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PITTMAN PICKS

What a Cold Needs

 

Author: Barbara Bottner

Illustrator: Chris Sheban

Genre: Picture Book

Target Ages: 4-8

Publisher: Neal Porter Books

Publication Year: 2019

 

It's the season of sniffles, the beginning of that time of year when many children battle colds, including the protagonist of What a Cold Needs.  As the story opens, she's obviously miserable, but by the end of the book, as she gets all the helpful things that a cold needs, that red nose is gone, and she's back to her usual, fun self and even ready to help a family member get what he needs when the sniffles stifle him.

 

What a Cold Needs is like "Grandma's famous chicken soup"— warm and delightful, full of what will make you feel better.  Barbara Bottner and Chris Sheban's cheery book would make a nice addition to any bookshelf and medicine cabinet alike!

 

 

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Hello Lighthouse

 

Author & Illustrator: Sophie Blackall

Genre: Picture Book

Target Ages: 5-8

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Year: 2018

 

Sometimes you see a book and put it on your list, and it takes you a while to finally buy it or check it out.  Then it sits on your stack until you finally get around to reading it.  This was the case for Hello Lighthouse for me, and I'm glad I finally read it— it's a great book!

 

Sophie Blackall's 2018 Caldecott-winning Hello Lighthouse is a treat for readers, a quiet narrative that details the duties of lighthouse keepers, those men and women of past eras who tended to lighthouses.  Her illustrations are colorful and elegant, and every part of the book adds to its charm, including the endpapers and a surprise gatefold page.  And Blackall's lengthy "About Lighthouses" author's note is a bonus.  For those with an affinity for the sea, this book will become a quick and lasting favorite!

 

 

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Good Morning, Snowplow!

 

Author: Deborah Bruss

Illustrator: Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson

Genre: Picture Book 

Target Ages: Preschool and Older

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

Publication Year: 2018

 

At the end of the day, after the sun goes down and the stars begin to shine, it's time for the town to rest— and it's time for the snow plow driver (and his sidekick canine in the passenger seat) to go to work as snow falls and covers the community in a blanket of white.  After prepping the snowplow, he begins his long route, clearing a path for the citizens who will use the roads when the new day begins.

 

Being a native Texan, I'm sure the idea of a thick snow is much greater than its reality, and Good Morning, Snowplow! takes its readers on a ride that shows the duty of the snowplow when the snow covers everything around.  The town, fictitious and unnamed, clearly represents a community in one of the northern U.S. states, and its hero, the snowplow, shares the spotlight with its dutiful driver (and his dog).  Fancher and Johnson's artwork pair well with Bruss's rhymes, and older readers will enjoy the author's nod to Robert Frost.  And as the years go by, when the first flakes of autumn and winter fall each year, the cover of Good Morning, Snowplow! will be opened again!

 

 

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Jabari Jumps

 

Author & Illustrator: Gaia Cornwall

Genre: Picture Book

Target Ages: 4-8

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Year: 2017

 

After he finishes his swimming lessons and swim test, Jabari announces he's going to jump off the diving board and that he "isn't scared at all."  But even though it "looks easy," Jabari doesn't quite make his way up the ladder to the diving board.  Fortunately, Dad is there to encourage Jabari, letting him know that it's okay to "feel a little scared."

 

Jabari Jumps isn't a long story, chronologically, but within it, readers get to take a big jump with Jabari, tagging along with him on his journey of courage to face a fear, leaping with him out of his comfort zone and into the thrill of doing something new and fun.    

 

 

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Where Are You From?

 

Author: Yamile Saied Méndez

Illustrator: Jaime Kim

Genre: Picture Book

Target Ages: 4 to 8

Publisher: Harper

Publication Year: 2019

 

When a young girl is asked by her peers and teachers "where are you really from?" she goes to Abuelo for answers.  Abuelo tells her she's from many places and peoples, poetically recalling and recounting the story of their people's journeys.  And when his granddaughter still asks "where am I really from?" Abuelo points to his heart and answers for himself and for those family members who came before him.

 

Where Are You From? is a love poem to ancestry, and readers will reflect upon and appreciate their own heritages, no matter where they are from.

 

 

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School People

Author: Various; Poems Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Illustrator: Ellen Shi

Genre: Picture Book Poetry Collection

Target Ages: Early Elementary School

Publisher: Wordsong

Publication Year: 2018

 

It's that time of year again: outfits and uniforms are laid out, backpacks are filled with the necessary supplies, lunchboxes and bags are filled with snacks, and hearts and minds wonder what the new school year will bring!  And for those children experiencing the classroom for the first time, school can be a placed filled with mystery— Who will teach them and what will they be like?  What's in all of those rooms, and what will they be learning in them?  Where is the cafeteria, the playground, the gym?  Will I like school?

 

School People is a wonderful collection of poetry selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins that introduces kids to the different people they will meet on the school staff, everyone from the bus driver to the principal to the custodian.  And like the variety of the faculty, the poems come in a variety too, featuring both formal and free verse poetry.  Ellen Shi's colorful illustrations compliment the poems well, making the school staff and their work in their spaces welcoming to both the students on the pages and the students who are reading about them.  Children and parents and guardians will enjoy School People, and so will the teachers, administrators, and school staff the collection poetically celebrates!

 

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Ghost

 

Author: Jason Reynolds

Genre: Middle Grade Novel

Target Audience: Middle School and Older

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Publication Year: 2016

 

Ghost: that's the nickname of Castle Cranshaw, the fleet-footed central character of Ghost, the first in Jason Reynold's Track series.  Ghost is a character whose past pains and current predicaments have made life flat-out tough but whose future may be beaming with potential if he can stay on the right track (pun-intended).  And with the help of Coach Brody, Ghost and the other athletes might see that competing in those striped lanes may be the key to overcoming the hurdles in their lives (no pun intended).

 

As a fan of track and field, it's good to see the sport get its due in literature, and young people involved in track and field will gravitate toward Ghost.  And so will young people who are trying to navigate past hurts while trying to nurture their natural gifts. 

 

 

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Pennies in a Jar

 

Author: Dori Chaconas

Illustrator: Ted Lewin

Genre: Picture Book

Publisher: Peachtree Publishers

Publication Year: 2007

 

When a boy's father goes off to fight in World War II, he's confronted with many fears.  But with his father's birthday coming soon, the boy saves money to buy him a gift that his mother will send oversees— a picture of himself overcoming one of his greatest fears: being around horses. 

 

Readers will enjoy the honesty of the central character (whose name we're never given) of Dori Chaconas and Ted Lewin's Pennies in a Jar.  The key statement of the story, If something is important enough, you just have to do it, will encourage children who struggle with fear, and all readers will enjoy how the boy identifies with his father through an act of courage.  Lewin's marvelous illustrations are reminiscent of Norman Rockwell's work, and Chaconas provides an excellent author's note about life for American families from 1939 to 1945. 

 

This is a humble, winsome book that will stick with readers for both its story and its artwork, and for history buffs and those fond of horses, I'm sure it will become an instant favorite!

 

 

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Game Changers

 

Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome

Illustrator: James E. Ransome

Genre: Nonfiction Picture Book

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication Year: 2018

 

Many picture books in my collection are nonfiction books, and I've learned that such books are a great source of information for readers of all ages.  Husband-and-wife team of James E. Ransome and Lesa Cline-Ransome's Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams is no exception, providing a biography of the tennis stars that highlights their milestones on the court and their impact off the court.  An informative afterword accompanies the illustrated narrative, and readers and tennis fans young and older will be inspired by the Williams sisters' journey to tennis stardom and the special relationship that they share.  After your child puts down the book, they may next pick up a tennis racket!

 

 

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Thank You, Omu!

 

Author/Illustrator: Oge Mora

Genre: Picture Book

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Publication Year: 2018

 

When Omu makes a pot of red stew for her dinner, the delicious smell reaches other people in her neighborhood who come by to get some for themselves!  But when Omu is finally ready to eat, there's no more stew!  Omu is sad, of course, but that's until she hears some knocking at her door…

 

Thank You, Omu! is a story about sharing, and Omu's generosity towards her neighbors is more than rewarded by the end of the book.  Oge Mora's cut-paper artwork adds flavor to the book (pun-intended!), and once you've finished reading, you might be finding recipes and making your own stew to savor with family and friends! 

 

 

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