Tag Archives: dreams

Neema’s Reason to Smile

Neema’s Reason to Smile
by Patricia Newman, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
Lightswitch Learning, 2018

Author Patricia Newman cleverly weaves Africa into every scene in her story, Neema’s Reason to Smile.  From elephants taking mud baths, she introduces Africa culture with descriptions that include, “…my bare feet trace the dusty path that unwinds like a cheetah’s tail…” and “A thought buzzes like a mosquito.”   Newman also shows how the whole village supports Neema’s dream.

In this story, Neema wants more than anything to go to school, but she and her mama don’t have enough money.  Everyday Neema sells fruit to drop a coin or two into her dream basket.  One day she sees a girl running by in a school uniform. Excited there might be a new school she could attend, she follows the girl, but several times she stops to sell fruit and loses sight of the girl.  Neema persists everyday she goes to market until she finally arrives at the school.  Her dream met, she assigns a new dream to her basket.

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If Wendell Had a Walrus












If Wendell Had a Walrus
by Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Matt Phelan
Henry Holt and Company, Books for Young Readers

This story follows Wendell’s imagination on his journey to find a walrus.

Wendell saw a cloud shaped like a walrus and his imagination roamed.  He imagined it was real. He gave it a name, told it jokes, and tried to play his favorite games with it, although he soon learned a walrus wasn’t so good at climbing trees. Wendel imagined he’d have “the most stupendiferous, cosmically colossal best time of their lives.”  When Wendell accepted he didn’t have a walrus, he decided to get one and a new journey began.

If Wendell Had a Walrus easily moves from one idea to another, just like an active, young boy’s imagination does.  A delight to read and re-read.  The words and playful illustrations work so well together, readers will feel like they have their own walrus! It’s the kind of book that inspires a child to imagine their own dreams.  A great adventure for young readers.

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Going Places











Going Places

Peter H. and Paul Reynolds
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014

A book that encourages a child’s imagination to ‘go places.’

Rafael and Maya’s class receive go-cart kits to make for an upcoming race.  Rafael follows the directions perfectly. But Maya sees the world differently, as she sits on the kit’s box, absorbed in drawing a bird. She takes the kit and creates a contraption with wings.  At first Rafael hesitates, but then throws aside the instructions as the two join together to make a flying go-cart. At the starting line, everyone laughs, but the cart soars into the sky and wins the race.  When Rafael and Maya land near a pond, they see the potential for their next project! Another winner by Peter H. Reynolds!  (Other books by award winning Peter H. Reynolds: Ish, and Playing from the Heart)

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Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions












Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions
By Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate
Charlesbridge, 2016

When a child is curious, they just have to explore, and that’s exactly what Lonnie Johnson did as a child.  Living in a small house with five brothers and sisters, he had challenges storing his rocket kits, bamboo shooters, rubber-band guns, erector set, go-kart engine, and all the other spare parts he used to make things.  He was an inventor.

From scratch he taught himself how to make a rocket and launched it for his classmates.  When an ‘exam’ told him he would not make a good engineer, he pushed through those claims because he knew he had Linux, a robot he had created from spare parts.  In 1968 he and Linux won a science fair at the University of Alabama, where only five years earlier, African American students hadn’t even been allowed.  In time he invents the Super-Soaker and, with perseverance, his dreams come true.  An inspiring story with encouragement to push through setbacks.

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The Power of Henry’s Imagination












The Power of Henry’s Imagination

by Skye Byrne, illustrated by Nic George
Aladdin, 2015

“Believe, and it shall be” is the theme of this story.  Henry was gifted Raspberry, a stuffed bunny, when he was born and played with it every day, all day.  Then one day Raspberry was missing.  Henry and his parents tore his house apart, but could not find Raspberry.  Henry’s wise grandpa suggested, “You just have to imagine that Raspberry is with you—in this moment!”  Trusting his grandpa, he did.  He and Raspberry got caught in a storm, were pirates on the sea, and flew into space.  He even went to sleep believing Raspberry was with him.  That night the mailman returns Raspberry, who had been out on a path and when Henry wakes the next morning, Raspberry is with him, just like Grandpa said.

The illustrations, combining photography with pen and ink sketches, bring a mystical, yet reality-based touch to the story.  A delight to read and a story with an important message.  A great book for the development of a young one’s spirit.

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Wink, The Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed













Wink, The Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed

by J. C. Phillips
Viking, 2009

I love a good story where a child finds a way to express his most inner self and be accepted by others.  This one is especially good for ninjas!

Wink dreamed of being a ninja and attended Summer Moon School for Young Ninjas.  As he learned each lesson, like “Silence is the weapon of the ninja”, he had a difficult time following them.  Instead of being silent, for example, he jumped on a ball, raised he ‘sword’ and hollered, “Look at me!”  Master Zutsu clapped like thunder and raised one angry finger to his lips to reprimand the young ninja.  Everything Wink learned, he pushed beyond the limits of a studious ninja, and Master Zutsu continued to shake his head, until one day Wink was so out of line, that Master Zutsu sent Wink away.  On his way home he heard some noises and saw a boy practicing tricks.  With his ninja training he could see right away what the boy needed to do and demonstrated.  Soon the boy’s family trained him and Wink went on to perform in the circus as, “The Nimble Ninja!” When Master Zutsu saw the circus performance, he acknowledged Wink’s strengths when he said, “Free-flowing water will always find its way.”

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Trombone Shorty













Trombone Shorty
by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015
2016 Caldecott Honor Book, Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Award Winner

A great celebration of a great musician, written by the musician!  Trombone Shorty played music way before he had an instrument. When he found an old beat-up trombone, twice the size of him, he played it everywhere he went.  Raised in New Orleans, he was born to play music.  While in the audience of a Bo Didley concert, he started playing his trombone.  The show stopped.  Bo asked who was playing the trombone.  He was so short, his mother had to raise him up so Bo could see him.  Trombone Shorty was passed up to the stage and played with Bo Didley at a young age.  Soon after he formed his first band, The 5 O’Clock Band, as that’s when the practiced after they completed their homework.

Readers can feel the joy of music, the love of rhythms, and the passion Trombone Shorty has for his music.  Bryan Collier’s illustrations further enhance the story bringing color and passion to each page.  A wonderful introduction to music, the Mardi-Gras, and following your passion. An afterward includes more details of the musician’s life

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Imani’s Moon (2014 Best Picture Book for Girls!)

imanis moon












Imani’s Moon
by JaNay Brown-Wood, illustrated by Hazel Mitchell
Mackinac Island Press, 2014
Children’s Book of the Year, Principal’s Award
NAESP Children’s Book of the Year Award
2014 Mighty Girl Book for Young Readers
2015 Reading Is Fundamental – Multicultural Book

Imani’s Moon inspires young girls to reach for their dreams.   This is my pick for the best picture book for girls!

Set in Africa, Imani, the smallest girl in her tribe, is teased by the other children.  She is told, “…you’ll never accomplish anything!”  At night her mama lifts her spirits with stories.  One story was of Olapa, the goddess of the moon who fought a great battle against the god of the sun and triumphed.  Imani dreams of doing something great like Olapa and decides she will “touch the moon.”  The others laugh when Imani announces her dream, yet they follow her.  For two days she attempts two creative ways to touch the moon, but they fail.  Greatly disappointed, she returns home where young warriors were performing the adumu, the jumping dance.  Inspired, she knows that’s how she will reach the moon.

Beautifully written and illustrated Imani’s Moon is rich with love, bold colors, and one young girl’s determination.  The story ends with Imani telling her mother a story, The Tale of the Girl Who Touched the Moon.

When I read Imani’s Moon to a very active third grader, she sat quiet for the whole story.  When I brought it back later to re-read, she ‘read’ it to me—from memory!  Imani’s Moon is a powerful story.

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Emmanuel’s Dream, The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

Emmanuel’s Dream
The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah
by Laurie Ann Thompson & Sean Qualls
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015

This story shows how a boy born with one leg, destined for poverty, can change the world.

His mother names him Emmanuel, meaning “God is with us” and carries him to school, where people with disabilities are normally not allowed.  When he becomes too heavy, he hops two miles on one leg to get to school.  Resourceful, he shines shoes to earn money.  To make friends at school with those who shun him, he buys a soccer ball and says he’ll share if he can play.  On crutches, he plays soccer and earns his classmate’s respect.  They help him learn to ride a bike with one leg.  At age 12, his mom becomes ill and Emmanuel leaves for the city to earn money.  No one wants to hire him, until one shopkeeper gives him a chance and a place to live.

To change people’s attitudes toward people with disabilities, he dreams of riding a bike across his country and filming his journey.  Resourcefully he gets funding for the bike, camera, and taxi to follow him.  On the trip he wears a t-shirt with the words, The Pozo, or “the disabled person.” He travels across his country, Ghana, talking to the poor and the wealthy, demonstrating and educating them that people with disabilities are ‘able-bodied’, too.  He soon becomes a national hero.

This well-told story and illustrations show the poverty and circumstances where everything is against Emmanuel, but because he believes in himself, he finds success.

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What Do You Do With An Idea?

What Do You Do With An Idea?
by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom
Compendium Kids, 2015
Gold Independent Publisher’s Book Award

A young boy has an idea and wonders what to do with it.  The new idea is kind of strange and he decides to leave it behind and walks away, but it follows him.  The boy worries about what others might think and tries to hide the idea, but the boy feels happier when his idea is around.  One day he shows it to others, and indeed they didn’t think much of it.  But then he decides it was HIS idea and keeps it.  He plays with it until one day his idea became its own, transforming the black-and-white illustrations into full living color.  Brilliant!  The tale speaks to a child’s inner self and imagination, and gives him or her permission to have, cultivate and grow from the ideas that come into his or her imagination.  This tale stays with the reader, like the idea stays with the boy.

A compelling tale told visually with black and white drawings accented with an egg-shaped idea featuring its own brilliant colors.  A powerful example of words and illustrations working together.

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