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.

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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.

Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words Contest!

Yay! it’s time for Vivian Kirkfield’s 2nd Annual #50Precious Words Contest!

(Loud cheering, please!)

The contest is based on the challenge from Bennet Cerf to Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, to write a children’s book using only 50 words. True, the classic book, Green Eggs and Ham, has over 700 words…but in keeping with his challenge, the story only contains 50 unique words.

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Vivian’s contest? 50 words total!

Coming in at exactly 50 words, here is my entry.

PET STORE PROBLEM

by Leslie L Goodman

 

 

Ten doggies at the pet store.

I’m sure I can’t decide.

Plump and shaggy, sleepy, happy,

wrinkled, and brown-eyed.

 

Then, over in the corner,

four puppies squirm and wiggle.

Seeing me they bound on over.

My insides start to giggle.

 

Although my house is small,

I’ll simply take them all.

 

I hope you’ll stop by on Friday, March 10th for my interview with picture book author, Janet Nolan. And because Friday is also Perfect Picture Book Friday, I’ll be reviewing her remarkable book, Seven and a Half Tons of Steel.

Seven and a Half Tons of Steel is a story that follows the journey of a steel beam that once belonged to the World Trade Center and became the bow of a navy ship.

Good luck to all who enter Vivian’s 50 precious Words Contest!

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 the lovely poetry of Elaine Magliaro

My love of writing poems goes clear back to my childhood. And one of my favorite times to write poems was when I vacationed with my family. While my friends flew toward their summer destinations to relax at the beach or pool, my family traveled by car. I’m recalling the 70’s when air conditioning was optional and my parents never saw the need to spend money for something they could get for free by cranking down a window. Mom mapped out our itinerary, noting the places and attractions she and Dad wanted to see like caves, canyons, rivers, waterfalls, and statues. We’d load up our jeep, lay a scratchy wool blanket down to keep our legs from sticking to the vinyl seats, and head across the country for two weeks.

Mom encouraged me to journal about the sites on our vacations. Often, I wrote about our travels in rhyme. Every little thing along the way that caught my attention became immortalized in a poem: a rosy sunset, prairie dogs popping up in a field, a bird nesting in a cactus, tumbleweed moseying along the road…  This is why I was drawn to the picture book, THINGS TO DO. Elaine Magliaro chose a variety of simple topics for her poetry and, like the Orb Spider in her book, she wove a series of startling, surprising, and lovely poems for children to help them see the world in a fresh light.

Title – Things To Do

Written by – Elaine Magliaro

and illustrated by – Catia Chien

Published by – Chronicle Books – 2016

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Theme – Poetry on a broad range of subjects.

Opening – Things to do if you are DAWN. Shoo away night. Wash the eastern sky with light. Wake the sleeping sun: Rise and shine!

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. With playful prose and vivid art, Things to Do brings to life the small moments and secret joys of a child’s day. There are wonders everywhere. In the sky and on the ground—blooming in a flower bed, dangling from a silken thread, buzzing through the summer air—waiting …waiting to be found. In this thoughtful and ingenious collection of poems, Elaine Magliaro, an elementary school teacher for more than three decades and a school librarian for three years, and illustrator Catia Chien provide a luminous glimpse of the ordinary wonders all around us.

Why do I like this book? The poems are light, inventive, and fresh. I found myself smiling at the gentle humor and thoughtful word choices. Catia Chien’s illustrations reminded me of the simple illustrations in the picture books I loved as a child. Bursting with color and simplicity, her style will greatly appeal to children.

Learn more about Elaine Magliaro HERE.

Learn more about Catia Chien HERE.

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

An exercise in writing poetry with children: Bring paper and pencils along on a walk and make a list of five or more things you see when you look up and five or more things you see when you look down.

Close your eyes and make a list of what you hear.

make a list of what you smell.

From your lists, select the one thing that interests you most.

write down words to describe it. (Color, texture, sound, movement…)

To find more descriptive words, imagine you are describing the item to someone who has never seen it before. What does it remind you of? What does it look similar to? What does it sound similar to? Can you compare its size to something else?

Using your new list of words, play at writing a poem.

Valentiny Contest Entry – Showing Love

Once again, Susanna Hill is hosting her Valentiny Story Contest! (Loud applause accompanied by stellar cheers, please.)

THE RULES: Write a Valentine story appropriate for children ages 12 and under with a maximum of 214 words in which someone is confused!  Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone confused. (It can be the main character but doesn’t have to be.) You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)

I admit I struggled to write this story, and my struggle had nothing to do with keeping my word count to 214 words. Instead, I felt confused as to how I should incorporate confusion into my story. After all, what is confusing about Valentine’s Day?  You like him. He likes you. You give him a card. He gives you flowers. People wear red or pink… You get the picture. Nothing much confusing here. My inspiration for this story came when I thought back to when I was so young my mother had to explain this holiday to me.

 

valentinywriting-contest2017

Coming in at 210 words…

SHOWING LOVE

By Leslie Leibhardt Goodman

     Edgar poked his head above his nest. Down below, the animals behaved strangely.

     Squirrel sneaked home, clutching wildflowers in one paw. By the stream, Frog handed

heart-shaped lily pads to his friends. Outside his den, Bear recited a poem to his wife.

     “Mama!” Chirped Edgar. “Is today special?”

     “Every day is special,” Mama said. “But today is Valentine’s Day, a day when you show

your love.”

     Edgar flitted to the forest floor and picked poppies. When Squirrel scurried close, Edgar

asked, “Are these flowers love?”

     “Flowers aren’t love,” Squirrel said, “but yours are lovely.”

     Edgar plucked a lily pad from the pond. When Frog hopped near, Edgar asked, “Is this

heart-shaped lily pad love?”

     “Heart-shaped lily pads aren’t love,” Frog said, “but yours is lovely.”

     When Bear ambled by, Edgar asked, “Is my poem love?” He cleared his throat and

recited,

     “I’m glad I hatched inside this nest.

In all the world, Mom you’re the best.”

     “Poems aren’t love, Bear said, “but yours is lovely.”

     Edgar thought a moment. Then, he flitted and fluttered. “I know how to show Mama my

love!” he said.

     Up, up, up. Edgar flew to his nest. He wrapped his wings around his mother.

     “I love you so much,” Edgar said. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Mama.”

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.”

“Really?”

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?

Everything.

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.)

kulottes

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.

“I HEARD YOU GOT A COLD, UNCLE JOE.”

“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.

“HI, MICHELLE! HOW WAS LATIN CLASS?”

“Fine. How’s your uncle, Leslie?”

“HE’S GOT A COLD. WHY DO YOU ASK?”

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.