Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Life Changes in the Book – Pecan Pie Baby.

As writers, we change the first sentence of every story we write again and again. We ask ourselves questions like: Is it the best path into our story? Does it start in the action? Is this information needed to understand the story? Could I start later in the action? Am I using the strongest words? Should I add an interior line rhyme? Maybe I need to sprinkle in a fresh description? Does this sentence lead in with the right mood? We stress like nuts over this single string of words. Why?

Because this one sentence has a big job. It must let an agent or reader know they are in the hands of an experienced writer, hold them, and keep them turning pages.

My library decorates the tops of their shelves with recommended books or seasonal favorites in the children’s section. I often peek inside the covers and read first lines as I walk down the rows. Yesterday, one of those top-shelf books caught my attention. I didn’t open it because the title intrigued me–although the title begged the question, “What exactly is a Pecan Pie Baby?” And the illustration on the cover isn’t what caused me to pick up the book–although the adoring look between mother and daughter instantly won my heart. What caught my attention was the author’s name. I have read other books by this author and, admittingly, fell in love with her writing style many stories ago. Jacqueline Woodson is one of those brilliant writers who lets you settle in, knowing you’re in the hands of an experienced writer. And her opening sentence, which you’ll find below, is exactly the kind of opening sentence I talked about above.

 

Title – Pecan Pie Baby

Written by – Jacqueline Woodson

Illustrated by – Sophie Blackall

Published by – G.P. Putnam’s Sons – 2010

Topics – New baby, jealousy, sharing, and love.

Opening – Just as summer started leaving us and the leaving brought all those colors to the trees, Mama pulled out my winter clothes.

 

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE. All anyone wants to talk about with Mama is the new “ding-dang baby” that’s on the way, and Gia is getting sick of it! If her new sibling is already such a big deal, what’s going to happen to Gia’s nice, cozy life with Mama once the baby is born?

Why do I like this book? Change is never easy, and everyone faces changes in their life. Some changes are welcome, while others we resist. Jacqueline Woodson takes the reader through the emotional journey faced by Gia, a little girl, who holds tight to all of her precious mother-daughter memories and moments. But since her mother became pregnant, family and friends only want to talk about the baby, the baby, the “ding-dang” baby! To make matters worse, Gia’s uncles are building a crib for the baby which they are placing in Gia’s room!  Gia’s mother knows how to soothe away each concern and assures Gia that life with the new baby will be sweet as pecan pie.

If you have a child or know a child who is struggling with the changes life brings, this book might be the right choice to share.

 

 

PPBF Looks at Each Kindness + 20 Acts of Kindness for Children.

When I read this picture book, Each Kindness, I was reminded of what my daughter endured when we switched her from Montessori to public school in third grade.

Having the course materials taught in a new way barely slowed her down. Having a locker instead of a hook seemed to please her. Having an assigned desk to sit at instead of a random place on the carpet cheered her. And even the incredible number of weekly tests didn’t bother her.

Still, with all of these good changes, our daughter went from happy to sad. She rarely smiled and barely talked about school. Each time I asked how school was, she said it was fine.

Months without change slid by. She started getting stomach aches before school. Nothing I said or tried made a difference. She insisted school was fine. The stomach aches persisted as did the doctor visits and one visit to the hospital. I begged my daughter to tell me what was bothering her. This time, she started crying and the truth tumbled out.

Her classmates didn’t like having a new kid in their class and were punishing her with silence. No one wanted to sit with her in the cafeteria, so she ate her lunch alone, trying to look like she didn’t care. On the playground when no one would include her in their games, she sat beside the school and counted pebbles until the bell rang. I cried with her.

After long talks with her teachers, the principal, and the school counselor, life changed. The staff worked hard to match our daughter up for activities with other students they felt would be good friends for her. If she was alone in the cafeteria or on the playground, a supervisor made sure to help her join others and stayed long enough to help her break the ice. Now, two years later, my little girl loves school again.

Now, I’ll share with you today’s PPBF book, Each Kindness, in which the author takes the reader by the hand and helps them to understand the consequences to the new kid in the classroom when kindness is never offered or reciprocated.

Title – Each Kindness – view on Amazon HERE.

Written by – Jacqueline Woodson

Illustrated by – E.B. Lewis

Published by – Nancy Paulsen Books  –  2012

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme –  Kindness, understanding, and friendship.

Opening –

That winter, snow fell on everything, turning the world a brilliant white.

One morning, as we settled into our seats, the classroom door opened and the principal came in. she had a girl with her, and she said to us,

This is Maya.

Maya looked down at the floor. I think I heard her whisper

Hello.

We all stared at her. Her coat was open and the clothes beneath it looked old and ragged. Her shoes were spring shoes, not meant for the snow. A strap on one of them had broken.

Amazon Review – Chloe and her friends won’t play with the new girl, Maya. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her friends, they reject her. Eventually, Maya stops coming to school. When Chloe’s teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship and thinks about how much better it could have been if she’d shown a little kindness toward Maya.

Why do I like this book? The Amazon review is a bit of a spoiler, and I must admit, so is what I’m about to say…  When I finished reading the story, the ending hit me harder than I anticipated. When the new girl, Maya, moved away, all of Chloe’s chances left for apologizing or starting fresh. I kept hoping as that last page came closer and closer that maybe Maya would return to school, and every student would see her return as an opportunity to befriend her. But that didn’t happen. After letting the story simmer in my mind, I realized the ending is perfect, powerful, and completely memorable. This is one of those rare books that stays with the reader forever as a continual reminder to take every opportunity granted to offer kindness.

Learn about Jacqueline Woodson HERE.

Learn about E.B. Lewis HERE.

Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

20 Acts of Kindness for Children

Pick up something that someone dropped.          Hold open a door for the person behind you.          Leave a kind note in a library book.          Let someone go ahead of you in line. Complement a friend.          Donated clothes you’ve grown out of.          Do your chores without being reminded.          Set the table for dinner.          Call your grandparents and ask them to share their favorite childhood memories with you.          Talk to someone new at school.          Bring flowers to your teacher.          Clean up your toys without being asked.       Take the dog for a walk.          Offer to walk your neighbor’s dog.          Make a thank you note for someone special.          Help a younger sibling with their chores or homework.          Plant flowers.          Make hug coupons for family and friends.          Donate toys you no longer play with.         And the simplest kindness of all… a smile (this one goes miles).

If you have other ideas for simple acts of kindness, I hope you’ll share them in the comments.