Perfect Picture Book Friday Embraces Autumn with Sophie’s Squash.

Outside the market, the wood stands sag under the weight of plump pumpkins, colorful gourds, and squash. Each one ready to cart home, carve into a jack-o-lantern, turn into delicious pie, or hearty soup topped with toasted seeds. Autumn, as I’ve mentioned in past posts, is my favorite season. Starting in September, I fill a cookpot with cinnamon sticks, cloves, a dash of vanilla, and enough water to simmer for a good, long time. The sweet steam curls around the rooms, reminding me it’s time to bake my favorite pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and roast up a squash for supper. And speaking of roasting up a squash…

For today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review, I’m sharing a beloved picture book, a book my daughter calls iconic, about a determined girl named Sophie, who adores the squash her parents purchase at the farmers’ market. In fact, Sophie loves the squash sooooo much, she paints a face on it, names it Bernice, and considers the squash her best friend. Which raises the question: How do you cook up someone’s best friend?

The answer: You don’t.

Title – Sophie’s Squash

Written by  –  Pat Zietlow Miller

Illustrated by  – Anne Wilsdorf

Published  – Schwartz & Wade Books – 2013

Suitable for ages – 3 to 7.

Topics – Friendship, attachment, companionship, loyalty.

Opening – One bright fall day, Sophie chose a squash at the farmer’ market. Her parents planned t serve it for supper, but Sophie had other ideas.

Amazon Review –  HERE. On a trip to the farmers’ market with her parents, Sophie chooses a squash, but instead of letting her mom cook it, she names it Bernice. From then on, Sophie brings Bernice everywhere, despite her parents’ gentle warnings that Bernice will begin to rot. As winter nears, Sophie does start to notice changes…. What’s a girl to do when the squash she loves is in trouble?

Why do I like this book? Sophie’s Squash is more than a story about a girl who thinks of a squash as her best friend, Sophie names the squash Bernice and cares for it the same as a mother cares for her child. No matter what anyone says against her squash, Sophie defends and protects Bernice. And when her squash gets spotty and soft, Sophie stands by Bernice’s side, seeking help–the same as a parent would seek medical help for their child. For the love of squash, this is flat out one of the best picture books to share with a child (or enjoy all by yourself) this season.

And I have to sing out the praises for the creative talents of the illustrator, Anne Wilsdorf, who gave Sophie a bigger than life, child-pleasing appearance, showing clear emotions from cover to cover. Sophie’s impulsive ways and ginormous heart shine on every page!

Learn more about Pat Zietlow Miller HERE.

Listen to Sophie’s Squash read aloud by the author HERE.

Learn more about Anne Wilsdorf HERE.

I invite you to visit me next week for The Monday Poems.

Leslie

P.S. If you have a fond memory of the farmers’ Market, a family tradition for this time of year, or you just want to say hi, I hope you’ll scroll down to the comments.

The Monday Poems Meet the Five Senses

Happy first day of Autumn. My favorite season always brings a change in colors to nature, a sweater-worthy nip in the air, and the urge to bake something sweet, spiced with a generous shake of cinnamon. Because this time of year inspires my poetry in a myriad of ways, I decided to share ways to welcome the five senses into your poetry.

HOW TO INCLUDE THE FIVE SENSES INTO A POEM

Grab a pad of paper and your favorite pen or pencil and join me outside. Let’s list a few things we see, hear, smell, taste, and can touch. Become an investigator and peek under a mat of leaves or gaze up into the branches of trees.

What do you SEE that could inspire a poem? A farmer’s field, dotted with plump, orange pumpkins? A woodpecker’s jelly-red crest? Autumn’s fiery leaves, dancing to the ground?

Close your eyes. What do you HEAR? Listen to the rustle of leaves in the breeze, the chorus of honking geese, and a pair of chattering squirrels.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Take a deep breath. Can you SMELL the burning leaves, the sharp and welcoming scent of Pine? The sweet air after a good rain?

Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

TASTE isn’t as easy outside, but let’s tackle that one anyway. Maybe as we’re walking past my garden, you taste the sweet and bitter coolness of a mint leaf. Then, you pluck the last tangy tomato from the vine or sip at the cozy cup of spice tea I made for you.

Photo by Arjun Sreekumar on Pexels.com

TOUCH is as simple as running your palms over the prickly tops of the grass, circling your finger in the feather-lined bird’s nest that has fallen to the ground, or wrapping your arms around a tree and hugging the rough bark to your cheek. (Yes, in my world, the trees deserve hugs.)

Photo by Matthias Cooper on Pexels.com

From your lists, select the one thing that inspires you most.

What words can you use to describe it. (Think in terms of color, texture, sound, movement…)

Imagine you are describing the sun to someone who has never seen it. Does this glowing ball look like an egg yolk or a beachball? Do clouds remind you of squishy marshmallows? Does a fence resemble a row of pencils? Does the rain remind you of fingers drumming on a desk? Does the breeze whisper secrets?

Choose words from one or more of your lists of senses becuase it’s time to write.

For my poem, I chose to compare Autumn to a dragon.

THE AUTUMN DRAGON

Scales shuffle like the rustle of dry leaves.

Fiery breaths set the trees aglow.

Powerful wing beats chill both air and spine.

One glowing eye gazes over the horizon.

The Autumn dragon has come. 

by Leslie Leibhardt Goodman

I’ll see you Friday.

Raven Howell – The Promised Interview and Winner Announcement!

Due to an unforeseen situation, I’m posting my blog early this week.

As promised last week for Perfect Picture Book Friday, I invited the author and poet of Glimmer -Sing of Sun! and Chuckles and Smiles to visit my blog for an interview today. And… I asked her to choose two people from those who left a comment to each win one of her magical books of poetry.

Raven’s son jumped in to lend a hand and chose the winner lottery style. Drum role please. The winners are….

Ann Wendell and Linda Dryfout!

(An email will be sent out to each of you shortly.)

Without further adeau, please welcome Raven Howell.

I’m glad you could be here today. Can you take us back to the exact moment you knew you wanted to write poems for children?  

If you were to ask my beloved grandmother, she would probably tell you about my being born with the poetry bug fluttering about inside of my heart. Apparently I was making up and reciting poems and rhymes aloud before I went to kindergarten and learned how to write. She would spend my pre-school days at home with me and whenever possible, jot down my poetry and stories, those rhymes and sing-songs that sprang from my imagination. 

Zoning in on writing specifically for children happened almost 30 years ago when I left the music business and had success with writing verse for greeting cards.

What were the first steps you took to begin your journey toward your first publication? 

As a youngster, my mother submitted my poetry for magazine publication. Later I published songs as a songwriter (my lyrics were in a poetry format) in my teens and twenties before having my poetry published for various whimsical greeting card companies. After that I focused on writing for children’s magazines. Finally, I transitioned into writing and the publishing of my books. So my first steps were less relevant on their own, and the journey was more about the evolution and progression for me.

What is the most challenging or favorite aspect of creating a collection of poems? 

My favorite thing about poetry collections is that there is much more room for me to “paint outside of the lines” as opposed to when writing a fictional story or non-fiction. Poetry inherently allows more freedom. I get to play with words, delve deeper into enchanting themes if I want, express my vision/style, and have fun!

An idea for a poem pops into your head. (I love it when that happens.) Take us through the steps you take to write a poem.  

MUSHROOM NAPS from Chuckles and Smiles / Morning dog walk, I spot some wonderfully fairy-like mushrooms that have sprouted in a tree stump. The air smells of earth. Morning dove sings in the brilliant sunrise. It’s me, the dog, and the mushrooms. Hmmm…who else is with us? Who else would be enjoying the mushroom life? Little bugs! And certainly they are small enough to fit under those spongy mushroom tops. Inspiration! Look – there’s a beetle! “Mushrooms wear those spongy caps for little shaded buggy naps.”

Where do you most love to write and what makes this place special to you? 

For over two decades now, I’ve found my “writing nook”, my space to create and write and be inspired in a most unusual place – a solo early dawn hike that I take into the mountains just outside of the village. These years, having a cell phone (and the Notes app) with me makes the writing aspect easier! At first, I’d be trying to recall the verses and ideas dancing around in my head when I returned home, sometimes with success, sometimes without. 

What could NOT be special about a dawn nature hike? Wooded paths, the fading stars, critter chirps, the gentle sunrays kissing the mountainside…

For each manuscript I’ve written, I remember the Ah-Ha moment that sent me running to my laptop to type up my ideas. Can you share the source of inspiration for one of your books? 

An “Ah-ha” moment? When a couple of years after illustrator Carina Povarchik and I released our successful Glimmer, Songs of Night nighttime-themed poetry collection, I realized I had written probably about 3 dozen poems of the opposite theme: whimsical poems about subjects relating to light, the sun, and daytime wonder. It appeared we were meant to have a companion book to our Glimmer! And our editor agreed – ha! It was exciting to collect those poems for the book, and an “Ah-ha” moment for sure.

What surprised you most on your writing path from the book idea to its publication? 

There’s little that I could say surprised me in general. When it comes down to it, you are in control of some aspects, and not others when you work with a team of editors, illustrators, an agent, etc. I was surprised when I found the font for the dyslexic version of my rhyming picture book, My Community was just as easy to read for someone without dyslexia. I suppose I expected the letters to be shaped differently.  

I’ll add, with my new book, Chuckles and Smiles, the editors’ choice of illustrator Jordan Wray to collaborate and create the most wonderful, befitting artwork surprised me most! I had no inkling, no forethought that the artwork would visually push the poetry to life in the way it did. There was very little we asked Jordan to edit or change. He just got my ideas from the start – and jumped on board the chuckle train.

If you could go back to the first months of your writing journey, knowing what you know today, what advice would you give to yourself? 

Well, first, I’m big on practicing forgiveness, and I try hard to include myself in this. So, I see it this way: it wouldn’t be fair for me to tell my 20 year old self to pay more attention to what’s going on from a 5-year old’s point of view or write from a parental advice angle. That’s just not where I was creatively situated at that point in my life. I NEEDED those years of adolescent complaint poetry, those poetry journals of my twenties that I filled with the ups and downs of love, or the bone-tired poetry from my thirty-something new mom hands learning a brand new role in life. 

What advice I would give to any poet at any age in life is to write from your heart, write what you know, experiment with various formats and keep digging into and staying true to your own specific style. You may come across many who criticize your work. That’s ok. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Still, that doesn’t mean you should change your vision if the one you have feels like home to you and you’re passionate about it.

What was the best comment or reaction you received from a child about one of your books or poems? 

Last year two students in different schools and locations reached out to tell me my poetry inspired them to write and publish their own poetry books! 

Can you share something interesting or unexpected most people don’t know about you?

My adolescent crushes were Cider House Rules (among many other books) author John Irving (whom I’ve met!) and Elton John lyricist, Bernie Taupin.  No doubt, in a subtle way, their words influenced my own writing.

In everyday moments- a baby’s laughter, a joyful tear or toddler frown, a kite stuck in a sugar maple, in the joy of eating chocolate chip cookie dough, in the creak of Grandfather’s rocking chair, in the scent of summer jasmine, the bee sting, or the heart-thudding bang of a thunder clap, there’s a poem to be uncovered and shared. To me, poetry is a creative interpretation, the echo of wonder and inspiration, the celebration of life!

Raven’s website includes great links! www.ravenhowell.com
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/raven.howell.75/
Author FB page: https://www.facebook.com/RavenHowellAuthorandPoetPage/?view_public_for=456558957829379
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pickward/boards/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/atpearthkeeper
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/atpearthkeeper/

Many thanks for visiting here today.

Until next Friday.

The Monday Poems make a special promise

I recently took time off from blogging when the world grew too large. I moved forward again, but another challenge came into the picture. Today is my birthday, and nothing about today feels right. The poem I wrote is for someone who is more dear to me than anything in this world. Someone who needs more love and caring today than I do.

MY PROMISE TO YOU

You search for the smallest place
where the walls press closest,
where the world cannot come in,
where you can disappear
in the space where the light fades.
But, I’ll find you.
And in this place,
I’ll stay close beside you.
I can’t make the world go away.
I can’t silence the noise.
But I can promise
I’ll always listen.
I will hear you.
I will wrap you in my arms
and love you
more than the love
one hundred hearts can hold.