Home Is A Great Place To Be

I don’t need to tell anyone that the world has changed or that I can’t wait for a state of mostly-safe and relatively-normal to return so I can greet friends with a hug or hang out at the library with a stack of picture books as I search for the perfect one to share with you.

Out in the world, everything has changed. 

Last week at the grocery store, a sign limited shoppers to one loaf of bread. I had arrived too late. The aisle for water also posted a one flat limit. Toilet paper? If I hadn’t been down to our last roll, I could have saved myself the drive to five stores to locate a package of this necessity which, from the state of the world, holds a value near gold. Shoppers around me grabbed anything remaining on the shelves and loaded their carts to overflowing. As I added ten cans of black beans and ten boxes of pasta to my cart, (don’t judge)  I formed an image of the Grinch and his dog, Max, with their heavily ladened sleigh, making their way back home on Christmas Eve.

In my yard, nothing has changed.

The robins have returned and are, as I’m writing to you, setting their heads near the earth to listen for worms. Outside my kitchen window, the first tiny buds have emerged on the trees and shrubs.  A squirrel, my daughter and I named Bob, visits our back porch each morning in search of the seeds and nuts I set out for him. And when the sun has set, millions of stars twinkle, like distant lanterns, across the sky.

Inside my home, not much has changed.

I don’t leave the house unless I absolutely must. That has changed. But…

I continue to write while my daughter works through her online classes. Our parakeet chats while the cockatiel whistles his version of Take Me Out To The Ballgame. In his big terrarium, 0ur tortoise knocks against the glass to let me know when he’s out of spinach or kale and would appreciate having his neck caressed. As the sun slowly crosses through our living room, our dog wakes long enough to change his napping location to stay in the center of the warm beam of light.

Later in the day, my daughter and I play gin rummy or browse through our books and read. Some days we watch a favorite movie or hang out in our cozy art room to paint. In the evenings when my husband comes home from work, we sit down to dinner, share our day, play a board game, and read until bedtime.

All of this tells me that home is a great place to be.

Which leads me to my Perfect Picture Book Friday selection.

Title –  Home: A Journey Through America

A collection of poetry by over a dozen poets

Illustrator –Thomas Locker

Published by – Silver Whistle – 1998

Suitable for ages – 4 to 8

Topics – Poetry

Opening – Home is more than just the place we return to after being away. Home is something that becomes part of us as we live in it. For artists and writers, home can become part of how we see the world and how we shape our words or our artwork. For everyone, the place we call home becomes a part of our lives.

Amazon Review  HERE. Home. In this unique volume, prominent American writers from the past and present–Willa Cather, Henry David Thoreau, Eloise Greenfield–give voice to the region of the country each calls home. Thomas Locker’s lavish oil paintings accompany each passage, transporting the reader from the crashing waves of the Pacific coast to the bluebonnet fields of the Texas prairie. Come along on a spectacular journey through our home–America.

Watch and listen to a short, but wonderful, video of Thomas Locker HERE.

Other books by Thomas Locker HERE.

Poets included in this book plus links to learn more about each one.

Joseph Bruchac HERE

Willa Cather HERE

Robert Frost HERE

Merle Good HERE

Eloise Greenfield HERE

Washington Irving HERE

Abraham Lincoln HERE

Thomas Locker HERE

Pat Mora HERE

John Muir HERE

Carl Sandburg HERE

Henry David Thoreau HERE

Jane Yolen HERE

Before I sign off for today, I found a few music videos I thought you might enjoy. 

Louis Armstrong sings What a Wonderful World HERE.

Cat Stevens sings Morning Has Broken HERE.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow sung by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo ‘ole HERE.

 

Until next Friday.

There’s Room for Two this Perfect Picture Book Friday!

At the end of a long day of writing, editing, laundry, grocery shopping, feeding my zoo, giving homework help, paying bills, and making three meals plus a batch of biscotti, I’m understandably tired. It’s nine o’clock, and a familiar movie is playing on TV. My husband is camped out in his recliner, probably playing chess on his cell phone. Across the room, my daughter is zen tangling in her sketchbook. At the far end of the sofa, our snoring dog is making his nap look awfully, awfully good! Too good.

I lean back, just a little, to rest my head. Then, I slide down. Before long, I tilt over and stretch my legs. Soon, I’m drifting.

“Scootch in a little, Mom,” my daughter says, rubbing my shoulder.

My eyes still closed, I say, “The sofa isn’t wide enough for two. Why don’t you camp out on the loveseat?”

“Because I want to camp here with you,” she says.

I’m unable to resist the sweetness in her voice.

I scootch up against the back of the sofa, she squirms to find a comfy place beside me, and somehow, we wake up two hours later from a perfectly cozy nap.

I’m glad our sofa is big enough for two, which leads me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review…

Title –  Just Right for Two

Author – Tracey Corderoy

Illustrator – Rosalind Beardshaw

Published by – Nosy Crow – 2013

Suitable for ages – 3-5 (but I’m pretty sure people of all ages will love this book.)

Topics – Friendship

Opening – Dog had a big blue suitcase. He took it with him everywhere. Inside were all his special things… a bumpy little pinecone, a smooth rock with a hole in it, some dancing leaves,…

Amazon Review  HERE.  Dog has everything he needs in his big blue suitcase. Or does he?  Dog’s big blue suitcase is the perfect fit for all the little treasures he has collected. He is sure that he is happy with just himself and his suitcase. Until one night when Mouse comes along, and Dog discovers that his big blue suitcase is actually just right for two.

Why I like this book—  I love all things precious, and this book falls neatly into that category. Take one adorable dog with a treasure-packed suitcase, add to this a free-spirited mouse who recognizes the perfect place to squeeze in for a nap when he sees it, and you’ve got the makings of a lasting friendship. Now… team up one great writer with the artistic talents of  Rosalind Beardshaw, whose gift for capturing emotions is evident on every page, and… what more can I say?

Tracey Corderoy shares the inspiration behind her book, Just Right for Two, HERE.

Learn more about Rosalind Beardshaw HERE.

Listen to a precious reading of this book HERE.

Until next Friday.

“The Monstore” Meets Perfect Picture Book Friday

Did you ever buy something that didn’t work EXACTLY like it did in a TV commercial? Did you ever save up your allowances, as a kid, to buy the toy all of your friends had or desperately wanted?

Like me, you probably emptied your piggy bank and scrounged between sofa cushions for pennies. You probably didn’t even splurge on a pack of gum. Finally, the day arrived when you had enough money.

You plunked down a fistful of noisy coins and hurried home with your new toy to play. But disappoint followed when the toy didn’t work EXACTLY like it did on TV. The slinky snagged on the shag carpet on the second step. The pet rock spent all of its time playing dead. The spinner on the game of LIFE jammed and stopped making that amazing, whirring sound.

After you pouted, kicked the toy across the room, and complained about the money you wasted, you tried to return the toy and GET YOUR MONEY BACK!

“I’m sorry, but we can’t accept opened or used toys.”

“No returns or refunds.”

“Sorry.”

Like me, you probably brought home your disappointment and shoved the toy under your bed.

If this scenario is even the teensiest bit familiar, you’ll find yourself relating to today’s incredibly fun Perfect Picture Book.

Title – The Monstore

Author – Tara Lazar

Illustrator – James Burks

Published by – Aladan – 2013

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme – Monsters and siblings

Opening – At the back of Frankensweet’s Candy Shoppe, under the last box of sour gum balls, there’s a trapdoor. Knock five times fast, hand over a bag of squirmy worms, and you can crawl inside… THE MONSTORE.

Amazon Review HERE. The Monstore is the place to go for all of your monsterly needs. Which is perfect, since Zack definitely has a monsterly need. The problem? His pesky little sister, Gracie, who never pays attention to that “Keep Out” sign on Zack’s door–the one he has made especially for her.

But when Zack’s monsters don’t exactly work as planned, he soon finds out that the Monstore has a few rules: No Refunds. No exchanges. No exceptions.

Learn more about Tara Lazar HERE.

Learn more about James Burks HERE.

Find some Monsterly-fun art projects for kids HERE, like these super adorable glove monsters!

glove monsters

Image credit –  playideas.com

Until next Friday!

Christmas Comes to Perfect Picture Book Friday!

From reading the stories I share each week that tie into my Perfect Picture Book Friday reviews, you’ve probably gathered that I look upon my childhood as a sweet place bathed in golden light. When I remember Christmas, I’m flooded with so many memories that the visual would resemble miles of Christmas lights. Here’s a look inside my thoughts.

I’m standing in my childhood kitchen, wearing a thin layer of flour, kneading the buttery dough that my sister, mother, and I will soon roll out. From our drawer of cookie cutters, we choose our favorites: an angel with wings spread wide, Santa carrying a sack of toys on his back, a hat-topped snowman, an assortment of trees, and hearts. Yes, hearts because Christmas delivers a bushel of love to our home that deserves heart-shaped cookies.

A second later, I’m crunching through knee-deep snow with my sister and Dad at the Christmas tree farm. Our noses are rosy, we can’t feel our fingers or cheeks, but we’re too happy to mind. We climb up on a horse-drawn hayride that brings us through a frozen field. We stroll through a forest of pines and choose the one fragrant tree that will hold our favorite ornaments. After Dad cuts down the tree, we return to the red barn for hot-spiced apple cider and warm doughnuts.

And then I’m grown up, a mom, sneaking downstairs at three in the morning to fill up stockings with tiny gifts and sweets, hide an elf, pen a tiny letter in even tinier text from the elf, sneak a bite of a cookie meant for Santa, (shhh, that’s supposed to be a secret) and climb back into bed to catch a couple of hours of sleep before I hear a small, eager voice call, “Get up! Get up! Santa came! Santa came!”

In addition to my Christmastime memories, I love the books that speak to this holiday. So, as my gift to you, I’m sharing a stack of some of my favorite literary treasures for little ones.

The Twelve Days of ChristmasThe Twelve Days of Christmas, illustrated by Anna Wright. 

To me, this book is truly a treasure to page slowly through. You’ll be met with lovingly created illustrations as well as many surprises. Get ready, because this book delivers the gift of holiday magic straight into your heart.

Link to Amazon HERE.

 

Christmas in the Big Woods (Little House Picture Book)Christmas In The Big Woods, adapted from the Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I grew up reading the entire collection of Little House on the Prairie books and have a soft spot for the family that grew up and lived in the cozy cabin nestled deep in the woods. This little book brims with molasses candy, the jangle of sleigh bells, flannel nightgowns, peppermint candy, red mittens, and a Christmas breakfast served up with gingerbread men-shaped pancakes. Yum!

Link to Amazon HERE.

 

Allie, the Christmas Spider, written by Shirley Menendez and illustrated by Maggie Kneen.

I can only describe this story as captivating, enchanting, and lovingly-written. Even if you aren’t a fan of spiders, this story will not only have you rooting for eight-legged, little Allie, but it might bring up a tear of happiness when you discover the gift she gives a special family for Christmas.

Link to Amazon Here.

 

The Night Before Christmas, words by Clement Clarke Moore, Uniquely illustrated by Raquel Jaramillo aka R.J. Palacio (author of Wonder).

Sure, the old-time, sepia-tinted photograph of Santa grabbed up my attention, but it was the letter to the reader, written by the illustrator, that captured my full attention. Apparently, Ms. Jaramillo, also known as R.J. Palacio, discovered an album of photographs under the floorboards of her home taken in 1901 on Christmas Eve. The photographs, she shares inside this book, inspired her to recreate photographs of her own to illustrate the beloved poem by Clement C. Moore.

You truly won’t want to miss this visual feast!

Link to Amazon HERE.

To each of you and your families, I wish you peace and love during this holiday season.

Leslie