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.

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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!

What Makes A Mammal BEASTLY? Find out on today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday Review.

When I came up to mother’s hip, my favorite books were BIG and oversized. They brimmed with attention-holding illustrations and fun, kid-friendly facts. I was thrilled to gain tidbits of knowledge I could run and share with anyone who wasn’t too busy to listen.

“Mom! MOM! Did you know baboons make friends by picking ticks out of each other’s fur? Did you know bats all look the same but have different voices so their moms can find them? Did you know a lion’s roar can be heard up to five miles away? Did you know…”

“Did you know,” Mom said, “that I have to get dinner on the table soon? And did you know when I call that dinner is ready, you won’t need to be five miles away to hear me?”

We’d smile, hug, and I’d rush off to learn more facts I could share over a good meal.

So, if you love BIG, oversized books that brim with attention-holding illustrations and fun, kid-friendly facts, I have a feeling the book I’m sharing today will win your heart.

Title – The Big Book of Beasts

Written and illustrated by – Yuval Zommer

Beast expert — Barbara Taylor

Published by- Thames & Hudson – 2017

Topics – Beasts, animal behavior, animal facts

Opening – Beastly Families – What makes a mammal a beast? Warm-blooded animals with hair or fur have the scientific name “mammals.” Some mammals are friendly and some are beastly! Beasts are deadly, cunning and most importantly, wild! Here’s a who’s who of the most beastly of the bunch.

Synopsis from Amazon— A beautifully illustrated, informative book for children introducing them to a fascinating cast of beasts

In The Big Book of Beasts Yuval Zommer’s wonderful illustrations bring to whimsical life some of the grizzliest, hairiest, bravest, wiliest, and most fearsome beasts in the animal kingdom. Brimming with interesting facts from beast consultant Barbara Taylor, this charming picture book is a beautiful way for parents to introduce young children to the animal world―and for older children to learn by themselves.

In the first pages, children learn that beasts are wild animals that can’t be tamed and that they all defend themselves in different ways. As the book continues young readers meet specific beasts, including armadillos, bears, tigers, and the Tasmanian devil. The Big Book of Beasts also approaches the world of beasts thematically, looking at mythical beasts, Ice Age beasts, beasts on your street, and how to save beasts in danger of extinction.

The funny and conversational text, amazing facts, and glorious and quirky pictures will draw in young children over and over again.

Why do I like this book? Learning isn’t a chore with this book of beasts. Even if you already know a great deal about animals, you’ll probably come across a fun fact here and there that will have you running off to share your newly acquired knowledge with anyone who isn’t too busy to listen.

“Hey there! Do you know why a hyena’s poo is white? Do you know why beavers have orange teeth? Do you know why bats sleep upside down?”

I hope you’ll read this incredible book to find out.

Learn more about Yuval Zommer HERE

Watch an armadillo video HERE

Watch a Disney video about brown bears HERE.

Learn about bats HERE

Until next Friday!

Can a violin be worth more than a house? Find out this Perfect Picture Book Friday.

A number of blog posts ago, I wrote about the violin I found and learned to play when I was a child. I discovered the instrument in a chipped and nibbled case down in the attic. (Yes, you read that right. My childhood home had a roomy attic/loft in the basement.) When I found the honey-gold instrument, two strings were strung, and two strings had long snapped and curled off to the sides. The varnish was worn, and the instrument needed repairs and love.

When I showed the violin to my father and asked him who it belonged to, he told me the violin was his. He had purchased it countless years ago with the intentions to, one day, learn to make a violin.

Dad made phone calls, found a teacher in the area, and signed me up for violin lessons. After learning how to turn the sounds of cat squeals into pleasing music, I was ready to join a youth orchestra. That was around the time my Dad realized he was ready to dust off his dream. He read book after book after book on violin making, befriended a violin maker who offered instruction and set out with great determination to make a violin for me.

This brings us to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday book about a girl with a dream to play the violin in a place where a violin is worth more than a house.

Title – Ada’s Violin

Written – Susan Hood

Illustrated by – Sally Wern Comport

Published by- Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers — 2016

Topics – recycling, music, determination

Opening – Ada Rios grew up in a town made of trash.

(Gotta admit, I’m curious to learn more. What about you?)

Synopsis from Amazon –From award-winning author Susan Hood and illustrator Sally Wern Comport comes the extraordinary true tale of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, an orchestra made up of children playing instruments built from recycled trash.

Ada Ríos grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option…until a music teacher named Favio Chávez arrived. He wanted to give the children of Cateura something special, so he made them instruments out of materials found in the trash. It was a crazy idea, but one that would leave Ada—and her town—forever changed. Now, the Recycled Orchestra plays venues around the world, spreading their message of hope and innovation.

Why do I like this book? The main character, Ada, holds a powerful dream to play the violin in Cateura, Paraguay, a small city developed on top of a massive dump. In this impoverished place, a violin is worth more than a house. When her music teacher sets out to turn trash into musical instruments, including a violin made from an old paint can, an aluminum baking tray, a fork, and pieces of wooden crates, Ada proves that passion + practice = perfection.

Learn more about Susan Hood HERE.

Learn more about Sally Wern Comport HERE.

Learn more about The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura in the videos below.

Until next Friday!

What Makes a House? Find out this Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Childhood memories can seem the most distant and unreachable, like the Milkyway. But I have come to learn that with the right memory trigger, like a smell, taste, or sound, a long forgotten memory has a way of filling the mind with clarity. In my case, a childhood memory returned when I opened Deborah Freedman’s picture book, This house, once.

As the different parts came together to make a house in this book, the memory returned when my parents bought a wooded piece of land in the country. I recalled the countless weekends my family drove out to see the building progress. Trucks of different sizes dug a deep, deep hole for the foundation, stacked up stones for sturdy walls, added windows, and doors. I remember playing with my sister around the building site after the trucks drove away. We dug through the sand and earth with our bare hands, searching for dinosaur bones and other treasures, but instead found stones, insects, and frogs. Week after week, we anxiously awaited the day or parents would announce moving day. And then that happy day came. Decades have passed. Another family lives in my childhood home. But the memories are mine to hold.

Title – This house, once

Written and Illustrated by – Deborah Freedman

Published by- Atheneum Books for Young Readers – 2017

Topics – building a house, creating something, nature

Opening – This door was once a colossal oak tree about three hugs around and as high as the blue.

(Is anyone else smiling about the oak tree being about three hugs around?)

Synopsis from Amazon – Deborah Freedman’s masterful new picture book is at once an introduction to the pieces of a house, a cozy story to share and explore, and a dreamy meditation on the magic of our homes and our world.

This poetically simple, thought-provoking, and gorgeously illustrated book invites readers to think about where things come from and what nature provides.

Why do I like this book? I honestly can’t tell you which is more stunning, the text or the illustrations. Deborah Freedman is equally gifted in both the writer’s world and the illustrator’s. I was most taken in by her thoughtfulness in describing each “ingredient” needed to build a house from the door to the stones which were once tucked beneath a blanket of leaves. Each page offers another reason to love this book.

Learn more about Deborah Freedman and her books HERE.

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If you have a fond, funny, or otherwise memorable memory about creating or building something from scratch, I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Until next Friday!

It’s Show and Tell Time This Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Thinking back to my elementary school days, one of my favorite memories circles around show and tell time. Although I never brought in anything out of the ordinary, one girl in my class did.

While the first kids to share held their items for all to see, Jane walked to the front of Mrs. Kelly’s third-grade classroom with a paper bag clutched in her hands. Clearly nervous about her choice of what to share, Jane’s knuckles grew whiter the harder she clenched the rolled up top of that bag, desperate to keep whatever she’d brought from escaping. Or so we believed…

Jane looked long and hard at her bag. Then, she looked at the teacher.

Crinkle, crinkle, crinkle.

Jane unfolded the crimped top and reached her hand into the bag. No one breathed while we waited to see what lurked within.

“This is a freshly cut chicken foot,” Jane said. “My family raises chickens, and I can make this foot move.”

Was she kidding?

When Jane grabbed a dangling tendon and gave it a tug, every squeamish girl in room 305 grossed out as the claw-like foot gripped and released like a grizzled witch’s hand. The boys, however, circled Jane, eager for a turn to make the foot clench next. When Jane went on to tell us how long a chicken can run around without its head, Mrs. Kelly changed the rules of Show and Tell. From that day on, all items brought in to share had to pass her approval.

And this brings me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday Review.

Title – Rotten Teeth

Written by- Laura Simms

Illustrated by – David Catrow

Published by- Houghton Mifflin Company – 1998

Topics – Show and Tell, sharing,

Opening – Melissa Hermann was the shortest person in her first-grade class. She was also the only one who hadn’t brought in anything for Show and Tell.

Elaine Estes showed the class a plastic dinosaur footprint. Carmine Appaseed shared his entire glow-in-the-dark sticker collection. Even shy Fern Miller had brought in her baby hamster. It sat in a cage in the room all morning.

But nothing from Melissa’s house seemed special enough.

Synopsis from AmazonSpeaking in front of the class isn’t easy for small people like Melissa Herman. Especially when there’s nothing very special to say about her house or her family or herself. But with the help of her older brother, Melissa borrows a bottle from her father’s dental office to take to show and tell. The teacher is appalled, but the children are intrigued. David Catrow’s hilariously zany illustrations reveal that there is nothing ordinary about Melissa Herman, or her house or her family. The bright artwork is laugh-aloud funny and will have children begging to hear the story again, or maybe invent their very own tale.

Why do I like this book? Right from the start, the reader is intrigued to learn why Melissa hasn’t brought anything for Show and Tell. Is her home that normal? That boring? However, the humorous illustration on the opening page reveals Melissa does not live an ordinary life. This first look at the outside of her house hints that some strange and mysterious oddities lurk within. Maybe Melissa doesn’t think anything would be interesting enough to bring and share, but her big brother does, and boy does Melissa get a reaction from her classmates and teacher! On the entertainment scale for picture books, I give this gem a solid ten.

Hop over to Laura Simms web site HERE.

Learn more about David Catrow HERE

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If you have a fond, funny, or otherwise memorable memory about Show and Tell, I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Until next Friday!