Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at More-igami

Folding paper for origami is something my mother taught me when I was about the same young age as Joey, the main character in today’s picture book, More-igami. I first learned how to fold simple creatures like bugs and puppies. Later, after learning the more challenging folds, I progressed up the ladder and folded my first crane. Granted, it looked like the poor bird barely escaped a major catastrophe with it slightly torn wing. (Translation: severed.) And with its crooked beak and many extra folds, what I really made was the origami equivalent of the creature from the black lagoon.

Crumple. Crumple. Crumple.

Eventually, after folding another five (make that fifteen) cranes, I succeeded.

Now, years later, my daughter is at the age where origami interests her. We have spent the last number of evenings pulling up instructions for various projects on youtube and following along with a fair amount of success. The perk is that with youtube, we can pause or back up any time we need extra clarification. The origami books I used when I was a child diagramed the steps with pictures, but those pictures often brought confusion followed by…

Crumple. Crumple. Crumple. Now, on to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

Title – More-igami

Written by – Dori Kleber  

illustrated by  – G. Brian Karas

Published by – Candlewick Press – 2016

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics – origami and determination

Opening – Joey loved things that folded. He collected old road maps. He played the accordion. He slept in a foldaway bed.

Amazon Review –  View it HEREA creative young boy with a passion for practicing origami finds a surprising source of encouragement on his diverse city block.

Joey loves things that fold: maps, beds, accordions, you name it. When a visiting mother of a classmate turns a plain piece of paper into a beautiful origami crane, his eyes pop. Maybe he can learn origami, too. It’s going to take practice — on his homework, the newspaper, the thirty-eight dollars in his mother’s purse . . . Enough! No more folding! But how can Joey become an origami master if he’s not allowed to practice? Is there anywhere that he can hone the skill that makes him happy — and maybe even make a new friend while he’s at it?

Why do I like this book? Joey’s passion for things that fold shows up in surprising places, and for the most part, Joey (and the reader) sees this as a curious interest. But then… when the mother of a classmate demonstrates the art of origami at school, the light burns brightly for Joey. He now sees a direction and endless possibilities for his folding passion. And even though his first attempts are less than successful, this determined boy lets nothing stop him from mastering his newfound art. Seriously. What’s not to love? 

Want to learn a little more about Dori Kleber? Click HERE.

Want to learn a little more about G. Brian Karas? Click HERE.


Easy origami projects to make with kids HERE.

Shop for origami paper and how-to books on Amazon HERE.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping

The mere mention of camping and my skin crawls with the invisible legs of a million non-existent insects. I cringe at the thought of sleeping in a tent or any structure with walls that aren’t a few inches thick and that doesn’t have a door with a lock. And sleeping in a zippered bag on the ground…sorry, not happening.

Yes. I have experienced camping. The first time was back in Jr. high during a freak thunderstorm. Strangely, only my side of the tent lacked waterproofing. So, while my tent mates lay snoozing, I sat up all night, hovering my jacket over my head like a useless umbrella. A few years later, another camping trip came up at school. This time, parents were invited, and everyone was expected to bring a tent or a camper (if they had one). My family had neither, so we broke camp in our jeep. At bedtime, my sister claimed the front seat, and I slept in the back with my dad with the hatch open to accommodate his long legs. The next morning, I counted over 60 mosquito bites. No, not on all three of us. Just scattered over me like a blast of confetti on New Year’s Eve. Then, years and years later, my husband found a place to camp where we could stay in a rustic cabin. Hmmm. A real bed, sturdy walls, and a door that locks, you say? Yes! I can do this.

“Wait. You’re saying rustic means no place to plug in my hairdryer???”

Honestly, I’ve tried to love camping, and I understand the lure of sleeping in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature, but after several tries, I’ve concluded that the most ideal way for me to camp is in a hotel (in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature).

“Room service? Could you please send a bowl of strawberries and cream up to room #349? Thank you.”

Now that I’ve aired my feelings about camping with you, I am thrilled to share a picture book that stars a squirrel who feels very much as I do about this well-loved, outdoor activity.  Please welcome, Scaredy Squirrel!

Title – Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping

Written and illustrated by  – Melanie Watts

Published by – Kids Can Press – 2013

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics – Camping, expectations, fears, conquering fears.

Opening – Scaredy Squirrel never goes camping. He’d rather be comfortable inside than risk going out in the rugged wilderness. Besides, setting up camp seems like a lot of trouble.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. Scaredy Squirrel is not too comfortable with the idea of camping … unless it’s on his couch! There will be no mosquitoes, skunks or zippers to worry about when he watches a show about the joys of camping on his brand-new TV. But first Scaredy must find an electrical outlet, and that means going into the woods! Will the nutty worrywart’s plans prepare him for the great outdoors, or will his adventure end up as a scary story told around the campfire?

Why do I like this book? Scaredy Squirrel is nervous about this new experience of camping. In fact, he’s so afraid, he brings along a television with plans of watching nature from the safety of his tree. But, one small problem surfaces… In nature, there aren’t any outlets. (Sound like someone you know?) After packing his survival supplies and getting into his protective, wilderness outfit, he treks out to the camping grounds in search of an outlet. armed with all his protective gear, supplies, plans, and maps – he goes on a trek to the nearby camping ground to find electrical outlets. As luck would have it, something unexpected happens. You’ll have to check out this book to find out what. With simple, adorable, and humorous illustrations, this Scaredy Squirrel book is a cover to cover winner! 

Want to learn a little more about Melanie Watt? Click HERE.

A Beige Childhood + Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match for Perfect Picture Book Friday

Go ahead and settle back while I first tell my story. Then, I’ll share my picture book review of Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

I would describe my mother as an old-world, German woman. Mom preferred sensible over sensational, blending in over inviting attention to, and beige and brown over all the happy colors in the world. I sometimes felt I looked more like a miniature version of her instead of a typical kid. My friends got to wear jeans, (Lucky!!!) they owned colorful shirts, blouses, and sweaters, their shoes were equally colorful, and they wore fun headbands or bright ribbons tied in their hair.

Then, there was me… boarding the school bus in my sensible, brown, walking shoes with beige socks, brown pants, and beige sweater. I might have been a child, but I looked like someone’s granny with a decent face lift.

Mom wouldn’t always take me with her when she shopped. Sometimes, I came home from school to some unfashionable surprises.

“Didn’t this dress come in blue or green?”

“Beige is better. You don’t want to bring attention to yourself.”

“If I have to wear a beige dress, can I pleeeease get red sandals?”

“What are you thinking? Did someone hit you in the head? As long as I’m paying for your clothes, you’ll dress sensibly. Honestly, if I didn’t put my foot down, you’d leave this house naked!”

“At least I’d still be wearing beige.”

“Go to your room.”

My childhood was filled with envy for the colorful clothes my friends wore. Many years later, when I married and had a daughter, I swore she would dress in every color that filled a box of crayons which brings me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

Title – Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match

Written by  – Monica Brown

Illustrated by – Sara Palacios

Published by – Children’s Book Press – 2011

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Theme – To feel happiest, be yourself no matter the opinions of others.

Opening – My name is Marisol McDonald, and I don’t match. At least, that’s what everyone tells me.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin. Polka dots and stripes are her favorite combination. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos in her lunch box. And don’t even think of asking her to choose one or the other activity at recess—she ll just be a soccer playing pirate princess. To Marisol McDonald, these seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together.

Unfortunately, they don t always make sense to everyone else. Other people wrinkle their nose in confusion at Marisol—can’t she just be one or the other? Try as she might, in a world where everyone tries to put this biracial, Peruvian-Scottish-American girl into a box, Marisol McDonald doesn’t match. And that s just fine with her.

Why do I like this book? What’s not to love about a strong main character who knows what she likes, and despite the comments of others, stays true to herself. Although, for one day, Marisol decides, against her better judgement, to match and behave as others do, but that day, as you might imagine, is her worst day. Marisol is a bilingual, Peruvian-Scottish – American girl in a multiracial family with her father’s red hair, her mother’s brown skin, and a whole lot of spunk and creativity that, when brought together, equal one terrific main character. The illustrations by Sara Palacios add loads of rich, playful colors and patterns, creating one super, happy book.

Learn more about Monica Brown HERE.

Learn more about Sara Palacios HERE.

Play idea – It’s fashion show time! Have fun with your children, creating the most outlandish outfits you can put together. The only rule…no beige. Then, take funny pictures. For a snack, put together some totally mismatched foods like Marisol does. Maybe you’ll discover a combination of items that’s utterly scrumptious!

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

When you were a kid, do you remember a student or friend in your class who marched to his/her own beat like Marisol? Please feel free to share in the comments. I’d love to hear about it.

Creating “Ish” Art for Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) Looks at Creating “Ish” Art.

Creating art as a child should be fun. After all, children are discovering the world and interpreting the many marvels around them with a box of crayons, a small paint pallet, a stubby brush, and a pad of paper. Yes, this blissful childhood experience should be freeing, but for me, it was stressful. My mother was an artist for the Field Museum in Chicago. Because of her years of education in botany and scientific illustration in Germany, she never looked at my artistic endeavors through the eyes of a mom armed with a magnet and free space on the fridge, but rather through her analytical eyes and vast knowledge of the scientific world.

She once held my picture of a grassy meadow sprinkled with flowers, two trees, one bunny, and a bright yellow ball of sunshine and gave it a sideways glance. I could see the gears turning in her head as I awaited, not praise, but her criticism.

“Leslie.” She wrinkled her brow at my masterpiece. “If the sun is just above the horizon, as you’ve drawn it, then the shadows must be longer. And if this is a picture of a field around our house, you would never see a Crocustommasinianus growing in the same season with an Iris Reticulata.”


Eventually, I learned to throw myself over my drawings whenever my mom came into view. “It’s not done yet,” I’d blurt. Mom would head out to tend the garden while I finished my drawing and stashed it away before she returned.

The book I’m reviewing today (Ish by Peter H. Reynolds) looks at art in a unique way. I can’t tell you how often I’ve read this marvelous, little treasure. Maybe I return to it often because I wish I owned it when I was a child. I have a feeling I wouldn’t have looked at my art as being “not right” but rather as being marvelously ish.

Title – Ish

Written and illustrated by  – Peter H. Reynolds

Published by – Candlewick Press – 2004

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Theme – One person’s viewpoint isn’t always right. Being true to one’s self, exploration, and creativity.

Opening –

Raymond loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.

One day, Ramon was drawing a vase of flowers. His brother, Leon, leaned over his shoulder. Leon burst out laughing. “WHAT is THAT?” he asked.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE.  A creative spirit learns that thinking “ish-ly” is far more wonderful than “getting it right” in this gentle new fable from the creator of the award-winning picture book THE DOT.

Ramon loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.

Drawing is what Ramon does. It¹s what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.” Combining the spareness of fable with the potency of parable, Peter Reynolds shines a bright beam of light on the need to kindle and tend our creative flames with care.

Why do I like this book? Most obviously, because I would have loved to label my art as being “ish” when I was a child. I believe the term frees up the inner artist and gives permission to play. Peter Reynolds inspiring story teamed with his simple and emotion-packed illustrations tells a necessary story the artist in all of us can cling to. One of my favorite pages shows labeled art from Raymond’s journal with such descriptive titles as tree-ish, house-ish, afternoon-ish, and fish-ish. To me, this book is the best-ish, most perfect-ish picture book to read to budding, young artists.

Learn more about Peter H. Reynolds HERE.

Art idea – After reading ISH, encourage children to draw “ishly”. Set out a table full of art supplies, and let them freely interpret their world. Art supplies to include are colored pencils, colored paper, crayons, scissors, glue, pipe cleaners, paper plates, markers, yarn, beads, tissue paper, and more.

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

What are your childhood memories of the art you created?


Searching For What You Have + Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at The Friend Ship.

Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) Looks at The Friend Ship by Kat Yeh.

My father never cared to spend more than a few minutes searching for something. Often, when he couldn’t find what he was looking for, he’d go out and buy another, come home, and promptly find the misplaced item. My father might have been the only man who owned more than ten dremels, (a super cool tool that can do a bazillion home repair fixes and so much more) thousands of nails, screws, nuts, and bolts, more than twenty-five hammers, around four dozen screwdrivers in varying sizes, two bandsaws, eight drills, and I’ll stop here before I feel compelled tweak this list to fit The Twelve Days of Christmas. So… what does having what you’re looking for and going out to find it have to do with today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review?


Title – The Friend Ship

Written by  – Kat Yeh

and illustrated by – Chuck Groenink

Published by – Disney Hyperion – 2016

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Theme – Sometimes what you search for is already yours. Loyalty and friendship.

Opening – Hedgehog was curled up in a prickly little ball in the lonely little nook of a lonely little tree when she heard someone say her name.

“Poor Hedgehog seems so lonely!”

“I know, but it will get better. Friendship is out there–all she has to do is look.”

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. Little Hedgehog is very lonely. But then she overhears passersby talking about something that gives her hope–something called a Friend Ship!

Hedgehog imagines a ship filled with friends of all kinds, and soon she’s ready to hit the open seas in a boat of her own to track it down. Along the way, she meets other lonely animals eager to join her quest.

They search north. They search south. They search east. But Hedgehog and her new friends can’t find the Ship anywhere! Until she realizes she knows just where the Friend Ship is. . .

This heartwarming tale by Kat Yeh, with charming illustrations by Chuck Groenink, proves that sometimes, what you’re searching for is right in front of you.

Why do I like this book? Every once in a while I come across a picture book that has me saying, “I wish I had written this book. It’s brilliant!” For me, The Friend Ship is that book. The author, Kat Yeh, has taken the word friendship and turned it into a marvelous misunderstanding of friend ship. Then, she added a crew of helpful and understanding animal characters, gave them a boat, and set sail to this timeless treasure of a story.

The illustrator, Chuck Groenink, with a loving hand, created a sea-worthy, child-friendly crew, eager to lend a hoof or paw. Each page offers variety to the reader through interesting angles, bubble art, and creative close-ups. When I saw this treasure at the bookstore, I knew I needed to add it to my picture book collection. It’s the sort of story that, after reading it, I returned to page one and read again. And again…

Learn more about Kat Yeh HERE

Learn more about Chuck Groenink HERE.

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

Let Me first Embarrass Myself. Plus Perfect Picture Book Friday Review of The Purple Coat

As you’ve come to expect, and hopefully look forward to, I have a little memory to go along with today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review of The Purple Coat by Amy Hest. And yes, it’s embarrassing.

Back when I was in Jr. High, I saw a fashion magazine at the dentist with page after page of svelte women wearing culottes. Culottes, for those of you unfamiliar with this fashion statement, are split skirts or wide-legged, knee-length shorts. Back in the 80’s, the only place I looked svelte was deep in my imagination. To the outside world, I was a five-foot, scrawny girl, weighing in at 90 pounds who owned three pairs of shoes, none of which looked trendy under any circumstances. One pair were my fuzzy house slippers, the second were my scuffed sneakers, and the third pair were clunky, brown, lace-up, walking shoes my mother bought in a women’s shoe shop. (Please, no comments, I feel bad enough.)

I bought a copy of the magazine and raced home, hopeful my aunt, who sewed all my clothes, could duplicate those super cool culottes for me. I showed her the magazine.

“Are you sure about this?” She looked me up and down, wrinkled her nose at the picture, and shook her head.

“Oh, yes!” I said. “I LOVE these! Can you make me a pair?”

My aunt reluctantly took me to the fabric store where I found the perfect pattern and a bolt of electric, mint-green polyester that screamed, “Make your culottes out of me!!!” (Please, no comments, I feel bad enough.)


My aunt gaped at the bolt of fabric clutched in my arms. “Are you sure about this?” She looked me up and down, wrinkled her nose at the fabric, and shook her head.

“Oh, yes!” I said. “I LOVE it! Can you please make my culottes out of this?”

When those fabulous, mint-green culottes were sewn, I teamed them with a frilly blouse, a pair of white knee socks and my brown, lace-up, clunky, walking shoes my mother bought in a women’s shoe shop. (Please, no comments, I feel bad enough.)

My friends couldn’t bottle their laughter. Kids at school I didn’t know slapped hands over their mouths and swiped at their tears. Cute boys rolled up their pant legs and mocked me. And those culottes? Strangely and most mysteriously disappeared after I came home.

So…what does my memory have to do with my picture book review? The Purple Coat is the story of a girl who, despite her mother’s opinion, wants a coat that looks different than the one she gets year after year.Except in her case, everything turned out better. Lucky…

Title – The Purple Coat

Written by  – Amy Hest

and illustrated by – Amy Schwartz

Published by – Aladdin – 1992

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Theme – Knowing what you want and compromise.

Opening –  Every fall, when the leaves start melting into pretty purples and reds and those bright golden shades of pumpkin, Mama says, “Coat time, Gabrielle!”

Amazon Review –  View it HERE.  Every year, in the fall, Gabrielle gets a new coat. And every year her coat looks the same — navy blue with two rows of buttons and a half belt in the back. But this year Gabrielle wants something different — a purple coat.
“Purple?” Mama laughs. But Gabrielle is quite serious.

Alone with Grampa in his cozy tailor shop, Gabrielle does some fast talking. Still, even Grampa is dubious. His solution makes The Purple Coat a very special book, just right for every child who has ever wanted to try something different.

Why do I like this book? Because I was a child much like Gabrielle who wanted something different. Except in my case, the culottes flopped. But back to the book. Gabrielle is a little girl with gumption. She has a vision of what she wants, and she’s not about to back down. And, because I like books with strong main characters, I loved this one. The illustrations by Amy Schwartz brought back sweet memories of the days when my aunt measured me for the clothes she made. The colorful, well-researched pictures capture the time this story takes place in. All around, this book won me over.
Learn more about Amy Hest HERE.
Learn more about Amy Schwartz HERE.

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

Speaking of Loud Voices, Perfect Picture Book Friday looks at Loud Lula.

Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) Looks at Loud Lula by Katy S. Duffield, illustrated by Mike Boldt. But first, a little story from my past that ties into this book.

Back in my college days, I called home once a week to talk to my parents and catch up with my favorite aunt who sent me care packages my friends drooled over. Tante Helen sent such delights as dangly earrings, painted jeans, and fresh baked cookies. Once, she sent a purple, suede jacket with fringe under the sleeves. (It was the late 80’s, and I was a hip art major.) I also called home to talk to my Uncle Joe. Now, Uncle Joe had a slight hearing problem at 80 years and wouldn’t admit he needed a hearing aid because, and I quote, “Those #*%@ things are for old folks!” So, when he came on the phone, I had to yell.


“Yeah, yeah, it’s cold here. Any colder and I’ll have to double up my long underwear!”

“I DIDN’T MEAN THE WEATHER, UNCLE JOE, (which happened to be unseasonable warm for May) I WAS ASKING ABOUT YOUR COLD. HOW IS IT?”

“How is it? I told you how it is! You young kids never listen. It’s COLD here!”

After years of calling home, I developed, aside from laryngitis, a tendency to talk LOUD for the remainder of the day after yelling to Uncle Joe. Most of my friends noticed.


“Fine. How’s your uncle, Leslie?”


Many years passed. My dear Uncle Joe made it to the ripe age of 90, and shortly after losing him, my loud voice left, too.

This brief story from my college years brings me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review, LOUD LULA by Katy S. Duffield.

Title – Loud Lula

Written by  – Katy S. Duffield

and illustrated by – Mike Boldt

Published by – Two Lions – 2015

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Theme – Sometimes, what appears to be a problem can turn out to be a blessing.

Opening –  Lula was born smack-dab in the middle of one of the biggest twisters Pryor County had ever seen. Winds howled. Trees snapped. It was bust-your-eardrums loud. But…

Amazon Review –  View it HERE.  Since her birth, Lula’s LOUD voice has wreaked ten kinds of havoc across Pryor County, disrupting humans and animals alike. Lula’s parents are worried: What’s going to happen when Lula starts school? Will Lula ever learn to use her “inside voice”? But when Lula spots something sinister making its way toward town, it seems that she may have found just the right use for that BIG ol’ voice after all. With a text chock-full of Southern charm and silly digital illustrations that bring this tall tale to life, kids will giggle at the antics of the unforgettable LOUD Lula.

Why do I like this book? Katy S. Duffield has a gift for using better than perfect words to tell this story. Sure twisters are loud. In fact, they’re seriously loud. But to help readers understand the volume difference between the roar of the twister and Lula’s loud voice, she writes that the storm sounded like nothing more than a chicken feather hitting the henhouse floor. In addition to enjoying this truly funny, tall tale, I was drawn to Mike Boldt’s, colorful and bold illustrations. Mr. Boldt not only shows the story in a humorous way, he cranks it up a few notches. Seriously, if you’re looking for a picture book to tickle your funny bone, or as Lula says, “Got any books that’ll turn over my tickle box? read Loud Lula.
Learn more about Katy s. Duffield HERE.
Learn more about Mike Boldt HERE.

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

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Antsy Ansel.

Before I became a writer, I was a photographer. I studied at Brooks Institute of Photography in sunny, eucalyptus and ocean-scented Santa Barbara, California. I was following my life-long dream. I first knew I wanted to be a photographer when I was seven. My parents took my sister and me to the zoo, and I brought along my Kodak box camera. I photographed the lumbering brown bears, snuffling for food. I photographed the elephants, sweeping up dust clouds with their trunks in search of peanuts. I photographed the vibrant, pink flamingoes, posing on a single, spindly leg. Then, I sat on a park bench, flipped the lock up on my camera, and pulled out the film to see my pictures. Nothing. Just a long stretch of glossy, black film. Gone were the bears, the elephants, and the pretty flamingoes. Enter tears….

My father, being a scientist, explained in the simplest terms how photography works. I became intrigued. I wanted to know more about the magic that changed a strip of blank film into negatives. Then, I needed to learn how to take those negatives and change them into prints. By the time I turned fifteen, I had converted our basement bathroom into a darkroom equipped with an old, but functioning, enlarger, trays for chemicals, tongs, a paper safe, film processing canisters, the works! Through high school, I took every evening course in photography the junior college up the road offered. By my sophomore year in high school, I became the school photographer for the newspaper and yearbook. Brooks Institute of Photography, which I mentioned earlier, is where I met my husband, a wonderful man whom I married the day after graduation. We opened a studio and photographed weddings, families, children, and pets. We were living our dream. Years into our career, I over lifted a piece of heavy equipment and won myself a matched set of textbook-perfect bulged discs (the doctor’s description). We closed our studio doors. My husband turned to banking, and I turned to my love of writing.

So, why the story about my years as a photographer? Because today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) review is about Ansel Adams, one of the greatest and most beloved nature photographers of all time.

Title – Antsy Ansel – Ansel Adams, A Life In nature

Written by  – Cindy Jenson-Elliott

Illustrated by – Christy Hale

Published by – Christy Ottaviano Books – 2016

Suitable for ages – 5-9

Topics/Theme –  going after your dream, determination, and love of nature.

Opening –  Ansel was antsy. H never walked–he ran. When he sat, his feet danced. Even his thoughts flew about like a gull in a storm. Ansel noticed everything. And everyone noticed Ansel.

“Pay attention,” said his aunt.

“Please sit still,” begged his mother.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. You may be familiar with Adams’s iconic black-and-white nature photographs. But do you know about the artist who created these images?

As a child, Ansel Adams just couldn’t sit still. He felt trapped indoors and never walked anywhere–he ran. Even when he sat, his feet danced. But in nature, Ansel felt right at home. He fell in love with the gusting gales of the Golden Gate, the quiet whisper of Lobos Creek, the icy white of Yosemite Valley, and countless other remarkable natural sights.

From his early days in San Francisco to the height of his glory nationwide, Antsy Ansel chronicles a restless boy’s path to becoming an iconic nature photographer.

Why do I like this book? I thought I knew a great deal about Ansel Adams prior to reading this book, but what I knew was the adult life of the man and not the life and path of the boy who became a renowned nature photographer. Teamed with the traditional and digital collages of Christy Hale, Cindy Jenson-Elliott’s informative story of the life of Ansel Adams becomes a treasure to read and admire.
Learn more about Cindy Jenson-Elliott HERE.
Learn more about Christy Hale HERE.
BONUS – Read a review by Joanne Roberts of Antsy Ansel on her blog, Bookish Ambition. In addition to a wonderful review, Joanne offers many great links for added research on Ansel Adams complete with a teacher’s guide, activities, digital photography lessons, and more.

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

The End of Santa Claus

When I was a child, Santa existed through illustrations in my picture books and as the mysterious, magical, stocking-stuffing man I never once met. With a Santa Clause listening to the heartfelt wishes of children in shopping malls around the globe, how is it possible I never sat on his knee? Simple.

My parents never took me to see Santa Claus. (Sniff.)

It wasn’t long before I figured out that my Mom was the maker of the magic that belongs to Christmas. I think I was seven when I noticed Santa’s wrapping paper looked exactly like ours. And let’s just overlook that his handwriting looked suspiciously like my mother’s, too…


It was when I had my daughter that I decided to make up for my own childhood loss. I was determined to give my little girl more than a seat on Santa’s lap at the neighborhood mall.

Being a writer, I indulged my childhood fantasy in creating a real Santa, genuine pointy-eared elves, a cookie-baking Mrs. Clause, and a shimmering castle of ice nestled deep in the heart of the North Pole.

The bigger magic I created at Christmas began (and don’t cringe when I tell you this) when my daughter asked Santa for her very own Elf on the Shelf. While some parents sit their chid’s elf on a bookshelf on Monday, on top of the fridge on Tuesday, stuffed in the tissue box on Wednesday, etc… my writer’s imagination shifted into high gear. My daughter’s elf, Roza, would do soooo much more than the average elf! elf-of-the-shelfShe would listen to my daughter’s daily news, pay close attention when she had questions, and write letters. Nightly letters. (Picture me struggling to stay awake until my daughter lay deep asleep. Now picture me bleary eyed, padding downstairs at midnight to sit at my dining room table armed with three pairs of glasses, a pencil sharpener, and pencil.) In the tiniest handwriting possible, I answered my daughter’s daily questions about life at the North Pole, about the day to day activities of an elf, and about Santa and Mrs. Claus.


My daughter asked her elf questions like:

Just how old are you?  (Turns out Roza is 132 years old!)

Since you’re over one-hundred years old, did you belong to a child before me? (Turns out there were several, and the stories might amaze you.)

Are you married? (She sure is. And Roza’s husband, and fellow elf, is Santa’s head sleigh engineer.)

How many children do you have? (She has over 70.)

Do you have any pets? (This list is long and growing all the time. But I will say that Roza’s favorite pet is Mush Mush her rabbit who makes babies faster than reindeer fly.)

What’s your favorite meal? (Anything as long as it’s coated in crushed candy canes.)

How did Santa become Santa? (This answer, I’m sorry to say, could be a blog all by itself.)

Is he the only Santa we’ve ever had? Or was there a Santa before him? (Yup, another blog entry.)

How did Santa meet his wife? (She was the girl next door, of course.)

If Santa has been around back when my great, great, great, great grandfather was a little boy, what’s keeping him alive so long?  (You guessed it. This, too, could be another blog entry. )

Will Mrs. Claus live forever, too?  (Yes! Thankfully she was caught in the spell cast that turned Santa into a saint.)

Has Santa been married before? (No sirree! Santa is a one woman man.)

Do Mr. and Mrs. Claus have pets? (Their favorite pet is a polar bear that sleeps at the foot of their large bed.)

Who named the reindeer and what do the names mean? (Would you believe the elves named the reindeer? I’d go into details for each reindeer’s name, but this blog is already running long.)

How do you get down the chimney when the flu is closed? (There is an entire science to the magic behind this ability.)

How do you get into a child’s home who lives in an apartment without a chimney? (See above scientific magic.)

Okay. I guess you’re getting the idea that this mom doesn’t get much sleep in December with all these late night scribblings to invent the North Pole. And yes, there have been plenty of letters from Santa, too. (You guessed it. Those letters were written by yours truly.)

My daughter’s elf has not only written countless letters, all carefully preserved in a wooden treasure box, but Roza has made her earrings and a bracelet, baked her a batch of candy cane crunch cookies, thouroughly wrapped my writing room in yarn, toilet papered our Christmas tree, exchanged our holiday stockings at the mantel for our underwear, and made an elf-schristmas-cookiesized armchair out of marshmallows.

Year after year, my daughter has come closer and closer to questioning the magic. After all, many of her friends at school are Santa doubters.

Last week, instead of having her usual conversation with Roza, which I was always allowed to hear, my daughter decided the time had come to test the magic. When she believed I wasn’t around, she whispered something to her elf.

“What did you tell Roza?” I asked as inocently as possible.

“I asked her to do something.”

“Gee, I hope you didn’t ask her to toilet paper the house again.”

“Nothing like that,” my daughter said.

“Then what do you want her to do?”

“I’m not telling you,” she said. “This way, I’ll know for sure if Roza is a doll like my friends say she is.”

Yup, this is the moment I suffered a mild panic attack. Come morning, when my daughter awoke, Roza would not have done what she asked, and everything would clatter to the ground in a grand domino effect.

“Mommy,” she said, “you and I both know Roza is real. After all, there’s no way you would get out of bed late at night and write those letters from her. And her handwriting is so small it would take you three pairs of glasses to write them! And there’s no way you would tie up your writing room in miles of yarn. And after how mad you got when Roza toilet papered our tree… well… you just wouldn’t do something like that!” Then, she lowered the boom. “And I know you wouldn’t lie to me.”

I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I welled up with tears because my little girl was growing up. Santa, Mrs. Clause, Roza, all the animals at the North Pole, (and did I mention that over summer vacation Roza had a baby and named it after my daughter?) the little elf baby, and all the magic I worked so hard to create was coming to an end.

“Mommy?” my daughter said. “Tell me the truth. Is Roza real?”

I slipped away to where Roza perched on our piano. I smiled at the careful placement of marshmallows she (okay…my husband and I) left on every key as I gently lifted the little elf. No more would I stay up late to sneak downstairs and create the magic. No more would I wear three pairs of glasses to answer my daughter’s important Chrismas questions. No more would I concoct elaborate plans of mischief for Roza to get into. I carried the little elf doll upstairs to my daughter, sad that the time had come to shatter the dreams I helped make real.

Anyone who knows about the elf on the shelf knows you Never touch your elf or the magic leaves, and she or he will be a doll forever. My daughter looked at Roza, cradled in my hands, and the floodgates blew wide open. She took me by the hand and sat me down with a pad of paper and pencil. “Prove to me that you wrote those letters from Roza, because I know your eyes aren’t good enough to write anything that little without putting on three pairs of glasses.”

I put on three pairs of glasses and wrote her the very last letter from Roza.

More tears, mine included.

“What about Santa?” she sobbed. “Are you him, too?”

“Honestly, sweetheart?” I said. “I am not Santa. I’m one of his devoted helpers. Santa is very real, and you can go on believing in him for the rest of your life.”

Then I told her the true story of the young man named Nicholas who became Santa.

Many years ago, back in the year 280, a boy named Nicholas was born in Patara, which is part of the country known today as Turkey. His parents were quite wealthy and raised Nicholas to believe that he should give what he could to help the less fortunate, the needy, the sick, and any people who were suffering. Because of his great kindnesses, when he was a young man, he was made Bishop Nicholas of Nyra and was known throughout the land for his generosity to those people in need and especially for his kindness and love for all children. On December 6th in the year 343, Nicholas was granted sainthood upon his death and named Saint Nicholas. The day he became a saint is the day many children celebrate and know as Saint Nicholas Day. The spirit of Saint Nicholas has been felt by many, especially at Christmastime. This is a time of year when people give more freely to others and open their hearts to others with kindness. Many people credit the spirit of Saint Nicholas for this magical feeling. So you see, Santa Claus was a very real and very generous man. Just because he passed away so many years ago doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist. He existed and his spirit will always live on and on. And you can always believe in him.

I believe.

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays.


Perfect Picture Book Friday Goes Prehistoric!

Dinosaurs and cavemen both played a part in my childhood. My mother, a scientific illustrator at the Field Museum in Chicago, studied Dinosaurs, painted scenic backgrounds and illustrated a book in the “What is” scientific series called What is a Dinosaur, published by Benefic Press in 1961.


My father, on the other end of the spectrum, liked to make light in life and would often try to get our attention by saying, “Look! A Tetradactyl flew over  our house!”

Now, if you’re wondering how cavemen fit into my upbringing, that’s a source of stress. While my sister and I tried to get Dad to drink plenty of water each day, Dad would push the glass away and say, “You never hear about cavemen drinking water.” And, of course, a lack of water in Dad’s diet led to numerous visits to the doctor and on rare occasions, the emergency room. Having said that, I hope you’re inspired to pour yourself a glass of cool water and chug-a-lug.

I also grew up with the television show, The Flintstones. A funny program about Cavemen! Maybe all this is why I chose the book I did for this week’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

TEK The Modern Cave Boy

Title – TEK The Modern Cave Boy

Written and illustrated by – Patrick McDonnell

Published by – Little Brown and Company -2016

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Theme –  If you change your view, you might find a bigger and better life waiting for you.

Opening –  Once upon a time, way, way back, a long time ago, or maybe yesterday, there lived a little cave boy named Tek. Tek was pretty much your typical troglodyte child. Yes, he did have a beard, but everything was kind of hairy back then.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE.  From a beloved, bestselling Caldecott Honor recipient comes a hilarious reminder of how technology can take us backward… all the way to the times of prehistoric man!

Tek is a cave boy in love with tech: his tablet, video games, phone, and TV keep him deep in his cave, glued to his devices, day in and day out. He never sees his friends or family anymore–and his ability to communicate has devolved to just one word: “UGH”! Can anyone in the village convince Tek to unplug and come outside into the big, beautiful world?
A distinctive package and design cleverly evoke the experience of using an electronic device that eventually shuts down… and after a magic page turn, Tek (and the reader) reconnects with the real world.
Why do I like this book? Prehistoric times collide with the modern day world. What’s not to love?  The reader gets introduced to such amazing dinosaurs as the Watchamacallitasaurus, the Hoozdatasaurus, and a flying Idontgiveadactyl. We also learn, much to my amazement, that the internet was invented by the father of caveboy. Who knew? All that aside, the design of the book makes it stand out on the shelf. Shaped like a tablet, the book is complete with a page on which to enter your password. A lot of thought went into developing this clever, soon-to-be, childhood favorite.
Learn more about Patrick McDonnell HERE.

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