Tag Archives: Jill Esbaum

Writers are Readers

14 Mar

I believe I’ve said this more than once on my blog and elsewhere, writers are readers. One cannot write without reading. Yesterday, as part of ReFoReMo (Reading For Research Month) Alayne Kay Christian suggested four questions a writer should consider when analyzing mentor texts. These questions help you dig deeper than what the story is about (setting, characters, plot, conflict, resolution). These questions ask you examine the structure of the story including the opening sentences, page turns, unanswered questions, and story ending.

Mentor texts do not have to be classic stories, they can be, and should be, newer stories as well. I like to read new publications to find out what’s trending in picture books today. So, in addition to the stack of books recommended each day this month as part of ReFoReMo, I also have a continually growing stack of new books (recently published) to read from my library. I request books as soon as I hear about them and wait patiently until they are acquired by my library system. My holds shelf is bending from the weight of them! So this weekend, I took a few hours to dig into the stack with Alayne’s four questions in mind. Here are a few of my findings. Most of these books have more than one aspect which qualify it as a mentoring text, I only chose one for each title. I hope you’ll find them helpful as well.

Anticipatory Opening Sentences


Always Remember

written by Cece Meng

illustrated by Jago

Philomel Books, February 2016

Opening page: “In the end, on his very last day, Old Turtle swam his last swim and took his last breath. With his life complete, the gentle waves took him away. By dawn, everyone who knew Old Turtle knew he was gone.”

1st Spread: The sun sets over the ocean as Old Turtle’s friends watch the day end.



Teeny Tiny Toady

written by Jill Esbaum

illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi

Sterling Children’s Books, March 2016

Opening page: “Teeny! Help!”

1st Spread: A large toad is begin lifted off the ground by a huge hand. A little toad looks up in horror as her mother is carried away.

Tantalizing Page Turns


A Friend for Mole

written and illustrated by Nancy Armo

Peachtree Publishers, March 2016

A story of an unlikely friendship between Mole who is afraid of the daylight and Wolf who is afraid of the dark.

Examples of tantalizing page turns: The illustrations show the footsteps of many animals running above Mole’s underground home. He wonders what is going on and goes up to investigate. (The reader also wonders.) Once out of his home he realizes this was a bad idea. (The reader worries about what might happen to Mole.) Mole panics and falls down. He stays hidden under a bush and falls asleep. But when he wakes up he hears a noise. He hopes it’s nothing scary. (The reader sees two eyes peering at Mole in the darkness, and hopes it’s nothing scary too.)


Oops Pounce Quick Run! An Alphabet Caper

written and illustrated by Mike Twohy

Balzer & Bray, February 2016

The nearly wordless story of an epic chase is told entirely in alphabetical order with only one word per page. Trying to figure out the next word and what will happen next will delight young and old readers alike.

Compelling Unanswered Questions


Dario and the Whale

written by Cheryl Lawton Malone

illustrated by Bistra Masseva

Albert Whitman & Company, March 2016

Dario moves north from Brazil to Cape Cod with his mother in the spring. He speaks very little English. Will he make friends with the children who live there? Can he make friends with a whale calf who is migrating south with his mother? What will happen when the whale has to migrate?


Punk Skunks

written by Trisha Speed Shaskan

illustrated by Stephen Shaskan

HarperCollins, February 2016

When Buzz and Kit have an argument about what song to write next, they try to go it alone. Will they be able to rock on without each other? Will anyone dig their new sounds? Will the punk skunks get back together again, or will their music stink?

Satisfying Endings


Emma and Julia Love Ballet

written and illustrated by Barbara McClintock

Scholastic Press, February 2016

A parallel story about two ballerinas who have the same daily routines but whose lives do not intersect until the younger ballerina attends a performance one night with her family and the two meet backstage after the show.


The Sleepy Songbird

written and illustrated by Suzanne Barton

Bloomsbury USA, February 2016

Peep has trouble waking up early in the morning to greet the dawn with the Dawn Chorus. He struggles with this until one evening when he learns that he is a nightingale! Now he sings with his new friends.



I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!

26 Jun

18667815I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo! written by Jill Esbaum and illustrated by Gus Gordon (2014)

Nadine is a cow who is not afraid of anything, at least not until her friends take her up on her brag. Starla and  Annette nudge her into the woods to prove her bravery. Nadine finds out that she isn’t afraid of the woods, as a matter of fact she kind of likes the baby birds, the blackberries, and the pinecones. Climbing the highest tree, Nadine bellows “I am cow, hear me mooooooo!” over the valley below. Pretty soon it starts getting dark. Starla and Annette are ready to go home, but Nadine is having too much fun. She leaves her friends behind to explore a cave. However, the cave is dark… and there’s a pile of bones in there! Nadine hurries out, only to find her friends have gone on without her. And now she is lost in the dark woods alone. When something tickles her rump (her tail), she is so frightened she shoots like a rocket through the brambles and bumps and gallops right off a cliff, landing in a creek below. And guess who’s there? Starla and Annette have been lost in the woods too. They think that Nadine has found them. Nadine knows she’s not a hero, but how can she tell her friends that she was lost and afraid too? So Nadine lets them believe that she has rescued them. Starla and Annette have a big hero’s party for Nadine with balloons and cake and huge sign they made themselves. They also tell everyone their story and sell tickets to nightly excursions in the woods with Nadine as their guide.

Jill Esbaum’s story is written in an easy to read rhyme. And the humor is naturally integrated in the rhymes. She make Nadine a character readers will love despite her flaws.

Gus Gordon’s illustrations are happy and silly. Nadine and her friends each have their own personalities. Another thing I enjoyed looking for on each spread, were the scraps of newsprint-type text scattered in the pictures.

I realize that Nadine suffered from false-pride, but I like her spunk! I like how she faces her fears, (sort of) and comes out better for it at the end. I think even young readers will see right away that what she was most afraid of in the woods was her own tail, and will enjoy the humor of Nadine’s misguided adventures. I wonder if she will ever admit to her fears, or if she will learn to overcome them by returning to the woods?

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