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Posts tagged ‘Picture Books’

Mr. George Baker…..The Reader


What are you reading today?

mr-george-bakerMr. George Baker by Amy Hest, illustrated by Jon J Muth. This is a moving story of friendship, kindness, and literacy – at all ages. Mr. George Baker is 100 years old, a man with a “Tappidy-boom-boom-tap” enthusiasm for life and his friendship with young Harry. Patiently, we watch Mr. George Baker and Harry wait for the school bus, practice tying shoes, take a dancing step with the lovely Mrs. Baker who brings George his lunch, and finally board the bus in anticipation of learning to read. This is a task which is hard, but as George says, “we can do it.” There is so much to enjoy in this beautifully illustrated picture book. I love the positive portrayal of age in the story, as Harry looks up to Mr. George Baker and we see how closely the two are connected, despite the 95 years between them. We also see just how important literacy is and the belief that we can always, always learn new things. This is a story of lifelong learners. It is an excellent addition to the classroom at all levels – young readers and adults too!

Gobble Gobble! Sharing a Thanksgiving Picture Book

Happy Thanksgiving and Gobble Gobble Gobble!

As a Thanksgiving “thank you for reading” I want to share a fun Thanksgiving picture book.

bear-says-thanksBear Says Thanks, written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman, is a story of gratitude. The story is simple and the message is important. Bear wants to say thank you to his friends so he plans a feast! He invites his friends who show up one by one, with food to share, yet Bear’s cupboards are bare and he has nothing to contribute. What is Bear to do? Bear’s friends point out his special gifts that contribute to the celebration. This story of friendship and gratitude is perfect for young readers (and their parents and teachers!). The illustrations are inviting and engaging, contributing to the message that Bear and his friends share with each other – the power of friendship and a simple thank you. While Thanksgiving is not mentioned by name in this book, the story is a perfect reminder of why we celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends and family.

And just for more turkey fun, be sure to check out the Goodreads Best Children’s Thanksgiving Books – of course, I do love Listopia, and a huge thank you to all the fabulous readers who contribute on Goodreads every day!


Happy Thanksgiving!

Blackout by John Rocco


What are you reading today?

blackoutWell, the weather doesn’t make sense I know, since it has turned chilly where I live and this book is set in summer time, but I just can’t resist! I love this book! If you haven’t read Blackout, by John Rocco, you need to head to the library. Blackout is the story of a summertime blackout in the city, when everyone is much to busy with their own projects to talk, play, or eat together. But when the lights go out, everything changes. Suddenly, the family is together and making shadow puppets, playing games, and hunting for stars outside above the rooftops. A great story about the importance of imagination, small moments, and time spent with family (away from electricity and all of the electronics that dominate our lives!). The illustrations in Blackout are special. Some pages are panels while others are full bleed illustrations. All of them capture the darkness and the light in ways that delight and surprise the reader. You will find yourself revisiting the illustrations, wondering just how the artist managed to show the shadow puppets, the darkened streets and the play of flashlights, the excitement of children in night sky – all with spectacular detail and imagery! A beautiful book indeed.

A Caldecott Celebration: Six Artists by Leonard Marcus


What are you reading?

A Caldecott CelebrationToday I have a great picture book to share – for anyone who loves beautiful picture books and the Caldecott! A Caldecott Celebration: Six Artists and Their Paths to the Caldecott Medal by Leonard S. Marcus details the journeys of six artists.

Leonard Marcus has created a journey for the reader – over 6o years of picture book illustration history, with one artist featured from each decade. Each section includes sketches, illustrations, and insights into each of the artists. You will find little tidbits of information that you won’t find other places – and especially fabulous for the classroom, a glossary of art-related terms and index. There are many possibilities for the classroom and I believe this book is a must for any classroom or library project involving the Caldecott medal, as young readers will learn more about each artist and the history of this prize. Their appreciation of this prestigious award and the knowledge they will learn about the process of illustrating a picture book are an invaluable part of this beautifully rendered book. A must for the classroom! For more about the Caldecott, head over to the American Library Association Caldecott home page.


Stay tuned for an upcoming review of the 2016 Caldecott book Finding Winnie. What are your favorite Caldecott Award books?

Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson


What are you reading?

Today I want to share a lovely book, Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson. This is a beautiful picture book about legacy, history, slavery, Civil Rights, family, stories, and the power of women who were not afraid to fight for freedom. The book traces seven generations of the author’s family, all women who learned the art of quilting and used their stitching to tell important stories. The story is told from the point of view of a great-granddaughter who was born free. But Soonie’s great-grandma was a slave on a plantation, who was only allowed her needles, red thread and some muslin from her mother when she was sold from her family and forced to move to South Carolina without her parents. Eventually she sewed a Show Ways quilt, a secret map showing slaves the journey to freedom. Quilts became an important part of life, especially for each daughter as she learned the art of sewing and the tradition passed on to the next generation. Through the quilts we see the history of the family, from slavery through freedom, through Civil Rights. The quilts are a living history, changing the course of so many lives and displaying the strength of the African-American spirit.

Illustrations by Hudson Talbott showcase the beauty and complexity of the quilts. The theme of stitches is carried throughout every page, sometimes with bright colors and sometimes dark, showing how the quilts were part of each generation. The final page brings together all of the women in one long quilt that spans both pages. The legacy is carried on and the quilting continues.

Show Way won a Newbery Honor Medal in 2005. Discussing Show Way on her website, Jacqueline Woodson wrote: “After my grandmother died and my daughter was born, I wanted to figure out a way to hold on to all the amazing history in our family. I wanted a Show Way for my daughter.”

Benno and the Night of Broken Glass by Meg Wiviott

Benno is a friendly neighborhood cat, and through him we have a new perspective of Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass). For many, this night Benno and the Night of Broken Glassmarks the beginning of the Holocaust, on November 9, 1938. There are many books about the Night of Broken Glass, but Meg Wiviott’s book is a powerful addition to Holocaust literature with the story of a cat who belongs to many people in the town of Berlin. Benno frequently visits Professor Goldfarb, the Adler family, the Schmidt family, Frau Gerber, Mitzi Stein, Mosche the butcher. He visits all people, Jewish and non-Jewish, and is the beloved neighborhood cat who get free milk, comfy places to nap, ear rubs, and lots of affection from Sophie and Inge, two young girls in his neighborhood. He is loved by everyone, and he leads a quiet, contented life.

Yet things do not remain content, when Benno sees a bonfire and men in brown shirts. Things are not the same and Benno senses the change immediately. Sophie and Inge no longer walk together, all is quiet and people are not as friendly and happy. The meat scraps disappear, eyes lowered, people hurry about their business. More men in brown shirts. The illustrations reflect the changes that Benno witnesses, showing the chaos and unhappiness that begins to surround the neighborhood. Then the night of broken glass arrives. Benno hears glass shattering. Stores are set ablaze, apartments ransacked, Professor Goldfarb cannot save his books. The Adlers’ door remains closed the next morning and Benno doesn’t see Sophie. Smoke is in the air and nothing is as it was before, even though Frau Gerber’s grocery is open and unchanged. The reader is left with the words “life of Resenstrasse would never be the same.”

Telling the story through the eyes of a cat allows the reader to see the German and Jewish people together harmoniously, especially with the friendship between Sophie and Inge. The change is seen with the arrival of men in brown shirts, and everyone is affected. The reader also witnesses how life changes for the Jewish residents of Berlin, again through Benno’s eyes. In this sense, the reader sees the events through the innocent and unwavering eyes of Benno. We witness how life is torn apart and people become separated.

This is an excellent book to introduce the Holocaust and the Night of Broken Glass to students who are going to learn more about these topics. The book also includes more information about Kristallnacht and additional children’s books for reference.

More Resources on Kristallnacht

This Day in History (

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: The Night of Broken Glass

PBS People & Events: Kristallnacht


Interested in more picture books about World War II and the Holocaust? Check out Star of Fear, Star of Hope and The Harmonica.

Star of Fear, Star of Hope by Jo Hoestlandt

Star of Fear, Star of Hope is the story of Lydia and Helen, two friends living in France, 1942. The German army Star of Fear, Star of Hopeinvades their home country, but the girls continue with school. One day, Lydia’s mother sews a yellow star on Lydia’s jacket, and this is the start of change. The girls do not understand the stars or why it is necessary. Lydia’s mother tells them, “The place for stars is in the sky….when people take them down from the sky and sew them on their clothes, it only brings trouble.” The reader senses the trouble rising, with a mood of fear and foreboding.

And poignantly, Lydia’s mother adds,

“Stars at morning, better take warning. Stars at night, hope is in sight.”

The words of Lydia’s mother stay with Helen over the years, as she tells the story now, decades later as an old woman. As young girls, Helen and Lydia planned a night together to celebrate Helen’s 9th birthday. But as the girls wait for Helen’s parents to return, it becomes apparent that something is happening in the city. Two people appear late at night, with stars on their clothes, using code words to look for safe houses. Helen’s parents take Lydia home and Helen is angry. She yells at her friend, feeling hurt and abandoned. The next morning, the streets of Paris are filled with police, searching for Jews to evacuate. Helen is worried. They search but cannot find Lydia or her family. Helen is left with Lydia’s birthday gift to her, a home made doll, which Helen calls Lydia. Lydia also made clothes for the doll, even a jacket with a star.

While the illustrations convey the darkness, sorrow, and despair of World War II, the pages also contain light, found in the streetlights, windows, hall lights, and the light shining above the doll and clothes that Helen unwraps on this day of darkness in Paris. Throughout the story is the hope that Lydia’s mother mentions to the girls on the first page. Stars at night, hope is in sight. The story ends with the hope that Helen will one day find Lydia, hopefully an old woman with children and grandchildren, happy to find her friend. Stars are also found throughout the story, beginning with the stars that Lydia’s mother sews and ending with the “stars at night, hope is in sight.”

This story is one which will move the reader with both its words and images. Student will learn about this part of the Holocaust, a piece of history in which thousands of Jews were torn from their homes by the German army and sent to concentration camps. This book serves as an excellent resource in teaching about the Holocaust. It is a story to be read, remembered, and shared.


Resources on Vélodrome d’Hiver

Vélodrome d’Hiver began on July 16, 1942.

“Cecile Widerman Kaufer, Holocaust Survivor, Recounts 1942 Vel D’Hiv Roudup in Paris Stadium” Huffington Post, July 17, 2012.

“France Reflects on Its Role in Wartime Fate of Jews” NY Times, July 29, 2012.

Yad Vashem – The Holocaust in France

Holocaust Remembrance Day – the Vel D’Hiv Roundup in France

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay


Interested in more picture books about the Holocaust? Check out Benno and the Night of Broken Glass and The Harmonica.

Dave the Potter – Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill

Dave the PotterDave the Potter tells the story of an African-American slave, born about 1800 in South Carolina. Much of Dave’s life remains a mystery, but the pottery he created helps tell some of his tale.

Dave lived in a time where slaves were not allowed to be educated, and slaves were punished severely if caught reading or writing. In his home state of South Carolina, an anti-literacy statute was upheld without question and slaves were routinely imprisoned or fined for displaying their knowledge of reading or writing.  For many years Dave wrote on his pots, sometimes just the initials of his owner, but also lines of poetry or details about the pot. In 1841, he stopped writing. During this period of more than sixteen years, he was silent, likely because of fear in displaying his knowledge. He began writing again in 1857. Some of his lines include:

I wonder where is all my relation

friendship to all — and, every nation

–August 16, 1857

put every bit all between

surely this Jar will hold 14

–July 12, 1834

The illustrations – the artwork of Bryan Collier – are simply amazing. They convey the dedication and masterful technique of Dave, his strength in creating jars that would hold more than forty gallons, and his attention to detail in creating and inscribing each individual piece of work. The illustrations convey his life as a slave and the nature of the world around him, with slaves picking cotton in the distance, working in the field, shanties, and a corner view of a slaveowners large mansion.  The illustrations are thought-provoking and moving. Not surprisingly, Dave the Potter is a 2011 Caldecott Honor Book, as well as the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award.

The story is told in a simple narrative, focusing on the process of creating a pot. The language is poetic and powerful, often with short lines that emphasize words that convey Dave’s craft and artistry while also displaying the world in which he lived, a world of slavery and injustice. Hill references his work as a “magician” who sees something in the dirt and clay that others do not.

Dave’s pottery can be seen today, on display in museums in South Carolina. For more about Dave, you can read information at SCIWAY and University of South Carolina, AikenPottery by Dave

Books for Pairing with Dave the Potter (Picture Books & Novels)

The Listeners by Gloria Whelan

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine

Freedom’s Fruit by William H. Hooks

Chains by Louise Halse Anderson

To Be A Slave by Julius Lester

Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman by Dorothy Sterling

The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox

A Picture of Freedom: the Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl, Belmont Plantation, Virginia, 1859 by Patricia McKissack


What books about slavery and the quest for freedom have you read and enjoyed? Please share!

This Is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson

This Is the RopeThis Is the Rope tells a story that will stay with the reader, along with the beautiful paintings, long after finishing this picture book written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by James Ransome. Woodson refers to this book as a “fictive memoir” on her website (Jacqueline Woodson/This is the Rope). This story resonates with readers as a tale that spans multiple generations, linked by a rope that moves with the family over the years. The rope is both a link to the past lives in the South and also the opportunity and life that awaits in the North. It is hope, love and family.

During the Great Migration, millions of families moved from the South to the cities in the North, from the early 1900s through the 1970s. Woodson dedicates this book to the “more than 6 million African Americans who left the unjust conditions of the South for a better life in the North….My mother and grandmother were among them. I thank you all for your courage and for making a way out of no way.”

Woodson’s mother moved to New York City in 1968, and her siblings moved as well during the same time period. Woodson grew up in New York City, but also traveled back and forth between NYC and South Carolina for many years as a young girl. This experience and the courage of her mother and grandmother to make this move toward freedom and opportunity in the North inspired Woodson to write the story of a rope and a young girl.

The rope is discovered many years ago by a young girl in South Carolina, who first used the rope to jump rope. Later, when the young girl was a mother, the rope tied down the items she owned on top of the family car as her family drove north to New York City. The rope was used as a clothes line to dry her daughter’s diapers and clothes, then to pull toys, to skip rope with friends outside their home in Brooklyn, to tie down suitcases on top of the car as the young woman (the narrator’s mother) drives to college. Years later, after the mother has finished college and now has a daughter of her own, the young girl telling the story of the rope uses the rope for her own games, jumping rope and finally trading the old rope for a new one from her Grandmother — who was once the young girl in South Carolina, skipping rope amidst the sweet smelling pines of the South.

The story has a circular nature, and one that provides readers with the framework of the Great Migration north while focusing on one family and the generations whose lives are forever changed by the decision to move toward freedom and opportunity.

Woodson’s note:

This Is the Rope is a work of fiction. The rope we brought to this ‘new country’ was Hope.

It remains with us.”


For more information about the Great Migration, here are a couple of good websites:

Novels to pair with This Is the Rope

  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
  • The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson


Love Jacqueline Woodson? Check out Brown Girl Dreaming too!

Grandfather Ratoncito Perez and the Apprentice Tooth Fairy

Grandfather Ratoncito PerezTooth fairy? Money? Spanish and English? All the makings of a unique and perfect book for reading —- and learning —- with children! Right away, I was drawn to the clever story and the many potential extension activities that easily build out of this story. No wonder. Look at the author!  Virginia Walton Pilegard. Just recently, I wrote a post about her series of Warlord’s mathematical adventures. She is fabulous. As always, an enjoyable opportunity for teaching and learning.


The original tale of El Ratoncito Perez began 120 years ago, with a small rodent who leaves presents and coins for children under their pillows after losing a tooth. Spanish writer Luis Coloma wrote the story for the eight year old Prince Alphonso (more of the history and original tale). The original story included a moral about helping the poor of the country, but this part of the tale is often forgotten now, as young ones simply know of the mouse who collects teeth in a small red bag. Children in Spain still wait for the Ratoncito Perez after losing a tooth, just as others do all across Latin America and Europe. You will even find a museum for Raton Perez in Madrid, Spain (visit online at The original “home” of Raton Perez was at Calle Arenal #8 near Puerta del Sol in Madrid. Today you can still visit and find a small statue, plaque and gift shop.

El Ratoncito Perez is now known by a variety of names in a variety of locations: el raton de dientes, La Bonne Petite Souris in France, Topolino in Italy, El Ratoncito Perez in Spain and Argentina, el Raton in Mexico, Venezuela & Guatemala. Another opportunity to bring in geography and culture for little ones who want to learn more about the tooth fairies & mice around the world! For more about the original tale and the Spanish Institute for Miguel Cervantes, go to  Centro Virtual Cervantes (Spanish)


Now this story of the tooth mouse actually includes an apprentice tooth fairy – and she needs some assistance with money. Jenny is a young fairy, new to her job delivering money to children who have lost a tooth. She attempts to carry one hundred pennies, only to drop them because it is just too heavy. Among the scattered pennies she discovers a door and a voice – leading her to Grandfather Ratoncito Perez and his grandson, Miguel. Grandfather helps Jenny understand how the one hundred pennies are the same amount of money as four quarters, twenty nickels, and ten dimes. Finally Jenny decides to carry ten dimes in her bag, as this is the lightest option. She flies off to deliver her coins, much to the happiness of young Joshua. When she returns to the fairy Queen, she tells her the poem she composed while flying home.

006Four quarters make one dollar;

Twenty nickles just as well.

Ten dimes are light to carry,

One hundred fairy pennies fell.

This little rhyme is perfect for young ears and will help kids understand pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. A coffee filter works perfectly for a little round bag like Jenny’s bag in the book, and a little piece of yarn to tie the bag of money – students can practice with their fairy bags of money and Jenny’s poem as well!


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