A Life Saved This Perfect Picture Book Friday.

People hurried in both directions down the sidewalk, trying to move around each other with their bulky shopping bags, checking messages on their phones, gazing straight ahead, never looking down. My daughter and I spotted the bird, lying on its side, an inch beyond the full swing of the door that let shoppers in and out. I grabbed my daughter’s hand and returned to our car to gather supplies: a padded lunch box for medical items I dumped out in the trunk, and a t-shirt that could be washed later.

Nobody paid attention to us as I scooped up the bird in the shirt, rolled the fabric around its quivering body, and spoke gently to its watchful eyes. “It’s going to be okay. I’m here. We’re going to find you someplace where you’ll be safe.” His heart pulsed against my palm.

I set the wrapped bird inside of the medical box to keep it quiet and still on our drive away from the stream of shoppers. My daughter held the box on her lap and spoke to the bird as I drove to a nearby field. There, I held it close and caressed my hand over the shirt, holding the wings close to its body. The bird turned his head, which told me he hadn’t flown into a window and broken his neck. His alert eyes took in his surroundings, telling me he wasn’t dazed. His feet pushed against the fabric. Strong. All signs he wasn’t badly hurt.

We unwrapped the bird. He perched on the shirt and looked around for quite some time as we sat near him, but not too close. After twenty minutes, he spread his wings, gave a test flap, and flew up into the sky. I couldn’t hold back my smile on the drive home with my daughter, forgetting we had come out that day to do some shopping. It didn’t matter. Better than coming home with milk and eggs, we came home with full hearts, glad we were able to give help where it was needed. This brings me to today’s picture book review about a toad named Vernon who discovers a bird–but not any bird. This wooden bird once lived inside of a clock. But to Vernon, Bird is real and deserving and needs help finding his home.

Title – A Home for Bird

Written and illustrated by Philip C. Stead

Published by –  Roaring Book Press – 2012

Topics – Friendship, compassion, selflessness, and determination.

Opening – Vernon was out foraging for interesting things when he found Bird.

“Are you okay?” asked Vernon.

Bird said nothing.

“Are you lost?”

Bird said nothing.

“You are welcome to join me,” said Vernon.

Synopsis from Amazon – HEREWhile out foraging for interesting things, Vernon the toad finds a new friend – a small blue bird who is curiously silent. Vernon shows Bird the river and the forest and some of his other favorite things, but Bird says nothing. Vernon introduces Bird to his friends, Skunk and Porcupine, but Bird still says nothing.

“Bird is shy,” says Vernon, “but also a very good listener.”

Vernon worries that Bird is silent because he misses his home, so the two set off on a journey to help find a home for Bird.

This is a tender tale of a thoughtful friend who is determined to help his quiet companion, by the author of A Sick Day for Amos McGee, winner of the 2011 Caldecott Medal. This title has Common Core connections.

Why I like this book In addition to the emotional, tender illustrations that will win over the hearts of readers young and old, the story, accompanying the art, introduces a remarkable character named Vernon who shows the reader what it means to be selfless–to put the needs of others before his own. Understanding that Bird, who is made of wood, is new to this part of the world and must, therefore, be lost, Vernon strives to make Bird feel welcomed by introducing him to his friends. But Bird won’t (can’t) speak, and Vernon believes this is because of shyness. Being the amazing think-with-your-heart sort of guy Vernon is, he sets out to help Bird find his way back home. The two set off on a long journey that requires an ingeniously made teacup ship, the trial of many objects Bird can consider living in, a windy balloon ride to a distant farm where new friends await for Vernon to know and maybe, just maybe a home for bird.

Learn more about Philip Stead HERE.

Take a tour of Philip and Erin Stead’s art and writing space, and learn a little about their working style. HERE.

Find instructions on how to make a teacup birdfeeder HERE.

I hope to see you back here on Monday when I share my poem about… a bird.

See you then!


An Interview + Book Review with Chana Stiefel this Perfect Picture Book Friday!

This Sunday we’re celebrating Father’s Day! So, for Perfect Picture Book Friday, I invited my friend, critique partner, and author of over 25 books for kids, Chana Stiefel, to join us and share some of her writing life and history behind her picture book, Daddy DepotChana Stiefel

Welcome, Chana!
When did you know you wanted to write for children?
Way back when I was at NYU Journalism School, studying Science, Health, & Environmental Reporting, I got an internship at Scholastic, which was down the block. I immediately became hooked on writing for kids. The internship developed into a job editing Scholastic’s Science World, a hands-on classroom magazine that makes science fun for kids. When I left Scholastic, I continued to freelance and started writing books for kids. Writing for children makes me see the world in a whole new light. I love exploring new topics for every new project.

What inspired the idea for your picture book, Daddy Depot?
One night, I was putting my daughter to bed. She was 7 at the time, and for reasons I can’t recall, she was very mad at her dad. She said, “Let’s return him to the Daddy store!” We started to laugh and made up a story about a girl who returns her father to the Daddy Depot. After bedtime, I ran downstairs and started to write. Daddy Depot was my first fiction picture book. The first drafts were over 1,000 words, had too many characters, and were written in terrible rhyme. But I persisted and learned the ropes of writing picture books. And eight years later, Daddy Depot was published by Feiwel & Friends.

Daddy Depot-Chana
Were there any surprises along the way from the point when you started writing your book to the moment it was published?
Yes! Daddy Depot was my learning book. It was also the book that landed me my first agent. And I was surprised at how long the process took—four years from contract to publication! Now I’ve come to understand that that can be typical in this industry. Live and learn!

Can you share something interesting or unexpected most people don’t know about you?
I love nature adventures. I have hiked on glaciers, watched Kilauea erupt into the sea, snorkeled in Molokini Crater, and ziplined over a cloud forest in Costa Rica. 

Title –  Daddy Depot

Author – Chana Stiefel

and illustrator – Andy Snair

Published by – Feiwel and Friends – 2017

Suitable for ages – 3-5

Topics – Dads and humor

Opening –
Lizzie loved her dad, but he was always watching football.
“Dad! Check out my new ballet twirls.”
“You’re a star, Lizzie… TOUCHDOWN!”

Amazon Review HERE – Come to Daddy Depot! The Dad Megastore! From Acrobats to Zookeepers, we have the perfect dad for you! Exchange your old dad for a brand-new one. . . TODAY!

Lizzie loves her dad, but he tells the same old jokes, falls asleep during storytime, and gets distracted by football while Lizzie does her ballet twirls. When she sees an ad for a store called Daddy Depot, she decides to check it out―and finds dads of all kinds! Will Lizzie find the perfect dad? Join her on this sweet and silly adventure that celebrates fathers with lots of love.

“This father and daughter are a perfect match!” —Publishers Weekly Review
“This colorful, humorous tale is sure to be a read-aloud hit.” —School Library Journal

Why I like this book— Although I never thought to trade in my dad for a different or better dad, I loved the humor in Chana’s picture book, Daddy Depot, and understood why Lizzie wanted to exchange her silly dad for a “perfect” one. Lizzie goes so far as to load her dad in a wagon while he’s sleeping and pull him over to the Daddy Depot in hopes of trading him in on a better dad. Like Lizzie, I’ve thought that certain things in my life weren’t as perfect as they could be and considered exchanging them for replacements only to discover, as Lizzie did, that what I already have is exactly, perfect for me.

Follow Chana @chanastiefel on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Learn more at https://chanastiefel.com/.

Until next Friday.




Just Listen This Perfect Picture Book Friday

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday looks at the touching story, The Rabbit Listened. I dedicate this post to anyone who knows the struggle of an emotional challenge.  

Sometimes problems grow into overwhelming proportions to the point of blocking out all light and hope. There’s no way to see through them or look around them. Well-meaning family and friends reach out to make things better by offering up their own sad stories in an attempt to make your troubles appear small by comparison. They might even resort to acting silly, assuming a smile is a sign all troubles have been wiped away. In some cases, people offer generic suggestions before listening and taking the time to understand.

The worst advice I ever received came from someone who wasn’t equipped to help because they had never faced my situation.

“Let’s pretend it never happened and move on.”  

They moved on. I couldn’t.

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday choice shares the story of Taylor, a child with an overwhelming problem. Many animals arrive to offer assistance, but only one friend takes the time to understand what Taylor truly needs.

I hope you’ll sit back for a moment (5 minutes and 42 seconds) and listen to The Rabbit Listened.

Title –  The Rabbit Listened

Author and illustrator – Cori Doerrfeld

Published by – Dial Books for Young Readers – 2018

Suitable for ages – 3-5

Topics – Empathy, kindness, and friendship.

Opening – One day, Taylor decided to build something. Something new. Something special. Something Amazing. Taylor was so proud. But then, out of nowhere…

Amazon Review HERE. When something sad happens, Taylor doesn’t know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. The chicken wants to talk it out, but Taylor doesn’t feel like chatting. The bear thinks Taylor should get angry, but that’s not quite right either. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to act, and one by one they fail to offer comfort. Then the rabbit arrives. All the rabbit does is listen . . . which is just what Taylor needs.

Why I like this book—I connected to this story on all levels. I have been in Taylor’s shoes, dealing with an issue too big to keep inside and too big to share. I have experienced the well-meaning, but wrong, kinds of help Taylor received. I have been the friend who wanted to make everything better. Most importantly, I know the incredible feeling of receiving the support the rabbit offered.

The greatest gift we can give is to find out what someone needs…it’s as simple as listening.

Learn more about Cori Doerrfeld HERE.

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!