Picture a Tree – Earth Day, April 22

Picture a Tree9780807565261_p0_v1_s260x420Picture a Tree

Barbara Reid, Author and Illustrator

Albert Whitman & Company, Fiction, 2013

Suitable for ages: 4-7

Themes: Trees, Imagination, Nature, Seasons

Opening: “There is more than one way to picture a tree. You may see a drawing on the sky. A game of dress-up.”

Summary: Picture a tree–what do you see?  A tree can be so many things: a drawing in the sky, a tunnel hovering over a neighborhood,  a home for  birds and animals, a clubhouse, a pirate ship, a great place to climb and think and shade from the heat.

Why I like this book: This is a perfect Earth Day book because it a celebration of trees, one of our most important resources.  Barbara Reid encourages her young readers to stretch their imaginations to see that a tree can be any thing as they change with each season.  Her text is simple and the artwork is gorgeous and lively. Her unique Plasticine creations are pressed onto an illustration board showing layered textures and color for a special visual effect. Both children and adults will study the expressive detail on the pages of this extraordinary book. And, make sure you check out the gorgeous end papers which are filled with pictures of trees. This is a wonderful book for the classroom and home.

Resources: Have children draw pictures of trees for each season and something special about the season.  Visit Barbara Reid’s website where there is a students/teacher artwork page, a picture a tree memory game, videos and a page devoted to working with Plasticine material.



Gatsby’s Grand Adventures: Books 1 and 2

Gatsby's book1 9781616333508_p0_v1_s260x420Gatsby’s Grand Adventures:Winslow Homer’s Snap the Whip

Barbara Cairns, Author

Eugene Ruble, Illustrator

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc., Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 7-12

Themes: Cat, Art gallery, Famous paintings, Mischief

Opening:”Gatsby the cat lived in Miss Annabelle’s art gallery.  At night, he had the most peculiar habit. He jumped into famous paintings.” 

Synopsis: In Book 1, Gatsby was an art gallery cat who loved exploring famous paintings at night. One night his long tail twitched, his nose itched and his haunches hitched as he leaped into Winslow Homer’s Snap the Whip picture. He darted between the boy’s tripping and knocking four of them down. The boys chased Gatsby and he jumped out of the painting as the sun rose. Miss Annabelle was shocked to find the boys struggling to stand.  Gatsby returned repeatedly to fix the painting, but each attempt ended in another cat-astrophe.  Will Gatsby restore Homer’s painting so Miss Annabelle doesn’t think she has lost her mind?

Gatsbys 2 Book9781616333874_p0_v1_s260x420.jpg.Book 2 published 2013

Gatsby’s Grand Adventures: Auguste Renoir’s The Apple Seller

Synopsis: Ever since Gatsby leaped into his first painting, he wanted to visit another painting.  When he discovered Renoir’s Apple Seller, his tail  twitched, his whiskers itched and his haunches hitched. He jumped into the painting after absent-minded Miss Annabelle had gone to bed. The girls seated with the apple seller in the painting are excited to see a cat and stroked Gatsby’s head. When Jasper the dog barked at Gatsby, he ran and climbed up a tree. The girls caught their dog and Gatsby leaped out of the painting after the sun had risen. Oops! He looked back and the painting was a mess.  There would be more trips to restore this picture. Poor Miss Annabelle.

Why I like these  books: Barbara Cairns books  introduce children to art in a fun way.  Both books combine art history and education with adventure and humor. Children who enjoy animals and art will learn about an artist’s work through the adventures of a mischievous cat named Gatsby. His name suits him well because he is one cat with personality. I am sure there will be many more Gatsby adventures in this series. Eugene Ruble’s lovely pastel paintings are lively and colorful. He captures the essence of both famous artists with his own style.

Resources: The author has provided information about Homer and Renoir in the back of the book, along with helpful websites for children.  For activities check out a site Cairns suggested: Art Smarts 4 Kids.  These books are a great way to introduce children to famous artwork before they visit an art gallery.

Barbara Cairns is a former K-6 school teacher, a special education teacher for the deaf, and a retired elementary school principal. You can find interesting facts about Gatsby and cats on her website.


The Ghost-Eye Tree

Ghost-Eye Tree9780805009477_p0_v3_s260x420The Ghost-Eye Tree

Bill Martin and John Archambault, Authors

Ted Rand, Illustrator

Square Fish Publisher, 1988 (Reprint)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: It’s okay to be scared, Imagination, Halloween

Book SynopsisOne dark and windy autumn night when the sun has long gone down, a young boy and his older sister are sent to the end of town to get a bucket of milk. As they walk down the lonely road, bathed in eerie moonlight, all the boy can think about is the ghost-eye tree.


I dreaded to go…

I dreaded the tree….

Why does Mama always choose me

When the night is so dark

And the mind runs free?

What will happen when they come to the tree?  Can they run past it or will it reach out and grab them?

 Why I like this book:  I will admit that this is a favorite dark and edgy book that my daughter and I still enjoy today.   I reviewed it several years ago, before I had much of a following, so I decided to share it again.  It is written by the late Bill Martin (1916-2004) and John Archambault, who give children a lot of room to use their imaginations.  Martin wrote children’s books for nearly 60 years.  I am a bit nostalgic as this was my daughter’s favorite spooky Halloween book.  I was so happy to find her copy and to know it is still available on Amazon, Barnes & Nobel and in libraries.  Written in verse by the authors in 1988, it is packed with imagery and suspense with each turn of the page.  Ted Rand’s illustrations are dark, eery and perfectly exaggerate the mood of the story.   The book is also a great read around any camp fire.  It remains on my bookshelf because it shows kids that being scared is okay.  It has just enough tension to make this a good Halloween read.

I discovered a short film was made of the Ghost-Eye Tree in 2008 by Nusomfilms.  Here is the trailer.

Sky Color

Sky Color9780763623456_p0_v1_s260x420Sky Color

Peter H. Reynolds, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Aug. 2012

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes:  Art, Creativity, Imagination,

Opening“Marisol was an artist.  She loved to draw and paint, and she even had her very own art gallery.  Not all her art hung in a gallery.  Much of it she shared with the world.”

Synopsis: Marisol’s teacher announces to the class they are going to paint a mural for the library.  Marisol wants to paint the sky.  She searches through the box of paints and can not find the color blue.  She wonders how she will paint the sky without blue paint.  On her way home from school Marisol stares out the bus window as the horizon changes.  She watches the sunset turn into night.  She realizes that maybe there are other ways to paint the color of the sky.

Why I like this book:  Another beautiful and original story about imagination and creativity from author/illustrator Peter Reynolds, who shows his young readers that the sky is the limit when you dream big and think outside of the box.  He encourages children to open their eyes and really look at their surroundings.  Is the sky really blue, the grass green, the sea blue and the moon white?  This is a great way to encourage kids to be daring and experiment with a  variety of colors.  What a great lesson in creativity for children.  This is the third story in his Creatrilogy series, which also includes The Dot and Ish.  Visit Peter H. Reynolds at his website.

Resource:  The website OMazing Kids  has some terrific ideas about encouraging creativity using many of Peter Reynold’s books.  Check out this July 6 post Inspiring Kids Creativity with Books, Art and Movement.


The Museum

The Museum9781419705946_p0_v1_s260x420

The Museum

Susan Verde, Author

Peter Reynolds, Illustrator

Abrams, Henry N., Inc., Mar. 12, 2013 (Release)

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes:  Museums, Art Appreciation,  Creativity, Imagination

Opening“When I see a work of art, something happens in my heart.  I cannot stifle my reaction.  My body just goes into action.”

Synopsis:  A spirited girl visits a museum and is moved by the artwork she views.  Much to her delight, each painting evokes a different emotional response.  There is an unexpected encounter around every corner.  She twirls to the swirls in  Van Gogh’s Starry Night.   She strikes ballet poses, yoga postures, skips through fields of flowers and pauses to ponder Rodin’s The Thinker.  Picasso turns her mood blue and sad.  Cezanne’s apples makes her tummy rumble.  Miro’s lines and squiggles sends here into fits of giggles.  Munch’s painting evokes a shriek.   My favorite moment is when she stands before Ryman’s stark white canvas.  Puzzled and wondering if it’s a joke, she closes her eyes and imagines a beautiful creation in her own mind.  When the museum closes and it is time to leave, she comes to an important realization about the artwork.

Why I like this bookThe Museum is a creative, moving and enchanting story written in rhyme.  Debut author Susan Verde shows art as a personal and liberating experience for her inquisitive barefoot museum patron.  Peter H. Reynolds’s illustrations are lively, dramatic, whimsical, colorful and complement the narrative.  The girl dances across the pages.  A lot of teamwork went into bringing this endearing story to life.  Visit Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds at their websites.  Reynolds is the award-winning author and illustrator of The Dot, North Star and Ish.

Resources:  Both Susan and Peter hope their story inspires children to visit their local art museum and notice how art makes them feel.   Show your children pieces of famous artwork, give them a pad of  paper and encourage them to draw a picture about how a painting or sculpture makes them feel.  Check out the Educators Guide  for The Museum on Susan’s website.

Book Launch Party:  Susan Verde and Peter Reynolds will celebrate the launch of The Museum on Saturday, March 9, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at The Blue Bunny, 577 High Street, Dedham Square, Dedham, MA.   You are invited to stop by and meet them.  They will be signing the first copies of their book.

Interview Mar. 11:  On Monday, Beth Stilborn will interview Susan Verde on her blog, By Word of Beth.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Cubbie Blue and His Dog Dot

Cubbie Blue2940015722376_p0_v1_s260x420Cubbie Blue and His Dog Dot, Book 1

Randa Handler, Author and Illustrator

Premier Digital Publishing, Dec. 12, 2012

Available eBook on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple, Google and Sony

Suitable for Ages:  5-8 years

Themes: Friendship, Diversity, Magic, Right and Wrong, Problem-Solving, Equality

Opening: “In the mists of Cylon, the oldest Antarctic iceberg, was the enchanted land of Baltar, with diamond-faceted ice stalactites and stalagmites that twinkled in any light.  The sky-blue-skinned Baltarians were always happy, doing cartwheels as they walked and giggling when they talked.  They were only a few inches tall but big in knowledge.”

SynopsisCubbie Blue and His Dog Dot is a story about Cobalt, a 150-year-old child, who stands three inches tall, is blue and has a long blue beard.  “Cubbie” has a family and a miniscule dog, Dot, who has multiple tails.  They live in a peaceful nation of Baltar, which is on an iceberg in Antarctica.  The Baltarians communicate telepathically.  There is another nation, Aryon, which wants to capture Baltar.  Therefore, Baltar has a protective energy field around it and all Baltarians are warned not to leave.   While playing in his father’s transport vehicle,  Cubbie” pushes too many buttons and finds himself far away from Baltar and in a land of people who are friendly, but are giants.  Cubbie finds an unlikely friendship with three multi-racial boys, Brian, Chris and Derek, who find their new friend quite unique.  Cubbie can read minds, disappear, and create magical transport bubbles to explore his new environment (cities, mountains and rivers) with his friends.  They have a lot to learn about each other, including right and wrong, tolerance, equality and problem-solving.

Why I like this book:  Author Randa Handler has written a magical and quirky story that will not only entertain children, but will teach them about diversity, problem solving, multicultural differences, and social justice issues.  In fact today marks the UN World Day of Social Justice.  To celebrate, Randa Handler and Premier Digital Publishing are giving away the first book in her new eBook series that promotes diversity, tolerance and equality.   Says Handler, “If children are taught early on that being different is cool, the world will be a better place to live in.”   This is an excellent book to encourage kids to use their imaginations.  Her illustrations are bold, funny and colorful.  Cubbie Blue can be downloaded for free by “liking” Premier Digital Publishing’s Facebook page from Feb. 20-28, 2013.   You may visit Randa Handler at her website and view her other books in the Cubbie Series and another book If I Were King.  A portion of the proceeds from the sale of her first three books will go to the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition.

This book has been provided to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work.

I Need My Monster

I Need my monster9780979974625_p0_v1_s260x420I Need My Monster

Amanda Noll, Author

Howard McWilliam, Illustrator

Flash Light Press, Fiction, April 2009

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Monsters, Night frights, Imagination, Friendship, Humor

Opening“Tonight, when I looked under the bed for my monster, I found this note instead.  Gone fishing.  Back in a week – Gabe.  What was I going to do?  I needed a monster under by bed.  How was I supposed to get to sleep if my monster was gone?”  How will Ethan ever get to sleep without Gabe’s familiar noises, ragged breathing and his spooky green ooze?  Ethan decides that he’s just going to have to find a replacement monster.  He climbs out of bed and taps on the floor and hops back under the covers waiting in fear.  Monsters begin to appear, but Herbert doesn’t have claws…Ralph wears nail polish on his claws…Cynthia is a girl…and Mack has a long, sloppy tongue.  Ethan fires them all.  How is Ethan ever going to get to sleep without his monster Gabe?

Why I like this book:    Amanda Noll has written a humorous and original book for children about a boy missing the monster lurking beneath his bed at night.  I love the power of Ethan’s imagination!  What a great way to help kids turn their fears into laughter.  This book is an entertaining read for both children and adults — one that will elicit growls and slurps as each character is acted out.  It will certainly become a bedtime favorite begging to be read repeatedly.  Howard McWilliam’s illustrations are bold and eye-popping.  The illustrations are drawn by pencil on paper, and is painted with digital acrylic paint.  The book is very large and adds to the appeal for kids.  You may visit Amanda Noll on her website.  I Need My Monster has won countless awards.

As of Dec. 9, 2012, I Need My Monster has become available as an interactive  Children’s Book App.

Snowmen at Night

Snowmen at Night157738642Snowmen at Night

Caralyn Buehner, Author

Mark Buehner, Illustrator

Dial Books for Young Readers, Fiction, 2002

Suitable for:  Ages 4-7

Themes: Snowmen, Imagination, Winter

Opening/Synopsis“One wintry day I made a snowman, very round and tall.  The next day when I saw him, he was not the same at all!”   A boy builds a snowman, but the next morning his snowman has changed.  It made him wonder what snowmen do at night.  He imagines them sliding away from their homes and going to a park for a night of fun and games with other snowmen.

Why I like this book:  Written and illustrated by husband and wife team Caralyn and Mark Buehner, Snowmen at Night is a spectacular and funny book that will spark the imaginations of millions of children.  They wrote the story after they opened their front door and discovered the snowman they built the night before, had moved several yards.  They wondered…  And, so will their young readers.  This book is beautifully illustrated and kids will want to study each detail on the page.  And, Mark has hidden shapes in his winter scenes that kids will want to search for.

Resources:  When it snows, encourage your child to build a snowman, dress it up and watch each day for any changes.  Encourage them to make angels in the snow, or help them make snow ice cream.

A Boy Called Dickens

Boy Called Dickens113794559A Boy Called Dickens

Deborah Hopkinson, author

John Hendrix, illustrator

Schwartz & Wade Books, Historical Fiction, 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 5 and up

Themes:  Young life of Charles Dickens,  Child Labor, History, Imagination

Opening/Synopsis“This is old London, on a winter morning long ago.  Come along, now.  We are here to search for a boy called Dickens.  He won’t be easy to find.”  Standing in a doorway is a 12-year-old Dickens, dressed in a worn jacket.  He’s skinny and cold and watching schoolboys carrying their books to class.  Instead  of joining the boys, Dickens heads to a blacking factory, where he packages polish for gentlemen’s boots 10 hours a day.  To deal with the bitter cold and boredom a friend asks Dickens to tell a story.  Dickens is an imaginative boy who loves to spin a story and misses his books that were sold to pay a family debt.  His most prized possessions are a pencil and slate.  He begins to sketch out the story of an orphan boy named David.  eventually his father is able to send Dickens back to school and Dickens becomes a writer.  His dream did come true.

Why I like this book:  Little was known about novelist Charles Dickens (1812-1870) as a child.  Deborah Hopkinson sheds light on his boyhood and his struggles and dreams as it is easy to see that his books are a window on his own life.  His youth left him with an ambitious drive to pursue those dreams at all cost.  That’s why this is such an important story for young people — to never let go of their dreams.  John Hendrix’s illustrations are rich in detail, expressive and beautifully capture the time period.  You can see glimpses of Dickens in some of his characters.

Resources:  What better way to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birth than to introduce this famous author.  It is the holiday season and a perfect time to read A Christmas Carol  or Oliver Twist at home or in the classroom.  Talk about London in around 1825 and child labor.   Talk about the child labor that still exists in the world.  There is a Note about the book at the end which has information.  Check out Deborah Hopkinson’s website for more information.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Annie’s Special Day – Author Interview

Annie's Special Day1332073678Annie’s Special Day

Clara Bowman-Jahn, author

Claudia Wolf, illustrator

eTreasures Publishing, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 5 and up

Themes: Birthday, Counting Concepts, Time

Opening/Synopsis: “Already awake and excited, Annie heard the alarm go off.  The clocked showed 7 o’clock in the morning, and the sun painted her bedroom walls and toys with a golden glow.”  It’s Annie’s birthday and she is determined to make the most of each hour.   Follow Annie through her day as every hour is filled with a new activity.  At four o’ clock her brother plays and sings Happy Birthday to Annie.  At 5 o’clock, her mommy is preparing her special birthday meal.  At 7 o’clock  Annie’s friends arrive for a sleep over and surprise her with presents.  At 8 o’clock birthday cake is served.  Her birthday celebration goes well into the night and  ends with sunrise.  Will she manage to mark each hour?

What I Like About this book:  Clara Bowman-Jahn has written a delightful concept book for children learning to tell time.  Each illustration features a clock.   This is a book that kids will want to read over and over.  The story is written with simplicity, so a child could read it on his/her own.  Claudia Wolfe’s illustrations are colorful, lively and expressive.  They really are beautiful and  capture each hour of Annie’s special day.

Author  Interview with Clara Bowman-Jahn

I am so delighted to chat with author Clara Bowman-Jahn on my website today about her very debut book.  It is a treat for me because I feel like I have followed her journey this past year from contract to publication and promotion.   Now it’s here and I’m holding the finished product in my hands.  It will ultimately be a Christmas gift for my six-year-old great-granddaughter.

Clara Bowman-Jahn author photo(1)Welcome Clara!  Tell me a little about Annie’s Special Day?

It is a concept book.  Instead of relying heavily on plot it is primarily teaching a concept about telling time and clocks.  Each page shows a different clock rather than focusing on a story line with a character solving a problem or conflict.   It helps teachers and parents show children how to tel time in digital as well as analog clocks.  It is similar to the old Hickory Dickory Dock book,  but different in that it is a child going through her day with her activities in 24 hours rather than a mouse on a farm.  Most children don’t live on a farm anymore and don’t recognize the activities that take place to keep a farm running like they did 40 years ago.

What did you think when you first saw the cover and illustrations?

I was so impressed with Claudia’s talent.   She captured my vision and did a such a beautiful job.  I was thrilled.

When did it sink in that you are an author?

A month ago my sister attended an author presentation I was giving.  She kept telling me I had done a great job and then contacted my brother’ family and told them.   It brought the author role home to me.  My family didn’t know me as an author — it’s something new for them.  But her telling them instead of me, was a big plus.

Do you have a special interest in writing books in a certain genre?

Well, I actually write memoir as well as picture books.  It just so happened that I finished this particular picture book and had a contract for it first.  I guess I have concentrated on picture books and you can see why in this blog post of mine.  I feel the definite need to set goals and manage my time so I can meet them.  I’ve scheduled time for both genres on my calendar, setting time aside for writing and setting time aside to do the business part of writing.

What is your writing process?

I’m a panster!  I have an idea and jump in and begin to write.

What did you learn about writing Annie’s Special Day?

That I can’t write a book in just one month.  It takes me years.  But, the experience of writing and publishing has definitely been worth it.

Anything special on the horizon?

I have a book I’m prepping for a query.  And I’m writing another picture book.   I’ve just returned from the mid-Atlantic SCBWI conference where a took a class on memoir.   I just can’t turn away from memoir altogether yet.  There’s still a story to be told there.

You may purchase Annie’s Special Day is available from the eTreasures Publishing website and Amazon.  You can also visit Clara Bowman-Jahn on her Facebook author page.


Clara’s blog tour schedule:

http://clarbojahn.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/clarbojahn-presents-guest-post-from-illustrator-claudia-wolf/ a post from Annie’s Special Day  illustrator, Claudia Wolf on November 20

 http://joannamarple.com/?p=4575#comments the illustrator story of Annie’s Special Day from Clara’s side. on November 14

 http://stacysjensen.blogspot.com/2012/11/special-guest-author-clara-bowman-jahn.html, author Clara Bowman-Jahn’s publishing story of  Annie’s Special Day on November 15

http://susannahill.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-idea-behind-story-clara-bowman-jahn.html#disqus_thread  the idea to story by Clara Bowman-Jahn of Annie’s Special Day on November 19

Clara, if Annie’s Special Day is any sign of your writing talent, we can expect to read more books from you in the future!  I enjoyed the book and wish you many happy book sales!  Thank you for being a guest on my blog today. — Patricia