This book was in my school library but not in my own, and I am thrilled to finally have a copy for my home library. There are so many layers to this beautiful story, and much that can be taught and expanded upon for use in the classroom. A young child becomes separated from family in the aftermath of a huge storm. She calls out for them, but no answer comes back. She runs to the beach hoping they might be there, but instead finds a baby seal who is also alone and frightened. She sees an abandoned boat and pushes the two of them out to sea, desperate to get away in case the storm comes back. They journey together for many days and nights, through cruel and kind weather, providing warmth and comfort for each other. One day, another seal appears, and mother and baby are reunited, and guide the young girl towards land. At first, she is lonely without the baby seal, until she is reunited with her family and feels safe again at last. Robert's heartwarming, poignant text is brought to life by Anna's stunning illustrations. The power and destruction of the storm, the changing moods and vastness of the sea, and the joy of both reunions are captured perfectly in the palette of ocean colours and facial expressions evident on each page. Friendship and hope, refugees, immigrants, marine animals, global warming, geography (islands nations) and extreme weather could all be linked as teaching ideas from this gorgeous book. A must have for any school or home library.
Find out more about Robert Vescio here.
Find out more about Anna Pignataro here.
Published 2021 by New Frontier Publishing Pty Ltd
ISBN 9781922326294 (HB)
Recommended for ages 3 - 6.
‘Tell me a story Babushka,’ asks Karina
‘Maybe one of those stories about a princess and monsters, Baba’.
The story opens with young girl asking for a story from her Babushka (grandmother). Babushka begins the tale of a young girl happily tending her flowers and cabbage patch until the day she finds herself and her family caught up in Holodomor, the ‘terror famine’. Mass starvation and confiscation of food and property across the country is happening at the hands of the monsters - Baba’s term for the soldiers. Many families, including that of the young girl, are sent to camps in Siberia. Upon arrival, the children and adults are separated, with neither knowing what will happen or if they will ever see each other again.
Whilst in the camp, the girl finds a matryoshka (a small set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside the other) under her mattress. She wonders how they came to be there when there are not even any pillows for the children to sleep on, and certainly no toys. She carefully removes one doll after another until, inside the fifth matryoshka, she finds a message of rescue.
As she and some of the other children make their escape with the help of an unknown woman across a frozen forest to a waiting freight train, the girl wraps her scarf around her head, picks up the length of her oversized skirt, and boards the train not knowing where the journey will take her.
As the story concludes, we find out that Babushka was the young girl, and that she eventually found her way to safety and freedom in another land, where she is recounting the story to her granddaughter, Karina.
The Holodomor was the result of Stalin’s decision to collectivize farms and agriculture in the Soviet Union in 1929. Farms, villages, and whole towns in Ukraine were placed on blacklists and prevented from receiving food causing widespread suffering from 1932-1933.
Carola tells the story through simple, gentle and honest text. The strong bond between grandmother and granddaughter is evident from the opening page, emphasizing the importance of generational connections in keeping history alive. Melo’s illustrations are childlike yet evocative, especially the likeness of Babushka to the matryoshka dolls, and the black silhouettes of the soldiers against a blood red background - a stark representation of the cruelty endured by the Ukrainian people.
Stories of war and oppression are never easy to tell, especially to younger children. Tell Me A Story Babushka does so with heart and sensitivity.
I have not read or heard of many books that tell the story of the Holodomor, so this would make a wonderful addition to any library looking to add more stories from the Ukraine and diversify their collections.
Published in 2019 by Carola Schmidt.
Available from Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats
Recommended for ages 5 - 7
'There is a polar bear in the snow. Where is he going?'
In this new story from Mac Barnett and Shawn Harris, we follow a polar bear as he wakes from his hibernation to explore the snowy landscape that is his home. Through simple yet emotive narration that evokes suspense with each page turn, we learn about this majestic animal's icy surroundings, and meet the others that co exist with him. There is a strong underlying theme of the environmental impact made by humans that runs throughout the story, which is clearly evident when bear meets man and roars 'NO!', scaring him away. As we reach the end of the story we are left to ponder and imagine where the polar bear will go next.
Shawn Harris's illustrations and collages are truly stunning. They capture perfectly the white vastness of the land and the intense, beautiful pristine blues of the ocean of the cold north. The contrast in the smallness of man's footsteps as he runs from the polar bear, and the much larger ones of the polar bear itself on the last few pages, are a subtle reminder of the power and fragility of mother nature.
You can find out more about Mac Barnett from his website.
Shawn Harris's extraordinary artwork can be found here.
Published in 2020 by Candlewick Press
Recommended for ages 3 - 7
Lali finds a feather while she's playing in the field. She thinks the feather might be lost so she sets out to find it's home. Along the way she meets la ot of different birds and asks them all the same question, 'Is this feather yours?' Each bird replies 'Na, Lali, Na!', saying the feather is either too little, or not perky or fancy or warm enough, So Lali decides to keep the feather and show the cheeky birds all the wonderful things the feather can do. All of a sudden big old wind comes along and lifts the feather high in the air and it floats away. This makes Lali very sad and, although all of the other birds offer her their fancy feathers, Lali just wants her plain, pokey little feather. When it eventually floats back to the ground, everyone wants to play with this most wonderful feather! The book ends with Lali finding another, equally intriguing object that promises even more adventures.
This is a wonderful story about a young Indian girl with a big imagination, who sees the value and potential in the small things around her. The vibrant illustrations are a perfect match for the text which is interspersed with Indian slang, and helps showcase the diversity inherent in the story. Lali's colourful clothes, her long brown braid and her bindi, are a beautiful depiction of a carefree young Indian girl. This is a must have book to help diversify your library collection for younger readers.
You can find out more about Farhana Zia's books here and about Stephanie Fizer Coleman's beautiful illustrations here.
Published in 2020 by Peachtree Publishing Company Inc.
Recommended for ages 4 - 8
As a teacher librarian, I’ve found very few books about dancing for my younger students. Let’s Dance fills that gap brilliantly. From it’s exuberant cover to the end pages, this is a book full of the joy of movement. Written in simple, musically imaginative rhyme, each double page spread taps, whirls, wiggles, grooves and boogies its way across the globe. The dances encompass both traditional and modern, including my own favourite of Disco. I definitely remember boogieing on down in my youth!
The illustrations are colorful and fun, and highlight perfectly the diversity of the dance origins in the portrayal of each of the characters. There is an easy to understand, illustrated explanation of each of the dances at the end of the story.
Let’s Dance is a wonderful way to introduce dance from around the world to young readers, and will have them wanting to jump up and join in from the very first page!
Published March 2020 by Boyds Mills Press.
Recommended for ages 3 - 7
For more information on Valerie you can follow her on Twitter, Instagram or check out her Website.
For more information on Maine you can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or check out her Website.
This hilarious story by well known Australian author Mem Fox and illustrator Jan Thomas takes us on a counting journey like no other. From the very first page of one goat and a bird (with the goat casually chewing on the beach umbrella) this story is full of fun and laughter. Goats are famous for eating anything and everything and that's exactly what they do as we count with them along the way. Goats with maps, goats, with suitcases, goats flying airplanes, with soccer balls, goats with snow balls, goats playing trumpets and a goat with a VERY full belly are just some of the scenes that will have your students roaring with laughter and learning at the same time. The illustrations are wonderful and my students had a lovely time finding the goat in each spread who didn't quite get the idea of what they were supposed to be doing!
Published in 2010 by Beach Lane Books
Recommended for ages 3 - 7
As a teacher librarian I tried to read as many of the books as I can that I purchase for my library. Obviously I don't get through them all, ('too many books, not enough time' is my catch cry!) but I do read all the picture books that come in. I think you'll guess by that confession, they are my favourite format. But there was one that had been ordered before I came to this library which I only just discovered today and it is Croc and Bird by Alexis Deacon.
I am also a writer and write (among other things) about inclusion, acceptance and tolerance. THIS is the book that I wish I had written! From the gentle, poignant text, to the simple but evocative illustrations, this book encapsulates the very essence of acceptance. If you don't have this already in your libraries or at home, you really should get a copy.
Two eggs hatch side by side. One is Croc. One is Bird. They do everything together until, one day, when they are grown, the river carries them away from the home they have made together. They find a lake full of crocodiles and birds and, after taking another look at each other, decide they should join the group with the animals that look like them. But some of the habits they've learned when they were together, don't quite fit with the rest of their kind. Eventually, after not being able to sleep in their new homes, they seek each other out and realise it doesn't matter about what they look like or how they behave. What matters most is how much they have missed each other and feel happiest when they are together.
Follow Alexis Deacon on Instagram.
Published in 2012 by Hutchison
Recommended for ages 2 - 6
I cannot wait to get my copy of this important and beautifully illustrated book. Windows is an inspirational and heartwarming story of friends and communities coming together during the corona virus pandemic. Told with simple, sensitive words and supported by stunning illustrations, this close look at what happens in your very own neighbourhood is an important book for young children and school library collections around the globe. The publishers have also released a read aloud video which you can view below.
Published October 2020 by Hardie Grant Children's Publishing
Recommended for ages 3 - 7
These are two of the most beautifully written and exquisitely illustrated books about anti-bullying that have been published. They are not new - Dandelion was published in 2013 and Daisy Chain in 2015 - and you cannot buy them from a bookstore but need to order them through the company that the writer and illustrator are involved with which is Sydney company Protein One - but the effort is definitely worth it.
Bullying in whatever form - physical, emotional, cyber - is not okay. People experiencing bullying often feel they are alone, shouldn't/can't tell anyone and basically have no way of fighting back. There are many organisations out there now providing support but literature is also important. Both of these books with their simple text and soft illustrative palettes, are a gentle way of opening up a conversation about bullying for young and old alike. The emphasis on using creative ways to combat bullying and the focus on certain flowers as the child's support and strength is very clever. Although it seems like a flower that is easily blown away, the meaning of dandelion is 'lion's tooth' indicating an inner bravery. Similarly, daisies may seem weak, but together in a chain, they become strong and unbreakable. Thank you Galvin Scott Davis and Anthony Ishinjerro for these important and stunning picture books.
Dandelion Published in 2013 by Random House Australia
ISBN 9780857981035 (eBook)
Daisy Chain Self published in 2015
ISBN 978-0987417121 (Paperback)
Recommended for ages 4 - 7
This is more than just a simple book of shapes. The wonderful illustrations are a perfect compliment to the text which is a window into the world of Islam and the beautiful symmetry of it's places of worship. A book that can be used to simultaneously explain simple shapes to young children and show them the colours and purpose of the shapes in the Muslim world. Through simple but evocative text, highlighted by colourful and intricate images, this book is a lovely way to help younger ones of non Muslim faith become more culturally aware. I'll be adding the companion book Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: a Muslim book of colors to my library shelves soon!
Published in 2018 by Chronicle Books
Recommended for ages 3 - 5