Come With Me – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Come with me

Author: Holly McGhee

Illustrator: Pascal Lemaître

Publisher: G. R. Putnam’s Sons. 2017

Ages: 4-8

Themes: making a difference, hope, empathy, small acts of kindness



All over the world,
the news told
and retold
of anger and hatred–

People against people.

And the little girl was frightened
by everything she heard
and saw 
and felt.


When the news reports are flooded with tales of hatred and fear, a girl asks her papa what she can do to make the world a better place. “Come with me,” he says. Hand-in-hand, they walk to the subway, tipping their hats to those they meet. The next day, the girl asks her mama what she can do–her mama says, “Come with me,” and together they set out for the grocery store, because one person doesn’t represent an entire race or the people of a land. After dinner that night, the little girl asks if she can do something of her own–walk the dog . . . and her parents let her go. “Come with me,” the girl tells the boy across the hall. Walking together, one step at a time, the girl and the boy begin to see that as small and insignificant as their part may seem, their contribution makes a difference.

Why I like this book:

Many children have undoubtedly noticed adults reacting to current events both locally and globally with concern, and have often more recently observed their caregivers’ active participation in local politics and/or recent marches. They feel even if they don’t fully understand some of the ugliness and unrest around us, even in our own neighborhoods. They hear what adults discuss, they sense our fears and have their own. One of our roles as adults is to help kids make sense of the world. It can be pretty terrifying and incomprehensible for young children to understand the levels of violence they sometimes catch on the t.v., for example. Explaining such pain and  tragedy to children is challenging, and we need find appropriate ways to help our kids feel safe and in control of their world. The little girl in this story seeks the advice of her parents and finds through each act of kindness and courage, that she too can make the world a better place, and how much more fun that can be when done with others. 

The is a book accessible to all readers. The direct message, simple watercolor illustrations with a warm muted palette, a diverse group of people (e.g. a picture of a man wearing a turban and a woman in a burka), lots of white space and a hopeful message remind us that no one is too small to make a difference in our richly varied communities. The truth that we can’t let fear stop us from living our lives is relevant to us all, and even the youngest child can feel the value of being kind and brave.

In all the craziness we see around us daily at the moment, this is a book that leaves the reader with a sense of hope and purpose. It reassures. I love how the parents decide not to live in fear and so they let the little girl walk the dog, alone (well, she chooses to share in her “Kindness walk” with a friend). I would recommend reading it to every elementary school class.


The book itself is a perfect springboard into discussion with even very young children. As the author and illustrator say at the beginning of the book:

Come With Me is written in honor of friendship, bravery, and the fact that we aren’t powerless, no matter how small and insignificant we may feel.” The author wrote a very helpful article in the Washington Post on “Teaching children how even the tiniest person can make a difference.”

Brainstorm with your class a list of simple ways they can make the world a better place.

This is a must read from the author’s website about the story behind Come With Me.


Don’t miss the wonderful interview I did with the illustrator, Pascal Lemaître, this week.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.


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Pascal Lemaître – Illustrator Interview/Entretien avec Illustrateur

My followers will know that every now and then I pick up a book to review on Perfect Picture Book Friday and it resonates so deeply with me (text, art, or usually both) that I am inspired to find out more about its creation. Because of my ongoing series of interviews with illustrators my next step is normally to reach out to the artist and see if they would be willing to chat about their work. In this case I reached out first to the author, Holly McGhee, and she put me in touch with her collaborator, Belgian illustrator, Pascal Lemaître. Interactions with both creators touched me in the same way that the book had, which should come as no surprise. For those of you who don’t read French, Pascale has a very beautiful and profound way of expressing himself, and I fear I do not do the poetry of his words enough justice, but I hope you will enjoy his musings nonetheless. Don’t miss my review of Come with me on Friday.

[JM] Author or author/illustrator? If the latter do the pictures or words come first?

[PL] Le processus varie selon les circonctances. Quand je fais mes propres histoires, les dessins et les mots progressent ensemble et se répondent. L’histoire peut être née d’une image seule ou de jeux de mots ou d’une anecdote ou d’un sujet qui me touche, etc.Tout cela se tisse pour ensuite être élagué et créer un flux qui fait sens. Quand je reçois un texte à illustrer dans le cadre d’une commande, je vais interpréter le texte à ma façon avec l’accord de l’éditeur et de l’auteur. À moi d’imaginer l’allure des personnages, les décors, les couleurs ,etc. Je deviens le metteur en scène du théâtre de papier que représente le livre. Un soin important doit être apporté à la typographie qui va être l’expression de la voix et des sons de l’histoire. La couverture est  l’affiche de la pièce et les pages de garde, le rideau de scène. Dans le cadre de Come With Me, Holly a déjà écrit un très beau texte sur nos échanges. Il me semble qu’elle a pu concrétiser son concept et canaliser ses émotions à partir d’une image: une petite fille qui met la table. Le poème qu’elle a écrit est issu de son vécu, de son voyage intérieur dans l’histoire de ses pensées et de ses images, de ses souvenirs. Les mots ont aussi une longue histoire. Notre alphabet est historiquement issu de dessins schématiques qui sont devenus des signes (le A est une tête de taureau à l’envers ). Tous ces éléments nous engagent dans une histoire universelle souterraine d’où on essaye d’extraire un peu de lumière.

[PL] The process varies depending on the situation. With my own stories, the text and images progress together, speaking to each other. Sometimes a story is born from a single image or word play or anecdote or something that moves me. All that is then woven together to then be pruned in order to create a stream that makes sense. When I receive someone else’s text to illustrate, as a transaction, I will interpret the text in my own way with the agreement of both my art editor and the author. It’s my task to determine what the characters look like, the decorations, the colors, etc. I become the director of the theatre on the page, which represents the book. 

Special attention needs to be given to the choice of typography, which will be the vehicle of the voice and sounds of the story. The book’s cover is the poster for the play, and end pages, the stage curtain. In the case of Come with me, Holly had already written a beautiful text from our sharing, To me it seems like she was able to shape the concept and channel the emotions from an image: a little girl laying the table. The poem she wrote was birthed from her experiences, from her inner journey through the history of her thoughts, and images, and memories. The words themselves have their own long history. Historically, our alphabet comes from schematic drawings, which became signs (A is an upside down bull’s head). All these elements draw us into a universal underground story from which we try to extract a little light.

[JM] Where are you from and how has this influenced your art?

[PL] Je suis né dans le pays de Magritte et Marcel Broodthaers et ai été influencé par Dumbo de Walt disney, les gravures de Rembrandt, les affiches d’André François, les tatouages magiques du Cambodge, les bandes dessinées d’André Franquin, “Popol et Virgine” de Hergé, les dessins de Steig, ceux de Tomi Ungerer, les dessins de mon père aussi. J’ai été influencé par les peurs de ma maman sur mon avenir, par le fait de savoir que je suis mortel. J’ai été aussi marqué par le fait que l’homme est capable de créer des merveilles tout en étant capable d’actes de génocide. “Tabula rasa” d’Arvo Pärt me bouleverse ainsi que les éléphants d’Afrique et les films de Fellini ou Tarkovski. Bach par Glenn Gould, c’est merveilleux comme une photographie de Robert Frank . L’auteur favori de mon enfance est Jack london et ensuite viendront Baudelaire et puis Beckett.

[PL] I was born in the land of Magritte and Marcel Broodthaers, and have been influenced by: Walt Disney’s Dumbo, André François’ posters, the magical tattoos of Cambodia, André Franquin’s comic books, Hergé’s “Popol et Virginie”, Steig’s drawings, and those of Tomi Ungerer, and also my father’s drawings. I was influenced by my mother’s fears about my future, and by the knowledge that I am mortal. I have also been marked by the fact that humanity is capable of creating wonders while at the same time committing genocidal atrocities. “Tabula rasa” by Arvo Pärt distresses me, as does the plight of African elephants and the movies of Fellini or Tarkovski. Glenn Gould’s Bach is as wonderful as one of Robert Frank’s photographs. My favorite childhood author is Jack London, next would be Baudelaire and then Beckett.

[JM] Please tell us a little of your beginnings as an artist. 

[PL] J’avais 5 ans quand la maîtresse d’école a affiché ma peinture à la gouache au-dessus du tableau. On devait peindre le métier qu’on voulait faire plus tard. J’avais représenté un médecin en blouse blanche. Ensuite j’ai continué à dessiner et dans la classe, j’étais “celui qui dessine” et ce statut d’artiste me plaisait car je n’aimais pas trop les groupes. Je n’avais pas de frère ni de soeur et dans mes amitiés j’y mettais la fraternité qui me manquait. J’ai été épaulé par des adultes bienveillants qui m’ont montré des voies dans mon adolescence: un peintre, un photographe directeur d’académie et un prof de dessin. De là, j’ai intégré une école d’Art à Bruxelles ( La Cambre). Quand je suis sorti, j’ai dû faire mon service militaire dans les forces aériennes puis j’ai travaillé avec une équipe de décorateurs de film et théâtre. Je dessinais le soir et les weekends. 3 ans plus tard mon patron-ami est mort d’un cancer et j’ai continué à dessiner et à frapper à toutes les portes pour placer des dessins et gagner ma vie.

J’ai visité les maisons d’éditions parisiennes et puis à New York, le New Yorker m’a acheté des dessins. J’avais sans doute 23 ans mais ces dessins ont été publiés très parcimonieusement et ensuite je travaillerai par à-coups pour eux.

[PL] I was 5 when my teacher hung my gouache painting above the blackboard. We’d been asked to do a painting of the job we wanted when we grew up. I composed a doctor inn his white blouse. I continued to draw and in class I became known as “the one who draws” and this artistic status made me happy because I wasn’t keen on groups. I had no brothers and sister and consequently sought the fraternity that I missed in my friendships.  I experienced benevolent adults who shouldered me and showed me the way through my adolescence: a painter, a photographer/academy director, and an art teacher. After this I attended art school in Brussels (Le Cambre). After this I was obliged to do my military service in the air force then I worked for a team of film & theatre decorators. In the evenings and at weekends, I drew. 3 years later my patron-friend died of cancer and I continued to knock on all sorts of doors to try and find homes for my artwork and earn my living.

I started to visit editors in Paris, and then in New York, the New Yorker bought some of my paintings. I was 23, no doubt, but these pieces were published in a very tight way, then I worked sporadically for them.

 [JM] What is your preferred medium to work in?

[PL] La plume et l’encre de Chine. Il y a cette odeur terreuse de l’encre, le bruit de la plume sur le papier et puis et puis et puis LA VIE DU TRAIT. Elle est une de mes raisons de vivre. J’aime voir mes étudiants dessiner. Il y a une émotion très forte qui peut émaner de certaines lignes.

Une feuille de papier avec des traces d’encre, c’est la mémoire d’un moment de vie et c’est parfois la vie même. Je ressens une grande fraternité en regardant même des dessins très anciens. Par exemple, dernièrement dans un musée, j’observais les dessins illustrant le jugement des morts sur un papyrus et les vibrations de la ligne m’ont procuré un énorme plaisir et j’ai ressenti une connivence et une affection pour cet artiste égyptien d’il y a 4000 ans.

[PL] A china ink quill. There’s this earthy ink smell, the sound of the quill on the paper, and then and then and then THE LIFE OF THE LINE. This is one of the reasons to live for me. I love watching my students draw. Certains lines can provoke a very strong emotional response.

A piece of paper with traces of ink, it’s the memory of a moment in life, and sometimes of is life itself. I feel a strong sense of brotherhood looking at even very old paintings. For example, recently at a museum, I was looking at paintings on papyrus illustrating the judgement of the dead and the lines’ vibrations gave me enormous pleasure, and I felt this connivance and affection for this Egyptian artist from more than 4000 years ago.

 [JM] Do you have themes or characters to which you return again and again in your work? 

[PL] Les éléphants sont partout mais je n’ai pas fait énormément de livres avec ces personnages.

Ils sont capables de compassion et j’adore leur énorme élégance et leurs regards.

Il faut dire aussi qu’enfant j’étais bien gros et je pouvais m’identifier aux mouvement et à la présence de l’éléphant. Aussi au cirque j’avais été impressionné par la rondeur de leurs fèces. Je trouvais ça très distingué. Ensuite je me suis intéressé à l’histoire de Ganesh et j’ai revisité mes dessins d’éléphants au fur et à mesure de nos rencontres notamment au Cambodge.

[PL] Elephants are everywhere though I haven’t put these characters in that many books.

I should add that as a kid I was pretty big and I could identify with the movement and presence of an elephant. And at the circus I was impressed by the size and roundness of their hindquarters. I found it very distinguished. Then I became interested in the history of Ganesh andI revisited my elephant pictures in connection with my encounters with elephants, notably in Cambodia.

[JM] What does your studio look like? 

[PL] C’est un véritable Capharnaüm. J’ai grandi en dessinant dans la cuisine pendant que ma mère préparait les repas ou repassait. J’ai pas mal suivi mon épouse danseuse-chorégraphe en tournée et pas mal voyagé et donc je n’ai pas vraiment un vrai atelier mais des bouts de table où j’essaye de me sentir bien. Cependant malgré tout, j’ai besoin de mon coin de Capharnaüm pour me retrouver. J’ai un ami dessinateur qui, suite à un divorce, devait aller conduire et rechercher sa fille dans une école à 90 minutes de route de chez lui. Alors parfois plutôt que de faire 4 trajets et donc 6 heures de routes sur la journée, il attendait sa fille dans la voiture et y dessinait. Sa petite bagnole était devenue son atelier. C’est une histoire qui me touche beaucoup.

[PL] It’s a real Capernaum. I grew up drawing in the kitchen while my mother cooked or ironed. I have pretty often followed my danser-choreographer wife on tour and traveled quite a bit so I don’t really have a true studio but more ends of tables where I try and feel good. However, despite this, I do need my only little Capernaum corner to find myself. I have a designer friend who, following a divorce, found himself having to drive 90 minutes from home to pick his daughter up from school. Occasionally, instead of doing four journeys and 6 hours of driving, he waited for his daughter in his car and drew. His little car became his studio. This story really touches me.

[JM] Mois aussi! Could you share some art maybe from a WIP or Come with me with us, and a little of your process? 

[PL] Voici quelques croquis de recherche pour Come With Me. Par exemple, la scène du métro, j’en ai fait plusieurs versions avant d’arriver à la scène frontale qui se trouve dans le livre.

Here are a few research sketches from Come With Me. For example, the subway scene, I did several versions before arriving at the final version you find in the book. 

La mise en scène finale est plus directe et plus graphique et utilise l’imaginaire de ce qui se passe en dehors de l’espace du papier. Tout comme au théâtre, les wagons continuent du côté jardin et du côté cour de la scène. Aussi cette double page utilise une horizontalité qui m’intéressait dans le rythme global du livre et correspondait à la sobriété du poème de Holly M. McGhee. Il y a aussi le tout premier dessin du rituel de la petite fille qui met la table. La verticalité des couverts était directement évidente pour moi pour ajouter le côté cérémonieux.

The final staging is more direct and more graphic and and uses the imagination of what is taking place off scene outside the space of the paper. Just like at a play, the cars continue on the garden side and center stage. Also this double page spread uses a horizontality which was interesting to me in the overall rhythm of the book and corresponded with the solemn nature of Holly M. McGhee’s poem. And there’s the very first ritual of the little girl laying the table. The verticality of the cutlery was immediately evident for me to add the ceremonial side.

[JM] I love your whimsical and touching illustrations for Come with me. Can you tell us a little about this unusual collaboration with the author, Holly McGhee?

[PL] Notre amitié a été propice à des échanges intimes et sincères et c’est d’une façon assez naturelle qu’est né le livre. C’est d’abord issu de nos interrogations sur notre condition humaine et comme Holly écrit et que moi j’aime dessiner, faire un livre est notre manière à nous de participer à la résistance contre les ténèbres de la haine.

[PL] Our friendship was favorable to some intimate and sincere sharing and this led very organically to the birth of this book. First and foremost the story sprang from our questioning about our human condition and as Holly writes and I love to draw, creating a book is our way of participating in the resistance against hatred’s darkness.

[JM] I think many of us who create can appreciate this sentiment, Pascal. How important is it for you to connect with the text of something you are asked to illustrate, whether for children or adults?

[PL] J’adore dessiner et j’ai la chance d’en faire mon métier. Donc comme professionnel habitué à travailler pour la presse et différents éditeurs, je dois trouver des solutions visuelles à un problème narratif. Je n’illustrerai jamais un texte qui est contre mes valeurs morales mais je peux travailler sur des textes qui sont assez loin de moi et dans lesquels je m’immerge pour trouver des images qui me fassent plaisir et qui vont me surprendre vu l’inconnu dans lequel ça m’entraîne. Travailler sur des textes très variés me plaît et élargit ma palette graphique. Aussi la vie étant très variée, ça me semble naturel d’illustrer des sujets très variés passant de la légèreté à la fragilité intérieure. Un livre est une personne et le monde des Idées fait partie aussi de la vraie vie. Come With Me est un petit nid où se niche des émotions et des moments de vies partagés avec Holly. The Book of Mean People, c’est entrer dans l’intimité de Slade et Toni Morrison. Do Not Open This Book, c’est l’humeur des mots avec Michaela Muntean. SuperCat, c’est la drôlerie de Kate McMullan. Ted, c’est l’humour de l’absurde d’Andrea Beaty, etc.

[PL] I love drawing, and am very fortunate to be able to live from my passion. Thus as a professional used to working for the press and various publishers, I need to find visual solutions to a narrative problem. I would never illustrate a text which was against my moral values,  but I can work on texts that are distant to me and in which I can immerse myself to find images which are pleasing to me and which will surprise me due to the unknown journey I will be taken on. I like working on a large variety of texts and enlarges my graphic palette. Also because life itself is so varied it seems natural to illustrate a great breadth of topics, passing from lighthearted moments to times of deep inner fragility. A book is a person and the world of ideas is also a part of the real world. Come with me is a little nest in which emotions and moments shared with Holly shelter. The Book of Mean People is to enter into the intimacy of Slade and Toni Morrison. Do Not Open This Book is word humor with Michaela Muntean. SuperCat is the whimsy of Kate McMullan. Ted is the humor and the absurd of Andrea Beaty.

[JM] What art do you have on your apartment walls?

[PL] Des dessins de Bill Steig, de l’outsider art, du folk art antique thaïlandais et birman (sculptures en bois de Bouddhas), des sculptures de Jeanne Steig, des gravures de James Ensor et Rik Wouters, une lithographie de Bram Van Velde, des photographies de John Vink de l’agence Magnum, etc.

[PL] Some of Bill Steig’s paintings, outsider art, antique folk art from Thailand and Burma (wooden Buddhas), some Jeanne Stieg sculptures, James Ensor and Rik Wouters engravings, lithography from Bram van Velde,  John Vink photographs (from the Magnum Agency), etc

Five Fun Ones to Finish                                                                                                                     [JM] What is your favorite park in the world (state, national, local…)?

[PL] Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

[JM] What is your go to snack/drink when you are creating? 

[PL] Espresso

[JM] You are Belgian? What is your favorite BD? 😀

[PL] Spielgelman’s Maus

[JM] Cats or dogs? 

[PL] J’aime les deux ( l’aristocratie du chat et le côté plus plébéien du chien) mais ma fille a demandé un chien. On l’a appelé  Doodle car Bill Steig m’a raconté qu’il commençait par gribouiller (“to doodle”) pour trouver des idées. Et vu que Doodle est un labradoodle…

[PL] I like both (the aristocracy of cats and the more pleb side of dogs) but my daughter asked for a dog. We called him Doodle because Bill Steig told me how he always started by doodling to find his ideas. And since Doodle is a labradoodle… 

[JM] At what point in a picture book project do you consider the end pages?

[PL] Ça varie. Parfois j’ai un sentiment physique assez direct sur l’allure du livre et le graphisme des pages de garde, parfois elles sont considérée comme plus narratives et intégrées au développement de l’histoire en cours de travail.

[PL] It varies. Sometimes I have a very strong physical sense of the graphics and look of a book’s end pages, sometimes they are seen as more narrative and are integrated into the actual the story arc as I work on the book.

Pascal, it was a great delight to have you share your reflections and story with us today. I sure hope I shall bump into you in Brooklyn, Brussels or Trouville one of these days. Merci infiniment.



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Sparkle Boy – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Sparkle Boy

Author: Lesléa Newman

Illustrator: Maria Mola

Publisher: Lee and Low, 2017

Ages: 4-8

Themes: brothers and sisters, self expression, lgbtqia+, bullying, diversity

Genre: fiction

4o pages


Jessie adored all things glittery, shimmery and sparkly.
“Look at my shimmery skirt,” Jessie said to her little brother, Casey, as she twirled into the living room and her skirt twirled out all around her.
Casey looked up from his alphabet blocks. “Ooh, shimmery, shimmery,” he said reaching out his hand. “I want shimmery.”


Casey loves to play with his blocks, puzzles, and dump truck, but he also loves things that sparkle, shimmer, and glitter. When his older sister, Jessie, shows off her new shimmery skirt, Casey wants to wear a shimmery skirt too. When Jessie comes home from a party with glittery nails, Casey wants glittery nails too. And when Abuelita visits wearing an armful of sparkly bracelets, Casey gets one to wear, just like Jessie.

The adults in Casey’s life embrace his interests, but Jessie isn t so sure. Boys aren’t supposed to wear sparkly, shimmery, glittery things. Then, when older boys at the library tease Casey for wearing girl things, Jessie realizes that Casey has the right to be himself and wear whatever he wants. Why can’t both she and Casey love all things shimmery, glittery, and sparkly?

Here is a sweet, heartwarming story about acceptance, respect, and the freedom to be yourself in a world where any and every gender expression should be celebrated. Sparkly things are for everyone to enjoy!

Why I like this book:

The little boy in this story isn’t per se into dressing up in girls clothes but shows a particular interest in things that are “sparkly”, “shimmery”, and “glittery” (as well as blocks, puzzles, and dump truck.) If his big sister Jessie had been into sparkly hairbands or sneakers, Casey would probably have wanted to copy her just the same but in this story she is wearing a shimmery skirt. This subtle choice of focus by the author will, I believe, help more kids relate to Casey’s interests. Casey’s parents and grandmother are very supportive of Casey’s desire to try on sparkly stuff despite his sister’s initial reservations. But she is the one to rush to his support when Casey is bullied by the boys in the library. 

The illustrations of the family, and use of Spanish vocabulary like abuelita show the readers that this is a Hispanic family and we certainly need many more picture books with diverse children exploring their gender identity. The illustrations are warm and inviting and the story carries a gentle universal message of respect and encouragement to be yourself, while confronting certain stereotypes.


Next time you pull out the dress up box, make a point of letting kids know that can pick whatever they want to wear. Encourage expression and experimentation that brings joy.

How about doing some self portraits where everyone can glue some glitter to whatever part of the picture they want.

Try 25 Glitter Crafts over at Kids Activities Blog

Can be paired with Morris Mickelwhite and the Tangerine Dress

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

Posted in diversity, LGBTQIA, Perfect Picture Book Friday, resources & activities for elementary school teachers | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments