Thursday, March 26, 2015

Randolph Caldecott - The Man Who Couldn't Stop Drawing -#PPBF

      The longer I participate in Perfect Picture Book Friday, the fussier I am about my selections. I've come to realize that the number of books is staggering, and since no one can read them all, I save my recommendations for the truly special ones.
     Why this prologue? Because my recommendation today is unusual. A picture book for grades 5-9 (NOT ages 5-9!). So if you're looking for something for the little ones, this isn't for you, but it is definitely a book for anyone interested in the history of children's books.

TITLE: Randolph Caldecott -The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing   

  AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Leonard S. Marcus 
from Macmillan Publishers

Publisher: Frances Foster Books, FS&G, 2013
Intended Age: 10-14
Themes: NONFICTION, Illustration
Opening lines: "
Two swans at the water's edge trade bewildered glances when they notice a little frog poking his head out of the river. The frog is clutching a paper--a letter it would seem--which he reads with a look of total absorption."

Synopsis: The biography of "the father of the modern picture book" (from the front flap copy).

What I like about this book:
As a picture book writer and enthusiast, I knew that Randolph Caldecott was an illustrator. I knew that we honor the best illustrators in the field each year with a medal given in his name. But I didn't know a whole lot more. This book is an "old school" comprehensive biography. A birth to death look at a man that accomplished volumes of work in the 39 years he lived. I connected with the fact that Caldecott started in one career--deemed to be a safe way to earn money--and found himself drawn to the second career that he loved.
     Reading the book I learned WHY Caldecott is viewed as the father of the modern picture book. He wasn't the first to illustrate books for children, but his focus on active rather than static illustrations, and the idea that illustrations could, and should, add to the text were revolutionary for the 1800's. The book is text dense, as you would expect a book for grades 5-9 to be.
Balance of text and illustration
  •  Macmillan Publishers provides a peek inside the book here.
  •  Make a list of the Caldecott medal winners. How many have you read?
  •  Treasure hunt! Look carefully at a picture book. How many things can you find in the illustrations that aren't mentioned in the text?
  •  If you're interested in reading more picture books on the subject of art and creativity, I found a wonderful list of children's fiction and nonfiction compiled on this subject by the Art Institute of Chicago.
  •  Try your hand at drawing something in motion. (It's in motion, not you! Although interestingly the book notes that part of Caldecott's style was developed by drawing on a moving train as he traveled from Manchester to London, England!)
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, March 13, 2015

The Mermaid and the Shoe - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

      I read about this book somewhere and put it on my "list." If you're like me, your list can be long! And my library doesn't have all of the books. And my budget for book buying runs out waaay before my list ends. So I'm pleased that I finally got this book through inter-library loan. It was worth the wait!

TITLE: The Mermaid and the Shoe   

Publisher: Kids Can Press, 2014
Intended Age:
Themes: Self-esteem/discovery, adventure
Opening lines: "
King Neptune had fifty daughters. 
                             They were his pride and joy."

Synopsis: When an unfamiliar item sinks into Minnow's world under the sea she sets off to find its purpose, and in doing so finds her own.

What I like about this book: It feels like an old fable. Going against current trends in picture books, the main character isn't introduced until the third page. First the scene, tone and mood are set. The muted underwater illustrations bring to mind the real-life shadowy underwater world, with bright colors saved for Minnow's peek of the world above water. But the bright colors don't signal a longing for another life or another world like other mermaid stories. Minnow's curiosity and fearlessness combine with an overlooked talent that makes this mermaid a happy one right at home where she belongs. One of my favorite lines is also one that may not be a favorite with everyone:

             "Useless!" hissed Calypso (for sisters can be mean that way). 
While I don't think all sisters are mean (!), for me it captured the tumultuous emotions of childhood, but others may feel differently. That's a good talking point below.
(Fun note: the author/illustrator also illustrated Kate Di Camillo's book Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures)

  •  Take a walk and look for lost objects. Make up stories about where they came from and what they can be used for. Some of the stories can be realistic, some fantastical! (Bring heavy gloves and a bag if you want to pick the objects up--they may be dirty or sharp! Have an adult pick it up.)
  • Talk about brothers and sisters. Is this story an accurate portrayal of people you know? What could the older sisters have done differently? 
  • An extensive review (giving away the ending-spoiler alert!) in School Library Journal
  • Recycle an old pair of shoes as a planter, a jewelery box like Minnow tried, or some other idea you come up with!
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

Thanks again for stopping by!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Take Away the A - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

My critique partner, Stacy Jensen, is the go-to expert on ABC picture books, but I fell in love with this one and didn't see it on the Perfect Picture Book Friday list. So, with apologies to Stacy, here is this week's recommendation.

                                            TITLE: Take Away the A
                                   AUTHOR: Michael Escoffier
                                   ILLUSTRATOR: Kris DiGiacomo
(note: Ms. DiGiacomo's blog is in French!)
Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books, 2014
Intended Age: 3-7 (Amazon) 7-10 (Kirkus)
Themes: Alphabet (with a twist!), Wordplay
Opening lines

Without the A -- the BEAST is the BEST.

Synopsis: Going letter by letter, the book explores word pairs that differ by one letter, showing how one letter changes the meaning of words.

What I like about this book: First, I like the trim size! It's a bit slimmer than many picture books and it's easy to hold open. Second, there is tons of fun in the wry illustrations. The best beast is flanked by a second place seagull and a third place fish-out-of-water
. My favorite spread is the cat whose "plate is too late"-- with a mouse's tail hanging from it's mouth as it tries to look nonchalant. Without seeming didactic, the book highlights the power of letters for readers who are beyond simple ABC book age. C'est merveilleux!
  •  Make a set of letter flashcards and find your own word pairs (when one letter is deleted).
  • A review of this book on the "delightful Children's book" blog notes that the book was first published in French and the word pairs and art had to be redone for English words. Read the review here.
  • Read an interview with the illustrator (in English!) on the Smart Books for Smart kids blog.
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