Friday, March 24, 2017

PPBF: Three Picture Books About Shakespeare

and I'm celebrating

The Comedy, History, and Tragedy
of William Shakespeare
The Comedy, History, and Tragedy of William Shakespeare

Written by Anna Claybourne
Illustrated by Adria Meserve

Franklin Watts, 2015
Ages 7-12, 48 pp, 880L

Biography, Nonfiction

This book examines the life of William Shakespeare from his childhood through the height of his popularity. It is full of facts, but written in a fun-loving style. In addition to historical and biographical information, several of Shakespeare's most important plays are summarized in an accessible voice. The illustrations are amazing. From the title to the endpages, this is a great introduction to the Bard in an age-appropriate way.

You Wouldn't Want To Be A Shakespearean Actor!:
Some Roles You Might Not Want To Play
You Wouldn't Want To Be A Shakespearean Actor!
Written by, Jacqueline Morley
Illustrated by, David Antram
Series creator, David Salariya

Salariya Book Company Ltd, 2010
Franklin Watts, 2010
Ages 8-11, 830L
around 3000 words

History, Drama, Nonfiction, Humor

These books are told in second person. They engage the reader by speaking directly to him, advising him in a humorous tone bordering on ridiculous. The illustrative style compliments the text. The art is in a lighthearted, comic-style, but with enough detail to inform.

This particular book takes the reader through every stage (no pun intended) of acting life: costume, dress, responsibilities of the players, chores, jobs, food. It includes details about Elizabethan life and touches on important historical events like the plague. Theatrical history is another important theme including the building of the Globe Theater, the fire which destroyed it, and the Blackfriars, the first indoor theater in London. The material is kid-friendly, defining terms within the text or in the glossary.

Will's Quills, by Don Freeman
Will's Quills
How A Goose Saved Shakespeare

Written and illustrated by Don Freeman

First Edition, Viking, 1975
Ages 5-8

Historical Fiction? Finding Purpose

Many long years ago in Merrie Olde England there lived a country goose named Willoughby Waddle. While the other geese on the farm were content to spend their days nibbling on flowers and floating lazily on the lake, Willoughby was restless. He wanted to see the world, but even more, he wanted to be useful. And so early one spring morning, he set out for Londontown.

There is not one stitch of truth nor useful historical bit in this story...and it doesn't matter one whit because it's so adorable! The plot? An inept playwright (guess who) cannot concentrate because his quills aren't sharp enough. He throws them out the window onto an unsuspecting country goose, Willoughby Waddle, and...
Classic Don Freeman style with playful art, rich colors, and kid-tested prose. Between the celebration of the Bard's birth and the deadline for the Don Freeman grant looming, I couldn't help but think of this hilarious picture book gem.


A Shakespearean novel
 by Susan Cooper

Want to learn more about Shakespeare Week? Check out the links from Monday's post along with my review of Susan Cooper's middle grade novel, King of Shadows, where the MC travels back to Elizabethan England and acts with William Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

You might also like these and other Perfect Picture books. Check them out at your local library.

Reviewed by Vivian
Reviewed by Loni

Reviewed by Julie
Reviewed by Joanna

Reviewed by Joanne
Reviewed by Keila

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 Friday, March 24, 2017 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

IF: Snail

Still experimenting with digital art and equipment.

A Snail and His Boy,by Joanne Roberts
This week's Illustration Friday theme is "Snail."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Crafting Your Draft

"But that’s where the power of writing comes in—not in accidentally hitting on a perfect sentence while writing a first draft, but in deliberately crafting sentence after sentence in the rewrite stage."
Beth Hill*

Bookplate of E. Petrolini courtesy Penn Libraries Collection

*Via  on The Editor's Blog

Monday, March 20, 2017

MMGM: King of Shadows

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick

King of Shadows, by Susan Cooper
Time travel to Elizabethan England
King of Shadows
Written by Susan Cooper

Penguin Random House, 1999
Grades 4-8, 1010L
192 pages, 48000 words

Time Travel, Shakespeare

       Tag. The little kids' game, plain ordinary old tag. That's what he had us playing. Even though none of us was younger than eleven, and the older ones were big as men. Gil Warmun even had a triangle of beard on his chin. Warmun was "it" for now, the tagger, chasing us; suddenly he swung around at me before I could dodge, and hit me on the shoulder.
       "Nat's it!"
       "Go, go, go!"
       Run around the big echoing space, sneakers squealing on the shiny floor; try to catch someone, anyone, any of the bodies twisting and diving out of my way. I paused in the middle, all of them dancing around me ready to dodge, breathless, laughing.
       "Go, Nat! Keep it moving, don't let it drop! Tag, tag!"
       That huge voice was ringing out from the end of the room, Arby's voice, deep as the sound of a big gong. You did whatever that voice said, now; you moved quick as lightning. For the Company of Boys, Arby was director, actor, teacher, boss man. I dashed across the room toward a swirling group of them, saw the carroty red head of little Eric Sawyer from Maine, chased him in and out and finally tagged him when he cannoned into a slower boy.
       "Go, Eric, go—keep the energy up —"
       The voice again, as Eric's scrawny legs scurried desperately through the noisy crowd; then suddenly a change, abrupt, commanding.
       "O-kay! Stop! That's it! Now we're going to turn that energy inside, inside us —get in groups of five, all of you, anywhere in the room."

One summer Nat joins the Company of Boys, an American drama team headed to London to perform Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream at a reproduction of the Globe Theater. Nat hopes to escape the pain in his life, but instead he contracts a mysterious illness which transports him to Elizabethan England, back to the real Globe Theater, where he is part of  Shakespeare's own company. Nat must adapt, survive, and ultimately choose between escaping his past or facing it, between the broken relationships at home, or the new one he is building with the Bard himself.

This book is skillfully written, as are all of Cooper's books. Her attention to detail and unromanticised depiction of  sixteenth century England catapult the reader into the story. Nat's character is authentic, and I think many pre-teens will relate to his emotional dilemmas. There's plenty of history to be learned here, but the text is never dry. Plus the plot twists and turns, full of intrigue and tension. There was an unexpected expletive, but the rest is riveting. Notice the breathless pace of the opening paragraphs and the author's use of phrases and punctuation to show the action, rather than try to tell it.

 1. If you enjoyed King of Shadows, try some of Susan Cooper's other books. The Dark is Rising is my all-time favorite, part of The Dark is Rising series.

The Dark IS Rising, books 1-5
Is this Julie Dillon's art?

2. Fellow MMGMer, Karen, recommends Ira Shakespeare's Dream, a fabulous picture book biography of Ira Aldridge, the African-American actor who was barred from performing in
Shakespeare's plays.

Both Jenni and Joanne have reviewed The Shakespeare Stealer, by Gary Blackwood. And Gary has written a sequel, Shakespeare's Scribe, reviewed by Kirkus.

Greg has written a thorough review of Inquire & Investigate Shakespeare, by Andi Diehn

Ira Shakespeare's Dream,
By Glenda Armand
Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
The Shakespeare Stealer,
Cover by Greg Call
Shakespeare, part of the
Inquire and Investigate series

3. It's Shakespeare Week. Here are a few links to the activities available, classroom suggestions, and more Elizabethan fun.

Mission Shakespeare,
an online kids' challenge

Shakespeare Week official site

Celebrations from
the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Plan a Visit via Shakespeare's England

4. A few weeks back I reviewed Will's Words, a fun and fascinating picture book about how William Shakespeare's work affects the English language. This Friday, I'll be featuring a few more picture books in honor of the Bard, both funny and factual. Plus you'll always find my suggestions for crafts, snacks, and links for further exploration as part of the regular Perfect Picture Book Friday feature.

Have you reviewed a Marvelous Middle Grade Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday recommendations for March 20, 2017.

MMGM started way back in 2010 by Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of Lost Cities. Each week, participating bloggers review our favorite books for ages 8-12. Why not join us?

Friday, March 17, 2017

PPBF: Step Right Up

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Step Right Up, by Donna Bowman and Daniel Minter
Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Showed Kindness

Written by Donna Janell Bowman
Illustrated by Daniel Minter
Lee & Low Books, 2016
Grades 2-8, 48 pp., 910L

Biography, Kindness, Non-fiction, Animals

       "Spring 1889 stretched a blanket of wildflowers over Shelbyville, Tennessee, but William "Doc" Key barely noticed. He paced and fidgeted like an expectant father. He had been on hand for plenty of births before, but this one was special. Visions of a future champion racehorse darted through his mind as he comforted his mare Lauretta. Finally a dark, wet colt lay shivering at her side.
       "Doc knelt to welcome the little fellow, but something was terribly wrong. "He's the most spindly, shank-legged animal I ever did see," he said.
       "Most folks would have given up on the colt right then. But Doc had a kind streak that ran clear through his heart and all the way back to his childhood."

Doc Key was born a slave. Throughout his life he taught kindness through his actions. As a free man he opened a veterinary clinic in Tennessee. He especially had a way with horses. He once spent a small fortune on a mare which he believed would parent a valuable racehorse, but when the colt was born, it was sickly. Doc spent all his time and energy raising that colt, though it was clear it would never win a horserace. But the horse, Beautiful Jim Key, turned out to be an amazing animal. Doc taught him to count and spell, for one thing. Jim lived was much like a pet dog: he followed Doc around, slept in his house as often as he could sneak in, and delighted in learning tricks. So Doc and Jim went on the road to make their fortune, but more importantly, to spread a message about God's creatures, about education, and about the miraculous transformative power of compassion.

What I Love:
I'd seen Mim Rivas's Beautiful Jim Key years ago, and knew it would make a splendid children's book. Their story is a real-life fairy tale. And while Jim is the star, Doc's quiet compassion and his patient temperament make him the hero of the story. Jim may seem like a miracle horse, but I don't believe anyone else could have brought out his talents. the story focuses on their life together and the underlying stream of selflessness in Doc Key, which saw the good in others and chose to give his all for those around him.

Excellent illustrations. Well-chosen text. Fact-filled and beautifully organized. The author includes thorough back matter on this fascinating duo. Don't miss this book. As a side-show barker might have said, you won't believe your eyes.


Chocolate-covered Nutter Butter Cookies
from Krazy in the Kitchen
1. Mim Eichler Rivas wrote a book for adults about Doc and Jim, entitled Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of a Horse and a Man Who Changed the World and Emily Arnold McCully wrote and illustrated a picture book, focusing on Jim Key and his skills, called Wonder Horse: the True Story of the World's Smartest Horse.

2. Learn the history behind the books at Beautiful Jim Key, including links to a documentary, kids' contests, and more.

3. If you're anywhere near Tennessee, you can visit the memorial to Jim Key in Shelbyville.

4. Lee & Low has posted an interesting interview with the author.

5. Safe Haven Humane Society offers tips for kids who want to show kindness to animals, and how they can volunteer. Google the local SPCA, and you'll find pages of information like I did. Kids who can't volunteer can sponsor a drive for food, blankets, towels, dishes, toys, and other necessities to keep our shelters running.

7. Equine therapy is another great way for kids to learn kindness. Centers all around the country work with either adults or children struggling with anger management, physical or mental handicaps, autism, and depression. These camps are a great place to learn to work with people or animals, and they always need compassionate volunteers. Maybe there's one in your area.


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

Reviewed by Miranda
Reviewed by Jarm
Reviewed by Kirsten
Reviewed by Leslie

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!
Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for Friday, March 17, 2017 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Monday, March 13, 2017

MMGM: The Upside of Down

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick

The Upside of Down, by Dawn Malone
The Upside of Down
Written by Dawn Malone
Cover by MJC Imageworks

Dawn Malone, 2016
Ages 8-12, 248 pages

Homelessness, Runaways, Charity

      Crawdad fires the football like a rocket launcher. It whistles like a missile in my direction, and I leap to catch it, but it only brushes my fingertips, being a good two feet over my head. The ball sails across the empty lot as if it's heading for tomorrow, but before it changes time zones, the huge blue spruce hugging the corner of the abandoned Rainbow Candy Factory stops it. There's a whoosh as the tree's dense branches catch it. I turn just in time to see it disappear inside.
       Everyone groans.
       "I ain't getting' that," Webby Smith announces right off the bat. He jams his hands on his hips, challenging anyone to tell him otherwise.
       "Me neither," says Crawdad. Scratching his head, he glances my way. "Did you bring your other ball, Hobbs?"
       I shrug. "Not this time, man. Sorry."
       DeShaun Richard's mouth drops open. "What do you mean asking him for another ball?" he says pointing at Crawdad. "You threw my ball in there. We're not gonna just forget about it. You go get it."
       Crawdad backs up and crosses his arms. No one wants anything to do with the tree.

When a homeless runaway enters Hobbs's picture-perfect life, he struggles to understand his own values and to control the chaos that ripples from his actions.

Told from alternating perspectives, this book is well-crafted. One of those books you find yourself speeding through like a runaway train. The theme asks some intense questions about homelessness, our view of others, and what we are willing to do to change the world (or at least, our world.) But it is not heavy or overly depressing or melodramatic. Once again, the author proves she has a firm grip on voice. The writing gets tricky when the two POVs finally collide. I admit to losing track of the narrator once or twice in those chapters, but that might have been because I felt myself racing through the text, eager to see what would happen. Aside from a few writerly nit-picks, it is a thoroughly good read. I'd love to see it in every middle school classroom and I consider it a must-read at home. My favorite book so far this year.

I was disappointed with the book's cover. The boy pictured is probably supposed to be Up, who is Latino. We could use more kids of Latin-American descent on our covers.

1. I read Dawn Malone's first book, Bingo Summer, last year. It was a terrific, light, summer read. Highly recommended.
Bingo Summer, by Dawn Malone
Cover by McCorkle Creations

2. I had a hard time finding comparable books. I found some for older readers, some for younger. Most books on runaways were from the perspective of a kid who'll eventually find themselves back home. Most of the books on homelessness were about families living in shelters or their cars, none who chose to be homeless. There were plenty of books on foster kids which came up during my search. If Dawn's book is as unique as it seems, I hope many of the MMGM readers will read it and help it circulate.

I haven't read the books below, but they seem to have a similar take on the themes in The Upside of Down. Also try Paper Things, by Jennifer Richard Jacobson.

Can't Get There From Here,
by Todd Strasser
Cover by Greg Stadnyk
Run, Zan, Run, by Cathy MacPhail

3. Other MMGM reviewers recommend books with similar themes:

Almost Home, by Joan Bauer
Reviews by The Hopeful Heroine, Mrs. Yingling Reads, and Michael on Middle Grade Mafioso.

How To Steal A Dog, by Barbara O'Connor
Reviews by Joanne from My Brain On Books and Barbara.

Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate
Reviewed by Greg of Always in the Middle, Andrea, and Karen.

On Children's Books Heal, Barbara has posted a slew of books on the subject including
Ivy Homeless in San Francisco, by Summer Brenner
Soul Moon Soup, by Linsay Lee Johnson

3. For what you and your students can do about homelessness, see
Talking to Kids About Homelessness on The Huffington Post
Help Your Kids Help the Homeless on Today's Christian Woman
7 Rules for Talking to the Homeless on Operation Warm
and visit StandUp For Kids, and organization which aims to end the cycle of homelessness and help street kids.

Have you reviewed a Marvelous Middle Grade Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday recommendations for March 13, 2017.

MMGM started way back in 2010 by Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of Lost Cities. Each week, participating bloggers review our favorite books for ages 8-12. Why not join us?

Friday, March 10, 2017

PPBF: The House That Jane Built

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

The House that Jane Built, by Tanya Lee Stone and Kathryn Brown
The House That Jane Built:
 A Story about Jane Addams

Written by Tanya Lee Stone
Illustrated by Kathryn Brown
Christy Ottaviano Books, 2015
Grades 2-8, 48 pp., 910L

Biography, Helping Others

       "In 1889, a wealthy young woman named Jane Addams moved into a lovely, elegant house in Chicago, Illinois. But instead of moving into a lovely, elegant neighborhood, she picked a house that was smack in the middle of one of the filthiest, poorest parts of town.
       "Why would a wealthy young woman do this when she could have lived anywhere?"

At six years old, Jane Addams decided she would fix the world when she grew up. Privileged and well read, Jane nevertheless grew up acutely aware of the needs of those around her. Perhaps she learned this from her father, whose library was so grand, it served as the town library as well. As an adult, Jane traveled to Toynbee Hall in London, the first settlement house. It was a place where people of all classes lived, worked, learned, and mingled. Toynbee became the model for Addams's own Hull House in Chicago. The  book follows Jane from early events which shaped her thinking, through many of her civic projects and to the memorial of her death. The author's note goes into great detail about incidents left out of the main text. There is a short list of sources for further reading.

What I Love:
Though the FBI called her the most dangerous woman in America for her ideas and her determination to create change, she was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace prize, awarded in 1931. Jane worked for better conditions for people of all skin colors and especially for the poor. Most of the people with whom she worked were immigrants who had little social standing, few possessions, and often a poor grasp on the language. She stood in the gap and gave them a voice, anticipating and communicating their needs.

History was nothing like this when I was a kid. I clearly remember the unit on reformation, was it fifth grade? It was so boring, I couldn't keep the names straight. The causes like poverty, temperance, educational reform, and suffrage were so far removed from our little classroom; there was no attempt made to connect with us or to ground the events in time or place. This book was interesting and well organized. The author managed to distill the huge amount of information about the life and accomplishments of Jane Addams into just 32 pages. She put the facts into cotext and completely within the reach of the readership. The illustrations are watercolor perfection, organic and peaceful just like the peace Jane Addams worked for herself.

 I love the lyrics which appear on the title page, sung at the dedication of the Women's Club on Polk Street in1905:

A House stands on a busy street
Its doors are opened wide,
To all who come it bids good cheer,
To some it says, Abide.

—Jane Addams

1. Visit the Jane Addams Hull House Museum in Chicago. And find fascinating information on the National Women's History Museum site. The Jane Addams Papers Project has posted a chronology of her life.

Toynbee Hall on which Hull House was based.
2. Read more about the untold parts of Jane Addams's story from Harvard University, The History Channel,, American National Biography Online, and the Nobel Prize site.

3. Here's the history of The Settlement, in Philadelphia, with links to modern community facilities. Look for a settlement house program in your area. Volunteer. Donate. Promote. Contact a local Boys and Girls Club or United Neighborhood Centers to see how you can help. One of my favorites in this region is Friendship House

4. Addams gave sacrificially for the welfare of the poor. Americans Helping Americans is organization you can become involved with which brings relief to those struggling through a rough time in their lives.

5. Addams worked tirelessly for immigrants in her neighborhood. Only 8% of the estimated 8 million illegal immigrants attempt to become citizens of the United States annually. Immigration makes our melting pot strong and marvelous. Instead of throwing our money at the political machine, let's get out in our communities and rebuild the nation one person at a time.
  • Consider sponsoring a candidate: fees can run $400-600.
  • My mother-in-law taught in a local program for years, one which helped immigrants learn English, apply for jobs, and walked them through the steps to citizenship. She made friends from all backgrounds.
  • Our local church is smack in the middle of an Irish-Polish-Italian-Hispanic-Latino-Indian-Russian community, besides the three colleges within walking distance which attract students from the four corners of the world. We are constantly learning new ways to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Neighbor helping neighbor on a personal level is what our kids should be witnessing, not endless banter on the internet and at rallies, complaining without compassionate action. Let's not overlook the neighbor in need in our back yard. I think we can all agree on that.

Here are some resources to get you started:

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

Reviewed by Wendy
Reviewed by Keila

Another book by Tanya Lee Stone
Reviewed by Kirsten
Another book by Kathryn Brown
Reviewed by Joanne

Reviewed by Vivian

Reviewed by Barbara

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 Friday, March 10, 2017 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

IF: Scoop

It's been quite a while since I attempted an Illustration Friday drawing.

I've gotten a Pencil from 53 and am learning to use it in conjunction with ProCreate. Not bad for a first try, I think.

"Scoop", by Joanne Roberts for Illustration Friday

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Story Behind the Story

"Although every book is a story, every book has a story of how it came to be written."
-Nicola Davies*

Bookplate courtesy Pratt Institute Libraries

*Via Times of Oman on YouTube

Monday, March 6, 2017

MMGM: Trina Schart Hyman Covers

Due to technical difficulties, Shannon Messenger will not be posting Marvelous Middle Grade Monday today. In lieu of a middle grade book review, I thought I'd highlight some of the MG I've been reading (or rather re-reading) lately.

It has often been said, "don't judge a book by its cover," but of course we always do. In fact, it is a designer's job to make a cover that sells the book. When I toured Penguin-Putnam a while back, we discussed at length the changes that sometimes happen because a member of the marketing team is unhappy with the cover (someone who often hasn't read the book, by the way.) Please don't misunderstand. I am grateful for those marketing teams. They live to drive sales of our books and their job is on the line if they aren't successful. They play their part in keeping the publisher in business. If publishers go out of business, writers, readers, and illustrators suffer. That said, here are some books whose covers did their job.

A Well-Timed Enchantment, 1982
by Vivian Vande Velde,
Cover by Trina Schart Hyman
My first Vivian Vande Velde book was A Hidden Magic, and it remains a favorite. So when I found A Well-Timed Enchantment at a book warehouse around 1988, it was a must-have. The only thing I remembered about it? I wasn't crazy about the ending. On rereading, I noted the dedication:
To Elizabeth (even if you don't like the ending)

That didn't bode well. The story follows Deanna as she vacations with her mother in the French countryside. It isn't long before Deanna and a neighborhood cat end up enchanted by fairies back in medieval France on a desperate quest.  The humor borders on the ridiculous. Horn Book calls it "slapstick." But what bothered me this second time through (and thirty years later) was the helpless heroine. Deanna takes charge of her situation, but she spends a lot of time getting interrupted, shoved around, and thwarted...not very heroic.

It's okay for the main character to lose control of the situation, especially in a comedy where the frustrating results can be hilarious. Unfortunately, as a reader I mostly just felt annoyed that Deanna didn't walk away from these buffoons and get on with her quest. In Lemony Snicket's The Series of Unfortunate Events, the Baudelaires are surrounded by idiots, but they persevere in stoic resignation. In Lloyd Alexander's The Cat Who Wished to Be A Man, Lionel is so na├»ve, and nearly everyone else so ridiculous, that he blunders through his adventure accidentally setting things right. The whole thing is comic genius. But in Well-Timed Enchantment, I just felt frustrated instead. It's still worth reading, but I'm not sure if I'll be taking Robertson Davies's advice on this one.

Cover photo of my Ex libris copy of
Seven Spells to Farewell, 1982
by Betty Baker
Cover illustration by Trina Schart Hyman

Seven Spells to Farewell, by Betty Baker was one of the first books I bought on eBay in the early 90s, I think. How delightful when I realized I could search for those titles that were impossible to find, and actually get my hands on them! The story follows scullery maid Dru who dreams of attending the sorcerer's academy in faraway Farewell. She joins a travelling caravan which includes a talking raven and a mathematical pig. I remembered loving this book and on rereading last month, fell in love all over again. The novel does have some problems. The plot tends to run too smoothly, for one. That is not to say the characters' quest is without incident, but each time the troupe comes up against an obstacle, they take the steps necessary to solve it...and generally do. The main character in this book is more modern: not a helpless damsel battered by uncontrollable circumstances, but a doer determined to shape her fate. The dialogue was a bit bland, but the world-building was pleasant and the characters endearing. An enjoyable bit of magical realism, if you can find it.

Wishes, Kisses, and Pigs,
by Betsy Gould Hearne
Cover by Trina Schart Hyman

You can see my MMGM review of  Betsy Gould Hearne's Wishes, Kisses, and Pigs on the post from February 6, 2017. If anything, I liked this one better the second time around. I originally picked up a copy through my son's Scholastic Book flyer in 2001. He was too young for it then, but I relived the joy of opening a book club brochure and discovering treasure. I read it in one big gul, as I recall, and felt some disappointment. I can't imagine why. I found this little hundred-or-so pages delightfully quirky. A bit like Brave, now that I think about it.

See the pattern emerging here?

Trina Schart Hyman

If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I am addicted to the art of Trina Schart Hyman. I own dozens of her books and am not above buying a book I've never heard of because Trina illustrated the cover. When she passed away in 2004, I took the loss personally. Her art has that effect on people. Though there will never be more of her art, she left us a rich legacy that I've spent almost forty years plumbing. Each of these titles comes from my collection.

I hope you have fun discovering her work, letting these and other book covers entice you to places unknown.

Friday, March 3, 2017

PPBF: Will's Words

Don't forget to enter the second annual #50PreciousWords contest going on now over at Vivian Kirkfield's blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar.

Check Thursday's post to read my entry, "The Ballad of Mary Fields."

Now on to today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Will's Words, by Jane Sutcliffe and John Shelley
Will's Words:
How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk

Written by Jane Sutcliffe
Illustrated by John Shelley

Charlesbridge, 2016
Ages 7-10, 750L
40pp, 3400 words

Non-fiction, Vocabulary/Writing, Theater/Arts, History/Biography

In 1606 London was a bustling, jostling, clanging, singing, stinking, head-chopping, pickpocketing wonder of a city. You would probably need a break from a city like that.
That's why London was also a play-going city. There was a play going on every day of the week except Sunday. Sometimes there were two or three.
When it came to plays, people in London thought you couldn't have too much of a good thing.

What it Means:
More of something good may be bad. (If you've ever eaten a whole bag of gummy worms at once, you already know what this means.)

Where it Comes From:
As You Like It, Act 4, scene 1
A woman teases her boyfriend that if one boyfriend is good, twenty must be even better. Or is that too much of a good thing?

In her opening author's note, Jane Sutcliffe apologizes to the reader for having failed as an author. She set out to write a book about the Globe Theatre, but she ended up using so many of William Shakespeare's own words that she decided to write a book about the Bard instead. This book incorporates theater terms, historical details, and biographical information, but it's mostly about how Shakespeare's work influenced people's thoughts and language. On the left-hand pages, the text tells how the theater fit into daily life. (using many of Will's words, of course, printed in bold.) on the facing pages, the author defines Will's words or phrases, often giving examples, as well as detailing which play the words were used in. The back matter includes another author's note, a timeline of Shakespeare's life and extensive bibliography.

What I Love:
Sutcliffe subtlety demonstrates how a living language evolves and how popular media stimulates that change. The text's jaunty rhythm is infused with humor. She introduces the origins of the "wild-goose chase", explains what it means to get your "money's worth", and how "too much of a good thing" (like gummy worms) does not lead to our "heart's content." John Shelley's illustrations pair lively ink line with jewel tone watercolor reminiscent of stained glass. His accurately detailed drawings switch point of view, first high above the city, then down in the Pit with the commoners, from intricate backstage dressing rooms to scenes of bustling London, looking like a page from Where's Waldo. The author shows how a heavy subject, handled lightly, can connect with modern readers. While she planned to write the history of one place and time, she instead accomplishes the remarkable task of making kids notice and care about words.

And that's the short and the long of it.

I found instructions for a paper ruff from the Dayton Art Institute
1. Don't miss Jane Sutcliffe's teacher pages. There you'll find puzzle worksheets, questions, tips for using the book in the classroom, and a reader's theater script! 

2. For older students, the Folger Education Blog has complied Teaching Shakespeare, a support for teachers and students which helps to build deep reading skills and

3. For younger students, Simply Convivial has put together a 5-Step Plan to teach Shakespeare in an age-appropriate way.

4. Learn more about William Shakespeare on Biography, the National Endowment for the Arts site, or on Linda Alchin's William Shakespeare.

5. Teachers can sign up for Shakespeare Week, March 20-26, 2017, sponsored by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

6. Want to party like the Elizabethans? Throw an historic feast with tips and recipes from Teachers First.

7. Learn practically everything about the Elizabethan Era here.

8. Learn about the Globe Theatre, make your own model from paper toys, or visit the recreation (you lucky dog!)

9. The Guardian  and Shakespeare Standard have collected lists of kids' books about Shakespeare's plays, to which I would add the Shakespeare Stealer series by Gary Blackwood and the World of Shakespeare, by Usborne Books.

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

Reviewed by Julie

Reviewed by Leslie

More books about wordplay 

Reviewed by Erik
Reviewed by Leslie

More Elizabethan history I've reviewed

The Pirate Meets the Queen, by Matt Faulkner
London Bridge is Falling Down, by Peter Spier

More inventive biographies
Reviewed by Jarm
Reviewed by Vivian

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 Friday, February 10, 2017 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.