Posts tagged ‘picture book’

Crafty Chloe kicks off new series

Crafty Chloe by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrations by Heather Ross; published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, New York; 2012.

Note: This review is based on an uncorrected color proof provided for free by the publisher.  The book is due on shelves February 21, 2012.

Chloe isn’t good at sports or video games but she is very good at making things.  Just give her a pile of scraps or found materials and her imagination goes wild.  With her best friend’s birthday just around the corner, Chloe goes shopping for the perfect gift only to discover a classmate has selected the same doll.  How will Chloe find another “perfect” gift?  With a pad of paper and a pencil, Chloe doodles a few ideas and creates the perfect gift to make.  Her gift is not only a hit with her best friend, but Chloe also saves the day for her classmate.

DiPucchio’s story captures the creative spirit perfectly.  Ross’ pictures match the spirit of the story and illustrate the creative process (sketches, hard work, and even headstands).  Bright colors, a font that looks handwritten, and end pages featuring orange-handled scissors and macaroni necklaces all add to the story of Crafty Chloe.

Chloe was teased for making a gift.  Sounds typical for kids, right?  Making fun of the kid that does things differently is, unfortunately, the status quo.  I was thrilled to read about a character who is not only true-to-life but also responds like a typical kid would.  After being teased, Chloe decides to skip her best friend’s birthday party; but then she comes up with a homemade gift that is unique and perfectly purple, all things that her friend will appreciate.  As parents, we often tell our children that homemade gifts are the best, and DiPucchio’s character proves that.  I look forward to more installments of this series that fosters creativity.  At the time of this review, the Crafty Chloe website, which promises to provide instructions for creating the crafts in the book, was not available.  I hope it’s up soon.**  One of my pet peeves about education today is that the opportunities to be hands-on creative have all but disappeared.  A kid like Chloe, and the resources to learn to craft like her, is much needed to offer informal creative learning opportunities.

I have taken over the monthly drop-in craft at work (in a children’s library).  Chloe is my inspiration for creating easy but interesting projects.  I’d like to start an art club for tweens this autumn.  Although the Crafty Chloe series is intended for a much younger crowd (preschool to early elementary), I would not hesitate to introduce her to tweens and provide them with the link to the website.  Who doesn’t believe that adding googly eyes to anything makes it more interesting?  At a conference I attended, Denise Fleming suggested giving kids sticks, rocks and googly eyes, then encouraging them to take pictures of their creatures in different settings and write a story around those images.  Chloe would agree.

I’ve already passed my copy of Chloe around to librarian friends.  We’re all excited to have a creative hero to share with children, teachers and parents.  She has also inspired some programming ideas.  Since March is National Craft Month, it seems fitting to introduce Chloe and her creative bent with a series of crafts.

** NOTE: I checked the website over the weekend (today is March 5) and the website is live.  Chloe gives instructions for making her glow in the dark pajamas in the first installment of crafts to make at home.  The site is easy to navigate and will be attractive for kids to use.  Visit Crafty Chloe here:


February 17, 2012 at 9:22 am 1 comment

Me…Jane awarded Caldecott honor

Me…Jane illustrated and written by Patrick McDonnell; published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc., New York; 2011.

With her stuffed chimpanzee, Jubilee, a young Jane Goodall explored the world around her.  From her backyard, she dreamed of living in Africa among its creatures.  One day, she awoke to find her dream was realized.

I read this book then set it aside for a few days.  My initial reaction was that the illustrations were remarkable but the story lacked appeal for children.  Then I reread it.  Hmmmm.  A child with a dream.  A child whose hobbies reflect her future endeavors.  And the words that convey her story fit.  This is a book for cuddling up on the couch, reading together, and examining the images.  At the very end of the book, in fairly small type, is this Art Note:

This page features a cartoon that Jane Goodall made of her life in the forest at the Gombe Stream Game Reserve.  Readers will also find two facing pages of drawings and puzzles that Jane herself created when, as a young girl, she led a club called the Alligator Society.  Throughout the book, ornamental engravings from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are included, collectively evoking Jane’s lifelong passion for detailed, scientific observation of nature.

Aha!  McDonnell’s illustrations further portray the young Jane.  I think it would be lovely to tell children that the things that interest them now, the things they are passionate about, will help drive them toward their future selves.  Maybe that’s a great starting point to encourage journaling or even creating collection boxes.

Now  about the illustrations….  The cover appears to be the cover of a scrapbook or photo album, with pseudo-binding and corner protectors.  Each page is treated like a page in a scrapbook.  Almost all of the left-hand pages appear to be stamped with fading ink in shapes that would be in a collection of rubber stamps intended for children; the text is printed on this page, in a font and ink style that invokes a typewriter with a worn ribbon.  Then the corresponding right-hand page is an image rendered in India ink and watercolors.  McDonnell has captured the essence of the young zoologist for us.  By the final pages, photos of Dr. Goodall and biographical information, including a message from her, are included to remind us that this is her story.  That this child-dreamer with a penchant for exploring grew up and made her dreams reality.  In her message, Jane encourages us all to get involved to help make “the world a better place for people, animals and the environment” by joining a local Roots & Shoots group.  The end pages invoke African textiles which let us know as the book starts, and reminds us as the book ends, that this is the book about a zoologist working in Africa.

February 2, 2012 at 6:53 am 1 comment

Reluctant eaters chant Rah, Rah, Radishes!

Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant by April Pulley Sayre; published by Beach Lane Books, New York; 2011.

Rooting for vegetables after the overindulgences of the holidays?  Have a reluctant eater?  Perhaps April Sayre’s gorgeous photos from her local farmer’s market will heighten your appetite for veggies of all kinds and colors.  Along with the poetic chant celebrating all things veg, even vegetable snobs will be seeking out some color for their winter dinner plates.  Using appetite increasing colors and white fonts adds to the appeal of the harvest on each page.

Of course this is a wonderful book for spring (why we plant gardens) and harvest time (yum), but I would promote this book in the dead of winter just to remind the kids why vegetables are a great addition to the dinner plate.  Seriously, how much meat and potatoes can a family eat in the winter?  It’s already bland outside, so add color to your plate!

I also adore the author’s note (“A Few More Bites”) at the end of the book explaining what vegetables are and using powers of persuasion to get wee folk to try new veggies.  As a librarian, I nearly squealed out loud when I visited the author’s website ( because she has a list of resources (including a read-aloud of the Rah, Rah, Radishes chant) and story time plans (yes, I said, story time plans) and resources for teachers (standards based).  Her resources are listed here (be sure to scroll all the way down to see all options):  Since we’re chanting, can I get an “Author! Author!”

January 15, 2012 at 7:12 am Leave a comment

Along a Long Road one of the best picture books of 2011

Along a Long Road written and illustrated by Frank Viva; published by Little, Brown and Company, New York; 2011.

NOTE: This review is based on a promotional copy provided for free by the publisher for an honest review.

Take a long ride up and down, in the country and through the city, going fast and going slow, sometimes stopping and always looking.  The story is simple and spare.  The illustrations (actually, one illustration, but more on that later) are deceptively simple.  Children will look for the smallest details in the pictures and that will help tell the story.

The illustrations were created on a computer as a single, continuous piece of art.  Were it to be printed as it was originally created, the illustration for the book would be 35 feet long!  For this reason, the continuity of the ride is impeccable.  The continuation of the road on the end pages offers an opportunity to discuss maps and travel with youngsters.  The limited palette keeps distractions to a minimum; the glossy yellow road is easy to follow from cover to cover.  So what makes this one of the best picture books of 2011?  IMHO, it’s the art.  This could easily be a wordless book and still have the same impact.  Combined, the words and pictures create a simple trip that tots will want to travel over and over.

Frank Viva’s trip provides opportunities to discuss new vocabulary with toddlers and preschoolers.  These words can be used on a walk or in the car for reinforcement.  Another reason to love the book!

At a mini-conference on story telling through the arts, Denise Fleming had us use large gestures to read aloud her book In the Tall, Tall Grass.  What a great way to engage listeners and reinforce vocabulary!  Viva’s Along a Long Road lends itself to the same read-aloud concept.  What a great addition to a librarian’s professional collection for story time (travel? bikes?  so many options).  I’d also use it in displays for summer reading.

Watch for this book to be on some awards lists!

December 3, 2011 at 7:40 am 1 comment

Don’t forget! Winter’s a good time for Feeding Friendsies

Feeding Friendsies written and illustrated by Suzanne Bloom; published by Boyds Mills Press, Honesdale, Pennsylvania; 2011.

Five friends are planning a grand feast with puddle soup and mud pies.  But will they eat all they’ve made?  “Oh no, no, no.”  They are feeding their friendsies: birds, worms, frogs and a few stuffed animals.  When Nana calls them back insides, they wash their hands and sit down to their own “sticky bits, crunchy munchies and pink drinks.”  Feeding all their friendsies made these pals hungry, too!

I love so many things about this book.  First, I love the depth and detail in Bloom’s gouache and colored pencil illustrations.  They felt so full of summer and sunshine.  So, even though the flurries flew here today, I decided this would be a great book for a winter story time.  Why?  Because around here, our friendsies outside could use a snack or sip of unfrozen water to get through the cold weather.

That leads me to the second reason I love this book.  These pals created unusual snacks, drinks and habitats.  All are great ideas for crafting with kids.  And winter’s a great time to work on these crafts, especially when a bit of cabin fever sets in and the critters outside need a helping hand.  I recommend gathering dryer lint and placing it outside to help pad nests and burrows.  Around Christmastime, my family creates “ornaments” to decorate the outdoors but which also help the animals.  We use pipe cleaners (“knotted” at one end) to string oat cereal “Os” (like Cheerios) and hang from bushes and branches (This is a great fine motor skill activity, by the way).  We peel apples then put them on wooden skewers and place them in snow banks and hang them in trees or bushes.  Of course, there’s the old pine cone covered in peanut butter and rolled in small seeds to hang outside.  We’ve even strung popcorn and wrapped a small pine tree in the yard–but that took a loooooonnnnnnnnngggggg time to string.  Instead, I might even buy generic oat cereal and string that instead.

Last but not least, I love this book because it’s a terrific read-together read-aloud.  The kids will chime in with the “Oh no, no, no”s without prompting and that should be encouraged.  Predicting who will enjoy each concoction will be an easy way to engage listeners too.

This book’s definitely going on my list of future story time resources! 🙂

December 1, 2011 at 4:18 pm Leave a comment

Celebrate being unique with The Junkyard Wonders

The Junkyard Wonders written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco; published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.; 2010.

In the style of Thank You, Mr. Falker, author-illustrator Patricia Polacco calls upon personal experience to share the struggles and triumphs of a child with a learning disability.  Trisha has a very good reason to stay in Michigan.  Instead of going back to California to live with her Mom, just like always, she asks if she can stay with her father and Gramma for one school year.  They agree.  You see, Trisha has just learned to read, a lot later than her friends, and she’d like a fresh start at school, a chance to be like everyone else.  But when the school year starts, she finds herself in the Junkyard, a special ed classroom supporting children with a wide variety of disabilities.  After feeling sorry that she stayed, Trisha learns that everyone has a special gift and finds her class renamed the Junkyard Wonders.  What they discover, and create, exceeds anyone’s expectations.  Be sure to read the author’s note at the end of the story for a big surprise! 🙂

From the sky blue end pages to the hopeful illustrations and inspiring words, this book is an inspiration for anyone dealing with learning differences.  Parents, librarians, and educators can share this with typical peers and alternate learners alike.  What a terrific way to teach children of all abilities that differences do not define children nor do differences limit all abilities.  I struggled to find a book that teachers could read aloud at the elementary level to help classmates understand just what Polacco delivers in her book.  There are books about severely disabled, especially on the autism spectrum, that help teach tolerance to typical peers.  But what about stories to teach sensitivity for those with less profound disabilities?  This fits the bill.

So, absolutely this book belongs on a list of books about tolerance, disabilities, and acceptance.  I’d be sure to recommend it to parents and teachers alike at the beginning of the school year.  In fact, I’d be sure it was part of a back-to-school display in a public or school library.

Please Note: Due to an unmanageable amount of spam, comments for this post have been closed.

June 12, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Read, sing, play with The Brothers Foot

The Brothers Foot: A Hare Raising Story written by Steve Cormey, illustrated by Ronda Eden; published by AuthorHouse, Bloomington, Indiana; 2009.

Three brothers frolic wildly as rabbits will do.  But unlike most rabbits, these boys named Foot, Foot-Foot, and Foot-Foot-Foot also like to sing and dance.  One day, three hunters carrying guns spot the trio.  The Brothers Foot are so entertaining, the hunters drop their guns and joined in the fun.  And they all live happily ever after.

author/singer/songwriter Steve Cormey;

As a read-aloud, the rhythm of this book is a natural.  Cormey adapted the story from an old children’s song.  “The Foot Foot Song” was penned by Sid DeMay, Lee Tully and Sid Bass; the silly names, short storyline, and catchy rhythm make the song perfect for a picture book adaptation.  Eden’s illustrations express the joy the Brothers Foot get from singing and dancing; I couldn’t help feeling like tapping my feet just looking at them!

illustrator Ronda Eden;

Along with the picture book, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a CD of the song and a DVD.  The CD was helpful as the story encourages singing along with the brothers but I am not familiar with the tune.  The DVD is a nice production that incorporates joyful background music, illustrations from the book, and a singer singing the song at the appropriate moments to assist the narrator as he tells the story.  Including the CD and DVD makes this a complete package that public, school and home libraries should include!

All that being said, I have to say that the timing for reviewing this book could not have been better.  I recently participated in some early literacy webinars and have more early literacy training coming up this summer.  One thing I’ve learned is just how important singing and playing are in developing early literacy skills in youngsters from birth to about age 5.  We all know that we should read to our kids, but singing and playing are key components to learning the skills necessary to be readers later in life.  The playfulness of this story encourages caregivers to get up and dance and sing along with the littlest listeners.  The illustrations and the story are open to caregivers asking questions of their listeners.  Again, I am happy to see this complete package being offered and encourage its use in developing early literacy skills (at library story times and at home).

Learn more about the author and illustrator by following their blogs; rumor on both seems to be that there’s a sequel in the works!  Ronda Eden’s blog:; Steve Cormey’s blog:

May 25, 2011 at 5:31 am 4 comments

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Disclaimers: Per the FTC regulations, please note that sometimes books are received for review for free by publishers or authors. All books (ARCs, galleys, library or purchased) will be reviewed fairly; no special consideration is given to anything reviewed on this blog. In addition, I make every attempt to avoid spoilers. Sometimes they happen inadvertently or because they are important to defend a review; not all spoilers have been removed or fixed. This disclaimer is a general statement included as a warning to readers.

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