Perfect Picture Book Friday Meets the Gift of Renewal.

When I read today’s picture book, The Branch, something in the story reminded me of my childhood. (Anyone surprised by this?) Maybe it was the remembrance of sadness when a favorite toy broke. Maybe it was the relief of having a special somebody in my life (my dad) who could always make things better with his magical know-how for fixing any broken object I set before him–and not just toys… Dad surprised me when he mended my mother’s favorite floor vase that I sort of, kind of, unintentionally skateboarded into when I was ten. I vaguely remember him reassuring me that Mom would laugh about the incident in ten years. He was mistaken. On the bright side, my sister is able to recapture the desperation in my voice when I called out to her after the, umm… incident.  Her uncanny imitation brings us both a smile.

In today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review, the broken item that brings sadness isn’t a toy or a vase, the beloved item is a tree branch. With a measure of love, imagination, and knowhow from a kind-hearted neighbor, that branch becomes a marvelous, new treasure.

Title – The Branch

Author – Mireille Messier

Illustrator – Pierre Pratt

Published by – Kids Can Press – 2016

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme – loss, imagination, upcycling

Opening – It’s past my bedtime, but I can’t sleep. Maybe it’s because I’m too excited about the holidays. Maybe it’s because of the sound of the icy rain hitting my window. Tik! Tik! Tik Ti!k!

Amazon Review HERE — When an ice storm snaps a small girl’s favorite branch from a tree in her yard, she’s crestfallen. The girl’s mom says it’s just a branch. But not to her! That was the branch I sat on, jumped from, played under. It was my castle, my spy base, my ship… Luckily, her neighbor, Mr. Frank, understands. He says the branch has potential. “What’s potential?” she asks.  It means it’s worth keeping. And so, with imagination and spirit, and Mr. Frank’s guidance and tools, The girl transforms the branch into something whole and new, giving it another purpose, and her, another place to treasure.

Learn more about Mireille Messier HERE.

Learn more about Pierre Pratt HERE.

Find some kid-friendly, upcycled, STEM craft ideas HERE.

Until next Friday!

Christmas Comes to Perfect Picture Book Friday!

From reading the stories I share each week that tie into my Perfect Picture Book Friday reviews, you’ve probably gathered that I look upon my childhood as a sweet place bathed in golden light. When I remember Christmas, I’m flooded with so many memories that the visual would resemble miles of Christmas lights. Here’s a look inside my thoughts.

I’m standing in my childhood kitchen, wearing a thin layer of flour, kneading the buttery dough that my sister, mother, and I will soon roll out. From our drawer of cookie cutters, we choose our favorites: an angel with wings spread wide, Santa carrying a sack of toys on his back, a hat-topped snowman, an assortment of trees, and hearts. Yes, hearts because Christmas delivers a bushel of love to our home that deserves heart-shaped cookies.

A second later, I’m crunching through knee-deep snow with my sister and Dad at the Christmas tree farm. Our noses are rosy, we can’t feel our fingers or cheeks, but we’re too happy to mind. We climb up on a horse-drawn hayride that brings us through a frozen field. We stroll through a forest of pines and choose the one fragrant tree that will hold our favorite ornaments. After Dad cuts down the tree, we return to the red barn for hot-spiced apple cider and warm doughnuts.

And then I’m grown up, a mom, sneaking downstairs at three in the morning to fill up stockings with tiny gifts and sweets, hide an elf, pen a tiny letter in even tinier text from the elf, sneak a bite of a cookie meant for Santa, (shhh, that’s supposed to be a secret) and climb back into bed to catch a couple of hours of sleep before I hear a small, eager voice call, “Get up! Get up! Santa came! Santa came!”

In addition to my Christmastime memories, I love the books that speak to this holiday. So, as my gift to you, I’m sharing a stack of some of my favorite literary treasures for little ones.

The Twelve Days of ChristmasThe Twelve Days of Christmas, illustrated by Anna Wright. 

To me, this book is truly a treasure to page slowly through. You’ll be met with lovingly created illustrations as well as many surprises. Get ready, because this book delivers the gift of holiday magic straight into your heart.

Link to Amazon HERE.

 

Christmas in the Big Woods (Little House Picture Book)Christmas In The Big Woods, adapted from the Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I grew up reading the entire collection of Little House on the Prairie books and have a soft spot for the family that grew up and lived in the cozy cabin nestled deep in the woods. This little book brims with molasses candy, the jangle of sleigh bells, flannel nightgowns, peppermint candy, red mittens, and a Christmas breakfast served up with gingerbread men-shaped pancakes. Yum!

Link to Amazon HERE.

 

Allie, the Christmas Spider, written by Shirley Menendez and illustrated by Maggie Kneen.

I can only describe this story as captivating, enchanting, and lovingly-written. Even if you aren’t a fan of spiders, this story will not only have you rooting for eight-legged, little Allie, but it might bring up a tear of happiness when you discover the gift she gives a special family for Christmas.

Link to Amazon Here.

 

The Night Before Christmas, words by Clement Clarke Moore, Uniquely illustrated by Raquel Jaramillo aka R.J. Palacio (author of Wonder).

Sure, the old-time, sepia-tinted photograph of Santa grabbed up my attention, but it was the letter to the reader, written by the illustrator, that captured my full attention. Apparently, Ms. Jaramillo, also known as R.J. Palacio, discovered an album of photographs under the floorboards of her home taken in 1901 on Christmas Eve. The photographs, she shares inside this book, inspired her to recreate photographs of her own to illustrate the beloved poem by Clement C. Moore.

You truly won’t want to miss this visual feast!

Link to Amazon HERE.

To each of you and your families, I wish you peace and love during this holiday season.

Leslie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Title – Pickles, Please

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

Published by – Running Press Kids – 2011

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme – A favorite snack

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

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

Learn more about Andy Myer HERE.

Get a recipe to make your own tasty pickles HERE!

Until next Friday!

My No Review Post for Perfect Picture Book Friday.

I need to apologize for this shorter-than-usual post. You’ve come to expect a story from my life that ties into each book I review on Perfect Picture Book Friday. This Friday post comes without a review and without a story. Something has happened, and I have debated whether or not to stay quiet or to share. After writing and deleting this post countless times, part of me needs to open up to you.

We’ve all read books or heard reports on the news about children being bullied and have felt helpless and sickened. Bullies take others down to feel stronger from the pain they enjoy inflicting. It’s challenging to fathom what it must be like to be on the receiving end of their cruel accusations or the target of their slander. We desperately hope and pray our children never experience this feeling. Recently, my emotions have been pulled to their limits because I have become the target of someone I once considered a friend.

My husband and daughter are the glue that holds me together. And staying focused on writing and editing my picture book manuscripts provides the ideal escape and medicine for my heart. I need to take time to heal, and when I’m ready, I’ll begin sharing my stories with you again as well as the beautiful picture books they tie into.

I wish each and every one of you a journey with as few bumps as possible, friends and family who love and support you, someone to hug, and peace.

Leslie