Tag Archives: Susanna Leonard Hill

Cricket in the Thicket – Perfect Picture Book Friday

19 May

This week’s addition to Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Fridays comes to us from the heart of bug country, the Great Plains. What do you think of when you think of Kansas?

You’re not in Kansas, anymore, Toto….

Well, that’s what I used to think until I spent the week with Carol Murray at Highlights Summer Camp last July. When not writing/revising and attending workshop sessions, we rambled through the bug-filled countryside of Pennsylvania, discussing all things kidlit. And that’s how I found out she’s from Kansas. Now, whenever the Sunflower State (and wind) comes up in casual conversation (it happens daily, trust me), I immediately think of Carol. 

Seriously, though, I’ve been eagerly anticipating her book for nearly a year, and I’m sure that she has been waiting far longer than that while Melissa Sweet finished those luscious illustrations. So here it is!

The cover immediately lets readers know they’re in good, buggy company. And the whimsical dedication page 

also sets the tone with playful humor. The first poem I read wasn’t the first in the book. I just opened it to a random page and was treated to the following:

 

Spinning Spiny-Back

I spin,

and spin, 

and when I need

a peppy picker-upper,

I spin a little more,

and then

I eat my web for supper. 

In the text box in the lower right hand corner of the page we learn: “Spiny-backs are orb weavers. When they build a new web, they take down the old one and eat the discarded silk, which is a great source of protein. Spiny-backs are champion recyclers.”

I flipped to another page to find one of the more unsavory-named critters, the dung beetle:

 

Let’s Hear It for Dung Beetle!

I don’t get much respect, and I suspect you didn’t know

that I was very popular in Egypt long ago.

A sacred bug. Oh yes, indeed! A charm with magic power.

Too bad you didn’t know me in my former, finest hour.

 

Don’t you just love the internal rhyme in the first line? And the hard “c” and “ch” sounds in the third line. (Can’t you just hear that crusty scarab scrabbling through the dung?) And the alliterative “efs” that lead softly into the lingering “hour”? This poet has chops!

Each poem is beautifully rendered via mixed media illustrations and accompanied by fascinating tidbits about the featured bug. I can imagine any number of children who will delight in memorizing these poems and reciting them whenever they find a ladybug, damsel fly, dung beetle, jumping spider, walking stick, preying mantis, or even the lowly common fly. The book features 27 bugs in all and includes three pages of back matter that provide even more cool facts about each one. 

Want to know something amazing about the Monarch caterpillar and butterfly? Well, I’m not going to spill the bugs. You’ll have to read the book to find out! Happy reading!

TITLE: Cricket in the Thicket

AUTHOR: Carol Murray

ILLUSTRATOR: Melissa Sweet 

PUBLISHER: Henry Holt, May 2017

TARGET AGE: Preschool-Adult (yes, adults will love them, too)

 

 

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors – Perfect Picture Book Friday

21 Apr

As we prepare to do battle in the name of science on Earth Day tomorrow, I thought I’d put the spotlight on the legendary battles being played across the country, the ones happening in school yards, classrooms, and perhaps during dinner when children are challenged to eat their vegetables, no matter how odious.  

Picture book writers, you are about to be schooled in voice by Drew Daywalt.

“Long ago, in an ancient and distant realm called the Kingdom of Backyard, there lived a warrior named ROCK. Rock was the strongest in all the land, but he was sad because no one could give him a worthy challenge.”

And so poor rock battles an assortment of unworthy opponents, including a clothespin and an apricot from grandma’s tree in the back yard. But he finds no joy in his easily won victories.

“Meanwhile….

in the Empire of Mom’s Home Office, on lonely and windswept Desk Mountain, a second great warrior sought the glory of battle. And his name was Paper.”

So paper fights his own battles with other unworthy opponents, including the printer and a half-eaten package of trail mix in the garbage can. Alas, heavy-hearted Paper must journey to distant lands to find a warrior who is his equal. 

“At the same time….

in the Kitchen Realm, in the tiny village of Junk Drawer, there lived a third great warrior. They called her SCISSORS, and she was the fastest blade in all the land. She, too, was unchallenged. On this day, her first opponent was a strange and sticky circle-man.” 

Yes, you guessed it, a tape dispenser. Victorious, she turns her attention to an unruly group of breaded dinosaurs in the refrigerator. The results aren’t pretty. Scissors, too, must journey beyond her realm to find a challenging opponent.

And so these three great warriors are destined to meet. 

Ingenious. Laugh out loud funny. A marvelously illustrated and engaging read aloud. I predict this book will never go out of print. Ever.

For those of you who would like to know a little more about the history of “Rochambeau,” you may turn to the following resources:

Is Rochambeau named after the French army general who served during the American Revolution?

Rock-Paper-Scissors (history and mathematical analysis)

Title: The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

Author: Drew Daywalt

Illustrator: Adam Rex

Publisher: Balzer & Bray (Harper Collins) 

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

Target Age group: Anyone who’s ever played Rock Paper Scissors (Rochambeau)

Harlem: A Poem by Walter Dean Myers

14 Apr

In honor of National Poetry Month and Perfect Picture Book Friday, I’m shining the spotlight on a brilliant Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Award Winner from 1997:

“They took to the road in Waycross, Georgia

Skipped over the tracks in East St. Louis

Took the bus from Holly Springs

Hitched a ride from Gee’s Bend

Took the long way through Memphis

The third deck down from Trinidad

A wrench of heart from Gorree Island 

A wrench of heart from Gorree Island

To a place called Harlem

Harlem was a promise

Of a better life, of a place where a man didn’t

Have to know his place

Simply because he was Black.”

 

Thus begins a tactile and rhythmic journey through Harlem. This book may have been written twenty years ago, but it feels quite contemporary. Current nonfiction writers are increasingly telling the stories of people, events, or places with similar atmospheric details and poetic language. Walter Dean Myers was far ahead of his time.  

The only thing missing is back matter. The names of people and places are sprinkled throughout, but if you want to know more, you must do the research. If this book were being published in 2017, you can bet the back matter would be rich with details, including a timeline with key events and people as well as author/illustrator notes. 

Although Walter Dean Myers has passed, I would love to see a new edition of this book published, complete with back matter and an illustrator’s note from Christopher Myers, Walter’s son. 

The collage illustrations add so much texture to the poem that I would recommend reading the picture book. However, if you just want to immerse yourself in Myers’ poem, here’s a link to the text of “Harlem” online. 

Title: Harlem

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Illustrator: Christopher Myers

Publisher: Scholastic Press, 1997

Target Audience: Everyone

Brief Thief – Perfect Picture Book Friday

7 Apr

Made it through Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo), the picture book marathon of reading and studying various picture book attributes, so now it’s time to recommend perhaps a book or two from my reading that were not on the prescribed reading list.

While I was combing the stacks of the San Francisco Public Library’s children’s picture book section, one book beckoned me from the top of a display. Librarians are so adept at fostering temptation. Who could resist this cover? 

The story starts innocently enough with Leon the lizard enjoying his breakfast, a tasty fly:

Then he does what every other lizard does after filling his belly, suns himself on a big rock. Granted, this lizard is a little more civilized than most what with his use of utensils for dining and a beach chair for sunning.

On page three, things take a—ah—darker turn:

 

Leon, the lizard has to go poo. Hmmm. What would you expect to happen, considering what we already know about Leon?

Yes, he uses toilet paper. But—oh, no! The roll is empty! What’s a fastidious lizard to do?

The cover provides a hint.

From here on, all bets are off. Leon finds something else to use, something that comes back to haunt him in the voice of his conscience. But is it just his conscience? One must read the story to find out.

Folks, this book’s unusual premise and twist of an ending reminds me of something that the dynamic duo of Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen would dream up and pull off with aplomb. It’s a story of double mistaken identity as it’s applied to characters and objects. Something that kids will LOVE. I will say no more lest I spill the beans.

Originally written in French by Michaël Escoffier and published in 2009, this 2013 edition is translated into English by Kris Di Giacomo, the book’s illustrator. 

Although there are no illustrator notes, the images appear to be a marvelous mixture of pencil, ink, watercolor, markers, and a couple snippets of newspaper.

Find it at your bookstore, the library, or on Youtube (if you can’t find it anywhere else). If you find a hard copy, you’ll discover that the pages are as thick as card stock, a benefit for a book that is destined to be read many times over.

TITLE: Brief Thief

Author: Michaël Escoffier

Illustrator/translator: Kris Di Giacomo

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Press

Year: 2013

Themes: listening to your conscience, not messing with things that are not yours to mess with, mistaken identity/assumptions, lateral thinking

Target age group: pre-K through 2nd grade

 

Cupid’s Heart Finds a Home

11 Feb

Thought I’d come back to life for a moment and enter Susanna Leonard Hill’s Valentiny story competition. Rules: 1) story must contain a character who is confused, 2) be no more than 214 words, and 3) be written for kids to enjoy. Well, maybe I’m entertaining and distracting myself, too, in these troubling times. So here’s my 214-word story….

69079793 - pink heart box and chocolates with heart shape to give in valentine's day.

Cupid’s Heart Finds a Home

 

By Jilanne Hoffmann

 

Dear Stupid Cupid,

Last year, you gave me a green candy cane. I barfed. Please don’t do that again.

Disgustedly Yours,

Gertie

*****************

Dear Hurty Gertie,

You hurt my feelings. It’s not nice to call someone stupid.

Sorry you’ve been sick. I know nothing about candy canes or the color green. I only know about chocolate, the color red, and hearts. Maybe you have me confused with someone else?

Cluelessly,

Cupid

******************

Dear Clueless and Confused Cupid,

Sorry to hurt your feelings, but I’m sure it was you. Speaking of red, you wear a red suit, don’t you?

Sincerely,

Gertie

******************

Dear Gertie,

No, I wear my birthday suit.

Warmly,

Bare-bunned Cupid

******************

Dear Birthday Suit Cupid,

Now I’m confused. My birthday’s in June, but I got the candy cane in December, along with a bunch of toys. Does your mom really let you go outside naked?

Flabbergasted,

Gertie

*******************

Dear Gertie,

I have no family, no home. I’m just a lonely cherub, spreading love and chocolate around the world, not toys.

Sadly,

Cupid

*******************

Dear Sad and Homeless Cupid,

Please come live with me! You can sleep in my room, and I’ll give you clothes to wear. We’ll hide the chocolates under my bed.

Your friend,

Gertie

********************

Dearest Gertie,

On my way! Happy Valentine’s Day!

All my love,

Cupid

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Now, if I were a lit major, I’d read between the lines and realize that this story is really about becoming a little less selfish and welcoming those who need a little extra love and support into our homes. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Dragon Was Terrible – Perfect Picture Book Friday

23 Sep

It’s Fall!! It’s time for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

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We all know those little dragons who just can’t behave. They’re busy coloring on the walls. Playing pranks. Throwing sand.

This story is about an incorrigible dragon, just like the ones you may have at home—only worse. The dragon terrorizes villagers, spitting on cupcakes, stomping on flowers, stealing candy from baby unicorns. Then the KING makes a proclamation that sounds quite authoritarian, rewarding any knight who can tame the dragon. Everyone has high hopes. But the knights fail miserably.

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That pesky, tagging dragon…..Another proclamation, this time offering a reward to the villagers if they can tame the dragon.

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That pesky, tagging dragon. But the villagers fail, too.

Enter a boy with a feathered cap who takes a different, mysterious approach to taming that terrible dragon. An approach that focuses on telling a story. Yes, folks. This book shows us how the power of story can tame the most terrible of dragons, our children. And it’s done without moralizing, pointing fingers, or otherwise hitting the reader on the head with anything resembling a plank. Well done!

 

TITLE: Dragon Was Terrible

Ages: preschool – first grade

Author: Kelly DiPucchio 

Illustrator: Greg Pizzoli

Publisher and pub date: FSG 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30049-4

 

Parts and Even More Parts – Perfect Picture Book Friday

22 Apr

So you’re looking for a couple of books from a brilliant author/illustrator? Ones that will make kids say “ewwww” page after page, all while laughing uproariously? Ones that kids will want to read again and again and again because each little twist is ingenious?

Tedd Arnold’s will do the trick:

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For the most part, his rhyme is spot on,

“I just don’t know what’s going on

or why it has to be.

But every day it’s something worse.

What’s happening to me?”

 

but purists will note that the rhyme on the second spread is—inverted! **!!Gasp!!**

“I think it was three days ago

I first became aware—

That in my comb were caught a couple

pieces of my hair.”

 

Now, one could argue that this book was published in 1997 and the rhyme police have gotten much more strict in recent years. But I will tell you that if you’re an author-illustrator and you come up with something as original as:

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“Then later on (I don’t recall

exactly when it was)

I lifted up my shirt and found

this little piece of fuzz.”

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“I stared at it, amazed, and wondered,

What’s this all about?

But then I understood. It was

my stuffing coming out!”

Editors may give you a “Get Out of Rhyme Jail Free” pass. Page after page of inspired body part distress.

Not content with one body part book, Arnold published a second called “More Parts” (not reviewed here), and a third called “Even More Parts” in 2004. Originally published under the “Dial Books for Young Readers Imprint,” they are now published by Puffin.

“Even More Parts” takes a literal look at body part idioms and their horrifying consequences.

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Tongue-tied, anyone?

Although each page includes small comics of several idioms for each body part, Arnold selects the funniest to fill the spreads. The end papers include mini illustrations of many more. Bonus: All of these books should engage even the most reluctant readers AND PARENTS.  

“Even More Parts” could also be used to support Common Core Curriculum in kindergarten through second grade.

Check them out!

Titles: “Parts” & “And Even More Parts”

Author/Illustrator: Tedd Arnold

Publisher: Puffin

Ages: preschool-second grade

This post is in conjunction with Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday.

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