Friday, July 21, 2017

Now Playing: A Little Princess

Perfect Picture Book Friday will return in September.
Until then,

Welcome to the Bookish Ambition 
Summer Drive-In

The Circle Drive-In from my childhood. Still open and now with double features on two screens!

Now Playing: A Little Princess
Written by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Illustration by Anna Bond
Puffin, a division of Penguin BFYR, 2014
Ages 8-12, reading level 4.8,  Lexile 250
320 pp, 66000 words

A Little Princess, Warner Bros, 1995
A Little Princess,
by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Cover by Anna Bond
 


Highlights from the book? 
  • interesting historical description
  • the Large family next door
  • the beggar child and the baker
  • satisfying ending

Highlights from the movie?
  • Miss Amelia and her romance
  • A gloriously happy ending
  • Heightened drama
  • Becky and Ermengarde


Opening:
Once on a dark winter's day, when the yellow fog hung so thick and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night, and odd-looking little girl sat in a cabin with her father and was driven rather slowly through the big thoroughfares.


Movie Trailer:
Note: This trailer has major movie spoilers.





I appreciate this well-scripted adaptation. Because that's what it feels like to me, an adaptation. The major alterations in the plot don't feel like they are there for cinematic drama alone, more like the writers had an agenda and made specific changes to carry those themes. For whatever reason, the movie focuses more on Sarah's emotional journey whereas the book focuses on her reaction to circumstances, I think. The book-Sarah effects social change and adapts to her circumstances. The movie-Sarah is transformed at her core, questioning accepted childhood beliefs and determining who she wants to become—what will be the hallmarks of her character.

I enjoy seeing this book come to life, the music, sets, casting. I am disappointed by some of the generic, stereotypical Indian bits, but hope watchers will be so entranced with India they will explore its diversity on their own. In a bit of savvy storytelling the script parallels Sarah's life and the stories she imagines. That's something kids do. It's pretty successful despite the awful special effects.

Skip ahead if you don't want to read any spoilers. The story takes place in America. The timeline is necessarily condensed. The students undergo some minor changes, but the adults suffer the most overhauls. Sarah's past and future are drastically changed. Her relationship with her father is completely reworked. Again, these changes all felt deliberate and make for good cinema.

Overall, I don't recommend the movie as a substitute for the book and I definitely recommend reading the original FIRST. Then enjoy the movie with your family.



Reminisce with intermission commercials
from Captain Bijou on You Tube.
Visit Our Snackbar!

What would the drive-in be like without the snack bar?

Twizzlers!.......need I say more?

Chef De Home has combined the great taste of Twizzlers with trail mix ingredients for a fun Road Trip Snack Cone, perfect for picnics or the drive-in.

If you've gotten addicted to Oreos during intermission (see the BFG post) then try my daughter's childhood favorite: Strawberry milk with a Twizzler straw. Be sure to pick a licorice piece where the hole goes all the way through and guzzle the double strawberry goodness.



Nostalgic for a drive-in movie? There are over 5,000 drive-in theaters across the U.S. mapped for you on Cinema Treasures.

It's a Jeep thing, you wouldn't understand.
I don't even consider it a night at the drive-in if I don't have my CJ with the top off.
Some drive-ins even have "Jeep night." Look for an event at a location near you.
Take along a gorgeous vintage Jeep cooler from Jeep Gear  and a half dozen bottles of Throwback Pepsi...ahhh.


Have you seen any screen adaptations of A Little Princess? What's your opinion?
Have you reviewed the book? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

View all the Summer Drive-In reviews for 2017.
Check out the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday review of A Little Princess, coming July 24, 2017.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Painting With Words

"I love language. Language is phenomenal. I have always been fascinated that one word can mean many different things. I love the challenge of painting a story in as few words as possible."
—Nikki Grimes*


Heron over Strasbourg Cathedral bookplate,
courtesy Ex Libris

*Via The Little Crooked Cottage


Monday, July 17, 2017

MMGM: The City of Ember

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick:

The City of Ember, book 1,
by Jeanne DuPrau and Chris Reily
The City of Ember

Written by Jeanne DuPrau
Cover by Chis Reily
Random House Books For Young Readers, 2003
Ages 8-12, Lexile 680L
60,000 words, 288 pp


Themes:
Dystopian adventure


Opening:
The prologue begins
"When the city of Ember was just built and not yet inhabited, the chief builder and the assistant builder, both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future."

Chapter 1 begins
"In the city of Ember, the sky was always dark. The only light came from great flood lamps mounted on the buildings and at the tops of poles in the middle of the larger squares. When the lights were on, they cast a yellowish glow over the streets; people walking by threw long shadows that shortened and then stretched out again. When the lights were off, as they were between nine at night and six in the morning, the city was so dark that people might as well have been wearing blindfolds.

"Sometimes darkness fell in the middle of the day. The city of Ember was old, and everything in it, including the power lines, was in need of repair."


Thoughts:
Let's be frank. I hate prologues. I think this one was decent and mercifully short, but probably unnecessary. OK. Enough about that.

I adore this book. From the time it first appeared on the bookshelves I knew I had to read it. It just emanated that certain something. And The City of Ember does not disappoint.

Though not a fan of dystopian world-building, this novel had all the cool elements: a unique setting, immediate stakes, interesting characters, underdogs, solid voice. I love the main character (s) and their families. I love the element of mystery, of puzzling out the clues to save the world. And I really didn't know how this story would finish. I hoped for a happy ending, but it often seemed out of reach.

At the risk of sounding cranky and negative, I wish I had stopped this series at book one. My absolute love for this book is nearly crushed by the succeeding novels. I'd love to hear your opinion on this.


Bonus: 
1. I found this interview with the author rather sweet, available on the Secret Files of Fairday Morrow.

2. Looking for more dystopian books for middle graders? Other MMGM bloggers recommend Margaret Peterson Haddix's many books, like Children of Exile, Sabotaged, Among the Imposters, and Found.

Or sample one of the MG adventures below.

Bot Wars, by J. V. Kade
illustrated by Steve Stankiwewicz,
reviewed by
Heise Reads & Recommends.
The Age of Miracles, 
by Karen Thompson Walker
Reviewed by Writer's Alley

The Artic Code,
cover art by Paul Sullivan
Freakling,
by Lana Krumweide,
cover by Maryellen Hanley
reviewed by Lucky 13s



Check out the  Summer Drive-In review of the City of Ember movie, from July 14, 2017.
View all the Summer Drive-In reviews for 2017.

Visit all the recommended titles for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday for July 17, 2017 available on Shannon Messenger's Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe.

Feel free to leave your MG recommendations in the comments. Thanks!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Now Playing: City of Ember

Perfect Picture Book Friday will return in September.
Until then,

Welcome to the Bookish Ambition 
Summer Drive-In

The Circle Drive-In from my childhood. Still open and now with double features on two screens!

Now Playing: City of Ember
Written by Jeanne DuPrau
Cover by Paul Sullivan
Random House BFYR, 2003
Ages 8-12, Lexile 680L


City of EmberWalden Media, 2008
New edition of City of Ember
by Jeanne DuPrau
Cover by Paul Sullivan
 
Highlights from the book? 
  • Concise, gripping world-building without info dumping.
  • Poppy, Granny, and the shop
  • Fun character names
  • The secret message 
  • The awesome map of Ember by Chris Reily
  • The deluxe edition with bonus material and a facsimile of the instructions.

Highlights from the movie?
  • Amazing steampunk vibe 
  • Marianne Jean-Baptiste...always
  • Some truly terrifying moments
  • Cinematography by Xavier Grobet
  • Set Design, especially Jon Billington's and Celia Bobak's work

Opening:
"When the city of Ember was just built and not yet inhabited, the chief builder and the assistant builder, both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future."


Movie Trailer:




Thoughts:
I read the author was disappointed by the design of the movie. My opinion couldn't be more different. I love the book for the rich and natural world-building. I like the variety of characters and eagerly turn the pages as they unravel the clues which could save their world. Similarly, I love the thoughtful, layered scenic design of the movie, and the costumes and cast perfectly portrayed my vision of Ember. A good note for all of us who write: once the book passes from our hands to the hands of our readers, their imagination takes over. It becomes their book. And the movie version of Ember is my book cinematized. Perhaps that's why I was disenchanted with the book's sequels. My imagination and the author's went in different directions. I'm told if you want to see DuPrau's vision of Ember and its inhabitants, read the graphic novel.



Find a Krispy Kreme location near you...It's worth the drive!
Visit Our Snackbar!

We're trying something new tonight.
in honor of their 8oth anniversary...


The Original Krispy Kreme

HOT NOW


July 14 deal
Buy one dozen, 
Get the second dozen for  80¢

And just in case you don't know what to do with the second dozen, why not make Krispy Kreme strawberry shortcakes with instructions from Desi on SteakNPotatoesKindaGurl.


Nostalgic for a drive-in movie? There are over 5,000 drive-in theaters across the U.S. mapped for you on Cinema Treasures.

Build your own gorgeous outdoor screen with instructions from Horticult.



Have you seen The City of Ember? What's your opinion?
Reviewed the book? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday review for The City of Ember, coming July 17, 2017.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Picture Book Non-Fiction

"The real world, the here and now, has not yet become stale for [children], and when I write for this audience, I try to return to the real world with the eyes I had as a child."
Anne Rockwell*

Eden's Tree of Life bookplate by Frances Delehanty
Via Bookplate Junkie

*Via Got Story? Countdown

Monday, July 10, 2017

MMGM: Theater Shoes

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick:

Theater Shoes, By Noels Streatfeild
Part of the Shoe Series
Theater Shoes

Written by Noel Streatfeild
Cover illustrated by Alissa Imre Geis
Random House Kids, 1945
Ages 8-12, Lexile 890L
288 pp, 69500 words


Themes:
Family, Following your Dreams, Theater, Dance, WW II


Opening:
"It is very difficult to look as if you minded the death of a grandfather who, though you may have spent your holidays in his house, certainly seldom remembered that you did."


Thoughts:
Siblings Sorrel, Mark, and Holly Forbes have lost their mother and their grandfather. Their father, a naval officer stationed in the South Pacific, is presumed dead. When they are sent to London to live with their estranged grandmother, the children are required to attend the Children's Academy of Dance and Stage Training like their family members before them. The children have other ideas about their future. Poverty and deprivations of war force the group to make hard choices and to explore new paths. This book was originally entitled Curtain Up.

The opening really grabbed me. In fact, though the prose is old-fashioned, I immediately took to the three near-orphans and their plight. The children move to war-torn London, which provides a fascinating setting with rare glimpses into the hardships of the mid 1940's. The main characters follow in the footsteps of the sisters from Ballet Shoes, but also in the paths of their parents and relatives. The theme of pressure to follow our family's expectations is one to which modern readers can relate. The middle of the book gets a bit soggy as the narration shifts more to the details of the children's careers than the children themselves. And unfortunately, I found the siblings a bit too similar to one another. The secondary characters and the historical details definitely make up for the deficiencies though.


I highlighted various covers and my initial thoughts about Ballet Shoes back in 2012 and you'll find my review of the movie on last Friday's Summer Drive-In.


Bonus: 
1. Looking for more books with a similar vibe?

Middle Grade Strikes Back recommends their top five middle grade books about ballet.
BookRiot has listed best books for theater lovers.

I unequivocally insist you read Bloomability, about a girl who goes to a foreign boarding school and discovers herself and Willa by Heart, about a girl who gets involved in her first theatrical production.

Bloomability,
by Sharon Creech
Willa By Heart,
by Coleen Paratore
Cover by Barbara McGregor

2. Other MMGM bloggers recommend

Dara Palmer's Major Drama, by Emma Shevah, reviewed by Bookshelf Monstrosity.
Drama, by Reina Telgemeier, reviewed by Jasmine Marie, the Bookish Mama.
King of Shadows, by Susan Cooper, reviewed here on Bookish Ambition.
Summerlost, by Ally Condie, reviewed by Word Spelunking, Reading Nook, and GeoLibrarian.

Summerlost,
by Ally Condie
Cover by Jennifer Bricking
Dara Palmer's Major Drama,
by Emma Shevah
Cover by Helen Crawford-White

3. The BBC discusses the career of Noel Streatfeild on their website.

4. Schools like the one in the book still thrive across America and in Europe. Kids who like this book can look into what life is like at a modern theater or dance academy, visiting or interviewing the students.

While I would hardly compare this book to Harry Potter, I think the details of school life will appeal to modern readers in the same way that English boarding schools have captured the imagination of a new generation.




Check out the  Summer Drive-In review of the Ballet Shoes movie, from July 7, 2017.
View all the Summer Drive-In reviews for 2017.

Check out all the recommended titles for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday for July 10, 2017 available on Shannon Messenger's Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe.

Feel free to leave your MG recommendations in the comments. Thanks!


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Week of WOW Non-Fiction

If you are interested in writing non-fiction picture books, I can't think of many better resources than Kristen Fulton's Non-Fiction Archaeology. To get a taste of her teaching style and to find out if NFA classes are for you (HINT: they are!) maybe you'll join me and other picture book writers next week for Week-of-Writing NonFicPic.

You can find the details on Kristen's website. WOW NonFicPic is a week's worth of webinars and assignments to guide you to the heart of your non-fiction stories.

There's still time to register

I've done WOW before, but with several ideas languishing in my file, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to build them into the stories I envision. And if you are still at the idea stage? No problem. By week's end Kristen's techniques will have your idea file bursting at the seams.

If you're participating, I'd love to hear from you. I'll see you in class!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Now Playing: Ballet Shoes

Perfect Picture Book Friday will return in September.
Until then,

Welcome to the Bookish Ambition 
Summer Drive-In

The Circle Drive-In from my childhood. Still open and now with double features on two screens!

Now Playing: Ballet Shoes
Written by Noel Streatfeild
Cover illustrated by Alissa Imre Geis
Random House Kids, 1937
Ages 8-12, Lexile 930L

Ballet ShoesBBC, 2007
from Granada Television
My favorite edition of Ballet Shoes,
by Noel Streatfeild and Alissa Geis

 
Highlights from the book? 
  • The charming old fashioned feel
  • The complex language
  • Characters that stick with you
  • A Cinderella story
  • Fabulous Cover art

Highlights from the movie?
  • Rich set design and costuming
  • Amazing casting
  • Plotting that keeps the story moving
  • Happy Endings

Opening:
The Fossil Sisters lived in the Cromwell Road. At that end of it which was farthest away from the Brompton Road, and yet sufficiently near it so that one could be taken to look at the dolls' houses in the Victoria and Albert every wet day.

Movie Trailer:





Streatfeild's style is a product of her time, but she has a knack for including details that young readers care about. The movie infuses that same attention to detail, making shabby and vintage into mysterious and exciting.

I appreciated the way this movie both updates and expands the original story while staying true to the author's original material. While I was skeptical about Emma Watson, she and the other actresses were great choices. They fossil girls match the book's vision. The casting for the supporting characters from Madam Fidolia to Uncle GUM couldn't have been better.
The book is dated and may not appeal to all readers, but the movie should reach a wider audience. It is completely charming. The stuff of childhood.


I highlighted various covers and my initial thoughts about this book back in 2012.



Reminisce with intermission commercials
from Captain Bijou on You Tube.
Visit Our Snackbar!

Pizza from the snack bar or those rock-hard Bavarian pretzels...Ahh, the good old days.

These days I'm a diehard Auntie Anne's devotee. What is life without pretzel dogs?

For a DIY hot dog recipe, try these nacho-crusted crescent dogs from Pillsbury. They are worth the effort.

Nostalgic for a drive-in movie?
There are over 5,000 drive-in theaters across the U.S. mapped for you on Cinema Treasures.

The Sound of Music, 1966
Operation Petticoat, 1959
Harvey, 1950
These and other vintage movie posters and reprints available at Movie Poster.com


Have you seen any screen adaptations of Ballet Shoes? What's your opinion?
Have you reviewed the book? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

View all the Summer Drive-In reviews for 2017.
Check out the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday review of Theater Shoes, coming July 10, 2017.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Visual Voice

"Voice isn’t just a text thing, either—artists have voice, through their line, use of color, and choice of medium. Think of Peter Reynolds and Tricia Tusa: they have similar styles, but you’d never mistake one’s work for the other’s. That’s voice, too."
Emily Mitchell*


bookplate courtesy Skarensis Bibliotheca


*Via Wernick & Pratt

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Independence Day 2017

Happy Fourth of July!

Want God to bless America?

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction." Proverbs 1:7


"Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." James 4:6


"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." II Chronicles 7:14


"Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord." Psalm 144:15

Monday, July 3, 2017

MMGM: BFG

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick:

BFG, by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake
BFG

Written by Roald Dahl
Illustrated by Quentin Blake
Jonathan Cape, Penguin Random House, 1982
Ages 4-12, Lexile 720L
224 pp, 38000 words


Themes:
Fantasy, Friendships, Assumptions


Opening:
Sophie couldn't sleep.
A brilliant moonbeam was slanting through the gap in the curtains. It was shining right on to her pillow.
The other children in the dormitory had been asleep for hours.
Sophie closed her eyes and lay quite still. She tried very hard to doze off.
It was no good. The moon beam was like a silver blade slicing through the room on to her face.
The house was absolutely silent. No voices came up from downstairs. There were no footsteps on the floor above either.
The window behind the curtain was wide open, but nobody was walking on the pavement outside. No cars went by on the street. Not the tiniest sound could be heard anywhere. Sophie had never known such a silence.
Perhaps, Sophie told herself, this was what they called the witching hour.


Thoughts:
It may be sacrilegious, but I am not as big a Roald Dahl fan as perhaps I should be. I fell in love with James and the Giant Peach in sixth grade. Honestly, it was decades before I found out it was an excerpt. By the time I read the novel, I had already imagined my own story around the incident and couldn't reconcile the two. I didn't grow up with Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka so that particular book had no pull on me. To me, Danny and his father were the worst kind of heroes.

But BFG was the book which opened the magical door. Suddenly I could hear the music in Dahl's words and gulp in the delightful silliness page after page. The text is so lyrically perfect. The humor, both subtle and absolute. The characters are the kind you want to cuddle and keep in your pocket.

So if you haven't read this book, find a copy and blow off work for the afternoon.
If you 've read it before, dust off your favorite edition and read it again.
Either way, it's whoopsy whiffling.


Bonus: 
1. Scholastic posted a sweet little interview with the author on writing, and Viva Veltoro did a fabulous interview with Dahl's daughter, Lucy, specifically about the BFG. Stephanie of Mommy Musings gives her take on the group interview.

2.  Lucy's opinion of the movie and mine seem to sync. You can read my book-to-movie comparison on the Summer Drive-In feature from last Friday.

3. For other gentle giants, try Betsy Gould Hearne's South Star seriesTed Hughes's The Iron Man (AKA The Iron Giant), The Twin Giants, by Dick King-Smithor The Giant Smugglers, by Matt Solomon and Chris Pauls.

South Star,
by Betsy Gould Hearne
Cover by Trina Schart Hyman
The Giant Smugglers,
by Matt Solomon and Chris Pauls
Cover by Matt Griffin
Twin Giants,
by Dick King-Smith
Cover by Mini Grey
The Iron Man,
By Ted Hughes
Cover by Andrew Davidson

4. Below are some links to explore other Dahl-ing reviews by fellow MMGM participants.

BFG
Brooke on Somewhere in the Middle
Mike from Middle Grade Mafioso
Jenni Enzor
Michelle Mason

Matilda
Cait of The Hopeful Heroine
Michael on Middle Grade Mafioso


5. Roald Dahl was a master of wordplay. The OED added six new words to the dictionary last year in his honor. Increase your own vocabulary with the Dahl Dictionary at Wonderful Dahl. Or buy your own Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary from Oxford University Press.



Check out all the recommended titles for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday for July 3, 2017 available on Shannon Messenger's Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe.

Feel free to leave your MG recommendations in the comments. Thanks!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Now Playing: BFG

Perfect Picture Book Friday will return in September.
Until then,

Welcome to the Bookish Ambition 
Summer Drive-In

The Circle Drive-In from my childhood. Still open and now with double features on two screens!

Now Playing: BFG
Written by Roald Dahl
Illustrated by Quentin Blake
Jonathan Cape, Penguin Random House, 1982
Ages 4-12, Lexile 720L

BFG Disney, 2016
My favorite edition of BFG,
by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake
 
Highlights from the book? 
  • Roald Dahl's inimitable writing style
  • whiz bang vocabulary
  • Quentin Blake's timeless, expressive illustrations
  • Nicholas Nickleby by Dahl's Chickens
  • The dream chapter

Highlights from the movie?
  • Mark Rylance's performance
  • worthy special effects by Weta Workshop
  • John William's score
  • a corgi enjoying the effects of Frobscottle (according to my son)


Opening:
Sophie couldn't sleep.
A brilliant moonbeam was slanting through the gap in the curtains. It was shining right on to her pillow.

Movie Trailer:



Overall, I thought this was a fun and faithful adaptation of the book, while still making the most of the medium of film. The effects blended pretty seamlessly, though I was a bit disappointed by the giants. I respect the changes the scriptwriters made, for drama, pathos, and action. I could love this as much as the book, I think. My children certainly do. And though I have always insisted my children read the novel before watching the movie adaptation, I highly recommend this version as an introduction for the reluctant reader.



Reminisce with intermission commercials
from Captain Bijou on You Tube.
Visit Our Snackbar!

What would the drive-in be like without the snack bar?

Popcorn is one of my favorite foods, but we ALWAYS bring a small cooler with Oreo cookies and milk. It just wouldn't be summer without them.

If you're craving something a bit more portable, try the fabulous Oreo cookies and cream muddy buddy Chex Mix (aka puppy chow) courtesy Mommy on Demand.



Nostalgic for a drive-in movie? There are over 5,000 drive-in theaters across the U.S. mapped for you on Cinema Treasures.

Buy your own blue tooth Drive-in speakers from Detroit Diecast



Have you seen any screen adaptations of The BFG? What's your opinion?
Have you reviewed the book? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday review coming July 3, 2017.
Coming Soon: Ballet Shoes.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

On the Page Turn

"My very first memory of picture books...I remember turning the pages back and forth and back again, checking for clues of what was to come...I was absolutely fascinated that time and space could be manipulated – with a simple turn of the page, I could go back in time and when I did, I’d almost always discover something I’d missed before."
Laura Vaccaro Seeger*



Lizette, The Night Violinist, bookplate by Tricia Scott


*Via Picture Book Month

Friday, June 23, 2017

PPBF: Renato and the Lion

Perfect Picture Book Friday is on vacation, but I couldn't resist sharing one more perfect picture book which celebrated its release June 20th. This way you'll have all summer to share it with the your favorite people. For my previous reviews, you can search here.

Please join me next week for Summer Drive-in, a new feature which highlights some of my favorite books-turned movies.

Renato and the Lion, by text and art by Barbara DiLorenzo
Renato and the Lion

Written and illustrated by Barbara DiLorenzo

Viking Children's Books, June 2017
Ages 5-7, 44 words


Themes:
WW II, Art, Magical Realism


Opening:
"Renato loved his home in Florence, Italy. He loved the people there. And the food there. But he especially loved the art there. It was everywhere."


Synopsis:
Renato lives in Florence and often visits the museum where his father works. He loves the art found all around the city, but especially the lion in the Piazza della Signoria. When war comes to Italy, Renato's father has a plan to protect the sculptures, except Renato's beloved lion. Using a bit of magical realism, the author communicates the dangers of war and the plight of refugees. Renato completes his life's journey, returning to Italy years later to learn the lion's fate.


What I Love:
An unused illustration of Renato
by Barbara DiLorenzo

I've been waiting for this book. The cover and concept had me hooked before I ever opened the cover. The gentle storytelling and expressive watercolors transport kids to another time and place. Barbara evokes a sense of danger and impending loss through the main character's relationship with the sculpted lion. She manages to layer a lot of story into this little book, making it a great read for older readers, too. Her thorough research shows in the tiny details. Readers will learn bits about World War II, art, immigration, history, and the breathtaking city of Florence. And I hope this Renato will be a starting point for lifelong curiosity about these subjects.

Bonus: 
Cindy Ingram, art teacher,
thoroughly explains how art influenced
public thought during WW II.
1. Barbara DiLorenzo has hinted she'll be posting behind-the-scenes tidbits and easter eggs from Renato and the Lion on her Facebook page. Follow along and get the scoop.

2. Don't just take my word for it. The Booklist Reader has posted a review with perspectives from both adult and child readers and from those who have actually visited Florence. Take a look at what they had to say.

3. Learn more about the two lions in the Piazza della Signoria on Florence Inferno.

4. Travel For Kids lists at least ten great places to visit in Florence. Ciao Bambino! highlights tips and links for taking kids to Italy.

5. Cathy Ballou Mealey posted a great article on Nancy Schon's sculpture and getting kids to interact with art.

6. Try making a papier mache lion pinata from Inna's Creations.

7. I love this video how to for lion pancakes with orange slices, posted on Good to Know.

8. National Geographic Kids lists ten quick facts about World War II, an interesting jumping off point. History.net highlights the war in Italy for older readers. And Mindshift offers a list of videos to give kids an overview of the war.

9. Check out these and more related Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Reviewed by Joanne
Reviewed by Patricia

Reviewed by Joanne
Reviewed by Clara

Reviewed by Patient Dreamer
Reviewed by Julie

Reviewed by Leslie

Reviewed by Joanne

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

View other the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Fridays available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.