Category Archives: picture books for pairing
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.
I haven’t published a “picture books for pairing post” in so long! Here’s one showcasing two picture books I couldn’t help but envision together in a storytime or stack.
They both are about mothers and daughters. They both are about spending time together and the bond between them being their center. They both are about coping when things don’t go as planned. They both have totally distinct styles but are both utterly beautiful.
This picture book is full of paintings as evocative as the accompanying words. It is full of moments. Full of details in the text and details in the art like flowers, curtains, wallpaper, the textures of a home. Full of objects and observations the narrator notices about her day, her day spent with her mama—her constant.
It exudes togetherness and love in the simplest things: a morning, an oatmeal breakfast, their rain boots, their toothbrushes, a walk in the rain. And when there is a mishap, a cup breaks, that is perfectly okay because the narrator is with her mama. And the book ends with her knowing that she’s always with her, a soothing, steady balm.
“…I want to be everywhere Mama is.”
This picture book features vibrantly exuberant pastel collage art, energetic language, and a mother-child relationship that is honest and connected and full of love. It is also about a particular day—Saturday!—that has a very particular and special, splendid routine, a routine that on this Saturday has one big mishap, and then more to follow.
But this story embodies resilience. Because with each mishap, with each potential ruined outing, mother and Ava keep on and bounce back and come up with creative solutions. Why? Because they have each other. And that is the most special, splendid thing there is. It’s all they need.
“Saturday was the day they cherished.”
You may also want to check out the collage card craft I made for Thank You, Omu!, also by Oge Mora.
These four non-fiction picture books, all published this year, showcase incredible people in history—and some young people today—who raised their voices to create change.
Shirley Chisholm is a Verb! written by Veronica Chambers, illustrated by Rachelle Baker (2020).
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.
Collection copyright © 2020 by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Jeanette Bradley. Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc. All work used by permission of the individual authors, who control all rights. All poems copyright © 2020 by the individual authors. “Water Protector” © Joseph Bruchac.
No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History edited by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley, illustrated by Jeanette Bradley (2020).
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.
The Power of her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne by Lesa Cline-Ransom and John Parra (2020).
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.
Lift as You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell and R. Gregory Christie (2020).
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.)
I’m super excited that YiLing Chen-Josephson from The Picture Book Club is here to share picture books about mail. It’s a fitting post because the subscription service is all about two wonderful things: books and mail!
YiLing, take it away!
There has never been a time in my life when I haven’t loved mail. I can still remember what day of the week each of the family’s magazine subscriptions would arrive, and the names of all the companies — many long since shuttered — whose catalogs I would pore over. As I got older and started to write and receive letters of my own, the prospect of mail took on a whole new richness of anticipation.
YiLing Chen-Josephson reads hundreds of picture books every month. Her favorites make their way to other families via The Picture Book Club, the subscription service she runs. The Picture Book Club offers completely customizable subscriptions as well as themed packages such as Around the World in 12 Books and the Big Sibling Book Bundle. Before launching The Picture Book Club, YiLing worked as a writer, an editor, and a lawyer. She lives in NYC with her family and many, many books.
This Picture Book Life readers get $5 off any purchase at The Picture Book Club with the code, “Dd.” Hooray!