This Perfect Picture Book Friday, I Share the Lovely Poetry of Joyce Sidman.

The world outside my window is preparing to change scenes from the vast summer greens to the glowing pallet of autumn’s fiery golds. Watching the magical changes of nature and the hustle and bustle of the animals, preparing for winter, inspires me to write poetry. Yes, even Bob, my faithful backyard squirrel, is filling up his winter stash with the nuts and seeds I set outside for him each morning. Instead of perching on the plate to nibble his treats, Bob fills his cheeks before scampering back to his tree, only to return moments later to collect more food for the coming winter months.

Being true to who I am, I worry about Bob. With my move at the start of next week, I wonder if the new owners will continue to care for my bushy-tailed squirrel. Knowing my love for the backyard animals in my care, a friend of mine offered to live capture Bob, his family, cousins, and friends and transport them to my new address. (Thank you, Don, I’d like that very much.)

For this week’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, I chose to share a book by one of my favorite poets, Joyce Sidman, whose thoughtful rhymes are sure to enchant you. A poetry book isn’t complete without illustrations that stand on their own as treats for the eyes to behold. I promise you will become equally captivated with the artwork of Beth Krommes, the illustrator whose talents you’ll find on every page.

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow by [Joyce Sidman, Beth Krommes]

Title – Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow

Written by- Joyce Sidman

Illustrated by  – Beth Krommes

Suitable for ages – 8 to 12 (Although intended for children, I believe everyone can treasure these poems.)

Topics/theme – Children’s poetry, Meadow animals, nature.

Opening – Here is the first stanza from the poem, In the Almost-Light

In the dark, in the night,

in the almost-light,

in the leaf-crisp air just before sunlight,

sprouts a secret, silent, sparking sight:

berries grown on the vines of night.

Synopsis from Amazon – Discover the hidden world of the meadow in this unique combination of poetry riddles and science wisdom. Beginning with the rising sun and ending with twilight, this book takes us on a tour through the fields, encouraging us to watch for a nest of rabbits, a foamy spittlebug, a leaping grasshopper, bright milkweed, a quick fox, and a cruising hawk.

Why do I like this book? To describe Joyce Sidman’s poems, I would compare each one to a beautiful painting unfolding before one’s eyes. Her metaphors will have you saying, “Yes! If I had everything in the world to choose from, this is the perfect likeness to the morning air, the velvety horns of the deer, the dry earth, and the fluff-filled pods of the milkweed. Adding to the magic of each poem are Beth Krommes’s lovingly-created, scratchboard illustrations that are genuinely marvel-worthy.

Learn more about Joyce Sidman HERE.

Learn more about Beth Krommes HERE.

I chose a few links to get you started for those intested in learning about scratchboard art,

Russ McMullin’s Scratchboard Tutorial HERE.

An easy-to-follow video that’s perfect for kids and parents HERE.

And one more kid-friendly, scratchboard tutorial HERE.

I hope you’ll visit me next week for another PERFECT PICTURE BOOK FRIDAY.

Leslie

Back After Receiving A Curve Ball. Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday.

I visited my blog for the first time since April. What can I say… Life throws curve balls. I’ve missed writing my musings to you about my life and, more specifically, my childhood memories I love to tie into my picture book reviews.

To be honest, I wasn’t hit with just one curve ball. If you’ve ever watched to movie, BIG, with Tom Hanks, you’ll remember the scene when Billie gets pelted after gym class with basketballs. Got the visual? That’s what my life felt like.

Big Bear Was Not the Same: Rowland, Joanna, Ledda, John: 9781506471419:  Amazon.com: Books

Here’s a recap from the call I received that brought the bigest curve ball.

“Hi, Leslie, It’s Janet from the Breast Center. The results came in from your biopsy, and I’m very sorry, but it showed cancer.”

For a total of one second, I searched for my voice before spouting out, “Now is a REALLY not a good time for this. You see, my house just sold, my entire life is taped up inside of 114 boxes, I’m moving in a little over a month, and my daughter is in the hospital bacause she almost died from the second COVID shot. Do you understand how BAD the timing is here? I can’t have cancer now.”

To say the diagnosis came at the wrong time would imply a right time exists. There never is a good time for such a thing. About two weeks later, my husband suffered a mild stroke. Stress, by the way, is a terrible thing; the sooner it gets banned the better.

I tried distracting myself while I waited for my surgery date. I scrolled through my Facebook feed and scoffed at a post from a writer, complaining over two agent rejections they recieved in their inbox that day.

Seriously! You’re bummed about two rejections?

I’ll come clean and admit that a month earlier, a couple of rejections on a manuscript would have left me devestated. Cancer is funny in the way it gives life perspective about what is trivial and what is worth a good rant.

Confession time…

Only my family knew about my diagnosis. I thought if I told my friends what I was going through, they would tell me about their friends or family members who received a similar diagnosis, and I didn’t want my head filled with stories that might frighten me more.

As surgery neared, I discovered I needed more support if I was going to get through this. I didn’t expect what came. One by one, friends offered their love, prayers, virtual hugs, and even Reiki healing from afar. The mailcarrier delivered get well cards. Uplifting text messages and virtual greeting cards popped up in my inbox. A bouquet of colorful blooms and a bag of fresh-picked greenbeans arrived at my front door. Over Zoom, one friend offered me the encouragement I needed to face the future with renewed inner strength and a smile. Another friend chatted with me over coffee at the Starbucks in my town from the Starbucks in her town. Friends called to say they were ready to listen if I needed to talk–night or day.

This is the part when my post becomes a Perfect Picture Book Friday Review.

Shortly before surgery, a picture book arrived on my front door step from one of my critique partners and friends. The book, BIG BEAR WAS NOT THE SAME, is about a bear that lives through something scary and has a challenging time recovering when so many things remind him of the traumatic event. The story told of his special friend that promised to be there for Big Bear no matter how far they run, how loud they roar, or how long they sit in silence. Big Bear’s friend knew that traumatic events are a little less scary when friends stay by each other’s side.

Title – Big Bear Was Not The Same

Written by- Joanna Rowland

Illustrated by  – John Ledda

Suitable for ages – 4  – 8

Topics/theme – Trauma, Empathy, and Friendship

Opening – 

Little Bear loved the woods and going on adventures with his best friend Big Bear. Their days were full of laughter, exploring new heights, and great fun.

Whenever Little Bear got into sticky situations or scary ones, Big Bear was right by his side to help with his big bear claws, his big bear teeth, and his big bear hugs.

Synopsis from AMAZON – One scary day can change everything . . .

Little Bear loves the woods, his home, and going on adventures with his best friend, Big Bear. Big Bear is so big and strong and brave. He always protects Little Bear and helps him feel safe. Then something scary happens to Big Bear. He’s caught in a forest fire. Even after he escapes and is safe, Little Bear can tell that Big Bear is not the same. He runs, roars, or freezes in fear when ordinary things happen in the woods that remind him of that traumatic day. How can Little Bear’s big, strong, brave friend be so scared now? And how can Little Bear be a good friend?

In Big Bear Was Not the Same, Joanna Rowland, author of the bestelling book The Memory Box, gently introduces young readers to the common feelings of fear, anxiety, and anger that can follow a traumatic event, and shows them how to have empathy and compassion for themselves and for loved ones experiencing the effects of trauma.

Includes backmatter written by a family therapist with information on how to talk about trauma with children. 

Why do I like this book? It’s sometimes difficult to know how to be there for someone after they have endured a traumatic event. While some children automatically rush over to their friend’s side to give hugs, other children freeze up, not knowing how to help. This story offers a few perfect ways to comfort a friend in need. No spoilers here. To learn how Little Bear helped his friend, Big Bear, you’ll have to read this wonderful book.

Learn more about Joanna Rowland HERE.

Learn more about John Ledda HERE.

To leave you with good news, surgery is one week behind me, I’m on the mend, and my doctor said the final tests show I am cancer-free.

I hope you’ll visit me next week for another PERFECT PICTURE BOOK FRIDAY.

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.

AUTHOR and ILLUSTRATOR
Learn more about Philip Stead HERE.

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

CRAFT PROJECT
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!

Leslie

Perfect Picture Book Friday Goes Wild!

If you could go back in time to my childhood, you’d see a conservatively dressed kid with braids who nearly disappeared in the beige clothes her mother approved of. Mom couldn’t stress enough that I should do everything possible to blend in, not make a scene, and never bring attention to myself.

Gotta say I found it challenging to NOT “bring attention to myself” when my beige clothes made me look so utterly naked most people looked twice to make sure I wasn’t.

Let’s flash forward to my college years.

“YAY! FREEDOM!”

I couldn’t shed those beige clothes fast enough and exercise my newly-acquired credit card, buying clothes that were ANY OTHER COLOR THAN MY SKIN.

I flew home on spring break and met with my mother’s disapproval. I’ll spare you the blur of German words she strung together to let me know what she thought of my happy color choices.

My aunt understood me, bless her heart. Tante Helen was an eccentric artist. She embraced flashy clothes, held a passion for strappy heels, wore necklaces that qualified as pieces of art, and she painted wild abstracts and nudes. This lovely aunt of mine banned the word ‘conservative’ both from her vocabulary and her lifestyle.

“If you’re going to be an artist,” she said to me, “you have to look the part.”

At the store, she handed me a pair of painted jeans, a pair of amazing boots, and a red leather jacket. Tante Helen mailed the clothes to me with instructions to ‘Leave them at school whenever you came home to visit.’ Now that she knew my size, more fun clothes followed.

I was a secret agent, living two lives. The expressive artist and the conservative girl in braids.

The takeaway message here is that if we are placed in a cage and have our choices controlled, we will want to escape to embrace all we were kept from.

Enter today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday choice… Mr. Tiger Goes Wild.

Title – Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

Written and illustrated by – Peter Brown

Published by –  Little Brown Company – 2013

Topics – Individuality, nonconformity, self-expression.

Opening – Everyone was perfectly fine with the way things were.

Everyone but Mr. Tiger.

Mr. Tiger was bored with always being so proper.

Synopsis from Amazon –  Are you bored with being so proper? Do you want to have more fun? Mr. Tiger knows exactly how you feel. So he decides to go wild.
But does he go too far?

From Caldecott Honor artist Peter Brown comes a story that shows there’s a time and place for everything…even going wild.

Learn more about Peter Brown HERE.

or watch a YouTube video with Peter Brown HERE.

I hope to see you back on Monday when my poetry post heads into the wild in search of the tiger.