Inclusion Meets Perfect Picture Book Friday

I waited on the bleachers, wedged between a competitive jock, an energetic cheerleader, and other eager students to play volleyball. The gym teacher called up two students to be team leaders.

“Take turns,” he said, “calling out the names of the classmates you want on your team.” Without saying these exact words, the basic translation goes something like this… Choose the most popular kids first, and work your way down through the least desirable ones. By the way, this statement isn’t open for debate; it’s a sad fact.

I watched as classmate after classmate dashed down bleachers to stand with their team leader. Soon, I had ample space around me. Space enough to stretch my legs and arms, flail them if I was in the mood, and not touch anyone because I was the only student left, and both teams had a matched number of players. Go ahead and dab at your eyes with the nearest tissue or your sleeve. I’ll wait.

At this point, everyone turned toward the bleachers. Their eyes bored into me as if I were a strange ingredient that would destroy their perfect recipe. Does anyone out there know what it’s like to hear, “We don’t want Leslie on our team!” or “Well, neither do we!” Anyone???

[Okay, straight off, I duck when a ball flies at my head. It’s instinctive. I don’t fight the impulse or make apologies for it. I know I do this, and everyone in my class knew this about me, too.]

The gym teacher, confident I wasn’t the make-it-or-break-it player to help either team win or lose, assigned me to one of the teams. I walked past the cheering group and over to the bunch that couldn’t contain their groans.

As you might have guessed, I ducked when the ball flew at me or sidestepped it every chance I got. In the last minute of the game, when both teams were tied, the opposing team went in for the kill. One of the big guys hefted the ball straight for my head, accompanied by a derogatory remark. I got mad, raised my hands together in a hard fist, and BAM! I scored the point that changed how everyone looked at me.

A bunch of my teammates started swearing in that good way that meant they couldn’t believe what just happened. The teacher shook his head in disbelief. “I didn’t think you had it in you,” he said, writing an A after my name in his grade book.

The takeaway from this story is that the small and meek can make a difference when given a chance (or when angered), which leads me to my second autumn-perfect picture book review of The Littlest Pumpkin.

Title – The Littlest Pumpkin

Written by  –  R.A. Herman

Illustrated by  – Betina Ogden

Published  – Scholastic – 2001

Suitable for ages – 4 to 8.

Topics – Dreams and inclusion

Opening – It was Halloween, and there were 18 pumpkins left at Bartlett’s Farm Stand. The pumpkins looked their very best, because they all wanted to be taken home and made into jolly jack-o’-lanterns.

The Littlest Pumpkin had the biggest dreams of all. She saw herself shining in the dark, with ghosts, monsters, witches, and fairies gathered around her singing a Halloween song. And today was the day when all her dreams were going to come true.

Amazon Review HERE – When Bartlett’s Farm Stand closes for the season, the Littlest Pumpkin, who longs to make someone happy for Halloween, is devastated to be the only pumpkin left, but when a group of mice come along, they make the Littlest Pumpkin the happiest pumpkin in the world!

Why do I like this book? How could I read this book and not connect with the Littlest Pumpkin? Her dreams were just as big and valid as the dreams of the other 17 pumpkins gathered together at Bartlett’s Farm Stand. And despite her wish to be chosen by a child that Halloween, she was passed over again and again until… The heart-hugging ending which I won’t give away. This story offers hope, and proof that dreams can come true.

Learn more about R.A. Herman HERE.

Learn more about Betina Ogden HERE.

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


Making Room this Perfect Picture Book Friday

Back in college, I’d meet up with four of my friends on Friday’s for movie night. We’d take turns choosing both the movie and the mode of transportation to the theater. I didn’t have a car, so on my days, we caught the bus. Nine times out of ten, everyone knew I’d choose a rom-com. The world comes at us with enough reasons to be afraid; why add misery to that stew?

One Friday, it was Rick’s turn. Needing to make up for the mushy screen time he’d endured the previous Friday, he chose the testosterone-fueled, bloodbath movie, Scarface with Al Pacino. Big cast, few remaining survivors. I spent much of the movie pretending I’d lost something valuable in my popcorn. Meg Ryan would NEVER be in a movie like that!

But to give a reason for sharing this memory, Rick’s chosen transportation that day (for all FIVE of us) was his moped. We piled on each other’s laps like a stacked sandwich, and with all our weight, the poor moped strained forward at two miles per hour. Walking would have saved time. Somehow, we all managed to score a ride and turn a few heads on our way to the theater, which leads me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday Review of…


Title – Room on the Broom

Written by  –  Julia Donaldson

Illustrated by  – Axel Scheffler

Published  – Puffin Books – 2001

Suitable for ages – 4 to 8.

Topics – Friendship and companionship

Opening – The witch had a cat and a hat that was black and long ginger hair in a braid down her back. How the cat purred and how the witch grinned, as they sat on their broomstick and flew through the wind. But how the witch wailed and how the cat spat, when the wind blew so wildly, it blew off the hat.

Amazon Review – HERE. The witch and her cat are happily flying through the sky on a broomstick when the wind picks up and blows away the witch’s hat, then her bow, and then her wand!  Luckily, three helpful animals find the missing items, and all they want in return is a ride on the broom.  But is there room on the broom for so many friends?  And when disaster strikes, will they be able to save the witch from a hungry dragon?

Why do I like this book? When I think about witch stories, I expect to read about old hags who, like the witch in Hansel and Gretel, got her jollies baking children into cookies to stand outside of her house of sweets. But the witch in Room on the Broom surprised me. She loves animals as much as I do, she makes room for them–no matter what, and she looks out for their best interests. Truly a sweetie! As it turns out, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are the dynamic writing and illustrating duo of the beloved picture book The Gruffalo and many others. You’re sure to fall in love with both the rollicking, rhyming story and the playful illustrations the second you open this book.

Learn more about Julia Donaldson HERE.

Listen to a read aloud of Room on the Broom HERE.

Watch an wonderful, 25-minute movie of Room on the Broom HERE.

Learn more about Axel Scheffler HERE.

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


Perfect Picture Book Friday Shares a Book (within a book)Written by a Mysterious Author.

Saturday was the day my dad drove into town to run errands. Saturday was also the day my sister and I climbed into the car to join him. Just the three of us. First, we’d head over to Lang’s News Depot, in the town square, to buy a newspaper. A group of regulars always sat along the counter, drinking coffee and chatting with the owner. From there, Dad took us to the bakery where I faithfully pointed to the bismarcks and savored every blessed mouthful of the sweet doughnut and divine raspberry filling. Next, we’d head to the hardware store where Dad reminded me of a little boy in a candy store. All of those marvelous nuts and bolts and screws and gizmos!

The second to the last stop was always the library. I still remember the feeling of awe, looking out at the vast sea of books and the sound of my wooden chair, squealing across the tiles when I pulled it out to spend time with a book. I can also hear the infrequent “Shhhhhhh.” from the librarian when people spoke above a hush. I chose my books for the week and carried them back out to the car. I’d already read the first pages and couldn’t wait to see if Charlie would find the last golden ticket or if Meg and her little brother, Charles Wallace, would ever locate their father, but we still had one more stop to make before we headed for home…

If you love reading, you already have something in common with the characters in the book I’m sharing with you today.

Title – Library Mouse – A Friend’s Tale

Written and illustrated by  – Daniel Kirk

Published  – Scholastic – 2009

Suitable for ages – 4 to 8.

Topics – Reading, writing, and friendship

Opening – Sam was a library mouse. He lived in a little hole in the wall behind the children’s reference books. Sam loved to read, and he loved to write, too. Everyone loved his little books. But Sam was very shy, and no one at the library had ever met him.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. Celebrated writer and illustrator Daniel Kirk brings to life the joys of reading, writing, and sharing in this all-new Library Mouse adventure. Sam the library mouse loves to write, and the children love his little books, which he leaves on the library shelves for them to find. But no one at the library has ever met him. When Tom can’t find a partner for a book-making assignment and finds Sam’s secret hole behind the children’s reference section, will the pair be able to work together, or will Sam’s secret identity be spoiled forever? A heartwarming tale about collaboration and creative ambitions, this book will enchant any young aspiring author or illustrator.

Why do I like this book? I grew up with books, and I don’t mean a pile on the coffee table and one in the bathroom. My father built bookcases to hold many books with deep shelves that concealed extra rows of books. Yes, I would pull a book off of the shelf and find another behind it, and another behind that one. The book, Library Mouse, shares a similar love for books by the school librarian, a mysterious author named Sam, and a little boy named Tom. When small, handmade books appear in the library, Tom decides to discover the true identity of the mysterious author. What he finds is (spoiler alert, I’m about to reveal the author.) a mouse. Yes! A mouse who writes books. I think that’s pretty amazing! In time, Tom’s discovery of Sam grows into a rare and precious friendship that truly touched this book reviewer’s heart.

Learn more about Daniel Kirk HERE.

And what was the last stop my dad made on Saturday? 

Every Saturday, my dad visited a florist on the way home. He always took his time to look at every bouquet, always choosing the most beautiful one to bring home to my mom. He never missed a Saturday in over thirty years.

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


P.S. If you have a fond memory of the library or a favorite book you read as a child, I hope you’ll share it with me in the comments.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Something Else.

See that girl, sitting alone on the bleachers, waiting to get picked for a team in gym class?

Nobody calls her name because she’s the girl that doesn’t play to win. She plays for the joy of being with others. To her, winning means someone has to lose, and she doesn’t want to be the cause of anyone’s sad feelings. 

See that girl in the lunchroom, eating a sandwich while pretending to read a book?

Nobody sits with her because she never brings ‘normal’ food to school–nothing anyone would want in trade for something they brought.  

See that girl at the back of the classroom, the one that doesn’t wear anything cool?

Nobody wants to get to know her because they think they know everything based on her appearance. 

Then, one day…

Someone calls her name and asks her to be a part of their group.

One day, someone sits beside her in the lunchroom and offers to trade snacks.

One day, someone asks questions to find out what she likes to do in her free time, what places she dreams of seeing, what thoughts fill her head at night when she can’t sleep, what she hopes for, what she cares about, and what she loves almost as much as air. 

This brings me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review of Something Else.  

Title – Something Else

Written by  – Kathryn Cave

Illustrated by  – Chris Riddell

Published  – MONDO Publishing -1994

Suitable for ages – 4 to 8.

Topics – Being different, acceptance, compassion, and friendship.

Opening – On a windy hill alone
with nothing to be friends with lived Something Else. 
He knew that was what he was because everyone said so.
If he tried to sit with them or walk with them or join in their games, they always said, “Sorry. You’re not like us. You’re something else. You don’t belong.”

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. A little creature is ostracized despite his attempts to fit in, but his experiences enable him to be accepting of others’ differences.

Why do I like this book? The first impression we form about a book usually comes when we glance at the front cover. We read the title and see if our curiosity is piqued. We look at the illustration and decide if we connect with the art enough to want to see more.

I came across the book, Something Else, and wondered what the something else was. Then, I looked at those sweet eyes of the main character, who’s been named by everyone as Something Else. Although his eyes take up very little cover space, they gripped my heart and made me want to offer up hugs.

Because Something Else looks and acts differently, he is rejected by all. Despite the sad treatment he receives, he continues to make an effort to have friends by sharing his paintings, joining in on games, or sitting with others for a meal. But he is told, “You’re not like us. You’re something else.” So, he goes home. (Please say your heart is breaking for him.)

One day, a creature, much like Something Else, shows up at his front door and offers understanding and friendship. But does Something Else accept this gift? You’ll have to read the book to find out. The ending is filled with surprises sure to soften the hardest of hearts.

Words of wisdom on writing from Kathryn Cave HERE.

Illustrator for JK Rowling and other writers–meet Chris Riddell HERE.

See you back here on Monday when I share a special poem.