Here is a link to the Wordless Picture Books brochure created by Alex, Andrew & me. The brochure contains live links to many of the resources recommended. Have a great summer.



Annotated Bibliography (737 Selection & Evaluation)


Cycle of Life                                                                                                      Loss & Healing

During early childhood, children are curious about the relationship between life and death in their world. Ideas that death is temporary, reversible or somehow their fault are common before concepts of death begin to become more realistic. In addition, when children experience loss, the feeling associated with grief can be confusing. This annotated bibliography compiles library materials for ages 4-7 that parents, guardians and caregivers can use to introduce their children to the cycle of life and death, feelings associated with loss, and actions or activities that promote healing. Parents, guardians and caregivers are encouraged to review materials prior to reading or viewing with children to be better prepared to engage in the discussions these materials may provoke. Additional materials on coping with a specific loss and other related topics are available in libraries. Please ask a librarian.

Cycle of Life

Always Remember, written and illustrated by Cece Meng. (2016). New York: Philomel Books.

When Old Turtle is taken back by the sea at the end of his life, the other sea creatures remember him as a wonderful friend and teacher who made their world a better place. Without reference to any religion, the unsentimental story conveys how those who have died can endure in memories and that their deeds and kindnesses can have impact beyond their lives.

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages, written and illustrated by Leo Buscaglia. (1982/2002). New York: Henry Holt and Company. El Otoño de Freddy La Hoja: Una Historia de La Vida. (1994, Spanish language edition). Buenos Aires: Emecé.

A warm and thought-provoking story that follows Freddie the Leaf and his companion leaves as they change with the passing seasons, finally falling to the ground with winter’s snow. Gently conveys the delicate balance between life and death.

Big Cat, little cat, written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper. (2017). New York: Roaring Brook Press.

The cycle of life simply and sparingly told from the point of view of cats. A white cat mentors a black kitten and the two grow in friendship until one day the white cat is gone. Grief over the loss is conveyed in contemplative spreads of the black cat, now alone. Then a white kitten appears and the black cat become the nurturing mentor—and the cycle begins anew.

Sonya’s Chickens, written and illustrated by Phoebe Wahl. (2015). Toronto, Ontario: Tundra Books.

Sonya lovingly raises three chicks that become egg-laying hens on her biracial family’s farm. When one of the hens is taken by a fox, Sonya feels the loss very personally but begins to understand it when her father gently explains why the fox took the hen. The interdependence of living things is relayed in a comforting and realistic manner and the book ends optimistically with a new hatchling to raise.

The Lion King, Walt Disney Pictures. (1994/2003). (DVD; 88 minutes). English, French or Spanish dialogue or subtitles; song lyrics and phrases in Swahili. Rated G. Animated.

Lion cub Simba’s life in Africa turns tragic when his father, King Mufasa, is killed in a plot hatched by his evil uncle. Driven into exile, Simba works through his grief, anger and fear with help from his new friends, Pumbaa, a warthog, and Timon, a meerkat, while growing-up and learning about the cycle of life and his role in it.

Feelings and Healing

The Goodbye Book, written and illustrated by Todd Parr. (2015). New York: Little, Brown & Company.

A goldfish feels the loss of his fishbowl companion. Deceptively simple text and images relate the range of emotions that can stem from loss, including denial, anger, sadness and lack of joy at a formerly fun event like a birthday party. Gently offers young readers helpful tools for dealing with these difficult feeling, over time and with support from loved ones.

The Dead Bird, written by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Christian Robinson. (2016). New York: Harper Collins.

This classic straightforwardly tells the story of children who find a still warm dead bird, grieve the loss of a wild creature, and honor it with burial and song. New illustrations add diversity among the children and vibrancy to the outdoor scenes while retaining sparse spreads for quiet contemplation. Conveys the important role rituals can play in the process of recovery from loss.

The Flat Rabbit, written and illustrated by Bárður Oskarsson; translated by Marita Thomsen. (2014). Berkeley, CA: Owlkids Books.

When a dog and a rat come upon a rabbit from their neighborhood flattened on the road, they contemplate her situation, wondering what they should do to help her. The story treats the concept of death with a sense of compassion and gentle humor — and a note of practicality that will appeal to some young readers. In the end, the dog’s and the rat’s caring, thoughtful actions culminate in an unusual yet uplifting way to respect their departed friend.

Jim’s Dog, Muffins, by Miriam Cohen; illustrated by Ronald Himler. (2007). New York: Star Bright Books.

When Jim’s dog is killed in an accident, the other first graders try different ways to help him through his sadness. All the children learn that sadness after a loss is natural and helping a friend can mean waiting until they are ready to start healing.

Harry & Hopper, by Margaret Wild; illustrations by Freya Blackwood. (2011). New York: Feiwel & Friends. (Originally published in Australian).

One day, young Harry comes home to the news that his beloved dog, Hopper has been killed in an accident. Harry is devastated. He won’t sleep in his bed and is withdrawn at school. With a touch of magic realism, Hopper visits Harry in his dreams until Harry is ready to say goodbye. Unflinchingly evokes the emotions of a grieving child and treats them respectfully.

Rosie and Crayon, written and illustrated by  Deborah Marcero. (2017). White Plains, NY: Peter Pauper Press.

Rosie, a brown-skinned girl, loves her dog Crayon but one day, “after a long and colorful life, Crayon was gone.” Rosie’s sadness is reflected in the way she sees the world after Crayon in joyless blacks and greys. There is no pat ending, Rosie can never truly replace Crayon, but healing begins when she helps a friend find a lost cat. Makes the feelings accompanying loss and the process of recovery accessible to young readers.

Goodbye Mousie, written by Robie H. Harris; illustrated by Jan Ormerod. (2001) New York: Margaret K. McElderry. Adios ratoncito! (2002, Spanish language editions). Traducción de Alberto Jiménez Rioja.  New York: Lectorum.

Gently but realistically, a young boy narrates the story of his reaction to Mousie’s death, going through denial, anger, and, finally, acceptance. After he prepares his pet for burial, lovingly painting the shoebox, he realizes that one day he may get another mouse…”but not just yet.” Conveys that memories and rituals can offer comfort after loss.

Ida, Always, written by Caron Levis; illustrated by Charles Santoso. (2016). New York: Athenaeum Books for Young Readers.

Loosely based on polar bears in New York’s Central Park Zoo, Gus and Ida are friends that do everything together until Ida becomes ill and, as the zookeeper explains “won’t be getting better”. Echoing the stages of grief, the friends stomp and snarl at this bad news, then come to an exhausted, quiet acceptance. A tender and honest portrayal of a caring supportive friend dealing with terminal illness and loss.

When Aunt Mattie Got Her Wings, written and illustrated by Petra Mathers. (2014). New York: Beach Lane Books.

When Lottie (a chicken) learns that her fun-loving 99-year-old Aunt Mattie is dying in a hospital, she travels with best friend Herbie (a duck) to be with her. Descriptive details in the hospital make sense of an unfamiliar setting and situation. This death is presented a natural part of life and there are hints at an afterlife and reference to cremation, but the focus of the story is how friends support each other through the grieving process. Told with humor and compassion.

Death Is Stupid, by Anastasia Higginbotham. (2016). New York: The Feminist Press at CUNY.

A young boy experiences the loss of his grandmother, bluntly rebukes common platitudes meant to afford comfort, contemplates the reactions of others, and eventually finds some solace working in his grandmother’s garden with his father. Bold photographic collages reinforce the disorienting feelings associated with loss. Additional activities for coping with loss, accessible to children, are appended.

Boats for Papa, written and illustrated by Jessixa Bagley. (2015). New York, NY: Roaring Brook Press. Barcos para Papá (2016 Spanish language edition). Traducción de Roser Ruiz. Barcelona: B de Blok.

Buckley, a young beaver who lives with his Mama, carves boats out of wood and sends them out into the sea to his missing Papa. He tells himself if the boats don’t drift back, then they reached Papa. One day he discovers that Mama has been collecting all his boats and he understands that Papa is not coming back. A tender story that imparts how family members provide mutual support in big and small ways after loss.

My Father’s Arms Are a Boat, written by Stein Erik Lunde; illustrated by] Oyvind Torseter; translated by Kari Dickson. (2013) New York: Enchanted Lion Books.

On a silent, snowy night, a young boy, unable to sleep, climbs into his father’s arms and asks about birds, foxes, and whether his mother will ever awaken. The father’s simple response makes it clear that the mother has passed. Intimate and honest, evokes the profundity of grief with simple direct reassurances of the healing powers of time and love.

Up, Walt Disney Pictures. (2009). (DVD; 96 minutes). English; dubbed French or Spanish dialogue; English, French or Spanish subtitles. Rated PG (for some peril and action). Animated.

Adventure ensue when 78-year old Carl ties thousands of balloons to his house causing it to fly away to unknown lands with a young stowaway named Russell, but this story is grounded in loss and recovery. Early scenes tenderly tell the story of Carl’s life, from childhood to old age, with his wife Ellie, and the depth of his grief when she dies. Begrudgingly and with Russel’s help, Carl discovers that new friendships and adventures await and are exactly what Ellie would have wanted for him.


Note: In constructing this bibliography, multiple professional review sources, such as School Library Journal, Booklist, and Horn Book Review Guide, were consulted via the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (CLCD) ; Novelist K-8 and Books in Print (Bowker)



Adler L. & Taylor, W. (2017). Health Encyclopedia: A Child’s Concept of Death. University of Rochester Medical Center. Retrieved

Crosetto, A., & Garcha, R. (2013). Death, loss, and grief in literature for youth: A selective annotated bibliography for K-12. Lanham: The Scarecrow Press.

Weisman, K. (2016, March). Parting and Passing: Picture Books Turn Towards the Topic of Death. Novelist K-8. Accessed

National Association of School Psychologists. (2015) Recommended Books for Children Coping With Loss or Trauma. file:///C:/Users/Eileen/Downloads/Books_for_Children_Dealing_With_Loss_or_Trauma.pdf

A Graphic Novel for Young Readers (737, week 13)

Narwhal, Unicorn of the Sea, by Ben Clanton. (2016). Toronto, Ontario: Tundra Books. An easy-going Narwhal and an uptight jellyfish make an odd pair but the two find friendship and adventure in their underwater world.

Grade Level: 1-3

Genre: Graphic novels (Adventure; Friendship; Humorous)

Awards: Nominated for 2017 Eisner Award: Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8); School Library Journal: Best Graphic Novels of 2016 List

Read-alikes: Hippopotamister by John Patrick Green; color by Cat Caro. (2016);                                            The Great Pet Escape, by Victoria Jamieson. (2016)

An upbeat comic about the budding friendship between two oddly matched sea creatures, a happy but clueless narwhal and a skeptical jellyfish who can hardly believe that the other even exists. With their friendship sealed over waffles, the odd couple finds adventure in two additional stories that include forming a mixed-up pod of ocean creatures and sharing the best book ever. Text and images convey light absurdist humor that never topples over into too much. A soft palette, simple panel arrangement complimented by full page scenes, and a doodle-like but expressive drawing style assure accessibility to young readers new to the sequential art format. A brief “Really Fun Facts” about narwhals and jellyfish provides a tie-in to early science education and an intellectual bridge to nonfiction materials that will provide additional information about sea creatures and their habitats. Narwhal’s favorite book, a blank book, waiting to be filled with stories from the imagination will encourage young readers to create their own “imagination books” independently or as a classroom exercise.

I did not realize this book was a nominee for the 2017 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Early Readers when I chose to focus on it for this post. Since I am more familiar with graphic novels for adults and teens, I was curious to see how the format might be handled for really young readers (not middle grades). After perusing a few, Narwhal, Unicorn of the Sea struck me as particularly successful in presenting the sequential art format in a manner that would engage rather than overwhelm its audience.  In addition, although the artwork seems very simple, the personalities and emotions of Narwhal and Jelly really come through and the humor is engagingly absurd. There is already a second book in the series, Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt (A Narwhal and Jelly Book #2) by Ben Clanton (2017) that I am looking forward to reading.

Inside the LI Library Conference 2017

Yesterday at the Long Island Library Conference, I got to spend the day with some of the most interesting and professionally passionate people on earth! Not surprisingly, the buzz in informal conversations was the need to recharge advocacy for all types of libraries and the profession itself in the current socio-political climate. The keynote speaker, library media specialist Kimberly-Celeste “K.C.” Boyd, spoke movingly about her very personal journey toward advocacy for librarianship and libraries in her address called, “Don’t Fit In, Stand Out!”.

 As expected, there were a lot of great program sessions at the conference. Here are some comments on the three sessions I attended:

Board Games at the Library [Speakers:Tim Sicurella, Sayville Library; Michael Buono & Brian Schwartz, Patchogue Library]

Who knew that we are currently in a golden age of board games that is surprisingly (to me) fueled by video game popularity?  Games can be just simple fun and social but some of them deal with sophisticated themes and require real strategizing and/or team-building. Libraries can provide a safe space for this social interaction (especially for socially awkward) and programs can be geared toward adults, teens or even intergenerational. Some libraries circulate games. The speakers shared some great games (I am interested in exploring what they called “story-telling games” like, Coup), resources to evaluate them (BoardGameGeek) and strategies for promoting and maintaining a loyal following in your community that may be outside the usual patron base. I would also recommend looking at this six part Web Junction post.   

2-1-1 Long Island Database: A Powerful Resource for Librarians [Speakers:Lori Abbatepaolo & Kristen Todd-Wurm, Middle Country Public Library]

There are so many public library patrons who need information about local health and human services. I was familiar with 2-1-1 (it is often listed with databases on L.I. library websites), but I wanted to learn more about scope and usefulness. The database is freely accessible at (you don’t have to enter via library database portal) and contains current (or as current as the agencies can update) detailed information about over 10,000 community resources.  Also, 2-1-1 is a toll-free call center! Patrons or librarians on behalf of patrons can call for information on nearby services — no personal information is requested so there is no privacy issues.

Pack the House: Recommendations for Star-Quality Book Discussions [Speakers: Carol Ann Track,Merrick Library; Janet Schneider, Peninsula Library
Michelle Young, Lynbrook Library]

I dream of leading a great book discussion group! I was surprised that the speakers successfully lead discussion groups of 30-40 people (and not just when an author was joining the discussion). Other interesting points: books a group did not enjoy often generated the most interesting discussions about writing, character and story development and why certain books become so popular; use multimedia to mix it up; try to interject new discussion-related things all the time (I think juggling was mentioned…); publisher provided questions are usually not conducive to lively book discussion. As with our 737 read-aloud assignment, preparation is key (know your book!), as well as knowing (or with adults coming to know) your audience.

(I was going to blog from the student perspective but everyone interacted with me as if I was a full-fledged librarian since my ID had a library name on it. I am almost there so I just went with it and kind of enjoyed it…)

Evaluating Digital Materials for Children

Junko, Yokota & William H., Teale (2014). Picture Books and the Digital World: Educators Making Informed Choices. The Reading Teacher, 67(8), 577–585. doi: 10.1002/trtr.1262. Retrieved

Annotation: This article, aimed at teachers and librarians, presents five criteria for evaluating narrative digital picture books with specific examples of good and bad applications of these criteria in published materials. The authors’ emphasize that evaluation, selection and use of digital picture books must focus on how and in what context these materials best serve the literacy and literary development of children. Quality digital children’s books have potential to positively impact development of multiple literacies and languages in young readers.

Since the publication of Junko and Teale’s article in 2014, the production of digital picture books has increased exponentially, and thankfully, there are increased authoritative reviews sources for librarians and educators to evaluate these materials as well. In choosing Junko and Teale’s article, I was curious to see if their proposed evaluation criteria for narrative digital picture books had become outdated in this short but actively expanding digital materials environment. The authors’ proposed criteria emphasizes how well a story is aligned with the digital format, in presentation as well as interactive and supplementary features, and if these features support what is known about how children read and learn in general. Even in a changing digital environment, these evaluation criteria remain valid and useful to librarians and educators. In addition, the authors’ discuss the important role of librarians and educators in providing guidance for parents and caregivers in choosing and using digital content for and with their children. In this regard, Junko and Teale are aligned with the professional movement in libraries towards actively discussing the impact (both pros and cons) of media on young children with parents and caregivers and the emergence of librarians as perfectly positioned to be media mentors (Haines, C., Campbell, C., & Association for Library Service to Children, 2016).


Haines, C., Campbell, C., & Association for Library Service to Children. (2016). Becoming a media mentor: A guide for working with children and families. Chicago: ALA.

Valenza, J. (2016, December 21). Apps: a call for nominations and a round-up of review Sources. School Library Journal [Blog post]. Retrieved

Diversity Empowers Young Patrons (737 week 11 post by Margaret & Eileen)

American children today are a part of a culturally diverse country and global world, yet research by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) and other groups suggests that children’s books published as recently as 2015 still do not reflect this growing diversity. Although in the past four years there has been a slight increase in the recognized books published about and by people of color, there remains a vast gap in relation to the overall number of books published that focus on white or animals characters (Dahlen, 2017). According to Dahlen, in 2015 the CCBC reported that 73.3% of books published depicted characters who were white and 12.5. % were animals or inanimate objects such as trucks (Dahlen, 2017, p.4). While picture books about animals will always be popular among children, publishers and writers still have a long way to go to write and publish books that celebrate many colors and backgrounds. For libraries, this is not just a matter of offering variety to their young patrons. As reported by Naidoo (2014) regular exposure to diverse collections helps children build positive self-images, validates lived experiences, and fosters cross-cultural connections locally and globally. High-quality diverse children’s collection assembled according to professional standards can potentially help young patrons build social skills necessary to thrive in a culturally diverse society.

Children respond to stories in which characters that look like them or share similar characteristics or behaviors, and illustrations play a significant part in this process. The fiftieth anniversary edition of the publication of The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (originally published in 1962) includes letters the author received from a range of people deeply impacted by the African-American “every-child” character in the story. One teacher wrote that “The kids in my class, for the first time, are using brown crayons to draw themselves.” In her article on children’s book illustrations, Roethler (1998) discusses how each child goes through “identity formation” and visual literacy’s role in this development (or lack thereof). According to Roethler, children are repeatedly exposed to images (either positive or negative) through books, and these images become part of the child’s “schemata” that partially inform how they view themselves (p. 97). In other words, if Black or Asian children see images of themselves in negative ways or are absent entirely from the narrative, this will impact the child’s self-worth and place in his or her world. Roethler argues that illustrators who are white can unwittingly pass along their prejudices in their “interpretation.” Black illustrators, however, are more likely to understand their own culture, just as Asian, Latino, and Native-American illustrators are. While there have been more writers and illustrators of color represented in books in recent years, the reality is that more need to be published that fairly represent this country’s reflection and that of other countries. Distinguished writer Walter Dean Myers stated in a NY Times article, that growing up he wanted “to become an integral and valued part of the mosaic that I saw around me.”

Librarians have a voice and they choose what is purchased for their libraries and what is displayed, read during story times, or promoted during special programming. Librarians must ensure that all children “see” themselves in some part of the collection, whether a child is Black, Asian, Latino, or Native American, identifies as LGBT, or physically disabled. NYPL Mulberry Branch Youth Librarians shared with us that promoting diverse collections can stimulate young patrons’ imaginations and creativity by helping them look beyond the limited range of their own experiences. These Librarians also indicated that keeping up with the diversity can be daunting but clearly worth the effort. The positive impact on young patrons will be life-long and far-reaching (personal communication, April 21, 2017).

Huyck, David, Sarah Park Dahlen, Molly Beth Griffin. (2016 September 14). Diversity in Children’s Books 2015 infographic. blog. Retrieved from



Dahlen, S. (2017). Picture this: Reflecting diversity in children’s book publishing. APALA Newsletter, 34 (2), 1-12. Retrieved from

Naidoo, J. C. (2014). The importance of diversity in library programs and material collections for children. Association for Library Service to Children, American Library Association. Available

NPR Staff. (2012, January 28). ‘The Snowy Day’: Breaking Color Barriers, Quietly. From All Things Considered, National Public Radio. Retrieved April 20, 2017

Myers, W. D. (2014, March 15). Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? The New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2017.

Roethler, J. (1998). Reading in color: Children’s book illustrations and identity formation for black children in the United States. African American Review, 32 (1): 95–105.

Book Review # 3 (737 week 11)

Juana & Lucas, written and illustrated by Juana Medina. (2016). Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press. 89 pages. 2017 Winner of the Pura Belpre Award (Narrative)

Energetic, smart and funny, Juana, who lives in Bogotá, Columbia, loves reading books, playing fútbol, and especially her dog, Lucas. When a teacher announces that her class will begin to learn English, Juana is sure that this will add nothing worthwhile to her already pretty amazing life. Seeking agreement from the people in her life, Juana instead hears stories about how learning English has enriched their lives through song, education, travel and friendships. When Juana’s grandfather, a surgeon who trained in Chicago, reveals plans for a family trip to Spaceland in Florida, Juana finds her own motivation to learn as much English as she can–so she can speak to her favorite superhero there, Astroman. Humorously told from Juana’s perspective, young readers will find similarities between Juana’s daily life and their own and share many of her likes, dislikes, and concerns about having to learn a second language. With Spanish words sprinkled throughout the text in contexts that convey meaning to non-speakers, language-learning is presented as a key pathway for children to develop lifelong skills that will help them thrive in our culturally diverse world. Even though Astroman never actually speaks, Juana realizes that her experience of a culture other than her own has been enriched by her ability to communicate with all the people she encountered: hotel staff, waiters, other visitors, park characters. Now she dreams of learning every language and visiting every country. Juana’s loving descriptions of the city of Bogotá and her firsthand experiences with a happy successful selection of its citizenry (teacher, doctor, artist, shopkeepers) is a refreshing departure from depictions of South American cities as places to avoid. Juana’s pride in her own culture is complemented by her excited curiosity about the place she will be visiting on her trip, and all the other places she might visit someday.