Spirited, dream-seeking women are the focus of today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF review

Back when I was in high school taking classes to decide what to be when I grew up, women were going after careers as doctors, firefighters, attorneys, journalists, and much more. Unfortunately, my mother kept a dated attitude about which occupations were suited to men and which were suited for women–more specifically me.

When my high school interest in interior decorating led me into the Architectural Design course (where I achieved an A. Gotta blow my horn a little.) My mother, fearing I might choose to become an architect, put her foot down. She said architecture was a male-dominated field, and she wouldn’t pay the college tuition if I pursued it.

Wait. What? Male-dominated? There are going to be lots of men?

My mother’s problem became a perk.

Moving on. My next big interest was Psychology. One class led to two, and when two looked like it would turn into three (Can anyone see where this is going?), my mother said, “If you become a psychologist, your patients will be crazy people in search of advice. I won’t have it. If you want to pursue this field in college, I won’t pay the tuition.”

Without thinking, my teenage mouth spurted, “If you reconsider and let me become a psychologist, I’ll offer you free therapy in your old age.”

Moving on . . . (with a sore bottom.)

So there I was, envious of my older sister who chose the career she wanted and headed to college to study law without the parental flack I always received.

Ummm . . . Isn’t the field of law dominated by men?

My admiration for women who let nothing stand in the way of their dreams brings me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review. Please welcome Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt (whose mothers I would have loved to meet).

Title – Amelia And Eleanor Go For A Ride

Written by – Pam Munoz Ryan

Illustrated by – Brian Selznick

Published by – Scholastic Press – 1999

Topics – Following dreams and determination

Opening – Amelia and Eleanor were birds of a feather. Eleanor was outspoken and determined.

So was Amelia.

Amelia was daring and liked to try things other women wouldn’t even consider.

So when Eleanor discovered that her friend Amelia was coming to town to give a speech, she naturally said, “Bring your husband and come to dinner at my house! You can even sleep over.”

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE.  Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt were birds of a feather. Not only were they two of the most admired and respected women of all time, they were also good friends. Illuminated here for the first time in picture book form is the true story of a thrilling night when they made history together!

On a brisk and cloudless evening in April 1933, Amelia and Eleanor did the unprecedented: They stole away from a White House dinner, commandeered an Eastern Air Transport jet, and took off on a glorious adventure–while still dressed in their glamorous evening gowns!

This picture book tour de force celebrates the pioneering spirit of two friends whose passion for life gave them the courage to defy convention in the name of fulfillment, conviction, and fun. Soaring text, inspired by the known facts of this event, and breathtaking drawings ask readers to dream dreams as big as Amelia and Eleanor’s.

Why do I like this book? I admire those with an adventurous spirit, and this book shows not one but two such spirited women going after their dreams full throttle. Amelia, without a care what people think about woman piloting planes, fearlessly takes to the skies to make her dream come true. And Eleanor, disregarding other’s opinions that women shouldn’t drive cars, loves the feeling of independence a car provides, has a new car, and can’t wait to get behind the wheel to feel the wind whoosh through her hair. The night Amelia comes to the White House for dinner is beyond magical for these two spirited friends.

Do you remember a dream you wanted more than anything? Did something stand in your way? Did you reach it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Compassion is the Key Ingredient in Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday Review #PPBF

Think back to an early birthday. Got it? Great! The toy you most wanted, dreamed of, hoped for, and left advertisement clippings of on the coffee pot, is inside the wrapping paper you’re ripping away with speedy, little hands. An overwhelming feeling of bliss bubbles up and spills out. In your haste to play with the newest addition to your vast toy collection . . . CRACK! A part snaps and breaks off. Bliss changes to Devastation.

“Well,” my mom would say, “that was a wasted fifteen dollars.”

My dad would hand me a tissue, scoop up the many pieces, and disappear into the basement. Hours later, he would emerge with a look of pride in his eyes and a smile straight from his heart. He’d place the mended toy in my hands and exclaim, “Good as new!”

Geeze, I miss my dad. A whole lot.

Over the years, I’ve learned how to patch rips in teddy bears, superglue cracks in Mr. Potatoe Head’s spare parts, reattach charms and clasps on little bracelets, and turn my daughter’s tears into smiles. And this brings me to today’s perfect picture book Friday review about a little fox named Pandora who has a gift for mending broken things.

I

Title – Pandora

Written and illustrated by – Victoria Turnbull

Published by – Clarion Books – 2017

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics – compassion, loneliness, and hope

Opening –  Pandora lived alone in a land of broken things. She made herself a handsome home from all that people had left behind. But no one ever came to visit.

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE. Because the review on Amazon sums up the story perfectly, I’m not including it as it serves as a spoiler. And isn’t it better to find the book and read it for yourself?

Why do I like this book? Pandora is a lovely main character with a large heart. She shows great compassion for all the broken things people have left behind. But one day, something falls from the sky that can’t be fixed with a needle and thread. The only remedy is love, and Pandora has a brimming heart perfect for helping. Not only is the story one that touched my heart, but the illustrations are carefully created with a heart as loving as Pandora’s. This book is a treasure that sits proudly on my bookshelf.

In this book, compassion is Pandora’s strongest trait and one that can easily be taught to children through example.

This is a list of synonyms that serve as ways we can teach children to be compassionate: pity, sympathy, empathy, fellow feeling, care, concern, solicitude, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, mercy, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, and charity.

As always, if you have memories from your childhood about moments of compassion or broken toys, I welcome you to share them in the comments.

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Bridget’s Beret

Relaxation wasn’t something my parents encouraged. To them, doing nothing wasted life. To this day, I can still hear their voices echo each evening, “What do you have to show for this day?” Translation: What did you accomplish? What did you create? And can we please see it? The one thing I did every day and loved to do every day was creating art.

Looking back at those days, whether I was at home, school, the bank, a restaurant, or in the backseat of the family car, I drew pictures of the world and people around me. I was never without paper, pencils, and watercolors. True then, true now.  And although I don’t illustrate my picture book manuscripts, I often sketch the actions of my characters to help me visualize them, see their environments, and make sure I’m changing scenes with my page turns.

The picture book I chose to review today stars Bridget, a young artist who believes she needs to wear a black beret – “The kind of hat that lots of Great Artists wear.” in order to make art. I wish I had known about the hat when I was a child. Like Bridget, I had an image in my mind of what artists should look like, but my image didn’t include that wonderful hat. I pictured an artist wearing a smock with more paint splatters than fabric showing, dried paint in many shades on the hands, and slightly disheveled hair that made the bold statement, “I’m too busy being creative to care about such petty details as my appearance.”  But enough about my image of what an artist looks like. It’s time to meet Bridget!

Title – Bridget’s Beret

Written by  – Tom Lichtenheld

Illustrated by – Tom Lichtenheld

Published by – Christy Ottaviano Books – 2010

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics – preconceived notions, art, creativity, confidence, artist’s block

Opening – Bridget was drawn to drawing. She liked to draw as much as other kids liked ice cream.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE.  Bridget loves to draw, and she likes to wear a beret for inspiration. So when her beloved hat blows away, Bridget searches for it high and low. She files a Missing Beret Report. She even considers other hats, but none of them feel quite right. It’s no use; without her beret, Bridget can’t seem to draw. How will she overcome her artist’s block?

Make sure to check out Bridget’s notebook scribbles at the end of the book for her thoughts and facts on art!
Bridget’s Beret is a 2011 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year.

Why do I like this book? Because I was much like Bridget when I was a child, (minus the beret) but bursting with artistic visions I drew on every sheet of paper, napkin, borders of homework, and backs of notebooks, I felt a kinship to this little girl who loses her hat and with it, the feeling she can no longer create art. The revelation Bridget experiences when she discovers her artistic ability lies inside her and not in the beret is a beautiful, triumphant moment for the reader. Yes, the reader. Because we see her artistic gift return long before Bridget does. And, when the neighbors believe the many lemonade stand signs she painted for her little sister are really advertisements for her art opening, the reader cheers louder still. Tom Lichtenheld, whom I recently had the pleasure of listening to at the SCBWI Spring Thaw Conference, has a powerful gift both as a writer and as an illustrator, and those gifts shine in Bridget’s Beret. (A picture book I’ll be adding to my shelf very soon.)

Learn more about Tom Lichtenheld HERE.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at ‘Bear Hugs – romantically ridiculous animal rhymes’

If you were to ask my daughter if I’m much of a huggy person, she would offer you a rootbeer float and ask you to pull up a chair while she tells you exactly how much of a huggy person I am.

Me: Sweetheart, would you like to share any “Mommy hug stories” with my blog followers?

My daughter: Seriously? Permission to embarrass you? Woot!!!

Me: Easy does it, remember, I can still make your iPad disappear if you disclose too much…

 

My daughter: I’ll be nice. Promise. Ready? Here goes… There was the time when Daddy forgot to drag the garbage buckets out to the curb on time. When Mommy saw the truck leaving our court, she raced out and flagged it down. After the garbage man came back and emptied our buckets, Mommy gave him a thank you hug so big they almost fell into Mrs. Miller’s begonias across the street!”

Then, there was the time Mommy hurt her back pulling weeds right when the gardener showed up to mow our lawn. When he saw Mommy couldn’t move out of the flowerbed, he helped her into the house. Mommy’s back must have been feeling better just then because she gave him a thank you hug so big they almost tumbled back outside!

And then there was the time…”

Me: Okay, sweetheart, Mommy’s embarrassed enough, and my readers get the point. (You do don’t you?) Yes. I am a huggy person.

My daughter: Wait! Can’t I tell them about the time you hugged our neighbor because he…

Me: That story will have to wait because it’s time for me to introduce today’s book for Perfect Picture Book Friday – Bear Hugs!

Title – Bear Hugs – Romantically ridiculous animal rhymes

Written by  – Karma Wilson

Illustrated by – Suzanne Watts

Published by – Aladdin

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics – A collection of huggy, sweet, and romantic animal poems.

Opening – Since the Amazon review I included below is the opening poem in this book, I’ll offer you the second poem.

Pocket Full of Posies

A kangaroo hopped happily,

her pocket full of posies.

She gave her bouquet to a kanga-gent

who blushed from head to toes-ies.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE.

Rhino Mister and Rhino Miss

Gaze at the moon in rhino bliss.

They rub their rhino tusks like this.

And now you¹ve seen

Rhinocerkiss!

Why do I like this book? Honestly, when I read the title, the word ‘Hugs’ grabbed my attention.  I read and laughed my way through the clever, romantic animal poems, and knew I had to share this book with all of you for National Poetry Month. The author, Karma Wilson, knows how to title her poems to bring a smile like Pignic and Rhinocerkiss and Seal it with a Kiss. Clever poems plus kid-friendly illustrations make this book a must share this month.

Learn more about Karma Wilson HERE.

Learn more about Suzanne Watts HERE.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Glamourpuss.

Years ago, when my collection of pets consisted of a tank of fish, I might have said jealousy is purely a human trait. However, my viewpoint on this matter changed when we brought Max home to live with us. Max is a rescue dog that believes, deep in his heart, that he is a little boy trapped in a dog suit. When I first met Max at the rescue shelter, he strode up to me with his chocolatey brown, desperate, and watery eyes. I knelt to pet him, and he returned my kindness with a warm slurpy kiss over the back of my hand.

“He likes you!” The owner of the shelter beamed.

“You think so?” I twiddled Max’s ears and ran my hand down his soft fur.

Having only grown up with large dogs, I had zero experience picking up and holding a smaller dog. Do I flop him over my shoulder like a baby and rub his back? Do I sit him on my lap? Clueless, I decided to let the dog show me what he preferred. I picked him up like a child under his arms and took a seat. A moment later, Max flipped on his back, pressed his head against me, and went to sleep, cradled like a baby.

“We accept all major credit cards.” the shelter owner said. “How would you like to pay?”

I handed over my Visa.

Max remained “an only child” with us (if you don’t count the fish) for about a year. Then…

…we added the birds. Max sat on the sofa with his back to us. He became weepy when the birds received goodnight cuddles before him. Max was, in fact, jealous. Which leads me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday of Glamourpuss.

Title – Glamourpuss

Written by  – Sarah Weeks

Illustrated by – David Small

Published by – Scholastic Press – 2015

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics – Vanity, jealousy, drama, and friendship.

Opening – Once upon a pillow sat a glamorous cat named Glamourpuss.

Glamourpuss lived with Mr. and Mrs. Highhorsen in a giant mansion on the top of a hill where they were waited on hand and foot by a pair of devoted servants named Gustav and Rosalie.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. Glamourpuss has it all. She has style. She has charm.  And she knows how to strike a pose.

Glamourpuss loves being the center of attention. So when an unwelcome guest (a dog, no less!) steals the spotlight with some tasteless bow-wowing and undignified tail-wagging, Glamourpuss worries that she’s going to fall out of fashion.

Is there room for only one superstar in this mansion? When Glamourpuss makes her most majestic move to find out, the result is pure purrfection.

Why do I like this book? The main character, Glamourpuss, is quite the spoiled feline! She has a fancy bedroom, diamond collar, and servants. And if this isn’t enough, her owners don’t expect her to catch mice or take part in any other cat-like activities. Glamourpuss’s singular task is to be glamourous. However, this prissy kitty gets a rude awakening when an unwanted visitor arrives. Soon, a pooch, trained to do tricks while wearing tacky clothes steals her show. I won’t spoil the ending. You’ll simply have to check out this super fun and super funny book to find out how these two unlikely pets set aside their differences to be friends.

The illustrator, David Small, does a fantastic job bringing all the shenanigans, emotions, and inner feelings of cat and dog to light with simple ink lines combined with a pallet of pretty watercolors. The one surprise element of his illustrations, used in the beginning pages, is the creative addition of photo collage.

Learn more about Sarah Weeks HERE.

Learn more about David Small HERE.

FUN FOR KIDS – Learn how to make an origami cat. Click Here.

Here’s a fun tutorial on how to draw a cat with the word “cat”. Click Here.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Arrowhawk – A Survival Story.

I’m sure you’ve gathered from reading my posts that animals, both wild and tame, wove their way through My childhood. And despite my father’s frequent complaints about bringing one more critter into the house, female persuasion, which when combined with tears, was powerful enough to win each of his arguments. Thus, there was never a day without feathery, furry, or scaly companionship.

The memory of one animal, in particular, has stayed with me–a wild mallard we found along the road after Thanksgiving. She had broken bones, deep punctures, missing feathers, and didn’t stand a chance of survival if we had left her. The duck moved into our house where we carefully tended her wounds and provided a safe place for her to heal and grow strong enough for release in early spring. Unfortunately, when that day arrived, our feathered guest hadn’t regained the ability to fly. While my father appeared grateful he no longer had to step in duck doo, my mother, sister, and I worried about the safety of our little friend. Because I’m currently writing this story with hopes of publication, I’m going to resist spoiling the ending for you. I’ll just say there were many happy tears. And now for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review about the survival of a different kind of bird.

Title – Arrowhawk

Written by  – Lola M. Schaefer

Illustrated by – Gabi Swiatkowska

Published by – Henry Holt and Company – 2004

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics – determination, courage, survival, nonfiction animal story.

Opening – Hawk, young and strong, soared high above an open field. His large eyes searched the dried grasses below. A mouse raced in and out of the stubble. Hawk swooped down, snatched his prey, and carried it to a fence post. Thre in the autumn sun, he tore and ate the mouse with his hooked beak.

TWWANGGGG! Out of nowhere, an arrow streaked through the air and pierced Hawk’s upper thigh and tail. He screeched in pain. A flash of movement on his left signaled more danger.

(Yes, I included a few lines from page two in this book, but you have to admit they hooked you. Right?) 

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. A hungry red-tailed hawk sits near a fence post and devours his catch. Out of nowhere, a poacher’s arrow pierces his body, seriously injuring him and leaving him to fend for himself.

This is the courageous true story of Arrowhawk-an endangered bird of prey who, with sheer determination and will, survives eight weeks in the wild with a poacher’s arrow through his thigh and tail. Stunning illustrations capture his remarkable journey from peril and rescue to eventual freedom.

Why do I like this book? From page one, the reader knows he or she is in for a quite a ride with the somewhat graphic kill of a mouse. (And, having kept mice as pets, might I add that it was most likely a sweet, twitchy-nosed, innocent, defenseless, little mouse?) Following this, we feel Hawk’s deep pain as a hunter’s arrow pierces his thigh and tail. Only for brief moments does the reader relax as Hawk learns to adapt to his unwelcomed circumstance. As he learns how to survive, more troubles come. The reader is taken on a challenging journey as Hawk proves to be a survivor no matter what troubles come his way. The acrylic paintings illustrating this story are unique in that they lend a softness to the pain we feel for this magnificent bird while fully revealing Hawk’s great strength, struggles, and eventual freedom.

Learn more about Lola M. Schaefer HERE.

Learn more about Gabi Swiatkowska HERE.

Because April is National Poetry Month, maybe write a poem about your favorite wild animal, place to hike, or first signs of Spring? Remember, poems don’t have to be long. You can limit yourself to twenty words or less. And, if you would like to, feel free to share your poem in the comments for National Poetry Month.

To get the ball rolling, I’ll start us off by posting my poem.

FIRST SIGNS OF SPRING

Spring has come!

Woodpeckers drum.

Rain brings puddles.

Earthworm huddles.

Robins arrived.

My tulips survived!

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Pocket Poems

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Pocket Poems for April’s National Poetry Month celebration!

When I was a child, I was introduced to poetry through my many picture books. Rhyming was a normal and natural way to tell an engaging story to children and continues to this day. I must confess that when I write picture book manuscripts, my poetry-trained ear from childhood kicks in, and I have to consciously force myself to write in prose. However, with Poem in Your Pocket Day nearing, I’m planning on releasing my inner poet and letting her rhyme to her heart’s content.

The 27th of April (this year – because the date in April changes each year) is National Poem in Your Pocket Day. Back in 2002, the Office of Mayor, in partnership with the New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education added Poem in Your Pocket Day as a special day that is part of the city’s National Poetry Month celebration. Six years later, in 2008, the academy of American Poets took the initiative to all fifty United States. And eight years later, Canada joined the celebration in 2016.

To participate on April 27th, simply carry a poem in your pocket to share with others. This poem can be by your favorite poet, or it can be a poem you wrote. In addition to sharing your poem at work or at school, you are welcome to join others and post it on Twitter using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

And to offer some fun poems and possible poetic inspirations, I’d like to share a fun book with you in honor of Poem in Your Pocket Day.

Title – Pocket Poems

Poems selected by – Bobbi Katz

Illustrated by – Marylin Hafner

Published by – Dutton Children’s Books – 2004

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Theme – Poems on kid-friendly subjects and topics.

Opening –  Since this book is a compilation of poems, I’ll offer you the first poem in the book.

A Pocket Poem

With a poem in your pocket

and

a pocket in your pants

you can rock with new rhythms.

You can skip.

You can dance.

And wherever you go,

and whatever you do,

that poem in your pocket is going there, too.

You could misplace your homework.

You could lose your left shoe.

But that poem in your pocket will be part of you.

And nothing can take it.

And nothing can break it.

that poem in your pocket

becomes

part of…

YOU!

Bobbi Katz

Amazon Review – View it HERE.

This lively collection is packed with kid-friendly, “pocket-sized” poems of eight lines or less by such well-known poets as Eve Merriam, Karla Kuskin, and the anthologist herself, Bobbi Katz. The easy-to-memorize, pint-sized poems reflect many different facets of children’s lives and are embellished with witty, winning art by the beloved Marylin Hafner, making a package that will be welcomed by children and their teachers.

Why do I like this book? 

In addition to the lively, colorful, kid-friendly illustrations by Marylin Hafner, whose art includes imaginative and sometimes humorous touches kids will enjoy, the selection of poems by various poets, that were chosen byBobbi Katz, strongly speak to children. No matter the child, I’m sure there will be one poem, if not all 27, he or she will like (love).

Learn more about Bobbi Katz HERE.

Find more books illustrated by Marylin Hafner HERE.

A TEMPLATE FOR YOUR POCKET POEM – As an added incentive to write a poem of your own, I’m including a downloadable pdf file below.   So…

If you feel bold,

and you’re ready to rhyme,

jot down your poem.

You’ve got plenty of time!

Poem in Your Pocket Day

is three weeks away,

That’s more than enough

for you word rhyming play.

Pocket Poem Template

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Bogo The Fox Who Wanted Everything

One of the traps I fell into years ago on my writing journey was to write in the style of other authors. I convinced myself that because their books were flying off the shelves, their voice was “the voice” to emulate. However, I have found the more I tried to capture someone else’s voice, the more the writing process challenged me.

Sometimes, the gift of the perfect idea for a picture book falls in my lap as if by magic. I’m inspired. Maybe the inspiration came from something my daughter said or one of my childhood memories–even better! And the result is the story very nearly writes itself. My fingers fly, my screen fills with words from my heart, and the voice is mine. Those are the manuscripts I love best and feel proudest of. It’s easy to believe that published authors have special talents, but as you’ll see in today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review, everyone has special talents. Mine just haven’t been discovered by an agent or publisher yet. What’s important for me and for all writers is to keep writing the stories we believe in and to never lose sight of the dream.

Today’s picture book review looks at what happens when a fox envies the natural gifts and talents of his fellow forest friends and tries to be just like them. (Hmmm. That sounds familiar…)

Title – Bogo The Fox Who Wanted Everything

Written by – Susanna Isern

Illustrated by – Sonja Wimmer

Published by – NubeOcho, 2015

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Theme – Envy, jealousy, and self-discovery

Opening – Bogo the fox lived in the branches of a great big tree. This is quite unusual for a fox, but he was a very curious fox and from up there he could see everything much better.

Amazon Review – View it HERE.

Bogo watched many animals around him. Some of them were so incredible that they made him feel less special. One day he decided to invent amazing things so that he could have everything he wanted.
A pair of wings to fly like a bird. It never worked.
A pair of night glasses to see like an owl. It never worked . . .

Susanna Isern works as a child psychologist and writer. Most of her books have been translated into over a dozen languages. She has been awarded the Silver Medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards 2013 in the United States.

Sonja Wimmer is a renowned international illustrator. Her books have been translated into several languages. In the United States, she received the Independent Publisher Book Award and was a two-time winner of the Moonbeam Children´s Book Award and International Latino Book Award.

Why do I like this book? Like an aspiring writer, trying out the voices of different authors to see which one suits him or her best, Bogo the fox envies the talents of his animal friends. By comparison, he feels he is without talent and therefore less special. He creates many inventions to help him in his quest to be like those he envies: wings like a bird’s, night-vision glasses to help him see like owls, jumping stilts to leap like frogs, and more. As you probably guessed, Bogo fails with each new invention. It isn’t until he masterfully saves his friends lives with his own natural talents that he realizes he is special too.

Sonja Wimmer’s bright, colorful, and playful illustrations add a level of humor that children will love as much as this picture book reviewer did.

Learn more about Susanna Isern HERE.

Learn more about Sonja Wimmer HERE.

Perfect Picture Book Friday looks at the book I, Vivaldi

When I was a child, the attic was a magical place of discovery. It reminded me of a picture book I loved that contained elaborate, wordless, illustrations in which I always found something new with each viewing. Like that book, our attic held amazing treasures. Everything that couldn’t find a place in our home found a place there. The attic barely burst with my father’s old college books, magazine collections, my mother’s outdated fur coat, my father’s university graduation cap and gown, a chest filled with forgotten dolls, photo albums, my grandmother’s antique bed, carpet remnants, and so much more. One day, back when I was about ten, I made an amazing discovery…a strangely shaped, black, leather case. I took it by it’s cracked handle, set it on the floor before me, and released the latch. Inside, beneath a velvet cover, lay a lovely violin. Two of the strings had snapped, the hairs on the bow were frayed, but the honey-warm, varnished wood picked up every glint of pretty light.

When I showed my father my discovery, he ran a gentle hand over the violin.

“I bought this instrument over thirty years ago when I graduated from college,” he said. “I hoped to someday learn to play it. Maybe you’d like to take lessons?”

I accepted the invitation and challenge. My years of lessons led me to join a youth orchestra and later, in college, a symphony. And years after that, when I walked down the aisle to say my wedding vows, the music of Antonio Vivaldi, one of the greatest violinists and composers, became part of my wedding ceremony. Which leads me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

Title – I, Vivaldi

Written by  – Janice Shefelman

Illustrated by – Tom Shefelman

Published by – Eerdmans Books for Young Readers – 2008

Suitable for ages – 5-12

Theme – Stay true to your life’s dream.

Opening – Venice 1678

On the day that I, Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, was born, there was an earthquake. My mama heard a rumble from under the ground. Church bells were ringing all over town.

My papa ran up the stairs. “Camilla, we have to get out of the house.”

“But Giovanni,” Mama cried, “the baby is coming. You must go for the midwife!”

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. In this dynamic picture-book biography, told as if by Vivaldi himself, the famous musician’s energetic personality and steadfast dedication to music come alive.

Despite his mother’s vow for him to become a priest, young Vivaldi is only interested in music. He soon grows from a feisty boy who wants to play the violin into a stubborn young man who puts his musical training ahead of his studies for priesthood.

Beautiful, ornate artwork portrays the spirit and splendor of Vivaldi’s hometown, Venice. A historical note, musical score, and glossary will help readers more fully appreciate Vivaldi’s life and musical genius.

Why do I like this book? I have long been fascinated with the stories behind people whose work I admire. Having played the music of Vivaldi, I was thrilled to find this beautifully illustrated treasure. Janice Shefelman chose to tell this story through Vivaldi’s own words, adding a closeness between this great man and the reader. We learn that because of Antonio’s difficulty breathing at birth, his mother promised God that if He spared her son Antonio would become a priest. Conflicted between his mother’s promise to God and his own passion for music, Antonio Vivaldi embarked on both paths. With a loving hand and careful attention to details, Tom Shefelman’s illustrations faithfully recreate the complex and stunning architecture of Venice.  

Learn more about Janice and Tom Shefelman HERE.

Please enjoy this beautiful youtube recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

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

Next Friday, join me for an interview with picture book author, Janet Nolan!

Perfect Picture Book Friday looks at the lovely poetry of Elaine Magliaro

My love of writing poems goes clear back to my childhood. And one of my favorite times to write poems was when I vacationed with my family. While my friends flew toward their summer destinations to relax at the beach or pool, my family traveled by car. I’m recalling the 70’s when air conditioning was optional and my parents never saw the need to spend money for something they could get for free by cranking down a window. Mom mapped out our itinerary, noting the places and attractions she and Dad wanted to see like caves, canyons, rivers, waterfalls, and statues. We’d load up our jeep, lay a scratchy wool blanket down to keep our legs from sticking to the vinyl seats, and head across the country for two weeks.

Mom encouraged me to journal about the sites on our vacations. Often, I wrote about our travels in rhyme. Every little thing along the way that caught my attention became immortalized in a poem: a rosy sunset, prairie dogs popping up in a field, a bird nesting in a cactus, tumbleweed moseying along the road…  This is why I was drawn to the picture book, THINGS TO DO. Elaine Magliaro chose a variety of simple topics for her poetry and, like the Orb Spider in her book, she wove a series of startling, surprising, and lovely poems for children to help them see the world in a fresh light.

Title – Things To Do

Written by – Elaine Magliaro

and illustrated by – Catia Chien

Published by – Chronicle Books – 2016

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Theme – Poetry on a broad range of subjects.

Opening – Things to do if you are DAWN. Shoo away night. Wash the eastern sky with light. Wake the sleeping sun: Rise and shine!

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. With playful prose and vivid art, Things to Do brings to life the small moments and secret joys of a child’s day. There are wonders everywhere. In the sky and on the ground—blooming in a flower bed, dangling from a silken thread, buzzing through the summer air—waiting …waiting to be found. In this thoughtful and ingenious collection of poems, Elaine Magliaro, an elementary school teacher for more than three decades and a school librarian for three years, and illustrator Catia Chien provide a luminous glimpse of the ordinary wonders all around us.

Why do I like this book? The poems are light, inventive, and fresh. I found myself smiling at the gentle humor and thoughtful word choices. Catia Chien’s illustrations reminded me of the simple illustrations in the picture books I loved as a child. Bursting with color and simplicity, her style will greatly appeal to children.

Learn more about Elaine Magliaro HERE.

Learn more about Catia Chien HERE.

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

An exercise in writing poetry with children: Bring paper and pencils along on a walk and make a list of five or more things you see when you look up and five or more things you see when you look down.

Close your eyes and make a list of what you hear.

make a list of what you smell.

From your lists, select the one thing that interests you most.

write down words to describe it. (Color, texture, sound, movement…)

To find more descriptive words, imagine you are describing the item to someone who has never seen it before. What does it remind you of? What does it look similar to? What does it sound similar to? Can you compare its size to something else?

Using your new list of words, play at writing a poem.