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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Melissa Sweet, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 41
1. Three Authors Receive Top Honors from NCTE

for Cynsations

ATLANTA-- Authors Jason Reynolds, Melissa Sweet, and Marilyn Nelson were just announced winners of prestigious literacy awards from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Jason Reynolds won the 2017 Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children for his book Ghost (Atheneum). The Charlotte Huck award is given to books that promote and recognize fiction that has the potential to transform children's lives.

Melissa Sweet won the 2017 Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children for her book Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

The NCTE Orbis Pictus Award, established in 1989, is the oldest children's book award for nonfiction.

Marilyn Nelson won the 2017 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. The biannual award is given to a living American poet for his or her aggregate work for children ages 3–13.

Honor and Recommended book lists were also announced. All three authors will be invited to speak at next year's NCTE Annual Convention in St. Louis, MO.

NCTE is the nation's most comprehensive literacy organization, supporting teachers across the preK–college spectrum.

Through the expertise of its members, NCTE has served at the forefront of every major improvement in the teaching and learning of English and the language arts since 1911.

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2. Some Writer - Book Trailer

Some people are lucky.  I received an ARC of this book several months ago.    I will never part with it.  Melissa Sweet has put together a masterpiece about a masterful writer, E. B. White.

0 Comments on Some Writer - Book Trailer as of 10/4/2016 11:10:00 PM
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3. Illustration Inspiration: Patrice Barton, Illustrator of Little Bitty Friends

Patrice Barton’s artistic talents were discovered at age three when she was found creating a mural on the wall of her dining room with a pastry brush and a can of Crisco.

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4. The Perfect Book for a Budding Writer

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

By Jen Bryant; illustrated by Melissa Sweet





Here’s a line from J.M. Barrie in his Peter Pan tongue in cheek description of the bane of children everywhere; the pirate, Captain Hook:



     “The man is not wholly evil – He has a Thesaurus in his cabin.”



Okay, so he’s a literate pirate with a taste for words. I’ll give him that much.

For any budding small authors you may know, they may gain much encouragement from the telling of Peter Roget’s life who began his first book at age eight, calling it: Peter. Mark. Roget. His Book.

Here is a picture book that may intrigue many young readers – and parents as well, for the authors have won a well deserved Caldecott Honor Book Award and The Robert Sibert Medal given for its freshness and ability to make the complex available to young minds. Called “a wonder, a marvel, a surprise” of a book, it was awarded the Sibert Medal in 2015 as “the most distinguished informational book published in English in the preceding year.”

Making Roget’s life available to the youngest readers is no mean task, for he started by fashioning lists of Latin words with their meanings written next to the word.

Melissa Sweet has illustrated his initial lists with a charming, and childlike simplicity in mixed media, that brings the word, its meaning and accompanying picture, alive to the reader.

To illustrate the look of his lists, even some of Ms. Bryant’s text is written in rows as in:



























as if









Just who was Peter Mark Roget, born in 1779, that compiled plethoras of lists from a very early age?

Well, moving often at a very early age made it difficult for young Peter to form friendships. But he did find fast ones – in books!  And those books had plenty of words!

And science books by the Swedish scientist, Linnaeus, were a particular  favorite of the teenage Peter. Linnaeus made lists as Peter did. Peter wandered through London parks compiling lists of all plants and insects.

His mother had just a smidgen, of “worry” over all these lists and wanderings of Peter’s.  But was “worry” the right word? Why not fret, badger, annoy, plague, provoke or even harass? The choices were endless.

Finding the right word was wonderful!

But what if there were a book, Peter imagined, “one book where one could find the best word that really fit.”

Medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland, followed, working later among the factory poor in London, and always, the lists were his passion.

In 1805, came his first big book of word lists called “Collections of English Synonyms Classified and Arranged.”

He was soon lecturing and inventing everything from portable chess sets to a new math tool.

In 1852, he published his “Thesaurus” from a Greek word meaning “treasure house” and quickly sold 1000 copies.

And today, thanks to this young list maker, EVERYONE has the ability to find just the right word and its meaning.

And it has remained in continuous print to this day!

Ms. Bryant’s text, along with Ms. Sweet’s vibrant, mixed media art, together bring Roget’s story of collective lists and their immense subject trove, alive to a young reader’s picture book sensibility.

A Listing of Principal Events at the end of the book, gives a timeline of his other achievements, as well as what was happening concurrently in similar fields of study.

How’s this for fascinating? In 1824, after casually observing the spokes on the wheel of a passing carriage that appear to bend when seen through vertical window blinds, Roget wrote a scientific paper on optical illusion. And THAT is considered to be one of the founding underpinnings of modern cinematography.

Who knew, realized, perceived, sensed, recognized, or noticed any of this? Not I.

I will now; every time I reach for my Thesaurus!
















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5. A Calming and Reassuring Read-Aloud

Day is Done

Peter Yarrow; illustrated by Melissa Sweet


When I picked this up, the picture book title immediately brought up a soundtrack of life in the 60’s, with these familiar opening words:



Tell me why youre crying, my son.


    I know youre frightened like everyone



If you’re of a certain age, the thrum of that song, has a sweetly calming feel, brought on by the mellow tenor of Peter Yarrow, plus the added harmonies of Paul Stookey and Mary Travers; widely known as the folk group, “Peter Paul and Mary”.

The song has been illustrated to picture book perfection by Caldecott Honor Book illustrator, Melissa Sweet.

The song’s words are paced and slow as animal parents, including bears, hares, deer, birds, raccoons, mice, foxes, and a host of other woodland denizens, reassure their young ones with these words:



  And if you take my hand, my son,


         All will be well when the day is done.


The cover flap terms it a “meditation on the environment and the kinship of all living creatures….”

Its soothing tempo and softly subdued illustrations, plus an accompanying CD containing within, a new rerecording of the original. Peter Yarrow’s daughter, Bethany, joining her father on harmonies, adds to the generational feel that reflects the intimacy of the song and its words.

And the song does, in its lyrics, ask some pretty existential questions that parents may be asked over time from young ones, such as:



             In a world filled with sorrow and woe,


  If you ask me why, why is this so?


 I really dont know.



Yet, the song and picture book never let it end on a down note, because the continued refrain says it all.



 But, if you take my hand my son


All will be well when the day is done.



That But“ at the beginning of the refrain is a pretty big statement. It serves as a reminder to young readers of the essential healing quality of “connectedness” on so many levels.

And this is a perfect bedtime book to bring the energy and stress levels way down for reader and listener both.

Why not introduce a new generation of picture book readers to Peter Yarrow’s timeless song and message in “Day is Done,” for a world sorely in need of some calming and reassuring words?

You may just find yourself singing to a small child, as they listen and learn the words and its message, too!



            Tell me why youre smiling, my son


            Is there a secret you can tell everyone?


             Do you know more than those that are wise?


             Can you see what we all disguise


            through your loving eyes?



Let’s hope our children do, with picture books like these, to help their journey.


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6. Fusenews: Anagnorisis, Masks of the Oculate Being, and More . . .

  • DearMrPotterMorning, folks. I’ve been looking to expand my knowledge beyond just children’s literature, so I figured a good podcast would be the best way to go.  After reading Bustle’s 11 literary podcasts to get your bookish fix throughout the day I settled on Books on the Nightstand as the closest thing out there to a Pop Culture Happy Hour of books alone.  Yet even at that moment I couldn’t escape the world of kidlit.  The aforementioned Bustle piece also recommended a podcast called Dear Mr. Potter, described as “an extremely close read of J. K. Rowling’s series, starting with book number one. Host Alistair invites comments and thoughts from readers as he dissects each chapter, (there are live YouTube and Twitter chats before the audio is archived for the podcast) and is able to do some bang-up accents of beloved characters like Professor McGonagall and Hagrid.”  Well, shoot.  That sounds good too.
  • Speaking of podcasts, you heard about The Yarn, right?  That would be the podcast started by Travis Jonker and Colby Sharp that follows a single book through its creators and helpers.  Having finished Season One, our intrepid heroes had a Kickstarter, met their goal, and are now soliciting ideas for Season Two.  Might want to toss in your two cents or so.  Such an opportunity may not arise again.
  • So I say “Proust Questionnaire: Kidlit Edition“, and you say, “Come again?” And I repeat, “Proust Questionnaire: Kidlit Edition”, and you say, “I’m sorry, but you’re just putting a bunch of random words and names together higglety-pigglety.” At which point I direct you to Marc Tyler Nobleman and his interview series. The questions are not too dissimilar from the 7-Impossible Things interview questions, which in turn were cribbed from Inside the Actor’s Studio, (though I forget where they got them before that). For my part, I read the ones up so far and I am now entranced by Jonathan Auxier’s use of the word, “anagnorisis”. Proust would approve.
  • The Bloggess likes us, we the librarians.  We could have guessed that but it’s nice to have your suspicions confirmed from time to time.
  • Kidlit TV: It’s not just videos!  Case in point, a recent interview with my beloved co-author Jules Danielson in which she says very kind things about myself and my fellow Niblings.  She is a bit too kind when she says that, “Betsy never whines or feels sorry for herself.”  This is the advantage, dear children, of co-writing a book with someone in another state.  They will not see you whine or kvetch in person, thereby leading them to believe that you are better than you are.  Learn from my example.
  • As ever, Pop Goes the Page takes the concept of activities in a children’s library (or, in some cases, a museum) to an entirely new level.  Good for getting the creative juices flowing.
  • And now it’s time for another edition of Cool Stuff on the Internet You Didn’t Know and Weren’t Likely to Find By Browsing.  Today, the Kerlan Collection!  You may have heard of it.  It’s that enormously cool children’s book collection hosted by the University of Minnesota.  Cool, right?  You may even have known that the doyenne of the collection is Lisa Von Drasek, who cut her teeth at the Bank Street College of Education’s children’s library for years n’ years.  Now she’s given us a pretty dang cool online exhibit series tie-in and if you happen to know a teacher in need of, oh say, primary sources and picture book nonfiction titles, direct them to the Balloons Over Broadway site.  Explore the links on the left-hand side of the page.  You won’t regret the decision.
  • Here in Evanston, October will bring The First Annual Storytelling Festival.  A too little lauded art that can be sublime or painful beyond belief, the festival will be quite a bit of the former, and very little of the latter.  If you’re in the area, come by!
  • We all know from Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle that it’s the daddy seahorses that shoulders the bulk of the parenting responsibilities in the wild.  Now travel with me over to Portland, Oregon where the husband of a buddy of mine just started Seahorses, “Portland’s first dad and baby store.”  I helped them come up with some of the good daddy/kid picture books they’re selling there.  If you’re an author in the area with a daddy/child title to your name, consider contacting them.  They’re good people.
  • Lucky, Baltimorians.  You get to host Kidlitcon this year.  I would go but my October is pure insanity, travel-wise.  You go and write it up for me, so I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.  I don’t mind.  Really.
  •  Daily Image:

And finally, this is precisely what you think it is.


Yep. Goodnight Goodnight, Construction Site PJs.  Awesome?  You betcha.


3 Comments on Fusenews: Anagnorisis, Masks of the Oculate Being, and More . . ., last added: 9/2/2015
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Our lovely and fantastic Melissa Sweet, author and illustrator of many award-winning picture books, is here accepting the Golden Kite for her illustrations of Peter Mark Roget's life and world in The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus.

The research for this book began not far from here in Santa Barbara, where Melissa got to see one of Roget's original word books in a private collection. Melissa has illustrated word-centric biographies before, but unlike being able to pull from the imagery evoked in the words of William Carlos Williams, Melissa had to figure out how to visualize Roget's lists of words. 

For the better part of two weeks, Melissa handlettered Roget's original word list in sepia and had a jolly old time doing it. 
Melissa got to handle original Roget pages
like these—without gloves!

Melissa thanks her publisher Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, her author Jen Bryant, and the SCBWI/Golden Kite committee.

"My hope with this book is that readers will be delighted and informed, but most importantly, always find the right word when they need it."

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8. What's on my wish list right now…

I wonder what she's wishing for. I don't know yet, but I know what I'm wishing for…books! What else? I'm currently wanting a whole bunch of Melissa Sweet books, this new book by agent, Lilla Rogers, I Just Like to Make Things, Grammar would have been more fun with this version of The Elements of Style, and finally this book, by Kelly Murphy.

By Kelly Murphy

Here's what was in the lovely package I received yesterday. My other favorite thing…art supplies!

I had a few colors of FW Inks. I was so happy to see how well they blend with my acrylic paints! They're just wonderful! I haven't used this paper yet, but it was recommended by Tracy Bishop, so I'm anxious to try it. I also got some Fabriano Artistico hot press paper.

Nothing's better than books and shiny new art supplies!

The above book links are affiliate links. How else can I support my book & art supply habit?

2 Comments on What's on my wish list right now…, last added: 1/25/2013
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9. Brave Girl

Another beautifully illustrated book by Melissa Sweet, 'Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909', written by Michelle Markel...
...read an interview with Melissa at SevenImpossibleThingsBeforeBreakfast...

0 Comments on Brave Girl as of 2/15/2013 12:21:00 AM
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10. Curriculum Guides for Books


Why create a Curriculum Guide for your books?  

“A discussion guide and/or activity guide is a valuable way for teachers, librarians and parents to give a book more depth and breadth,” says illustrator Melissa Sweet who collaborated with me on SPIKE, THE MIXED-UP MONSTER. Today, there’s more interest than ever in these guides. Why? Two words: Common Core. Educators everywhere are looking for ways to incorporate this new mandate.

And once you have a guide, it’s a win-win-win situation!

  • For kids, the games, crafts and activities are fun. They encourage kids to play with ideas they’ve learned from the book and to dive deeper into the subject matter.
  • For teachers, the guide helps them incorporate your book into lesson plans, especially if the guide aligns with the Common Core.
  • For you, the guide increases your book’s exposure and lets you elaborate on ideas you’ve introduced. It makes a dandy handout for school and library visits and can drive traffic to your website.


What are the different kinds of guides?

Activity Guides

These offer interactive activities, such as cut-out masks, holiday cards, finger puppets, bookmarks and so on. They may include directions for games, activities, songs, recipes, and crafts.

Discussion Guides

These guides have more text, fewer cut-outs.  They might provide interviews with the author and illustrator, discussion prompts, projects and extension activities. They list questions to ask kids and suggest additional books, websites and resources.  See Michelle Markel and Melissa Sweet’s Discussion Guide for BRAVE GIRL.

All of the Above 

Our SPIKE, THE MIXED-UP MONSTER Curriculum Guide has something for everyone—pages of interactive cut-out, crayon and drawing activities for kids, plus book-related questions that align with the Common Core for educators.

How do you create a Curriculum Guide?

Talk to your publisher. More and more houses are interested in developing them.  Some will work with the author and illustrator. Others will hire an outside reading specialist to write discussion questions, illustrated with pick-up art from the book.

For our book SPIKE, THE MIXED-UP MONSTER, Melissa Sweet and I agreed to work on the guide together.  I came up with the games and wrote the copy. (As the former Children’s Content Director of Nick Jr. Magazine, they were right up my alley!) Melissa did sketches for some pages and we used pick-up art from the book for other pages. We submitted the “manuscript” and later sketches to our editor and then worked with the Simon & Schuster marketing department to have the guide designed and copy-edited.  Simon & Schuster also hired a literacy specialist, Tracie Vaughn Zimmer to add a discussion guide with questions that align to the Common Core. Tracie says, “I’ve been writing guides for 10 years. My focus is to really try to find what’s unique about the book and bring that forward for teachers to use in their classroom. The new push is the alignment with The Common Core Standards, which I’ve been trained in extensively over the last two years.”


Who pays the costs?

Sometimes the publisher, sometimes you! For my book JUST SAY BOO,

I worked with my illustrator Jed Henry to create Halloween cards, masks, paper dolls, a charades card game, and more.  Jed agreed to create some original art and we used some pick-up art as well.  We both donated our time and then I hired a former Nick Jr. designer, Jennifer Starr, to put it together. This is key. Without a good designer, your guide won’t look professional or be as appealing.

How long does it take?

It depends on the scope of the guide. Our SPIKE guide is 15-pages long and includes original art so the production process took several months.  Guides that are mostly text or use pickup art will take less time. 

How does it get distributed?

You, your illustrator and your publisher post the guide as a free downloadable PDF on your websites, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accounts. I also take copies along to school and library visits, conferences and other venues. To keep costs down, I might copy one or two pages, do those activities with the kids, and then provide the school the link for more. Or you can email your school contacts ahead of time and have the school download the guide before your visit.


To download the SPIKE, THE MIXED-UP MONSTER Curriculum Guide, visit: www.susanhoodbooks.com

For wonderful ideas for teaching SPIKE developed by the professors of Lesley University, see http://march23rdhandout.blogspot.com/p/panel-i.html

Have more questions? To get more information about creating guides, contact [email protected].

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Interview, Marketing a book, Process, Tips Tagged: Curriculum Guide, Melissa Sweet, Paula Wiseman Books, Simon & Schuster, Spike the Mixed up Monster, Susan Hood

12 Comments on Curriculum Guides for Books, last added: 4/17/2013
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11. “Little Red Writing” Prize Pack | Giveaway

Enter to win a Little Red Writing prize pack. Giveaway begins September 15, 2013, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends October 13, 2013, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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12. Goodnight Moon Author’s Lullabies Published For the First Time

goodnightsongsMargaret Wise Brown, the author of the iconic children’s book Goodnight Moon, has a new collection of lullabies available from Sterling Children’s Books called Goodnight Songs.

Brown reportedly wrote these songs in 1952, just before she passed away and the works were recently discovered in a trunk in her sister’s farmhouse in Vermont.

The book features 12 songs, each illustrated by a different artist. Carin Berger the illustrator of The Little Yellow LeafEric Puybaret, the artist that drew Puff, the Magic Dragon; Coretta Scott King Honor Award winner Sean Qualls; and Caldecott Honor medalist Melissa Sweet, each drew a song. The book comes with a CD with a recording of the songs set to music by Emily Gary and Tom Proutt. (Via NPR Books).

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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13. Book Review: Goodnight Songs

As soon as I heard about Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown I knew it needed to be in my home. A collection of 12 lullabies illustrated by some of the finest illustrators in the field, it also includes a beautiful CD of all the songs. The cover is by Isabel Roxas (and it's our favorite song of the CD!) I'm sharing a few of my favorite spreads below (so hard to pick!):

0 Comments on Book Review: Goodnight Songs as of 3/14/2014 6:11:00 PM
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14. Review of the Day – Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko

FireflyJuly 257x300 Review of the Day   Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. JaneczkoFirefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems
Selected by Paul B. Janeczko
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Candlewick Press
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4842-8
Ages 4-8
On shelves now

Is reviewing works of poetry essentially a ridiculous thing to attempt? I’m not trying to be facetious or anything, I honestly want to know. It took me a long time to appreciate poetry on any level, but when I did I was able to come to it understanding that its closest relative in the arts world is music. Music that a person enjoys is a deeply personal experience. Only you can replicate the feelings and emotions that certain combinations of notes inspire. By the same token, poetry should be purely a one-on-one experience. And part of the job of books of collected poems for kids is to get each child reader to find that one poem that speaks to them. Maybe if they find one, just one, that hits home then that person will seek out other poems. Maybe it’ll expand their little minds, lead them to modes of thought they might not have reached otherwise. If the ultimate goal of children’s poetry is simply to inspire in kids a love of words and wordplay, then critiquing books that seek to do that is a uniquely difficult proposition. I mean, how can you judge something that’s so subjective? The best that you can do is simply determine if the poems in a collection are good, put together in a logical way, and worthwhile reading. And in the case of Firefly July the answer to all three of those queries is yes and yes and you betcha.

Four seasons yield 36 poems. Selected by children’s poet Paul B. Janeczko, Firefly July slowly introduces each time of year with gentle, short verses that lure you in. Each poem highlights a different element of the season, whether it’s a cat stalking through the daisies in the summer or winter wind “tearing itself to shreds / On bared-wire fences.” A pleasing mix of canon poets (Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, etc.) and canon children’s poets (Charlotte Zolotow, J. Patrick Lewis, James Stevenson, etc.) the book touches lightly on those elements that make a season memorable. With illustrator Melissa Sweet’s interpretations of each poem in tow, this collection proves to be the kind of book of poetry no library or poetry-minded household can seriously be without.

FireflyJuly2 258x300 Review of the Day   Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. JaneczkoLike I said before, so much of critiquing poetry is subjective. So on an entirely personal level, I can at least tell you that I didn’t really begin to warm up to these poems (no pun intended) until we hit the Summer section. Nothing against the Spring, mind you. It’s there that you’ll find a lot of the old standards like the William Carlos Williams poem “The Red Wheelbarrow”. But Summer proved a lovely surprise. Langston Hughes waxing eloquent on “Subway Rush Hour” followed by Joyce Sidman’s lovely “A Happy Meeting” (which conjures up memories of the e.e. cummings poem “in Just”) and then the titular “Firefly July” by J. Patrick Lewis (which really does deserve to have its name appropriated for the title of this book) combine to give one a true, rounded sense of the season. Teachers and parents would do well to read this book to kids and then ask them what their favorite season is. Mine now appears to be summer. Who knew?

The real advantage to this book is in the subtitle. “A Year of Very Short Poems”. Though I struggle in vain to find the right way to sell my poetry collection in months other than April, I can’t help but think that maybe size does matter. Books containing long and lengthy poems (like the delightful A Pond Full of Ink by Annie M.G. Schmidt) will be ideal for the already indoctrinated, but if you’re trying to lure in the poetry shy, short is the way to go. Short and sweet. And brother, it hardly gets any sweeter than this.

Melissa Sweet’s art was an interesting choice as illustrator. It makes sense when you think about it. After all, her Caldecott Honor was bestowed upon the picture book biography of poet William Carlos Williams A River of Words. In this book she is the sole artist interpreting these various works. There are no head scratching moments. No times when you feel as though she’s taking advantage of her position as the illustrator. She switches vantage points and views consistently as well, keeping the viewer awake and interested. Of all the pages, my favorite Sweet was the two-page spread accompanying Carl Sandburg’s poem “Window”. There, panel after panel after panel show scenes from a railway car looking at the countryside. Later, Ted Kooser’s “Snow Fence” contains the striking image of crows perched on a simple red fence set against the pure white drifts. One might argue that Sweet takes few risks with this book but if I’m going to trade in beauty for risk, I figure that’s a pretty fair deal.

FireflyJuly3 257x300 Review of the Day   Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. JaneczkoAs I am a librarian and not a teacher I don’t usually think up classroom applications for books when I read them. Firefly July proves to be the exception to the rule. Reading this book I could imagine all sort of interesting uses. For example, teachers might want to actually revive an old school standard and have the kids in their classroom memorize one of these poems for recitation type purposes. We’ve seen some books collect poems for this very specific purpose (see: Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart, selected by Mary Ann Hoberman) but in this particular case I think the quality of the selections recommend it highly. There is, after all, no better way to learn a poem heart, body, and soul than to incessantly read it over and over and over again.

With its pedigree in place it’s little wonder that Firefly July entranced me as much as it did. I don’t consider myself a poetry connoisseur so it takes something special to break through to me as much as this book did. I still maintain that reading poems of any sort is a personal business and that what suits the goose will never do for the gander. That said, for a work of introductory poems specially selected so as to calm and comfort the reluctant poetry reader, Firefly July ain’t a bad way to go. Lulling and lovely, there’s something for everyone inside. All you have to do is just give it a chance.

On shelves now.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Blog Reviews:

Professional Reviews:

Misc: Jules Danielson considers the book at her Kirkus blog.

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15. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems

Before we start chatting about specific 2014 picture books, take a moment to read the Caldecott criteria. They’re posted over there on the right, but I will help you find the important parts. Here they are, in part:

In identifying a “distinguished American picture book for children,” defined as illustration, committee members need to consider:
  1. Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed;
  2. Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept;
  3. Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept;
  4. Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures;
  5. Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.

Tattoo those categories onto the inside of your eyelids so you will understand why, when we talk about books, we stick to the same points over and over. We have to. The committee discusses all books in light of the published criteria, and the chair keeps everyone close to these five main ideas. 

janeczko firefly july2 Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems It’s tricky to start our discussion this year with a collection of poems, because it brings up the age-old question of whether this is a picture book or an illustrated book. I refer you to the definitions. Let’s just agree (for the moment, at least) that this fits the definition of a picture book as it is essentially a visual experience. Feel free to say otherwise in the comments. That’s just not where I want to go at the moment.

This handsome volume presents 8 to 10 poems per season and, just as the subtitle says (“A Year of Very Short Poems”), each poem is very short. This gives the volume a clear arc and allows the illustrations to gently explore how color and line might change over the course of a year, as the seasons unfold. The paper cover and the case cover are the same, and the endpapers are a lovely muted blue. Though I am generally a fan of flashy endpapers, it makes sense that these are calm, given the energy that illustrator Melissa Sweet brings to each spread.

Spring is the first season, and the first page is a celebration of spring things, including a robin, which I love. There are also daffodils and other early-spring bulbs blooming. The small poems march on, but it is the illustrations that hold them together. As we move to summer, the Langston Hughes poem “Subway Rush Hour” is made summery by the bouquet of daisies that accompanies it. Summer moves on and the colors change as the leaves fall. The transition is seamless; indeed, the divisions between the seasons are subtle and easy to miss, much like the artificial dates on the calendar that mark the change. By wintertime, the hues have completely changed–darkened by the lack of sun, yet whitened by the presence of snow.

Sweet’s art, a joyous combination of watercolor, gouache, and mixed-media collage, tells each poem’s story while allowing the young reader to consider each poem for herself. Her use of color and line build each illustration, sometimes joining two poems (such as” Fog” and “Uses for Fog”) together on a double-page spread, other times allowing the gutter to divide the scenes. The art is completely appropriate to the collection; indeed, it’s her illustrations that make these poems accessible to the child audience (and here the audience could be as young as 3 and as old as an appreciative adult). The mood is set by the illustrations, and Sweet does not bore the reader with trite homages to each season–she requires the reader to look deeper at each spread and think about the connection to the words.

I just looked up the part of the definitions about the term “distinguished,” and here that is:

  1. “Distinguished” is defined as:
    1. Marked by eminence and distinction; noted for significant achievement.
    2. Marked by excellence in quality.
    3. Marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence.
    4. Individually distinct.

Most of the books we will talk about this fall and winter are distinguished, and this one certainly is. Each spread is filled with emotion and care, with design meshing seamlessly with color and line. There are many places to look, but it never looks busy or overdone, as each page turn creates its own little world.

Though the real committee can (and will) compare this book to Sweet’s other 2014 title (The Right Word), I have found it difficult to do that in a single blog post. So, feel free to compare if you wish, but know that Martha will be talking about that one soon. For me, I cannot choose between these two very special books. Perhaps Sweet will “pull a Klassen” and receive two phone calls from Chicago in January.


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The post Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems appeared first on The Horn Book.

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16. 15 Best Poetry Books of 2014...Pick 1!

Howdy Campers!

Yippee!--it's Poetry Friday!  (the link's at the end of this post ~)

Confession regarding the title of this post: I lied. Although there were many wonderful poetry books this year, I'm going to talk about just one.

You may already have read it...or read about it on Laura Purdie Salas' TeachingAuthors post in May.

You may already know that it's gotten starred reviews in Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist and School Library Journal.

You may have heard that it's one of Publisher's Weekly's Best Picture Books of 2014, it's a School Library Journal Best Nonfiction Book of the Year, it's in the American Booksellers Association Best Books for Children Catalog, and it's on lists predicting the 2015 Caldecott for illustrator Melissa Sweet.

Of course I'm talking about
selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

In this beautiful collection, master anthologist Paul B. Janeczko has organized 36 very short gems around the four seasons, illuminated by Melissa Sweet's both sophisticated and whimsical illustrations.  Wow.

My father was a farmer and an artist. When he sketched my mother playing piano, his goal was to use as few lines as possible to tell that moment of my mother, the light from the window, that sonata.  

In the same way, these poems show moments...and so much more in a few short lines.

Here's one of my favorites from this sterling anthology:


When I was ten, one summer night,
The baby stars that leapt
Among the trees like dimes of light,
I cupped, and capped, and kept.

Another of my favorites is the always amazing Joyce Sidman’s “A Happy Meeting,” which describes what happens when rain meets dirt (first, “soft, cinnamon kisses,” then, “marriage: mud”). 

And...surprise! I am honored that one of my poems is included in this collection:


Sandpipers run with
their needle beaks digging--they're
hemming the ocean.
April Halprin Wayland

and look who just popped in to wave hello...
poet and anthologist Paul B. Janeczko and illustrator Melissa Sweet!

for hosting Poetry Friday today!

posted with affection by April Halprin Wayland in honor of
my mother, who loved both words and music ~

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17. My Writing and Reading Life: Jess Keating, Author of How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel

As an author and zoologist, Jess Keating has tickled a shark, lost a staring contest against an octopus, and been a victim to the dreaded paper cut. She lives in Ontario, Canada, where she spends most of her time writing books for adventurous and funny kids.

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18. Caldecott Award: Randolph Caldecott Medal Winner | 2015

Randolph Caldecott Medal Winner The most distinguished American picture book for children, announced by the American Library Association.

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19. Our Five Favorite Books This February

This month on Five First Book Favorites you’ll find books that help kids understand civil rights and fair wages, explore different cultures… or even explore the moon!

For PreK – 1st (Ages 2-6)

yakyuTake Me Out To The Yakyu By Aaron Meshon

The narrator of this delightful book is a boy who loves baseball – in two different countries! He goes to games in the U.S. with his American grandfather (pop pop) and games in Japan with his Japanese grandfather (ji ji). Bold, colorful illustrations show, side-by-side, the trip to each stadium. It’s a wonderful invitation for kids to compare and contrast two different experiences and also reflect on the countries and cultures of their own families.

For Grades 1-3 (Ages 5-8)

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ brave_girlStrike of 1909 written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Clara Lemlich immigrated to New York with nothing aside from her family, clothes, and a few words of English. When her parents were unable to find work, she took a job as a garment factory worker – earning a few dollars a month for countless hours bent over a sewing machine. With a blend of vivid watercolors and stitched fabrics, this book tells the story of how Clara led her coworkers on strike to protest their horrendous working conditions. Bosses of the factories paid for Clara to be beaten and arrested repeatedly, but nothing could stop this gritty, five-foot tall woman from securing a better life for millions.

For Grades 2-5 (Ages 6-10)

moonshotMoonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca

The moment Apollo 11’s Eagle touched down on the Moon, it became a defining moment for a nation that had lived up to a President’s lofty goal. With stunning illustrations,  this poetic story allows you to join Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin as they prepare for liftoff, follows them at every stage of the mission, and doesn’t let go until they are safely back home. Brian Floca has created a work of art worthy of inspiring young readers to dream beyond what is easy, and strive for what is hard.

For Grades 5+ (Ages 10 and up)


The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

Loading 500-pound bombs into a Navy warship is, to say the least, a dangerous job. On July 17th, 1944, the fears of the untrained men who held this job became reality when an explosion claimed the lives of 320 men, the majority of whom were black. During this time, the Navy, like every other part of the United States Military, was segregated,frequently leaving black men to be treated as second class citizens serving menial roles. This masterfully crafted nonfiction book follows the fifty men who refused to go back to this life-threatening and degrading work, and the court case that followed.


For Grades 6+ (Age 11 and up)

okay_for_nowOkay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

There are few characters you will ever root for more than Doug Swieteck. On the surface, he is a good for nothing, skinny thug with a reading disability. Just ask his teachers and they’ll tell you. However in the depths of Doug Swieteck, where this book takes place, you find a boy who is trapped – one brother a bully, one a vacant shell of his pre-war self, and an abusive alcoholic for a father who has left a horrific mark on his youngest son. The secrets Doug is holding back from the reader are gut-wrenching, but with the help of a few strangers-turned-friends and a newfound passion for art, this fourteen-year-old will inspire every person lucky enough to pick up his story.

The post Our Five Favorite Books This February appeared first on First Book Blog.

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20. Best New Kids Stories | March 2014

Wow! This is a great month for picture books—amazing picture book authors and sensational illustrators star in this month's new release kids books. Plus, The Penderwicks in Spring is here!

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21. Best Non-Fiction Picture Books of 2014

The best non-fiction picture books of 2014, as picked by the editors and contributors of The Children’s Book Review.

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22. SCBWI Unveils the Winners of the 2012 Golden Kite Awards

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) revealed the winners of the 2012 Golden Kite Awards and the winner of the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor. Each winner will receive $2,500 at the Golden Kite Luncheon on August 5th.

In the fiction category, Ruta Sepetys won for her historical fiction debut, Between Shades of Gray. In the nonfiction category, Candace Fleming won for her biographical profile Amelia Lost: The Life & Disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

In the picture book text category, Kate Messner won for Over and Under the Snow. In the picture book illustration category, Melissa Sweet won for Balloons Over Broadway. Chris Rylander won the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor for his middle grade novel, The Fourth Stall.


New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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23. Melissa Sweet: Live Five Questions

Roger interviewed Melissa Sweet on Sunday, June 24, 2012, at the ALA Convention in Anaheim. Melissa Sweet’s book Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade is the 2012 Sibert Award winner, and she created the cover illustration for the July/August issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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24. A Splash of Red review

It always amazes me when a picture book can come along and open up a new wealth of knowledge for adults. I had never heard of Horace Pippin before opening the pages of this beautifully written book by Jen Bryant, but I'm definitely going to be seeking more information on his life and his gorgeous artwork. 

Imagine, a young black man wanting to be an artist in the early 20th century and eventually being successful! He had so many barriers set up against him -- war, cultural norms, race, etc., yet this man knew his hands held talent. An inspiration for any artist for sure. 

Melissa Sweet, most recently of Balloons Over Broadway fame, has illustrated the pages of Pippin's story in the most delightful of ways and left me staring at the pages seeking out the little details. Her style is unique, perfect for a very unique man and his life of perseverance and creativity. 

Highly recommended! You'll definitely want a copy of this in your classrooms and libraries or to hand to your favorite artist.

Thanks to Knopf for sending a copy over for us to browse!

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25. Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909

I'm happy to announce the publication of Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Balzer & Bray).

What a thrill. The book, which tells how activist Clara Lemlich led one of the most historic strikes in U.S. history, has received stars from Kirkus, Booklist and School Library Journal.  

It was selected by the Junior Library Guild,  acclaimed at Richie's List,  chosen as an Inspired Recommendation for Kids from Indie Booksellers, and as one of Amazon's Best Picture Books of the Month.

My sincere thanks to Melissa Sweet and Balzer & Bray.

On this day I'm also thinking of my father, who was once president of his machinist union, and an avid supporter of my writing. I know he'd be proud.

Finally, I can't resist this wonderful quote from President Obama's inaugural speech:

"We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship." 


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