In this exceptional picture book we meet a young boy who wonders why he is where he is, and what he discovers will resonate with readers of all ages.
The Boy on the Page
Young children are often wonderfully receptive to poetry. There is something about the rhythm of verse that appeals to their ears. In today's poetry title readers will find a collection of beautifully rhythmic poems that perfectly capture the adventures, images, and sensations that children experience as the seasons go by.
Changes: A child’s first Poetry Collection
Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 3 to 6
Sourcebooks, 2015, 978-1-4926-0168-5
Charlotte Zolotow was a prolific writer who wrote more than ninety published books for young readers, two of which won Caldecott Honor awards. For four decades, in her capacity as an editor-publisher at HarperCollins, she worked with wonderful writers such as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maurice Sendak, and Arnold Lobel. In this wonderful collection, twenty-eight of her poems are brought together to offer young children a beautiful journey through the seasons. They are being published in what would have been Charlotte’s centenary year, and therefore they serve as a fitting tribute both to her and to her “ability to frame the largest, boldest truths for the smallest, newest readers.”
The collection begins with a poem called Change, which explores the joys of “Celebrating the Seasons.” We see how one season flows into another, a process that is full of change and wonder, and yet in the end, when the year comes full circle, the only thing that has really changed is us. We have grown up and grown older.
Next we begin our journey with poems about spring. We see a river winding through a meadow and experience the spring wind which “comes gently after the rain / smelling of spring and growing things.” We lie in the grass and see a small bird flying over the trees. We meet some violet sellers and celebrate the simple beauty of crocuses and pansies.
In summer we share a moment with a child who is watching a honey bee. That “shimmering clear / making the sky seem very near” moment is his to relish and enjoy. We see how blue is a true summer color, the color of “the sea at noon,” bluejays, blueberries, larkspurs and “the sky itself.” We experience the essence of time spent by the sea, and meet two denizens of summer; a fly and a beetle.
Autumn is a time when “the light long summer / is grown old.” It is a time of falling colorful leaves, of school days, and Halloween costumes. Following close on its heels comes winter with its snow and frozen rivers. “Black and still” trees are stark and beautiful, and now when toes feel the cold, we remember the summer sun.
Paired with sweet illustrations that capture the magic of the seasons, these wonderful poems will delight readers, young and old alike.
Many people think that they know what a person needs to have to be happy. Happiness = having lots of money and being famous. However, judging from the stories we see in the media. the rich and famous often are not very happy people. Something is missing from their lives.
Today's picture book explores the way in which one rich and famous person stumbles across something that makes him happy, and we see how he tries to figure out how to change his life so that happiness can be his.
The baseball player and the Walrus
Illustrated by Alex Latimer
For ages 4 to 6
Penguin, 2015, 978-0-8037-3951-2
There once was a baseball player who had it all; fame, fortune, and fans. The surprising thing is that the baseball player was not happy. He knew that something was missing in his life but he had no idea what that something was.
Then one day the baseball player went to the zoo and he saw all the animals. He saw the lions, tigers, giraffes, and elephants, and then he came to the walrus pool. The baseball player was very taken with the walrus and he stayed and watched it all day long. Something about the animal lifted the baseball player’s spirits and made him feel happy inside.
That evening the baseball player decided that he was going to buy the walrus. He created a splendid walrus habitat in his back yard, and stocked up on fish and walrus vitamins. He showed the zoo people that he was going to be a responsible walrus owner, and they finally agreed to let him take the walrus home.
The walrus and the baseball player became fast friends and had many grand times together, but when the baseball season began the player had to be away from home a lot and both he and the walrus were very unhappy. Eventually the baseball player decided that he had had enough, and he quit his job and went home as fast as he could to be with his walrus. Everything was perfect for a while, until the baseball player realized that without a job he could no longer afford to keep his dear friend.
Many people think that happiness should be a secondary consideration in life. We have to make money, buy things, and be ‘successful’ first and foremost. In this delightful picture book we meet a man whose money, fame, and success don’t make him happy. Luckily, he finds out that having a walrus for a friend is just what he needs, and he does everything in his power to make the walrus part of his life.
With humor and sensitivity, the author of this book gives readers a tale that is amusing, memorable, and that conveys a message that everyone should take heed of: Follow your heart.
Spring is a time when many animals become active again, after the cold months of winter are over. Birds and squirrels start building nests, and bears come out of hibernation, Typically bears immediately set about looking for food when they wake up. In today's picture book you will see what happens when a pair of just-woken-up bears are accidentally brought to a town.
Breaking News: Bear Alert
For ages 5 to 7
Charlesbridge, 2014, 978-1580896634
An episode of Our Furry Planet is being broadcasted live. The host of the show, Jean Louis, is in a bear cave with his cameraman, filming a pair of bears who are hibernating. Jean Louis says that soon the bears will wake up and they will be hungry for food. As he is talking he pokes one of the bears with a stick. What he does not realize is that his actions wake up the bear, and not surprisingly is gets mighty miffed that it has been disturbed.
The screen goes blank for a moment and then we are brought a “Breaking News” alert. A skycam shows viewers that the bears, who are now fully awake, are riding on the roof of the Our Furry Planet van. Jean Louis and the cameraman have no idea that they are taking two large, furry passengers to the city with them. They think that they escaped the bears that they so rudely woke up.
When they get to the city, the cameraman tells the media that he and Jean Louis scared the bears away, but it soon becomes clear how wrong he is. Security video from Teddy’s Diner shows the bears entering the establishment where they start eating whatever they can get their paws on. The bears then make their way down Main Street, and their progress is picked up by various cameras. Animal Control officers arrive on the scene but the bears are now in the Misses and Petites section in Paddington’s Department Store, and they in disguise
Young readers are going to love this clever picture book. The story is presented in such a way that we feel that we are watching the whole crazy bear alert situation on a screen. Young readers will see that in addition to the chaos created by the arrival of the bears in town, something else is going on. Eventually the two stories collide to bring the tale to a wonderful denouement.
Spring has officially arrived in Southern Oregon, but the last few days have been quite wintery. A chilly wind has blown through out valley bringing rain with it, and snow has fallen on the mountains. I therefore feel quite justified reading and reviewing today's poetry title, which explores how wild animals and plants survive the cold months of winter.
Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold
Illustrated by Rick Allen
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 and up
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 978-0-547-90650-8
In the past, winter was often a time of hardship for humans. Food was scarce, it was cold even indoors, sickness was common, and the days were short. Without the comforts of heated homes, electric lights, decent healthcare, and grocery stores, winter was grim. For wild animals winter is still a time of hardship. They have to adapt to the changes in their environment so that they can survive until spring.
In this award winning picture book Joyce Sidman shows us how animals that live in cold places survive, how they find ways to get through the long winter months. On every spread we find a richly textured and colored illustration that is with paired with a poem. There is also a section of nonfiction text, which provides us with further information about the animal species featured on the pages.
The first spread takes us into the cold world of the tundra swan. We see how they “tucked beaks / into feathers and settled for sleep.” As they slept, the swans dreamed of the journey that was coming when they would see “the sun’s pale wafer / the crisp drink of clouds. “ When the swans woke up to a land covered with snow, they began that journey that would take them thousands of miles from Alaska to warmer climes on the east or west coasts of the United States.
Later in the book we meet a young moose, a creature that is “built for the cold.” The largest deer species in the world, the moose’s size makes it possible for their core to stay warm and their “tough, shaggy hide” keeps their extremities from getting too cold. Moose use their excellent sense of smell to find food and they can reach the high branches of “willow and yew” that other animals cannot get to.
Beavers find the perfect way to get through winter. They build a dam and a lodge and even when their pond or lake freezes over, the beavers can swim under the ice to get to the twigs that they stashed in the water not far from their home. Like “strong brown bullets” they dive and then return to their warm home where they groom, eat, and then sleep cuddled up together.
Even the trees and plants have adapted to survive the cold darkness of winter. Deciduous trees shed their leaves and “essentially shut down” in winter, bending “when all the wild winds blow,” standing firm thanks to their deep root systems. Unlike the tender leaves of these trees, conifers have tough needles that are not damaged by freezing temperatures.
This is a book that children and adults will greatly enjoy exploring. The sections of text that appear on every spread are packed with fascinating facts and information, and the poems, with their layers of rich imagery and language, are a joy to read.
We often like to think that there is only one side to a story, the side we know and believe in. This is rarely true, and into today's picture book we see how the same story can be very different depending on who is telling that story. Children will be amused by this tale, and hopefully they will also take something away with them after they have read it.
A tale of two beasts
Some picture books have wonderful rich stories that catapult you into a different world and take you on a grand adventure. Other picture books are quieter, more contemplative, in nature. Today's picture book review title is just such a book. The story is a very simple one, and yet it is still meaningful and incredibly enriching.
Such a little mouse
Illustrated by Stephanie Yue
For ages 4 to 6
Scholastic, 2015, 978-0-545-64929-2
It is spring and a little mouse, who lives in a burrow in the middle of a meadow under a clump of dandelions, pops his head out of his hole and takes in the world around him. He explores, watching a snail and bees go about their business. He listens to the sound of a woodpecker hammering away at a tree. Next the little mouse looks at his reflection in a puddle and then he heads off home, a little seed in his mouth. He goes down a tunnel into his kitchen, down another tunnel to his bedroom, and then down yet another tunnel to his storeroom, where the shelves are mostly bare.
On a summer morning the little mouse “pops out of his hole” and heads out to check on his neighbors. He watches the beavers, who are busy working on their lodge in the pond, and then pops in to visit a toad who has set up house under an upside down flower pot. At the end of the day the mouse carries a sprig of watercress home and he puts it in his store room, which is starting to fill up.
When fall comes around, leaves lie on the ground and the mouse has a grand time tunneling through them. Everywhere he turns he sees and hears signs that winter is coming. Animals are on the move and there is a lot of work to be done. At the end of the day the mouse carries a big acorn back to his storeroom.
In this delightful and gently sweet picture book we go through the seasons with an industrious little mouse, whose days are full of visits, explorations, and food collecting work.
Throughout the book beautiful illustrations capture little mouse’s world to perfection. The pictures take us into his world, even down into his cunning little home, and we cannot help growing fond of our new little friend. We watch the seasons unfold in gorgeous color, and can appreciate how much joy is to be had from life’s little pleasures.
We humans invest a great deal in the food that we eat. We enjoy trying cuisines from around the world, spend hours cooking meals, and love going out to eat in restaurants and diners. Food is often at the center of our holidays and celebrations. In today's poetry title you will find poems that are deliciously "Biteable," and that celebrate food in many creative ways.
The Popcorn Astronauts and other Biteable Rhymes
Illustrated By Joan Rankin
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Simon and Schuster, 2015, 978-1-4424-6555-8
As spring shifts into summer, summer into fall and so on, we do, of course notice the changes in temperature and weather. We notice the changes in the flora and fauna around us, and enjoy the celebrations that come around as the year progresses. There is another thing that changes with the seasons, if we are lucky: our food. There are certain fruits, vegetables, and dishes that we look forward to all year because they taste best when they are enjoyed at a certain time of year.
In this rip-roaring poetical celebration of food, the author takes us through the seasons, and throughout the book we encounter wonderfully delicious foodie poems. For example, in spring we meet the strawberry queen in a poem of that name. We are told that we will “know her the minute she enters the room / by the first little whiff of her springtime perfume.”
Summer is when, if we are ants and we are lucky, we encounter a “Watermelon Lake!” We are invited to “jump right in” to enjoy this seasonal treat. The cool, sweet, pinkness is fantastic of course, but there are also “small black boats for summer fun” all over the watermelon lake to play on. Summer is also the time when, should you feel so inclined, you can make raisins. Fear not, for the recipe for making raisins can be found in this book. All you have to do is to hang grapes out to dry and leave them there until they look like “wrinkled rubber rocks” and have the taste of “well-worn pirate socks.”
Some of the poems talk about food items, such as brownies, apples, toast, and peaches. Others tell funny food-centric stories that will delight and amuse young readers. All the poems are accompanied by Joan Rankin’s amusing and expressive illustrations, which perfectly capture the delightful goofiness of Deborah Ruddell’s poetry creations.
Spring begins in just a few days time. Here in Ashland we have already had a grand display of spring blossoms that began when the almond trees starting blooming a few weeks ago. Now the cherries are displaying their pretty pink blooms, and soon the crab apples will be starting. Today's picture book takes readers into the beautiful world of blossoming trees in spring.
I have always loved poetry anthologies, and the one I have reviewed for this poetry Friday is a wonderful collection of poems that children will be drawn to.
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children
Selected by Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by Arnold Lobel
For ages 6 to 9
Random House, 1983, 978-0394850108
Some people call anthologies treasuries, which is an excellent name to use for books that are full of written treasures. This book is indeed a treasury, packed with no less than five hundred and seventy-two poetry treasures, each one of which is unique and special. The poems are categorized into fourteen sections, so that children can find poems that suit their mood. These categories include “The Four Seasons,” “The Ways of Living Things,” “Nonsense! Nonsense!” and “Where Goblins Dwell.”
Each section is introduced by a poem written by Jack Prelutsky, a poet who is also the person who selected the poems that are included in this collection. Jack Prelutsky has visited schools and libraries for years and he has noticed that though little children have a natural affinity for poetry and love their nursery rhymes, older children seem to “find poetry boring and irrelevant.”
Jack Prelutsky has worked hard to figure out which kinds of poems appeal to this more critical audience, and he has determined that poems that amuse or surprise, those that “paint pictures” and that “reawaken pleasure in the sounds and meanings of language,” are the ones that these children tend to like. Armed with this knowledge, Jack Prelutsky set about putting together this collection, which he feels best suits elementary school children. He focused on poems that are relevant today, which means that long narrative or “inspirational” poems that appealed to audiences in the past were not included.
The collection begins with poems about nature, and here we find poems of all kinds that capture the beauty found in nature. Some of them are gently humorous, while others have a more serious, contemplative feel. There are poems about plants and trees, the wind, rivers and the sea, snow and rain, and those that look at the night, the moon and the stars. The transition from subject to subject is smooth and has a flow all of its own.
In “The Four Seasons” we journey through the year looking at the months, holidays, and the weather as the year unfolds. We experience the joys of each season, and appreciate that each one has something special to offer.
Furry animals come next in “Dogs and cats and bears and bats.” Here we meet creatures great and small. Bears, mice, foxes, elephants, seals, and pigs all appear on these pages, and children will encounter story poems, descriptive poems and so much more. Insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds follow in “The ways of living things.”
The poets whose creations appear on these pages are both modern poets and poets whose work was written many years ago. For example, Lewis Carroll’s poetry rubs shoulders with verse written by Bobbi Katz. Many familiar names appear, names such as Roald Dahl, Edward Lear, Shel Silverstein, Jane Yolen and Russell Hoban, among others.
On every page, illustrations break up the columns of text to give the eye something new to look at, and the pictures beautiful complement the poems.
Most people are afraid of things that they are not familiar with, and they are willing to believe the frightening stories that they hear about those things. All too often the fears that we have can be confronted, if only we have the courage to do so. In today's picture book you will meet a little mouse girl who is afraid of a cat. but who still wants to see what it is like.
Jenny and Lorenzo
Illustrated by Eve Tharlet
Translated by Kathryn Bishop
For ages 5 to 7
Minedition, 2013, 978-988-8240-76-0
High up in the clouds, “close to nowhere in particular,” is the land of Howodo. In this land, behind a big duck pond and in a small house, lives a curious and very sweet little girl mouse called Jenny. Jenny constantly asks her parents’ questions, and she delights them with her funny ways.
Jenny’s mother tells Jenny all about Lorenzo, the cat who likes to eat “mouse on toast.” Not surprisingly, Jenny decides that she simply must go and see this cat for herself. Jenny is scared, but “since she always faced her fears and followed her curiosity,” Jenny sets off to find Lorenzo.
As she walks through the countryside Jenny encounters some ducks and three piglets. They all warn her about Lorenzo and tell her to go back home before it is too late, but Jenny will not give up and on she goes, until she comes face to face with Lorenzo himself.
The author of this delightful book builds up the suspense in a masterful way, making us worry on Jenny’s behalf, and making us think that perhaps Jenny should follow the pigs’ advice and go home. It turns out that Jenny has a secret weapon that, in the end, brings her adventure to a surprising close.
Throughout the book the text is written in both prose and in verse. It is accompanied by Eve Tharlet’s deliciously lovely illustrations, which capture the emotions of the characters perfectly and give the tale a whimsical feel.
One of the reasons why I love my work is because I love words and language. In today's picture book children will encounter a delicious collection of words and wonderful rhymes, which are presented in a clever alphabet book type format.
The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z
Illustrated by Roz Chast
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 8
Flying Dolphin Press, 2007 ISBN: 978-0385516624
Alphabet books are more varied today than they have ever been. Some are straightforward ABC books that use pictures and single words to help children to learn their alphabet. Others are packed with information about a variety of subjects. In this unique title the author and illustrator have chosen to entertain their audience while they show them that there is a wonderful world of words out there.
For every letter of the alphabet Steve Martin has created a funny nonsense rhyming couplet in which he introduces some characters who are doing things that are amusing, downright outrageous, or deliciously naughty. In each line of verse Martin uses plenty of words beginning with the letter of the alphabet that is features on that page. On the H page for example we meet Henrietta the hare who "wore a habit in heaven" and who had a "hairdo" which "hid hunchbacks: one hundred and seven."
Readers will laugh at loud when they read the descriptive couplets, and they will also discover that the accompanying illustrations are packed with things whose names begin with the letter being featured. Thus, on the L page we not only read that Lovely Lorraine is discovering that long Louie has Larry's locket, but in the artwork we see, among other things, a lamppost, a boy licking a lollipop, a loudhailer, and a lawyer.
As they turn the pages, children will have a wonderful time reading the rhymes out loud and searching the illustrations for hidden objects and words.
Every so often I come across a picture book that lifts my heart because of the quality of the book's story, and because of the message it conveys. Today's review title is just such a picture book.
Sarah S. Brannen
For ages 5 to 7
Albert Whitman, 2014, 978-0-8075-4905-6
Madame Martine lives in Paris, in an apartment not far from the Eiffel Tower. Every day she walks the same route, and she does her shopping in the same shops. Every week her schedule is the same and this is how she likes things to be. Madame Martine has never been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, because she thinks that doing so would be a waste of time.
Then one Saturday, when she is out, she finds a small miserable looking dog hiding under a bush. When she offers the dog her hand it licks her and Madame Martine begins to think that maybe the dog “might be nice.” Then Madame Martine does something that is quite out of character. She picks up the dog and takes it home where she bathes it, feeds it, and gives is a name. The next day Madame Martine buys Max a collar, a leash, dog food, and a bowl and she takes him shopping with her.
One Saturday Madame Martine and Max are out walking near the Eiffel Tower when Max sees a squirrel. He pulls the leash out of Madame Martine’s hands and takes off up the stairs of the Eiffel Tower. Desperate to retrieve her dog, Madame Martine buys a ticket and starts climbing the stairs.
Many of us fall into a routine because it is easy and comfortable. We don’t like to do new things that will disrupt our schedule, and yet when we restrict ourselves by doing this we lose something. We don’t have the kinds of adventures that make our lives richer.
In this wonderful picture book we see how Madame Martine’s new companion teaches her a valuable lesson about the importance of having adventures and trying new things. Throughout the book gorgeous illustrations are perfectly paired with a timeless story to give readers a tale that is powerful and heartwarming.
A lot of people don't like pigeons, but I have to admit that I rather admire them. They thrive, even in places where the odds are against them and where so many people dislike them. Today's poetry picture book is a wonderful bouncy celebration of pigeons and their world.
City Beats: A Hip-Hoppy Pigeon Poem
S. Kelly Rammell
Illustrator: Jeanette Canyon
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Dawn Publications, 2006, 978-1584690771
If you have ever lived or stayed in a city you will know that there are often pigeons flying about in-between the tall buildings. You might see them roosting on a window sill or eating crumbs on a sidewalk. They are a part of city life and we are going to spend a day with them; we are going to explore their city world and see what the city looks, sounds, and smells like as they experience it.
Down on the ground pigeons see a forest of legs and all kinds of different shoes walk by as they nibble on stale doughnuts. Up above, from the air, they see trains rush past, trucks rumble across bridges, and great machines raise buildings from the ground in a cacophony of sound and steel.
They smell all the treats that street vendors sell: popcorn, ice cream, pizza and hot dogs. They find the parks and the gardens where flowers bloom and bees hum. They even hear the strains of music floating up from the streets, music halls, and clubs.
In this unique book, children will be able to experience the rhythms, sounds, sights, and smells that fill the streets of cities all over the world. A rhyming text flows from page to page, the words packed with noises and images that almost seem to dance with vitality.
With her extraordinary three dimensional polymer pictures Jeanette Canyon has created art which perfectly compliments the text. Vibrant colors and extraordinary details make this a book which readers will look at again and again
Though Valentine's Day is passed, I could not resist reviewing this book and sharing it with you. I think what endears this book to me is the way in which the main characters use poems to communicate. Slugs that are wordsmiths! How perfectly perfect.
Slugs in Love
Illustrator: Kevin O'Malley
For ages 4 to 8
Marshall Cavendish, 2012, 978-0761453116
Marylou is a very shy slug who loves one thing more than anything else. Maylou loves Herbie, a slug whom she thinks is incredibly handsome and charming. Unfortunately Marylou cannot bring herself to tell Herbie how she feels. Instead she writes a poem describing her feelings on the side of a watering can. Herbie sees the poem and writes one back asking Marylou to come forward but Marylou does not see his message and poor Herbie is still in the dark as to who she is.
Back and forth the messages go between the lovelorn Marylou and the mystified Herbie. Maylou writes her loving verses and Herbie sees them. Herbie writes back but by sheer bad luck Marylou never sees his words. Is this a love that is doomed to die before it has had a chance to begin?
Children and their grownups will laugh out loud at this funny, often sweet, and very unlikely love story. There can be no doubt that Herbie and his Marylou deserve each other, and their wistful little poems say it all. Who says romance is dead?
Most of us are fascinated by stories of the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, giant squids and other mysterious creatures, though we may deny it vehemently. In today's poetry title you will meet these creatures and others, beasts that are bizarre and sometimes dangerous.
Bigfoot is missing!
J. Patrick Lewis and Kenn Nesbitt
Illustrated by Minalima
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Chronicle Books, 2015, 978-1-4521-1895-6
Cryptozoology is the study of animals that no one has definitively proven exist. People all over the world claim that they have seen these cryptids, but so far no one has provided us with evidence that proves, once and for all, that they are real. Of course, this does not stop many of us from having a great interest in cryptids, and in this book we get to meet eighteen of these creatures.
Some cryptids, like the Beast of Bodmin Moor for example, are not that bizarre looking and one is inclined to believe that they could exist. The Beast is a large black wildcat and we encounter it on these pages in a rather unusual way. A person is texting a neighbor to say that something in the neighbor’s garden is “disturbing the peace.” The friends text briefly about what the something might be, and then the neighbor hears that something is scratching at his or her door. We come to realize that this foolish person opened the door, and that this was not a good thing to have done.
Another not too outrageous creature is the Kraken, and we find out about it on the classified pages of a newspaper where there is an advertisement. Apparently someone who owns a ship is in need of sailors, “Call today!” because the last crew went missing. Anyone who applies must we willing to work hard with “No slackin’” and they also must be “prepared to work with Kraken.”
In the same classified section of the paper we see an ad for plastic Gambo life jackets. The Gambo is a toothy dolphin-like creature that is problematic to say the least. Mind you, it is not as bad as a Luscas, which is half octopus and half shark. According to another advertisement someone is eager to give baby Luscases away, “free to a good home.” We are told that they eat fish and ships, and that they “bite much worse than bark.”
Then there are the cryptids that are quite frightening, creatures like the chupacabra, the lizard man, and the dingonek. These are beasts that you would not want to meet under any circumstances.
In this delightfully original book, two Poet Laureates give us poems that are incredibly creative and unusual. The poems are paired with clever artwork so that they are incorporated into a text message conversation, a notice on a milk cartoon, classifieds, a sign, labels on plastic bottles, a book entry, a wanted poster and more.
At the back of the book readers will find further information about the cryptids that are mentioned in the poems.