Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book by Vivian Kirkfield+ Book Winner!

This Friday, as promised, I’m sharing Vivian Kirkfield’s stunning picture book, Four Otters Toboggan – An Animal Counting Book, as well as the lucky winner of this book, “hat picked” from those who left a comment on last Friday’s author interview post.

vine borderHave you ever been attracted to a book because of its title or cover illustration? Have you ever paged through a book and connected with it so powerfully you hugged it all the way to the store’s cash register? Have you ever been moved by a book so greatly you read it countless times? 

Vivian’s picture book, Four Otters Toboggan – An Animal Counting Book, will have you saying Yes! Yes! Yes!

Welcome to an ecological journey of discovery on which you will be delighted by Vivian’s special word choices – sure to change the way you see and hear the world.

We’ve seen dragonflies hover and zip across a pond, but have we thought of them as ballerinas above a liquid stage? 

In nature films, we have observed otters slide into the water, but when Vivian writes that they toboggan down a slide of mud, this playful scene comes to life. 

Title – Four Otters Toboggan – An Animal Counting Book

Written by – Vivian Kirkfield

Illustrated by – Mirka Hokkanen

Published by- PomegranateKids – 2019

Topics – wildlife preservation, endangered animal awareness, counting, water, weather

Opening –

Water waits.

Dawn breaks

in a chorus of bird song.

ONE willow flycatcher whistles

as the night slips silently away.

Synopsis from Amazon  Water wakes. Wildlife greets the day and finds shelter, safety, and fun on the river in this lyrical, ecologically oriented counting book. One willow flycatcher, two dragonflies, three kit foxes, and more thrive in their habitat. As kids count, the day turns from dawn to dusk, and the character of the water changes as quickly as a child’s moods. Animals sing, leap, tiptoe, toboggan, hoot, hunt, flit, flutter, and hover. They ride out a storm, bask in waning rays, and tuck in under the silver moon.

Filled with modern wood engravings, Four Otters Toboggan celebrates wild beauty, encouraging readers of all ages to preserve and cherish our planet. After the story is finished, children can read more about each species in the back of the book, conservation efforts, what causes animals to become endangered, and what people can do to protect wild habitats.

Why do I like this book? Along with the fun of finding and counting animals on each page, children are introduced to eleven endangered species, the concept of time passage over a day, and the ever-changing mood of both water and a storm. That’s a lot to build into a 32-page picture book! And did I mention the back matter offers additional facts about each animal? The part I love best is that this information is told with lyrical and thoughtfully-chosen words, accompanied by lovingly-created, modern, wood engraving illustrations.

Now for the winner of Vivian’s beautiful book.

Please put your hands together for Jilanne Hoffmann!!!

Learn more about Vivian Kirkfield HERE.

Learn more about Mirka Hokkanen HERE.

Read about and watch the making of the illustrations for Four Otters Toboggan HERE.

From Siera Club – Learn 5 Ways to Protect Endangered Species 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!

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.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Remembers the Famous Lunar Landing. #PPBF

Are you old enough to remember where you were on July 16, 1969, when the Appollo 11 mission to the moon began? Do you remember where you were on July 20th when Neil Armstrong set his foot on the moon? Or do you remember watching a video of this remarkable moment in school?

Years back when my daughter was five, bedtime had come, and I had just turned off the lights in the living room to take her upstairs to her room. Instead of following me, she remained behind. The moon shone in the window, and my little girl couldn’t take her eyes off the big, glowing ball.

“Do you think someone will ever walk up there?” she asked.

“Someone already has,” I told her.

Instead of tucking my daughter in bed, I turned on my laptop and showed her the famous news broadcast with Walter Cronkite.

“Do you think I’ll ever get to walk up there?” she asked.

“Maybe if you think about it hard enough,” I said, “tonight you can dream you are an astronaut, leaving your footprints on the moon beside Neil Armstrong’s.”

Title – Eight Days Gone

Written by – Linda McReynolds

Illustrated by – Ryan O’Rourke

Published by – Charlesbridge – 2012

Topics – Space, astronauts, lunar landing

Opening –  

Hundreds gather.

Hot July.

Spaceship ready–

set to fly.

 

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE.  Snappy verse and retro art recount Apollo 11’s historic, eight-day mission to the moon in 1969. Young readers learn the basics about the gear, equipment, and spaceship used by the astronauts, as well as the history of NASA’s moon mission.

Why do I like this book? Knowing the phenomenal amount of research needed to write a nonfiction picture book, I was amazed at Linda McReynolds’s skill in taking on such a huge project as the famous lunar landing. In the simplest and sparest text, Ms. McReynolds not only informs children of one of the greatest historical moments but also captivates and entertains them with her brilliant verse!

Three quotes by Neil Armstrong

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
“Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.”
“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”

Where were you when the lunar landing was broadcast? Did you watch it on television? Did you see it years later in school? I’d love to hear your recollection.

Spirited, dream-seeking women are the focus of today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF review

Back when I was in high school taking classes to decide what to be when I grew up, women were going after careers as doctors, firefighters, attorneys, journalists, and much more. Unfortunately, my mother kept a dated attitude about which occupations were suited to men and which were suited for women–more specifically me.

When my high school interest in interior decorating led me into the Architectural Design course (where I achieved an A. Gotta blow my horn a little.) My mother, fearing I might choose to become an architect, put her foot down. She said architecture was a male-dominated field, and she wouldn’t pay the college tuition if I pursued it.

Wait. What? Male-dominated? There are going to be lots of men?

My mother’s problem became a perk.

Moving on. My next big interest was Psychology. One class led to two, and when two looked like it would turn into three (Can anyone see where this is going?), my mother said, “If you become a psychologist, your patients will be crazy people in search of advice. I won’t have it. If you want to pursue this field in college, I won’t pay the tuition.”

Without thinking, my teenage mouth spurted, “If you reconsider and let me become a psychologist, I’ll offer you free therapy in your old age.”

Moving on . . . (with a sore bottom.)

So there I was, envious of my older sister who chose the career she wanted and headed to college to study law without the parental flack I always received.

Ummm . . . Isn’t the field of law dominated by men?

My admiration for women who let nothing stand in the way of their dreams brings me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review. Please welcome Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt (whose mothers I would have loved to meet).

Title – Amelia And Eleanor Go For A Ride

Written by – Pam Munoz Ryan

Illustrated by – Brian Selznick

Published by – Scholastic Press – 1999

Topics – Following dreams and determination

Opening – Amelia and Eleanor were birds of a feather. Eleanor was outspoken and determined.

So was Amelia.

Amelia was daring and liked to try things other women wouldn’t even consider.

So when Eleanor discovered that her friend Amelia was coming to town to give a speech, she naturally said, “Bring your husband and come to dinner at my house! You can even sleep over.”

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE.  Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt were birds of a feather. Not only were they two of the most admired and respected women of all time, they were also good friends. Illuminated here for the first time in picture book form is the true story of a thrilling night when they made history together!

On a brisk and cloudless evening in April 1933, Amelia and Eleanor did the unprecedented: They stole away from a White House dinner, commandeered an Eastern Air Transport jet, and took off on a glorious adventure–while still dressed in their glamorous evening gowns!

This picture book tour de force celebrates the pioneering spirit of two friends whose passion for life gave them the courage to defy convention in the name of fulfillment, conviction, and fun. Soaring text, inspired by the known facts of this event, and breathtaking drawings ask readers to dream dreams as big as Amelia and Eleanor’s.

Why do I like this book? I admire those with an adventurous spirit, and this book shows not one but two such spirited women going after their dreams full throttle. Amelia, without a care what people think about woman piloting planes, fearlessly takes to the skies to make her dream come true. And Eleanor, disregarding other’s opinions that women shouldn’t drive cars, loves the feeling of independence a car provides, has a new car, and can’t wait to get behind the wheel to feel the wind whoosh through her hair. The night Amelia comes to the White House for dinner is beyond magical for these two spirited friends.

Do you remember a dream you wanted more than anything? Did something stand in your way? Did you reach it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Arrowhawk – A Survival Story.

I’m sure you’ve gathered from reading my posts that animals, both wild and tame, wove their way through My childhood. And despite my father’s frequent complaints about bringing one more critter into the house, female persuasion, which when combined with tears, was powerful enough to win each of his arguments. Thus, there was never a day without feathery, furry, or scaly companionship.

The memory of one animal, in particular, has stayed with me–a wild mallard we found along the road after Thanksgiving. She had broken bones, deep punctures, missing feathers, and didn’t stand a chance of survival if we had left her. The duck moved into our house where we carefully tended her wounds and provided a safe place for her to heal and grow strong enough for release in early spring. Unfortunately, when that day arrived, our feathered guest hadn’t regained the ability to fly. While my father appeared grateful he no longer had to step in duck doo, my mother, sister, and I worried about the safety of our little friend. Because I’m currently writing this story with hopes of publication, I’m going to resist spoiling the ending for you. I’ll just say there were many happy tears. And now for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review about the survival of a different kind of bird.

Title – Arrowhawk

Written by  – Lola M. Schaefer

Illustrated by – Gabi Swiatkowska

Published by – Henry Holt and Company – 2004

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics – determination, courage, survival, nonfiction animal story.

Opening – Hawk, young and strong, soared high above an open field. His large eyes searched the dried grasses below. A mouse raced in and out of the stubble. Hawk swooped down, snatched his prey, and carried it to a fence post. Thre in the autumn sun, he tore and ate the mouse with his hooked beak.

TWWANGGGG! Out of nowhere, an arrow streaked through the air and pierced Hawk’s upper thigh and tail. He screeched in pain. A flash of movement on his left signaled more danger.

(Yes, I included a few lines from page two in this book, but you have to admit they hooked you. Right?) 

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. A hungry red-tailed hawk sits near a fence post and devours his catch. Out of nowhere, a poacher’s arrow pierces his body, seriously injuring him and leaving him to fend for himself.

This is the courageous true story of Arrowhawk-an endangered bird of prey who, with sheer determination and will, survives eight weeks in the wild with a poacher’s arrow through his thigh and tail. Stunning illustrations capture his remarkable journey from peril and rescue to eventual freedom.

Why do I like this book? From page one, the reader knows he or she is in for a quite a ride with the somewhat graphic kill of a mouse. (And, having kept mice as pets, might I add that it was most likely a sweet, twitchy-nosed, innocent, defenseless, little mouse?) Following this, we feel Hawk’s deep pain as a hunter’s arrow pierces his thigh and tail. Only for brief moments does the reader relax as Hawk learns to adapt to his unwelcomed circumstance. As he learns how to survive, more troubles come. The reader is taken on a challenging journey as Hawk proves to be a survivor no matter what troubles come his way. The acrylic paintings illustrating this story are unique in that they lend a softness to the pain we feel for this magnificent bird while fully revealing Hawk’s great strength, struggles, and eventual freedom.

Learn more about Lola M. Schaefer HERE.

Learn more about Gabi Swiatkowska HERE.

Because April is National Poetry Month, maybe write a poem about your favorite wild animal, place to hike, or first signs of Spring? Remember, poems don’t have to be long. You can limit yourself to twenty words or less. And, if you would like to, feel free to share your poem in the comments for National Poetry Month.

To get the ball rolling, I’ll start us off by posting my poem.

FIRST SIGNS OF SPRING

Spring has come!

Woodpeckers drum.

Rain brings puddles.

Earthworm huddles.

Robins arrived.

My tulips survived!

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Jane Goodall’s Book, Rickie & Henri

My mother was a compassionate woman who instilled in me her deep love and appreciation for nature. Whether we were hiking through the woods that surrounded our house, looking for first signs of spring, or whether we were rescuing a hurt animal, nature played a part in my life from my very youngest years on. Beyond my mother’s caring heart, what stayed with me over the years was the relationships she developed with animals.

Upon seeing a deer grazing in her prized garden at the same time each day, my mother didn’t seek ways to discourage the deer from visiting and nibbling her tender plants. She set out to tame that deer. Some of her friends from the Garden Club thought she was crazy not to buy deer repellant and save her precious plants. Instead, my mother saw this as an opportunity to befriend a wild animal.

She cut an apple into quarters and set out the pieces at the edge of the garden and watched and waited thirty feet away. The deer came out of the woods, sniffed the apples, and ate them. My mom continued feeding the deer this way for a week. The second week, she stood twenty feet away, always moving closer and closer to where the deer ate. After two months, my mother stood beside the apple pieces as the deer ate. The following week, the apple pieces were offered on my mother’s open palm. The deer accepted the apples and allowed my mother to stroke her hand down his neck. The gift of this unusual friendship took time and great patience and was clearly a memorable gift my mother gave to herself.

Friendships between humans and wild animals and friendships between different animal species are rare and wonderful, and that is what today’s picture book review is about.

Title – Rickie & Henri

Written by  – Jane Goodall

Illustrated by – Alan Marks

Published by – Michael Neugebauer Publishing Ltd. 2017

Suitable for ages – 5-8

Theme – survival, trust, friendship

Opening – Rickie was born in the rain forest of Central Africa.

For the first two years, she lived with her mother and the other chimpanzees of the community. Her mother was the center of Rickie’s world. She carried her from place to place; she comforted her when hse was hurting or frightened. Every hour or so–more often if she wanted–Rickie could drink the good warm milk from her mother’s breasts.

Perhaps she had an older brother or sister; perhaps her grandmother was alive. We shall never know.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. Rickie the chimpanzee loved living with her mother in the rain forests of Central Africa, warm and safe. Until the day the hunters came and took Rickie away to sell at a Congolese market. Luckily, she was rescued by a kind man who adopted Rickie and cared for her. Best of all, he provided an unexpected friend in his dog, Henri. This true story of friendship is heart-warmingly brought to life by renowned scientist Dr. Jane Goodall.

Why do I like this book? The story, Rickie and Henri, was written from a truly loving heart. Jane Goodall skillfully places the reader in the emotional reality of a chimpanzee that has witnessed her mother’s death and is taken from the only life and home she knows. The journey is filled with challenges to overcome, and Rickie soon learns to love and trust again when she is taken in by a compassionate man and his dog, Henri, who eventually becomes Rickie’s dearest friend. The story, teamed with the tender illustrations of the very gifted artist, Alan Marks, will tug at your heart. Every emotion Ricki feels is on the page for the reader to feel, too. I found this book impossible to put down, and impossible to leave on the shelf without buying.

Learn more about Jane Goodall HERE.

Learn more about Alan Marks HERE.

Author interview with Janet Nolan Plus a review of her book, Seven and a Half Tons of Steel

As promised, today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review comes with an added bonus… an interview with Janet Nolan, author of Seven and a Half Tons of Steel.

Last year on one of my many visits to the library, one of the librarians asked if I would be interested in joining her at The Anderson’s Children’s Literature Breakfast in February of 2017. The annual event features special guest authors and illustrators, a full breakfast, book talks, over 50 Illinois authors and illustrators, and book sales and signing! To sweeten the already amazing event, throughout the program, authors rotate from table to table, giving the attendees a chance to meet and ask questions.

I didn’t check my calendar, I didn’t take a moment to consider. I said, “Yes!”

The first author seated at our table was Janet Nolan. She set out a stack of her pictures books. Immediately, I recognized the titles of some favorites, which I have linked to Amazon below.

Seven and a Half Tons of Steel

PB&J Hooray!: You Sandwich’s Amazing Journey from Farm to Table

The Firehouse Light

A Father’s Day Thank You

The St. Patrick’s Day Shillelagh

And now for my Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

None of us will ever forget where we were when the tragic news of September 11th, 2001 was broadcast. Two airplanes struck the World Trade Center buildings in New York. Following that heartbreaking event, a seven and a half ton steel beam from the towers was given to the United States Navy to become the bow of the navy ship, the USS New York. The Story Janet Nolan wrote, follows the journey of that steel beam.

Title – Seven and a Half Tons of Steel

Written by  – Janet Nolan

Illustrated by – Thomas Gonzalez

Published by – Peachtree Publishers – 2016

Suitable for ages – 5-12

Opening – There is a ship, a navy ship. It is called the USS New York. it is big like other navy ships, and it sails like other navy ships, but there is something different, something special about the USS New York.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. There is a ship, a navy ship. It is called the USS New York. It is big like other navy ships, and it sails like other navy ships, but there is something special about the USS New York. Following the events of September 11, 2001, the governor of New York gave the Navy a steel beam that was once inside one of the World Trade Towers. The beam was driven from New York to a foundry in Louisiana. Metal workers heated the beam to a high, high temperature. Chippers and grinders, painters and polishers worked on the beam for months. And then, seven and a half tons of steel, which had once been a beam in the World Trade Center, became a navy ship’s bow. This powerful story reveals how something remarkable can emerge from a devastating event.

Why do I like this book? Like many people, I was glued to my television after the devastating event on September 11th. For days and weeks, I followed every piece of news. But somehow, I missed something. I missed hearing about one steel beam from the twin towers that was transported, melted, poured into a mold, and given a new life as the bow of a navy ship.

Janet Nolan’s  powerful retelling of the repurposing of an enormous beam from the World Trade Center and of the many people who tirelessly worked on this project, some of which lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina, will stay with you long after you close the book. Illustrator, Thomas Gonzalez, adds his amazing talent to this book. His illustrations reflect the dark and sad feeling of September 11th and bring the reader into the heart of the fiery heat when the beam is melted into molten metal and on to the day with the USS New York sailed, proudly displaying its crest with the words “Never Forget.”

Learn more about Janet Nolan HERE.

Learn more about Thomas Gonzalez HERE.

And now for the interview with Janet Nolan.

Displaying R2215A_DZ3A2835_Janet Nolan_LoRes.jpg

Describe the path that led you to write picture books?

Well, it wasn’t a straight line. One day, out of nowhere, I decided to write a story. It was terrible, but I had so much fun writing it I decided to write another. That story was equally terrible, so I decided why not write another. I considered the stories I wrote the artistic equivalent of singing in the shower. Harmless, but fun. Seeing no reason to quit, I kept writing. I joined SCBWI. I joined a critique group. I attended conferences, started submitting, and just as quickly started getting rejected. Undaunted, I kept writing, but more importantly I started revising. Eventually, and I have to admit it took a while, I sold my first book. 

If you could go back and change anything along that path, what would it be?  

Without a doubt, it’s doubt. I’d like to say I no longer carry the weight of doubt (will I finish the next book; will I sell the next book) but I’d be lying. Doubt, it seems, likes to hover around.

Who were your favorite authors as a child?

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Box Car Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

What inspired you to write the picture book, Seven and a Half Tons of Steel

I was driving my car, listening to the radio, when I heard a brief story about the USS New York. I remember sitting in traffic being quietly amazed, surprised to learn steel from the World Trade Center towers had been used in the building of a navy ship. What struck me at the time, and has stayed with me ever since was the feeling that something positive and powerful had emerged from a tragic event.

I knew I’d discovered a story I had to write. And from the beginning, I believed this was a story about transformation and hope.

What surprised you most in your research for this book?

Finding interesting topics to write about isn’t difficult. The hard part is determining if the topic will make an interesting book. Facts are great, but what matters is the heart of the story within those facts. If I can’t find that, then I don’t have a story. But when I do, it’s amazing!

What first drew me to this story was the idea of transformation. How tragedy could be recast as strength and hope. In choosing what to include and what to exclude, I stayed close to the beam and followed it on its transformative journey. The book begins with the events of September 11 and the outpouring of emotion at Ground Zero, but when the beam leaves New York, the story follows the beam. 

What was the time frame for writing this book? 

I think it took me about a year and a half to write Seven and a Half Tons of Steel. I knew almost nothing about forging steel or shipbuilding when I began researching this book. Fortunately, other people did. I conducted phone interviews, read every news article I could get my hands on, watched countless news clips and videos, and was a frequent visitor to the ship’s website. I was touched by the generosity of librarians and retired military who were willing to guide me in the right direction and answer my many questions, big and small.

What is your favorite time and place to write?

I get my best writing done in the morning. I work out of my house and my computer is in my living room. I’m not sure it’s my favorite place, but it’s where I find myself. I don’t have an office, though a girl can dream.

What memorable experience would you have missed if you hadn’t become a writer? 

The gift of writing is paying attention. If I wasn’t a writer, who knows what I might have missed. Stories and ideas are everywhere. Conversations, radio, TV, articles. It’s just a matter of tuning my ears to the interesting channel. I’m always on the lookout for that special idea that sparks my imagination. 

If I hadn’t become a writer, I would have missed out on the incredible friendships I’ve made. Children’s authors are the kindest, most generous people one could ever hope to meet.

Which three authors would you like to meet for coffee? 

Betty Smith – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Lois Lowry – The Giver

Katherine Applegate – The One and Only Ivan

What is the most challenging aspect of writing for children? 

Getting it right. Each word. Each sentence. The story. It has to be perfect.  

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

I do my best thinking on walks. If you lived in my neighborhood, you’d probably wonder why that lady and her dog were circling the block again.

Many thanks, Janet. I greatly appreciate the time you gave to answer my questions.

Perfect Picture Book Friday looks at the book I, Vivaldi

When I was a child, the attic was a magical place of discovery. It reminded me of a picture book I loved that contained elaborate, wordless, illustrations in which I always found something new with each viewing. Like that book, our attic held amazing treasures. Everything that couldn’t find a place in our home found a place there. The attic barely burst with my father’s old college books, magazine collections, my mother’s outdated fur coat, my father’s university graduation cap and gown, a chest filled with forgotten dolls, photo albums, my grandmother’s antique bed, carpet remnants, and so much more. One day, back when I was about ten, I made an amazing discovery…a strangely shaped, black, leather case. I took it by it’s cracked handle, set it on the floor before me, and released the latch. Inside, beneath a velvet cover, lay a lovely violin. Two of the strings had snapped, the hairs on the bow were frayed, but the honey-warm, varnished wood picked up every glint of pretty light.

When I showed my father my discovery, he ran a gentle hand over the violin.

“I bought this instrument over thirty years ago when I graduated from college,” he said. “I hoped to someday learn to play it. Maybe you’d like to take lessons?”

I accepted the invitation and challenge. My years of lessons led me to join a youth orchestra and later, in college, a symphony. And years after that, when I walked down the aisle to say my wedding vows, the music of Antonio Vivaldi, one of the greatest violinists and composers, became part of my wedding ceremony. Which leads me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

Title – I, Vivaldi

Written by  – Janice Shefelman

Illustrated by – Tom Shefelman

Published by – Eerdmans Books for Young Readers – 2008

Suitable for ages – 5-12

Theme – Stay true to your life’s dream.

Opening – Venice 1678

On the day that I, Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, was born, there was an earthquake. My mama heard a rumble from under the ground. Church bells were ringing all over town.

My papa ran up the stairs. “Camilla, we have to get out of the house.”

“But Giovanni,” Mama cried, “the baby is coming. You must go for the midwife!”

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. In this dynamic picture-book biography, told as if by Vivaldi himself, the famous musician’s energetic personality and steadfast dedication to music come alive.

Despite his mother’s vow for him to become a priest, young Vivaldi is only interested in music. He soon grows from a feisty boy who wants to play the violin into a stubborn young man who puts his musical training ahead of his studies for priesthood.

Beautiful, ornate artwork portrays the spirit and splendor of Vivaldi’s hometown, Venice. A historical note, musical score, and glossary will help readers more fully appreciate Vivaldi’s life and musical genius.

Why do I like this book? I have long been fascinated with the stories behind people whose work I admire. Having played the music of Vivaldi, I was thrilled to find this beautifully illustrated treasure. Janice Shefelman chose to tell this story through Vivaldi’s own words, adding a closeness between this great man and the reader. We learn that because of Antonio’s difficulty breathing at birth, his mother promised God that if He spared her son Antonio would become a priest. Conflicted between his mother’s promise to God and his own passion for music, Antonio Vivaldi embarked on both paths. With a loving hand and careful attention to details, Tom Shefelman’s illustrations faithfully recreate the complex and stunning architecture of Venice.  

Learn more about Janice and Tom Shefelman HERE.

Please enjoy this beautiful youtube recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

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

Next Friday, join me for an interview with picture book author, Janet Nolan!

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.