[Monday Reading] Picturebooks about Moving Homes, Transition, New Places

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

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Poster courtesy of Iphigene. Acrylic on Canvas.

Our reading theme for July-August is “Nomads, Homes, and Habitats: Restlessness and Refuge in Literature.” I am now gathering together a few books that I have featured over the years that tackle this important issue – made even more relevant now that kids are becoming increasingly transnational, and the boundaries of our world shifting dynamically even more each day. I am also including a new book that I received for review a few months ago that is also perfect for this theme.


IMG_5275Tim’s Moving Day

Written by: Anke Wagner Illustrated by: Eva Eriksson
Translated from the German by: North South Books, Inc. Published in Singapore byEpigram Books, 2012
Review copy provided by Epigram Books. Book photos taken by me.

This picturebook is part of a series of books known as Stories from Around the World which Epigram Books publishes for children here in Singapore. While this title is originally from Switzerland, parts of it had been culturally appropriated – as could be seen in the illustration below with the child moving to Katong – a place here in Singapore:

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It is to be made clear, however, that Tim is pretty much okay with the move despite his anxiety. It is Pico, Tim’s “best cuddle buddy” who happens to be a little more upset by the whole move. After all, he might get replaced by new friends that Tim would meet in their new place.

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This is a fairly feel-good story that shows primarily the things that a child could look forward to when moving to a new place. It also puts the child in the position of providing much needed comfort to its “cuddle-buddy” rather than being put in the passive position who require comforting and reassurance.

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While the text is fairly predictable and the conflict seemed too neatly resolved, the art of Eriksson and the overall layout are dynamic and worth poring over.


Alexander, Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!)IMG_1173 Going to Move

Written byJudith Viorst Illustrated by: Robin Press Glasser in the style of Ray Cruz
Published by: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1998 ISBN: 0689820895 (ISBN13: 9780689820892)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I love the Alexander series – particularly his terrible, no good, very bad day. When I found out that there is a title that deals with moving, I immediately scrounged for our much-loved, practically tattered copy in the public library.

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His older brothers sound (and look) like total pain who thinks that he is being “immature” – I love how that word was used throughout the story. Alexander so hated the idea of moving that he even contemplated staying put and living with his neighbours – he even went through his prospects quite systematically:

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I believe that over and beyond Alexander’s stubborn nature and seemingly intractable behaviour lies the fear of the unfamiliar and the longing for that which is familiar. I also appreciated Viorst’s lengthy afterword which shared her own experiences when it comes to moving and how she hated doing this as well as a child. For teachers who wish to use this book, here is a downloadable 6-paged PDF guide that provides suggested activities and discussion questions that can be used in the classroom.


IMG_8246Yard Sale

Written by: Eve Bunting Illustrated by: Lauren Castillo
Published byCandlewick Press, 2015
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This is a re-read for me as anything Eve Bunting I immediately try to hunt down to devour and savor again and again – this is one such book. I can not believe how I teared up YET AGAIN after reading it a second or third time.

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For anyone who knows what it’s like to move to another place, to downsize, to put your pre-loved things on sale – or even if you don’t and would like to know how it feels like to sell your red bike, your books displayed on your garage for rent (which I did, one summer when I was a teenager to earn money), Bunting captures it all with the littlest gesture, the crayon marks on a headboard, and a friend wearing her pyjamas willing to trade her younger brother just to get you to stay.

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A beautiful reminder of the value of people over things, of warm hugs over big spaces, of simplicity versus acquisition, and that invisible unspoken thing which fits nicely into one’s arms. Read this and hug your loved ones close to you – and don’t let go.


IMG_8258Lenny & Lucy

Written by: Philip C. Stead Illustrated by: Erin E. Stead
Published byA Neal Porter Book. Roaring Book Press, 2015
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Much love has been shared about this book – all well-deserved. As is the trademark quiet style of the Steads, this book depicts transition; the pain of moving that is borne silently alone, or at the very least shared with a canine companion; and the comfort derived from friends – whether make-believe, hand-crafted, or actual flesh-and-blood bearing binoculars and marshmallows.

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While it may be easy to dismiss this as a book of coping, overcoming and moving on, well yes it is that, but it goes beyond it as well. The art and narrative portray the subtle mastering of one’s self with pillows (lots of them), and dried leaves and blankets (big ones), and a loyal companion that remains, and is present, always. The narrative quietly soothes and provides comfort through scarves, earmuffs, and being rooted, steadfast, staring out into the bridge to make sure the woods stay where they are.

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Neville IMG_4933

Story ByNorton Juster
Illustrations By: G. Brian Karas
Publisher: Schwartz Wade Books, 2011
Book borrowed from the public library. Book photos taken by me.

A young boy is feeling out-of-sorts – his family just moved into a new home. While everyone else claims that he would love it (read: his parents), no one really bothered asking him about how he feels about this move. And so, he took a walk around the block and started yelling “Neville” until well-meaning children from the neighborhood came out to help him find “Neville.” Exactly who Neville is, I shall leave for you to discover.

Children who have just moved into a new place, a new school, a new home would find this picture book delightful and quite ingenious. I first knew about Norton Juster through his Phantom Tollbooth and I knew from a gut level that I would enjoy the wit and panache of this picture book, and I wasn’t disappointed. G. Brian Karas’ artwork is the right blend of quiet simplicity and muted colors – the square panels reminiscent of comic books also worked well in this narrative.


IMG_9552Bad Bye, Good Bye

Written by: Deborah Underwood Illustrated by: Jonathan Bean
Published by: Walker Books, Ltd. 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Told in startlingly-spare text, this picturebook is a distillation of what it means to be uprooted from one’s home, your life’s possessions jumbled up in assorted boxes. The gnarled feelings of uncertainty, resentment, and eventual sadness are captured in just four words per page.

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Jonathan Bean’s layered art: from the jagged, uneven pain to the darkened gray skies of long drives complement the sparse narrative in such a powerful manner. Here is a sample of a full-page spread that made me marvel at the choice of colours, the subtle restraint in the art, and the coded imageries that capture painful transitions.

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This book IS poetry – probably one of my favourites from Deborah Underwood. Jonathan Bean is a visual poet who is able to evoke textures and nuances through lines and colours. A not-to-be-missed picture book.

  1. I had no idea so many books dealt with moving and transitions. I guess I never looked before, but I’m glad they are there because so many families do move around quite a bit. I love the Alexander stories, too!

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  2. I have not read the Viorst book or Neville, but know all the others, Myra. I can’t decide which is a favorite. Yard Sale is indeed poignant, but so is Lenny & Lucy, and those illustrations are marvelous. Bad Bye, Good Bye is done so cleverly. Thanks for “gathering” this group. It’s helpful to remind us that children need support when a moving away from the home they’ve known and loved.

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  3. Lenny & Lucy was my favorite PB from 2015. I find the Steads’ books so interesting. They feel much more like the PBs I grew up on in the 70s. There is always something unresolved in them, some space for the reader to do quite a bit of thinking and work. I love that in a picture book. Bad Bye, Good Bye was definitely in my top 3 for 2014. I was so disappointed there was no Caldecott!

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  4. Love Lenny & Lucy, The Yard Sale and Good Bye, Bad Bye! I need to check out your other moving stories! You might want to look at Before I Leave by Jessixa Bagley. Have a great reading week!

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  5. Moving can be such a traumatic experience for a young child – I remember switching elementary schools several times, and being the new kid again and again can be a real drag. There’s a Canadian title, Ben Says Goodbye by Sarah Ellis, that would be a good addition to this list, hopefully you can find it!

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  6. I love Viorst’s Alexander books. Another good book for this theme would be Liz Scanlon’s Good Pie Party.

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  7. All these wonderful titles are familiar to me, save for Bad Bye, Good Bye…I need to find this book, Myra!

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  8. I didn’t know there was another Alexander book! I’ll have to check it out.
    I agree that Lenny & Lucy is beautiful! Loved that book.
    I didn’t know the others–I’ll have to check them out 🙂

    Happy reading this week!

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  9. I love your themes — this is a particularly great one! How did I miss that Eve Bunting book?!?! I need to read it…and maybe send a copy to my mom, who is on the brink of an auction of the contents of her home of 60 years.

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