Month: December 2015

PPBF Looks at "Crow Made a Friend" Plus 2 fun DIY Projects!

PPBF – Perfect Picture Book Friday looks at “Crow Made a Friend” by Margaret Peot. And at the end of my book review, I have two, fun DIY, kid-friendly projects to share with you!

At one point or another, we’ve all needed a friend. Chances are, none of us would go to the lengths Crow does in this wonderful picture book, but through sparse text and a heart-touching story, we sympathize with Crow’s desperate need and root for him.

Title – Crow Made a Friend

Written and Illustrated by- Margaret Peot

Published by- Holiday House / New York – I Like To Read – 2015

Suitable for ages – 3  – 7

Topics/theme – Friendship

Opening – Crow is alone.

Back Cover  – Crow was alone. He had a plan. He tried and tried and tried to make a friend.

Amazon Review –  Crow Made a Friend – I’m only sharing part of the review because Amazon gives away the whole, wonderful story.

Try, try again is the lesson Crow teaches beginning readers in this picture book reader. Crow was all alone. But like all crows, he was very clever. Using autumn leaves for wings, sticks for the body and a crab apple for the head, Crow made a friend! But…

Why do I like this book?  Sparse text teamed with colorful and thoughtful illustrations make this a book the youngest reader will want to read repeatedly. The message is one for everyone: the need for friendship and the lengths Crow is willing to go for the perfect friendship.

Author – Visit Margaret Peot here.

For more picture book reviews and recommendations, visit author Susanna Leonard Hills blog here.

START A CONVERSATION WITH A CHILD.  After sharing this book with a child (or with children) ask them what materials they might use to make a friend if they were Crow. Would they make a friend from snow or of twigs and leaves? Their answers will most likely enchant you.  Maybe ask them why they made certain choices in materials, too.


To attract birds to your yard and have a fun project you can make with children, try using hollowed orange halves as feeders you can fill with seeds. The how to instructions are here.

Another easy way to attract birds is to make a yummy treat for your feathered friends by stirring a cup of unsalted peanut butter with bird seeds. Once mixed, press this mixture into pinecones that you can hang from tree branches near a window so you can watch your new friends. Find more detailed instructions here.

PPBF looks at 'Being Frank' + Interview!

Perfect Picture Book Friday – PPBF looks at Being Frank, by Donna W. Earnhardt.

In addition to this Friday’s picture book review, I have a special surprise. Drum role, please…

A behind-the-scenes look into the making of this laugh-out-loud, picture book treasure by the author, Donna W. Earnhardt. 

We’ve all been there. Somebody asks us for our (honest) opinion on something they made, bought, or are wearing. Or maybe they did something that rouses us enough to comment from that overly honest place inside us (that should be censored prior to speaking).  I’m guilty of this. Frankly, during my childhood, my mother sounded like a broken record. “Leslie, Leslie, think before you speak!” Yup, I was one of those clinically honest children–one of those “Frank” people. Which leads me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday choice, Being Frank, by my friend, Donna W. Earnhardt.                   The Interview.

Donna W. Earnhardt Author of Being Frank

Donna W. Earnhardt
Author of Being Frank

Me: What led up to this book? (Including) Did it begin as a passing idea you thought about for some time before writing or did it come to you in a brilliant flash that had you typing immediately? 

Donna: It was a wet “flash” moment! In 2009, I decided to be a NaNoWriMo rebel and only write shorter stories during the challenge. I was in the shower and praying for family and about my writing when the first lines of the book popped in my head. I kept repeating them until I got out of the shower and could write them down… and add more! It flowed pretty quickly. I felt a deep connection with this book.

Me: Is there a Frank in your life that your main character is patterned after? If so, are any of his moments of “frankness” in your book true to life?   

Donna: Even though the title bears my dad’s first name, I dedicated it to my “family of Franks” – because we all have a little Frank in us. Even so, my hubby teases me and says that I wrote the book based on him, but the truth is that we all have a tendency to say stuff that perhaps doesn’t need to be said… but don’t always realize it. However, after the book was published, I realized that one line of the story was straight from my hubby. I’ll let you figure out which one it was, but I’ll give you a hint – it has to do with glaring and wrinkles. We laugh about it now, and he says, “Hey… I helped you get a book deal!”

Me: What was your biggest learning experience in the publishing process? 

Donna: My editor was Shari Greenspan, and she is wonderful. I learned tons from her! It’s very clear to me now that editors can see the bigger picture of our stories when sometimes we can’t. I learned that changing just a few words can make all the difference in a scene. The beginning of the story and the end stayed the same throughout the revisions – but the middle of the book was revised for the better! We need great beginnings and endings – but the middle of the story is the “meat-and-potatoes”. That’s where the work really happens in storytelling for me. 

Throughout the editing process, I learned that I should not try to tell the whole story — I always, always, always need to leave room for the illustrator. Shari and our brilliant illustrator, Andrea Castellani, balanced the “moral” overtones of Being Frank with hilarious illo spreads. Two of my favorite spreads – the one that shows Grandpa drinking water from the hose (their idea!) and the relish “switcheroo” at the end of the story. I did my job as writer, Andrea did his, and Shari did her job by bringing it all together!

Title – Being Frank

Written by- Donna W. Earnhardt

Illustrated by- Andrea Castellani

Published by- Flashlight Press 2012

Suitable for ages – 4  – 8

Topics/theme – honesty, kindness, family, and friendship

Opening – Frank was always frank. “Honesty is the best policy,” he said.

Jacket copy  – “Honesty is the best policy.” That’s Frank’s motto. He tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But Frank’s overly frank comments tend to annoy his friends, his teachers, and even his mother — and now Frank is honestly unhappy. He decides to visit his confidant and pal, Grandpa Ernest, who has a history of frankness himself. A few outrageous hats, a spicy jar of relish, and some grandfatherly wisdom help Frank realize that the truth is best serves with more sugar and less pepper.

Amazon ReviewBeing Frank – Frank follows the motto, “Honesty is the best policy.” He tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Frank never lies to his schoolmates, he always tells the truth to adults, and he’s always honest with police officers. The balancing act of finding tact, that fine line between telling the truth and telling too much truth, is the main theme of this story, and it’s very funny—although not necessarily to his friend Dotti whose freckles remind Frank of the Big Dipper, or to the teacher who hears that her breath smells like onions, or to the principal who is told that his toupee looks like a weasel. No one is quite as impressed with Frank’s honesty as he thinks they should be. He is sweet and straightforward, and, well, very frank, but with everyone annoyed at him, Frank is now honestly unhappy. He decides to visit his confidante and pal, Grandpa Ernest, who has a history of frankness himself. With a few lessons from Grandpa, Frank begins to understand that the truth is important, but so is not being hurtful. With amusing characters and expressive artwork, this story tells the powerful message of finding the good in everything—a lesson that sends compassion and understanding to take the place of rudeness in the complex concept of truth.

Why do I like this book?  Seriously, the story and humor in this book are so laugh-out-loud funny and easy to connect with no matter if you are a child or an adult. However, I must strongly recommend something… Whether you check this book out from your library or purchase it, wait to read it until you are outside the library or bookstore so your laughter doesn’t disrupt anyone. (I speak from experience.) Donna Earnhardt has masterfully written a picture book that touches the hearts of both children and adults. And I promise you, should your child ask you to read it for the 50th time, you will gladly say, “ABSOLUTELY! YES! I WOULD LOVE TO!”

One of many things I enjoy about this book is the way Donna Earnhardt set up the story: At first, Frank’s moments of frankness are followed by the corrective actions of those people graced with Frank’s frankness. But when Frank goes too far being frank with his friends, he must seek help and guidance from his grandfather before he finds himself alone. Through examples of how best to be honest without being frank, Grandpa Ernest demonstrates this fine art without hurting anyone’s feelings. Frank is soon given the opportunity to try out his newly acquired skill and… Voila! The reader is blessed with the best possible end to a must-read, must-own picture book. I would also like to add that the illustrations, by award-winning illustrator Andrea Castellani, add a colorful, fresh, and playful level of humor.

Author – Visit Donna W. Earnhardt here.

Illustrator – Visit Andrea Castellani here.

For more picture book reviews and recommendations, visit author Susanna Leonard Hills blog here.

I hope you enjoyed today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review and interview with the very talented author, Donna W. Earnhardt.

PPBF Looks at 'Herbert – The True Story Of A Brave Sea Dog'

PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) looks at Herbert The True Story of a Brave Sea Dog.

Anyone who has ever experienced grief when their pet got lost will appreciate the loyalty of one little boy and his deep belief that his dog will come home to him again.

I recall vividly the summer when my cat disappeared for several days. My parents were convinced it was Misha’s time, and he had gone off to die. Like Tim, in the picture book I am sharing today, I kept believing Misha was alive. During his absence, I wondered if Misha worried he’d never find his way home again. Did he miss me as much as I missed him? Was he hurt and unable to walk? I never knew the struggles Misha endured until his return. A hawk had tried to carry our cat away and in the struggle, broke a talon off in Misha’s back. Yes, my beautiful cat survived and lived for many more years.

For anyone who has experienced the sheer joy when a happy bundle of fur returns home, or can imagine such a joy, you will cherish Herbert – The True Story of a Brave Dog. 

Title – Herbert – The True Story of a Brave Sea Dog

Written and illustrated by- Robyn Belton

Published by- Candlewick Press – First U.S. edition 2010

Suitable for ages – 4  – 8

Topics/theme – Friendship, Loyalty, Hope, Faith, and Love

Opening – Herbert was a small dog who lived in Nelson, New Zealand, by the sea. Everybody liked Herbert, but the person who loved him most was Tim.

Jacket Flap  –  Herbert was a small dog who lived by the sea. Everybody loved him, but the person who loved him best of all was Tim. One fine day, Herbert set off on a boat with Tim’s father. And so began the biggest adventure of Herbert’s life. This heartwarming tale, written and illustrated by Robyn Belton, tells the remarkable true story of a young boy’s beloved dog and his real life adventure at sea.

Synopsis from Amazon – A boy never gives up hope when his little dog vanishes at sea in this suspenseful and heartwarming true-life adventure.

Why do I like this book? Robyn Belton tells a touching story that pulled at my heart. When Herbert fell overboard and wasn’t noticed missing until hours later, due to  bad conditions at sea, I welled up inside with sadness for Tim and for Herbert who would have a hard struggle ahead of him. I admired Tim’s devotion for his dog when, during their search out at sea, everyone gave up except him, and in looking one more time, a cherished friend and pet was found after enduring 30 hours in the sea. Robyn Belton’s sensitive watercolors offer the perfect feeling to this treasured tale. The end papers of this beautiful book offer a strong addition to the book in that they include photographs of Tim and Herbert, the medal Herbert was awarded, maps, and letters from people whose hearts were touched when they read of this incident in the newspaper. This isn’t a picture book I was content to check out of my library–this is a picture book I purchased because its rich writing and beautiful illustrations earned it a place in my home.

An interview with Robyn Belton  about this story can be viewed here.