Perfect Picture Book Friday – Watch Your Tongue, Cecily Beasley

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.

watch_your_tongue_cecily_beasleyTitle: Watch Your Tongue, Cecily Beasley

Author: Lane Fredrickson

Illustrator: Jon Davis

Publisher: Sterling

Year: 2012

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 4-7

Themes: Manners; Kindness/empathy

Opening: Cecily Beasley was never polite/she never said ‘thank you’ or ‘please’ or ‘goodnight.’

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website)

Cecily Beasley is never polite–she won’t say thank you, please, or goodnight. She slurps her food, refuses to share, and sticks her tongue out everywhere. But this rude little girl gets her comeuppance in this rambunctious, rhyming picture book that makes its point with irresistible humor.

Every child has heard the words, “Don’t make that face. It might freeze that way!” Well, that’s exactly what happens to Cecily–and to make things worse, a bird builds a nest on her outstretched tongue! But only when the chicks hatch will Cecily finally learn a lesson she’ll never forget.

What makes it great: Fantastic rhyme and a very engaging story with unexpected twists.

What readers notice: My 5-year-old loves this story and wants to read it over and over again. She tends to latch onto fun-to-say words and phrases from the books she likes, and for weeks she walked around the house shouting, “Watch your tongue!” That kept us all on our toes.

What a writer notices: The wonderful rhyme is what attracts me to this story, but I also love the funny, over-the-top twist. We’ve all hear the warning that ‘your face might stick that way’ when children make faces or stick out their tongue. In this story the author took that situation to the extreme when she allows a Mockingbeak Tonguesnatcher bird to build a nest on her main character’s tongue. It’s a good reminder that in picture books, taking things to extremes can make for a very engaging story.

Activities/Links to Resources: 

For writers, Lane has built a fantastic website about writing in rhyme, one of the best resources out there.

Site with lessons about teaching empathy at all grade levels:

My son’s school uses a curriculum called Open Circle to explicitly teach empathy and getting along with others. I have found the recommended literature tie-ins to be wonderful, and you can access the book lists for free (organized by grade level).

This site is geared toward parents, lots of tips on fostering empathy in children:


Perfect Picture Book Friday – Chico the Brave

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.

chico_the_brave_coverTitle: Chico the Brave

Author/Illustrator: Dave Horowitz

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin

Year: 2012

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 3-8

Themes: Courage

Opening: Once upon a time, in the mountains of Peru, a chick was born who was afraid of everything. [Yikes!] An when I say he was afraid of everything—I mean he was afraid of everything. This poor little guy was even afraid of his own shadow. [Help! I’m being followed…]

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) Chico is afraid of everything, even his own shadow. His dad tries to bolster his confidence by telling him about the legendary Golden Chicken, but Chico doesn’t believe anyone could be that brave. So he sets off into the mountains to find the Golden Chicken, certain that the heroic bird will give him advice. Instead, his quest leads him to something he definitely wasn’t seeking–an adventure! Before he knows it, he’s soaring through the sky to the very place where a courageous hero is most needed–his own hometown, where the dreaded Llama Llama Gang is turning things upside down.

What makes it great: The quirky storyline and deadpan humor, plus a setting that gives the tale a mythical quality.

What readers notice: Both my 7- and 3-year-old enjoyed this story a lot and have asked to re-read it multiple times. They loved the idea of little Chico flying in to rescue the whole village and save the day.

What a writer notices: I really love how this book is crafted. Details that seem whimsical at first become essential to the storyline, and everything comes full circle in the end. I also enjoyed the author’s use of speech bubbles which added a lot of humor to the storyline without becoming too unwieldy for a read-aloud (which I often find true of books that incorporate speech bubbles).

Activities/Links to Resources: 

Book trailer:

A preschool lesson plan about bravery:

Bravery Badges:

And the Crowd Goes Wild…

ATCGW coverI’m celebrating! Yesterday I received in the mail my contributor copy of the poetry anthology AND THE CROWD GOES WILD: A GLOBAL GATHERING OF SPORTS POEMS. I also got my first-ever royalty payment (yay!) which made for an exciting mail day.

Last December, a member of my children’s poetry critique group mentioned a call for submissions for a sports-themed poetry anthology. Many in the group jumped on the sports-poem bandwagon. But I was stuck. I didn’t play team sports in high school, and I’m only a casual sports fan – and when I say casual, I mean that I’m not a sports fan at all. I tend to know what’s going on with the Red Sox because it is impossible not to here in the middle of Red Sox Nation, and I’m a loyal Olympics-watcher, but that’s about it.

Without much hope, I waited for inspiration to strike. My crit group partners were posting fabulous poems about football, diving, baseball, even bowling. Surely I could come up with SOMEthing. But no. Finally, during the Superbowl, and with the anthology deadline approaching, the idea bells went off as I watched the cameras focusing on the fans in the crowd – the ones with the blue hair and the body paint and those giant foam fingers. I realized that as much as I enjoy watching a great game (and I do, even when I don’t know who, exactly, is playing), I’m also fascinated by the other people watching the game. It’s the fans — with their diehard loyalty, their superstitions, and their desire to bring good luck to their team — who inspired the poem that ultimately was accepted and published in the anthology. ‘Superfan’ is about a fan who is convinced that his shirt is what’s bringing good luck to his team – and refuses to wash it for fear the luck would wash away in the laundry.

For me, writing and publishing ‘Superfan’ was a great writing lesson. Good writing isn’t always about being an expert in the subject matter – it’s about being a good observer, and finding an emotional truth to relate to. Even though I’m not a sports fan, I do know what it is like to root for something, and to feel superstitious. And I can write about that.

Now, dear readers, I hope you will tolerate a quick plug for the book (available from Amazon). I spent an enjoyable 40 minutes reading it last night. The 50 poems in the collection span the gamut from silly (mine!) to thoughtful, without being too obscure for 8-12 year old readers. They also represent 31 different poetic forms which keeps things interesting. The adorable illustrations by Kevin Sylvester add a perfect touch. And it’s small enough to be a stocking stuffer. 🙂

To hear some truly wonderful excerpts from the book, please visit Renée LaTulippe’s blog, No Water River. She recently invited five poets to add readings to her poetry video library, and interviewed the anthology’s editors, Carol-Ann Hoyte and Heidi Bee Roemer.

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Oliver

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.

Title: Oliver

Author/Illustrator: Judith Rossell

Publisher: HarperCollins

Year: 2012

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 3+

Themes: Curiosity; imagination; mothers/sons

Opening: “How do planes stay up in the sky?” Oliver asked. Oliver liked finding things out.

“Wings,” said his mom with her mouth full of clothespins.


Oliver found out everything he could about wings.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) “How do planes fly?”

“How does our fridge work?”

“Can I breathe underwater like a fish?”

Oliver is a curious explorer, so he asks a lot of questions.

Then, one day in the bathtub, he hears a strange gurgle. “What lives down the drain?” he wonders. Soon Oliver is headed down the drain in his homemade submarine on a spectacular mission. But will this clever inventor be able to discover a way back?

What makes it great: The book begins as a true-to-life story of a little boy who loves exploring the world and making things. It later launches, fabulously, into a fantasy where Oliver has the “best fun ever” down the bathtub drain – but returns him safely home and reconnecting with his mother, à la Where the Wild Things Are.

What readers notice: Both kids loved the fact that Oliver threatens to poke a banana down the drain only to be stopped by his mother. He then says, “You never let me do anything!” which for some reason elicits giggles from both of them. They also love the spreads that show Oliver’s winding path down the drain, and then back up again.

What a writer notices: There are so many wonderful things about the way this story is put together, but what I love most is that every single element is purposeful and plays a part in both the beginning and the end of the story.

In the beginning, Oliver explores wings and flying, asks about penguins, and gets scolded for bubbling his milk through a straw. In his journey down the drain, Oliver finds that the gurgling noise he heard was made by a ship full of vacationing penguins, all slurping their drinks. They invite Oliver to fly with them and he solemnly informs them, “Penguins can’t fly. It takes more than just wings, you know.” His journey down the drain is surprising and fantastical, but at the same time, because of the elements the author introduced early in the story, makes complete sense within the story context.

Links to Resources: 

After reading this book, kids may be curious about where bathtub water actually goes. These sites have lesson plans and other resources about water systems:

Likewise, children might also be curious about penguins and why they can’t fly. This site has a wealth of penguin-related lesson plans and activities:

Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Baby That Roared

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.

Title: The Baby That Roared

Author/Illustrator: Simon Puttock/Nadia Shireen

Publisher: Candlewick/Nosy Crow

Year: 2012

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 3+

Themes: New baby/Siblings; Problem-solving

Opening: Mr. and Mrs. Deer had no baby of their own to love and cuddle and read stories to… But, oh! — how they wished that they did! Then one day, the found a bundle on the doorstep. The bundle had a note attached, which said: “I am a dear little baby. Please love me and cuddle me and read me lots and lots of stories.”

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) When Mr. and Mrs. Deer find a little antlered bundle on the doorstep, Mrs. Deer thinks their wish for a baby has come true; Mr. Deer thinks that the baby is very, very peculiar. It won’t stop roaring, so they ask advice from friends and family, who in turn send them off to fetch what they think the baby needs. But each time Mr. and Mrs. Deer return home from an errand, someone is missing and the baby is still roaring. It takes wise old Granny Bear to spot the problem. The baby’s not a baby – it’s a little monster! A very hungry monster at that. . . .

What makes it great: I always love books where the reader knows (or suspects) something the main characters don’t. This one is a silly and engaging look at life with a new baby — who turns out not to be a baby at all.

What readers notice: My 3-year-old loves pointing out that the hungry little monster has eaten Uncle Duncan, Auntie Agnes, and Doctor Fox who all come to give advice, but then suddenly disappear. At the end, when Mr. and Mrs. Deer adopt a little kitten (which is actually the monster, come back in disguise) she collapses into giggles. My 7-year-old, predictably, loves the giant BURP the monster gives, spitting out all the animals he has eaten and revealing himself as a monster.

What a writer notices: This book has a really effective use of repeated phrases to build tension in the story. For example:

Each time the Deers call on a friend for help, the friend replies with the phrase:

A baby? A dear little baby? I shall come at once!

Each time the Deers are sent away on an errand (fetching milk or diapers), they are told to “run along”

Each time the Deers return to find the friend missing, the phrase is:

How very peculiar! [Friend’s name] had disappeared and the baby was still roaring.

The establishment of this pattern makes it all the more humorous and surprising when the pattern is broken. And the fact that it is broken with a giant burp is just icing on the cake.

Also, it’s a minor point, but I love the way the author named the characters. While some of the animal characters have their animal names (Mr. and Mrs. Deer, Doctor Fox, Granny Bear) others do not (Uncle Duncan is an owl, Auntie Agnes a bunny). This makes the story feel unique.

Links to Resources: 

Candlewick provides a wonderful “Story Hour Kit” for this and several other books, including activities for younger and older children, as well as paper cutouts.

Perfect Picture Book Friday – When Blue Met Egg

Thank you so much to everyone who welcomed me into the blogosphere last week with my review of The Perfect Present. I had a hard time deciding which book to share this week, but finally selected When Blue Met Egg by Lindsay Ward. For even more picture book reviews, visit Susanna Leonard Hill‘s blog.

Title: When Blue Met Egg

Author/Illustrator: Lindsay Ward

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers

Year: 2012

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 3+

Themes: Friendship; Spring

Opening: One snowy morning, Blue was awakened by something extraordinary flying through the air…a rather strange egg.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) One morning, Blue wakes up to find something wonderful in her nest: Egg! Or rather a snowball she mistakes for an egg. Blue puts Egg in a pail and sets off to look for Egg’s mother. Along the way, she and Egg become the best of friends. But as the weather grows warmer, Blue is in for a big surprise.

What makes it great: I love books where the reader knows something the main character doesn’t know – in this case [spoiler alert] the fact that Egg is actually a snowball. That twist at the beginning, coupled with the unexpected twist at the end (which I won’t give away) makes this a wonderful and unique story. The pictures are a mix of illustration and cut paper which create dynamic, layered images that are fun to explore.

What readers notice: My 3-year-old did not realize on our first reading that Egg is really a snowball. She was intrigued by the search for Egg’s mother. Now that she knows, she says, “It’s really a snowball,” on every page. As a parent, I liked the sweet story of friendship – we do a lot of talking about what makes a good friend, and this story reinforces a lot of those ideas.

What a writer notices: This story offered lots of changes of scene which made for interesting illustrations, as Blue and Egg trek all over the city searching for Egg’s mother. There’s also a lot of subtle humor for adults. For example, when Egg starts to get smaller, Blue thinks she is sick and feeds her chicken soup, “but that just seemed to make things worse.” I love that understated humor. Finally, I adore the unexpected ending to this story. As I was reading it, I kept thinking to myself “how the heck is she going to write herself out of THIS?” After all, Egg is a snowball, and inevitably, snowballs melt. Just when I thought for sure she had written herself into a terrible corner, she ended it brilliantly, and in a way I never would have expected.

As a side note, earlier in 2012 I noticed on Mary Kole’s blog that she was looking for more “stories of unlikely friendships” like this one, which she repped. It’s not posted on her blog anymore, so maybe she found what she was looking for, but it does give us a little peek into what is selling in the market nowadays.

Links to Resources:

Blue and Egg have an adorable blog. Kids (or – ahem – “older” kids) can print out Blue and Egg paper dolls and post photos of them visiting a new favorite place. There’s also links to all the sites Blue and Egg visit in New York.

Interview with Lindsay Ward at 7-Imp