TAD and DAD – Perfect Picture Book Friday

dadTitle: TAD and DAD

Author & Illustrator: David Ezra Stein

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015

Themes: Father/son relationships, frogs & tadpoles, sleeping

Ages: 3-7


My dad has big, buggy eyes,                                                                                            strong legs, and a huge mouth.


Tad wants to do everything with Dad, which means that Dad can’t catch a moment’s peace. Even when it’s time to go to sleep, Tad has a habit of making a big splash when poor old Dad is just trying to nod off. Too much wiggling, croaking, and kicking in his sleep means their lily pad starts feeling mighty crowded! But when Tad actually swims off and lets Dad have some peace and quiet, Dad misses all his splashing around.

Why I like this book:

Stein makes these amphibians so expressive and the story is full of boisterous text and art. That first full spread where the father burps is cute: the contrast of the big frog and tiny tadpole; the dad’s bug-eyed look combined with Tad’s expression of doting admiration. The soft pond pink and green color scheme works well for the humor too.


The facial expressions are hilarious. Dad grows cranky and Stein’s illustrations are fun and funny. Just by changing the dad’s eyes Stein expresses the exhaustion known to all parents of toddlers. The combination of the thick lines and layers of watercolor work well for this pond “I wanna be like Dad” tale. Stein’s reflection on the art for this book is also interesting, “To make the final art for this book, the artist first copied Crayola-marker line drawings onto watercolor paper. Watercolor was added using a single, large, round brush, building up many layers of transparent color. Care was taken to encourage and preserve happy accidents. Crayon was added as an accent.”

It’s a feel good story where we are happy that Dad needs Tad as much as Tad needs Dad.


Definitely could discuss the growth cycle of a tadpole to frog.


Most tadpoles hatch in early May and into June.

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 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.

Lily and Dunkin – Diversity Day Book Recommendation

lilyTitle: Lily and Dunkin

Author: Donna Gephart

Publisher: Delacorte Press, May 2016

Ages: 10-14

Themes: Transgender children, manic depression, bipolarity, mental illness, bullying

352 pages



Lily Jo is not my name. Yet.
But I am working on that.
That’s why I am in the closet. Literally in my mom’s walk-in closet with Meatball at my heals.


One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, a new boy in the neighborhood and their lives forever change.

Lily Jo, born Timothy McGrother, is a girl born in a boy’s body. Being true to your gender identity is not easy matter when you are entering 8th grade and have to daily face a nasty group of Neanderthal bullies, who don’t just stop and mental bullying. Lily has an ultra-supportive Mom, sister and best friend. Her dad loves her to bits but has the natural concerns for the safety of his son/daughter and her desire to be true to herself. He knows how cruel the world can be.

Dunkin Dorfman, born Norbert Dorfman, is dealing with a bipolar disorder, just like his dad, who did not accompany him and his Mom when they moved to Southern Florida from their home in New Jersey. Dunkin is also in denial about what really happened to his dad.

This novel is told from the two points of view, often covering part of the same scene from their different perspectives. Both 8th graders face isolation, bullying and misunderstanding as they face identity challenges. Lily is eager to halt the testosterone surges of puberty with hormone blockers before it is too late, meanwhile, the city is threatening to cut down her favorite park tree and refuge, that she’s named Bob after her beloved grandfather. As the new kid in town and enjoying the unusual ‘positive’ attention from the in-crowd due to his height and basketball potential, Dunkin joins the 8th grade team and hangs with the ‘Neanderthal’ bullies despite knowing this betrayal of his new friend Lily is wrong. However, the only way for Dunkin to have the energy he needs for this activity is to ditch his bipolar meds.

An important basketball game, Halloween and the end of year school party provide perfect scenes for crisis and triumph.

Why I like this book:

This is an issues book, and while not every Middle Grader will face gender identity issues or mental illness, many many will have friends that do and many will face questions about their own identity and sexuality, they will face bullying, they will face pubescent hormones, betrayal and friendship, depression and doubt. While the realities of coming out as a transgender teen and spending time in a psychiatric ward will challenge many young readers, this is a book I would recommend to almost all my middle grade students because of its universality and sensitive and sincere portrayal of these important themes and issues.

There are some very humorous and tender moments of interaction and I was very happy to see that both children had some tremendous home support. We live in days where both gender identity and mental illness are being more openly addressed in homes and schools and books like these are VITAL to these conversations. While weighty topics, the tone was pitch perfect for a MG novel. The authenticity of the bullying and betrayal (and reasons for both) struck me forcibly. From the first page I was invested in the heartache and courage of Lily and Dunkin and their friendship that you know will win through the trials. This is a story about acceptance that I will be highlighting in my school library and buying for some of my middle school friends!

I want to add that the secondary characters are masterfully crafted and fleshed out in Lily and Dunkin’s worlds with panache and color. I especially loved Bob, the tree, and Dunkin’s feisty fitness obsessed Russian grandmother and her healthy snacks!

Telling you the end would be too much of a spoiler, but I haven’t cried like that during a last chapter for a while. Gephart’s ending is a masterpiece.


The author includes several pages of transgender and mental health resources at the back of the book as well as two pages of discussion questions. (and some resources about tree conservation.)

Here are other reviews on Miss Marple’s Musings about books with transgender protagonists.


Diverse Children’s Books is a community of bloggers who have come together to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity.

Trapped – Perfect Picture Book Friday & Endangered Species Day

22748011Title: Trapped, A Whale’s Rescue

Author: Robert Burleigh

Illustrator: Wendell Minor

Publisher: Charlesbridge, 2015

Ages: 4-8

Themes: endangered species, fishing nets, conservation, marine life, humpback whales, animal rescue, California


The huge humpback whale dips and dives.
Her sleek black sides shimmering,
she spy hops, lob tails, flashes her flukes.


In the icy waters near San Francisco on December 11, 2005, after a crabber’s fishing net was left in the waters of the Pacific ocean, a humpback whale, swimming and feeding on krill became entangled in the large nets. The ropes were cutting into her mouth and wrapping around her fins making it impossible for her to swim free and breathe normally. When a rescue boat and a convoy of divers arrive to help the struggling humpback, a realistic and moving encounter bridges the human and aquatic worlds.

Why I like this book:

As my blog readers will know endangered species and Wendell Minor’s art are two of my loves! This dramatic story, with glorious paintings, of the rescue of a humpback whale entangled in fishing nets and lines is based on an actual event. The dangers, man’s failings, this majestic creature’s predicament and the collaboration in order to rescue are all poetically and majestically portrayed in the text and artwork of this picture book.

The illustrations are so realistic that the reader will become immersed in the Pacific with covers and whale. They depict with tenderness just how scared the whale must have been when the nets restricted her ability to swim and breathe.

Three full pages are devoted at the back of this book to the true story, information about rescuing whales, more about humpbacks, and a wonderful list of books and websites for extended reading, making this a terrific resource for classrooms at any time of year, not just Endangered Species Day.

The illustrator, Wendell  Minor, kindly sent me two additional spreads from TRAPPED.


© Wendell Minor

© Wendell Minor

© Wendell Minor



Every year on the third Friday in May (and throughout the month), zoos, aquariums, parks, botanic gardens, wildlife refuges, museums, schools, community centers, conservation groups and other organizations throughout the country hold tours, special speaker presentations, exhibits, children’s activities and more to celebrate Endangered Species Day. Find an endangered species day event near you.

Learn More about Endangered and Threatened Species:

NWF – Protecting Wildlife
NWF – Endangered Species Act
USFW – Endangered and Threatened Species
Kidsplanet – Protection of Endangered Species
7 Easy Steps to take at school                                                                                          Save The Whales National Geographic Humpback Whales

Also, don’t miss the interview I did with the illustrator, Wendell Minor. 

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.