This Perfect Picture Book Friday, I Share the Lovely Poetry of Joyce Sidman.

The world outside my window is preparing to change scenes from the vast summer greens to the glowing pallet of autumn’s fiery golds. Watching the magical changes of nature and the hustle and bustle of the animals, preparing for winter, inspires me to write poetry. Yes, even Bob, my faithful backyard squirrel, is filling up his winter stash with the nuts and seeds I set outside for him each morning. Instead of perching on the plate to nibble his treats, Bob fills his cheeks before scampering back to his tree, only to return moments later to collect more food for the coming winter months.

Being true to who I am, I worry about Bob. With my move at the start of next week, I wonder if the new owners will continue to care for my bushy-tailed squirrel. Knowing my love for the backyard animals in my care, a friend of mine offered to live capture Bob, his family, cousins, and friends and transport them to my new address. (Thank you, Don, I’d like that very much.)

For this week’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, I chose to share a book by one of my favorite poets, Joyce Sidman, whose thoughtful rhymes are sure to enchant you. A poetry book isn’t complete without illustrations that stand on their own as treats for the eyes to behold. I promise you will become equally captivated with the artwork of Beth Krommes, the illustrator whose talents you’ll find on every page.

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow by [Joyce Sidman, Beth Krommes]

Title – Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow

Written by- Joyce Sidman

Illustrated by  – Beth Krommes

Suitable for ages – 8 to 12 (Although intended for children, I believe everyone can treasure these poems.)

Topics/theme – Children’s poetry, Meadow animals, nature.

Opening – Here is the first stanza from the poem, In the Almost-Light

In the dark, in the night,

in the almost-light,

in the leaf-crisp air just before sunlight,

sprouts a secret, silent, sparking sight:

berries grown on the vines of night.

Synopsis from Amazon – Discover the hidden world of the meadow in this unique combination of poetry riddles and science wisdom. Beginning with the rising sun and ending with twilight, this book takes us on a tour through the fields, encouraging us to watch for a nest of rabbits, a foamy spittlebug, a leaping grasshopper, bright milkweed, a quick fox, and a cruising hawk.

Why do I like this book? To describe Joyce Sidman’s poems, I would compare each one to a beautiful painting unfolding before one’s eyes. Her metaphors will have you saying, “Yes! If I had everything in the world to choose from, this is the perfect likeness to the morning air, the velvety horns of the deer, the dry earth, and the fluff-filled pods of the milkweed. Adding to the magic of each poem are Beth Krommes’s lovingly-created, scratchboard illustrations that are genuinely marvel-worthy.

Learn more about Joyce Sidman HERE.

Learn more about Beth Krommes HERE.

I chose a few links to get you started for those intested in learning about scratchboard art,

Russ McMullin’s Scratchboard Tutorial HERE.

An easy-to-follow video that’s perfect for kids and parents HERE.

And one more kid-friendly, scratchboard tutorial HERE.

I hope you’ll visit me next week for another PERFECT PICTURE BOOK FRIDAY.

Leslie

Back After Receiving A Curve Ball. Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday.

I visited my blog for the first time since April. What can I say… Life throws curve balls. I’ve missed writing my musings to you about my life and, more specifically, my childhood memories I love to tie into my picture book reviews.

To be honest, I wasn’t hit with just one curve ball. If you’ve ever watched to movie, BIG, with Tom Hanks, you’ll remember the scene when Billie gets pelted after gym class with basketballs. Got the visual? That’s what my life felt like.

Big Bear Was Not the Same: Rowland, Joanna, Ledda, John: 9781506471419:  Amazon.com: Books

Here’s a recap from the call I received that brought the bigest curve ball.

“Hi, Leslie, It’s Janet from the Breast Center. The results came in from your biopsy, and I’m very sorry, but it showed cancer.”

For a total of one second, I searched for my voice before spouting out, “Now is a REALLY not a good time for this. You see, my house just sold, my entire life is taped up inside of 114 boxes, I’m moving in a little over a month, and my daughter is in the hospital bacause she almost died from the second COVID shot. Do you understand how BAD the timing is here? I can’t have cancer now.”

To say the diagnosis came at the wrong time would imply a right time exists. There never is a good time for such a thing. About two weeks later, my husband suffered a mild stroke. Stress, by the way, is a terrible thing; the sooner it gets banned the better.

I tried distracting myself while I waited for my surgery date. I scrolled through my Facebook feed and scoffed at a post from a writer, complaining over two agent rejections they recieved in their inbox that day.

Seriously! You’re bummed about two rejections?

I’ll come clean and admit that a month earlier, a couple of rejections on a manuscript would have left me devestated. Cancer is funny in the way it gives life perspective about what is trivial and what is worth a good rant.

Confession time…

Only my family knew about my diagnosis. I thought if I told my friends what I was going through, they would tell me about their friends or family members who received a similar diagnosis, and I didn’t want my head filled with stories that might frighten me more.

As surgery neared, I discovered I needed more support if I was going to get through this. I didn’t expect what came. One by one, friends offered their love, prayers, virtual hugs, and even Reiki healing from afar. The mailcarrier delivered get well cards. Uplifting text messages and virtual greeting cards popped up in my inbox. A bouquet of colorful blooms and a bag of fresh-picked greenbeans arrived at my front door. Over Zoom, one friend offered me the encouragement I needed to face the future with renewed inner strength and a smile. Another friend chatted with me over coffee at the Starbucks in my town from the Starbucks in her town. Friends called to say they were ready to listen if I needed to talk–night or day.

This is the part when my post becomes a Perfect Picture Book Friday Review.

Shortly before surgery, a picture book arrived on my front door step from one of my critique partners and friends. The book, BIG BEAR WAS NOT THE SAME, is about a bear that lives through something scary and has a challenging time recovering when so many things remind him of the traumatic event. The story told of his special friend that promised to be there for Big Bear no matter how far they run, how loud they roar, or how long they sit in silence. Big Bear’s friend knew that traumatic events are a little less scary when friends stay by each other’s side.

Title – Big Bear Was Not The Same

Written by- Joanna Rowland

Illustrated by  – John Ledda

Suitable for ages – 4  – 8

Topics/theme – Trauma, Empathy, and Friendship

Opening – 

Little Bear loved the woods and going on adventures with his best friend Big Bear. Their days were full of laughter, exploring new heights, and great fun.

Whenever Little Bear got into sticky situations or scary ones, Big Bear was right by his side to help with his big bear claws, his big bear teeth, and his big bear hugs.

Synopsis from AMAZON – One scary day can change everything . . .

Little Bear loves the woods, his home, and going on adventures with his best friend, Big Bear. Big Bear is so big and strong and brave. He always protects Little Bear and helps him feel safe. Then something scary happens to Big Bear. He’s caught in a forest fire. Even after he escapes and is safe, Little Bear can tell that Big Bear is not the same. He runs, roars, or freezes in fear when ordinary things happen in the woods that remind him of that traumatic day. How can Little Bear’s big, strong, brave friend be so scared now? And how can Little Bear be a good friend?

In Big Bear Was Not the Same, Joanna Rowland, author of the bestelling book The Memory Box, gently introduces young readers to the common feelings of fear, anxiety, and anger that can follow a traumatic event, and shows them how to have empathy and compassion for themselves and for loved ones experiencing the effects of trauma.

Includes backmatter written by a family therapist with information on how to talk about trauma with children. 

Why do I like this book? It’s sometimes difficult to know how to be there for someone after they have endured a traumatic event. While some children automatically rush over to their friend’s side to give hugs, other children freeze up, not knowing how to help. This story offers a few perfect ways to comfort a friend in need. No spoilers here. To learn how Little Bear helped his friend, Big Bear, you’ll have to read this wonderful book.

Learn more about Joanna Rowland HERE.

Learn more about John Ledda HERE.

To leave you with good news, surgery is one week behind me, I’m on the mend, and my doctor said the final tests show I am cancer-free.

I hope you’ll visit me next week for another PERFECT PICTURE BOOK FRIDAY.

Spreading Joy with Scribble Stones this Perfect Picture Book Friday

While most kids grew up painting pictures on paper, my mother inspired me to paint on other surfaces. I sense some of you envisioning me brushing the walls with my art. You’re not wrong. Sure, I did that. But in my defense, everyone knows that walls set aside for paint or wallpaper are free game for self-expression. There was another surface I liked to paint.

Stones.

Before you envision me leveraging boulders into a wheelbarrow with sturdy sticks, the stones I painted fit on the palm of my hand. My mom showed me how to soak them in sudsy water, scrub off the dirt, dry them, and paint them according to their shape. Think of it as finding animals in the sky when you gaze at clouds. To me, the stones resembled things like ladybugs, sleeping cats, cottages, and hearts. If they didn’t bring anything specific to mind, I painted colorful designs on their surfaces.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who paints stones. Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday author and illustrator, Diane Alber, wrote a book in which the main character becomes a painted stone.

At the end of this post, I shared photographs of stones painted by my mom when I was a child and stones that my daughter and I painted. I hope you find enough inspiration in this post to set out in search of stones to design with your art.

Title – Scribble Stones

Written and illustrated by- Diane Alber

Suitable for ages – 4  – 8

Topics/theme – Finding a purpose, embracing change, and spreading joy.

Opening – 

This story is about one happy stone,
who was gray and round and rarely alone.
He lived with the others, all stacked in a pile,
and waited calmly with a large, firendly smile.

Synopsis from Amazon HERE. A heartwarming story about a little stone who was able to spread kindness to the world!

This story starts off with a little stone who thinks he will be become something amazing but then soon realizes he had become a dull paper weight. He’s on a mission to become something greater and in the process meets scribble and splatter and they all come up a creative way to bring joy to thousands of people. If you loved I’m Not just a Scribble… then you’ll love Scribble Stones! And you’ll even be inspired to make some scribble stones of your own!

Why do I like this book? The story is about a gray stone that believes his purpose is to make others happy. Being chosen to become a paper weight feels like a mistake. “This just can’t be my skill,” Stone says. But then…he meets some new friends that love to splatter and scribble paper with their bright colors, lines, and designs. It doesn’t take long before Stone realizes how he can make others happy. No spoilers here. You’ll have to read the book to learn his grand plan. Diane Alber’s colorful illustrations are energetic, bold, and extremely playful.

Learn more about Diane Alber HERE.

If you’re interested in painting stones, I included some links to get you ispired and started.

Diane Alber wrote a companion book, Scribble Stones Art Guide: Step by Step Painting Techniques and Tricks HERE.

Pinterest stone painting ideas HERE.

Rock Crafts for Kids HERE.

Many thanks for visiting.

Until next Friday.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Extra Yarn, plus a little ‘yarn’ of my own.

With my right hand still mending from surgery (and taking longer to function properly than I’d care to wait), I found myself standing in my art room yesterday, looking with longing at my stacks of fabric, piles of paintboxes, jars of paintbrushes, and boxes of fuzzy yarn. Right now, buttoning my shirt or turning a doorknob poses a challenge. (Thankfully, typing is doable.)With creative outlets in mind, the book I chose to share for Perfect Picture Book Friday was published ten years ago and goes along with my desire to knit. Yup! I’m talking about Mac Barnett’s book, Extra Yarn.

But first, a story from my past to pair with my review.

When I was twelve, my mother decided I was old enough to learn how to knit. After receiving a wardrobe of patterned ski sweaters, pants, and jackets for my dolls over the years, I was eager to learn at her side. I watched Mom quickly cast on. My desire to learn grew as her fingers made the needles dance. Shortly, the piece took shape and draped over her hand. Eager to create something equally extraordinary, I took up the knitting needles and tried to duplicate my mother’s movements. Two hours later, you could classify my creation somewhere between a cobweb and a hairball. Mom gave up.

Years later, I passed a yarn shop that advertised Saturday knitting classes for beginners. I decided to give knitting another chance. Since the teacher would be paid to teach me, maybe she’d have more patience…

The process was different from my mother’s. I learned there are many ways to knit, and the method taught in this class made sense. Before long, I knit scarves for my friends, knit and felted purses, house slippers, and stuffed animals, too. My husband, who often sat beside me, surprised me one day.

“I’ve been watching you,” he said, “and I think I know how to knit.”

“Sweetheart,” I said, choking back laughter, “don’t get discouraged if your first attempt looks like a cross between a cobweb and a hairball.” I gave him yarn and a set of knitting needles. He cast on like a pro, and before the week was out, my darling husband had knit himself a beautiful scarf. Quickly bored by basic knitting, he checked out a book from the library and learned how to cable knit and make a sweater.

And now it’s time for my Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

Title – Extra Yarn

Written by- Mac Barnett

Illustrated by- Jon Klassen

Published by- Balzer + Bray,  2012

Suitable for ages – 4  – 8

Topics/theme – Sharing, determination, and friendship

Opening – On a cold afternoon, in a cold little town, where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow or the black of soot from chimneys, Annabelle found a box filled with yarn of every color.

Summary  – With a supply of yarn that never runs out, Annabelle knits for everyone and everything in town until an evil archduke decides he wants the yarn for himself.

Synopsis from Amazon Here Extra Yarn, a Caldecott Honor Book, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner, and a New York Times bestseller. It is the story of how a young girl and her box of magical yarn transform a community.

With spare, gently humorous illustrations and a palette that moves from black-and-white to a range of color, this modern fairy tale has the feel of a new classic.

Why do I like this book? 

This is a story about a girl named Annabelle who takes an ordinary box of yarn (Okay, it’s not so ordinary. The magical box holds a never-ending supply of yarn) and does something extraordinary with it, like knitting sweaters for everyone and everything in town. Annabelle isn’t your average character. Instead of allowing the negativity of others to crush her enthusiasm, she stays true to her beliefs, never letting anyone drag her down or steal her joy…even an archduke!

Author – Visit Mac Barnett’s web page here.

Illustrator – Visit Jon Klassen’s here.

Many thanks for visiting.

Until next Friday.