Tag Archives: this picture book
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.
Sunflower Sisters by Monika Singh Gangotra and Michaela Dias-Hayes (2021). It’s out in the UK now and will be coming to the US as well.
This picture book is a story about bonds of love. The ones between best friends, Amrita and Kiki. The ones between mothers and their children. The ones made at special wedding celebrations. And, at its heart, the ones we have with ourselves. Amrita’s story encourages readers to beam like a sunflower, proud and bold. And to be a sunflower with and for others too.
It has captivating, joyful illustrations and a message that radiates affirmation, connection, and purpose.
Amrita is getting ready for a wedding in her South Asian family, and the bride is wearing face cream to lighten her skin. This, as well as a comment from Aunty about drinking tea, sets off discussion and discovery for the main character.
Amrita’s mum though, is a source of self-acceptance, a voice of encouraging Amrita to fiercely love herself as she is—and her skin tone that is beautiful as it is, always, as well as in a yellow lehenga, the color of a sunflower. In fact, it is Amrita’s yellow lehenga and effervescent sunflower-spirit that eventually convinces Aunty how beautiful she is wearing any color at all.
“…the skin we are in is EXACTLY as it is meant to be.”
Amrita’s best friend, Kiki, is at a wedding the same day as well. At the end, we see the girls unite and twirl together, vowing to love who they are as they bloom and grow. And we even get a glimpse on the last two spreads of how they do! (Hint: it has to do with being, doing, and also wearing what you love.)
Plus, there’s an explanation of colorism in the back for handy reference when speaking with kids about the book.
“From that moment on, the girls would make sure they felt like sunflowers every day.”
The author of this book has an effervescent sunflower-spirit herself, and I was lucky enough to be able to catch up with my friend Monika Singh Gangotra to ask her a few questions about Sunflower Sisters. She shares her wonderful answers below! Read on to hear what she has to say!
This Picture Book Life: What was the impetus for you to write Sunflower Sisters; what inspired the idea for this picture book and to explore colorism through family, friendship, and wedding celebrations?
Monika Singh Gangotra: Sunflower Sisters is a story that follows two best friends, Amrita and Kiki, on their journey through self-love, sisterhood and the power of loving one another. Specifically, this story focuses on the issue of familial colourism and how we can tackle this with love, kindness, acceptance, strength and honesty.
I wanted kids to have some books on their shelves that were rich in diversity, cultures of those they are growing up alongside, representative of multicultural communities, relatable characters, contexts and adventures, books that carried important messages for the world we live in and how they affect all of us. To empower readers to make positive change. Further, I wanted more representation for the way we live our lives. The buildings, our clothes, our neighbours whilst also addressing and raising awareness of cultural issues and cultural wonders that are still alive and present today.
Colourism is an issue that has followed me throughout my whole life and continues to do so to ALL South Asians in some way. With a deep-rooted history related to colonialism and caste, colourism has become incredibly engrained in the way South Asians view beauty and success. South Asian pop culture is saturated in colourism and our exposure and ideology is incredibly high. As I began to work in the beauty industry, what I was taught to believe about what is beautiful became incongruent with what I saw and felt for myself. And I wanted to create change. I feel social change is incredibly powerful through children and it is our responsibility as adults to help steer them in the direction of love.
In my experience, wedding celebrations have a large focus on beauty and the way a woman presents herself to the community. Much of my exposure in relation to colourism was in and around wedding celebrations. In saying that, I love weddings. The joy, the colours, the clothes! Weddings have always been occasions where I have felt I can truly express myself in terms of my style and felt would make a great setting for Amrita to be able to do the same.
TPBL: Sunflowers! Do you have a special connection to these radiant blooms?
Monika Singh Gangotra: I remember growing up and watching my mum walking around the front yard of our coastal home in the early morning. The sun high in the sky and the most beautiful and brightly coloured birds chirping loudly, eating from all her fruit trees she planted herself – pears, guava, peaches and a mango tree to name just to name a few.
As more and more birds began to come to our house to eat and party, Mum felt there wasn’t enough fruit on the trees to feed them all so she began to buy large bags of bird seed to scatter on the front yard. This bird seed mix had sunflower seeds and before we knew it, we had these incredible sunflowers growing in our front yard. As tall as can be. These were some of the best days and the most beautiful images of my mum that I carry in my heart and can see ever so clearly when I close my eyes and think of home.
This image of my mum and her sunflowers is how this came to be. I feel that sunflowers grow their best when they are surrounded by the warmth of the sun. I also noticed in her flowers that some of the sunflowers looked towards one another. This is the imagery that I have used in the book to describe the important relationships between Amrita, Kiki and their mothers.
Amrita looks up towards her mother for love and guidance (as the sun). Her mother provides her with a safe environment to grow full of warmth and love. Sisterhood is explained through Amrita and Kiki being sunflowers for themselves and also one another. That at times when their sun isn’t there, they can look towards each other and know they will always be there for one another – unconditionally.
TPBL: Both you and Michaela Dias-Hayes have relationships with fashion and textiles, and your Instagram often features your radiant, joyful wardrobe in exuberant photos. How did both your passions for fashion inevitably infuse Sunflower Sisters?
Monika Singh Gangotra: The story follows Amrita and Kiki in their journey to open their own fashion house, just as I have been so lucky to have done so in my own. Fashion is such a huge part of my personal expression.
Michaela incorporated prints from clothes she had seen from my own personal wardrobe in social media. That is why my most favourite page is the very last. The colours, the diversity, little hints of my own story and journey in the colours and prints used. My heart sang when I first saw that page and Owlet Press lovingly gifted me a framed copy of this spread to hang on my wall.
Thank you, Monika, for spending this time and sharing with us, and to you and Owlet Press for review copy and images!
This sunflower hair clip is playfully easy to make with no-bake modeling clay and will remind the wearer that, like Amrita and the Sunflower Sisters, they have their own ability to beam like this golden bloom. It could be used in a child’s hair or worn on some item of clothing or accessory or affixed to a piece of furniture or carried in a bag or pocket.
Any no-bake modeling clay (I used yellow, orange, pink, and brown and Crayola’s Model Magic variety.)
A hair clip on which to fasten the bloom.
Some gold thread if you’d like to add flecks of it as I have done.
Hot glue gun (to be used by the adult present).
From there, it’s just a matter of starting with the sunflower center by rolling a ball of clay and slightly flattening it Then, you shape a whole bunch of petals, mixing clay colors if you’d like, and then kneading each one onto the center so it’s attached. Layer by layer, petal by petal, however you like! I cut small pieces of gold thread to embed into some petals as well, taking inspiration from the sunflowers on the cover of Sunflower Sisters.
The finally step is attaching the flower to the clip. Before you glue it, wait until your clay is dry. The timing may be different depending on what kind you use, but if you wait 24 hours, I’m sure that’ll do the trick in any case. Simply affix it with a dollop of hot glue, hold a few seconds, wait, and wear!
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.
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.)
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.)
You Matter by Christian Robinson (2020), a super inventive book that tells the reader they are everyone are precious: young, old, first, last, stuff too small to see. (I featured this title in this post on picture books for now.) Big thanks to Simon & Schuster for a copy of this picture book!
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!
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!)
Like the Moon Loves the Sky by Hena Khan, illustrated by Saffa Khan (2020) is a series of loving hopes for a child as they grow, inspired by the Quran. (I featured this title in this blog post on picture books for comfort.) Big thanks to Chronicle for a copy of this picture book!
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.