This picture book is a tribute to Shirley Chisholm and her verbs, her doing, her work and guts and courage. And the way she raised her voice as part of that. In Barbados, “…her teachers taught Shirley how to SPEAK up, and they helped her understand the power of words.” In Brooklyn, she became a teacher herself.
She helped people. Stood up for people. She was part of organizing Head Start. She ran for State Assembly and won. She ran for Congress and won. In 1968, she was the first Black woman elected to Congress!
She took action upon action. She spoke up and then spoke up again. She ran for President! In doing so, Chisholm inspired so many people and paved the way for so many others.
Rachelle Baker’s bold artwork in this biography portrays the spirit of the time as well as Chisholm’s dynamism.
This picture book is a treasure of inspiration, of poems and illustrations by kidlit creators, each featuring a young person creating change.
Some of these kids may be familiar to you, some of them may not, but every spread showcases one kid, their brief bio, a call to action, and a poem in their honor by acclaimed writers like Hena Khan, Traci Sorell, Carole Boston Weatherford, Andrea J. Loney, and Nikki Grimes.
A variety of amazing young people for readers to admire and take a cue from, 14 different journeys and issues of activism that matter to them, that matter to us all.
This picture book captures the life of writer, fighter, and question-asker Ethel L. Payne who grew up in Chicago and “always had an ear for stories.”
Payne also had a lot of courage and persistence—when her school newspaper wouldn’t let a Black student write for it, when she worked toward social change in her neighborhood, when she set her sights on traveling the world as a journalist.
All that courage and persistence landed Payne in the press room of the White House asking important questions as “First Lady of the Black Press.” She documented history—and she was part of it—pushing for civil rights, for answers, and for change.
This non-fiction account is complemented by John Parra’s unmistakable illustrations full of color, texture, and symbols.
This picture book profiles Ella Baker, who took it to heart when her mother told her: “Lift as you climb.”
As a child, Ella Baker looked after neighbor kids and worked on the farm where her grandparents had been enslaved. She worked hard in school at her studies and as a waitress to pay for those studies. She moved to New York City where she worked hard for the NAACP, for the rights of Black Americans.
She worked for voting rights, always listening to people, always lifting her voice for justice, and always lifting as she climbed.
R. Gregory Christie’s art is extraordinary in this book, as always: technicolor backgrounds, captivating compositions, and portraits that pop off the page.
Thanks to Penguin Young Readers and Charlesbridge, I’m giving away two picture books—if you’re a a teacher or librarian, enter below to win a copy of SHIRLEY CHISHOLM IS A VERB and NO VOICE TOO SMALL below! (US only.)
Today it’s illustrator Cátia Chien‘s picture book life here on This Picture Book Life!
When I think of Cátia Chien’s art, I think of textures: fuzzy, confetti-ed, rich, circled, splattered, splashed.
When I think of her art, I also think of these words: dreamy, vivid, beautiful.
Each page of a picture book Cátia Chien has illustrated is a discovery, each one varied in vibrant color and shape and experimentation and emotion. Stick around to see!
The above PBS video featuring Cátia Chien is extraordinary. I remember the impact it had on me a couple of years ago when it first came out. In it, she is honest about her childhood, her life, her experience as an immigrant and feeling like an outsider. She is honest about her process of being an artist and how making art is an act of empathy for her, and for the children she teaches.
“The feeling of actually belonging, it’s self-created. Arriving at the process of creating something from the inside out, it’s really just a validation of existing. It matters that we add to the conversation so that it’s not just one voice that’s being told in picture books.”
Now for her picture books, starting with the newest one, forthcoming The Bear and the Moon (out September 29th from Chronicle Books and our giveaway book) as well as some special process photos of The Bear and the Moon Cátia Chien provided for us!
This is a story of surprise. Of companionship. Of loss. And the art is fuzzy, rich, dreamy and beautiful.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
Balloons are magic for children, and red ones have a literary and film history. And it turns out they’re magic for bears, too. This bear who is alone but curious and up for an adventure.
The red balloon the bear finds becomes not only a novel and wonderful mystery, but a friend. The bear shows the balloon all its haunts and habits, the way you’d tour a friend around too. The balloon is not only real, but feels animate. It’s a thing, yes, but a “wonderful thing! A squishable, huggable thing!”
Just look at those shapes and blended, muted pastel colors!
And here, the technicolor blue, the pops of white stars and constellations, the dreaminess of this evening scene as the bear and balloon sit together.
We all know what happens to balloons though. They don’t last forever. Nothing does, really.
The bear makes a mistake. Mistakes, like things not lasting, are something else universal. We all know what that’s like. The regret that follows. The blame. The despair and the wish that it wouldn’t have happened. That we hadn’t done it. That is the hard part.
I won’t give away the details of the ending of this beautiful, tender, reassuring book, but I will tell you that it’s hopeful. Because like anyone who’s made a mistake or experienced loss, the bear finds encouragement. The bear looks to nature. The bear accepts themself.
And like a red balloon and a full moon, the bear’s memories go around and around and around in an enveloping circle of comfort.
All the colors come together here, an emanating rainbow of everything will be okay.
A lonely turtle has a dream and then builds it, builds a whole town, and by doing so builds a whole community. The text of this book couldn’t be more perfectly paired with Cátia Chien’s absolutely fanciful pencil, acrylic, and paper collage illustrations. The turtle’s shell and then town feel like a planet and there are galaxy elements throughout—stars and dark black space and elemental shapes. The book is a dream that mirror’s turtle’s told-of dream.
It’s been seven years of This Picture Book Life! A blog anniversary around here always means one thing: a picture book giveaway. I hope the winner will be able to read these with young people in their life whether students or children and also, potentially, pass a few along to someone else to share them around.
One winner will receive seven picture books + two for the older set. Titles and entry form below! (N. America only.)
Freedom, We Sing by Amyra Leon and Molly Mendoza (2020), a gorgeous, meaningful poem exploring how we all dream of and deserve to breathe free in a conversation between a parent and child. Big thanks to Flying Eye Books for a copy of this picture book!
Our Favorite Day of the Year written by A.E. Ali, illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell (2020) honors the beautiful quilt of traditions celebrated by children in one classroom. Big thanks to Salaam Reads for a copy of this picture book!
Storyboat words by Kyo Maclear, pictures by Rashin Kheiriyeh (2020) is the story of refugees and how stories offer hope. Big thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this picture book!
Don’t Worry Little Crab by Chris Haughton (2020) shows us how Little Crab (and little readers) has the capacity to be braver and stronger than they might think. (Find a crab and coloring page craft from Mayel Creates in this blog post.) Big thanks to Candlewick for a copy of this picture book!
The Old Truck by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey (2020), a gentle book, full of love, about a girl with dreams and determination illustrated with timeless, textured stamps. (Find a stamp craft to go with The Old Truck in this post!)
Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders, illustrated by Carol Rossetti (2019) is a wonderfully affirming book about embracing and appreciating your body, and honoring others’ too. Big thanks to Quarto Kids for a copy of this picture book!
Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Loveis Wise (2020) is a compilation of 49 powerful poems and vivid illustrations that empower and speak to Black women and girls while honoring the ones who have been killed by racist police violence and lifting up the activists fighting that violence.
This picture book (created by a pair of brothers!) is sophisticated yet simple, celebratory, and circular in that its beginning connects to its whole and its close. It welcomes you in and gently ushers you along.
It’s the story of an old truck, but it’s also the story of a family, a girl who goes on to revive the truck, and a farm. Realistic with an imaginative interlude in the middle, it speaks to the beauty of days lived, of seasons passing, of moments and dreams and determination unfolding over time. It speaks, in a particular way, of love.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
The characters in this book are the old, red truck, of course, the farm, and the family—especially the little girl coming out of the barn in the spread above. The art, to me, is also a character. The geometric yet sweet, textured stamps give a wonderful quality to the pages—warm, homey, timeless, welcoming. The stamp illustration technique also brings to mind and mimics the hard work and process we see in the story on the farm and on the restored truck and the labor done by the truck itself. (See more of Jarrett and Jerome’s stamp-making behind the scenes here.)
The girl and the truck are parallels. They are the heart of this story.
“Part of the inspiration came from looking at books we consider timeless, books that we read when we were kids and that we still have. Even though they didn’t necessarily use stamps, the work of those mid-century illustrators had texture. It was trial and error — we tried different things, but in the end, stamps had that similar look.”
“We didn’t grow up in the inner city. We lived on places like farms and in the suburbs. Telling those stories is absolutely essential, because it adds some dimension to the lives that black kids live. Black kids are not just in cities. They live everywhere. I’m glad we could contribute to that.”
And in the end it’s spring. The flowers are blooming. The truck is running again thanks to the girl who’s grown up to be a farmer. And another little girl sits on the gate of the old truck ready to help, ready to love and be loved, ready to live seasons and days and moments, to let them unfold, to dream with determination. And we as readers have a sense that this story is not over. This story goes on and on.
When I saw the stamp artwork in The Old Truck, I knew I had to try my own kid-friendly version to honor this beautiful book! I hope this proves to be a fun activity for young readers to live with this story more deeply, to explore the artistic process of creating it, and to play with shapes and paint.
What you’ll need:
Sponges! The kind that are compressed and “pop up” when you put them in water
Paint (I used Crayola tempera paint)
Paper—some for tracing, some for stamping!
Paper towels or rags for wiping up
The first step is to cut out your shapes. I started by drawing shapes from the book onto printer paper—the truck body, its wheels, the sun, clouds, stems, and flowers. Then I transferred those shapes onto sponges with pencil (while the sponges are still compressed—flat and stiff). You can do this freehand or by tracing around the paper or both. Then, cut out the sponge shapes! You’re almost ready to paint with stamps.
Once your sponge shapes are ready, it’s time to make them pop up! Run each sponge under water and feel it expand, which is super cool! Wring out the water (they do not need to be all the way dry) and you’ve got your stamps.
I poured my paint colors onto aluminum foil (you might have another method that works). To lighten the blue, I added some white. To make pink, I combined red and white. I also lightened up the yellow a tad for the flowers. Then, place your stamp in the paint and do some tests on scrap paper to see what thickness you want and how the process works. When you’re ready, stamp your craft paper and make a scene from The Old Truck! Stamp, stamp, stamp some more!
That’s it! This is definitely a fun one, with lots of room for play, process, and creativity. Enjoy!
An exploration of the many reasons we cry with acceptance and understanding of them all.
Why now? All the feelings and ups and downs.
I Am Brown by Ashok Banker, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat (2020).
A celebration of brown-skinned kids—the wide scope of their play and food and languages and aspirations and pastimes and possibilities. This picture book brims with vibrance and joy.
Why now? We always need to celebrate kids, their experiences, their moments, their futures, and to show kids themselves in books.
The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow (out August 2020).
This gorgeous book centers Haenyeo or women divers in South Korea who can hold their breath for up to two minutes, a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. The purple and orange sunset illustrations are breathtaking and the experience of Dayeon going diving with her grandmother captures the fear and relatable false starts of trying anything new.
Why now? Kids and all of us are facing new things, diving new depths.
This picture book explores the big bang by an astrophysics student—what we know, what we don’t know, and the possibility of what we might know someday—with epic illustrations of how our galaxy and planet came to be.
Why now? Absorbing the massiveness of the universe might help with taking the long view of time and circumstance.