Illustrator Sam Usher burst onto the scene two years ago with with a riot of colour and pattern in Can You See Sassoon?, which was shortlisted for the Red House Children’s Book Award 2013. When your first book gets flagged up as a potential prize winner, there is some expectation and anticipation when it comes to future publications.
More than two years after Can You See Sassoon? was published, Usher is back, and like all good things, it has been worth the wait.
Snow by Sam Usher celebrates that wonderfully exciting feeling in the pit of your stomach when you open your eyes in the morning, draw back the curtains and… your world has been transformed by a deep blanket of snow. The potential for play, the white world waiting to be explored, the possibility to really make your own mark….ahh! Just how quickly can you get out there to delight in at all?
A young boy zooms through getting ready, frustrated by the time it takes his Grandfather to join him. Will it be worth the wait for other kids are already out there leaving footprints everywhere?
A whole lot of snowballs and a little bit of childhood magic later, Grandpa and child agree “some things are definitely worth waiting for“. With Snow, I couldn’t agree more.
Usher’s illustrations are full of life and energy; there’s a comfortable looseness about them, and I cannot help but draw comparisons (in the best possible way) with Quentin Blake. Perhaps it is because the Grandfather in this story physically reminds me of Blake, with his bald pate and avuncular manner. But it’s also in the noses, the wonky fingers, the hand gestures and I love this stylistic echo. Indeed I get a real kick from these potentially vulnerable pen lines that speak to me of a real person, drawing a line that connects creator, story, reader and listener together.
With another contender for my favourite page turn of the year, showing how an almost plain white page can produce both gasps and a burst of warm delight, Snow is a wintry classic that will bring much delight and joy, however long you have to wait for it.
Alas weather in our part of the world has been unseasonally warm so I don’t hold out much hope of snow any time this year. Ever the optimist, I instead made some snow to play with in the warmth of our kitchen.
Snow dough is a moldable yet friable substance akin to commercially available ‘moon sand’, made out of corn flour (corn starch) and oil. We mixed about one part sunflower oil to four parts corn flour, and just for good measure added in a few drops of peppermint essential oil so that our snow dough smelt like Christmas candy.
I smoothed out the snow dough to recreate that blissful untouched vista of snow, and brought out a load of playmobil people and plastic animals (matching those in the book where possible). A small pot of glitter, for pinching and casting over the scene to add a little extra sparkle completed the invitation to play.
Lots of tracks in the snow were made, and because the snow dough is moldable, caches of snowballs and even an igloo were also prepared.
The snow dough has a wonderful crunch to it when you mold it – satisfyingly just like real snow!
Cake and hot chocolate completed our afternoon playing in the “snow”.
Whilst playing in the snow we listened to:
Dean Martin sing Let it Snow!
Snow Day by Zak Morgan – we really love this one!
Snow Day Dance by The Fuzzy Lemons
Creating your own snowstorm at home. Inspired by the ‘Snowstorm in China’ magic trick (click here to see in action – I’m assuming shiny trousers are optional), you – and the kids – could tear up large quantities of white tissue paper and then use fans to get the “snow” falling in your home.
Using a jam jar to male a snow globe. I particularly like this tutorial on Our Best Bites.
Researching how to make the best hot chocolate. Why not make a “science lab” with different types of milk, cocoa vs hot chocolate powder vs melted chocolate, optional extras like marshmallows or flaked chocolate and investigate different ways of making this wintry drink; kids will no doubt enjoy coming up with their own recipes. Here’s a comparison of different recipes to get you started.
Other activities which could work well alongside reading Snow include:
I know at least one of my readers has already got snow this November (Hello Donna!), but has anyone else had the chance to play in snow yet this year? Or are you heading into Summer?
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Snow from the publisher.
The forest has played a major role in children's literature from the earliest time.
The forest was mysterious, a place of unknowns and often darkness and fear.
From legends to fairy tales, the forest was a place of wonder and often a place of danger...from Winnie the Poo to Little Red Riding Hood
The forests are central to the Planet Of The Dogs and Castle In The Mist.
For readers, the forests, like the books whose stories embrace them, open the doors to the imagination.
This blog is dedicated to children's literature that opens the doors to the imagination. And to the amazing role of dogs in enhancing our lives. -
SLEEPING BEAUTIES VS. GONZO GIRLS By Maria Tatar
In this fascinating article that moves through children's literature and cultural myths ranging from Gretel and Red Riding Hood to Katniss Everdeen and Lady Gaga, Maria Tatar explores the evolution of the female archetype today. Here are excerpts.
"We’ve come a long way from what Simone de Beauvoir once found in Anglo-European entertainments: 'In song and story the young man is seen departing adventurously in search of a woman; he slays the dragons and giants; she is locked in a tower, a palace, a garden, a cave, she is chained to a rock, a captive, sound asleep: she waits.' Have we kissed Sleeping
Beauty goodbye at last, as feminists advised us to do not so long ago...
Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy and Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” series have given us
female tricksters, women who are quick-witted, fleet-footed, and resolutely brave... they are not just cleverly resourceful and determined to survive. They’re also committed to social causes and political change...
The female trickster has a long and distinguished lineage...Many of our female tricksters—often new inflections of the ones we know from legends and fairy tales—have complemented their
arsenals of verbal weapons with guns and steel.Little Red Riding Hood has been revisited again and again in recent years. The girl in red, often positioned as a seductive innocent who courts the predator as much as she fears him, is no longer a willing victim. When Buffy, from the popular nineties TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” dresses up as Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween...
These days, the trickiest of them all may be Lady Gaga... Lady Gaga draws us out of our
comfort zones, crosses boundaries, gets snared in her own devices. Shamelessly exploitative and exploratory, she reminds us that every culture requires a space for the disruptive energy of antisocial characters. She may have the creativity of a trickster, but she is also Sleeping Beauty and menacing monster, all rolled into one."
Maria Tatar chairs the program for folklore and mythology at Harvard University. She is the editor of the excellent Enchanted Hunters, the Power of Stories in Childhood.
The Illustration Of Red Riding Hood in bed with the wolf is by Dore...
In recent times, many versions of the fairy tales of old have been made for film and TV. Producers of these retold versions of Little Red Riding Hood have been inspired by the early versions of the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault with the ominous forest, the dangerous wolf, and the innocent young maiden. These retellings have often been heavily influenced by the quest for commercial success, and the reults have been decidely mixed. Often banal or cliched, they are examples of how commerce as well cultural change affects the retelling of fairy tales.
Here is a link to the trailer of the 2011 Movie film, Red Riding Hood
And here is an excerpt and a link to Roger Ebert's laugh out loud review.
"Of the classics of world literature crying out to be filmed as a sexual fantasy for teenage
girls, surely "Red Riding Hood" is far down on the list. Here's a movie that cross-pollinates the "Twilight" formula with a werewolf and adds a girl who always wears a red hooded cape...
What this inspiration fails to account for is that while a young woman might toy with the notion of a vampire boyfriend, she might not want to mate with a wolf. Although she might think it was, like, cool to live in the woods in Oregon, she might not want to live in the Black Forest hundreds of years ago because, like, can you text from there?
"Red Riding Hood" has the added inconvenience of being dreadfully serious about a plot so preposterous, it demands to be filmed by Monty Python..."
Like Mr Ebert, most critics gave the film a negative review. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the audience rating was 39%.
A sensual intepretation of Little Red Ridin Hood from 1997 is found in this short film by David Kaplan adopted from Conte De LA Mere Grande...music by Debussy...the wolf moves like a seductive spirit of the forest...soft black and white images and a clever Red Riding Hood...
Here is the Link: Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf
Roald Dahl wrote his own version of Little Red Riding Hood in the form of a
humorous,tongue in cheek poem. This is how it begins...
"As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
He went and knocked on Grandma's door.
When Grandma opened it, she saw
The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin,
And Wolfie said, "May I come in?"
Poor Grandmamma was terrified,
"He's going to eat me up!" she cried.
And she was absolutely right.
He ate her up in one big bite.
But Grandmamma was small and tough,
And Wolfie wailed, "That's not enough!
I haven't yet begun to feel
That I have had a decent meal!"
He ran around the kitchen yelping,
"I've got to have a second helping!"...
The image above is from a fun film made of Dahl's Red Riding Hood poem using stop-motion puppets. The imaginative creators, Hannah Legere and Andrew Wilson, certainly caught the spirit of the Dahl poem. Link here to this delightful film version of Roald Dahl's poem...
The dog lover in the photograph is Roald Dahl.
Artists and Illustrators...
14 different artist's versions of Red Riding Hood are posted on the Art of Children's Books blog site..here is an excerpt from their introduction...
"Folk tales and fairy tales are at the top of the list when it comes to vintage children's books. The Brothers Grimm* folk tale, Little Red Riding Hood, has been a beloved and enduring story. Originally titled Little Red Cap, the story has a strong lesson. Since it's publication, Little Red Riding Hood has been illustrated by many artists over the years. Here is just a sampling of the different artistic interpretations of Little Red Riding Hood."
Book cover by Andrea Wisnewski...*The original version was published by Charles Perault.
The Forest and Imagination...
The influence of the forest on the imagination will always be with us, especially in legend, folk tales and children's stories.
Innumerable film and TV versions, including many annimated cartoons, of Little Red Riding Hood will continue to be made. And wonderful writers like Roald Dahl in the past, and Philip Pullman in the present, will continue to find the forests of fairy tales a timeless setting for timeless stories.
The illustration is by Arthur Rackham...if you look closely, on the path beneath the huge tree, you will see red Riding Hood and the wolf.
Reading for Pleasure...opening the imagination, opening the mind...
Reading for pleasure puts children ahead in the classroom, according to a UK study of the reading behavior of appoximately 6000 young people. Here are excerpts from a report that reaffirms the value early reading and bedtime stories.
"Children who read for pleasure are likely to do significantly better at school than their peers, according to new research from the Institute of Education (IOE).
The IOE study, which is believed to be the first to examine the effect of reading for pleasure on cognitive development over time, found that children who read for pleasure made more progress in maths, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of10 and 16 than those who rarely read...
...Children who were read to regularly by their parents at age 5 performed better in all three tests at age 16 than those who were not helped in this way."
The research was conducted by Dr Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown; To read the article, visit Pleasure Reading
The Doors that Rose opens...
myself a facilitator…if my dog could drive, she would not need me. Rose seems
to enjoy seeing people multiple times and developing a relationship with the
people… She is
a working dog by nature and she just loves these jobs. I
am constantly amazed at the doors that Rose opens…she goes to places I could
never get without her…reaches beyond my reach, touches a person deeper than my
touch. The restless or agitated patient who is calmed by Rose’s
touch...the child in the classroom who won’t settle down and get to work but
when Rose sits by them, they quiet right down and the hyperactivity seems to
dissipate. The child getting excited about reading to Rose every week;
they wouldn’t do that for me, but they do it for Rose. Lying with a dying
patient who will smile, close their eyes and stroke her with a peacefulness
that is so precious…I know I could not enter that person’s space without
Rose…it really is all about occupying part of someone else’s space for just a
short time be it in a school, home or hospital...”
teacher, Susan Purser, and her Australian Cattle Dog, Rose, have been very
active as a therapy dog team for several years in Sarasota, Florida.
Paws Giving Independence
Paws Giving Independence is a recpient of a 2013 Planet Dog Foundation Grant.
Planet Dog has this year donated $71,500 in new grants to 16 non-profit dog organizations..."The PDF grants will help fund assistance dog, therapy dog and search and rescue programs across the country and support a wide variety of non-profit programs that are helping children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities; injured service members; natural disaster survivors and many more people in need..."
"Paws Giving Independence is an all-volunteer organization that saves dogs from area shelters, trains them to be service/companion dogs, and places the dogs, free of charge, with those in need.
Their Saving a Life to Change a Life project identifies suitable dogs in shelters and trains them to meet the specific needs of people with disabilities. They train dogs to open doors, pick up dropped objects, turn lights on and off, and other ways to assist in independence. In addition, they train dogs to alert for epileptic and diabetic seizures, and psychological assistance for military veterans with PTSD. PDF funds support veterinary care, special prosthetics and balance equipment and training."
Paws Giving Independence was founded in 2008 by 3 Bradley University students who recognized the marvelous healing capabilities of dogs.
for Dog Lovers and decent people...
Here's a Goodreads review that strikes home and makes sense for dog lovers and decent people...Passionate dog rescuer, animal rights advocate and author.C.A. Wulff wrote How to Change The World in 30 Seconds...
"At first i started reading this book as an animal rescuer myself. But as i started to go
through all of the information in the book i realized that this book is a GREAT informative guide for people who have just dipped their toes into the realm of rescue. It is laid out in a way that focuses on an audience that may, or may not have already heard of some of the ideas. This way a novice rescuer can understand it, but the veteran rescuer isnt just wading through either. I saw several options that were detailed out even for someone in rescue many years. So really what im saying is.. it doesnt matter if you are new or old to it, this can give you great ideas, starting points and explanations for why so many rescuers are able to save lives on click at a time."
Here is a link to the full review by Sylence of How to Change the World in 30 Seconds, in Goodreads...
Much has been written of the importance of childhood experiences with books...books that meant a lot to an individual as a child and where the memory of the book remains important in their adult life. Here, thanks to Monica Edinger's Educating Alice blog, are excerpts from a rather fascinating converstion by two of the most prominent, respected, and imaginative writers of children's and YA literature...
"Gaiman talked about reading the Mary Poppins books when he was six or seven and how they helped form whatever worldview he had as a kid. 'The idea that the world is incredibly unlikely and strange secret things are always happening, that adults don't really explain to you, or in fact, that adults may be oblivious to'...
''His (Gaiman's) wonder was infectious as he recalled discovering the library when he was very
young and having that incredible feeling of power; discovering the card catalogue in which you could actually look up subjects like witches or robots or ghosts; or you could just take down books and read the interesting ones. Both authors talked about discovering American comic books and marveled at the speed in the stories, the size of them, with Gaiman adding, "Everything was alien, everything was equally as strange and unlikely, so skyscrapers, and pizza and fire hydrants were just as alien to my world as people in capes flying around..."
Monica Edinger, a fourth grade teacher, and a passionate advocate of the wonders and benefits of children's literature, has a very lively and informative blog: Educating Alice . Her new book, Africa Is My Home, is receiving excellent reviews.
Here are excerpts from her blog ;
The Unjournal of Children's Literature
The “un” movement is an intriguing one. Until recently I had only heard about it in terms of unconferences, participant-driven events such as this one. But now there is another sort of un-thing, an unjournal. Created by children’s literature graduate students at San Diego State University, the inaugural issue of The Unjournal of Children’s Literature is up and ready for viewing, reading, and responding. Gorgeous to look at, clearly designed in terms of navigation, fascinating in terms of content, this is one elegant web publication.
And from an article on kids, books and reading: "Reading to me is many things and so I think we teachers need to provide many different experiences with reading and books. My fourth grade students read all sorts of material on their own, for themselves, for all sorts of reasons..."
What do Therapy Dogs Do All Day?
Here are videos from Peple Animals Love (PAL), based in Washington DC, that document the wonderful work that their volunteers and their dogs perform. Click this link: PAL
Fairy Tales as the Last Echoes of Pagan Myths...
Seth Lerner, in writing about the orgins and history of fairy tales and folklore, points out that Wilhelm Grimm, at the time the Grimm brothers books were being published in 1812 and 1815, wrote that fairy tales were the "'last echoes of pagan myths'. He
(Grimm) went on:"A world of magic is opened up before us, one which still exists among us in secret forests, in underground caves, and in the deepest sea, and it is still visible to children.(Fairy tales) belong to our national poetic heritage..."
Lerner sees even more significance in Fairy tales. He goes on to point out that "what we find inside these secret forests, caves, and seas is not just a poetic heritage, but a personal one as well. For fairy tales are full of families, full of parents who bequeth a sense of self to children, full of ancestors and heirs whose lives play out, in little, the life of a nation from childhood to maturity..."
Seth Lerer is Dean of Arts and Humanities and Distinguished Professor of Literature at the University of California at San Diego. The quotes and ideas above are from his informative and insightful book, Children's Literature, A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter
NYPL's Children's Literary Salon is pleased to announce our event on Saturday, October 12th at 2:00 p.m.
The ABC of It: Curator Leonard S. Marcus in Conversation
Join Bank Street’s Center for Children’s Literature, Interim Director Jenny Brown as she interviews historian and critic Leonard S. Marcus about his current NYPL exhibit and the importance of children’s literature as a whole.
This event will be held in the South Court Auditorium in the main branch of New York Public Library.
Harry Potter's Textbook...
"J.K. Rowling will write her first movie script for Warner Bros., writing Fantastic Beasts and Where to
Find Them–a film based on Harry Potter’s textbook from his school for wizards.
The film is part of a planned series featuring the author of the magical book, Newt Scamander. Rowling published a book by the same name in 2001. She had this comment on her Facebook page:
"Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world..." Here is the link: JKRowling
Dogs in the Forest...
The forest plays a very important role in the Planet Of The Dogs Series. Here is an excerpt from Castle In The Mist...
continued to lead the soldiers deeper into the woods. Soon, it began to snow, slowly at first, and
then, the wind increased and the snow was everywhere. It became very difficult to see very far. The leader of the soldiers told his men that
they were to follow him. They were
returning to the castle.
walking through the snow when one of the men, who was an experienced forest
guide, said to the leader, “With respect sir, but I don’t think we are going in
the right direction.” The leader was about to answer him when howling
started. It seemed to come from all
directions. Then the leader spoke, “You
will follow me, I am certain that this is the way.” They continued on through the swirling snow,
unable to see, and surrounded by howling dogs..."
Here is an excert from a review:"Do you
think it is possible for dogs to stop war? Author Robert J. McCarty has created
a charming fantasy-allegory that can be read and understood on at least two
different levels…a story about dogs who come from another planet to help people
on earth. But under the surface are the
important messages of friendship, love, loyalty, and how to overcome evil with
good…Castle In The Mist will keep you turning the pages to find out what
Wayne Walker reviewing Castle in the Mist
for Stories for Children Magazine, the Home School Book Review and the Home
School Buzz wrote:
CANADIAN SERVICE DOG FOUNDATION
The Canadian Service Dog Foundation trains and provides service dogs for a wide variety of human needs and services. They provide a wide range of vital services,,,ten major humanitarian objectives are listed on their website. Here are the first two:
- "To improve quality of life for Canadians through the use of service dogs, assistance dogs, therapy dogs and emotional support animals. Provide opportunities, resources, and support through the use of trained service dogs for Canadians living with psychiatric disabilities so as to allow for greater functional independence, sufficient to make healthy choices and lead active lifestyles."
- To support past or present military personnel, emergency service workers, and related professionals dealing with operational stress injuries through the use of specially trained service dogs.
- Here is a link to learn more about their wide reaching canine services for people: CSDF Services
Read sample chapters of all the books in the Planet Of The Dogs series by
Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore or via Barnes Noble, Amazon, Powell's...
Librarians, teachers, bookstores...Order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.
Therapy reading dog owners, librarians and teachers with therapy reading dog programs -- you can write us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you free reader copies from the Planet of the Dogs Series...Read Dog Books to Dogs....Ask any therapy reading dog: "Do you like it when the kids read dog books to you?"
And Now -- for the First Time -- E Books of the Planet Of The Dogs Series are coming on KDP Select...
Planet Of The Dogs will be available October 1...Castle In The Mist will be available on October 15 and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, on November 15...in time for the Holiday Gift Season...
Any one of these books would make for a
delightful—and one would assume cherished—gift for any child. All three would be an amazing reading
Arden, educator, dog expert, and author of Small Dogs Big Hearts wrote:
"We are excited to announce that Barking Planet Productions is publishing a new book by C.A.Wulff.
"Finding Fido" will be available for purchase at amazon.com on September 30. "Finding Fido" is a handbook every pet owner will want to have in their library.
Between 3 and 4 million pets are put to death in shelters across the U.S. every year. Some of
them are owner surrenders, some are impounds, but the vast majority of them are missing or stolen pets.
C.A. Wulff and A.A.Weddle, the administrators of the service Lost & Found Ohio Pets, have compiled a guide to address this sad reality. ‘Finding Fido’ offers tips for preventing the loss of a pet; advice for what to do with a stray pet you’ve found; and a step-by-step plan in case the unthinkable happens, and you lose a pet.
This is an instructive and important tool every family with a dog or cat should have on hand… just in case.
A Dog Health Update: here are excerpts from an article on Giardiasis – Parasitic Diarrhea in Dogs, Cats and Humans...The microscopic parasites known as Giardiasis are the most common intestinal parasites to be found in humans, dogs and cats. A protozoan parasite infection, it is the cause of a very serious diarrheal illness in the intestinal areas, known to be highly contagious but not lethal. However, it is a parasite that can be transferred across species — from person-to-person or animal-to-person... The most popular locations for this parasite are on surfaces or within soil and food.However, drinking water and recreational water that has been contaminated with feces (poop) from infected humans or animals are the most common methods of transmission. This includes untreated or improperly treated water from lakes, streams, or wells...
Here's the link to read this comprehensive, informative article: Way Cool Dogs
New England Conferences-Book Shows in October for
Independent Bookstores and Libraries
As members of the Independent Publishers of New England (IPNE), we will be exhibiting Circling the Waggins and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale at the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA),October 6-8, in Providence, RI and the New England Library Association(NELA), on October 20-27, in Portland, Maine.
Green Eggs and E-Books? Thank You, Sam-I-Am By Julie Bosman
Here are excerpts from Julie Bosman's article...
"Dr. Seuss books, those whimsical, mischievous, irresistibly rhymey stories that have been passed down in print to generations of readers, are finally catching up with digital publishing...
The Dr. Seuss canon will be released in e-book format for the first time, beginning later this month, his publisher said on Wednesday, an announcement that could nudge more parents and educators to download picture books for children...picture books have lagged far behind(adult fiction) . Several publishers said e-books represent only 2 to 5 percent of their total picture book sales, a number that has scarcely moved in the last several years.
But the release of the Dr. Seuss books, still hugely popular after decades in print, could move that number higher. The e-books will be available on color tablets, including the iPad, Kindle Fire and Nook HD. The first titles to be released, on Sept. 24, include “The Cat in the Hat,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket!” and “The Lorax” (featuring an environmentally conscious character who might be happy about the announcement)."
''The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
Click here for information and videos of COROMANDEL , byTrevor Bachman's... Here is an excerpt from their site...A" vibrant musical odyssey for children and adults, Coromandel is a journey through the mind of poet Edward Lear"...playing in New York City in early October..." a fusion of rock, jazz, bluegrass, tango, musical theatre, and classical sounds makes for a diverse, delicious, and sonically satisfying evening. Told with a whimsical simplicity that appeals to children of all ages..."
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.''
"We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace."
—Albert Schweitzer, "The Philosophy of Civilization" -
I found this quote on