Hearing about Ripple - this wonderful project to help the birds and animals of the Gulf Coast - I have become addicted to the pages and pages of artwork. Many were created by children's illustrators and some of published children's books. At this point the children's literature "rock star" illustrators haven't made an appearance, but I'm hopeful that some of them will be willing to lend a hand to publicize this fantastic idea. (Hello, Mo?)
Here's the deal. Artists send an electronic file of their sketchcard to the organizer, often with some notes about the work or their feelings on the Gulf disaster. You make a donation of $10.00 to The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies or The International Bird Rescue Research Center. You email the donation confirmation to firstname.lastname@example.org, along with your address, and which card you want. The artist will mail you the signed card.
The nonprofits get money to help with the Gulf oil spill and more exposure for their important work. The artists get exposure for their talents and a chance to help the charity. You get an opportunity to help the charity and a bonus piece of art. Win-Win-Win!
Here are three children's illustrators who at this moment have sketches still available:
1. Katie Davis is the author/illustrator of picture books, including Who Hops?, and Kindergarten Rocks! and the upcoming Little Chicken's Big Day.
2. Michele Henninger is an illustrator from New Hampshire who has work featured in the SCBWI Bulletin and children's magazines.
3. Ginger Nielson is children's picture book illustrator living in New Hampshire whose books include My African Bedtime Story and Song for a Giraffe.
The website has raised 3,000 dollars so far and new sketches are added every day. But if you're ready to contribute now, consider some of these sketches lost in the surge of newer items. (The titles are the post headlines, which are sometimes the title of piece and sometimes not. You'll see the whole list of titles at the bottom of Ripple.)
11. Charlotte's Card (Someone has to buy this sad otter. Please.)
14. New News and Cards
19. I'm a Cartoonist After All
34. She Can Bring out the Best (A little hermit crab picture.)
44. Across the Pond
83. The Way things should be
85. Situation is Graphic
94. Family Ripples (A child's artwork. Think how happy she'll be when it's sold.)
Of course, you can also do what I've been doing - visiting the page constantly, skimming through all the artwork, bemoaning what I missed, and celebrating what I bought.
by Karma Wilson, illustrated by John Segal
In this simple story, a grown-up cat tries to get the little bear to go to sleep,but the little bear wants to delay bedtime just a little bit longer. Surprise, surprise. The sing-song feel of the text isn't a straight rhyme scheme, but uses rhyming words and a gentle rhythm. The beautiful watercolors are dreamy. One thing I particularly like about the book is the characters: a cat and bear, both of indeterminate gender. It could be a mother and son, father and daughter, aunt and niece, etc. The two characters from different species also leaves it open as an adoption story, perhaps of a child of a different race. In any case, it's a lovely bedtime book to be shared with a special little bear of one's own.
No More Yawning!
by Paeony Lewis, illlustrated by Brita Granström
Generally I'm not a big fan of bedtime books where the child keeps getting out of bed or otherwise disrupting bedtime. They tend to make me feel more like the child needs more limits and parental authority. But this book includes yawning, and having yawning in a bedtime book is pure genius, because as the parent reads the book with the yawns, the child starts yawning and is soon ready for bed. In fact, it makes it a little confusing that the mother keeps telling the little girl, "No more yawning," even though it is paired with all the other instructions like "No more kissing" or "No more singing" or "No more stories." Yawn away, I say. Cute book and nice, soft watercolor illlustrations. Oh and good tips on falling asleep are included in the back.
Once Upon a Time, The End (asleep in 60 seconds)
by Geoffrey Kloske, illustrated by Barry Blitt
In this tale, the father is putting his kid to bed, but just wants to get through the bedtime stories as quickly as possible. The stories are all the classics, just shorter. Much, much shorter. And generally with a theme of going to sleep at the end of each one. A great book for parents. Oh, and for kids too, but particularly ones that are old enough to get the references to the classic stories and the overarching tongue-in-cheek theme that "enough already, bedtime is NOW."
I generally make it a point to profile books that are not only published, but ones that are likely to have made it to the public library system. But today, I'm going to take you into my world of books where I hear about books long before they are published and have the chance to get excited about their release. When I'm really lucky, I get a chance to look at them in a gallery form. There are times that this little perk is all that keeps me book blogging.
So it is with that introduction, that I share three books that I picked up at Book Expo America last week. Three books that made my book blogger heart go pitter-patter.
Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion
by Mo Willems
You know if I went to the Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical than I must have a fond spot for the books. (Okay, and Mo.) The plot of the picture books is simple: girl has bunny, girl loses bunny, girl finds bunny again. But it's not about the plot. In the first book, the subtext is the frustration of a toddler in not being understood (Aggle Flaggle!) and the helplessness of the parent in not understanding. The reward at the end is Trixie's first word - and by extension the families move to the next level of communication. In the second book, the loss of the bunny is surrounded by a conflict with a peer and ends with a discovery of real friendship. The parent conflict contained within is that of mothers and fathers struggling with encouraging strength and independence, yet wanting to save our dear children from any hardship. The third book sees Trixie on a trip to Holland to see her grandparents, and losing Knuffle Bunny this time exposes the whole family to the idea of When Hope May Be Lost. I won't give away the ending, especially in terms of what is learned, but I don't believe that you'll be disappointed. This title is available September 2010.
Clementine, Friend of the Week
by Sara Pennypacker; illustrated by Marla Frazee
If you haven't met Clementine yet, than you really must get to your local library and pick up the first three books in the series. Clementine is another spunky girl, following the trend of Ramona, Junie B.,and Judy Moody. I like all of these characters, but would highlight the differences in Clementine. She's not as bratty as Ramona, she doesn't mix up words like Junie B., and she's not a self-centered as Judy Moody. Instead, Clementine is a artistic, clever, attention-challenged third grader who tries to do the right thing, and it too often goes wrong. Amusingly and charmingly wrong. In this new book, she is shares her excitement about being friend of the week with her slightly older best friend Margaret, who then gives her advice on how to act during the week. Clementine gives it a go, but it doesn't work out as planned. In the end, she realizes that she has been a good friend all along - and maybe even inspired others to greater empathy. It's another wonderful book with a good message and winning illustrations. This title will be available July 2010.
Guys Read: Funny Business
edited by Jon Scieszka
The First Children's Literature Ambassador Jon Scieszka has been spending his time asking, "What about the boys?" With a book release two years ago of Guys Write for Guys Read (right now bargain-priced at $4.80!) and a Guys Read website devoted to good books for boys, Scieszka has again taken on the role of advocate. This new book of short stories features some amazing authors, namely Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, Adam Rex, David Yoo, Paul Feig, Kate Dicamillo, Christopher Paul Curtis, Eoin Colfer, Jack Gantos, and Jeff Kinny in a book intended to bring about the funny. After seeing the authors present the concept in a talk at Book Expo America, I have no doubt that they will meet their goal. Any presentation where Groucho glasses are handed out - well, that has to be a good sign. This title will be available September 2010.
by Eun-hee Choung
This book comes to Kane/Miller publishing from South Korea, but it could just as easily be set in any of the bustling Korean neighborhoods in America. While her mother is getting her hair colored and styled, Minji follows suit with her own customer a black dog and in her own way. The child’s desire to do grown-up things is universal, and is captured well in this simply worded picture book. The illustrations are engaging, especially when capturing the expressions of Minji and her mom. Enjoyable, lovely book.
If Not for the Calico Cat,
by Mary Blount Christian, illustrated by Sebastià Serra
A ship’s crew believes that a calico cat will bring them good luck on their sea journey. They load the silks, rice, tea, fans, vases, jade... and of course, a calico cat from the pier. But they may have picked the wrong cat. This fluffy pet just wants to find a nice place to rest, even if it means inadvertently causing chaos. There was a moment toward the conclusion of the book when I felt that it was going kind of dark, but all was okay in the end. At least for the cat. An interesting book on sea journeys and kitties with a little old Japanese flair thrown in for good measure.
The Silk Princess,
by Charles Santore
The Chinese legend of the discovery of silk is expanded in this picture book. A child sees a silkworm cocoon fall in hot tea and begin to unwind. She takes one end and walks away from her mother to see how far it stretches. She walks and walks and soon gets worn out and lies down. She continues her adventure, running away from a dragon and then meeting an old man who teaches her the way to use the silk. She takes the story or dream back to her mother and silk is introduced in China. The illustrations are beautiful and very detailed. There’s a lot of text, so a better story for older preschool or early school-age kids.
In March, I listed ideas for Thrifty Reading with ideas for finding books on a budget. Last week, Susan offered ideas on ways to build your child's library in an economical way with her post Have I Got a Deal for You! Then Monday, Terry took the idea towards what titles should be in that library with Bookworm Basics And now I'm coming back to the concept with three types of books to look for in filling the bookshelves.
There are really two kinds of classics: the ones that you read as a child and the new classics that have come out in the intervening years. Your child's bookshelf should have some of both. Reading the books that you grew up on gives you a chance to share that connection with your child. Maybe these books don't honor the faster pace of today's child or use the latest research on teaching to the developing brain of a toddler. But they mean something to you, and that's important. Many also have a place as cultural reference that continues through generations. (Hello Man in the Yellow Hat.) Such books like Curious George; Madeline; Goodnight Moon, Corduroy, Where the Wild Things Are, Bread and Jam for Frances, and The Cat in the Hat belong on every child's bookshelf. You may have some books from your own childhood that are special to you that you should also share. New Classics are ones that you'll see featured at any bookstore, like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom; The Hungry Caterpillar, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!; Clifford the Big Red Dog; Guess How Much I Love You; and Fancy Nancy. Here's a hint on finding the New Classics: they often have a line of related merchandise. I'm not condoning it, I'm just saying'.
Reading is one of the first ways that we see the greater world around us, so take the opportunity to widen that exposure with books that are diverse and multicultural. In looking for books featuring children of color, I've become fond of the illustrator Randy Cecil who used a great cast of characters in Looking for a Moose and How Do You Wokka-Wokka? (written by Phyllis Root and Elizabeth Bluemie, respectively). Kadir Nelson brings his art to life in every book he illustrates, but young readers will especially enjoy Please, Puppy, Please. Grace Lin incorporates Asian children and themes in the many, picture books she has written and illustrated - like in Kite Flying and you'll find Hispanic themes in the works of Pat Mora and Tony Johnson, among many others.
Explore the world without leaving home in the wonderful picture books of Barbara Kerley, with photos from National Geographic - like You and Me Together. Start even younger with the board books like Global Babies or broaden the concept with If the World Were a Village. Think about different kinds of families with The Family Book by Todd Parr (speaking of children of color, you'll see all the colors of rainbow represented here - literally) or And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell which tells the story of two male penguins who raise an egg together.
If you're stuck on buying a book, look for the one with great art. I don't mean books with classic artwork in them - though I am fond of the Metropolitan Museum series - but instead books that have amazing illustrations. Step into the art of Steve Jenkins in books like Actual Size or the surreal world of David Wiesner in Flotsam or the perfect spareness of Peter Reynolds in Ish. Investigate the soft tone of Jon Muth or the lively colors of David Diaz. Compare the watercolors of E. B. Lewis to the scratchboard work of Beth Krommes. Find books that are illustrated with beauty, style, and creativity and you'll likely find yourself in possession of very, very good books.
Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site MotherReader.com may receive a referral fee.
When the folks at the Kennedy Center had an idea to do a show based on the award-winning book Knuffle Bunny, Mo Willems didn't hesitate. Okay, maybe he hesitated, but he certainly accepted the challenge to write the script and lyrics of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical. For over two years he worked with more than thirty people to turn the picture book into a one-hour family musical.
With Grammy Award winning composer Michael Silversher taking on the music, Mo worked most closely on the script with dramaturge Megan Alrutz. As he notes on his blog, "If you ever get the chance to get your own Dramaturge, do it! They're awesome. The thought of losing my Dramaturge to other dramaturgically needy projects in the future fills me with dread. And, as long as you're getting a Dramaturge, get Megan. She rocks." Workshops and rehearsals with the cast and crew helped to further shape the musical with even additional tweaking even on the Friday before the performance.
The musical certainly feels like a Mo Willems production. Fans will instantly recognize the background projected on the stage and even the clothes the characters are wearing as being from the book. The plot is the same, the father takes his young daughter to the laundromat and misplaces her beloved Knuffle Bunny, causing a toddler meltdown of miscommunication and complete frustration.
For the musical, the part of Trixie is played by Stephanie D'Abruzzo, an old pal from Mo's Sesame Street and Sheep in the Big City days. She dives into the tough role, portraying Trixie's garbled speech and active imagination with a childlike enthusiasm. Michael John Casey gives the audience a fantastic Dad, who is ready to take on anything and make it fun. Erika Rose is the knowing Mom, and Matthew McGloin and Gia Mora handle the other characters as Puppeteers.
The children in the audience laughed during the show, and there is much for adults to appreciate as well. Trixie's inability to communicate creates much of the humor of the book and the musical, and yet it's also a real source of frustration and helplessness for both father and daughter. The musical gave an opportunity to explore this deeper connection to our own feelings of inadequacy as parents. That point when we recognize that our child has ideas and an individually that we can't always comprehend or even recognize.
This theme is evident as the father sings about all the things that he will teach his daughter, while not noticing her already intense fascination with the world around her. In fact as she expresses delight in a friendly pigeon - yes, that pigeon - her father scares the bird away as a "dirty rat with wings." As poor Trixie sings a sad song of toddler gibberish - complete with boa and spotlight - about the loss of her stuffed friend, her father is lost in misunderstanding. And yet as he feels that frustration of not getting it and not doing it right, he still is able to tap into what is most important - the love that he feels for his little girl. Of course, it all turns out fine at the end.
Overall, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical is a fun show for kids and their adults, with catchy music and lots of laughs along with a sentimental spirit. And what struck Mo Willems as a member of the audience? " I loved holding my daughter's hand during the song "Really, Really Love You." Best moment by far."
The show travels for eighteen months or so before returning to Kennedy Center next year, so look to catch a performance at a theater near you. If you're excited about the possibility of another Mo musical, be encouraged that he's talking about ways to work together more with the group, having enjoyed this experience so much. Whatever it is or may be, count me in the audience. Or crashing the premiere party as I may or may not have done this time. Read all about my personal experience at the musical over at MotherReader.
It's time again to focus on Mom with cards, flowers, and... picture books starting with baby, moving to preschooler and ending with a story of a little girl all-grown-up.
Before You Were Here, Mi Amor
by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Santiago Cohen
An Hispanic mother talks to her baby about all the loving thoughts, wishes, and preparations in the time before he or she was born. Filled with Spanish words that flow seamlessly within the text, the book brings a fresh take to the mommy-love category of picture books. The illustrations make the translations clear, though a glossary is included at the end. For example, the picture of the little girl with her ear on mommy's tummy with "Before you were here, tu hermana placed her face against mi barriguita and whispered, "¡Hola, bebe!" Oh, and before we drift too far from illustrations - or fresh takes for that matter - the artwork with its bright colors and bold lines is a nice change from the usual pastels that tend to dominate these books about a mother's love. Definitely a keeper, and if you don't believe me, you can check out the universal five-star ratings at Amazon's reviews.
Just Like Mama
by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Julia Gorton
As a mommy and daughter share a regular day, the little girl recounts all the wonderful things a great mom can do. The glowing testimony to a mother's love starts in the morning, "with a whirl and twirl across the fuzzy purple rug, she swoops down on my bed and scoops me up into a hug. Nobody wakes me up just like mama." At the end, it becomes a love letter right back, "Nobody loves mama just like me!" This sweet book will remind you of all the little things that us moms do right. Things that are sometimes perfect in their very ordinary nature - like brushing hair - or ordinary things that can be made special with an extra touch - like whipped cream in the cocoa. Simply delightful for young readers.
In Our Mothers' House
by Patricia Polacco
A grown-up daughter tells the story of her and her siblings' years in their mothers' house. And note that apostrophe, because this is a book about two mothers and their adopted kids. The topic is handled in a nonchalant manner, except for occasional reference to a neighbor who "just plain didn't like us." Okay, and one page where the neighbor spits out her hatred of the two moms. But after that, it's back to the block party, and making dresses and growing up. Regular life. Polocco's illustrations are always special, and here they capture the love of this beautiful family. The amount of text and meandering story would make it a better choice for older picture book readers or younger ones with longer attention spans. Overall, a wonderful view into family, love, and acceptance.
Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site MotherReader.com may receive a referral fee.
As we wrap up National Poetry Month, let's talk about bringing more poetry into your child's life.
1. Read It: Next time you're at the library, take a turn into the poetry section. Most likely you'll find it under Dewey's famous decimal system at either 811 (for single author) or 808 (for collections). While poetry books may have been limited when we were growing up, the choices now are amazing. There are collections about cats, oceans, sports, friends, apologies, and world records. You'll also find styles and forms just as varied, along with a broad illustrative range. It's a new day in children's poetry from what you might remember as a somewhat stale past. Take a chance and bring some home for your nightly reading time.
2. Write It: Inspired by the poems you read, try your hand at writing a few. Don't worry about perfection or natural talent. Simply have fun with words. With your child, play with rhythm and rhyme to make up some silly poems. If they don't really make sense, maybe they'll make you laugh. I amused my three year old niece with a quick ditty about a little black dog that was running down the street, with a baseball cap on top of his head and sneakers on his feet. From there, we could have looked at the rhyming word family of "feet" (note: Learning Alert), or come up with a new story. (As it was, we turned into Applebees.) Another easy form to investigate is the haiku with its three line, 5-7-5 syllables format. It's surprising how many lovely turns of phrase can be changed slightly to fit the form. Or:
Changed slightly to fit,
Many lovely turns of phrase
become the haiku.
And I didn't even try there to get the original sentence to work. So think what could be done with your child's observations about clouds, spiders, or crayons.
3. Find It: Once you start to look, you'll find poetry all around. Song lyrics come through more clearly as poetry. (Well, some at least. I wouldn't suggest the works of Lady Gaga as being rich in material.) Picture books can be poetic, even when they're aren't categorized as poetry. Phrases you hear on the playground or words you see at the store, fragments of lists or sentences of novels can spark your imagination. You could tuck those pieces away for a future poetry venture, or acknowledge them in the moment and let them go. But truly, allow yourself and your child to recognize the magical and musical quality of words, because that is poetry.
For National Poetry Month, I've given you poetry links, collections, and picture books. Today I have a set of books where one poem is made into a picture book. Enjoy.
Me I Am!
by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Christine Davenier
I know, another Prelutsky book that seem different from the style that I attribute to him. I may need to give the man more credit. For this book, I love the way this poem expresses the uniqueness of each person and celebrates our individuality. It's like a personal anthem. "I am the only ME I AM, who qualifies as me; no ME I AM has been before, and none will ever be."The poem carried through the pages is lovely, but the artist, Christine Davenier, has taken it another step into a celebration of childhood. Each two-page spread is a story in itself, told in the pictures. Over two pages, we see a girl trying on a frilly dress, rejecting it, putting on play clothes, skating away, falling, and getting up again happy. There is another story for a little boy, and then another little girl, and then in the end they all come together. So much more is going on in this book than the words, and it's all good.
All the World
by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee
The poetic text is simple - "Rock, stone, pebble, sand; body, shoulder arm, hand; A moat to dig a shell to keep, All the world is wide and deep." The book takes a multicultural family through a day that focuses on their connection with each other, with friends and neighbors, and the world around them. There are beaches and parks, gardens and restaurants, the big outdoors and the cozy space of home. The sentiment is lovely and is made more so by the detailed illustrations and breathtaking panoramas. This title encourages repeat readings to expand on the stories contained in the pictures, and the beauty contained in the message.
by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Tracey Campbell Pearson
Robert Stevenson’s poem - "The moon has a face like the clock in the hall;/She shines on thieves on the garden wall,/On streets and fields/and harbour quays" - is brought to life by illustrator Tracey Campbell Pearson. She turns this poem about the moon and the world at night into a story where a father wakes up the boy (or girl with short hair - it could go either way) and takes him out on a nighttime adventure. They say goodbye to mommy and the baby, but take the dog and cat along. They drive through the country to a dock, get on a boat, and go on a nighttime ride. You can imagine what a treat this would be for an older sibling to have a special trip with daddy after bedtime. Pearson has made each picture such a feast for the eyes, with incredible attention to detail and to the mood. A fantastic book that may inspire your own nighttime adventure.
Last week I had some great poetry collections, and this week I have some great poetry picture books. If you have some favorites, share them in the comments.
If Not for the Cat
by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Ted Rand
The title begs to be finished, so here is the poem of the mouse:
"If not for the cat, And the scarcity of cheese, I could be content." Every time I reference this book, I have to double-check that the poet is indeed Prelutsky because it doesn't fit with the sillier style I've come to associate with him. But yes, it's him crafting these perfect poems about seventeen different animals. The poems are accessible for children, but take some thought too - along with offering some challenging, evocative words. The illustrations are beautiful, with a great use of detail and color to support the haiku. Purists will note that it isn't true haiku as they don't all feature the requisite seventeen syllables, but I don't feel the need to split hairs with someone who thinks to describe jellyfish movement as "gelatinously." Brilliant stuff, this.
Speak To Me (And I Will LIsten Between The Lines)
by Karen English, illustrated by Amy Bates
I loved this book when I first saw it a few years ago, and it sticks with me. I don’t know that I can verify that it captures the feel of an urban school - though it sure seems that way - but I do know that it really captures the feeling of third graders. Feeling pride in an eighth birthday. Worrying about losing a best friend to another girl in the class. Daydreaming. Saving a seat at lunch. Each poem is told from the point of the view of one of the kids in the class, most of whom are African-American. The illustrations capture the feel of the kids and the poems in every nuance of expression. A perfect classroom book, for sure, but also a wonderful book to share at home.
Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors
by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
What can I say about this book but lovely, lovely, lovely, lovely and oh yes, lovely. And that’s from someone who doesn’t care much for poetry as a rule. After checking out a library copy based on the book’s Caldecott silver medal and Cybils win, I had to buy my own copy. (Which I did through the Cybils site, because every book that you buy there gives a little bit back to that award.) Taking us through all the seasons in colors, these short poems by Joyce Sidman pack a velvet-covered punch, while Pamela Zagarenski’s illustrations invite long-lingering looks and sighs. Truly, I want to live in the world that Zagarenski sees and sink into the descriptions of Sidman's words:
each note dropping
like a cherry
into my ear.