PPBF: Moon

Happy PPBF; today I'm excited because you get to meet Moon.

Title: Moon
Author and Illustrator: Alison Oliver
Publisher: Clarion Books
Birthday: April 17, 2018
Suitable for ages: 4-7
Themes: imagination, mindfulness, play
Brief synopsis: Dutiful, responsible young Moon, who always does it all, yearns to know what it's like to feel wild and free. Will her imaginative encounter with some wily wolves free her up a bit?
Opening page: 
Every day, Moon walked home from school and thought about the day.


Check out a Publishers Weekly review {here}.
Get a sneak peek from Design of The Picture Book {here}.
Purchase the book on Amazon {here}.
Visit my Mindfulness Pinterest collection {here}.

Why I like this book: 

1. The eye-catching illustrations are simply stunning.

2. The tale, although fictional, has a believable flavor.

3. The conflict resolves weaving in mindfulness.

I'm a big fan of practicing mindfulness.
Staying in the moment,
mindfully aware,
without judgment.

In other words, being where your feet are.

That's how author Julia Cook explained it in a recent interview.
And it stuck.
In Moon's dream-like outing with the wolves,
she learns how to pounce, how to play, how to howl.
In the moment. 
And then, and probably most importantly,
how to be still, how to listen and feel.
To unwrap the present.
Isn't that magical?
And that's just it.
Mindfulness can be magical.
But since it's a practice,
it takes practice.
I love that Moon comes back from her dreamy outdoor outing
ready to practice being her new-found carefree, playful self.

After a discussion about mindfulness, encourage your readers to create a bookmark explaining what mindfulness looks like to them.

Here's a design I'm working on to give to participants at
a Mindfulness Expo I'm keynoting next week.

Of course, you could always research wolves
or the moon. Or both.
Find out if wolves actually do howl at the moon.
And if so, why?

Check out this book;
it just might leave you howling for more.

Next, head over to Susanna Hill's blog to devour 
today's other KidLit authors' PPBF picks.

Enjoy the weekend.


Speak Your Kind

Today I'm excited because these little beauties
were half off at Starbucks, so I snagged two of them,
one for me and one for our one-of-a-kind Assistant Principal.

Not sure how I missed it, but evidently this clever design 
was a part of their holiday collection last Christmas.
I love it ... and it has me thinking ...
about what it means to speak your kind.

So today, in my attempt to speak my kind, 
I'm sharing our story from Easter Sunday.

I'd spent the weekend with Kaitlyn in Austin. After church that morning, we found a Starbucks, then needed to fill my van up with gas for my three-hour ride home. I really wanted to go to a cheaper gas station, but in the interest of time, we settled on the HEB gas pumps next to the coffee shop. That's where we saw this.

This has happened to me before, 
losing my wallet, 
and it's not a good feeling. 
In fact, it's horrible.
So empathy and compassion kicked in.

We immediately tried to turn it in to the guy in the payment booth, but the booth was empty, probably because it was a holiday. Kaitlyn thought we might just leave it there, but I worried that someone else might come get it, so we looked at his license to get an address. Our GPS told us we could be to his house within ten minutes from where we were, so we drove it to his empty home. Guessing they were at an Easter service, too. 

Kaitlyn suggested we find him on Facebook, to private message him and let him know that his wallet would be waiting for him at home. So we left it underneath the front Wipe Your Paws doormat with a note scribbled on our coffee cup coozie that simply read: Happy Easter. Kaitlyn and Barbara. We drove away praying that he'd see the Facebook message and/or find his wallet before thinking it was stolen or lost forever and cancelling any of his cards.

Three days later, Kaitlyn got this response:

So happy that he found his wallet and kind of eager 
to hear his story, I looked Scott up on Facebook.

The parallels to the Easter story were not lost on me:
three ideas about what to do with the wallet,
three thank-yous in Scott's message to Kaitlyn,
three times we find the word empty,
three days later we learn the rest of the story.

How many times does a kindness come along just at the right time,
when, like Scott, we're feeling 
and ashamed 
when we're starting to feel a little empty even?

And then, more than a coincidence, a miracle God wink.
Putting people in the right place at the right time.
Using them Allowing them to be His hands and feet.
Encouraging them to speak His kind.

Scott has promised to pay it forward and we can't wait to hear how.

Speaking of speaking your kind mind, my post with tips 
for tackling those tough conversations with students is now live.

Click this image to read the post.
I love this info-graphic that they made with my suggestions. 

Today's guest post is bittersweet because, after three years of writing for Free Spirit, I've decided to pass the baton to another counselor so that their readers can 
hear another voice,
share another heartbeat, 
reflect on another journey 
gain insight from another perspective
grab new ideas from another caring climate
and grow alongside another practitioner in the field.

I say farewell to Free Spirit with gratitude for the opportunity
and with the invitation to stop by any time as their guest author.

And are you ready for the big news of the day? Amanda Symmes, school adjustment counselor and a new cyberspace collaborator and friend of mine, is going to be taking my place. You might remember Amanda from her poignant piece about Holding Backpacks, shared at the Corner earlier this semester. 

Congrats, Amanda; I'm so proud of you and 
really eager to read your reflections.

Speak your kind; you've got this!    


PPBF: Snail Mail

Title: Snail Mail
Author: Samantha Berger
Illustrator: Julia Patton
Publisher: Running Press Books
Birthday: May 1, 2018
Suitable for: grades K - 3rd
Themes: letter writing, mindfulness, perseverance 
Brief synopsis: When Girl writes a note to Boy who lives across the country, four faithful snails offer to deliver it for her.
Opening page: A long, long time ago, but really not THAT long, before e-mail and texting, clicking and sending, mail was delivered in a much different way. A much slowwwwwwwwwer way. It was called Snail Mail.

Resources: Visit the author's page {here}.
Check out a Kirkus review {here}.

Why I like this book: From the author of Martha Doesn't Share and many other strong titles, Snail Mail seems on the surface to just be a silly snail tale. But take a deeper look as you journey with the snails on their priority-mail delivery expedition and you'll find lots of discussion points to ponder:
some poetry,
{Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor hail
could stop those snails from bringing the mail.
crazy weather patterns,
{Sometimes it poured. Sometimes it blizzarded.
Sometimes it got blazing hot. Sometimes it pelted ice.
geographical landmarks,
{Vegas, Jackson Hole, Yellowstone
and mindfulness suggestions
{... there was something special about slowing down ...
all embedded into this creative newcomer. 
I especially like the idea of slowwwwwwwing down, 
of looking around and noticing.

When we first got this van from New York five years ago, 

I was pretty sure I'd never seen a Honda van in that color.
Pretty sure we didn't have them here in TX.
I was excited to have a one-of-a-kind.
Until the drive home.
That afternoon I saw at least five other vans
that very same color,
simply because I was noticing.

Use this story to encourage your learners to
slow down long enough to notice stuff.
Take them outside and play I Spy looking for certain colors.
How many blue things can they spot?
Then how many red?
How many green?
Noticing things will awaken their senses,
a nice segue into what they're smelling.
Consider the reference in the book to a letter
smelling like the person who sent it.
What do they notice that smells like someone?
Or something?
A memory maybe?
There's a certain smell that always takes me back
to northern Wisconsin
and makes me think of camping.
I love it when that scent wafts in the air.
I think it's some sort of a pine tree.
Let this treasure open up a rich discussion
on mindfulness.
Finally, use this mentor text as a springboard for,
you guessed it,
a letter-writing unit.
Find out first if they even know how much
postage for a first-class letter costs.
Teach them how to address an envelope.
Encourage them to write a note to a far-away friend
or a relative they've not heard from in awhile.
Or have them write to their parents or grandparents
who live close by, just for fun.
You could even find a class of kids in the same grade
and ask them to be Pen Pals
like we're planning to do with a group of
fifth-grade girls up in MA.
So many enrichment possibilities.

Check out this special delivery;
it's a whimsical parody that you won't want to miss.

Then visit Susanna Hill's blog for today's other PPBF picks


Autism Uncensored

Today I'm excited because our incredible Art teacher is almost done with this, the entrance to our Book Barn. Her talent begs the question: Could we just hire her to welcome-ize all of the doorways in our school? 

Just look at the detail in this adorable dragonfly she just added.

I'm so thankful for her time and talent!

I'm also delighted to share some resources to help us celebrate April as National Autism Awareness MonthFirst, this book making its debut next week that I just could not put down. Click the image for more information. 

This riveting story, penned by the mother of a child with Autism, poignantly chronicles one family's tumultuous journey 
from a dating couple totally in love 
through the birth of their first child
and some developmental challenges 
to his diagnosis of Autism
through some tiring and trying therapies
to his mom's unconventional attempts to socialize him
through to his elementary-school-aged years.

With the turn of every single page, I felt overwhelming
empathy and compassion
for the father, the mother, the sister, and the son.
For the stakeholders in his story.
And for families with autism everywhere.
Because Autism affects everyone.
Every moment.
Every decision.
Every move.

And while I found this novel compelling and appreciated its raw, up-close-and-personal peek into the world of a family living with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), I can't recommend it without sharing that there are several shocking expletives that I would have preferred not to see in print and countless disconcerting interactions that could easily offend. Be warned: A title that bears the word Uncensored is likely not for the faint of heart. 

Want to know more about Autism? Thank you to reader Jasmine Dyoco for recently sharing links to these five posts:

And a few additional supporting resources:

If you have a go-to that your children or students with Autism really connect with, please leave us a comment telling us all about it.


Take Me Out To The Ball Game

As we swing in to April, we eagerly await Opening Day of another baseball season, especially this year here in Houston. So far our Astros are 3-1; this week we'll get our hometown heroes back on home turf. This is the first baseball season that we won't have a boy in the house talking baseball with his Dad and talking him in to attending Dollar Dog Day at Minute Maid Park. 

I can't help but yearn for a season years ago when this little boy donned these adorable uniforms, put a huge glove on his little hand, and ran enthusiastically into the outfield to pick flowers. Sigh.

And I can't help but feel that he'd have loved this newcomer from Sports Illustrated Kids, hitting the market tomorrow. The Baseball Fanbook is all things baseball and will surely hit a home run with your sports enthusiast.

Care to check out some startling stats?
Want advice on securing an autograph? 
Interested in a side-by-side comparison of two all-star players?
Looking to learn the lingo so you can talk the talk?
Hungering for trivia like how many stitches each ball has?
{Fun fact: It's 108.}
This prized ticket behind home plate has those bases covered and more.

Just look at the comprehensive Team Tidbits pages that 
tell the stories of the thirty Major League Baseball teams.
{Isn't it cool how we just happened to open up to the Astros page?}

Check out this hard hitter for your young sluggers;
it'll leave you singing (and begging that special someone to) 

Want a fun Opening Day idea to engage community stakeholders?
Cook up Hot Dog lunch for your school's faculty and staff.
Our character cam snapped this shot a few years ago;
this year's event happens today at Westwood and Bales.

It promises to rival (and be every bit as tasty as) Dollar Dog Day; 
batter up!


PPBF: Elmore

Today I'm excited because I've found a picture book so special that
 I'm coming out of my self-imposed PPBF retirement to showcase it.

Title: Elmore
Author and Illustrator: Holly Hobbie
Publisher: Random House Books For Young Readers
Birthday: January 30, 2018
Suitable for ages: 3-7 (and up!)
Themes: Making friends, celebrating differences, writing 
Opening page: 
Elmore lived by himself in an ancient maple tree. He loved it there.
Brief Synopsis: Elmore is a precious little porcupine who doesn't mind living alone, but the loneliness he feels ultimately finds him desperate to find some friends. Because he's so prickly, however, the other animals are kept at quill's length. Will he find a way to invite them into his world despite their differences?


Read reviews {here} and {here}
Check out the Publisher's website {here}

Why I like this book: So many reasons! First, it was a gift from my friend Heather Elmore, the counselor at Westwood Elementary. I spotted it a few weeks back when I visited her (in my old office) and fell instantly in love. As I was thumbing through the pages of her namesake treasure, falling deeper with every turn, she got online and ordered it right there for me. 

Second, the charming illustrations absolutely reeled me in.

Third, Elmore doesn't wallow in his problem; instead, he takes steps to creatively solve it. I absolutely love that he uses the power of the pen to create a Friends Wanted sign and ultimately find those friends by sharing a bit of himself in a creative twist.

Set up the story with the Folkmanis porcupine puppet;
click the image below to order one just like ours.

If your students are like mine,
they will adore with this spikey little guy.
Talk with them about what it might feel like to be prickly ...

or what it means to needle someone.

Dig into the rich text and find other unique vocabulary words
that students could illustrate and/or discuss.
Why does the author call Elmore's home an ancient tree
Is there a play on words when she tucks him into his snug hollow?
Does solitude always equal boring?
When is the last time you felt all tuckered out?

In the story, Elmore recalls that his mom told him that the L in his name stands for love. Ask your students to buddy buzz with a partner and share what they know about how they got their names.

Use Elmore's writing idea as a springboard for unleashing the power of the pen. You might even seek out another class either in your school or beyond your school's walls to invite them to be PenPals.

Consider this example from a fourth-grade superhero
who understands the power of the pen
and uses it so eloquently.

On my first day back after a week of being out of the office caring for my Dad, one of my friends seeks me out before school and hands me this beautiful treasure for my Smile File, folded up like a fan and sealed in a Ziploc baggie. Is that not the most beautiful gift? Pull out a note that someone wrote to you, read it aloud, and ask students how they think it made you feel. Invite them to share a time that they've used their words to step into someone's story, uplift them just a little, and change the direction of their day. Encourage them to write or draw something for someone to make an ordinary day extraordinary,
like the note you share did for you, 
like Miah's note did for me,
like the note that Elmore found tacked to his cozy dwelling 
at the end of this tale 
did for him.

Finally, research to find out all that you can about porcupines.
Are they social or solitary?
Are they nocturnal?
What do they eat?
Do they have predators?
Compare and contrast what you discover about real porcupines
with how the author portrays the fictional Elmore.

Check out this incredible newcomer; 
I predict you'll truly treasure this Holly Hobbie masterpiece.  

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