“Perfect Picture Book” Friday

Nara and the Island

Written and Illustrated by:  Dan Ungureanu

Published by:   Andersen Press, UK & USA  2016

Ages:    4 – 9 years

Theme: exploration, bravery, making new friends           

Opening Lines:   My home is so small, you can’t lose anything. At least, that’s what my dad says. But sometimes I felt like getting lost…

Synopsis:   from Amazon…    Nara lives with her father on a tiny island and dreams of visiting the island across the waves. So when she gets the opportunity to visit the mysterious island, an amazing adventure unfolds.

Why I like this:  The illustrations for one are beautiful in soft pencil colouring giving a whimsy feel of classics of old. The heads seem a little bigger with a cute pixey look. Romanian-British illustrator Ungureanu introduces Nara a redheaded girl who finds life a bit quiet on the island where she lives with her father.  The island is scarcely larger than the home they share, ‘so small, you can’t lose anything,’ her father says. Nara imagines traveling to a nearby island covered with dense foliage. Nara meets a boy who’s similar to her in some ways and her opposite in others, and he longs for the simplicity and quiet of her island. This would make a great mentor text due to the sparse text (one or two lines per page.)  A sweet simple story of wishing for what you don’t have and connecting while also seeing what you have through someone else’s eyes.

Resources:   his website….  http://www.danungureanu.com/about.html

This is a NZ activity to help children focus on what we have in common rather than focus on our differences.   (note: tamariki means children)…   https://sparklers.org.nz/activities/common-ground/

Posted in Literature | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

“Perfect Picture Book” Friday


Written and Illustrated by:  Galia Bernstein

Published by:   Abrams Books for Young Readers New York 2019

Ages:    4 – 9 years

Theme: exploration, family and individuality.

Opening Lines:   Leyla has a mother and a father… and nine aunts and twenty-three cousins.  That’s too many!

Synopsis:   from Amazon:-  Leyla is sick of her big, loud, overbearing family. They are always chatting, snuggling, and grooming each other (ew!), and—for Leyla—there’s no escape from their attention. So, she decides to run away until she can’t hear (or smell) her baboon troop anymore. In the middle of her desert habitat, she finds a lizard sunning himself. Unlike her family, the lizard loves to sit alone, be quiet, and do absolutely nothing at all. Leyla joins the lizard, and after soaking up some quiet time, she feels recharged and ready to return home to her large, ever-doting family. Now that she knows where she can always find a little peace, Leyla can embrace the chaos and the kisses with open arms.

Why I like this:   The beautiful digital and hand-textured art features comically fluctuating facial expressions amid loose lines and earth tones, just look at that pixie face! Text is sparse with some pages only a few words or a sentence. With rhythm and action this is a rollicking fun read.  Curled up toes and large expressive eyes show a lot of this story is told in the illustrations.  This is a lovely book showing young kids how to take stock and realize the value of family. 

Galia Bernstein born in Israel now lives in Brooklyn New York USA is both an artist and a writer.  


An interview with Galia Bernstein…    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZgU0UmGsqk

Another interview with Galia Bernstein…   https://celebratepicturebooks.com/interview-with-author-illustrator-galia-bernstein/

Check out Gaila’s website – her portfolio and blog…    https://www.dancingkangaroo.com/about

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like-minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon.

Posted in Literature | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

“Perfect Picture Book” Friday

TWO BEARS  – An Epic journey of Hope

Written by:  Patricia Hegarty

Illustrated by:  Rotem Teplow

Published by:   Caterpillar Books – Imprint of the Little Tiger Group, UK 2020

Ages:    3-6 years

Theme: Hope, journey,                                                    

Opening Lines:   This is the story of two bears, who lived many, many miles from each other in two very different worlds.

Synopsis:   from the back cover…    Discover what happens when two bears who are worlds apart embark on the journeys of a lifetime and find that sometimes differences are only skin-deep.

Why I like this:  This is beautifully illustrated in pastel hues giving the story a whimsical feel. Two very different bears are forced to travel looking for food due to environmental change. One from the north the other from the south trek through forest and snow until they come face to face.  At the back of the book are notes on Polar Bears and Grizzly Bears.  There are also some suggestions on what we can do to help save the bears and our environment. 

Patricia Hegarty began working in children’s publishing more years ago than she cares to remember and is now Editorial Director at Caterpillar Books. As an editor she has worked on titles ranging from atlases to animal pop-ups, craft kits to crazy mazes, and sticker books to secret diaries, and as an author has many of her own books sitting on shelves around the world.

Rotem Teplow lives with her husband and son in a small village by the Judean desert in Israel. She currently illustrates for newspapers and children books worldwide.


More of Patricia’s books…   https://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Hegarty/e/B00E6ZH8EG

How to stay safe from bears…   https://www.takethemoutside.com/bear-safety-and-kids/

10 Simple ways children can save the earth…  https://thriveglobal.com/stories/10-simple-ways-kids-can-help-the-earth/

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like-minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon

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“Perfect Picture Book” Friday


Written and Illustrated by:  Andrew Joyner

Published by:   Schwartz Wade Books, New York  6th October 2020

Ages:    4 – 8 years

Theme:   Empowerment, Community, Hope           

Opening Lines:   Wake up.  Dress up. Drink up. Eat up. Meet up.

Synopsis:   from Amazon –  From a #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator, and the creator of The Pink Hat, comes a timely picture book about a young girl’s mission to inspire others to help the planet!

Celebrate young climate change activists in this charming story about an empowered girl who shows up, listens up, and ultimately, speaks up to inspire her community to take action against climate change. After attending a climate march, a young activist is motivated to make an effort and do her part to help the planet… by organizing volunteers to work to make green changes in their community, from cleaning a lake, to planting trees, to making composting bins, to hosting a clothing swap and more! Here is an uplifting picture book that is an important reminder that no change is too small–and no person is too young–to make a difference.

Why I like this:  Wow! This is great on so many levels.  Firstly it’s inspired by the Climate Change Revolution. A huge message is given in no more than fifty words. A young girl is motivated to make a difference and inspires others to make a better world for tomorrow.

With simple text and lively illustrations in soft pencil with very little colour, Andrew Joyner has given young children a timely story about activism, community, and hope. As a writer I think this book should be on the shelf of every person who is either thinking of writing children’s picture books or who does.  It gives new meaning to – letting the illustrations do the talking.  

Andrew is an Australian illustrator and author and lives in a small country town in the south of Australia.  It was while he was working on an Australian Children’s magazine in 2007 that an author saw his illustrations and recommended him to her editor for her new picture book. Jane Goodwin publisher of Penguin took a chance and asked if he would like to have a go at illustrating the book and he has been illustrating and writing children’s books ever since.  What luck!

Resources:    Andrew’s  website:  https://www.andrewjoyner.com.au/about-andrew

Environmental Education for at Home, In Schools and the Community – https://www.earthday.org/education-resource-library/?gclid=CjwKCAiA9vOABhBfEiwATCi7GPtgtVgYwsFSAcBOz5aAaM-IC7j8vAME–bg6F1EoGsppEqXw5fZ3hoCY14QAvD_BwE

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like-minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon

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“Perfect Picture Book” Friday

The Little Piece of Red Wool

Written by:  Anne-Gaelle Balpe

Illustrated by:   Eve Tharlet

Published by:    Minedition 2014  Michael Neugebauer Publishing Ltd

Ages:    3 – 6 years

Theme:   sharing, helping others, flow-on

Opening Lines:   Oli had decided to go for a walk even though the wind was blowing strongly. He was holding a bit of wool.  It was a small piece of red wool, probably a stray bit of doll’s hair.  

Synopsis:   from back of the book…  It was only a small piece of red wool.  But thanks to Oli, a bird could finish making its nest, an ant managed to get home and three little hedgehog children did not go hungry. 

Why I like this:   This is a very cute book.  The simple message of sharing what he has to help others gives the story heart and is also reflected in cute expressions in the pixie-like illustrations.  It seems he came by the red wool by accident and when he saw how it could help someone else he was happy to part with it, so too with the feathers and seeds, and then only to finally end up with the piece of red wool again.  I love the twist at the end when he lets the piece of red wool fly out of his hand.  You’ll have to read it to find out where it went.  This is illustrated in clean tones of creams and greens and woody colours that lend a delicate feel to the story. A beautiful story about how one small thing you do to help one person can have flow on effect that may help many more people.


A bit about the author:  https://wilkinsfarago.com.au/authors-illustrators/anne-gaelle-balpe/

Available here…   https://www.target.com/p/the-little-red-thread-by-anne-ga-lle-balpe-hardcover/-/A-78621502

10 Ways kids can help others:…  https://www.pinterest.nz/pin/191614159128821208/

Random acts of Kindness…   https://www.verywellfamily.com/random-acts-of-kindness-for-kids-4136440

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like-minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon

Posted in Literature | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

For Writers, Time IS on Your Side

I love introducing books especially those of writing friends and critique buddies like Carrie Finison’s “Don’t Hug Doug.” Introducing her book, Carrie touches on that very important element in our writing journey that we as writers need to be aware of – time!

Take it away Carrie –

I put the word “new” in quotes because in lots of ways DON’T HUG DOUG doesn’t feel very new to me at all. The story began life with a first draft in September 2015, and the idea is even older than that. Surprisingly, given how short they are, picture books can take a long time — perhaps not a long time to write, but a long time to perfect.

We’ve seen some recent stories that seem to be on a lightening path to publication. The story of the little owl stuck in the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, an event that just happened this past November, is slated for publication next fall. Similarly, the story of Joe Biden’s dogs – Champ and Major – heading to the White House is coming out in record time.

But these are the exceptions. Most picture books take a minimum of two years in production (especially if the author and illustrator are separate people) — and that’s after an often years-long writing, revising, and submitting process.

But I’ve come to regard that time as a good thing. It allows me to set aside a piece of writing, sometimes for many months, and come back to it with fresh eyes – something I find virtually impossible to do in the short term. Having that fresh outlook allows me to revise a story deeply, rather than just changing a few words around here and there.

For example, with DON’T HUG DOUG, compare the opening lines of the first draft, to the opening lines that are in the published book.

First draft:

Doug was huggable. All his relatives said so.

“Feel this soft, curly hair!” cried Aunt Prudence.

“And look at those big, brown, puppy dog eyes!” said Aunt Muriel.

“Da-ga-ha-ga,” babbled his cousin Maggie.

And they hugged him and squeezed him and squashed him and squished him.

Doug hated hugs, and he hated it when Aunt Prudence, Aunt Muriel, and cousin Maggie came to town. So the next time they did he grabbed a pile of his favorite Captain Haywire comic books…and hid. 

Published book:

The basic concept is the same – a boy named Doug who doesn’t like hugs. But the story changed drastically. The point of view, tense, voice, and tone are all radically different. Looking back through my files, between December of 2015 and April of 2017, I didn’t work on the story at all. I was busy writing and submitting other things. I also put it away for a long time between May and October of 2017 – and it was that draft in October 2017 where the major change took place. The story sold a few short months after that revision.

If you’re going in circles on a story and not getting anywhere, it may benefit from a resting period. When you can come back to your story with fresh eyes, you may be open to seeing it in a whole new way.

Join me for the next stop on the DON’T HUG DOUG virtual tour, at Pragmatic Mom on 2/1. See you there!

Carrie Finison began her literary career at the age of seven with an idea, a box of markers, and her father’s typewriter. She has been writing off and on ever since, though she has (somewhat regretfully) traded in the typewriter for a laptop. Her first picture book, DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS, was published in July, 2020. Her second book, DON’T HUG DOUG, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman, hits the shelves this month, on January 26, and has earned a starred review from Kirkus. She lives outside Boston with her husband, son, daughter, and two cats who permit her to write in their cozy attic office. For updates, subscribe to her newsletter, check out her website, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Thank you so much Carrie for sharing your thoughts and process. I know I speak for many in wishing you all the best and many many “new” books.

Posted in Literature | 5 Comments


Written by; Tina Cho

Illustrated by; Guy Wolek

Published by; Harvest House (2020)

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Diversity, Faith, Compassion

Synopsis: From Amazon: For more than 2,000 years, people have started their day with a delicious meal in their bellies and the love of Jesus in their hearts. From bacon and eggs in the heart of North America to fresh baked bread in Antarctica, believers from each continent gather in the morning to share good food and conversation, giving thanks to God for all the wonderful things He’s done.

Inspired by the events found in John 21 where Jesus feeds his disciples, MyBreakfast with Jesus celebrates breakfast traditions from around the world. Your child will see people from all ethnicities following Jesus’s model of service: loving others by meeting their physical and spiritual needs.

This lovingly written and beautifully illustrated book will help your child make the connection between faith, food, and fellowship.

Why I like it:  This beautiful book shows families enjoying breakfast in different parts of the world. The vibrant bold illustrations show diversity, inclusiveness, food preparations and the varied foods eaten around the world.  An educational book for children to learn about different cultures and foods they eat.

Tina is a dear critique buddy and friend whom I met up with a couple of years ago in Sth Korea on my way to Europe.  I asked Tina how she came up with the idea for this story?

Tina;  My agent Adria suggested I write a story about food and different cultures based on John 21, where Jesus cooks breakfast for his disciples.

I asked Tina if it was easy or difficult to come up with the refrain?

Tina;  It wasn’t until draft 8 that I came up with my refrain.  Previously, I tried to write the story showing what a child was eating every hour around the globe, it was too difficult  After a critique partner suggested to concentrate just on breakfast, did it all come together.  So stories evolve and morph into something wonderful, but it takes time.

In the drafts Tina had facts already listed in side bars through-out the text I asked if she had anything specific that she wanted the illustrator to know or did she leave it all up to the illustrator.  Tina said she had no contact with the illustrator until he was done and then they asked for her opinions.  Only the Korean spread needed redoing again.

This is a very beautiful and timely book reminding us that we are all one.  This book is available  here….    https://www.booktopia.com.au/my-breakfast-with-jesus-tina-cho/book/9780736977128.html

And here… https://www.amazon.com/My-Breakfast-Jesus-Worshipping-Around/dp/0736977120

And here… https://www.christianbook.com/breakfast-with-jesus-worshipping-around-world/tina-cho/9780736977128/pd/977121

Posted in Children's literature, Folklore / multicultural, Picture Book Review | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

“Perfect Picture Book” Friday

Thunder Horse

Written by:  Eve Bunting

Illustrated by:   Dennis Nolan

Published by:    Roaring Brook Press (November 14, 2017)

Ages:    3 – 6 years

Theme:   love, letting go, magic

Opening Lines:   My Aunt Aldora gave me a tiny horse, no bigger than a puppy. He was pure white and perfect in every way.

Synopsis:   from amazon… When a girl receives a small horse from her aunt, she doesn’t quite know what to do with it. It turns out that this horse is a very special horse: it has wings.

As the horse grows and grows, so does the girl’s love for it, but as everyone knows, sometimes you have to let go of those you love so they can grow in their own way. But you can always hope they come back to you someday.

 Why I like this:  Growing up I was a huge horse fan. Anything from ornaments to books on horses was always found on my dresser. I would have loved to own a horse and even more I would have loved to have come across this book.  From the gorgeous cover and the amazing realistic illustrations inside you knew this was a magical story. I think it is every girls wish to own a beautiful horse, but one that grew wings and carries you on his back in the dead of night is something only dreams are made of. Because of the whimsical text and detailed full page illustrations one can overlook its’ slightly longer wording. This is a story many will want to keep.

Eve is an award winning author of over 200 books with such awards as the Golden Kite, the Pen and the Edgar Awards. Her book Fly Away Home received the “Heal the World Award.”


Youtube reading…   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0D8p67rNObE

Author Bio..   http://evebuntingstudy.weebly.com/eb-bio.html

Listen to the author talking about her life and books…   https://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/bunting

Info on the illustrator..  https://www.rmichelson.com/illustration/dennis-nolan/

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like-minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon

Posted in Children's literature, Perfect Picture Book Review, Susanna's PPB Fridays | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

“Perfect Picture Book” Friday

Once, I was Loved

Written and Illustrated by:  Belinda Landsberry

Illustrated by:

Published by:    EK Books (October 15, 2019)

Ages:    4 -11 years

Theme:   friendship, humanity, love.

Opening Lines:   Hey, it’s me! Tock! Down here in the Charity Box.  I’m headed for the Donations Bin tomorrow.  I guess I’m not wanted anymore.  But it wasn’t always this way. Once, I was loved…

Synopsis:   from amazon… Tock the toy rabbit finds himself in a box of toys being donated to charity. ‘But it wasn’t always this way,’ he sadly reflects, ‘Once, I was loved.’ Tock has seen decades of love and adventure, and as he sits in his box he looks back on all the lives he has touched.

We rewind the clock to 1939 when a girl named Sam receives a toy rabbit for her 5th birthday. Tock sees the outbreak of the second World War from Sam’s arms, and comforts her as she misses her dad. They are inseparable until Sam meets a boy who needs Tock more than she does, and so she lets him go. What follows is an incredible adventure through history and lives.

Join Tock as he celebrates V-Day, boogies in the age of Rock ‘n’ Roll, watches the moon landing while pretending to be an astronaut, finds butterflies with a flower child, sails the Seven Seas in a paddling pool, and rescues a prince trapped in a tower. Children will love seeing how other children played throughout history, and meeting all the people who loved Tock. But how will his story end?

A celebration of the timeless nature of love, set against the backdrop of iconic moments in 20th-century history. Tock’s beautifully told and illustrated life is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever cherished a childhood toy.

 Why I like this:   I love the way how we travel through time in this gorgeous book told in back story (although it didn’t feel like it), this was cleverly told from the unique point of view of the soft toy.  With lyrical flow we are whizzed through icon moments of time dotted with refrain of “once I was loved.” Heartfelt and tugging moments such as the look on Tock’s face when he is left on the launch pad by Toby, brings tears to my eyes.  It is times like these when I am often jealous of the natural vision an author/illustrator has with their story. So perfectly matched! Bringing us back full circle this simply told story will win your heart with resonance and LOVE!   Make sure you have a box of tissues nearby.

A classic, which will evoke discussions on important events in history and teach that it’s not only important to love, but also to let go.

Resources:   author’s website…   http://belindalandsberry.com/once-i-was-loved/

Trailer…    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ul9agVfa91k

Making a craft bunny…    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zL_EQkqrmg

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like-minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon

Posted in Children's literature, Perfect Picture Book Review, Picture book, Susanna's PPB Fridays | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Perfect Picture Book” Friday

Wake Up, Island

Written by:  Mary Casanova

Illustrated by:  Woodcuts by Nick Wroblewski

Published by:    Univ Of Minnesota Press; 1 edition (February 24, 2016

Ages:    4 -7 years

Theme:   nature, animals, woodlands

Opening Lines:   While you sleep, the day is dawning. Sunlit fingers touch the shores. Water tickles island’s edges.

Synopsis:   on amazon:  Wake up, little one, a soft voice beckons, the world around you is already stirring. As Wake Up, Island gently rouses the sleepy child; it summons a world of nature coming to life on a summer island in the magical North Woods. Sunlit fingers touch the shores, pine trees stretch their limbs, and lichen warms on ancient rock. Doe and fawn rise from their grass bed and pearls of dew bead a spider’s finely woven web. Mallards skim the water’s surface. Ravens perch and gargle greetings, chickadees call dee, dee, dee, and a heron swoops—minnows flee! The moose and her calf wade, munching on plants. The red squirrel chatters. The black bear lazily scratches her back against a tree.

Conjuring the morning life around a cabin fragrant with berry pancakes, this timeless book wakens the child in every reader to the wonders of nature that greet every new day in the charmed world of a northern woodland island.

Why I like this:   With its beautiful soothing words the lyrical text feels like it is stretching and yawning with the reader. Noticing the wonder of nature, stirring, and shimmering awake the well-chosen word of sparse text leaves much to the illustration.  This book makes for a great mentor text for writers of children’s picture books.  “Sunshine pokes inside your window…”  isn’t that interesting word choice?  Apparently Mary was inspired by an early morning canoe ride around an island in her pajamas when she then wrote this. The full page wood carved illustrations give it that lovely woody look and feel.  This is an interesting book reflecting the author’s surroundings, for both small children and adults alike. What better way to interest the little ones than discovering the surrounds and what little animals live in their own back yard or local park or on a walk. You’ll be surprised at what you find!

Mary Casanova has written more than thirty books from picture books to novels, and her books have received many awards. She lives in Minnesota near the Canadian Border.

Nick Wroblewski specializes in handmade woodcut blockprints and printsfrom his home in Wisconsin.    Check out Mary’s blog with links to Nicks website  below.


Mary’s Website…    https://www.marycasanova.com/pages/books/bk_wake-up-island.html

Nick’s website.  Watch him prepare and woodcut one of the pages for Wake Up, Island…     http://nickwroblewski.com/

This is a great book to use in the classroom with discussions on the words used and the language.

Also ask the students to write down all the animals in the book and what they know about them.

Also list down the activities they would do if they were stranded on an island.

Also list items they would take if they were to spend a night on an island.

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like-minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon.


Posted in Children's literature, Perfect Picture Book Review, Susanna's PPB Fridays | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments