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What Do You Do with a Chance?
Author: Kobi Yamada
Illustrator: Mae Besom
Published: July 1, 2016 by Compendium Inc.

Summary: The award–winning creators of The New York Times best sellers What Do You Do With an Idea?and What Do You Do With a Problem? return with a captivating story about a child who isn’t sure what to make of a chance encounter and then discovers that when you have courage, take chances, and say yes to new experiences, amazing things can happen.

In this story, a child is visited by his first chance and unsure what to do with it, he lets it go. Later on, when a new chance arrives he reaches for it, but this time he misses and falls. Embarrassed and afraid, he begins ignoring each new chance that comes by, even though he still wants to take them. Then one day he realizes that he doesn’t need to be brave all the time, just at the right time, to find out what amazing things can happen when he takes a chance.

The final addition to the award-winning What Do You Do With…? picture book series created by New York Times best selling author Kobi Yamada and illustrator by Mae Besom, What Do You Do With a Chance? inspires kids of all ages and parents alike to find the courage to go for the opportunities that come their way. Because you never know when a chance, once taken, might be the one to change everything.

Ricki’s Review: There is something absolutely magical about these books. This author/illustrator team is simply remarkable in their ability to make the abstract come alive. Each semester, I read one of the books from this series aloud to my preservice teachers. They will be teaching in secondary schools, but this book series makes it obvious about how they can powerfully use picture books in their classrooms. After I read the book aloud, I don’t need to go through a long justification of why picture books work well in middle and high schools. What I like about this series is that each book is different from the other two. They overlap in their conceptualization and they all are remarkable choices for the instruction of symbolism and creating writing–but they all teach very different, big ideas. I can see each book pairing well with a different canonical or YA text. 

Kellee’s Review: I hope each and every one my students leave my class with is that life is about trying and working hard and being creative and kindness and so much more than just passing tests, and Yamada’s series teaches all of these things in such a beautiful, fun, and inspiring way! The newest book in the series looks at the fear that comes with new things, and I think this is something that is so important to talk to kids about, doing anything different or new can be scary for a bunch of different reasons. And this ranges from toddlers (Trent is afraid of fast rides) to teenagers (who may be afraid of doing something that may look uncool or are too busy to grab a chance when it comes by). I am so sad that this is the final installation of the series, but I am so glad that we have the three we do. 

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: In previous posts for this series, we have discussed how teachers might use this book to teach word choice, symbolism, and creative writing. Teachers might also consider reading all three books aloud to students and talking about the ways they are conceptually similar and different. Students might discuss the paratext of the novels and the marketing of the books. They might also compare and contrast how the books offer completely different, powerful illustrations of abstract ideas.

Discussion Questions: What do you do with a chance?; How do the author and illustrator work together to make the abstract concept of a “chance” more concrete?; What does the book teach about courage?; When have you taken a chance? Did it work out? What did it teach you? What famous people in history have taken chances? What do you think they learned?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Loved: What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamada; What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada; The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires; The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock, Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers, Journey by Aaron Becker

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Love
Author: Matt de la Peña
Illustrator: Loren Long
Published January 9th, 2018

Summary: From Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long comes a story about the strongest bond there is and the diverse and powerful ways it connects us all.

“In the beginning there is light
and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed
and the sound of their voices is love.

A cab driver plays love softly on his radio
while you bounce in back with the bumps of the city
and everything smells new, and it smells like life.”

In this heartfelt celebration of love, Matt de la Peña and  illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.

Kellee’s Review: I sat here for a long time trying to figure out how to put into words how I feel about this book. I just can’t, but I will try. 

Let me give you some history. At ALAN in 2016, I believe, Matt was a speaker, and he shared how he’d written a poem about love to share with his daughter when the world didn’t seem so loving. Matt’s daughter is approximately Trent’s age and she’s his first just like Trent is, so I completely understood his feelings–the reality that we’ve brought children into this hard world. When Matt read his beautiful words, I cried. It was beautiful. At the end of the poem, he let us know it was going to be a book, and I had very high expectations.

Then at NCTE 2017, I heard that Penguin had a finished copy. I thought that there was no way that the book could live up to what I expected. But then I read it. And I cried again. I, probably rudely, found Matt right away, maybe interrupting a conversation he was having with someone else, to tell him what a beautiful book he and Loren had created. Matt’s poem had been about love, but the book is about LOVE. Love in the sense that every one needs to start thinking about–love between every person. Empathy. Understanding. Tolerance. Unity. Love for all humans.

And as I read it over and over (after I was lucky enough to receive a copy), I couldn’t think of a kid I didn’t want to share it with. I wanted to share it with my son to talk about how much I love him and how he should love all of human kind; I wanted to share it with my friend who is a 2nd grade teacher, so she could share it with all of her students; I wanted to share it with my students, so we can discuss about the love and acceptance found in each spread and each word; and I am so happy to be sharing it here with all of you so that it can be in every person’s life.

Also, please read this amazing article by Matt de la Peña: “Why We Shouldn’t Shield Children from Darkness” from Time and Kate DiCamillo’s follow-up “Why Children’s Books Should Be a Little Bit Sad” where she answers a question de la Peña posed in his article as well as this Twitter thread from Sayantani DasGupta where she explores the need for joy in the darkeness! It truly embodies my parenting and teaching philosophy: that although kids are kids, they are also humans and future adults; life should be about being real and about happiness.

In the end, I want to just thank these two amazing men for writing this phenomenal book that I so feel is needed so badly right now, and thank you for including nothing but truth within it including inclusion of all types of people and children and situations and cultures and races and ethnicities, etc.

Ricki’s Review: I am really looking forward to seeing Matt de la Peña next month during his tour! This book is absolutely stunning, and we will certainly be purchasing many copies to give as baby shower gifts. The entire text simply emanates love. It is honest, poetically, and it treats children as the intelligent people that they are. The illustrations are simply marvelous and the words dance across the page. I simply don’t have the words to share how absolutely beautiful this book is. When I think of this book, I think about a warm, cozy house and two little boys on my lap. And these little boys make me feel love, love, love.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’ll talk about one scene specifically, which happens to be my favorite.

As soon as I saw this scene, I wanted to show it to students and have discussions with them. How does this scene make them feel? Who is the family? What are they watching? What clues did they use to answer these questions?

Then I would add in the word that accompany the scene:

“One day you find your family
nervously huddled around the TV,
but when you asked what happened,
they answer with silence
and shift between you and the screen.”

And I would ask them how these words change the inferences they made about the spread.

Lastly, I would ask them why this stanza would be in a poem about love, how it fits with the theme, and what it represents.

Another idea that I brainstormed with my friend Jennie Smith are:

  • Recreate my experience by sharing the poem first with the circumstances I shared above. Then reread the poem to them but with the illustrations.
    • After the first read, you can also have them make their own illustrations analyzing the words then compare/contrast the choices that Loren Long made with what they did.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did the author and illustrator include tough scenes in their picture book about love?
  • Which scene represents love the most for you?
  • Which scene are you glad they included?
  • How does the poem differ with and without the illustrations?
  • What different purposes could this poem of love be perfect for?

Flagged Passages: *psst!* Matt may have told me this is (one of) his favorite spreads:

Read This If You Love: Love. (But seriously, read this. Period.)

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Windows
Author: Julia Denos; Illustrator: E. B. Goodale
Published: October 17, 2017 by Candlewick

Goodreads Summary: Walking his dog at dusk, one boy catches glimpses of the lives around him in this lovely ode to autumn evenings, exploring your neighborhood, and coming home.

Before your city goes to sleep, you might head out for a walk, your dog at your side as you go out the door and into the almost-night. Anything can happen on such a walk: you might pass a cat, or a friend, or even an early raccoon. And as you go down your street and around the corner, the windows around you light up one by one until you are walking through a maze of paper lanterns, each one granting you a brief, glowing snapshot of your neighbors as families come together and folks settle in for the night. With a setting that feels both specific and universal and a story full of homages to The Snowy Day, Julia Denos and E. B. Goodale have created a singular book — at once about the idea of home and the magic of curiosity, but also about how a sense of safety and belonging is something to which every child is entitled.

My Review: This quiet book captured my heart. My husband used to live in Somerville, and this text beautifully captures the beauty of the city—and the beauty of many cities. I love the way that the author and illustrator reveal that peaking into windows allows us to view a slice of someone else’s world. We don’t see their entire world, but we see the sliver that they allow us to see. This book reminds us to pause and look around us. I am saving this book to give to my son for his birthday because I know he will love it. It’s a book that any person of any age will appreciate.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might start by asking students to draw a window and the people inside of it. Then, students could move to writing about that family. Perhaps, the window reflects the beauty of those individuals’ world, or perhaps, it doesn’t show the truth. I love the possibilities that this book allows for teachers.

Discussion Questions: What would a window to your house look like? How might each room appear a bit different?; What do we see through the windows of others? What might we miss?

We Flagged:

Read This If You Loved: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña; Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham, Harlem by Walter Dean Myers

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**Thank you to Candlewick for providing a copy for review!**

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If Picasso Painted a Snowman
Author: Amy Newbold
Illustrator: Greg Newbold
Published October 3rd, 2017 by Tilbury House Publishers

Summary: If someone asked you to paint a snowman, you would probably start with three white circles stacked one upon another. Then you would add black dots for eyes, an orange triangle for a nose, and a black dotted smile. But if Picasso painted a snowman…

From that simple premise flows this delightful, whimsical, educational picture book that shows how the artist’s imagination can summon magic from a prosaic subject. Greg Newbold’s chameleon-like artistry shows us Roy Lichtenstein’s snow hero saving the day, Georgia O’Keefe’s snowman blooming in the desert, Claude Monet’s snowmen among haystacks, Grant Wood’s American Gothic snowman, Jackson Pollock’s snowman in ten thousand splats, Salvador Dali’s snowmen dripping like melty cheese, and snowmen as they might have been rendered by J. M. W. Turner, Gustav Klimt, Paul Klee, Marc Chagall, Georges Seurat, Pablita Velarde, Piet Mondrian, Sonia Delaunay, Jacob Lawrence, and Vincent van Gogh. Our guide for this tour is a lively hamster who—also chameleon-like—sports a Dali mustache on one spread, a Van Gogh ear bandage on the next.

“What would your snowman look like?” the book asks, and then offers a page with a picture frame for a child to fill in. Backmatter thumbnail biographies of the artists complete this highly original tour of the creative imagination that will delight adults as well as children.

ReviewTrent and I are really big fans of this one! It has become a regular bedtime book. Amy & Greg Newbold did a fantastic job teaching about art and artists while at the same time adding an entertainment factor through an imaginative and narrative aspect. Now, my experience reading this book for the first time is very different than Trent’s and other readers’ experiences will be like because of prior knowledge. Since I already knew the artists, I could pick out the style elements that were included in the snowman artwork, loved many of the snowmen because of how much it did look like the artists’ work, and even found aspects funny. Trent, on the other hand, read the book from a different lens because he saw all the snowmen first then we talked about each artist and using the back matter and internet, he learned about each of the artists.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: It would be so interesting to use the book in both ways: either with giving background knowledge ahead of time or introducing the book then the artists. And the book does such a wonderful job promoting creative freedom and sharing that each artist has their own style and medium which would lead to some really great opportunities for students to explore what their artistic style would be.

Discussion Questions: 

  • [After studying an artist not in the book] How do you think ____ would paint/make/create a snowman?
  • What parts of each artist’s style did the Newbolds utilize when creating If Picasso Painted a Snowman?
  • Which snowman creation was your favorite? Why?
  • After reading the back matter, which artist would you like to learn more about?
  • Compare and contrast a “regular” snowman which each snowman in the book. Compare and contrast the different types of snowmen.

Author Interview: I was lucky enough to ask Amy & Greg interview questions. I chose to ask:

-How did you choose which artists to highlight in your book?
-How did you each prepare for writing the book?
-Any specific reason for the choice of a hamster?
-Other than art history, what do you hope readers get from the book?

Amy: I got the idea for If Picasso Painted a Snowman while visiting the Musee Picasso in Paris, France. Pablo Picasso’s work was so inventive, and I wondered what it would look like if he created a snowman. That was the beginning of the book. I knew right away certain artists that I wanted to include in the book, including Georges Seurat, Jackson Pollock, Piet Mondrian, and Salvador Dali. In the beginning, I wanted to include all my favorite artists, but as the project took shape, it became more important for me to include artists who made a significant contribution to art. Greg and I discussed each artist, as he had to envision how to paint a snowman in the style of that painter. He brought in artists like Paul Klee and Roy Lichtenstein. It was a wonderful experience to research each of these artists and we both gained a deeper appreciation for their work.

The actual writing of the book took place over many months. Some of the lines in the book came easily, while others took quite a bit of time to figure out. I read the text out loud multiple times and made changes if the words weren’t flowing.  Greg and I also participated in a workshop at a writing conference where we were able to get critiques on the book during the writing process. Testing out the manuscript in front of a group really helped. I didn’t write the biographies of each artist until we had signed our contract with Tilbury House to do the book. Once we had a contract, I got busy researching so I could write something that is hopefully informative and interesting about each of these amazing painters.

Greg: This project was so much fun that it often felt like playing rather than work. Before beginning a piece, I researched the artist’s style, the materials and techniques that they used and what motifs and design quirks made them unique. Each piece was a treat to work on and for the most part, I feel that I captured some of the essence of what each artist was known for. I learned many new processes but probably the most fun I had was imitating Jackson Pollock’s drip style “action paintings”. Some people look at Pollock’s work and assume that they could do it since all you have to do is splatter paint around. After more study I realized that Pollock’s work is far from random and unplanned. There is an interesting rhythm and process in the way he layered paint. I had a great afternoon in the back yard dancing around my canvas laid on the ground deciding where the next splash of paint would look the best and trying to put it there. My Pollock turned out pretty well and was also used as the endpapers of the book. I was so entertained by the process that I want to do it again.

I designed the hamster in honor of a family pet named Max. He is the visual tour guide through the book, and you can see evidence of him on nearly every page. His presence adds another dimension to the book as he does things like carry a ruler to get straight lines on the Mondrian piece. In another picture, he wears Picasso’s striped shirt, or Monet’s beret. The hamster is not in the text, but offers several fun references for readers in the know. Keep an eye out for him and his wardrobe changes throughout the book!

Amy & Greg: We both hope that this book encourages artists of all ages to have fun with art. It is simply an introduction, an invitation to try different techniques and styles, use unexpected colors, explore and distort shape and line. By looking at the variety of ways artists painted in history, we hope kids understand that they can find and express their own creative vision.

Flagged Passages: 

THIS! is how a snowman would look if Picasso painted one.

Read This If You Love: Art!; Biographies of artists such as The Noisy Paintbox by Barb RosenstockViva Frida by Yuyi Morales, Sandy’s Circus by Tanya Lee Stone, A Splash of Red by Jennifer Fisher Bryant; The Dot by Peter H. ReynoldsLinnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Björk; Seen Art? by Jon Sciezska; The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew DaywaltPerfect Square by Michael Hall; My Pen by Christopher Myers, Paint Me a Picture by Emily Bannister, Mini Museum Series

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**Thank you to Nicole Banholzer for providing a copy for review and to Amy & Greg Newbold for their answers!**

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