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!

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.

PPBF Looks at Vincent’s Colors

PPBF Looks at Vincent’s Colors, a picture book created by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, using only the words and pictures of Vincent Van Gogh.

A few weeks ago, I signed up for an evening of painting at a local shop. The painting the students and I came to copy was the well-known Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. Admittedly, not an easy painting to tackle. But with the instructor giving us the order in which to add each element, along with her permission to use Vincent’s painting as a jump off point from which we could freely interpret to our heart’s desire, the task wasn’t nearly as daunting.

A framed print of the famous painting rested on a large easel. We each took many turns, viewing the print up close to help with our interpretations. At the end of the evening, we each had a painting we were pleased with. Pleased with until I came home, looked in my art book at the original, and noticed the instructor’s poster had faded in her window display and overall, her reproduction appeared strangely contrasty. I still had a fabulous evening, painting my version of Starry Night by an artist whose work I have long admired.

my-van-gogh

Now, on to my Perfect Picture Book Friday review of Vincent’s Colors.

Words and pictures by Vincent van Gogh.

This book was created by The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Published by – Chronicle Books – 2005

Suitable for – 3-7

Topic – An art book for young children to acquaint them with Vincent van Gogh’s art.

Opening –  (These are the first four pages to show how the book is set up to rhyme.)

A yellow sky with yellow sun,

a jug in squares of blue and white,

a reddish cap and orange bricks,

twelve flowers that are light on light.

Synopsis from Amazon – Vincent van Gogh is one of the world’s most famous artists. Throughout his life, he wrote to his younger brother, Theo, about his colorful, dynamic paintings. This book pairs the artist’s paintings with his own words.

Van Gogh’s descriptions, arranged as a simple rhyme, introduce young readers to all the colors of the rainbow and beyond. The descriptive words combine with spectacular reproductions of many of the artist’s most beloved and important works to create a perfect art book for young and old alike.

Why I like this book – Instead of showing each painting in its entirety, a close up section was selected to better illustrate Vincent van Gogh’s impasto style of painting.

(Definition: impasto is a thick application of paint (usually oil) that makes no attempt to look smooth. Instead, impasto is unabashedly proud to be textured, and exists to show off brush and palette knife marks.)

A simple description, taken from Vincent’s letters to his brother, Theo, accompanies each painting, and the paintings are organized so the descriptions form a rhyming pattern, children will enjoy hearing.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art – website.

Learn more about Vincent van Gogh – here.

To find other perfect picture books please visit Susanna Hill’s Blog.

Over twenty Starry Night Art Project for kids here.

drywall plaster sunflowers

Vincent van Gogh-inspired art project from http://www.playideas.com

If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll share it.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Diversity and Friendship in ‘My Two Blankets’

For today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, I’m looking at My Two Blankets, a book that combines diversity with friendship and understanding.

But to begin…a little story from my childhood that ties into my book review.

Having grown up with a mother who spoke only German and a father who spoke only English, I learned both at once and somehow managed to keep the two languages apart. And, in answer to your question, no matter which parent spoke to me, I always answered in English.

It wasn’t until I was four, traveling to visit my grandmother in Germany with my mother and older sister, that speaking English became a problem. The children in my grandmother’s neighborhood didn’t want to play with me because they didn’t understand English. I ran inside, miserable because I couldn’t make friends. My mother reminded me that I could understand her and therefore, must be able to speak German. “Go back out there,” she said, “and speak German with the children.”

Needless to say, the kids at the playground couldn’t understand how I learned their language so quickly. But from that moment on, the German children and I were able to share our stories and cultural differences (clothes, games, favorite meals, holidays, etc…), and friendships were quickly made.

For quite a while, I spoke only German. According to my parents, it took three months before I started speaking English again.

A language barrier can get in the way of making friends, the solution is to find a way to bridge that gap, and that is the main theme for my perfect picture book Friday review.

Title – My Two Blankets – view on Amazon HERE.

Written by – Irena Kobald

Illustrated by – Freya Blackwood

Published by – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – 2014

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme –  Diversity, understanding, and friendship.

Opening – Auntie used to call me Cartwheel. Then came the war. Auntie didn’t call me Cartwheel anymore. We came to this country to be safe. Everything was strange. The people were strange. The food was strange. The animals and the plants were strange. Even the wind felt strange.

Amazon Review – Cartwheel moves to a new country with her auntie, and everything is strange: the animals, the plants—even the wind. An old blanket gives Cartwheel comfort when she’s sad—and a new blanket just might change her world.

This multicultural story of friendship is about leaving home, moving to a foreign and strange place, and finding a new friend. It’s a story for all who have experienced change. Irena Kobald’s poetic text, paired with Kate Greenaway medalist Freya Blackwood’s powerful paintings, renders an emotional and heart-warming story about two children from diverse backgrounds coming together to become new friends.
Why do I like this book? I like that the story doesn’t  begin with Cartwheel’s new life in America. Instead, the book offers readers a look at how different Cartwheel’s world was. In a double-page spread, we are greeted with a warm illustration, depicting a region where the days are all seemingly hot. This is a place where villagers in draped, cotton clothes carry pots on their heads, tend livestock, and live in sand-colored huts. Clearly, Cartwheel’s world has been turned upside down. Not understanding what people are saying, Cartwheel wraps herself in a metaphorical blanket of familiar words and sounds. One day, a girl at the park teaches Cartwheel English words, thus closing the language gap and opening up the start of a wonderful friendship. As a result, Cartwheel forms a new metaphorical blanket made from the new words and sounds in America.

Learn about Irena Kobald HERE.

Learn about Freya Blackwood HERE. Please note, this link takes you to a marvelous blog post in which the very talented illustrator talks about the pictures she created for this book.

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

Activities to do with children – With paper, colored pencils, crayons, scissors, and glue, children can make their own blanket of words and images that define them, the country they live in, and their home. Cut 4-inch squares from colored or plain paper. On each square, have children write a word or draw a picture of something meaningful: a picture of their family, the house they live in, their pets, and words that describe them and their interests. Cutting pictures out of (parentally approved) magazines and gluing them to the squares is another option. Paste the pictures to a  poster board to form a quilt.