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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | David LaRochelle

The Kindness of Teachers

Miss Rosemary Follett and David LaRochelle

Miss Rosemary Follett and David LaRochelle

I loved first grade.

Fifty-one years later, I still have vivid memories of my teacher, Miss Follett. She played the piano every day. She read to us from her giant book of poetry. She showed us photos of her trips to exotic places, like Alaska and Hawaii.

At Halloween we screamed in terror and delight when she hobbled into our classroom dressed as a witch. At Easter we followed “bunny tracks” throughout the school till they led us to a chest filled with panorama sugar eggs that Miss Follett had handmade, one for each of us. On our birthdays we sat at the special birthday desk that was decorated with crepe paper streamers and balloons. Miss Follett would light the candles on the plaster of Paris birthday cake and the entire class would sing.

Miss Follett was also serious about learning. That was fine with me. One of the reasons I wanted to start first grade was because I desperately wanted to read. Words were all around me; I wanted to know their secrets.

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty

I also remember Humpty Dumpty, Miss Follett’s form of behavior management. The Humpty Dumpty cookie jar sat on the corner of Miss Follett’s desk. If our class was very, very good, Humpty Dumpty might (mind you, might) be magically filled with cookies for us. No one ever wanted to do anything that would displease Humpty.

When I became a children’s author, Miss Follett attended one of my publication parties. It was a proud moment for both of us. When I autographed her book, I included doodles of my favorite first grade memories.

Years passed.

This last spring I came home from running errands to find a large box waiting in front of my door. When I removed the layers of bubble wrap, I discovered Miss Follett’s Humpty Dumpty cookie jar inside, along with this note:

Dear David,

Now that I am moving to senior housing and need to downsize,
it’s time for Humpty to find a new home. I thought
he might enjoy living in your studio.

Your First Grade Teacher
Rosemary Follett

Miss Follett did indeed teach me to read. But she taught me a lot of other things as well. She taught me that adults can be both serious and playful. She taught me that art and music and poetry make life more beautiful. She taught me that the world is full of fascinating places, and that I can go visit them. She taught me that you are never too old to use your imagination.

And she taught me that teachers never stop caring about their students.

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Skinny Dip with Loni Niles

Loni Niles

Loni Niles

We interviewed Loni Niles, K-12 media specialist in the Wadena-Deer Creek public schools in west central Minnesota. She shared her thoughts about books and life.

What is your favorite late-night snack?

I love popcorn and can eat it any time during the day, even for breakfast!

Favorite city to visit?

Chicago. Even though we moved from there when I was just a baby, I still take some pride that I was born there!  Now I love to visit there because my stepdaughter and her husband are such wonderful hosts—they show us all kinds of wonderful things the city has to offer.  Oh yeah, and there’s that grandson there, too! He definitely is a draw for me to visit this wonderful city!

First date?

My husband and I do not really agree on when our first date was. Fortunately, we agree on some of the more important things in life!

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

I find myself passionately recommending the novels The Lottery Rose by Irene Hunt and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Miss Steimle, my fifth grade teacher, read both of these out loud to my class in the 1970s, but today’s kids love them, too!

The Lottery Rose, A Wrinkle in Time

This is NOT a Cat!Illustrator’s work you most admire?

Mike Wohnoutka. My favorite book of his work is written by one of my favorite authors, David LaRochelle. It’s a finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards this year and called This is NOT a Cat! Check it out! 

Tea? Coffee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Gotta have my coffee in the morning!

Favorite season of the year?

Although I love them all, it’s winter! Minnesota is the perfect place for me!  We typically get a real winter here and we definitely get four seasons!  At age 48, I started to downhill ski.  But I love to watch high school hockey, go snowmobilng and sledding, and when my sons were younger we used to love playing in the snow!

Marathon candy barFavorite candy as a kid?

Anyone remember the Marathon candy bar?! A yummy caramel braid covered in chocolate.

Brothers and sisters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

I’m in the middle of two brothers. I always told my two sons that I’m the best mom for them because I know what it’s like to have that big brother pounding on you and that little brother picking at you!  I used to lament not having sisters, but I have been surrounded by wonderful women (and girls, too—I have three granddaughters) in my life—so it’s not so much an issue anymore. 

Loni Niles and her brothers

Best tip for living a contented life?

I do live a very contented life, but I don’t really have a tip on how to do it. Seeing the good in things and people comes pretty naturally to me.  I try to remember my mom’s advice to always assume the best. This is the same woman who once told me as a teenager complaining about my acne that I should just be happy I have a face. That still makes me chuckle! 

Hope for the world?

My hope for the world is that we begin to recognize each others’ talents (and our own!) and appreciate each other—even our differences.

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August Shorts

Warning: There’s a lot of enthusiasm ahead for these books!

Where Do Pants Go?Where Do Pants Go?
Written by Rebecca Van Slyke, illustrated by Chris Robertson
Sterling Children’s Books, 2016

Well, this is just adorable … and I can already hear households throughout the English-speaking world chanting:

“Where do pants go?

On your arms? No.

On your neck? No.

No, no, no.

Pants go on your legs, that’s where pants go.”

We all know how much kids love saying “NO!” This book depicts a charming cast of kids in a rowdy lesson on getting dressed from underwear to jacket and hat. It’s a cumulative text so language skills are a part of the mix. The illustrations are bouncy and full of humor. Getting dressed will be filled with giggles.

Sky Stirs Up TroubleThe Sky Stirs Up Trouble (Tornadoes)
written by Belinda Jensen, illustrated by Renee Kurilla
Millbrook Press, 2016

I wonder if a scientific study has ever been done to determine how many kids want to grow up to be the weather forecaster on local or national news. Certainly the weather is just as much a preoccupation for children as it is for adults. This brand-new, six-book series about Bel the Weather Girl is written by a television meteorologist with an eye toward entertaining and educating the reader. In this book, Bel and her cousin Dylan head to the basement with Bel’s mom when a tornado siren goes off. They learn how to react to the warning and Bel explains, by baking a Tornado Cake, how the atmospheric conditions must be just so in order to cook up a tornado. A recipe for the cake is included as are interesting fact bubbles. The illustrations are friendly and engaging. I know I would have read and re-read this series in elementary school.

D is for Dress-UpD is for Dress Up: The ABCs of What We Wear
written and illustrated by Maria Carluccio
Chronicle Books, 2016

This charming alphabet book is just right for someone who will grow up to collect fabric, carefully study fashions, and find joy in creating “a look.” A wonderfully diverse group of children are dressed in clothing and accessories that depict each word from apron (for a chef) to zippers (for two friends’ jackets). In between, we find leotards and overalls and raincoats. It’s the illustrations that are most inviting: so much for the eyes and brain and heart to notice and absorb. There’s texture and pattern and detail (notice those galoshes) created by a textile and product designer resulting in a warm and enchanting book. You’ll know just the child to give it to.

This is NOT a Cat!This is NOT a Cat!
written by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
Sterling Children’s Books, 2016

LaRochelle and Wohnoutka (Moo!) are at it again: a book that has very few words but a lot of laughs! I love these books with few words because kids are so good at telling the story themselves. With gentle prompting from the adult reading with them, kids can be encouraged to tell the story in different ways. Perhaps the most fun is saying the five words in the book in so many different ways with varying emphasis and LOUDness! It’s just plain fun to read this book out loud. And because there are only five words, every child can have the satisfaction of reading this book on their own. The lively, humorous pictures conceived by Mike Wohnoutka invite studying closely as the details add to the fun. Bring your own knowledge to this book: do cats like cheese?

The Bot That Scott BuiltThe Bot That Scott Built
written by Kim Norman, illustrated by Agnese Baruzzi
Sterling Children’s Books, 2016

Great Scott! I love this book. For any child the least bit science-minded who loves to experiment or build things or creatively compile what-ifs, this is a must-have book. It’s an awe-inspiring feast for the eyes and the ears and the funny bone. The setting is a Science Day, in which students show their science projects to their teacher and the rest of the class. In a House That Jack Built style, the “what can go wrong, does” story progresses with much laughter thanks to the spot-on rhyming text and the color-infused illustrations. The ending is ingenious. I won’t spoil it for you and your smaller readers. But Scott’s science project saves the classroom from the brink of destruction. I’m inspired to make my own “bot” right now and so will you be!

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Saying “Yes!”

Trying new things makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like to take risks; I like the familiar. That’s why when I was asked to give several author presentations at international schools in Beijing, my gut reaction was to shout, “Not on your life!” Sure, I knew other authors who had traveled overseas and had wonderful experiences visiting schools in India and Saudi Arabia, but I’m not as brave or as competent as these friends.

Still, something inside me whispered that I would regret saying no to this opportunity. The whisper continued to nag until finally I told the inquiring school a hesitant “yes.”

It didn’t take me long to imagine all the things that could go wrong. I could miss my flight. The Eastern food could disagree with my Midwestern stomach. My driver in Beijing might not show up.

My brave friends assured me that all of these worries were unfounded.

And you know what?

They were wrong.

All of these worries came true.

My departing flight was delayed multiple times until I was sent home and told to come back tomorrow and try again. When I eventually made it to Beijing a day late, two bites of an innocent looking “pancake” from the hotel’s breakfast buffet left me with instantaneous “digestive issues” (aka explosive diarrhea). And midway into my trip as I waited (and waited and waited) one morning for my driver to arrive, it became clear that he was never going to show, leaving me (without a cell phone) to frantically find a way to contact the school.

David LaRochelle AbroadWith all these setbacks, the trip should have been a disaster for a worrywart like me. But it was nothing of the sort. I brought back incredible memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything: standing on the Great Wall, visiting with preschoolers who had baked a giant cake shaped like one of the characters from my picture books, learning how to make Chinese dumplings from one of the teachers. None of these things would have happened if I had stayed at home.

Version 2

And all those mini-disasters? They turned out to be blessings in disguise. When my worst worries materialized and I found a way to work around them, I discovered that I was braver and more competent than I thought.

Though I’m reluctant to admit it, some of the most rewarding moments of my career have come when I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and attempted things I didn’t think I could do: write for teenagers, illustrate a book with tricky paper engineering, tackle nonfiction. I’ll never be an enthusiastic risk-taker like some of my friends, but I’ve learned that being a little uncomfortable is worth the benefits I reap when I stretch myself.

Recently I was asked to visit schools in Moscow and St. Petersburg. As I remembered my time in Beijing, I visualized all the things that could go wrong on a trip to Russia. Then I swallowed my fears, took a deep breath, and said, “Sure, I’d love to go!”

David LaRochelle in Moscow

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Two for the Show: What Scares You?

Note to readers: we are trying a new format this month. We want to make our blog more conversational. Let us know what you think.

Phyllis Root:
bk_TwoRamona
What scares you? How do you deal with that fear? And why do so many of us like to scare ourselves silly, as long as we know that everything will be all right in the end?

An article in The Atlantic, Why Do Some Brains Enjoy Fear,” explains how the hormone dopamine, released during scary activities makes some of us feel good, especially if we feel safe. If we know those ghosts in the haunted house aren’t really ghosts, we can let ourselves be as scared as we want by their sudden appearance.

In Ramona the Brave Ramona hides a book with a scary gorilla picture under a couch cushion when the book becomes too terrifying. She’s in charge of how scared she wants to be, and books offer us that opportunity: we can close them if they’re scary, or even look ahead to the end to be sure everything will be fine.

Jacqueline Briggs Martin:
We can give ourselves little doses of scare. Doses that feel like fun because we are watching events happen to someone else.

Phyllis:
bk_TwoLittleOldLady
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd, is a deliciously scary experience. On her way home through the forest as it starts to get dark, the little old lady meets two big shoes that go CLOMP, CLOMP. Since she’s not afraid of anything, she continues toward home—but the shoes clomp behind her, as do, eventually, a pair of pants that go WIGGLE, WIGGLE, a shirt that goes SHAKE, SHAKE, gloves that go CLAP, CLAP, and a hat that goes NOD, NOD. To all of them she says “Get out of my way!” because, of course, she’s not afraid of anything—although she does walk faster and faster. When she meets the scary pumpkin head that goes BOO, BOO! she runs for home and locks the door. Then comes the KNOCK, KNOCK on the door. Because she’s not afraid of anything she answers the door and sees the whole assemblage of clothing and pumpkin head. “You can’t scare me,” she says. “Then what’s to become of us?” the pumpkin asks. The little old lady’s idea for a solution makes everyone happy. Part of the genius of this book is that it invites listeners to join in on the sound effects, giving them an active part in the story as well as an outlet for building tension.

bk_TwoSeussThe narrator in What Was I Scared Of?, written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss, only has to confront a pair of empty pants (a fun twist on having the pants scared off of one), and like the old lady, this narrator claims he isn’t scared of anything. Still, when the pants move, he hightails it out of there, and each time the pants show up again, whether riding a bike or rowing a boat, the narrator runs from them. When he unexpectedly encounters the pants and hollers for help, the pants break down in tears; it turns out they are as scared of him as he is of them. The narrator responds empathetically by putting his arm around the pants’ waist and calming the “poor empty pants with nobody inside them.” Neither is scared of the other any longer.

Jackie:
This book has always been a favorite at our house. Who would not be scared of such pants? And this list of frightened responses is so inclusive—and so fun to read out loud:

I yelled for help. I screamed. I shrieked.

I howled. I yowled. I cried,

“Oh save me from these pale green pants

With nobody inside!”

Dr. Seuss’s language in this story frequently makes us laugh. One of my favorites:

And the next night, I was fishing

for Doubt-trout on Roover River

When those pants came rowing toward me!

Well, I started in to shiver.

I’m not a fishing person, but I might head out to Roover River for a couple of Doubt-trout.

bk_TwoNightmareAnother story in which the fearsome is also fearful is There’s a Nightmare in my Closet. I can’t believe this Mercer Mayer book is forty-seven years old. It seems as current a childhood worry as stepping on a crack in the sidewalk. Mayer’s illustrations are perfect—we can almost hear the silence in the illustration in which the kid tiptoes back to bed, after closing the closet door.

Phyllis:
Facing your fears and befriending them runs through all of these stories. Virginia Hamilton’s Wee Winnie Witch’s Skinny, an original tale based on research into black folklore and illustrated by Barry Moser, involves actually out-witting a very scary being. With more text and a more story-telling tone, the tale relates how James Lee’s Uncle Big Anthony is attacked by a cat who is really Wee Winnie Witch in disguise and who rides him through the sky at night. As weeks pass, Uncle Big Anthony “got lean and bent-over tired. He looked like some about gone, Uncle Shrunken Anthony.” Mama Granny comes to the rescue with her spice-hot pepper witch-be-gone.

bk_TwoWeeWitchWhen Wee Winnie Witch takes off her skin that night to ride Uncle Big Anthony, she snatches James Lee from his window and takes him riding with them through the sky where he is both terrified and thrilled. When Wee Winnie Witch returns to the ground and puts on her skin again, she finds that Mama Granny has treated the skin’s inside with her spice-hot pepper witch-be-gone. The skin squeezes Wee Winnie Witch so hard that she shrivels into pieces on the floor. Uncle Big Anthony gradually returns to his former self, and although James Lee never wants to see a “skinny” again, the thought of the night-air ride up in the twinkling stars still makes him say “Whew-wheee!”

Jackie:
This tale is gripping—and for me, a bit disturbing, or maybe thought-provoking. I was troubled by the thought and image of the Wee Winnie Witch riding Big Uncle Anthony with the bridle in his mouth. But, as I thought about it, I wondered if Hamilton was possibly reminding us of the degradation that slavery brought to black people. So many were bridled and lashed and worked to death. Hard to say. In any case this story has plenty of scare and a strong hero in Mama Granny.

Phyllis:
Terrified, thrilled, and brought back to a sense of safety again: these stories do all that but with different levels of bk_TwoHamburgerterror. And because picture books are usually read aloud by a comforting adult and because we’re free to shut them and even put them under the couch cushion, we can choose how scared to be, knowing that we can safely close the book. But like James Lee, we might also say “Whew-wheee!”—then open the book to read it again.

And what kinds of stories do ghosts tell to scare themselves? Read The Haunted Hamburger by David LaRochelle and find out.

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A Trip to the Art Museum

by Vicki Palmquist

Arlo's Artrageous Adventure!  

Arlo’s Artrageous Adventure!

David LaRochelle
Sterling Children’s Books, 2013

When Arlo’s grandmother drags him to the art museum, he can’t imagine how he’ll be interested. Something odd catches his eye and he soon realizes the paintings have things to say that surprise and delight him—and the reader. Fun and quirky, with illustrations that will make you smile and flaps to lift that will reveal nuances in much the same way you discover something new in a painting each time you look at it … this is a good choice to prepare a child for a trip to the museum.

Art Dog  

Art Dog

Thacher Hurd
HarperCollins, 1996

When the moon is full, Arthur Dog, security guard at the Dogopolis Museum of Art becomes Art Dog, a masked artist painting masterpieces. When an art heist occurs, Arthur must find the true criminals. Your readers will have fun recognizing the works of Pablo Poodle, Henri Mutisse, and Vincent Van Dog.

Behind the Museum Door  

Behind the Museum Door:
Poems to Celebrate the Wonder of Museums

Lee Bennett Hopkins, ed.
illus by Stacey Dressen-McQueen
Harry N. Abrams, 2007

An ideal read-aloud to prepare for a  class trip, this collection of poetry will be useful when discussing art and artists. The poems are energetic and informative while Dressen-McQueen’s illustrations do an admiral job of visually representing each poem.

Chasing Vermeer  

Chasing Vermeer

Blue Balliett
Scholastic, 2004

Petra and Calder, 11-year-olds, become friends when they team up to solve the theft of a Vermeer painting which was en route to a museum in Chicago, where they live. The thief leaves clues in the newspaper and our clever duo work hard to solve the puzzles and mysteries that result. Your readers will learn about art while playing detective.

Dog's Night  

Dog’s Night

Meredith Hooper
illus by Alan Curless
Frances Lincoln, 2006

With a setting at London’s National Gallery, this is a tale of that one night a year when the dogs in the museum’s paintings are set free to come to life and play. A good way to introduce young people to fine art.

Eddie Red Undercover  

Eddie Red, Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile

Marcia Wells, illus by Marcos Calo
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013

Edmund, an 11-year-old boy with a photographic memory and a talent for drawing, is hired by the NYPD to help them look for thieves planning a major art heist. Filled with humor, interesting characters, and a lot of clues to a satisfying mystery.

Framed  

Framed

Frank Cottrell Boyce
HarperCollins, 2006

When Dylan’s father leaves because their business, Snowdonia Oasis Auto Marvel, is faltering, Dylan’s family tries to improve their circumstances. At the same time, paintings from the National Gallery are being moved to storage near Dylan’s Welsh town. Filled with art history and colorful, charismatic characters, this book is sure to hook readers.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler  

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

E.L. Konigsburg
Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 1970

A classic in which Claudia plans carefully for a week’s stay in the Metropolitan Museum of Art to break the monotony of her life. She invites her younger brother, James, because he has money. A new sculpture in the museum is possibly a marble angel created by Michelangelo, but no one knows for certain. Claudia and James are determined to help solve the mystery.

 

Going to the Getty  

Going to the Getty

Vivian Walsh
illus by J. Otto Seibold
J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997

The creators of Olive, the Other Reindeer have created a picture book that introduces young visitors to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, including artwork, gardens, and behind-the-scenes work spaces.

Katie and the Sunflowers  

Katie and the Sunflowers

James Mayhew
Orchard Books, 2001

When Katie visits the museum, it’s an adventure indeed! She finds she can reach into the paintings, such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, while other paintings come to life. There are a number of Katie books in which she learns more about fine art, but this particular title features Gaugin and Cezanne, the Post-Impressionists. Back matter helps elucidate more information in a friendly way.

Masterpiece  

Masterpiece

Elise Broach
illus by Kelly Murphy
Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt, 2008

An excellent mystery weaving together the world of art and the world of art theft. Marvin is a beetle who lives under the sink in James’ apartment. Marvin has a marvelous talent for drawing in miniature. So marvelous that his drawings become a media sensation … for which James receives the credit. Art forgery is required but the friendship between Marvin and James, neither of whom can speak to the other, is tested.

Matthew's Dream  

Matthew’s Dream

Leo Lionni
Random House, 1995

When Matthew the mouse goes on a field trip to the art museum with his class, he is overcome with the beauty and power of the artwork hanging there. Inspired, he returns to his dusty and uninspired attic and creates art with things he’s never recognized as having beauty, creating paintings “filled with the shapes and colors of joy.”

Mrs Brown on Exhibit  

Mrs. Brown on Exhibit and Other Museum Poems

Susan Katz
illus R.W. Alley
Simon & Schuster, 2002

A book of poetry is written in the children’s own voices about their exuberant teacher, Mrs. Brown. She loves field trips to art exhibits and other exotic museums. A good book to show the breadth of collections encompassed by museums.

Museum  

Museum

Susan Verde
illus by Peter H. Reynolds
Harry N. Abrams, 2013

On a visit to the museum, a young girl reacts with differing emotions to each painting she sees, expressing herself with movement and sound and facial expressions. Drawn in a cartoon style, this book will help kids move beyond that feeling of reverence that museums sometimes inspire to examine the works for a personal connection.

Museum ABC  

Museum ABC

New York Metropolitan Museum of Art
Little Brown, 2002

An alphabet book introducing children to the collection of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, including Roy Lichtenstein’s Red Apple and Degas’ ballerinas. It works well as a discussion starter about art and as a guide to the museum’s treasures.

Museum Book  

Museum Book: a Guide to Strange and Wonderful Collections

Jan Mark
illus Richard Holland
Chronicle Books, 2007

There are anecdotes, historical facts, and invitations galore in this book to look at museums from different perspectives. Top-notch.

Museum Trip  

Museum Trip

Barbara Lehmann
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006

When a boy gets separated from his class on a field trip to a museum, wondrous things happen when he stops to tie his shoe and gets separated from his class. He goes on an adventure that will have readers asking, “Is that real?” Well, look for clues in the illustrations. It’s a wordless book, so your children will have an opportunity to tell the story in their own way.

Norman the doorman  

Norman the Doorman

Don Freeman
Penguin, 1959

In a book that has not aged, a dormouse is a doorman at the Majestic Museum of Art. He leads tours of small creatures to marvel in the paintings and sculptures stored in the museum’s basement. Inspired by a competition, Norman creates his own entry out of mousetraps set to catch him by the Museum guard. Filled with puns both verbal and visual, this is a must-have for your collection.

Seen Art?  

Seen Art?

Jon Scieszka
illus by Lane Smith
Viking Books, 2005

In a quirky play on words, the narrator is looking for his friend Art, but he’s directed to the Museum of Modern Art by a lady who thinks he’s looking for … art. While continuing to look for his friend, he encounters paintings by Van Gogh, Lichtenstein, Matisse, Klee, and more. A humorous way to approach fine art.

Shape Game  

Shape Game

Anthony Browne
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2003

In an inspirational, autobiographical picture book, Anthony Browne shares his family’s visit to the Tate Museum in London that changed his way of looking at art. He examines actual paintings hanging in the Tate in a manner that encourages the reader to look more intentionally at art. The Shape Game is a family tradition, one that Anthony’s mother shares with him on the way home from the museum.

Speeding Down the Spiral  

Speeding Down the Spiral: an Artful Adventure

Deborah Goodman Davis
illus by Sophy Naess
Life in Print, 2012

A somewhat longer picture book that frames a look at artwork in the Guggenheim Museum in New York City with a visit by a bored girl, her father, and her baby brother in a stroller. When the stroller gets away from her and heads down the spiral, a group of people give chase … and look at the artwork along the way!

Squeaking of Art  

Squeaking of Art: the Mice Go to the Museum

Monica Wellington
Dutton, 2000

Using reproductions that look somewhat like the original works of art, this book teaches the vocabulary and concepts that are so helpful when one visits a museum.

Under the Egg  

Under the Egg

Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Dial Books, 2014

In this novel, 13-year-old Theo inherits a painting after her grandfather dies unexpectedly. Isolated by poverty and the lack of a responsible adult, Theo gains friends as she attempts to figure out if the painting is one of Raphael’s and why her grandfather had it. It’s a charming book with a riveting mystery and fast-paced action.

Visiting the Art Museum  

Visiting the Art Museum

Laurene Krasny Brown
illus by Marc Brown
Dutton, 1986

When a young family goes to a museum, there is a great deal of complaining and expectations of boredom. Instead they are drawn in by work ranging from Renoir, Pollack, Cezanne, Picasso, and Warhol. Reproductions by Marc Brown of those famous paintings make this book accessible by younger and older children.

You Can't Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum  

You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum

Jacqueline P. Weitzman
illus by Robin Preiss Glasser
Dial Books, 1998

When a young girl and her grandmother visit the museum, the guard tells them she can’t take her yellow balloon in with her. He ties it to a railing. The two museum visitors view works of wart while the yellow balloon is untied by a pigeon to float through and explore New York City, often in parallel adventures.

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Skinny Dip with David LaRochelle

Favorite holiday tradition?

Moo

by David LaRochelle Walker Books, 2013 illus. by Mike Wohnoutka

 Without a doubt my favorite holiday tradition is carving pumpkins. It has become such a trademark of mine that people start asking in September what I plan to carve for the upcoming Halloween. I’ve learned to jot down possible pumpkin ideas in my sketchbook throughout the year, but it usually comes down to crunch time (the week before Halloween) before I finally decided on the 4-6 pumpkins I carve each year. I have a gallery of past pumpkin designs, including some I’ve carved for Good Morning America, on my website.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s challenge?

Hopefully I wasn’t obnoxious, but I was very much a teacher’s pet. I would stay after school and go from room to room asking teachers if they needed help putting up bulletin boards or correcting papers. I usually spent the first day or two of summer vacation helping teachers pack up their rooms for the year (it helped that we lived right across the street from the elementary school), and one of my favorite things to do the first week of summer was to “play school” with the extra worksheets that teachers had given me. No wonder I became an elementary school teacher myself!

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

Mr. PudgensWe had an independent reading program when I was in third grade where instead of writing book reports, we could make a diorama, draw a poster, etc. I often enlisted the help of a few classmates and put on a short play based on the book I had read (we loved getting out of class to rehearse on the school’s old stage!). One of the books I have vivid memories of performing was “Mr. Pudgins” by Ruth Christoffer Carlsen about a magical babysitter and a flying bathtub. In one scene a bush begins to make popcorn. One of my friends brought in a huge plastic trash bag of popcorn and hid behind a chair. The class went crazy when he began to throw handful after handful of the popcorn out into the audience. We loved it!

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year old self?

Some day you will have the last laugh on all the bullies who are calling you “fag” and “homo.” You will also become a published author and illustrator and make lots of kids happy with your funny books.

Or more simply, I wish I could tell my 10-year-old self, “Everything is going to turn out okay.”

What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?

I would love to visit with George Selden (author of “The Cricket in Times Square” series, Mac Barnett (author of “Sam and Dave Dig a Hole” and many other incredibly creative books) and famed children’s editor Ursula Nordstrom.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

On a plane, heading off on vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

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Gifted: Arlo’s ARTrageous Adventure!

Arlo’s ARTrageous Adventures! written and illustrated by David LaRochelle Sterling Children’s Publishing, 2013 If you’re considering gifts for the holiday season … (book #1 in our series of Gifted recommendations) … No matter how uninteresting Arlo’s elderly relative insists on making their trip to the museum with her warnings to be serious and quiet and […]

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Free, Playful, and Courageous

Call me crazy, but my family knows very well that traveling to a new city means visiting one site in particular: the library. It’s best if we have time to go inside. I like to see the walls, the signage, the special rooms. I look to see how the books are arranged, not only Dewey […]

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A Book is a Book is a Book

I always looked forward to packages under the tree that were a certain rectangular shape and thickness, heavy and not resilient … I knew they were books. But which book? I enjoyed receiving fiction and biographies and books about foreign places and history, so in that moment before carefully removing the tape and turning back […]

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The Nature of Humor

I’ve been pondering the many questions I have about the nature of humor as the Chapter & Verse Book Clubs prepare to discuss next week the book Funny Business: Conversations with Writers of Comedy, compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus (Candlewick Press). Wherever we go, teachers and librarians—and parents—ask for more funny and light-hearted […]

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Best Read-Aloud Picture Books

Reading out loud is a low-cost, high-payback activity. It benefits both the reader and the listener. Lifelong bonds are often formed between people who engage in this activity. Make reading out loud a can’t-miss half hour in your home, classroom, daycare, place of worship, library, or workplace. The results may surprise you. “Best Read Aloud […]

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