Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Take Your Time

"Don't let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.”
~ Earl Nightingale*

Ex Libris Stamp created by A**Pocket Productions

*Via Rosi on The Write Stuff

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Your Voice Is Unique

"But the larger discussion of “voice” isn’t about differentiating characters from one another. It’s about differentiating you–the writer–from the pack of writers already out there."
—Kim Griswell*

Portrait bookplate via Bookplate Junkie

*Via Highlights Foundation

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Write What?

"There's an old rule that you should write what you know, but I've never believed in it,...I think you should write what moves you."
—Mike Rich*

Bookplate with cello by Anton Pieck

*Via The Los Angeles Times

Friday, November 17, 2017

PPBF: Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade

Here's today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade, a historical fiction picture book
Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade
A Thanksgiving Story
Tales of Young Americans series

Written Trinka Hakes Noble
Illustrated by David C. Gardner

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017
Ages 6-9, 32 pp, 800L

Historical, Poverty, Holiday

All the tenement children on New York's Lower East Side couldn't wait for the Ragamuffin Parade o Thanksgiving morning. But no one was more excited than a young girl named Loretta Stanowski, whom everyone called Rettie.

The story focuses on one little girl who depends on the Ragamuffin Parade and the penny scramble to put food on the table for her poor family. Rettie has always been too young to participate in the penny scramble, but she is determined to elbow her way to her share of coins this year in order to help her struggling family. Rettie shows she is a hard worker and persevering through the many chores she undertakes while her mother is sick. The spread of influenza threatens to cancel the parade, which further complicates Rettie's plans. Back matter includes information on President Wilson, World War I, influenza, the origins of the Macy''s Thanksgiving parade, and the penny scramble.

What I Love:
The rich text and engaging illustrations make this book a must for homes and classrooms. The author includes sensory images to put readers in the middle of the action. She skillfully combines historical facts into the fictionalized story in order to ratchet the tension and increase the stakes. The art beautifully compliments the words not only through exquisite detail, but with animated character poses and expressions. A personal note and informative backmatter completes the picture.

I was surprised at the high word count, but drawn in by the rich storytelling. I love the way the text explains the details without bogging down. For example, the main character plans to collect change at the penny scramble, which might seem trivial to modern children. So the author includes a trip to the market where readers learn the cost of produce at that time. Rettie cannot afford to spend a few extra cents on an apple, reinforcing the value of money and increasing the family's plight in the eyes of the reader.

Take kids to the market like the mom on An Everyday Story
to teach them the value of money.

1. Sleeping Bear Press has designated a dozen worthwhile picture books in to the Tales of Young Americans series.
I've reviewed Lily's Victory Garden
Diane Tulloch has reviewed The Tsunami Quilt
My friend Doris illustrated Black-Eyed Susan

2. You'll find amazing photos from the early Ragamuffin Parades on Gothamist and at the NY Public Library site. Learn more on Hey Ridge.

3. Witness a modern penny scramble if you're in the neighborhood of Yorkshire or at the Florence County Fair, for example or host your own.

4. In the author notes, you'll see President Woodrow Wilson's role in the celebration of Thanksgiving. Learn more about America in the first decades of the 20th century from the Woodrow Wilson House. Read past president's proclamations for giving thanks on What So Proudly We Hailed or on the American Presidency Project.

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

Reviewed by Susanna
Reviewed by Penny

Also reviewed by Susanna
Reviewed by Jarm

Reviewed by Joanne
Reviewed by Julie

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, November 17, 2017 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Generating Story Ideas

“Wherever I go, I’m watching...Even on vacation, when I’m in an airport or a railroad station, I look around, snap pictures, and find out how people do things.”
—Richard Scarry*

German bookplate by Mathilde Ade

*Via Mathilde Ade on Sterling Publishing

Friday, November 10, 2017

PPBF: Clara and Davie

Here's today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick:

A biographical story of sibling love, by Patricia Polacco
Clara and Davie
The True Story of Young Clara Barton, Founder of the American Red Cross

Written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco
Scholastic Press, 2014
Ages 3-6, 40 pp, 690L

Biography, Siblings, Kindness

On a cold, blustery morning in North Oxford, Massachusetts, a blizzard was threatening and bearing down hard. It was Christmas Day 1821.
Mama was expecting her fifth child. Ten years had passed since her last baby. Mama's health was fragile.

Young Clara adores her older brother. He encourages her to explore nature, to look into employment outside of traditional women's roles, and to be herself. Her passion for animals leads her to become a sort of veterinary doctor her community relies on, but when her brother is gravely injured, Clara will need all her skills to help him survive.

What I Love:
The text is in a slightly older, more wordy style, but it tells the story with warm, sensory detail. The tender relationship between siblings, though they are ten years apart, is one modern audiences need to hear. The author uses this true story from Clara Barton's past to give readers a look into her depth of character and into the circumstances which helped shape her groundbreaking career. The author's note explains the writer's personal connection to the family and provides more historical detail. Lively illustrations in Polacco's trademark style add personality and ground the story in time and place.

1. Find fascinating facts about the real Clara Barton at the Clara Barton Museum in Washington, DC or explore their website. HistoryNet offers fasts facts and a summary of her accomplishments, while the National Archives houses several of her correspondence and photos.

2. Visit the Red Cross site to find ways even kids can volunteer, and be an example of good citizenship by finding a blood drive near you. RocParent offers suggestions for teaching children about blood donations and Easy Science For Kids elaborates on the technical side of your circulatory system.

3. Boys' Life posted a great article on stocking a first aid kit. Use it along with the 5 easy safety tips every kids should know from Boston Parent Paper.

4. Clara started out as an animal caretaker, a good place for all kids to learn gentleness and empathy. I enjoyed reading the creative ways kids can get involved in animal-centered volunteering from Mother Nature Network, the Central PA Humane Society, and PETA Kids.

5. Did you know there are several songs about Clara Barton? Makers asked modern songwriters to band together to create songs to teach and honor Clara. "Angel of Mercy" is a teaching song, by Jonathan Sprout. "Lady With the Lamp", by Jerry Garcia, and "Thank-you, Nurse" by Joe McDonald are two you can find online.

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

Reviewed by Leslie
Reviewed by Joanna

Revieweed by Family-Ship
Reviewed by Valarie

Reviewed by Joanne
Reviewed by Kid-Lit Reviews

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, November 3, 2017 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Friday, November 3, 2017

A Tribute to Dianne De Las Casas

It's Picture Book Month, time to celebrate the profound effect picture books have on the world and spread the love. Sadly, Dianne De Las Casas, one of the key creators of this event, was killed tragically and unexpectedly this year.  I can't think of a better way to spend Perfect Picture Book Friday than honoring Dianne by introducing you to her books. Champion them and all picture books. Follow Dianne's motto: Read * Share * Celebrate!

And please check out the very special anti-bullying series Dianne and her fiance, John Couret, created, Captain Deadeye.

The first in the Captain Deadeye series
The Bully Shark
Be a lifesaver. Share Captain Deadeye and the Bully Shark

Thank-you to all those who keep Picture Book Month active and help it transform lives.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Picture Book Month 2017

I hope you'll join us each day of Picture Book Month for insightful interviews and encouraging posts centered around the world of picture books: the people that create them, the people that read them, and the people that love them.

Grab a color-your-own or full color version of this year's calendar of speakers.
Thanks to Elizabeth Dulemba, Joyce Wan, and others for the PBM calendar and logo and heartfelt prayers to Captain Deadeye and his family.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

What Picture Books Can Do

"The one thing picture books can do that a longer biography can’t do is really capture the emotional essence of a person."
-Cindy Jenson-Elliott*

Bookplate art by Peter Dietzsch

*Via San Diego Union Tribune

Friday, October 27, 2017

PPBF: Miss Moore Thought Otherwise

And now on to today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise
How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries For Children
Miss Moore Thought Otherwise

Written and illustrated by Jan Pinborough
Illustrated by Debby Atwell

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt , 2013
Ages 6-9, 40 pp, 1060L

Libraries, Biography

Once in a big house in Limerick, Maine, there lived a little girl named Annie Carroll Moore. She had large gray eyes, seven older brothers, and ideas of her own.

Anne Carroll Moore loved books, but women were not supposed to read much or visit libraries when she was a young girl. As Anne grew, she looked for opportunities to follow her heart's desires. When a job opened up for Anne to become a librarian, she pursued her education and delved into her work. Soon Anne was championing others who were restricted from libraries, namely children. She promoted children's books and literacy. Anne was instrumental in establishing the pattern for the modern style of children's library, beginning with the New York Public Library's famous children's reading room. Her ideas to create a place for kids to fall in love with books spread across the country. This book highlights some of Anne's particular accomplishments and children's libraries in general.

What I Love:
The book is as colorful and inviting as a children's library should be. It explores, not just a woman who challenged her perceived role in life, but society's perception of a library's role. The  story uses Anne's particular accomplishments to touch on a larger history and the theme of literacy. Bright, folk-art style illustrations echo the energy of the main character and encourage the reader to explore the pages of this book and all the others at their local branch.

 1. It goes without saying to visit a local children's library.
When my children were little, we visited a library once a week. I made a point to visit different branches and even got them library cards from the neighboring county. Every library was different. Some were loud and some were quiet, some had constant activity, some had secret places to explore. Some of the librarians were wonderfully kind and others...need to read this book about Anne Carroll Moore. But the one thing we gained from each one was an opportunity to find new books. Books my kids might have scorned in one branch, they gravitated to in the next. And we always took out many more than we could read in a week. It bothers me when I hear parents limiting their toddlers to just one. The benefits of books in the house, the benefits to the library (you know they get more funding when they check out more books, right? And if a book is taken off the shelf it has a slimmer chance of being culled from the library's collection), far outweigh my other parenting instincts. This is a place I want my kids to go hog wild!

2. In addition, what does your local children's reading room need? Better toys? New crayons? That signed illustrator's poster you are never going to hang? Donated books for their permanent collection or for sale? Involve kids in finding the answers to these questions and organizing a volunteer group. Start a book club for various ages and partner with the library to create elementary, youth, or teen panels who help plan events, review books, or clean up around the library.

Easy bookish decorations from My Chocolate Moments.
3. There are THOUSANDS of bookish ideas on Pinterest for hosting an amazing book party. Build a fort with lots of throw pillows. Collect stacks of books. Choose one or two to read aloud. Dish up themed snacks. Craft some bookmarks. Maybe even watch a bookish movie. I've collected some of my favorite recipes for every age group on the Bookish Food board and some great party ideas on the It's My Party board.

4. The Horn Book published an interesting article on Librarian Anne Carroll Moore back in 1997.

5. What could be more fitting than a visit to the NY Public Library Children's Reading Room? Plan your trip today. Explore the history of the library before you go.

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

Reviewed by Kirsten
Reviewed by Clara

Reviewed by Vivian
Reviewed by Susanna

Reviewed by Erik
Reviewed by Joanne
Reviewed by Sue
Reviewed by Beth

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, October 27, 2017 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Friday, October 20, 2017

PPBF: Moses Goes to the Circus

Third in the Moses series by Isaac Millman
Moses Goes to the Circus

Written and illustrated by Isaac Millman

Frances Foster Books,
Macmillan Publishers, 2003
Ages 4-8, 490L

Circus, Deaf Culture, Sign Language

Moses and his family are going to the circus. On the way, they stop to look at the holiday displays in a department store window. Moses' little sister, Renee, riding on her daddy's shoulders, sways to the music coming over the speakers. Moses can't hear the music. He is deaf. His parents and Renee are not. Moses uses sign language to communicate.

[Moses signs] I am going to the circus.

Moses is a deaf boy. He and his hearing family visit the circus in New York. Throughout the text, the illustrator includes dialogue and translations of the ASL. Moses gets chosen to participate in the ring. He and his family see the animals and performers and enjoy ice cream. Gentle and adorable, this book introduces readers to the circus, the city, and deaf culture in a sensitive and natural way. 

What I Love:
Lovely book about a deaf boy and his hearing family. The included diagrams of ASL were sometimes slightly confusing but necessary and interesting. I love the gentle art, the realistic family, the cute storyline. The book highlights a little-known "Circus of the Senses" which the Big Apple Circus put on especially for children with disabilities. Charming book about a lost part of our culture. Nice to see a positive spin on circuses which generally receive harsh, often undeserved criticism.

1. Other books in the series include Moses Goes to School and Moses Goes to a Concert, and Moses Sees a Play.

2. You'll find some ASL resources for teaching about sign language and deaf culture on HandSpeak.

3. Circopedia is a comprehensive resource and a good place to start learning about the history of the circus.

4. Author / illustrator Isaac Millman lived in occupied France and was later placed in a Jewish-American home, though his family perished in Nazi concentration camps. Learn more about the "Hidden Children" on the Holocaust Encyclopedia.

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

Reviewed by Joanne
Reviewed by Vivian

Reviewed by Patricia
Reviewed by Diane

Reviewed by Joanna
Reviewed by Patricia

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, October 20, 2017 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Take the Time

"Fleshing out a novel, completing every last task and polishing every page requires time. Plenty of writers can dash off a plot, a few engaging scenes, some hot dialogue. But not all writers can finish a novel the way it deserves to be finished. Some don’t finish it at all."
Beth Hill*

Engraved bookplate of Alice Blaine Robinson
attributed to Louis Rhead?

*Via The Editor's Blog

Monday, October 16, 2017

MMGM: The Whole Story of Half A Girl

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick

The Whole Story of Half a Girl, by Veera Hiranandani
The Whole Story 
of Half a Girl

Written by Veera Hiranandani

Penguin Random House, 2012
Grades 4-8, 930L
224 pages, 46000 words

Cultural Identity, Depression,

I'm in school, sitting with my hair hanging long down the back of my chair, my arm around my best friend, Sam. We're planning our next sleepover. Sam's parents have the tent and sleeping bags; Her mom even bought us cool spy pen-flashlights just for the occasion. To top it off, it's Friday, and summer's only two weeks away.
       Jack, my teacher, passes out recipes from the next and last country our fifth-grade class will be studying
India. I look down and see the makings of biryani, which is a special kind of rice dish. Jack always teaches us about the country's food first, then gives us the lay of the land and the history. Getting to know the food, Jack says, is the best way to really understand a country, just like sharing a meal with someone helps you get to know them. You can tell a lot from what a person eats. I agree.

This book about a middle-schooler with parents from different cultures and religions transported me back to school days when you analyzed everything you thought and said and dreamed, hoping it wasn't too weird so you could fit in, whatever that meant. But it clearly speaks to modern audiences whose experiences are wholly different yet fundamentally the same. Sonia's authentic voice makes this a story which makes you laugh, cry, and cheer...and cry again. A cast of endearing, believable characters helps tackle struggles of pre-teen identity.  It explores the issues in a personal way, but with a complete grasp on the target audience. Very few middle  school books can manage this as appropriately. Spoiler warning for parents: this book does contain an instance of French kissing and orthodox practitioners may be frustrated by the lack of parental guidance to the kid characters, but the author's sincere treatment leaves ample room for discussion. We need more books like this.

 1. If you enjoyed Veera's writing, try some of her other books. Karen reviewed the first book in Veera's Phoebe G. Green series on her blog.

2. Fellow MMGMers recommend these books featuring cultural diversity:

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah, by Paula J. Freedman, reviewed by Randomly Reading and Ms. Yingling Reads

Unidentified Suburban Object, by Mike Jung, reviewed by Jess on The Reading Nook

This is Just a Test, by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang reviewed by Ms. Yingling Reads

Save Me A Seat, by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan, reviewed here on Bookish Ambition, and by Karen on Ms. Yingling Reads

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond, by Brenda Woods, reviewed by Alex on Randomly Reading

The Grand Plan To Fix Everything, by Uma Krishnaswami, reviewed by Joanne.

3. You can learn more about the author, her writing process, and peek behind the scenes of The Whole Story with interviews from Uma Krishnaswami and on Here, There, Everywhere.

My Path to Published with Veera Hiranandani from britta alexander on Vimeo.

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 October 16, 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, October 13, 2017

PPBF: Sleep Tight, Snow White

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Sleep Tight, Snow White, released October 10, 2017
Sleep Tight, Snow White

Written by Jen Arena
Illustrated by Lorena Alvarez

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017
Ages 3-5, 32 pp.

Fairy Tales, Bedtime Rhymes

Sleep Tight, Snow White.
Seven dwarves say goodnight.

With simple preschool rhymes that roll of the tongue, author Jen Arena charms us again in her latest release, Sleep Tight, Snow White. Her bedtime picture book takes a dozen fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters and lulls them to sleep with short, playful rhymes on each spread. From the familiar Boy Blue to the classic Sleeping Beauty, the characters are encouraged to drift off to dreamland.

What I Love:
I've been eagerly awaiting this book's release and couldn't wait to share it with PPBF readers. Jen Arena has a way with rhythm which keeps readers moving through the pages. Parents are bound to love the traditional character choices as a way to introduce these time-honored tales to their little ones. Paired with the vibrant and mulicultural look of the illustrations, this sweet bedtime treat updates the stories in a retro-chic style that will appeal to all ages, from toddlers to grandparents.
I love the way the rhymes differ, tackling some of childhood's common obstacles to bedtime as well as injecting humor into the mix. I can hear myself repeating the Red Riding Hood Rhyme to calm nighttime fears, or the Princess and the Pea verse to settle a restless child.

1. You can read interviews with the illustrator, Lorena Alvarez, on NoBrow and Kit Soup.
6 healthy fairy tale snacks from Happy Teacher Happy Kids

2. Tara Lazar has hosted Jennifer Arena on StoryStorm and PiBoIdMo.

3. How Wee Learn has collected 45 nursery rhymes themed crafts for little hands.

4. Youthwork Practice posted a dozen outdoor activities for elementary kids on the fairytale theme or try 10 play-group activities from B-Inspired Mama.

5. For a few lesser know fairy tales, try these suggestions from the Perfect Picture Book Friday crew:
Clever Kaytya, by Mary Hoffman and Marie Cameron
Bearskin, by Howard Pile and Trina Schart hyman
The Warrior and the Wise Man, by David Wisniewski
Moonstruck, by Eve Bunting and John Sandford

6. Check out this small sampling of Perfect Picture Books and many more at your local library.

Reviewed by Joanne
Reviewed by Susanna
Reviewed by Joanna
Reviewed by Penny
Reviewed by Beth
Reviewed by Joanna

Reviewed by Wendy
Reviewed by Maria and 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, October 13, 2017 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.