Friday, October 17, 2014

Perfect Picture Book Friday Redux #PPBF DOG IN CHARGE

     How do you know for sure that the picture book you pick for perfect picture book Friday is indeed perfect?    
     You write the review and THEN check the list carefully and find that it's already there. Sigh. It wasn't under "humor" when I glanced quickly, but it is on the alphabetical list.
     So, you don't "need" my formal review. But I will say that if you haven't read K.L. Going's picture book DOG IN CHARGE (2012, Dial Books for Young Readers), it is one to find. I was familiar with the author's young adult Printz Honor book, but the picture book was a new one for me. Probably because it's so funny, kids are taking it out of the library (the nerve!) and it hasn't spent enough time in the bins for me to find it. It is a gem for dog lovers, cat lovers and humor lovers. Imagine the chaos that breaks out when a dog is asked by it's owners to take care of five cats while the owners are out! Dan Santat captures the good-natured doofy dog and the haughty Siamese cat perfectly in the illustrations. It reminded me of the old Pink Panther movies where Peter Sellers has moviegoers in stitches with a single eyebrow-raised closeup. Silly, silly, silly and so good.
     Spoiler alert: the official earlier review gives the ending in their synopsis. It's a short book. Just go read it!
     So, that shortens today's post considerably. Have a great weekend!
     Any NEW reviews for perfect picture book Friday are posted on Susanna's blog.
     I'll be heading over to read them soon and learn what else I've missed!

Friday, October 10, 2014


     Sometimes a book's gorgeous illustrations pull me in and  make me fall in love.
     The book I'm reviewing for Perfect Picture Book Friday has perfect illustrations. But they aren't gorgeous. Sometimes spare lines are all a masterful storyteller needs.

Title: The HUEYS in IT WASN'T ME

Author/Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers

Publisher: Philomel Books, 2014

Intended age: 3-5

Themes: Interpersonal relationships (arguments), humor

Opening Line: "The thing about the Hueys . . .
                      . . . was that most of the time they got along."

Synopsis: A family of jelly bean-shaped multicolored creatures is in the throngs of a disagreement when their brother arrives and settles the problem in a laugh out loud moment that mirrors reality.

Why I liked this book: Kid appeal oozes off each page. These are characters that kids can easily draw imitations of. The use of white space focuses the reader on the characters and their emotions. (Do you recognize this style from The Day the Crayons Quit? Yes, same illustrator!) And the way the initial problem morphs into a blame-shifting "It wasn't me" free-for-all is funny and relatable. Although unintentional in this instance, what parent hasn't used the tactic of distraction to tame some terrible moments? (Or was I the only one?) And, honestly, I have liked all of Oliver Jeffers' books. I reviewed The Incredible Book-eating Boy last year. Although this title is the second in a series (I believe it's now at three!) featuring these characters, I hadn't heard about them and wanted to spread the word.

Resources: Temper tantrums are a fact of life. Learning to deal with emotions is a lifelong process. Behavioral advisor, "Dr. Mac" has a page on problem resolution specially for kids (I liked the tagline "Be a thinker, not a stinker"). Other sites that deal with conflict resolution are the Women's and Children's health network (with a conflict resolution quiz), the Kids Matter site describing win-lose (sharks!), win-some (compromise) and win-win strategies (creative problem-solving) for elementary school ages and older, and teaching-guide materials at 
A cute rap video about done by kids about conflict resolution:
(under 3 mins.)

This review is part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. Along with tons of writing wisdom, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. #PPBF

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Supersister - #PPBF

     I have been doing research on sibling stories and fell in love with this title.
     You can leave me a comment below and let me know if you agree! The book was published in 2009, so maybe you're familiar with it already.

Title: Supersister

Author: Beth Cadena

Illustrator: Frank W. Dormer

Publisher: Clarion Books, 2009

Intended ages: 4-8

Themes: Older sibling, helpfulness

Opening Line: "Supersister bounds out of bed. Another super day.
                          Hark! A call from the kitchen. Mother is in need."

Synopsis: Told in a tongue-in-cheek manner, a young girl helps out at work and school taking on the role of Supersister. The illustrations show close-up shots of Mother's feet, and a head shot from a distance, but it isn't until the third spread from the end that we learn the reason Supersister is being so helpful.

Why I like this Book: The illustrator wrote and illustrated one of my favorite books, The Obstinate Pen. There's a lot of energy in his spare drawings. While there is humor in the book, the book doesn't go over-the-top in terms of how Supersister helps. Moments of getting dressed, getting her own breakfast, and being a good student at school take on super importance.These behaviors are all things a reader can emulate. Despite being a book with an obvious message, the author uses fun language so it doesn't come across preachy or hokey. I especially loved the moments when Supersister lets us know that superheroes are kids, too (and vice versa!) and checks if Mom is watching and listening.

     The baby that is going to make Supersister a sister hasn't been born yet.
     There are many websites to help prepare children for the arrival of a new sibling. The Baby Center and the What to Expect websites have practical information for expectant families.
     Read Kevin Henke's classic picture book Julius, the Baby of the World and compare that story and its main character with Supersister. Talk about how people react differently to changes.
     Websites with fun activities for older siblings while waiting for baby describes activities like helping to decorate the nursery and acting as family photographer.

This review is part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. Along with tons of writing wisdom, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. #PPBF

Friday, September 26, 2014


     Maybe it's the arrival of the cool weather we had this week.
     Maybe it's the recycle truck arriving at 5AM.
     Or maybe I've just been channeling Grumpy Cat. Because I didn't find a "perfect" picture book to spotlight last week. There is a PERFECT one out there. I read it and loved it. But everyone and the kitchen sink has already reviewed it, singing its praises. And they're all right. If it's possible to make baby elephants and cupcakes more deliciously adorable, the author succeeds. But does the world really need another review of that book right now?? Probably not. So if you haven't read Little Elliot, Big City go do it! The link takes you to the page with the activity guide.
     Luckily, I stumbled across an older book that made the grade this week!

 Title: Hugo and the Really, Really Long String         

Author/Illustrator: Bob Boyle
Publisher: Bolder Media Inc./Random House, 2010
Themes: Adventure, Friendship
Intended Ages: 2-7

Synopsis: (from publisher) In a little house on the top of a hill lives a happy little guy named Hugo. When Hugo sees a mysterious red string, he just knows hes going to find something wonderful at the end of it! Hugos journey takes him across the river, underground, and throughout town—all while gathering curious new friends along the way!

Opening line: (Warning! This was my least favorite part of the book-keep reading!)
     In a little house on the top of a hill lived a happy little guy named Hugo and his playful dog, Biscuit.

Why I like this book: The book is pure silliness. The MC is a short huge-headed purple creature with what look like giraffe knobs on his head. He wears a black necktie. One of the other creatures he meets along the way is named Mr. Alligator Police. A class of young birds lifts their teacher (Mrs. Snake) into the air! You get to follow the increasing cast of characters through underground tunnels and even a noodle shop! And all the while, the other characters who are draped with a LONG red string appear oblivious to it. Giggle inducing. But then there's the refrain "There must be something special at the end!" A profound message cloaked in the absurdity of the story. Great stuff.

Resources: I'm a huge fan of the ages-old string and balloon art. All you need is a paper plate to put glue on, a few small balloons (partially blown up!) and string or yarn. Multi-colors are exciting! Dip the string in the glue and wrap it on the balloon. Wait until it dries and then pop the balloon and ta-da! Something that looks like it's from the Museum of Modern Art is revealed. :)
There are crafty websites with all sorts of great ideas for string craft projects for kids.Try Kid Activities here or Artists helping Children (good ideas for making holiday or birthday gifts, too! Can anyone have too many pencil holders? Not at my house.)
Follow a trail (real or imaginary) for your own adventure.
Read other books about string. Just how long can a long string be?! by Keith Baker is another fun one!

This review is part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. Along with tons of writing wisdom, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. #PPBF

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why a Writer Writes

     When I was at a picture book "boot camp" last summer, my mentor Pat Cummings challenged me to share more of myself on my blog. Not just industry updates and book reviews, but personal stuff that gave readers more insight into my personality.
     Be careful what you ask for.
     Here goes.
     A friend of mine who also writes gave me a compliment recently. She told me that I was one of her favorite critiquers. She said that I was smart, and I didn't focus on minutiae when there were big picture issues involved. I thanked her with a smile. It's good to feel that I'm helping fellow writers.
     She knows that I've been writing for children but haven't received that elusive first picture book contract yet. Then she asked me if I had considered becoming an agent instead.
     Instead of writing for children.

     I think I smiled again politely and acknowledged the question, shaking my head, no. I'm not sure, exactly, because I was already having another conversation in my head as I backed away.
     For a moment, I was aware of the effort to breathe and move in an intelligent manner.
     There might have been foul language involved in the silent talk..
     Don't get me wrong. I think agents are great! I'm in the process of looking for one. And I know that some agents are also writers. Win-win.
     It was the word "instead."

     This post isn't "calling out" anybody. The friend involved isn't part of my online 12X12 writing community and to the best of my knowledge doesn't read my blog. In truth, the words were well-meaning. It's my reaction that may have been "off" but then that's me.
     I think I reacted as strongly as I did because the word "instead" marginalized my passion. I'm not dabbling, I'm pursuing a dream. A career. It felt like asking me if I wanted to eat "instead" of breathing. Eating is good, but I've gotta breathe. And I am writing because at some level I have to. There isn't an off button that I''m aware of.
     So there, Pat, this one was for you.

Monday, September 15, 2014

My Bibi Always Remembers - Perfect Picture Book Friday

     I'm so excited that Perfect Picture Book Friday time is back!
     I read 10-15 picture books a week from my library, but it's impossible to "stumble upon" all the good ones. My fellow reviewers are an invaluable asset. A huge thank you to Susanna Leonard Hill for organizing this resource for readers and writers!

     Last week I participated in a new book release blog tour. I don't always "double up" and use the book for Perfect Picture Book Friday. While there are a lot of good books out there, not all of them make the cut. :)
     But last week's does. If you didn't read last week, I'm talking about a new book from the awesome author and illustrator team of Toni Buzzeo and Mike Wohnoutka.
     Regular blog followers of mine may remember that I reviewed the last offering by this team, JUST LIKE MY PAPA last September. I get the feeling that we ought to just put the author and illustrator's name on the Perfect Picture Book Friday list!

TITLE: My Bibi Always Remembers

AUTHOR: Toni Buzzeo

ILLUSTRATOR: Mike Wohnoutka

PUBLISHER: Disney Hyperion Books, Sept. 2014


THEMES: Animals, grandparents, Africa

Opening Line: RUMMMMBLE!
                      Thirsty little Tembo hears her Bibi across the wide, parched plain.

Synopsis: An easily distracted young elephant follows the herd as it searches for water. The oldest grandmother elephant carries the knowledge and skill to lead "the way to wet."

Why I like this book: Elephants fascinate me. My family are long-time supporters of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. I've never been to Africa or Asia to see these creatures in the wild and I have a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of the vast space these creatures need to live as they should. I love the book's message about passing knowledge from generation to generation. The author stole my heart on the second spread when she wrote that the elephants were coming "one by one, step-step, searching for wet." The illustrations aren't overly fussy, but small details, like dust devils in the distance, transported me to the elephants' world. Be
Note: This is a Disney book, so I felt a Bambi-like moment of terror when Tembo wanders away and the illustration appears backlit by the setting sun with lions and hyenas in the foreground! Luckily, the problem resolves on the next page. Whew! The combination of anthropomorphism and reality worked well for me.

Activities/Resources: Ms. Buzzeo provides extensive materials to accompany her books. You can find Common Core teaching guides and activities , including a cool Reader's Theater Script on her website.
If you want to learn more about the plight of elephants in the wild, back matter in the book steers readers to the Amboseli Trust for Elephants at General information about elephants can be found in many places including National Geographic's website and the kid-friendly Animal Fact Guide.
There are an equally large number of elephant craft choices out there. The paper plate elephant contributed by Leanne Guenther to DLTK's Crafts for Kids blog made me smile.

Other blogs with information and interviews for this new book:
·         The Children’s Book Review – Author Guest Post
·         Momma Drama – Author/Illustrator Interview and Review
·         Book Rock Betty – Review
·         Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – Author/Illustrator Guest Post and Review
·         As They Grow UpReview
·         Susan Heim on Parenting – Review
·         Kid Lit Frenzy – Author Guest Post
·         Mundie KidsAuthor/Illustrator Interview
·         The Power of One Writer – Author Interview
·         There’s a Book – Review

And FINALLY, download a completely adorable card to make for grandparents from the author's website here. Just download and fold!

As a disclosure, an early advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
This review is part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. Along with tons of writing wisdom, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. #PPBF

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Winner of a signed copy of MY BIBI ALWAYS REMEMBERS

     Noon is here and the winner of  a signed copy of MY BIBI ALWAYS REMEMBERS IS--
                                                                 (drum roll!)

                                                    ELAINE KIELY KEARNS !!

     Please PM your mailing address so that I can forward it to the folks at Disney Hyperion who have generously provided this prize.