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The Picture Book Buzz

A Place to Stay: A Shelter Story - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Unfortunately, more and more children are affected by homelessness. Having seen the effects and emotions surrounding this circumstance, while she worked as a child abuse and neglect investigator, Erin Gunti set out to create a book that was "sensitive, informative, and non-threatening." A story whose "gentle and approachable text would . . . open a dialogue between adults and children about childhood homelessness, the many reasons a child might experience it, and opportunities to help within their community."

I think you'll agree that this is a perfect #PPBF book and one that would be beneficial in every classroom and library.

A Place to Stay: A Shelter Story

Author: Erin Gunti

Illustrator: Esteli Meza

Publisher: Barefoot Books Publishing (2019)

Ages: 4-7



Homelessness, shelters, and imagination.


This simple, touching picture book shows readers a women's shelter through the eyes of a young girl, who with her mother's help, uses her imagination to overcome her anxiety and adjust. Includes factual endnotes detailing various reasons people experience homelessness and the resources available to help.

Opening lines:

I slammed the car door and tucked Bunny-Beth under my arm.

"I don't want to stay here," I told Mama, looking up at the tall building.

"I know," Mama said softly. "But we're very lucky to have a place to stay."

I squeezed Bunny-Beth to my chest.

I didn't feel lucky.

"This isn't a house," I whispered.

What I liked about this book;

This is a tough subject to understand, and sometimes explain, even for adults. But this book does a great job of providing an imaginative way to begin a discussion on homelessness. And, while the back matter provides a few common reasons (natural disaster, job loss, or violence), the choice to leave the actual reason the girl and her mom are at the shelter wide-open, enables the story to fill the needs of many different readers or provide a wide window.

To combat the girl's anxiety and reluctance about staying at a shelter, the mother imaginatively suggests that it is actually a palace.

Text © Erin Gunti, 2019. Image © Esteli Meza, 2019.

Complete with a treasure cave and a banquet hall full of guests from distant shores.

Text © Erin Gunti, 2019. Image © Esteli Meza, 2019.

But the tiny room, with squeaky, boring beds is such a stark reminder that this wasn't her house. So, the mother jumps into an imaginative trip on a rocket ship, brushing stars on the ceiling. I love the aliens, constellations, and Bunny-Beth's space helmet.

Text © Erin Gunti, 2019. Image © Esteli Meza, 2019.

The bright, bold illustrations invite the reader to share in the emotions and the imaginative play, as the girl discovers that the shelter isn't so bad. Especially when you're imaginative. This is an excellent book to kickstart discussions about shelters, homelessness, and ways that everyone can help. The backmatter explains more about the purpose of shelters and how they help people in need. It's also a great book for exploring how using your imagination can make things a little brighter. It reminds me a bit of The Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett.

Overall this is a beautiful, tender, and fun examination of shelters and how they help people. And a glimpse into some of the emotions of kids and adults who are staying in shelters. A book that is sure to spark a number of questions and hopefully create a desire to help.


- check out the information from The National Coalition for Homelessness (;

- read Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena, A Shelter in Our Car, by Monica Gunning,

Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen by Dyanne Disalvo Ryan, and Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting (a homeless boy & father in an airport). How are they different and similar to A Place to Stay? or

- can you think of ways to help? Helping at a soup kitchen, organize or donate to a drive for clothing or food to a food bank or shelter in your neighborhood or school.

If you missed Erin Gunti's interview on Monday, find it (here).

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

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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