I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott

I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scoot; illustrated by Sydney Smith. 2020. Watercolor, ink and gouache. Published by Neal Porter Books.

Brief summary: A young boy wakes up and notices all of the words around him as he gets ready to go to school where he does not have a good day. His father picks him up after school noticing that his son is having a bad speech day. He takes the boy to the river where they walk in silence along the bank. His father hugs him and says, “See how that water moves? That’s how you speak.”

The boy looks at the river and sees how the water in the river goes slowly, quickly, bubbling, and in many other ways. He realizes how the river can go smoothly at times and also choppy just like how he sometimes speaks. He is able to understand the stuttering simile and goes to school the next day sharing with the class about his favorite place in the world…the river.

Comments: Speech teachers! Here is a superb book for you to share with a student who stutters. Lovely simile that could help students understand how they speak as well as their classmates’.

Touching explanation in the back from the author sharing his stuttering speech as a child and how he wrote this book based on his own life.

Join author Jordan Scott and illustrator Sydney Smith as they discuss their new picture book, ‘I Talk Like a River”.

Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow; illustrated by Luisa Uribe. 2020. Published by The Innovation Press.

Brief summary: A girl has a bad first day because no one could say her name correctly. On the walk home from school, her mother explains to her daughter that names can be said like songs. She sings various names so her little girl hears them. The mother taps out the rhythm of a name as well as emphasizing where the accent goes by tapping it louder than the others. Soon, the girl becomes confident with her name and can’t wait to go back to school to share her song.

When it is time for Ms. Anderson to do the roll call, the teacher stalls trying to make sure she says the girl’s name correctly. The little girl takes the opportunity to teach her teacher and fellow classmates the song of each of their names before saying her own: Kora-Jalimuso. Soon each child sings her name back to her. “KO-rah DJAAAA-lee-MOOOO-so

Comments: This is the book I would have read to my students at the beginning of the school year when we were getting to know each other if I weren’t already retired. What a great opening to share each other’s names like Kora-Jalimuso did!

I always appreciated it when the ESL teacher gave each of us “special” teachers a list of new students including how their names were phonetically said. Many students had a hard time at first saying my name correctly until I made a poster with my name with the phonetics underneath and two red photos of Ferraris.

Author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow shares the pronunciations of the names featured in her story, Your Name is a Song.

I Promise by Lebron James

ipromiseI Promise by Lebron James; illustrated by Nina Mata. 2020. Adobe Photoshop. Published by Harper

Brief summary: Young readers will learn about promises they can make to be the best they can be. Success begins with them.

Comments: I like the philosophy of this book and the LeBron James Family Foundation’s I PROMISE School in Akron, Ohio where children make say a list of promises each morning. “Remember, Nothing is given; everything is earned.”

Bright illustrations. In rhyme.

The #striveforgreatness would be an excellent and simple program other schools could follow. There is a list of promises students could make and recite each day to be successful…always.

Almond by Allen Say

almondAlmond by Allen Say; illustrated by Allen Say. 2020. Illustrated with charcoal, pastel, and photographs. Published by Scholastic Press.

Brief summary: A New Girl arrives at school and shares her beautiful violin talents. Almond can imagine the flight of the bumblebee getting faster as her new classmate gets better practicing every day. Almond asks her mother what her talent could be since the only thing special about her was her long hair. Almond’s teacher announces that there will be a class play where Almond will play Rapunzel.

As Almond is pretending to be a princess in a tower, she can hear the New Girl below play her violin with a new song. Almond finally realizes what her talent is by the compliments she receives after the play. It was not her hair that was special, but her imagination to pretend to be different things.

Comments: I think this is a great book to share with young readers to help them examine and figure out what they are good at doing. Everyone has something that they can do well. 

A Whale of a Mistake by Ioana Hobai

A Whale of a MistakeA Whale of a Mistake by Ioana Hobai; illustrated by Ioana Hobai. 2020. Ink, watercolor, and acrylic. Published by Page Street Kids.

Brief summary: A young girl makes a whale of a mistake and is taken out to sea by it. She tries to get the whale to leave her alone, but the mistake takes her further out into the ocean until she finally accepts it. She notices how amazing the stars are out in the quiet ocean while continuing to ride on the back of the whale. Upon reflection, she begins to wonder if those stars are mistakes too. She begins to see how large the universe is and realizes she is not so big and can change her perspective. As she begins to feel that she can move on, the whale becomes smaller and takes her back to the shore where the young girl can stand on solid ground again.

Comments: Love how this book could be read to a child who has made a mistake, admits it, and is encouraged to move on instead of wallowing. Great metaphor. Wordplay. A superb addition to any guidance counselor’s or teacher’s collection to be used to help students recover from a mistake upon reflection.

I think this could be a school assembly read-aloud to discuss mistakes and how to move on after admitting to them.

Ready to Fly: How Sylvia Townsend Became the Bookmobile Ballerina by Lea Lyon and A. LaFaye

readytoflyReady to Fly: How Sylvia Townsend Became the Bookmobile Ballerina Lea Lyon and A. LaFaye; illustrated by Jessica Gibson(foreword by Sylvia Townsend). 2020. Digital illustrations using Photoshop CC and a Wacom Cintiq drawing tablet. Published by HarperCollins.

Brief summary: A young Sylvia, always full of music and dance, visits a bookmobile where the kind librarian helps Sylvia by supplying her with ballet instruction books whenever the young girl visits. Sylvia absorbs these and dances ballet steps wherever she goes. Her dance fever spreads to other girls in her neighborhood where she shares her new steps with them.

Years past of self-teaching. A  dance audition with Alexandra Sawicka lands the teenage dancer a scholarship to dance school. Sylvia Townsend later creates her own dance company.

Comments: I just love the fact that it was a librarian who also helped this little girl’s dream simply by finding her ballet books whenever she visited the bookmobile.

A delightful and inspirational story. Grit.

Poverty and segregation during  1950s America are lightly incorporated into the story.

“A Note from Lea Lyon” section in the back gives a brief bio background of the famous ballerina. “A Brief History of the Bookmobile” and “Bookmobiles Through the Decades” are in the back.

The Cold Little Voice by Alison Hughes

A Cold Little VoiceThe Cold Little Voice by Alison Hughes; illustrated by Jan Dolby. 2019. Published by Clockwise Press.

Brief summary: A child shares with the young reader about a voice that is constantly negative and defeating. The cold voice constantly lists everything wrong about the child and never any positive traits. Another voice speaks up from somewhere deep inside pointing out all of the wonderful things about the child.

Comments: I think this book could really help a child find that positive self-lifting voice by addressing and discussing what to do when the negative voice tries to dominate. I noticed how the cold little voice became larger on the page as the story progressed and toke over the whole page. Those pages are illustrated with darker colors.

When the positive voice surfaces, it is yellow and warm. The pages are brighter. The voice of doubt is controlled.

This book could be shared one-on-one with a child (or even during a school’s mental health assembly) who needs a little help with self-esteem, sadness, or depression.

A good conversation starter.


The Cool Bean by Jory John

The Cool BeanThe Cool Bean by Jory John; illustrated by Pete Oswald. 2019. Scanned watercolor textures and digital paint. Published by Harper Collins.

Brief summary: A bean admires his friends who are now cool beans. Everything they do is cool, and he wishes he was as cool. No matter how much he tries to match their coolness, he fails in comparison and begins to lose his self-esteem. One day, he drops his lunch in the cafeteria and was amazed that one of the cool beans helped him clean it up. He continues to have other mishaps and is helped by the cool beans. He regains his self-confidence and realizes that coolness isn’t about how one looks but about helping others.

Comments: The illustrations are hilarious. The story’s morale would appeal to young readers.  Several bean puns.

These are a few others by this author/illustrator duo with funny life lessons to share:

The Bad Seed                                     The Good Egg

Coming out in February 2020:

The Good Egg Presents The Great Eggscape


The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton

The King of KindergartenThe King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton. 2019. Hand drawn; colored using Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter. Published by Nancy Paulsen Books.

Brief summary: It is the first day of kindergarten for a young boy. He brushes his teeth, dresses himself, and eats breakfast with his family. He is ready to be the king of kindergarten as his carriage arrives to take him to the fortress. He meets his teacher and finds his own seat while getting to know new friends.  He learns and plays with imagination throughout the day and can’t wait to go back the next day.

Comments: Royalty jargon and analogies throughout the book. This is a positive story to build a child’s self-esteem a bit before going to the first day.

The illustration are with bright colors and with happy faces. There are many two-paged layouts.

It may be necessary to remind the young reader(s)  that there are other kings and queens attending kindergarten class that day too.

Robinson by Peter Sis


Robinson by Peter Sis; illustrated by Peter Sis. 2017. Pen, ink, and watercolor. Published by Scholastic Press.

Brief summary: As a boy, Peter Sis does not dress up like a pirate for the school costume party as all of his friends but instead, dresses up as  his favorite adventurer, Robinson Crusoe. Excited to show everyone his great costume, he is let down by his friends’ teasing. He goes home to bed where he dreams of himself as Robinson stranded on an island. He awakens to his friends visiting with apologies and wanting to know more about Crusoe.

Comments: Good metaphor of the boy dreaming of being on an island alone without his friends just like Robinson.  There is an author’s note in the back where Peter Sis shares his childhood story of him actually going to school dressed as Robinson Crusoe like the boy in his book.

The watercolors during his dream vibrantly  fill the pages with several two-paged spreads.

There is  a photo of Peter Sis dressed up as his favorite adventurer.

Buy here.