Watercress and Other Roadside Edibles this Perfect Picture Book Friday

I can’t take a road trip vacation out west, down south, up north, or out east without thinking about childhood vacations with my mom. While most mothers packed a variety of clothes for in-climate weather conditions, a spare roll of toilet paper for unexpected situations, fresh-baked snacks to save money and ensure healthy alternatives, and the usual toiletries, my mom also packed a bucket, garden gloves, and a trowel. I don’t think she went on vacation with the thought of digging up botanical specimens, but, as it turned out, we often returned home with something new to add to her rock garden.

On walks through forests, Mom always identified a bark she could boil into something medicinal, an edible weed, or a snack.

“Oh, look! Wild raspberries.”

We picked the berries until the red juice stained our fingers. If we were close enough to the road, I wondered if people, in passing cars, thought we were too poor to afford food.

I recall one vacation out west when my dad had the wheel and was cruising at 50 through the mountains. My mom startled us when she ordered my dad to pull over.

“I saw a (long Latin name for a seriously tiny flower),” she said. “If that flower grows here, then the (a long Latin name for another little flower) must be growing nearby.”

She opened the trunk, fetched her bucket, gloves, and trowel, and hiked up the hillside. The part that amazed me was that the flower wasn’t near enough to the road to be detected by standard human eyes, yet…when Mom returned to the car, her bucket held the precious flowers, and her face held a satisfied expression.

These botanical gatherings were a common part of my childhood, and the memories returned stronger than ever when I read Andrea Wang’s picture book, Watercress.

Written by  –  Andrea Wang

Illustrated by – Jason Chin

Published by – Neal Porter Books 2021

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Theme – Harvest and Family life

Opening – 

We are in the old Pontiac, the red paint faded by years of glinting Ohio sun, pelting rain, and biting snow. The tops of the cornstalks make lines that zigzag across the horizon.

Mom shouts, “Look!” and the car comes to an abrupt, jerking stop. Mom’s eyes are as sharp as the tip of a dragon’s claw.

Dad’s eyes grow wide.

“Watercress!” they exclaim, two voices heavy with memories.

Amazon Review – A story about the power of sharing memories—including the painful ones—and the way our heritage stays with and shapes us, even when we don’t see it. 

While driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl’s Chinese immigrant parents spot watercress growing wild in a ditch by the side of the road. They stop the car, grabbing rusty scissors and an old paper bag, and the whole family wades into the mud to gather as much as they can. 

At first, she’s embarrassed. Why can’t her family just get food from the grocery store, like everyone else? But when her mother shares a bittersweet story of her family history in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged—and the memories left behind in pursuit of a new life.

Together, they make a new memory of watercress.

Why do I like this book? — Maybe it’s because I have memories of gathering plants along the road that I feel a strong pull to this story, but I also love how wonderfully Andrea Wang’s writing style guides the reader through a unique part of her family’s history, bringing the importance of the watercress to life in words that will hold a child’s attention from the first page to the last. A picture book would not be complete without illustrations, and Jason Chin’s stunning watercolors offer plenty of details while perfectly capturing the emotions of the story in this award-winning book.

Learn about Andrea Wang HERE.

Learn more about Jason Chin HERE.

A source for watercress seeds is HERE.

Until next Friday,


Hop on over for Frog-Worthy Poetry this Perfect Picture Book Friday

I’m sure in a past post, I shared the story of how I once came to care for tree frogs. My croaking collection of suction-toed critters began with one tiny tree frog that could rest on my thumbnail. Let’s travel back over a decade to when my daughter was about six.

One evening, shortly before her bedtime, my little girl spotted a tiny tree frog, clinging to the window screen. She might have mistaken the stars, peeking through the pine tree, for the eyes of a hungry owl. Nevertheless, she grabbed my hand, pulled me to the window, pointed out the owl’s dinner, and begged me to save its life.

Photo by Climber Satoh on Pexels.com

Slowly, I slid open the window, cupped my hands around the tree frog, and brought it into our home. Satisfied I had done the right thing, my daughter prepared for bed. I, on the other hand, stood in the kitchen, hands still cupped together, wondering what to do with this small visitor exploring its tight quarters and leaving puddles of fright on my palms.

My husband located a large mason jar for our newest tenant. I covered the jar with plastic wrap and poked air holes to ensure a live tree frog. I figured my daughter and I could venture out after breakfast and find a lovely wooded area to set the frog free. The next morning, my daughter had other plans.

“This jar is too small for Laura,” she said.

“Laura?” I echoed.

“We can go to the pet store after breakfast,” she said, “and get something better for her.”

“Her?” I asked. “How do you know it’s a she.”

“She just is,” my daughter said.

About $75.00 later, I had a terrarium with an escape-proof lid equipped with a special opening to drop in the crickets. YES, CRICKETS! Because tree frogs like live meals that move and breathe, I also had to purchase a ten-gallon bucket, two dozen baby crickets, and cricket food that included calcium powder so that our tree frog would maintain a strong jaw. Then, I had to purchase an artificial grass mat because scattered bark, if it isn’t kept moist, can lead to respiratory illness for the tree frog, a water dish, and an over-priced chunk of bark that had gone through a baking process to rid it of bacteria.

When my daughter found out she had to pick up a cricket from the bucket to feed the tree frog, she lost interest. One second later, I took over Laura’s care and, over time, managed to tame her to sit on the back of my hand or rest on my neck behind my hair. That sweet companion kept me company for over four years. Laura wasn’t alone. Each spring, I found another tree frog camouflaged on a leaf or clinging to the window well. Soon, our house filled with their song.

While I never wrote a poem about a tree frog, someone else did, which brings me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review of Dear Treefrog.

Written by  –  Joyce Sidman

Illustrated by – Dianna Sudyka

Published by – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Theme – Nature poetry

Opening – 

I See You


among the tangled green

a tiny dollop of


where before

there was only leaf

You look so bumpy

and soft

all tucked

inside yourself

watching me

watching you

Are you new here too?

Amazon Review – 

Capturing the joy of finding a kindred spirit, this stunning picture book by Newbery Honor–winning poet Joyce Sidman tells the story of a lonely girl moving into a new home and the little treefrog that helps her connect to the beautiful world around her. Perfect for fans of A Butterfly Is Patient and They Saw a Cat.

When a shy girl moves to a strange new home, she discovers a treefrog perched in a secret spot nearby and learns that sometimes, all it takes to connect with the people and the world around us is a little patience, a curious mind, and a willingness to see the world through a different perspective than your own. With beautiful gouache illustrations by Diana Sudyka and magical, perceptive poems from Newbery Honor–winning author Joyce Sidman, the lives of one tree frog and the girl who discovers it converge, bringing solace, courage, and joy in finding a kindred spirit. 

Why do I like this book? — Having raised tree frogs over the years, this book was of instant interest to me. I enjoyed that the book moved through the seasons and shared the story of a girl who, with patience, discovers the world of a tree frog. The colorful gouache watercolor illustrations are welcoming and cheerful, each picture filled with enough detail to capture a child’s attention at reading time.

Learn more about Joyce Sidman HERE

Learn more about Diana Sudyka HERE

Learn how to make a fun paper frog HERE

Next time you’re out for a walk, stop and listen. Do you hear the chirp of a bird or the croak of a frog? Be still and see if you can find where they are hiding. With patience, maybe you can make a friend in nature.

Until next Friday,


A Day So GRAY, This Perfect Picture Book Friday

Some years ago, say twenty, I visited an art museum with friends. Most of us
took our time through the halls, examining the brush strokes of paintings,
marveling at the gentle folds of a garment carved into marble, and noting the
emotion captured in a photograph. One woman in our group, I’ll call her Maggie,
breezed through the exhibits. She looked at each piece of art for a few seconds
before moving her gaze to the next. To appreciate the art at my own pace, I spent
little time with her.

Wandering into a hall of Renaissance portraits, I discovered a small painting of
a woman displayed in a darkened corner. Among the shadows, she looked
forgotten. Something in her eyes drew me in for a long look. I wondered who she
was and if the artist knew her. From her tired clothes with their tattered hems
to her joyless expression, I felt her life had come with many challenges and
few joys. If I could travel back in time, I was certain the stories she could tell would
always stay with me. While I stood before the painting, Maggie came up beside me.
She looked at the portrait and shrugged.

“It’s not anything special,” she said.

I took a breath. “Don’t be so sure. Look again.”

She shrugged again. “What do you see in it that I don’t?”

“Where do I begin?”

Countless reasons exist to explain why each of us sees the world differently. We can wonder why one person is moved by a painting, a kindness, or the song of a bird, while another person remains unmoved. This brings me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review of A Day So GRAY.

Written by  –  Marie Lamba

Illustrated by – Alea Marley

Published by – Clarion Books – 2019

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Theme – Gaining a new perspective and appreciating and
celebrating quiet joys.

Opening – 

This day is so gray.

No, it isn’t! It’s deep soft brown, and shining blue, and silver splashes on
bright yellow.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE.
Once you start to notice, colors and reasons for gratitude are everywhere, and
that changes everything! Celebrate the hues and comforts of a cozy winter day
as a discontented girl at first notices only dull grays and browns in a snowy
landscape but is coaxed by her friend to look more closely. Soon she finds
orange berries, blue water, purple shadows, and more. Warm friendship and a
fresh way of seeing things transform a snow-covered landscape from bleak to

Why do I like this book? — I relate to this book. I am that little girl in the red coat who sees magic and color wherever she goes. While some people groan at the cold of winter and the harshness of that season, I see the sparkle on the snow that shines like scattered diamonds. I find tiny animal prints pressed into the snow and want to set out nuts and seeds. And while most see winter as a gray season, I notice the ornamental, red cardinal perched among the snowy branches.

This book encourages us to take a second look at our surroundings. At first glance, the landscape might appear a little gray or brown, but when we look again, we see so much more!

I love that the optimist of this story continues to find beauty no matter what negativity the pessimist throws at her. Finding beauty is a wonderful way to move through each day.

Visit Marie Lamba HERE

Visit Alea Marley HERE

ACTIVITY – Starting today. Right now. Look around yourself and find five
things you usually overlook. For each of these, find up to five nice things you
can say about them.

Each time you see something that brings about a negative thought, look once
more and find something kind to say.

I found a blog post that shares ways we can help children appreciate beauty. Honestly, I believe this post is valuable for all ages. 

How to teach children to appreciate beauty: my top five tips by Chantelle Grady

Until next Friday

Reviving the Handwritten Thank You Note this Perfect Picture Book Friday

I grew up before cell phones ruled our lives. During my childhood, when a relative or friend gave me a present, it was standard practice to send a handwritten thank you note — a nearly lost art in today’s world. I would sit at my desk, sifting through my stationery boxes to find the perfect card to express my thanks. Penmanship was important, too. My mom often looked over my cards to make sure my letter was thoughtful, and my handwriting was legible. Sometimes, there were rewrites, which meant starting fresh on a new card. These were the days before the delete button. These were also the days before the send button. Then, after addressing the envelope and adding a stamp, my mom or dad drove me to the post office, about fifteen minutes away, to mail my card.

Nowadays, a present arrives, and instinct has us grabbing our cell phones to text a breezy, and sometimes abbreviated, note that includes a row of emojis. Times have changed.

After reading today’s blog post, I’m hopeful that some of you might feel inspired to revive the beautiful art of the thank you note, leading me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

Title – Sallie Bee Writes a Thank You Note

Written by  –  Courtney Sheinmel and Susan Verde

Illustrated by – Heather Ross

Published by – Abrams Books For Young Readers – 2022

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Theme – gratitude, thoughtfulness

Opening – On Monday, there was a surprise in the mail for Sallie.

It was not Sallie’s birthday. It was not a holiday. It was just an ordinary day.

Dear Sallie, I made this scarf for you! Love, Grandma Bee.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. From New York Times, bestselling authors Susan Verde, Courtney Sheinmel, and Heather Ross comes a warmhearted story about expressing gratitude, perfectly modeling how to write a great thank-you note!

When a surprise comes in the mail from Grandma, Sallie wants to text her right away: Thanks, Grandma!

But wait—how will Grandma know what Sallie is thanking her for and how it makes her feel? And every proper thank-you needs some swirlies, right? This calls for something special: a handwritten note.

The next day, Sallie hopes to get another package so she can write a second note. Nothing comes. But . . . she does get safely across the street on the way to school. Maybe that deserves a thank you!

Dear Crossing Guard . . .

With each new day, Sallie discovers more and more reasons to feel grateful. A warm and witty story about appreciating others, Sallie BeeWrites a Thank-You Note celebrates the simple kindness of saying “thank you.”

The book also includes tips on how to write the perfect thank-you note!

Why do I like this book? From cover to cover, children will find inspiration to write thank-you notes. Sallie’s journey through her day shows us the many people who make a difference in her life that deserve a note of appreciation for their kindness. The obvious recipient of a thank you note is her grandmother, who knit the scarf. But throughout her day, Sallie encounters other people that show her kindness, from the lunchroom lady that lets her make her taco without beans to her brother for not putting his pet spider on her bed. The playful illustrations brim with joy, making this book a must-have addition to everyone’s picture bookshelf.

Visit Courtney Sheinmel HERE

Visit Susan Verde HERE

Visit Heather Ross HERE

Watch a video on how to make fun thank you cards HERE

Photo by alleksana on Pexels.com

Until next Friday.