Friday, June 12, 2020

Layla's Happiness -- Perfect Picture Book Friday

Book Cover for Layla's Happiness

Title: Layla's Happiness

Author: Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie

Illustrator: Ashleigh Corrin

Publisher: Enchanted Lion, 2019

Themes: Happiness


My name is Layla. I am seven years old. 

Layla means "night beauty," and I love the night.

Why I love this book and think you will too:

When I wish my friends happy birthday, I like to wish for them to have joy, laughter, peace, and special moments that become memories to treasure for a lifetime. I have learned that in life, when we look for happiness we are more likely to notice it and when we look for sadness or anger, we will spot that more quickly. Moments are fleeting, but when we move slowly enough to take note and put those memories into a journal or drawing, they stick with us. 

Layla's Happiness is her journal of happiness. Mariahadessa and Ashleigh worked together to share Lay;a's moments of happiness. Each line and illustration is a touchstone for the reader to see that happiness is not some distant thing you must go looking for, it is right there in the purple plum, the poetry, the garden, etc. etc. 

They share their happiness, but also ask, What makes you happy? 

Ashleigh received the Ezra Jack Keats Award for outstanding new illustrator this year.  Mariahadessa received the Writer Honor award. Learn more about it here. You can even watch the award ceremony. 

Ashleigh's illustrations have a beautiful simplicity and show her love for color and graphic shapes. 

I have a book called How to be a Wildflower: a field guide by Katie Daisy. It is like a nature journal and a call to action. The pages Each two page spread is like it's own little universe. As I read Layla's Happiness, I felt like it was designed in that same way. Each two page spread is it's own little world. The element that ties it all together is Layla and her bright yellow dress.

Resources and Activities:

  • Make a Happiness journal, scraps of paper and a pencil or pen is all it takes. You can always add paint or crayons, glue in cool stuff. 
  • Move slowly through the world. Drink in all the beauty.

Friday, June 5, 2020

If We Were Gone -- Perfect Picture Book Friday

World Environment Day

Cover art for If We Were Gone

Title: If We Were Gone: Imagining a World Without People
Author: John Coy
Illustrator: Natalie Capannelli 
Publisher: Millbrook Press, 2020

Themes: Environment, Earth Day, Call to Action

For ages:  5 and Up

We are in a time where the list of hard and scary topics feels completely overwhelming.  Yet, we need to talk about them. We need to take action. No, not need. We must have conversations. We must take action. 

I believe that the place to begin any conversation or action is with kindness, empathy, listening, and using our imaginations.

This book imagines a world without us in it. It asks important questions and offers opportunity for thought, discussion, and action. 

It begins: 
People need water to live.
We need air to breathe.
We need plants to survive.
But do they need us?

Maybe not.
Imagine what would happen 
if people were no longer here.

We are all in this world together.  In the natural world, diversity means survival. 

Activities and Resources

Learn more about World Environment Day

Spend time exploring, wondering, asking questions.

Take a walk. Move slowly and see what you notice. Take note. Take that same walk every week for a year. What changes do you see? 

Draw a picture of the world around you. What is important to your survival? What needs you to survive?

Pick up some garbage.

If we are the intelligent life forms on this planet we call home, how can we create a world of caring, community, equality, sustainability, health, and peace? 

Watch Jane Goodall: The Hope

In the documentary about her, Jane Goodall said, "Even if it's no use, I'm going to die trying." Later she said, "Every person makes some sort of impact o the planer every single day. We get to choose what sort of impact that is." 

How we treat our fellow man. How we treat the trees, the insects, the birds, the land that we live upon all have an impact. Your actions or inaction show what you have chosen. How do you want to be seen? 

Support your Local Indie Bookstore when you purchase a book.

Check out Susanna Hill's Perfect Picture Book Friday Blog post each week to learn about more cool books to read with your kids and add to your collection.

Friday, May 8, 2020

A Stone Sat Still -- Perfect Picture Book Friday

I have been watching the birds in my backyard a lot. In the spring, we have many bird species that only stop by the feeders for a short time before moving on to their nesting grounds. There are also birds who stop coming to the feeder in spring as they are migrating to their nesting ground. I have been paying attention to the birds for several years. I noticed that the red-winged black birds come back in early spring. I used to think of them as summer birds because they would and still do sit on tall grasses in the summer sun and heat and trill all day. After paying attention, I realized that they are very early harbinger of spring. The robins come back a little later, and for a short time, flock into yards and open spaces as large groups looking for tasty meals. I suspect they love the rainy days and the worms coming up from the deep soil. And then the dark-eyed juncos who spend the winter foraging for seed under the bird feeders hang out until all chances of snowstorms are over. I begin to pay close attention to the juncos in March and hope each morning that they will be gone. For me they are a sign that the weather is really changing for the better. I love the juncos in the winter. Their little black and white bodies bop around under the feeders remind me that it may be cold out, but I am as resilient as a little bird so I can go outside too. In the spring, I am ready for warmth and the blooming of flowers and trees. 

Today I chose A Stone Sat Still because it is a poem to nature. A poem to paying attention and noticing things that seem simple and uninteresting, but are actually complex and exciting.
Cover Art for A Stone Sat Still
Title: A Stone Sat Still
Author/Illustrator: Brendan Wenzel
Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2019

Opening Page:
A stone sat still
with the water, grass and dirt

and it was as it was
where it was in the world.

Why I believe you will love this book:
  • It is lyrical and has a lovely repetition. 
  • This story is filled with discussion opportunities and doors to learning more about nature topics. 
  • The illustrations are made with cut paper, colored pencil, oil pastels, marker and the computer. They are soft and bright, wild and gentle.
  • It is a story about using your senses and thinking about size. You can hear the crack of the shell, feel the warmth of the day, and understand that perception of size depends on what is is around. 

And the stone was green     red (book images)

I am not doing this book justice. It is best enjoyed by just enjoying it. It is a book to sit with and ponder. It is the kind of book that catches your heart and holds on as a reminder of how special our world is.

Resources and Activities:

Brendan talks about the story behind this story. 

  • Spend time in the woods, in your yard, on a nature trail, by a river, lake stream, ocean, or at your window and just sit and watch. What do you see? Make a list, draw pictures.
  • What senses are you using as you watch? What senses are the animals, birds, insects using as they interact in the world? 
  • Write a poem about what you discover.
  • If a rock could talk, what do you think it would say about it's life experience?

  • Make a collage animal. 
  • Here's a link to loads of collage ideas.
  • Use found objects for you art. 
  • Play with watercolors and use the pieces to cut up and make a new piece of art.
  • Participate in Citizen Science projects. I have been adding my bird data to Ebird. I also participate in the Frog Calling Survey and will be doing a training on a pollinator project. I love it because I get to be in nature and hopefully help the wildlife by keeping track of the things I see.
  • Recently I started a little photography project that I call, "Nine things I Noticed."  I take lots of pictures with my phone when I walk my dog. I pull together nine of the cool things I love and put them together in the Instagram Layout App.  Here are two that I have created. 
    Nine weird and wonderful thing noticed on a walk.Nine Flowers I noticed on a walk
Well, nature and my dog are calling. Off to see what we notice today.

Support your Local Indie Bookstore when you purchase a book.

Check out Susanna Hill's Perfect Picture Book Friday Blog post each week to learn about more cool books to read with your kids and add to your collection.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Tiny Creatures -- Perfect Picture Book Friday

Earth Day Every Day!

Cover art for Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes

Title: Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes
Author: Nicola Davies
Illustrator: Emily Sutton
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2014 (US)

Themes: Science, Second person, STEAM, Microbes

Opening Lines: You know about big animals, and you know about small animals . . .but do you know that there are creatures so tiny that millions could fit on this ant's antenna?

Why I believe you will LOVE this Book:

As we live through this Pandemic with Covid-19, microbes are taking a front seat in our fear and desire to understand. This picture book provides an understanding of microbes, the good, the bad, the pretty, and the ugly.

This book helps readers grasp the benefits and dangers of microbes. It helps us grasp that they come in many shapes and sizes. There are many more healthy microbes than the bad ones.

Emily Sutton's watercolor illustrations are beautiful and help to make a kind of scary topic less scary.

food into compost. Milk into yoghurt page

This is one of those books that you may not pick up on any old average day, but once you do pick it up, I think you will go back to it even when we have any old average days again.

rocks into soil page

Resources and Activities:

Here is a video of the book being read aloud.

An inspiring video interview with Nicola Davies.

Nicola's Website

Emily Sutton's Website

Learn more about Microbiology

This video is current and puts the health of our earth into relationship with the health of humankind.

Support your Local Indie Bookstore when you purchase a book.

Check out Susanna Hill's Perfect Picture Book Friday Blog post each week to learn about more cool books to read with your kids and add to your collection.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Four Otters Toboggan-- Perfect Picture Book Friday


Cover Art for Four Otters Toboggan

Title: Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book
Author: Vivian Kirkfield
Illustrator: Mirka Hokkanen
Publisher: Pomegrante Kids, 2019

Themes: Nature, Counting, Conservation, STEAM, Earth Day

Opening Lines: 
Water waits.
Dawn breaks
in a chorus of bird song.

ONE willow flycatcher whistles
as the night slips silently away.

Text (c) Vivian Kirkfield, Illustration (c) Mirka Hokkanen, 2019

Why I Believe you will love this book:

Counting animals.

Text (c) Vivian Kirkfield, Illustration (c) Mirka Hokkanen, 2019

Poetry and the full circle of the day. A great story to read as you begin and end the day.

Text (c) Vivian Kirkfield, Illustration (c) Mirka Hokkanen, 2019

A theme of conservation with specific animals offers children a deeper look into the natural world allowing them to see the beauty and understand the need to care for the earth.

The art is beautiful. Mirka's printmaking is filled with detail and gentle colors that pull you in like the beauty of a new day. As they say "Earth without Art is just, Eh!" -- Demetri Martin

This is a lovely, simple, yet complex story that can be read to children of all ages. 

Activities and Resources:

  • Be sure to read the backmatter and learn more about each animal in the story.

  • Check out the activity guide. It is chock full of great things to do.

  • Watch Mirka making prints for the book:

  • Go on a scavenger hunt to see how many insects, mammals, and birds you see. 

Support your local Indie Bookstore when you purchase a new book.

Check out Susanna Hill's Perfect Picture Book Friday Blog post each week to learn about more cool books to read with your kids and add to your collection.

Friday, April 17, 2020

We Are Water Protectors -- Perfect Picture Book Friday

It is Earth Month and April 22nd is Earth Day, the 50th anniversary. Every Day is Earth Day. This is our planet and we need to care for it each and every day. We Are Water Protectors is brand new and it is a poem and prayer for our earth and the water that gives us life.

Cover Art for We are Water Protectors

Title: We Are Water Protectors
Author: Carole Lindstrom
Illustrator: Michaela Goade
Publisher: Roaring Book Press, 2020

For Ages: 4 and Up

Themes: Earth, Water, Native Peoples, Protests

Opening lines: 
Water is the first medicine, Nokomis told me.
We come from water.
It nourished us inside our mother's body.
As it nourishes us here on Mother Earth.
Water is sacred.

Why I LOVE this book and think you will too:

Somehow throughout my life, I have been introduced to many Native People's and learned a little bit about their cultures. Their stories have given me a love of the earth and an appreciation of the people and their connection to the world.

This book is a beautiful connection to the stories, the people, and our need to connect with mother earth. It is a call to arms to protect our planet and the water that gives us life.

It is a prayer for the earth.

Michaela's illustrations are like a dream. They show the beauty and the horror in contrast to each other as poetically as the words written by Carole.

This book makes me want:  To read it over and over again. To linger on each image. To glide my fingers across the colors and the water. To hold it close to my heart to remind me of what is truly important in life. To push me to stand up and fight for what is right.

I hope it does the same for you and your children.

Listen to Carole Lindstrom Read the book

Activities and Resources:

Check out Carole's website.

Image from the book

Go outside, dig in the dirt, play with water. Plants seeds, a tree, and flowers.

Play with watercolor paints.

Learn more about the complaints and concerns regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline

More on the Pipeline

Learn about the Native American cultures where you live.

Take Action.
Pick up garbage left behind.
Attend a rally.
Make signs.
Write to your government officials.
Change one little thing like giving up straws and balloons.

OK, I am off to listen to Matthew Winners Podcast interview with Carole and Michaela. You can too.

Looking for more great books to read with your kids. Be sure to check out Susanna Hill's Perfect Picture Book Friday Blog Post.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Chicks Rule -- Perfect Picture Book Friday

Cover art for Chicks Rule!

Title: Chicks Rule!
Author: Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Illustrator: Renée Kurilla
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019

For Ages 3 and Up

Themes: Working together, empowerment, chicks rule

Opening pages: ZOOOOOM!! WHOOOOOSH! Rocket Club The coolest Club in the Galaxy. Meeting Today. No Chicks Allowed!!!

Chick gets mad.

Cool chicks and nerdy chicks
Quiet chicks and wordy chicks

Biker chicks and rocker chicks
Science chicks and soccer chicks . . .

All the chicks (They are young chicken chicks) are told no, they aren't welcome. While they come from different backgrounds, and have different dreams, they all have a common hurdle and together they work to conquer their dreams.

Why I think you will love this book:

This is a story about accomplishing your dreams in the face of adversity. It's about working together with what you have in common to support each other and make dreams come true.

If you have ever felt like you are Not Allowed, this book is for you.

The illustrations are adorable. Renée's work is bright and cheerful. the chicks come from diverse backgrounds. There's tons of fun stuff to look at on each page.

Along the way, you may begin to discover what kind of chick you are and begin your journey to the stars.

Resources and Activities:

Sudipta reads Chicks Rule.

Sudipta talks about her story and why she created it.

The second book, Chicks Rock! about Rocker Chicks  getting up and singing in front of an audience comes out in 2021.

If you enjoyed this story, you can support the author and illustrator by buying your own copy of the book. You can also support independent bookstores through Make sure your library has the book in their collection too.

Susanna Hill had a Perfect Picture Book Blog where writers and teachers share a favorite book every Friday. Check it out to learn about more great picture books.