Month: March 2016

PPBF Looks at Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

For this Friday’s PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday), I would like to share with you one of my very favorite picture books, Goldilocks And The Three Dinosaurs, written by one of the most beloved authors and illustrators around–the very talented, Mo Willems.

I have a good number of books by Mo Willems on my shelf, but today’s book has an element I absolutely love…a narrator with a snarky personality. Mo Willems has taken a well-known story and given it a boost of creativity, originality, and blatant honesty. My favorite page in this book, hands down, comes when the narrator says, “Sure enough, five minutes later a poorly supervised little girl named Goldilocks came traipsing along. When I read that, I not only laughed myself off my chair, but I realized how true his statement is. Cover to cover, Mo Willems gives us a picture book reading experience that is a true treat.

Title – Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs – view on Amazon here.

Written and illustrated by – Mo Willems

Published by – Balzer + Bray, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, 2012

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme –  Fractured Fairy Tale with loads of humor

Opening – Once upon a time, there were three Dinosaurs; Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur, and some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway.

Jacket copy  – Once upon a time, there were three Dinosaurs; Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur, and some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway.

One day–for no particular reason–they decided to tidy up their house, make the beds, and prepare pudding of varying temperatures. And then–for no particular reason–they decided to go…someplace else. The were definitely NOT setting a trap for some succulent, unsupervised little girl.

Definitely not!

This new take on a fairy-tale classic is so funny and so original–it could only come from the brilliant mind of Mo Willems.

Amazon Review – same as above. Read it here.

Why do I like this book? I love fairy tales and I also love fractured fairy tales–there are many to read, but when I need a big dose of laughter, this is a book that delivers page after page of giggles.

Visit Mo Willems here.

Playing with puppets is an activity my daughter has enjoyed for years. So when I went searching the internet for an activity to go with today’s picture book review, I was happy to find this creative craft project over at the wonderful blog, the Messy Little Monster which turns wood spoons into puppets. Head on over for instructions on how to make these fun spoon puppets. I’ll bet a set of wooden spoons could be painted to look like dinosaurs, too…

Goldilocks and the Three Bears Spoon puppets for pretend play

An Easter Tale for the 50 Precious Words Contest

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I recently blogged about my friend, Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words Contest. To recap, the rules are to write a story in 50 words flat for kids ages 12 or under. It can be prose, rhyme, free verse, silly or serious, and the title doesn’t count toward the word count. You can find the contest details here at Vivian’s blog.

After writing my entry, I challenged myself to write another 50-word story and another and another. Choosing which one to enter was a decision I put in my 10-year-old daughter’s lap. Being rather diplomatic for her years, she hugged me and claimed they were all good. But one of them made her laugh, and that is the one I am entering.

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Here is my 50-word story in the form of a letter to the Easter bunny.

Dear Easter Bunny Easter Egg Border

PPBF Looks at What Kind Of Seeds Are These?

As I browsed for interesting picture books at my library, I spotted What Kinds Of Seeds Are These. I didn’t look to see who the author was but after reading the first page, I recognized the voice. I was holding a book by Heidi Bee Roemer. I took a poetry course with Heidi a number of years ago and was stunned at her critiques. Prior to taking her course, I was used to receiving a full page, professional critique on a picture book manuscript, but to receive a full page critique on a poem amazed me! Writing poetry is more than counting syllables and making sure your end words rhyme. What Kinds Of Seeds Are These? demonstrates this with brilliant clarity.


Title – What Kind Of Seeds Are These? – view on Amazon here.

Written by – Heidi Bee Roemer

Illustrated by – Olena Kassian

Published by – NorthWord Books for Young Readers, 2006

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/theme  Nature, specifically seeds and how they travel.

Opening – Sees are floaters and fliers and buried-alivers, exploders and sticklers and hitchhiking tricksters. Seeds travel around in their clever disguises. There are billions of seeds–and they’re full of surprises!

Jacket copy  – The world is full of different kinds of plants, and that means the world is full of different kinds of seeds! Each one is unique, and each has a special way of getting where it needs to be to grow and bloom. Some have wings to fly on the wind, some stick like glue to passerby, and others take a detour right through an animal’s stomach! This delightful rhyming picture book tells the stories of nine different seeds in a fun-to-read riddle format. Gorgeously-detailed illustrations show each seed up close as well as the plant it belongs to. Kid-friendly  activities are included at the end to encourage  readers to sprout green thumbs of their own. From maple seeds to coconuts. What kinds of seeds are these? clues readers into the fascinating mysteries of seeds!

Amazon Review – A perfect companion to NorthWord’s WHAT DO ROOTS DO?, this spirited text enumerates in riddle form the many ways different kinds of seeds travel, whether by helicopter or rolling in the wind as a tumbleweed. Fun activities are included at the end to help readers discover the world of seeds up close. Gorgeous illustrations of seeds and plants and children enjoying them leap from the pages.

Why do I like this book? I appreciate clever rhymes, and clever rhymes mixed with a lively dose of education offers kids a painless, easy way to learn about a new topic. Heidi Bee Roemer is a master of clever rhymes, and when you combine her verses with Olena Kassian’s colorful, accurate watercolor and gouache renderings of nature, you have a picture book you want to add to your collection.

Author – Visit Heidi Bee Roemer’s blog here.

Illustrator – See more of Olena Kassian’s books here.


Seed Sprouting on a Sponge – Project For Children – Sprouting seeds on a sponge makes a fun and inexpensive nature project for children of all ages.

You’ll need…

  • A non-abrasive sponge – Green makes a good choice for this project
  • a packet of seeds such as broccoli, lettuce, or spinach
  • A spray bottle
  • a glass or plastic plate
  • a plastic container that is slightly larger than your sponge

Dampen the sponge. Then sprinkle seeds over the top of the sponge. Little fingers are the perfect tools for gently poking the seeds into the holes of the sponge. Place on a plate near a sunny window.  Remember to keep the sponge moist by spraying with water frequently so the seeds don’t dry out.  You could also cover the sponge with a clear plastic container to retain more moisture.

Visit Susanna Hill’s blog for more ‘Perfect Picture Book Friday’ reviews here.

Prompts & Inspirations + Contest!


I’ve decided to revive my Prompts and Inspirations posts, dust them off, and give them a good shake. “Why?” you might be asking. Because my good friend, Vivian Kirkfield, is hosting a WRITING CONTEST over at her blog, and having come up with a formula for her contest, I was encouraged to post my formula here.

Do you remember when I entered Susanna Hill’s Halloweenie contest? I complained at having to scrunch my story into 100 words. Had the contest been to write a story for children using my best 500 words, I would have thought, no problem. But 100 words… Impossible! However, nose to the proverbial grindstone, I grabbed a cup of minty tea (with honey), sat at my computer, and pulled out a story.

On to Vivian’s challenge! Is her contest to write a children’s story in 100 words?

Not even close.

And don’t guess a more generous number.

Seuss-3Vivian’s inspiration for this contest came after reading that the great Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was given a challenge by Bennett Cerf, one of the publishing giants of Random House. The Challenge was for Dr. Seuss to write a story using 50 unique words. Granted Green Eggs and Ham comes in at a whopping 775 words, but he wrote that timeless classic using only 50 frequently repeated words.

Vivian’s challenge cranks the difficulty up a few notches. I wonder if Theodore Geisel were alive today, what masterful and amusing story he would write with such limitations as these. Are you ready for this?

Write a story in 50 words flat for kids ages 12 or under. It can be prose, rhyme, free verse, silly or serious, and the title doesn’t count toward the word count. You can find the contest details here at Vivian’s blog.


Prizes? Oh, yes! Vivian has outdone herself, and I’m not going to spoil it. You’ll have to hop over to her blog to find out what the winners will receive.

THE MAKINGS OF A STORY. Whether writing a picture book or novel, the writer begins by bringing the main character on stage and offering a look into his/her ordinary world. Something happens, better known as the inciting event. This event  is often disturbing to the main character and causes him/her to make a change. The Main character decides to make the change. Enter the new special world from which there is no turning back. He/she faces several trials and challenges and fails them all. The low point comes when the main character feels all is lost. In a moment of inspiration, he/she rises to the challenge once more. More trials and challenges come as he/she grows stronger. The turning point comes when our main character must defend what he/she values most. Enter the climax. Evil + main character + what main character values most come together. The main character triumphs and the story closes with the denouement, showing how the main character will live better because of the changes.

“But how am I going to get all of that wrapped up in 50 words?” you ask.


For 50 words, you’ll have to abbreviate my instructions above. Here’s how I do it.

Break the 50 words into four lines of about 12-13 words each.

1. Introduce the MC and problem.

2. Offer details and insights into the problem.

3. Either add another layer to the problem or lead up to a resolution.

4. This is where you bring the story home with a clever twist!


I hope you’ll follow my blog to read my 50-word story. I’ll be posting soon!

PPBF Looks at Marcel Marceau Master of Mime

Most of us, at one time or another, have silently acted something out. Maybe when you were a child or as an adult you pretended with friends or played charades. For most of us, this fun activity lasts only a short time, but for one man, pantomime became his life.

Title – Marcel Marceau Master of Mime – view on Amazon here.

Written by – Gloria Spielman

Illustrated by – Manon Gauthier

Published by – Kar-Ben Publishing 2011

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/theme  following one’s dream

Opening – Little Marcel searched for a jacket. Father would have one. Pants, too…and shoes. A hat, and Marcel’s outfit was complete.

Jacket copy  – From the age of five, little Marcel Marceau knew he wanted to be a silent actor, just like Charlie Chaplin. World WarII came, changing Marcel’s life. But it didn’t stop his dream of becoming a mime artist and entertaining the world.

Amazon Review – From the age of five, Marcel Marceau knew he wanted to be a silent actor, just like Charlie Chaplain. When World War II intervened, he joined the resistance, helping to get young Jews to safety during this dangerous time. But Marcel never forgot his dream of being a mime artist and entertaining the world.

Why do I like this book? What I learned stunned me. Honestly, all I knew of Marcel Marceau, before reading this book, was that he was a  French mime and performed on stage in white face makeup with a striped shirt and funny hat. As it turns out, Marcel was not French at all- only his last name, which he adopted later in life, was French. When Marcel was a boy he had a big, compassionate heart. During the time of Hitler, he helped to save many children from being sent to labor camps as well as helping to bring a number of Jewish children safely to the Swiss border (a dangerous task which he creatively and successfully carried out). More than an entertaining story of one man’s life, this biography opened my eyes to what can be accomplished when you don’t lose sight of your dream.

Author – Visit the Gloria Spielman’s blog here.

Illustrator – Visit Manon Gauthier’s blog here.

Would you like to watch Marcel Marceau perform? View a video here.

Pantomiming with Children – Cut slips of paper and write animal names and activities on some: flying bird, hungry mouse, chattering monkey, stretching cat, a giraffe with an itch, etc… On other slips write activities: opening a birthday present, baking cookies, writing a letter, brushing teeth. On other slips write emotions: happy, sad, angry, confused, frustrated, and excited. Shuffle the slips of paper and each take turns drawing a slip and seeing if, through pantomime, you can get others to guess what you are pretending.

Visit Susanna Hill’s blog for more ‘Perfect Picture Book Friday’ reviews here.