Category: PPBF (page 1 of 3)

What Makes a House? Find out this Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Childhood memories can seem the most distant and unreachable, like the Milkyway. But I have come to learn that with the right memory trigger, like a smell, taste, or sound, a long forgotten memory has a way of filling the mind with clarity. In my case, a childhood memory returned when I opened Deborah Freedman’s picture book, This house, once.

As the different parts came together to make a house in this book, the memory returned when my parents bought a wooded piece of land in the country. I recalled the countless weekends my family drove out to see the building progress. Trucks of different sizes dug a deep, deep hole for the foundation, stacked up stones for sturdy walls, added windows, and doors. I remember playing with my sister around the building site after the trucks drove away. We dug through the sand and earth with our bare hands, searching for dinosaur bones and other treasures, but instead found stones, insects, and frogs. Week after week, we anxiously awaited the day or parents would announce moving day. And then that happy day came. Decades have passed. Another family lives in my childhood home. But the memories are mine to hold.

Title – This house, once

Written and Illustrated by – Deborah Freedman

Published by- Atheneum Books for Young Readers – 2017

Topics – building a house, creating something, nature

Opening – This door was once a colossal oak tree about three hugs around and as high as the blue.

(Is anyone else smiling about the oak tree being about three hugs around?)

Synopsis from Amazon – Deborah Freedman’s masterful new picture book is at once an introduction to the pieces of a house, a cozy story to share and explore, and a dreamy meditation on the magic of our homes and our world.

This poetically simple, thought-provoking, and gorgeously illustrated book invites readers to think about where things come from and what nature provides.

Why do I like this book? I honestly can’t tell you which is more stunning, the text or the illustrations. Deborah Freedman is equally gifted in both the writer’s world and the illustrator’s. I was most taken in by her thoughtfulness in describing each “ingredient” needed to build a house from the door to the stones which were once tucked beneath a blanket of leaves. Each page offers another reason to love this book.

Learn more about Deborah Freedman and her books HERE.

*

If you have a fond, funny, or otherwise memorable memory about creating or building something from scratch, I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Until next Friday!

Something Terrific For Perfect Picture Book Friday!

I finally replaced my blog banner of the scenic, lake photograph. The change was long overdue. I wasn’t sure what kid-friendly banner I should replace it with, though. I came up with a bookshelf inhabited by a fluffy cat, but my daughter thought I needed to go in a different direction. “I think you should paint a school bus filled with happy kids,” she said. So, I did.  Now, onto my picture book review.

I pulled out one of my favorite books to share with you today. Along with my love of nature books, I also have a love for seriously unique characters. Once you read the book, Terrific, by Jon Agee, you’ll agree that the main character, with his pessimistic nature, is quite unique. Just look at his face on the cover. With one illustration, you know laughs will be plentiful.

Terrific 

Written by- Jon Agee

Illustrated by – Jon Agee

Published by- Dial Books for Young Readers – 2005

Topics – Unlikely friendships, pessimism, change of heart.

Opening – Much to his surprise, Eugene was the lucky winner of an all-expense-paid cruise to Bermuda.

“Terrific,” he said. “I’ll probably get a really nasty sunburn.”

But on the way there, the ship ran into a terrible storm. Everyone was rescued, except for Eugene.

“Terrific,” he said. “I’ll probably get devoured by sharks.”

Synopsis from Amazon – “Terrific,” says Eugene, after winning an all-expenses-paid vacation in Bermuda. “I’ll probably get a really nasty sunburn.” Unfortunately, Eugene’s luck is a lot worse than that. First, his cruise ship sinks, then he ends up stranded on a tiny island. But Eugene isn’t alone. There’s another castaway, a parrot with a busted wing, who tells him what there is to eat and drink and how to build a sailboat. Cranky Eugene pays attention, and his luck begins to change.

Why do I like this book? I can’t resist snarky humor. Now sprinkle snarky humor over a pessimist and you’ve got, (in my opinion) a winning combination for a memorable character which makes for an unforgettable, must-have picture book.  And the illustrations you might be asking about. “Are they pretty good?”  They’re better than pretty good. Jon Agee has a talent for illustrating emotion that not only fits the mood of his characters but ups the humor straight through the ceiling. Check out this book, and you’ll see what I mean.

Hop over to Joh Agee’s web site HERE.

Publishers Weekly Q and A with Jon Agee HERE.

Until next Friday!

Valentine's Day Get's a Change of Heart this Perfect Picture Book Friday.

When I was in elementary school, one girl made it her daily task to find something mean to say to me. Her unkind words kept me miserable for years.

I well recall Valentine’s Day when we were expected to give a card to every student in homeroom. EVERY STUDENT. I wrote cards for all of my classmates and saved the card I had to give the mean girl for last. I chose the least sweet card in my box of pink, white, and red Valentines. And although I wrote every student’s name at the top and signed my name at the bottom of their card, I left the mean girl’s card blank. I couldn’t bring myself to write her name, and I couldn’t bear the thought of giving her my signature.

Would she care if she got a card from me? Would she notice if I didn’t give her a Valentine? And if I did give her a Valentine, would she tear it up and throw it away?

While I was suffering in visible agony, my mother asked me what was wrong.

“I don’t want to give a Valentine to the mean girl in my homeroom,” I said.

“She probably doesn’t want to give one to you, either,” Mom said, “but there are times when we have to do things we don’t want to do. Instead of keeping bad feelings between you two, why don’t you do something she’d never expect?”

“Tear up her card before she does?” I guessed.

“I was thinking you could give her a nice Valentine’s Day card,” Mom said, “and ask her to be your friend.”

I did as my mother suggested, and the mean girl laughed. At least she didn’t tear up my card.

She crumpled it.

Years later, when elementary school was long behind me, I came home from college for winter break. I was at the grocery store when I saw the mean girl, slicing meat behind the deli counter. Apparently, she saw me, too, because she wiped her hands down her apron and raced out from behind the counter to catch up to me.

I was wondering what mean thing she had saved up to say to me when she did the unexpected.

“I don’t know if you remember how mean I was to you through school,” she said. “And I don’t even know why I wanted to hurt your feelings. But, I’m sorry.” Then, she impulsively hugged me, returned to the deli counter, and left me standing. Dumbfounded.

And this leads me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

Title – Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink

Written and illustrated by- Diane deGroat

Published by- Harper Collins Children’s Books – 1996

Topics – Valentine’s Day, friendship, misunderstandings

Opening – There they were, fifteen blank Valentine cards, waiting to be filled with nice Valentine poems…

Synopsis from Amazon – Gilbert is all set to write fifteen friendly valentine cards to his classmates. But how can he write a nice poem for the boy who tweaked his nose or the girl who made fun of his glasses? Instead, Gilbert writes two not-so-nice valentines…and signs the wrong name on both!

When his classmates read his poems, their feelings are hurt, and Gilbert’s prank quickly turns into pandemonium. But with the help of a friend and an honest apology, there’s always time for a change of heart on Valentine’s Day.

Why do I like this book? Aside from reminding me of my own elementary school, Valentine’s Day dilemma, this story shows that feelings of anger toward someone are often based upon a simple misunderstanding. The colorful, detailed watercolor illustrations add a strong emotional layer to this story of friendship and forgiveness.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Until next Friday.

Charlotte's Bones. An Unforgettable Picture Book Mystery for Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Most people can’t resist a mystery. So, when I came across today’s picture book, Charlotte’s Bones, my curiosity shot up when I read the added seven words, carefully included in the cover illustration…

The Beluga Whale in a Farmer’s Field.

Admit it, aren’t you curious to find out how Charlotte’s bones found their way there?

when I read the book, I discovered more than the answer to my question. I discovered a lovingly-written, lyrical story accompanied by equally touching and emotional illustrations that needed to be shared.

Charlotte’s Bones: The Beluga Whale in a Farmer’s Field 

Written by- Erin Rounds

Illustrated by – Alison Carver

Published by- Tilbury House Publishers, 2018

Topics – Beluga whales, Mystery, Evolution

Opening – Many thousands of years ago, when a sheet of ice more than a mile thick began to let go of the land…

…the Atlantic Ocean flooded great valleys that had been scooped out by glaciers, and the salty waves of an inland sea lapped the green hills of Vermont.

Synopsis from Amazon –In 1849, a crew building a railroad through Charlotte, Vermont, dug up strange and beautiful bones in a farmer’s field. A local naturalist asked Louis Agassiz to help identify them, and the famous scientist concluded that the bones belonged to a beluga whale. But how could a whale’s skeleton have been buried so far from the ocean? The answer―that Lake Champlain had once been an arm of the sea―encouraged radical new thinking about geological timescales and animal evolution.

Why do I like this book? Every now and then, I read a book that won’t let go of me. (Admittedly, these are usually true stories about animals.) They say a good picture book is one a child will want to hear or read again and again, but in the case of Charlotte’s Bones, I found a heartfelt story that I want to read again and again.

Watch a video about beluga whales HERE.

Until next Friday.

A Parisian Night Before Christmas Picture Book That's Tre' Chic!

If you thought that picture books were written just for children, I’ve got a surprise for you. I was recently visiting Chicago, strolling through the decked out, lighted shops when…

What to my wandering eyes should appear,

but a book nestled snug between holly and deer.

It stood beneath branches all lit up and bright

like a treasure I’d found that came into my sight.

This book was just right for my fave holiday!

Twas the night before Christmas IN  PARIS, Hooray!

Away to the register, I made a mad dash

Flung open my purse and then laid out my cash.

One look at my cell and I saw it was three.

I grabbed book and receipt, and I started to flee.

My train left at four, so I started to jog.

I had to get home to start typing my blog.

This holiday version of this classic is sweet

I hope my dear followers find this a treat.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good read.

Title – The Night Before Christmas in Paris

Written by – Betty Lou Phillips and Roblyn Herndon

and illustrated by – Sheryl Dickert

Published by – Gibbs Smith – 2012

Opening – 

Twas the week before Christmas!

All over the world

The children were breathless

as visions unfurled

Of the magical time when their

dreams would take flight

And the sweet sound of sleigh bells

would ring in the night.

 

But Santa was frantic–

he wasn’t elated,

For his dear Mrs. Claus

could not be located.

The lists were not finished;

the maps were a mess,

And where to deliver

was anyone’s guess.

Amazon Review – A haute stocking stuffer for Paris lovers.

Haute couture and Paris sights capture Mrs. Claus’s imagination―as they would any woman’s! This charming story finds Mrs. Claus fabulously ensconced in Paris, having enjoyed fashion week and been lured for several months’ stay by all the sights, scents, and couture of Paris. In the end, Santa takes a quick tour of the City of Light himself―the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, the Louvre, Tuileries Gardens, Notre Dame, Montmartre and more―to find the satiated Mrs. Claus and whisk her back home just in time to help the elves with the last-minute packing of toys for children all over the world.

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

Until next Friday.

Get a BIG Laugh this Perfect Picture Book Friday.

I recently came across a YouTube video of a grandmother reading a picture book to her grandson. With each page turn, snickers turned into laughs that grew and grew to the point where tears formed and she could barely read. The story, the humorous illustrations, and the grandmother’s infectious laughter had me hanging on to my chair to keep from falling off. Hands down, this is one of the funniest picture books.

If you happen to know someone who never or rarely finds anything funny, get a copy of this book and ask them to read it aloud to you. My guess is that you’re going to hear some BIG laughs.

The Wonky Donkey 

Written by- Craig Smith

Illustrated by – Katz Cowley

Published by- Scholastic – 2010

Topics – Side-splitting humor and being yourself

Opening – 

I was walking down the road and I saw…

a donkey,

Hee Haw!

He was a wonky donkey.

Synopsis from AmazonChildren will be in fits of laughter with this perfect read-aloud tale of an endearing donkey.

Why do I like this book? Face it, we all love reading or listening to something that makes us laugh, and this book delivers BIG laughs. The story about being okay with who you are – faults and all, plus comical and heartfelt illustrations which raise the humor to the ceiling, make this a must-have book which I quickly added to my shelf of favorites.

Learn more about Craig Smith HERE.

Learn more Katz Cowley HERE.

Listen to a YouTube video where Katz Cowley shares her illustration process HERE.

YouTube video of Grandmother reading The Wonky Donkey HERE.

Until next Friday.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Hangs Out With Elephant and Piggie.

While I was writing my personal story to accompany today’s picture book review, something magical happened. The more details I recalled and wrote down, the more I realized I had written a rough draft for my next picture book manuscript. So, I’m going to switch gears and share a different book with you.

I thought I had read every single Elephant and Piggie book by Mo Willems, but one had escaped me.

I’m especially fond of stories which offer an unexpected twist at the end. And yes, most picture books deliver just such an ending, but as I neared the last pages of The Thank You Book, the ending I expected and was 99.99999% sure would be delivered, was waaaay off. Mo Willems delivered a spot on, eye-popping surprise.

The Thank You Book (An Elephant & Piggie Book)

Written and illustrated by- Mo Willems

Published by- Hyperion Books for Children – 2016

Topics – Thankfulness and consideration for others.

Opening – “I am one lucky pig. I have a lot to be thankful for… I had better get thanking!” 

(How adorable is that?) 

Synopsis from Amazon – Gerald and Piggie are best friends. In The Thank You Book, Piggie wants to thank EVERYONE. But Gerald is worried Piggie will forget someone . . . someone important.

Why do I like this book? I have never read a book by Mo Willems I didn’t love. And in The Thank You Book, I spent page after page knowing exactly what Mo Willems had planned. Exactly. And then… BAM! A surprise came beyond all surprises. You’ll simply have to check out this book to find out who Piggie forgets to thank.

Learn more about Mo Willems HERE.

Watch a video interview with Mo Willems HERE.

See some great kid-friendly projects inspired by Mo Willems Books HERE.

Until next Friday.

This Perfect Picture Book Friday Review Will Squeeze Your Heart!

Perfect Picture Book Friday looks at There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Laurel Molk.

About fifteen years ago, I traveled with my family to Hawaii. In addition to experiencing tropical surroundings for the first time, waking up at four in the morning to watch the sunrise, strolling barefoot along the beach to collect shiny seashells and funny shaped pieces of lava, I experienced snorkeling for the first time.

I also discovered the paralyzing power of the brain.

Despite being told repeatedly that once the snorkeling mask and breathing hose were tightly secured I could safely breathe under the water, I couldn’t inhale the teeniest molecule of air. I dipped my face below the water’s surface and floated about, holding my breath while watching a school of fish swim past my fingertips.

I brought up my face to yank out the breathing tube and suck in the sweet air.

I dipped my face down again, watching and waiting for another fish. I waited as long as I could hold my breath. Then…

I brought up my face, yanked out the breathing tube, and sucked in the sweet air.

Right about that time, my hubby swam over and handed me a camera in a water-proof case. “You might have more fun if you’re taking pictures,” he said.

I replaced the breathing tube, pressed my face into the water, and observed the deep sea world through the camera’s lens. It was at the time, when air seemed a good thing to get, that an enormous sea turtle paddled beneath me. I snapped picture after picture, fluttering my feet to keep up with him. As the beautiful turtle disappeared behind a curtain of seaweed, I realized something.

I brought up my face, yanked out the breathing tube, and yelled, “I did it! I breathed underwater!”

Sometimes it takes something big, like a giant sea turtle, to get us over our fears. In the case of a dog named Suki, from today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review, getting over his long list of fears at the beach takes the loss of something small but of immense importance.

There Might Be Lobsters

Written by- Carolyn Crimi

Illustrated by – Laurel Molk

Published by- Candlewick Press – 2017

Topics – Fear, Friendship, overcoming obstacles, and love.

Opening – Lots of things at the beach scared Suki. Lots.

“Come on, Sukie, you can do it!” said Eleanor. She stood at the bottom of the stairs to the beach and waved to Sukie.

But Sukie was just a small dog,

and the stairs were big and sandy, and she hadn’t had lunch yet, and her foot hurt a little…

(and I’m going to stop here with hopes you’ll check out this book to read this heartfelt story and enjoy every emotion-packed illustration.) 

Synopsis from Amazon – A little dog’s paralyzing anxiety gives way to bravery when someone smaller is in need in this humorous, tenderly sympathetic story.

Lots of things at the beach scare Sukie. Lots. Because she is just a small dog, and the stairs are big and sandy, and the waves are big and whooshy, and the balls are big and beachy. And besides, there might be lobsters. With endearing illustrations and a perfectly paced text that captures a timid pup’s looping thoughts, here is a funny and honest read-aloud about how overwhelming the world can be when you’re worried — and how empowering it is to overcome your fears when it matters the most.

Why do I like this book? Each of us, at some point in our lives, has experienced a fear that stopped us from doing something. Like a fear of drowning that turned learning to swim into a miserable memory for us (me). Or a fear of heights that kept us (me) from zip-lining hundreds of feet above the Hawaiian forest with family and friends.

In the case of today’s picture book, Sukie, a little dog, fears many things at the beach, including lobsters. Overcoming his fear comes when the unthinkable happens, and he must choose between feeling loss and lonliness forever or facing his fear to keep something of great value. Spoiler alert. Sukie faces his fear. But you knew he would.

Writing Prompt: Write about a fear you overcame and how facing it changed you. Include your emotions before and after the event.

Learn more about Carolyn Crimi HERE.

Learn more about Laurel Molk HERE.

Until next Friday.

Perfect Picture Book Friday is Going Places!

When I was a child, my father brought home a box of Legos. The set held a handful of teeny-tiny plastic bricks, medium bricks, and others that were long, fat, and flat. The instruction booklet showed pictures for possible things the set could build. My sister made a tall, thin house with a steep roof. I built a short house with a flat roof. My Dad built a little plane. After we played with the toys we made, we snapped apart the bricks and saw what else we could build, using only our imaginations to guide us.

Flash forward: I’m married and have a daughter who has received an amazing Lego ship set for her seventh birthday. Her smile is bigger than a crescent moon. She lays out the instructions and stacks the Lego pieces into organized piles. For the next two hours, she builds that ship and sets it adrift in the middle of our coffee table. With a stern face, she instructs her dad and me NOT to touch it, NOT to play with it, and NOT to use the coffee table as she has repurposed it into a museum-grade, display table for her masterpiece.

YEARS have passed. The ship eventually sailed down to the basement where it is resting in drydock with other forgotten toys because…

there was nothing else the instructions said the Lego set could build but a ship.

Taking what we are given and seeing what other possibilities exist is the theme for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

Title – Going Places – view on Amazon HERE.

Written by – Peter and Paul Reynolds

Illustrated by – Peter Reynolds

Published by – Scholastic Inc. – 2014

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics/Theme –  Thinking outside the box (literally).

Opening – Rafael had been waiting all year long for the Going Places contest, a chance to build a go-cart, race it…and win.

When their teacher announced, “Who would like the first kit?” Rafael’s hand shot up.

Why do I like this book? Going Places shows us that some people will see the picture on a kit and follow the instructions EXACTLY, while other kids will say, “That’s nice, but what else can I build?” Peter and Paul Reynolds have created a brilliant story that inspires and encourages everyone, no matter their age, to look waaay outside the box and fly!

Learn more about Peter and Paul Reynolds HERE.

Until next Friday!

Perfect Picture Book Friday gets close to nature.

Growing up in the country, nature surrounded me. Nature nested in sturdy branches, burrowed holes in my mother’s garden, nibbled juicy mulberries in the woods, made a cozy home beneath rotted logs, and glistened after a summer rain. Nature also found its way into our house where it climbed up the windows (thousands of ladybugs), thought it was okay to share my pillow (a long, hairy millipede), and nestled on the windowsill to dry its wings after hatching in my bedroom (a luna moth).

When I was about ten, I spotted a wasp nest under construction above our front door. Instead of swatting it down with the kitchen broom, my mother introduced nature to me as the precious gift it is. She brought out a pair of garden chairs from the garage and set them up within five feet of the wasps. That afternoon, we watched the winged architects increase the size of their home while we sipped iced tea and enjoyed the amazing show.

Watching nature is at the heart of today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

Title – On Bird Hill – view on Amazon HERE.

Written by – Jane Yolen

Illustrated by – Bob Marstall

Published by – The Cornell Lab Publishing Group – 2016

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics/Theme –  observation, nature, birds,

Opening –

As I was walking on Bird Hill,

Though it was day, the moon shone still.

And on Bird Hill, I saw a tree,

As light and bright as it could be.

Why do I like this book? This rhyming picture book is written and illustrated in an amazing way. The reader begins with a broad view of nature. Then, page after page we are made aware that something wonderful is about to happen as we are moved in closer and closer to the big moment (which I will not spoil for you).

Learn more about Jane Yolen HERE.

Learn more about Bob Marstall HERE.

Until next Friday!

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