of a country also searching for a new identity- this is a true work of art.
Want the book? Get it here! Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson. *This is an affiliate link.
When a tough, strong princess combines in an easy to read format, we’ve got a new one for our collection of the best books for beginning readers! If your kids are beginning to read short chapter books independently, you’ll love Princess Cora and the Crocodile!Read More
Who am I? Where did I come from? When does childhood end and the next phase begin? These are just some of the perplexing questions our children grapple with from the time they are young-- but in all honesty, do these questions ever really go away? Do we ever stop wondering who we are, and when and how the next chapter of our lives will unfold?
These are the issues the protagonist in Laurel Snyder's startlingly beautiful new novel, Orphan Island, ponders throughout the story. Young Jinny is one of nine children -- orphans, to be exact-- living on a mysterious, idyllic island. Don't be fooled, though. While all seems perfect in paradise, there is one day of the year when a strange green boat glides to the shore to drop off a new child... and take the oldest one away. When Jinny's best friend Deen is taken at this "Changing," Jinny suddenly becomes the group's "elder" and must care for the new arrival. Jinny knows her responsibilities as the oldest kid on the island, but will she abide by the "rules" as she counts down to the inevitable arrival of the green boat to take her away, or will she buck tradition and mess up the island's peace in the process?
Orphan Island is a meditation on growing up -- on what happens when we ask tough questions and realize we may never get answers. It is thoughtful, wise and, perhaps more importantly, unwavering in its honesty. Jinny is a narrator we root for- but one who is also, at times, a bit unlikable. Yet even as we may disapprove of certain actions she takes or choices she makes, we never cease to understand her motivations. Smack dab in the middle of that awkward transition between childhood and adolescence, Jinny is undoubtedly flawed. Her flaws, though, make her story all the more compelling. She is the reason you will fall into Orphan Island and not be able to put it down. Her internal dissonance - fear of losing the island's stability while simultaneously yearning for something beyond its stagnancy - will strike a chord and resonate with your children who will relate to her innermost thoughts and longings. Orphan Island is contemplative, lyrical, and a brilliant study in character. A must read for your tweens.
Want the book? Get it here! Orphan Island, by Laurel Snyder. *This is an affiliate link. We received a copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions are our own.
The Cloud Spinner, written by Michael Catchpool and illustrated by Alison Jay, is one of those lyrical, stunning stories I discovered long after it was published and was surprised I hadn't heard of prior. It's a story that reminds us that greed can be extraordinarily harmful, beauty is fragile and we must listen to our world and trust our instincts-- because if we don't, life as we know it could be altered significantly, and not necessarily for the better.
In The Cloud Spinner, a young boy has an incredible talent- he is able to weave cloth from the clouds. He utilizes his gift only to make one scarf to protect his head and a second short scarf to wear around his neck to stay warm. But one day the king sees the child's elegant scarf and demands the boy make him some clothes... cloaks and gowns and more and more and more despite the boy's protests. As the boy begrudgingly obeys the king's commands, fewer clouds grace the sky- until one day they are all gone. The clouds’ disappearance comes with a whole host of problems, and soon the delicate world is in tremendous danger.
The Cloud Spinner is absolutely gorgeous, a modern classic, imparting so much wisdom without ever being didactic. Allison Jay's exquisite, cracked illustration style beautifully compliments prose that speaks to the fragility of the world around us. The Cloud Spinner reminds us that greed can befall even the best of us when we find something we love, and we must find ways to reign it in before it becomes our undoing. It shows even the littlest of kids how imperative it is to advocate for the protection of our resources and to find the courage to stand up for our beautiful earth when others seek to harm it. Most importantly, the book reminds us that needs and wants are two very different notions, and most of the time, enough truly is enough - getting more will simply not have the positive impact or affect we so desire. A marvelous book that will spark tremendous discussion opportunities with your kids and students. Two huge trunks up for this beauty!
Want the book? Get it here! The Cloud Spinner, by Michael Catchpool. *This is an affiliate link.
It's been less than six months since I did a complete about face and changed careers entirely, leaving the law behind to become a school library media specialist. It's been incredible, to say the least. And in this short time, I've learned something rather quickly-- something I've always known, but never before had the opportunity to experience with a large group of kids: a class read aloud can be a very, very powerful thing.
One, by Kathryn Otoshi, was one such read aloud. In One, Red is a hothead who continuously picks on Blue. Though this bullying is witnessed by several other colors, no one is ready to stand up for Blue and tell Red to stop his taunting. But then One comes along, and One has no qualms about standing up to Red -- and in doing so, One teaches his friends a valuable lesson. What happens when Red realizes that he no longer has power over the other colors? Will kindness win out?
Every class I read One with was totally and entirely captivated. At once a concept book on both colors and counting, the story more importantly provides a spring point for discussions on bullying, kindness, and inclusiveness. Though the subject matter can certainly lend itself to extreme didacticism, Otoshi handles this subject in a unique manner that leaves children feeling both intrigued and empowered. Use this book to teach your little ones how to stand up for themselves and say no. Even better - make them stand up and say no as you read. If you need to address bullying with any age group and begin some thoughtful discussions on the topic, look no further than One. Two trunks up! For another great #picturebookoftheday, check out @booksandgiggles.
Our fabulous book club, @kidlitpicks, is focused on #loveandkindnessbooks all February -- and One is a perfect choice to demonstrate that kindness wins. For more on this stellar topic, look no further than: @readingisourthing, @ilovebooksandicannotlie, and @books_and_babycinos.
Want the book? Get it here! One, by Kathryn Otoshi. *This is an affiliate link.
I adore books that turn everything you think you know about books upside down - books that experiment with form and art and prose in a manner so fresh and unique, they make you feel as if you are discovering a book for the very first time. SHY, written and illustrated by Deborah Friedman, is one such book. Aside from its sweet story and gorgeous illustrations, SHY offersa creative perspective and an especially unique manner of handling the various elements of story. We immediately fell in love, and this was undoubtedly one of our favorite picture books of 2016.
In SHY, the title character, Shy, remains unseen in the gutter of the book, too shy to confront his fear of having to interact with others. Shy loves birds, though, but has only ever read about them. One day, Shy hears and sees a beautiful bird flying near him, but he is too nervous to leave his home. Will he eventually find the courage to leave? Or will he stay shy -- and hidden -- forever? And if he does venture out of his home, will he even show us his face? Or will he try to stay hidden among other animals he meets along the way?
SHY is a gentle, beautiful book that is especially perfect for any of your little ones who are bashful - or at least shy in certain situations. It's one of those books you want to always have close by for its uniqueness, its artistry and its ability to touch so many readers. Themuted color palette transforms based on Shy's emotional state- pale at his shyest, brighter at his bravest- yet it never fails to mesmerize the reader and pull him right into the story. Young readers will be eager to find Shy within the pages of the gutter, and after the book is finished, will eagerly flip right back to the front of the story to see what clues they may have missed along the way. A glorious, tender read- one not to be missed.
Want the book? Get it here! SHY, by Deborah Freedman. *Note this is an affiliate link.
Perfection. It's a notion many of us strive for, but something so rarely met. Being the prettiest, the smartest, the fastest. The skinniest. The most popular. Or, to some, a more quiet, less showy pursuit of perfection: being the cleanest, the most organized, or the one most able to create order in their chaotic, everyday life. Is there ever an end point, one where a person can stand back and view his accomplishments with a satisfied smile, arms crossed over his chest, all while thinking to himself, yes! This is perfection! Or is perfection merely an illusion, something sought after with almost reckless abandon, until the seeker himself is so caught up in finding perfect that he or she loses himself along the way?
This is the idea behind Elly Swartz's thought-provoking and heart-wrenching debut novel, Finding Perfect, about twelve year old Molly Nathans, a sixth grader struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder. To Molly, perfection is the number four, the tip of a newly sharpened pencil, and her perfectly aligned glass animal figurines. Not perfect? Her mother's sudden absence to take on a new job. Molly concocts a plan to bring her mother back home, believing that if she wins her school's slam poetry contest, her mom will never miss the celebratory banquet. But writing her poems becomes increasingly harder as Molly's obsessive habits begin to spiral out of control, and the rest of her life suddenly does too. Will Molly's compulsions keep her in check, or will they actually be the very things preventing her from finding her own version of perfect?
Swartz's Finding Perfect is a stellar debut tackling obsessive compulsive disorder, a little discussed disorder that affects nearly 500,000 children in the United States. This is the first middle grade book I've come across discussing this mental health challenge, and it does so in an authentic, heartfelt and honest manner. Molly's voice is pitch perfect and emotionally resonant. Her obsession with perfection, made increasingly dire by her mother's absence, the trials and tribulations of being a middle schooler, and her sudden fear that a lack of order will adversely affect her brother's health, creates authentic desperation. Molly leaves readers heart broken -- yet achingly hopeful -- as her life spins out of control and she is unable to remove herself from the clutches of OCD's vicious web. Finding Perfect will ring true with all children struggling to find their own versions of "perfect" in a society increasingly focused on putting unrealistic demands on children, which often causes kids to place absurdly unrealistic expectations on themselves. An important read, a powerful read, and one that belongs in all middle and elementary school libraries.
Want the book? Get it here! Finding Perfect, by Elly Swartz. *This is an affiliate link.
I love the idea that art can transform. There is a part of me that holds on to that-- that maybe we can paint the world beautiful, bring color to all of the darkest street corners and joy to the most desolate of communities, until one splash of color begets another, and then another, and soon the universe is bathed in love and light. That's why we fell hard for Maybe Something Beautiful, because there is so much power behind the idea that art can lift up a community.
Maybe Something Beautiful, by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, tells the story of young Mira, a girl who believes that just a little splash of color can make a big, big difference in her otherwise dreary community. Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, Mira shows us how even kids can accomplish great things - including transformation. Rafael Lopez, the book's illustrator, was also the artist behind the Urban Art Trail. His illustrations are as gorgeous as his real life murals.
This book is as beautiful as it sounds. Muted tones are first used to depict the city, so when we experience Mira's art, both individually and then together with the muralist, the artwork feels alive in its vibrance - a living, breathing masterpiece. This is such an evocative story of community, conveying how together we have the power to bring hope to the hopeless and light to the languishing, to create beauty where it didn't before exist. Pickle loved the energetic rhythm infused within these pages, but perhaps most importantly, he loved exploring how Mira's artwork had the capacity to revitalize a community. He kept saying, as simple as it sounds, that the book was pretty, and I have to agree. It is pretty not just for its illustrations, but for both the simplicity and complexity of its theme. Maybe something beautiful? No. I'd say definitely. Because there is no hesitation here. This book is definitely something beautiful, and one to cherish.
Want the book? Get it here! Maybe Something Beautiful, by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell. *This is an affiliate link.
Looking for the best books on creativity for your children? Do you want to foster creativity in your little ones, whether at home or in your classroom? Keep on reading!
Foster Creativity in Your Kids with The Dot!
We all want to leave our mark, but sometimes, figuring out how to get there is daunting. And when something seems too hard, or too far away, or too much of a wrong fit for us, we often wish we could just give up. But this isn't the lesson to teach our kids, and that is where The Dot, by Peter Reynolds, comes in. I absolutely adore this book for the way it fosters creativity in my boys and my students, and this is one we turn to again and again.
In The Dot, Vashti struggles in art class, defiantly stating to her teacher that she just can't draw. Her teacher tells her to make "just one mark" on her paper and to see where that mark takes her. So Vashti complies- making one small dot on the paper. The teacher tells Vashti to sign her name on her artwork, and then, in a moment of pure brilliance, frames it on the wall. Seeing her work on display, of course, encourages Vashti to do better, and what follows is a beautiful journey of self discovery and exploration, as a little girl ignites the creative fire she never knew she had within.
So Why Is This One of the Best Books on Creativity for Kids?
In this crazy and over-scheduled world that seems to pressure even the littlest of kids to be perfect and the absolute best at every activity they do, I love how The Dot takes an almost opposing message, imparting to hesitant children that there is always room to explore activities without pressure. The magic of childhood is just that- it's a time of experimentation and imagination, a time to simply make a mark to see where it takes you. And that's what it should be, because little kids don't know what they will love and what they will hate, where they will excel and where they are lacking. The Dot encourages this experimentation without any pressure to succeed, and this is what matters more than anything. Encouraging kids to try. Because when you try, when you take that one little action. it just may be the start of something wonderful. Thank you, Peter Reynolds, for this absolute treasure!
Did you like this post? We hope so! We think you will love these, too: Favorite Books about Courage, Favorite Books About Perseverance, and Favorite Picture Books of 2017.
Want the book? Get it here! The Dot, by Peter Reynolds. *This is an affiliate link.
When a princess tries to hide the fact that she floats, you know you’re in for the most magical of self esteem books for kids. And this one is simply superb. Princess Hyacinth is a family favorite!Read More
I have become a huge fan of Peter Brown since having kids, and Mr. Tiger Goes Wild has fast become a favorite. In this fun story, Mr. Tiger is bored with his life because he is always made to act proper. So what does he do? He begins to bend the rules, little by little- first by walking on all fours, then by roaring loudly, and then by taking off his suit and jacket (which is guaranteed to get some glorious giggles out of your kids!) Mr. Tiger's family and friends are not thrilled with his behavior and tell him he would be better served in the wilderness, so off he goes. He runs wild and free in the woods, but eventually, after a perfectly placed wordless spread, Mr. Tiger gets lonesome and returns home. Upon his return, he finds that some things in his neighborhood have changed -- all because of his actions -- for the better.
There is so much to love about this story. First, the illustrations beautifully enhance the text, and l love how the brightness of Mr. Tiger's orange fur is juxtaposed with the drab grays and browns of the more "civilized" society. (If you get your hands on this, be sure to also check out the difference in color of the end papers at the beginning and end of the book!) Second, the story is brilliantly paced, and I love the way Brown uses wordless spreads to both further the narrative and heighten the tension. These spreads elicit both glee and sensitivity, particularly the center spread of our beloved naked protagonist, as well as the spread depicting an almost reflective Mr. Tiger which foreshadows his return home despite his fun and freedom in the wilderness. Third, this story reminds our kids how important it is to remain true to themselves, to stand up for what they believe in, and, when necessary, to go against the grain.
Most importantly, however, this story so perfectly explores that tenuous line between two important yet contradictory childhood desires: the desire for structure and the desire (and - gasp!) the need to be wild and roam free. Kids crave both of these constructs -- and this book beautifully illustrates that the two are not mutually exclusive. When the wild romp is over, there truly is no place like home.
Want the book? Get it here! Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, by Peter Brown. *This is an affiliate link.
This story and its main character- an expressive, furry bear- have wholly and completely stolen my heart. The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield has gotten significant buzz in the literary world, and it was one of those books I feared would end up disappointing me. To say it lived up to the hype is an understatement and does not do this book justice. It blew me away with both its understated yet compelling narrative and its illustrative beauty.
In this story, a bear happens across a piano in the woods. He strikes the keys, hears an awful sound, and walks away. But he returns to the instrument day after day and eventually becomes a phenomenal piano player, making music for his friends in the woods. One day, a girl and her father hear him playing and tell him of the big city where there are grand pianos and hundreds of people to listen to his music. With a longing for this experience, the bear follows them there. Before long he is famous in the city, playing sold out concerts and winning prominent awards. But despite his fame, the bear eventually comes to miss his home, and so he returns to his place in the woods where he is greeted with love and pride by his friends who have been cheering him on from afar.
Oh, this book! Its simple but profound text tugged at my emotions. The rich, mixed-media illustrations seem to have their own heartbeat underneath your fingers, and the manner in which Litchfield is able to capture the bear's emotions both through text and art is priceless. This book, in so many ways, breathes magic. It reminds us of the importance of spreading your wings and following your dreams, while never forgetting where you come from. The Bear and the Piano epitomizes the reason I love stories and the reason I hope to impart my love of reading to my boys. Simply put: Perfection.
Want the book? Get it here! The Bear and the Piano, by David Litchfield. * This is an affiliate link.
What Do You Do With an Idea by Kobi Yamada is one of those books that every child should have on his or her bookshelf. It is both beautiful and powerful, and it is a gift to any reader's library.
The premise of the book is simple: a young child has an idea, illustrated as a golden egg complete with legs and a crown, but he doesn't know what to do with it and at first tries to resist it. After keeping the idea at a distance, however, he eventually embraces it because, simply put, it won't leave him alone and he finds it magical. Even when others find it weird or silly, he continues to nurture the idea with a quiet love and persistence. Eventually, the idea takes on a life of its own... and it changes the world.
Aside from the imaginative and powerful narrative-- the color palette in this book is hugely effective. The illustrations are initially drawn in muted tones with just a tiny hint of color- yet the "idea" stands out in a brilliant orangey-gold. The idea grows bigger and bigger, and the contrast of the gold against the stark background masterfully represents that the idea is something to be treasured. As the idea grows and the boy shows it increasing love and devotion, so to do the illustrations become increasingly brighter and more colorful. It is so well done, and I love how color is used just as expertly as the words.
One small idea- however silly or unimportant it may seem to some- can truly impact the world in significant ways. This book reminds both kids and adults alike to cherish and nurture these ideas , as they are something to be treasured. One thing is for sure: I hope this isn't the last we see from Kobi Yamada.
Want the book? Get it here! What Do You Do With an Idea?, by Kobi Yamada. *This is an affiliate link.
Every so often you meet a book which you need only one word to describe: magical. This book. THIS BOOK!! A friend told me about Pamela Zagarenski's The Whisper a few weeks ago. Based on her rave reviews I rushed to get it, especially because I am a huge fan of Zagarenski's illustrations. Not only did the book not disappoint, but my friend's rave reviews just didn't do it justice.
When a little girl goes home from school after borrowing a book from her teacher, she discovers that all of the words have disappeared from the pages, leaving only the illustrations for her to look at. She is frustrated at first, until she hears a whisper telling her that she can imagine the words and the stories all on her own. What follows is a child who initially grapples with the idea of putting her own words to the illustrations, but then slowly finds her voice and unlocks the doors of her imagination.
This book is gorgeous, with magnificent golden pictures that seem to hold whispers of magic on every page. It beautifully imparts to readers that there is not merely one way to tell a story, and it reminds us - even the most hesitant children and adults - that we are ALL storytellers. This has quickly become one of my all time favorites.
Want the book? Get it here! The Whisper, by Pamela Zagarenski. *This is an affiliate link.