November 18 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

Children benefit so much from close relationships to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other extended family members. This month and next, as family gathers together for special holiday events, it’s fun for adults to share family history and their own funny or moving stories of growing up with the younger generation. Letting kids know how much they’re loved by everyone in the family is important too. It helps them develop a sense of belonging, a good self-image, and confidence. Reading together is a perfect way to spend time together and get conversations started.

Thanks to Amazon Crossing Kids and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of My GrandMom for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

My GrandMom

By Gee-eun Lee | Translated by Sophie Bowman

Gee-eun’s Grandma sits on the floor, holding her sobbing granddaughter in her lap. Breakfast is on the table and toys are strewn about. A gray cat comes to see what’s going on. “‘Dear me, your mom will have to take a boat to work to get across all these tears,'” she says. Grandma, who Gee-eun calls Halmoni in Korean, distracts her by letting her help make kalguksu. She gives Gee-eun a bit of the noodle dough, and while Halmoni rolls out the dough and slices the noodles, Gee-eun fashions little figures of her, her mom, dad, grandma, and their cat, Mari. When it comes time to make the kalguksu, Gee-eun’s dough family goes into the boiling pot along with the other ingredients. “‘…You tell them to hang on tight to the noodles so they stay afloat,'” Halmoni says.

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Copyright Gee-eun Lee, 2022, translation by Sophie Bowman, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Gee-eun has been waiting and waiting for Family Sports Day to arrive, but when it does, her mom has to work and can’t go along as she had promised. Gee-eun was looking forward to doing the cheer dance, the tug-of-war, and the running race with her. Now who can she go with? Halmoni tells her granddaughter that she will go. She then relates tales from her own childhood, when she was so strong at tug-of-war that she “could pull all the other kids over with only one arm,” she was such a fast racer that they called her “Speedy Horse,” and was such a good dancer that it “goes without saying.” Then she shows Gee-eun some of her moves.

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Copyright Gee-eun Lee, 2022, translation by Sophie Bowman, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

At Family Sports Day, Gee-eun feels confident in her and her grandma’s chances. But things don’t pan out exactly as she’d hoped, and Halmoni even trips and falls during the race.  Gee-eun is so disappointed that her tears flow freely. Walking home, Halmoni and Gee-eun get a curry bun—and then a second one that is their secret. “No matter how you may be feeling, curry buns are always delicious, especially when shared with Grandma,” Gee-eun says.

They then buy mackerel, bean sprouts, and eggs for dinner, while Gee-eun’s grandma assures her that her father would easily beat a mackerel in a swimming race, that she once bought a bean sprout as big as Gee-eun to season just for her mom, and that a hen always misses her eggs. “‘Halmoni,'” Gee-eun then asks, “‘when will Mom get home?'” The food is on the table when her parents get home, and she runs to the door to greet them so they can eat dinner together…because “nothing beats a mean made by Grandma.”

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Copyright Gee-eun Lee, 2022, translation by Sophie Bowman, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Gee-eun Lee’s story is infused with those types of events in life, both inconsequential and significant, that are filled with emotional power that make them memorable. From Gee-eun’s meltdown at her mother’s leaving to her grandma’s quick thinking that leads to bonding over food and creativity to the bravado and disappointment of the Family Sports Day, Lee invites readers into the touching and humorous relationship between Gee-eun and her grandmother. Wily, proud, comforting, and understanding, Gee-eun’s grandmother is the heart of the family, bridging the generations with her wisdom and constant love. Lee’s storytelling draws readers in with her warm and familiar dialogue that ingeniously pivots back and forth in time, tying together moments in Gee-eun’s mother’s life, her grandmother’s life, and Gee-eun’s experiences. 

Gee-eun Lee’s soft colored pencil and paint illustrations are delightfully childlike, as if the character Gee-eun had drawn them. In that vein the expressive depictions of Gee-eun’s adult grandma fiercely besting a dozen children at tug of war, her smooth dance and nimble dance moves, and her and Gee-eun’s “set and ready” stance at the track while other mother/child pairs stretch, play, and tie laces are comical joy. The theme of bridging generations also appears cleverly in the image of Gee-eun’s dough family floating together in the soup and the portrait of Gee-eun brushing her doll’s hair while her grandmother brushes and braids Gee-eun’s, among others.

 Written with a unique voice that echoes universal truths about family relationships, My GrandMom is a humorous, poignant, and heartening read aloud that will quickly become a favorite for parents, grandparents, other caregivers, and children to share. The book is highly recommended for home and classroom libraries and a must for school and public library collections.  

Ages 3 – 7

Amazon Crossing Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1662508257

About the Author

Gee-eun Lee is an award-winning Korean author/illustrator. She recently won the prestigious BolognaRagazzi Award in the comics category for her book, The Story of How the Korean Shaved Ice Dessert Was Born, and is also a top winner of the Korean Young Illustrator Award. She studied design and illustration in Korea and the UK. Her first picture book, Paper Dad, was made into a children’s musical in Korea. My GrandMom is the second book she both wrote and illustrated and is based on her own grandmother.  You can connect with Gee-eun on Instagram: @studio_geeeun

About the Translator

Sophie Bowman is a PhD student at the University of Toronto, studying Korean literature. She was awarded the ICF Literature Translation Fellowship at Ewha Womans University. In 2015, she won the Korea Times Modern Korean Literature Translation Award grand prize for poetry with her translations of Jin Eun-young and co-translated Kim Bo-Young’s I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories. She recently translated the picture book Magic Candies by Heena Baek, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Follow her on Twitter @SophieOrbital.

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You can find My GrandMom at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 27 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Even though we’re saying goodbye to Read a New Book Month, families don’t have to stop seeking out new books at their local bookstore or library. In fact, fall and the lead-in to the holidays is one of the busiest times of the year for publishers as they release wonderful books that share traditions and take readers through the winter in thoughtful, funny, and always surprising ways. Maybe that’s why December is also tagged as Read a New Book Month! Really, there’s never a time when you don’t want to celebrate new books—like today’s!

Thanks go to Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a digital copy of Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile

Written by Jane Sutton | Illustrated by Debby Rahmalia

 

Gracie always loves when Bubbe comes to visit, but this time Bubbe was too sad to do the things she and Gracie usually did together because her husband had died. She didn’t feel like doing yoga or making jokes. “She hardly even smiled.” Gracie missed all the things she used to do with Zayde too—talks about science and sharing inside jokes.

Gracie tried different things to make Bubbe happy again. She asked if she’d like to sing while Gracie played the guitar, if she’d like to come to her soccer game, or help her draw a picture. But each time, Bubbe just said “‘No thank you, Bubala.'” This answer got Gracie thinking. “She knew bubbe meant ‘grandma’ in Yiddish. And zayde meant ‘grandpa.'” But she didn’t know what bubala meant. When Gracie asked Bubbe, she explained that “‘it means “little grandmother. …But you call someone you love “bubala.”‘”

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Image copyright Debby Rahmalia, 2022, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2022. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Then Bubbe sighed and told Gracie how much she and Zayde “‘loved using Yiddish words together.'” Gracie wanted to learn Yiddish words too, and asked Bubbe to teach her. They went into the kitchen, and while Bubbe cut up an apple, she taught Gracie the word nosh. “‘It means “eat a snack.”‘” As Gracie noshed on her apple, she thought she saw Bubbe smile just a little.

That night Bubbe taught Gracie how to say “good night” in Yiddish, and the next day when Gracie came home from school she wanted to walk around the neighborhood like they used to, but Bubbe said she didn’t feel like it. Gracie persisted, pulling on her hand and telling her how beautiful it was outside. Bubbe had to admit that it was sheyn. Gracie was excited to understand this Yiddish word for “beautiful” because Zayde often called her sheyna meidala or “pretty girl.” Bubbe conceded and put on her sneakers.

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Image copyright Debby Rahmalia, 2022, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2022. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Once outside, Bubbe even started jogging a little and taught Gracie another Yiddish word when Gracie asked her to slow down. As the week went on, Gracie and Bubbe began talking about their memories of Zayde. Bubbe even decided to go to Gracie’s next soccer game. At the game Bubbe smiled and even cheered when Gracie scored a goal, and back home they laughed together when Bubbe told Gracie her socks were “‘… so farshtunken, my nose might explode!'”

“‘Bubbe! You’re laughing!'” Gracie cried. And Bubbe had to agree and told Gracie it was for a very special reason. “‘Because you give me naches. That means ‘joy.'”

Back matter includes a short Author’s Note about the Yiddish language as well as a glossary of Yiddish words that includes and expands on the words found in the story, their meaning in English, and a pronunciation for each of them.

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Image copyright Debby Rahmalia, 2022, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2022. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Jane Sutton’s poignant story will touch readers’ hearts on many levels, from a child and grandmother overcoming grief to the passing on of family heritage to the way children bring a healing kind of joy through their exuberance, empathy, and love. Sutton’s storytelling hits all the right notes as she depicts Bubbe’s transition from mourning to joy over superbly paced scenes and seamlessly introduces Yiddish words through Gracie and Bubbe’s authentic conversations while also demonstrating the family’s strong bond of love and trust. Dialogue rich, the story makes a perfect read aloud that will excite kids about learning the Yiddish words along with Gracie and prompt families to talk about their own history.

In her vibrant illustrations, Debby Rahmalia lets young readers see through Gracie’s viewpoint how Bubbe’s sadness affects her and how much she wants to help her grandmother find happiness again. As Gracie does yoga while Bubbe stands by and shares a silent dinner with her usually talkative grandmother, Gracie’s expressions register concern and disappointment. In Gracie’s attempts to enlist Bubbe in doing their usual activities, Rahmalia portrays not only Gracie’s strong connection with Bubbe, but also a realistic look at how loss can affect emotions and physical energy. When Gracie hits on learning Yiddish as a way to interact with Bubbe, Rahmalia effectively shows how Bubbe’s smile, enthusiasm, and laughter return as she and Gracie share the language and memories of Zayde.

Touching, reassuring, and joyful, Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile comforts and restores while celebrating family love and generational ties. The book would be a meaningful addition to home bookshelves for all families and one school and public librarians will want in their picture book or family issues collection.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2022 | ISBN 978-0807510230

You can discover more about Jane Sutton and her books on her website and connect with her on Instagram.

You can view a portfolio of work by Debby Rahmalia here and connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile Matching Puzzle

 

Gracie loved learning Yiddish words from Bubbe! With this puzzle you can learn the Yiddish words from the book too. Just print the puzzle and match each word with its definition to get started using these words yourself!

Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile Matching Puzzle

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You can find Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 9 – National Day of Encouragement

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About the Holiday

Everyone can get discouraged, frustrated, and lonely at times, that’s why today’s holiday was conceived as a day to encourage, cheer, and inspire those who are missing out on the joy life can bring. The idea was first celebrated in Arkansas, when Governor Mike Beebe proclaimed September 12, 2007 to be a “State Day of Encouragement.” The holiday later spread across the country when President George W. Bush established September 12 as a National Day of Encouragement. It doesn’t always take a lot to make a difference for someone who’s struggling. Giving a kind word, taking time to listen, sharing a special treat, or just being there for a colleague, friend, or family member are all ways to help them feel happier and more encouraged to complete a goal, deal with a problem, or just have a good day.

Alte Zachen / Old Things

Written by Ziggy Hanaor | Illustrated by Benjamin Phillips

 

It’s grocery shopping day and Benji’s bubbe, scowling, peers into the refrigerator then sits down to make her list. She looks uncertainly at herself in the wall mirror as she puts on her headscarf. Benji, meanwhile, gets the cart and bags ready and then sits down to wait. He looks at his phone and then waits some more. When Bubbe Rosa finally appears, she says “Now come on, Benji. I don’t have all day.” He stands up and tells her he’s ready, but is met with an inexplicable “You young people are so lazy, everything comes for free. Tsk Tsk.” He pushes back a bit, showing her that he has brought a cart and bags. Bubbe can’t understand why he’s bringing bags when they give them out at the store, and he tells her that they are better for the environment. As they walk down the sidewalk, Bubbe considers this.

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Image copyright Benjamin Phillips, 2022, text copyright Ziggy Hanaor, 2022. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

She cheers up at the thought of what she will make for dinner tonight: “…gefilte fish and brisket and kugel.” They will get challah from Carmelli’s and babka from Gershon’s. Bubbe remembers how as a young man, Gershon “was always so forward. He’s a very rude man,” she says. She can’t seem to separate young Gershon from Benji when he mentions that they’ve missed their turn off and tells him that young people these days are also rude and “don’t know anything.”

She tells Benji how what kids learn in high school now, they learned in first grade. But then she reveals the day that all Jewish kids were banished from school. She had cried because she was going to be in the school play the next week. Her friend thought they’d be allowed back in, but they weren’t. Bubbe becomes sad at the memory and wipes away a tear. Then her scowl returns, and she trudges angrily on.

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Image copyright Benjamin Phillips, 2022, text copyright Ziggy Hanaor, 2022. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

When they get to the place where Rosa believes Ray’s Market is, they discover another store in its place. Bubbe can’t believe it, and begins to tell Benji the story of how Ray came over from Germany on the same boat as Benji’s Zayda Joe. Ray wasn’t as ambitious as Joe, and she wonders what happened to him. Today, when they approach the check-out counter, Bubbe is scandalized to find a tattooed young woman in a crop top behind the cash register, and gives her a piece of her mind.

Outside the store, Benji erupts, telling Bubbe that “girls don’t need boys to validate them” and that they can wear what they want. What Bubbe doesn’t tell Benji, but what readers see in a full-page illustration, is that she was the girl that Gershon chatted up many years ago and that once as she and Joe passed by Gershon’s bakery, their eyes met through the window.

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Image copyright Benjamin Phillips, 2022, text copyright Ziggy Hanaor, 2022. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

The rest of the shopping trip brings much of the same, and when she spots someone smoking outside a tattoo parlor, she yells at him about all of his tattoos. A turn of the page, however, reveals the roots of her rage in another full-page image filled with arms tattooed with numbers from concentration camps.

On the subway, Bubbe tells Benji more about her life: her trip from Berlin to Switzerland with her mother and sister—but not her father—and how she used to love to dance the polka. When she and Benji get off the train, Bubbe is disoriented. Benji leads her outside to the park to sit down. There, they lie on the grass, and while Bubbe dozes, Benji watches the people around them. When she awakens, Bubbe Rosa admits that she sometimes forgets, but then it all comes back to her. Readers see dated snapshots from her life—as a baby, with her sister, alone, standing next to Gershon, with Joe’s arm wrapped around her shoulders, with her two children as youngsters and then older, as empty nesters with Joe, and finally older and alone.

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Image copyright Benjamin Phillips, 2022, text copyright Ziggy Hanaor, 2022. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

It’s time to go home, and Benji calls an Uber he’s used before. In the car, the driver talks about coming from Ghana to New York to work until he can buy a house in Hamburg. While he means Hamburg, Pennsylvania, Rosa thinks only of Hamburg, Germany. Watching people out the window, she seems even more lonely than ever and asks Benji to request they go to Gershon’s bakery.

Benji can’t believe it will still be there, but they go. Rosa alights from the car and heads for the door. She opens it despite the closed blinds in the window and Benji’s entreaties to stop. Inside she does find Gershon, his shelves filled with baked goods and a with scowl on his face. He is surprised to see her and questions when she got so old. They banter with old jokes and then smile at each other.

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Image copyright Benjamin Phillips, 2022, text copyright Ziggy Hanaor, 2022. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

They reminisce about dancing together when they were young, and a turn of the page brings this memory to life with a colorful spread of people dancing, which also spans generations and includes other characters and time periods from the story. Back to present day, Benji sits on the grocery cart now watching Rosa and Gershon dance together under the bakery shop’s lights. “‘You’re just the same as always, Gershon,’ Rosa says.” And Gershon answers, “‘Some things never change, Rosa.’” And here, at least, that seems true as the babkas cost only $2.50. These scenes leave readers with hope that Rosa and Gershon will find the happiness that has eluded them for so many years. Feeling more like herself, Rosa suggests they walk home. She thanks Benji for all of his help that day and calls him a “good boy.” Benji replies that she is a “good bubbe,” too.

Back matter includes a glossary of Yiddish terms sprinkled throughout the story.

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Image copyright Benjamin Phillips, 2022, text copyright Ziggy Hanaor, 2022. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Powerful and emotional, Ziggy Hanaor’s Alte Zachen tells the story of one woman who grew up during the 1930s and lived through the holocaust, moving from Berlin to Switzerland to Palestine and finally to New York,  through her memories and their day-to-day repercussions. Hanaor’s gripping debut graphic novel tackles the complex histories and personal loss that affect the way people look at and interact with others in their communities as well as with their own families.

Bubbe Rosa’s displaced anger, distrust, confusion, triggers, and perhaps even envy for contemporary mores that allow more freedom are just some of the emotions that Hanaor explores. The impact of growing old and trying to adjust to a changing world is poignantly depicted through Rosa’s flashbacks and her angry outbursts. Benji is a compassionate ambassador for today’s generation and his counter arguments to Bubbe Rosa’s actions, are courageous—stated forcefully and clearly, but with respect. His tender love for his grandmother is evident in his patience and the way he treats her when she grows weary. Several elements of Rosa’s life are left ambiguous—for example the fate of her father and her prior relationship with Gershon—allowing readers to ponder and discuss the character’s full backstory and its effects.

Benjamin Phillips immediately draws readers into Bubbe Rosa’s consciousness with his nuanced and immersive imagery. Bubba Rosa’s face, its features deftly sketched and angled, reveals her querulous and dour demeanor, only softening when she imagines the dinner she will make and later meets up with Gershon again. Glimpses of Rosa’s profound sadness add depth to this complex character.  Masterfully moving between the present and the past, Phillips allows readers to see that for Rosa, her past—one that is both comforting and tortuous—is ever-present, even though its vestiges have mostly disappeared from her neighborhood.

Phillips depicts the present day in soft washes of blue, brown, and gray while Bubbe Rosa’s memories are as vivid as her recollections. By often portraying Rosa in the same flowered dress and Gershon with a mustache, Phillips orients readers to their history, a substory that threads its way throughout the narrative, enriching readers’ knowledge of these two connected characters.

Compelling and evocative, Alte Zachen is an eloquent intergenerational story that will resonate with and enlighten readers of all ages. The book is a perfect choice for families to share while discussing how particular events from the past, in general, as well as within the family affect the present day. It would also make a poignant selection for mixed-age book discussion groups and library programs. Alte Zachen is an absolute must for home, middle school, high school, university, and public libraries.

Ages 12 and up

Cicada Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1800660229

You can connect with Benjamin Phillips on Instagram.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-alte-zachen-cover

You can find Alte Zachen at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 3 – Celebrating the Lunar New Year

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About the Holiday

The Lunar New Year began on February 1—ushering in the Year of the Tiger, which is known for bravery, wisdom, and leadership—and celebrations take place until February 15. Also known as the Chinese New Year and, in China, as the Spring Festival, the New Year is a time for festivities that include lion and dragon dances, fireworks, visiting friends and relatives, family meals, and special decorations. The Lunar New Year is the busiest travel season of the year as family members return home to spend the holiday with loved ones. Lunar New Year celebrations end each year with the Lantern Festival. To learn more about the history of the Lunar New Year, how to celebrate, and the signs of the zodiac, click here.

Amah Faraway

Written by Margaret Chiu Greanias | Illustrated by Tracy Subisak

 

Walking through the airport, Kylie’s stomach was full of butterflies. She and her mom were about to get on a plane from their home in San Francisco to visit Kylie’s Amah in Taiwan. Kylie’s mother was excited – and trying to get Kylie excited too. “We can…eat yummy new foods. We can… go to pretty new places. We can…have an adventure! And, we get to see Amah. It’ll be so fun.”

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Image copyright Tracy Subisak, 2022, text copyright Margaret Chiu Greanias, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Kylie connected with Amah every Saturday on the computer, and Amah told stories, sand songs, and showed Kylie snacks. She always spoke simple and slowly. But thinking about actually seeing Amah again, “Kylie jittered and jiggled in her seat.” She wished they didn’t have to go so far away, but when they got to the airport in Taiwan, Amah was waiting and holding a sign with Kylie’s name on it.

Kylie was excited to see her, but, still, she stayed close to Mama. When Amah talked she kind of understood, and when they got to “Amah’s apartment, everything seemed strange.” Except the faces in the photographs “were happily familiar.” Kylie got to meet her aunts, uncles, and cousins at a banquet just for her and Mama. There were ten, twelve-person tables full of family “(actual…or not?)” and food, but Kylie ate only the rice.

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Image copyright Tracy Subisak, 2022, text copyright Margaret Chiu Greanias, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Amah showed Kylie Taipei – “the city she loved” – and treated them to her favorite Chinese donuts, yóutiáo. They were different than the ones Kylie ate – “no frosting,  no filling, no CHOCOLATE.” At the park, Amah played like a child. “Lái wán,” she said. “Come play!” And they went to the night market. “Everywhere they went, Kylie trailed behind Amah and Mama.” Until the day they visited the hot springs.

Kylie dipped her toe in the warm water. It was so inviting, and Amah beckoned to her from the pool. “Kylie loved splashing,” and she jumped in. Suddenly, “it was a brand-new day.” Now Kylie led Amah and Mama through the night market, she shouted for them to play at the park, and she loved the Chinese donuts. She saw all the beauty in Taipei and enjoyed all of the food at another family “(actual or not)” banquet.

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Image copyright Tracy Subisak, 2022, text copyright Margaret Chiu Greanias, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As Kylie and Mama got ready to go home, Amah’s apartment looked strange with their folded clothes and suitcases out. At the airport, “Kylie held tight to Amah” and asked why they had to go. Back home, Kylie and Amah resumed their Saturday video chats. Now Kyle spoke “simply and slowly,” showed Amah snacks, sang songs, and told stories. While they didn’t get to see each other in person often, a day did come when Kylie and Mama happily returned to the San Francisco airport – to welcome Amah for a visit!

Back matter includes notes from Margaret Chiu Greanias and Tracy Subisak about their relationships with their grandmothers who, like Kylie’s amah, lived in Taiwan; a discussion about the structure of the story; and short descriptions of the Taipei sights Kylie visits in the story as well as the meanings of certain Taiwanese foods.

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Image copyright Tracy Subisak, 2022, text copyright Margaret Chiu Greanias, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

In her heartwarming story, Margaret Chiu Greanias realistically depicts the emotions children often feel when visiting relatives after a long absence or in new surroundings. Her mirrored storytelling effectively demonstrates how, often, one familiar event can open children’s eyes to common bonds and traditions that help families bridge long distances and to help them appreciate cultural differences while developing strong relationships despite their separation. Speech bubbles incorporating Taiwanese and English, and also written with traditional Chinese characters, can teach nonChinese-speaking kids some simple words and will be a welcome addition for those children who do speak Chinese or Taiwanese.

Tracy Subisak’s mixed media illustrations create absorbing snapshots of Kylie’s interactions with Amah both at home in San Francisco and in Teipei. Rich colors and charming abstract depictions of the landmarks the family visits invite kids to linger over each page spread. More detailed and realistic portrayals of the family banquet, the donut shop, and the hot springs accentuate these places where Kylie and Amah share a bond over food and friendship. The mirror theme of the story is effectively portrayed throughout the story as in the first pages Kylie is led by Amah through the city while after the visit to the hot springs, Kylie does the leading. The weekly video chats also give readers a chance to see the growth of their relationship and how similar this grandmother and grandchild are.

A lovely and loving story for those with family faraway or nearby, Amah Faraway is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1547607211

Discover more about Margaret Chiu Greanias and her books on her website

To learn more about Tracy Subisak, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Celebrating the Lunar New Year Activity

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Year of the Tiger Coloring Page

 

Celebrate the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Tiger with this printable coloring sheet!

Year of the Tiger Coloring Sheet

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-amah-faraway-cover

You can find Amah Faraway at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 6 – Blog Tour Stop for My Grandma’s Photos

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My Grandma’s Photos

Written by Özge Bahar Sunar | Illustrated by Senta Urgan | Translated by Amy Marie Spangler

 

Ali and his mother are visiting his grandmother, who cannot see or hear very well anymore and often does not recognize Ali or his sister. Today, they have brought old black-and-white photographs to share, but Grandma doesn’t look at them, instead falling asleep as she holds them. Overcome with emotion, Ali’s mother leaves the room, but Ali stays. When Grandma awakens, she notices the photos in her hand and asks if they are of one of Ali’s friends.

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

At first Ali doesn’t recognize the person in the picture, but then he notices a beauty mark on the person’s cheek and realizes that it’s a photo of his grandma when she was a young girl. When he tells her, his grandma suddenly remembers the day it was taken and the garden in which it was taken. She begins to look at the other photographs and recognizes a family picnic and her wedding day. Suddenly, Ali’s grandma becomes very animated and invites him to see her world.

“At that moment I felt as if I were being pulled into the photo,” Ali says. “Together with Grandma, I traveled into the past.” Ali sees his grandma as a child his own age, climbing a tree and leaping from branch to branch. When Ali joins her, his grandma whispers to him, ‘”It can’t really be taught with words. You have to find yourself a tree and climb it every day.'”

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Grandma jumps down and runs into another photo with Ali right behind her. Here, Grandma is a teenager riding a ferry, feeding seagulls, and dreaming of her future. Another photo takes them to the shop where she worked as a master seamstress. “A young woman tried on the skit Grandma had made for her. She twirled and laughed, and said she loved it. Grandma’s face beamed proudly, and mine did too,” Ali says.

The last photograph takes them to Grandma’s wedding. ‘”Let me show you how much you look like your grandpa,'” Ali’s grandma tells him. Grandma is wearing a “gorgeous wedding gown she’d made herself” and Grandpa looked so handsome as they dance together. At last, Ali’s grandma tells him it’s time for him to go home. When Ali asks if she’s coming too, she replies that she’s happy there. “‘I’m going to dance with y our grandpa a little longer. … Your grandpa and I have been apart for such a long time, you know.'”

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Ali protests and says he wants to stay there with her, but Grandma tells him that he must go “‘to collect memories and photos of your own.'” She reminds him that if he misses her, she will always be there in the photos and that she “‘won’t forget anyone or anything ever again.'” Tears spring to Ali’s eyes. He hugs and kisses his grandma one last time. When he opened his eyes, Ali was back in the present. Now his family has hung most of Grandma’s photographs on the walls of Ali’s room. “Whenever I miss her,” he says, “I look at her photos. I’m sure she’s still there, at peace, dancing away….”

Note: While the male pronoun is used on the book’s jacket flap and in this review, the story contains no pronouns associated with Ali and the illustrations depict a child with short hair and wearing overalls.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-grandma's-photos-wedding

Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Özge Bahar Sunar’s beautiful tribute to the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, first published in Turkey, offers an emotional bond between generations as Ali joins his grandma in formative moments during her life and discovers that they share many of the same experiences and dreams. Readers will be captivated by Sunar’s conversational storytelling and empathize with Ali’s gentle acceptance of his grandma’s failing memory.

As Ali’s recognition of his grandmother as a young girl in one of the photos and her recollection of the picnic it portrays leads to a magical trip back in time, readers will likewise become interested in learning more about their own grandparents and other relatives. For Ali and readers, his grandma’s passing takes place in the world of the photographs as Grandma chooses to remain dancing with her husband. Ali’s sweet and comforting hugs and final kiss for his grandmother before returning to the present reassures children that the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren continue endlessly through time.

Senta Urgan’s wispy pastel pencil illustrations, sprinkled with collage fabrics and sewing items, flowers, coins, and other elements as well as photographs of the author’s and illustrator’s families combine to create a moving, dreamlike feel that immerses readers in the story’s enchanting travel through time. As Ali’s grandma tells him that he must go while she stays behind, she is shown in a loving embrace with her husband on their wedding day, reinforcing the idea that for her, death is a comforting coming home to a place where she will be forever young. Flowers, vines, and trees that surround and support the characters create a motif that death is a natural part of life and that one’s love for another nurtures and grows.

A beautiful and tender way to talk about the life and death of a grandparent, family member, or beloved friend, My Grandma’s Photos is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Amazon Crossing Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1542031158

Özge Bahar Sunar is a former teacher turned children’s author. She has written multiple picture books, including the bestselling The Hedgehog and the Exhibit, illustrated by Ceyhun Şen, which was translated into seven languages. Sunar lives with her two children in Antalya, Turkey, where she loves to think up new stories while hiking in the wild. You can find her on Instagram @ozgebaharsnr.

Senta Urgan is a graduate of Mimar Sinan University, where she studied sculpture. Since 2010 she has been illustrating books for children, including picture books and novels, and also works as a graphic designer. She is the founder of the brand Mala Hermana Handmade, where she exhibits her illustrations and ceramic art. You can connect with her Instagram @toporulkesindekikes.

Amy Marie Spangler is a cofounder of Istanbul-based AnatoliaLit Agency, and a commercial and literary translator with numerous books and short stories to her credit. You can connect with Amy on Twitter @Amy_Spangler.

Thank you to Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of My Grandma’s Photos with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

My Grandma’s Photos Blog Tour Activity

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Spool Photo Holder

 

With this easy craft you can make a personalized photo holder for your favorite pictures of friends and family!

Supplies

  • Wooden spool with hole through the middle, top to bottom. (A spool without a hole also works if you make a hole in the top with a hammer and nail), 1 ½ -inch or larger, available at craft stores
  • Colorful twine or light-gauge yarn, 3 to 4 yards
  • Alternatively: you can buy a wooden spool of colorful twine at some discount stores
  • 3 pieces of light-gauge wire 12 to 15-inches long
  • Clay or play dough
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Fill hole in spool with clay or play dough, pushing it well in to provide a base for the wire
  2. If using your own twine or yarn: wrap the twine or yarn around the spool to desired thickness and glue the end down to keep it from unraveling
  3. With the needle-nose pliers, roll one end of each wire to create a small coil
  4. Cut the three wires to different lengths to provide room for all three photographs
  5. Fit wires into the center hole on the top of the spool and push them into the clay until they are secure
  6. Clip photographs into the coils

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You can find My Grandma’s Photos at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 23 – It’s Sweet Potato Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

Sweet potatoes are yummy and satisfying—and they’re healthy! Full of vitamins A and C, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties, sweet potatoes make delicious side dishes for almost any meal. Sweet potato fries, muffins, pies, and—of course—casserole are just a few of the ways you can enjoy this natural treat. To celebrate today’s holiday, cook up your favorite recipe and discover some new ones!

Little Chef

Written by Matt Stine & Elisabeth Weinberg | Illustrated by Paige Keiser

 

Lizzie is a little girl who has always loved to cook. In fact, her mom and dad call her “their Little Chef.” She has her own chef’s uniform, complete with hat, and doesn’t mind the long hours a chef has to keep. Today, Lizzie is extra excited because “Grandmas is coming over for dinner!” Lizzie has learned all of her cooking skills from her Grandma, and tonight she is going to prepare a special dinner just for her.

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Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

Lizzie knows she’ll need extra energy today, so she’s starting off by making her “famous scrambled eggs.” She whips eggs in a bowl with a fork and adds salt and pepper. After breakfast, Lizzie and her mom get ready to go to the farmers’ market to buy the ingredients for “Grandma’s Super Special Smashed Sweet Potatoes.” Lizzie wants Grandma to see that she “can cook just like her.” At the farmers’ market, Lizzie picks out the freshest sweet potatoes she can find. Back home, Mom and Dad peel and chop the potatoes and help Lizzie put them into the big pot of boiling water. When the potatoes are soft, it’s time for “the best part about making Smashed Sweet Potatoes. Smashing them!”

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Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

Then “it’s time to add the secret ingredient! Grandma says every great recipe has one. It makes a chef’s food taste extra special and delicious.” But when Lizzie consults the recipe, no secret ingredient is listed. Lizzie decides she will just have to add one of her own. She looks in the spice cabinet and after going through bottle after bottle, she finds the perfect one. Lizzie gives her finished Smashed Sweet Potatoes a taste and waits for Grandma. Finally, Grandma arrives and everyone sits down to dinner. When Daddy tastes the sweet potatoes, he says, “‘Mmm!’” Mommy says, “‘ Mmmm!’” too.

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Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

But what will Grandma say? Grandma takes a bite and exclaims, “‘These are even BETTER than my own Super Special Smashed Sweet Potatoes.’” Then Grandma wants to know what Lizzie’s secret ingredient is. But of course Lizzie can’t tell her that! Grandma picks up Lizzie and gives her a big hug. “‘…being with you is the best ingredient of all,’” she says. And as Lizzie lies in bed later that night, reading her cookbook by flashlight, she wonders what she’ll cook tomorrow.

A recipe for Chef Lizzie’s (Grandma’s) Super Special Smashed Sweet Potatoes that encourages young chefs to experiment with their own secret ingredient follows the story.

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Image copyright Paige Keiser, 2018, text copyright Elisabeth Weinberg and Matt Stine, 2018. Courtesy of Feiwel & Friends.

Kids who love to cook or help out in the kitchen will be delighted by Matt Stine and Elisabeth Weinberg’s story of a little girl who wants to impress the grandmother who inspires her. Lizzie’s enthusiasm for cooking and her confidence in her skills make this an uplifting tale for children of all talents. Lizzie’s special bond with her grandmother adds a tender family element to the story and her big-hearted nature makes her a sweet companion for little readers. The recipe included in the back of the book invites children to make Lizzie’s Smashed Sweet Potato recipe and find their own secret ingredient—an invitation few will be able to resist.

Adorable little Lizzie, with her wild frizz of hair is energetic, thoughtful, knowledgeable, and a free spirit. With dashes of humor, Paige Keiser follows her through a day of creating the perfect dinner for Grandma. Dressed in her chef’s uniform, Lizzie splashes her dog with egg, sends him sneezing in a cloud of pepper, and turns him orange as she whacks away at the soft chunks of sweet potatoes. Images of Mom and Dad happily encouraging and supporting Lizzie in her cooking are heartwarming, and Grandma’s big hug is as sweet as it gets.

A charming and inspiring story, Little Chef is a fun read for culinary kids and any child experimenting with their talent and striving to do their best. The book would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public libraries and a great gift for grandmothers and grandkids to share.

Ages 2 – 6

Feiwel & Friends, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250091697

Discover more about Elisabeth Weinberg, executive chef and owner of Miss Elisabeth’s Catering in New York and a Food Network “Chopped” Champion, on her website.

Find out more about Matt Stine and his work as a music producer and composer for Broadway and Off-Broadway on his website.

To view a portfolio of artwork by Paige Keiser, visit her website.

Sweet Potato Awareness Month Activity

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We Love to Cook! Coloring Pages

 

Add your secret ingredient and get cooking on these printable coloring pages!

Baking with Grandma | Cooking with Dad

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You can find Little Chef at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 9 – It’s Family Meals Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday got its start in 2015 and was designed as a way to support families in enjoying more meals made with fresh ingredients together. Over the years National Family Meals Month™ has gained recognition and grown into a social movement that promotes family bonding and education. Studies show that children who eat meals as a family are happier, less likely to get into trouble, and do better in school. To learn more about the Family Meals Movement and how you can celebrate this month and all year around, visit the Family Meals Movement website.

The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup

Written by Hunter Liguore | Illustrated by Vikki Zhang

 

A little girl stands at the stove watching her Nanni stir a big metal pot. She asks her Nanni what’s in the pot and learns that there are seeds inside. How can that be? She wonders. They are the “‘seeds that grew up to vegetables,’” Nanni tells her and then reveals that “‘there are also gardeners in the pot.’” That seems impossible the girl thinks. How can that be? So her grandmother tells her about the gardeners that raised the vegetables, the soil and rain, and the sun, the moon, and the stars that are also in the pot.

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

The little girl is catching on. She sees them all too and can hear the buzz of the bees that “pollinate the flowers, that grow up to be vegetables, planted by the gardeners, with their gentle hands.” She stands on tiptoe to see what else is in the pot. It swirls with the farm workers who “make footprints in the rich soil, carrying boxes full of vegetables to the, delivery trucks, boats, and trains.”

You might think that’s all the pot can hold, but there’s more. There are the merchants who “work in teams to bring the baskets of farm vegetables to the market” and the onlookers, “‘curious to see what they bought.’” The little girl thinks that must be everything, but Nanni takes another look and discovers a bus inside the pot. “‘A BUS, Nan! How can there be a bus inside the pot?’”

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

This is the bus Nanni took to the market. And what’s more, the bus driver, all the passengers, and everything they passed in all the neighborhoods they drove through on their way to the market are inside the pot too. “‘Wow, Nan!’” the girl exclaims. Could there be anything else? Nanni thinks and then a beaming smile crosses her face. Her granddaughter catches her excitement and asks “‘What, Nanni? What else did you see inside the pot?’”

“‘Love,’” Nan answers. The love of all the grandmothers and mothers who passed the recipe down through the generations just so she could make the soup for her own granddaughter. The little girl wants to learn the recipe too. But Nan tells her she must be able to remember everything that goes into the pot. I do know, the girl assures her. “‘The whole world.’”

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

Little ones will listen wide-eyed to Hunter Liguore’s whimsical tale that gently educates while building page upon page to a tender climax with plenty of humor along the way. The sweet and playful relationship between the girl and her Nanni will charm children and the idea of how the world is connected will resonate with kids beyond the soup pot and inform their view of the world. Liguore’s dialogue-rich text that reflects the cadences of real conversations with kids makes the story a perfect read aloud.

Juxtaposing illustrations with a retro vibe next to lovely fanciful drawings, Vikki Zhang mirrors the intergenerational theme of the story while more than satisfying readers curiosity about all of the quirky ingredients in Nanni’s soup. Kids are first invited into Nanni’s kitchen, a wonder that combines both old world and modern touches. In three clever illustrations, Zhang imagines the gardeners and a café inhabiting stylized cooking pots, and other “ingredients,” such as farm workers, modes of transportation, and nearby neighborhoods are presented in intricately detailed fantastical watercolors that kids and adults will want to linger over. A final image of Nan and the little girl’s heritage told through photographs, fine china, and jewelry is a loving look at all of the Nan’s, mothers, and daughters who have left a lasting legacy in their recipe.

A beautiful and fun book for adults—and especially grandparents—to share with children, The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup would make a meaningful gift and a welcome addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Yeehoo Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1953458063

Discover more about Hunter Liguore and her books on her website. You can find a Teaching Guide and Lesson Plan Activity Kit for teachers, homeschoolers, or just to enjoy at home on Hunter’s site here.

To learn more about Vikki Zhang, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Family Meals Month Activity

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Souper Maze!

 

You can’t eat soup without a spoon! Can you help the spoon get through the maze to the bowl in this printable puzzle?

Souper Maze Puzzle  | Souper Maze Solution!

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You can find The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review