Author Guest Post: “Big Ideas: Ways of Making Abstract Concepts More Tangible for Students” by Laura Wippell, Author of Feeling Hopeful


“Big Ideas: Ways of Making Abstract Concepts More Tangible for Students”

One of my favourite things about picture books is their ability to communicate BIG IDEAS, BIG EMOTIONS and BIG ISSUES on their relatively small pages.

In an age of book bans it’s extremely encouraging to see authors continuing to tackle these big subjects within picture books, but is it something we are doing enough of in our classrooms?

I’m an Australian teacher who has been teaching English to students in Chile for almost a decade.  It can be challenging to explore BIG ideas with my ESL primary school students, who often need extra support when it comes to vocabulary or finding ways to describe these non-tangible concepts.  So, what I try to do is find ways to help them visualise these abstract concepts, or make them more tangible.

Here are three examples of how I’ve done that:

  • Show, don’t tell

When it comes to ESL classes, students have sometimes shown anxiety when I introduce a new concept, because while they might know what it is, they haven’t heard the term before in English, and it sounds big and scary.  When starting a new unit, I’ve learned that it’s best to retain a bit of mystery, and rather than telling students what our new unit will be about, I use inquiry activities such as the Question Formulation Technique, or Project Zero’s Thinking Routines from Harvard.  One example is their Name, Describe, Act activity.

Here’s how I’ve adapted that activity for my class:

I wanted to talk about fear as an emotion (a fairly abstract concept), so I displayed an emoji on the board and the students had to try to name it, describe it, and explain what sort of actions that emoji might produce.

The great thing about inquiry activities is that the students’ answers can give you a good indication about their prior knowledge on the subject, and how much support you might need to give them in the upcoming classes.

  • Food is a love language!

I’ve come across quite a few language and cultural barriers since living in Chile, but one sure way of breaking them down is through food.  Gosh, Chile has some incredible food!  From its soft, spongy marraqueta bread, to its creamy ‘manjar’ or ‘dulce de leche’ as it’s often referred to in other countries, to its colourful rainbow of seasonal berries and fruits, there’s something here for every appetite.  Food is a fantastic way to find common ground when meeting someone new, both in and out of the classroom.

Since food is so universal, I find it to be a great tool for making connections to more abstract ideas or concepts with students.  When I tutored students one-on-one, I was able to bring a few snacks for us to smell and nibble on and then compare each snack to something abstract, like an emotion or even a character from a book.

If the visual aspect of food wasn’t enough for them to make connections, the students could use their sense of touch, smell and taste to make surprising connections to those intangible concepts.  I once heard that watermelon was chosen to represent fear, because of all of those scary dark seeds that are hidden within.  Who would have thought?

For bigger classes at school where food sharing can sometimes be tricky or not allowed, you can always show high resolution pictures or videos.  The Hiho Kids channel on YouTube has a lot of cute videos of children trying food from around the world.

  • Differentiation is key

If food isn’t your thing, you might like to get your students to choose how they would like to describe a concept in a more tangible way.

For example, if you are exploring ‘fear’, they could choose between one of the following options:

  • If they had to write a letter to their fear, what would they say to it? Here you can always use vocabulary lists for extra support.
  • How would they represent fear in a dance? What music genre would they dance to?
  • What about a meme? If they had to sum up what their fear looks like in one meme or gif, what would it be?
  • How would they draw their fear? What does fear look like to them?

If you’re wondering why I’ve used fear as an example in my activities, it’s because it’s something that I feel we need to talk more about.  As teachers we often have a lot of social-emotional check-ins with our students about how they are feeling, but sometimes we need to dig deeper and look at their current fears in order to understand why someone might be feeling a certain way.

Fear can be tough to explore, so I wrote a picture book about it.


About the Book: In my picture book, Feeling Hopeful, Hope takes on the form of a happy, somersaulting dragon, who is hunting Fear.  Fear appears as a creature that likes to climb on children so they feel its full weight and presence.  Don’t worry though, there is a happy ending!

Far above the world, Hope the dragon somersaults through the sky, protecting those below.  But he encounters a formidable opponent in Fear.  Fear proves no match for Hope, until he meets a curious character, The Reader.  And it’s inside The Reader’s vast library that Hope finds what he’s looking for, plus much more…

This lyrical story has an uplifting SEL message and contains themes of hope, fear, the importance of reading and friendship.  While this book is marketed at a younger audience of up to six years old, I’ve used it with students up to 11 years old, and all of them have been able to make surprising, honest and beautiful connections.

That’s the beauty of working with BIG ideas, emotions and issues – they really have no age limit.

You can find a free teaching resource for Feeling Hopeful on my website at, which contains activities aimed at helping students visualise hope and fear.  Please feel free to reach out with comments or questions via my contact page.

About the Author: Laura is a children’s author.  In 2022, she won the Bee Ethicool author contest, which received over five thousand entries.  Laura’s debut picture book, Feeling Hopeful, is out now with Ethicool Books.  As an Australian living in Chile, Laura loves writing imaginative children’s books that make you feel local, and think global.  Laura has a background in Education, and is passionate about sharing her books with children and educators around the world.  Visit her at

Thank you, Laura, for these activities for the classroom!

What About Philosophy? An Illustrated Q&A Book for Kids by Guénaēlle Boulet and Anne-Sophie Chilard, Illustrated by Pascal Lemaître


What About Philosophy? An Illustrated Q&A Book for Kids
Author: Guénaēlle Boulet and Anne-Sophie Chilard
Illustrator: Pascal Lemaître
Philosophical Consultants: Oscar Brenifier and Jean-Charles Pettier
Published May 9th, 2023 by Twirl Books

Summary: What is money for? Why are there wars? Should we always be nice? Curious kids have lots of questions about the world they live in and the feelings they have. They will explore answers to these questions and many more in this exceptional illustrated Q&A book. Questions about how to think about freedom, jealousy, and going to school, among others, are answered in a fun, kid-friendly way and accompanied by quirky cartoon illustrations that will entertain readers and help them talk about big life questions.

  • 80 pages of real-life questions and answers for kids ages 7 and up
  • Fun illustrations that engage readers
  • Content reviewed by philosophy advisers and sensitivity reader What About: Philosophy is a Q&A book that offers easy-to-understand answers to challenging life questions!
  • Great family and classroom read-aloud book
  • Nonfiction books for kids
  • Educational books for elementary school students

About the Creators:

Anne-Sophie Chilard is the editor-in-chief of the children’s magazine J’aime lire. She is the co-author of several books of activities and recipes for children, and lives in Paris.

Jean-Charles Pettier taught philosophy in high school, and is now a doctoral candidate in philosophy. He introduces the subject to young children through a column in the children’s magazine, Pomme d’api, He lives near Paris.

Pascal Lemaitre is the illustrator of the numerous children’s books, including the bestselling picture books, Come with Me, Do Not Open This Book!, and many more. During the year, he splits his time between Brussels, Belgium, and Brooklyn, New York.

Review: There are many questions in life that kids ask and adults may not know how to answer. This book is the answer! It explains so much to the reader while still leaving the reader to have opinions of their own. You can tell, based on its push for metacognition and deeper thinking, that it was definitely based in philosophy. While the authors and illustrator make the book engaging and fun, but the information within the book is truly thought provoking and will help kids work through some of the truly tough questions.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation & Discussion Questions: I think educators will definitely add this to their read aloud rotation in later elementary classes. They can do a different section each time which will lead to wonderful classroom discussions! I mean, each section is its own discussion question!

Flagged Passages: 

Note to Readers:

Why do we exist? What is love? Why is there war? These kinds of big life questions are what philosophy is all about. Curious people young and old have always wondered why the world is the way it is. Yet these philosophical questions rarely have one simple answer.

The purpose of this book is to help guide you as you think about the many possible answers to life’s big questions. The ideas explored here were inspired by classroom discussions and consultation with philosophers Oscar Brenifier and Jean-Charles Pettier. The fun, accessible text and whimsical illustrations are your key to discovering how to think for yourself and form  your own opinions.


Read This If You Love: Q&A Books, Philosophy

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

Author Guest Post: “Small Things Lead to Social Emotional Learning” by Marsha Diane Arnold, Author of One Small Thing


“Small Things Lead to Social Emotional Learning

In 2017, my husband and I survived Hurricane Irma in Lee County, Florida. 130 mph gusts right over our house! That same year, the Tubbs wildfire roared through Napa, Sonoma, and Lake County in California. My husband and I had moved from Sonoma county, where we’d lived 35 years, to Florida just a few years before. The fire destroyed the homes of a number of friends, including our goddaughter’s. Disasters seemed to surround us.

When Raccoon’s home is destroyed by lightning in One Small Thing, Mouse says, “It’s such a BIG catastrophe! And we’re so small.” Catastrophes can paralyze. Children can feel overwhelmed with concern and helplessness when they experience a natural disaster or when a calamity happens to someone in their community. One Small Thing offers examples of how each of us, child or adult, can use our energy and talent to spread kindness.

It’s especially important to spread kindness during difficult times, but it’s also important to spread kindness on a daily basis. Doing “one small thing” daily will help children understand their feelings, understand others’ feelings, and assist them in making empathetic decisions. Small actions daily will help them be ready to communicate and act when a “big catastrophe” happens.

After reading One Small Thing, you may wish to discuss a few of the questions found in the One Small Thing Activity Guide:

*How did each animal feel when they learned about what happened to Raccoon
*Squirrel felt so sad, he couldn’t move. Do you ever feel there is too much to be fixed? Do you ever feel things are so hard or sad you may as well give up?
*Which animal felt they didn’t have anything to offer, that there was nothing they could do? (Mouse)
*How do you feel when something scary or bad happens?
*What makes you feel better when you are scared or sad?

After the discussion, have the children talk about “one small thing” they could do as a class.

Lead the children to try a couple of activities for others. Perhaps start with “one small thing” for animal friends.

My educator friend is planning to read One Small Thing to a class and then work with them to make Cookie Cutter Bird Feeders. There are several slightly different “recipes” online; she plans to try this one. She hasn’t tried this yet, but folks who have say this will make several cookie cutter bird feeders.

Materials Needed

  • 2 cups small birdseed (Have extra in case you need to thicken the mixture more.)
  • 2 packets unflavored gelatin (8 gram packets)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • Spoon
  • Twine or Ribbon
  • (Plastic Straws, if using straws to poke the holes)
  • Cookie cutters – (Stars and acorns are fun.)
  • Baking sheets
  • Parchment paper

What to do

  1. Place parchment paper on baking sheets.
  2. Place cookie cutters on baking sheets. Set these to the side.
  3. In a mixing bowl place 2/3 cup boiled water and 2 packet of gelatin. You can also do this on a stove in a pan.
  4. Stir until the gelatin is dissolved, a minute or two.
  5. Stir in 2 cups birdseed until most of the liquid is absorbed.
  6. Tie a piece of twine or ribbon into a loop. (Some prefer to place a straw in the birdseed cookies to make a hole. After the cookies dry, the twine or ribbon can be pulled through and tied.)
  7. Fill a cookie cutter halfway with birdseed, using a spoon. Press the birdseed down with the back of the spoon.
  8. Push the tied part of string into the birdseed.
  9. Fill the cookie cutter with the rest of the birdseed mixture.
  10. Some place the cookie cutters in the refrigerator for a few hours to set. Others simply move on to drying.
  11. Dry the birdseed cookies overnight.
  12. Turn the birdseed cookies over and let the other side dry overnight.
  13. Carefully push the bird seed feeder out of the cookie cutter.
  14. Hang the birdseed cookies from tree branches or a bird feeding station.

Now you might have the  children brainstorm “one small thing” they could do as a class for a person. Is there an Assisted Living Residence or Retirement Community nearby that would appreciate colorful cards? You might choose a holiday like May Day and have the children draw colorful flowers on folded paper with a brief message like “Happy May Day!” or “May Basket” and their name.

These two activities seem like small things to do…but that is the point. They are small, but lots of small things add up to something wonderful. May the gentle, cozy message of One Small Thing add to the social emotional learning canon and to kindness, all around.

Educators and parents can find more activities in the One Small Thing Activity Guide on my website, here:

Published May 9th, 2023 by Beaming Books

About the Book: After Raccoon’s home burns down in a lightning storm, his friends don’t know what they can do to help. Squirrel, Beaver, Mouse, Badger, and Rabbit all go back to their own homes, trying to focus on something other than Raccoon’s tragedy. But each animal discovers one small thing they can do for Raccoon–and it turns out that each small act may not be so small after all.

One Small Thing is a gentle and powerful look at how small actions can make a big impact.

About the Author: Called a “born storyteller” by the media, Marsha Diane Arnold is a picture book author of 24 books, with over one million books sold.  Her books have garnered honors like Best First Book by a New Author (Heart of a Tiger), Smithsonian Notable (The Pumpkin Runner), and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (Roar of a Snore). Her bilingual Galápagos Girl won the Green Prize for Sustainable Literature. Lights Out, about light pollution, has been praised by the Dark Sky community as well as the children’s lit community and was a finalist for the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Text.

Marsha enjoys sharing her love of story through school visits, manuscript consultations, her Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books e-course, and especially by reading to her four grandchildren.

Growing up on the Kansas prairies, Marsha lived in Northern California for most of her life. Now she lives with her husband in southwest Florida, near the Caloosahatchee River and her daughter’s family and only a short flight from her son’s family. Besides creating stories, her favorite activities are scuba diving and snorkeling, hiking, traveling, gardening, and climbing trees.

You may learn more about Marsha, her books, and her world, at

Thank you, Marsha, for these activities and the focus on kindness!

When You Take a Step by Bethanie Deeney Murguia


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, TooZoe Gets ReadySnippet the Early RiserI 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,

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:

Discussion Questions: 

  • 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?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Inspirational books, Books about emotions

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Alex at Simon & Schuster for providing a copy for review!**

Guest Review: The Bad Seed by Jory John, Illustrated by Pete Oswald


Guest Reviewer: Katie, UCF Elementary Education Student

The Bad Seed
Author: Jory John
Illustrator: Pete Oswald
Published August 29th, 2017 by HarperCollins Publishers

Summary: This is a book about a bad seed. A baaaaaaaaaad seed. How bad? Do you really want to know?

He has a bad temper, bad manners, and a bad attitude. He’s been bad since he can remember! This seed cuts in line every time, stares at everybody and never listens. But what happens when one mischievous little seed changes his mind about himself, and decides that he wants to be—happy?

About the Creators:

Jory John is a New York Times bestselling author and two-time E. B. White Read Aloud Honor recipient. Jory’s work includes the award-winning Goodnight Already! series; the bestselling Terrible Two series; the popular picture books The Bad Seed, Penguin Problems, and Quit Calling Me a Monster!; and the national bestseller All My Friends Are Dead, among other books. He lives in Oregon.

Pete Oswald is an LA-based artist, kid lit author/illustrator, and production designer. He is the co-creator of Mingo the Flamingo, published in 2017 by HarperCollins. Pete is also the illustrator of The Bad Seed, by Jory John. When Pete is not working on books he is helping to uplift many of the most successful animated franchises as a character designer, concept artist, and production designer. Pete lives in Santa Monica, California, with his wife and two sons.

Review: I personally love this book and the character development it possesses throughout. There is a background on how the seed became to be “The Bad Seed”, which helps readers understand that there is always a reason behind their peers’ behaviors. The seed shared the things he does and the reasons he believes himself to be so bad but also a chance in his mindset, he no longer wants to be a bad seed. He starts changing his behavior and wants to be happy. This shows kids that it’s okay to want to make positive changes in themselves and it is possible for their peers to do so too. The seed also shares that he may not continue these positive behaviors at all times but does so from time to time. This shows that you can not be the perfect person at all times but it’s all about you trying to do so. With this, I think this would be a great book to start the year out with to show students that it is okay to start out being “bad” and changing for the better. It also gives students a chance to understand behaviors without telling them.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I think this book would be best for a classroom read aloud. This is because it would be a great introduction book or even if you notice there are a lot of negative behaviors happening in the classroom. It shows character development and how you can turn your behavior around. It also shows that there is a reason behind all negative behaviors and that these reasons are justifiable as well showing that you can get past it.

Some activities you could also do with it are:

Mapping: Mapping could be used for this book as you can map the journey the character takes to change his behavior from being bad to being good. You can have points that begin with the seed being happy, what happened that made him change his behavior, what he did while he was being bad, and what he started doing to become good.

Literature Logs: This could be used for older age groups, they can stop at the beginning to make connections or write down their initial thoughts after a picture walk. They can stop at different points to make inferences about what’s going to happen next or things they believe the character can do to turn around his behavior.

Graffiti Boards: This could be used just like the literature logs but may be more fun for the students as it is less structured. Here they have a chance to write, draw and interpret ideas on their own with little guidance other then the initial instructions and it can be done at any point without having to stop as a whole class to complete.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Describe in your own words the reasoning behind the bad seed becoming bad?
  • Why do you think the seed is considered to be the bad seed just from looking at the cover?
  • Do you think the seed will be able to overcome his “bad” behavior? Why or why not?
  • Describe a time in your life where you interacted with someone who acted like the bad seed? How did it make you feel?
  • Why do you think the seed wanted to turn his behavior around and become good again?
  • What do you think we can learn from the bad seed and his journey to become good?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Understanding behavior, colorful illustrations

Recommended For: 


Thank you, Katie, for your review!

Pigeon & Cat by Edward Hemingway


Pigeon & Cat
Author & Illustrator: Edward Hemingway
Published June 21st, 2022 from Christy Ottaviano Books

Summary: Pigeon and Cat form a lasting bond in this poignant picture book about compassion and friendship.

In an abandoned city lot, Cat lives alone in a cardboard box. He leaves only to find food. One day, Cat discovers an unbroken egg too beautiful to eat. Soon, out pecks Pigeon, and they become fast friends. Cat is happy to share his box with Pigeon. But when Pigeon flies far away from where they live, Cat must brave the city in order to rescue his friend. This journey will forever transform his understanding of home.

This heartwarming story explores unlikely friendships, the creative spark within us, and how to give comfort and kindness in small, impactful gestures. It is also a celebration of urban community.

About the Author: Edward Hemingway is the acclaimed creator of many popular books: Tough Cookie: A Christmas Story, Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus, and Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship. His writing and artwork have been published in the New York Times and GQ Magazine, among others. The youngest grandson of Ernest Hemingway, he lives in Bozeman, Montana. He invites you to visit him at, on Twitter @EdwardHemingway, and  Instagram: @edwardhemingway.

Review: This book is special both in message and in art.

First, I loved that the book not only showed that one act of kindness can change a lot and that a friendship can change people, but it also showed that there are people out there that it is worth not giving up hope on. Cat, at the beginning, is hard to like and it seems he would be okay with that. Then he saves Pigeon and changes. Although, it is HIS act of kindness that changes the trajectory of the story, it is Pigeon that helps him see that that kindness isn’t a fluke; that Cat can be more than he’s been.

Second, Hemingway’s art is just so beautifully done. It is hard for me to explain, but just looking at the style of his painting, I find myself being sucked into the story. It is just a fantastic addition to the story and brings it all to life in a way that is so perfect. I can definitely see Hemingway’s love in the art (see below for what he said about the art).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Edward Hemingway created a video sharing his inspiration behind the book ( which would be a wonderful start of a discussion about kindness and friendship and how it can change someone’s life and even the world. Students could also write their own stories with an act of kindness changing a character just like Cat changed.

Also, I received the book with an amazing letter from the author which is a call for action. I want to share it with you because it has so much to talk about as well as a perfect After Reading activity in the classroom:

Dear Reader,

I am very proud to be sending you my latest work, Pigeon & Cat. This book is so special to me. At its heart it is a story about kindness and compassion, and also about the gifts that art provides.

I hand painted all the artwork for the book during the height of the pandemic, so I was either isolating in my studio or at home with my fiancé. In a way, the book became one of my friends, and I looked forward to seeing it and working on it every day. I’m so happy to be sharing it with you now, and I hope that reading it touches you in some small way.

Pigeon & Cat begins with one small act of kindness. When Cat finds Pigeon’s abandoned egg on the ground, he cares for it instead of eating it. I firmly believe that such small acts of kindness can shine a bright light in dark times and open the pathway to a more positive future.

In the spirit of envisioning such a future, I have a small favor to ask of you. Pigeon opens Cat’s eyes to the beauty in the world around him, and when Pigeon goes missing, Cat creates beautiful messages in chalk that dot the city streets, walls, and avenues in an effort to reach his friend. He leaves these messages for all to see… Won’t you leave some beautiful messages on a wall or street or chalk board for your friends and community just like Cat? It would be wonderful to see the beautiful things you create.

If you post your creations, please tag me so I can see what you do!
Sincerely yours,
Eddie Hemingway

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did Pigeon do to change how Cat viewed the world?
  • How did this change Cat’s character traits?
  • Why was Cat the way he was at the beginning?
  • Cat thought he was happy in the beginning of the book. Do you think he was happier at the beginning or end?
  • What types of messages did Cat draw around the city for Pigeon to find?
  • How does the transformation of Cat’s shelter represent Cat’s change as a character?
  • Why do you think the creator had illustrations change from full color to black silhouetted sometimes?
  • What kindness messages would you put around your community for others?
  • What was something during the pandemic that you did to help keep yourself preoccupied?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Edward HemingwayNegative Cat by Sophie Blackall; Inside Cat by Brendan Wenzel; A Cat is Better by Linda Joy SingletonAll Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!!**

Guest Review: Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora


Guest Reviewer: Briana, UCF Elementary Education Student

Thank You, Omu!
Author & Illustrator: Oge Mora
Published October 2, 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary: A generous woman is rewarded by her community in this remarkable author-illustrator debut that’s perfect for the Thanksgiving season, perfect for fans of Last Stop on Market Street.

Everyone in the neighborhood dreams of a taste of Omu’s delicious stew! One by one, they follow their noses toward the scrumptious scent. And one by one, Omu offers a portion of her meal. Soon the pot is empty. Has she been so generous that she has nothing left for herself?

About the Author: Oge Mora is a collage artist and storyteller. Her picture book, Thank You, Omu!, was a Caldecott Honor, Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award winner, and Ezra Jack Keats Book Award recipient.  Her second book, Saturday, won the 2020 Boston Globe—Horn Book Picture Book Award. Oge’s artwork has been applauded by The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Boston Globe. She also recently made the Forbes 30 Under 30 2021 list in Arts & Style.

Oge grew up in Columbus, Ohio but resides in Providence, RI. She is a fan of all things colorful, patterned, or collaged, and enjoys creating warm stories that celebrate people coming together.

Review: This is a beautiful and joyous book celebrating community, generosity, and reciprocity. What I like about this book is that everything is freely given: Omu shares her stew out of the kindness of her heart and all of the neighbors return that kindness without being asked or cajoled. I also like this book because it demonstrates how we can and should rely on each other in times of need. Everyone in the book receives and gives help at different points. And this shows how connected, strong communities make everyone’s life better. I think this book is important because there isn’t really any conflict or character growth in the story, instead everyone acts as they should, and this serves as a model for students about how to act and how the world should be.

The cut-paper illustrations, also done by Oge Mora, are colorful and vibrant. This makes the book and the town it depicts feel warm, inviting, and idyllic which draws the reader in and supports the text’s message about the value of community. This book is set within an urban setting, which is a refreshing change of place from the suburbs, and idealized rural and wilderness settings of so many children’s books. And it is important for children to see urban communities as beautiful and valuable.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I think this book is a valuable addition to your classroom library and it is an excellent book for whole class read aloud. This book can be used with the guided questions to prompt discussions about sharing and about the students’ own communities. It is also useful to build a healthy classroom community. Students are going to be asked to share and work together throughout the year. Students can also explore the illustration style while exploring the central theme. For example, students could be tasked to depict a scene of a time when they shared or someone shared with them using cut construction paper. After reading the story students should be able to understand and reflect on their own communities, the members that make it up  and how everyone works towards a happy community. You can also discuss the elements of Nigerian American culture that are prevalent in this book, such as the one pot stew and Omu’s name herself.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does Omu make that has everyone starving?
  • Why do you think Omu shares with everyone?
  • How do you think all the characters know each other?
  • How did the community thank Omu for sharing?
  • Omu helped her community by sharing! What are things you could share that would help your community? Remember that you can share things that are not physical.
  •  What makes a good neighbor?
  • Why is sharing important? Can sharing be hard? Why or why not?

Flagged Passages: 

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

Recommended For: 


Thank you, Briana, for your review!