Archive | March, 2014

Baseball Is…

31 Mar

18051238-2Opening Day is HUGE in Cincinnati, hometown of author Louise Borden.  And Baseball Is… is the perfect book to welcome back the boys of summer.  It’s a gorgeous day to take in a ballgame, some peanuts and cracker jacks, and an out-of-the-park book.

I’m adding a little something from youtube of the great John Fogerty’s Centerfield “Put Me In, Coach” with retro videos!  Enjoy!


The Day the Crayons Quit

31 Mar

16101018Drew Daywalt gives the reader a unique perspective on crayons in his debut picture book, The Day the Crayons Quit. Each crayon has its own voice, and uses it to express his or her own feelings in its own color.  One day Duncan opens his crayon box and instead of crayons, he finds letters written to him by each crayon.  The crayons are fed up with traditional color stereotypes.  Why do apples have to be red, and water blue? Is the sun yellow or orange? Pink is upset that Duncan doesn’t use her at all because he thinks she’s a girl’s color. And what about the almost invisible white and poor naked beige? They all have feelings and they’re all tired of being taken for granted. By the end of the story, Duncan decides to rethink the color possibilities and draws an orange whale and a blue dinosaur in a green sea,  a purple dragon under a black rainbow, a green monkey and a pink airplane, just to name a few.  His teacher gives him an A+ for creativity.

I give Drew Daywalt an A+ for his debut picture book!  In addition to being fun, it also has deeper layers of stereotypes, prejudices, and personality for the more sophisticated reader to explore.

And, of course it never hurts to have an awesome illustrator like the renown Oliver Jeffers bringing your words to life. Based on the sales so far, The Day the Crayons Quit has become an instant success and destined to be a classic picture book.

To see a video of The Day the Crayons Quit, go here.

To read about Crayola Crayon Day go here.


Picture Books are like Potato Chips

30 Mar

Picture Books are like Potato Chips

No one can read just one!

On the Turning of a Phrase

27 Mar

images-3Sometimes the turn of a phrase makes all the difference in a story.


On Good Endings

26 Mar

UnknownA good ending must be as satisfying as dessert.


Mr. Zinger’s Hat

26 Mar

13330325Mr. Zinger’s Hat, written by Cary Fagan and illustrated by Dusan Petricic (2012)

This is a wonderful picture book about storytelling.  Leo plays with his ball in the courtyard every day after school, but he dutifully ignores Mr. Zinger who walks by every afternoon wearing his black suit and hat.  Leo’s mother has told him not to disturb Mr. Zinger, because he is working.  Mr. Zinger writes stories that are published in magazines and books.  While he walks, with his head down, he is thinking.  He is making up stories.  He’s working.

However, one day Leo’s ball bounces higher than it has ever gone before and it knocks Mr. Zinger’s hat off his head.  The wind takes the hat, and lands on Leo’s head.  They sit down together on a park bench.  Mr. Zinger looks inside his hat to see if there’s a story trying to get out.  Piece by piece, word by word, the hat tells Mr. Zinger and Leo a story.  That is, Mr. Zinger asks the hat questions and Leo answers the questions until they know what the story is that was trying to escape from his hat.  When the story is told, Mr. Zinger gets up to go to write.  Leo asks if he is going to write the story they just heard from the hat; Mr. Zinger tells him no, that is Leo’s story.

The next time Leo bounces his ball to high, it is caught by a little girl who becomes Leo’s friend.  At the end of the book, Leo is showing his new friend his own hat and telling her there is a story inside it.


Cary Fagan is an award winning author.  He has written Oy, Feh, So?Ella Mae and the Wishing Stone, and Thing, Thing to name a few.  He also writes for adults.  Mr. Zinger’s Hat is the winner of the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award and the IODE Jean Throop Award.


I recommend this book if:

1. You have never read any of Cary Fagan’s books.

2. You have read Cary Fagan’s books and can’t wait to read another.

3. You love picture books!

I Love You Just Enough

24 Mar

Published just two months ago, let me be the first to introduce you to a wonderfully written and illustrated picture book.

I Love You Just Enough written by Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen and illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen.


This is a heartwarming story about a little girl, Heather, who finds and rescues a baby wood duckling on her family’s farm.  She cares for the duckling all summer and becomes attached to him, despite her father’s warnings to the contrary.  By the end of the summer, the duckling takes off on his own and she wonders if she’ll ever see him again.  She is happy that he is independent, and realizes that she has loved him just enough to help him survive.

The story is based on the van Frankenhuyzen’s own experiences with wildlife rehabilitation on their Hazel Ridge Farm in Michigan.  Their own daughters, Heather and Kelly, helped with the rescues from the time they were ‘old enough to hold a bottle’ or ‘warm an infant in their laps’.  “We repaired whatever was injured, raised orphans to survive on their own, and loved them just enough.  Then we said goodbye.  Wild animals are not meant to be pets. They belong in the wild.” – Robbyn and Gijsbert (Nick)

The text is gentle and quiet. The illustrations are soft and lovely.  Each word, each picture, draws you in and makes you want to stay.


On Post-Critique Revision

21 Mar

When revising, it’s always a good idea to put a manuscript away for a while and come back to it later.


It’s easier to determine the cause of the fire after the flames have been extinguished.

Jackie and the Beanstalk

20 Mar

Three Cheers for Spring!

Hip-hip-hurray!  Hip-hip-hurray!  Hip-hip-hurray!

Today is the First Day of Spring! And Susanna Leonard Hill is having a spring writing contest on her site, details below.

Basically, The March Madness Writing Contest is a challenge to write a fractured fairy tale in 400 words or less.  Having a spring theme is optional, and I decided to give it a try since today is the official first day of spring… at least on the calendar!  My story is based on an old favorite, Jack and the Beanstalk.  Now, before you get all outraged at using a familiar folk tale, remember that fairy tale is the umbrella for fables, folk tales, myths, and legends.  Besides, on her own website, Susanna uses a picture of The Three Little Pigs, and her sample story (which is great, by the way) is based on The Gingerbread Boy, both folk tales under the fairy tale umbrella.  

So without further ado, I present to you a 400 word fractured fairy tale….

Jackie and the Beanstalk

(A fractured fairy tale formally known as Jackie and the Three Beans)


Jackie’s mother sent her to buy milk, eggs, and bread for the umpteenth polar vortex of the year.  Obviously, she was preparing French toast for breakfast.  Along the snow-covered path to the market, Jackie met a kindly old man; I think his name was Winter.  He offered to sell Jackie three magic beans, which he assured her, would trumpet the arrival of spring.  Removing her gloves, Jackie traded the man the coins her mother had given her for his mysterious magic beans.

Jackie raced home; okay, maybe she slipped and slid and skated home.  Either way; she kicked the snow off her boots, unwrapped the scarf from her neck, flung her overcoat on the table and announced, “Good News: Spring is on the Way!”

Upon hearing her freezing child’s tale, Jackie’s mother raged.  “How could you fall for that old geezer’s trick?”  She opened the door, letting in another cold blast of artic air, and flung the beans into the snow.

Well, you know where this is going, right?  Overnight, a giant beanstalk grew outside Jackie’s door.  In the morning she saw that it reached up, up, up, over fresh-fallen snow, above frosted trees, and past crystal clouds.  Jackie donned her gay apparel, which wasn’t a gay as it had been three months earlier, and climbed the sturdy beanstalk.

When she arrived at the top, breathless and a little dizzy, Jackie saw a radiant glass castle shimmering under the sun.  A lively elf with green thumbs greeted her.  “Come in,” he welcomed her.  “We were just preparing breakfast.”

Jackie, tired and extremely hungry from her long ascent, accepted.  She filled her belly with the most delicious French toast she had ever eaten and then immediately laid down for a quick morning nap.  She dreamt of lush green lawns, fragrant flowers, and warm sunshine on her face.  Waking up, she noticed that she was in a greenhouse.  Why she didn’t realize that earlier, we’ll never understand.  Regardless, Jackie tracked down the elf and pleaded her case.  Joyfully he explained that this was Mother Nature’s greenhouse.  He sprinkled a little magical soil over her and sent her home.

As Jackie descended, she could feel the sunshine on her back and a warm breeze in her hair.   She noticed the buds on the trees and the robin’s return.  She jumped into a puddle and ran into the house.

“Spring has sprung!” she proclaimed.

Picture Book Hybrids

17 Mar

Jeopardy had a category tonight of hybrid musical groups.  That got me thinking of creating my own list of hybrid picture books.  Combine two picture books with one or more of the same words in the titles to create one new title.  Example:  The Napping House and The House on Pooh Corner  (which I realize isn’t considered a picture book on it’s own, but it’s my favorite children’s book)…



The Napping House on Pooh Corner


Pretty easy, huh?  And fun too!

  Here is what I’ve come up with so far.  Add your own in the comments!

The Ugly Duckling Gets a Cookie!?

Harold and The Day the Purple Crayon Quit

The Pigeon Wants a Poky Little Puppy

The Very Grouchy Ladybug Girl

Miss Spider’s Tea Party Rules

The Gingerbread Boy + Bot

The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck, Duck, Moose!

This is Not My Cat in the Hat

Z is for This Moose Belongs to Me

Mr. Tiger Goes Where the Wild Things Are

A Troop is a Group of Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

Goodnight Owl Moon

The Butter Battle Bunny Book

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Snowy Day

New York Public Library’s Top 100 Children’s Books for 2013

17 Mar

There are so many great titles.  I love that I can see the book covers at a glance, but I can also dig down by specific genre or topic.  I’ll be wearing my library card thin this month!

Top 100 Children’s Books of 2013


How many have you read?

Published Books

13 Mar

This is a category I’m saving for the day when I have work published!  It may take years… but I’m persistent and confident!  And really, who can argue with Plato?


Open an Umbrella Indoors Day

13 Mar

Today, March 12th is NOT Friday the 13th, but it is Open An Umbrella Indoors Day.


This day was named by Thomas Knibb in 2003, hopefully to defy silly superstitions by encouraging people to open their umbrellas indoors and observe the non-existent consequences.  If you want to celebrate this bizarre holiday, just follow these four simple steps:

Step 1: Grab an umbrella.

Step 2: Stand in a safe place (indoors), away from breakable objects and/or people who value their eyesight.

Step 3: Take a deep breath and OPEN your umbrella!

Step 4: Keep your eyes and ears open for any bad luck that occurs.

(Note from Mr. Knibb:  People who take part in this holiday, do so at their own risk.)


Now, that you’re all safe and sound… how about a great picture book or two?

The first one I chose for today… <cue the music> Ta Ta Ta Da!

The Umbrella, written and illustrated by the great and talented Jan Brett!


This is a wonderful story about a young boy who drops his umbrella in order to climb up a tree in the rainforest.  As he clambers up a tree in search of animals, the animals are down below trying to fit themselves into his upturned umbrella.  It gets so crowded in his umbrella, that there isn’t enough room for even the tiny hummingbird, causing everyone to fall out of the umbrella and scurry back to their homes.  And the little boy must return home without having seen any rainforest animals.   In the classic style of Jan Brett, every illustration is playful and detailed.  Little ones are enchanted with the story and easily pick up the sequence and predict the next animal who will find his way into the umbrella.

The second picture book I chose for today is an exercise in distinguishing between good luck and bad luck, and how any event can quickly become good or bad depending on the circumstances and your perception of the situation.  This is a lot of fun for Friday the 13th (tomorrow) or to dispel superstitions today, weather or not you believe in good or bad luck.

 That’s Good! That’s Bad! written by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by David Catrow.


This is a playful story of a boy who gets separated from his parents at the zoo… That’s bad!  No, That’s Good! … because he ends up having wonderful adventures with the animals!  With every turn of a page, the reader experiences a new adventure, That’s Good!  And every adventure has a potential danger, That’s Bad!  Can you see where this is going?  Little ones love to shout the opposite phrase, in response to the reader’s proclamation of “That’s Good!” or “That’s Bad!” as the story progresses.  Eventually the stork drops the boy back into his parents’ waiting arms… That’s Great!

Miss Rumphius

12 Mar

Today is National Plant a Flower Day.  Of course the first picture book that comes to mind is the timeless Miss Rumphius.


This book tells the story of Alice Rumphius who had only three goals in life: to travel the world, to live in a house by the sea, and to do something to make the world more beautiful.  Barbara Cooney writes and illustrates this masterpiece.  Through words and pictures she tells the story of the real Miss Rumphius, Alice Rumphius the Lupine Lady, who travels and spreads lupine seeds everywhere she goes.  Because of her, the coast of Maine is now fragrant with lupines.  Miss Rumphius  won the American Book Award in 1985, and the artwork for this book is currently at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Maine.  Barbara Cooney has also won the Caldecott Award twice for her work Chanticleer and the Fox (1959) and The Ox Cart Man (1980).

Barbara Cooney was quoted in 1959,  from her acceptance speech for the Caldecott Medal, “I believe that children in this country need a more robust literary diet than they are getting. It does not hurt them to read about good and evil, love and hate, life and death.  Nor do I think they should read only about things that they understand. ‘A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.’  So should a child’s.  For myself, I will never talk down to – or draw down to- children.”

Of Miss Rumphius, Barbara Cooney said, “Miss Rumphius has been, perhaps, the closest to my heart.  There are, of course, many dissimilarities between me and Alice Rumphius, but, as I worked, she gradually seemed to become my alter ego.  Perhaps she had been that right from the start.”


You can read more about Barbara Cooney here,,,1000002642,00.html

Johnny Appleseed

11 Mar

Today is the alternate Johnny Appleseed Day.  Most school children celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day on the anniversary of his birthdate, September 26.  But March 11 is also celebrated as Johnny Appleseed Day because it coincides near the anniversary of his death and is during planting season.

John Chapman (1774-1845) born in Leominster, Massachusetts was the son of the minuteman, Nathaniel Chapman, who fought the British at Concord in 1775 and served in the Continental Army with General Washington during the Revolutionary War.  John left home at the age of 18 traveling west.  He apprenticed with an apple orchardist named Crawford.  John Chapman was a Christian missionary who lived in harmony with Native Americans and American pioneers.  He was known to bring medicinal plants with him on his visits.  John called the apple blossom a living sermon and often quoted the Sermon on the Mount.  John’s travels took him to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.  During the War of 1812, many Native Americans allied themselves with the British against the American settlers.  However, it is claimed that because of his reputation, they did not bother John Chapman.  This gave John an advantage to travel freely.  Whenever he could, John Chapman would warn the settlers of danger.  His goal of pioneering was to plant apple orchards as a means of claiming the land for American settlers.  However, his apple trees did not bear good fruit for eating. His apples were sour and popular among the settlers because they were used mainly to produce hard cider and applejack.  Thus John Chapman earned the name Johnny Appleseed, and became an American legend in his own time.

Because of Johnny Appleseed’s love of nature, many folktales were also told about him.  It was said that he made friends with wild animals – deer, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, and even raccoons, bears, and bobcats.  Some say he even kept a wolf as a pet. He lived outdoors without shoes or extra clothing, carrying only a bag of apple seeds and a cooking pot which he wore on his head as a hat.  He slept in a hammock hung between trees.  And it was said that he was never sick a day in his life.

Whether you enjoy reading folktales or historical accounts of the man known as Johnny Appleseed, there are plenty of books to choose from.  Two of my favorite children’s books about Johnny Appleseed are Johnny Appleseed, A Tall Tale retold and illustrated by Steven Kellogg, and The Story of Johnny Appleseed written and illustrated by Aliki.



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