Perfect Picture Book Friday Explores the Joys of Becoming a Pet Parent with “Mother Bruce”

I was, winding down at the end of a long day, feeling rather happy that bedtime was rolling around. My eyelids were gaining weight as they drooped ever further down. All the while, I was trying to fight off sleep long enough to get myself off the sofa and into bed when my daughter, who was about four at the time, screeched, “We HAVE to save the little froggy!”

“Excuse me?”

“Froggy!” She pops up and down, pointing at the patio window.

With his sweet green feet suctioned to the glass, the glow of our kitchen lights glinting in his golden eyes, the little treefrog, no bigger than my thumbnail, seemed to be looking in at us.

“SAAAAAAVE IT!!!!” my daughter shouted.

“Sweetie,” I said, stifling a yawn, “this little guy is going to be fine. He’s supposed to live outside in a world filled with yummy insects. Now, let’s go to bed.”

“What if he gets eaten during the night?” my daughter said in her most ominous tone. “You’ll be mad at yourself for not rescuing him. So, pleeeeeeease let’s save him.”

Are kids and puppies born with big eyes to give them the cuteness factor we often fall victim to?

“Okay,” I agreed. “The froggy can spend the night inside.”

“What about tomorrow and the next day?” my daughter asked. “What’s going to keep him from being eaten on those days? Huh?”

Flash forward to the pet store

Suitable terrarium  $20

Amphibian moss  $12

Ceramic bathing and drinking dish  $15

Sterilized branch  $8

Mini hammock with suction cups  $15

Two dozen crickets to feed to treefrog  $4

High calcium food for crickets  $5

5-gallon bucket to house crickets  $5

TREE FROG RESCUE $84

And speaking of becoming the mother to another species…

Today’s picture book review is of a book close to my heart…

Title – Mother Bruce – view on Amazon HERE.

Written and illustrated by – Ryan T. Higgins

Published by – Scholastic  2015

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics/Theme –  Tolerance, patience, parenting

Opening –Bruce was a bear who lived all by himself. He was a grump. He did NOT like rain. He did NOT like sunny days. He did NOT like cute little animals.

Amazon Review – Bruce the bear likes to keep to himself. That, and eat eggs. But when his hard-boiled goose eggs turn out to be real, live goslings, he starts to lose his appetite. And even worse, the goslings are convinced he’s their mother. Bruce tries to get the geese to go south, but he can’t seem to rid himself of his new companions. What’s a bear to do?

Why do I like this book? Humor, which appears in both the text and illustrations, is the key ingredient in this touching and hysterical picture book. Even if a child isn’t begging you to read this treasure over and over again, chances are, you’ll naturally flip back to page one and start again because it’s that entertaining.

Learn more about Ryan T. Higgins HERE.

If after reading this book, you’re in the mood for new ways to prepare eggs, check out these 50 egg recipes!  Click HERE.

And for those of you who want to follow in Bruce’s big, bear footsteps and raise geese, here is a site to help you take the next step. Click HERE.

Until next Friday!

Perfect Picture Book Friday Visits The Symphony

I didn’t post a picture book review last Friday for a perfectly wonderful reason. My college roommate from Lawrence University, where the two of us played violin in their symphony orchestra years ago, was playing in a concert with the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, and…

Joshua Bell performed with them.

I vividly remember the day my friend asked if I wanted her to get me tickets.

Yes, Yes, a million times YES!

For years, I have admired and been inspired by Joshua Bell’s astounding talent. I dreamed of producing such sweet sounds from my violin. I practiced and tried not to get discouraged when my playing was compared to the squeal of a cat with its tail squeezed in a vice. I practiced day after day, smoothing out my tones. Eventually, I earned my place in a symphony. My proud father rewarded me for my hard work with a beautiful violin he spent years making. Today when I play the violin, joy bubbles up in my heart because the music singing out is mine, and creating it thrills me. But when I listened to and watched Joshua Bell perform, I realized playing the violin gave him something greater–it completed him. Through his violin, he lets the world hear his voice, know his feelings, and glimpse into his soul.

As the smooth, surreal sounds filled the concert hall, I reminded myself to breathe. Then, I glanced around to see I wasn’t the only one blinking back tears. I reached over to hold my twelve-year-old daughter’s hand. “How are you liking the music, sweetie?”

She leaned against my arm. “You know how much I love listening to Katy Perry?”

I nodded.

“This is better,” she said.

Because of the unforgettable concert when my dear friend shared the stage with Joshua Bell, I would like to introduce you to a picture book that, through precisely chosen words and brilliant illustrations, offers a lively look at the orchestra.

Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin by Lloyd Moss.

Title – Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin – view on Amazon Here.

Written by – Lloyd Moss (1926-2013)

Illustrated by – Marjorie Priceman

Published by – Aladdin Paperbacks  edition 2000  (text and illustration copyright 1995)

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics/Theme –  music and learning about the instruments in an orchestra

Opening –

With mournful moan and silken tone,

Itself alone comes ONE TROMBONE.

gliding, sliding, high notes go low;

ONE TROMBONE is playing SOLO.

Amazon Review – The Caldecott Honor book, now in paperback!
With mournful moan and silken tone,
itself alone comes ONE TROMBONE…

Then a trumpet joins in to become a duet; add a French horn and voila! you have a trio — and on it goes until an entire orchestra is assembled on stage. Lloyd Moss’s irresistible rhymes and Marjorie Pricemans’s energetic illustrations make beautiful music together — a masterpiece that is the perfect introduction to musical instruments and musical groups, and a counting book that redefines the genre.

Why do I like this book? Musical instruments each have their own distinctive voice. Describing an instrument’s voice through words often falls flat to the actual sound. But when I read each stanza dedicated to a musical instrument, I found that Lloyd Moss demonstrates a “fine-tuned” understanding of the particular sound each instrument produces and found perfect words to bring each one to life. And…offering the absolute, hands down, most perfect accompaniment to the text, one of my very favorite illustrators, Marjorie Priceman, was chosen to create the art. Her style is expressive. Her illustrations burst with intense colors and freedom. Her lines are more fluid than cursive handwriting.

Learn about Lloyd Moss HEREThis is an incredible post about the author that includes the story of how this special book came to be.

Learn about Marjorie Priceman HERE.

Listen to Joshua Bell play O Mio Babbino Caro by Giacomo Puccini HERE.

Joshua Bell plays the theme song to the movie, Ladies in Lavender HERE.

Discussion with children – watch videos on your computer or check them out at the library of music performed by various solo instruments. Then, play a piece of classical music performed by an orchestra and see how many instruments children can recognize.

Ask children if they can describe the sound each instrument makes in sounds and words.

DANCE TIME! – While listening to various musical pieces, make space in a room for a little creative “dance” time. Let children explore with their hands, arms, feet, legs, and bodies what direction the music takes them.

DRAWING TIME! -Spread out large sheets of paper, markers, and colored pencils or crayons. This time, while listening to expressive pieces of music, encourage children to show, with lines, shapes, and squiggles, how the music ‘looks’ to them if it were a picture.

If you know of other picture books that explore music, I hope you’ll share them in the comments.

Until next Friday!

Heart is everything in today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review of Pandora.

I was about four years old at the time, sitting under the dining room table, surrounded by wooden boxes that brimmed with colorful Legos. The forest-green, woven tablecloth draped over the sides like a tent. A sunbeam streamed through the window beside me, warming the place where I sat. Snap! Click! The walls of my Lego house rose brick by brick, taller and taller.

I was a young architect who didn’t understand the basics of construction. I snapped the next brick in place, the walls of my little house fell, and I didn’t know why. My father walked by, though all I saw were his wrinkled work pants and leather shoes. I called to him to help me. Dad crouched down, examined my poor construction, and offered encouraging, consoling words as he bent his head to fit in the small space beside me. Brick by brick, the walls of the Lego house grew taller and taller…

…and stayed!

Dad was my hero.

Over the remaining years of my childhood, my adolescence, and my adult years until the day I lost him, Dad remained my hero – the man who could fix anything I broke and could help me understand anything I couldn’t figure out. Dad always helped me with kindness, patience, and the sort of hug I wished could last forever.

Today’s Perfect Picture Book review is about the deep desire to fix what is broken.

Title – Pandora

Written and illustrated by – Victoria Turnbull

Published by – Clarion Books – 2017

Topic – compassion, hope, friendship

Opening – 

Pandora lived alone,

in a land of broken things.

She made herself a handsome home

from all that people had left behind.

But no one ever came to visit.

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE. Pandora lives alone, in a world of broken things. She makes herself a handsome home, but no one ever comes to visit. Then one day something falls from the sky
. . . a bird with a broken wing.
Little by little, Pandora helps the bird grow stronger. Little by little, the bird helps Pandora feel less lonely. The bird begins to fly again, and always comes back—bringing seeds and flowers and other small gifts. But then one day, it flies away and doesn’t return. Pandora is heartbroken.
Until things begin to grow . . .

Here is a stunningly illustrated celebration of connection and renewal.

Learn more about Victoria Turnbull HERE.

Why I love this book: I’m continually drawn to those whose hearts shine through everything they do. Pandora has such a heart. The illustrations are as powerful as the story and add an important emotional level. I must confess, this is a book I have enjoyed countless times, and I know the next time I read it, I will enjoy it again.

 Until next Friday!

Perfect Picture Book Friday Wishes Happy Birthday to Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Today is a special day in many ways. Yes, today is Perfect Picture Book Friday, but it is also Poetry Friday and the birthday of the beloved poet and anthologist, Lee Bennett Hopkins whose poetry anthology book, School People, I recently shared with you. If you want to join in the birthday celebration for Lee, the party is well underway over at Robyn Hood Black’s blog.

Lee Bennett Hopkins

As you probably guessed, today’s picture book review is a poetry anthology- a book of poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins about a place that is dear to my heart.

The library.

I came from a serious, book-loving family. My father designed and helped build the house I grew up in, and instead of wallpaper, Dad cut and sanded looooong pieces of wood for floor to ceiling and wall to wall bookshelves. Those shelves were deep enough to hold two or three rows of books–and they did!

Imagine pulling a book off of a shelf and finding another book behind it and another book behind that one. Owning thousands of books seemed normal to me.

Dad was fond of saying, “When I have a little money, I buy books. If I have a little money left, I buy more books.

I figured everyone lived in a house filled floor to ceiling and wall to wall with books until I was invited over to a friend’s house back in the first grade. Dad had taught me that I can learn much about a person from their books. So, I was naturally excited to learn more about my friend, Carol, from the books she and her family piled, gathered, and stacked on their shelves. But the first thing I noticed at Carol’s house was NO books! (No books except the one they kept in their bathroom.) I wanted to go home because her house didn’t feel like a home to me. I didn’t care that Carol had piles of games and stuffed animals to play with. I simply wondered how anyone could be happy in a house without books.

“Dad!” I said when he picked me up later that afternoon, “I thought people were supposed to buy books when they had a little money. Carol and her family must be stone poor because they don’t have any books!”

Dad took my hand in his. “I know a place that has more books than we have at home.”

“Can you take me there?”

That afternoon, Dad introduced me to a place I have come to think of as my second home–a place with friendly, knowledgeable people who went out of their way to find the book I wanted to read, find more books on subjects I was interested in, helped me  navigate the card catalogue, and always made me feel welcome.

Yup! I’m talking about the library.

In honor of the library, Perfect Picture Book Friday, Poetry Friday, and Lee Bennett Hopkin’s 80th birthday, I’d like to share a special book of poems dedicated to the library.

Title – Jumping Off Library Shelves

Poems selected by – Lee Bennett Hopkins

Illustrated by – Jane Manning

Published by – WordSong – 2015

Topic – poems, the library, books

Opening –  I’ll only include part of this poem with hopes you will visit your library to find this treasure of a book and read on. 

Breakfast Between the Shelves by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Morning pours spoons of sun

through tall windows, rests along

a reading chair, a copper rail;

hovers over crumbs, small supper scraps

left by those who opened books

last night, to live in story.

Mice scamper

between shelves,

pass poems

like platters of cheese;

Please read this about Owl!

And this about Giant!

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE. Here is the library, not just as a place that houses books, but as an experience. Fifteen poems celebrate the thrill of getting your first library card, the excitement of story hour, the fun of using the computer, the pride of reading to the dog, and the joy of discovering that the librarian understands you and knows exactly which books you’ll love. The poems, compiled by noted poet and anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins, pay homage to the marvels of books and reading. Accompanied by Jane Manning’s colorful, imaginative illustrations, this collection lyrically celebrates the magic of libraries.

 I like this book because… the fifteen poems gathered like friends between the covers of this anthology express the happiness I have always felt, and still feel, about a visit to the library. Each poem serves as an ingredient which, alone or combined, conjures up childhood memories like the magic of a bulging bag of books, the pride I felt when I held my first library card, learning about faraway places and people-fictitious and real. This collection of poems paints a clear picture of the place I call my “other home.”
Happy Birthday, Lee Bennett Hopkins! I’m glad I got to meet you through the Highlights Poetry workshop, taught by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard.  Your passion for poetry is delightfully contagious. Hugs and heartfelt thanks,
Leslie Leibhardt Goodman
Until next Friday!

Perfect Picture Book Friday Meets The Cubs Famous Goat Curse.

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review is about a famous animal curse. And speaking of feeling cursed by an animal… Did I ever tell you the story about the stray cat that cursed my living room when I was a child?

I was about ten at the time, drawing pictures on one of those sweltering, mid-west, summer days when my mom came in from gardening. “Look what I found tromping through my garden!” she said.

Mom held out her hands which were cupped together around something.

“A Luna Moth cocoon? A Walking Stick? A Monarch butterfly? What?” I asked.

Something inside my mother’s hands squirmed. A small pink nose pushed between her fingers followed by a set of whiskers and a dark-eyed, furry face.

Meeeeeeew!

I was in love.

My father, not an animal lover from way back, was not in love.

“Take it back outside where you found it before you or the kids get attached to it!” he said.

Too late.

Turns out, we all felt sorry for that poor, widdle kitty… even my dear dad. After Mom made a quick dash to the grocery store for cat food, she fed the kitty and returned to gardening. Then, I came into the kitchen. Moved to pity when the kitty gave me a look of desperation, I fed it. My sister strolled in a while later. Sure enough, she set out a bowl of food, too.

When my sister and I were back in our room, Dad entered the scene. With one sweet Meeeeeeew and a rub against his leg, he fell victim to the cat’s powers. I can still hear Dad’s voice, echoing over the chasm of time. “First everyone wants this stupid cat, and then they don’t think to feed the darned thing!” Yup! Poor, widdle kitty ate better than a king! Grew BIG as a king! Then, it developed… gas!

While the family gathered in the living room one evening to watch The Love Boat, (don’t judge me) that cat came rocketing through the room, leaving behind a trail of toxic exhaust.

Out of a natural survival instinct, I locked myself in my bedroom and gulped in the sweet, untainted air.

Dad’s voice thundered, “You wanted this darned cat! If we have to smell it, so do you! Get back out here, or that cat goes outside forever!”

Enough said. I wrapped a couple scarves around my nose and mouth and returned to the danger zone.

And, speaking of animals and curses, today’s picture book review is about a famous goat curse. I’m referring to the Chicago Cubs Billy Goat Curse that started with one stinky goat.

Title – Murphy’s Ticket: The Goofy Start and Glorious End of the Chicago Cubs Billy Goat Curse.

Written by – Brad Herzog

Illustrated by – David Leonard

Published by – Sleeping Bear Press – 2017

Topic – Chicago Cubs, Baseball team, historic curse

Opening – Like the famous ivy in Wrigley Field

that clings to the outfield wall,

a legend has grown throughout the years

about the curse of Chicago baseball.

It tells of a goat who lived long ago

and the fans of a lovable team,

who never lost their loyalty

or their faith in a World Series dream.

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE. For 108 years, fans of Chicago Cubs baseball suffered every playoff season, with mishap after mishap each being traced back to 1945 when a friendly goat was kicked out of a World Series game. But the 2016 season felt different. Would this finally be the year that the Billy Goat Curse was reversed? Author Brad Herzog tells the story of the curse’s origin and follows the Cubs right through that fateful November night in 2016 when the Cubbies could finally fly the “W.”

 Why do I like this book? I have to admit I’ve been curious about the famous Cubs goat curse for years, and this upbeat, rhyming picture book tells the whole story, starting back when the famous goat was a baby that bounced off a truck and wandered into a saloon owned by Billy Sianis, the man who placed the curse.
Cub's Billy Goat
If you’re interested in reading the AMAZING coincidences about the Cub’s World Series win, check out this website.
Until next Friday!

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

We’ve all had a day when life dominos upon us–a day that maybe starts with the garbage disposal making a funny, clanking, crunching (expensive) sound. The repairman comes and extracts a plastic bottle cap which has bounced in unseen. He charges $75 for the visit. Then, you need something at the grocery store, but the car battery is somewhat dead because someone left the light on in the car all night. Your neighbor gives you a jump start, but when you get back home from shopping, the garage door won’t open. Is the battery dead in the opener? Too simple. Darker forces are at work… The repairman comes and announces that your spring has snapped, and he wants a few hundred dollars to replace it.

Tired from the sheer excitement of the day, you shift your washed laundry into the dryer and take a nap to the soothing sound of tumbling clothes. Thirty minutes later, you wake to a funny smell and a bit of smoke, streaming from the laundry room. Thankfully, you rescue your clothes before they turn to ashes. When the repairman comes, he lets you know your vent is packed with lint. $150 later, it’s clearly time to settle down with a freshly brewed cup of coffee. You fill the little basket with your favorite, hazelnut-vanilla grounds, add water, press the start button, and take your dog outside while you wait. When you come back inside, a gushing sound has you running into the kitchen to find you forgot to put the pot under the coffee maker’s spout.

If you’ve ever had one of those days when EVERYTHING that can go wrong does go wrong, you’ll love the humor in the book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst.

Title – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Written by – Judith Viorst

Illustrated by – Ray Cruz

Published by – Aladin Paperbacks – 1972

Topic – Having a bad day

Opening – I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on a skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.le

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE. The perennially popular tale of Alexander’s worst day is now a board book that belongs on every child’s bookshelf.

Alexander is not having a great day. He has to endure gum in his hair, sitting in the middle of the backseat, third-best-friend status, no dessert at lunch, lima beans, railroad pajamas, and kissing on TV—all in one day! Maybe he’ll just move to Australia.

This funny and endearing story has delighted readers for more than forty years

 Why do I like this book? Simply, because this is a story many people can relate to. I adore the humor which comes from both the text and illustrations which clearly show Alexander’s disgust and dismay during his very bad day.
Until next Friday!

Perfect Picture Book Friday heads out to sea with The Storm Whale by Benji Davies.

When it comes to helping injured animals, my heart holds a soft spot that can’t be measured. This condition showed itself when I was quite young. As you know from previous blog posts, this is an inherited condition (precious gift) I received from my mother. I’m fairly certain that if my father wouldn’t have objected so strenuously, Mom would have opened the front door to welcome in all the furry critters inhabiting the woods surrounding our home. Thinking back, I would have gladly set out extra plates on our table for them all.

Years later, my heart hasn’t changed.  I’m the bird whisperer who cradles dazed birds in tissue-lined shoe boxes after they have hit the windows, calming them with soothing words. I’m the “strange lady” who has been seen purchasing baby mice from the pet shop where the defenseless darlings are sold as food for snakes. And I am the rescue girl who has climbed down window wells in spring to save tree frogs that can’t make it up and out. Having shared this, I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise that animal rescue stories, nonfiction or fiction like the one I am sharing today, are dear to me.

Image result for images of the storm whale

 

Title – The Storm Whale

Written and illustrated by – Benji Davies

Published by – Henry Holt and Company – 2013

Topics – Animal rescue, compassion, understanding

Opening – Noi lived with his dad and six cats by the sea. 

Every day, Noi’s dad left early for a long day’s work on his fishing boat. He wouldn’t be home again till dark.

One night, a great storm raged around their house. In the morning, Noi went down to the beach to see what had been left behind. As he walked along the shore, he spotted something in the distance.

 

Illustration from The Storm Whale

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE. Noi and his father live in a house by the sea, his father works hard as a fisherman and Noi often has only their six cats for company. So when, one day, he finds a baby whale washed up on the beach after a storm, Noi is excited and takes it home to care for it. He tries to keep his new friend a secret, but there’s only so long you can keep a whale in the bath without your dad finding out. Noi is eventually persuaded that the whale has to go back to the sea where it belongs. For Noi, even though he can’t keep it, the arrival of the whale changes his life for the better

 Why do I like this book? If you want a clear picture of Noi, the little boy in this story whose heart is as immense as the whale he sets out to rescue, take an ocean of kindness and stir in an endless river of thoughtfulness.
With his father out fishing at sea until supper time, Noi does his absolute best to make the baby whale feel at home. Aside from keeping the whale happy in his bathtub, Noi plays Handel’s water music for the ultimate in listening enjoyment, gives him a reassuring touch on his back, and talks to him. (And this is all in the incredible illustrations.) I won’t spoil the ending–the part that reveals what Noi’s father does when he discovers the whale. I will, however, say that Noi’s dad does not react as my father would have. Between the story and the illustrations, my heart experienced the squeeze of a perfect hug. I hope you’ll read this loving book by Benji Davies.
To learn more about Benji Davies, the author and illustrator of The Storm Whale, click HERE.
Would you like to hear the music Noi played for the baby whale? Here is a recording of Handel’s Water Music. Listen
To hear the song of whales like the one Noi rescued, listen HERE.
Art projects
How to make an origami (paper folding) whale. Here.
How to upcycle an egg carton to make a super cute whale. Here.
Until next Friday!

Perfect Picture Book Friday Shares “School People” by Poet and Anthologist, Lee Bennett Hopkins.

I’m sorry I didn’t review a picture book last Friday, but after a visit to the podiatrist that day, I learned I have a stress fracture. Apparently, it’s the sort of thing that can happen without dropping a safe or dining room table on your foot. I had no idea walking (a lot) could bring this about.

Being on crutches again after many years, brought me back to my elementary school days when I needed these infernal sticks after knee surgery. Not including the sore arm muscles, inconvenience, and frustration of getting from class to class and up and down the school bus steps SAFELY, I thought back to my other school memories during that time–the pleasant ones. I thought about the teachers who encouraged me and allowed me extra time to get to class, the bus driver who lend a helping hand on and off of the bus, and the librarian who suggested a joke book to keep me smiling.

For today’s picture book Friday review, I’d like to share a collection (anthology) of school themed poetry written by a collection of gifted poets. And the man who contributed to and selected the poems for this book is none other than Lee Bennett Hopkins. Mr. Hopkins is an award-winning poet whose countless accomplishments and list of people whose lives he has touched, including my own, would fill volumes. I can’t say enough about this talented man whom I had the honor of meeting through Skype last fall at a Highlights poetry workshop.

And now it’s time to wander back in time to our elementary school days through the poems in the picture book, School People.

Title – School People

Poetry selected by – Lee Bennett Hopkins  leebennetthopkins.com

Illustrated by – Ellen Shi   www.ellenshi.com

Published by – WordSong – 2018

Topics – Poetry, School people, the way we see others.

Opening – School’s Story – A poem by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, one of my instructors at the Highlights poetry workshop I mentioned above.

(I’m only including part of this ingeniously thought out poem with hopes you will check out this book to enjoy the rest…)

I am waiting–come on in!

Welcome to this house of brick.

Enter whispers, whistles, signs,

footsteps, fossils, notebook lines.

Rooms hold calendars, chairs, and nooks,

murals, maps, library books.

Feet scamper, shuffle, dash, drum.

Listen to my hallway hum!

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE. Welcome to school, a building of brick “full of soul and heart,” eager for students and staff to fill its halls with sounds. This anthology of fifteen poems celebrates the grown-up people that children encounter throughout the course of their school day: the school bus driver with her morning smile, the teacher who inspires imagination, the rarely seen, yet caring custodian, and the nurse who heals hurts, big and small. There’s even a poem about the school building. Award-winning poet and anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins has compiled this marvelous collection featuring a variety of brand-new works by well-known poets and beautifully imaginative artwork by illustrator Ellen Shi.

 Why do I like this book? The poems I love best evoke emotions, tickle my memories, stop me, get me thinking, let me hear, see, taste, smell, and touch something, startle me with surprisingly perfect comparisons, end with a twist, bring a smile, cause a tear, and stay with me long after I have turned the page. Through Lee Bennett Hopkin’s collection, I experienced all of this as memories came crawling, running, and tumbling out of the cobwebby corners of my mind. I hope you will run (not walk) to the nearest library or bookshop to immerse yourself in the poems that fill this book.
Click on the links below to learn more about the poets whose poems are included in the book, School People.
I hope you’ll share an elementary school memory in the comments below about a special teacher, a time you shared with your best friend, an unforgettable school project, something about your homeroom pet, or other fond memory from those days.
Until next Friday!

What’s With The Hole In My Doughnut? Find out here for Perfect Picture Book Friday.

When I saw this picture book, The Hole Story of the Doughnut, I zipped back in time to the days when I wore a dress with knee socks and my hair in braids. I could almost feel my father’s hand, holding mine as we strolled through the cobblestone streets of our little town on Saturday morning to visit the bakery. My mouth watered as I looked at all the frosted pastries, chocolate chip-studded cookies, gooey brownies, and cakes, tempting me from behind the shiny glass case. Dad and I walked from one end of the pastry case WAY down to the other end, carefully looking at each sweet treat. The long line of moms, dads, and kids disappeared and it was our turn.

“What can I get for you?” the lady behind the counter asked.

Dad looked at me. I looked up at him. We smiled and ordered the same thing we each chose every Saturday over the years.

“I’ll have an applesauce doughnut,” Dad said.

“And I’d like a jelly bismark,” I said.

It’s not that we lacked imagination or the desire to work our way through the case, treat by treat, week by week, trying to see how long it would take us to sample every delectable dessert, it’s that we knew exactly which doughnut gave us the biggest smile and the most satisfaction to eat. At least when Dad wiped the sugar off of my cheeks, he didn’t lick the napkin first like my mom did. (I know…I know… Yuck!)

I don’t think we ever wondered why the baker cut a hole in the middle of Dad’s applesauce doughnut. I’m pretty sure we figured the hole made it easier to hold onto and offered a funny place to peer through and make faces. But enough strolling down memory lane. It’s time to take a look at The Hole Story of the Doughnut.

Title – The Hole Story of the Doughnut

Written by – Pat Miller

Illustrated by – Vincent X. Kirsch

Published by – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

Topics – Determination, invention of the doughnut

Opening – Few remember the master mariner Hanson Crockett Gregory, though he was bold and brave and bright. But the pastry he invented more than 166 years ago is eaten daily by doughnut lovers everywhere. This is his story.

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE.  In 1843, thirteen-year-old Hanson Gregory left his family home in Rockport, Maine, and set sail as a cabin boy on the schooner Achorn, looking for high-stakes adventure on the high seas. Little did he know that a boatload of hungry sailors, coupled with his knack for creative problem-solving, would yield one of the world’s most prized and beloved pastries.

      Lively and inventive cut-paper illustrations add a taste of whimsy to this sweet, fact-filled story that includes an extensive bibliography, author’s note, and timeline.

Why do I like this book? Besides finding the story fascinating, I loved Pat Miller’s lively way of telling this tale. She has a gift for getting those pages flying! And sure, non-fiction books can be dry, but this story about the invention of the doughnut is as moist as the finest doughnut you’ve ever sunk your teeth into! I promise. And while you’re devouring this book, you’ll be glad to know it is 100% calorie free. Another reason to check out this gem.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Reviews Princess and the Peas. Yes, peas – plural.

Cooking was an important part of my childhood. My mother, with her German background, filled our home with the many recipes her mother taught her. Pot lids rattled under the steam, sweet smells escaped from the oven, spatulas with cookie dough were offered with a smile. The kitchen was the heart of my home. For the first number of years, I kneeled on a chair to see over the counter to watch as my mother taught me the fine art of cooking. She disclosed secret ingredients that “made all the difference” and demonstrated cooking techniques. Later, when I was ten, my mother allowed me to partake in the cooking process–simple tasks of whisking egg whites until they formed snowy peaks, carefully measuring ingredients, and stirring, stirring, stirring. To this day, I still love preparing meals, experimenting with exotic spices and recipes, and tinkering to create a new, totally amazing meal. And the kitchen is still the heart of my home.

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday shows that cooking an important meal is by far more important than bruising from sleeping on a well-cushioned pea.

Without further adieu…

Princess and the Peas. Yes, you read that right. Peas (plural).

Title – Princess and the Peas

Written by – Rachel Himes

Illustrated by – Rachel Himes

Published by – Charlesbridge – 2017

Topics – Fairytale twist, mother and son, cooking.

Opening – Ma Sally was the best cook in CharlestonCounty, South Carolina. Everybody knew it, especially Ma Sally. When she fixed supper, the tables groaned under crocks of collard greens, piles of sweet potatoes, and heaps of hot rolls. But Ma Sally was most famous for her black-eyed peas. When she brought them to the Sunday evening potluck at First Baptist, folks lined up ist to get a taste.

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE. In this adaptation of The Princess and the Pea, Ma Sally cooks the best black-eyed peas in Charleston County, South Carolina. Her son, John, is a highly eligible bachelor, and three local women vie for his hand in marriage by attempting to cook as well as Ma. At the last minute, a surprise contestant named Princess arrives at the door. Princess and John are well-matched, but Princess has her own ideas. When told she has won John’s hand, she asks him to scrub the pots and pans before she’ll give him an answer. Her answer, it turns out, is that she wants to spend some time getting to know John first.

Why do I like this book? The author’s story behind this version of Princess and the Pea answers this question perfectly. Ms. Himes wondered why, in the original telling of this story, was it so important that the princess be sensitive enough to feel a pea through all those mattresses? Focusing on things that are truly important, she has created a story which places the emphasis on love and family. This story shows us that being a capable woman who can cook a fine meal is far more important than being overly delicate. And what man would prefer a wife who bruises over the slightest discomfort to a wife who can cook up the finest meal in town? As an added bonus, the recipe for the scrumptious pot of black-eyed peas is included in the book!

If you have a family favorite meal that was passed down to you, feel free to share it in the comments.