STEM + POETRY Meets Perfect Picture Book Friday

Growing up with an astrophysicist for a dad may account for the less than usual table topics my family enjoyed during breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack breaks, long drives… You get the picture.

Most of Dad’s “mini science talks” inspired me to ask questions…

“How is it possible for the sun and moon to share the sky this morning?”

“What would happen if I stumbled into a black hole?”

“Do aliens give each other birthday presents or hugs?”

I asked heaps of questions, and my dad answered them all. And if he didn’t know the answers to my questions about life on other planets, by golly, we had the best time inventing those worlds as well as the customs and traditions of their inhabitants.

One thing we didn’t do was to invent poems to explain this or that about the world of science. And that’s where today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday selection comes in handy!

Time to meet today’s special book!

Title – Science Verse

Written by – Jon Scieszka

Illustrated by –Lane Smith

Published by – Penguin Young Readers Group – 2004

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme –  STEM poems and science

Opening – On Wednesday in science class, Mr. Nwton says, “You know, if you listen closely enough, you can hear the poetry of science in everything.”

I listen closely. On Thursday, I start hearing the poetry. In fact, I start hearing everything as a science poem.

Mr. Newton has zapped me with a curse of SCIENCE VERSE.

(And the following pages are filled with some of the most entertaining, giggle-worthy science poems you’ve ever heard!)

Amazon Review HERE — What if a boring lesson about the food chain becomes a sing-aloud celebration about predators and prey? A twinkle-twinkle little star transforms into a twinkle-less, sunshine-eating-and rhyming Black Hole? What if amoebas, combustion, metamorphosis, viruses, the creation of the universe are all irresistible, laugh-out-loud poetry? Well, you’re thinking in science verse, that’s what. And if you can’t stop the rhymes . . . the atomic joke is on you. Only the amazing talents of Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, the team who created Math Curse, could make science so much fun.

Why do I like this book? Simply put, this book makes learning about science fun! And I dare you to try and read it aloud without singing. That’s right. I said SINGING! This book isn’t just a collection of science poems; each poem is written to the tune of a well-known poem or nursery rhyme. Picture me, sitting on one of those little chairs at the library, singing to a poem in this book titled TWINK. Yup, you guessed it, TWINK is a science poem written to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Join me for the first line, won’t you?

Twinkle-less, twinkle-less spot of black, in the starry zodiac…

Jon Scieszka’s poems deliver fun facts about science with a heavy-hand of humor. Now, tie those poems together with Lane Smith’s AMAZING illustrations, and you’ve got a book you’ll want to own.

More Science Learning

If you LOVE all things science, hop over to the S.T.E.A.M Powered Poetry Vlog HERE where your host, and my good friend, Heidi Bee Roemer is ready to take you on a fun journey into the world of science through kid-friendly poetry videos!

Watch 10 easy science experiments you can share with kids HERE.

Cool-to-watch and do experiments with water HERE.

Learn more about Jon Scieszka HERE.

Learn more about Lane Smith HERE.

Until next Friday!

The 9th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest!

Jack-O-lanterns glow on front porches, corns stalks rustle in a field, a harvest moon floats in the sky.  These wondrous sights mean one thing…

It’s time again for Susanna Leonard Hill’s

THE 9TH ANNUAL HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST!!!

halloweensie-pumpkin

This year, as children’s writers everywhere settle down to write a scary, funny, spooky, rhyming, or non-rhyming, 100-word story for children, ages 12 and under, they must include three special words in their entry…

POTION     COBWEB     TRICK

At 100 words and not one more, here is my Halloweensie entry, The Nickname Cure.

 

THE NICKNAME CURE

by Leslie L Goodman

Matilda’s nickname gave her a case of the gloomies.

Especially today on Halloween.

Since her first day at Spookamentary School,

the zombies, ghouls, and mummies called her

W A R T I L D A !

The name didn’t suit Matilda. After all, her wart was teensy-tiny.

Moments before trick-or-treating, Matilda slipped into the science lab.

She picked a sticky cobweb and two bat wings from a box.

She stirred them up with one juicy, lizard’s gizzard.

“This potion will do the trick!” said Matilda.

She dabbed the mixture on her chin and…

Ka-BOOOM!

Matilda’s wart grew large and hairy.

“Perfect!” said Matilda. “Now my nickname suits me.”

 

Happy Halloween wishes to one and all!

And good luck to the children’s writers who enter Susanna Leonard Hill’s 9th Annual Halloweensie Contest! 

A Distant Vacation + A Famous Bookstore = Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday

I was away last week on a much-needed vacation. I traveled to a city where architectural wonders rose around me as I ventured down narrow, cobblestone streets. Everywhere I turned, views left me breathless and reaching for my camera. Late one afternoon, I rode up an elevator with my family that carried us closer to the clouds and revealed an unforgettable 360-degree sight of this bustling city that never sleeps.  I toured museums, boasting treasures I had only seen in books but now stood before in awe. I tucked into tiny shops filled with tantalizing delights. I ate in restaurants that offered unbelievable, culinary masterpieces for the tummy and the eyes!

A famous store in this city made it high on my must-see list.

Misleadingly small on the outside, but filled with a labyrinth of book-filled rooms on the inside is how I would describe the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in Paris. 

When I packed my suitcase for this trip, I brought as little as possible so as to leave as much room as possible for a few Parisian souvenirs. I imagined strolling along the Champs Elyse’es, saying, “Oooo-La-La!” each time I fell in love with a sweater, purse, or scarf. Maybe I’d bring home a small replica of the Eiffel Tower to sit beside me at my desk or a box of utterly-divine chocolates. Instead, I needed to borrow space in my husband’s suitcase for the stack of books I couldn’t resist. 

The interesting detail about the book I’m sharing with you today is that I purchased it without knowing what the story was about. For the first time, I didn’t read the synopsis, and I didn’t read a single word on any page; instead, I became intrigued by the cover illustration, opened the book to the first page, and knew I wasn’t leaving the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore without this treasure.

Title – How the Stars Came to Be

Written and illustrated by – Poonam Mistry

Published by – Tate Publishing -2019

Suitable for ages – absolutely everyone – children and adults

Topics/Theme –  Folk tale, how the stars came to be, father and daughter story

Opening – In a time many years ago, there was only the light from the Sun and the Moon. There once lived a Fisherman’s daughter who loved to feel the light on her skin. During the day she would dance and play, weaving in and out of the Sun’s rays.

Amazon Review HERE –  Have you ever wondered how the stars came to be in the sky?

The Fisherman’s Daughter loved to dance in the sunlight and bathe in the glow of the moon. But when the moon disappeared for a few nights each month, she worried about her father and how he would find his way home from the sea in the deep darkness. When the sun finds her sobbing one night, he takes one of his rays and shatters it onto the ground, creating the stars and giving the girl the task of putting them into the dark night sky. This beautifully illustrated story gives us a new folk tale, and a new way to look up at the night sky.

Learn more about Poonam Mistry HERE.

Sit back and watch this youtube video, filled with illustrations by Poonam Mistry HERE.

If you have an extra moment,  I’ve included 16 photographs from my vacation.

PARIS 2019 PHOTO ALBUM

2500

The famed Shakespeare and Company Bookstore

2516

Notre Dame

2431

tree-lined lane near the Pont Alexandre III Bridge

2409

Irresistible pastries

2223

View from the Arc de Triomphe

2097

Inside the Louvre

2019

Streets at Montmartre

2524

A Parisian sight

1998

Windows at Saint-Vincent-de-Paul

1983

Sacre’ Coeur Basilica

(21)

A decadent chocolate dessert

(20)

Pont Alexandre III Bridge

(19)

Tuileries Garden

(18)

Rue du Petite Pont

(16)

Me at the Eiffel Tower

(15)

An amazing Cappuccino

Au revoir until next Friday!

Need a Friend? Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday Review Shows You How.

Let’s travel back in time…

I was a couple of months into first grade. My friends from kindergarten and I were a year older, ready to say goodbye to little kid activities like stacking blocks and hello to reading Sally, Dick, and Jane books. Except instead of joining my friends on their first-grade adventure, I had more than stacking blocks to say goodbye to.

My family was moving, and I’d never see any of my friends again.

My childhood was not the age of cell phones, texts, and Instagram posts.  Sure, I could have written snail mail letters, but let’s not forget that I was just learning to write my name and spell simple words, so writing newsy letters to keep in touch wasn’t an option.

Moving meant starting from scratch.

Of course, all of the kids in my new homeroom had playground buddies and knew who would trade pudding cups for Ding Dongs while I was clueless who would want to trade me ANYTHING for my salami and parsley sandwich -guaranteed to leave flecks of green between your teeth. Yes, I was the only kid who survived elementary school without ever having a normal, peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I also didn’t get to wear jeans, but that’s another story…

Looking back, I wish today’s picture book, Neville, existed when I was six. The main character, in this adorable book by Norton Juster, figures out how to make friends in a most ingenious way. Yes, it would take courage, but boy does this kid’s method work!

In case you’re wondering where you heard the name, Norton Juster, he is the well-known and beloved author of The Phantom Toll Booth, The Hello, Goodbye Window, and many more remarkable books.

Title – Neville

Written by – Norton Juster

Illustrated by –G. Brian Karas

Published by – Schwartz and Wade Books -2011

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme –  Moving and making friends

Opening – The big gray van pulled away from the curb, moved slowly down the street, and disappeared around the corner. Now it was quiet, and there he was, where he really didn’t want to be.

Amazon Review HERE – Written by the acclaimed author of The Phantom Tollbooth, this Amazon Best Picture Book of the Year is a simply told story about a boy who moves to a new neighborhood and finds a unique way to make friends. With whimsical illustrations by award-winning illustrator G. Brian Karas, here is a read-aloud that’s great for storytime, and is sure to be a hit among fans of Juster, Karas, and anyone who is “the new kid on the block.”

“[T]his ingenious foray into breaking into a new neighborhood makes for an amusing and appealing story.” —School Library Journal

Learn more about Norton Juster in this video interview HERE.

Enjoy this Q & A with G. Brian Karas HERE.

Did your family move when you were growing up? If you have a memory you’d like to share, I hope you’ll include it in the comments.

Until next Friday!

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, you’ll meet a man who knows the names of EVERYTHING!

I was on one of those baking-hot family vacations, back in the days when having air conditioning in a car was optional. Seriously. My sister and I were probably the only kids at school whose parents would not spend the extra dollars to have it installed.

“Roll down your window,” they’d say, “and poke your head out if you’re hot.”

Okay, maybe not in those exact words, but the coolest air my sister and I enjoyed in the back seat was called WD50 which translates to windows down at 50mph.

I’m remembering one vacation out in Colorado when we drove through the Rocky Mountains. The meadow flowers bowed in the breezes, the sun blazed over us, and the views were spectacular. Up in the passenger seat, my mother glanced up from her map to gaze out the window. (Yes. These were the days before cell phones. How did we manage to live back then???)

“STOP!” my mom ordered. “There’s no one behind us. Back up about one-hundred feet, and pull over.”

Of course, we all thought Mom had spotted an injured animal and asked what we were backing down the mountain to rescue.

“I saw a (insert LONG Latin name of a botanical species found in Colorado EXCEPT at that particular time of year).”

Dad pulled over. Mom popped the trunk and pulled out a small pail and trowel. (These were standard equipment in our car when traveling with my mother.) Mom marched up the hill, flashed us her triumphant smile, knelt, and dug up the rare species to bring home for her rock garden. I don’t think there was a plant she didn’t know the proper botanical name for. That goes for bird names, too.

As always, my story ties in with today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review. Yes, my story was about my mother, who, like my dad, amazed me with all she knew–just like the child in today’s book who feels amazement at his father’s extensive knowledge.

My Father Knows the Names of Things is written by Jane Yolen, the beloved, award-winning children’s author of more than 370 books and illustrated by the imaginative, award-winning illustrator, Stephane Jorisch.

Title – My Father Knows the Names of Things

Written by – Jane Yolen

Illustrated by –Stephane Jorisch

Published by – Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers – 2010

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics/Theme –  Learning, sharing, father and child time.

Opening –

My father knows the names of things,

Each bird that sings,

Their nicknames, too,

He knows the names of dogs

And cheese

And seven words that all mean blue.

Amazon Review HERE – From each bird that sings, to every kind of cloud, to all of the planets, the father in this story knows the names of them all–and takes the time to impart his knowledge to his child. As they walk together outside, the father points out which mosses are the fuzziest and which insects are the buzziest, which flowers are the tallest and which beetles are the smallest. Jane Yolen’s lyrical text is complemented by Stephane Jorisch’s soft artwork, a pairing that is touching without being overly sentimental, which makes this the perfect choice for fathers and children to share.

Learn more about Jane Yolen HERE.

Learn more about Stephane Jorisch HERE.

Until next Friday!

Things Are Heating Up This Perfect Picture Book Friday With A DRAGON!

Have you ever wanted something so much but having it was impossible because an obstacle stood in your way? I’m not talking about the agony of climbing up a bean pole that’s growing through the clouds, getting past a starving giant (unnoticed), and snatching his golden goose. No, nothing challenging like that.

In the case of today’s book for Perfect Picture Book Friday, our main character, Duncan, desperately wants to read a book all the way through to those two wonderful words, ‘The End,’ but something keeps stopping him.

What could possibly stop Duncan from finishing a book?

I’m glad you asked. Well, Duncan happens to be a dragon–the FIRE BREATHING sort who has a habit of turning his books into ashes. I’m not going to spoil the ending for you, but I will say that the solution to Duncan’s problem is so picture book perfect, I recommend you read this book to find out how he solves his heated dilemma.

Title – Duncan The Story Dragon

Written and illustrated by – Amanda Driscoll

Published by – Alfred A. Knopf – 2015

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics/Theme –  Reading, determination, and friendship

(Isn’t this the cutest illustration?) 

Opening – Duncan the Dragon loved to read. When Duncan read a book, the story came to life… and his imagination caught fire. Unfortunately, so did his book. (In the land of picture books, I call this a perfect opening to a perfect book.) 

Amazon Review HERE – Duncan the Dragon loves to read. When he reads a story, his imagination catches fire! Unfortunately . . . so does his book. Fire breath is great for roasting marshmallows, but it’s not so great for reading. Duncan just wants to get to those two wonderful words, like the last sip of a chocolate milkshake: The End. Will he ever find out how the story ends? This bright, warm tale champions determination, friendship, and a love for books. And milkshakes!

Learn more about Amanda Driscoll HERE.

Check out this seriously adorable Fire Breathing Dragon craft project on YouTube.

Until next Friday!

Anything Is Possible this Perfect Picture Book Friday.

We all know what it’s like to have a dream we desperately want to come true. I’m not talking about the dream of a weed-free garden, a fridge filled with veggies that won’t spoil, or a dog that won’t need taking out in the middle of the night. I’m talking about those dreams that feel unobtainable no matter how much we want them, no matter how hard we try to make them happen, no matter how powerfully we visualize them becoming real. We might draw a picture of our dream and tape it on the fridge or bathroom mirror where we will see it every day. Some days, looking at the picture fills us with determination and drive while on other days, just glancing at that picture fills us with anguish because nothing we have done is getting us any closer to our dream.

But then…

We reach out to someone. We share our impossible dream. We talk about our struggles and steps we’ve taken toward holding our dream. And they say the words we’ve been aching to hear.

“I know how you can get there.”

And with their wisdom, a handful of encouragement, some fresh ideas, and a new perspective…

DREAM = REALITY!

And that is what today’s book for Perfect Picture Book Friday is all about.

Title – Anything is Possible

Written by – Giulia Belloni

Illustrated by – Marco Trevisan

Published by – Owlkids Books, Inc. 2013

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics/Theme –  Perseverance and teamwork

Opening – This is the story of a sheep who, from the top of her hill watched the birds fly and thought to herself: “How lucky they are! They can choose how they look at things: from far away, from up close, or from somewhere in between.”

Amazon Review HERE – The sheep in this story is a dreamer, while her friend the wolf has a more practical disposition. One day the sheep runs to the wolf with an idea. She wants to build a flying machine! But the wolf tells her it’s impossible. Eventually, however, the sheep’s dream gets the better of the wolf’s doubts, and they begin to work on the project together. Through perseverance and the process of trial and error, the sheep and wolf manage to create a winning design, brought to life by architecturally and mathematically inspired paper collage art. At the end of this whimsical tale, even the wolf has to admit that anything is possible!

Why do I like this book? This book serves as a reminder to children and adults that the dreams we believe are impossible aren’t if we have faith in our abilities, focus on the steps to get us there, and a friend who can lend some wisdom and a hand. The story also reminds us that it’s okay to ask for help and that when the answer to a problem isn’t clear, two minds are often better than one.

Learn more about Giulia Belloni HERE.

Learn more about Marco Trevisan HERE.

Until next Friday!

Messes aren’t always disasters. See why this Perfect Picture Book Friday!

I’m pretty sure many of us could look back to our childhood years and identify a little, and hopefully a lot, with Jamie, the main character in today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday selection, Down Here by Valerie Sherrard.

Jamie is a little boy with a big imagination. He sees the world in ways grownups no longer can. Where his mother sees a mess of blankets thrown over chairs, pillows piled up precariously, and a toboggan IN THE HOUSE, Jamie sees a castle where knights tame dragons to roast marshmallows. Don’t you already love this kid?

Although I never played with imaginary knights and dragons when I was little, I did play under the dining room table. I’d imagine the long tablecloth, that swept down to the floor, made the walls of my secret room. I would dump out my box of Legos and build a small village for my dolls. Some days, I’d pull my little, wooden stool under the table and pretend it was an artist’s table. I’d spread out my paper and crayons and color pictures of my family and flowers. Then, I’d tape up my mini-masterpieces to the underside of the tablecloth to decorate my secret room. Minus the dragons, I was a little like Jamie. Maybe that’s why I love today’s book so much.

Title – Down Here – view on Amazon HERE.

Written by – Valerie Sherrard

Illustrated by – Isabelle Malenfant

Published by – Fitzhenry & Whiteside – 2015

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics/Theme –  Imaginative play, looking at things differently

Opening – Everyone is good at something.

My sister Lynn is good at drawing cats. Our fridge is covered with her pictures!

My brother Marcus is good at telling scary stories. Mom claps and says he will be a great author some day.

I am good at building. I can build ANYTHING! There is only one problem.

Why do I like this book? I had forgotten, until my daughter was about two or three, that everything around me can be seen from more perspectives than simply straight on or from top-down. My little girl walked and crawled close to the ground, she could see the undersides of furniture, the undersides of the dog’s belly, and the underside of a skirt on a mannequin at Macy’s… But that’s another story. Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday selection, Down Here, reminds us not to be quick to judge until we have looked at something from all sides. I call that a great reason to like love this book.

Learn more about Valerie Sherrard HERE.

Learn more about Isabelle Malenfant HERE.

Are you interested in ideas to encourage imaginative play? You’ll find ten HERE.

Until next Friday!

We’re peeking into Grandma’s Purse this Perfect Picture Book Friday. :)

My grandmother’s purse was nothing like the enormous, treasure-filled bag in today’s picture book, Grandma’s Purse, by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. My grandmother preferred a small, tan, leather clutch with a delicate snap closure to keep her few necessities near. Although she never emptied out her purse, like the grandmother does in today’s book, I was naturally curious to see inside and often leaned over to peek when she removed a lace hankie with her initials embroidered at the corner, her compact mirror engraved with a bouquet of her favorite violets, or a small comb. Despite the petite size of her clutch, my grandmother found space for her coin purse and a few wrapped, lemon candies she shared with me.

If your grandmother had a treasure-filled purse, like the one in today’s book review, I hope you’ll share in the comments a few of the special items she packed that brought you smiles.  🙂

Title – Grandma’s Purse

Written and illustrated by – Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Published by – Alfred A. Knopf -2018

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics –  Grandmothers, playing dress-up, sharing.

Opening – Today my grandma Mimi is coming to visit. When Mimi comes over, she always has a new treasure to share. And no matter what it is, it comes from inside her purse.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. Spend the day with a grandma and granddaughter in this charming picture book about the magic found in their favorite accessory, perfect for readers who love How to Babysit a Grandma!

When Grandma Mimi comes to visit, she always brings warm hugs, sweet treats…and her purse. You never know what she’ll have in there–fancy jewelry, tokens from around the world, or something special just for her granddaughter. It might look like a normal bag from the outside, but Mimi and her granddaughter know that it’s pure magic!

In this adorable, energetic ode to visits from grandma, beloved picture book creator Vanessa Brantley Newton shows how an ordinary day can become extraordinary.

Related image

Why do I like this book? Vanessa is both a gifted storyteller and a brilliant illustrator.  With just the right expression, the perfect head tilt, and swing of clothing, she brings to life all of the enthusiasm and delight one little girl feels when her grandmother comes for a visit. Each picture is loaded with sweet details to keep the most fidgety of listeners engaged. And for the adults reading this book, this story serves as a sweet stroll down memory lane.
Watch Vanessa Brantley-Newton read her book on YouTube HERE.

Learn about Vanessa Brantley-Newton HERE and HERE.

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

Did your grandmother keep fun treasures in her purse? Candy? A small present? Photographs of her loved ones? I would absolutely love to hear some of your treasured “Grandma’s purse” memories in the comments.

Until next Friday!

Telephone – a fun game and picture book this Perfect Picture Book Friday.

I was one of twenty-three fidgety kids lined up between the overflowing supplies cabinet and the smelly, gerbil cage in Mrs. Larson’s third-grade class, waiting for instructions on how to play this game.

“Think up a message,” Mrs. Larson told the first student in line, “and whisper it to the person standing next to you. Keep the message going down the line to the last person. He’ll tell us what he heard. Then, we’ll see how close it is to the original message.”

Of course, knowing the end message was expected to be a far cry from the original words, most kids tweaked more than a few words while whispering their ear-tickling messages behind cupped hands.

This fun game of Telephone is the basis for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) review.

Title – Telephone

Written by – Mac Barnett

Illustrated by – Jen Corace

Published by – Chronicle Books – 2014

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics/Theme –  listening skills

Opening –  Tell Peter: Fly home for dinner.     Tell Peter: Hit pop flies and homers.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE.  It’s time to fly home for dinner! In this witty picture book from award-winning and bestselling author Mac Barnett, a mother bird gives the bird next to her a message for little Peter. But passing messages on a telephone line isn’t as simple as it sounds. Each subsequent bird understands Mama’s message according to its own very particular hobbies. Will Peter ever get home for dinner? This uproarious interpretation of a favorite children’s game will get everyone giggling and is sure to lead to countless rereads.

Why do I like this book?  What’s not to love about a book that takes the adult reader back in time while introducing kids to a marvelously funny game? Jen Corace’s, crisp, colorful illustrations are expressive and humorous – the perfect pairing for an ever-changing, off-the-charts, funny picture book by Mac Barnett.
Watch the book trailer HERE.

Learn about Mac Barnett HERE.

Lear about Jen Corace HERE.

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

What childhood games are you fondly recalling? I’d love for you to share them in the comments

Until next Friday!