Category: Picture Book reviews (page 1 of 2)

Welcome Viviane Elbee, Debut Author of the picture book, Teach Your Giraffe To Ski!

I apologize for posting late today, but life has tossed me a curve with the sudden loss of my father-in-law. I’m out in California with my family, helping to plan his celebration of life while trying to keep up with my writing projects and blog.

Last week for Perfect Picture Book Friday, I reviewed debut author,  Viviane Elbee’s book, Teach Your Giraffe To Ski. As promised, here is the interview.

Welcome, Viviane, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions about your debut picture book and road to publication. I’m excited to have you here today.

Viviane Elbee's Profile Photo, Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeup

 

Me: Who were your favorite authors when you were a child and why did you love their books best?

Viviane: Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary were my favorite authors in elementary school. SUPERFUDGE and TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING and RAMONA made me laugh so hard. I remember reading THE MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE and loving the idea of having a pet mouse with a motorcycle.

I also have fond memories of the librarian reading THE SNOWY DAY at story time and just enjoying the wonder the little boy felt in the snow.

Me: Was there a book you never tired of hearing or reading when you were a child?

Viviane: I could re-read all of my favorite books over and over. Well, to be honest, I even read cereal boxes over and over. If I see words I just can’t help but read them.

Me: Can you describe the moment you knew you wanted to write for children? (Or how you came to write for children?)

Viviane: I’ve always loved writing, but for a long time I thought I would write novels. After my first child was born, I fell in love with picture books. That’s when I decided I wanted to write for children.

Me: If you could go back in time to when you began your writing journey, what advice or words of wisdom would you tell yourself?

Viviane: If I could go back in time, I would tell myself that it’s important to be a prolific writer. I spent my first three years of serious children’s writing on one picture book manuscript. At the end of three years, I had one submission-ready story (which hasn’t sold yet!), but one of my critique partners had written many stories within that same time period – and she got published! Quality is important, but if publication is your goal, it’s best to work on several ideas at a time.

Me: Describe the spot in your home where you write and at what time of day you write best. 

Viviane: I get a lot of first drafts done at a nearby Barnes & Noble where I meet up with a writing buddy. It’s very inspirational to be surrounded by books and it’s also great to have someone you can bounce ideas off of while writing. I also love sprawling out on the floor of my den, in front of large floor to ceiling windows, and writing there. I write best in the morning or daytime.

Me: What inspired the idea for your debut picture book, Teach Your Giraffe To Ski?

Viviane: I got the idea for a ski story during my family’s very first ski trip. My kindergartener and preschooler helped pack, so a menagerie of stuffed animals joined us on the trip. During the day we took lessons and at night the stuffed animals became “jumping ski champions,” sliding down pillows and leaping through the air. My husband and I started making a lot of jokes about the skiing giraffe, which made our kids laugh.

After my book was acquired, my editor suggested digging deeper to better bring out the little boy’s fears of the big scary slope. To do this, I reflected back on my own experiences. I learned to ski at the same time as my kids. They were fearless and I was scared. After getting lessons, we took the kids on the ski lift to the top of a green slope (an easy slope). It was so much bigger than the bunny hill. I remember looking downhill and being petrified. I couldn’t move. But the kids took off. Obviously, I had to follow. And it turned out to be fun!

Me: How long did it take you to write this book?

Viviane: From the time I got the idea to the moment the publishing house said it was “ready” it took nearly 4 years. I spent about 2 years on it before querying it.

Me: Were there any surprises along the way from the point you started writing your book to the moment it was published?

Viviane: Yes, there were a lot of surprises. The first surprise was when I took my manuscript to an SCBWI conference critique and met an editor, Annie Nybo, who loved the story and who asked me to submit to her. (I was expecting her to give me lots of suggestions for improvement, but I was not expecting a submission request!). I sent the manuscript off and heard nothing. Months later, when I decided to nudge, I discovered Annie Nybo had left her publishing house. More months passed, and one day my friend texted to tell me that Annie Nybo had joined Albert Whitman. So I emailed her. I wasn’t sure she would remember my manuscript, so I attached a copy in the nudge email. To my amazement, she responded the next day with an offer.

Me: What is the takeaway message you hope readers hold on to after reading your book?

Viviane: Be adventurous and try new things.

Me: What is your favorite moment or page in your book?

Viviane: It’s tough to pick a favorite moment, but I love the illustration of the little boy hugging his giraffe.

Me: Can you share something interesting most people don’t know about you? 

Viviane: I’ve seen giraffes in 6 different zoos – Columbia SC, Atlanta GA, Ashboro NC, Bordeux-Pessac zoo in France, Zoo-Parc de Beauval in France and Singapore Zoo in Singapore.

Thank you, Viviane, I enjoyed having you here today.

Vivian’s book will be available on November first.

Amazon link to Viviane’s book can be found HERE.

Visit Viviane Elbee’s website HERE.

Until next Friday.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Shares "School People" by Poet and Anthologist, Lee Bennett Hopkins.

I’m sorry I didn’t review a picture book last Friday, but after a visit to the podiatrist that day, I learned I have a stress fracture. Apparently, it’s the sort of thing that can happen without dropping a safe or dining room table on your foot. I had no idea walking (a lot) could bring this about.

Being on crutches again after many years, brought me back to my elementary school days when I needed these infernal sticks after knee surgery. Not including the sore arm muscles, inconvenience, and frustration of getting from class to class and up and down the school bus steps SAFELY, I thought back to my other school memories during that time–the pleasant ones. I thought about the teachers who encouraged me and allowed me extra time to get to class, the bus driver who lend a helping hand on and off of the bus, and the librarian who suggested a joke book to keep me smiling.

For today’s picture book Friday review, I’d like to share a collection (anthology) of school themed poetry written by a collection of gifted poets. And the man who contributed to and selected the poems for this book is none other than Lee Bennett Hopkins. Mr. Hopkins is an award-winning poet whose countless accomplishments and list of people whose lives he has touched, including my own, would fill volumes. I can’t say enough about this talented man whom I had the honor of meeting through Skype last fall at a Highlights poetry workshop.

And now it’s time to wander back in time to our elementary school days through the poems in the picture book, School People.

Title – School People

Poetry selected by – Lee Bennett Hopkins  leebennetthopkins.com

Illustrated by – Ellen Shi   www.ellenshi.com

Published by – WordSong – 2018

Topics – Poetry, School people, the way we see others.

Opening – School’s Story – A poem by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, one of my instructors at the Highlights poetry workshop I mentioned above.

(I’m only including part of this ingeniously thought out poem with hopes you will check out this book to enjoy the rest…)

I am waiting–come on in!

Welcome to this house of brick.

Enter whispers, whistles, signs,

footsteps, fossils, notebook lines.

Rooms hold calendars, chairs, and nooks,

murals, maps, library books.

Feet scamper, shuffle, dash, drum.

Listen to my hallway hum!

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE. Welcome to school, a building of brick “full of soul and heart,” eager for students and staff to fill its halls with sounds. This anthology of fifteen poems celebrates the grown-up people that children encounter throughout the course of their school day: the school bus driver with her morning smile, the teacher who inspires imagination, the rarely seen, yet caring custodian, and the nurse who heals hurts, big and small. There’s even a poem about the school building. Award-winning poet and anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins has compiled this marvelous collection featuring a variety of brand-new works by well-known poets and beautifully imaginative artwork by illustrator Ellen Shi.

 Why do I like this book? The poems I love best evoke emotions, tickle my memories, stop me, get me thinking, let me hear, see, taste, smell, and touch something, startle me with surprisingly perfect comparisons, end with a twist, bring a smile, cause a tear, and stay with me long after I have turned the page. Through Lee Bennett Hopkin’s collection, I experienced all of this as memories came crawling, running, and tumbling out of the cobwebby corners of my mind. I hope you will run (not walk) to the nearest library or bookshop to immerse yourself in the poems that fill this book.
Click on the links below to learn more about the poets whose poems are included in the book, School People.
I hope you’ll share an elementary school memory in the comments below about a special teacher, a time you shared with your best friend, an unforgettable school project, something about your homeroom pet, or other fond memory from those days.
Until next Friday!

Acrostic Poems Meet Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Last month I had the immense pleasure of attending a Highlights Foundation poetry workshop in the Poconos Mountains of Pennsylvania. I honestly thought the dream of taking one of their classes would remain a dream. After all, Pennsylvania isn’t exactly up the road from me. And let’s not forget that I’d be away for a full week, leaving my husband and daughter to fend for themselves.

I’m happy to report that the pets of our small zoo were alive when I returned home. However, the dog looked thinner from a lack of treats, the laundry hadn’t been taken care of, and confessions revealed that “snack night” replaced dinner a few times…

I drove up with a friend from my poetry critique group for a writing experience that changed the way I look at the world, poetry, and writing. Since the workshop, I have given myself much needed quiet time each day to rework past poems and begin new ones. And in addition to receiving valuable critiques and comments on my writing along with valuable insight, inspiration, and a fresh approach to writing, I left the class with the gift of new friendships.

For today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review, I’m sharing a book of acrostic poetry. Acrostic poems are created when a word or phrase is written vertically down the page. interesting facts and clues about the subject comprise each line of the poem.

Title – African Acrostics: A word in Edgeways

Written by – Avis Harley

Photographs by – Deborah Noyes

Published by – Candlewick Press – 2009

Topics – children’s poetry, safari, African animals

Opening – The book opens with a poem that defines the acrostic poem. 

ACROSTIC (uh-KROS-tik)

Welcome, all poets — both new

Or well versed. Non-rhymers or

Rhymers! Come,

Drive in headfirst!

 

Inviting all writers —

Now you’re just the right age.

 

Explore the acrostic that rides

Down the page.

Get a word you

Enjoy and would like to define.

Write it down vertically

And fill in each line.

Your name is a very good way to begin.

Surprise yourself. Find that poem within! 

If you read down the spine the poem (including the title), you’ll find four words that appear in the book’s title. 

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE. Inside every acrostic is a secret message, often lurking in the first letter of each line (read top to bottom). But look out! These acrostics not only follow their subjects to Africa, but they also take the form to a whole new level. Here you’ll find the elusive double acrostic (in which the first and last letters of each line spell a message), the cross acrostic (in which the message is read diagonally), and the multiple acrostics (see it to believe it) — not to mention lions, zebras, crocodiles, hippos, leopards, and elephants. Oh, my! Illustrated with gorgeous full-color photographs, this collection is sure to send poetry buffs and animal lovers on an armchair safari they’ll never forget.
Back matter includes information about acrostics, nature notes, and a photographer’s note.

Why do I like this book? While at the Highlights Poetry Workshop, one of the writers specialized in acrostic poetry. I played with writing this form back in high school, but I never wrote in this style since. Then, while I was browsing the poetry shelves at my library yesterday, I pulled this book off the shelf and learned that other forms of acrostic poetry exist beyond the most common form (the subject reading down the left side of the poem). I discovered double acrostics in which a word is formed down both the left and right side as well as the cross acrostic in which the word appears diagonally. So much creativity in one magical book! Plus AMAZING photographs of the animals of Africa.

Just for fun – Try writing your own acrostic poem. You can start by writing your name down the left side of the page, a word that defines your personality, a favorite season and what it means to you, the name of your favorite animal or pet, a place you love to visit, or your favorite go-to snack. Then, brainstorm words or phrases that come to mind about your topic and fit them into this marvelous form of poetry. Remember, poems don’t need to rhyme.

Here are two of my acrostic poems with the title’s first letter being part of the word.

PERHAPS A POEM ABOUT POEMS (unrhyming)

Only the sweetest words

Express the

Magic I feel in my

Soul

 

LESLIE

Envies the birds with their wings spread in flight,

Soaring as high as a sky-sweeping kite.

Lifting from branches.

Imagining chances.

Every day.

I hope you’ll take a moment in your day to write an acrostic poem. And if you feel brave enough, please share it in the comments.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Remembers the Famous Lunar Landing. #PPBF

Are you old enough to remember where you were on July 16, 1969, when the Appollo 11 mission to the moon began? Do you remember where you were on July 20th when Neil Armstrong set his foot on the moon? Or do you remember watching a video of this remarkable moment in school?

Years back when my daughter was five, bedtime had come, and I had just turned off the lights in the living room to take her upstairs to her room. Instead of following me, she remained behind. The moon shone in the window, and my little girl couldn’t take her eyes off the big, glowing ball.

“Do you think someone will ever walk up there?” she asked.

“Someone already has,” I told her.

Instead of tucking my daughter in bed, I turned on my laptop and showed her the famous news broadcast with Walter Cronkite.

“Do you think I’ll ever get to walk up there?” she asked.

“Maybe if you think about it hard enough,” I said, “tonight you can dream you are an astronaut, leaving your footprints on the moon beside Neil Armstrong’s.”

Title – Eight Days Gone

Written by – Linda McReynolds

Illustrated by – Ryan O’Rourke

Published by – Charlesbridge – 2012

Topics – Space, astronauts, lunar landing

Opening –  

Hundreds gather.

Hot July.

Spaceship ready–

set to fly.

 

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE.  Snappy verse and retro art recount Apollo 11’s historic, eight-day mission to the moon in 1969. Young readers learn the basics about the gear, equipment, and spaceship used by the astronauts, as well as the history of NASA’s moon mission.

Why do I like this book? Knowing the phenomenal amount of research needed to write a nonfiction picture book, I was amazed at Linda McReynolds’s skill in taking on such a huge project as the famous lunar landing. In the simplest and sparest text, Ms. McReynolds not only informs children of one of the greatest historical moments but also captivates and entertains them with her brilliant verse!

Three quotes by Neil Armstrong

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
“Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.”
“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”

Where were you when the lunar landing was broadcast? Did you watch it on television? Did you see it years later in school? I’d love to hear your recollection.

Spirited, dream-seeking women are the focus of today's Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF review

Back when I was in high school taking classes to decide what to be when I grew up, women were going after careers as doctors, firefighters, attorneys, journalists, and much more. Unfortunately, my mother kept a dated attitude about which occupations were suited to men and which were suited for women–more specifically me.

When my high school interest in interior decorating led me into the Architectural Design course (where I achieved an A. Gotta blow my horn a little.) My mother, fearing I might choose to become an architect, put her foot down. She said architecture was a male-dominated field, and she wouldn’t pay the college tuition if I pursued it.

Wait. What? Male-dominated? There are going to be lots of men?

My mother’s problem became a perk.

Moving on. My next big interest was Psychology. One class led to two, and when two looked like it would turn into three (Can anyone see where this is going?), my mother said, “If you become a psychologist, your patients will be crazy people in search of advice. I won’t have it. If you want to pursue this field in college, I won’t pay the tuition.”

Without thinking, my teenage mouth spurted, “If you reconsider and let me become a psychologist, I’ll offer you free therapy in your old age.”

Moving on . . . (with a sore bottom.)

So there I was, envious of my older sister who chose the career she wanted and headed to college to study law without the parental flack I always received.

Ummm . . . Isn’t the field of law dominated by men?

My admiration for women who let nothing stand in the way of their dreams brings me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review. Please welcome Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt (whose mothers I would have loved to meet).

Title – Amelia And Eleanor Go For A Ride

Written by – Pam Munoz Ryan

Illustrated by – Brian Selznick

Published by – Scholastic Press – 1999

Topics – Following dreams and determination

Opening – Amelia and Eleanor were birds of a feather. Eleanor was outspoken and determined.

So was Amelia.

Amelia was daring and liked to try things other women wouldn’t even consider.

So when Eleanor discovered that her friend Amelia was coming to town to give a speech, she naturally said, “Bring your husband and come to dinner at my house! You can even sleep over.”

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE.  Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt were birds of a feather. Not only were they two of the most admired and respected women of all time, they were also good friends. Illuminated here for the first time in picture book form is the true story of a thrilling night when they made history together!

On a brisk and cloudless evening in April 1933, Amelia and Eleanor did the unprecedented: They stole away from a White House dinner, commandeered an Eastern Air Transport jet, and took off on a glorious adventure–while still dressed in their glamorous evening gowns!

This picture book tour de force celebrates the pioneering spirit of two friends whose passion for life gave them the courage to defy convention in the name of fulfillment, conviction, and fun. Soaring text, inspired by the known facts of this event, and breathtaking drawings ask readers to dream dreams as big as Amelia and Eleanor’s.

Why do I like this book? I admire those with an adventurous spirit, and this book shows not one but two such spirited women going after their dreams full throttle. Amelia, without a care what people think about woman piloting planes, fearlessly takes to the skies to make her dream come true. And Eleanor, disregarding other’s opinions that women shouldn’t drive cars, loves the feeling of independence a car provides, has a new car, and can’t wait to get behind the wheel to feel the wind whoosh through her hair. The night Amelia comes to the White House for dinner is beyond magical for these two spirited friends.

Do you remember a dream you wanted more than anything? Did something stand in your way? Did you reach it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe

Picking up scraps of fabric from the floor and sewing table as my aunt measured and cut out pattern pieces for my clothes, thrilled me as a child. I would bundle up the useable pieces, meaning any scraps of fabric big enough to make something from, and save them in a big basket. At home, I’d drape the fabric pieces over my dolls, same as I had watched my aunt drape the larger pieces of fabric over me or her dressmaker doll, and fashion a miniature wardrobe. When I achieved the right look and style, I’d thread my needle and stitch the fabrics into dresses and skirts. As a new and very young seamstress, I hadn’t learned how to sew buttons, button holes, and zippers, so I kept the dresses and skirts closed on my dolls with a length of ribbon as a fancy sash.

Years later when I was about twelve, my aunt figured I had observed her long enough and was ready to cut out and sew something for myself. I started with simple skirts and shorts. Over time, I worked up to more complex shirts and dresses. When I can find the time, I still enjoy sewing. But these days, most everything I make is with love for my daughter. Some of you might have heard me shout out on Facebook when she announced, “By the way, Mom, I need a Belle costume from Beauty and the Beast for school in three days.” And…speaking of sewing gowns, today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday selection is Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe. 

Title – Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe

Written by  – Deborah Blumenthal

Illustrated by – Laura Freeman

Published by – Little Bee Books – 2017

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics – African American fashion designer, determination.

Opening – When she was old enough to thread a needle, Ann Cole Lowe’s momma and grandma taught her how to sew.

Wisps of cloth would fall from their worktables like confetti, and Ann would scoop them up and turn them into flowers as bright as roses in the garden.

Ann’s family came from Alabama. Her great-grandma had been a slave, so her family knew about working hard just to get by.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. A beautiful picture book about Ann Cole Lowe, a little-known African-American fashion designer who battled personal and social adversity in order to pursue her passion of making beautiful gowns and went on to become one of society’s top designers.

Why do I like this book? On a personal note, I enjoyed reading a book about a designer who started her fashion career stitching scraps of fabrics she gathered in her mother’s sewing room–same as I enjoyed doing when I was a child. (However, my young seamstress days took me down a different path.) Ann Cole Lowe was an African American fashion designer who, because of her color, had to study alone in a separate classroom. Despite the unfairness, she pushed forward and continued to design one of a kind gowns, eventually earning enough money to open her own Manhattan salon where she was commissioned to sew a very special wedding gown. When wedding bells rang, it was for the future first lady of the United States, Jacqueline Bouvier Kenedy. The story inspires and shows, that with determination, anything is possible.

Want to learn a little more about Ann Cole Lowe? Click HERE.

Learn more about Deborah Blumenthal HERE.

Learn more about Laura Freeman HERE.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Pocket Poems

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Pocket Poems for April’s National Poetry Month celebration!

When I was a child, I was introduced to poetry through my many picture books. Rhyming was a normal and natural way to tell an engaging story to children and continues to this day. I must confess that when I write picture book manuscripts, my poetry-trained ear from childhood kicks in, and I have to consciously force myself to write in prose. However, with Poem in Your Pocket Day nearing, I’m planning on releasing my inner poet and letting her rhyme to her heart’s content.

The 27th of April (this year – because the date in April changes each year) is National Poem in Your Pocket Day. Back in 2002, the Office of Mayor, in partnership with the New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education added Poem in Your Pocket Day as a special day that is part of the city’s National Poetry Month celebration. Six years later, in 2008, the academy of American Poets took the initiative to all fifty United States. And eight years later, Canada joined the celebration in 2016.

To participate on April 27th, simply carry a poem in your pocket to share with others. This poem can be by your favorite poet, or it can be a poem you wrote. In addition to sharing your poem at work or at school, you are welcome to join others and post it on Twitter using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

And to offer some fun poems and possible poetic inspirations, I’d like to share a fun book with you in honor of Poem in Your Pocket Day.

Title – Pocket Poems

Poems selected by – Bobbi Katz

Illustrated by – Marylin Hafner

Published by – Dutton Children’s Books – 2004

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Theme – Poems on kid-friendly subjects and topics.

Opening –  Since this book is a compilation of poems, I’ll offer you the first poem in the book.

A Pocket Poem

With a poem in your pocket

and

a pocket in your pants

you can rock with new rhythms.

You can skip.

You can dance.

And wherever you go,

and whatever you do,

that poem in your pocket is going there, too.

You could misplace your homework.

You could lose your left shoe.

But that poem in your pocket will be part of you.

And nothing can take it.

And nothing can break it.

that poem in your pocket

becomes

part of…

YOU!

Bobbi Katz

Amazon Review – View it HERE.

This lively collection is packed with kid-friendly, “pocket-sized” poems of eight lines or less by such well-known poets as Eve Merriam, Karla Kuskin, and the anthologist herself, Bobbi Katz. The easy-to-memorize, pint-sized poems reflect many different facets of children’s lives and are embellished with witty, winning art by the beloved Marylin Hafner, making a package that will be welcomed by children and their teachers.

Why do I like this book? 

In addition to the lively, colorful, kid-friendly illustrations by Marylin Hafner, whose art includes imaginative and sometimes humorous touches kids will enjoy, the selection of poems by various poets, that were chosen byBobbi Katz, strongly speak to children. No matter the child, I’m sure there will be one poem, if not all 27, he or she will like (love).

Learn more about Bobbi Katz HERE.

Find more books illustrated by Marylin Hafner HERE.

A TEMPLATE FOR YOUR POCKET POEM – As an added incentive to write a poem of your own, I’m including a downloadable pdf file below.   So…

If you feel bold,

and you’re ready to rhyme,

jot down your poem.

You’ve got plenty of time!

Poem in Your Pocket Day

is three weeks away,

That’s more than enough

for you word rhyming play.

Pocket Poem Template

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Bogo The Fox Who Wanted Everything

One of the traps I fell into years ago on my writing journey was to write in the style of other authors. I convinced myself that because their books were flying off the shelves, their voice was “the voice” to emulate. However, I have found the more I tried to capture someone else’s voice, the more the writing process challenged me.

Sometimes, the gift of the perfect idea for a picture book falls in my lap as if by magic. I’m inspired. Maybe the inspiration came from something my daughter said or one of my childhood memories–even better! And the result is the story very nearly writes itself. My fingers fly, my screen fills with words from my heart, and the voice is mine. Those are the manuscripts I love best and feel proudest of. It’s easy to believe that published authors have special talents, but as you’ll see in today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review, everyone has special talents. Mine just haven’t been discovered by an agent or publisher yet. What’s important for me and for all writers is to keep writing the stories we believe in and to never lose sight of the dream.

Today’s picture book review looks at what happens when a fox envies the natural gifts and talents of his fellow forest friends and tries to be just like them. (Hmmm. That sounds familiar…)

Title – Bogo The Fox Who Wanted Everything

Written by – Susanna Isern

Illustrated by – Sonja Wimmer

Published by – NubeOcho, 2015

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Theme – Envy, jealousy, and self-discovery

Opening – Bogo the fox lived in the branches of a great big tree. This is quite unusual for a fox, but he was a very curious fox and from up there he could see everything much better.

Amazon Review – View it HERE.

Bogo watched many animals around him. Some of them were so incredible that they made him feel less special. One day he decided to invent amazing things so that he could have everything he wanted.
A pair of wings to fly like a bird. It never worked.
A pair of night glasses to see like an owl. It never worked . . .

Susanna Isern works as a child psychologist and writer. Most of her books have been translated into over a dozen languages. She has been awarded the Silver Medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards 2013 in the United States.

Sonja Wimmer is a renowned international illustrator. Her books have been translated into several languages. In the United States, she received the Independent Publisher Book Award and was a two-time winner of the Moonbeam Children´s Book Award and International Latino Book Award.

Why do I like this book? Like an aspiring writer, trying out the voices of different authors to see which one suits him or her best, Bogo the fox envies the talents of his animal friends. By comparison, he feels he is without talent and therefore less special. He creates many inventions to help him in his quest to be like those he envies: wings like a bird’s, night-vision glasses to help him see like owls, jumping stilts to leap like frogs, and more. As you probably guessed, Bogo fails with each new invention. It isn’t until he masterfully saves his friends lives with his own natural talents that he realizes he is special too.

Sonja Wimmer’s bright, colorful, and playful illustrations add a level of humor that children will love as much as this picture book reviewer did.

Learn more about Susanna Isern HERE.

Learn more about Sonja Wimmer HERE.

Author interview with Janet Nolan Plus a review of her book, Seven and a Half Tons of Steel

As promised, today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review comes with an added bonus… an interview with Janet Nolan, author of Seven and a Half Tons of Steel.

Last year on one of my many visits to the library, one of the librarians asked if I would be interested in joining her at The Anderson’s Children’s Literature Breakfast in February of 2017. The annual event features special guest authors and illustrators, a full breakfast, book talks, over 50 Illinois authors and illustrators, and book sales and signing! To sweeten the already amazing event, throughout the program, authors rotate from table to table, giving the attendees a chance to meet and ask questions.

I didn’t check my calendar, I didn’t take a moment to consider. I said, “Yes!”

The first author seated at our table was Janet Nolan. She set out a stack of her pictures books. Immediately, I recognized the titles of some favorites, which I have linked to Amazon below.

Seven and a Half Tons of Steel

PB&J Hooray!: You Sandwich’s Amazing Journey from Farm to Table

The Firehouse Light

A Father’s Day Thank You

The St. Patrick’s Day Shillelagh

And now for my Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

None of us will ever forget where we were when the tragic news of September 11th, 2001 was broadcast. Two airplanes struck the World Trade Center buildings in New York. Following that heartbreaking event, a seven and a half ton steel beam from the towers was given to the United States Navy to become the bow of the navy ship, the USS New York. The Story Janet Nolan wrote, follows the journey of that steel beam.

Title – Seven and a Half Tons of Steel

Written by  – Janet Nolan

Illustrated by – Thomas Gonzalez

Published by – Peachtree Publishers – 2016

Suitable for ages – 5-12

Opening – There is a ship, a navy ship. It is called the USS New York. it is big like other navy ships, and it sails like other navy ships, but there is something different, something special about the USS New York.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. There is a ship, a navy ship. It is called the USS New York. It is big like other navy ships, and it sails like other navy ships, but there is something special about the USS New York. Following the events of September 11, 2001, the governor of New York gave the Navy a steel beam that was once inside one of the World Trade Towers. The beam was driven from New York to a foundry in Louisiana. Metal workers heated the beam to a high, high temperature. Chippers and grinders, painters and polishers worked on the beam for months. And then, seven and a half tons of steel, which had once been a beam in the World Trade Center, became a navy ship’s bow. This powerful story reveals how something remarkable can emerge from a devastating event.

Why do I like this book? Like many people, I was glued to my television after the devastating event on September 11th. For days and weeks, I followed every piece of news. But somehow, I missed something. I missed hearing about one steel beam from the twin towers that was transported, melted, poured into a mold, and given a new life as the bow of a navy ship.

Janet Nolan’s  powerful retelling of the repurposing of an enormous beam from the World Trade Center and of the many people who tirelessly worked on this project, some of which lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina, will stay with you long after you close the book. Illustrator, Thomas Gonzalez, adds his amazing talent to this book. His illustrations reflect the dark and sad feeling of September 11th and bring the reader into the heart of the fiery heat when the beam is melted into molten metal and on to the day with the USS New York sailed, proudly displaying its crest with the words “Never Forget.”

Learn more about Janet Nolan HERE.

Learn more about Thomas Gonzalez HERE.

And now for the interview with Janet Nolan.

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Describe the path that led you to write picture books?

Well, it wasn’t a straight line. One day, out of nowhere, I decided to write a story. It was terrible, but I had so much fun writing it I decided to write another. That story was equally terrible, so I decided why not write another. I considered the stories I wrote the artistic equivalent of singing in the shower. Harmless, but fun. Seeing no reason to quit, I kept writing. I joined SCBWI. I joined a critique group. I attended conferences, started submitting, and just as quickly started getting rejected. Undaunted, I kept writing, but more importantly I started revising. Eventually, and I have to admit it took a while, I sold my first book. 

If you could go back and change anything along that path, what would it be?  

Without a doubt, it’s doubt. I’d like to say I no longer carry the weight of doubt (will I finish the next book; will I sell the next book) but I’d be lying. Doubt, it seems, likes to hover around.

Who were your favorite authors as a child?

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Box Car Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

What inspired you to write the picture book, Seven and a Half Tons of Steel

I was driving my car, listening to the radio, when I heard a brief story about the USS New York. I remember sitting in traffic being quietly amazed, surprised to learn steel from the World Trade Center towers had been used in the building of a navy ship. What struck me at the time, and has stayed with me ever since was the feeling that something positive and powerful had emerged from a tragic event.

I knew I’d discovered a story I had to write. And from the beginning, I believed this was a story about transformation and hope.

What surprised you most in your research for this book?

Finding interesting topics to write about isn’t difficult. The hard part is determining if the topic will make an interesting book. Facts are great, but what matters is the heart of the story within those facts. If I can’t find that, then I don’t have a story. But when I do, it’s amazing!

What first drew me to this story was the idea of transformation. How tragedy could be recast as strength and hope. In choosing what to include and what to exclude, I stayed close to the beam and followed it on its transformative journey. The book begins with the events of September 11 and the outpouring of emotion at Ground Zero, but when the beam leaves New York, the story follows the beam. 

What was the time frame for writing this book? 

I think it took me about a year and a half to write Seven and a Half Tons of Steel. I knew almost nothing about forging steel or shipbuilding when I began researching this book. Fortunately, other people did. I conducted phone interviews, read every news article I could get my hands on, watched countless news clips and videos, and was a frequent visitor to the ship’s website. I was touched by the generosity of librarians and retired military who were willing to guide me in the right direction and answer my many questions, big and small.

What is your favorite time and place to write?

I get my best writing done in the morning. I work out of my house and my computer is in my living room. I’m not sure it’s my favorite place, but it’s where I find myself. I don’t have an office, though a girl can dream.

What memorable experience would you have missed if you hadn’t become a writer? 

The gift of writing is paying attention. If I wasn’t a writer, who knows what I might have missed. Stories and ideas are everywhere. Conversations, radio, TV, articles. It’s just a matter of tuning my ears to the interesting channel. I’m always on the lookout for that special idea that sparks my imagination. 

If I hadn’t become a writer, I would have missed out on the incredible friendships I’ve made. Children’s authors are the kindest, most generous people one could ever hope to meet.

Which three authors would you like to meet for coffee? 

Betty Smith – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Lois Lowry – The Giver

Katherine Applegate – The One and Only Ivan

What is the most challenging aspect of writing for children? 

Getting it right. Each word. Each sentence. The story. It has to be perfect.  

Can you share something interesting most people don’t know about you?    

I do my best thinking on walks. If you lived in my neighborhood, you’d probably wonder why that lady and her dog were circling the block again.

Many thanks, Janet. I greatly appreciate the time you gave to answer my questions.

A Beige Childhood + Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match for Perfect Picture Book Friday

Go ahead and settle back while I first tell my story. Then, I’ll share my picture book review of Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

I would describe my mother as an old-world, German woman. Mom preferred sensible over sensational, blending in over inviting attention to, and beige and brown over all the happy colors in the world. I sometimes felt I looked more like a miniature version of her instead of a typical kid. My friends got to wear jeans, (Lucky!!!) they owned colorful shirts, blouses, and sweaters, their shoes were equally colorful, and they wore fun headbands or bright ribbons tied in their hair.

Then, there was me… boarding the school bus in my sensible, brown, walking shoes with beige socks, brown pants, and beige sweater. I might have been a child, but I looked like someone’s granny with a decent face lift.

Mom wouldn’t always take me with her when she shopped. Sometimes, I came home from school to some unfashionable surprises.

“Didn’t this dress come in blue or green?”

“Beige is better. You don’t want to bring attention to yourself.”

“If I have to wear a beige dress, can I pleeeease get red sandals?”

“What are you thinking? Did someone hit you in the head? As long as I’m paying for your clothes, you’ll dress sensibly. Honestly, if I didn’t put my foot down, you’d leave this house naked!”

“At least I’d still be wearing beige.”

“Go to your room.”

My childhood was filled with envy for the colorful clothes my friends wore. Many years later, when I married and had a daughter, I swore she would dress in every color that filled a box of crayons which brings me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

Title – Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match

Written by  – Monica Brown

Illustrated by – Sara Palacios

Published by – Children’s Book Press – 2011

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Theme – To feel happiest, be yourself no matter the opinions of others.

Opening – My name is Marisol McDonald, and I don’t match. At least, that’s what everyone tells me.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin. Polka dots and stripes are her favorite combination. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos in her lunch box. And don’t even think of asking her to choose one or the other activity at recess—she ll just be a soccer playing pirate princess. To Marisol McDonald, these seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together.

Unfortunately, they don t always make sense to everyone else. Other people wrinkle their nose in confusion at Marisol—can’t she just be one or the other? Try as she might, in a world where everyone tries to put this biracial, Peruvian-Scottish-American girl into a box, Marisol McDonald doesn’t match. And that s just fine with her.

Why do I like this book? What’s not to love about a strong main character who knows what she likes, and despite the comments of others, stays true to herself. Although, for one day, Marisol decides, against her better judgement, to match and behave as others do, but that day, as you might imagine, is her worst day. Marisol is a bilingual, Peruvian-Scottish – American girl in a multiracial family with her father’s red hair, her mother’s brown skin, and a whole lot of spunk and creativity that, when brought together, equal one terrific main character. The illustrations by Sara Palacios add loads of rich, playful colors and patterns, creating one super, happy book.

Learn more about Monica Brown HERE.

Learn more about Sara Palacios HERE.

Play idea – It’s fashion show time! Have fun with your children, creating the most outlandish outfits you can put together. The only rule…no beige. Then, take funny pictures. For a snack, put together some totally mismatched foods like Marisol does. Maybe you’ll discover a combination of items that’s utterly scrumptious!

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

When you were a kid, do you remember a student or friend in your class who marched to his/her own beat like Marisol? Please feel free to share in the comments. I’d love to hear about it.

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