Perfect Picture Book Friday Visits a “Home in the Woods”

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Thinking back to my childhood, it seemed any random moment or activity reminded my parents, grandmother, or other relatives of a story from long ago. Cooking raspberries for jam brought back memories of living in Germany, during the time of Hitler.

“You don’t know how good you have it, Leslie. When I was your age, I was sent to a youth labor camp. When the berries were ripe, I was ordered to pick them but was forbidden to eat any. Tasting even one was punishable because the berries were only meant for the people who ran the camp.” 

For the first time, I truly savored a raspberry while I wondered what “punishable” meant.

A comment of having to wait in the cold snow for the school bus brought stories of the days when getting to school meant trudging through deep snow for a mile or more in itchy long underwear and itchy wool socks. My dad used to say,  “Back then, we were too busy scratching to get into any trouble.”

I keep many of these stories with me–some make me smile while others leave me grateful I live now and not then. Although to hear my relatives share their stories, it seemed like growing up without money for toys and other little luxuries gave them the gift of imagination to create their own games and fun. And this leads me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday Review of Eliza Wheeler’s beautiful book, Home in the Woods.

Title – Home in the Woods

Author – Eliza Wheeler

Illustrator – Eliza Wheeler

Published by – Nancy Paulsen Books – 2019

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics – Single-parent families, Depression time

Opening – This is my family. Dad lives with the angels now, and we need to find a new home.    SUMMER    Deep in these woods, we find a shack all wrapped in tar paper. It’s hot outside, but the shack looks cold and empty, like I feel inside.

Amazon Review  HERE. Eliza Wheeler’s gorgeously illustrated book tells the story of what happens when six-year-old Marvel, her seven siblings, and their mom must start all over again after their father has died. Deep in the woods of Wisconsin, they find a tar-paper shack. It doesn’t seem like much of a home, but they soon start seeing what it could be. During their first year, it’s a struggle to maintain the shack and make sure they have enough to eat. But each season also brings its own delights and blessings–and the children always find a way to have fun. Most importantly, the family finds immense joy in being together, surrounded by nature. And slowly, their little shack starts feeling like a true home–warm, bright and filled up with love.

Why I like this book— One of the best presents anyone can give me is a story. And if the story is from their “way back when” years, the more details they sprinkle in, to bring me into their memory, the better. This is exactly what Eliza Wheeler gives readers in her touching and beautifully-written story inspired by her grandmother’s childhood. We are taken on a tour of the abandoned tar paper shack the family moves into and shown the previous owner’s possessions: a rusty oven, a potbelly stove, empty crates, box springs, old glass jars, and rags. Despite starting over in this dark and dilapidated place, the family slowly turns the broken shack into a home filled with love. The illustrations can only be described as enchanting.

Q and A with Eliza Wheeler HERE.

Until next Friday.

“The Monstore” Meets Perfect Picture Book Friday

Did you ever buy something that didn’t work EXACTLY like it did in a TV commercial? Did you ever save up your allowances, as a kid, to buy the toy all of your friends had or desperately wanted?

Like me, you probably emptied your piggy bank and scrounged between sofa cushions for pennies. You probably didn’t even splurge on a pack of gum. Finally, the day arrived when you had enough money.

You plunked down a fistful of noisy coins and hurried home with your new toy to play. But disappoint followed when the toy didn’t work EXACTLY like it did on TV. The slinky snagged on the shag carpet on the second step. The pet rock spent all of its time playing dead. The spinner on the game of LIFE jammed and stopped making that amazing, whirring sound.

After you pouted, kicked the toy across the room, and complained about the money you wasted, you tried to return the toy and GET YOUR MONEY BACK!

“I’m sorry, but we can’t accept opened or used toys.”

“No returns or refunds.”

“Sorry.”

Like me, you probably brought home your disappointment and shoved the toy under your bed.

If this scenario is even the teensiest bit familiar, you’ll find yourself relating to today’s incredibly fun Perfect Picture Book.

Title – The Monstore

Author – Tara Lazar

Illustrator – James Burks

Published by – Aladan – 2013

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme – Monsters and siblings

Opening – At the back of Frankensweet’s Candy Shoppe, under the last box of sour gum balls, there’s a trapdoor. Knock five times fast, hand over a bag of squirmy worms, and you can crawl inside… THE MONSTORE.

Amazon Review HERE. The Monstore is the place to go for all of your monsterly needs. Which is perfect, since Zack definitely has a monsterly need. The problem? His pesky little sister, Gracie, who never pays attention to that “Keep Out” sign on Zack’s door–the one he has made especially for her.

But when Zack’s monsters don’t exactly work as planned, he soon finds out that the Monstore has a few rules: No Refunds. No exchanges. No exceptions.

Learn more about Tara Lazar HERE.

Learn more about James Burks HERE.

Find some Monsterly-fun art projects for kids HERE, like these super adorable glove monsters!

glove monsters

Image credit –  playideas.com

Until next Friday!

A Loving Father + A Pickle-Loving Boy This Perfect Picture Book Friday.

If I could describe the ideal dad, he would be quick-witted, knowledgable on countless subjects, ready with a helpful answer, have an out-of-this-world imagination, love good conversations, have a few good jokes up his sleeve, show a genuine interest in my life, offer a safe place to turn to, and adore hugs as much as I do. Thankfully, this describes my dad. And I miss him beyond belief. This brings me to today’s Perfect Picture Book review about a boy who loves pickles.

You’re doubtlessly wondering how a pickle could tie into the description of my dad, but believe me – IT DOES!

Years ago, Dad and I were out grocery shopping. He called out each item on the list as I steered the cart down the aisles, finding what he needed. As we scanned the olives, a little boy, sitting in a nearby grocery cart, reached his fingers out to a jar of pickles. “No!” his mother scolded. “I’m not buying those. We don’t need them.”

My dad watched the little boy’s face cloud up. And as tears pooled in the child’s eyes, I could feel my dad hold back a sea of his own tears. He reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet, and handed the mother a few dollars. “Please let me buy your little boy his pickles.”

A quiet moment passed between the mother and my dad. Finally, she accepted the dollars and placed the jar of pickles into her child’s hands. The hug that pickle jar received was greater thanks than my dad could have ever wished for.

Years have passed. I’m a mom now. And thanks to my dad, I learned many valuable lessons–the most important is knowing when to buy the pickles.

Pickles, Please! is written and illustrated by Andy Myer. I hope you’ll get a copy and enjoy this fun(ny) story as much as I do. And while you’re at it, pick up a jar of pickles to nosh on!

 

Title – Pickles, Please

A dilly of a book by author and illustrator – Andy Myer.

Published by – Running Press Kids – 2011

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme – A favorite snack

Opening – Alec Smart loved pickles. Big pickles, small pickles, round pickles, sliced pickles. He loved sweet ones, sour ones, salty ones, and spicy ones. He liked them made from cucumbers, tomatoes, beets, and onions. Even watermelon!

Amazon Review HERE– If you ask a kid what their favorite snack is, most will say pizza, cupcakes, or ice cream. But not Alec Smart—he loves pickles! None of his friends at school understand his taste for pickled treats, nor do his parents. However, one day, just when Alec is pondering how lonely it is to be the only pickle enthusiast around, he comes across a pickle delivery truck and decides to jump in! What will happen when he arrives at the pickle factory? And who will he meet? The lesson learned in this humorous, pickle-filled adventure is that embracing your true colors brings with it special and tasty rewards!

Learn more about Andy Myer HERE.

Get a recipe to make your own tasty pickles HERE!

Until next Friday!

Need a Friend? Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday Review Shows You How.

Let’s travel back in time…

I was a couple of months into first grade. My friends from kindergarten and I were a year older, ready to say goodbye to little kid activities like stacking blocks and hello to reading Sally, Dick, and Jane books. Except instead of joining my friends on their first-grade adventure, I had more than stacking blocks to say goodbye to.

My family was moving, and I’d never see any of my friends again.

My childhood was not the age of cell phones, texts, and Instagram posts.  Sure, I could have written snail mail letters, but let’s not forget that I was just learning to write my name and spell simple words, so writing newsy letters to keep in touch wasn’t an option.

Moving meant starting from scratch.

Of course, all of the kids in my new homeroom had playground buddies and knew who would trade pudding cups for Ding Dongs while I was clueless who would want to trade me ANYTHING for my salami and parsley sandwich -guaranteed to leave flecks of green between your teeth. Yes, I was the only kid who survived elementary school without ever having a normal, peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I also didn’t get to wear jeans, but that’s another story…

Looking back, I wish today’s picture book, Neville, existed when I was six. The main character, in this adorable book by Norton Juster, figures out how to make friends in a most ingenious way. Yes, it would take courage, but boy does this kid’s method work!

In case you’re wondering where you heard the name, Norton Juster, he is the well-known and beloved author of The Phantom Toll Booth, The Hello, Goodbye Window, and many more remarkable books.

Title – Neville

Written by – Norton Juster

Illustrated by –G. Brian Karas

Published by – Schwartz and Wade Books -2011

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme –  Moving and making friends

Opening – The big gray van pulled away from the curb, moved slowly down the street, and disappeared around the corner. Now it was quiet, and there he was, where he really didn’t want to be.

Amazon Review HERE – Written by the acclaimed author of The Phantom Tollbooth, this Amazon Best Picture Book of the Year is a simply told story about a boy who moves to a new neighborhood and finds a unique way to make friends. With whimsical illustrations by award-winning illustrator G. Brian Karas, here is a read-aloud that’s great for storytime, and is sure to be a hit among fans of Juster, Karas, and anyone who is “the new kid on the block.”

“[T]his ingenious foray into breaking into a new neighborhood makes for an amusing and appealing story.” —School Library Journal

Learn more about Norton Juster in this video interview HERE.

Enjoy this Q & A with G. Brian Karas HERE.

Did your family move when you were growing up? If you have a memory you’d like to share, I hope you’ll include it in the comments.

Until next Friday!