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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Kevin Hawkes

Me, All Alone, Reading This Book

Me, All Alone, at the End of the World

Sometimes, the illustrations are wonderful but the language is captivating. You know how you read a picture book and you can’t decide which part to focus on? Should you look at the picture first? Should you read the story because it’s the thread that’s pulling you through?

Well, when you read “He was a long-leggedy man with a wide, wide hat and a beard in a circle around his head. His glasses reflected the clouds,” the impetus is strong to read the story first and come back to look at the illustrations later.

But then you peek at the illustrations and you realize there is always something extra-ordinary going on in them. A branch is really a worm-like creature about to devour a pot of gold.

There is being alone, and there is lonely, and there is being busy, and there is a world of dazzle and FUN. This is a book that explores each of those parts of life. The noise and the quiet. The raucous gaiety and the art of listening. The fun you sign up for and the joy you find and the never-before-noticed amazements you explore.

Me, All Alone, at the End of the World

This is a story book. It has a longer text which I believe is just right for reading out loud. The language is a revelation. It’s a parable of our modern world. And then you realize, the story and the illustrations are vital to each other. You can read this book again and again to notice a new phrase in Mr. Anderson’s writing, a small element of wonder in Mr. Hawke’s art. This is a book that tells a story that means something. It’s a treasure.

I missed this book when it was first published in 2005. Candlewick has reissued it. Don’t you miss it now.

Me, All Alone, at the End of the World
written by M.T. Anderson
illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Candlewick Press, 2005; reissued, 2017

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Richard Jackson

Richard Jackson

Richard Jackson

We are honored to interview the highly respected Richard Jackson, who is on to his next career as a writer. His most recently published book is all ears, all eyes, a lush and irresistible read-aloud book, illustrated by Katherine Tillitson (Simon & Schuster). We thought we’d take the opportunity to talk with him about the progression from his editorial career to his writing career and the four books he has written.

Editorial Career

Will you please tell us a bit about your editorial experience?

After Army service, I graduated from NYC in 1962 with a Master’s degree in education. I worked first at Doubleday, not with children’s books, then at Macmillan and David White.

In 1968, you co-founded Bradbury Press. You moved to Orchard Books in 1986 and then began the nonfiction publishing imprint DK Ink in 1996. Three years later, in 1999, you had your own imprint at Simon & Schuster with the venerated Atheneum Books. Has this journey taken you around unexpected bends in the road?

I’ve never been subjected to a job interview.

As you were gaining experience, which editors do you feel taught you the most?

Frances Keene and then Susan Hirschman at Macmillan.

Do you think most picture book editors are equal parts visual and verbal?

Most likely. For me, as writer, as editor, the words are of first importance.

What did your authors teach you?

Empathy.

While you were an editor, did you always have a yen to write your own books?

No. But retirement—in so much as I am retired; I still work on a few books annually by old publishing friends—suddenly stretched rather blandly before me. I began tinkering with words, with play, with wordplay…

You’re working with an editor now, a colleague. What do you look for from your editor?

Efficiency. A sense of humor. Taste. Candor—i.e., a willingness to see the possibilities of something not yet final.

Considering the Books You’ve Written

Have a Look, Says Book

interior spread for Have a Look, Says Book by Richard Jackson, illustration copyright Kevin Hawkes

Have a Look, Says Book

Have a Look, Says Book
illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Caitlyn Dlouhy Books / Atheneum Books
Simon & Schuster, 2016

Kevin Hawkes illustrated this book that is playfully focused on adjectives. The text rhymes but not in a way that feels read-aloud confining. How do you work on the poetry in a picture book?

In my head, often while driving.

Storytime librarians are focusing more than ever on teaching. This book offers an opportunity to talk about the pleasure of books, the love of words. Have you always been fond of words?

A verbal child was I. As opposed to athletic.

What sparked the idea for this book?

The simple but enormous word “touch” has at least two meanings… There are many see, hear books, a few smell and taste books—hardly any about touch. Watching children and grandchildren touch the pages and pictures of a book, I thought…let’s see if I can honor that young-kid impulse: to point out, to make contact with a finger, to search a book for a tactile dimension equal to seeing and hearing.

In Plain Sight

interior spread for In Plain Sight, by Richard Jackson, illustration copyright Jerry Pinkney

In Plain SightIn Plain Sight
illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Neal Porter Books
Roaring Brook Press, 2016

The story in this book is universal, a grandfather and granddaughter who enjoy each other’s company. Grandpa, who lives in a bedroom in Sophie’s house, always has something for them to do together, to find something he’s hidden In Plain Sight.

What inspired this universal story of love?

Well, I was the Grandpa, I think. Sophie, a sister who died at four. She always announced her presence with “Here I ahm.” In my imagination, the game element was as important as anything, so it was based upon a game my father played on us, his children, on Christmas night—find objects hidden in unlikely places, such as a dollar bill wrapped around a book’s spine in a bookcase—very tricky!

It’s so important for children who have older generations living with them to see themselves in books, to understand that families extend themselves when needed.

Was it your idea to have Grandpa supported by a wheelchair?

Jerry’s, I think. As was Grandpa’s athletic and military past, as was the cat.

This manuscript was interpreted by the much-admired author and illustrator, Jerry Pinkney. How was he brought into this project?

Neal Porter’s idea, at Roaring Brook. They had not worked together before. I asked Neal, quite casually, I remember, if this family might be black (they weren’t while I was following the conversation which accounts for the story here). Jerry widened and deepened every image; note Sophie’s school clothes, for instance. Or the illustration on the binding of the book—not a repeat of the jacket, but something new and on its own; that’s Grandpa’s nature, don’t you think; there’s always a little more to give.

all ears, all eyes

interior spread, all ears, all eyes, by Richard Jackson, illustration copyright Katherine Tillotson

all ears, all eyesall ears, all eyes
illustrated by Katherine Tillotson
Caitlyn Dlouhy Books / Atheneum Books
Simon & Schuster, 2017

Your text for this book is so evocative of being outdoors at night, particularly in a forested or wild area. Why did you want to share that experience with readers and listeners?

The setting is a bit of woods, across a brook near our house in the country north of New York City. Real country, if you can believe. One night a yodeling fox awoke me and my wife. Moon and mostly darkness. Stillness, except for Mr. Fox. Magical. We got the children up (they are part of my dedication for this book) and, barefoot, we went outside, across the grass, up to the brook’s bank. We listened and without entering the woods, let the woods enter us. I hoped to write a poem to that night, that fox, that family experience.

When you wrote the text for all ears, all eyes, did you have an illustrator in mind? Why?

Yes indeed, the text was for Katherine Tillotson always, once the opening words sprang from my memory. She suggested the project somehow, and inspired it all along, from a very early rendition of a lurking owl. Next came Caitlyn Dlouhy and Ann Bobco (Atheneum’s brilliant art director), and the four of us played for months and months. Until quite close to the “end,” I was fussing with rhymes and line breaks. Such fun.

Many people who want to write books for children have been told that they’ll never work directly with their illustrator. Did you include instructions for how the text might be illustrated? As an editor, does your mind work that way?

I give a little guidance when the artist will need it—the main boy wears glasses, for example. And I break the text into page and page turn units. In my head I’m imaging a movie. But the illustrator is the cameraman (or woman), and often comes up with totally surprising and often just-right new views.

Don’t miss reading our interview with Katherine Tillotson about this book.

interior spread from This Beautiful Day, by Richard Jackson, illustration copyright Suzy Lee

This Beautiful DayThis Beautiful Day
illustrated by Suzy Lee
Caitlyn Dlouhy Books / Atheneum Books
Simon & Schuster, 2017

In August of this year, we’ll be treated to another book you wrote, this one filled with humor and whimsy. It begins with a boring, rainy day, but the attitude of the three children and their mother brings out the sun.

With your considerable experience as an editor, do you reflexively envision your text on the page?

Reflexively? I think not. I do imagine page turns—and often, as suggested above, an illustrator will have a better idea and I’ll be tickled.

When you were an editor, did you look forward to the surprise of the illustrator’s rough sketches, their interpretation of the author’s story?

Father Time and the Day BoxesYou bet! I once published a picture book, George Ella Lyon’s and Robert Parker’s Father Time and the Day Boxes (o.p), using the sketches, which were perfect as they were. Had I imagined them as Bob presented them? No way. It’s ideal to be surprising and just right from the get-go.

Now that it’s your manuscript being interpreted, how does that experience differ?

Not much different. I hadn’t imagined a rainy beginning to this day, so was taken aback at first; eventually, I have come to see the wisdom of giving the narrative this “hinge” in mood. What you suggest (that sun is attitude induced) is irresistible—and completely Suzy’s idea.

____________________

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Richard Jackson!

I’ve admired the books he’s edited, some of the finest in the children’s literature canon, so it’s a pleasure to hear from him as he walks his next path as a writer. 

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Books about Chickens

Whether a chicken makes you cluck, BAWK! or cheep-cheep-cheep, books about chickens make us laugh. We may not have been introduced to a chicken in real life but, trust me, some people keep them as egg-laying wonders and other people keep them as pets. These fowl have been around in many colors, types, and breeds in most countries in the world … and quite recently they have become the subject of many books. Go, chickens! We’ve suggested 19 books. What would you add as the 20th book on this list?

The Perfect Nest  

The Perfect Nest
written by Catherine Friend
illustrated by John Manders
Henry Holt, 2011

Farmer Jack, the cat, is building a nest to attract a chicken who will lay eggs for his mouth-watering omelet. Things don’t go quite as planned. Other birds find the nest to be perfect, too. The eggs hatch and Jack is suddenly tending to little chicks who think he’s their father. The book is laugh-out-loud funny and makes a great read-aloud. Each of the perfect nest’s occupants speaks with a different accent.

Hoboken Chicken Emergency

 

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency
Daniel Pinkwater
illus by Jill Pinkwater
Simon & Schuster, 1977

A classic book that will keep your kids laughing with every page turn. Arthur Bobowicz is sent to get the Thanksgiving turkey but there are none to be had. On the way home, he sees a sign in Professor Mazzocchi’s window (you know him, the inventor of the Chicken System). Arthur ends up taking a chicken home but it’s a 266-pound live chicken named Henrietta. She gets loose … and causes disaster all over Hoboken, New Jersey. A good read-aloud but also the perfect book for 9- and 10-year-olds to read.

Beautiful Yetta  

Beautiful Yetta: the Yiddish Chicken
Daniel Pinkwater
illus by Jill Pinkwater
Feiwel & Friends, 2010

Yetta, the chicken, escapes from a poultry truck in Brooklyn and is soon lost, lonely, and hungry, shunned by the rats and pigeons she encounters. Heroically, she saves a little green bird, Eduardo, from a cat, winning the gratitude of his friends, the parrots. They teach Yetta how to find food and how to get along in an unfamiliar place. The book is filled with Yiddish, Spanish, and English phrases and Yetta’s speech appears in both Hebrew and English alphabets. Your kids will soon be exclaiming about the “farshtunken katz”!

The Little Red Hen  

The Little Red Hen
Paul Galdone
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011 (reissued)

When the Hen asks for help planting wheat, the cat, the dog, and the mouse all say “No!” They won’t help her water it, or harvest it, or grind it. They are quite lazy. When the Little Red Hen bakes a delicious cake, who will be invited to eat it? Ages 4 to 11.

Chicken Man  

Chicken Man
written and illustrated by Michelle Edwards
1991, republished in 2009 by NorthSouth Books

Rody lives on a kibbutz in Israel, where he is assigned to tend to the chickens. He comes to love them and they him. He sings loudly with joy. And thus other kibbutz workers think the chicken house must be the best place to work and Rody is re-assigned to another job.  The chickens stop laying eggs. And Rody misses his chickens.  How will Rody find his way back to his favorite job? A good look at life on a kibbutz.

Chickens to the Rescue  

Chickens to the Rescue
written and illustrated by John Himmelman
Henry Holt, 2006

On the Greenstalk farm, things are continually going wrong. Monday through Saturday, when things need to be done, it’s the chickens to the rescue! In hilarious attire, with laugh-out-loud results, the good-intentioned chickens help animals and humans alike. Except on Sunday. Then they rest. The illustrations in this book are delightful.

Interrupting Chickens  

Interrupting Chicken
written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein
Candlewick Press, 2010

Papa is good about reading bedtime stories to Little Red Chicken, but she can’t help but interrupt his reading to warn the characters in the books about what’s to come. Which, of course, brings an abrupt end to the stories. Papa asks Little Red to write her own story but Papa interrupts … by snoring. It’s a charming book, sure to cause giggles … and it brings some classic tales to life. Caldecott Honor book.

First the Egg  

First the Egg
written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Roaring Brook Press, 2007

It’s a book of transformations, from caterpillar to butterfly, from tadpole to frog, from egg to chicken, and more. Illustrated with luscious color and simple die-cuts, this is an engaging concept book for the preschool crowd. Caldecott Honor book.

Chicken Cheeks  

Chicken Cheeks
Michael Ian Black
illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Simon & Schuster, 2009

Bear enlists all the other animals to make a tower so he can get at some elusive honey. The hilarity comes from the view of many animal bottoms, 16 ways to refer to those bottoms, and the unstable, improbable, teetering tower of giggle-worthy animals.

Chicks and Salsa  

Chicks and Salsa
Aaron Reynolds
illustrated by Paulette Bogan
Bloomsbury, 2007

The animals on Nuthatcher Farm are bored with their food. The rooster looks around and hatches a plan. They will eat chips and salsa made from the ingredients on the farm! The salsa recipe changes to accommodate each animal’s preferences. It’s so exciting they decide to have a fiesta! But when the day comes, the humans have absconded with their ingredients to enter into the state fair. What will the animals do? Thanks to the quick-thinking rooster and a resourceful rat, the party goes on!

Chicken in the Kitchen  

Chicken in the Kitchen
Nnedi Okorafor
illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
Lantana Publishing, 2015

Set in Nigeria, a young girl awakes to a noise in the middle of the night. When she investigates, she discovers a giant chicken in the kitchen. Hilarity ensues. Nothing is quite what it seems. Will Anyaugo be able to protect the traditional foods her aunties have prepared for the New Yam Festival? Gorgeous illustrations and a good look at the masquerade culture of West Africa. 

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?  

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?
illustrated by Jon Agee, Tedd Arnold, Harry Bliss, David Catrow, Marla Frazee, Mary GrandPre, Lynn Munsinger, Jerry Pinkney, Vladimir Kandunsky, Chris Raschka, Judy Schachner, David Shannon, Gus Sheban, and Mo Willems
Dial Books, 2006

When 14 illustrators are asked “why did the chicken cross the road?” their answers are fresh and fun and varied. They’ll delight you with their original takes on this old chestnut.

Hattie and the Fox  

Hattie and the Fox
Mem Fox
illustrated by Patricia Mullins
Simon & Schuster, 1987

In a cumulative tale with plenty of opportunity for different voices and great energy while reading out loud, we learn that Hattie, the black hen, spies a fox in the bushes. She tries to warn the other animals but they don’t believe her. A wonderful pastiche of anticipation, repetition, and the illustrator’s vivid use of tissue paper collage and conte crayon make this an excellent choice for storytime and anytime.

Hen Hears Gossip  

Hen Hears Gossip
Megan McDonald
illustrated by Joung Un Kim
Greenwillow, 2008

“Psst. Psst. Psst.” Hen is addicted to gossip, especially about herself. When she overhears Pig whispering a secret to Cow, Hen spreads it around until it returns to her with a not-so-nice rendition. Reading this book provides a good opportunity to talk about the ways gossip hurts. 

Big Chickens  

Big Chickens
Leslie Helakoski
illustrated by Henry Cole
Dutton, 2006

When a wolf threatens the chicken coop, the chickens RUN! They’re terrified and they want to get away. The fun ensues as they get into one hilarious predicament after another. It’s the exact kind of silly kids love and Henry Cole’s illustrations reinforce the goofy chickens’ reactions to the chaos they create.

Chicken Followed Me Home!  

A Chicken Followed Me Home:
Questions and Answers about a Familiar Fowl
Robin Page
Beach Lane Books, 2015

What would you do if a chicken followed you home? You’d learn to tell what kind of chicken it is, what it would like to eat, and how to keep it safe and healthy. You’d observe how many eggs a chicken lays in a year and how a chicken is different than a rooster. With bold illustrations, this book will appeal to both younger and older children.

Kids Guide to Keeping Chickens  

A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens:
Best Breeds, Creating a Home,
Care and Handling, Outdoor Fun, Crafts and Treats
Melissa Caughey
Storey Publishing, 2015

Filled with wonderful photos and practical advice for kids who would like to raise chickens … whether in the city or out in the country.  The book suggests ways to consider chickens as pets, offering crafts to connect with your barnyard beauties: build them a fort, learn to speak chicken, and create a veggie piñata for them. Egg-celent egg ecipes are available, too.

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer  

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer
Kelly Jones
illus by Katie Kath
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2015

Moving from Los Angeles to a farm her family inherited, Sophie Brown and her mother and father are reluctant farmers. Sophie feels isolated, which she tackles by writing letters to her abuela and to Agnes of Redwood Farm Supply. You see, Sophie’s great-uncle kept chickens. One-by-one they come home to roost and Sophie discovers they are not ordinary chickens … they have powers. Are they magical? Supernatural? They’re certainly unusual and neighbors will do just about anything to claim them. A funny, middle-grade novel, Unusual Chickens will have reader wanting to become Exceptional Poultry Farmers.

Prairie Evers  

Prairie Evers
Ellen Airgood
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012

Prairie Evers moves from North Carolina to upstate New York, where her family claims an inherited farm. She’s going to attend a public school for the first time. Up until now, Prairie has been homeschooled and having classmates is a new experience. When Ivy Blake becomes her first-ever friend, Prairie realizes Ivy’s home life is not a happy one. The Evers invite Ivy to spend time with them … and Prairie finds that a new experience, too. This middle-grade novel  has great information about the chickens Prairie is raising … and a lot about friendship, optimism, and loyalty.

Cheater for the Chicken Man  

Cheating for the Chicken Man
Priscilla Cummings
Dutton, 2015

A serious YA novel set on a chicken farm, this is a companion to two earlier books in the Red Kayak series. Now Kate is dealing with her father’s death, her mother’s grief, and her brother J.T.’s return home from a juvenile detention camp where he served a sentence for second-degree murder. She wants to give her brother a chance at a fresh start but it’s a daunting task.

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me  

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me
Maya Angelou
photographs by Margaret Courtney Clarke
Crown, 2003

“Hello, Stranger-Friend” begins Maya Angelou’s story about Thandi, a South African Ndebele girl, her mischievous brother, her beloved chicken, and the astonishing mural art produced by the women of her tribe.  With never-before-seen photographs of the very private Ndebele women and their paintings, this unique book shows the passing of traditions from parent to child and introduces young readers to a new culture through a new friend. Thanks to Nancy Bo Flood for suggesting this title.

 

Our commenters have added:

  • The Plot Chickens by Mary Jane and Herb Auch
  • Wings: a Tale of Two Chickens by James Marshall
  • Chicken Squad: the First Misadventure by Doreen Cronin, illus by Kevin Cornell
  • Henny by Elizabeth Rose Stanton

chicken books

How about you? What’s your favorite chicken book?

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Picture Books and Dementia

by Jenny Barlow

We could reach her through nursery rhymes.

She regularly sat in the living room, wrapped in a blanket in her wheelchair. To people who don’t understand, she would seem withered, vacant, even loose in the joints, and maybe very shabby. But we stroked her palsied hands and gently called her name. On occasion, she’d open her eyes.

“Hickory dickory,” we’d start.

Often fast, like an auctioneer, she’d respond, “DOCK! The mouse ran up the clock, the sheep’s in the meadow the cow’s in the corn, hickory dickory dock!”

Ok, so she wasn’t perfect…but she deserved points for keeping within the nursery rhyme genre. Dementia visits people differently, but commonly the memories it spares are ones from childhood. Someone, likely this woman’s mother, 90 some years ago, before WWI, before women’s suffrage, before radio, took the time to sit with this now-wrinkled woman as a then-chubby-faced baby and sing her nursery rhymes.

Nearly a century later, we were blessed to enjoy the echoes of that love between parent and child.

Barlow_Rosie

Jenny in costume for an activity at work where she used the children’s book Rosie the Riveter by Penny Colman, and had a discussion about WWII,

We must not limit ourselves. People of all ages and situations love picture books for different reasons. Kunio Yanagida’s picture book was cited in The Journal of Intergenerational Relationships to express why this is true:

There is a Japanese saying that one should read a picture book at three different times through one’s life: at first, in childhood; second, during the period of rearing children, and third, in later life. Older people are thought to be particularly impressed and feel sympathy when reading picture books because of their rich life experiences.1

Viral videos show how people momentarily awaken hibernating personalities by hearing just the right song. They use the scaffolding of the music to sing words they can’t say on their own in a sentence, yet their expressions suggest they very much know the context. The same can be true with reading.

It is now universally accepted that music should be used daily to empower the lives of those with dementia. It is time for reading, independently or in a group, to become revered in a parallel light. Reflecting back on how the woman remembered nursery rhymes, the leap in logic with children’s stories becoming senior’s stories isn’t so outlandish.

The modern day world of children’s literature is vast, with classics like Peter Pan or The Velveteen Rabbit to sophisticated non-fiction about historical moments this older generation created. Well-written stories stay with us, change us into better human beings, and make our own hearts wiser. C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

The words on the page, the illustrations woven with the storyline, the length, the page turns, the weight of the book itself: all of these aspects support an intergenerational market. Precocious picture books work especially well as seniors, even those with advanced dementia, usually retain much of their vocabulary.  

The form and format of picture books are also effective for engaging these readers. Although we see older folks sitting with their cup of black coffee and morning paper, the font size of newsprint can be hard to decipher, the busyness of the ads mixed with blocks of different articles can be confusing, and, due to attention difficulties caused by disease and stress, the length of news stories, let alone novels, can be overwhelming. The design and length of picture books, on the other hand, welcomes these same readers.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports there are currently over five million people in the United States with this type of dementia, and that number may triple in the next 35 years.2 The percentage of the U.S. population made of children ages 12 and younger will dip in that same time period.3 The business of writing picture books and placing them with the perfect reader can, and should, grow up.  

There is a blue ocean of under-served and underestimated people, broken-in-body children-at-heart, who need us. Picture books can help families express love to those they thought they had lost. We already have the power, we just need the reframing mindset. It’s simple, really; we can even reach them through nursery rhymes.

Long live “children’s” literature.

Note from the Bookologist: Jenny suggests these picture books to begin with:

Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say

The Name Quilt by Phyllis Root, illus. by Margot Apple

The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L.Frank Baum by Kathleen Krull, illus. Kevin Hawkes

A Nation’s Hope: the Story of Boxing Legend Joe Lewis by Matt De La Pena, illus. Kadir Nelson

Up North at the Cabin by Marsha Wilson Chall, illus. Steve Johnson

Sources:

1. http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~kbrabazo/Eval-repository/Repository-Articles/reprints%20japan%20program.pdf

2. http://www.alz.org/facts/overview.asp

3. http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/53_appendix1.pdf

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Library Lion

by Melanie Heuiser Hill

I recently read about a series of get-to-know-you games to play with kids. One suggested making a list of hard and fast rules that everyone could agree to—a series of sensible prohibitions, perhaps—and then taking turns thinking of the exceptions to those rules.

RULE:  No running in the hallways. EXCEPTION: Run if the building is on fire.

RULE: Only quiet voices in the library. EXCEPTION: Shout as loud as you can if there is an emergency.

Library Lion cover

by Michelle Knudsen illustrations: Kevin Hawkes Candlewick, 2006

Variations on these two rules appear in Library Lion, one of my favorite picture books ever. And I wish I’d had this book when my two rule-followers were little—it might’ve helped us play the game above.

I was quite smitten with Library Lion the first time I saw it. Something about the cover evokes a nostalgic feeling for me—the illustrations by Kevin Hawkes are done in a soft palate of acrylics and pencil. The gigantic lion calmly reading over the shoulder of a young girl looks entirely plausible.

The story, too, somehow feels plausible. You don’t question it at all when you read on page one: “One day, a lion came to the library. He walked right past the circulation desk and up into the stacks.”

I have made the mistake, while reading to a group of children, of saying, “Can you believe it? A lion in the library!” They look at me with weariness, their faces clearly saying, “Hush up, Story Lady. Just keep reading.”

Only Mr. McBee questions the propriety of the lion. Not Miss Merriweather. (Could there be more perfect names for {nostalgically stereotypical} librarians? I think not.) Miss Merriweather is as calm as Mr. McBee is nervous. “‘Is he breaking any rules?’” she asks. Mr. McBee, obviously familiar with the rules and their importance, admits that the lion has not trespassed in any way. “‘Then leave him be,’” says the unflappable Miss Merriweather.

Gorgeous spreads of the lion’s presence and assistance in the library abound. He sniffs the card catalog, rubs his head on the new book collection, and joins story hour. Nobody quite knows what to do as “there weren’t any rules about lions in the library.”

When he lets out a small but startling RAAAHHRRRR! at the end of story hour, Miss Merriweather informs him of the library rule that covers everything from too much talking to roaring. “‘If you cannot be quiet, you will have to leave,” she [says] in a stern voice. “Those are the rules!’”

Well, as we know—and as children must learn—there are times when it is entirely right to break the rules. And when that time comes in this book, the lion knows what to do. This time, his roar is much larger. I always have the kids read it with me—we raaahhrr as loud as we possibly can. As we work up to a proper volume (they always have to be encouraged), we take turns running our fingers over the illustrated letters that blow the spectacles off Mr. McBee’s face.

RAAAHHHRRR!

Library Lion illustration

(c) 2006 Kevin Hawkes

I was so smitten with Library Lion when I first discovered it that I was little nervous about reading it to a group of young children. What if they didn’t like it? What if it was too old-fashioned, implausible, too sweet? What if children today were somehow too jaded to properly appreciate this gem of a book?!

I need not have worried. This is one of those picture books that sucks kids in right away. They become one of the children in Miss Merriweather’s library on page one. When the book finishes, they look around the bookstore/library/room as if they expect to see a lion pad in.

Michele Knudsen and Kevin Hawkes are an inspired pair—this is a beautiful book and I love sharing it with kids. It’s a lovely thing to go hoarse while roaring with children.

 

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Life on the farm

It’s that time of year. Farmers’ markets are bursting with color, smells, and daydreams of splendid meals. People are putting food by … knowing that berries and cucumbers and tomatoes and corn will be hard to find in the winter months. A lot of people are putting in a big effort to make sure we […]

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