The Crayon Man

  • Title: The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons
  • Author: Natascha Biebow
  • Illustrator: Steven Salerno
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication year: 2019
  • Brief Summary: From Houghton Mifflin-“Celebrating the inventor of the Crayola crayon! This gloriously illustrated picture book biography tells the inspiring story of Edwin Binney, the inventor of one of the world’s most beloved toys.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –I found this lesson guide on Library Lessons With Books that uses this book as a learning tool about inventions. The activity they state to do is have children in groups and ask them to brainstorm an invention for an everyday problem.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –I really liked that there is a step by step guide on how Crayola Crayons are made today, a brief biography of the real Edwin Binney, and a bibliography list.

Swan

  • Title: Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova
  • Author: Laurel Snyder
  • Illustrator: Julie Morstad
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books
  • Publication year: 2015
  • Brief Summary: From Amazon-“One night, young Anna’s mother takes her to the ballet, and everything is changed. So begins the journey of a girl who will one day grow up to be the most famous prima ballerina of all time, inspiring legions of dancers after her: the brave, the generous, the transcendently gifted Anna Pavlova. Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova is a heartbreakingly beautiful picture book biography perfect for aspiring ballerinas of all ages.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I think this could be used in a music class or a humanities class to show a glimpse of the life of his famous ballerina. Perhaps a discussion could happen after reading the book on following one’s dreams, or a lengthier discussion on the time period in which this book is set.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – I liked that Snyder included an author’s note on the life of Anna Pavlova and that she also included a bibliography and quotation sources. I do think the illustrations from Morstad are stunning, almost ethereal and do a great job of showing a frail, wraith-like Pavlova dancing across the stage.

Fatima’s Great Outdoors

  • Title: Fatima’s Great Outdoors
  • Author: Ambreen Tariq
  • Illustrator: Stevie Lewis
  • Publisher: Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  • Publication year: 2021
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“Fatima Khazi is excited for the weekend. Her family is headed to a local state park for their first camping trip! The school week might not have gone as planned, but outdoors, Fatima can achieve anything. She sets up a tent with her father, builds a fire with her mother, and survives an eight-legged mutant spider (a daddy longlegs with an impressive shadow) with her sister. At the end of an adventurous day, the family snuggles inside one big tent, serenaded by the sounds of the forest. The thought of leaving the magic of the outdoors tugs at Fatima’s heart, but her sister reminds her that they can keep the memory alive through stories–and they can always daydream about what their next camping trip will look like.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –I found this lesson plan guide from Library Lessons With Books that has great discussion questions to ask students after reading the book. This article also highlights a NPR interview that Tariq gave about the picture book.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –I really enjoyed the bright illustrations done by Lewis, and liked that this was another slice of life type of picture book that featured a diverse family. My favorite set of illustrations is of Fatima helping her dad set up the tent.

A New Kind of Wild

  • Title: A New Kind of Wild
  • Author: Zara Gonzalez Hoang
  • Illustrator: Zara Gonzalez Hoang
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  • Publication year: 2020
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“For Ren, home is his grandmother’s little house, and the lush forest that surrounds it. Home is a place of magic and wonder, filled with all the fantastical friends that Ren dreams up. Home is where his imagination can run wild. For Ava, home is a brick and cement city, where there’s always something to do or see or hear. Home is a place bursting with life, where people bustle in and out like a big parade. Home is where Ava is never lonely because there’s always someone to share in her adventures. When Ren moves to Ava’s city, he feels lost without his wild. How will he ever feel at home in a place with no green and no magic, where everything is exactly what it seems? Of course, not everything in the city is what meets the eye, and as Ren discovers, nothing makes you feel at home quite like a friend. Inspired by the stories her father told her about moving from Puerto Rico to New York as a child, Zara González Hoang’s author-illustrator debut is an imaginative exploration of the true meaning of ‘home.'”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I think this is another great book for children to see that the imagination can help you acclimate to a new environment and connect you with friends. I think this book is great for children because a lot of children move to new locations and feel lost, and in this book they can see their situation reflected. I found this lesson plan from Read Across America that encourages children to use their own imagination and asks discussion questions about the book.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – I really thought Hoang’s illustrations did a great job of showing imaginative thoughts. My favorite illustration is at the end of the book after Ava has shown Ren all the different ways he can expand his imagination in the city, and they reach the top of the roof and he can finally see what Ava has been trying to get him to see.

Stormy

  • Title: Stormy: A Story About Finding a Forever Home
  • Author: Guojing
  • Illustrator: Guojing
  • Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House
  • Publication year: 2019
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“In this heartwarming, wordless picture book that’s perfect for dog lovers, a woman visits a park and discovers a pup hiding under a bench–scruffy, scared, and alone. With gentle coaxing, the woman tries to befriend the animal, but the dog is too scared to let her near. Day after day, the woman tries–and day after day, the dog runs away. With perseverance and patience–and help from an enticing tennis ball–a tentative friendship begins. But it’s not until a raging storm forces the two together that a joyous and satisfying friendship takes hold. Guojing poignantly explores how trust doesn’t always come easily, but how, over time, and with kindness and determination, forever love can grow.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I think this book could be used to start a discussion, to ask students how they interpret the images and the story, even though there are no words. I think this book would work well in a class with younger children (though I think older children and adults could appreciate this book).
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – The illustrations by Guojing are incredibly realistic. The dog’s fur is detailed in every illustration, and we can see when the dog gets wet that their fur is also wet, we can almost feel the heaviness of their pelt and the cold and wind. The storm is captured so well that we can even see the water bounce off the trashcan in one set of images.

The Night Is Yours

  • Title: The Night Is Yours
  • Author: Abul-Razak Zachariah
  • Illustrator: Keturah A. Bobo
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  • Publication year: 2019
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“This lyrical text, narrated to a young girl named Amani by her father, follows her as she plays an evening game of hide-and-seek with friends at her apartment complex. The moon’s glow helps Amani find the last hidden child, and seems almost like a partner to her in her game, as well as a spotlight pointing out her beauty and strength. This is a gorgeous bedtime read-aloud about joy and family love and community, and most of all about feeling great in your own skin.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I did find this activity PDF from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, but this really more for parents than for teachers. However, as I have mentioned in many of my previous posts, I like that this book is a diverse book that just shows many diverse families interacting in an everyday activity-their children playing together. I do not know whether there is any particular curriculum this could fit into so maybe this is a book better suited for a public library.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – Bobo’s illustrations in my opinion are not stunning. I think the real gem of this book is the words by Zachariah. I did think the choice to make this a narrated second-person point of view was interesting and could get children thinking on writing in other point of views.

Dancing Hands

  • Title: Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln
  • Author: Margarite Engle
  • Illustrator: Rafael Lopez
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
  • Publication year: 2019
  • Brief Summary: From Simon & Schuster-“As a little girl, Teresa Carreño loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her up, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals. Then a revolution in Venezuela forced her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the people she met spoke Spanish. Worst of all, there was fighting in her new home, too—the Civil War. Still, Teresa kept playing, and soon she grew famous as the talented Piano Girl who could play anything from a folk song to a sonata. So famous, in fact, that President Abraham Lincoln wanted her to play at the White House! Yet with the country torn apart by war, could Teresa’s music bring comfort to those who needed it most?”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – Because this is a moment in the life of a real person, and the historical context is The Civil War, this could be taught in a variety of ways. Perhaps students could read about the real Teresa Carreño before or after reading this book. Perhaps students could read about Abraham Lincoln and about his life the moment Teresa met him. I found this lesson plan from Atheneum Books that has an extensive discussion guide and activities to do with students.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – I was interested to read this book after the group presentation on illustrator Rafael Lopez. Like many of the books I have picked out with him as the illustrator, I am stunned by his colorful, whimsical illustrations. Particularly in this book, where as Teresa plays, the music is personified as waves of color, tropical birds and flowers soaring around her. I think that is a beautiful interpretation as many people (adults and children) imagine music in many ways.

Hey, Water!

  • Title: Hey, Water!
  • Author: Antoinette Portis
  • Illustrator: Antoinette Portis
  • Publisher: Neal Porter Books/Holiday House
  • Publication year: 2019
  • Brief Summary: From Holiday House-“Join a young girl as she explores her surroundings and sees that water is everywhere. But water doesn’t always look the same, it doesn’t always feel the same, and it shows up in lots of different shapes. Water can be a lake, it can be steam, it can be a tear, or it can even be a snowman. As the girl discovers water in nature, in weather, in her home, and even inside her own body, water comes to life, and kids will find excitement and joy in water and its many forms.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I think this book could be used to teach children about the water cycle, about the different forms of water, and even geographically, where we can find water on the earth. So I think this would be ideal for young children in elementary school. This lesson plan from Library Lessons With Books suggests this activity: forming groups after reading to designing a water conservation campaign, perhaps creating posters with art based on Portis’s illustrations. So in this way, this book could be used for multiple teachers/multiple disciplines.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –Portis’s illustrations are fast-paced; there is some level of action going on with each page flip, which I believe would keep a child’s interest. I liked that Portis subtly indicates each body of water with text that is next to the illustration, but does not overpower it, in fact, there is white space enough around the word and illustration that it does not look clumped together. I think was a great choice by the editor. I also want to note that our professor wrote this article about Hey, Water! for The Horn Book that you should read if you (as a teacher/librarian) are considering this book. Portis includes a brief note on water forms, the water cycle, and how to conserve water at the end of this book. I think this is a candidate for me for my Best 50 list.

You Matter

  • Title: You Matter
  • Author: Christian Robinson
  • Illustrator: Christian Robinson
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
  • Publication year: 2020
  • Brief Summary: From Simon & Schuster-“In this full, bright, and beautiful picture book, many different perspectives around the world are deftly and empathetically explored—from a pair of bird-watchers to the pigeons they’re feeding. Young readers will be drawn into the luminous illustrations inviting them to engage with the world in a new way and see how everyone is connected, and that everyone matters.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – While we did this illustrator for our group project, I myself did not get to check out the book until now. I watched this read aloud by Robinson himself (This was in partnership with PBS Kids) to see the book and the illustrations for the presentation. I found this lesson plan from the website Pepelet Broadening Minds that suggests having children give their thoughts about the cover, discussion before reading, and then after Robinson reads the work (they also used the same video).
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – As with many of Robinson’s works that I covered for this project, I think his illustrations are what make the book. The illustrations for this book include diverse characters, and I think what is unique about this book is that there is no one protagonist but many characters who we see with each turn of the page.

The Invisible Boy

  • Title: The Invisible Boy
  • Author: Trudy Ludwig
  • Illustrator: Patrice Barton
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books
  • Publication year: 2013
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“A simple act of kindness can transform an invisible boy into a friend…Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody in class ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party . . . until, that is, a new kid comes to class. When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –I think this book, while not necessarily falling under a certain curriculum, could be used for social emotional learning. I found this lesson plan at the website Highland Literacy that is very extensive.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –I like that there is an exhaustive list of activities/questions to ask students at the back of the book, and recommended books for adults and children. I liked Barton’s choice to make Brian transparent when he is alone/lonely, and colorful when Justin starts to become his friend.