PPBF: The Sea Serpent and Me

 

Author: Dashka Slater
Illustrator: Catia Chien
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin, 2008
Ages: 6-9yrs
Themes: sea serpents, friendship, growth
Opening: On Tuesday, as I was about to climb into the bath, a sea serpent dropped out of the faucet and into the tub.
Summary: (from my library catalog) One day a small sea serpent falls from the faucet into the tub as a child is about to take a bath, and as the days go by and the serpent grows, they both realize that he needs to go back to the sea where he belongs.

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I like this book because: the story reminds me of childhood dreams of just such an experience (who am I kidding – still hoping!), written simply and beautifully – “the clouds drifted over green jungles and silvery cities…” – yet the undertone is exciting with an anxious pull. The illustrations are flowing, loose yet captivating, as you can see – and believe it or not, I did not post the best spreads – you’ll have to check them out yourself!

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Resources/activities: I will forever appreciate how a friend of the family, Risa, taught me to appreciate the smallest of creatures, not to be frightened when they take interest in my personal space, but to help them find a way to a more suitable environment – for us both! Discuss the natural habitats of creatures and why it is important to respect them; Create an inviting habitat: plant flowers and shrubbery for butterflies, bees, and other wildlife in your back yard, or school grounds; Take a field trip to the beach, the woods, or a stream – pick up plastic rings, bottles, and other trash that can kill birds, turtles, dolphins, and other animals.

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Perfect Picture Book Friday is on hiatus for the summer, but there are still plenty of selections on a themed and alphabetized list, with teacher/parent resources, on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE

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The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man. — Charles Darwin

PPBF: Journey Cake, Ho!

JCHcover Heading for the hills this weekend – will reply later!

Author: Ruth Sawyer Illustrator: Robert McCloskey Publisher: The Viking Press, 1953 Ages: 3+ Themes: farm/farmers, animals, run-away food Opening: There were three of them: the old woman, Merry; the old man, Grumble: and Johnny, the bound-out boy. They lived in a log cabin, t’other side of Tip Top Mountain. Summary: (from my library catalogue) Johnny is leaving the farm because of hard times when his Journey Cake leads him on a merry chase that results in a farm yard full of animals and the family all together again. JCHtitlepage I like this book because: I adore the flavor of dialect in this classic’s rhythmic text from Ruth Sawyer, with words like ‘this-wise’, ‘nettlesome’, and ‘all of a tucker’. The very simple use of just two contrasting tones from master book maker Robert McCloskey, of Make Way for Ducklings fame, make the pictures pop, but I really appreciate the bold line strokes used to create texture and infuse energy in these traditional illustrations (pssst -I plan to post more McCloskey favorites this year). JCHrunawayfood Resources/activities: Read about the history of America’s first pancakes, and make the recipe – HERE ; put on a play, like the kids from the Atlanta School – with music! – in the video below (17:30mins – play is over after 13 )

For more Perfect Picture Book picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.

Fractured Tales Contest: Blue-Bill

Susanna Hill is having a March-Madness writing contest. The rules: Write a children’s story, in poetry or prose, maximum 400 words, that is a fractured fairy tale. Mine is not a fracturing of the gruesome French Bluebeard tale (read it HERE), though I alluded to it in my 383-word reconstruction of the English fairy tale, The Magpie’s Nest (read it HERE) , for an American audience. Hope you enjoy it!

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The other birds were suspicious when Black-billed Magpie opened a nest-building school.

“He has skills,” remarked Chickadee.

“And he’s clever,” said Wren

“Look at all his shiny treasures too,” said Hummingbird.

“I wouldn’t trust that ‘Blue-bill’ with a ten inch twig! Bet he lines his basement with little bird bones!” said Robin, and flew off. But the rest were in awe and stayed.

“Before building you must be in good physical shape,” said Magpie. He explained everything he knew about nutrition, fresh air and exercise. But Wren was easily bored, and the lessons hadn’t even started yet. So Wren left and made a nest in an old shoe.

“Location, location, location,” said Magpie. “First you need a good spot. Without one, it doesn’t matter how well you build.”

“But how do you know? How can you be sure? Do you have a checklist? Is spring best for building? What time of day?” Chickadee went on and on, with more and more questions.

“Well, I am very wise. I just…know,” said Magpie. But answers like that were not sufficient for Chickadee. He flew off too.

“Next, you will need materials,” said Magpie. “Twigs, leaves and sticks of the best quality.”

“I can’t carry thick twigs like you. I’m not strong enough. I’m just a little bird,” said the Hummingbird.

Magpie saw his chance. “Then allow me to offer my home. We can nest very snuggly together.”

“I’m not so sure that would be wise. I have heard stories,” said the Hummingbird.

“That’s just what they are – stories.” Sensing Hummingbird’s lack of trust, Magpie made another offer. “My home would be yours and my treasures too. Anything your heart desires.”

“Really? Then I’ll have that red gem to wear around my neck. Bring it down and help me put it on, would you?” asked Hummingbird.

Magpie seized his chance. But while Hummingbird kept him busy, another bird proved to be the wiser and moved into Magpie’s excellent nest while he was out! The Great-Horned Owl was not skilled, but fierce!

But Black-billed Magpie was outsmarted twice that day. While he was busy constructing a new nest, Hummingbird got away – far away!

And that, my friends, is why the Ruby-throated Hummingbird lives in the east and the Black-billed Magpie lives in the west.

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rubythroated hummingbirdPlease pop over and read the other entries – HERE

PPBF: The Snatchabook

Author: Helen Docherty
Illustrator: Thomas Docherty
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabbberwocky, 2013
Ages: 3 and up
Themes: books, stories, community, sharing
Opening: One dark, dark night in Burrow Down, a rabbit named Eliza Brown found a book and settled down…when a Snatchabook flew into town.
Summary: (from my library catalogue) The woodland animals of Burrow Down are ready for a bedtime story, but where are the books? Haha! That was short!

I like this book because: I don’t like to throw out terms like classic, or evergreen, in fact, I haven’t ever attempted to predict a book’s success, but… yeah, I think this is one! Not only a clever premise, but a great read-aloud, and a celebration of stories and reading, inclusion and community. It has a delightful play of contrast with bright, colorful images, and moonlit, windy, owl-hooting darkness and such endearing characters. Oops, I almost forgot…it’s a rhymer!

Resources/activities: This is a perfect vehicle to start a discussion on favorite stories, books we like to read with our families, even how books should be treated and stored; talk about sharing books with those who don’t have many; start a book collection for a school in need; make a drawing/picture or diorama of Eliza’s room in the tree.

For more Perfect Picture Book picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.

PPBF: Too Noisy!

Author: Malachy Doyle
Illustrator: Ed Vere
Publisher: Candlewick, 2012
Ages: 3 and up
Themes: families, noise/quiet, tolerance
Opening: CRASH! JANGLE! Meet the Bungles – Whistle! Tweet! Toot!
Summary: (from my library catalogue) The Bungles sure are a large and noisy bunch! So noisy that Sam, the middle Bungle, has no room to think and is desperate to escape his booming, twooting, banging, clanging family. So off he wanders into the woods for some peace and quiet.

I like this book because: I love critters in picture books that I am not quite certain of  – are the Bungles raccoons? Could be, maybe. And how Vere used silhouettes for all the other critters, aside from the family pet and a butterfly. Doyle lyrical flair shines through – he really knows how to imbibe rhythm without the use of a formal rhyme, though the main character surprises himself with one!

Resources/activities: What a great way to start a discussion on noise in the classroom and respecting others! I imagine the class could make a poster(s) of self portraits and have the kids make speech bubbles just like the ones in the book, an include some of there likes and dislikes that may or may not have to do with classroom behavior. And if you’re really into picture book making, head over to Picture Book Den, an informative blog Doyle shares with other others. AND here is a great review on the same book with fabulous activity suggestions at This Picture Book Life – HERE

For more Perfect Picture Book picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.

PPBF: All Kinds of Families and a New Course: The Lyrical Language Lab!!

INFO ON THE NEW COURSE BELOW – keep scrolling!!
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Author: Mary Ann Hoberman
Illustrator: Marc Boutavant
Publisher: Little Brown, 2009
Age: 3 – 6 yrs
Themes: families, animals, stories in rhyme
Opening: Families, families, all kinds of families – Families are people and animals, too – But all sorts of other things fit into families – Look all around you and you’ll see what they do
Summary: (from Amazon) With irresistible, rollicking rhyme, beloved picture book author Mary Ann Hoberman shows readers that families, large and small, are all around us. From celery stalks to bottle caps, buttons, and rings, the objects we group together form families, just like the ones we are a part of. And, as we grow up, our families grow, too.

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I like this book because… I picked up this title out of the shelf in my library while engaging in one of my ‘hobbies’ – pulling my favorites and placing them on display! I had read a book (and reviewed it for PPBF) from this illustrator before, and with a touch of neon pink and orange on the cover, well, I was sold! Funny thing is, in writing this post I discovered he illustrates another graphic novel series I already love, but was unaware of the fact  – names, I tell ya! – called ARIOL. And I’m a goner – totally falling for this illustrator’s work! Cannot wait to see the other titles I’ve just put on hold, like his latest GHOSTS (Oops, was published in France in 2001!). Enough already about the illustration, because THE WRITING IS FANTASTIC! Yeah, super smooth swinging rhymes that do not let go! So guess what? I put a bunch of Hoberman’s titles on hold too!

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Resources/Activities: create animals or creatures or faces using letters, just like this one from the book! There are plenty more inside to jog the imagination; Make a family tree of your own.

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For more Perfect Picture Book picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.

AND NOW, if you haven’t already heard, I am happy to be able to tell you about Renee LaTulippe’s new course – THE LYRICAL LANGUAGE LAB and a GIVEAWAY – a scholarship for the course – on her post TODAY!

The course is designed for

–Rhyming PB writers who would like a stronger foundation in the mechanics of poetry
–Prose PB writers who would like to punch up the lyricism of their writing through poetic techniques
–Writers who would like to learn more about writing poetry for children

I happen to be one of the very lucky beta testers of the first five lessons of her course. Renee wanted at least one total newbie to give it a trial run. Someone who may have dabbled but really had no clue what they’re doing. ME! No joke, I GET it now, even what is meant by ‘don’t mess with the stress!’ Teresa Robeson wrote a much more descriptive post about her beta experience – HERE

I know, practice makes perfect. I’m an amateur not a fool, but look at some of my  homework: first, an iambic quatrain

I’d like to drink a cup of tea
in your adoring company
But if you don’t enjoy the tea
Ingest! Delight! Just bask in me!

Maybe not gonna bring the house down, but I got the beat (everybody get on your feet… No? Too 80’s for ya?)

Just one more – not quite there yet, but here is my first try at the anapest (and Wantagh is where I grew up) —

In the middle of winter in Wantagh
I caught cold from the breezy night air
Though my mother had taught me much better
I camped on a patio chair

She said, Child what on earth were you thinking
your whim could have caught you your death
for in Wantagh the devil is lurking
on the moisture that carries your breath

I did rock out an AWESOME double dachtyl, but I can’t share it yet because I’m being brave –  going to enter it in my library’s contest this month – Battle of the Bards!

PPBF: Ding Dong! Gorilla!

WAIT! SHAMELESS INTERRUPTION. I’m chillin’ in the spotlight over at KID-LIT 411 todayHERE.

Author: Michelle Robinson
Illustrator: Leonie Lord
Publisher: Peachtree, 2013, first published in GB, by Orchard Books, 2013
Age: 3 – 8yrs
Themes: excuses, gorillas, pizza
Opening: You know we ordered a pizza? A GREAT BIG one with extra cheese? Well. I’m afraid I have some BAD news…
Summary: (from SLJ) After a gorilla shows up at the door, a boy has the wildest night of his life. Unfortunately, he then must explain to his family about crayon on the walls, toys and piles of dirty clothes all over the house, and a broken window and vase. And that’s not even the bad news! When the delivery boy arrives with dinner, the gorilla scares him away and then eats all of the pizza. Soon after, the animal slips discreetly out the door, too, leaving the boy to explain the situation, and his family with a messy house and nothing to eat.

Why I like this book: IT’S FUNNY! And not just the text: the illustrations are right up my alley, with bold strokes simple textures and great use of basic color schemes, and I enjoyed the spare use of ‘ornamental’ fonts – simple and not distracting. I can’t say all of the dialogue was age specific (no, I don’t know any kids who say ‘overexcited’), but the fun trumps any hiccups!

Resources/Activities: discuss excuses a child or adult may have used to avoid trouble (like having to go to the bathroom, so I could spit out all those mushy peas!); below is a page to color downloaded from the author’s page – HERE

For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks and parent/teacher resources go to Susanna Hill’s blog – HERE

PPBF: Mr.Tiger Goes Wild and a GIVEAWAY!

In honor of Perfect Picture Book Friday revving up another season today, I’m having my FIRST EVER

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Win a signed copy! Leave a comment (until 9/19) and I’ll put your name in the hat (looks a lot like Mr.Tiger’s!)

Author/Illustrator: Peter Brown Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013 Age Level: 3-6 Themes: tigers, animals, etiquette, city/town life, self-actualization Opening: Everyone was perfectly fine with the way things were. Everyone but Mr. Tiger. Summary: (From Amazon) Are you bored with being so proper? Do you want to have more fun? Mr. Tiger knows exactly how you feel. So he decides to go wild. But does he go too far? From Caldecott Honor artist Peter Brown comes a story that shows there’s a time and place for everything…even going wild.

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Why I like it: It’s beautiful! You’ll have to check the cover under the jacket (notice the texture) too, but everything down to the endpapers, the color use, the graphic down-paring, the use of negative space – is well designed. During the read-aloud I attended on Peter Brown’s book tour, (if you live near NY – go to the PARTY) he explained his own difficulties sitting still in the classroom as a young child, longing to be wild and free, naturally. I can’t believe I didn’t ask if he too stripped himself – of the confines – and ran for the woods!

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12xers with Peter Brown at the Tattered Cover, Denver (me, second from left) Resources/Activities: Have children talk about natural animal behaviors they are aware of: stalking, hunting, protecting, team-working, etc.; Discuss the use of color in the book and why the author/illustrator may have made the choices he did; Make your own book the Peter Brown way I’d also like to suggest two pairings for Mr.Tiger Goes Wild below. (See my critique group’s PB & J picture book picks HEREinspired by B&N’s – Books Made Better When Read Together)

And in honor of creatures everywhere, bored of behaving, AND to celebrate Roald Dahl’s birthday, I’d like to suggest one more:  More Perfect Picture Book Friday picks on Susanna Hill’s blogHERE Mr.Tiger Goes Wild trailer for Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/mpd/permalink/m3LR4ZEDXVLRAG/ref=ent_fb_link

Picture Perfect Friday Book – a spin!

Perfect Picture Book Friday is STILL taking a break, but I had to share this! Maybe I can add it to the list on Susanna Hill’s blog later, or inspire someone else to write a review!

Author: Julia Donaldson
Illustrator: 
Axel Scheffler
Publisher: 
Arthur A. Levine Books; Reprint edition, 2013
Age Level: 4-7
Themes: rats, thieves, animals, stories in rhyme
Opening: The Highway Rat was a baddie. The Highway Rat was a beast. He took what he wanted and ate what he took. His life was one long feast. His teeth were sharp and yellow, his manners were rough and rude, And the Highway Rat went riding – riding – riding – riding along the highway and stealing the traveler’s food.
Summary: (From Amazon) From the bestselling creators of THE GRUFFALO, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Quick! Hide all your goodies! The Highway Rat’s coming, and he’s going to steal your snacks… He takes clover from a rabbit, nuts from a squirrel — he even steals his own horse’s hay! Can no one stop him? The creators of STICK MAN and A GOLD STAR FOR ZOG stand and deliver this fabulous new story of a wickedly loveable villain who gets his just deserts.

This find on the NEW bookshelf at the library made me gasp! I have become SUCH a big fan of their collaborations, that I keep my fingers crossed and hope they continue! But I don’t like being disappointed, so I tucked it in my bag to savor the excitement (and wouldn’t want to shriek in the library, though the children’s librarians would understand). On the way home I told myself, “Now, Julie, the chances of this becoming another favorite are slim (I am a good convincer!), it will probably be good, probably not great, just enjoy it for what it is.” It’s a good trick of mine, and useful for someone who enjoys going from a calm state to euphoria in seconds. And it worked again! Aww, man – I LOVE IT!!! I’m like a kid, I love the characters, the repetition, but as an adult I know the poem from whence it was inspired and so could enjoy it all the more! Hope you do too!

If you have a few minutes, listen to the kids reading this book HERE.

And for Anne of Green Gables aficianados – enjoy:

PPBF: It Jes Happened

Author: Don Tate
Illustrator: R. Gregory Christie
Publisher: Lee & Low Books, 2012
Age Level: 6 and up
Themes: African American painters, folk art, Alabama, biography
Opening: It was early summer in Montgomery, Alabama, 1939. On downtown Monroe Avenue, an elderly man sat on a wooden crate. With a board laid across his lap and the stub of a pencil grasped in his hand, he began to draw a picture on the back of a discarded laundry soap box.
Summary: A biography of twentieth-cenury African American folk artist Bill Traylor, a former slave who at the age of eighty-five began to draw pictures based on his memories and observations of rural and urban life in Alabama.

Why I like this book: This is a beautifully written story of a very poor man whose light certainly shined within (Traylor is now considered to be one of the most important self-taught folk artists). Here another excerpt: ‘Rectangles became bodies; circles became heads and eyes; lines became outstretched arms, hands, and legs. He filled in shapes with sketchy lines and smoothed out edges.’ In researching this post I was surprised to find out that Tate is better known as an illustrator. I was so taken by the story that I asked, and found out, that there will (hopefully) soon be a site where we can view Traylor’s original work.
Resources/Activities: Check out the teacher’s guide on Don Tate’s website, by Debbie Gonzales.


For more PPBF picks, go to Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog – HERE