GROWING SEASON is here, both in our gardens and in this sweet picture book.

Remember back in elementary school when kids became friends over simple reasons? Some kids forged friendships because they packed the same snack in their lunch, wore the same shoes to gym class, scribbled with the same colors of crayons, or were the exact same height.

In today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review, I’m sharing a tale of friendship in which two little girls have something BIG in common.

They are the smallest kids in their class.

Until…

 

Title – Growing Season

Written and illustrated by – Maryann Cocca-Leffler

Published by- Sterling Children’s Books – 2019

Topics – Friendship, envy, growing flowers

Opening – Best friends El and Jo were the smallest students in the class. Even their names were short.

Synopsis from AmazonEl and Jo are the smallest students in their class—and best friends, too, like peas in a pod. Even their names are short. But in springtime, something BIG happens: Jo starts growing like a weed, while El feels smaller every day. On the last day of school, their teacher asks every child to pick a plant to care for over the summer. All the other kids reach over El to grab their plant, and she has to take the very last one: a tiny, flowerless aster. At first, she’s disappointed. But as summer progresses, the aster begins to bloom—and so does El!

Why do I like this book? Growing Season finds its picture book perfection not only by being a sweet story of friendship but through its second layer in which young readers learn about growing flowers and the wait they must endure for late-bloomers to bloom. The comparison between the two friends and the flowers they take home on the last day of school pair perfectly.

Learn more about Maryann Cocca-Leffler HERE.

Children can watch flowers grow from seeds in this video.

Learn how to easily grow a variety of herbs and veggies in this YouTube video.

veggies

Which seeds will germinate the fastest for a science fair project? Watch here.

Children can be a little impatient when it comes to growing a garden. This spring or summer, plant radish seeds. They germinate in as little as 4 days and can be picked and eaten in less than one month!

radishes

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions visit Susanna Leonard Hills Perfect Picture Books HERE

Until next Friday

 

What Makes A Mammal BEASTLY? Find out on today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday Review.

When I came up to mother’s hip, my favorite books were BIG and oversized. They brimmed with attention-holding illustrations and fun, kid-friendly facts. I was thrilled to gain tidbits of knowledge I could run and share with anyone who wasn’t too busy to listen.

“Mom! MOM! Did you know baboons make friends by picking ticks out of each other’s fur? Did you know bats all look the same but have different voices so their moms can find them? Did you know a lion’s roar can be heard up to five miles away? Did you know…”

“Did you know,” Mom said, “that I have to get dinner on the table soon? And did you know when I call that dinner is ready, you won’t need to be five miles away to hear me?”

We’d smile, hug, and I’d rush off to learn more facts I could share over a good meal.

So, if you love BIG, oversized books that brim with attention-holding illustrations and fun, kid-friendly facts, I have a feeling the book I’m sharing today will win your heart.

Title – The Big Book of Beasts

Written and illustrated by – Yuval Zommer

Beast expert — Barbara Taylor

Published by- Thames & Hudson – 2017

Topics – Beasts, animal behavior, animal facts

Opening – Beastly Families – What makes a mammal a beast? Warm-blooded animals with hair or fur have the scientific name “mammals.” Some mammals are friendly and some are beastly! Beasts are deadly, cunning and most importantly, wild! Here’s a who’s who of the most beastly of the bunch.

Synopsis from Amazon— A beautifully illustrated, informative book for children introducing them to a fascinating cast of beasts

In The Big Book of Beasts Yuval Zommer’s wonderful illustrations bring to whimsical life some of the grizzliest, hairiest, bravest, wiliest, and most fearsome beasts in the animal kingdom. Brimming with interesting facts from beast consultant Barbara Taylor, this charming picture book is a beautiful way for parents to introduce young children to the animal world―and for older children to learn by themselves.

In the first pages, children learn that beasts are wild animals that can’t be tamed and that they all defend themselves in different ways. As the book continues young readers meet specific beasts, including armadillos, bears, tigers, and the Tasmanian devil. The Big Book of Beasts also approaches the world of beasts thematically, looking at mythical beasts, Ice Age beasts, beasts on your street, and how to save beasts in danger of extinction.

The funny and conversational text, amazing facts, and glorious and quirky pictures will draw in young children over and over again.

Why do I like this book? Learning isn’t a chore with this book of beasts. Even if you already know a great deal about animals, you’ll probably come across a fun fact here and there that will have you running off to share your newly acquired knowledge with anyone who isn’t too busy to listen.

“Hey there! Do you know why a hyena’s poo is white? Do you know why beavers have orange teeth? Do you know why bats sleep upside down?”

I hope you’ll read this incredible book to find out.

Learn more about Yuval Zommer HERE

Watch an armadillo video HERE

Watch a Disney video about brown bears HERE.

Learn about bats HERE

Until next Friday!

Can a violin be worth more than a house? Find out this Perfect Picture Book Friday.

A number of blog posts ago, I wrote about the violin I found and learned to play when I was a child. I discovered the instrument in a chipped and nibbled case down in the attic. (Yes, you read that right. My childhood home had a roomy attic/loft in the basement.) When I found the honey-gold instrument, two strings were strung, and two strings had long snapped and curled off to the sides. The varnish was worn, and the instrument needed repairs and love.

When I showed the violin to my father and asked him who it belonged to, he told me the violin was his. He had purchased it countless years ago with the intentions to, one day, learn to make a violin.

Dad made phone calls, found a teacher in the area, and signed me up for violin lessons. After learning how to turn the sounds of cat squeals into pleasing music, I was ready to join a youth orchestra. That was around the time my Dad realized he was ready to dust off his dream. He read book after book after book on violin making, befriended a violin maker who offered instruction and set out with great determination to make a violin for me.

This brings us to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday book about a girl with a dream to play the violin in a place where a violin is worth more than a house.

Title – Ada’s Violin

Written – Susan Hood

Illustrated by – Sally Wern Comport

Published by- Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers — 2016

Topics – recycling, music, determination

Opening – Ada Rios grew up in a town made of trash.

(Gotta admit, I’m curious to learn more. What about you?)

Synopsis from Amazon –From award-winning author Susan Hood and illustrator Sally Wern Comport comes the extraordinary true tale of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, an orchestra made up of children playing instruments built from recycled trash.

Ada Ríos grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option…until a music teacher named Favio Chávez arrived. He wanted to give the children of Cateura something special, so he made them instruments out of materials found in the trash. It was a crazy idea, but one that would leave Ada—and her town—forever changed. Now, the Recycled Orchestra plays venues around the world, spreading their message of hope and innovation.

Why do I like this book? The main character, Ada, holds a powerful dream to play the violin in Cateura, Paraguay, a small city developed on top of a massive dump. In this impoverished place, a violin is worth more than a house. When her music teacher sets out to turn trash into musical instruments, including a violin made from an old paint can, an aluminum baking tray, a fork, and pieces of wooden crates, Ada proves that passion + practice = perfection.

Learn more about Susan Hood HERE.

Learn more about Sally Wern Comport HERE.

Learn more about The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura in the videos below.

Until next Friday!

What Makes a House? Find out this Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Childhood memories can seem the most distant and unreachable, like the Milkyway. But I have come to learn that with the right memory trigger, like a smell, taste, or sound, a long forgotten memory has a way of filling the mind with clarity. In my case, a childhood memory returned when I opened Deborah Freedman’s picture book, This house, once.

As the different parts came together to make a house in this book, the memory returned when my parents bought a wooded piece of land in the country. I recalled the countless weekends my family drove out to see the building progress. Trucks of different sizes dug a deep, deep hole for the foundation, stacked up stones for sturdy walls, added windows, and doors. I remember playing with my sister around the building site after the trucks drove away. We dug through the sand and earth with our bare hands, searching for dinosaur bones and other treasures, but instead found stones, insects, and frogs. Week after week, we anxiously awaited the day or parents would announce moving day. And then that happy day came. Decades have passed. Another family lives in my childhood home. But the memories are mine to hold.

Title – This house, once

Written and Illustrated by – Deborah Freedman

Published by- Atheneum Books for Young Readers – 2017

Topics – building a house, creating something, nature

Opening – This door was once a colossal oak tree about three hugs around and as high as the blue.

(Is anyone else smiling about the oak tree being about three hugs around?)

Synopsis from Amazon – Deborah Freedman’s masterful new picture book is at once an introduction to the pieces of a house, a cozy story to share and explore, and a dreamy meditation on the magic of our homes and our world.

This poetically simple, thought-provoking, and gorgeously illustrated book invites readers to think about where things come from and what nature provides.

Why do I like this book? I honestly can’t tell you which is more stunning, the text or the illustrations. Deborah Freedman is equally gifted in both the writer’s world and the illustrator’s. I was most taken in by her thoughtfulness in describing each “ingredient” needed to build a house from the door to the stones which were once tucked beneath a blanket of leaves. Each page offers another reason to love this book.

Learn more about Deborah Freedman and her books HERE.

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If you have a fond, funny, or otherwise memorable memory about creating or building something from scratch, I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Until next Friday!

It’s Show and Tell Time This Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Thinking back to my elementary school days, one of my favorite memories circles around show and tell time. Although I never brought in anything out of the ordinary, one girl in my class did.

While the first kids to share held their items for all to see, Jane walked to the front of Mrs. Kelly’s third-grade classroom with a paper bag clutched in her hands. Clearly nervous about her choice of what to share, Jane’s knuckles grew whiter the harder she clenched the rolled up top of that bag, desperate to keep whatever she’d brought from escaping. Or so we believed…

Jane looked long and hard at her bag. Then, she looked at the teacher.

Crinkle, crinkle, crinkle.

Jane unfolded the crimped top and reached her hand into the bag. No one breathed while we waited to see what lurked within.

“This is a freshly cut chicken foot,” Jane said. “My family raises chickens, and I can make this foot move.”

Was she kidding?

When Jane grabbed a dangling tendon and gave it a tug, every squeamish girl in room 305 grossed out as the claw-like foot gripped and released like a grizzled witch’s hand. The boys, however, circled Jane, eager for a turn to make the foot clench next. When Jane went on to tell us how long a chicken can run around without its head, Mrs. Kelly changed the rules of Show and Tell. From that day on, all items brought in to share had to pass her approval.

And this brings me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday Review.

Title – Rotten Teeth

Written by- Laura Simms

Illustrated by – David Catrow

Published by- Houghton Mifflin Company – 1998

Topics – Show and Tell, sharing,

Opening – Melissa Hermann was the shortest person in her first-grade class. She was also the only one who hadn’t brought in anything for Show and Tell.

Elaine Estes showed the class a plastic dinosaur footprint. Carmine Appaseed shared his entire glow-in-the-dark sticker collection. Even shy Fern Miller had brought in her baby hamster. It sat in a cage in the room all morning.

But nothing from Melissa’s house seemed special enough.

Synopsis from AmazonSpeaking in front of the class isn’t easy for small people like Melissa Herman. Especially when there’s nothing very special to say about her house or her family or herself. But with the help of her older brother, Melissa borrows a bottle from her father’s dental office to take to show and tell. The teacher is appalled, but the children are intrigued. David Catrow’s hilariously zany illustrations reveal that there is nothing ordinary about Melissa Herman, or her house or her family. The bright artwork is laugh-aloud funny and will have children begging to hear the story again, or maybe invent their very own tale.

Why do I like this book? Right from the start, the reader is intrigued to learn why Melissa hasn’t brought anything for Show and Tell. Is her home that normal? That boring? However, the humorous illustration on the opening page reveals Melissa does not live an ordinary life. This first look at the outside of her house hints that some strange and mysterious oddities lurk within. Maybe Melissa doesn’t think anything would be interesting enough to bring and share, but her big brother does, and boy does Melissa get a reaction from her classmates and teacher! On the entertainment scale for picture books, I give this gem a solid ten.

Hop over to Laura Simms web site HERE.

Learn more about David Catrow HERE

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If you have a fond, funny, or otherwise memorable memory about Show and Tell, I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Until next Friday!

Learn How To Make A Friend This Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Back in preschool, I didn’t worry about making a friend. With my sister, a year ahead of me, I found comfort knowing she’d be there. She’d be there to show me which toys were the most fun to play with, when to expect naptime, when the teacher served a pudding snack, and when it was time to pull on our jackets and head for home. Worrying about making a friend happened in first grade when my family moved to a new town in the middle of the school year.

Let’s forget that my teacher resembled the witch in Wizzard of OZ, and I don’t mean Glinda. Let’s forget that when I walked in, there were no extra desks, and the teacher left me standing in front of twenty-five pairs of staring eyes while she foraged in other rooms for a desk. Let’s forget that during reading time, I had to share a book with a freckle-faced girl named Cindy who caught me up on the parts of the story I had missed.

Wait. Let’s not forget about Cindy. She was the first friend I made at the new school who didn’t make me feel like a stranger, entering someone’s house at dinner time. Her family didn’t have much money, so she didn’t have many school supplies, but she did have two pencils. And she shared.

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review is a story about making a friend. In fact, the title of the book is Making a Friend.

Title – Making a Friend

Written by- Tammi Sauer

Illustrated by – Alison Friend

Published by- Harper Collins Children’s – 2018

Topics – making a friend, working together, getting along.

Opening – Beaver was good at making lots of things. But there was one thing he had trouble with…

…making a friend. No matter how hard he tried, nothing ever went as planned.

Synopsis from Amazon Beaver is good at making just about everything…but not friends. One winter day, Beaver sees some snowflakes in the sky and gets a great idea: he’ll make a friend. Yes! A snowman will be a great friend!

Raccoon passes by as Beaver sets to work and offers a helping hand. The two work side by side to give their snowman everything a friend needs.

But when the snowman proves to be a little cold, Beaver discovers that he may have unknowingly “made” another buddy instead.

Perfect for snuggling together for a read-aloud, this sweet snowy friendship story from Tammi Sauer and Alison Friend will warm the hearts of young readers.

Why do I like this book? This is a story that will speak to children everywhere. We’ve all, at one time, started at a new school whether it was our first day of preschool or because we moved to a new town. For those children who wonder how to make a new friend, Tammi Sauer has the answer in her sweet story of friendship.

Hop over to Tammi Sauer’s website HERE.

Read an interview with Alison Friend HERE.

Find fun, kid-friendly crafts about friendship HERE.

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If you have a fond, funny, or otherwise memorable memory about making a friend, I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Until next Friday!

Something Terrific For Perfect Picture Book Friday!

I finally replaced my blog banner of the scenic, lake photograph. The change was long overdue. I wasn’t sure what kid-friendly banner I should replace it with, though. I came up with a bookshelf inhabited by a fluffy cat, but my daughter thought I needed to go in a different direction. “I think you should paint a school bus filled with happy kids,” she said. So, I did.  Now, onto my picture book review.

I pulled out one of my favorite books to share with you today. Along with my love of nature books, I also have a love for seriously unique characters. Once you read the book, Terrific, by Jon Agee, you’ll agree that the main character, with his pessimistic nature, is quite unique. Just look at his face on the cover. With one illustration, you know laughs will be plentiful.

Terrific 

Written by- Jon Agee

Illustrated by – Jon Agee

Published by- Dial Books for Young Readers – 2005

Topics – Unlikely friendships, pessimism, change of heart.

Opening – Much to his surprise, Eugene was the lucky winner of an all-expense-paid cruise to Bermuda.

“Terrific,” he said. “I’ll probably get a really nasty sunburn.”

But on the way there, the ship ran into a terrible storm. Everyone was rescued, except for Eugene.

“Terrific,” he said. “I’ll probably get devoured by sharks.”

Synopsis from Amazon – “Terrific,” says Eugene, after winning an all-expenses-paid vacation in Bermuda. “I’ll probably get a really nasty sunburn.” Unfortunately, Eugene’s luck is a lot worse than that. First, his cruise ship sinks, then he ends up stranded on a tiny island. But Eugene isn’t alone. There’s another castaway, a parrot with a busted wing, who tells him what there is to eat and drink and how to build a sailboat. Cranky Eugene pays attention, and his luck begins to change.

Why do I like this book? I can’t resist snarky humor. Now sprinkle snarky humor over a pessimist and you’ve got, (in my opinion) a winning combination for a memorable character which makes for an unforgettable, must-have picture book.  And the illustrations you might be asking about. “Are they pretty good?”  They’re better than pretty good. Jon Agee has a talent for illustrating emotion that not only fits the mood of his characters but ups the humor straight through the ceiling. Check out this book, and you’ll see what I mean.

Hop over to Joh Agee’s web site HERE.

Publishers Weekly Q and A with Jon Agee HERE.

Until next Friday!

Valentine’s Day Get’s a Change of Heart this Perfect Picture Book Friday.

When I was in elementary school, one girl made it her daily task to find something mean to say to me. Her unkind words kept me miserable for years.

I well recall Valentine’s Day when we were expected to give a card to every student in homeroom. EVERY STUDENT. I wrote cards for all of my classmates and saved the card I had to give the mean girl for last. I chose the least sweet card in my box of pink, white, and red Valentines. And although I wrote every student’s name at the top and signed my name at the bottom of their card, I left the mean girl’s card blank. I couldn’t bring myself to write her name, and I couldn’t bear the thought of giving her my signature.

Would she care if she got a card from me? Would she notice if I didn’t give her a Valentine? And if I did give her a Valentine, would she tear it up and throw it away?

While I was suffering in visible agony, my mother asked me what was wrong.

“I don’t want to give a Valentine to the mean girl in my homeroom,” I said.

“She probably doesn’t want to give one to you, either,” Mom said, “but there are times when we have to do things we don’t want to do. Instead of keeping bad feelings between you two, why don’t you do something she’d never expect?”

“Tear up her card before she does?” I guessed.

“I was thinking you could give her a nice Valentine’s Day card,” Mom said, “and ask her to be your friend.”

I did as my mother suggested, and the mean girl laughed. At least she didn’t tear up my card.

She crumpled it.

Years later, when elementary school was long behind me, I came home from college for winter break. I was at the grocery store when I saw the mean girl, slicing meat behind the deli counter. Apparently, she saw me, too, because she wiped her hands down her apron and raced out from behind the counter to catch up to me.

I was wondering what mean thing she had saved up to say to me when she did the unexpected.

“I don’t know if you remember how mean I was to you through school,” she said. “And I don’t even know why I wanted to hurt your feelings. But, I’m sorry.” Then, she impulsively hugged me, returned to the deli counter, and left me standing. Dumbfounded.

And this leads me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

Title – Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink

Written and illustrated by- Diane deGroat

Published by- Harper Collins Children’s Books – 1996

Topics – Valentine’s Day, friendship, misunderstandings

Opening – There they were, fifteen blank Valentine cards, waiting to be filled with nice Valentine poems…

Synopsis from Amazon – Gilbert is all set to write fifteen friendly valentine cards to his classmates. But how can he write a nice poem for the boy who tweaked his nose or the girl who made fun of his glasses? Instead, Gilbert writes two not-so-nice valentines…and signs the wrong name on both!

When his classmates read his poems, their feelings are hurt, and Gilbert’s prank quickly turns into pandemonium. But with the help of a friend and an honest apology, there’s always time for a change of heart on Valentine’s Day.

Why do I like this book? Aside from reminding me of my own elementary school, Valentine’s Day dilemma, this story shows that feelings of anger toward someone are often based upon a simple misunderstanding. The colorful, detailed watercolor illustrations add a strong emotional layer to this story of friendship and forgiveness.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Until next Friday.

Charlotte’s Bones. An Unforgettable Picture Book Mystery for Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Most people can’t resist a mystery. So, when I came across today’s picture book, Charlotte’s Bones, my curiosity shot up when I read the added seven words, carefully included in the cover illustration…

The Beluga Whale in a Farmer’s Field.

Admit it, aren’t you curious to find out how Charlotte’s bones found their way there?

when I read the book, I discovered more than the answer to my question. I discovered a lovingly-written, lyrical story accompanied by equally touching and emotional illustrations that needed to be shared.

Charlotte’s Bones: The Beluga Whale in a Farmer’s Field 

Written by- Erin Rounds

Illustrated by – Alison Carver

Published by- Tilbury House Publishers, 2018

Topics – Beluga whales, Mystery, Evolution

Opening – Many thousands of years ago, when a sheet of ice more than a mile thick began to let go of the land…

…the Atlantic Ocean flooded great valleys that had been scooped out by glaciers, and the salty waves of an inland sea lapped the green hills of Vermont.

Synopsis from Amazon –In 1849, a crew building a railroad through Charlotte, Vermont, dug up strange and beautiful bones in a farmer’s field. A local naturalist asked Louis Agassiz to help identify them, and the famous scientist concluded that the bones belonged to a beluga whale. But how could a whale’s skeleton have been buried so far from the ocean? The answer―that Lake Champlain had once been an arm of the sea―encouraged radical new thinking about geological timescales and animal evolution.

Why do I like this book? Every now and then, I read a book that won’t let go of me. (Admittedly, these are usually true stories about animals.) They say a good picture book is one a child will want to hear or read again and again, but in the case of Charlotte’s Bones, I found a heartfelt story that I want to read again and again.

Watch a video about beluga whales HERE.

Until next Friday.

A Parisian Night Before Christmas Picture Book That’s Tre’ Chic!

If you thought that picture books were written just for children, I’ve got a surprise for you. I was recently visiting Chicago, strolling through the decked out, lighted shops when…

What to my wandering eyes should appear,

but a book nestled snug between holly and deer.

It stood beneath branches all lit up and bright

like a treasure I’d found that came into my sight.

This book was just right for my fave holiday!

Twas the night before Christmas IN  PARIS, Hooray!

Away to the register, I made a mad dash

Flung open my purse and then laid out my cash.

One look at my cell and I saw it was three.

I grabbed book and receipt, and I started to flee.

My train left at four, so I started to jog.

I had to get home to start typing my blog.

This holiday version of this classic is sweet

I hope my dear followers find this a treat.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good read.

Title – The Night Before Christmas in Paris

Written by – Betty Lou Phillips and Roblyn Herndon

and illustrated by – Sheryl Dickert

Published by – Gibbs Smith – 2012

Opening – 

Twas the week before Christmas!

All over the world

The children were breathless

as visions unfurled

Of the magical time when their

dreams would take flight

And the sweet sound of sleigh bells

would ring in the night.

 

But Santa was frantic–

he wasn’t elated,

For his dear Mrs. Claus

could not be located.

The lists were not finished;

the maps were a mess,

And where to deliver

was anyone’s guess.

Amazon Review – A haute stocking stuffer for Paris lovers.

Haute couture and Paris sights capture Mrs. Claus’s imagination―as they would any woman’s! This charming story finds Mrs. Claus fabulously ensconced in Paris, having enjoyed fashion week and been lured for several months’ stay by all the sights, scents, and couture of Paris. In the end, Santa takes a quick tour of the City of Light himself―the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, the Louvre, Tuileries Gardens, Notre Dame, Montmartre and more―to find the satiated Mrs. Claus and whisk her back home just in time to help the elves with the last-minute packing of toys for children all over the world.

Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

Until next Friday.