Monday, November 30, 2015

Feeling Stuck?

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”
- Mason Cooley*

Friday, November 27, 2015

PPBF: Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold

I had this review ready, but didn't realize Beth Stillborn had already done a lovely Perfect Picture Book Friday review on her blog. Thanks, Beth.

However, in case you missed this book, I hope you'll take a peek at the gorgeous art and poetry within. Enjoy your weekend.

Winter Bees, By Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen

Winter Bees
& Other Poems of the Cold

Written by Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Rick Allen
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
Kindergarten - 4th grade

Poetry, Animals, Winter

From "Dream of the Tundra Swan"

Dusk fell
and the cold came creeping,
came prickling into our hearts

Winter Bees is a beautiful collection of twelve poems focusing on animals and their behaviors during the winter months. The poems and illustrations are arranged from autumn's first snow to spring thaw, from "Dream of the Tundra Swan" to " Triolet for Skunk Cabbage." Poems appear on the left-hand page, while a short informative paragraph appears on the right of each spread, feeding the mind as well as the soul. The author adds a glossary to help explain not only naturalistic terms, but poetic ones as well. The linocut prints are detailed enough to satisfy young scientists, yet artistic enough to keep the pages turning. All in all, a tremendously perfect picture book.

What I Love:
Aside from the sheer beauty of the illustrations and the poems, Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold is full of fascinating facts. Did you know there's a bug called a snow flea that can spring high by flicking it's "tail"? Did you know there's a swan which flies north for the winter? Do you know the meanings of "subnivean", "brumale", or "pantoum"? Pick up a copy and find out.

My favorite poem has to be "Vole in Winter" and just listen to these lines from "What Do The Trees Know?"

What do the trees know?
       To bend when all the wild winds blow.
       Roots are deep and time is slow.
       All we grasp we must let go.

1. Giclées of the prints in this book and many more are available from Kenspeckle Letterpress. Gorgeous.
2.Kenn Nesbitt offers some lessons for kids on writing poetry at Poetry4Kids.
3. Sing Winter Wonderland and try some of the 50 winter family activities compiled by Today'sParent.
4. You'll find winter pre-school activities and crafts on MCPL, artic animal learning activities on GiftofCuriosity, and a science project about hibernation on HomeScienceTools.
5. Check out these and more Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Reviewed by Joanne
Reviewed by Cathy

Reviewed by Barbara
Reviewed by Joanne

Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the Perfect Picture Book Friday titles available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Turkey Surprise

This isn't the turkey most of you will be seeing today, but they are among the many blessings we experience on a daily basis. The local flock numbers about twenty turkeys, though there were only thirteen in the front yard this morning. I guess they were sleeping in on the holiday.

Wild Pennsylvania turkeys

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

"Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be His glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with His glory; Amen, and Amen."

Psalm 72:18,19

Saturday, November 21, 2015

International Games Day

Thanks to the American Library Association!
Support your local library. Join in the fun. Celebrate International Games Day.

In honor of International Games Day, we are blowing off weekend chores and celebrating the holiday with family members. If you're not a gaming family, then may I make some suggestions?

Z-Man Games
For Everyone
Try Carcassonne. Perfect for mixed skill levels. Layers of strategy, or not. Straightforward play with minimal rules. Play cutthroat or mind-your-own-business style. Plenty of expansion sets for hard core gamers.

Fireside Games
For Families
Castle Panic. A fun and frantic co-operative game. Either everyone saves the castle from the invading hoards of monsters, or everyone is defeated as the castle is destroyed. Easy for all ages. Easy to learn. Easy to lose. The game that always ends with, "Let's play again."

Only Available through TICG site
For Card Sharks
The Totally Insane Card Game. Like Uno on steroids. Not for the faint of heart. Dozens of cards with confusing effects, but well worth the effort. Absolutely a must for barrels of laughs. Includes "This hand is dead" which immediately ends the hand, "Zombie" cards which reduce your hand total to zero if the hand should be declared dead, and "Resurrection" which obviously resurrects the hand and play continues. My favorite card? "This is not my card!" When you pick this card, you immediately give it away.

R&R Games
For parties
We love Qwirkle or Sketchy for the family. Time's Up for adults.

Dig out your old copies of Dutch Blitz, Trivial Pursuit, Password, or Apples to Apples and get your game on.

For Board Gamers
Have you tried 7 Wonders? It's my current obsession. Also always up for a game of Galaxy Trucker. In the mood to be defeated? How about Shadows Over Camelot or Forbidden Island? Recently played Machi Koro for the first time. Light but fun. Guillotine anyone?

For Video Gamers
Star Wars Battlefront, of course, and Mario Kart or Gauntlet for a little retro action.

Please visit The Games Keep [561 E Gay St, West Chester, PA 19380, Phone:(484) 905-5533]
or your local games store. They need your support. Can't find one? Try the Steve Jackson Games store finder or this one from Fireside Games, or Rio Grande's locator for a retailer near you. Online, I like Funagain Games. What are you waiting for?

Happy International Games Day!

Please leave your family's favorite past time in the comments. 
We love to try new games.

Friday, November 20, 2015

PPBF: Snow

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Snow, by Uri Shulevitz
Written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz
Scholastic, 1998
Grade K-2, word count 707

Winter, Imagination

The Skies are gray.
The rooftops are gray.
The whole city is gray.

Snow is a simple picture book about a boy traveling through the town trying to convince the passers-by to look up and see the snow flakes beginning to fall. It perfectly captures a child's excitement as the first flake drifts down. He begins to count them, one, two, three. The bustling townsfolk can't be bothered or don't believe him. When the town is finally blanketed in white, magical things begin to happen. The boy dances with nursery rhyme characters from the local bookstore and off into the night.

What I Love:
I love how Snow is so simple, yet so complex. At the heart of the story is childlike wonder at simple miracles like snow. The town is transformed from gray to white. The buildings take on a fairy tale quality, which is emphasized by the magic of the storybook characters coming to life. I love the grumpy, goofy, ridiculous members of the town, too absorbed in themselves to notice or to care about the first snowfall. Uri Shulevitz is a master at telling the story through subtle color change. He evokes emotion through placement of the illustrations on the page. At first the pictures are confined to small squares with lots of white space on the page, then gradually, the illustrations go to full bleed (off the edges of the page) as the town is buried in snow. This book is a lovely example of how illustration transforms text into something more, though in this case, the illustrator / author planned the visuals as a storytelling element right from the inception.

via Craftionary
1. You can purchase a lovely signed poster from Snow on Books of Wonder.
2. Read Uri Shulevitz's book Writing With Pictures. (Review by Harold Underdown) I promise, you'll look at creating picture books in a whole new way.
3. Craft a collection of paper snowflakes gathered by Decornos or try the app from Flash and Math to understand the geometry involved using virtual paper snowflakes.
4. Make a variety of snowglobes from
5. Check out these and more Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Reviewed by Beth
Reviewed by Susanna

Reviewed by Joanna
Reviewed by Joanne

Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for November 20, 2015 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Understanding Ourselves Through Books

"Why are picture books important? Because they show us the world. . . . We learn what it’s like to be someone other than ourselves, and in the process, come to understand ourselves better."
-Sophie Blackall*

Bookplate courtesy the Bilingual Librarian

*Via Picture Book Month

Friday, November 13, 2015

PPBF: Compost Stew

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Compost Stew:
An A to Z Recipe for the Earth
Compost Stew
An A to Z Recipe For the Earth

Written by Mary McKenna Siddals
Illustrated by Ashley Wolff
Tricycle Press, 2010
Grade K-2

Gardening, Environment, How-to

Environmental chefs
here's a recipe for you
to fix from scratch
to mix a batch
of compost stew.

Compost Stew is part alphabet book, part science how to. Told in rhyme, the text goes from A to Z, adding suggestions of unlikely items you can actually add to your compost heap. Apple cores, bananas, and coffee grounds, of course, but also quarry dust and laundry lint. The book includes links to composting instructions and community garden tips. Perfect to get kids involved in community service, environmentalism, and outdoor activity.

What I Love:
The author has set herself quite a challenge, to inform and instruct in rhyme. Even the disclaimer and end note are in rhyme. The finished product is charming and fun to read aloud. I was excited to learn a few unusual ingredients which will benefit my garden. And who can resist Ashley Wolff's paint and collage illustrations? She creates a colorful cast of characters from magazines, fabric, and newsprint, kids of all kinds in polka dots and floral hats. These illustrations are perfect for the recycling theme, from the endpapers to the endnotes and everything in between.

DIY compost tumbler by Ian and Kristina Urquhart
1. Download a PDF for starting a community compost. Check out these articles on composting with kids from Gardening KnowHow or Green Mom Guide.
2. Build your own rotating compost barrel: Bucket-sized from Urban Farm Online or one that's barrel-sized from OneHundredDollarsAMonth.
3. Get a head start on next years garden. Redwood City Seed Company offers free seeds to kids with an adult order.
4. Learn more about the science of earth worms from National Geographic Kids, then build a worm farm with PlanetKidz.
5. Mary Siddals has included a bucketful of links and lesson plans which are a perfect compliment to the book.
6. Check out these and more Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Reviewed by Sue

Reviewed by Stacy

Reviewed by Joanne
Reviewed by Kirsten

Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for November 13, 2015 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cat Complications

Sometimes I procrastinate. Sometimes it's something else.

Hey, I'm workin' here!

Sometimes it's kittens sleeping on your drawing table.

Monday, November 9, 2015

No Enjoyment Like Reading

"I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library."
-Jane Austen*

Bookplate by Fernand Chalandre,
Courtesy The British Museum

*Miss Bingley, Pride and Prejudice, via The Literature Page

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Picture Book Month 2015

I am remiss in announcing that November is Picture Book Month.

Join the celebration.
Grab a badge.
Read to a child.

Time in a picture book is time to treasure. 
Take the opportunity to share a book with someone before the moment vanishes.


Friday, November 6, 2015

PPBF: Slinky Malinki, Open the Door

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Slinky Malinki, Open The Door, by Lynley Dodd
Slinky Malinki, 
Open the Door
Written and illustrated by Lynley Dodd
Tricycle Press, an imprint of Crown,
a division of Penguin Random House, 1993
Grade K-2

Animals, Humor, Rhyming

"Slinky Malinki and Stickybeak Syd were a troublesome pair;  Do you know what they did?
Alone in the house one mischievous day, they opened a door and they started to play."

Slinky Malinki, Open the Door continues the misadventures of a black cat named Slinky Malinki, who turned 25 last July. Lynley Dodd's hilarious illustrations show the havoc one macaw and one cat can cause when said cat figures out how to turn a doorknob. Slinky gets in trouble in every room of the house until he opens one door too many. Trouble finds him in the wordless ending, just perfect for reading aloud with giggly children.

What I Love:
Lynley Dodd creates lovable characters through art and bouncing rhyming text. The jaunty, "Slinky Malinki jumped high off the floor, he swung on a handle and . . . opened a door." refrain will have young readers shouting along in anticipation. Truthfully, the story is thin, but it has been oft requested and cheerfully repeated in our circles because it's so much fun to read aloud.

Courtesy Kinderart
1. Christchurch City Libraries has posted a short interview with the author / illustrator, or find out more from The Sydney Morning Herald.
2. Lynley Dodd has written over thirty children's books, including a dozen Hairy Maclary and at five starring Slinky Malinki. You can find a bibliography on Storylines and the App Store has a Slinky Malinki ebook bundle available.
3. Euan Frizzell animated a short film which introduces Lynley Dodd's most popular character, the scruffy black dog, Hairy Maclary.
4. Kinderart offers step by step instructions to make a black cat out of paper plates.
5. Make black cat oreos from Party Pinching or snack on Black Cat peanut bars. Plus Black Cat offers kids' activities on their website.
6. Check out these and more Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Scattercat, a fall story includes Hairy Maclary
Christmas Crackers, for the holidays

Reviewed by Barbara

Reviewed by Penny

Reviewed by Laura
Reviewed by Jarm

Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for November 6, 2015 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Cure for Writers' Insecurity

"Writing for the love of writing, the sheer act of writing, is the only antidote for the poison of credibility attacks – and the antidote is short-lived and must be re-administered.”
- Julia Cameron*

"Blank Page" by Kristin Kemper

*The Writer’s Life: Insights from The Right to Write Via Alayne Kay Christian on

Sunday, November 1, 2015

First Day of NaNoWriMo 2015

It's not too late for NaNoWriMo

Yesterday morning my 11-year old practically bounced out of bed. I assumed it was the effect of an extra hour of sleep.

"No, Mom," he said. "Today's NaNoWriMo. Don't you remember?"

Of course, I remembered, but I didn't think he had. My budding inventor also writes novels and comics on the side. Weeks ago he was regaling me with yet another new plot line. Eager to encourage, but mentally occupied elsewhere, I suggested he write those ideas down and then set to work actually writing his stories.

"After all," I said, "National Novel Writing Month is November first, the perfect time to draft your book."

I thought I was so clever. But now he's after me every half hour, trying to find out how many words I've written.

And for writers under 17,
try the Nano Young Writer's Program

There's a great lesson here in child-like enthusiasm, and it's something I hope to bottle and hand out around November 15th. That's when my latest draft's soggy middle is going to make me want to quit.

So here's to 
enthusiasm, perseverance, and our inner child. 
May we each find the motivation we need 
to pursue our writing goals.