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picture books that feel like a party

Picture books can be slow and still, loving lullabies for nighttime routines. But they can also be containers of boisterous merry-making. Spirited, energetic, gleeful affairs! These ten picture books are like that. To me, they feel like parties. And I hope they make the little readers in your life want to dance, parade, bike, include others, celebrate themselves and everyone, and generally throw confetti.


Boogie Boogie, Y’all by C.G. Esperanza (2021). Community and art are a party.

This picture book gave me the idea for this party picture books roundup post! It’s truly special and pulses with art, energy, and celebration! A stunning tribute to graffiti and murals in Brooklyn that turns into a magical block party all because one child notices the “art on the wall” and everywhere.

 

Whole Whale words by Karen Yin & art by Nelleke Verhoeff (2021). A party is for everyone!

Will an entire blue whale fit? That’s the main question of this book-menagerie. Gathering and acceptance ensue in the answer “when everybody makes some space.”

 

Bisa’s Carnaval by Joana Pastro, illustrated by Carolina Coroa (coming December 2021). Carnaval and music and costumes and, of course, Bisa, is a party!

Clara’s great-grandmother is the secret ingredient to her Carnaval preparations, especially her fabulous fantasia (costume) for parade day. But it turns out, Bisa is also the secret ingredient for the parade itself. This picture book is a sweet joy! “Confete showers enchant and serpentine spirals bedazzle. We mingle with beauty queens, super heroes, fairies, harlequins, and people from all over the world. Different accents, cultures, beliefs.”

 

Bodies Are cool by Tyler Feder (2021). Loving ours and the variance of bodies is a party!

Yes, this book celebrates all kinds of bodies!! Because they’re cool! And that feels like a joyful party too.

 

Bicycle Bash by Alison Farrell (2020). Biking together is a party!

This picture book is a delightful seek and find of animals on wheels in fun and fact-filled museum rooms of discovery and details and, of course, momentum!


Family Reunion by Chad & Dad Richardson and Ashleigh Corrin (2021). A family reunion is a party!

While the main character is initially reluctant to join the shindig, in they end, they’re totally won over. How could they not be? This family get-together is tops with a cook-off, dance-off, cousins, family history, and loving PopPop there too.

 

Pride Puppy! by Robin Stevenson and Julie McLaughlin (2021). Community, acceptance and pride are a party!

Vibrant art and an alphabet-story to accompany puppy’s first pride parade are sure to make any reader smile in this celebratory picture book.

 

How Do You Dance? by Thyra Heder (2019). Dancing is always a party!

A brilliant, bobbing, boogie-ing, body-loving book.

 

Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani (2017). Eye-catching design and playful arithmetic with cats are a party!

This is one of my all-time favorites—so much so that I made a cat clay craft on this blog a few years back in its honor! It’s about cats. It’s about stacks of cats. It’s about math. And it is pure pure playful fun!

 

How to Have a Birthday by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Cindy Derby (2021). A day that’s all yours is a party!

A slower kind of party awaits readers in this beautiful picture book that encapsulates the childhood magic and love and hope I wish everyone had. A birthday doesn’t always mean a party, but it’s always a day to celebrate in your own way.

 

 

You might also enjoy my craft for the delightful crowd-pleaser Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani found here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

picture book giveaway for educators for 8 years of this picture book life!

I love giving away books and this is the most to a single blog reader I’ve ever had the pleasure of sending off!  These 16  terrific books from the last couple of years are for an educator’s classroom or library to celebrate 8 years of This Picture Book Life and to celebrate all the vital work teachers do, entry details below!

 

The picture books:

Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This is How I Know: a Book about Seasons by Brittany Luby & Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley (2021). Translated by Alvin Ted Corbiere and Alan Corbiere.

Me & Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera (2020).

The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee by Julie Leung, illustrated by Julie Kwon (2021).

Together We March by Leah Henderson, illustrated by Tyler Feder (2021).

Pride Puppy by Robin Stevenson and Julie McLaughlin (2021).

Amira’s Picture Day by Reem Faruqi, illustrated by Fahmida Azim (2021).

If Dominican Were a Color written by Sili Recio, illustrated by Brianna McCarthy (2021).

Princess Arabella at the Museum by Mylo Freeman (2021).

A Gift for Amma by Meera Sriram and Mariona Cabassa (2020).

The Secret Fawn by Kallie George & Elly MacKay (2021).

Amazing Women of the Middle East by Wafa’ Tarnowska, illustrated by Hoda Hadadi, Sahar Haghgoo, Christelle Halal, Esteli Meza Margarida Esteves (2020).

Sato the Rabbit by Yuki Ainoya (2021).

The Last Tree by Emily Haworth-Booth (2020).

My Bed by Rebecca bond, illustrated by Salley Mavor (2020).

Lift As You Climb by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (2020).

Toasty by Sarah Hwang (2021).

The giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And quick update for any picture book creators out there: I’m super excited to be teaching another round of my online picture book revision workshop series starting August 7th! There are details about this special opportunity to REVISE your manuscript according to your voice and vision, RECEIVE encouragement and inspiration from me and the small group, and REVITALIZE your writing process on my website here! Or simply email me to get more info or sign up. Two scholarships at a significant discount available for participants with underrepresented/marginalized voices in publishing—we need your voices!

 

picture books for pairing: summer is here

Summer is here: a pair of picture books to celebrate!

 

These picture books share signals of a season’s arrival. They share summer fruit, rich imagery and details, and even relationships with grandmothers at their center and heart—showing how when there is a loving adult to accompany us through a spell, it’s that much sweeter. They demonstrate connection to summer (and in the case of Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This is How I Know, all the seasons) by way of the natural world, the food we eat, the people who fill our days.

They share lyrical language, each in their own way, and equally enchanting art, each in their own way as well.

They even share a first line:

“Aaniish ezhi-gkendmaanh niibing?”

“How do I know summer is here?”

 

 

When Lola Visits story by Michelle Sterling, art by Aaron Asis (2021).

An immersive journey through the sensations of summer and the love and comfort only a lola can bring.

 

 

 

“How do I know summer is here?”

The narrator knows by way of Lola coming to visit from the Philippines. What her grandmother brings for her, how her grandmother spends time with her, and most central, what her grandmother cooks and eats with her! This picture book, brushed throughout with verdant pastels, encapsulates the joy of summer and special connection and is simultaneously a celebration of Filipino food. Gorgeous, evocative descriptions and renderings fill its pages: cassava cake (I love this spread with the characters’ conspiratorial smiles in front of the oven), suman, kalamansi pie, lumpia, brown-sugar bananas.

 

 

And When Lola Visits carries a range of emotion as well because like summer, everything changes—Lola’s visit comes to an end. Joy turns to missing and the wind begins to blow in the empty space Lola leaves. But summer lasts a while longer still, as it always does, with other sweet things to fill the days until new sensations signal change again, and more joy and special connection yet to be discovered.

 

Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This is How I Know: a Book about Seasons by Brittany Luby & Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley (2021). Translated by Alvin Ted Corbiere and Alan Corbiere.

A contemplative, calming, beautifully bilingual outing through the signs of each season, starting with summer, every cue from the natural world a chance to notice, to absorb, to revel in.

 

“Aaniish ezhi-gkendmaanh niibing?”

“How do I know summer is here?”

The narrator knows by way of what changes in the natural world: the animals and plants, the sun and moon. This picture book brims with colors as rich and saturated as the observations and details in Anishinaabemowin and English that they illustrate.

Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This is How I Know follows a child and their grandmother, first into the arrival of summer and then through the remaining seasons. They are always together, constant. When outside, they are almost always near the water. But the world around them shifts.

 

Each of the four sections of this picture book asks that question: how does the narrator know of its arrival? Most end with child and grandmother sitting: enjoying, reflecting, connecting, soaking up a season’s peaceful close. Thrumming with direct, detailed poetry, deep greens, blues, mustard, browns, this is a story to inspire slowing down, going outside, experiencing Anishinaabemowin language and Native culture, and bonding with our world and loved ones.

 

 

Big thanks to HarperCollins Katherine Tegen Books and Groundwood Books for images!

 

 

20 social-emotional picture books

I’m excited to share this list of 20 recent picture books that in some way touch on a child’s relationships—with themselves: their identities, feelings, behaviors—as well as their relationships with others. That’s the essence of social-emotional learning or social-emotional development, how we relate to ourselves, to others, and to the wider community.

Books can be one tool to validate kids and help them navigate all of these relationships, emotions, and experiences as they make sense of themselves and their world.

It’s important to note that SEL must be culturally-affirming (more on that in this article by Cierra Kaler-Jones: “When SEL is used as another form of policing“) and attuned to every child as well as to justice and equity. I really like the following quote from activist and educator Dena Simmons, founder of LiberatED SEL from this article in ACSD Education Update titled, “Why We Can’t Afford Whitewashed Social-Emotional Learning””

“Social-emotional learning (SEL) skills can help us build communities that foster courageous conversations across difference so that our students can confront injustice, hate, and inequity. SEL refers to the life skills that support people in experiencing, managing, and expressing emotions, making sound decisions, and fostering interpersonal relationships. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines five core SEL competencies, including self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. These competencies seamlessly lend themselves to preventing violence and to building a more peaceful world.”

Dena Simmons

 

Here are 20 wonderful picture books with kids’ lives, feelings, bonds, and well-beings in mind!

 

I Am! Affirmations for Resilience by Bela Barbosa and Edel Rodriguez (2020) is a board book the author describes as “a tool kit for children.” It feels essential to me: for those who have or work with children, for all all of us. It teaches mindfulness, emotion regulation, resilience, and positive self-worth. It’s an incredible resource for how to respond when feeling difficult feelings or out of control. The text and illustration combo is vibrant, hopeful, beaming, and totally affirming.

 

We All Play kimêwânaw by Julie Flett (2021) is exquisitely illustrated (as all of Julie Flett’s work is), connective, gentle, playful. A refreshing, calm breath that connects kids to themselves, each other, and the natural world, all through play.

“…Whether we are running and hopping through the grass or rolling along the street or pondering creatures in the creek, we are all connected, living in relationship and in care of one another, in kinship. In Cree, this is called wâhkôhtowin.”

—Julie Flett in the author’s note.

 

Thao: A Picture Book by Thao Lam (2020). This picture book is not only inventive, original, and risk-taking in form, but it is all about identity. It’s the story of the author-illustrator, Thao. Her name. Growing up with her name. The way other people mispronounced it. It will no doubt get kids thinking about their own names—and other people’s. And about identity, their own and others’.

 

Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelly Ananda, illustrated by Gabi H. Ali (2021). A joyful story of Laxmi and her mooch, which she describes as “these little hairs above my lip” and is the Hindi word for mustache. She learns to love it, along with all the hair on her body, after a talk with her mother connects her to the purpose of hair on our skin as well as all the people, in her family or famous ones like Frida Kahlo, who have a mooch or something like it. A beautiful celebration of bodies!

 

A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart written by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Noa Denmon (2020). The narrator of this beautiful, vital book is exploring “a space deep down inside me/where all my feelings hide” and bringing them to light—to themselves and the reader. His stirring, reverberating story starts with joy and then describes what else he experiences after a police shooting in his community: sorrow, anger, pride, love.

 

The Happiness of a Dog with a Ball in Its Mouth by Bruce Handy & Hyewon Yum (2021) explores befores and afters, ups and downs, feelings that accompany or contrast or precede happiness of all sorts. It’s clever, inventive, and affirming; it will soothe and surprise with lovely text and expressive illustrations.

 

Anita and the Dragons by Hannah Carmona and Anna Cunha (2021). “Today is the day I will meet the dragons—large winged beasts who will carry me away.” The narrator of this immersive, expressive story uses the metaphor of dragons for airplanes, like the one that will take her from the Dominican Republic to a new home. She empowers and envisions herself as a brave princesa as she copes with saying goodbye (and hello)—while still letting herself confront all the scary questions that arise inside her.

 

Bindu’s Bindis by Supriya Kelkar, illustrated by Parvati Pillai (2021). This picture book is not only about  Bindu’s many-shaped and colored bindis with which she expresses herself, but at its heart it’s about her Nani who sends them to her and then visits from India. Her grandmother is joyful, self-expressive, and someone who holds her head high, even when confronted in the story with scary, hateful, unjust actions, an incredible model and encouragement to Bindu in every way.

 

The Little Things words by Christian Trimmer, art by Kaylani Juanita (2021). The story of a little girl with three pigtails, the sea stars she finds on the shore, and the power of one small act of kindness that so often inspires another and another and another. This shows how own seemingly insignificant effort to help always makes a difference, if even just to one sea star, but so often reverberates much further in the community. Plus, Kaylani Juanita‘s gorgeous pastel artwork is a feast.

 

It’s OK to Make Mistakes illustrated by Anneliesdraws (2021). A simple, super-cute book that affirms imperfection, trying again, and taking things step by step. Yes to such a buoying message!

 

The Shadow Elephant by Nadine Roberrt & Valerio Vidali (2020) is about sadness and being a friend. It shows us that when someone is enveloped in the shadows of life, not fixing or lifting but simply being with them can be exactly what they need most.

 


Listen by Gabi Snyder, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin (2021) has a color palette that’s perfect for inviting us in to listen. This contemplative book feels true; it helps readers tune into the world and to others and to themselves.

 

 

I Want Ice Cream by Elisabetta Pica, art by Silvia Borando (2021). This book really speaks to kids (and us all) and to hearing no when you really really really want something. Totally playful yet visceral,  it journeys through all the emotions that arise and grow and have to be felt through simple words, pictures, and colors when adjusting to going without.

 

 

The Tree in Me by Corinna Luyken (2021) uses a tree as a metaphor for a child’s interior self that, like a tree, reaches, connects to the world around, and contains multitudes. And Corinna Luyken‘s art is total whoa.

 

 

How To Apologize by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka (2021). A lighthearted primer on saying sorry with tips and examples and the goal of, like any apology, restoring connection.

 

A Last Goodbye by Elin Kelsey, artwork by Soyeon Kim (2020) is special and tender and about death via the way animals say goodbye and grieve. It’s beautiful and deep and full of love and comfort.

 

The Boy and the Gorilla by Jackie Azúa Kramer, illustrated by Cindy Derby (2020) is another picture book about loss, this one specific to a character whose mother has died. It is sad. It is beautiful. It is a conversation between the boy and a gorilla who visits him in the garden after the funeral, and stays until the boy is ready to have another conversation with someone else, someone right there in his home as well.

 

Tears by Sibylle Delacroix (2019). Details the experience of crying—that everyone does it—in a normalizing exploration of all kinds of tears.

 

 

Let’s Play: A Book About Making Friends by Amanda McCardie, illustrated by Colleen Larmour (2021). Another primer, this one what it’s like to be new, to be worried, to make friends and tackle a variety of the feelings and interactions kids have in school. The author’s note describes it as a book that “explores and celebrates some of the good things about friendship.” It serves as a tender model for navigating the ups and downs of learning to be in community with others.

 

Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt, Sean Qualls, and Selina Alko (2017). I’ll close with this one, which has been a favorite of mine since it published a few years ago. (I’ve featured Sean Qualls’s picture book life on This Picture Book Life.) It’s a reflective refrain that gently investigates who we are and who others are. A contemplation of identity, of self and others, with stunning collaborate art by duo Sean Qualls and Selina Alko.

 

If you know any other vital titles that touch on social-emotional growth, please share in the comments!

 

 

 

picture books for pairing: we move together & together we march

These titles feel made for pairing. They inspire understanding and they inspire action—together!

 

We Move Together by Kelly Fritsch, Anne McGuire, Eduardo Trejos (2021).

This picture book is one of my favorites of this year (of any year). It shows the different ways people move.  It shows community. It shows accessibility –and inaccessibility. It shows the way, together, we solve problems and “build something better” for disabled people, something better for all.

An absolutely vital book that is practical, informative, action-oriented, and full of JOY.

 

 

 

 

“Access is Love.” 

 

 

 

Together We March: 25 Protest Movements That Marched Into History by Leah Henderson, illustrated by Tyler Feder (2021)

This picture book is an incredible resource of research and inspiration, “a rich history and the often over-looked stories, revered moments, and courageous people who continue to teach us the importance of coming together to march.”

It features 25 marches for all kinds of rights over the last century and a quarter, a number of which involved children as key to march or movement. Some may be familiar, some completely new. Some are from the early 1900s, some from just last year. The book balances showing how powerful protest is and what marches have accomplished toward change for the better—a great deal—with what remains ahead: many more marches to go, much more change to make.

 

 

 

 

“It [The Longest Walk] is a shining example that marches don’t end after the last step, and we must continue to stand together to protect vulnerable communities.”

 

 

Kids are sure to want to get moving and marching and taking action after experiencing this picture book pair. Alone or, even better, together! To that end, I’m including some ideas below that might help them get them started.

Please share other action ideas in the comments if you’d like to provide further resources!

 

*Read the poem “You Get Proud By Practicing” by disabled writer, Laura Hershey. Discuss it. Share it with someone.

*Join StopGap.CA and help build a portable wooden community ramp in your community so wheelchair-users can get where they want and need to go.

*Pay attention to surroundings and experiences. What might not be accessible to others, to all, in them? How can you advocate for a change that would remove a barrier to make your school or neighborhood or favorite place more accessible? As We Move Together’s back matter says, “Making things accessible can also mean removing financial barriers, using unscented products, learning new ways of communicating, and making sure friends feel welcome and included.” What are tangible ways to do this in the spaces and places you frequent?

*Pick one of the marches in Together We March. Ask a parent or educator about the ways in which what people were marching for then is still present today. Brainstorm ways to bring about change now.

*Write a letter to someone in power asking them to make a specific change. My This Writer’s Life video, Letter for Change, walks kids through this process.

*Visit The Conscious Kid, which I featured a few years ago here, and is a shining leader in the anti-racism field “dedicated to equity and promoting healthy racial identity development in youth.”

*Is there something unfair that has affected you or someone you care about? If you’re comfortable, you could create a piece of art about that experience, a drawing or poem or something else in order to share what it was/is like with others.

*Hold a gathering to hear from community members in your school or neighborhood about what needs to change where you go to school or live. Join with others because activism is best when shared and no one person is “in charge” of solving a problem.

*Visit The Tiny Activist, which has so many education and literature resources to support activists of any age.

*Make a sign about something you care about and hang it in your window.

*Coordinate with others to organize a new or join an existing march or protest addressing a cause that’s meaningful to you.

*Find a way to assist an organization that’s already doing good in your community. Invite a friend so you can volunteer together!

 

Big thanks to AK Press and Simon & Schuster for review copies and images! 

 

 

You might also be interested in this blog post: Four 2020 Picture Books on Raising Your Voice.