A Rescue Mission + Book Review this Perfect Picture Book Friday

If you’ve been a longtime follower of my blog, you must know that I embrace all things nature. My love for the environment moseys, sprouts, and ambles through many of my picture book manuscripts as well as my blog posts, where this fascination is evident in the books I share.

I am forever amazed by the magic that hatches from an egg as small as a garden pea. I am intrigued by great flocks of birds that change direction as if commanded by a voice only they can hear. And when I find an acorn, I look into the branches of the impressive oak, knowing I am holding a seed as small as the one that sprouted and pushed its way toward the clouds.

Before I share today’s special picture book, I’d like to tell you about the author, who, as luck would have it, is one of my valued critique partners and a dear friend. Julia Richardson holds a boundless love for nature and is currently hard at work saving Hayden Creek, which runs through the state of Michigan. A faraway village has proposed to dump their wastewater into this pristine trout stream, and Julia is taking time away from her writing to do everything possible to prevent this tragedy. In the past, I have followed each of my picture book reviews with an author interview the following Friday. Julia’s interview will be delayed for the best possible reason. To Julia, if anyone has the strength, belief, and fortitute to make positive changes for the environment, it is you.

Onward to today’s review of Julia’s debut picture book, Little Dandelion Seeds the World.

Title – Little Dandelion Seeds the World
(Available on March 15, 2021)

Written by  –  Julia Richardson

Illustrated by  – Kristen & Kevin Howeshell

Published – Sleeping Bear Press, 2021

Suitable for ages – 6-10

Topics – Dandelions, seeds, dispersal

Opening
Swish, swirl, one hundred seeds fly.
One little seed flies with the wind, far, far away.
Darting.
Drifting.
Dropping.
Down with a root.
Up wth a shoot.
A little dandelion blooms in Africa.

Amazon Review HERE – Did you know dandelions thrive on all seven continents? The cheery blooms are among the most resilient and adaptable in the world. In this lyrical book, learn how the crafty plant travels on the wind and hitches rides in all manner of ways in order to spread far and wide. Includes a map and backmatter on dandelions.

Why do I like this book? Through the use of such writer’s tools as assonance, alliteration, rhyme, and the repeated refrain (Down with a root. Up with a shoot), Julia Richardson adds musicality to her writing, making this book a pleasure to read aloud or cozy close and hear. Readers and listeners get the unexpected surprise of discovering page after page of places on Earth dandelion seeds can travel. Through colorful, textural illustrations, Kristen & Kevin Howdeshell bring to life such marvelous destinations as Australia, Africa, and Europe. Their artistic talents teamed with Julia’s lyrical text create a book both children and adults will adore.

Learn more about Julia Richardson HERE.

Learn more about Kristen & Kevin Howdeshell HERE.

  • If you are interested in supporting Julia Richardson in her efforts to save Hayden Creek or you want to follow along on the progress, you can learn more at this special Facebook group. Save Hayden Creek.

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

Leslie

PPBF looks at Punctuation Celebration

Today on Perfect Picture Book Friday, I would like to share a book that doubles as one of the most entertaining reference books I have ever come across for punctuation. From this day forth, learning the rules for using commas, a semicolons, periods, or ellipses will never leave a child stumped, stymied, or brain-strained. Between Elsa Knight Bruno’s clever explanations and examples and Jenny Whitehead’s colorful and whimsical illustrations, learning about a topic that many children find dull is now a celebration of pure fun!

Title – Punctuation Celebration – view on Amazon here.

Written by – Elsa Knight Bruno

Illustrated by – Jenny Whitehead

Published by – Christy Ottaviano Books – Henry Holt and Company – 2009

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/theme  learning punctuation rules

Opening – On your marks! Get set! Let’s go! To a sporty exploration into words and punctuation. We’ll meet the players, learn each name, and celebrate this special game.

Jacket copy  – Punctuation marks come alive in this clever picture book featuring fourteen playful poems. Periods stop sentences in a baker’s shop, commas help a train slow down, quotation marks tell people what to do, and colons stubbornly introduce lists. So come take part in the punctuation celebration!

Amazon Review – Punctuation marks come alive in this clever picture book featuring fourteen playful poems. Periods stop sentences in a baker’s shop, commas help a train slow down, quotation marks tell people what to do, and colons stubbornly introduce lists. This appealing primer is a surefire way to make punctuation both accessible and fun for kids.

Why do I like this book? Through whimsical, clever poetry, children are introduced in a painless, playful way to punctuation.  Each punctuation mark is given a clear explanation of where it should be used followed by a humorous poem that illustrates multiple examples of that punctuation mark in use. Even if a child understands punctuation, when reaching for a reference book on the topic, this is as fun and clear as I’ve ever heard it explained!

Author – YouTube video with the author here.

Illustrator – Visit Jenny Whitehead here.

Would You Silence The World?

Something my daughter said yesterday sparked this blog post. We sat outside, reading on our porch swing when she huffed and puffed.

“I can’t concentrate!” she nearly exploded. “There’s too much noise.”

I set my book on my lap and listened. “Hmmm,” I said. “I see what you mean. Let’s pretend we can silence every noise.”

airplane trail“Quiet, airplane,” I said.

“Quiet, bird!” my daughter ordered.

“Quite, trucks and cars and train, whistling into the station,” I said.

“Quiet, squeaky springs in this swing bench,” my daughter ordered.

“Quiet, gusty wind, and balmy breezes,” I added. “And while we’re at it, let’s quiet the footsteps and chatter of our neighbors, walking their dogs,” I said.

“Quiet, dogs!” my daughter said.

Next, I quieted myself. Even when my daughter asked questions, I said nothing.

“Talk to me!” she said. “I changed my mind. I don’t like all this quiet.”

Of course, we don’t have the power to remove all the sounds in the world.

Thank goodness!

But in pretending we were magical enough to evoke silence, I helped my daughter realize how important sound is and how easily we tune it out. The thud, thud, thud of jeans in the dryer, the soft blub, blub, blub of the fish tank filter, the soft, wheezy, breathing of my dog, sleeping behind me on my chair. Sounds are all around us–constantly.

As a writer, I often feel like I enter into moments like a deaf person given the gift of hearing, or a blind person given the gift of sight. The symphony of sounds surrounding us is a great gift. Tune in today and as you listen, make a mental list of the sounds you hear.

A note to writers: When including sounds in your work, let those sounds bring meaning to your writing. Let the sounds reveal something about your characters. Does the train whistle remind Charlotte of her vacation in Italy when, because she missed her stop, she met the man of her dreams? Does the warm breeze take Robert back to the beach where he proposed to his wife fifteen years ago?

The random mentioning of sound in a book serves as dead filler. Bring sound to life by connecting it to your characters.

 

Want To Play A Game? – Wednesday Prompts and Inspiration

chalkboard-3-AAs I move forward in writing my middle grade novel, I continue to define my cast of characters. (remember my 75 point character development questionnaire?) Part of understanding my characters so they feel like real people involves creating a list of defining items for each. My main character is a fourth grade ‘girly’ girl with a strong dislike for camping (one guess what her class is doing on the weekend).

As a writing warm-up for this task, I wrote the names of some people I know along the top of a sheet of paper. Beneath each name, I listed defining things/items.

If you try this exercise, you can test your lists for accuracy. Without revealing the names, see if others, who know the people, can figure out who each list belongs to.

WANT TO PLAY A GAME? This exercise can also be turned into a fun family and friends game: choose four or more people everyone in the room has in common. Then ask everyone to list 5 or more things that come to mind when they think of each listed person. When you’ve all completed this, pass the nameless lists around the room to see who can match  the most names to the right lists.

What you’ll learn is more than you expect…

Beyond your list of items that shows your relationship to each person, you will see how others perceive these people, too. In writing, it is important to remember that, like in the real world, the relationship Anne has to her best friend, Linda, is different from the relationship Anne’s mother has with Linda. If Anne and her mother both made lists to define Linda, you would see two different lists. If Anne and her mother interact with Linda in your story, you’ll want to take the time to make both lists.

Whether you are making these lists as a writing exercise or as a game, you could include other items…

Habits: clicking nails, twisting a strand of hair, jingling coins in their pocket.

Hobbies: exercise, stamp collecting, reading, swimming, golf, gardening, etc…

Expressions: Whatever, gotcha, you know it, etc…

Positive personality traits: uncomplaining, willing to lend a hand when someone needs help, volunteers, kind to everyone, sets goals and achieves goals, organized, …

Negative personality traits: Complains often, no situation is ideal, finds flaws in everyone and everything, nags, lazy, untidy, undisciplined…

Defining Items individual would use at home, always or often take with on a car ride, always keep in their pocket, purse, or wallet: small notebook, pen, photo of someone, goals list, particular snack, magnifier, etc…

 

A FICTITIOUS EXAMPLE:

George – microscope, reading glasses, science magazines, strong coffee, workaholic, generous.

Megan – sketch pad, pouch of colored pencils, mini trampoline, bike, hair accessories, doesn’t put things away, artistic, creative.

Liza – exercise bike, workout clothes, cup of tea, Kindle, stretchy headband, spearmint gum, organized work space, often too honest with comments.                                    

After I filled in the list of items for some of the people I know, I made a column for myself. Why? Because as writers, we often look to ourselves when creating our characters.

Leslie (me)Stack of small notebooks (No surprise there. Right?), favorite wood pen my husband made for me, jar of highlighters, laptop (Of course…), coffee, my pets, stack of favorite books (too long to list), focused, determined, works so hard at her writing she often neglects doing the dishes and laundry.

If you play the game I outlined above, I hope you’ll learn a lot about those you know and have fun along the way!

Happy writing!