Welcome, Readers!

The contest Save the Picture Book has ended. Telling people about funny, informative, beautiful, or generally awesome picture books continues. I also share middle grade books, book apps, and educational apps that my kids and I like.

Monday, March 21, 2011

This April, Save the Laughing Children! (and the Picture Book)

Next month's theme celebrates funny books! In addition to reviewing funny picture books, it gives kids the opportunity to think about a funny book that they would like to write. I'm posting a little early in case teachers are planning for April Fool's Day. This could be a fun April Fool's Day lesson plan!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March Prizes!

Announcing book prizes for this month's Save Everything! (and the Picture Book.) One lucky individual and one teacher will also win a classroom pet, an interrupting chicken! Just kidding. It's silkworms!

Easy to raise, they just want to eat mulberry leaves. They spin beautiful silk cocoons, and emerge as moths. Many of these silkworms' siblings are living in Johnson County and Kansas City libraries as picture book mascots. In fact, they are The Official Mascots of Picture Books Being Awesome.

Now, for the books! This month's theme is Save the Bookworms! (and the Picture Books They Eat,) featuring books about insects and books about books.

Thank you to the authors and publishers who have generously donated their books to be used as prizes.

Here is one of our insect books:

Adios, Oscar
By Peter Elwell
Scholastic, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780545071598

Oscar is a caterpillar. Talking to a monarch, he assumes he'll become one himself. But when he metamorphoses, he's a clothes moth. Will he still go to Mexico?

Now, in real life, caterpillars eat clothing from the get-go. (They wouldn't live on a plant.) Grown moths, on the other hand, don’t eat clothing. The author notes this in the back matter. It's all in good fun, and I LOVE the illustrations.

The clothes moth thing got me thinking about verisimilitude in insect books (one of my favorite things to think about. That and the Lost finale.) Since I write nonfiction, I have to stick to facts. But fiction authors can decide where to draw the line. They can take what they know about the natural world--or leave it--and write a book that feels real about following your dreams. I like that!

By Deborah Freedman
Random House, 2007
ISBN-13: 9780375839665

Metafiction...Most books don't know they're books. Not so with metafiction. Somebody knows. Maybe it's a character. Maybe it's the narrator. Maybe it's the world of the book. The latter is true of Scribble. In this sweet story, you'll see two sisters and their drawings of a kitten and princess create the very story you’re reading.

An illustrator friend of mine, Kerry Meyer, said that an editor told him that your illustrations shouldn't be "posing for the camera." It should be more like the reader is seeing them through a window, going about their daily lives. This book captures that feeling perfectly. Which is pretty incredible considering that it's a book that knows it's a book!

The Pencil
By Allan Ahlberg, ill. by Bruce Ingman
Candlewick, 2008
ISBN-13: 9780763638948

Pencil draws a world. At first, its inhabitants only ask, "What's my name?" (Even the ball wants a name.) But then they complain: They don't like their hats, etc. So pencil draws an eraser. But eraser is overzealous. How will pencil stop him?

Love this. It's one of the most real outlandish stories I've ever read. I don't mean that it's "real outlandish." I mean that it's real and outlandish. Of course someone would complain about her hat. Of course she would. It's just so real. Except that she's complaining to the very pencil that drew her!

It reminds me of the old cartoons where you'd see the illustrator drawing. Remember those? I tried to look them up but I can't even remember if they were Disney or Warner Bros. or what. If you know the details, please let me know!

What to Expect When You're Expecting Larvae: a Guide for Insect Parents (and Curious
By Bridget Heos, ill. by Stephane Jorisch
Lerner, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0761358589

Oh, how darling! Who wrote this book? Oops, I did. Well, this is awkward. Obviously, I can't review my own book...but it is about insects and it is one of the prizes and it does have books (and bookworms) in it. Instead I'm going to go back to the question of verisimilitude in insect books. My book is illustrated by the brilliant Stephane Jorisch. The sketches were sent to me, and since the book is nonfiction, I "fact checked" them. But at some point, I thought, "The bee babysitters are sitting in rocking chairs and feeding the larvae bottles. I am crazy to be fact checking this!" I finished fact checking it, because indeed, I am crazy when it comes to fact checking. But I came to realize that the text was going to be factual and the illustrations whimsical. And I love that.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Individual Prize Winners for Save the Sweetness!

Congratulations to 7-year-old Thomas and 5-year-old Daniel in Utah, and 3-year-old Sophia in Kansas City for Saving the Sweetness! (and the Sweet Picture Book.) Each of these children will get a sweet picture book...and a sweet for sending in reviews. Thomas read this book:

Here is his fantastic review:

Daniel read this picture book:

My scanner is not doing his review justice. In real (paper) life, it has the most beautiful colors. These boys from Utah know their way around a box of Crayolas! But you can still see the range of emotion in his excellent review!

This next beautifully executed review by Sophia of Fancy Nancy: Heart to Heart, by Jane O'Connor, ill. by Robin Preiss Glasser, shows that you don't have to stick to the list...and that stickers are always welcome. (Why don't more grownup book reviewers utilize heart-shaped stickers? It would be a nice touch...especially for scathing reviews!)

Also, seventh grade reviewers in Kansas City will each receive a chocolate bunny for their reviews of Benny's Chocolate Bunny. When I talk to big kids, I encourage them to read picture books to the kids they babysit. It's fun...and it's a great way to shift gears when things get tough!

The neat thing is, big kids still enjoy being read picture books. I showed this to the seventh graders while on a school visit as an example of a picture book for very young children:

They begged me to read it to them. When you think about it, they would have been the audience for this book just 10 years ago.

Here are their reviews!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Teacher Prize Winner for Save the Sweetness!

I'm happy to announce the teacher winner of February's Save the Sweetness! (and the Sweet Picture Books.)It's Jennifer Fontaine, who teaches at Holy Spirit School in Overland Park, Kansas. She read A Balloon for Isabel, by Deborah Underwood, ill. by Laura Rankin, to students ranging in age from about 7 to 9.

Here are some of their sweet illustrated reviews:

And, from the older kids, some insightful written reviews:

One of my favorite things about reviews written by children is their answer to the question, What, if anything, would you change about the book? Grownup reviewers point out technical problems or unfortunate artistic choices (by the author or illustrator.) Kids aren't worried about that. For them, the answer is totally based on personal preferences:

The last one says, "That they named the porcupine Jessica instead of Isabel." The reviewer's name is not Jessica. I presume she simply likes the name Jessica better name than Isabel.

I'd like to thank Mrs. Fontaine and the students of Holy Spirit for their hard work. Mrs. Fontaine has won a basket of four picture books and stickers for her classroom + something sweet for her!