Archive | April, 2014

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match

30 Apr

12629258Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match written by Monica Brown and illustrated by Sara Palacios (2011)

Marisol McDonald doesn’t match for several reasons. As you can tell from her name, one is Peruvian the other Scottish. Her skin is brown and her hair is orange. Her pants don’t match her shirt. Her favorite lunch is peanut butter and jelly burritos. Her drawings of pink polk-a-dotted elephants are unusual. Marisol McDonald wouldn’t have it any other way. She likes her unique combinations. But on the advice of a friend, Marisol McDonald tries to match. It was not a great success. She found matching clothes hard to find, matching sandwiches mushy, and matching pictures boring. Luckily for Marisol, her art teacher noticed her change and with a simple note signed ‘Ms. Jamiko Apple’ convinced Marisol that she was ‘simply marvelous’ just the way she was! The next day, Marisol put on her mismatched outfit and went to the pound to get a puppy. Of course, a regular dog just wouldn’t do and Marisol chose the one with one floppy ear and one pointed one, one brown eye and one blue eye. The perfect puppy for Marisol was mismatched and marvelous… she named him Kitty!

Monica Brown is a children’s author of multiracial heritage just like Marisol McDonald. She is Peruvian and Spanish mixed with Scottish, Italian, Jewish, Nicaraguan, Mexican, Chilean, and African… and everyone in her family share one thing – freckles. She is American, and she embraces all citizens of the world. She is the author of award winning bilingual books for children. Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match is written in both English and Spanish text, one on either side of a page spread.

Sara Palacios divides her life and time between Mexico City where she was born and San Francisco where she studies and works. Her illustrations are natural and authentic. Hidden in each one is text that appears to come from Spanish-speaking newsprint. The artwork is colorful and draws the reader into the story.

This is the first book I have read by Monica Brown, but it certainly won’t be my last. I am completely won over by her style and universal themes. And, like Marisol McDonald, Monica Brown, and Sara Palacios, I too have a multicultural heritage which doesn’t match, but is nonetheless a perfect combination! I look forward to reading more of her work.

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On Ideas

30 Apr

I’ve been working on a character sketch for about a week now. I know her name, age, home, likes, dislikes, pretty much everything about her. I’ve also been working on a story to put her in, but nothing seemed to be just right. Then just before midnight as I was drifting off to sleep, this happened…

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I turned on the light, grabbed my laptop and started writing furiously. Luckily for me, my husband can sleep through my late night frenzies so I didn’t even have to leave my bed. As I read my first draft this morning, I realize that it’s not too bad. There’s a lot of work to do to get it right, but I’m on the right track. And now that I know where I’m going, the journey is going to be so much easier. Maybe I should just lie down for a little while.

NAKED!

29 Apr

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NAKED! written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi (2014)

This is so much fun to read! If you’ve ever tried to catch a naked toddler you’ll know what I’m talking about. This unnamed character takes off running after a bath, naked, naked, naked! While the child’s poor mother tries to catch him and dry him off, he’s imagining what it would be like to go to school naked, play on the playground naked, or even do the Hokey Pokey naked.  He decides that a cape would be an okay concession to being totally and completely naked. Eventually he gets cold and submits to putting on some pants, a top, and even slippers. Exhausted, he finally falls asleep.

Together, Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi capture the sheer joy of running naked through the house. The text is simple and to the point; and really, who needs extra words when the whole idea is to be stripped of all encumbering objects. And the illustrations are pure, unadulterated, masterpieces which leave just enough to the imagination.

Truthfully, the child in this story could be male or female. I only use the masculine pronoun in the absence of gender confirmation.

Water Can Be

28 Apr

18318005Water Can Be… written by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Violeta Dabija (2014)

Today is a rainy, stormy, Monday. It is in fact, a day to enjoy Laura Purdie Salas’ Water Can Be… This lovely book is a perfectly written poem extolling the virtues of water. When we are sometimes drawn into complaining about the rain or grumbling about the ice or snow or fog, it’s good to remember the rich gifts of water. Laura Purdie Salas reminds us of these with her words. She captures the essence of water through spring into summer and fall into winter. Savor the phrases ‘tadpole hatcher’ ‘otter feeder’ ‘rainbow jeweler’ ‘fire snuffer’ and ‘salmon highway’.

The cover art by Violeta Dabija draws you into a world of water with its playful frogs and lilypads. It would be impossible to choose a favorite, but I must say I do love the winter spread for ‘Storm creator, Decorator’ where we see the effects of frozen water blowing in the air and clinging to the bare tree branches on the city streets and from inside a warm and cozy home through the frosted windowpane. Beautiful! Then again, if I could purchase just one page to decorate my wall it might be the whimsical otter clutching a fish.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy as soon as you can!

I just learned of this today, Laura Purdie Salas is sharing a percentage of her royalties from the sales of Water Can Be… with Water Aid, a non-profit organization dedicated to making sure children everywhere have access to clean safe water. You can learn more about this at her website. 

http://www.laurasalas.com/blog/books/hallie-tamez/#comment-16898

Chicks and Salsa

27 Apr

Chicks and Salsa

written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Paulette Bogan (2005)

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Rooster has a plan. The chickens are tired of feed, the ducks are tired of fish, and the pigs are tired of slop. Rooster convinces them to prepare a Mexican feast with chips and salsa, guacamole, and nachos. Fiesta – Ole! Unfortunately for them, the farmer and his wife have the same idea and have used all the garden vegetables for their dinner. But have no fear, Rooster doesn’t give up so easily… he’s now reading a French cookbook – Ooh la la!

Aaron Reynolds and Paulette Bogan work together to concoct a spicy international feast for the reader. Pick up a copy to enjoy today. And just in case it whets your appetite for your own Mexican feast, there are recipes at the end of the story for Hog Wild Nachos, Quackamole, and Rooster’s Roasted Salsa. Ole!

Carnivores

27 Apr

Carnivores

written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Dan Santat (2013)

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Just look at those face.  How can you not feel sorry for them? They’re at the top of their food chains and have to take so much guff from those lesser herbivores who continually complain that their friends and family members are eaten. But they’re delicious! And really, the carnivores did try to exercise constraint. They formed a carnivore support group and pledged to go vegetarian. That didn’t work… the wolf claimed that ‘every single berry bush seemed to have a bunny inside’. They also tried wearing disguises so they would blend in with crowd… but the when the lion tried to dress like an antelope, they ‘smelled his zebra breath, and it was all over’. Eventually, they consulted with the wise old owl, who also happens to be a carnivore, and he reminds them that they’re not bad, they’re carnivores, it’s just what they do! The owl was right and ‘it turned out he was also delicious’. So now whenever another animal gets too close, they get eaten. After all, they’re not bad… THEY’RE CARNIVORES!

What a deliciously fabulous, if not a bit irreverent, picture book. The text and illustrations go together like surf and turf. Get yourself a copy soon and enjoy the tasty combination for yourself.

Three Hens and a Peacock

26 Apr

Three Hens and a Peacock

written by Lester L. Laminack and illustrated by Henry Cole (2011)

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Lester Laminack has done it again! This story is wonderful on so many levels. It’s funny and teaches a lesson about jealousy and appreciation without being didactic. The peacock is new to the farm. He’s beautiful, fancy, and showy. And when he struts by the side of the road, customers stop to buy eggs, tomatoes, corn, or milk. The hens are jealous of all the attention he gets when it’s them doing all the useful egg-laying work while he gets the glamorous job. In a hilarious change of roles, the hens dress up and strut their stuff by the road while the peacock squeezes himself into the coop to lay eggs. No one is successful and everyone is exhausted and frustrated by their efforts to be something they’re not. Eventually, they realize that in their own ways, everyone does what they do best, and they return to their own duties on the farm.

Henry Cole’s illustrations are exciting and vibrant. They bring this story to life. I love the details of expressions he uses on each of the characters. You can’t see from the cover, but in addition to the three hens and the peacock, there is an old hound dog and a couple of cows who are priceless. His illustrations are so comprehensive, that even the youngest child could ‘read’ the story independently without knowing a single letter or word.

I was fortunate enough to meet Lester Laminack in the summer of 2008, at a literature conference for teachers. He was an amazing speaker with more personality than one room could contain. I see that in this book as well. At the time, I bought Saturdays and Teacakes (2004), a much more quiet story, and his teaching guide Cracking Open the Author’s Craft: Teaching the Art of Writing (2007). I used both in my classroom and in my own work with great success.

On Creativity and Art

25 Apr

10153238_10203890570323989_6113696178644298692_nMy critique group met this morning. I shared something brand new and totally different from what I normally write. It kinda went over like a baloney sandwich at a banquet. It started out okay. It had a funny ending. But the middle was missing something. It just didn’t work. That’s not to say that the whole thing needed to be pitched, there were just some problems to address. So we focused on what worked. We talked about how to move from the initial concept to a desirable product.

So I went home with some sound advice and a plan. I knew where the strengths were and I knew what I wanted. The first thing I did was reread the original story with new eyes and the words of my critique partners ringing in my ears. Then I put it down, did some laundry, fed the dogs, read a new picture book, and worked on my blog. All the while, this was stewing in my head. I hadn’t planned on working on it today, I was going to let it simmer for a few days. That was the plan until … wham! It rushed at me full force.  I opened my computer and started revising. I finished it in less than an hour. And now I want to gather my group back together and scream, “Look at this! I’ve got it!” but I have to wait two more weeks to see them.  Oh well, maybe in that time, I’ll find something else to change.  If not I’ll start on my next project.

Meg the Egg

25 Apr

15773439Meg the Egg written and illustrated by Rita Antoinette Borg (2012)

Meg is a frightened little chick who is afraid to hatch. Her siblings Peg and Keg have already hatched, but Meg refuses because she is afraid of all the sounds she hears outside her eggshell. Meg’s Mum is worried that the farmer will throw her into the rubbish heap, so she hides Meg and sits on her until she is ready to hatch. All night, while everyone else is sleeping, Meg lays awake listening to the sounds of Howls who was far away, but came closer and closer. Suddenly Howls comes right into the barn, grabbing Mother Hen, and tipping over the nest. Meg’s eggshell cracks and she sees Howls dash out of the barn with Mum. Peg and Keg are too frightened to help, so Meg has to save Mum by herself. She rolls through Moos’ muck, Oinks’ mud and Quacks’ feathers, right into Howl’s dark cave just as he is about to eat Mum. Meg convinces Howls to eat her instead. But the muck and mud and feathers that stuck to Meg’s eggshell, stick to the roof of Howl’s mouth like peanut butter and he spits her out. Meg and Mum are able to escape Howl’s cave and return to their nest in the barn where everyone settles back down to sleep… everyone that is except Meg, she can’t sleep because of the farmer’s snoring. But Mum reassures her, gives her a kiss, and Meg sleeps through the night for the first time.

Rita Antoinette Borg has created an adorable barnyard world for a frightened but brave little egg named Meg. This story is sure to show little ones that although there are many things in this world to be afraid of, there are also many reasons to be brave and overcome those fears.

I love Mum’s patience with Meg, allowing her the space and time she needed to develop. Mum’s faith that Meg would be just  fine was repaid in Meg’s determination and ability to save her Mum from Howls. What a wonderful message!

The Monster Who Lost His Mean

24 Apr

The Monster Who Lost His Mean

written by Tiffany Strelitz Haber and illustrated by Kirstie Edmunds

(2012 – debut picture book)

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See that sweet little green monster on the cover? That’s Onster, the monster who lost his mean when the M in the word monster went missing. Without his M, Onster wasn’t mean anymore. The problem is that he is no longer accepted in his monster world. The other monsters tease him and refuse to associate with him. Onster tries looking for his M, but he can’t find it anywhere. Onster tries to pretend being mean, but he just can’t pull it off. Finally Onster accepts his newfound identity and finds acceptance with his new friends.

Tiffany Strelitz Haber’s story is just right for little ones. It tells Onster’s tale in rhythm and rhyme without losing the essence of the story. And Kirstie Edmunds’ illustrations are so detailed that children (and adults) will be scouring each page with Onster searching for the missing M.

Tiffany Strelitz Haber second book, Ollie and Claire will be out soon, and I’ll be first in line to get a copy.

Henny

23 Apr

Henny, written by Elizabeth Rose Staton (2014)

17586991(debut picture book for author/illustrator)

 Henny is an adorable chicken who just happens to have been hatched with arms instead of wings. At first Henny is worried about having arms. She worried about being right- or left- handed, she worried about needing deodorant, getting tennis elbow, and even whether she should wear long or short sleeves. But that doesn’t stop this  unusual bird from fitting in. Henny realizes that her arms are a special gift. She’s able to give Mr. Farmer a hand, twiddle her thumbs, carry a purse, hail a taxi, balance herself while ice-skating, or even fly (in a plane of course)!

The text is rich and the illustrations are clean and simple. What a perfect combination!  Pick up a copy today… you won’t regret it!

On Collaboration

22 Apr

Unknown

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

-James Keller

Eric Carle finds his Friend

21 Apr

Last November, I wrote a post about Eric Carle’s book Friends. Today, I read an article saying that after 82 years Eric Carle found the little girl in his photo, which was the inspiration of the book. It is such an amazing story of reconnection, I just had to share it with you. I hope you like it as much as I did.

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http://www.syracuse.com/kirst/index.ssf/2014/04/for_renowned_author_eric_carle_an_easter_miracle_after_more_than_80_years_in_tou.html#incart_river_default

My original post from November 19, 2013

https://julianaleewriter.com/2013/11/19/friends/ 

Rechenka’s Eggs

19 Apr

Decorating eggs is a very old tradition dating back thousands of years, even before the time of Christ. Early Christians adopted the custom of decorating eggs at Eastertime to represent the resurrection and the new life within the egg. The tradition of decorating and giving eggs to others at Easter continues today.

Today, I would like to share with you one of my favorite story picture books, Rechenka’s Eggs written by one of my all time favorite storytellers, Patricia Polacco.

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Rechenka’s Eggs is the story of an old woman, Babushka, who paints the best Easter Eggs in her village. Every year, Babushka takes her eggs to Moscow for the Easter Festival and every year she wins first prize. One day, Babushka sees a goose shot from the sky by a hunter. She rushes to save the goose. She brings it home and names it Rechenka. Rechenka sleeps in a basket filled with Babushka’s warmest quilt until she is well again. To repay Babushka’s kindness, Rechenka lays an egg for breakfast every morning. But one day, Rechenka flies up on Babushka’s worktable and knocks down the basket of painted eggs breaking them into a million pieces. The next morning, when Babushka goes to the basket to collect her egg for breakfast, she finds the ‘most brilliantly colored egg she had ever seen’. When it comes time to go to Moscow, Babushka leaves Rechenka to return to the wild and takes Rechenka’s eggs to the Easter Festival where everyone is amazed at the wonderful eggs she has brought. Babushka wins first prize and a feather quilt to take home. She goes to bed alone that night under her new quilt, and in the morning Babushka finds that Rechenka had left her one last gift, a glorious egg in her basket, one that is different from all the others. From the egg a gosling hatches. And this baby goose remained with Babushka always.

In the Ukraine, where Patricia Polacco’s grandparents lived, the decorated egg is called a pysanky. She learned this method of decorating eggs using a special waxing tool and dye from her grandmother. This is the method used in her book Rechenka’s Eggs which is featured in the Reading Rainbow episode I have attached at the end of this post. In this episode, Patricia Polacco demonstrates how to decorate eggs the way her grandmother taught her. And she shares her grandmother’s words, “As long as a pysanky is being painted somewhere in the world, the world will never end.”

You can see the whole episode here. http://vimeo.com/6347301

Looking for Easter

18 Apr

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On one of my jaunts to the library to pick up books I had on hold, I stopped at the Easter display for new titles.  This one is a few years old, but it’s the first time I had seen it. And it is oh so sweet, I just had to share it with you.

Looking for Easter (2008) is written by Dori Chaconas and illustrated by Margie Moore. It tells the story of a little bunny who is looking for Easter.  As he goes through the meadow, he ends up helping his friends Beaver, Woodchuck, and Mouse. And each friend gives him something for Easter- a basket, grass and strawberries which he ends up giving to his friend Robin whose nest has blown away. Bunny is afraid that he has given away Easter. He goes back home for many days until his friend Wren comes for him to show him Easter. Bunny follows Wren to Robin’s tree where he sees Beaver with two babies, Woodchuck with four babies, Mouse with eight babies, and Robin with three babies. Bunny learns that Easter is not a basket with grass and treats, it’s new life.

The story is charming. The message is simple. The illustrations are lovely. I hope you get a chance to read it this year with your special little ones.

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