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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Picture Books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 7,833
26. Won Ton and Chopstick

Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku. Lee Wardlaw. Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. 2015. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It's a fine life, Boy. Nap, play, bathe, nap, eat, repeat. Practice makes purrfect.

Premise/plot: Won Ton returns in a second picture book in Won Ton and Chopstick. Won Ton is most upset--at least at first--at the new 'surprise' at his house. The surprise is a PUPPY. The family may call the puppy, "Chopstick," but Won Ton calls him PEST. This picture book has plenty of adventures for the pair.

My thoughts: I really loved Won Ton. And this second book is fun. I thought the repeating refrain of the first book was fun, but I think it's even better the second time around.
Puthimoutputhimoutputhimoutputhim--wait! I said him, not me!
That never gets old!!!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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27. Bears and a Birthday

Bears and a Birthday. Shirley Parenteau. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The makings for a cake are there. The recipe's ready. Where are the bears?

Premise/plot: 4 small bears (Fuzzy, Floppy, Yellow, Calico) work together to create a surprise for Big Brown Bear on his birthday. Readers see the bear mixing, baking, frosting a cake as well as wrapping his birthday present. Big Brown Bear gets quite suspicious and wants to know what his friends are doing. But, of course, no peeking is allowed.

My thoughts: This one is cute and predictable. If your little one loves the other books in the series, this one is definitely worth picking up. It would also serve as a good introduction to the series. I don't think the books have to be read in any certain order!

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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28. Picture Book Monday with a review of Pond

Children often feel very overwhelmed when they see all the problems in their world. Stories about wars, environmental disasters, famines, political conflicts, and social upheavals fill newspapers, news broadcasts, and social media. There is so much wrong out there that they often think that there is nothing that they can do that will have an impact on so much chaos. The truth of the matter is that every little effort that makes the world safer, kinder, and cleaner is a step in the right direction.

Today's picture book shows how some children bring about change for the better in their own little world, and that change, though its impact is not global, is still vital and precious.


PondPond
Jim La Marche
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Simon and Schuster, 2016, 978-1-4814-4735-5
One cold winter day Matt is out walking when he comes to a place that he and his friends call “the Pit.” It is usually just an open space in the woods that is full of trash, but on this day he sees that a stream of water is bubbling its way out of the ground. Matt looks around and realizes that this neglected place was once a pond and he makes a decision. He is going to bring the pond back.
   Matt tells his sister Katie and his best friend Pablo about his discovery, and asks them if they are willing to help him clean the place up. Both agree and the very next weekend the three young people get to work. They pick up all the junk and trash and, with Pablo’s father’s help, take it all to the dump. Then they move rocks to create a dam.
   As the days go by and winter softens into spring, the pond starts to fill up. In the summer the children spend time by the water until they are driven off my biting insects and summer storms. Then Matt’s dad decides to help the children work on an old row boat so that it is seaworthy once again. Together they work at patching holes, sanding rough wood, and nailing down boards. The boat is named Dragonfly, and when the children take it out on the water it floats.
   As the months go by the pond offers Matt and his friends and family members all kinds of seasonal joys, and it also gives animals a place to call home.
   This wonderful book takes us through the seasons with a boy who, thanks to his imagination and hard work, is able to bring back a gift of nature that was lost. A neighborhood pond might seem like a small thing, but the special moments it gives Matt and his friends are precious. As they watch the pond grow and flourish, the children in the story grow to appreciate that sometimes the little things can become big things.
   Children who think that they are too small or too young to make a difference in the world will surely be empowered by this tale. They will see that they, like Matt, can bring about change for the better if they really want to.

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29. The Christmas Story

The Christmas Story. Robert Sabuda. 2016. Candlewick. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Long ago, in the town of Nazareth, there lived a young woman named Mary. She was soon to marry a carpenter named Joseph. God sent an angel to her with a message: "Hail, Mary! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid. Soon you will have a baby, named Jesus, who will be the Son of God." "Let it be as you have told me," Mary said. "I am the servant of the Lord."

Premise/plot: The Christmas Story is Robert Sabuda's newest pop-up book. The story may be familiar, even too familiar, to some. But it's a story that is timeless. The pop-ups are quite detailed and though done simply--only in white and gold--they are indeed 'exquisite.'

My thoughts: I liked it. I do think Robert Sabuda's pop up books are more for older readers--like adults--than younger readers. But I think if young readers are careful, they can get a lot from this story as well.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30. The Purple Pussycat

The Purple Pussycat. Margaret Hillert. 1950. 31 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: We can not play now. We have work to do. Can you help me? Now we can go. Come with me. I want you to come.

Premise/plot: A boy's toy--a purple pussycat--has adventures on his own once the boy falls asleep.
The copyright of my copy of the book says 1981. The book was a part of Follett's Just Beginning To Read series. The whole book has just a fifty-eight word vocabulary. And perhaps that simplicity keeps it from being a wow of a plot.

My thoughts: Was it worth the quarter I paid for it? Probably. The series promises COLORFULLY ILLUSTRATED books, and, I won't deny that these illustrations are colorful. I'm not sure you'd see anything like them published today. (The house the boy lives in desperately needs the Property Brothers, in my opinion.) Once the (toy) cat begins his adventures outside, I think the book becomes more interesting.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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31. Bedtime Book

Bedtime Book. Mabel Watts. Illustrated by Florence Sarah Winship. 1963. 28 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: At night, when you're sleepy, Mom turns down your bed. But suppose you were some sort of animal instead...

Premise/plot: This bedtime book is animal-focused or animal-themed. We've got an elephant, turtle, mouse, lamb, lion, puppy, kitten, horse, bear cub, fawn, stork, bird, fox, seal, and squirrel. The text is written all in rhyme.

My thoughts: Really loved this one. I think I loved the turtle most of all. If you were a turtle you'd get under your shell. Then you'd huddle and cuddle and sleep very well." Almost better than the text, the illustrations.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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32. The Very Best of Friends

The Very Best of Friends. Steffi Fletcher. 1963. 27 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Once upon a time a cow, a hen, a goat, and a pony lived on a farm. They lived there most happily. But then one day a new owner came to the farm.

Premise/plot: The animals on this farm runaway. Each animal finds a place to stay. They meet together every day. They meet a little boy who happens to be great at taking care of them. They decide the little boy would be a great new owner.

My thoughts: Well, I must admit I was disappointed with this one. I was judging it at first by the illustrations alone. I didn't bother to read the text before I bought it. The text was just silly and super unrealistic. (Was it as unrealistic as Bess not having legs for several pages in Ballerina Bess? I don't know.) For example, the cow milks herself and comes to town trying to sell her milk. The hen carries her own eggs to town to try to sell. And the goat somehow, someway makes cheese from her own milk and ties it on her back to take it to town and sell. Still, it isn't a complete loss for I do like the illustrations.

Text: 2 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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33. Darwin on The Undies Case Cover Awards Shortlist




























Fun stuff... The Undies Case Cover Awards were created to honor the art of the cover beneath a book's dust jacket. Charles Darwin's Around-the-World Adventure is on the shortlist in the category of "Best Sneak Peek at the Setting!"

Many thanks to Carter Higgens and Travis Jonker-– the two awesome librarians who dreamed up this idea!

The ballots are open until Monday, November 28th at 5:00pm EST, and you can vote for your favorites here.

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34. House My Grandpa Built

The House My Grandpa Built. Geraldine Everett Gohn. Illustrated by Bonnie and Bill Rutherford. 1971. Whitman. 30 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: This is the lot my grandparents found, with maple trees and high, dry ground. These are the plans that Grandpa drew, showing the rooms and outside view--a small sort of house, for their children have grown and left the big house for homes of their own.

Premise/plot: Grandpa and Grandma are moving into a house that he is having built. The book follows the construction of the house from beginning to end. And it's all done in rhyme--for better or worse!

My thoughts: I liked this one. I like that we get to see the plans of this house too. I'm an addict for HGTV, I admit. And even before that This Old House was one of my favorite, favorite shows. So this cute little book has a just right feel for me.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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35. Trumpet

Trumpet. Patricia Lynn. Illustrated by Bernice Myers. 1953. Whitman. 30 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: On Farmer Friendly's farm everyone worked. Farmer Friendly plowed and hoed and harvested the fields. Mrs. Friendly cleaned and baked and sewed. Babs and Buzzy sold fruit and vegetables at their roadside stand, while Harry the hired man did a little of everything.

Premise/plot: The friendly family gets a dog; they name him Trumpet. Everyone, but Harry, likes him. Well, that's only partly true. The animals don't like Trumpet's barking, and, the family doesn't like how the animals react when Trumpet is barking. But. When Trumpet learns that there is a right time and a wrong time to bark, all is well on the farm.

My thoughts: I liked this one. It was a cute story. I really enjoyed the illustrations. If you enjoy vintage illustrations, then you should definitely seek this one out.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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36. Jiggers

Jiggers. Joy Muchmore Lacey. Illustrated by Marge Opitz. 1963. 28 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Jiggers was a little black and white dog. He came to live with Judy the day she was six years old.

Premise/plot: Jiggers and Judy are very happy together for the most part. But one day while Jiggers is watching Judy begin her walk to school, he is a bit naughty. He does not go back into the house, or even the yard. When Judy returns home that day, Jiggers is not there and has not been there all day. The search is on. Where did Jiggers go? Can Judy and her family find him again?

My thoughts: I liked this one well enough. It is a lost dog story that is sweetly predictable. (They find him and all is well in the end. Not all lost pet stories have a happy ending in real life.)

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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37. Picture Book Monday with a review of We found a hat

Learning to be unselfish is one of life's hardest lessons. For most of us remembering to think of others before ourselves is a daily battle, one that we sometimes lose. We know what we are supposed to do. We know that we are supposed to share with others and sometimes give up things we want for their sake, but doing so is just so hard.
   In this wonderful picture book we see what happens when a pair of friends find something that they both want. How will they resolve a tricky situation? Will they put friendship first?

We Found a HatWe found a hat
Jon Klassen
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 7
Candlewick Press, 2016, 978-0-7636-5600-3
One day two turtles are walking in a desert together and they find a wonderful hat, a tall, elegant Stetson. They both try the hat on and compliment each other on how “good” the hat looks. The hat “looks good on both of us,” they say but the problem is that there is only one hat and it would not be fair if one of the turtles had the hat and the other did not. There is only one thing to do. They are going to have to leave the hat where it is and “forget that we found it.”
   The two turtles walk to a nearby rock and settle down to watch the sunset. One of the turtles says that he is thinking about the sunset, the other says that he is thinking about nothing but we know that he is thinking about the hat, and looking back to where it lies on the ground. The pull of the hat is strong and the turtle is having a hard time staying true to his friend.
   Life is full of difficult choices and often the most hard-to-make ones are those that require that we make a sacrifice. In this wonderful picture book we meet a turtle who really wants something and he is forced to consider if the hat is worth more than the relationship that he shares with his best friend. Thankfully there is someone around who sets an example for him that helps him understand what true friendship is worth.

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38. Two Stories About Kate and Kitty

Two Stories About Kate and Kitty. Lee Priestley. Illustrated by Alice Schlesinger. 1968. Whitman. 30 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Kate was a little girl, flitty and pretty. Kitty was a little cat, pouncy and bouncy. Kate and Kitty belonged to each other.

Premise/plot: Kate and Kitty are best, best friends. In the first story, Kitty keeps finding herself on the wrong side of the door. First, in the fall, then the winter, and at last in the spring. If only there was a way for Kitty to let everyone know she needs back IN. The second story "An Alarm Clock for Kitty." Both Kate and Kitty are sound sleepers. Kate's parents get her an alarm clock to wake up their precious little sleepy head. But what can be an alarm clock for a cat?

My thoughts: I did not have this one growing up. But if I had, I would have LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it and read it again and again and again. As an adult, I still really love it. I am so glad I found this one at my local charity shop.

Anyone who loves cats, who loves children's books, who loves vintage books really need to find a copy of this one!

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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39. If You Give A Mouse a Brownie

If You Give A Mouse A Brownie. Laura Joffe Numeroff. Illustrated by Felicia Bond. 2016. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: If you give a mouse a brownie, he's going to ask for some ice cream to go with it. When you give him the ice cream, he'll ask you for a spoon. He'll start drumming on the table. Drumming will get him so excited he'll want to start a band.

Premise/plot: The MOUSE is back for another adventure. If you've read any of the other "If You Give" books by Laura Numeroff, you know exactly what to expect. If you aren't familiar with Numeroff's books, where have you been?!

My thoughts: I think I may love this one more than any of the others. I loved, loved, loved every page of it. I think I know someone--no, I know that I know--someone EXACTLY like Mouse.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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40. They All Saw A Cat

They All Saw A Cat. Brendan Wenzel. 2016. Chronicle. 44 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws...and the child saw a CAT, and the dog saw a CAT, and the fox saw a CAT. Yes, they all saw the cat.

Premise/plot: Have you ever wondered how a mouse sees a cat? how a dog sees a cat? how a fish sees a cat? how a bird sees a cat? Brendan Wenzel's picture book plays with young readers' concept of perspective.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I did. Each spread is unique and interesting. Each reveals how a creature--a flea, a bee, a skunk, a bat, a child--sees a cat. Though it is the same cat, ever creature "sees" a different cat. I'll be honest, the illustrations steal the show. That plus the premise. I would definitely recommend this one.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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41. Guest Post: David Jacobson on Trusting the Illustrator & the Publishing Process

By David Jacobson
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

For the last eight years, I have worked for a small Seattle book publisher called Chin Music Press.

I've done everything from fact checking and copy editing to developmental- and line-editing, from setting up book tours to reading through the slush pile (a task I actually enjoyed).

But during all that time, my name never appeared on the cover of a book.

That changed this September with the release of my first title, Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko. A picture book, it's both biography and anthology of a much-loved Japanese children's poet, whose work has yet to be introduced to English-language readers.

Becoming an author, I learned, is a humbling experience. I had to endure the red-penciling of my not-so-flawless prose (something I used to dish out myself), and the frustration of waiting for each cog in the publishing machine to take its spin—editing, illustrating, book designing, leveling, printing, marketing, reviewing, even mailing—as deadlines came and went.

The experience opened my eyes to the anxiety authors feel as they lose more and more control over their creation, something that had not really dawned on me despite my years working in publishing.


As a staff member at a publisher, I had dealt with authors who continued to rework small details of their text until the bitter end, who agonized over each cover illustration, or who fretted over how their book page appeared on Amazon. Indeed, the degree to which authors continued "meddling" in their books sometimes affected how well we worked with them.

But being on the author side of the equation taught me just how important it is to give up control, regardless of the anxiety it might cause. That was particularly true of my interactions with Are You an Echo? illustrator Toshikado Hajiri.

David
When it came time to decide which cover to use, I requested multiple cover sketches, asking for one thing after another to be changed. But I couldn't get satisfied.

 Finally, since I was unsure of how to proceed, I asked our book designer Dan Shafer for advice. He recommended limiting how much I was trying to steer the illustrator. Illustrators, he said, do their best work when they have freedom to react to the text in their own way.

Ultimately, I left Toshi to his own devices and he ended up producing a glorious painting of Misuzu and her daughter at sunset.

We went with that.

During my time at Chin Music, there have been many occasions when interactions between writer and editor, or writer and designer have produced unexpected results.

Current author A. V. Crofts tells of her own positive experience of letting go how she thought the cover of her book should look. In another of our titles, Todd Shimoda's Oh! a Mystery of Mono no Aware, book designer Josh Powell brilliantly conceived of the idea of printing the entire book (both text and illustrations) in shades of black-and-white except for the very end.

Photo credit below.
Though initially intended to reduce the cost of the book, his solution resulted in a final explosion of color that dramatically enhanced the conclusion.

Writing is often thought to be a solo activity where one can wield total control over ones craft.

Oddly enough, its twin, publishing—the business of connecting writers to readers—is more of a team sport, requiring the combined input of different players with different skills and sensibilities.

So, as an author, don't try to control everything in your book. Find really good people to join your team. Then let your editor, illustrator, designer, or translator bring something of him or herself to the process.

The result may surprise you.

interior illustration from the book
Cynsational Notes

Photo of Misuzu, Courtesy of Preservation Association of Misuzu Kaneko's Work.

Review of the Day: Are You An Echo? by David Jacobson from Elizabeth Bird at A Fuse #8 Production. Peek: "I hope that the fame that came to Kaneko after the 2011 tsunami will take place in America, without the aid of a national disaster. And I hope that every child that reads, or is read, one of her poems feels that little sense of empathy she conveyed so effortlessly in her life."

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42. SCBWI 2016 Winter Reading List ~ Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters


 Dee and Deb's travels continue... Their latest stop... 

SCBWI 2016 Winter Reading List
<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]-->

The Reading List Program includes books of all genres from our PAL authors and illustrators, both front list and backlist titles.
This is an opportunity to find that book that a kid or teen will enjoy and can engage with the fun and adventure of reading.
Authors and illustrators from close to your hometown to those around the world are featured on the List. The Lists will be
published bi-annually, in the Summer and Winter.



Snoopy Dance!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author

Ignite curiosity in your child through reading!


Connect with


Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters ~ December 2015 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2016 Purple Dragonfly Honorable Mention Picture Books Five and Under and Story Monster Approved


A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014 and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Historical Fiction 1st Place, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review


Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Honorable Mention Picture Books 6+, New England Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review


The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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43. Kids' Caldecott Club, Part 1

Kids' Caldecott Club is up and running!

In our first session, we talked about the Caldecott award, and about how the Caldecott committee works. We talked about layers, theme, and tone in story, and what we will look for as we hunt for the most distinguished picture books of 2016.

 
Here's one - Alan's Big Scary Teeth by Jarvis.
I asked the kids to tell me what kind of tone or mood they predicted it might have.
"Funny."

 
The Tree in the Courtyard by Jeff Gottesfeld, ill. by Peter McCarty
shows a different tone - historical, poignant.

 
The Night Gardener by the Fan Brothers
feels mysterious and intricate

Henry and Leo by Pamela Zagarienski
has a soft and ethereal mood.

We're starting with about 28 books this year because we only have so much time.
It would be lovely to absolutely roll in a roomful of books, but considering that we are working with after-school hours, 28 books is perfect. 


Our wonderful librarian Martha helped as we evaluated two books with our ballots this week.

First, we examined the cover, jacket flaps, endpapers, copyright page.
We looked for interesting notes about the making of the book.

Next, we "read" the pictures all through, page by page, without words.
We searched for themes, color, mood, point of view, excellent details.

Then, I read the book aloud.

We asked ourselves what the book was about.
We asked what else it was about.
We looked for details to support our ideas,
nuances in text and art, in layout, in font.
We asked ourselves if the text and illustrations wove well together, or clashed.

We asked if the book would appeal to kids, if kids would be excited about that book.

We filled out our ballots and put them in their matching envelopes.

Exciting!

Here are the books we examined this week:

We All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
I'm utterly wowed by the mind-explosions They All Saw a Cat creates. 
I love the details our kids' committee noticed - 
like balance in layout, patterns in text that echo in the illustrations, 
exuberant differences in perspective throughout this book.
Genius!


The Music in George's Head : George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue
by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Stacy Innerst
Another wowzer!

Kids pointed out that the illustrations are done in browns and blues,
which seemed fitting considering that it's about Rhapsody in Blue.
They liked the playful hand lettering,
and the way the story begins, crescendos, and ends.
We listened to Rhapsody in Blue as we tidied up.
What a jazzy bright delight!

I love my library!



Stay tuned for updates as our Caldecott Club continues.
I'll post notes on our ballot and criteria next time.

If you're a local friend, you're welcome to join us!

We're meeting Thursdays 

at the Jefferson County Library in Port Hadlock

from 3:45-4:45 p.m.

See more info here.

Except on Thanksgiving.
That's reserved for the turkey eating club.












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44. Picture Book Monday with a review of Penguin Problems

Like it or not, we all are, on occasion, prone to being a little self-centered. When the world does not give us what we want we whine and wail about how terrible our life is and how the system is out to get us. In today's book you will meet a penguin who is convinced that every aspect of his life is a disaster, a nightmare. And then someone comes along who helps him gain a little perspective.

This is a deliciously funny book, and it is also one that gives is a gentle, thoughtful reminder that we should take the time to look around so that we see what we are perhaps missing.

Penguin ProblemsPenguin Problems
Jory John
Illustrated by Lane Smith
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Random House, 2016, 978-0-553-51337-0
One morning Penguin wakes up “way too early” and immediately he starts to complain. His beak is cold, the other penguins are making too much noise, and it snowed again the night before and he does not really like snow. Or the sun, which is too bright.
   Feeling hungry, Penguin heads to the ocean. He finds the water too salty and he does not think he floats enough. In short he sinks “like a dumb rock.” When he dives under water to look for fish he encounters a hungry orca, and a hungry seal, and a hungry shark.
   Though he is still hungry himself, Penguin gets out of the water because his flippers are tired from all the hard swimming he has had to do to avoid being eaten. It is hard work swimming when you are a penguin. It’s also hard work walking, or rather waddling, on land. If only Penguin could fly, but he can’t. If only Penguin could figure out which of the many penguins around him is his mother or father but he can’t because all the penguins look alike. If only….
   Then a walrus comes over to a now thoroughly upset Penguin and offers him a few sage words of advice.
   It is all too easy to get disgruntled about one’s life, to spend one’s days complaining about all the things that are not perfect, and to feel much put upon by one’s circumstances. However, behaving in this manner does not really make anything better. In fact, griping and grumbling more often than not just makes us feel worse.
   In this clever picture book we meet a very disgruntled penguin who is so busy being upset with his lot in life that he forgets to notice that there are many wonderful things around him, things that should be giving him joy. If only he would bother to notice them.

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45. Author Interview: Debbie Levy on I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Happy Election Day! Go vote!

We welcome author Debbie Levy to talk about her new picture book biography. 

From the promotional copy of I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley (Simon & Schuster, 2016):

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent her lifetime disagreeing . . . with creaky old ideas. With unfairness. With inequality. She has disagreed. She has disapproved. She has objected and resisted. 

She has dissented!

Disagreeable? No. Determined? Yes! 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has changed her life, and ours, by voicing her disagreements and standing up for what’s right. This picture book about the first female Jewish justice of the U.S. Supreme Court shows that disagreeing does not make you disagreeable and that important change can happen one disagreement at a time.

See also the Glorious RBG Blog (click to view 11 entries).

Welcome to Cynsations, Debbie! We're both graduates of The University of Michigan Law School. Did you practice law or go straight to writing for young readers like I did (or rather like I did after clerking)?

I did practice law for several years after law school. But writing books for children is the only job I’ve held for more than six years. Lawyer at a big Washington, D.C. law firm: six years. Newspaper editor: six years. Then I took a class at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, with the excellent Mary Quattlebaum. (Check out her books, and her reviewing work!)

Writing for children: This was a vocation with long-term potential.

Michigan Law School Reading Room
Hey, I have a newspaper background, too--so much in common! You write fiction and nonfiction across formats and age levels. Often I hear from new writers that they feel pressured to pick one focus. What has your range of pursuits done for you in terms of craft and career?

I think the writers you’re hearing from are telling a truth: There can be pressure to pick one focus or, to put it otherwise, to establish a “brand.”

I think I must have subconsciously scoffed at the notion that I could ever be a brand—ha, a Debbie Levy brand!—so, for better or worse, I’ve mostly followed my interests and allowed serendipity a role in choosing projects.

Also, one solution for writers who do want to be multi-focal is to have more than publisher. I realize that doesn’t solve a beginning writer’s problem, who may be looking for Publisher #1. But it is an option once you start getting published.

Congratulations on the release of I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley (Simon & Schuster, 2016)! What about Ruth Bader Ginsburg called to you as a writer?

Thank you! Like many people, I knew that the Glorious RBG was the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States and the first Jewish woman on the Court.

I knew that, before that, she was a federal appeals court judge in Washington, D.C., and, before that, one of leading lawyers in the field of equal rights for women and girls.

What I didn’t know, until I started researching more deeply about her, is that she has been disagreeing with unfairness and with things that are just plain wrong from the time she was a little girl.

I mean, she objected to being excluded from shop class in grade school, and being required to take cooking and sewing instead! When on a car trip with her parents, she disagreed with she saw a sign outside a hotel that read “No Dogs or Jews Allowed.” Later, of course, she went on to disagree, resist, object, and dissent her way into big things.

And she’s been doing this for years with a voice that is not loud (people lean in to hear her words), in a manner that is not obnoxious (more benefit of the doubt than bashing, more insight than invective), and in service of justice.

So, I realized, the story of her life offers this inspiring lesson: Disagreeing does not make you disagreeable, and important change happens one disagreement at a time. Is it any wonder, then, that I thought she was a great person to introduce to young people in a picture book?

Agreed! Many of my favorite people disagree strongly with injustice. What were the challenges (research, psychological, logistical) in bringing the story to life?

I feel lucky to live in the Washington, D.C. area, because although Justice Ginsburg didnot find time for an interview with me last summer when I was working on this book, she did grant me access to her papers on deposit in the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress (practically next door to the Supreme Court!).

I’ve gone through at least one Manuscript Division collection before, but none like this. So tidy! Meticulous! Her speeches typed on 4 x 6 cards: impeccable! Her handwritten notes on yellow legal sheets discussing and advocating for the Equal Rights Amendment that never got adopted!

Although I didn’t absolutely need to read piles of drafts of legal briefs and memoranda, I dived into this stuff with gusto; you do get a sense of a person from their papers.

Oh, wait. You asked for challenges. It is a challenge to write about someone, a living, active person, without having an interview. But there were many, many print and video interviews of RBG for me to consult. Many scholarly articles, by and about her.

And she did review the manuscript last October. She sent a nice little note, and wrote in some handwritten notes in the margins of my typescript. I took all her edits!

Since you’ve specifically mentioned “psychological challenges”—I lost my mother three years ago.

Debbie's mother kayaking on the Wye River
She was a vibrant, ever-curious, outgoing woman, someone always interested in another person’s story, someone who as a girl dreamed of being a journalist (she ended up in the wholesale costume jewelry business instead), and she would have been over the moon to know that I was writing a book about RBG, to know that I was elbow-deep in RBG materials at the Library of Congress, to know that RBG looked over my manuscript pre-publication.

I’m answering your questions, Cyn, the morning after the book launch for I Disssent, which we held at D.C.’s great Politics & Prose Bookstore. Many friends who had known my mother attended.

I said there, “I cannot help but think that had my mother still been alive, she would have figured out a way to get me into RBG’s chambers for an interview—and she along with me!”

The room was filled with knowing smiles and laughter. Someone even called out my mother’s signature phrase: “Let me ask you a question”—her way of getting people to open up to her.

That helped with the pain of not having Mom there. (And, really, she would have snagged me an interview.)

Talk to us about disagreeing. It sounds like a negative focus for a children's book. Is it? In either case, why do you think it's important in the conversation of youth literature?

Yes, let’s talk about disagreeing! The theme of disagreeing is really what sold my editor at Simon & Schuster on this book.

From the very beginning, we were really excited about creating a book that said to all kids, and to girls in particular, that disagreeing does not make a person disagreeable, and that you can accomplish big things for yourself and for the world through dissent and by finding another way when the world says “no” to you.

It’s a positive message, but it’s also a message that says you don’t have to be positive—that is, you don’t have to sound or look positive, you don’t have to just say yes and smile and go along with things that you believe are wrong—to be a good person.

At the same time, simply disagreeing without more isn’t really enough if you want to change your life or anyone else’s. On the back of the book, we’ve put this RBG quote: “Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

Seems simple, right? But it’s that second sentence that is so hard to pull off.

Many authors discover reoccurring themes in their work? Is this true of you? If so, could you tell us about it and how I Dissent fits in?

I seem to return to the theme of Outsiderness. My mother, protagonist of the nonfiction-in-verse The Year of Goodbyes (Hyperion, 2010), being an outsider as a girl in Nazi Germany in 1938. Danielle, protagonist of my young adult novel Imperfect Spiral (Bloomsbury, 2013), who finds an unexpected antidote to her feelings of being the outsider in an unlikely friendship with the six-year-old boy she babysits one summer.

The African American individuals and communities, outsiders in their own country, in my nonfiction picture book We Shall Overcome: The Story of A Song (Disney-Jump at the Sun, 2013).

Today we may look at RBG and see the ultimate insider—she’s a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, for heaven’s sake! But she overcame the outsiderness of being a Jew in a sometimes hostile Gentile world, of being a young woman in the (then) overwhelmingly male-dominated world of law school, of being a female lawyer in a (then) man’s profession, and of being an advocate for legal and social changes that went against the grain of society’s traditional norms. There’s my theme.

What do you love about your writing life?

Other writers. What good communities and friendships I’ve found!

What do you do when you're not writing or out-and-about in your author hat?

Walk in the woods or along the nearby Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Kayak in the Chesapeake Bay area. Fish in the Chesapeake Bay area. Read.

Think about whoever my next dog will be.

Apologize to my cat for thinking about my next dog.

You know, the usual.

What can your readers look forward to next?

In February 2017, Soldier Song, A True Story of the Civil War (Disney-Hyperon). An 80-page picture book for older children about a remarkable event that occurred after the Battle of Fredericksburg. Illustrated by the excellent, creative Gilbert Ford, with lots of room for excerpts from soldier’s letters and diaries. I’m excited about this!

Don't miss The Glorious RBG Blog!


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46. Alphonse, That is Not OK to Do! by Daisy Hirst


Earlier this year I enthusiastically reviewed the marvelous debut picture book from Daisy HirstThe Girl with the Parrot on Her Head. Hirst's book subtly, thoughtfully and genuinely addresses the emotions of loneliness, anger and fear in a small child while simultaneously creating a setting and story that captures the imagination, creativity and curious logic of children. And, as with all the best picture books, Hirst makes this all seem effortless. Whatever countless hours, months and years of work that went into creating her picture book become an seemingly effortlessly engaging, charming story that leaves readers and listeners with so much to talk about. Hirst accomplishes the same magic with her new book, Alphonse, That Is Not OK to Do!, a sibling story that is a joy to read. In fact, I read it over and over to kindergarten, first and second graders the week before writing this review and I discovered something new and wonderful about the book with each reading. And, as with her debut book, Hirst's new picture book gives readers and listeners so much to think and talk about.

Alphonse, That Is Not OK to Do! begins, "Once there was Natalie," and we see a happy red monster swinging as she holds her parents's hands. A page turn brings the arrival of Alphonse. While Natalie's facial expression is less than cheerful, she, "mostly did not mind there being Alphonse." We see the two playing together, making things together and naming pigeons together, but we also learn that sometimes Alphonse draws on things Natalie has made and occasionally eats her books, which she hates.


One day, when things aren't going well for Natalie, Alphonse sends her over the edge. She finds him under the bed, eating her favorite book. If you look closely you will notice that Alphonse is eating A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban which, Hirst's bio reveals, was her favorite audio book as a child. She tells him that is not OK to do, then draws an angry picture in which a tiny Alphonse is being assailed by "a tornado, two beasts and a swarm of peas." Alone in her bath, Natalie becomes worried when she thinks she hears her drawing come to life. In a very clever twist that took me a reading or two to notice, the sounds that Natalie hears (which are being made by Alphonse as he tries to get the tape to repair Natalie's book down from a high shelf with the vacuum then a chair) do actually echo the sounds that her drawing might make. Natalie is scared, and remorseful. A two page spread shows her at the right corner of the recto, wrapped in her towel and looking worried. A page turn reveals the scene below.


Hirst ends her book with an explanation and apology from Alphonse, which Natalie responds too with sweet concern and her own apology for being mean. Alphonse then shows Natalie that he finished her picture and her expression is one of trepidation. Happily, she thinks it is "Most Excellent Fantastic!" and the two go on to draw more together.

I realize that I basically told the whole story of Alphonse, That Is Not OK to Do! here, but I wanted you to get a feel for the excellent story telling on display as well as the superb, caring character that is Natalie. There are teachable moments in this book and moments where you will want to stop and talk with the listeners. Best of all, there are no adults in this book, allowing Natalie and Alphonse to work things out themselves, which is so much more powerful than having mom or dad come in and sort things out.

For a glimpse into the long process of writing this book, and the collaborations along the way that shaped it, read Hirst's contribution to Picture Book Party, a blog by Walker Books UK, partner with my favorite publisher of picture books, Candlewick Press.

The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head



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47. We Found A Hat

We Found A Hat. Jon Klassen. 2016. Candlewick. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: We found a hat. We found it together. But there is only one hat. And there are two of us.

Premise/plot: Jon Klassen is very, very, very, very, very popular. But he has a very, very, very, very, very odd sense of humor. This is the third 'hat' book. (Three picture books with 'hat' in the title. But different characters, different hats, as far as I can recall.) This picture book is about what happens when two very good friends want the same hat.

My thoughts: Well, I'll be honest. I read it three or four times through and the confusion hasn't left me. I could pretend that I "get" this book. I could join in with those saying that it's oh-so-wonderful and one of the best books ever. I could use the excuse that I don't want to spoil the book for anyone else by talking about it. Or the excuse that it was so good it left me speechless. But I won't. I don't think that you should have to read a picture book a dozen times to "get" the brilliance of the 'twist' ending. The other two books were odd but understandable. This one? Not so much.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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48. A Celebration of Beatrix Potter: Art & Letters by More than 30 of Today's Favorite Children's Book Illustrators by Frederick Warne & Co., 112pp, RL 4



Beatrix Potter and her books were a meaningful part of my childhood. As a child, I loved all things tiny - and what's not to love about a tidy little pile of green books with white trim? Especially when the illustrations inside carry you away to a magical world that exists behind hedges, under piles of oily-tasting mown grass and near the damp edges of a pond dotted with lily pads? As a parent reading her books to my children, it was harder to make sense of her strange world, although the illustrations and curious ways of the animals remained transportive enough to make me very excited to get my hands on A Celebration of Beatrix Potter: Art and Letters by More than 30 of Today's Favorite Children's Book Illustrators.

Beyond the obvious attributes that keep Potter's books on the shelves 100 plus years after her debut, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which was originally self-published, are the facts of the woman herself. Born in 1866 and growing up in the Victorian era, Potter was fiercely independent and "unwavering curiosity led her to become a cryptographer, an amateur scientist, an award-winning farmer, a political activist, a revolutionary conservationist and a forward thinking business woman." Pretty spectacular accomplishments for a woman of wealth in an era when women were expected to follow rigid social structures. This celebration of Potter and her 150th birthday is a delight for anyone who is a fan of contemporary children's book illustrators. 


From favorites of mine like David Wiesner, Chris Haughton, Jen Corace, Renata Liwska Brendan Wenzel, Dan Santat and Tony DiTerlizzi, to greats like Rosemary Wells, Peggy Rathmann, Wendell Minor, Brian Pinkney and Tomie de Paola, fans of Potter will absolutely delight at their renderings of favorite characters. Nine of Potter's books are featured here, with portions reprinted, along with a brief paragraph about the origins of each book and remembrances from contributors. I completely enjoyed flipping through the pages, seeing Potter's originals next to new interpretations and being transported one more time to that world behind the hedgerow. Such a treat!

Source: Review Copy

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49. Children's Author Interview and Book Giveaway at Free Book Friday


Having shied away from social media from quite some time, I'm now back with an interview and book giveaway at Free Book Friday.

Visit me at Free Book Friday and enter at a chance to win a free copy of Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters...

http://freebookfriday.com/2016/11/dee-and-deb-off-they-go-kindergarten-first-day-jitters-by-donna-mcdine/

The concept behind Free Book Friday...

It's simple. Every Friday, we give away free books!
Each week, we feature a new set of authors with a chance to win autographed copies of his/her book.
Just sign up using the entry form at the bottom of the post. Winners are chosen at random and posted every Friday morning. Hence the name, "Free Book Friday!"
Thank you for taking the time out to visit with me! Please feel free to share with your friends if you so wish!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author

Ignite curiosity in your child through reading!

Connect with

Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters ~ December 2015 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2016 Purple DragonFly Honorable Mention Picture Books 5 and under and Story Monster Approved

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014 and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Historical Fiction 1st Place, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Honorable Mention Picture Books 6+, New England Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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50. Picture Book Monday with a review of Du Iz Tak?

Many people are convinced that the best stories are ones that are packed with a huge cast of characters, a constantly changing backdrop, a busy back story, and a great deal of drama. To be sure such stories are gratifying and engaging, but smaller, quieter tales can be incredibly rich and rewarding as well. Today's picture book story is just such a tale. The characters are insects, the setting never changes, and the events that unfold are not packed with grandiose spectacles. Instead, we are given a gem of a story that takes us into a small world where powerful and meaningful things happen on a small scale.

Du Iz Tak?Du Iz Tak?
Carson Ellis
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Candlewick Press, 2016, 978-0-7636-6530-2
One day two elegant insects see that a green plant is growing out of the ground and they wonder what it is. A while later three young beetles turn up and the green thing has grown. They too would like to know what the plant is. The beetles climb to the first layer of leaves and they want to go higher to the second set but they cannot reach. They decide to go and ask Icky the caterpillar if they can borrow a ladder. The kindly fellow goes and gets his very long ladder and he props it up against the plant.
  With the ladder in place, the three beetles can now climb as high as they like, and when they get up into the higher branches of the plant– which is quite a way up now because the plant is still growing - they decide to build a tree house. Actually they build three tree houses at different levels, and life is wonderful. Then a huge spider builds a web around the houses and the plant, and the beetles can do nothing about the invader who has taken over their home.
   In this wonderful picture book, several backyard stories featuring insect characters unfold before our eyes. The insects speak their own language, which is not surprising when you think about it, but luckily we can figure out much of what they are saying and we have no trouble understanding what is going on. What is delightful about this story is that though the main characters are insects, and though the setting in the book is the same one throughout the tale, the story we witness is rich, charming, and satisfying.

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