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.

A Beige Childhood + Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match for Perfect Picture Book Friday

Go ahead and settle back while I first tell my story. Then, I’ll share my picture book review of Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

I would describe my mother as an old-world, German woman. Mom preferred sensible over sensational, blending in over inviting attention to, and beige and brown over all the happy colors in the world. I sometimes felt I looked more like a miniature version of her instead of a typical kid. My friends got to wear jeans, (Lucky!!!) they owned colorful shirts, blouses, and sweaters, their shoes were equally colorful, and they wore fun headbands or bright ribbons tied in their hair.

Then, there was me… boarding the school bus in my sensible, brown, walking shoes with beige socks, brown pants, and beige sweater. I might have been a child, but I looked like someone’s granny with a decent face lift.

Mom wouldn’t always take me with her when she shopped. Sometimes, I came home from school to some unfashionable surprises.

“Didn’t this dress come in blue or green?”

“Beige is better. You don’t want to bring attention to yourself.”

“If I have to wear a beige dress, can I pleeeease get red sandals?”

“What are you thinking? Did someone hit you in the head? As long as I’m paying for your clothes, you’ll dress sensibly. Honestly, if I didn’t put my foot down, you’d leave this house naked!”

“At least I’d still be wearing beige.”

“Go to your room.”

My childhood was filled with envy for the colorful clothes my friends wore. Many years later, when I married and had a daughter, I swore she would dress in every color that filled a box of crayons which brings me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review.

Title – Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match

Written by  – Monica Brown

Illustrated by – Sara Palacios

Published by – Children’s Book Press – 2011

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Theme – To feel happiest, be yourself no matter the opinions of others.

Opening – My name is Marisol McDonald, and I don’t match. At least, that’s what everyone tells me.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin. Polka dots and stripes are her favorite combination. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos in her lunch box. And don’t even think of asking her to choose one or the other activity at recess—she ll just be a soccer playing pirate princess. To Marisol McDonald, these seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together.

Unfortunately, they don t always make sense to everyone else. Other people wrinkle their nose in confusion at Marisol—can’t she just be one or the other? Try as she might, in a world where everyone tries to put this biracial, Peruvian-Scottish-American girl into a box, Marisol McDonald doesn’t match. And that s just fine with her.

Why do I like this book? What’s not to love about a strong main character who knows what she likes, and despite the comments of others, stays true to herself. Although, for one day, Marisol decides, against her better judgement, to match and behave as others do, but that day, as you might imagine, is her worst day. Marisol is a bilingual, Peruvian-Scottish – American girl in a multiracial family with her father’s red hair, her mother’s brown skin, and a whole lot of spunk and creativity that, when brought together, equal one terrific main character. The illustrations by Sara Palacios add loads of rich, playful colors and patterns, creating one super, happy book.

Learn more about Monica Brown HERE.

Learn more about Sara Palacios HERE.

Play idea – It’s fashion show time! Have fun with your children, creating the most outlandish outfits you can put together. The only rule…no beige. Then, take funny pictures. For a snack, put together some totally mismatched foods like Marisol does. Maybe you’ll discover a combination of items that’s utterly scrumptious!

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

When you were a kid, do you remember a student or friend in your class who marched to his/her own beat like Marisol? Please feel free to share in the comments. I’d love to hear about it.

Creating “Ish” Art for Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) Looks at Creating “Ish” Art.

Creating art as a child should be fun. After all, children are discovering the world and interpreting the many marvels around them with a box of crayons, a small paint pallet, a stubby brush, and a pad of paper. Yes, this blissful childhood experience should be freeing, but for me, it was stressful. My mother was an artist for the Field Museum in Chicago. Because of her years of education in botany and scientific illustration in Germany, she never looked at my artistic endeavors through the eyes of a mom armed with a magnet and free space on the fridge, but rather through her analytical eyes and vast knowledge of the scientific world.

She once held my picture of a grassy meadow sprinkled with flowers, two trees, one bunny, and a bright yellow ball of sunshine and gave it a sideways glance. I could see the gears turning in her head as I awaited, not praise, but her criticism.

“Leslie.” She wrinkled her brow at my masterpiece. “If the sun is just above the horizon, as you’ve drawn it, then the shadows must be longer. And if this is a picture of a field around our house, you would never see a Crocustommasinianus growing in the same season with an Iris Reticulata.”

“Really?”

Eventually, I learned to throw myself over my drawings whenever my mom came into view. “It’s not done yet,” I’d blurt. Mom would head out to tend the garden while I finished my drawing and stashed it away before she returned.

The book I’m reviewing today (Ish by Peter H. Reynolds) looks at art in a unique way. I can’t tell you how often I’ve read this marvelous, little treasure. Maybe I return to it often because I wish I owned it when I was a child. I have a feeling I wouldn’t have looked at my art as being “not right” but rather as being marvelously ish.

Title – Ish

Written and illustrated by  – Peter H. Reynolds

Published by – Candlewick Press – 2004

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Theme – One person’s viewpoint isn’t always right. Being true to one’s self, exploration, and creativity.

Opening –

Raymond loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.

One day, Ramon was drawing a vase of flowers. His brother, Leon, leaned over his shoulder. Leon burst out laughing. “WHAT is THAT?” he asked.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE.  A creative spirit learns that thinking “ish-ly” is far more wonderful than “getting it right” in this gentle new fable from the creator of the award-winning picture book THE DOT.

Ramon loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.

Drawing is what Ramon does. It¹s what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.” Combining the spareness of fable with the potency of parable, Peter Reynolds shines a bright beam of light on the need to kindle and tend our creative flames with care.

Why do I like this book? Most obviously, because I would have loved to label my art as being “ish” when I was a child. I believe the term frees up the inner artist and gives permission to play. Peter Reynolds inspiring story teamed with his simple and emotion-packed illustrations tells a necessary story the artist in all of us can cling to. One of my favorite pages shows labeled art from Raymond’s journal with such descriptive titles as tree-ish, house-ish, afternoon-ish, and fish-ish. To me, this book is the best-ish, most perfect-ish picture book to read to budding, young artists.

Learn more about Peter H. Reynolds HERE.

Art idea – After reading ISH, encourage children to draw “ishly”. Set out a table full of art supplies, and let them freely interpret their world. Art supplies to include are colored pencils, colored paper, crayons, scissors, glue, pipe cleaners, paper plates, markers, yarn, beads, tissue paper, and more.

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

What are your childhood memories of the art you created?