Monday, November 18, 2019

Picture Book Roundup #1

I traditionally haven't written much about picture books, aside from storytime posts, but that's changing now! I've been reading and keeping track of picture books more and more for my job and various side gigs, so I'd like to start featuring a monthly roundup of my favorites.


Benji, the Bad Day, and Me by Sally J. Pla, illustrated by Ken Min. Grades PreK-2. Lee & Low, 2018. Sammy is having the worst day EVER, but when he gets home from school he realizes that his little brother Benji who is on the autism spectrum has also been having a bad day. Sammy feels like no one notices his struggles next to his brother's and he also knows that he can't act out and express the way he feels the way he wants to because it will overstimulate his brother. Luckily, there is at least one person watching out for Sammy: Benji, who comes out from his special spot and uses his favorite blanket to wrap Sammy up like a burrito, just the way he likes to be comforted. This is a quietly moving story about the power and depth of family love and how bad days might look in one family with a child on the autism spectrum. This is definitely an important representation for siblings of kids on the spectrum, but I think general readers will get a lot out of it, too.

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael Lopez. Grades 1-3. Atheneum, 2019. When Teresa Carreño played the piano, her hands danced as the music brought her joy. She kept playing even as her family fled Venezuela's revolution and moved to the United States, a country in the midst of the Civil War. She became famous as a child prodigy and was invited to play for Abraham Lincoln at the White House. This gorgeous picture book biography has light and colorful art that dances across the page, just as Carreño's hands danced across the piano keys. It's an inspiring story of the power of music and will appeal to young musicians.


Ice Breaker: How Mabel Fairbanks Changed Figure Skating by Rose Viña, illustrated by Claire Almon. Grades 3-5. Albert Whitman, 2019. Mabel Fairbanks was drawn to the ice at a young age, but African Americans weren't allowed to skate in competition. She skated in different entertainment venues and then took up coaching, urging the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club to admit African American members. This book is a celebration of her love for the sport of figure skating and her inspiring story of breaking barriers. Grab it for your shelves as figure skating season is gearing up!

Lambslide by Ann Patchett, illustrated by Robin Glasser. Grades PreK-2. HarperCollins, 2019. Ooookay, when an adult author releases a picture book I am a little skeptical (even a favorite author like Ann Patchett), but I found this book to be delightful. When the lambs misunderstand the word "landslide", they decide that their farm DOES need a lambslide. But how to make it happen? Mama sheep advises them to start by consulting stakeholders and talking to community members, figure out where the funding will come from, etc. It's a civics lesson successfully packaged into an adorable farm story and relevant in today's politically-engaged climate. Pair this with Click Clack Moo for a civics-themed storytime.


The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar, illustrated by Alea Marley. Grades PreK-2. Sterling, 2019. Harpreet wears a different patka every day, a different color to match his mood. But after his family moves to a new, cold place, Harpreet finds himself wearing white for feeling shy more often than not. But just one friend can start to turn that around. This is a relateable story for any kid who's experienced starting over in a new place or who has struggled with making friends. A note in the back of the book gives some information about the Sikh religion and the significance of wearing a turban.

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly. Grades K-3. Little, Brown, 2019. It's the first day of school and the first day that Faizah's big sister will be wearing hijab. She picks out a scarf the perfect blue of the ocean and sky and wears it proudly to school. To Faizah, she looks like a princess and she is proud to walk beside her and proud to think of herself wearing a similar scarf one day. When kids at school tease her sister, the girls don't hold on to the words, following their mother's advice that hurtful words don't belong to them but to the one who said them. This wonderful book celebrates the rite of passage that is wearing hijab for the first time with its proud text and bold, beautiful illustrations. This is a fantastic addition to your back-to-school displays.


Spencer's New Pet by Jessie Sima. Grades PreK-4. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. This delightful wordless picture book is full of humor and tension and has a delightful surprise ending. Spencer has a new pet - a balloon dog - and he's taking it everywhere he goes. But danger lurks everywhere - a hedgehog's spike at the vet, a bee's stinger at the park... so many sharp things to avoid! Can Spencer keep his new pet safe? This is a fun and different take on traditional pet stories and the illustrations pay homage to silent films. Hand this to fans of That is Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems.

A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel. Grades K-4. Chronicle Books, 2019. With gorgeous, muted, sometimes a little abstract artwork and a gentle, rhythmic, evocative text, this picture book presents a stone. Depending on the time of year or which animals are near, the stone can be different things: a pebble to a moose, a hill to a bug, etc. But the stone is also always itself, sitting where it sits as everything changes all around it. This is a great book to share ideas about perspective and how it changes and also mindfulness and seeing the possibilities in things. Pair with If I Was the Sunshine by Julie Fogliano for a philosophical reading session.

Under My Hijab by Hena Khan. Grades K-3. Lee & Low, 2019. This beautiful book shows many different Muslim women (including a white-appearing woman) wearing hijab while out and about and relaxing at home while not wearing hijab. This is a great book to start a conversation about hijab or to answer questions from young children who might be curious about what's under a woman's hijab. An author's note at the end explains reasons why Muslim women might choose to wear hijab and that some observant Muslim women choose not to wear hijab.