Perfect Picture Book Friday – Saturday is Dadurday

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

booklovebadgeCALLING ALL CUPIDS!

I’m challenging my fellow book-lovers this month to show the books and authors they love a little extra affection by posting reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and other social media. Read more about the Book Love blog hop, and if you review books for PPBF, consider yourself tagged!

 

Title: Saturday Is Dadurdaysaturday_is_dadurday

Author: Robin Pulver

Illustrator: R. W. Alley

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Year: 2013

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Family life; fathers; dealing with disappointment

Opening:

After the twins were born, Mimi and Dad had an idea for their same favorite day. It came after Friday, and Mimi and Dad called it Dadurday.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) For Mimi, the best day of the week is always Saturday, because she gets to spend it with just her Dad. Every “Dadurday” begins the same way–Mimi and Dad make silly-shaped pancakes, read the comics section of the newspaper and make lists of fun things to do together. But when Dad gets a new work schedule, “Dadurday” is ruined. Can Mimi find a way to still make it a special day for her and dad?

What makes it great: Mothers loom large in the picture book landscape so it’s refreshing to read a book where the dad/daughter relationship is the focus.

What readers notice: My daughter liked the plays on words in the book, from “Dadurday” in the title, to “Badurday,” “Madurday,” and “Sadurday,” reflecting Mimi’s disappointment when she learns that Dad will have to work on Saturdays.

What a writer notices: I liked that Dad and Mom played essential roles in this story, while still letting Mimi come to a very realistic, child-centered solution on her own.

Activities/Resources:

Some resources for teaching days of the week:

http://www.schoolsparks.com/blog/teaching-your-child-the-days-of-the-week

 

Calling All Cupids! BOOK LOVE – A Blog Hop

A recent email by a writer friend reminded me that, even though I read and enjoy many, many books, I don’t always show those books (and their authors) the attention they deserve. If I’ve enjoyed a book a lot, I might tell a friend or two. I might even review a book here on my blog. But I don’t review books in other key places – like on Amazon and Goodreads.

That’s too bad because positive reviews on social media, especially on Amazon, can influence other readers and book buyers. The number of reviews a book gets can directly impact the book’s ranking in search engine results, which in turn can influence sales.

booklovebadge

Badge designed by Dana Carey

It’s a tough world out there for books and their authors. They need our support now more than ever. So this month, I thought I’d play Cupid for a while and spread some BOOK LOVE around by setting aside a few minutes to give more public support to some of the books I’ve enjoyed recently – and tagging some reader friends to do the same!

Do you want to play Cupid with me? Here’s how the hop works:

BOOK LOVE Blog Hop Instructions

1. Pick some books you love (any genre) that you think deserve more attention than they are getting. (As much as I love The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle does not need my help to sell more copies! I’ve tried to choose books I thought needed a little boost, or ones I love that no one else seems to have heard of.)

2. Post reviews for the books you chose on Amazon/social media. The reviews can be brief – even a short review on Amazon helps. Posting on Goodreads or Shelfari is great, too, or Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. The more places you can publicly proclaim your love, the better!

3. If you want, you can also post the reviews on your own blog, or link your blog back to your reviews on social media.

4. Feel free to display the BOOK LOVE badge on your blog – and if you want, link it back to this post so your visitors know what it’s all about.

5. Tag some friends to do the same! Tag friends through their blogs, or on Facebook.

That’s it! If you don’t want to wait to be tagged, you can jump right in and start reviewing and tagging yourself.

Can I point out the adorable badge that Dana Carey designed for this? The heart-shaped glasses – I kind of want a pair for myself! Dana is a talented writer and illustrator who is Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI France, and also one of the co-leaders of Sub It Club.

And now for my reviews:

I reviewed four picture books that I’ve read recently and loved. When I looked these up on Amazon, none had more than 24 reviews, and one had only two! These books needed a little love, in my opinion.

Me First by Max Kornell. I reviewed this on my blog a few weeks ago, and simply pasted that review word-for-word on Amazon and Goodreads.

Puddle Pug by Kim Norman. A wonderful, lyrical book.

Saturday Is Dadurday by Robin Pulver. Such a sweet father-daughter story.

Clever Jack Takes the Cake by Candace Fleming. One of my all-time faves!

I am tagging some fellow Cupids to continue the hop:

Vivian Kirkfield

Cathy Ballou Mealey

Penny Parker Klostermann

Hannah Holt

Diane Tulloch

Tina M. Cho

Dana Carey

Take it away, ladies!

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Strongheart

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

strongheartTitle: Strongheart: The World’s First Movie Star Dog

Author/Illustrator: Emily Arnold McCully

Publisher: Henry Holt

Year: 2014

Genre: Fiction picture book (fictionalized history)

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Dogs; loyalty; film history

Opening: This is the story of Etzel von Oeringen, who became the first movie star dog. His life began a long way from Hollywood. Etzel was born in Germany during World War I. He was the son and grandson of champion police dogs.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) Strongheart may have been a movie star, but he wasn’t always famous. He started out as a police dog who could sniff out criminals and march like a soldier, but he didn’t know how to have fun. Larry Trimble was a Hollywood director who wanted to put Strongheart in his movies—not just as a pet but as the lead actor. Larry taught him to play with toys and walk like a regular dog. In his films, Strongheart brought audiences to tears. He was a sensation! But when Strongheart’s military training led to trouble, was his career over? Set in the early days of silent movies, Emily Arnold McCully’s extraordinary story about a real-life hero will capture the hearts of dog lovers and movie fans everywhere.

What makes it great: A high-interest topic (dogs and movies) combined with history, and McCully’s beautiful watercolor illustrations made this book stand out on the shelf.

What readers notice: My daughter is a dog-lover in a house full of cat people, so she was especially pleased with this book. She was interested enough in the story that she let me read her the Author’s Note in the back, which tells more details about the real story of Strongheart.

What a writer notices: The fact that this book is listed as ‘nonfiction’ on the publisher’s website, yet is listed as ‘fiction’ on the copyright page, and shelved as ‘fiction’ in my library, speaks volumes about the blurred lines between fiction and nonfiction today. True stories are almost never as streamlined as fictional picture book stories, so I’m always curious to see what an author leaves out, or where she chooses to change details. For example, the climax of this story describes an episode where Strongheart attacks a visitor to his owners’ home, possibly ending his movie career. The book depicts his owners in the scene, but the author’s note at the back reveals that in fact, the owners were away traveling at the time and Strongheart was being cared for by a friend. How much can an author leave out or change before a story morphs from nonfiction into fiction? Does it matter to the story that this detail was changed? To some, it might, but to me it didn’t matter. The essential truth of the story was kept intact, and McCully used the author’s note effectively to explain the true circumstances.

Activities/Resources:

Kids might be interested in finding out about more movie dogs in history.

http://rulingcatsanddogs.com/dogs-famous-celebrity-movie-star-canines-celebrities.htm

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Black Is Brown Is Tan

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

black_is_brown_is_tanTitle: Black Is Brown Is Tan

Author: Arnold Adoff

Illustrator: Emily Arnold McCully

Publisher: HarperCollins

Year: 2002

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Race; family life

Opening:

black is brown is tan

is girl is boy

is nose is

face

is all

the

colors

of     the     race

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website)

Brown-skinned mama, the color of chocolate milk and pumpkin pie. White-skinned daddy, not the color of milk or snow, but light with pinks and tiny tans. And their two children, the beautiful colors of both. For an all-American family, full of joy, warmth, and love,

this is the way it is for us 
this is the way we are

When it was first published in 1973, Black is Brown is Tan featured the first interracial family in children’s books. Decades later, Arnold Adoff and Emily Arnold McCully continue to offer a joyous and loving celebration of all the colors of the race, now newly embellished with bright watercolor paintings that depict a contemporary family of the twenty-first century. And the chorus rings true as ever:

black is brown is tan 
is girl is boy 
is nose is face 
is all the colors of the race

What makes it great: There aren’t many picture books that feature interracial families. This one not only features a black/white interracial family, but is about race and skin color. The text mirrors what kids of all colors notice about the people around them.

What readers notice: We have an interracial extended family, and my kids have biracial friends and classmates. They have often brought up the subject of differences in skin color and it’s nice to see a book that mirrors their own observations of the world.

What a writer notices: I love the rhythmic language of this book and the child-centered descriptions of skin color.

This page describes the mother:

i am black i am a brown sugar gown

a tasty tan and coffee pumpkin pie

with dark brown eyes and almond ears

and my face gets ginger red

when i puff and yell you into bed

 

And this page describes the father:

i am white i am white

i am light

with pinks and tiny tans

dark hair growing on my arms

that darken in the summer sun

brown eyes

big yellow ears

and my face gets tomato red

when i puff and yell you into bed

 

And I love the beautiful, songlike refrain:

this is the way it is for us 
this is the way we are

Activities/Resources:

HarperCollins has produced a teaching guide to go along with the book.

 

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Me First

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

me_firstTitle: Me First

Author/Illustrator: Max Kornell

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen/Penguin

Year: 2014

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 6-8

Themes: Siblings; competition

Opening:

Hal was Martha’s older brother.

“Did you know,” he told Martha, “that I used to play checkers with Dad before you were even born?”

Martha didn’t mind that Hal was older or that he talked about it all the time. It made beating him more fun.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) If there’s one thing siblings Hal and Martha can agree on, it’s this: It is important to be first! But what happens when being first is suddenly not so much fun? Competing to explore a new route home one day, Hal and Martha discover that sometimes having a brother or sister right beside you is even better than being one step ahead of them.

What makes it great: The author does a great job portraying the two siblings. We don’t feel that either one is in the “right,” and neither dominates the storyline. That makes the book appealing to both younger and older sibling readers.

What readers notice: As much as my kids enjoy fantastical picture book and magical realism, there’s a lot to be said for true-to-life characters in familiar true-to-life situations. No one is flying to the moon or consorting with magical animals in this book. OK, the characters are donkeys, but they sound and act like real kids, and that holds strong appeal for both my 5 and 9-year-olds.

What a writer notices: I love the reversals that happen in this book. Hal and Martha go from each trying to be first, to allowing the other to go first. Meanwhile their parents get into a little argument about who first noticed how nicely Hal and Martha are now treating each other. The full circle ending, with Hal and Martha starting a new game of checkers, and wondering who should go first, is perfect.

Activities/Resources:

Many kids have a ‘me first’ approach to life. Here are some helpful resources to help teach and practice turn-taking.

http://growingcreativekids.com/games-and-activities-to-teach-taking-turns/

http://connectability.ca/2010/09/23/everyday-opportunities-to-practice-turn-taking/

 

The Shadow – A Halloweensie Story

Be afraid…be very afraid. Halloween is drawing near! That means October is almost over, which (to me) is the scary part. Where is the fall going? To get into the spirit of things for Halloween, I’m posting a teeny-tiny Halloween story. And if you like this one, you can gather a whole sackful by ringing the doorbells of the other writers who have posted their links on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog for her Halloweensie contest. All the stories must be less than 100 words, and contain the words pumpkin, creak, and broomstick. These are the best kind of Halloween treats because you can enjoy as many as you want and you won’t gain an ounce!

(for the record, mine is 93 words)

The Shadow
By Carrie Finison

Once upon a pumpkin moon
a rocker creaked,
the wind sighed, Soon….
A Shadow stole across the lawn
and stopped upon the stair.

Ghosts and goblins roamed the streets.
They rang each bell
for tricks or treats.
As they approached they didn’t see
the Shadow waiting there.

Through the dark the children stepped,
not knowing where
the Shadow crept.
They stumbled over Shadow and
their screeches pierced the air.

Broomstick tail puffed wide with fright,
poor Shadow fled
into the night.
On Halloween a small black cat
should NOT sit on the stair!

 

 

Picture Book Idea Month: Just Say Yes!

Picture Book Idea Month is fast approaching, and I’m not doing much of anything to prepare.

Oh sure, I’ll check that I have a notebook in my bag. I’ll toss in a couple of pens. And on November 1, I will ceremoniously create a Word document called ‘PiBoIdMo 2014’ that will squeeze into a folder with its brethren, PiBoIdMo 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Then I’ll be ready. Because, for me, PiBoIdMo is about a mindset—a mindset that can be summed up in one simple word: Yes.

piboidmo2014journalWe writers hear No so often, and in so many ways.

Your story just doesn’t work.

I like the story, but it’s not a good fit for my list.

Good idea, but the writing is not there yet.

Or—the worst kind of No—utter silence.

What a relief to be able to say Yes to ourselves for an entire month.

– Alien robots come to Earth and take over an all-night pancake diner? YES!

– A screech owl and a boulder—a story of unlikely friends? YES!

– A boy is rude to his mother and, dressed in a wolf suit, takes a journey to a monstrous land to find the place where he’s loved best of all? Well, that one has been done…but what if the boy is a girl, and what if she’s dressed as an alien robot, and what if she journeys to an all-night pancake diner? Then—YES!

Getting into the habit of Yes during PiBoIdMo is important because once I am in the habit, I don’t stop come December 1. I find myself saying Yes all year long.

My PiBoIdMo 2014 document will become the place where I keep all my ideas. December ideas, January ideas, February, March, and April ideas—they’ll pile up until next November. And let me tell you, some of those ideas are downright pushy. Once they’ve heard Yes once, they won’t take No for an answer.

I said Yes to an idea on December 18, 2013, and now it’s my current work in progress.

An idea that got a Yes from me on November 17, 2011, also got a Yes from an agent last year.

My idea from November 5, 2011, is now out on submission, holding its breath for a Yes.

And my idea from September 1, 2013, won the Barbara Karlin grant from SCBWI this year. It was so pleased to get a Yes from someone besides me.

Getting to Yes with an agent or editor has to start with saying Yes to ourselves, and to our own ideas. I’m ready to just say Yes!

piboidmo2014banner

* If you have no idea what Picture Book Idea Month is or what the heck I am talking about, you can find out more on Tara Lazar’s blog.