When Small Gestures Become Great Gifts

Sidewalk Flowers was conceived by Jon Arno Lawson and beautifully illustrated by Sydney Smith. This picture book is a wordless wonder. A young girl dressed in a red is walking along the busy sidewalks with her distracted father.

The young girl is curious. While those around her are focused on where they are going, she notices the smallest of details. She suddenly she discovers two small yellow dandelions growing in between the cracks of the sidewalk and so she picks them. As they continue walking together she picks many different types of weeds and wildflowers, creating a beautiful bouquet in her hands. On their way through the park, the father and daughter pass a dead bird. She is compelled to leave some flowers to honor the small creature. Then slowly, she gives away the rest of the flowers. From a man sleeping on a bench to a neighborhood dog.

Sydney Smith’s pen and ink illustrations are composed primarily of white, black and grays. At first the girl’s jacket and the flowers are simple splashes of color, but each time she gives her flowers away, more color is added to the world around her. The story is told using a series of panels with varied perspectives.

Sidewalk Flowers is a stunning book that invites the reader on a journey along with a humble and empathetic protagonist. We are encouraged to slow down and notice our surroundings. We are inspired to be intentional in our actions and kind to others.

This picture book is perfect readers ages 3-10. Younger readers will enjoy looking at the beautiful illustrations and talking about what is happening in the story. Older readers can explore the more complex social issues that arise across the pages as well as the author and illustrator’s craft moves. What I love about wordless books like Sidewalk Flowers is that they are accessible to all learners.

 

 

A Perfectly Moving Book About Loss

 

  My Yellow Balloon by Tiffany Papageorge is a wonderful and touching picture book about loss, portrayed through the experience of a young boy losing his beloved yellow balloon. The story is set in the 1930s, a carnival comes to town and young Joey sees a balloon man selling balloons. The beautiful mass of balloons hover in the air, mesmerizing the young boy. Unable to select one, the balloon man picks a yellow balloon for the young boy and ties it to his wrist.

The yellow balloon becomes Joey’s companion, joining him on his various adventures. Then one day, the unexpected happens. The balloon slips off of Joey’s wrist. He has no choice but to watch helplessly as his friend and companion floats up and up, away from the young boy. He is devastated. All color drains from the illustrations to help convey the intensity of his sadness.

Across the following pages, he experiences a range of emotions from anger to sadness. But in his dreams, Joey and his balloon are reunited.

Time passes slowly and Joey goes from missing his balloon all of the time to a lot of the time and some of the time. The ending of the story is precious and powerful. Though Joey is never reunited with his yellow balloon, he learns an invaluable lesson about transition and loss.

My Yellow Balloon is an incredible picture book that tackles such an important social issue in a way that is accessible for kids. There are not many books that deal with loss in a way that is easy for all young readers to relate to.

The Caterpillar Corner had the opportunity to speak with Tiffany Papageorge about her book My Yellow Balloon, a conversation which left us in complete awe of a book we already fell in love with. Each detail of the illustrations is carefully crafted, and plays as important of a role in the story as the text itself. For example, the change in the color palette of the illustrations reflect Joey’s innocence at the beginning of the story and later validate the importance of his experience toward the end. Another example includes all of the toys in his dream are found in different scenes of the book, with the exception of the pink unicorn.

In speaking with Tiffany Papageorge, we talk a lot about the power of loss to transform us as individuals. This lesson comes across in such a sophisticated way through the pages of My Yellow Balloon.

Click here to purchase a copy of My Yellow Balloon (affiliate link).

For more information about Tiffany Papageorge, including her in-school programs, please visit her website.

Safe & Sound

Safe & Sound is an amazing picture book about many different baby animals who are protected by their parents. Some are big, like elephants and rhino calves, while others are small, like chipmunks and chicks.

Jean Roussen’s text is simple and rhymes to engage the reader across the pages of the book. Loris Lora’s beautiful illustrations are vibrant and sweet, depicting the connection between the parent animals and their babies.

Safe & Sound is a wonderful picture book for kids ages 2-5. The illustrations closely support the text and will help young readers follow along. The content is scientifically factual and will engage young animal enthusiasts.

Safe & Sound is available for purchase in May 2017. Click here to pre-order a copy of Safe & Sound (affiliate link).

I received a complimentary copy of Safe & Sound in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

The Perfect Book About Winter for Young Readers

Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant is the perfect book for young readers, excited about winter and snow. The five little penguins spy snowflakes drifting down from the sky. They announce excitedly, “Winter is coming!” Then quickly scurry around their igloo preparing to venture outside.

Mittens? Check. Scarves? Check. Socks and boots? Check and check.

This book captures the energy and enthusiasm young ones have for playing in the snow. The text is short and simple, making it accessible for the youngest of readers. Christian Robinson’s stunning pictures include cut paper and acrylic paint. They convey the emotions across the pages perfectly, from excitement to exhaustion.

For example, many grown ups can related to the illustration below that captures exactly what happens when kids return home after playing in the snow.

Little Penguins is the perfect picture book for readers ages 2-6. Younger readers will enjoy pointing at and naming the different items on the pages. Older readers will enjoy reading along and talking about what they notice in the different illustrations. This book is great for comparing and contrasting the seasons and would be a perfect addition to any home library.

Click here to purchase a copy of Little Penguins (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of Little Penguins in exchange for my honest review.

A Hilarious St. Patrick’s Day Read

How to Catch a Leprechaun by Adam Wallace is a hysterical St. Patrick’s Day read. St. Patrick’s Day is near and the Leprechaun is ready to cause maximum trouble, from dumping glitter in your hair to turning your toilet green!

The Leprechaun visits many different homes causing lots of mischief, and escaping booby traps them left and right. He’s quick. He’s crafty. He’s merciless.

How to Catch a Leprechaun is a fun read for kids of all ages. The illustrations by Andy Elkerton highlight the mess the Leprechaun leaves behind as well as the intricacies of the plans to finally trap him.

How to Catch a Leprechaun is great for readers ages 3-7. Click here to purchase a copy of this book (affiliate link).

 

 

The Perfect St. Patrick’s Day Story

The holiday section of our local library may be my favorite. It is organized chronologically and features so many fantastic books for the different holidays throughout the year.

A Fine St. Patrick’s Day by Susan Wojciechowski is a fantastic story about community and being kind to others. It’s nearly St. Patrick’s Day and two rival towns, Tralah and Tralee, are preparing for their annual decorating contest. Tralah wins each year. This year, Tralee comes up with the perfect idea.

Both towns are hard at work, when a little man arrives seeking help. His cows are stuck in the mud. The residents of Tralah are too busy cutting out and glittering shamrocks to help. He crosses into Tralee and though they are reluctant at first, the townspeople come together and do the right thing.

A Fine St. Patrick’s Day is a simple story with an important message. The illustrations by Tom Curry have a folk art element, the characters have exaggerated features and the colors are earthy and natural. This is the perfect St. Patrick’s Day read.

Click here to purchase a copy of A Fine St. Patrick’s Day (affiliate link).

 

The Journey

There has never been a more timely and relevant book that Francesa Sanna’s The Journey. It’s a powerful and moving picture book that captures the experience of a refugee family trying to find a new safe place to call home. The illustrations capture the emotional setting perfectly and help readers of all ages imagine how difficult this journey truly is.

Told in first person, The Journey, is about a young girl whose family used to do ordinary things like go to the beach every summer. But a war began and their lives changed forever. Everything became darker and more difficult, which is captured by the drastic change in the color scheme of the illustrations.

The mother begins to prepare her children to leave their home and everyone they know behind in search of a safe place. She maintains an optimistic tone and even presents it to them as an adventure.

The family quickly learns, “The further we go… the more we leave behind.”

When they finally arrive at the border, there is an enormous wall. They face many obstacles and hardships, yet they persevere. Surrounded by the scary and unfamiliar, the mother comforts her children and keeps them safe in her embrace.

The Journey takes the reader on the journey of uncertainty and danger that many refugees face today. It is an invaluable story of hope even during the darkest of times that will inspire empathy and compassion in young readers.

This book is perfect for readers ages 5-10. It explores important social issues including war, family and loss.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Journey (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of The Journey in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

Finding a Fur-ever Home

Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius Cat is the perfect picture book for young cat lovers. The main character is a cat who lives a very busy life. Each day he makes his rounds, visiting the different homes up and down Blossom Street.

Each person he visits has a different name for him, hence the long title of the book. There is, however, one house he does not visit. Number eleven. Mrs. Murray, an elderly woman, lives along in her house, she spends her days knitting and watching television. Until one day Mrs. Murray receives a package and an unexpected surprise!

Days go by and nobody has seen the cat. Take a closer look at the beautiful illustrations to see how each person misses him in their own way! Mr. Green has a spare fish for him. Miss Fernandez lacks inspiration for her painting.

Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius Cat has the perfect ending. One that brings together people of all ages and celebrates friendship and finding a forever home.

This is a delightful picture book for kids ages. Click here to purchase a copy of Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius Cat (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

Teaching the Power of Positive Thinking and Acceptance

From a young age we are taught not to judge a book by it’s cover. When it comes to picking picture books, often times I do just that. I pick books to read because the title and/or the cover captures my attention. Abigail the Whale* by Davide Cali did just that.

As grown ups, we all know that kids can sometimes be cruel. We have all either had direct experiences with name calling ourselves or seen it happening around us. Abigail the Whale tackles this issue in a way that promotes resilience in the person who is experiencing the unkind behavior. It does so in a very powerful and thoughtful way, that will inspire readers of all ages.

When Abigail dives into the pool, she makes an enormous wave and the kids shout out, “Abigail is a whale!” She feels very self-conscious about the size of her body and the negative attention she receives because of it.

Abigail’s swim teacher takes the time to notice and check in with her about swimming. She confides in him that she is too big and heavy to be a good swimmer. That’s when he teaches her about the power of our thinking. If Abigail wants to swim fast, she should think light. Envision how you want to be and that will become your reality.

With this new perspective, things begin to change for Abigail. It is only once Abigail sees herself in a new light that the kids also begin to see her in this way. Abigail the Whale is an important read for all young readers because it not only teaches about empathy but also self-worth.

This picture book is ideal for sparking conversations about difference and teaching inclusion, but it also empowers kids to love themselves for who they are. Abigail the Whale is simply a must-have picture book in every classroom library.

Click here to purchase a copy of Abigail the Whale (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of Abigail the Whale in exchange for my honest review.

 

Little Ninjas and Their Dojo Master

The Dojo series*, which includes Dojo Daycare, Dojo Daytrip, and Dojo Surprise is bound to leave young readers giggling with delight. Written and illustrated by Chris Tougas, the series consists of a group of young ninjas who enjoy practicing their ninja skills (pulling, punching, taking and breaking).

Each book includes a different adventure, from attending daycare and planning a special surprise to going on a field trip. In each scenario, the Dojo Master tries to control the ninja kids, pleading with them to take time to reflect and to help those in need. In each book all hope is almost completely lost that the little ninjas will ever comply with his requests.

The poor Dojo Master repeats a different set of hysterical phrases in each book that children will love reading too! For example in the Dojo Daytrip it is “YIKES! YEE-OW!”

At the very end of each adventure, the little ninjas pull it together and order is restored. Ultimately it shows that the ninjas do have respect for their Master.

This series is wonderful because it is playful and fun. It is written in rhyme and jam-packed with illustrations that jump off each page. Young readers will be engaged from the first  page and will be requesting to read these books over and over again.

The Dojo books are great for readers ages 3-7.

Click here to purchase Dojo DaycareDojo Daytrip or Dojo Surprise (affiliate links).

*I received complimentary copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.