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
Axel Scheffler
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

PPBF: Aa, A was an apple pie


Italian cover – best resolution I could find

Author/Illustrator: Etienne Delessert
Creative Editions, 2005
Age Level: 
the Italian website where I nabbed the cover photo says 0-5; I like their way of thinking.
alphabet book
Opening: Aa
A was an apple pie
Yes, the book walks us from Aa to Zz, and ampersand, but this is a classic nursery rhyme from the 1660’s (!) reintroduced with playful creatures by Delessert.


Why I like this book: The classic text is so much fun, I’m kind of glad I didn’t already know it: ‘Dd dealt it, Ee ate it…Tt took it, Uu upset it’. But for me it’s the the illustrations: bright, cheerful, playful and light as a feather. If you are not familiar with Delessert’s books, I must take pity on you. Click on his name, above, to go to the gallery on his website. This self-taught Swiss artist, now living in the US, speaks the visual language of picture books, and has received numerous awards, but who cares about awards – just check out one of his books. You have more than eighty to choose from!

Resources/Activities: make personalized alphabet books, using the children’s own illustrations or collaged from magazines; I found a fun marching game, which is a lot like a ‘Pie Walk’, and many other alphabet related activities at A to Z Teaching Stuff HERE

For more PPBF picks go to Susanna Hill’s blog – any day!

PPBF: One Gorilla, A Counting Book

Author/Illustrator: Anthony Browne
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2012
Age Level: 3-7
Themes: counting book, primates
Opening: ‘1 gorilla.’ (The suspense is killing you now, eh?)
Summary: Spoiler alert: 1 – 10, and a little extra. Okay, so there is not much of a story going on here, BUT there is, really, once you get past 10…


Why I like this book: I don’t. I LOVE IT! The primate master is at it again! If, by some remote chance, you don’t know who Anthony Browne is, or if you’ve only read a book or two, I obviously need to fill you in. This Brit has been making picture books since the mid-seventies, been bestowed with a gazillion awards, and was the UKs Children’s Laureate from 2009-2011. Not only does he write wonderful books (about 40 now), he illustrates them. But when describing his work ‘illustrate’ is too simple a word. He breathes life into his pictures, and they breathe life back into the viewer. Stunning comes close – you do feel a bit of an electric shock, but with a strong magnetic pull. Try it.



‘Wise guy’ quote: (I nabbed Browne’s from a post at forbiddenplanet.co.uk) “‘I hope to encourage more children to discover and love reading, but I want to focus particularly on the appreciation of picture books, and the reading of both pictures and words. Picture books are for everybody at any age, not books to be left behind as we grow older. The best ones leave a tantalising gap between the pictures and the words, a gap that is filled by the reader’s imagination, adding so much to the excitement of reading a book.’

Resources/Activities: this counting book can easily prompt a discussion on what a primate is, their different habitats – even the different sounds each one makes – HERE is the link to a website from the National Primate Research Center at the University of Wisconsin, with a whole bunch of calls you can listen to.

For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks go to Susanna Hill’s blog – any day

PPBF: Bear With Me

Author/Illustrator: Max Kornell
Publisher: G.P.Putnam’s Sons, 2011
Genre: fiction
Themes: friendship, bears, siblings
Age Level: 4-6
Opening: It started off just right. I had a mom and a dad and my own set of blocks. I had everything I needed.
Synopsis: from the publisher: Everything in Owen’s world is just peachy-till his parents bring home a bear named Gary-without even asking! Gary changes everything: he takes up way too much space and makes a mess of all of Owen’s toys. Gary means well, though, and eventually Owen starts to see that there are some good things about having a bear in the family.
Why I like this book: I am a sucker for great illustrations and Kornell captures the frustration of his main character impeccably, using vibrant watercolors and pencil lines, creatively arranged in collage with acrylics. The difficulty in adapting to change in a family is conveyed in a straightforward manner and balanced with gentle yet juicy humor.
Resource/Activity: This is the first time I have attached a book enrichment pdf, from Words Alive, so let me know if you have trouble downloading: ELIBookEnrichmentGuide_BearWithMe
The attached video was probably made as an intro piece, but it is fun and informative to see how his characters come to life digitally:
For more posts on Perfect Picture Books and resources visit Susanna Hill’s blog any day of the week!
PS – Playing around with a more graphic header, utilizing a font I created. Should I stick to pretty pics instead?

PPBF: Zoozical

Author: Judy Sierra
Illustrator: Marc Brown
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
Genre: fiction
Themes: rhyme, talent show, zoo animals
Age Level: 3-8
Opening: One blustery morning, when frosty winds blew, When families stayed home, and when field trips were few, The midwinter doldrums arrived at the zoo.
Synopsis: When the winter doldrums arrive at the zoo, a very small hippo and a young kangaroo decide to stage a ZooZical, to display their singing, dancing, acrobatic, and other talents to the people of Springfield.
Why I like this book: This book had me with the end papers! Simple line drawings and coarse (yet not itchy!) textures compliment such funny rhymes : Then the snakes (by mistake) tied themselves up in knots. Ocelots lost their spots.
For more posts on Perfect Picture Books and resources visit Susanna Hill’s blog every Friday.

PPBF: The Twin’s Blanket

Author/Illustrator: Hyewon Yum
Publisher: Frances Foster Books, Farrar Strauss Giroux 2011
Genre: fiction
Themes: twins, sisters, blankets, sharing, individuality
Age Level: 3 and up
Opening: We’re look-alike twins. That means we look like each other. That means we share everything.
Synopsis: Told from their POV, five year old twin girls, who have always shared everything, sleep in separate beds with their own blankets for the first time.
Resource/Activity: Project Linus: strives to offer comfort for children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need.
Why I like this book: I love the mother’s creative solution (isn’t that what makes a good mother – resourcefulness?!), and the simple and beautifully colored illustrations. Also one of School Library Journal’s Best Picture Books of 2011.
For more posts on Perfect Picture Books and resources visit Susanna Hill’s blog every Friday.


PPBF is on summer hiatus, but a picture book-junkie needs her fix!

Role play! Yes, I dub myself ‘Royal Test-Reader’ to a (very) young Queen. Not to decide which books remain in the kingdom and which do not, but to have a close look at the elements I don’t like and offer constructive suggestions (though my character’s ambition is to make her own good books!). Role play is improvisational, and comments are formed from my tastes, my notions. I am well aware that if all proposals lead to changes, the picture book industry would die of uniformity, but I hope through this experience to come clean in my own writing and illustrating, and have a little fun!

“Your Majesty may I present…

…CHLOE, by Peter McCarty (Balzer +Bray, 2012)”

Click here to have a look inside

Okay, okay, I hear you wondering, how I could possibly find anything wrong with a book by such a distinguished writer and illustrator of several award-winning books?

Well, I just…did.

“The cover is gorgeous, the end papers lovely, though a character swinging from one of the branches would suggest ‘real’ fun. The tilted house is perfect as a symbol of things to come in Chloe’s world. The text is concise, the font choices clean and fitting. Every page has been carefully composed and the reader is happy to linger. I know children can enjoy taking a stand against something everyone else likes to do, but on page eleven I feel uneasy about Chloe’s choice to not even give the new gadget a try. I understood her revolt on page 13 – it ‘s fitting and funny. But when she manages to convince 20 siblings NOT to watch TV with just two simple suggestions (despite an attractive screen character), I begin to feel I’m being lectured to and soon the taste in my mouth is rather pedagogical. The adorable character and her siblings carry me to the end, and I do smile when I see who is responsible for the “sound of popping bubbles”. But what could have been perfection leaves me wanting, especially when Chloe’s house is still tilted.”

“What do you suggest, my royal servant?” asked my (very) young Queen.

“I think the main character must act more realistically. I believe she would have joined in on the family’s excitement and decided for herself that TV is boring and realized that watching it is not the family fun time she knows and loves. And as her father ‘agrees’ in the end, the house angle should be righted.”

“Arise Sir PBJ, you have served me well. But I still love those rabbits!”

PPBF: The Giant Seed

This post is dedicated to all those affected by the High Park Fire: seeds of hope
Author/Illustrator: Arthur Geisert
Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books, 2012 (originally published in France under La Grosse Graine by Editions Autrement, 2010)
Genre: wordless fiction;  note the interesting size: 10 1/4″ x 6″
Themes: pigs, seeds, volcanoes, islands, dandelions, displacement
Age Level: 4-8
Synopsis: In this new episode of Geisert’s pig stories (yes, that was the cue to read the others) a seed drifts into the community, is planted, nurtured and enjoyed by all. The threat of a  volcano eruption has them scrambling to safety, and I’ll let you guess how their escape is provided – or you can drift over to your local bookstore tomorrow to participate in Kelly Sonnack’s annual Save the Bookstore’s 2012 Event
Why I like this book: Geisert’s ability to imbue action and adventure in a wordless picture book with really cool photogravure illustrations is magical! (From Wikipedia: Photogravure is an intaglio printmaking or photo-mechanical process whereby a copper plate is coated with a light-sensitive gelatin tissue which had been exposed to a film positive, and then etched, resulting in a high quality intaglio print that can reproduce the detail and continuous tones of a photograph.)
Resource/Activity:  Good explanation for wind dispersal of seeds; Craft ideas: Printmaking for Kids; makeandtakes.com: home-made volcanoes
For more posts on Perfect Picture Books and resources visit Susanna Hill’s blog every Friday
And now to Day Nine: Jeff Goins tells us another habit of great writers is to connect with other writers. Then I must be in a great group of great writers already! For more info visit Julie Hedlund’s site for more info on the 12x12in’12 Challlenge.

PPBF: Animal Masquerade

Author/Illustrator: Marianne Dubuc
Publisher:Kids Can Press, 2012 (Originally under Au carnaval des animaux, 2011)
Genre: fiction
Themes: animals, disguises, masquerade
Age Level: 3-7, but my teens loved this too!
Opening: Come one, come all to the animal masquerade. Disguises are a must!
Synopsis: from Kids Can Press: The lion is going as an elephant, the elephant as a parrot, and the parrot as a turtle! Each costume gives way to another, yielding new surprises on every page, and revealing a menagerie of familiar and unusual animals. Young children will delight in the absurd and amusing images (who wouldn’t love a ladybug dressed as a hippopotamus?) and will also appreciate the gags (a fish costumed as a cat is dubbed a “catfish”) and other bits of silly sweetness. Recapping this reading adventure: a detailed panorama at book’s end, showing all the party guests in their fanciful finery.
Why I like this book: I don’t like this book, I LOVE IT! You can read it, over and over right away! If anyone out there ever makes a costume of an animal ‘in costume’ send me a photo!
Resource/Activity: make your own costumes: http://crafts.kaboose.com/holidays/halloween/costumes/ ; Blog: My Disguises great photos and ideas for kids of ALL ages
For more links to posts on Perfect Picture Books and resources, visit Susanna Hill’s blog every Friday.
PS: It is Day Four of the 15 Habits of Great Writers Challenge and we have been prompted to ‘practice’ publicly. Well, I did that last night when I read a MS to my shiny and new kid-lit crit-group. It was scary but fun and helpful, and I appreciate my fellow members soooo much!