This picture book is the story of baby animals in the forest, afraid of the startling sights and sounds of the night, wind, and rain. And it’s the story of Mama Elephant who comforts them, telling them the ways the elements that appear scary are actually necessary—natural parts of the world that deliver good, wondrous things too.
“You’re safe with me,” Mama Elephant says again and again, as comforting as any lullaby. That refrain, and all her stories of the world around them, put the animals peacefully right to sleep.
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This story is blanketed by the most beautiful illustrations by Poonam Mistry. The dance of dark and light, the glow of gold—this exquisite art dives into each element being explored by Mama Elephant. From her website, Mistry says the following about her work:
“My style incorporates my love of nature and explores the relationships between pattern, shapes and colour creating beautifully intricate illustrations.
Being brought up surrounded by Indian fabrics, paintings and ornaments have heavily influenced my work.”
“You’re Safe With Me was inspired by the rich oral storytelling tradition I grew up [in]. My grandmother and her sister told me stories from Hindu epics and my mother made up stories whenever I asked for a new one.
I visualised Mama Elephant as a storyteller who tells a little story for each of the elements of the thunderstorm to help the little animals deal with their fear, and at the same time reassures them that she’s there to look after [them] no matter what.
And that to me is the role of a storyteller too – they guide us through dangerous imagined worlds, all the while holding our hands.”
You’re Safe With Me is a book for soothing a little one to sleep, a book for embracing the natural world in new ways, a book for cherishing our loved ones who make us feel safe in any storm.
Big thanks to Lantana Publishing for the review copy and images, and to Poonam and Chitra!
The illustrator herself, Poonam Mistry, has designed a corresponding craft for You’re Safe With Me!
Mirroring her intricate artwork in the book, she’s here to show us how to make our very own paper stars! And she’s got printable templates too.
Over to Poonam!
What you’ll need:
The printed templates [find links to both here and here]:
Coloured card or paper
Gel pens, felt tips or pencil colours
Optional – foil and a permanent marker to draw on the foil
String to hang it
Print and cut out the templates using the scissors. (Templates found here and here.) Trace around these on the coloured card or paper using a pencil. It is best to use 2/3 colours.
Cut around these and stick together in order using glue (3 should be on top with 1 at the bottom).
Add triangles or circles on the points of the star using pencil colours, felt tips of pencil colours. I used a gold gel pen in this example.
Cut out smaller shapes in coloured card/paper and glue these to add more patterns. Triangles work best. You could add foil shapes if you wanted to make your star sparkle.
Add the last patterns and details on top drawing geometric shapes and spirals.
Finally, Put a hole through one point of the star. Thread the string through it and tie a knot at the ends to hang it.
(Here I used foil and a permanent marker to add patterns. White gel pen was used to add details onto the black card.)
Thank you so much, Poonam, for designing and sharing this special star craft!
The first thing I noticed about this picture book was the delightful and bright illustrations Marisa Morea created. (I love how the title lettering seems almost embroidered onto the chair.) The second thing I noticed was that it’s told through the hilarious main character’s point of view—Oswald Minklehoff Honey Bunny III the cat’s to be exact. Together, they make a winning story of learning to embrace change, sharing, and getting used to a new housemate turned co-boss.
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So, Oswald is the boss of everything including the chair and Bruce the mouse toy. That is until Pom-Pom the kitten comes along.
Pom-Pom makes himself quite at home and things are just, different. Oswald feels a bit displaced, something kid readers with new siblings or changes in friendships might relate to.
But when they both get in trouble with their owner and Pom-Pom seems distressed, Oswald changes his tune. He even shares the chair. And Bruce the mouse toy! Life may be even be better with a co-boss in tow.
I can’t help but notice that Bruce the mouse has stripes the colors of the three most important characters in the book: Oswald’s blue, Pom-Pom’s gold, the chair’s red pillow and outline. Bruce, in a way, embodies all the characters. Bruce embodies sharing and connection.
And Bruce also immediately said, “Craft!” to me. The little mouse toy the two main characters play with (and fight over) is adorable and easy to make. So, let’s make a mouse toy!
What you need:
White styrofoam ball
Sturdy white paper
Yarn in red, blue, white, and yellow
Red felt or foam (or paper)
Three black pom poms, one bigger than the others, for Bruce’s nose and eyes
First, cut some sturdy white paper and make a cone shape with it. Then, tape it to the styrofoam ball (I used double-sided tape for all steps in the process). Next, use more double-sided tape to cover Bruce’s back third with tape so the yarn will stick with ease.
Cut strips of the colored yarn and wrap it around the mouse’s body in stripes. Tape on a tail at the end.
Cut teardrop ear shapes from your red foam or felt and tape those onto the first or second stripe. Finally, tape on Bruce’s eye pom poms and nose pom pom, and voila!
I’m thrilled to have Alia from Read it Real Good here to share picture book gems she recommends as a librarian, former bookseller, and blogger! You can learn more about her here and check out her list of resources on diverse children’s literature from her blog as well. Get ready to go to the bookstore or have your library card ready because she’s sharing some of her favorite recent and backlist picture books with us!
This illustrated poem begins with “This book is for you.” And yes it is. It is unabashedly black, young and full of truth and positive affirmations for young black women. Perfect for ages 7 – tween, Black Girl Magic is raw and honest. Snow’s illustrations beautifully accompany Browne’s powerful poetry. Yes, black girls, you are magic. You are strong and let NO ONE tell you any different.
It’s hard to believe that this is Julie Kim’s debut picture book. Well, it’s more of a picture book/graphic novel hybrid. Korean-American kids Joon and his Noona (big sister) visit their grandmother’s house to find that she’s gone, the house is a mess and huge cat-prints are everywhere! >_< Kim takes readers on a journey to a land of trickster rabbits, hungry goblins and angry tigers.
Ten year old Furqan takes a trip to the barbershop for his first cut. He wants to try a new flat top for his thick, curly hair, but he’s a little scared of change. His dad lovingly reassures him that his hair is gonna come out fresh, no matter what. We get a peek into Furqan’s daily life. This bilingual story features loving parents and a supportive community. Liu-Trujillo’s watercolor & ink illustrations portray so much joy and love.
I love picture books that use non-traditional mediums like paper, cloth, string, etc. Barron’s illustrations for Up! are gorgeous and unique. They invite you to stare at them for long moments. We learn a bit about how different people around the world carry & transport their little ones. I love the inclusiveness of the illustrations and the bouncy rhythm of the text.
It’s special whenever our elders share knowledge with us; it’s something not to be taken for granted. All Around Us is about a little girl and the lessons she learns from her grandfather. They have such a beautiful relationship! He teaches her about circles, continuity and how people are a part of the earth. The illustrations are so beautifully TRIPPY. I appreciate how this book celebrates family, indigeneity and tradition.
Black brotherly love. Strength. Growing up. This quiet picture book explores the relationship between two brothers and how love, support and encouragement are so important. Climbing up and jumping off the top of a cliff into a lake sure is scary but…you’ll never know how much fun it is until you try. I love the soft illustrations in this book and the scenes of transformation.
This is a reflective and thought-provoking picture book about death, loss, or the simple act of someone/something being gone. When I was a bookseller, it was hard to find good books to give to parents to help their kids grieve. This is a great one because it helps begin a discussion about CHANGE. Matoso’s illustrations are bold and colorful and Martins is such a thoughtful writer.
A young girl and her father take a walk through their neighborhood. Though he’s on his phone for most of the journey, he is present. He is there. She’s on a mission to find flowers and share them as gifts. Smith’s use of color is exquisite in this wordless picture book. We see color when we need to. We watch it bloom. We watch their love as they walk together.
Wow, what a throwback this one is. I remember it from my childhood. Can I tell you how special it is to see a little black girl sitting with her daddy, eyes sleepy, getting ready for bed? With its soft, warm illustrations, this book reminds me of the love I shared with my father. Ten, Nine, Eight is a counting book that also celebrates Black Family. It’s also available as a board book! How perfect. 🙂
Alia Jones is a Sr. Library Services Assistant with The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. She is also a former indie children’s bookseller and English teacher in South Korea. She blogs about diverse books & children’s literature at www.readitrealgood.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @readitrealgood. Alia believes that we are truly in a Picture Book Renaissance; there is so much talent out there.
That’s right—today I’m sharing Akiko Miyakoshi’s picture book life! She’s had three picture books published as author-illustrator in English so far, and I’m looking forward to more! Her work is absolutely infused with imagination and her charcoal and pencil drawings allow her to alternate beautifully between spare and substantial, depending on the tone of the moment she’s portraying.
Miyakoshi’s work is infused with stillness, curiosity, connection, comfort, hope, imagination, and a little bit of magic. Her books, for me, quietly captivate and make the world slow down.
This one feels like a fairy tale without the scary bits. A girl in a red cap, a pie, a grandmother, a bear. When her father forgets the pie he’s bringing to Kikko’s grandmother, Kikko sets off to find him. She thinks she’s following his footsteps, but instead she’s led to an unfamiliar house in the woods. But no scary bits here, remember? The figure in the coat and hat Kikko followed was actually a bear, the house the setting for a wonderful tea party with other forest animals and pie.
Instead of the woods being a place to fear, this story portrays it as a place of wonderful surprises and generous, welcoming spirits.
“You’re never alone in the woods,” Kikko answered, smiling.
While the woods were once empty, full of white space and leafless tress, the animals fill it in a sort of parade. Her use of color is so effective too, little spots of brightness and then that sweet, colorful pie. The illustrations convey the feeling that though the world may seem lonely, it’s full of wonder and community and magic. And the details make it feel truly real.
This book has surprise and joy and fond feelings shared by all kinds of creatures. And, it’s a story that affirms a child’s imagination, something I’m always a fan of and something Akiko Miyakoshi does exceptionally well.
A boy planning a beach day with his family worries the coming storm will cancel his trip. There is fear in this story, fear of weather and fear of having joyful plans disrupted. The black and white drawings add to the ominous feelings of worry. After wishing for a ship to conquer the storm, that night he dreams of one, and he is at the helm. Here too, a child’s imagination is a powerful, palpable thing and the next day, the storm is gone.
“I wish I had a ship with big propellers that would spin stronger winds to drive the storm away.”
Finally, the lift and break and joy of brilliantly light blue skies that match the remaining puddles from the rain, a child’s wish fulfilled telling readers that despite the darkness of worry, there is hope. Despite fear, there is courage.
The bunny in this book is walking home with their mother, looking at the windows they pass. Once again, this story captures imagination and wonder so effectively as bunny imagines what each neighbor might be doing inside their home. Bunny pictures these domestic scenes, each rendered simply, yet with so much resonance. We glimpse each character through Bunny’s wonderings, each evening they’re having in that tender, liminal time of night before going to bed.
“But every night, we all go home to bed.”
The yellow glow in this picture book about night is one special thing about it. It’s dark, it’s night, but it’s always comforting, illuminated. Perhaps there is a comfort in imagining others around us even when we can’t see them. If we can envision the experience of others, then we know we are all the same under the same moon in the same dark and glow of evening.
Enter to win one copy of all three of Akiko Miyakoshi’s picture books from Kids Can Press!
Simply comment below!
(Giveaway ends Tuesday, March 20 at midnight PST; North America only.)
Big thanks to Kids Can Press for interior images and the generous giveaway!
I love how this picture book begins the way it ends, with “Vini!” (Come!)—the field itself beckoning. Indeed, The Field calls out to both its characters and its readers: come, be part of play and life and friends and home.
Chronicling one day spent joyfully playing futbol despite obstacles, it’s full of dynamic action and camaraderie. Both the text with English and Saint Lucian Creole words, as well as beautifully vibrant, varied illustrations, make this fantastic story truly move. It’s a standout.
And I’m so lucky to be able to share an interview with the author, Baptiste Paul, and illustrator, Jacqueline Alcántara with you today so you can hear more about them and their process! They both answered the same set of questions, so in a true treat, we get to hear both their perspectives.
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This Picture Book Life: What is your own experience with futbol/soccer and how did it inform THE FIELD?
Baptiste Paul: As a child, I played futbol/soccer a lot. I always played barefoot — not by choice but by circumstance. Soccer was my escape from my reality — the poverty I faced as a child. It was my safe space. It was a place where my friends and I learned to navigate and solve problems. Sometimes, we got into a few scuffles but always found a way to solve our differences before the game ended. It was the place where I was the happiest — the place where the hardships magically disappeared and where Creole came to life. I am a believer in you write what you know and writing about futbol while speaking my native language was a natural fit.
Jacqueline Alcántara: While I didn’t play a lot of soccer growing up, I did play some pick-up games with friends throughout high school and in my backyard, with my dad when I was younger. But I love the universality of the game and it’s one of the only sports I can tolerate watching on TV! (go Barça!) One of my favorite memories from visiting family in Honduras is a nighttime soccer game in the mountains with a few cousins and some little kids from the neighborhood. We played in cowboy boots with a beat up old ball, on a field, just like the one in this book and under a huge night sky with stars so big it felt like you could pull one down. I definitely reached back into that memory to remember what that place and time felt like, and just the humor and excitement that goes along with any impromptu game.
TPBL: This story is so full of joyful action. How did you go about creating that kind of action? Baptiste, how did you develop and craft the story to be so active and Jacqueline, how did you accomplish that dynamic movement through the illustrations?
Baptiste Paul: The game I played as a child was jam packed with fun. We made the most out of every game — even on rainy days — we were unstoppable. We played for hours. The use of Creole words, adds that joyfulness and makes the story complete. When we played, these were the words we yelled out and being authentic to the story meant I had to use creole words. The Creole words in the text might look simple but they are alive and they have emotions.
Jacqueline Alcántara: Well, I absolutely love illustrating action / movement sequences. I did a lot of figure sketching to start – gathering imagery from movies, photos, youtube videos, etc., of people playing soccer around the world, then deciding which movements worked for each character. I tried exaggerating some of those movements to create an even more dynamic composition. I think it feels joyful as well because the nature of a pick-up game is so different than something organized – there’s more unity and camaraderie amongst the players and I tried to portray that through everyone working together, helping each other, and celebrating each other’s victories regardless of the team they were on.
TPBL: What was it like seeing the artwork or text for the first time?
Baptiste Paul: I was very emotional. My world, the one I envisioned and the one I wanted to share with the world was now a reality. As I flipped through each page, I kept stopping to wipe the tears and to revisit my childhood. I saw myself chasing the animals off the field and that brought back special memories.
Jacqueline Alcántara: As I read through the manuscript the first time, I had a strong vision of the whole story – character setting, colors, everything! I instantly loved the language Baptiste used and after a few more readings, I realized there was a real beauty in the specific words and phrases he chose that allowed me a very clear direction of his vision, but it also left a lot open to my interpretation – which made it such a fun and gratifying process.
TPBL: Please tell us about your process from concept to finished product. Where did you start? How did the project come to be? How were you paired and did you collaborate at all?
Baptiste Paul: I always start with a memory or an idea. The Field as a children’s book came on a day that I was playing outside in the rain with my kids. Realizing the importance of a moment or an idea and applying universal themes is powerful. I realized that the moments I spent playing in the rain (and mud) brought back happy memories. My process involves, a pencil, memo book, asking lots of questions like who, what, why where, when and how and pacing back and forth talking to myself.
Pairing was completely coincidental and yes we collaborated only once during the entire process. In fact, I included only one illustrator’s note in the text.
Jacqueline Alcántara: Once I got the green light, I started by writing out some really rough ideas for the narrative of the illustration and sketching quick compositions. I knew I wanted the illustrations to embrace that super fulfilling feeling you get after having the best-day-ever playing with friends. So, I decided I wanted the illustrations to go from one character playing alone, to seeking out friends, to ending with that feeling of friendship, love and exhaustion! And I knew I wanted the cast of characters to be somewhat diverse in age and appearance – after all that’s the fun of pick-up!
I then worked on sketching out ideas for characters; pulling ideas from stories my dad told me about people he grew up playing soccer with in Honduras, and incorporating random personal memories of people or outfits or attitudes that popped up while sketching. It wasn’t until I spoke with my mentor, Carolyn Dee Flores, that I starting really thinking about the storm and the field as key characters themselves! It felt so obvious after she mentioned it to me – after all “The Field” is the title of the book and therefore the main character right?!
After sketches, I played a lot with color, even though I had really clear ideas of the colors I wanted to use, I experimented with which medium (usually I use a combination of marker, gouache and photoshop) would be best suited for the different elements. I experimented a lot while creating the final illustrations to get the feel of the setting, the lighting, and the relationships as they all looked in my imagination. I think I got close!
TPBL: How would you sum up the spirit or theme of the book?
Baptiste Paul:It’s a celebration of friendship and play.
Jacqueline Alcántara: The book reminds me to never let anything get in the way of having fun, always being open to making new friends, and to jump over, slide under or dive straight into any obstacles!
Big thanks to both Baptiste Paul and Jacqueline Alcántara for speaking with me, and to Nicole Banholzer for images!