PPBF: Electric Ben

Electric Ben

Author/Illustrator: Robert Byrd
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012
Age Level: 5-8
Themes: Ben Franklin, social activists, statesmen, inventors, scientists, printers, biography
Opening: A boy about ten years old was swimming in a pond in early colonial Massachusetts.
Summary: A true Renaissance man, Benjamin Franklin was the first American celebrity. In pictures and text, master artist Robert Byrd documents Franklin’s numerous and diverse accomplishments, from framing the Constitution to creating bifocals. The witty, wise, and endlessly curious Franklin is the perfect subject for Byrd’s lively style and vibrant art. The pages pulse with facts, quotes, and captions, while the inventive design and intricately detailed illustrations make a striking tribute to the brilliant American.

Isn't he gorgeous!

Isn’t he gorgeous!

Why I like this book: This is not a typical PPBF selection for me, and I’ll admit the funky bright cover attracted me first. But I am a BIG fan of well-written biographies, especially if there are so many fun and informative illustrations. And if there were someone from the past I could choose to shoot the breeze with, you guessed it, it’s Ben, and always has . . . been!

A Kirkus Reviews Best Childrens Book of 2012, a 2012 Horn Fanfare Book, and a 2012 Robert F. Sibert Honor book!

You might enjoy more of Robert Byrd’s books – click HERE to read about them.

Here is another dreamy portrait by Joseph-Siffred Duplessis that was used to create the image for the $_____ bill. Please add your guess in the comment section!

Activities: I’ve been waiting to write something like this, and mean it, for a long time: GO FLY A KITE!

Go to Susanna Hill’s blog for more Perfect Picture Books and activities.

PPBF: The Day the Babies Crawled Away

Author/Illustrator: Peggy Rathmann
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2003
Age Level: 2-6
Themes: babies, rescue, picnicking, stories in rhyme
Opening: Remember the day the babies crawled away? We moms and dads were eating pies, the babies saw some butterflies– and what do you know? Surprise! Surprise! The babies crawled away!
Summary: A boy follows five babies who crawl away from a picnic and saves the day by bringing them back.

Why I like this book: I like it despite it’s imperfections. Nay! I love it all the more because it’s not perfect. It’s genuine. I found it incredibly easy and fun to read aloud – even to myself! You can’t help but inflect it with lighthearted pleasure! Might just be the book to help the beginning babysitter, or mind-numbing nanny, learn how to read with kids! The rhyme isn’t tight, but I think that’s what I like – it’s natural! Of course, I am a sucker for silhouettes, and though I am not particularly fond of 80’s neon color-scream, it adds to the unlikely twists. I read somewhere that parents might not like showing a parental inattentiveness, but I have had a baby crawl away, and a toddler ride a bike with training wheels so fast only the ice cream sign at the kiosk stopped her from reaching the main street, and my kids LOVE to hear the tales of their own escape!

Activities: Create pictures with scratch paper, the kind that looks black until you scratch away to reveal bright rainbow colors. You can buy it ready made, but when I was a kid, we made our own, by covering a piece of paper with crayon and painting it over in black. Mom didn’t care for the mess, but didn’t mind it on the patio!

Go to Susanna Hill’s blog for more Perfect Picture Books and activities.

Authostrator Visit, and Doodle Day: 18 swirl

PoodoodleI was invited to visit the first graders as an author-illustrator of picture books last week. It was the second rescheduling due to snow days. I was prepared, but somehow left my list of things I wanted to cover at home. I assembled that list after asking for tips in my 12×12 Picture Book Challenge group, and Deb Lund generously offered to talk to me about author visits over the phone. Deb stressed the importance of sharing something about yourself, and to let the kids feel like you are THEIR author.

My idea was to stress the importance of pictures in picture books – sounds silly, but I decided to read a few picture books that illustrate (ha, ha!) the parts of a story that the artist can tell, apart from what is being told in the text. So I am glad I had the books in my bag to start my talk, and hoped the rest would kick in.


But I got nervous. I don’t think it was the kids giving me secret waves, or the full 3 classes assembled before me, but my inner teacher took over and I started telling – that was my mistake. I don’t think the kids minded, but I should have nixed all the talk (esp. how an anecdote differs from a story plot – yeah, it got that bad!). I showed them some of my work (which I wish I could have done on a big screen so all the kids in the back could see too). And I got a lot of encouragement to create stories for my squirrel character.


But what I SHOULD have done, was to give the whole talk standing up and to draw as much as I talked on the big white board. Because in the end, when the questions started coming in (mind you, raised hands and random comments sprinkled the whole event) I realized they wanted to see how I do what they could relate to best at that age – telling stories in pictures.

apostrophe catastrophe

apostrophe catastrophe

Reading those books was what gave me something to take away in the end. Although I read between 75 and 100 picture books a week, I don’t get to read aloud them to kids. During my visit I realized, you don’t read TO kids, but WITH them! I somehow never noticed that with my own two. We read one wordless book, Bear Despair by Gaetan Dorémus, then Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins to read what was not in the text. Then, to discuss what the posture and facial expressions tells us, we read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. That’s when it hit me – their enthusiasm drove how I read, how I turned every page. It was marvelous to experience the book like a chorus does a song!