The More You Give
Author: Marcy Campbell
Illustrator: Francesca Sanna
Publishing December 28, 2021 by Chronicle
Summary:A modern-day response to The Giving Tree, this lyrical picturebook shows how a family passes down love from generation to generation, leaving a legacy of growing both trees and community. Once there was a wide-open field, and a boy who loved his grandmother,
who loved him back. The boy’s grandmother gives him many gifts, like hugs, and Sunday morning pancakes, and acorns with wild and woolly caps. And all her wisdom about how things grow. As the boy becomes a father, he gives his daughter bedtime stories his grandmother told him, and piggyback rides. He gives her acorns, and the wisdom he learned about how things grow. His daughter continues the chain, then passing down gifts of her own. Here is a picture book about the legacy of love that comes when we nurture living things—be they people or trees.
Ricki’s Review: This book is absolutely stunning. It captures the beautiful spirit of giving as it passes through generations. I found myself drawn into the text, captivated by the words and the powerful illustrations. I loved the ways in which the spirit of giving is captured across three generations. Overall, I love the way it captures kindness, wisdom, and love.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might read The Giving Tree and then read this book. Students could engage in a discussion of giving. The two texts exist as foils for each other, and the giving does not just go one way.
How do we give? What do we give?
What does it mean to give?
What does giving mean for the boy in the book? His grandmother?
What have elders given to you?
Read This If You Love: Books about Giving; Books about Intergenerational Love; Books about Kindness
**Thank you to Cynthia at Random House Children’s Books for providing a copy for review!**
When You Take a Step Author: Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Expected Publication September 27th, 2022 by Beach Lane Books
Summary: Each step leads to a new discovery in this evocative picture book about how mindfulness, peace, or change could be just around the corner.
To take a walk is to begin a journey. It can be an adventure or a chance to let your thoughts roam and be one with nature. It can be a time for daydreaming and pondering life’s many questions. It can be a time to reflect on the past or to stand up for a better future. So take a step and see where your journey will lead you!
“Though the concept is simple—even a single step can empower—it uplifts via Deeney Murguia’s polished execution.” —Publisher’s Weekly
About the Author: Bethanie Deeney Murguia graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City with an MFA in illustration and has created numerous picture books, including Cockatoo, Too; Zoe Gets Ready; Snippet the Early Riser; I Feel Five!; We Disagree; and When You Take a Step. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her two daughters and her dog, Disco. To learn more about Bethanie, please visit her website, AquaPup.com.
Review:Murguia has created a simple yet deep picture book about how one step, both figurative and literal steps, can make a difference. And it could be a small change or big, but the steps are important and they all have a purpose. This book will be an amazing text to inspire young minds to not give up, to make a difference, and to make that step they may be afraid to make.
And I love the illustrations and purposeful use of pink color. The cartoon-style illustrations are realistic yet fun; I think readers will connect with them! Also, the use of pink on the shoes to its full page pink spread at the end was so well done to show the spread of the steps.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The publisher has provided a guide for using books about feelings and emotions in the classroom which would work perfectly with this book:
Does the author always mean actual steps? Explain.
What are the different types of steps, figurative and literal, that the author includes in the book?
In what ways did the author add inclusivity into the book?
What is the theme of the book?
Why do you think the author chose to write this book?
Read This If You Love: Inspirational books, Books about emotions
**Thank you to Alex at Simon & Schuster for providing a copy for review!**
One of the assignments during my Spring Children’s Literature course at UCF was creating a mini-teaching guide for the books we read for book clubs. We started with picture books for practice then students created them in their book clubs each week.
Today, I am happy to share the classroom uses and discussion questions found by my UCF Elementary Education students about fantasy novels.
Dragons in a Bag Author: Zetta Elliott
Published October 23rd, 2018 by Random House
Summary: Jax is left by his mom to an old lady by the name of Ma. Jax later finds out that Ma is a witch who has 3 dragon eggs that hatched. They need to return the eggs because they won’t survive in the regular world due to lack of magic. They go to portals through time that takes them to the time of dinosaurs. Along the way, Jax meets his grandfather who also knows magic, and has him return two of the dragons to the magic council but accidentally left one left behind so he returns to the regular world. He forces his mom and the witch to hash out their problems.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: When using fantasy in the classroom it is always a good way to spark your students’ creativity. This source could be used as a creative writing prompt to boost off their creativity of the story: Conduct an activity based upon the book like have them write a short story about what they would do if they were in Jax’s shoes and have them draw pictures of dragons, name them, and design the dragons how they would like them to be pictured.
What was Jax’s first impression of Ma?
How do you think Jax will return the last dragon to the magic council?
Who do agree with and why? Ma who wants to keep the world of magic separate or L. Roy who wants magic to come back to earth.
Why do you think Jax decided to open the window for the squirrel?
What were 2 things the dragons were not allowed to have?
When you first hear the word apprentice what comes to mind? Did you have the same thinking as Jax?
How does the story tie in with real-life scenarios with the fantasy?
Who are the most influential character apart from Jax?
When do we see the change of events come in play throughout the story?
When reading the book your imagination goes wild,in what other circumstances does your mind go other places when reading this story?
The Magnificent Makers: How to Test Friendship Author: Theanne Griffith
Illustrator: Reggie Brown
Published May 19th, 2020 by Random House Children’s Books
Summary: Pablo, Violet and Deepak are three friends who get sucked into a telescope and must play science games to come back and play again. Deepak is the new kid who makes Pablo jealous with his presence. Throughout the book, the team works together and build their friendship to complete the games.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The book could be used as a classroom read-aloud over the course of a few days or a week. Due to the science elements, this book would be a good way to start off science discussions in the classroom. For example, the second chapter includes the students learning about food chains. This book is perfect to make connections back to science.
Why do you think Pablo was jealous of Deepak?
What were some of the challenges they had and what did they have to do?
Why do you think Pablo, Violet, and Deepak were chosen for the Maker’s Maze?
What do you know about producers, consumers, decomposers, and scavengers?
What were your favorite aspects of science that you learned from the book?
What type of emotion did the characters experience in the book?
When Deepak arrived to class, what did Pablo notice about him?
How does Pablo overcome is jealous toward Deepak?
Toward the end of the book why did they relate their friendship to the ecosystems?
Polly Diamond and the Magic Book Author: Alice Kuipers
Illustrator: Diana Toledano
Published April 22nd, 2018 by Chronicle Books
Summary: Polly Diamond is a little girl who receives a magic book that lets her bring to life the things that she writes and draws. She has a little sister who she doesn’t like very much and a brother on the way. Polly loves to write, she writes lists and stories and anything that she thinks is worth writing. When she starts writing in her magic book she realizes that the book can talk back to her. She writes to her book and comes up with lists and stories to write. She realizes that whatever she writes in the book comes to life when she writes about making a ladder to paint her room and the books on the floor magically move to make a ladder. The book tells her that is what she’s for and Polly quickly learns she can do anything she writes. She makes herself invisible and her sister into a banana. But she realizes that the book is taking everything she says literally. When she writes about eating a club sandwich the book gives her two slices of bread with a bat in between because it took the definition of a club literally. She told the house to fix up the carpet and turn her room into an aquarium. But the carpet was on the ceiling and fish were swimming around her room. She then realizes that everything she wrote was crazy and tries to put the house back to normal because she can’t even recognize it anymore. She fixes it just in time for her parents to come home with her new baby brother. At the end of the story she gives the book a name, Spell. And looks forward to writing and drawing another day with her new book, and friend Spell.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Polly uses and explains words like metaphor, affixes, alliteration, and hyperbole. This is a great opportunity to talk about these definitions, make lists of words and phrases that relate to these words, and do activities where the students use metaphors, alliteration, homophones, homonyms etc. It seems like a useful book to have in a first grade classroom and use with a higher level reading small group or a second grade class. It could also be used as a read aloud, again discussing the key words and their meanings, then practicing using those skills. There is a lot of use of imagery in this book as well as understanding literal meaning and how words matter.
After reading the text, students can respond to the story by engaging in a free write activity after they finish the reading. As a teacher, we could set a timer for five minutes and ask the students to write continuously about their thoughts on the book, good or bad, and afterwards, go over it as a small group.
Polly had many favorite words throughout the book, what are some of your favorite words and why?
Make a list of activities you would do to have a Super-Fantastic-Day.
In the book, Polly writes down what her dream bedroom would look like. If you could have your dream bedroom, what would it look like?
When Polly writes in the magic book, she learns that she needs to write clearly and use as much detail as possible. What are some important rules to follow when writing so people can understand your message clearly?
When Polly is playing hide-and-seek, why does she become invisible?
Imagine the turquoise notebook has changed your house like Polly’s. Please write a short story explaining what your home looks like in order to get it back to normal.
How does Polly feel having to share a room with her little sister when her brother is born?
If you had a magic notebook that could bring three things you wrote about to life, what 3 things would you write or draw and why?
Polly loves words with double letters like “Dizzy.” List 5 words you can think of that have double letters.
Polly loves alliteration. That’s when two or more words in a row begin with the same letter. What alliterations can you think of?
Sisters of the Neversea Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Published June 1st, 2021 by Heartdrum
Summary: This book is a tale about three children, Lily, Wendy, and Michael. Their parents, Mr. Darling and Ms. Florene Roberts-Darling are separating, splitting the family between two different locations. The night before Wendy and Mr. Darling are supposed to leave, the children are visited by a boy named Peter Pan and Belle. Stories of pirates and merfolk persuade the children to follow Peter Pan and Belle off to a mystical land called Neverland. Upon arriving the children are separated and discover once you arrive you can never leave. The children meet merfolk, pirates, native children, the lost, and fairies in a desperate attempt to figure out how to get home.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book will be great for a read aloud, book club, or close reading because it involves a lot of higher level vocabulary than some students may currently be reading at and it has long sentences and dialogue which again, some children could struggle with. These classroom uses would allow for discussions.
Geography could also be tied in because students could illustrate and demonstrate caves and waterways the Merfolk might have dwelled in. They also could show their knowledge of what an island like Neverland might have, and include what trees they think the lost boys were living in.
And, of course, it could be looked at versus Peter Pan as it is a retelling.
If you were a character in this book, who would you be and why?
If you were to create a different ending, How would it go?
Why do you think Mr. Darling and Ms. Florene wanted to separate?
What was your favorite part of the book?
What were some challenges that the children had to face or overcome?
Why do you think Peter Pan and Belle appeared?
Why do you think it was hard for the lost boys to remember who they are?
Why do you think Peter Pan never wanted to grow up?
Why do you think Belle brought Peter Pan to the island?
Why do you think the crocodile made a TikTok sound?
Does this book remind you of any other children’s stories? If so why?
There’s Only One You Authors: Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook
Illustrator: Rosie Butcher
Published May 7th, 2019 by Union Square Kids
Summary: This feel-good book reassures kids that, whoever and whatever they are, it’s awesome being YOU! Expertly written to include all kinds of children and families, it embraces the beauty in a range of physical types, personalities, and abilities. Kids will love discovering and recognizing themselves in these pages—and they’ll feel proud to see their special qualities acknowledged. Adorable illustrations by Rosie Butcher show a diverse community that many will find similar to their own. (Goodreads)
About the Creators:
Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook have coauthored several books for children, including Ten Lucky Leprechauns (Scholastic) and Mouse Makes Words: A Phonics Reader (Random House). Kathryn is a school psychologist and Deborah is a kindergarten teacher. They both live in WI. Learn more at helinghembrook.com.
Rosie Butcher lives in East Yorkshire and spends her summers in Sweden. Follow her @scrimmle.
Review: I really enjoyed reading There’s Only One You. It is a wonderful book embracing diversity, inclusion, and individuality. The book is filled with beautiful illustrations demonstrating what makes us unique. The book is written in a rhythmic style, so it is engaging for young readers. Each spread beautifully displays the range of physical characteristics, personalities, or abilities individuals may have. The book is filled with bright vivid colors. Each page is filled with many details. Readers will enjoy exploring each page. The book and the illustrations go beyond inclusion of physical characteristics and incorporate physical attributes and challenges such as being in a wheelchair, using arm crutches, a walker, or using a hearing aid. The book also includes multiple spreads showing differences in families. Illustrations include families that comprise of a mom and a dad, or two moms, or two dads, or a single mom, or a single dad. The authors and illustrator do an excellent job displaying diversity within each page. The book also addresses differences in personalities, such as “crying when you’re sad, or keep tears inside”. The story emphasizes that being unique is what we all have in common. It is what makes us extraordinary.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I believe There’s Only One You is a wonderful book to kick start a new school year. It is a great read aloud choice that reminds students that we are all unique and that is special. The story celebrates all learners. It also encourages empathy among students. It is an excellent aide to teach social emotional learning concepts such as self-esteem, managing thoughts, emotions,
and behaviors, and being against bullying. The book can also be used interdisciplinary in reading, social studies, and art. The text and illustrations are filled with many details that prompt discussion among readers. Students may also respond in a journal entry to some of the subjects addressed in the book or write and draw about their own family. Students may also respond by creating an acrostic poem. In social studies, students can utilize individuality to explore what makes us diverse. For example, exploring
what country each student is from, their culture, traditions, and norms. In art, students can draw a self-portrait of themselves, then share with their classmates.There’s Only One You provides a great opportunity to build a classroom community.
On page 3, the author writes, “It’s awesome being unique!” Based on what we have read so far, what do you think being unique means?
On page 4, the author writes, “Do your feelings spill out? Do they lay low and hide? You might cry when you’re sad or keep tears inside.” The author is trying to tell us we differ in how we express our emotions. What are ways you can respond if you do not like something or it is not what you may have wanted?
On pages 8 and 9, we see students at the zoo. The author wants us to know how they are different and special. How does the author tell us that the students are different? What can we see from the illustrations?
Is there something that makes you unique or different from your classmates?
On pages 12 and 13, we can see all the children doing different activities. What kind of activities do we see in the picture? Do you have an activity that you love to do?
On pages 14 and 15, we can see some cool tools that may help our friends. Can you recall any of these tools? How do they help?
Read This If You Love: Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael López; You Are Enough: A Book about Inclusion by Margaret O’ Hair, illustrated by Sofia Cardoso; Different–A Great Thing to Be! by Heather Avis, illustrated by Sarah Mensinga
Why? Author & Illustrator: Nikolai Popov
Published 1996 by North-South Books
Summary: A frog sits peacefully in a meadow. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, he is attacked by an umbrella-wielding mouse in a confrontation that quickly turns into a full-scale war.
About the Author: Nikolai Popov is a well-known Russian visual artist and illustrator. He has won multiple gold medals and Grand Prix at international exhibitions of children’s book illustration. Popov has had personal exhibitions in many cities of the world, including Moscow, Tokyo, Rome and Venice. He is an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Arts.
Review: I found this book to be a beautiful way to describe the trials and tribulations of war without using words or realistic art depicting the violence war contributes to. It is a E-rated way to show that war is seemingly senseless and can be an endless cycle, where ultimately no one wins. I think on top of that, the artwork of watercolor and animals was really beautiful, and seemed very fairytale-like. I liked that the frog found a pretty flower and that the mouse is shown to be jealous even though he is surrounded by similar florals. I think this is a good way to show (not only a war aspect) but just a way to describe how we may not know what we have available to us because we are so focused on what others have instead. The fact that this book has no words and the story is completely implied by the images is also an important thing to note here because it can be up for debate as to what the actual goal of the story is – is it war? Or could it be selfishness, jealousy, or some could even think maybe the mouse doesn’t like frogs (micro-aggressions?). This availability for interpretation is a good way to get a multitude of ideas started without given any hints as to the authors key goals (if not getting author/book background information before reading).
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be supplemental in unison with history lessons revolving around a time-period of another war scenario, like WWI or WWII. It would be a good way to help students navigate how easily wars can start and how hard it is to find a real reason for violence when the outcome is unclear. This book would also be good to use when discussing the problem with bullying or isolating others, it would be a good way to give students an idea of why it is crucial to be kind and think of others because in the end, you end up asking WHY did we even do this in the first place? Students can learn about needless fighting and apply this mindset/theory to their own lives, from how they treat others, to family and school environments as well.
And the last page! Looking at it I get that “throat swelling” feeling right before you cry. Its a painful image. The flowers are gone, the animals are sad, everything is ruined – the worst part is, no one got to enjoy what an entire field had to offer.
On page 4, the mouse looks around after coming up from the ground, what do you think he is looking at?
On page 5, we see the mouse looking at the frog – what is he thinking?
On page 7, the frog looks upset, and on the next page, more frogs come into the picture – do you think the frog called for them? What if the frogs didn’t come?
What kind of weapons are the animals using? Why do you think the illustrator chose these items?
In the end, how do the frog and mouse appear to be feeling?
Read This If You Love: Concepts of peace, unity, discussing the issues with our world and problems with humanity
What is Love?
Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Carson Ellis
Publishing December 28, 2021 by Chronicle
Summary: A beautiful fable about the nature of love, from beloved, award-winning picture book creators Mac Barnett and Carson Ellis.
“What is love?” a young boy asks. “I can’t answer that,” his grandmother says, and so the boy goes out into the world to find out. But while each person he meets—the fisherman, the actor, and others—has an answer to his question, not one seems quite right. Could love really be a fish, or applause, or the night? Or could it actually be something much closer to home? This tender, funny tale is an original take on the “I love you” story, a picture book treasure for all ages to read and cherish.
A CLASSIC LOVE STORY: A wonderful narrative voice and spectacular pictures give this book the feel of a modern classic. Fans of The Runaway Bunny, Guess How Much I Love You, and Love You Forever will adore this book.
A BOOK THAT KIDS AS WELL AS PARENTS WILL ENJOY: Many books about the love between parents and children are told from an adult’s point of view. This book begins from the child’s perspective, and it’s funny and unexpected in ways that children can relate to, while being thoughtful in ways that adults will appreciate. Like all great children’s books, this book can be understood on many levels.
A BOOK ABOUT FINDING YOURSELF: The boy’s journey takes him to many different people, whose descriptions of what love means to them is very much about how they see themselves and their lives.
A GREAT READ-ALOUD: The engaging text is full of surprises and the distinctive voice of the narrator invites audiences to respond.
STAR TALENT: Mac Barnett is a New York Times bestselling author and a beloved figure on the school speaking circuit. Carson Ellis is a Caldecott Honor-winner and illustrator of some of the most interesting and beautiful children’s books published today. They’re an incredible creative duo and long-time friends, working together for the first time on this book.
Review:What is love? Adults and children will have a hard time defining it. It’s an abstract concept that is difficult to describe. A boy sets out to try to find the answer to this question. What I loved most about this book was that it wasn’t entirely serious—instead, this charming story has dabs of humor in it. Mac Barnett is just incredibly talented, and I’ve always loved the ways in which Carson Ellis’s illustrations capture the hearts of kids. I adored this book and think it will be one that readers of all ages will appreciate. It will leave them pondering—what is love to them?
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book offers words and images which attempt to describe an abstract concept. Readers might write their own versions of this book with a different concept. For instance, “What is joy?” or “What is hope?”
What is love?
What answers does the boy find?
How do the author and illustrator add humor to the story?
Which spread was your favorite, and why?
Why is love defined differently by each person he asks?
Although the boy said he didn’t find an answer, he tells his grandmother he did–what is his answer?
“She picked me up in her arms and said,
‘I can’t answer that.’
‘Who can?’ I asked.
‘If you go out into the world,
you might find an answer.'”
Read This If You Love: Books about Love
**Thank you to Chronicle Books for providing a copy for review!**
Zonia’s Rain Forest Author and Illustrator: Juana Martinez-Neal
Published March 30th, 2021 by Candlewick Press
Summary: A heartfelt, visually stunning picture book from the Caldecott Honor and Sibert Medal Winner illuminates a young girl’s day of play and adventure in the lush rain forest of Peru.
Zonia’s home is the Amazon rain forest, where it is always green and full of life. Every morning, the rain forest calls to Zonia, and every morning she answers. She visits the sloth family, greets the giant anteater, and runs with the speedy jaguar. But one morning, the rain forest calls to her in a troubled voice. How will Zonia answer?
Acclaimed author-illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal explores the wonders of the rain forest with Zonia, an Asháninka girl, in her joyful outdoor adventures. The engaging text emphasizes Zonia’s empowering bond with her home, while the illustrations—created on paper made from banana bark—burst with luxuriant greens and delicate details. Illuminating back matter includes a translation of the story in Asháninka, information on the Asháninka community, as well as resources on the Amazon rain forest and its wildlife.
⭐“At its simplest level, this is a beautiful story about a child who loves her home and the animals she with whom she shares it. Martinez-Neal’s rounded, soft-textured illustrations are wonderfully inviting and involve linocut and woodcut leaves and fronds printed on natural banana-bark paper… The text is kept to two short sentences per double-page spread, reflecting Zonia’s uncomplicated and innocent view of the world, which is shaken when she stumbles upon a large section of clear-cut forest.” – Booklist (starred review)
⭐“This beautiful look at a young girl’s life and her determination to save her home is a perfect read for young environmentalists.” – School Library Journal (starred review)
“In Juana Martinez-Neal’s Zonia’s Rain Forest, super-cute critters are out in full force…A girl who lives in the rain forest begins each day by greeting her animal friends in this exuberant picture book crowned with an environmental message.” – Shelf Awareness
About the Author: Juana Martinez-Neal is the Peruvian-born daughter and granddaughter of painters. Her debut as an author-illustrator, Alma and How She Got Her Name, was awarded a Caldecott Honor and was published in Spanish as Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre. She also illustrated La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya, for which she won a Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, Babymoon by Hayley Barrett, and Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, which won a Robert F. Sibert Medal. Juana Martinez-Neal lives in Arizona with her family. Visit her online at www.juanamartinezneal.com.
Review :Zonia’s story starts as a story of family. We meet her mother and baby brother and the love between them is evident in the words and illustrations.
The book then moves to Zonia’s adventures visiting her friends throughout the rain forest. We get to meet all of her animal friends. With backmatter introducing the type of animals, Trent and I went on a research exploration of the different rain forest animals that Martinez-Neal introduced to us.
The book ends with a call to action. Zonia is Asháninka, Indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon, so the rain forest is her home. Her family’s home. The book ends with Zonia running across deforestation near her home and realizing that the forest needs her, and all of our, help.
And finally, the backmatter of the book is incredible. Juana Martinez-Neal, who is Peruvian, is not Asháninka, so I am not sure of the accuracy of the portrayal, but the backmatter shows the work she did to do justice to them and their home. The back matter includes a translation of the entire book to Asháninka, information about the Asháninka People, a few facts about the Amazon, threats to the Amazon, and Zonia’s friends we met in the book. Finally, especially useful for in the classroom, she includes selected sources and resources, all which can be viewed at https://juanamartinezneal.com/books/zonia/.
With Martinez-Neal’s ability to craft the simplistic text in a beautiful way mixed with her signature illustrations, full of movement, color, and personality along with the rain forest elements, Zonia’s Rainforest is a perfect book for story time, science cross-curricular reading, a jumping off point for inquiry, or a mentor text.
Read “The story behind Zonia’s Rain Forest” by Juana Martinez-Neal here.
Watch an interview with Juana Martinez-Neal about Zonia’s Rain Forest:
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: Julia Torres created a Teacher’s Guide for Zonia for Candlewick Press, and it is the best resource for teaching Zonia. It includes 7 Discussion Questions and 8 Classroom Activities.