The Picture Book Buzz

I Am the Storm - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Boy, has this year been a doozy! Big hurricanes, masses of tornadoes, monster wildfires, and as we head into the winter, they are warning us about the possibilities of big snow storms. Sheesh. Now add a worldwide pandemic that makes dealing with each of these major events twice as hard. Everyone's on edge, anxious, and dealing with so many unusual circumstances.


I've been eagerly awaiting the release of this book. It's a reassuring reminder of our resilience and a great way to open discussions on feeling "safe and empowered" with kids, as we prepare our plans for dealing with whatever nature throws at us next.

I Am the Storm


Authors: Jane Yolen & Heidi EY Stemple


Illustrators: Kristen & Kevin Howdeshell


Publisher: Rise, Penguin Workshop (2020)


Ages: 3-5


Fiction (Bibliotherapy)

Themes:

Extreme weather, emergencies, family, resilience, and self-empowerment.


Synopsis:

A tornado, a blizzard, a forest fire, and a hurricane are met, in turn, with resilience and awe in this depiction of nature's power and our own.


In the face of our shifting climate, young children everywhere are finding themselves subject to unfamiliar and often frightening extreme weather. Beloved author Jane Yolen and her daughter Heidi Stemple address four distinct weather emergencies (a tornado, a blizzard, a forest fire, and a hurricane) with warm family stories of finding the joy in preparedness and resilience. Their honest reassurance leaves readers with the message: nature is powerful, but you are powerful, too. Illustrated in rich environmental tones and featuring additional information about storms in the back, this book educates, comforts, and empowers young readers in stormy or sunny weather, and all the weather in between.


Opening Lines:

When the wind howled and blew,

loud as a train,

we had a party in the basement with Grandma,

reading books and playing games with the flashlight.


What I LOVE about this book:

With their quintessential, lyrically poetic voice, Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple follow four kids and their families as they encounter nature's power and fury. I love their image of ice and snow "sparkling like fairy dust."

Text © Jane Yolen & Heidi E.Y. Stemple. Image © Kristen & Kevin Howdeshell, 2020.


While not belittling the scariness of tornadoes, blizzards, wildfires, and hurricanes, Kristen & Kevin Howdeshell's gorgeous illustrations, use swirling shades of purple and other bright colors to soften the tone of the darkest, ominous spreads.


The rest of the bright, colorful illustrations (even in a power outage) collaborate beautifully with the text to show the loving, caring ways that the four diverse families wait out these events - playing cards with Grandma, roasting marshmallows in a fireplace, camping, and imaginatively playing with cousins.

Text © Jane Yolen & Heidi E.Y. Stemple. Image © Kristen & Kevin Howdeshell, 2020.


I adore the ingenious refrain that Jane and Heidi created which is both comforting and empowering. When things stopped, calmed, & cooled - "as ___ always do" - the families cleaned up and helped their neighbors. It reminds me of the phrase "this too, shall pass." Something that's become a bit of a mantra this year. While this book focuses on natural events, it could be used to help kids come to terms with their emotions and fears that Covid has generated.


Even though wearing a superhero cape, one child admits, "The storm was strong, and I was scared." Then he acknowledges "It's okay to be scared." Because, despite the strength and power of nature, the kids show how they are loud, wild, hot, and fierce, just like the storms. Wait until you see how perfectly Jane & Heidi wrapped up this book. Great back matter includes additional facts about the natures of these four storms and ways to be safe. This is a great book for reassuring children's fears before, during, and after these unpredictable, major events. It's a perfect book for the crazy, tumultuous year we've experienced throughout the world. A treasure full of love, affirmation, and resiliency.


Resources:

- what's your favorite thing to do when the power goes out? Play games by lantern? Have a blanket picnic with flashlights or candles? Draw a picture, or write a story, of something fun you do.

- star in a story with Smokey the Bear (https://smokeybear.com/en/smokey-for-kids/story-maker), create coloring pages, and write a letter to Smokey.

- try some weather experiments: a tornado in a jar (https://www.sciencekids.co.nz/experiments/makeatornado.html); hurricane in a bowl (http://experimentexchange.com/earth-space/make-a-hurricane-in-a-bowl/); and snow storm in a jar (https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/winter-snow-storm-in-a-jar-science/).

- make your own rainstorm, snow storm, and other weather crafts (https://www.craftsonsea.co.uk/weather-crafts-and-activities/).

- play 'weatherman says,' where the movements are types of storm.

- evacuation prep packs and games ideas for young children (https://www.cauw.org/sites/cauw.org/files/Hurricane-Activities-for-Children.pdf).


If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple (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.

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