Friday, July 5, 2019

Perfect Picture Book Friday -- Peekity Boo Plus Two

Books for Babies and Toddlers! Celebrating the beginnings of independence. These books would make lovely gifts for newborns and first birthdays.

Book cover for Peekity Boo by Heidi Bee Roemer

Title: Peekity Boo What You Can Do!
Author: Heidi Bee Roemer
Illustrated By: Mike Wohnoutka
Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books Henry Holt and Company, 2019

First three pages: Peekity Boo! Look what baby can do . . . There's a shirt to slip off. Socks to kick off. Splishity splash! Here's a Baby's bath.

Themes: Bedtime, independence

Heidi creates wonderful poetry for young children. This story is an illustrated bedtime poem perfect for any toddler getting ready for bed.

The repetition of end words is a wonderful way to help a child build their language skills. It won't take may times of reading this book and toddler will be saying it along with you.

Why I love this book:
First I must admit that I had the privilege of taking a poetry writing class from Heidi. I may not have caught this book if not for that as I tend to read an look for books for an older age group.

This is a wonderful book for toddlers who are starting do do things on their own. It encourages them to try it themselves while at the same time, it is about family and the whole bedtime experience.

This book would make a wonderful gift for a child's first or second birthday.


Turn getting ready for bed into a fun activity encouraging your toddler to do each activity in the story.

Play with the lovely Onomatopoeia words, Peekity Boo, Splishity Splash. Make up more words that sound like the activity you are doing.

Play Bath Games.

Cover Art for Hooray for Babies

Title: Hooray for Babies!
Author: Susan Meyers
Illustrated by: Sue Cornelison
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019

Themes: Babies, activities, self-understanding

Gently rhyming, these babies discover the world in many different scenarios from looking in the mirror, to visiting the beach, playing in a pool, and taking a nap.

Opening Line: I'm glad that I'm a baby. I love my baby face.

Why I Like this Book: 
This is a cute book for babies (6 months +). It's a full size picture book with a board book feel. Heavy paper for easier page turns. Toddlers will see all kinds of babies in this story as they experience the day. The babies are realistically painted, reminiscent of the old Gerber Baby Food campaigns with added diversity.

Cover art for Baby Day

Title: Baby Day
Authors: Jane Godwin & Davina Bell
Pictures by: Freya Blackwood
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2018

Themes:  birthday, babies, activities and emotions

First lines: Today is baby's birthday. There's going to be a party. Happy baby! Here come baby's friends. Hello!

Description and Why I like this book:

This is a cute day in the life of a baby book set on a first birthday when lots of other babies come for the party. The sparse descriptive language with the illustrations, show all the emotions and activities that can happen during a birthday party. This is great for language building and associating words with emotions and activities.

I read in the CIP notes that the "illustrations are rendered in line work and watercolor on paper, with digitally composited oil paint lino-block prints." Freya's sketchy style creates movement throughout the story. It's like she was the outsider watching the birthday party and capturing all the little moments, good and bad.

Finally, if you want to find more cool picture books check out Susanna Hill's Blog where you can look for reviews by book, title, and by themes.

Eat ice cream.
Play with baby.
Spend time at the park.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Bug Girl And Small Wonders -- Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Summer weather has finally arrived. The mosquitoes are busy making us itch, the worms are close to the surface of the garden soil, butterflies and bees flit from flower to flower drinking nectar and spreading pollen. It's a great time to be outside. When you need a break from the heat and mosquitoes, head to the library to check out these two book and learn about two incredible entomologists.

Cover Art for Bug Girl

Title: The Bug Girl: Maria Merian's Scientific Vision
Author: Sarah Glenn Marsh
Illustrator: Filippo Vanzo
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company, 2019

Opening: As a young girl growing up in the 1650's, Maria Merian was curious about everything. Her hometown of Frankfurt Germany, was full of creatures that crawled, flew, and scuttled. Butterflies were her favorite insect because their wings held a rainbow of colors. She could watch for hours as the butterflies flitted around the flowers blooming near her home.

Why I like this book:
This is a wonderful picture book biography about Maria Merian and her scientific illustrations.  I had never heard the phrase "spontaneous generation" before reading this book. It opens the door to so many topics of discussion.
* Encourages kids to study the living world around them.
* Women scientists in the 1600's
* Spontaneous generation -- seeing how taking the time to understand the world around us changes our world view.
* Women artists
* Curiosity
*Forging ahead even when it is not the popular thing to do.

Book cover art for Small Wonders

Title: Small Wonders: Jean-Henry Fabre & His World of Insects
Author: Matthew Clark Smith
Illustrated by Giuliano Ferri
Publisher: Two Lions, 2015

Opening: Once there was a village in the sunny south of France: a village much like any other, where the cocks crowed and the church bells rang, and everyone seemed to know his or her place. Everyone, that is, but one.
At the very edge of town, behind high walls and plane trees, there stood a pink house. In the house lived an old man with beetle black eyes and a black felt hat who talked to animals. Whether he was a sorcerer, or simply a madman, no one could agree.

Why I like this book:
I love learning about people who studied nature and paved the way for us to have a better understanding of the world around us. Jean-Henry Fabre loved nature and insects and spent his life studying them and writing about them.

This book starts like a scary story with the old man in the black coat and hat coming from the pink house. We don't know who is man is and yet, the President of France is coming to visit him. How curious.

Activities for both books:
Make your own Nature Journal.

Start a Nature Journal. See what you notice throughout the year about the insects and nature around you. Here are some tips about nature journaling.

Raise a caterpillar and watch the metamorphosis process. Keep track of it in your nature journal. Then set your butterfly or moth free. This time of year, you can find eggs and caterpillars to bring in and raise on your own. You probably already know that Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed. Did you know you might find a swallowtail egg or caterpillar on a dill plant.  I wonder where you might find a Cabbage White caterpillar?

Learn about a cocoon and a chrysalis. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

You can download and read books by Jean-Henri Fabre.

Learn more about Maria Sibylla Merian

Be sure to check out Susanna Hill's Blog where you can look for reviews by book, title, and by themes.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Perfect Picture Book Friday . . . On Sunday. Three for the Price of One

Well, the days got busy and here we are on Sunday. Any day is a good day to read a picture book; even better is to read three picture books. The first two books, I  learned about from other #PPBF bloggers, the last I found at my local public library. They are all beautiful in their own way.

Cover art for The Boy Who Grew A Forest

Title: The Boy Who Grew A Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng
Written by: Sophia Gholz
Illustrated by: Kayla Harren
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press, 2019
Opening: "The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is now. -- proverb 
In India, on a large river, among farms and families hard at work, there lived a boy who loved trees. Trees meant shade, food, and shelter for many.

Themes: trees, biography, ecology 

Why I love this book: 

🌞 Trees, ecology, protecting the earth.
🌞 Such beautiful  illustrations. 
🌞 This is a beautifully written biography of an unknown person who made a big difference  for his community.  While it's a story about a young man in India planting trees, it goes beyond that, Jadav Payeng's efforts, helped to protect his people from flooding, provided wood for building, and provided habitats and shelters for wildlife. It is a story that shows not only a person willing to work hard to protect and improve the land, it's a story about how everything is connected.

🌳 Plant a tree.
🌍 Work in the garden.
🌳 Learn more about the author and illustrator. 
🌍 Learn about India and Jadav Peyeng's home

cover art for You are Never Alone

Title: You are Never Alone
Written by: Elin Kelsey
Illustrated by: Soyeon Kim
Publisher: Owlkids Books, 2019

Themes: ecosystems, Interconnections, earth

Opening Lines: Every moment this beautiful planet showers you with gifts. Clouds rain fresh water to quench your thirst. Your lungs swell with oxygen plants create. 

Why I love this book:

While this book is not technically non-fiction, it is based in non-fiction sharing many ways that we are all connected with each other and the earth. It is an earth hug. Soyeon Kim's illustrations feel like they come from the past of the Little Golden Book era of Mary Blair. The tiny people with the the grand world and micro worlds of the story are made up of all shapes and colors. They appear almost as fairies, and yet they are children connecting to the world, seeing and experiencing it up close. 

So beautiful.  Perfect for bedtime or after lunch and recess. A book to feel good about the earth and spark discussion.

🌞 Spend time outside. Take a close up look at the world around you.
🌞 Learn more about all of the connections shared in this book.
🌞 Do something kind for someone you have never met.
🌞 Learn more about the author and illustrator

Cover art for Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander

Title: Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets
Written by: Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth
Illustrated by: Ekua Holmes
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2017
Coretta Scott King Award

Themes: Poetry, Poets

Opening: Part 1: Got Style? Poets love to make up their own rules about writing; that's what makes it so much fun. Sometime e.e.cummings and Nikki Giovanni use ellipses (...) to separate ideas and lowercase letters at the beginning of sentences. Langston Hughes, who loved jazz, was a master of repetition, rhythm, rhyming couplets, and quatrains. The poems in this section pay tribute to the poets being celebrated adopting their styles and rhythms.

How to Write a Poem
Celebrating Naomi Shihab Nye

Grab a pencil
some paper and spunk.
Let loose your heart -- 
raise your voice.

. . . .

-- Kwame Alexander

Why I love this book:
The poems celebrating each poet are beautiful.  They introduce you to the writers through the eyes of the authors with poems written in each poet's style. 

At the end of the book there is a section with a short biography of each of the poets featured. It is a nice starting place to learn more about the poets.

This beautiful book of poetry celebrating poets, opens your eyes to the wonders of poetry, the beauty of the world as seen through poet eyes, and truly celebrates many poets from many cultures and time periods in history. 

Ekua Holmes' mixed-media collage art illustrations add even more life and color to each poem and poet.

✏ Write some poetry.
✏ Read books by each of the poets featured.

Be sure to check out Susanna Hill's Blog where you can look for reviews by book, title, and by themes. 

Friday, June 14, 2019

Perfect Picture Book Friday -- Pocket Full of Colors

Hello World, It's #PPBF time!

Book cover for Pocket Full of Colors

Title: Pocket Full of Colors: The magical world of Mary Blair, Disney artist extraordinaire
Authors: Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville
Illustrated by: Brigette Barrager
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017

Ages: 6 and up

Themes: Biography, Artists, Women

First page: Under a wide blue sky, on a red dirt road,in a lemon-yellow house, there lived a girl named Mary. Other children collected marbles or dolls, but Mary collected colors of every shade and hue.

Why I love this book:

I am sorry to admit that until Vanessa Brantley Newton talked about the art and style of Mary Blair in my character design class, I didn't know who she was. But, it's never too late to learn.

Over the past couple of years, I have taken a much closer look at who the artists and illustrators are in picture books. I try to figure out their medium and style. Vanessa talks about the little feet that Mary Blair incorporated into her drawings of people. I realized, I needed to put a face to those little feet. I looked her up and came across this picture book biography.

It is a beautiful book which takes you through Mary's life and ties it all together with her love of color and her unique and daring style of art.
book illustration, Mary Blair young and painting with lots of colors

Mary Blair in South America, painting and collecting all the beautiful colors

Mary Blair going off to make the colorful art she loved.
As you can see, Brigette Barrager used the bright swirls of color throughout Mary's life to show her never ending love of color.  In the last image above, you get a glimpse of the men she was working with at Disney. The are all in brown and white. While Walt Disney loved her colors and vibrant style, the other men's ideas and acceptance of Mary's style paled in comparison. Mary never gave up her dreams. She went off and created illustrations for many books with Little Golden Books.

When I was 10, our family went to Disney World. I fell in love with the "It's a Small World" exhibit/ride. Little did I know, that this was the work of Mary Blair. I wanted to go through that ride over and over again. Today, it would be kind of boring compared to the glitz and glamour of rides today, but back then, when the world felt so big, before everything was on the internet, when we hardly talked about all the cultures of the world, the It's a Small World, boat ride through tunnels and animated characters from around the world, inspired my love of people, color, and art. If Mary Blair were alive today, the ride would likely be bigger and brighter, and even more exotic, but it would have her same flair.

So I love this book because it tells me the story of a courageous artist who didn't give up, when others wanted her to be different. She persevered and created exciting art for her time inspiring artists to create and experiment with their own style and flair.

It is beautifully written and illustrated.


Learn more about Amy Guglielmo
Learn more about Jacqueline Tourville
And Brigette Barrager
Learn more about Mary Blair

Create a Color Bingo game to collect colors when you travel.

Find your color. A friend posted this video of Sam Adams skin color comedy routine on Facebook, and it feels so appropriate here. It's good clean comedy. I am currently three colors: Indulgent Peach (sun tan/burn), Provincial peach (where the sun hasn't shined), and my freckles are Reindeer Herd according to Sherwin Williams color charts. What's your color/colors?

Make art!

Sing along: It's a Small World After All

Friday, June 7, 2019

Perfect Picture Book Friday -- Hidden City

I woke up this morning and couldn't understand why I had Perfect Picture Book Friday blog posts in my email feed. It's only Thursday and I have a whole day to finish writing my #PPBF post. Then it hit, it really is Friday. Good thing I had the post planned out and didn't have to totally scramble. 

Cover art for Hidden City: Poems about Urban Wildlife

Title: Hidden City: Poems of Urban Wildlife
Author: Sarah Grace Tuttle
Illustrated by: Amy Schimler-Safford
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2018

Themes: Poetry, nature, mixed media art

Opening Poem:

In the night
under the table
a mother mouse
scurries back and forth. She
rips paper
rips paper
rips paper
forgotten paper away
to build her nest.

Why I love this book: 
Observational poetry is such a lovely way to capture little details that you notice on any given day.

Each poem focuses the mind and the eye on one element of nature. It creates curiosity to want to see it for ourselves.

There are no rhymes in sight. Not that rhyming is bad, I just enjoy poems without rhymes too.

Amy Schimler-Safford's art is beautiful, colorful, and full of the life and wonder of urban wildlife.

  • Go outside and play.
  • Write an observational poem about something you see in nature.
  • Connect with a local community garden and get your hands dirty.
  • Make art. Use scraps of paper and garden dirt as your art media.
  • Check out Sarah Grace Tuttle's website
  • Check out Amy Schimler-Safford's website
  • Check out Jilanne Hoffman's blog post about When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree  Pick that book up at the library while you are out. It's a great companion to Hidden City.
  • Another book of nature poetry to pick up with this selection is Boom! Bellow! Bleat! Animal Poems for Two of More Voices written by Georgia Heard and illustrated by Aaron DeWitt. This one is great for reading together and making lots of noise.
Yesterday, (yes the real Thursday) I sat on my front stoop with my little dachshund at y side and painted the fairy house in my garden.

I spotted a daisy fairy. I wonder if a poem is in there too?

Be sure to check out Susanna Hill's Blog where you can look for reviews by book, title, and by themes. And you can check out her weekly #PPBF post along with links to many more wonderful posts here

Friday, May 31, 2019

Perfect Picture Book Friday -- Frida Kahlo

Happy Friday to you! Kids are heading into summer vacation mode with time to play, read, and make art on their own terms. If you haven't read this wonderful biography of Frida Kahlo, this summer would be wonderful time to meet the artist and her many beloved animals.

Book Cover for Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos

Title: Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos
Written by: Monica Brown
Illustrated by: John Parra
Publisher: North South Books, 2017
Pura Belpre Honor Book

Themes: art, biography, imagination, pets

About the book: This picture book biography of the artist Frida Kahlo is the story of her life as seen through her relationship with her many beloved pets.

Why I love this book: I too love animals. Frida's pets were grand and varied. I wonder what it would be like to have monkey's as pets?

Animals and art were therapy for Frida. This would be a wonderful introduction for children who have health problems or may be struggling emotionally. It tells a child she/he is not alone and gives them ways to move through the difficult times.

Art is so important. As they say, "Earth without art is Eh." This book is a double dose of art. First the story of an artist and secondly, the artwork created by John Parra.  I had the opportunity to listen and watch as he showed us how he creates his illustrations. Each illustration is many many layers of paint with cutting and masking of sections, building up to the final piece. You can learn more about his process here.

We need more art. Kids need to make art and be exposed to art. This book does that in spades!

A couple articles on the importance of making art which Arree Chung posted on his Facebook page and I share with you here:


  • Color a picture of Frida Kahlo
  • Draw a self-portrait. What are your your favorite features? Who would be in the portrait with you?
  • Experiment with different art styles.
  • Visit an art museum, gallery, and/or local artists group to see what types of art other people are making. In my town, our art league shows their artwork at two local libraries throughout the year and offers a day of art for kids at a summer event.
  • Learn more about Frida Kahlo
  • Find out about the Pura Belpre Award
  • Learn more about the Illustrator, John Parra
  • Learn more about the author, Monica Brown
  • Take some time to understand the meaning of the Spanish words in the book. You may even want to begin learning the language. Many public libraries offer access to online language learning programs. If you are taking a trip with lots of travel time, you could all learn together. Be sure to join the Summer Reading Program too. You and your kids will be more prepared than ever to head back to a new school year in the fall.
Be sure to check out Susanna Hill's Blog where you can look for reviews by book, title, and by themes. And you can check out her weekly #PPBF post along with links to many more wonderful posts here

Friday, May 24, 2019

Perfect Picture Book Friday -- Cricket in the Thicket

Tomorrow is my birthday. I wanted to find just the right book that I would want to read on my birthday. One might think I would choose a book about birthdays, or a book about Memorial Day, but if you have gotten to know me through my posts, you already realize that the book I would choose would be about nature or art or both. I have three books waiting in these categories and it was hard to to pick which one to share this week. All three were discovered during the Marvelous Midwest SCBWI Conference. When I walked through the conference book store, this book caught my eye and I was smitten with the cover.

book cover for Cricket in the thicket by Carol Murray

Title: Cricket in the Thicket: Poems about Bugs
Author: Carol Murray
Illustrated by: Melissa Sweet
Publisher: Christy Octavia Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2017

First Line:  Cricket in the thicket, cricket.

A poem from the book: 
Grasshopper Green
Grasshopper green is a munching machine,
he is built with precision and flair.

His hind legs are long and exceedingly strong,
like two springs as he zings through the air.

Four wings let him fly, let him zip through the sky,
he has jaws that are perfect for crunching.

With ears near his knees and five eyes, sure to please,
he spends most of his time simply munching.

A Very Short Description: This is a book of rhyming poems about a variety of insects.

Why I love this book: 
πŸ’šPoems about insects.
πŸ’š Each poem is fun and observational.
πŸ’šI fell in love with the cover and then again with every illustration.
πŸ’š I don't like all insects and there are a few in this book that I still don't like, but I enjoy knowing just a little more about each. Just because I don't like them, doesn't mean I should ignore them and not understand them. So kudos to Carol for writing about tics and mites.
πŸ’šEach page includes a poem and a fact about the insect. At the back of the book, each insect is listed with additional facts shared.
πŸ’š This book is a Kansas State Library Notable book for 2018.
πŸ’šI had the opportunity to test a few poems out with some second graders yesterday during time in the garden. Each poem elicited discussion and sharing of previous knowledge. These second graders had monarch caterpillars in their classrooms last fall (9 months ago) to learn about the monarch caterpillar life cycle. They were sharing things they remember about the experience. Two of my favorites:  Some said, "J". It took a moment to connect the dots, but they were remembering when the caterpillar had finished eating and was getting ready to shed its skin and reveal its chrysalis. They also remembered that the newly hatched caterpillar turns around and eats its egg and may even eat its instar each time it sheds its skin. Being able to introduce insects to children through real life experience, poetry and art, helps to develop a deep understanding and appreciation of these living creatures.

Wander around your yard, park, or neighborhood and see what bugs you can find. Then do some first hand research by asking questions and seeing if you can discover the answers. You may want to carry a nature journal to make drawing and take notes about your discoveries. I notice, I wonder, and it reminds me of.

Here are a few more questions to keep you going:
What is the big doing?
How many wings does it have?
Does it make a sound?
Did you hear it before you saw it?
What does it look like?
Where are its ears?
How close can you get?

Did you research leave you with more questions than answers? Learn more about each of the insects by checking out books from your local library.

Play Insect Bingo

Use the observations from your insect discoveries to write poems.
Information on writing rhyming couplets

Learn about the illustrator Melissa Sweet

Make your own Mixed Media Collage: A few links:
Beginner's Guide
From Meri Cherry
Mixed Media Flower Craft

Be sure to check out Susanna Hill's Blog where you can look for reviews by book, title, and by themes.

And now for something completely different. Since it's my birthday blog post, I share with you a recipe for fudge that my mother passed down to me. I made it a couple of weeks ago as frosting for my sister's birthday cupcakes. Yum! and easy to make. Think of it as nectar for humans.

Baked Fudge
1 LB. Confectioner Sugar
1/2 Cup (1 stick) Butter
1/3 Cup Cocoa
1/4 Cup Milk (I used Cashew Milk)
1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts or Pecans (optional)
1 TBS. Vanilla

Combine sugar, butter, cocoa & milk in an ovenproof bowl
Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees
Add nuts and vanilla
Beat until it stats to thicken. Pour into an 11" x 7" x 2" pan or frost cooled cake or cupcakes. Let cool and enjoy.