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A blog written by the editor of Through the Looking Glass Book Review, a monthly online children's book review journal.
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Jane Yolen, who is a master author and poet, finds wonderful ways to teach young children about their world. For example she uses young dinosaur characters to explore how to have good manners and how to interact with others in a kind and compassionate way. In today's poetry book she uses verse, photos, and prose to look at numbers in an interesting and engaging way.
Count me a Rhyme: Animal Poems by the numbers
Photographs by Jason Stemple
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 8 and up
Boyds Mills Press, 2006, 978-1590783450
We often see numbers in nature without realizing that we are doing so. In this book we will count from one to ten – and beyond a little – in the animal world, and we will learn a little about the animals we see as well. From “One Lone Elk” to “Five Geese, Five” we get to explore beautiful natural environments through photographs and poetry. The author has also chosen to add words and symbols on every page which children might find interesting. For example on the page for the number eight we see eight bighorn sheep going up a hill and we read a poem about them climbing “in a long long line." We also encounter the number eight, the words “octave,” “eighth,” and “octagon,” and we can look at the roman numerals “VIII.”
Each poem is unique and the author cleverly ties her words to the photograph in the background and to the characteristics of the animal in question. Children will discover that poetry can come in all shapes and sizes and that there are many ways in which words can be used to have special effects. Who would have thought that the shape of a poem on the page can tell a story, and yet in this book readers will discover that this is indeed what can be done and to great effect as well.
I love picture books that feature strong, sassy, and determined characters. Cat, who appears in today's picture book, is just such a character. He knows what he wants, and he sets out to get it, in his own funny and distinctive way.Here comes the Easter Cat
Illustrated by Claudia Rueda
Penguin, 2014, 978-0-8037-3939-0
Cat is in a bad mood. When he has asked why, he holds up a sign and on it there is a picture of the Easter Bunny. Cat is not pleased at all that everyone loves the Easter Bunny and does not understand why a rabbit is so beloved. Cat is told that the Easter Bunny is “nice” and he “delivers chocolate eggs to millions of kids.”
Unfortunately, Cat starts to feel jealous. It is suggested that he should set aside his negative feelings. Instead, he should become the Easter Cat. Why not? A cat can be nice to children too, surely.
Cat suggests bringing children hairballs, but that idea is shot down pretty swiftly. Cat then has to consider how he is going to get around. He cannot hop like the Easter Bunny. Being a hip feline, Cat decides that he will ride a motorcycle. He also chooses a rather snazzy outfit to wear. Then Cat learns something that horrifies him. The Easter Bunny doesn’t get to have naps! How can anyone survive if they don’t have several naps every day? Perhaps Cat isn’t cut out to be the Easter Cat after all.
With wonderfully expressive artwork and amusing interactions between Cat and an unseen person who is talking to Cat, this picture book gives readers a book experience that will make them laugh and that will also charm them with its understated sweetness.
I went through a period when I was pirate mad. I read dozens of books about pirates and their doings, and would have loved to look through the book reviewed below. Blackbeard is probably the most famous pirate of them all, and in this book poetry and prose is paired with artwork to give readers a wonderful picture of Blackbeard's life.
Blackbeard: The Pirate King
J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Michael Ed. Lewis
For ages 7 to 10
National Geographic, 2006, 978-0792255857
Blackbeard was a man whostruck terror into the hearts of those who encountered him. Though we cannot be sure what his real name was, and though there are few descriptions of him, there can be no doubt that he was one of the most feared pirates of all time, and his adventures have been the subject of tales and stories for hundreds of years.
In this wonderfully written collection of poems, J. Patrick Lewis tells a series of "yarns detailing the legends, myths, and real-life adventures of history's most notorious seaman." Among other things, we hear about why Teach - one of the names that Blackbeard was given - may have become a pirate, and how he captured a French ship and made it his own. Accompanying the poems is collection of illustrations which portray Blackbeard and which were created by such people as N.C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle. In addition to the poems, the author has written notes to annotate the artwork and to provide background information on Blackbeard and piracy in the 1700's. At the back of the book there is an author's note which includes a map showing the areas where Blackbeard sailed his ships. There is also an excellent "Blackbeard's Time Line," which will give the reader a real sense of what the man's life was like.
I love books (obviously), so I was thrilled when today's picture book arrived in the mail. It is a book everyone should read. It will confirm what book lovers already know, and it might encourage people who don't care for books to reconsider their opinion.If I were a book
Illustrated by Andre Letria
Chronicle Books, 2014, 978-1-4521-2144-4
A lot of people like to imagine what it would be like to be someone or something else. What would it be like to be a much loved pet cat who gets to sleep all day long? What would it be like to be a celebrity who has thousands of fans? Imagine now what it might be like to a book, a book that has been left on a park bench all alone. Perhaps you would “ask someone in the street to take me home,” and then you would be that person’s best friend.
What would you were like if were a book? You could be “full of useful knowledge,” or capture your reader’s attention with your “captivating tales.” You would not want to know how your story ends and not be in a hurry to get to those very final of words: “The End.” You could “help someone soar” or “sweep away ignorance.” There would be so much you could do if you were a book, and so many wonderful things you could share with your readers.
This powerfully simple picture book will help readers to see that books are so much more than paper pages and a cover. They are tools for learning, they make our world bigger, and they offer us hours of entertainment with grand adventures, poetry, and more.
Watching the changes that take place in an pond ecosystem during a year can be fascinating. Plants leaf and bloom at different times, birds build their nests and have chicks, and migratory birds come to visit during the winter months. Muskrats dig their burrows, tadpoles appear and change into frogs or toads, and when it gets colder, turtles find a place where they can nap in piece.
In today's picture book you can experience these seasonal events through a series of poems.
Song of the Water Boatman and Other Poems
Illustrated by Beckie Prange
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 8
Houghton Mifflin, 2005, 978-0618135479
We are going to visit a pond, to spend time with the creatures that live there, and to see this very special place in the spring, summer, fall and winter. In the spring the song of the peeper frogs is an indication that spring is finally here and you can listen in the night as the little frogs "sing you to sleep." This is also the time of year when the mother wood duck takes her little ducklings for their first swim after hatching.
In the summer little creatures fill the pond swimming to and fro, eating and being eaten. This food chain begins with the algae "green and small" and ends with the heron "queen of the pond." This is also the time of year when the caddis fly larvae build themselves a portable camouflaged home, each one of which is unique and carefully decorated.
In the fall. the painted turtle digs itself a burrow into the mud, and in a snug little cave it goes to sleep, slowing down "to its winter rhythm."
Exquisitely illustrated, this picture book beautifully captures the rhythms of pond life. Each of the eleven poems in the book is accompanied by a hand-colored woodblock print and an interesting section of text which further explores the themes of the poem. The poems take many forms, each one giving readers a colorful and lively picture of life in a pond.
I love picture book that have pages full of detail-rich scenes. Richard Scarry's books, which I looked at over and over again when I was little, are like this. Now many other illustrators are creating wonderful books full of artwork that readers can explore. What is wonderful about these books is that one does not need to be able to read to see and follow the stories in the artwork. Today's picture book is a wonderful example of just such a book.Busy Bunny Days: In the town, On the Farm and At the Port
Chronicle Books, 2014, 978-1-4521-1700-3
The Bunny family members have busy lives and we are going to spend a little time with them, getting to know them and getting to know their world. We are going to begin by visiting them in their hometown.
Here we are and it is six o’clock in the morning. The day is just beginning, and yet there are a few folks out and about. One gentleman is walking his dog and we see that the garbage collectors are hard at work. Unfortunately, they have dropped a banana peel and someone has stepped on it and slipped. In their house the Bunny family members are beginning their day. Bethany Bunny is eating her breakfast and Baxter Bunny is just getting out of bed. Dr. Bunny is shaving in the bathroom.
By nine o’clock the streets are full and busy. An ambulance is picking up the animal who slipped on that pesky banana peel, and the children from the neighborhood are walking to school or getting on the school bus.
At midday rain starts to fall on the town. Dr. Bunny is busy taking care of his patients and Bethany and her kindergarten classmates are getting ready to go for a walk. Grandma Bunny has done some shopping and she is on her way to the Bunny home. She will be there to give Bethany her snack when the little girl gets home from kindergarten.
Later on in the afternoon there is a little drama when a small fire breaks out in the attic apartment in the Bunny’s building. Benny Badger gets up to his old tricks when everyone is distracted by the fire.
After visiting the Bunny’s hometown we go to a farm with them and then we visit a port. In each case we share a whole day in their company, seeing the little events that make daily life interesting. We also get to watch the little adventures that the characters in the book have.
Children are going to love exploring the artwork in this wonderful picture book. They will see days unfold before their eyes, and watch as the small joys and woes of everyday life are played out on the pages. They will have fun looking for Benny Badger, who is always getting into trouble, and will enjoy answering the questions that appear on every spread.
The grass is green and mowed, the sky is blue, there is a softness in the air, and it is time to play ball. Well, perhaps not for me, but on March 30th the American baseball season begins and many people will be pitching balls, swinging bats, running, sliding, and catching. I did not grow up watching or playing baseball, but have grown fond of the game since I moved to the United States. Today's poetry book perfectly captures the joys of the game and the excitement that players experience on that first game of the season.
Harcourt, 2012, 978-0-547-68838-1
Winter is finally over and spring has arrived bringing with it the beginning of baseball season. It is time to celebrate the joys of baseball, and thanks to Douglas Florian we are able to do this vicariously through his poems.
Our baseball experience begins with some exercises. The eager team members get out on the field and they start warming up. First they “Bend to the right,” and then they stretch out their muscles that are “too tense and too tight.”
When the players are all loose and warmed up, the pitcher goes out on the mound. He tells us that he is the “great devastator” who creates curve balls, fastballs, sinkers, risers, and slumps. He is the “strikeout collector” and we better “Beware! Beware!”
Next we meet the catcher who, like the pitcher, tells us about his skills. He too is full of confidence that he will be able to meet any challenge that he is presented with. No matter what kind of ball comes his way, he will be able to “catch ‘em.”
We go on to meet other players and the umpire, and since it plays such an important role, we also get to share a moment with a baseball. This ball goes through so much that it ends up splitting. Though this is a little sad, there is a feeling of satisfaction in the poem because the ball has “Been there” and it “Did it.”
Anyone who has a fondness for baseball is going to enjoy this collection of poetry. Douglas Florian manages to capture the essence of the game, infusing the pages with the joy that baseball brings to those who play it.
I have a full life, which means that don't always have much free time and my hobbies are neglected. One my favorite things to do is to paint, but I don't get to do it very often. Just the other day I did manage to squirrel away a little time to spend with my paints. I have everything laid out and ready to go and then I realized that I had no idea what I wanted to paint. The blank paper stayed blank for a long time before I finally decided what I wanted to do.
In today's picture book you will meet a character who has a similar problem. He loves to write, he has a book to write in, and yet he has no idea what he wants to write about.Lost for words
Peachtree Publishers, 2014, 978-1-56145-739-7
Tapir has a brand new notebook and some colored pencils and he wants to write something, but he has no idea what to write. For some reason his head is empty of ideas and inspiration, and what makes his situation more frustrating is that his friends’ heads are full of writing ideas.
Giraffe has no problem writing down a poem about a tree, and hippo easily crafts a story as he lies in his muddy pool. Flamingo uses her skill with words to compose a song, a song that is “so perfect it brought a tear to Tapir’s eye.”
Tapir tries humming like flamingo, wallowing like hippo, and munching leaves like giraffe but no words come to him and he gets very grumpy. Surely there must be something he can write about?
All too often, when we are determined to create something, our creativity abandons us and we are left staring at a blank piece of paper. This is what happens to poor Tapir, who wants so badly to write something in his notebook. What he does not realize is that he is full of creativity, it just isn’t in a form that he is expecting.
This charming picture book explores the idea that creativity will not be forced and sometimes the creative process can be full of surprises.
When one is a child the years that precede teenagedom seem to last forever. Then, quite suddenly, childhood is over and a new kind of life begins, one filled with new responsibilities, choices that need to be made, and so much more. It is not unusual for a teenager of thirteen or fourteen to look back on childhood with regret. If only it had lasted a little longer.
Today's poetry title explores the joys and woes of the childhood years. Teenagers and adults alike will greatly enjoy taking a little trip into the past as they read the poems.Ode to Childhood: Poetry to Celebrate the child
Anova Books, 2014, 978-1-84994-133-4
Childhood lasts such a short time and all too often we forget to enjoy the precious years when a child’s imagination is at its strongest, and when life is so full of adventures. In this anthology of poetry, children of all ages are celebrated. The journey begins with poems about babies and wraps up with poems that look at the lives of young people who are about to leave their childhood behind.
One of the first poems in the book describes a mother’s struggles as she carries her baby “here and there,” and talks “nonsense endlessly” in a fruitless attempt to try to sooth her crying child. She does her best to “gauge what each cry says” and sometimes she succeeds. At other times “All falls flat” when she guesses wrong and does not provide what the child wants.
Later on we encounter a four-year-old called John who is forever getting into things that he shouldn’t. He spends his time “poking at the roses” or climbing on the furniture. Thankfully, John also likes to play, doing things that are mostly acceptable, such as rolling on the grass, bowling, and losing balls “o’er fences” that the narrator has to replace.
Then there are the special trips that lodge in the memory, trips to the sea-side when a child digs holes in the sand using a wooden spade. Robert Louis Stevenson tells us about how the holes, which “were empty like a cup,” get filled in with seawater as the tide rises. Or perhaps it is a trip to the zoo where the child sees a wide variety of animals including the monkeys “mercy, how unpleasantly they smelt!”
There are also those once frustrating everyday moments that are precious when the child is no longer small. For example there is the child who asks “What is the grass?” How is the adult supposed to answer when he or she doesn’t know “what it is any more than he.”
As one turns the pages of this book, special moments in the lives of children and their grownups unfold. They wrap up us in beautiful images and memories that seem to leap off the pages. Readers will find poems by William Blake, Walt Whitman, W. H. Auden and others in this collection, and they will savor their words over and over again.
It must have been exciting to live in Europe and North America in the early 1900's. So many things were happening and so much was changing. Electric lights, automobiles, and other inventions were changing the lives of millions of people. In today's picture book you will meet a family whose memebers decide to get their first car, and who end up having an unexpected adventure because of that car.
The Tweedles Go Electric
Illustrated by Marie Lafrance
For ages 5 to 7
Groundwood, 2014, 978-1-55498-167-0
It is 1903 and cars, which are powered by steam or gas, are all the rage. The Tweedles don’t care that cars are the in thing. They are content to get around on their cycles or by using their horse and cart.
Then one day Papa announces that they are going to get a car. Mama is thrilled, as is car-crazy Frankie. Bookish Franny is not particularly excited about having a car. After all, cars at this time are noisy, smelly, and dangerous. Then Papa tells his wife and children that they are not going to have a car powered by steam or gas. They are going to have an electric car.
Mama is rather concerned that the car might not be safe. After all, electricity is such a new thing and people don’t really understand how it works. In fact, they find it “more frightening than a basket of boas.”
In spite of this fear, the Tweedles go to the car dealership and they buy a bright green electric car. Papa drives their new purchase home, which is when he discovers that driving requires that one has a fair bit of nerve. There are so many things that one has to watch out for, and when one is zooming along at ten miles an hour, one has to have lightning fast reflexes. He and his family members never imagine that their new purchase is going to lead to an adventure, new friends, and new prospects.
These days cars are considered a necessity by most people and it is hard to imagine what life would be like if we did not have our cars. It is therefore very interesting to see what it was like to live in America when cars were still a relatively new innovation. It is also amusing to see how the Tweedles cope with their new acquisition.
Noticing the beauty in simple things and in everyday moments is something that many of us forget to do. We are too busy doing things and rushing from place to place. Sometimes we need to be reminded that it is important to stop so that we can look at, listen to, and appreciate the world around us. In today's poetry book the author beautifully captures special moments, season by season, combining lovely art with gem-like haiku poems. The book shows us that the little things can make our lives richer and happier. If we remember to look for them.
Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons
Scholastic, 2014, 978-0-545-16668-3
In the past haiku was a form of poetry that was only used by Japanese poets, but it now used to write poems in many languages. Though the original form often has to be modified a little to allow for linguistic differences, the essence of haiku is always the same. The form captures “a moment of emotion that reminds us that our own human nature is not separate from nature.” In just three short lines the poet freezes a moment in time and allows us to savor it. Often the poem explores an aspect of nature or it refers to some element in nature.
In his poems in this book Jon J. Muth takes us through the year, and our guide is a small panda bear called Koo. Koo has a natural curiosity about the world around him and he appreciates the small pleasures in life. In fall he savors a dance in the cold rain, which is followed by a bowl of hot soup at home. This is also a time of year when “Eating warm cookies / on a cold day / is easy.”
As far as Koo is concerned, winter is for playing outdoors with his friends. Koo does a “powdery stomp” in the snow, and he wonders if the icicles hanging from the eves “will touch the ground.” He watches as the cat “vanishes / Just ears…and twitching tail” when she goes out into the snow.
Then, when “winter is old now / and closes her doors,” spring arrives with crocuses and “New leaves / new grass new sky.” After too many days spent watching the television Koo and his two friends go out to explore the awakening world.
This is a book that children and adults alike will enjoy. The artwork is simple yet beautifully expressive, and the haiku perfectly captures those moments during a year that are precious gifts.
I don't know why, but for some reason I did not encounter this classic book when I was a child, and it has taken me a ridiculously long time to get around to reviewing it. I am delighted that did, because reading about poor Alexander's dreadful day makes even the worst of my days seem positively fabulous. This book also happens to be wonderfully funny, which is a huge added bonus.
0 Comments on Picture Book Monday with a review of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day as of 3/10/2014 7:12:00 AM
Sometimes we experience days when everything seems to go wrong. Bread gets burned in the toaster, a toe gets stubbed on a chair leg, and our mood becomes dark and gloomy. These are days when a little pick-me-up is needed, and one of the best remedies there is for a case of the gloomies is laughter. Today's poetry title is a veritable treasure box of anti-gloomy poems that will make readers feel a little warmer and happier inside.Laugh-eteria
Harcourt, 1999, 978-0-15-206148-7
Sometimes people just need something that will make them smile or laugh. They need to watch that video showing a cat jumping in and out of a box, or they can pick up a book just like this one. For this title Douglas Florian has written over a hundred short poems. They have nothing really in common other than the fact that they are funny and quirky.
In the book you will encounter a sofa that is unsafe because there is something under it that has teeth that are green and “gruesome.” This monster, for that is what it surely is, has eaten the narrator’s homework. And his sisters. Not surprisingly, the narrator decides that he will “sit on the CHAIR.”
In another poem we are told what witches wish for. Unlike you or me, they have no interest in sunny beach vacations, a new cell phone, or a puppy. Dear me no. Witches wish for things like “Rusty Nails” and “Dragon Tails.” They want horrible weather and nasty things like vampire blood and poison ivy. What makes this so much worse is that “Witches always / Get their wishes.”
Witches with nasty wishes are not the only unpleasant creatures you will encounter in this book. You will also meet Dracula who drives a “Cadillacula” and likes to “drink blood for a snackula.” Being attacked by him is terrible of course, but what is particularly upsetting is that, as he says, “Tomorrow I’ll be backula!”
Throughout this book the poems are paired with brush and ink drawings that perfectly capture the flavor of goofiness that infuses the book. For those down-in-the-dump days (and any other kind of day) this book is a perfect fit.
Dear Book Lovers:
The March and April issue of Through the Looking Glass Children’s Book Reviews is now online. I have put together a wonderful collection of reviews for you for this issue, and I hope you enjoy reading the reviews as much as I enjoyed writing them.
For this issue I have put together a special feature about Rabbits
. Children's literature is full of wonderful rabbit characters. Some of them, like Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, make the lives of the humans they encounter very interesting. Other rabbit characters live in an all animal world, like Peter Rabbit in the Beatrix Potter books. Some of the rabbits in these books are friendly, while others are rather grumpy. Readers of all ages (including adults) are going to enjoy exploring the books in this collection.
Here in Oregon, spring
is making itself felt already, and for many people March and April are the months when they start getting busy in the garden. Spending time in the garden
gives children and young people a wonderful opportunity to connect with nature, watch things grow, and - of course - get dirty!
In March, schools and libraries all over the United States observe Women's History Month
. This event celebrates the achievements of women over the years, and I have quite a large collection of books in the TTLG Women's History Month feature
. In this feature readers will finds fiction and non-fiction titles that look at the lives and achievements of many great women from around the world.
April is the month when many Americans celebrate Earth Day
and Arbor Day
. For Earth Day you can look at the Earth Day feature
and the Saving the Environment feature
. For Arbor Day I have put together a delightful collection of books that are about trees
. Some of the books in these features are informative nonfiction titles, while others are stories that will amuse, touch, and delight readers of all ages.
For this month's Editor's Choice title, I have selected Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse
by Torben Kuhlmann. This incredibly beautiful and creative picture book will appeal to children and adults alike.
Finally, take a look at the new Bookish Calendar.
Here you will find reviews about Michelangelo, St. Patrick's Day, Harry Houdini, the sinking of the Titanic
, and much more. This calendar is a great tool to use at home and in the classroom to help children incorporate books more fully into their lives.-:Bookish Events for March and April:-March is Women's History Month (USA)March 2nd is Read Across America Day (USA)National March into Literacy Month (USA)April is National Poetry Month (USA)April 2nd is International Children's Book DayNational Library Week April 13th - 19th (USA)Young People's Poetry Week April 21st - 25th (USA)National Week of the Ocean March 30th - April 5th (USA)
I hope you find a way to celebrate some, if not all, of these bookish events. If I have missed an important bookish event, please drop me a line to tell me about it.
In September of 2012 I launched a new project that I would like to tell you about. It is a story blog called Talon Diaries
, and it is written by a colorful and very unusual character who is called Gryf. Gryf 's story posts appear every Wednesday. Do take a look and subscribe to the blog.
Some of the titles I reviewed several years ago are now out of print. Though you cannot buy these books in every bookshop, many of them are still available for purchase on websites like Amazon.com.
I hope you enjoy this new issue, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Many of us love stories about heroes, about characters who prevail despite the fact that the odds are against them. In today's picture book you will find just such a character, and I challenge you not to be moved by his inventive genius and his great courage.
Lindbergh: The tale of a Flying Mouse
North South, 2013, 978-0-7358-4167-3
There once was German mouse who was curious about the world. In fact he was so curious that he read all kinds of books that the humans wrote about history, inventors, science and other topics. Unfortunately, there came a day when the little mouse made his way home only to realize that the humans had waged war on his kind by using mouse traps. For weeks the mouse could not find any other mice and then he realized what had happened: the mice in his city had all left. After seeing some newspaper articles, the mouse decided that his fellow mice must have boarded ships and gone to America. America, after all, was a land full of promise for humans and mice alike.
The mouse tried to board a ship bound for America but was prevented from doing so because “hungry cats guarded the ships like fortresses.” If he wanted to get to America, the mouse was going to have to find another way. Then the mouse saw some bats while he was moving through the sewers. He was intrigued by the creatures that looked so much like mice, but that had wings. Inspired by the abilities of his “strange flying relatives,” the mouse decided that what he needed to do was to build a flying machine. He would fly to America!
With its gorgeous illustrations and its remarkable main character, this is a book that readers of all ages with enjoy and appreciate
In this remarkable picture book we meet a mouse who, despite his diminutive size and the many enemies who would like to kill or make a meal out of him, is determined to fly to a America. Readers will be charmed to see how the mouse deals with the many setbacks that inventors and innovators face, and they will read on, with hope in their hearts.
I have a tendency to write a great deal when just a short sentence or two would suffice. I think many of us struggle with this proclivity for for over verbosity. Thankfully there are many writers and poets who have the gift for beautiful minimal writing, and in today's poetry title you will encounter some truly magical short poems that capture special moments perfectly.
Selected by Paul B. Janeczko
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Candlewick Press, 2014, 978-0-7636-4842-8
We live in a world where many of us value quantity over quality. We want our food supersized, we want two-for-the-price-of-one, and are we are delighted when we get more for our money at sales. The problem with this approach to life is that often more is not necessarily better. Sometimes less is more. Minimalist art and spare and powerful writing can have as much if not more impact than artwork full of detail and reams and reams of writing.
This is the case with the wonderful poems in this collection, all of which are short and compelling. Paul Janeczko takes us through a year, which is divided up into seasons, sharing a splendid collection of very short poems with us. The poems include the writings of William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, Charlotte Zolotow, Joyce Sidman, and Emily Dickinson.
We begin in spring when “Rain beats down, / roots stretch up.” Where the rain and the roots meet, a flower appears aboveground.
In the summer the sun plays a big role, floating in the sky like a “roaring dandelion.” At night fireflies like “baby stars” blink “Among the trees like dimes of light.” Charlotte Zolotow paints a picture of a little orange cat, which, “like a small tiger,” stalks through a field of “white daisies / and shining / buttercups.”
Fall is a time for fog that “blurs the morning,” and leaves drift down telling us that change is coming. The wind is busy searching for who knows what “under each leaf.”
In winter there is snow and chilly temperatures. Animals sleep away the cold nights, and sometimes the cold days as well. We are given the image of “clear winter’s evening” when the crescent moon in the sky and the “round squirrel’s nest” look alike.
Throughout this remarkable collection the poems are paired with Melissa Sweet’s beautiful and arresting multimedia art. She captures moments of tranquility, and times full of movement perfectly, gifting readers with images that are a joy to explore.
I freely confess here that I love using my computer, tablet, and phone to connect with others and to gather information. I do indeed feel lost if I am not able to look something up with just a tap or two on a screen. However, I am not so much of an addict that I need to be plugged into the digital world all the time. I love being out and about in the real world as well.
In this picture book we meet a little girl who loves her gadgets so much that she ends up getting a case of digital overload.Dot
Illustrated by Joe Berger
Random House UK, 2013, 978-0-857-53396-8
Dot knows how to do a lot of things, especially when it comes to using technology. She knows how to use a computer, tablet, and phone to surf, swipe, share, search, tweet and tag. She knows how to use these devices to do something that she loves to do; to talk. Dot talks and talks so much that eventually Dot gets “talked out.”
Dot’s mother decides that what Dot needs is to go outside to “Reebot! Recharge! Restart!” It is time for Dot to connect with the world in a different way, but does Dot remember how to be an unplugged little girl?
In this delightfully clever picture book we meet a little girl who is very skilled when it comes to using electronic devices. The hard part is that she also needs to remember that there is more to life than living in a virtual world. There is a real world to be enjoyed too.
With a minimal text and expressive artwork, this picture book conveys a message that we all need to hear once in a while.
Usually on Fridays I post reviews of poetry book collections, rather than reviews of books that contain one poem. Today I am going to make an exception because the poem is so timeless and the way it is presented is to powerful and beautiful. The poem is If by Rudyard Kipling and this is a book that will appeal to readers of all ages.
Illustrated by Giovanni Manna
Creative Editions, 2014, 978-1-56846-259-2
What parent does not want his or her child to be happy in life, and to reach his or her full potential? This is the wish of millions of parents all over the world, and has been the wish of parents long gone for children who are also long gone. Rudyard Kipling was just such a parent. He wanted so much for his only son, John, and he also had many aspirations for him.
When John was only twelve years old his father wrote a poem called If
in which he offers advice and encouragement to his boy, advice which he hopes will help John grow up so that “the Earth and everything in it” would be John’s, and he would be “a Man.”
The advice offered in the poem is universal in nature and if readers are truly listening, they will find that the poem speaks to them, no matter how old they are. It does not matter if you are a student, a parent, or a grandparent, Kipling’s words will resonate with you and give you cause to reflect.
Throughout the poem the word “If” appears, a constant reminder that we are in control, that we can choose what we do. “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you” and “if you can wait and not be tired by waiting” then you will come to a place where all things are possible. “If you can dream – and not make dreams your master,” and “watch the things you gave life to, broken, / And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools” then you will prevail. Again and again we are reminded to be true to ourselves and to let the words of naysayers and critics pass us by.
Throughout the book Kipling’s powerful words are accompanied by beautiful, emotive watercolor illustrations.
People who don't love books and the written word sometimes find it hard to understand the relationship that we bibliophiles have with our favorite books. These books becomes our friends and we turn to them when life is hard. We cherish them even when they are falling apart and looking rather sad and shabby.
In today's picture book you are going to meet a book that was once loved but is then forgotten. The book becomes lonely and lost.
The Lonely Book
Illustrated by Chris Shelban
For ages 5 to 7
Random House, 2012, 978-0-375-86226-7
There once was a book that was very popular with the children who came to the library. Even when it was no longer new and was on the shelves instead of being in the new book section, this book was still taken out of the library often.
Years and years passed and the book wasn’t as popular as it once was. The book’s cover was faded and the last page was missing. One day the book was taken off its shelf and it was dropped in a “dark corner by a daydreaming child.” The librarian failed to see the book and it lay where it had fallen until a little girl called Alice came along. Alice looked at the book and fell in love with it. Even though the book was old, Alice wanted to take it home with her, and that was what she did.
Alice read the book over and over, and she even shared it with her classmates at school. The book, so long forgotten and lonely, “Had never felt so beloved.” It was happiest when children were reading its story and looking at its pictures. It was happiest when it was with Alice. Then, but sheer mischance, the book got misplaced and it was separated from Alice, which made both the book and the child very unhappy.
In this splendid picture book we celebrate the love that a child can have for a book. There is no way to predict which book will become a favorite, but once it has been chosen, a book’s child will never forget it. With a wonderful story and delightfully soft and expressive artwork, this is a book that will surely capture the imagination and hearts of many children in the years to come.
I live in a town where there are some lovely vintage cars and also some downright bizarre looking vehicles. None of them, however, are as bizarre as the cars you will read about and see in this picture book. This book of poetry is a must for any young readers who have a fondness for cars.Poem-Mobiles: Crazy car poems
J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian
Illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
Random House, 2014, 978-0-375-86690-6
When somebody talks about a truck or a bus, you pretty much know what they are talking about. Of course a bus might be a yellow school bus or a red double-decker London bus, but it is still a bus. When it comes to cars though, you can never quite know what to expect because cars come in so many sizes, shapes, and colors. A car might be a race car, or an antique car. It might have a huge sign saying “PIZZA” on its roof, or it might be low slung and have wild looking fins and huge headlights. In this book we are going to take a “futuristic sneak preview” at some “wacky” cars from “fender to fin,” so hold onto your hat and let’s take “a spin.”
If you drive around today there is a good chance that you will see one of those two-person Smart cars that are delightfully small and cunning looking. Imagine what it would be like to drive a car that is even smaller, one that is “itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny.” This is the mini-mini-car and though it is a wonderful car, there is a “snag” to owning such a tiny vehicle: the driver “can’t get out the door.”
At the other end of the spectrum there is the Giant Bookmobile. Fueled by “imagination power,” this car is driven by the Gingerbread Man and it travels to every block where children get on so that they can dive into books and comics.
If you think this sounds strange, then you should see the Dragonwagon with his wings, its spiked back, and its sharp claws. The Dragonwagon has toothy jaws under its hood and it is such a “scary, scaly mean machine” that no one dares to “provoke this dragon’s wrath.”
Readers with imaginations are going to love the deliciously odd, bizarre and sometimes even ridiculous looking cars in this book. Throughout the book the poems has been paired with artwork that is full of clever and creative details.
When I was younger I was quick to judge others. I have since learned (the hard way) that such judgements serve no purpose and can be unkind. When someone is disagreeable I remind myself that the person probably has some sadness in his or her life that I know nothing about, a sadness that makes them behave as they do. In today's book you will meet a yeti who is grumpy and who is therefore friendless. No one who sees the yeti imagines that he his kind and gentle on the inside.Yeti and the bird
Random House UK, 2013, 978-1-780-08014-7
Deep in the forest there lives a very large, very white, and very hairy yeti. Since he is so big, so hairy, and so scary, the other animals keep their distance, and Yeti is alone all the time. And lonely.
Then one day something lands on Yeti’s head. The something is a very confused orange bird who has a great deal to say. She sqwalks and sqwalks until Yeti roars at her, but instead of being afraid of Yeti, the bird is amused. She then tells Yeti all about her journey and explains that she has “landed on a hot, tropical island” where she will spend the winter. The yeti then points out that there are no palms trees in the forest, and no sun for that matter, which is when the bird realizes that she has made a big mistake. She is in the wrong place and is lost.
In this delightfully sweet picture book we see that friendships can exist between two very dissimilar characters, and such friendships can change one’s life is a deep and meaningful way. Children will be delighted to see how the little bird gives the yeti a gift that is truly priceless
The yeti tries to console the bird and then, not knowing what else to do, he picks her up and takes her home. Soon the two animals are the best of friends and everyone in the forest is amazed to see that the yeti is a cheerful fellow and a wonderful friend. In fact he is such a good friend that he decides that he has to find a way to help the little bird continue her journey south.
Keeping ones pets happy should be easy, but actually it can be rather complicated at times. Especially if ones pet is unusual. We had a potbelly pig for a pet for a number of years. At first Gracie was a very easy house pet to care for. She was house trained in just a few days and was very intelligent, which meant that she learned the rules very quickly. Then Gracie's urge to root took over and she became very destructive. We then had to make sure that she had rooting time outdoors every day so that her rooting instinct was satisfied.
In today's book you are going to meet a wide variety of pets and you will learn what these pets need to be be happy.When your Porcupine Feels Prickly
Pomegranate, 2012, 978-0-7649-6318-6
Many of us know all kinds of things about animals. We know that cheetahs are the fastest land animals and that whales are not fish. We like to think that we know a lot about the animals that we keep as pets too. We know that cats like warm places to sleep, that dogs like companionship, and that pet rats need to be kept busy because they are intelligent. However, there are some things that perhaps we should know about animals that we don’t. Thankfully, the author of this book has kindly written down a few tips and suggestions to help us.
For example, it is very important to get your dog food as soon as he or she asks for it because “To do any less would be rude.” If you have a cat, always be sure to offer the feline a choice of food and ask “Would you prefer this? Perhaps you’d like that?”
Pet birds also need to be treated with consideration, and we need to show them that we trust and respect them. The best way to do this is to take off your hat when you are talking to your pet bird to show that “you don’t think you will be pooped on or pecked.”
If you have a bee for a pet and if she is “feeling down,” the author suggests that you offer her a crown. Wearing a crown helps the author when she is “feeling blue,” so maybe it will help a pet bee too.
In all there are twenty-two little poems in this book, each one of which is accompanied by a whimsical painting. As they read the poems young readers will find out how to care for their pet porcupines, baboons, pelicans, ponies, cockroaches, goats, and other animals. The author uses humor and a clever use of language to create poems that will delight readers who have a fondness for animals.
Most children, at some point, decide that they cannot stand being at home. They get it into their heads that they are not appreciated or understood, and the only thing they can do is to run away. I remember the day I did this. I managed to get about four blocks from my house before I sat on the curb, a picture of misery. In today's picture book you are going to meet a little girl who decides to run away to Africa, and who finds a wonderful companion to take her there.Loula is leaving for Africa
Kids Can Press, 2013, 978-1-55453-941-3
Loula is afflicted with three brothers who are “MEAN, HORRIBLE,” and to add insult to injury, they are also “STINKY.” One day she decides that she has endured as much as she can take, and she announces that she is leaving home. She packs a little suitcase and heads down the stairs to begin her journey to a place that is far away from the dreadful triplets.
Loula tells her mother and father that she is going to Africa, but both of them are far too busy to take what she is saying seriously. Which is very annoying. So annoying in fact, that Loula decides that she will never come back. Why should she. No one cares about her.
Loula climbed a tree, which is where Gilbert the chauffer finds her. When Loula tells him that she is in Africa he informs her that she has made a mistake. They look at a map together and then Gilbert tells the little girl that she will need to travel on a ship to get to Africa. Gilbert pretends that the family car is the ship and he takes Loula on a journey that turns out to be wonderfully exciting.
Most of us experience days when nothing goes well. Machines break down, people are mean, and life has a grey pall hanging over it. This picture book is perfect for days like this, for days when one feels like running away from home. Children will be charmed by Loula’s adventures with Gilbert, and they will appreciate that all Loula really needed was a little love and attention.
I have now read several books where tale is told using a series of poems. They poems are often written in blank verse and I have come to appreciate how powerful such books can be. Today's title is just such a book and I have placed it on my to-read-often shelf because it is so meaningful and so beautifully written.Words with wings
Boyds Mills Press, 2013, 978-1-59078-985-8
After her parents get a divorce, Gabby and her mother move to a new home across town. Hating having to say goodbye to friends and worried that she won’t find new ones, Gabby does what she so often does. She takes a break from the world and dives into her imagination and daydreams. Gabby’s old friend Cheri never minded Gabby’s daydreaming and Gabby fervently hopes that her new school will have “a Cheri who’ll think daydreamers are cool.”
Gabby’s daydreaming began when her parents started fighting. Trying to lock out the sounds of raised voices, Gabby wished that she could “fly away” and the word fly seemed to transport her into a daydream where she was flying to her grandmother’s house where there are no shouting parents.
Since that moment certain words seem to send Gabby off to another place, into a daydream where happy things are happening. She drifts into daydreaming moments all the time, exasperating her mother and her teacher.
Gabby realizes that she is a “dreamer” like her father and she is not much like her mother, who is a “maker.” Would it be possible to combine being a maker and a dreamer? Gabby wishes she could please her mother and knows that her mother wishes Gabby where more like her, more practical and down to earth. Eventually, Gabby’s daydreaming costs too much and she decides to set it aside. No more “word-journeys for me,” she thinks. The problem is that being a “Girl robot” does not suit Gabby, and not having her daydreams makes her very unhappy.
In this extraordinary book Gabby’s story is told using a series of poems. The first person narrative poems are interspersed with poems that describe the daydreams that Gabby has. It is interesting to see how her daydreams fill her life, until she forces them to cease, and how this deprivation makes her whole life sad, bland, and boring.
Readers who have a love of the written word will greatly enjoy reading this remarkable book.