Month: September 2016

How to Heal a Broken Wing-PPBF Picture Book Review

Welcome to today’s PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) review of How to Heal a Broken Wing.

Welcoming wild critters into our home was part of my childhood.  My mother brought mice indoors to observe for a short while as temporary pets, a lunar moth, tree frogs, and birds that hit our windows. Some animals lived with us for short periods of time because our cat had attacked them and they needed to be nursed to health (mainly adorable, wide-eyed bunnies). Once we had a seriously injured mallard living in our kitchen that my mom found along a country road. One summer, my patient Mother tamed a wild deer to eat apple slices from her hand. Another summer, she set eggs near the hole of a fox’s den, hoping to catch a glimpse of his rusty coat and dark-gloved paws.

The need to care for injured or neglected animals continues with me. Each bird that flies into the window receives a cozy, lined box, a dish of water and a bowl of bird seeds to help with its recovery. Those that don’t survive…I carefully bury in the garden with flower petals, earth, and tears.

My daughter and I recently rescued a robin with a broken foot at a shopping mall. The bird huddled next to a stop sign with no place to go but onto a busy sidewalk or into a busy street. I wrapped the nervous robin in an old t-shirt, placed it in a small box, and we brought it to a nearby field. My daughter and I sat nearby, watching and waiting until it flew away.

My love of animal rescue stories shows itself in today’s PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) review, How to Heal a Broken Wing.  See the book on Amazon HERE.

Title – How to Heal a Broken Wing

Written and illustrated by – Bob Graham

Published by – Candlewick Press 2008

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics/Theme –  Animal rescue and kindness

Opening – High above the city, no one heard the soft thud of feathers against glass.

Amazon Review – In a spare urban fable, Bob Graham brings us one small boy, one loving family, and one miraculous story of hope and healing.

In a city full of hurried people, only young Will notices the bird lying hurt on the ground. With the help of his sympathetic mother, he gently wraps the injured bird and takes it home. In classic Bob Graham style, the beauty is in the details: the careful ministrations with an eyedropper, the bedroom filled with animal memorabilia, the saving of the single feather as a good-luck charm for the bird’s return to the sky. Wistful and uplifting, here is a tale of possibility — and of the souls who never doubt its power.

Why do I like this book? In sparse text and tender illustrations, the reader strongly feels the love Will has for an injured bird. But Will doesn’t only bring home the injured bird, he also saves a feather the bird lost,  hoping his parents can reattach it to help the bird fly again. Understanding their son’s need to care for the bird, his mother brings a medical kit, and his father prepares a cozy box. In caring for the injured bird, Will and his family demonstrate a wonderful act of kindness from the heart.   

Learn about Bob Graham HERE.

Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.


Bird craft to make with kids   Image of Yarn Bird

Find instructions HERE. After the text instructions, photographs follow, illustrating the process to make this adorable bird.

I hope you enjoyed today’s picture book review.

PPBF Looks at Each Kindness + 20 Acts of Kindness for Children.

When I read this picture book, Each Kindness, I was reminded of what my daughter endured when we switched her from Montessori to public school in third grade.

Having the course materials taught in a new way barely slowed her down. Having a locker instead of a hook seemed to please her. Having an assigned desk to sit at instead of a random place on the carpet cheered her. And even the incredible number of weekly tests didn’t bother her.

Still, with all of these good changes, our daughter went from happy to sad. She rarely smiled and barely talked about school. Each time I asked how school was, she said it was fine.

Months without change slid by. She started getting stomach aches before school. Nothing I said or tried made a difference. She insisted school was fine. The stomach aches persisted as did the doctor visits and one visit to the hospital. I begged my daughter to tell me what was bothering her. This time, she started crying and the truth tumbled out.

Her classmates didn’t like having a new kid in their class and were punishing her with silence. No one wanted to sit with her in the cafeteria, so she ate her lunch alone, trying to look like she didn’t care. On the playground when no one would include her in their games, she sat beside the school and counted pebbles until the bell rang. I cried with her.

After long talks with her teachers, the principal, and the school counselor, life changed. The staff worked hard to match our daughter up for activities with other students they felt would be good friends for her. If she was alone in the cafeteria or on the playground, a supervisor made sure to help her join others and stayed long enough to help her break the ice. Now, two years later, my little girl loves school again.

Now, I’ll share with you today’s PPBF book, Each Kindness, in which the author takes the reader by the hand and helps them to understand the consequences to the new kid in the classroom when kindness is never offered or reciprocated.

Title – Each Kindness – view on Amazon HERE.

Written by – Jacqueline Woodson

Illustrated by – E.B. Lewis

Published by – Nancy Paulsen Books  –  2012

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme –  Kindness, understanding, and friendship.

Opening –

That winter, snow fell on everything, turning the world a brilliant white.

One morning, as we settled into our seats, the classroom door opened and the principal came in. she had a girl with her, and she said to us,

This is Maya.

Maya looked down at the floor. I think I heard her whisper


We all stared at her. Her coat was open and the clothes beneath it looked old and ragged. Her shoes were spring shoes, not meant for the snow. A strap on one of them had broken.

Amazon Review – Chloe and her friends won’t play with the new girl, Maya. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her friends, they reject her. Eventually, Maya stops coming to school. When Chloe’s teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship and thinks about how much better it could have been if she’d shown a little kindness toward Maya.

Why do I like this book? The Amazon review is a bit of a spoiler, and I must admit, so is what I’m about to say…  When I finished reading the story, the ending hit me harder than I anticipated. When the new girl, Maya, moved away, all of Chloe’s chances left for apologizing or starting fresh. I kept hoping as that last page came closer and closer that maybe Maya would return to school, and every student would see her return as an opportunity to befriend her. But that didn’t happen. After letting the story simmer in my mind, I realized the ending is perfect, powerful, and completely memorable. This is one of those rare books that stays with the reader forever as a continual reminder to take every opportunity granted to offer kindness.

Learn about Jacqueline Woodson HERE.

Learn about E.B. Lewis HERE.

Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

20 Acts of Kindness for Children

Pick up something that someone dropped.          Hold open a door for the person behind you.          Leave a kind note in a library book.          Let someone go ahead of you in line. Complement a friend.          Donated clothes you’ve grown out of.          Do your chores without being reminded.          Set the table for dinner.          Call your grandparents and ask them to share their favorite childhood memories with you.          Talk to someone new at school.          Bring flowers to your teacher.          Clean up your toys without being asked.       Take the dog for a walk.          Offer to walk your neighbor’s dog.          Make a thank you note for someone special.          Help a younger sibling with their chores or homework.          Plant flowers.          Make hug coupons for family and friends.          Donate toys you no longer play with.         And the simplest kindness of all… a smile (this one goes miles).

If you have other ideas for simple acts of kindness, I hope you’ll share them in the comments.

PPBF Looks at Vincent's Colors

PPBF Looks at Vincent’s Colors, a picture book created by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, using only the words and pictures of Vincent Van Gogh.

A few weeks ago, I signed up for an evening of painting at a local shop. The painting the students and I came to copy was the well-known Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. Admittedly, not an easy painting to tackle. But with the instructor giving us the order in which to add each element, along with her permission to use Vincent’s painting as a jump off point from which we could freely interpret to our heart’s desire, the task wasn’t nearly as daunting.

A framed print of the famous painting rested on a large easel. We each took many turns, viewing the print up close to help with our interpretations. At the end of the evening, we each had a painting we were pleased with. Pleased with until I came home, looked in my art book at the original, and noticed the instructor’s poster had faded in her window display and overall, her reproduction appeared strangely contrasty. I still had a fabulous evening, painting my version of Starry Night by an artist whose work I have long admired.


Now, on to my Perfect Picture Book Friday review of Vincent’s Colors.

Words and pictures by Vincent van Gogh.

This book was created by The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Published by – Chronicle Books – 2005

Suitable for – 3-7

Topic – An art book for young children to acquaint them with Vincent van Gogh’s art.

Opening –  (These are the first four pages to show how the book is set up to rhyme.)

A yellow sky with yellow sun,

a jug in squares of blue and white,

a reddish cap and orange bricks,

twelve flowers that are light on light.

Synopsis from Amazon – Vincent van Gogh is one of the world’s most famous artists. Throughout his life, he wrote to his younger brother, Theo, about his colorful, dynamic paintings. This book pairs the artist’s paintings with his own words.

Van Gogh’s descriptions, arranged as a simple rhyme, introduce young readers to all the colors of the rainbow and beyond. The descriptive words combine with spectacular reproductions of many of the artist’s most beloved and important works to create a perfect art book for young and old alike.

Why I like this book – Instead of showing each painting in its entirety, a close up section was selected to better illustrate Vincent van Gogh’s impasto style of painting.

(Definition: impasto is a thick application of paint (usually oil) that makes no attempt to look smooth. Instead, impasto is unabashedly proud to be textured, and exists to show off brush and palette knife marks.)

A simple description, taken from Vincent’s letters to his brother, Theo, accompanies each painting, and the paintings are organized so the descriptions form a rhyming pattern, children will enjoy hearing.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art – website.

Learn more about Vincent van Gogh – here.

To find other perfect picture books please visit Susanna Hill’s Blog.

Over twenty Starry Night Art Project for kids here.

drywall plaster sunflowers

Vincent van Gogh-inspired art project from

If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll share it.

Nine Ways to Hook Your Reader With a Powerful Opening Sentence.

Nine ways to hook your reader

with a powerful opening sentence.



Maybe you’re like me in that your blank computer screen acts a bit like an impenetrable wall one moment and an empty canvas of possibilities, awaiting your inspired ideas the next.

Picture it… While you’re hanging out at your local coffee shop, a girl at the table near yours tells her friend about an incident at school involving their class guinea pig, a projector cord, and a schoolwide black out. Your eyes bulge behind your iced cappuccino. What you just overheard is the makings of a humorous story.

Over the next number of days or weeks, you create a list of characters and give each a life and a history. The story problem becomes clear as you plot the grandest of all middle-grade adventures. Notes in hand, you sit before your laptop, typing out that first brilliant sentence that will have readers begging to know what happens next.

That’s about the time your inner editor bluntly tells you that what you wrote is sludge. “That gopher hole in your back yard,” she says, “has a better opening than this!”

Delete, delete, delete…

Where to start?


1. Begin with one attention-grabbing word.

Darkness. Pitch darkness filled every square inch of my school today thanks to our class guinea pig, Percival Pickles.

2. Make a comparison.     

I wish I had been placed in Mr. Dowfeld’s class with the hairy tarantula instead of in Mrs. Peach’s class with Percival Pickles, a guinea pig with serious powers.

3. Start with a powerful moment that raises curiosity.

Every room in my school went into a sudden blackout.

4. Begin with a fact.

Not every guinea pig makes a good classroom pet.

5. What sound can be heard?

Nibble, munch, squeeee! All of Lincoln Jr. High fell into darkness when Percival Pickles, our class guinea pig, bit the projector cord.

6. Start with a question.

What happens when a guinea pig mistakes the projector cord for his lunch?

7. Open with a fact that hints at something significant.

Death is merely one side effect that comes when a classroom pet electrocutes itself.

8. Begin with an intriguing fact.

Nobody, not even Percival Pickles, our classroom guinea pig, could believe an electrical shock could shoot his IQ off the charts.

9. Let your readers hear the compelling voice of your main character.

At 8:15 this morning, the single most important thought peddling through my head was to scamper to my squeaky wheel and play. Twenty-three minutes later, I’m well into understanding Einstein’s theory of relativity.

If you have a favorite way to hook readers with a great opening, I invite you to post it in the comments.

Also, if you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll share it through social media.

PPBF Looks at The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County

Perfect Picture Book Fridays Looks at The Chicken-Chasing Queen by Janice N. Harrington.

Maybe I’m drawn to books that take me into the heart of farm country because I grew up next door to relatives that had a small farm. (By small, I mean for their own needs and ours.) My aunt and uncle planted one row of sky-tickling corn, a row of plump peas ready to pop from their sun-warmed pods, a row of pungent-tasting peanuts that tasted less than awful until they were roasted, a raspberry patch with plenty of pokey thorns to protect the juicy berries, and a squawking, clucking coop of hens that lay enough eggs to retire on.

Why I like this book – When I found the picture book, The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice N. Harrington, I knew I held a book I had to add to my shelf. And no, my reason for purchasing this uplifting book wasn’t entirely based on my love of farmland and chickens. Ms. Harrington has a gift for word choices that surprised and delighted me.

If a writer hopes to captivate the reader, it’s critical he or she chooses the perfect word or words to describe something. It’s not enough to say your character’s teeth are white as snow. Similes work best when they relate to the setting the story takes place in. The following, partial sentence from today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday selection illustrates this well.

Soon as I wake up, wash away the dreaming, and brush my teeth whiter than a biscuit…

Whiter than a biscuit. I can’t think of a better comparison. And the book continues to surprise with countless, perfect similes, metaphors, and thoughtful verbs throughout.

In addition to a fast-paced, fun story, the illustrations by Shelley Jackson further enhance the reading enjoyment. Ms. Jackson’s collages combining paintings with cut and torn paper, fabric and lace lend a country charm to this kid-friendly book.

The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County

Written by – Janice N. Harrington

Published by- Melanie Kroupa Books – Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007

*Suitable for – 4-8

*Topics/Theme – Sometimes, an unexpected outcome can be just as good as getting what you want.

*Opening –  I’m the Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County. Big Mama says, “Don’t you chase those chickens. If you make those girls crazy, they won’t lay eggs. You like eggs, don’t you?’

Big Mama says, “Don’t you chase those chickens. If you make those girls crazy, they won’t lay eggs. You like eggs, don’t you?’

But I don’t care. Soon as I wake up, wash away the dreaming, and brush my teeth whiter than a biscuit, I always do three things: eat breakfast, tell stories to Big Mama, and–when Big Mama isn’t looking–

Synopsis from Amazon – Meet one smart chicken chaser. She can catch any chicken on her grandmother’s farm except one – the elusive Miss Hen. In a hilarious battle of wits, the spirited narrator regales readers with her campaign to catch Miss Hen, but this chicken is “fast as a mosquito buzzing and quick as a fleabite.” Our chicken chaser has her mind set on winning until she discovers that sometimes it’s just as satisfying not to catch chickens as it is to catch them.

A fresh voice full of sass and inventive, bold collage illustrations full of surprises creates a childlike escapade brimming with funny high jinks that lead the reader on a merry, memorable chase.

The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County is a 2008 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year.

Janice N. Harrington’s website.

Shelley Jackson – illustrator

To find other perfect picture books please visit Susanna Hill’s Blog.

Art Project – After reading this book, have children collect magazines and catalog their parents are fine with them cutting up along with feathers, buttons, dried pasta, fabric scraps, crayons, cardboard, colored paper and glue sticks. When all their supplies are gathered, they can cut and paste a collage of their own, using today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday choice, The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County, as their inspiration.chicken-chasing-queen-story