Building a Community Garden

Green Green: A Community Gardening Story by Marie Lamba and Baldev Lamba is a wonderful picture book for promoting environmental awareness for young readers ages 2-6. Written in simple, poetic form and accompanied by vibrant, dynamic illustrations, Green Green follows the transformation of the land and the way a group of community members work together to restore some elements of nature.

The story starts with a group of kids playing in an expansive field, filled with beautiful flowers and butterflies.

Gradually, the natural landscape evolves into a cityscape and the green and brown are replaced by browns and grays of digging and construction. The green in each scene is reduced to a small potted plant here and there or a solitary tree.

The members of the community see the potential for creating a community garden on a small plot of land. They work hard to remove litter and garbage to restore a small piece of nature among the hustle and bustle of the busy city.

Green Green is the perfect picture book for exposing young children to the concept of environmentalism and showing them some simple ways that they can feel empowered to make a difference. The illustrations by Sonia Sanchez are breathtakingly beautiful, subtle yet powerful. They bring the simple yet impactful text to life and give readers a lot to talk about.

Click here to purchase a copy of Green Green A Community Gardening Story (affiliate link).

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

The Special Relationship Between Mom and Child

Bloom is a lovely picture book about a mother and daughter who plant tulip bulbs together one day. They take turns digging holes and planting the bulbs one by one while laughing along the way. Deborah Diesen, author of the Pout-Pout Fish series, captures the tactile experience of planting, from handling the dirt to carefully examining the bulbs. Each character wonders silently how bulbs could possibly bloom into something big and tall.

 Time passes. Celebrations. A big trip. So much happens that the mother and daughter both almost forget that they’d planted the bulbs. Mary Lundquist’s illustrations are beautiful and capture not only the emotional setting but the passing of time perfectly.

But, day by day they grow. As does the relationship and love between mother and daughter. Bloom is a wonderful ode to the special connection between mom and child. The love blossoms as do the tulips at the end of the story, slow yet strong. Bloom celebrates spending time together and making memories that will last a lifetime.

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

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

 

 

Wildlife Coloring Book

Wildlife: A Map Coloring Book by Natalie Hughes is the perfect gift for budding artists who love to learn about animals and different places in the world. Each map is jam-packed with different creatures that live in that particular part of the world as well as interesting facts about each. It would be fun to have kids compare and contrast the creatures they see across the pages and to draw bigger generalizations.

Wildlife is the perfect way to engage kids in learning about different species and places in the world. This book invites many great conversations about protecting the environment and the consequences of human actions on the well-being of Earth’s creatures.

Click here to purchase a copy of Wildlife: A Map Coloring Book (affiliate link).

 

We’re All Wonders

We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio is the perfect companion picture book to Wonder. As a teacher, I’ve never seen a book capture the attention of a more diverse group of readers as Wonder. I was delighted to see that it’s powerful message has been perfectly captured in a picture book for younger readers.

Auggie is a young boy who is ordinary in all ways except for his appearance. Even though his mom thinks he’s a wonder, but many people cannot see beyond they way he looks to see him for who he really is.

We’re All Wonders is not only about accepting the differences of one child, but acknowledging that which makes us all unique and embracing that.

We’re All Wonders is a must-have for every home and school library to teach kids from a young age that we are all different whether that is our appearance, our religion, the languages we speak, etc. and that is not only okay, it is wonderful.

Click here to purchase a copy of We’re All Wonders (affiliate link).

 

A Wonderful Picture Book about Ramadan

Lailah’s Lunchbox is the perfect introduction to Ramadan for young students. Lailah is finally old enough to participate in fasting during Ramadan and she is very excited. Her mother writes a note to her teacher, Mrs. Penworth, explaining that Lailah should be excused from lunch in observation Ramadan. Lailah is worried that her teacher and classmates will think that she is strange for fasting or that they won’t know what Ramadan is, so she keeps the note to herself and acts as if she has forgotten her lunch. When her friend Anna offers to share her cream rolls with Lailah, she sits quietly and begins to second-guess her decision to fast.

Lailah asks to go to the library, where she confides in the librarian Mrs. Carman all that is on her mind. Together they come up with the perfect way for Lailah to open up to her teacher and to share with her all about Ramadan.

Lailah’s Lunchbox is a fantastic story based on Reem Faruqi’s own life experience moving to the United States and explaining what Ramadan is to classmates and friends in Peachtree City, Georgia. This story captures many different and important social issues, including moving somewhere new and different religions. This story emphasizes the humanity of the children and their experiences and promotes understanding and empathy of others.

Lailah’s Lunchbox is a must-have in every classroom library. It is the perfect read for kids ages 6-9. This year, Ramadan begins May 26 and lasts until June 25.

Click here to purchase a copy of Lailah’s Lunchbox (affiliate link).

 

A Fantastic Non-Fiction Series for Readers

A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to review Kid Artists… by David Stabler. I was so excited to find a captivating non-fiction chapter book for upper elementary and middle school aged readers. I was even more delighted to learn that there were more books in the series which includes Kid Presidents* and Kid Athletes*. 

Each book features true tales from a famous person’s childhood making it easy for readers to relate to them and deeply humanizing these important figures who would go on to become famous athletes of presidents. Readers do not need to know much about the person before reading the chapters. Instead of being grouped chronologically, they are grouped by a theme that connects them.

For example, read about Barack Obama’s experience being the new kid in town. He left his home in Hawaii as a young boy to live in Indonesia with his family. There he had a pet gibbon, a type of ape, that ate peanuts from his hand. As a kid, he had to adjust to many changes living in his new home in Indonesia and he faced a significant amount of bullying for looking different and not speaking the language. The chapter teaches about overcoming obstacles, standing up for yourself and encourages kids to become resilient.

  Though I am not a huge sports enthusiast, there are certain times that I am absolutely captivated by sports, including the Summer Olympics. I have a big fan of gymnastics and always amazed by the focus and dedication of the youngest athletes to their sport and art. Kid Athletes is perfect for readers who love sports and for those who have specific athletes they admire. I was obviously drawn to the chapter about Gabby Douglass, the first African American gymnast to win an individual all-around gold medal during the 2012 Olympics.

Her chapter is featured in the section of the book called Family Matters, which explores the important role family played in the childhoods of a group of athletes. As a young child, Gabby demonstrated an early aptitude for gymnastics which led to her joining a gymnastics gym with rigorous instruction and training. Here she encountered bullying due to discrimination and faced many racist remarks from her peers.

Gabby struggled to keep this to herself and it ended up impacting her performances. Meanwhile, her coaches accepted mediocrity at best from her and did not push her to excel in the way that she was fully capable. When she finally was able to connect with a coach who believed in her, she gained the courage to stand up for herself and her gymnastics career skyrocketed.

Each chapter of David Stabler’s books is carefully crafted in a way that is engaging and informative. Each has an important lesson that the readers can take away and apply to his or her own life. Doogie Horner’s illustrations add an element of comedy and help the reader envision what is happening in the text. The partnership between author and illustrator is perfect and I can’t wait to see what else this series has in store!

Click here to purchase a copy of Kid Presidents and Kid Athletes (affiliate links).

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

 

The Grandest Canyon

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin is a phenomenal non-fiction picture book packed with the history and science behind the formation of one of the seven wonders of the world. More than just a large whole in the ground, the Grand Canyon is home to many different types of plants and animals. In fact the conditions vary so much from level to level of the canyon that each layer sustains a different type of plant and animal life entirely! How cool is that?

Jason Chin tells “the story” of the Grand Canyon as a father and daughter pair embark on a camping trip. Diagrams are great text features in helping the reader better understand complicated scientific concepts including erosion.

This book includes flashbacks in time so the reader can better understand how the Grand Canyon was formed by the movement of different bodies of water over time. For example, this illustration accompanies the description of what the Grand Canyon would have looked like 1.2 billion years ago when the only things living on Earth’s surface were tiny microbes. This mud would eventually transform into a layer of rock that became part of the canyon.

Grand Canyon is packed with many different lenses through which the reader can learn about this amazing natural phenomenon.  Jason Chin leaves us with a breathtaking four-page spread of the Grand Canyon that adds to the awe and wonder he inspires throughout the book.

Click here to purchase a copy of Grand Canyon (affiliate link).

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1596439505/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1596439505&linkCode=as2&tag=g505-20&linkId=288c64b0ee4ab7b68c0510fbb97797de

*I received a complimentary copy of Grand Canyon in exchange for my honest review.

The Power of Change

Allan Drummond’s Pedal Power is a non-fiction picture book that tells the story of how Amsterdam became the cycling capital of the world. This is a wonderful example of cause and effect or problem and solution text structure which is clear for readers from the onset.

When I travelled to Amsterdam while studying abroad in Spain many many years ago, I was taken aback by how prominent cycling was in this gorgeous European city. Pedal Power captures the energy of bikes buzzing down the wide streets.

Back in the 1970s Amsterdam’s streets were dominated by vehicles. Many beautiful buildings were being torn down to make room for wider streets and tunnels to accommodate all the traffic. The streets became too dangerous for cyclists. Young moms decided to take a stand. Led by Maartje Rutten, the dialogue about making the streets safe for everyone was ignited. People began congregating and protesting in conventional and more creative ways.

Overtime, they saw the impact of their protesting and change started to happen. Pedal Power encourages readers to not settle for the status quo but to take a chance and speak up for what you believe in. In this case, Maartje Rutten and a group of young mothers and children came together to make a change that impact not only their community but set an example for many big cities across the world.

Click here to purchase a copy of Pedal Power (affiliate link). 

*I received a complimentary copy of Pedal Power in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

Preparing to Celebrate Earth Day

I love books that teach kids about the Earth, nature and its creatures. Hopefully exposing them to fiction and non-fiction books that teach us about the Earth from a young age will create a generation driven to saving what we have so effortlessly destroyed over time.

Ella Bailey’s books One Day on Our Blue Planet… in the Savannah and One Day on Our Blue Planet… in the Antarctic are a perfect celebration of animals in their habitats.

In One Day on Our Blue Planet… in the Savannah young readers spend a day with a playful young cub learning and exploring life in the desert. From spending time with its family to finding trouble around every corner, this picture book is a celebration of life in an African desert. The illustrations are highly detailed and captivating, inviting the youngest of readers to engage in a conversation about what they see. One Day on Our Blue Planet… in the Savannah is the perfect book for budding animal and nature enthusiasts.

One Day on Our Blue Planet… in the Antarctic learn all about an Adelie penguin chick as she prepares to leave home and sets out to sea. The reader tags along as the penguin swims, finds food to eat and avoids danger. This is another stunning celebration of a rich habitat. The illustrations are filled with blues and whites and movement that captures the energy of life in the Antarctic.

Stay tuned for some additional picture books to help us celebrate Earth Day, which falls on April 22, 2017.

Click here to purchase a copy of One Day on Our Blue Planet… in the Savannah and One Day on Our Blue Planet… in the Antarctic.

 

 

The Challenge of Sounding it Out

I was immediately drawn to Phoebe Sounds It Out by Julie Zwillich when I read the synopsis. This is the perfect book for any child whose name isn’t easy to pronounce or to spell. My husband’s last name is 13-letters long and contains several silent Hs. It’s very rare for someone to pronounce it correctly. I cannot help but worry how our daughter will respond when posed with the challenge of spelling her last name when that time comes. I think Phoebe Sounds It Out will be the perfect addition to her library to encourage her to try her best.

When Phoebe’s teachers announce that the class will be practicing writing their names, Phoebe does her best to avoid the task. She sees her name which has been stitched onto her backpack by her mom, but that name starts with a P and she knows her name starts with the “Fff” sound. She figures that her mom made a mistake.

Phoebe’s teachers encourage her to try her best and to sound it out. The classroom environment is one that allows her to take risks and to try her best as she stretches out the letter sounds and slowly writes each letter. Her efforts are celebrated and her work goes up on display along with all her classmates’.

Phoebe Sounds It Out is a wonderful picture book for reluctant writers. It encourages kids to take risks and to take pride in their work. The illustrations by Denise Holmes perfectly capture the mood of the story, from Phoebe’s nervousness to the calm energy in the classroom. This book is relatable and accessible to readers of all ages.

The Caterpillar Corner and Owlkids Books have partnered in a very special giveaway of Phoebe Sounds It Out. For additional details please click here.

Click here to purchase a copy of Phoebe Sounds It Out (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of Phoebe Sounds It Out in exchange for my honest review.