Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Diversity and Friendship in 'My Two Blankets'

For today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, I’m looking at My Two Blankets, a book that combines diversity with friendship and understanding.

But to begin…a little story from my childhood that ties into my book review.

Having grown up with a mother who spoke only German and a father who spoke only English, I learned both at once and somehow managed to keep the two languages apart. And, in answer to your question, no matter which parent spoke to me, I always answered in English.

It wasn’t until I was four, traveling to visit my grandmother in Germany with my mother and older sister, that speaking English became a problem. The children in my grandmother’s neighborhood didn’t want to play with me because they didn’t understand English. I ran inside, miserable because I couldn’t make friends. My mother reminded me that I could understand her and therefore, must be able to speak German. “Go back out there,” she said, “and speak German with the children.”

Needless to say, the kids at the playground couldn’t understand how I learned their language so quickly. But from that moment on, the German children and I were able to share our stories and cultural differences (clothes, games, favorite meals, holidays, etc…), and friendships were quickly made.

For quite a while, I spoke only German. According to my parents, it took three months before I started speaking English again.

A language barrier can get in the way of making friends, the solution is to find a way to bridge that gap, and that is the main theme for my perfect picture book Friday review.

Title – My Two Blankets – view on Amazon HERE.

Written by – Irena Kobald

Illustrated by – Freya Blackwood

Published by – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – 2014

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme –  Diversity, understanding, and friendship.

Opening – Auntie used to call me Cartwheel. Then came the war. Auntie didn’t call me Cartwheel anymore. We came to this country to be safe. Everything was strange. The people were strange. The food was strange. The animals and the plants were strange. Even the wind felt strange.

Amazon Review – Cartwheel moves to a new country with her auntie, and everything is strange: the animals, the plants—even the wind. An old blanket gives Cartwheel comfort when she’s sad—and a new blanket just might change her world.

This multicultural story of friendship is about leaving home, moving to a foreign and strange place, and finding a new friend. It’s a story for all who have experienced change. Irena Kobald’s poetic text, paired with Kate Greenaway medalist Freya Blackwood’s powerful paintings, renders an emotional and heart-warming story about two children from diverse backgrounds coming together to become new friends.
Why do I like this book? I like that the story doesn’t  begin with Cartwheel’s new life in America. Instead, the book offers readers a look at how different Cartwheel’s world was. In a double-page spread, we are greeted with a warm illustration, depicting a region where the days are all seemingly hot. This is a place where villagers in draped, cotton clothes carry pots on their heads, tend livestock, and live in sand-colored huts. Clearly, Cartwheel’s world has been turned upside down. Not understanding what people are saying, Cartwheel wraps herself in a metaphorical blanket of familiar words and sounds. One day, a girl at the park teaches Cartwheel English words, thus closing the language gap and opening up the start of a wonderful friendship. As a result, Cartwheel forms a new metaphorical blanket made from the new words and sounds in America.

Learn about Irena Kobald HERE.

Learn about Freya Blackwood HERE. Please note, this link takes you to a marvelous blog post in which the very talented illustrator talks about the pictures she created for this book.

Find more Perfect Picture Book Friday reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

Activities to do with children – With paper, colored pencils, crayons, scissors, and glue, children can make their own blanket of words and images that define them, the country they live in, and their home. Cut 4-inch squares from colored or plain paper. On each square, have children write a word or draw a picture of something meaningful: a picture of their family, the house they live in, their pets, and words that describe them and their interests. Cutting pictures out of (parentally approved) magazines and gluing them to the squares is another option. Paste the pictures to a  poster board to form a quilt.


  1. Beth Anderson

    This sounds really interesting! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Patricia Tilton

    You were lucky your mother nudged you to speak German. What a beautiful book about immigration. I like the idea of comparing her old and new life. My kind of story!

    • Leslie Leibhardt Goodman - Writer

      I liked the metaphorical blankets Cartwheel made for herself. The illustrations of those blankets are truly lovely and imaginative.

  3. beleyne

    What a lovely book. I’m going to look for it to share with my class. We have lots of new Syrian refugees in our community – they came to visit our school about a month ago – and this book sounds like it would fit in nicely.

    • Leslie Leibhardt Goodman - Writer

      It might be interesting to have your students put together their own quilt of words and images to describe themselves, their country, and their home life to share with the class.

  4. ptnozell

    What a timely book to share! I have so many books on my “must read” list, but this just shot to the top. I had no idea that you are bilingual. You are so fortunate to have learned both at a young age and to have had the chance to use your German skills to join the group. Vielen Dank!

  5. Leslie Leibhardt Goodman - Writer

    When I read ‘My Two Blankets’ I was reminded of that time on the playground in Germany. I had a better understanding for what the girl, Cartwheel, in the story experienced. I loved how the girl she met on the playground devised a clever way to teach her English words.

    It seems you know how to speak German, too. I wish my mother were still alive so I could keep in practice. I was able to dust off my German when my husband and I traveled to Austria ten years ago.

  6. Frank

    Greetings from Ohio! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided
    to check out your website on my iphone during lunch
    break. I enjoy the info you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.
    I’m amazed at how fast your blog loaded on my mobile
    .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, excellent site!

  7. Leslie Leibhardt Goodman - Writer

    Hi, Frank! I have to smile at your message to me. You’re the first to tell me my blog post remedied a boring lunch break. And I’m glad you like my site, too. If you have the chance to read the book I reviewed, I hope you’ll enjoy it.

    Best wishes!

  8. Katrina

    Great post.