WHAT IF…? THEN WE… -Perfect Picture Book Friday/Blog Tour

Title:  WHAT IF…? THEN WE…

Author: Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Illustrator: Fred Koehler

Publisher: Boyds Mills Press, 2019,

 Ages: 4-8

Themes: consequences, imagination, friendship, adventure


We got lost far, far, far away, and couldn’t find our way home.


Two polar bear friends have a thrilling adventure as they imagine solutions to a variety of possible situations; their story will show readers how to create their own tales in response to the question “What if…?” in this ingenious picture book.

“What if . . . we got lost far, far, far away, and couldn’t find our way home? Then we would become the bravest explorers in the world.” So begin the adventures of two intrepid polar bears. Traveling on a ship imagined from an iceberg, the bears encounter magnificent sights and scary situations. When a city made of crayons melts, the bears use pencils to create a beautiful gray world. When all the words in the universe disappear, the bears invent their own language. When something really big and really scary happens, they whistle and hold hands until it’s not as big or scary anymore. And when they find their way back home, they’re ready to imagine a thousand more possibilities. This companion title to the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book One Day, The End. is ultimately a book about imagination, friendship, and finding possibilities in the smallest moments. (Publisher)

Why I like this book:

This companion title to the One Day, The End is a story about friendship, and bonding through small seemingly insignificant moments of imaginative play. The narrative is simple, and Koehler illustrates the imaginative storytelling with vibrant colors and endearing characters. Both the author and illustrator excel in capturing a child’s endless capacity to create. And this book should inspire lots of brave new imaginary worlds. I certainly wanted to go on an Arctic adventure after reading it!

© Fred Koehler


© Fred Koehler


This book is the perfect writing prompt. In pairs, have students create their own “what if?” scenarios, starting with the opening here. This can be either created visually or in text or both.

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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LOVE – Perfect Picture Book Friday

This is the PERFECT picture book to celebrate Valentine’s day next week!

Title: LOVE

Written by: Stacy McAnulty

Illustrated by: Joanne Lew-Vriethof

Publisher: Running Press Kids, October 2018

Ages: 3-7

Themes: love


Love is … a fancy dinner.


What is love? Can you only express it in fancy meals, greeting cards, and heart-shaped chocolates? Kids will find love everywhere in this delightful book. It can be found in everyday moments such as baking cookies with grandma, notes from Mom in your lunchbox, or a family singing together on a car trip, and it isn’t always what you expect!

With delightful illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff and sweetly simple prose by award-winning author Stacy McAnulty, this is the perfect book to teach children what love means, why it’s important, and how they can spread the love in their daily lives. (publisher)

Why I like this book:

Love can expressed in so many ways. Just as with her previous book, Brave, with very few words, Stacy and her broad-thinking illustrator capture so much in these heartwarming depictions of this daily word. This colorfully illustrated story has a diverse cast of families and their animals life sharing how they demonstrate love to close family and people in the community in need. For example a fancy dinner is illustrated as a little girl serving a heaped bowl of dog food to her puppy. Or poetry is illustrated as “Cool bro” sketched in the sand by a younger sibling. 

I would love to know if there were any illustrator notes submitted with this very sparse manuscript!


This story is great for beginner readers. Parents and caregivers can share this story of love with young listeners and create an activity with art so they can share their expressions of love with the people they care about.

HousingForest.Com has a great and simple HEART craft activity.

This post is part of a series by authors and children’s literature bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

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Julián Is A Mermaid – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Julián Is a Mermaid

Author & Illustrator: Jessica Love

Publisher: Candlewick, 2018

Ages: 5-8

Themes: LGBTQIA, gender expression, diversity, mermaids, boys, nonconformity, unconditional love, afro-latinx, Coney Island Mermaid Parade, individuality, self-love

Awards: ALA, Stonewall Picture Book Award, 2019


This is a boy named Julián. And this is his Abuela. And those are some mermaids.


While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a periwinkle curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself? (publisher)

Why I like this book:

Julián’s story is about figuring out who you are and then, maybe even more importantly, finding your people. I know how huge it was to me when I finally found my gay tribe as an adult and discovering that I was not alone. How wonderful that very young boys and girls are able to do that via the pages of a book so full of heart like this one. Of course, realizing that you aren’t alone, is not a prerogative of the queer community; every child and adult should be able to have that sense of belonging

I love Love’s palate  in watercolor, gouache, and ink, and the beautiful flow she manages from image to image. Every character is fully realized, even all those in the wonderful Mermaid Parade. There are so many story aspects in the illustrations it is easy to miss them. Check out the end papers (I always do). At the beginning we see Julián swimming beneath his abuela and her friends in the local swimming pool. At the end of the book everyone is a mermaid, not just Julian, and we are all immersed with them in the green pool water. There are four wordless spreads, where words would have been completely superfluous as the illustrations more than show us the joyous progression in Julian’s mind of his own mermaid transformation.

I’m in love with the beautiful Abuela. The gesture of a gift of pure unconditional love by Abuela when she discovers her grandson dressed up as a mermaid, is surpassed only by her gift of taking him to join his people. “Like you, mijo”, she says. “Let’s join them.” And yes, I cried. This is a book most worthy of a Stonewall Award. And this was her first book. Just, wow! I also think I loved this story because it reflects so much of what I love about New York City.


 A book for everyone. Share this book with as many people as you can!

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