Oct 31, 2011

Bonny Becker visits A Picture Book A Day

    A Visitor for Bear (Bear and Mouse)

     I'm really excited to have our first author visit to A Picture Book A Day. Bonny Becker is the author of A Visitor for Bear, winner of the E.B. White Read Aloud Award and Amazon's Picture Book of the Year.  She has written three more Mouse and Bear books, including A Birthday for Bear, A Bedtime for Bear, and her latest release, The Sniffles for Bear, which we just featured in our blog last month.

    Hi Bonny!
I'm thrilled to have the chance to interview you, but a disclaimer here...it's my first interview ever...so here it goes:

1)    Where did the idea for the Bear and Mouse characters come from?

BB: It started with Mouse. Oddly enough, I was actually thinking about how some people seem to have the same problem show up again and again in their lives. You know, the names and faces might change, but somehow they always end up with the bad boss or the bad boyfriend. Being a writer, I guess, the metaphor of a mouse who won’t go away popped into my head.
      That seemed like such a fun idea that I immediately set out to find the right character for Mouse to torment. After running through some ideas—a lion, an elephant, a human—a bear came to mind. And I was off and running!

2)    Do you identify with any of you characters?

BB: Oh, yes. One of my books is “An Ant’s Day Off.” I was a busy mom of two and working out of the home at the times. And I definitely wanted to be an ant taking the day off! Another book “Holbrook: A Lizard’s Tale” is definitely about my feelings about being an artist (writer).
     I have a lot of Bear in me, but I have to admit I’m getting more and more Mouse-like as I get older. My kids tease me I’ll end up being one of those old ladies who wear Christmas sweaters.

     3)    Do you feel pressure to continue to come up with new ideas for Bear and Mouse stories? Are there more sequels on the works? 

BB:There are two more Bear and Mouse books in the works for a total of six. And I do feel pressure to come up with new ideas. There are a lot of ways I can think of to torment poor Bear, but I wanted something a little bit fresh or different to happen with each book. I’m kind of moving Bear along in terms of becoming a social animal! So, I want to work with just the right ideas not necessarily the obvious ideas.

4)    I find it really hard to decide but, which Bear and Mouse book is your favorite? Why?

BB: I find it hard, too. But I think it would be “A Visitor for Bear.” Probably because I love the way Mouse keeps popping up. It lends itself to a nice slap-stick build and I like how Mouse turns Bear around by just appreciating Bear.

      5)    What books influenced you as a picture book writer?

BB: Oh, boy, that’s a hard one. I read hundreds of picture books not only as a mom, but once I decided to try to write one, I would check out dozens of picture books at a time from the library. I particularly liked the “classics” from the 40s, 50s and 60s like “Goodnight Moon”  by Margaret Wise Brown, “Make Way for Ducklings” and “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McCloskey, the Little Bear books by Elsa Minarik, and authors like Dr. Suess, William Steig, and Arnold Lobel. There are many great writers and books in picture books.
      One book I have to mention is “A Hole is to Dig” by Ruth Krauss. For no particular reason than that I liked it, I decided to type out the text of this book just to try to get a sense of how it worked. It was incredibly useful for me to do that. I feel like it helped me start to get the way rhythm and compression worked in picture books.

6)    What are 3 books every adult should read to their kids?

BB: Aaack! This one is even harder.  “Charlotte’s Web,” of course. The Narnia series. Of course, kids get exposure to these books already. Maybe something more obscure like “The Wind in the Willows” which my father read to us when we were little.
And lastly...
7)    What will Bear and Mouse dress up as for Halloween?

BB: Ha! I may be too late in answering this in time for Halloween, but Mouse will be a pirate and Bear will refuse to dress up, but his hat will be so funny that people will think it’s his costume.  

     Thanks again to Bonny Becker for appearing, courtesy of Provato Marketing, for other stops on the tour please check www.provatoevents.com.

Oct 30, 2011

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid Of Anything

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid Of Anything by Linda Williams
Illustrated by Megan Lloyd

      "Once upon a time, there was a little old lady who was not afraid of anything!"  This is one of my favorite read alouds to do around Halloween.  A little old lady walks into the forest looking for herbs and spices.  It gets dark and when she's making her way back to her cottage, a pair of shoes are going "CLOMP, CLOMP" right in the middle of the path.  She tells them "get out of my way, you two big shoes! I'm not afraid of you."  And walks down the path. The story continues following this pattern of events, running into pants, a shirt, gloves, hat and finally a pumpkin head.  Each of them makes its own distinct onomatopeic sound.  As the story progresses and the old lady keeps going, the list of clothing items that gets in her way builds up, repeating each sound over and over.  She never gets scared and at the end gives the pumpkin and the clothes a new goal in life, scaring crows instead of old ladies.
        The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid Of Anything is perfect for a read aloud because the repetition of the pattern and the special effect sounds will have young readers making the noises and acting them out.  The illustrations by Williams are a perfect match.  I can't wait to read it in class tomorrow.

Oct 29, 2011

Substitute Creacher

hris Gall

Substitute Creacher by Chris Gall

     It's Halloween, Ms. Jenkins is not at school and they have sent in a substitute teacher.  When the substitute walked in he was green, with one eye on his front and three on his back, tentacles for legs and two long arms.  He spoke in rhyme and warned the kids that he was there to teach them a lesson about what happens to misbehaved children.  He tells the story of how he has being doing this for forty-nine years:

I've visited schools
I've collected some tales
whose lessons are grave
about boys and girls
who didn't behave.
They'll give you the goose bumps.
They'll shiver your skin.
Now pay strict attention:
It's time we begin!

     The creature tells them stories about kids like Keith who ate so much glue, things started to stick to him; Kylie, who drew during a test until a dragon she drew came out the page; Hank, who dumped a shark inside the classroom's fishbowl that destroyed the whole room.  And then there was Chris who "liked to trick for his treats: Dressed like a monster, he scared kids for sweets." He stole candy from a magical gnome who cursed Chris, never allowing him to go home again...becoming the substitute creacher.  There is a happy ending: the substitute creacher shares all the candy in his bag with the students and gives the last piece to the groundskeeper who resembles the magical gnome. As he walks away, he turns back into a kid and finds his way home.
     Substitute Creacher is an intelligent and entertaining read aloud.  The illustrations are filled with details to enjoy in multiple readings (try finding the gnome along in different pages).  Great read to share in the classroom during Halloween.

Oct 28, 2011

The Boy Who Cried Ninja

The Boy Who Cried Ninja by Alex Latimer

     Nobody believed Tim when he told the truth. He told his mother that a ninja had taken the last slice of cake. He explained to his father that an astronaut had taken the hammer.  He told his grandfather that  a giant squid had eaten his book bag.  They all thought he was lying so Tim was punished.  So when a pirate shows up and drinks all the tea, a sunburned crocodile breaks the house's antenna, and a time-traveling monkey throws pencils at Grampa, Tim lied and said that it was all his fault. And of course, he gets punished.  "If he told the truth, he was in trouble, and if he lied he was in trouble." So he came up with a brilliant plan: throw a huge party and invite the ninja, the astronaut, the giant squid, the pirate, even the sunburned croc and the time-traveling monkey.  What will his family say when the unexpected guests show up? 
     The Boy Who Cried Ninja is a clever reinvention of the classic tale of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  It has a surprising twist that makes it fresh and funny.  The illustrations by Latimer gives it a modern, cool, feel.  I love the randomness of the characters...sunburned crocodile and a time-traveling monkey? Love it.

Oct 27, 2011

Pirate vs. Pirate

Pirate vs. Pirate by Mary Quattlebaum
Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

     Bad Bart was the biggest, burliest pirate in the Atlantic.  Mean Mo was the maddest, mightiest pirate in the Pacific. Bad Bart wondered if he was the burliest in the world.  Mean Mo wondered if she was the mightiest in the world.  Both pirates decided to set sail find out and, since the world is round, they met in the middle. Their first encounter wasn't pretty:

"Ahoy and avast!" roared Bad Bart. "Swing aside and let me pass."
Swing yerself, ye scurvy dog!' Mean Mo roared right back."

     And the insults started flying: Deck swabber. Grog swiller. Landlubber. Bilge rat. Sea skunk. Gentleman. Lady.
     Their crews decided that they needed to figure out who was the burliest and mightiest by competing head to head. They swam, hurl cannon balls, climbed, and arm wrestled.  But at the end of each contest the result was always the same: a tie.  Their final head to head, counting their treasure, reveals to them how much they have in common.
     Pirate vs. Pirate is a delightfully entertaining love story.  Using pirate lingo and gorgeous illustrations Quattlebaum and Boiger take us on a great high seas adventure.  I loved finding a female pirate who could go head to head with Bad Bart!  It's a fun read aloud that will give you the opportunity to practice your best pirate accent and will entertain pirate and non-pirate fans alike.

Oct 26, 2011

All the Way to America

All the Way to America by Dan Yaccarino

     Dan Yaccarino tells the story of his family starting with his great-grandfather's journey from Sorrento, Italy to New York City.  When his great-grandfather came to New York he brought with him a little shovel he used in the fields in Italy.  As the different generations of Yaccarinos prosper in the US, the shovel gets passed down from fathers to sons always becoming a part of their new life and endeavors.  The shovels goes from the fields, to being used to measure flour and sugar, dried fruits, olives (as the family became store owners and restaurant owners), to pour salt outside of Dan's father's barbershop, all the way back to the ground as a shovel used by Dan's son, Michael, to grow vegetables in their city apartment's terrace.  Through all the years, the message passed down through the generations of Yaccarinos is to work hard and value family.
     All the Way to America is a moving family tale and a great read-aloud to introduce personal narratives as well as immigration units. It will be a fantastic conversation starter, that will have kids asking their parents where do their families come from...At the end of the day, we are a nation of immigrants.  

Oct 25, 2011

Room on the Broom

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

     Room on the Broom is on of my favorite read alouds to do around Halloween.  Written in rhyme, it tells the story of a witch flying on her broom with her cat and cauldron.  When the wind blows her hat off her head, she's forced to land.  A dog finds her hat, gives it back, and asks:

"I'm a dog, as keen as can be.
Is there room on the broom 
for a dog like me?
"Yes! cried the witch,
and the dog clambered on.
The witch tapped the broomstick and
whoosh! they were gone.

     This type of scene repeats, with the witch losing her bow and her wand and adding a bird and a frog to the broom's passengers.  With all that extra weight, the broom breaks in two and the witch is attacked by a dragon whose favorite meal includes witch with french fries.  Her animal companions come to the rescue and soon they're on their way riding on a brand new and upgraded broomstick.
     The rhymes by Donaldson flow with such ease that it's a total pleasure to read them aloud.  The story has wonderful vocabulary and repetition to encourage the participation of young readers who will soon memorize ""whoosh! they were gone."  The illustrations by Axel Scheffler are delightful.  Donaldson and Scheffler are one of my favorite author/illustrator pairs.  A perfect Halloween read aloud.

Oct 24, 2011


Meena by Sine van Mol
Illustrated by Carianne Wijffels

     Being a first round panelist for the Cybils awards this year has turned out to be one of the coolest things I've gotten to do lately (and we're just getting started!).  Aside from always carrying around 10 picture books inside my already-heavy-teacher's bag, I've had the opportunity to come across books I don't think I would've ever seen/read if it weren't for the Cybils list of nominees.  Meena is one of those books.
     Written by a Belgian author, Meena tells the story of three children living in Fly Street who are certain that their old neighbor, Meena, is a witch.  They believe she eats toads and drinks blood and gets a thrill out of shouting things outside her home, calling her a witch.  "Then one day they saw something horrible."  They saw a young girl inside Meena's home and of course they immediately believed the girl must had been kidnapped.  The young girl tries to convince them that Meena is not a witch, and is just her grandma.  But the kids don't believe her.  Will they come close enough to see the real Meena? Maybe a delicious cherry pie will help.
     Meena is a great read aloud to share this Halloween season.  It reminds you of classic stories about misunderstood curmudgeons and making rush judgments.  The illustrations are very interesting, with  multiple perspective switches and mixed media.  Glad I came across this one.

Oct 23, 2011

Monkey With A Tool Belt and the Seaside Shenanigans

Monkey With A Tool Belt and the Seaside Shenanigans by Chris Monroe

     Monkey with a tool belt is back.  Chico Bon Bon and his loaded tool belt are on their way to a seaside resort to help his friend Clark and his uncle.  Chico is ready to help and knows he carries all he'll need in his belt:  from a wrenches, pliers, and tape, to wackaddodles, squeezies, plumbaroos, and monkey putty.  At the resort it looks like someone may be trying to sabotage it.  Things are breaking down all over the  place. As soon as Chico fixes something, somewhere else a new thing breaks down.  Gathering clues along the way Chico, solves the mystery.
     Monkey With A Tool Belt and the Seaside Shenanigans is an entertaining read.  The quirky and fun  illustrations are full of details offering more to discover in each read. The mystery and problem solving at the hands of the clever monkey will capture kids attention.

Oct 22, 2011

King Jack and the Dragon

King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently
Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

     King Jack and the Dragon had me from the moment I saw the cover.  It just looked like one of those books I would've read so many times as a child that pages would've fallen off.  And once I started reading I was not disappointed.
     Jack, Zack, and Caspar are building a fort for King Jack and his men.  They use a cardboard box, sheets and sticks and soon the King and his knight are ready to battle and defend their castle.  They fight off dragons and monsters with their wooden swords and sticks and then they "returned to their stronghold for fabulous feast." They wanted to spend the night inside their fort, but a giant -his dad- came and took Zack home.  Soon, another giant takes baby Caspar home for bedtime.  As Jack is left alone inside the fort, he hears many scary noises but he's able to defeat his fears and stay. That is until a four-legged monster makes its way to the fort.
     King Jack and the Dragon feels like a new classic.  A tale about young boys using their imagination to play together for hours, building forts, and fighting all sorts of creatures.  The illustrations  by Oxenbury have that timeless feeling about them, just beautiful.  This is a book that will be read and reread. No doubt.  One of my favorites this year.

Oct 21, 2011


Mirror by Jeannie Baker

     Mirror is a wordless picture book.  But it is so much more than that.  There are two stories told simultaneously, one in Australia and one in Morocco.  The layout of the book is captivating and hard to describe without an image:

     We follow a day in the life of two boys in completely different parts of the world.  Their lives seem to be completely different, until page by page we see cross overs and realize that they have more in common than we thought at first.  The Morrocan boy's family has weaved a rug which we later find out the Australian boy's family purchases.  The ending images show us how closely linked we all are by technology and imagination.
     Mirror is a work of art.  The collage illustrations are beautiful, but it's the overal design of the book that really makes it stand out.  It's a beautiful book to share in the multicultural classroom and offers many possible lesson on globalization and text innovations where two students could write each of the two stories.

Oct 20, 2011

More Bears!

More Bears! by Kenn Nesbitt
Illustrated by Troy Cummings

     An author is sitting in front of his computer typing up his latest story,  "This story was a lovely story with absolutely no bears in it -not a single bear anywhere. Then one day..."  That's when out of nowhere, the author hears voices shouting MORE BEARS!  Although the author tries to resist and keep writing his bear-free story, the insistent children yelling MORE BEARS! eventually convince him to add them to his story.  At first, it's just a little baby bear. Then, when the children clamor for more, he ends up adding a hilarious crew of bears of all sizes and occupations (even a Bulgarian Astrobear who always kept a hamster in his pocket).  And if as an author you get tired of so many bears taking over your story, well, there's always chickens.
     More Bears is definitely meant to be read aloud with full audience participation.  It's hilarious.  The bears the author comes up with will have kids rolling and the illustrations match the humor of the text.  Perfect for the preschool and early elementary classrooms.

Oct 19, 2011

Blue Chicken

Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman

     Open the book to its title page and you'll find a table with paints, brushes, water, and an incomplete drawing of a barn and a chicken coop.  Turn to the dedication page and you'll see one of the chickens in the coop coming alive and climbing out of the page.  The chicken wants to help finish painting the barn.  She climbs on the blue paint bottle and tips it over, painting herself blue. "And the spilled blue is spreading. Till the ground grows blue, too!" Pandemonium follows as the animals and the landscape are now all blue. The chicken tries to fix her mistake with water...and all this happens as we can see past the drawing table, out the window, into a real barn being painted by the illustrator.
     Blue Chicken is wonderful.  The text is deceptively simple but the meta-illustrations and play with perspective, add a whole other level to the book.  The illustrations are gorgeous and the story line is captivating enough to make you go back again and again.  Fabulous!

Oct 18, 2011

A Few Blocks

A Few Blocks

A Few Blocks by Cybele Young

     It's time for Viola and her younger brother Ferdie to head out to school.  Ferdie doesn't feel like going, "not now, maybe never."  So Viola grabs his coat and says, "Ferdie, look! I found your superfast cape! Quick -put on your rocket-blaster boots and we'll take off!"  And so their journey towards school begins, imagining they are speeding faster than a jet through the city.  Anytime Ferdie gets tired and stops walking, Viola uses her imagination to keep her brother going.  Until Viola needs some help of her own.
     A Few Blocks is a very memorable book.  Cybele Young illustrations are stunning. She uses 3-D paper sculptures to create the world imagined by the two children.  The sculptures are made with paper cut outs of urban images of the children's neighborhood.  It's an amazing thing to see -which of course adds to the fantasy of the text itself.  Viola's love and patience for her brother makes it also a very tender story.  I love this book.  

Oct 17, 2011


Dot by Patricia Intriago

     A simple dot is presented in most interesting and visually appealing ways in Dot.  Intriago, a graphic designer, rhymes a text full of opposites and cleverly funny turns.  "This dot is happy. This dot is sad. This dot tastes yummy. This dot tastes bad."  I could describe the images that accompany each of those statements, but I wouldn't want to take the pleasure away from you of seeing them first hand.  Sometimes the dots are black, sometimes thay have little hints of color.  Sometimes the dots are on the photograph of a dalmatian ("Got dots") or completely absent as in the photo of a zebra ("Not dots").  And, my favorite, sometimes a hand shows up on the page just to show us the difference between a hard dot and a soft dot.
     Dot is on of those books that adults and children will both love.  Its magic lies on the beautiful clean design that Intriago has created, together with a clever text.  Just plain cool.

Oct 16, 2011

Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters

Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Kelly Murphy

     The monsters in Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters are just like any other kids.  They go to school -at Creepy P. Elementary school-  creeping and crawling.  They play outside, hip-hoping and tumbling.  They head back home slithering and waving.  The eat their dinner -worm burgers- and take a bath.  They even say their prayers and climb into bed.  And they don't like falling asleep right away either, "they toss and turn and bounce instead." Until finally they drift to sleep.
     Young readers of Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters will delight in the funny character in the book, and will relate to the daily activities of the two main monsters.  The illustrations by Murphy are great, with a large array of different monsters in funny situations, sure to capture the attention of all the monster fans.  A cool and different bedtime story.

Oct 15, 2011

Hopper and Wilson

Hopper and Wilson by Maria Van Lieshout

     Hopper the elephant and Wilson the mouse are best friends. One day, sitting on a pier looking out into the big blue sea, Hopper asked his little friend, "What do you think is at the end of the world?"  They are not sure what the answer might be, but one hopes there's lots of lemonade at the end of the world, and the other hopes there's a staircase to the moon.  They decided they needed to find out, so they packed their balloon with a red string, said good-bye to their cactus and jumped aboard their paper boat.  They sailed day and night until they got caught in the middle of a storm, lost their red ballon and were separated.  Wilson desperately looked for his friend until a bird that had followed their journey the whole time, guided Wilson using the red string from their lost balloon, and took him to Hopper.  The two friends are happily reunited and find the shore, where they can see lemon trees and...their cactus. "Aren't we lucky that our home is at the end of the world, Wilson?" "And at the beginning too!"
     Hopper and Wilson is a lovely tale of adventure and friendship.  The two characters are drawn as stuffed animals, where you can actually see the stitching run down their backs.  The illustration by Van Lieshout have a very tender feeling to them; beautiful watercolors outlined with black ink.  The blues and yellows of Hopper and Wilson, are mirrored by the blues of the ocean and sky and the yellows of the lemons and sunrises.  There are cute details to be savored during multiple reads, such as the bird that follows them along and shows up in every page until he comes to the forefront as the one that reunites the friends.  The paper boat they're sailing on is made of newspaper and the little portions that are readable all seem to connect with the theme of a journey ("highway," "three days by foot," "thick vegetation," "trail").  Lovely book to read aloud and sweet tale to read at bedtime.      

Oct 14, 2011

My Rhinoceros

My Rhinoceros by Jon Agee

      There are many exotic pets out there. But one you don't expect a kid to buy is a rhinoceros.  As he himself said, "I didn't really know what I was getting into."  His rhino was quiet and shy, and mostly kept to himself.  The biggest problem was that it just didn't do the things you would want your pet to do: it didn't fetch or rollover. "He didn't do anything [...] Maybe he was a clunker. Maybe I should have bought a hippopotamus instead."  A lady told him that rhinoceros only do two things: pop balloons and poke hole in kites.  So, when a couple of robbers were getting away from a bank heist, one in a balloon and another in a kite, the rhinoceros sprung into action.  Who would have thought a rhinoceros could do so much?   
     My Rhinoceros is a delightful read aloud full of humor and wonder.  Agee's timeless illustrations are wonderful as usual.  This quirky tale will awaken children's imaginations who will surely ask for more than one reading.   

Other books by Jon Agee on this blog:

The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau

Milo's Hat Trick

The Retired Kid

Oct 13, 2011

If Rocks Could Sing

If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet by Leslie McGuirk

     If Rocks Could Sing is a very special alphabet book.  The author, Leslie McGuirk, spent years combing the beaches of Florida collecting, not shells, but rocks shaped like letters.  The result is a very memorable alphabet book that will amaze young readers and adults alike with the shapes of the rocks.  As if it weren't enough to find the letters, there are also the rocks that accompany the alphabetized nouns, like the tiny dog, or the elephant, or the ghosts:

and the nose:

     This is a great gift for young kids and cool enough to keep on the coffee table.

Oct 12, 2011

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos
Illustrated by Rafael Lopez

     The farm maiden is stirring a pot to make rice pudding, arroz con leche.  She needs many ingredients and the farm animals are coming to help her.  The goat churns the cream to make the butter, the cow gives her milk, the duck buys the sugar at the supermarket, the donkey plucked the lime that the hen grated and the farmer planted the rice.  Then they all had a party while the arroz con leche cooked in the pot, and since they were all distracted, they forgot to stir it and it almost boiled over.  They all rushed to help the farm maiden and stirred together until the pudding was ready.
     The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred is a cumulative tale on the footsteps of "The House That Jack Built."   The nouns that were first introduced in English, appear the second time around in Spanish; the butter becomes mantequilla, the pot is a cazuela, the cow is a vaca, the farm maiden is a campesina.  This book is a joyful celebration of bilingualism.  The way the second language is introduced makes it accessible to Spanish language learners as well as monolingual readers.  As the story builds, so does the musicality of the language until it boils over, just like the arroz con leche, into a delightful fiesta.  The vibrant colors of Lopez's desert pair wonderfully with the joy of Vamos's tale.  At the end of the book, there's a recipe for Arroz con Leche as well a glossary. This is one of my favorite bilingual books.

Oct 11, 2011

A Place to Call Home

A Place to Call Home by Alexis Deacon
Illlustrated by Viviane Schwarz

     A group of rodent siblings (they might be hamsters based on the "Lost" poster on the wall), have been growing inside a small dark hole.  As they get bigger, they outgrow it, and they have to go out into the world.  Unknown to them, their hole was in an abandoned sofa inside a junkyard.  At first they are very afraid of their new surroundings, but they know they must work together to find a new home.  The brothers embark on a hilarious adventure (within the walls of the junkyard) full of surprises,  making their way across ponds, mountains, deserts, a labyrinth (the inside of a dryer) and even a monster (the watch dog).  They find their way out into a place they will be able to call home.
     A Place to Call Home is told in a comic book style, with dialogue boxes and panels.  Each little rodent has its own voice and personality.  The text and the illustrations combine to make this a hilarious read, one you'll go back to more than once.

Other books by Alexis Deacon on this blog:
Jitterbug Jam: A Monster Tale
While You Are Sleeping
Slow Loris

Oct 10, 2011

Pete the Cat. I Love My White Shoes

Pete the Cat. I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin
Illustrated by James Dean

Pete is a cool cat. He was walking down the street wearing his brand new white shoes and singing a song about how much he loved them: "I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes." Then he stepped on large pile of strawberries. His white shoes turned red so, instead of getting upset about it, he changed his song: "I love my red shoes, I love my red shoes, I love my red shoes." Blueberries turn the shoes blue, mud turns them brown, and water makes them white again, but wet. "I love my wet shoes, I love my wet shoes, I love my wet shoes."
Pete the Cat. I Love My White Shoes is a wonderful read aloud. The repetitive text makes it predictable which encourages children to say the words out loud along with the reader. Pet delivers the message that no matter what happens you should keep going and sing along "because it's all good." As you read, you could make up your own song -which my son decided to do- or you could visit the author's site, where you can download the song and read aloud for free. Very cool.

Oct 9, 2011

Pig Kahuna

Pig Kahuna by Jennifer Sattler

     Fergus and his little brother Dink love the beach.  They loved looking for treasures that the waves would leave behind on the shore, like seaweed, pebbles, and a shell "that might be an actual shark's tooth."  Looking for treasures on the shore was okay, as along as you didn't have to go in the water, where there was "a lurking, murky ickiness."  On that special Saturday, the ocean brought ashore a special present for Fergus and Dink, a surfboard.  They named it Dave, decorated it, and found many 'dry' uses for it, like pretending to use it as a row boat, or dancing on top of it.  While Fergus leaves to get some ice cream, Dink sends Dave back into the ocean.  Fergus rushes to save Dave without thinking of his fear of the ocean, and soon enough, he's surfing along.
     Pig Kahuna is a fun story about brotherhood and bravery.  Fergus' quick attachment to the surfboard, makes him forget his own fears and sends him into the ocean to save it.  The illustrations by Sattler are vibrant and comical and will delight young readers.  Fun read aloud.

Oct 8, 2011

Magic Box

Magic Box by Katie Cleminson

Eva received a special box for her birthday. She jumped inside and when she came out she had become a master magician. Her first trick was to wish for a pet named Monty. Monty turns out to be a rather large polar bear. Next she pulls rabbits out of hats, makes things float, and throws herself a huge party with delicious food and an animal band. There's tons of dancing and, "when everyone had danced their socks off, Eva shut her eyes, clicked her fingers...and everything vanished..." Not quite.
Magic Box's illustrations are the stars of this picture book. They have a classic feeling to them with thick black outlines and coal shadows over clean white backgrounds that contrast with splashes of paint in bright colors. It's a book full of joy with an enchanting character. The picture of Eva clicking her fingers in her final act of magic is just gorgeous, and the page with Monty the polar bear dancing with Eva just makes me smile. Sweet.

Oct 7, 2011

I Had a Favorite Dress

I Had A Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn
Illustrated by Julia Denos

A young girl had a dress that was her "favoritest dress ever." She wore it every Tuesday, her favorite day of the week. One day, she put it on and it was too short. She got really upset but asked her mom to make something else out of the dress. "And SNIP, SNIP, sew, sew...New shirt, hello!' Her crafty mother turned her favorite dress into a new ruffly shirt which became her favoritest to wear on her new favoritest day of the week, Wednesday. As the seasons change and the girl outgrows the shirt, it gets turned into other articles of clothing until there's only enough material left for it to become a hair bow, and finally the material for a collage portrait.
I Had a Favorite Dress is very entertaining and beautifully illustrated book. It's about growing up, outgrowing things we love and finding a way of preserving the memories. The story is structured around the passing of the seasons and the days of the week, which makes it a good book to include in the lower grades as part of units on time and memories. It's urban and multicultural characters make it a cool addition to any home or classroom library.

Oct 6, 2011

Cuddle Up, Goodnight

Cuddle Up, Goodnight by Katie Cleminson

     From the time he's woken up by a loving elephant, til the time he's put to bed, Cuddle Up, Goodnight follows a young boy as he enjoys a day full of routines and activities always accompanied by different animal friends. He stretches with a cat, brushes his teeth with a hippo, gets dressed and heads to school.  There, he listens to a bear reading stories, paints with a dog, practices the violin with an octopus, plays hide a seek with a lemur, and eats with a lion.  As the day ends, the boy picks a book to read aloud to his animal friends, until it's time to cuddle up and "say goodnight, yawn and stretch, close your eyes, sleep and rest..." 
     Cuddle Up, Goodnight is written in simple rhyme text, with the repetition of the phrase "It's time to..."  It's cast of animal characters and the funny situations they are placed in (like a hippo slurping spaghetti) will delight young children.  The illustrations are sweet and entertaining.  Good bedtime book.  

Oct 5, 2011

But I Wanted a Baby Brother!

But I Wanted a Baby Brother! by Kate Feiffer
Illustrated by Diane Goode

     Oliver had always wanted a baby brother.  When his parents come back from the hospital, they are holding in their arms Oliver's new baby sister. "Oliver tried looking happy" but he knew it was a mistake. Why didn't everyone else notice there had been a mistake?  So Oliver asked his parents "Will I ever get a baby brother?"  Instead of the answer he wanted to hear, Oliver's parents kept mentioning how adorable his baby sister was.  She was cute, "she gurgled...kicked...smiled...and slept...like a baby brother. But sometimes she wore dresses and that was bad."  Her name was Julie, which was cool because Oliver could secretly call her Julian.  Regardless, Oliver decided that the only solution was to find a way to exchange his baby sister for a baby brother.  He tried trading with friends, looking for a baby boy at the playground, even switching her for another baby while at the zoo. But the truth was that no other baby was as sweet, smart, calm or fast as Julie. And now she had even learned to throw a ball.  Oliver had fallen in love with his sister, just in time to find out his mom is having another baby...
     But I Wanted a Baby Brother! is sweet and very funny.  Oliver's adventures and the situations he finds himself in while trying to find a baby brother to trade for Julie are hilarious.  Goode's watercolor illustrations are wonderful and complement the story adding a lot of details and comic tones.  A great book to read aloud and to share with kids expecting a baby sibling.

Oct 4, 2011


Leaves by David Ezra Stein

     It's the perfect time of the year to read Leaves. It's bear's first year and everything is going well until the leaves start falling.  He picks one off the floor and sweetly asks, "Are you okay?"  As more leaves fall, the young bear tries to "catch them and put them back on...but it was not the same."  He then grew sleepy, gathered some leaves to bring inside a little cave "and went to sleep, just as the wind began to blow."  The young bear sleeps through the winter, wakes up in the spring and when he sees the "little buds on the bare arms of the trees," he hugs them and joyfully cries "Welcome!"
       Leaves is lovely.  The young bear character is sweet, curious, and enamored with nature.  While the text is simple, it's also quite lyrical.  The illustrations are beautiful.  Leaves is a perfect book to read during this season and to introduce units about fall and hibernation. 

Oct 3, 2011

You Will Be My Friend

You Will Be My Friend by Peter Brown

     Lucy is back! After realizing that Children Make Terrible Pets, she decides that today is the perfect day to get back out there and find a new friend.  She is so excited! "I cannot wait to make a new friend! We're going to do cartwheels! And have picnics! And climb trees! And go swimming! And have dance party!"  Lucy tries to hang out with a group of frogs at a pond, but when she jumps in, she splashes all the water out. No pond, no frogs.  Things are not looking good.  She tries squeezing into a burrow, climbing trees, even dressing up as a kangaroo.  But as hard as she tries, things don't work out and Lucy finds herself frustrated and lonely.  She tries a new method: imposing her friendship of others. "Come back here and have fun with me!" She even scolds a little egg:   "You WILL be my friend! I can wait."  But nothing. Then finally, when she's about to give up and screams "Doesn't anybody want to be my friend?!" A bow-tie wearing Flamingo -a perfect match for Lucy's tutu- approaches her to give the book a perfect ending...there's cartwheeling, swimming, and dancing...just as she had wanted.
     You Will Be My Friend  is hilarious.  Peter's Brown text and illustrations complement each other beautifully, with some of the story being driven by the text bubbles and others just by the illustrations. I loved the page where Lucy is trying to calm herself down...I want to have that page as a poster in my classroom.  There are some cool details to discover during careful reads, like the foreshadowing of Lucy's visit to the frog pond -which you can see in the previous page as she walks away from home.  I believe I also saw a fish wearing a hat that I associate with Peter Brown.   It's a great read aloud that will have kids laughing the whole time.
Fish with Peter Brown's hat.  Forshadowing of the pond

Oct 2, 2011

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by Michael Chabon
Illustrated by Jake Parker

     Awesome Man can fly, shoot positronic rays out of his eyes, smash all sorts of things, and has a trademark Awesome Power Grip.  He's "just basically awesome."  As with most super heroes, he has a secret identity which he uses to sneak up on unsuspecting enemies like Professor Von Evil.  When his enemies are able to get away, Awesome Man gets really angry (he might even kick a building down when that happens) and the one thing he can do to calm down is to sit on his Awesome bed and give himself a "ginormous Awesome Power Grip."  After a busy day defeating his nemesis, nothing makes Awesome Man happier than heading back to the Fortress of Awesome, and enjoying one of his mom's home cooked meals.  "I'm so happy to see her, I throw a power grip around her, too."
     Awesome Man will capture the imagination of super hero obsessed boys.  Awesome Man sounds like them, gets angry like them...it's them.  There are many clues along the way for readers to figure out that Awesome Man is really just a boy: there's the language he uses, but also a point when we can see him as a boy hiding from Professor Von Evil (though the illustrations cleverly make it look as if it is an grown man), or when he's defeating Flaming Eyeball and his shadow is a kid's shadow (there's a nice detail later on when the boy walks into his mother's kitchen and his shadow is now Awesome Man's).   The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man is a great book for super hero fans.

Oct 1, 2011

The Black Book of Colors

The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin
Illustrated by Rosana Faría
Translated from Spanish by Elisa Amado

     If you were blind and you had to describe colors, you would use all your other senses.  That's how Thomas describes them, using his senses of touch, taste, smell and hearing.  To him, yellow tastes like mustard, red is as sweet as watermelon but hurts when you find it on a scraped knee, brown smells like chocolate, blue is "the color of the sky when kites are flying," green tastes like lemon ice cream and smells like freshly cut grass.  "Thomas thinks that without the sun, water doesn't amount to much. It has no color, no taste, no smell." And black, well, black is the king of all the colors, "soft as silk when his mother hugs him and her hair falls in his face."
      The Black Book of Colors is a marvelous book.  Its use of sensory details to describe colors is wonderful and lyrical.  The design of the book is captivating.  The pages are all black, with the shapes embossed in shiny black.  Each page with text is accompanied by its Braille counterpart and the full Braille alphabet is also included at the end of the book.  The Black Book of Colors belongs in every household and classroom where diversity is encouraged and discussed.  Its use of metaphors, similes, and sensory details, also makes it a superb mentor text to use in the writing workshop.  A great find!