Sunday, December 18, 2016

Time for Quiet Amid the Noise



We live in a noisy world, and never more so than during the holiday season. Bells jingle and tinkle, horses clip-clop, carolers falala, and every store has piped-in music and noisy toys to tempt buyers and their children. Noise seems to be valued and desired more than quiet.

Picture book author Deborah Underwood recognizes that there are many different kinds of quiet. She names some of them in her Quiet Book. For example, there's "lollipop quiet" and "pretending you're invisible quiet." Some quiet times are happy, and some are anxiety prone.



Where I live, we are experiencing the deepest, darkest days of the year. We hurtle toward the Winter Solstice and our celebration of Christmas a few days later. These events toward the end of our calendar year make me want to stop and reflect, and that requires quiet.

Underwood knows that Christmas has its own kinds of quiet. Hence her picture book The Christmas Quiet Book. There's "knocking with mittens quiet" and "listening for sleigh bells quiet," for example. Even as I look back on the past year, these kinds of quiet indicate anticipation, looking forward.

Both books are illustrated with quiet animal drawings by Renata Liwska, who demonstrates that quiet does not mean inactive or passive.

As I wait for these days at the end of the year to arrive and pass, I wonder how I can be actively quiet? How can I stop, reflect, look back, look forward and still get done the many things this season demands? How do you find quiet time?

In tribute to the season, I offer this sweet Austrian carol, "Stille, Stille, Stille," sung in English by the Norman Luboff choir.





Thursday, December 8, 2016

It's Christmas Wish List Time!


Girls and boys around the globe are making their Christmas wish lists! Maybe many adults are, too. We welcome Penguin, the little bird with a big heart. In Penguin's Christmas Wish, he and his family go on an adventure to see Pinecone, Penguin's tree friend. They discover that Pinecone has grown up! And while things don't go exactly as planned, Christmas works its magic so that Penguin's wish comes true. This sweet book gets to the core of Christmas--sharing love--that all ages can understand and enjoy. The publisher, Bloomsbury, offers a free activity kit chock full of gift tags, ornaments, and more.


I was happy to meet author Salina Yoon at the 2016 Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival this fall. Born in Korea, she and her parents emigrated to the U.S. when she was 4 years old. Knowing no English, she struggled to fit in with other kids, and many of her books have a strong friendship theme. This title is one of several in the Penguin series. Her Bear series is equally delightful. (I wrote about one title in a previous post.)

My granddaughter's Christmas wish is for the entire Penguin series, which is fairly easy to fulfill. Some of our adult wishes are much more difficult, as this song expresses:


May your Christmas wishes come true!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving with Turkey & Balloons!

We in the U.S. are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving--very often by serving turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, cranberry sauce, and --I can hear the table groaning under the weight of all that food. What a wonderful time of food, family, and friendship--unless you are the turkey! 


Author Wendy Silvano's Turkey Trouble  is a funny picture book for ages 3-8, but if you are the adult reading it, you will laugh, too. Turkey realizes that he must save himself from being Thanksgiving dinner. He tries a variety of disguises until he finally finds one that works! The twist at the end leaves the farmer and his wife eating a non-traditional Thanksgiving meal and lets Turkey continue to enjoy farm life.  Lee Harper's illustrations enhance the humor. Text and pictures work together to allow children to predict Turkey's next move until the surprise ending. This book won a Children's Choice Award.



While your turkey is roasting, you may watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Did you know that some of the giant balloons were made in my city by Raven Industries? And did you know that these giant balloons are actually puppets, invented by puppeteer Tony Sarg? Never hear of him? Most of us hadn't until Melissa Sweet wrote and illustrated the non-fiction book Balloons Over Broadway. This picture book tells the story of Sarg's ingenuity in making the very first Macy's parade and balloons and has won the 2012 Robert F. Sibert Medal and the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award.

Enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving!

What are your favorite Thanksgiving books?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Here Be Dragons!


I knew it was time to write about this book when my almost-4-year-old granddaughter saw it at my house today, tapped the cover, and said, "I like this. The dragon writes to the human and the human writes to the dragon." We'd read it together the week before, and she remembered it well! 

We aren't the only fans of this book by Josh Funk, illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo. Kirkus and School Library Journal have given the book great reviews. School Library Journal says, "Perfect for classes undertaking a pen-pal unit, but general picture book collections can benefit from this gentle reminder that kids who look different can still get along." 

The rhyming text allows readers in on the plot twist and keeps us wondering what the dragons and humans will do when they find out the truth of their letter writing campaign.

To completely appreciate the story, you must have both the text and the pictures, which show the thoughts running through the characters' heads. I posted this comment on Funk's Facebook page.  You can see his humble reply below.

I am reading and re-reading this book this weekend. So clever! Wonderful marriage of text and illustrations. Could also be used to teach point of view--(besides just being fun)
Josh Funk Aww, thanks! I really didn't intend all that when I wrote it, too. It was mostly just me trying to show funny misinterpretations and my wish to have a dragon pen pal.
It has been said that old maps contain the phrase "Here be dragons" at the edges of known land forms. This Atlantic article debunks that, and tells us a bit about the saying. I'm glad to know where I can find dragons--in books! I'm fond of many dragon books, including Eric Ode's The Boy and the Dragon, and others. What are your favorite dragon stories? 

Enjoy this special story time: 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fall's Changes




Many people in the northern part of the northern hemisphere claim fall as their favorite season. Nature's last hurrah gives us splashes of color before our world is covered with winter white. I'm always amazed at how one tree can be completely green and next to it is the same type of tree that's completely yellow. The maple across the street was completely red before ours started to turn.



I enjoy watching the transformation of the trees in my neighborhood. As Nature gives our trees highlights and then complete color make-overs, I'm reminded of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, "Pied Beauty."


What do you like best about fall?






Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tomato Harvest 2016




Tomato harvest is about over here. I still have a few turning red, with one or two straggling in every day. This year’s harvest was less than exceptional, but we appreciated what we got. Nothing’s better than a tomato right off your own vine!

One year I goofed. I wanted eight plants, but bought eight four-packs! That year, we had too many tomatoes! (But really, is there such a thing?)

In full harvest mode, Eric Ode’s book Too Many Tomatoes shows a boy's excitement in watching his grandparents' garden grow and the number of tomatoes it yields: “A plateful, a crateful, a grateful hooray! This town has too many tomatoes today!” Almost tongue-twisting with steady rhythm and rhyme, this book is a joy to read. Kids will love to say the verses, such as “A biscuit to butter, a basket to borrow. Sing me a song of tomatoes tomorrow!”




Illustrator Kent Culotta adds rollicking fun details in his illustrations of people, vehicles, and a farmer’s market. 

Read this book with your favorite child over some tomato soup or spaghetti with tomato sauce!

No matter how you say "tomato," don't call the whole thing off:

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Keep Fear Away on a Stormy Night


We've been fortunate this season so far--storms have gone around us. Tonight is another stormy one with heavy wind, rain, possible hail, even possible tornadoes in areas around us. Farther away, tropical storms' flooding have caused death and damage.

What do you do to keep youngsters' fear at bay when storms rage? It seems that author Salina Yoon's Bear family has the right answer--comforting others. In Stormy Night, a picture book for ages 3-6, Bear can't sleep because of a storm. He comforts his bunny with a loving verse and feels better. The storm keeps rumbling, and Bear keeps repeating the words to bunny until Mama comes to check on him, saying that she wants to stay with him because she is afraid. Soon Papa joins them. Kisses, tickles, and books, family love and affection make everything all right. This sweet, tender book is comforting to kids and a model for parents on how to handle non-threatening storms with little ones. Reading this book is like getting a hug.
(I bought this book and its accompanying plush toy when Kohl's featured it as a Kohl's Cares title.)



A more recent huggable book by Yoon is Be a Friend, about Dennis, the mime boy. As a mime, of course, Dennis doesn't speak. He acts in scenes. It's fair to say that Dennis is different from the other kids, and he is happy being himself--though a tad lonely. This story has a happy ending because Dennis finds a friend who understands him as he is, and vice versa. The artwork is a real treat, with Yoon's drawings of Dennis miming an egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly. She has drawn red dashed lines to show Dennis' actions both in the book and on the end papers.

My three-year-old granddaughter has never seen a mime, so I explained that he was pretending to do these things. She liked saying what Dennis was "'tending" to do (on a teeter-totter, being a tree, going downstairs), but I wasn't sure she grasped the friendship theme until she told her mom about the book. "He makes a friend and they do 'tend thing together." She got it!

(Disclosure: I won this book as part of a giveaway on Miranda Paul's Facebook page.)

Emily Arrow liked this book so much she wrote a song about it. Get your jazz hands ready!