Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Interrupting Chicken

My Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) review today is Interrupting Chicken, a story that, in my opinion, is beyond hysterical. Seriously. If you’re craving a belly laugh, this book delivers!

But first… a little story from my own life to tie into today’s picture book review.

About eight years ago when I took my first serious step toward becoming a writer, I enrolled in a course at The Institute of Children’s Literature. My instructor offered valuable critiques on each of my monthly assignments, and I diligently took her suggestions to heart. The story I worked on was a middle grade, adventure novel. I had painstakingly created my main character to the point where part of me believed he existed. I knew my way blindfolded around his home. I could hear his thoughts. I could anticipate his reactions to any situation. Over the course of writing his story, he had become a close friend. (Anyone who has dedicated a fair stretch time to writing a book of fiction will relate.)

I awoke early to write. I tumbled into bed late, sad not to be conscious enough to take my character into the next chapter of his perilous adventure. At year’s end, I completed my manuscript and sent it to my instructor, ready to read her glowing review.

“I can tell from reading your story,” she said, “that you care greatly about your main character. In scenes when tension rises and danger nears, you protect him from harm.”

“Wait!” I scowled at her letter. “You’re making it sound like it’s something awful. If I don’t protect my main character, something might happen to him. He might get hurt!” (I’ll wait until you’ve stopped laughing.)

“Hurt him,” my instructor ordered. Nobody will spend a dime on your book if nothing happens. Put your main character at risk. Have the tree branch he’s sitting on break! Then, figure how to keep him alive on the way down. Just don’t kill him.”

“EXCUSE ME???” I said, still scowling at her letter. “But my main character is someone I created. He’s like my child. A good mother would never intentionally hurt her child.”

“Hurt him,” she said.

I returned to my computer. I scrolled to the first horrific encounter. With shaking hands, I dragged my main character out of the protective shadows and into harm’s way. I ducked when he ducked. I grimaced when pain inflicted his trembling body. He bled. I cried.

Enter my husband, home from a hard day at the office. “What’s wrong, sweetheart? What’s with the tears?”

“I am a terrible person!” I sobbed, drenching my laptop. “I just sat here and let my main character get hurt. It’s my fault he’s sprawled out in agony at the bottom of page 32. I am a terrible, horrible, despicable person.”

My husband offered a hug and a tissue to dry my keyboard.

My instructor applauded me. “You can call yourself a writer now,” she said.

And now for the big reveal. What does my story have to do with today’s picture book review?

In Interrupting Chicken, Chicken’s father tries to read a bedtime story, but each time he reaches the point where something bad will befall the main character, Chicken interrupts to save the main character from harm and finish the story early with a happy ever after ending. (Sound familiar?)

Title – Interrupting Chicken

Written and illustrated by  – David Ezra Stein

Published by – Candlewick Press – 2010

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Topics/Theme –  keeping the peace and humor

Opening –  

It was bedtime for the little red chicken.

“Okay, my little chicken,” said Papa. “Are you ready to go to sleep?”

“Yes, Papa! But you forgot something.”

“What’s that?” asked Papa.

“A bedtime story!”

Amazon Review –  View it HEREAwarded a 2011 Caldecott Honor!

It’s time for the little red chicken’s bedtime story —and a reminder from Papa to try not to interrupt. But the chicken can’t help herself! Whether the tale is HANSEL AND GRETEL or LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD or even CHICKEN LITTLE, she jumps into the story to save its hapless characters from doing some dangerous or silly thing. Now it’s the little red chicken’s turn to tell a story, but will her yawning papa make it to the end without his own kind of interrupting? Energetically illustrated with glowing colors —and offering humorous story-within-a-story views —this all-too-familiar tale is sure to amuse (and hold the attention of ) spirited little chicks.

Why do I like this book? The interrupting chicken has her heart in the right place. She adores all things peaceful and can’t bear to see anyone hurt – not if she can help it! (Hmmm. She reminds me of someone…) And at every tense story moment, Chicken jumps in to save the day! But it’s not just any hero that comes to the rescue of Hansel and Gretel, Chicken Little, and Little Red Riding Hood… It’s Chicken who jumps into the storybook pages to restore peace!
I found a fun video/school visit for you to watch on youtube with David Ezra Stein HERE.

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

PPBF Looks at Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin

PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) looks at Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin.

One afternoon, back when I was nine, I wandered up to the loft where my parents stored magazines, stacks of books, old toys, and furniture. While I rooted through an old trunk, I came across a long, peculiar-shaped case. I unlatched it and found an old violin. One of the four strings lay broken, countless frayed hairs on the bow made it unplayable, and a musty smell filled the case. But the violin…that elegant violin captivated me.

For those of you thinking it was a priceless Stradavarius, I’m sorry to disenchant you. However, the violin had merit being made by the German violin maker, Heinrich Theodore Heberlein Jr. (1843-1910)


My father had purchased the violin many years ago when he was in his early twenties with the dream that one day he would learn to play the instrument. After my father brought the beautiful instrument to a violin maker for repairs, I took over my father’s dream. With lessons over many years, I practiced until I was ready to join an orchestra. I loved wearing a long black skirt for concerts. I loved sitting, not in the audience facing the music, but on stage surrounded by the music. Bows gliding together across the strings. The conductor leading us with his baton, pulling from us the best music we were capable of playing. At the end of the concert, I stood with the orchestra as we bowed in appreciation to  the warm applause.

My love of the violin leads me to today’s PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) selection.

Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin by Lloyd Moss. Of course, when I saw the vibrant cover illustration of the violinist and read the title, I had to peek inside. And…one peek lead to in instant love and purchase.

Title – Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin – view on Amazon Here.

Written by – Lloyd Moss (1926-2013)

Illustrated by – Marjorie Priceman

Published by – Aladdin Paperbacks  edition 2000  (text and illustration copyright 1995)

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics/Theme –  music and learning about the instruments in an orchestra

Opening –

With mournful moan and silken tone,

Itself alone comes ONE TROMBONE.

gliding, sliding, high notes go low;


Amazon Review – The Caldecott Honor book, now in paperback!
With mournful moan and silken tone,
itself alone comes ONE TROMBONE…

Then a trumpet joins in to become a duet; add a French horn and voila! you have a trio — and on it goes until an entire orchestra is assembled on stage. Lloyd Moss’s irresistible rhymes and Marjorie Pricemans’s energetic illustrations make beautiful music together — a masterpiece that is the perfect introduction to musical instruments and musical groups, and a counting book that redefines the genre.

Why do I like this book? Musical instruments each have their own distinctive voice. Describing an instrument’s voice through words often falls flat to the actual sound. But when I read each stanza dedicated to a musical instrument, I found that Lloyd Moss demonstrates a “fine tuned” understanding of the particular sound each instrument produces and found perfect words to bring each one to life. And…offering the absolute, hands down, perfect accompaniment to the text, one of my very favorite illustrators, Marjorie Priceman, was chosen to create the art. Her style is expressive. Her illustrations burst with intense colors and freedom. Her lines are more fluid than cursive handwriting.

Learn about Lloyd Moss HERE. This is an incredible post about the author that includes the story of how this special book came to be.

Learn about Marjorie Priceman HERE.

Discussion with children – watch videos on your computer or check them out at the library of music performed by various solo instruments. Then, play a piece of classical music performed by an orchestra and see how many instruments children can recognize. And…

…ask if they can describe the sound each instrument makes in words.

DANCE TIME! – While listening to various musical pieces, make space in a room for a little creative “dance” time. Let children explore with their hands, arms, feet, legs, and bodies what direction the music takes them.

DRAWING TIME! -Spread out large sheets of paper, markers, and colored pencils or crayons. This time, while listening to expressive pieces of music, encourage children to show with lines, shapes, and squiggles how the music ‘looks’ to them if it were a picture.

If you know of other picture books that explore music, I hope you’ll share them in the comments.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. See you back here soon!

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at – The Inventor’s Secret

I can’t count the times my daughter asks to do an art project with me or wants to learn a new instrument like the piano, violin, or guitar. It doesn’t take long before she pushes the project away or abandons the instrument only to say, “I’ll never get good at this!” Or… “You’re so much better at this than I am.” Followed by… “What’s the point of trying?”

I make two cups of hot cocoa, a bowl of buttery popcorn, give her hugs, and plenty of encouragement. Then I tell her stories from my childhood.

“When I was a child, I sat with my mother at the kitchen table to work on an art project and felt discouraged because my mother, a scientific illustrator for the Field Museum in Chicago, clearly had more talent than I did. When I played the piano and made mistakes, my mother would sit beside me and play the piece so I could hear the song properly and get the melody in my ear. Mom was an accomplished pianist, so naturally the difference in our playing was there for anyone listening to hear. I didn’t see the point in continuing. When I wanted to quit piano lessons, my mom agreed and told me I was never to touch the piano again.


Talk about the cookie jar on the top shelf. Three days passed. Then, I couldn’t take it. Suddenly, I wanted to play the piano so much I asked my mom to please reinstate my lessons. Secretly, Mom knew I would cave in and had never called my piano teacher to cancel lessons. I practiced every day and eventually improved and enjoyed playing the piano for my own pleasure. My point is that you can’t expect to have professional results the first time you try something.” I said to my daughter. “Everything in this world worth having takes time, dedication, love, and commitment.”

This leads me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF)

Title – The Inventor’s Secret – What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford (click here to view on Amazon.)

Written by – Suzanne Slade

*Illustrated by – Jennifer Black Reinhardt

*Published by – Charlesbridge – 2015

*Suitable for ages – * NSTA 2016 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12 *

*Topics/theme  determination

*Opening – Not so long ago the world was a little slower. A little simpler. And a whole lot quieter. No airplanes roaring overhead. No cars rumbling down roads. No phones ringing in pockets. Then things began to change–because of two curious boys, Thomas and Henry. And one secret.

Jacket copy  – Thomas was curious about electricity–invisible energy that flowed and stopped, sizzled and popped.

Henry was curious about engines–machines that chugged and purred, hiccupped and whirred.

The boys’ curiosity got them in a heap of trouble, but later led to some to the greatest inventions of all time!

When Thomas Edison grew up, he invented the electric pen, phonograph, light bulb, and more. Henry Ford dreamed of inventing a car–a road engine that hardworking families could afford. But year after year, Henry’s engine designs were a flop, while the whole country was crazy about Thomas’s inventions.

Henry was frustrated. He wanted to give up! And he kept wondering… What’s Thomas’s secret!

Amazon Review – Thomas Edison and Henry Ford started off as insatiably curious tinkerers. That curiosity led them to become inventors–with very different results. As Edison invented hit after commercial hit, gaining fame and fortune, Henry struggled to make a single invention (an affordable car) work. Witnessing Thomas’s glorious career from afar, a frustrated Henry wondered about the secret to his success.

This little-known story is a fresh, kid-friendly way to show how Thomas Edison and Henry Ford grew up to be the most famous inventors in the world–and best friends, too.

Why do I like this book? Although the retelling of the experiments, failures and successes take place around 100 years ago, the secret to what it takes to succeed is timeless and will surely inspire all who read this book, children and grownups alike. The illustrations are created with a happy heart of one of my favorite illustrators, Jennifer Black Reinhardt. Her artwork is brimming with details and colors children will enjoy looking at again and again.

Author – Visit Suzanne Slade here.

Illustrator – Visit Jennifer Black Reinhardt here.

PPBF Looks at What Does It Mean To Be Kind?

Yesterday when I was at the grocery store, the closest parking spot opened up, but I didn’t take it. I left it for someone else and parked further down. The exercise will do me good, (I’m still working off Christmas dinner…) and someone who really needs the closer spot will appreciate it.

Then, as I was waiting in line to pay for my groceries, a gentleman with two items in his arms stood behind me. So, I let him go ahead of me and my towering cart.

Last week when my daughter was practicing her guitar, I complimented her on all the notes and chords she played in tune and encouraged her to keep practicing, pointing out how far she has come in the few short months since she started lessons.

What do all these random acts of kindness have to do with writing?

They are further examples of ways we can all be kind, illustrated through text and pictures in today’s PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) review.

Title – What Does It Mean To Be Kind

Written by – Rana DiOrio

Illustrated by – Stephane Jorisch

Published by – Little Pickle Press , San Francisco, CA – 2015

Suitable for ages – 3  – 7

Topics/theme – kindness, friendship

Opening – What does it mean to be kind?

Amazon Review –  A girl in a red hat finds the courage to be kind to the new student in class. Her kindness spreads, kind act by kind act, until her whole community experiences the magical shift that happens when everyone understands―and acts on―what it means to be kind. The fifth book in Rana DiOrio’s award-winning What Does It Mean To Be …?® series, What Does It Mean To Be Kind? was named a 2015 Moonbeam Gold Medalist and won a Mom’s Choice Gold Award.

Why do I like this book?  Through sparse text and clear examples of acts of kindness, both children and adults can find, or be reminded of, simple, and much appreciated, ways to spread kindness. I also love the happy, uplifting illustrations created by the playful hand of Stephane Jorisch.

Author –Learn more about Rana DiOrio here.

Illustrator – Learn more about Stephane Jorisch here.

For more picture book reviews and recommendations, visit author Susanna Leonard Hills blog here.

START A CONVERSATION WITH A CHILD.  After sharing this book with a child (or with children) ask them to think of other ways they can be kind: at home, to their parents, to their siblings, to their pets, at school, to their teachers and friends, and also ways to be kind to our environment.