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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

In Memoriam: Wendy Watson

Wendy Watson was a third generation author and artist. Her grandparents, Ernest W. Watson and Eva Auld Watson, were painters and pioneer color block printers.  Ernest was also founder and editor of the magazine American Artist, co-founder of Watson-Guptill Publications, and co-founder of one of the first summer art schools, the Berkshire Summer School of Art. Wendy’s father, Aldren A. Watson, is an author, and also the illustrator of more than 175 books, including many children’s books written by Wendy’s mother, Nancy Dingman Watson.

Wendy received her primary education and early art training from her parents. She later studied painting and drawing with Jerry Farnsworth, Helen Sawyer, and Daniel Greene, and received a BA in Latin Literature from Bryn Mawr College.

Wendy was the author-illustrator of twenty-one books for children, and the illustrator of over sixty books for other authors. Her books have received many awards and honors, including: The National Book Award, nominee; The Koret Jewish Book Award; The Sydney Taylor Honor Book Award; Best Books of the Year, The New York Times; Best Books of the Year, American Library Association; Best Books of the Year, School Library Journal; Best Books of the Year, Publishers WeeklyKirkus Reviews Editor’s Choice; Notable Children’s Books, American Library Association; Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children, National Science Teachers Association/Children’s Book Council; Pick of the Lists, American Bookseller’s Association; and Notable Children’s Books in the Field of Social Studies, Children’s Book Council.

Wendy’s artwork was exhibited widely, and included in numerous national and international shows, including: “The Biennial of Illustration,” Bratislava, Yugoslavia; “The Original Art,” The Society of Illustrators, New York; and “The Annual Exhibition of American Illustration,” The Society of Illustrators, New York. She was one of 106 artists represented in the exhibition and book “Myth, Magic, and Mystery: One Hundred Years of American Children’s Book Illustration.” Wendy’s work is part of numerous private and institutional collections.

Wendy was also a member of the Author’s Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and The Society of Illustrators. She lived in Phoenix, Arizona, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She passed away in February 2018 and will be held dear in the hearts of many friends and relatives.

Here are Wendy Watson’s published works:

 

Bedtime Bunnies
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Clarion Books, 2010
ISBN 9780547223124

It’s always somebody’s bedtime, somewhere in the world. In this book it’s bedtime for five little rabbits. They come in from outdoors, have a snack, brush their teeth, take a bath, put on nightclothes, and listen to a story before being tucked in for the night. Outside, we see snowflakes falling. In the bunnies’ home, all is warmth and coziness and playfulness and love. Four words per spread narrate the evening routine, and delightfully soft and spirited illustrations take readers into the bunnies’ world. Young children who have this book as a bedtime companion are lucky indeed, especially if their own getting-ready-for-bed rituals are as familiar and tender as those of the five bunnies.

 

Spuds
written by Karen Hesse

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Scholastic Press, 2008
ISBN 9780439879934

Ma’s been working so hard, she doesn’t have much left over. So her three kids decide to do some work on their own. In the dark of night, they steal into their rich neighbor’s potato fields in hopes of collecting the strays that have been left to rot. They dig flat-bellied in the dirt, hiding from passing cars, and drag a sack of spuds through the frost back home. But in the light, the sad truth is revealed: their bag is full of stones! Ma is upset when she sees what they’ve done, and makes them set things right. But in a surprise twist, they learned they have helped the farmer….

 

The Cats in Krasinski Square
written by Karen Hesse
illustrated by Wendy Watson
Scholastic Press, 2004
ISBN 9780439435406 

In luminous free verse, Hesse’s latest picture book tells a powerful story of a young Jewish girl who, together with her older sister, ingeniously fights the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. After escaping from the Jewish ghetto, the girl avoids detection…. She finds joy in playing with the city’s abandoned cats, who show her holes in the ghetto wall, which the girl’s older sister and their resistance friends will use to pass supplies shipped by train to Warsaw. The Gestapo learns of the scheme, and soldiers wait at the train station with dogs. Luckily, the cats inspire a solution; they distract the dogs and protect the supplies. It’s an empowering story about the bravery and impact of young people, and Hesse’s clear, spare poetry, from the girl’s viewpoint, refers to the hardships suffered without didacticism. In bold, black lines and washes of smoky gray and ochre, Watson’s arresting images echo the pared-down language as well as the hope that shines like the glints of sunlight on Krasinski Square. An author’s note references the true events and heartbreaking history that inspired this stirring, expertly crafted story.

 

Father Fox’s Christmas Rhymes
written by Clyde Watson

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003
ISBN 9780374375768

A cozy collection of holiday verse.

Who is that knocking at the door?
It’s old Father Fox with surprises galore!
Licorice & lollipops, lemons & limes
A bundle of toys & a bag full of rhymes . . .

Over thirty years ago, Father Fox’s Pennyrhymes became an instant classic and was a National Book Award Finalist. Now Father Fox returns with new rhymes especially for yuletide that conjure up the excitement and mystery of the season: playing in the snow, making hot apple cider, hiding presents—all at the warm and loving home of the Fox family.

The verses feel like classic children’s rhymes, and rich paintings capture all the cheer and beauty of Christmastime.

 

Rabbit Moon
written by Patricia Hubbell

illustrations by Wendy Watson
Marshall Cavendish, 2002
ISBN 9780761451037

Consider Rabbit snowmen in February! Can you imagine Rabbit pipers in March?! An engaging collection of poems for preschoolers and early readers, this unique almanac celebrates the holidays and good times enjoyed by young Rabbits and children alike. From Rabbit Leaders Day to Rabbit Thanksgiving, from Rabbit fireworks in July to Rabbit trick-or-treat in October, all the special days of the year are here. And, as Big-Rabbit-in-the-Moon looks on, all are enjoyed. Adding to the fun are playful illustrations (rendered in acrylics and India ink) of Rabbits here, Rabbits there, Rabbits everywhere!

 

Holly’s Christmas Eve
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
HarperCollins, 2002
ISBN 9780688176525

On Christmas Eve, Holly is ready to join the other ornaments in celebration. But disaster strikes when naughty Bad Cat bats the tree’s branches: Holly loses her wooden arm! Cloth Bear and Tin Horse rush to help her find it, meeting danger and becoming good friends along the way.

Wendy Watson’s paintings glow with excitement as the trio hurries to get home safely before Santa arrives.

This heartwarming story, filled with adventure, is perfect for reading aloud by the light of your own tree at Christmastime.

 

Is My Friend at Home?: Pueblo Fireside Tales
written by John Bierhorst

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001
ISBN 9780374335502

Here are seven interconnected stories about making and keeping friends, jewel-like tales originally told to the youngest listeners at Native American firesides in the Hopi country of northern Arizona. In John Bierhorst’s authentic re-creation of a Pueblo storytelling session, readers and listeners will find out how Coyote got his short ears, why Mouse walks softly, and how Bee learned to fly.

Snake, Mole, Badger, Beetle, and Dove also have roles clever and foolish, friendly and not so friendly, and all are depicted with humor and finesse by illustrator Wendy Watson.

 

Love’s a Sweet
written by Clyde Watson

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Viking Penguin, 1998
ISBN 9780670834532

Animals of every sort quarrel and kiss, laugh and lullaby their way through the pleasures and pitfalls of everyday love in this new collection of short rhymes written and illustrated by sisters Clyde and Wendy Watson. Each of Clyde’s “pennyrhymes” is illustrated with funny, often tender scenes featuring Wendy’s fuzzy farm animals. Love’s A Sweet is the perfect book for children to share with moms, dads, brothers, sisters, and especially with grandma and grandpa!

no cover
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Du Store Verden (orig. Norwegian ed.)
written by Katherine Paterson et al.
illustrated by Wendy Watson
J.W. Cappelens Forlag a-s, 1995

No synopsis yet.

 

Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night
edited and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1994
no ISBN yet

An illustrated version of the folk song in which a fox travels many miles to get dinner for his wife and ten cubs.

 

The Big Book for Our Planet
edited by Ann Durrell, Jean Craighead George, and Katherine Paterson
illustrated by Wendy Watson
Dutton Children’s Books, 1993
ISBN 9780525451198

More than forty acclaimed children’s book authors and illustrators join together to create an anthology—whose proceeds will benefit environmental organizations—of stories, poems, essays, and pictures that celebrate Earth and call attention to environmental destruction.

 

Happy Easter Day!
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Clarion Books, 1993
ISBN 9780395536292

A family prepares for a traditional American Easter by making hot cross buns, getting new clothes, and decorating eggs. On the holiday, they hunt for baskets, go to church, have dinner, and play games. Songs and poems are interspersed throughout the text.

 

Boo! It’s Halloween
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Clarion Books, 1992
ISBN 9780395536285

A family gets ready for Halloween by preparing costumes, making goodies for the school party, and carving jack-o’-lanterns. Halloween jokes and rhymes are interspersed throughout the text.

 

Hurray for the Fourth of July
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Clarion Books, 1992
ISBN 9780618040360 (Sandpiper ed., 2000)

In a small Vermont town a family celebrates the Fourth of July by attending a parade, having a picnic, and watching fireworks.

 

Thanksgiving at Our House
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Clarion Books, 1991
ISBN 9780395699447 (Sandpiper ed., 1994)

A spirited collection of traditional rhymes woven into an original story.

 

A Valentine for You
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Clarion Books, 1991
ISBN 9780395536254

A lively collection of traditional Valentine rhymes celebrates the fun a family can have preparing for the holiday.

 

The Night Before Christmas
written by Clement Clarke Moore

edited and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Clarion Books, 1990
ISBN 9780395665084 (Sandpiper ed., 1993)

The familiar verse about a visit from Saint Nick is depicted in a late-twentieth-century small town setting, which brings to life the traditional American celebration of a beloved holiday.

 

Wendy Watson’s Frog Went A-Courting
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
piano arr. by Paul Alan Levi
Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1990
ISBN 9780688065409

Presents the well-known folk song about the courtship and marriage of the frog and the mouse. Includes music.

 

A, B, C, D, Tummy, Toes, Hands, Knees
written by Barbara Hennessey

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Viking Penguin, 1989
ISBN 9780670817030

A rhythmic, rhyming text lists objects, ideas, and actions; simple vignettes and full-page drawings provide the definitions by showing familiar activities and games enjoyed by a mother and child in the course of their day together.

 

Valentine Foxes
written by Clyde Watson

illustrations by Wendy Watson
Orchard Books, 1989
ISBN 9780531070338 (Orchard, 1992)

The Fox family’s genial disarray is enlivened as the cubs prepare a special surprise. The book includes a recipe for Valentine Pound Cake.

 

 

Wendy Watson’s Mother Goose
edited and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1989
ISBN 9780688057084

In this comprehensive, lavishly illustrated volume, Watson shares her beguiling vision of the timeless world of Mother Goose. A wonderful introduction to the rich folklore of childhood. Full-color illustrations.

no cover
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How I Feel: Happy
written by Marcia Leonard

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Bantam, 1988
no ISBN yet

No synposis yet.

no cover
image available
 

How I Feel: Silly
written by Marcia Leonard

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Bantam, 1988
no ISBN yet

No synopsis yet.

no cover
image available
 

How I Feel: Sad
written by Marcia Leonard

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Bantam, 1988
no ISBN yet

No synopsis yet.

 

How I Feel: Angry
written by Marcia Leonard

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Bantam, 1988
ISBN 9780553054828

Describes, in simple terms, situations which make us angry and how to cope with feelings of anger.

 

Tales For a Winter’s Eve
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1988
ISBN 9780374474195 (Sunburst ed., 1991)

When Freddie Fox injures his paw in a skiing accident, his family and friends distract him with stories about the animal inhabitants of their village.

 

Doctor Coyote, A Native American Aesop’s Fable
written by John Bierhorst

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Macmillan, 1987
ISBN 9780027097801 

Coyote is featured in each of these Aztec interpretations of Aesop’s fables. The illustrations are set in the twentieth century.

 

Little Brown Bear
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Western Publishing, 1985
ISBN 9780307030429

Little Brown Bear would like to go fishing with his father, but his parents think he’s too small.

 

Belinda’s Hurricane
written by Elizabeth Winthrop

illustrated by Wendy Watson
E.P. Dutton, 1984
ISBN 9780525441069

While waiting out a fierce hurricane in her grandmother’s house on Fox Island, Belinda has a chance to get to know her grandmother’s reclusive neighbor Mr. Fletcher.

 

I Love My Baby Sister: Most of the Time
written by Elaine Edelman

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1984
ISBN 9780140505474 (Puffin ed., 1985)

A small girl looks forward to the time when her baby sister will be big enough to play with and be friends with.

 

Happy Birthday From Carolyn Haywood
written by Carolyn Haywood

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Morrow Junior Books, 1984
ISBN 9780688027094

A collection of nine stories revolving around the birthday celebrations of a variety of the author’s characters, old and new.

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Christmas at Bunny’s Inn
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Philomel, 1984
ISBN 9780399210907

Pop-up book: A three-dimensional Advent calendar.

 

Father Fox’s Feast of Songs
written by Clyde Watson

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Philomel, 1983
ISBN 9780399208867

Here is a joyous collection of songs for every family to enjoy together. Clyde Watson has chosen her favorites from the best-selling nursery rhyme books, Father Fox’s Pennyrhymes and Catch Me & Kiss Me & Say it Again, and set them to music in easy-to-play arrangements for voice, piano and guitar. Wendy Watson has illustrated her sister’s songs with humor and affection. Gather around the piano and sing— here are songs to celebrate every aspect of happy childhood and loving family life.

 

Betsy’s Up-and-Down Year
written by Anne Pellowski

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Philomel, 1983
ISBN 9780399209703

The further adventures of Betsy on her family’s Wisconsin farm including her struggles with sibling rivalry, an encounter with a rattlesnake, a birthday party, and coping with the death of her grandfather.

 

The Bunnies’ Christmas Eve (pop-up book)
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Philomel, 1983
ISBN 9780399209680

Bunny learns the true meaning of Christmas as she takes part in a special ceremony and family holiday traditions, as depicted by stand-up illustrations with moving parts.

 

Applebet, An ABC
written by Clyde Watson
illustrated by Wendy Watson
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1982
ISBN 9780374404277

A is for apple as everyone knows
Can you follow this one wherever it goes? 
B is for Bet in the top of the tree
Who picked it & shined it & gave it to me.

A Library of Congress Children’s Book of the Year.

 

The Biggest, Meanest, Ugliest Dog in the Whole Wide World
written by Rebecca C. Jones

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Macmillan, 1982
ISBN 9780027478006

Jonathan is terrified of the dog next door, until one day he throws his ball at it in defense and their relationship changes.

 

First Farm in the Valley: Anna’s Story
written by Anne Pellowski

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Macmillan, 1982
ISBN 9780884895374 (St. Mary’s Press ed., 1998)

Anna, the American-born daughter of Polish immigrants, longs to escape the rigors of Wisconsin farm life to visit the romanticized Poland of her dreams.

 

Winding Valley Farm: Annie’s Story
written by Anne Pellowski

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Philomel, 1982
ISBN 9780399208638

Life for six-year-old Annie Dorawa on Winding Valley Farm just down the road from the Pellowskis’ first farm in the valley is busy and happy. Then one day, Annie hears her father speak about not planting that year, but instead moving into town. Is it really possible that they might leave their beautiful farm? What could her father be thinking about? This new anxiety, along with that inner imp of mischief always threatening to get her into trouble (and which finally does when brother John is killing chickens at the chopping block), hover over Annie as she works and plays with her sister and five brothers immersed in the vigorous life of their American-Polish community. Despite the discovery that life is not always easy or as she d like it to be, Annie begins to realize what warm security is to be found in a hardworking family rooted in faith and love.

 

Stairstep Farm: Anna Rose’s Story
written by Anne Pellowski

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Philomel, 1981
ISBN 9780884895367 (St. Mary’s Press ed., 1998)

In the late 1930s, Annie’s daughter Anna Rose, as well as her other children, can make almost any chore an occasion for fun. But Anna Rose, who is busy enough with the farm work and a new baby sister, dreams of starting school.

 

Willow Wind Farm: Betsy’s Story
written by Anne Pellowski

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Philomel, 1981
ISBN 9780399207815

Anna Rose’s seven-year-old niece Betsy has a special year, one in which all the relatives from near and far gather for a family reunion at her grandparent’s farm. Betsy then discovers how nice it is to live at the heart of a large and loving family.

 

Jamie’s Story
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Philomel, 1981
ISBN 9780399207891

Portrays a day in the life of a toddler as he helps his mother and father, plays, and discovers the world around him.

 

Button Eye’s Orange
written by Jan Wahl

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Frederick Warne, 1980
ISBN 9780723261889

Taken to the market to be sold, a toy dog tries to return with an orange to his boy who wears a leg brace.

 

How Brown Mouse Kept Christmas
written by Clyde Watson

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1989
ISBN 9780374334949

On Christmas Eve the mice feast and make merry around the family’s Christmas tree, in full view of the sleeping cat, and Brown Mouse inadvertently does a kindness for the family.

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Jenny’s Cat
written by Miska Miles

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Dutton, 1979
ISBN 9780553151251

Lonely in their new town, Jenny is delighted when a stray cat comes to their house, but her mother doesn’t want the cat to stay.

 

Catch Me & Kiss Me & Say It Again
written by Clyde Watson

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1978
ISBN 9780399219948

Thirty-two rhymes for the very young including counting rhymes, lullabies, and games.

 

Has Winter Come?
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson

Philomel, 1978
ISBN 9780529054395

Although the children don’t recognize the faint smell of winter in the air, a woodchuck family begins preparing for long snowy nights.

 

Moving
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1978
ISBN 9780690013269

When Mom and Dad make plans to move to a new house, Muffin decides to remain in the old one.

 

Binary Numbers
written by Clyde Watson

illustrated by Wendy Watsoni
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1977
ISBN 9780690009927

Introduces the principle and uses of binary numbers.

 

Maps, Tracks, and the Bridges of Konigsberg
written by Michael Holt

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976
ISBN 9780690007466

Offers a basic explanation of graph theory.

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Christmas All Around the House:
Christmas Decorations You Can Make
written by Florence Pettit

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976
ISBN 9780690010138

Instructions for making a variety of Christmas decorations, crafts, and foods that originated in different parts of the world.

 

Hickory Stick Rag
written by Clyde Watson

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976
ISBN 9780690009590

Recounts, in rhyme, the good and bad events of a school year for the young animal children.

 

Lollipop
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976
ISBN 9780690007688

Bunny goes through a lot before he finally gets his lollipop.

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Heart’s Ease, A Little Book of Tender Thoughts
written by ???????

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Peter Pauper Press, 1975
no ISBN yet

No synopsis yet.

 

Quips & Quirks
written by Clyde Watson

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Thomas Crowell, 1975
ISBN 9780690007336

Briefly defines a number of names used to tease or insult for a hundred years or more. Includes rubberneck, flibbertigibbet, trollybags, and many more.

 

Muncus Agruncus: a Bad Little Mouse
written by Nancy D. Watson

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1975
ISBN 9780307125408

Always fond of adventure, Muncus Agruncus spends much of his time pursuing and escaping from mischief.

 

Sleep Is For Everyone
written by Paul Showers

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1974
ISBN 9780064451413

Bedtime often seems to come too early, but what would happen if you never went to sleep? When scientists decided to find out, they discovered that your brain needs a rest after a long day of thinking, just as your muscles would need a rest after a long day of work.
A different kind of bedtime story, this book is the perfect response to the question—Can’t I stay up a little longer?’

 

The Birthday Goat
written by Nancy D. Watson

illustrated by Wendy Watson 
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1974
ISBN 9780333174838

The Goat family enjoys its outing to the Carnival until Baby Souci goat is kidnapped.

 

Upside Down and Inside Out
written by Bobbie Katz

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Franklin Watts, 1973
ISBN 9781563971228

Speculates in verse on the many ways the world could be turned upside down, inside out, and otherwise mixed up.

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Animal Garden
written by Ogden Nash

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Andre Deutsch, London, 1972
no ISBN yet

No synopsis yet.

 

Open the Door and See All the People
written by Clyde Robert Bulla

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1972
ISBN 9780690600452

After losing everything they own, including their dolls, when their house burns down, two sisters learn about a place where they can adopt dolls.

 

Tom Fox and the Apple Pie
written by Clyde Watson

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1972
ISBN 9780690827835

Tom Fox goes to the Fair to bring back an apple pie for his family.

 

Probability
written by Charles Linn

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1972
ISBN 9780690656015

Simple experiments with easily available materials explain the theory of probability and how it is used by scientists, poll-takers, and industrialists.

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A Gift of Mistletoe
written by ?????

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Peter Pauper Press, 1971
no ISBN yet

No synopsis yet.

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America! America!
written by ???????

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Peter Pauper Press, 1971
no ISBN yet

No synopsis yet.

 

Life’s Wondrous Ways
written by ???????

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Peter Pauper Press, 1971
no ISBN yet

No synopsis yet.

 

Father Fox’s Pennyrhymes
written by Clyde Watson

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1971
ISBN 9780060295011 (HarperCollins ed., 2001)

(Synopsis for the 2001 edition.)

Life proclaimed this long-unavailable classic the “first authentically colloquial and breezily American nursery rhyme” when it was published in 1971. Now it is back for new generations to enjoy!

All of Clyde Waterson’s verses have what School Library Journal calls the “foot-stomping rhythm of an American square dance call.” Some feel cozy and nostalgic; others are silly. Many evoke the pleasures of changing seasons. But they all keep readers and young listeners entertained, page after page. Wendy Watson’s fully imagined and finely detailed pictures of the splendid fox family, at home and on joyous outings, will make children giggle. As The New York Times Book Review explains, “Put it all together—rhymes and pictures—and the book is like a breath of fresh air.”

 

Happy Thoughts
written by Louise Bachelder

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Peter Pauper Press, 1970
no ISBN yet 

No synopsis yet.

 

How Dear to My Heart
written by Louise Bachelder

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Peter Pauper Press, 1970
no ISBN yet

No synopsis yet.

 

Lizzie, the Lost Toys Witch
written by Mabel Harmer

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Macrae Smith, 1970
ISBN 9780825541254

The Lost Toys Witch goes around and gathers up all the toys that are left on carousels, in Killiwiddy chuckholes, or in old man Twiddledink’s tomato red pushcart.

 

Magic in the Alley
written by Mary Calhoun

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Atheneum, 1970
no ISBN yet

Cleery finds a box with seven magic items in it and even though the magic is soon spent it brings three friends something of value.

 

Helen Keller
written by Margaret Davidson

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Scholastic Book Services, 1970
ISBN 9780590424042

The bestselling biography of Helen Keller and how, with the commitment and lifelong friendship of Anne Sullivan, she learned to talk, read, and eventually graduate from college with honors.

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The Jack Book
written by Irma Simonton

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Macmillan, Bank Street School of Education, 1969
no ISBN yet

No synopsis yet.

 

God Bless Us, Every One!
written by Louise Bachelder

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Peter Pauper Press, 1969
no ISBN yet

Christmas-themed anthology of sayings, poetry, proverbs and Bible quotes.

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The Hedgehog and the Hare (the Brothers Grimm)
re-told and illustrated by Wendy Watson
World, 1969
no ISBN yet

This is the Grimm Brother’s version of one of the best-loved of all folk tales now retold and illustrated by Wendy Watson. The hare taunts the hedgehog for the shortness of his legs. The hedgehog suggests a race– and the hare is surprised when the hedgehog wins. The clever hedgehog had made a plan…

 

When Noodlehead Went to the Fair
Written by Kathryn Hitte

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Parents’ Magazine Press, 1968
no ISBN yet

A cute story about Noodlehead going to the fair to win a prize for his carrot.

 

Uncle Fonzo’s Ford
written by Miska Miles

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Atlantic-Little Brown, 1968
no ISBN yet

A ten-year-old girl is very much embarrassed by her uncle who intends well but always does things wrong, so that everyone laughs, especially the boy next door.

 

The Best in Offbeat Humor
written by Paul B. Lowney

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Peter Pauper Press, 1968
no ISBN yet

A collection of humorous quips presented by noted humorist, author, and comic book writer Paul B. Lowney.

 

Fisherman Lullabies
music by Clyde Watson

edited and illustrated by Wendy Watson
World, 1968
no ISBN yet

No synopsis yet.

 

The Cruise of the Aardvark
written by Ogden Nash

illustrated by Wendy Watson
M. Evans, 1967
ISBN 9780871315700 (1989 ed.)

The aardvark is on a cruise and paints pictures of everyone–and they all look like him. After all, don’t they want to be improved? NO!

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Daughter of Liberty
written by Edna Boutwell

illustrated by Wendy Watsoni
World, 1967
ISBN 9780529036506 (1975 ed.)

The experiences of Polly Sumner, a French fashion doll in Boston during the American Revolution who once brought a note to Paul Revere and is now residing in the Old State House.

 

The Poems of Longfellow
written by H.W. Longfellow

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Peter Pauper Press, 1967
no ISBN yet

No synopsis yet.

 

The Strawman Who Smiled by Mistake
written by Paul Tripp

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Doubleday, 1967
no ISBN yet

No synopsis yet.

 

Love Is a Laugh
written by Margaret Greenman

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Peter Pauper Press, 1967
no ISBN yet

No synopsis yet.

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Rosabel’s Secret
written by Alice E. Christgau

illustrated by Wendy Watson
William R. Scott, 1967
no ISBN yet

No synopsis yet.

 

A Comic Primer
written by Eugene Field

illustrated by Wendy Watson
Peter Pauper Press, 1966
no ISBN yet

No synopsis yet.

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The Spider Plant
written by Yetta Speevak

illustrated by Kurt Werth
Atheneum, 1965
no ISBN yet

No synopsis yet.

 

Very Important Cat
written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
Dodd, Mead, 1958
ISBN 9781258369187

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Capers and Cons

When you (or your students) want a book that keeps you turning the pages for your weeknight and weekend reading, here are some suggestions for books with that nimble pacing and what-are-they-up-to plots. Many of them are just right for middle grade or avid younger-than-that readers, with a couple of teen titles added. (And, of course, all are suitable for reading by adults.)

Adam Canfield of the Slash  

Adam Canfield of the Slash
written by Michael Winerip
Candlewick Press, 2005

This book is by turns funny and serious, but Adam Canfield is always interested in discovering the truth. Written by a New York Times columnist (on education) who won a Pulitzer Prize, Winerip knows what his readers will find interesting. Adam reluctantly accepts the position of co-editor of their school paper. He’s skeptical when a third-grader uncovers a possible scandal. Adam and his co-editor, Jennifer, take the story to the principal, who forbids them to investigate. Adam and Jennifer can’t help themselves and they’re soon uncovering secrets.  Even though school papers are mostly digital now, this book will motivate readers to be truth seekers.

Con Academy  

Con Academy
written by Joe Schreiber
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2015

For teen readers: Senior Michael Shea has conned his way into one of the country’s elite prep schools. He’s an old hand at cons, but he’s unprepared to meet Andrea, his competition. When the two of them set up a competition to con the school’s Big Man on Campus out of $50,000, the stakes are high. One twist after another, a full crew of grifters brought in to effect the con … this book reads cinematically and moves along quickly.

Eddie Red Undercover: Doom at Grant's Tomb  

Eddie Red Undercover: Doom at Grant’s Tomb
written by Marcia Wells, illustrated by Marcos Calo
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016

Having just finished the third book in the series, I’m a fan of the youngest investigator working for the NYPD. There’s a back story for that, of course, but Eddie has an eidetic memory and a quicksilver mind … he’s good at solving crimes. The police are always reluctant to involve Eddie because he’s only 12 years old, but the kid’s good at what he does. In this installment, it appears that Eddie is being targeted for serious consequences by international art thieves whom he’s foiled before. The thieves are stealing valuable items from well-known landmarks. Can Eddie psych them out before they catch up with him?

 

Framed!

 

Framed!
written by James Ponti
Aladdin, 2016

Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength that Leslie has given him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief.

Illyrian Adventure  

Illyrian Adventures
written by Lloyd Alexander
Dutton Books, 1987

This is the first of six books about 16-year-old Vesper Holly who, in 1872, in the company of her guardian, Binnie, travels to Illyria on the Adriatic Sea to prove one of her late father’s theories. She’s a girl with modern sensibilities set against Binnie’s conservative concerns. Vesper gets caught up in fast-paced intrigue with a rebellion against the king, all the while managing to search for the legendary treasure. With Mr. Alexander’s characteristic humor, and a touch of romance, this series is fun to read and definitely qualifies as a turn-the-page adventure.

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush  

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush
written by Peter Lourie, illustrated by Wendell Minor
Henry Holt, 2017

Teens will enjoy this one. When Jack London turns 21, the Gold Rush of 1897 compels treasure seekers from around the world to trek through life-threatening conditions to get to the gold fields in the Yukon Territory of Canada. Jack is swept up in the excitement, assembling a team of adventurers and supplies to withstand the cruel journey. That someone this young could command respect and camaraderie speaks loudly about his character. This true story serves as an excellent companion books for Call of the Wild and White Fang, Jack London’s Klondike stories. A real page-turner.

Magic Misfits  

Magic Misfits
written by Neill Patrick Harris, illus by Lissy Marlin
Little, Brown Books, 2017

This thoroughly enjoyable book follows Carter when he runs away from his crooked, thieving uncle to the New England town of Mineral Wells, a surprisingly welcoming place. Convinced that magic isn’t real, and yet a talented street magician, Carter is soon befriended by a group of Magic Misfits who set out to expose a circus that’s a front for a well-orchestrated, and dangerous, team of grifters. Adventurous, funny, heartwarming, this will capture readers’ imaginations. 

Mighty Jack  

Mighty Jack
written and illustrated by Ben Hatke
First Second, 2016

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King
written and illustrated by Ben Hatke
First Second, 2017

In the first book, Jack’s sister Maddy persuades him to trade their Mom’s car for a box of mysterious seeds … and the adventure begins. These are not, of course, ordinary seeds. They grow strange, otherworldly creatures and the kids, including next-door-neighbor Lilly, are challenged to deal with creatures run amok.

In the second book, an ogre snatches Maddy into another world with Jack and Lilly determined to rescue her. Along the way, we meet goblins (good) and ogres (bad) and Lilly fulfills a prophecy. It’s all very exciting and well-told with vibrant, engrossing illustrations.

Parker Inheritance  

Parker Inheritance
written by Varian Johnson
Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic, 2018

In modern-day Lambert, Candice discovers a mystery in her grandmother’s letters. In the 1950s, her grandmother left Lambert in shame, but it’s soon apparent to Candice and her friend Brandon that racism was behind those events … and they reflect that things haven’t changed that much. Reading this book will bring your creative problem-solving skills into play. There’s intrigue, humor, and a lot to think about in this story. 

Player King  

Player King
written by Avi
Atheneum, 2017

In 1846, young Lambert Simnel slaves away in a London tavern, completely unaware of the politics of the land.  When he’s purchased in the middle of the night by a friar, he’s astounded when the man reveals, “You, Lambert, are actually Prince Edward, the true King of England!” King Henry VII has just claimed the throne of England, but only after Prince Edward, who has a truer claim, disappears. Could Lambert be the real prince? How could he not remember this? Based on a blip in history, this is a fascinating look at a confidence job planned by politicians whose lives are at stake.

Riddle in Ruby  

Riddle in Ruby
written by Kent Davis
Greenwillow Books, 2015

In an alternate history colonial Philadelphia, Ruby Teach is training to be a thief and a guardian of secrets. It isn’t until she meets young Lord Athen that she begins to understand that her entire life has been kept secret from the powers that be. In this world, those powers use alchemy to fuel the Industrial Revolution. It’s a fast-paced, funny, and compelling book, the first of a trilogy, with The Changer’s Key and The Great Unravel providing the rest of the story.

Supernatural Sleuthing Service  

Supernormal Sleuthing Service
written by Gwenda Bond and Christopher Rowe,
illustrated by Glenn Thomas
Greenwillow Books, 2017

Stephen and his dad are moving cross-country so Dad can be the new executive chef at the New Harmonia, a New York City hotel for supernormals (read: monsters!) It isn’t long before Stephen discovers he’s part supernormal himself! When Stephen is framed for stealing a valuable heirloom, he teams up with two new friends to prove his innocence. It’s a spooky story, filled with humor and hijinks, and there’s a second book, The Sphinx’s Secret. You know the right reader for these books!

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Laughing Matters

This month, Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Phyllis Root, the usual hosts of this column, have invited Kari Pearson to share her recommendations for funny picture books.

Kari Pearson

Kari Pearson

Let’s play a game! It’s called Funny/Not Funny. It goes like this:

Funny: Eating greasy bloaters with cabbage-and-potato sog (see: How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen)

Not Funny: Shoveling gigantic snowdrifts out of my driveway into piles almost as tall as myself.

Laughing matters, as anyone who has survived a Minnesota winter will tell you.

Whether you’re snowbound or not, I hope you will enjoy the warmth and wit this quirky collection of picture books has to offer. Some of them are old (look for them at your library or online through Alibris), others are newer. Most importantly, all are guaranteed to be more hilarious than discovering you have to kick your own front door open from the inside because it has frozen shut overnight in a blizzard (file under: not funny). Not that that happened, because that would be ridiculous.

The Big Orange SplotThe Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater (Scholastic, 1977)

It all starts with The Big Orange Splot. More specifically, with a seagull who is carrying a bucket of orange paint (no one knows why), which he drops onto Mr. Plumbean’s house (no one knows why). Unfazed, Mr. Plumbean allows the splot to remain and goes about his business, much to the neighbors’ chagrin. On this neat street such things simply aren’t done. Eventually, Plumbean agrees that this has gone far enough. He buys some paint and gets to work correcting the problem.

Overnight, the big orange splot is joined by smaller orange splots, stripes, pictures of elephants and lions, steamshovels, and other images befitting a rainbow jungle explosion. “My house is me and I am it,” Plumbean tells his flabbergasted neighbors. “My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.” But Plumbean doesn’t stop there. Palm trees, frangipani, alligators…nothing is too outlandish for his new dream house. “Plumbean has popped his cork, flipped his wig, blown his stack, and dropped his stopper” the neighbors exclaim in dismay. They go about hatching a plan to get things back to normal on their neat street. But as they soon discover, once a Big Orange Splot appears, there’s no going back. Plumbean’s unbridled imagination far outstrips even their most ardently held pedestrian sensibilities. Wigs have only begun to flip.

Nino Wrestles the WorldNiño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales (Roaring Brook, 2013)

“Señoras y Señores, put your hands together for the fantastic, spectacular, one of a kind…Niño!” So begins the most improbable lucha libre wrestling competition of all time. Our hero is Niño, a diminutive boy in a red mask with more than a few tricks up his (non-existent) sleeves. Armed with little more than a popsicle, a decoy doll, and assorted puzzle pieces, Niño prevails against a colorful array of foes. La Llorona (the weeping woman), Cabeza Olmeca (a sculpted basalt head from the Olmec civilization), and the terrifying Guanajuato Mummy are just a few of the characters in this winning tribute to the theatrical world of lucha libre. Certain illustrations might be a bit scary for the youngest readers, but they are presented in a silly way that make them less frightening and more fun. And lest you think that Niño has no serious competition, rest assured that all bets are off once his little sisters, las hermanitas, wake up from their nap…

Slow LorisSlow Loris by Alexis Deacon (Kane/Miller, 2002)

If you’ve ever been to the zoo, you probably noticed that some animals are just not that exciting. Or are they? This story delves into the daily life of Slow Loris, an impossibly boring animal who earns his name by spending ten minutes eating a satsuma, twenty minutes going from one end of his branch to the other, and a whole hour scratching his bottom. But Slow Loris has a secret. At night, he gets up and does everything fast! When the other zoo animals get over their surprise at how wild Slow Loris really is, they don’t hesitate to join his all-night party, which includes (among other things) a multitude of hats, colorful ties, dancing, and an epic drum solo (by Slow Loris, of course). As you would imagine, it’s a slow day at the zoo after that as the party animals sleep off the previous night’s shenanigans. Boring!

Stop That Pickle!Stop That Pickle! by Peter Armour, illustrated by Andrew Shachat (Houghton Mifflin, 1993)

As fast as Slow Loris may be by night, I’m guessing he still couldn’t catch the runaway pickle from Mr. Adolph’s deli. Rather than be eaten by one Ms. Elmira Deeds, this plucky pickle leaps out of the jar and makes a break for it. Stop That Pickle! is a delightfully wacky story of one pickle’s daring escape and ultimate triumph over a host of other foods trying to catch it. (And if you were wondering if there is any solidarity in the food world, this book answers that question with a resounding NO.) 

When Mr. Adolph is immediately overwhelmed by the pickle’s speed, a disgruntled peanut butter and jelly sandwich joins the chase. “Everyone knows that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is not the fastest sandwich in the world, but it does have great endurance.” Page by page tension builds as more foods join the pack, all shouting: Stop That Pickle!. By the end of the book the pickle is being pursued by not only the sandwich (hello, endurance!), but also a braided pretzel, green pippin apple, seventeen toasted almonds, a crowd of raisins, a cake doughnut, a cool grape soda, and an elegant vanilla ice cream cone. How will our pickle prevail??? The story culminates in a back alley moment of truth which I won’t spoil for you, but rest assured that this pickle lives to run another day. With its satisfying (yet totally ineffectual) refrain, Stop That Pickle! is a great read aloud book and will definitely make you think twice about the moral advisability of skewering the last pickle in the jar.

Sophie's SquashSophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2013)

When Sophie spots a butternut squash at the farmers’ market, it is love at first sight. Her squash is “just the right size to hold in her arms. Just the right size to bounce on her knee. Just the right size to love.” Finally, Sophie has found the perfect friend! Except…her parents seem to want to eat her friend. “Don’t listen, Bernice!” Sophie cries at the suggestion of cooking Bernice with marshmallows. And so Bernice becomes part of the family. She goes to story time at the library, rolls down hills, visits other squash. Everything is fine until one day Bernice is not quite herself. She starts looking spotty and her somersaults don’t have “their usual style.” What to do? This heartwarming story is has a simple, funny sweetness to it as Sophie learns about being a loyal friend and what it means to let go. Don’t miss the illustrated endpapers which feature Sophie in her unparalleled squashy exuberance! This book also offers a seasonally appropriate lesson: winter might seem like the end, but sometimes it is only the beginning.  

How Tom Beat Captain NajorkHow Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Quentin Blake (Atheneum, 1974)

No self-respecting list of funny picture books would be complete without How Tom Beat Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen. This gem is from an era where picture books were a bit longer, but that just means there is more hilarity here to enjoy. Tom is a boy who knows fooling around. He fools around “with sticks and stones and crumpled paper, with mewses and passages and dustbins, with bent nails and broken glass and holes in fences.” You get the idea. He’s an expert.

This deeply troubles Aunt Fidget Wonkham-Strong, a formidable woman in an iron hat who believes boys should spend their time memorizing pages from the Nautical Almanac instead of doing things that suspiciously resemble playing. So she calls in Captain Najork and his hired sportsmen to teach Tom a lesson in fooling around. As you might imagine, Captain Najork has wildly underestimated Tom’s expertise in these matters and gets his comeuppance accordingly. Quentin Blake’s wonderfully zany line drawings are the perfect accompaniment to the hijinks of this weird and totally satisfying story. Greasy bloaters, anyone? There’s also some cabbage-and-potato sog left. Somehow.

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Skinny Dip with Lisa Bullard

Lisa Bullard

Lisa Bullard (photo: Katherine Warde)

Lisa Bullard is a well-respected writing teacher in Minnesota and beyond, having shared her wisdom and her sense of humor about writing with classrooms full of adults and children (usually not at the same time). She has two books on writing, one for adults (Get Started in Writing for Children) and one for children (You Can Write a Story! A Story-Writing Recipe for Kids), as well as a series of Insider Guides co-written with Laura Purdie Salas. She has written Bookology‘s popular Writing Road Trip column for several years.

Lisa Bullard's READ Bookcase

My favorite bookcase!

How many bookcases do you have in your home?

Based on my house, this question is open to interpretation. What qualifies as a bookcase? For example, if the baker’s rack in my kitchen holds dozens of cookbooks (despite the fact that I don’t cook), does this qualify as a bookcase? Does it influence the judging if I explain that one of my absolute favorite books as a child was Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book? I spent hours “reading” the book and inventing stories to go along with the cookie creations pictured there.

But okay, back to the original question. In addition to the “kitchen bookcase” described above, I have six-and-a-half bookcases.

What’s your food weakness?

My food weakness is that I love food far beyond its nutritional purpose. It represents so much more than just that to me. Food is sneaking into the kitchen late at night with Grandma to eat pickles while Mom looks askance. Food is spitting watermelon seeds into the lake and getting brain freeze from homemade ice cream on the 4th of July. Food is the brownie you lick so that your brothers don’t eat it first.

Licking the brownie

If you’re asking about my favorite food rather than my food weakness, it’s any food that somebody else has cooked. I am fortunate enough to have several friends who love to cook, and who express their affection by cooking for me. Now that’s love!

Have you traveled outside of the United States? Which country is your favorite to visit? Why?

I’ve been lucky enough to travel outside of the U.S. to England, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Canada. I found things to love in all of those countries, but I most loved how different I became in Italy. For some reason I transformed into a whole other person there. Someone who knows me well once described me as a “cheerful pessimist;” growing up, I was heavily influenced by my stoically Scandinavian mother; and I’m typically very cautious. But under Italy’s influence, I transformed into a risk-taker who gamboled from one romantic city to the next with hardly a care in the world. I really liked that person, but she only seems to exist in Italy!

Juliet's balcony in Verona

Juliet’s balcony in Verona

A gondolier in Venice

A gondolier in Venice

What’s your favorite word because you like the way it sounds?

I love saying the word “collywobbles.” It’s such a wonderful, roly poly word, and it sounds so much more joyful than its meaning. Whenever one of us kids was sick, my mom’s first question was: “Do you have the collywobbles?” Few of my friends knew what the word meant, so they usually looked blank when I asked them the same question. For a long time I thought it was a word that belonged to my family alone; that you had to have access to some kind of Bullard Family Dictionary to be able to decode it. This was also true, by the way, of one of my most dreaded words: “potch.” My mom threatened to “potch” us when we were naughty, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I was able to figure out that this “Bullard family word” was (surprisingly, given our heritage) in fact Yiddish.

What foreign language would you like to learn?

I don’t know if it’s defined as a “foreign” language or not, but one of the things on my bucket list is to learn American Sign Language. When I attend a performance or presentation where someone is interpreting into ASL, I’m riveted—I’d love to be able to make my words dance in the air the same way that I try to make them dance on the page when I write.

Do you read the end of a book first?

I’m actually perfectly happy to start a book somewhere other than the beginning, and then to read it in sections completely out of order. But now that I’m a writer, I’ve made a rule to allow other writers the chance to tell me their story in the fashion they think is best (in other words, I make myself read it in the order it’s presented, from beginning to end). But if I grow bored a couple of chapters in, the rules change, and I revert to random reading order. In that case, I usually dip into the middle and read a bit to see if the story seems more exciting at that point. If not, I’ll read the end as my way of giving the author a final chance to sell me on their story. If I like the ending after all that, I sometimes go back and read earlier bits, dipping in and out of the story in random fashion until I get back to that end again.

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The Pushcart War

I first heard of  Jean Merrill’s The Pushcart War in grad school. I read it because a fellow student spoke with absolute glee about it. I’ve not heard a book recommended with such laughter and vigor before or since. And I fell into the book just as she insisted I would. Fell, I tell you. Lost my head, really.

My kids did, too. I handed it to them with a casual, “It’s really good and I think you’ll like it…” sort of recommendation. I wanted to see if they would, as I did, google “pushcart war” to see when this had happened and why we didn’t know more about it. They did. Well, the little one said, “Wait…did this really happen?!”

Apparently, we each read over the dates of the forward and the author’s introduction. Both are dated in the year 2036, which would’ve been a clue, of course…but so absorbed were we in the “reporting” of the Pushcart War—in the struggle, the unfair tactics and politics of the truckers, and the plight of the pushcart vendors—that we missed the clues, I guess.

When The Pushcart War was published in 1964, it was set in New York City in 1976. When it was republished in 1974, it was set in 1986. The 1985 edition is set in 1996—always the not-so-distant future, in other words. When the New York Review Children’s Collection published the 50th anniversary edition a couple of years ago, the date changed to 2026 (this is the edition I have). This book has had political resonance in each of the eras in which it has published and republished, and the plight of the pushcart vendors certainly still rings True, hilariously and poignantly, today.

The story could be categorized as “narrative journalism,” published ten years after the events of the war. The forward, written by one Professor Lyman Cumberly of New York University says “…it is very important to the peace of the world that we understand how wars begin….” The Pushcart War shows us. Kids understand the issue at hand—the big trucking companies want the roads cleared for trucks and only trucks. The trucking industry cites the importance of deliveries being on time, the general agreement that traffic is awful etc. The pushcarts—the little guys—are the first target.

But they fight back! And the fight is glorious and one that anyone who has ever been bullied or witnessed bullying or has bullied will understand. There’s The Daffodil Massacre, which starts it all off, and then we’re quickly introduced to Morris the Florist, and Frank the Flower, and Maxie Hammerman, the Pushcart King. Movie star, Wanda Gambling, sees the danger signs—don’t we all? I mean, the taxi drivers grew cautious in their driving!—and pretty soon there are famous speeches and secret meetings, triggering words and secret weapons. Then there’s an all out War. It’s basically David and Goliath all over again.

But there’s something about the way it’s written—I guess it’s the “narrative journalism” tone—before you know it, you’re searching Wikipedia to get the details nailed down.

If I were a teacher of fourth graders, I’d read a chapter of this timeless classic every day. And I’d notice, and ponder, as I did and do, that this book, a story for children, has only the briefest mention of any kids. The main characters are entirely adults.

Fascinating, don’t you think?

 

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The Good Thing about Bad Words

It’s mid-January, I have this Nonfictionary deadline, and all I can think about is President Trump’s latest vulgarity.

His recent word choice about certain countries jumped from my phone like an electrical charge, literally and physically jolting me backwards. For the rest of the day and beyond, my soul hurt and my spirit sagged.

But it was just a word. 

Let’s be honest.  I have a pretty good vocabulary of inappropriate words and I’m not all that careful about using them in adult company. My mother was so fond of “damn” that I didn’t know it was considered a curse word until I got to school. (Somehow, I’m still surprised that it’s verboten!)

I worked in several newsrooms where blue language was just the way we described events and chatted with each other. And my dog is definitely familiar with a few four-letter exclamations.

Oh please, they’re just words. 

Still, there’s a line. Despite the colorful banter of the workplace, newspapers have a clear standard about what goes into print: Profanity is allowed only sparingly, even today. If the offending language is in a quote, perhaps you paraphrase it into something more printable or just work around it. Any exceptions must be important and usually require special permission from the higher-ups.

In the old days, The Wall Street Journal regularly used what was called a Barney dash, after the paper’s arrow-straight keeper of standards, Barney Calame. That was a first letter, followed by a long dash. It still reserves the Barney dash for especially egregious words.

No s—, you knew what it was. But you didn’t have to actually ingest it along with your Wheaties.

If the president of the United States said something coarse, or the VP let something obscene slip out on a hot microphone, well, that was a different situation. Then, the words might actually appear in all their ugliness.

You’ve got to have some standards.

As a writer of nonfiction for young people, I’ve run into these kinds of language issues more than I expected. After all, real people do use real words. And sometimes they have real impact on a subject.

Bootleg by Karen Blumenthal“Hell,” for instance, was a big concept during the debate over liquor before, during, and after Prohibition. It was impossible to ignore it in my book Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition, though some people think that word doesn’t belong in a children’s book. (Apparently, the Bible is exempt.)

One reviewer called me out for using “damned” in a quotation in Mr. Sam, my biography of Sam Walton, and then questioned the appropriateness of the book because of that single word. (Thanks, Mom!)

Steve Jobs, however, posed the biggest challenge. As a colorful entrepreneur, he had quite the wide-ranging adult vocabulary. Walter Isaacson’s long biography for grown-ups is peppered with four-letter saltiness. But writing for young adults required a choice.

Steve Jobs by Karen BlumenthalIt wasn’t too difficult to decide what to do in Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different. I realize that teens (and younger kids) know those words and that they use them, too. But I’m in Texas, and I also know there are school libraries that will shy away from a book just because of a profanity. If I wrote fiction, I might choose differently, since avoiding those words might make a teen character less authentic. But as a teller of true stories, I had access to plenty of words that effectively made clear what Jobs wanted to say when he was, for example, demolishing someone’s hard work.

There was one quote, however, where one of those dastardly bombs exploded. Some commenter somewhere wondered aloud why I didn’t use the obvious real word.

True story: the original source had used a long dash—and so did I.

Words matter.

Hillary Rodham Clinton by Karen BlumenthalHillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History introduced me to a new kind of language. There are certain words I absolutely won’t use in any context, primarily those that I consider racist or hateful, including a couple of especially crude ones aimed at women. A few people found it necessary to share those words in describing how they felt about the presidential candidate I profiled. (Thanks, Twitter!)

In tapping on my social media, I had the same response I had to President Trump’s January word choice, a bracing, slap-in-the-face reaction.

It was painful and upsetting—and I think that’s okay. We should never lose the ability to viscerally feel the impact of language, good or bad. We should never grow so complacent that words don’t move us. They should spark horror, spur tears, convey outrage, hurt, heal, or propel us to be something better.

Words are powerful. Choose carefully.

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Skinny Dip with Brenda Sederberg

Brenda SederbergBrenda Sederberg is the current facilitator of the Chapter & Verse Book Club in Duluth, Minnesota. She’s an enthusiastic reader and wonderfully avid about sharing the books she reads. A retired teacher, she continues to inspire learning wherever she goes.

How many bookcases do you have in your home?

Oh … soooo many! When I retired from 34 years of teaching I brought very little home from my classroom, but I did bring 24 boxes of children’s books! I’m just not ready to part with them. They take up bookshelves on an entire wall in my house. From time to time I will be chatting with someone about something, and end up saying, “oh … you should see this book by ….”, and I find the book and loan it out. When guests with children visit they often end up reading books from my shelves.

I also have shelves of books in another room in our house, organized:

  • nature and outdoors books
  • books by Hispanic authors (I taught middle and high school Spanish for a number of years … before teaching elementary school)
  • travel books
  • an assortment of Nobel Prize winning literature
  • children’s books from places I’ve visited (Maine, Texas, Rhode Island, France, Germany)
  • favorite fiction and nonfiction books I’ve read or want to read

Brenda Sederberg's bookcases

Have you traveled outside the United States?

I love to travel, and when I do I look for children’s books from the area I’m visiting, or read a book while I’m there that was written by an author from that region. I read Heidi in Switzerland last fall, and Pinocchio in Italy the year before. I enjoy hiking and biking in the wide open spaces in these countries, the small towns … and I stay away from the big cities.

Mt. Royal Public Library, Duluth, MN

Mt. Royal Public Library, Duluth, MN

Which library springs to mind when someone says that word?

It’s hard to choose one! We lived in a small town in North Dakota when I was young, and I biked to the Public Library there and checked out as many books as the book clamp on my bike would hold. It was a beautiful building, of course, as libraries are! There were large steps leading up to the door, and columns alongside the steps. The old public library near Lincoln Park School was a favorite when I went to school there, and now I LOVE the Mt. Royal Library in Duluth. When I was in college in Duluth, I worked 10 hours a week in the Children’s Library at UMD, run by Lorraine Bissonette. She arranged books beautifully, with stuffed animal book characters next to books, colorful mobiles hanging above the shelves, green and flowering plants throughout, and comfortable chairs in which to sit and read. It was a library like no other, to be sure … more like some of the wonderful children’s bookstores … the Wild Rumpus, for example.

Do you read the end of a book first?

NEVER. I do not usually read any information on the flap or the back, either. I like to start with the dedication, and then the first line of the book, and continue from there. I want to read it and let it speak for itself, I don’t like to know much at all about a book before I read it! First lines are important to me … I sort of “collect” first lines!

"In the Carpenter Shop," Carl Larsson

“In the Carpenter Shop,” Carl Larsson

Who is your favorite artist?

It is hard to choose one … I like the art of Carl Larsson, Swedish painter, and visited his home in Sweden where one can see the painting he did IN his home, above doorways, around walls. I copied a “saying” he painted in his house, above a doorway in our home: “Whef Du Vad, Var God Och Glad,” in Swedish (forgive any errors!), in English: “I’ll tell you what, be good and glad.” I love Betsy Bowen’s woodcuts, and the prints of Rick Allen, who has a studio in Canal Park in Duluth and each spring releases a new print of “The Trapper’s Daughter”! He has practically written a book in printing her many adventures! The lettering and text he sometimes incorporates in his work is wonderful, and often humorous.

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A Wrinkle in Time

It was a dark and stormy night. 

When I read this aloud one chilly fall evening on the porch to my kids, I laughed out loud. It was Banned Books week and we were “celebrating” by reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, one of the perennial repeaters on banned books lists. #1 Son was in fourth grade, which is when I’d been introduced to A Wrinkle in Time. Darling Daughter was a little young, but she was accustomed to coloring while we read books that were supposedly “over her head”—books that she often quoted later.

I can’t imagine I laughed the first time I heard the opening line of this important book. But as an adult, it struck me as terribly clever—taking the most clichéd opening line ever and starting an astounding, break-all-the-rules book with it.

My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Henderson read us A Wrinkle in Time. I remember the hair on my arms standing up as she read a chapter each afternoon after lunch and recess. I could hardly breath I loved that book so much. Meg was a Smart Girl, a Strong Girl—a smart and strong girl in ways not always recognized, but frequently squelched, in my experience. There were not nearly enough Smart/Strong Girl protagonists when I was in fourth grade. I adored her. I wanted to be her. Plus, I had a mad crush on Calvin.

The book was smart, too—filled with languages Mrs. Henderson could not pronounce, peppered with sayings from people I did not know (like Seneca), and there was math and science and space adventure! Oh my! (I wanted desperately to be a scientist when I was in fourth grade.) Reading time after lunch and recess was always my favorite part of the school day, but during those few weeks that we read A Wrinkle in Time, I was in the highest reading heaven.

When we reached the chapter called “The Tesseract,” Mrs. Henderson declared it “too difficult conceptually” and she skipped it. I can’t decide whether to never forgive her for this, or be terribly grateful. Because I went to the library and found the book so I could read the skipped part. I was determined to understand it, and I did. (The drawing of the ant on the line helped.) I understood it sitting on the floor in the library at age nine better than I did when I read it to my kids on the porch during Banned Books Week thirty years later, I think. Darling Daughter copied the picture of the ant in her artwork. #1 Son studied it after we’d finished reading.

I don’t remember reading ahead once I’d found the book in the library—I probably didn’t, since I enjoyed hearing the chapter installments each day. In fact, I don’t remember reading A Wrinkle in Time on my own at all—and there were plenty of books I read in a compulsive manner again and again.

But it was like I’d never left it when I read it to my kids. I remembered it all—the excitement…the terror of IT…the fast-paced dialog between all the smart smart people…the identical children bouncing balls in front of identical houses, which I think of every time I’m in a suburban development with only beige/grey houses and townhouses… Most of all: Meg’s frustration and fear, fierce strength and smarts.

The hair on my arms stood up again when I saw the preview to the movie of A Wrinkle in Time that’s coming out this March. It’s going to be wonderful, I can just tell. This groundbreaking, unusual novel that couldn’t be categorized when it was published and continues to resist categorization nearly sixty years later … this book that has been banned again and again and again … this book is about to take the world by a storm again, I predict, even as it’s never lost favor (except with those who would ban it, I guess). I open its pages and the hair on my arms stands up still—it remains incredibly relevant, I believe. Perhaps more so now than when it was published. I can’t wait to see it on the big screen.

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A Science Rookie: Learning to Craft a Science Narrative
When You Know Next to Nothing about Science

Enter the freshman chemistry tutor dressed in torn jeans and a flannel shirt. His job? To get me through entry level chemistry at Iowa State University. My first college plan was to major in Hotel and Restaurant Management because my father owned a company that did business with these types of institutions. So, what the heck, I didn’t know what else to study so I declared that my major way back in the fall of 1977.

ScienceNo one told me that since these kinds of institutions serve food, I had to take courses in food and nutrition. And since food and nutrition were science based, I must take chemistry. Three quarters of chemistry! Ugh. Back to the tutor’s and my results; C+, and that was after a lot of hard work. My new major; journalism and mass communications, and forty years later the stars have aligned. Science is drawing me in now.

Bold Women of MedicineWhen I wrote the proposal for Bold Women of Medicine, it did not occur to me that I would have to write about science. Well … what did you think, Susan? Write about these courageous doctors, nurses, midwives, and physical therapists, and there wouldn’t be any science? Oh, dear. I flashed back to freshman chemistry and biology, and suspected I was in big trouble.

Along the way I discovered that not having this knowledge was a good thing, and in my case, it almost helped me. I could write from a position of innocence and explain the women’s medical careers without a condescending tone to my readers: I was one of those readers.

Take for example one of the women in my book, Helen Taussig and her part in treating the blue baby syndrome. I barely knew how the human heart worked when it was healthy, and now I’d have to explain how brilliant medical researcher Mr. Vivien Thomas, and Drs. Taussig and Blalock, discovered how to fix the defect. (Hint: Vivien Thomas practiced on hundreds of dogs, the most famous of which is Anna, whose portrait hangs at Johns Hopkins Hospital.)

heart doctorOff to the library I went to check out books on the human heart—first adult books, then books for children. I studied the healthy heart and heart defect jargon and tried to explain it to myself first, and then write it down. Fortunately, I have medical professionals in my life so, after a few drafts, I had them read it to see if I had explained it correctly and without intense medical language. Did you know the normal child’s heart is about the size of their fist? I didn’t know that.

The tiny babies were not getting enough oxygen and in Dr. Taussig’s mind the fix seemed to be a simple case of improved plumbing. The narrative tension was built right into the story. Specifics always work better so I wrote about the first operation on one of the babies, little Eileen Saxon, and later another operation on a six-year-old boy.

Dr. Catherine Hamlin

Dr. Catherine Hamlin

In the profiles of Dr. Catherine Hamlin and Edna Adan Ismail, the science writing was more challenging knowing my audience was young adult (12 and up). Writing about medicine automatically lends itself to topics we don’t want to hear about—in this case, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and Obstetric Fistula. One young woman came to Dr. Hamlin for help by walking almost 280 miles. Ten years earlier, because of a prolonged labor, she had suffered two holes in her bladder (an obstetric fistula) and lost all control. At first Dr. Hamlin did not know how to help her, but she talked to other physicians and studied up on procedures. After the successful surgery, Dr. Hamlin presented the young woman with a new dress in which to go home. The woman waved good-bye with hope and said “God will reward you for all you have done for me.” Presenting the image of an optimistic woman with a new dress helps readers understand Dr. Hamlin’s important work.

Edna Adan Ismail

Edna Adan Ismail with a class of nursing school graduates at Edna Adan Ismail hospital.

As I wrote about science for the first time, I learned a few things along the way:

  • Every famous surgery or discovery or treatment has a story. Find that story, find the human part of that story.
  • Character, setting, and the five senses can help science dribble into the story.
  • Keep your wonder and gross-out mindset alive. Kids possess this mindset naturally and many appreciate the guts (no pun intended) of the details.
  • There are no stupid questions when interviewing experts. Be curious, and if you can, experience the science first-hand.
  • Know that your audience is smart, just inexperienced in the subject.
  • Double (and triple) check your science writing with the experts. The last thing you want to do is send out incorrect information.
Future bold women of medicine?

Future bold women of medicine?

Because the women of medicine were accomplished, it was easy to assume they knew all the answers. They did not … but they were curious and that curiosity led them to answers. Science often comes up with negative results, people just trying to understand how something works. This doesn’t always make the news. Building on these negative results leads scientists to the flashy news and the successes.

I built on my (limited) knowledge, and learned right along with my audience. I had a lot of false starts, not really knowing what I was writing about. Fortunately, for the patients, I never had to actually perform the difficult procedures and surgeries.

And to that chemistry tutor in the flannel shirt, wherever you are: thanks for the help. I probably did learn something. Next up: seismology. Know any good tutors?

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Poetry from Stones

Beach

[photo credit: Candice Ransom]

Outside my window right now: bare trees, gray sky, a brown bird. No, let’s try again. Outside my window, the leafless sweetgum shows a condo of squirrels’ nests, a dark blue rim on the horizon indicates wind moving in, and a white-crowned sparrow scritches under the feeders. Better. Even in winter, especially in winter, we need to wake up our lazy brains, reach for names that might be hibernating. 

Candice Ransom

[photo credit: Candice Ransom]

In November, I taught writing workshops at a school in a largely rural county. I was shocked to discover most students couldn’t name objects in their bedrooms, much less the surrounding countryside. Without specific details, writing is lifeless. More important, if children can’t call up words, can’t distinguish between things, they will remain locked in wintry indifference. Some blame falls on us.

Oxford Junior DictionaryA recent edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary swapped nature words for modern terms. Out went acorn, wren, dandelion, nectar, and otter. In went blog, bullet-point, attachment, chatroom, and voicemail. Updating dictionaries isn’t new. And maybe cygnet isn’t as relevant as database, but it’s certainly more musical.  If we treat language like paper towels, it’s no wonder many kids can’t name common backyard birds.

When I was nine, my stepfather taught me the names of the trees in our woods, particularly the oaks. I learned to identify red, white, black, pin, post, and chestnut oaks by their bark, leaves, and acorns. Labeling trees, birds, and wildflowers didn’t give me a sense of ownership. Instead, I felt connected to the planet. I longed to know the names of rocks, but they kept quiet.

That same year we fourth graders were issued Thorndyke-Barnhart’s Junior Dictionary. I fell on mine like a duck on a June bug, enchanted by new words. My parlor trick was spelling antidisestablishmentarianism, the longest word in the dictionary. Kids can Google the longest word in the English language, but the experience isn’t the same as browsing through a big book of words. 

Emerson wrote, “… the poet is the Namer, or Language-maker … The poets made all the words, naming things after their appearance, sometimes after their essence, and giving to every one its own name and not another’s.” I believe young children are poets, assigning names and making up words to mark new discoveries. After they become tethered to technology, they parrot words from commercials, programs, and video games. That fresh language is lost.

The Lost Words: a Spell BookSo imagine my delight when I found a new book for children, The Lost Words: A Spell Book. British nature-writer Robert MacFarlane paired with artist Jackie Morris to rescue 20 of the words snipped from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. Words like newt and kingfisher are showcased as “spells,” rather than straight definitions. MacFarlane’s spells let the essence of the creature sink deep, while Morris’s watercolors create their own magic.

On their joint book tour throughout England, MacFarlane and Morris introduced children to words—and animals. On her blog Morris writes: “I was about to read the wren spell to a class of 32 six-year-olds when the booksellers stopped me. ‘Ask the children if they know what a wren is, first, Jackie.’ I did. Not one child knew that a wren is a bird. So they had never seen a wren, nor heard that sharp bright song. But now they know the name of it, the shape of it, so perhaps if one flits into sight they will see it, hear it, know it.”

The Lost Words makes me want to take children by the hand and tell them the names of the trees and birds and clouds that illustrate our winter landscape. By giving kids specific names, they can then spin a thread from themselves to the planet.

Ammonite

Ammonite [photo credit: Candice Ransom]

“Language is fossil poetry,” Emerson continues in his essay, “as the limestone of the continent consists of infinite masses of the shells of animalcules, so language is made up of images, which now, in their secondary use, have long ceased to remind us of their poetic origin.”

Rock rasps, what are you?
I am Raven! Of the blue-black jacket and the boxer’s swagger,
Stronger and older than peak and than boulder, raps Raven in reply.

From The Lost Words

Let’s dig up lost words before they become buried beneath the rubble of STEM-worthy terms. Feel the shape of them, polish their shells, let them shine.

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Signal Your Intentions

turn signalIt wasn’t so unusual that my teenage nephews were sending me signals that translated to: “Will you take us to the store right now so we can spend these Christmas gift cards from Grandma?”

What was new this year was that they also wanted to do the driving. Brand-new permits in their pockets, I agreed to let one twin drive us there, and the other drive us home. And one of the things that most struck me was how careful they were to use their turn signals, even with no other cars for seemingly miles around.

It made me realize that as a seasoned driver I am sometimes a little lax about using my blinker—but that signaling one’s intentions is a really good habit to develop in student writers as well as in student drivers.

When kicking off a story, or titling it, sending the reader a signal about what to expect promises them a payoff. For example: “Hey, reader, do you love fantasy? Do you see how in Chapter One I’ve snuck in this bizarre detail? It’s a little hint that the world of this book is going to hold a lot more surprises than the everyday ‘real’ world that you’re used to.”

Foreshadowing is another effective use of signaling: a shadow (metaphorical or not) falling across the character’s sunny day can send a li‚ttle shiver down the spine of a reader as they anticipate that as-yet-unidentified trouble is coming.

And when I review the work of writers at all stages and ages, one of the most common things I see is that there are obvious holes in the information presented to the reader. Not intentional holes, meant to build tension. But unintentional holes, because the writer has things clear in their own head and doesn’t see that the reader isn’t being told enough. This is why peer review can be so valuable a part of your classroom’s writing process. You don’t even need to ask students to offer each other full-fledged critiques; simply encourage them to ask each other questions about their stories, and to point out where they are confused in their reading. These are great signals to the writer about where they might have unintentionally left holes in their story.

Flipping that blinker on is so easy—I find myself doing it much more often now that I’ve seen the student drivers in action.

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Skinny Dip with DeDe Small

DeDe Small

DeDe Small shares her enthusiasm about books, reading, and literacy with her students at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. We invited DeDe to Skinny Dip with us, our first interview in the New Year.

When did you first start reading books?

I don’t actually remember learning to read but I do always remember having books. I even came up with my own cataloging system in the later elementary grades.

Dinner party at your favorite restaurant with people living or dead: where is it and who’s on the guest list?

I don’t know where it is but I know I am eating a really good steak and we need a big table because I am inviting Barak Obama, JK Rowling, Buck O’Neill, St. Ignatius of Loyola, Jane Goodall, my parents, and my aunts.

All-time favorite book?

This is really hard because there are too many to name! I loved it when my mother read The Secret Garden to me. As a young child, I loved reading Andrew Henry’s Meadow by Doris Burn. In upper elementary, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell was my favorite. All-time favorite might have to be the entire Harry Potter series because it speaks to choosing kindness, love, and integrity over power and fame.

DeDe Small's favorite books

Favorite breakfast or lunch as a kid?

I was cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

What’s your least favorite chore?

Doing the laundry.

What’s your favorite part of starting a new project?

I love the feeling when everything starts clicking and you can sense where the project might go. That sense of potential is energizing.

SocksBarefoot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

Barefoot in warm weather and socks when it is cold. You will most often find me curled up on my couch with a book, doing school work or watching a movie. The activity changes but my location does not.

When are you your most creative?

I am most creative when I step back and take the time to let an idea percolate a bit.

Your best memory of your school library?

My strongest memory is actually of my public library. We would go once a week. It became a great bonding experience with my mother and I came to think of the library as a special place. I now have four library cards.

Favorite flavor of ice cream?

Mint Chip.

Book(s) on your bedside table right now?

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate, Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk, and La Rose by Louise Erdrich.  I recently read The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, Refugee by Alan Gratz and Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds.

Best invention in the last 200 years?

Vaccines

Which is worse: spiders or snakes?

Spiders. Way too many legs and eyes.

What’s your best contribution to taking care of the environment?

Recycling

Why do you feel hopeful for humankind?

I find hope in the characters of good books and real-life stories. Lloyd Alexander was specifically referencing fantasy but I think it is true of all good stories: “Sometimes heartbreaking, but never hopeless, the fantasy world as it ‘should be’ is one in which good is ultimately stronger than evil, where courage, justice, love, and mercy actually function.” Books allow us to recognize our own humanity in others and that makes me hopeful. If we read more, connect more, and understood more, the world would be a better place.

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Gifts from the Trenches

Gifts from the TrenchesLife in the trenches, a/k/a the classroom, is not for the faint of heart. In previous Bookology articles I’ve shared my take on many of the challenges faced by teachers in today’s educational climate. Lack of meaningful opportunities for the teacher’s voice to be heard, mounting pressure to produce students who perform well on high stakes tests, district mandates to teach from a scripted curriculum, a desire to be all and do all for students, the list goes on and on. And that list can be exhausting. Yet so many of us continue to pursue the sometimes elusive and ultimate goal; to make a positive difference in the lives of our students. At times, it feels like the balance between give and take is incredibly lopsided.

Yes, lopsided. Completely disproportionate. It’s not even a contest when I compare how much my bucket has been filled to the number of buckets I may have filled. You see, in my 30 years as a teacher, the gifts I have received far outnumber those I have been lucky enough to share with others. And so, in the spirit of the season, rather than share a list of what I wish for this Christmas, I invite you to take a peek at the treasures that have been bestowed upon me. The highlights that have inspired me over the years and have kept me going. My gifts from the trenches.   

The Kids

The first category of gifts comes from the reason we all entered the honorable profession of teaching in the first place. The kids. Every single cherub that I’ve encountered on my teaching and learning journey has a place in my heart. However, despite my desire to never play favorites when surrounded by kids in the classroom, I must confess that when I look back, there are some that stand out just a bit more. These kids have provided some of my greatest gifts, my proudest moments and memories as a teacher.

First, there was the sad little guy who had lost his mother as a kindergartener and was often in a fight or flight mode. Yet thanks to a class read-aloud of The Lemonade Club by Patricia Polacco, he became the driving force behind the “Lemonade Stand Project” my group of first graders launched in an effort to raise money for a very sick boy in our community. Whenever I think back to those busy days with six- and seven-year-olds who were so intent on doing a good deed for someone they didn’t even knows, my heart melts. This extraordinary experience reminds me that when magic happens in the classroom, it most likely does not come from a textbook or piece of curriculum. It comes from the heart and usually the heart of a kid.

The Lemonade Club

The Lemonade Club

Then there was a quiet, freckle-faced, second-grade girl who shined with creativity and kindness yet struggled to read with success. I didn’t know much about dyslexia at the time but my instincts told me I needed to learn more so I could help figure out the source of her difficulties. I found and read the book Overcoming Dyslexia by Yale neuroscientist Sally Shaywitz. I shared the book and my concerns with this bright young lady’s parents who were eager to do whatever they could to help her. That conversation led them to lots of research, a formal diagnosis, and enrollment in a school that specialized in working with dyslexic students. Over the next decade we stayed in touch and I was thrilled to hear of my former student’s continued success. The best gift came when I received this message last spring from that creative and kind young woman:

Hi Mrs. Rome! I hope all is well with you! I just wanted to share some exciting news with you. I have been accepted into a few different graduate schools to earn my Educational Psychology license to become a school psychologist … I think of you and how fortunate I was to have you as my second-grade teacher, and how different my life would have been had I never met you. You changed my life. I don’t think I would be pursuing graduate school, let alone be attending college, had you not suggested that I might be dyslexic …

Words cannot express how much a message like this means to a teacher. Goosebumps and a lump in my throat instantly materialize every time I re-read this message. What a life-changer this future school psychologist and her family were for me. No question that the balance between give and take is lopsided, and this story illustrates just how much one student can give to a teacher.

The Colleagues

In addition to gifts from many special kids, I have also been blessed with some of the finest colleagues anyone could ask for. I was a member of one particularly special team that will always have elite status in my book. We dubbed ourselves The Dream Team, not because we wanted to be boastful, but because it was like a dream come true for each of us, to feel such a sense of harmony and collaboration.

The Dream Team

The Dream Team

Although our time together was far too short, just one school year, it was like nothing I had ever experienced in all my years of teaching. I marvel at the engagement and inspiration our joint efforts created for our students as well for each other. The many gifts that I enjoyed with my Dream Team included:

  • a shared commitment to putting kids first
  • a mutual love of literacy
  • daily “collab time” to share ideas, questions, and concerns
  • honest communication
  • an abundance of vulnerability and trust
  • a desire to learn and grow together

I honestly don’t know if these attributes can be cultivated or if they simply happen when the stars are aligned just so. I do know that it is a rare and beautiful thing to love not only the work you do, but also the people you get to do it with. What a gift these ladies were!

The Authors and their Books

The last of my gifts from the trenches is a tribute to the literacy heroes that have impacted me, both personally and professionally. Much more than just a list of favorite authors and books, these writers and their characters have had a profound effect on my teaching and learning:

  • Mo Willems, author of Piggy and Elephant books, changed the way I help kids build foundational skills like decoding and fluency but, more importantly, these playful gems teach us lessons about friendship, loyalty, courage, and fun.

Mo Willems

  • Patricia Polacco, master storyteller, offers rich tapestries of family traditions, struggles and celebrations, year after year. Thank you, Mr. Falker captures Polacco’s agonizing efforts to learn to read. It is a story that resonates deeply with teachers and is one many kids can relate to.
Patricia Polacco

Patricia Polacco

  • Kwame Alexander, legendary poet and wordsmith, brings a level of passion and excitement to a day at school that is beyond one’s wildest expectations. Thanks to a generous grant I received from Penguin Random House and dozens of copies of Crossover donated by Scholastic, my Dream Team and I witnessed the transformative power of a great book, one that actually can change lives.
Kwame Alexander and the Dream Team

Kwame Alexander and the Dream Team

I must admit that there is one thing that remains on my Christmas wish list. That wish is for every teacher reading this essay to receive his or her own gifts from the trenches. May your kids, your colleagues, and your favorite authors and books, bring you the contentment that comes from knowing you make a difference every single day!

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Let It Snow!

Phyllis: The first real snow has fallen overnight, and the quality of light when I wake up is luminous outside the window. Solstice approaches, and we’ve turned our thoughts to books about winter and snow. So many to choose from! Here are a few.

Katy and the Big SnowWhen my grown daughter saw a copy of Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton on my bookshelf, she cried, “Oh! Katy!” Since it was first published in 1943, this book has been beloved by children and grown-ups alike. Katy, “a beautiful red crawler tractor,” works as a bulldozer in the summer and even pulls a steamroller out of the pond when it falls in. In winter, Katy’s bulldozer is changed out for her snow plow, but she is “so big and strong” that she must stay in the garage until enough snow falls for her to plow. When the Big Snow finally does pile up with drifts up to second story windows, the other plows break down and Katy comes to the rescue. She plows out the city’s roads so the mail can get through (remember when mail was a main way to communicate?), telephones poles can be repaired, broken water mains fixed, patients can get to hospitals, fire trucks can reach fires, airplanes can land on cleared runways, and all the side streets are plowed out. “Then … and only then did Katy stop.” I’ve lived in Minnesota through enough winters to see houses on the prairie buried by snowdrifts and trick-or-treaters struggling through the three-foot deep Halloween blizzard. Thanks to Katy and her kin, we get around eventually, and thanks to Virginia Burton we can share in Katy’s triumph. And what child doesn’t love big machines?

Jackie: Big machines are automatic attention-grabbers. And I love the certainty of this world. There are problems to be solved in this big snow and Katy can solve them. So, the mail gets through, the sick people get treated, the fire trucks put out fires. It feels safe. And that is such a good feeling for a child—and for all of us. We adults may know that things don’t always work out that neatly, but it’s nice, even for us, to visit a world where they do work out.

Small WaltPhyllis: Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick with pictures by Marc Rosenthal has just been published, and Katy’s descendant Walt waits, too, for a chance to plow snow. Unlike Katy who must wait for a big snow, Walt, the smallest plow in the fleet, must wait and wait for someone willing to take out “the little guy” when a snowstorm buries the streets and all the big plows and their drivers go out to clear the roads.. Enter Gus, who checks out Walt and drives him on his route. Walt chugs along, his engine thrumming his song:

My name is Walt.
I plow and salt,
They say I’m small,
But I’ll show them all.

And Walt does, until they confront a high hill with drifts bigger than Walt has ever seen. Gus suggests they can let Big Buck behind them plow the hill, but Walt is determined. He “skids, slips down, down…He shudders, sputters.” When they finally make it to the top of the hill and down, dawn has arrived and they head back to the city lot where Big Buck says, “The little guy did a better job than I thought.” Replete with onomatopoetic sounds, rhythm, and syntax, this is a wonderful read-aloud. The art is reminiscent in color and line of Burton’s art, and Walt, like Katy, is a jaunty red. A great pairing of books when the snow piles high.

Jackie: This is such a satisfying story. And as you said, Phyllis, the language is wonderful. My favorite, and I may adopt it this winter, is, “Plow and salter. Never falter.” There are days when it’s good to remember not to falter, whether or not salt is in the picture.

Over and Under the SnowPhyllis: Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal chronicles a winter day skiing where a “whole secret kingdom” exists out of sight under the snow that a child and parent glide, climb, and swoosh over. Fat bullfrogs snooze, snowshoe hares watch from under snow-covered pines, squirrels, shrews, voles, chipmunks, queen bumblebees hide under the snow where deer mice “huddle up, cuddle up. And a bushy-tailed red fox leaps to catch the mouse that his sharp ears detect scritching beneath the snow. Extensive back matter offers scientific information about how the animals survive winter. Reading this book makes me want to strap on skis and go gliding through a snowy world over a secret kingdom.

Jackie: I had that same thought—“where are my skis? Where is the snow?” It’s so much fun in this book to see into places we don’t usually see, the vole’s tunnel, the beavers’ den, the place in the mud where the bullfrog lives. It’s like being given a magic pill that makes us small enough to get into these places, usually locked to us. And I love the back information. The more we know the more we see when we look. And the more connection we have to what is under the snow.

Has Winter Come?Phyllis: Another old favorite in our family is Wendy Watson’s Has Winter Come? I love Wendy Watson’s work, and this book, text and art, enchanted me when we first read it and still does.

On the day that it started to snow,
Mother said,
“Winter is coming now.
I can smell it in the air.”

The woodchuck children sniff but can’t smell winter. As the family gathers “acorns and walnuts, hickory nuts and hazelnuts, sunflower seed and pumpkin seeds … apples and corn, and pears and parsnips” and piles up wood to keep them warm the children keep trying to smell winter. When the snow stops falling their mother gathers a star for each of them from the starry sky. As they get ready for bed the little woodchucks smell “warm beds, and pine cones burning, and apple cores sizzling on the hearth.” As their parents tuck them under warm down quilts, the children say, “We smell sleep coming, and a long night … Is this winter?”

Yes, their parents whisper. “This is winter.” The softly colored illustrations capture falling snow, the trunks and roots of the woodchucks’ woodland home, and the small luminosities of the stars that the little woodchuck clutch in their paws as they fall asleep. Who wouldn’t want such a winter nap, cozy, and well-fed, lit by starlight and watched over by loving parents?

Father Fox's PennyrhymesJackie: Wendy Watson has always been one of my favorites. Her books tell a tale of family love and, like Geopolis, always present readers a wonderful world to visit. At our house we spent many contented hours enjoying the pictures and poring over the rhymes in Father Fox’s Pennyrhymes, written by Clyde Watson and illustrated by her sister, Wendy.

As a result of working on this column I have visited Wendy Watson’s web page and especially love her blog, with its family tales and recipes.

Winter is the Warmest SeasonPhyllis: Lauren Stringer’s Winter is the Warmest Season offers proof in spare text and exuberant illustrations that, contrary to what we might think, winter is indeed our warmest time. Puffy jackets, hats that “grow earflaps,” hands wearing wooly sweaters, a good cup of something warm to drink, cats that curl in laps, cozy blankets and starry quilts to snuggle under, fires and candles, hot baths, and a book to read cuddled close by people who love us will all warm our hearts as the snow piles up outside.

Jackie: This is an ode to the joys of winter. It reminds me of the appreciation we all have for hot chocolate (which of course tastes best, when one is a little chilled), fireplaces, and the sweetness of being warmed after being cold. This book begs readers to create a companion—Summer is the Coolest Season. This would be a fun classroom writing assignment.

Snow CrystalsWe started this column with mounds of snow that had to be cleared away for village life to continue. We looked under the snow, found winter, and found it to be warm. I’d like to add a look at individual snow crystals. Because Snowflake Bentley is on our list of additional books [Thanks Phyllis!] I want to mention that his book of snow crystal photographs is still in print—Snow Crystals—and is published by Dover Publications. Also, Voyageur, in 2006 published Kenneth Libbrecht’s A Field Guide to Snowflakes, photographs of snow crystals taken with a more modern camera than Bentley’s.

Phyllis: Whether you are tucked under a warm blanket or gliding through snowy woods over creatures tucked in beneath your feet, we wish you the warmth of loved ones, the wonder of snow crystals, a pile of books to read, and a peaceful time as the earth tilts into winter and toward the solstice light.

Snowflake BentleyA few more of the blizzard of books about snow and winter:

  • Brave Irene by William Steig
  • Snowflake Bentley by Jackie Briggs Martin (Jackie might not mention this book, but Phyllis will) and Mary Azarian
  • Snowflakes Fall by Patricia MacLachlan and Steven Kellogg
  • Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
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Revisions Part IV

Page Break

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Skinny Dip with Kelly Starling Lyons

Kelly Starling Lyons

Kelly Starling Lyons (photo: Lundies Photography)

You may know Kelly Starling Lyons for One Million Men and Me or Tea Cakes for Tosh or Ellen’s Broom, memorable picture books, but we’re celebrating her new chapter books starring Jada Jones! Thanks, Kelly, for taking a Skinny Dip with us in December.

Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?

That’s a tough question. I loved all of my teachers. But two that stand out are Dr. Kupec at Beechwood Elementary and Mr. Powell at Milliones Middle School.

Dr. Kupec was my second grade teacher and later principal of the school. I looked forward to going to her class to see what wonders were in store. Would we sing? Act? Read books that took us to other worlds? She knew how to captivate kids and make learning fun.

Another favorite was band director and teacher Mr. Powell. Brilliant, creative and exacting, he taught me the power of practice and feeling what you’re playing. Under his direction, I couldn’t just blend into the background. I had synthesizer solos that put me in the spotlight. He even wrote a song that showcased my playing called “Kelly’s Blues.” I’ll always remember how amazing that made me feel.

Something BeautifulAll-time favorite book?

A children’s book that made a big impact on me was Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth. In the story, an African-American girl learns that the power to create beauty lives in her. I looked at her face full of wonder and saw girls I know and little me. That was the first time I saw a black character on the cover of a picture book.  It called me to write for kids and will always have special meaning.

Favorite breakfast or lunch as a kid?

Breakfast is my favorite meal. On weekends, we would sit around the table and marvel at the spread made by my grandma and mom. The table was filled with favorites—fried apples, scrambled eggs with cheese, homefries, link sausage, homemade muffins, banana pancakes with warm maple syrup. It was a feast of food and love.

Your best memory of your library?

My local Carnegie Library was magical. All around, stories waited to be read and explored. It was a place where adventures and dreams came to life. Reading was like being on another plane, outside of time and space. Those storytelling journeys meant everything to me. I feel blessed to be creating them for children today.

Your favorite toy as a child?

I treasured my homemade Raggedy Ann doll. In stores, I just saw white ones. But a relative made one with skin the color of mine. It was more than a toy. It was an affirmation, a love letter. It’s one of the few keepsakes I’ve held onto from childhood. Today, it’s my daughter’s.

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Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award Committee

Sigurd Olson Children's and Young Adult Literature ConferenceWe’re in the midst of award season, when best of the year lists and speculation about award winners proliferate on the social media platforms swirling around children’s and teen books. In November, we attended the award ceremony at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute’s Children and Young Adult Literature Conference, which takes place at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin (on the awe-inspiring south shore of Lake Superior). Inspired by the authors, naturalists, and librarians who speak at this conference, we interviewed the dedicated committee who select this important award each year.

How do you select the awarded books?

We have a committee of eight members who all have an interest in promoting both the natural world and high quality literature for children. Because committee members remain on the committee from year to year we have a dedicated, knowledgeable group of professionals. Each member first ranks books and then those results are tallied. The top ranked books becomes the focus of a committee meeting. A final vote is taken with numerical rankings following that in-depth discussion.

What are the criteria for this award?

The Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award for Children’s Literature is given to a published children’s book of literary nature writing (nonfiction or fiction) that captures the spirit of the human relationship with nature, and promotes the awareness, preservation, appreciation, or restoration of the natural world for future generations. (Here’s a full list of SONWA books since 1991.)

How do you gather the books?

Since most, if not all, publishers are on Twitter, we established a SONWA Awards Twitter account two years ago (@sonwa_awards). For the past two years, we’ve promoted the awards through our feed and by directly tweeting to publishers. We also post to the SOEI (Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute) Facebook feed periodically.

We actively ask publishers to submit books that fit the criteria. Since we’re one of the few nature writing awards for young adult and children’s literature, the publishers of this type of book are aware of us.

What selection criteria do you apply?

First of all, as the name of the award suggests, the book has to be about some aspect of nature and written for children appropriate to the age group. In addition, it has to be written in the year prior to the year the award is received.

After that, we look at:

  • Human Relationships with Natural World: Does the book capture the spirit of the human relationship with nature?
  • Literary Value: Does the book take on elements such as character development, metaphor, climax, allusion, theme, motif, etc?
  • Values: Does the book promote the values for nature this award seeks to promote for future generations: awareness, preservation, appreciation, restoration?
  • Illustrations: When books meet all the above criteria, then illustrations and the artwork are considered.

What is the impetus you feel for donating your time to this award process?

Living in the Northwoods, whether an outdoor person or not, creates a strong connection to the earth and concern for its future. Our committee is also well aware of how literacy can impact our humanity. This award process allows us to commit to two efforts that are important to us. We hope the chain from writers to publishers will be validated for their efforts. And we hope the reader will be enriched in multiple ways.

You are housed within, and sponsored by, the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute. Why is this a good fit for a nature-writing award?

The mission of the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute is to promote experiences of wildness and wonder, while also working to protect wildlands for future generations. Literary depictions and accounts of wild nature and the wonder it evokes in people often inspire readers to seek similar experiences, or, if they’ve already had those experiences, the literary works help to further affirm the value of those experiences.

Sigurd F. Olson’s writing is one of the richest and most influential parts of his legacy, and the nature writing award is one of the ways that we carry that legacy forward.

Northland College

You’ll find the Sigurd F. Olson Environmental Institute on the campus of Northland College, Ashland, Wisconson (in the foreground of this photo). That’s Lake Superior in the background.

Your focus was initially regionally written adult books. Why did you develop a specific award for children’s books?

In part this was a circumstantial decision: each year publishers were submitting children’s books, even though they didn’t meet the criteria we had established for the original adult award. Although we could not consider these submissions for the adult award, we were impressed by their quality and wanted to recognize and promote the work of the authors and illustrators of the children’s books.

Of course, we also recognize how important it is to capture the imaginations of children and the role that stories can play in shaping their values and visions for themselves and their future. We want children to grow up having and valuing experiences of wildness and wonder in their lives, and the children’s nature writing award, as well as our children’s literature conference, help us to realize this goal.

Having read so many nature-themed children’s books, what trends are you noticing?

We do see topic trends from time to time. A few years ago it was whales and then water the next year. Just like publishing in other areas, the trends tend to follow what is going on in the world. This year we have a few hurricane books. Often times, grandparents are depicted as nurturer, guardian, or storyteller of nature.

 We are seeing more diversity and inclusion. There are more picture books with more white space but with detailed author notes or supplemental added value. In recent year, nonfiction books for older readers will have side bars, graphics, captioned photos, and more alongside the main body. This can be either an enhancement or a distraction.

What themes or topics do you wish were being addressed in children’s books?

We are always looking for books that have a strong relationship to human interaction with the natural world. Books for older children with this aspect are not as readily available. There are always some that stand out in this area but we would happily welcome more.

___________________

Thank you for your commitment to reading and recommending the very best in nature writing for children and teens. Your focus on human interaction with the natural world is critical to the lives of our children and our planet. Important work you’re doing!

[The submission deadline for 2018 award consideration is December 31, 2017. Learn more.]

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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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Cloth and the Picture Book:
Storytelling with Textile Techniques

Author and illustrator Debra Frasier was invited to lecture on this topic to the Western North Carolina Textile Study Group, and the public, in mid-November 2017. This is the bibliography that accompanies Debra’s presentation, with book selections by Debra Frasier and Vicki Palmquist.

If you would like to invite Debra to give this presentation to your group, please contact her.

Download a print version of this bibliography.

Books are listed in order of appearance in the presentation.

INTRODUCTION TO THE PICTURE BOOK FORM

Spike: Ugliest Dog in the Universe  

Spike, Ugliest Dog in the Universe
written and illustrated 
by Debra Frasier
Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster,
2014.

Collaged worn blue jeans with other textiles and papers.

THREE HISTORICAL INSPIRATIONS

Stitching Stars  

The Lady and the Unicorn, as seen in the Musée de Cluny, Paris, France.

The Bayeux Tapestry, written by David M. Wilson, “The Complete
Tapestry in Colour with Introductions, Description and commentary by David M. Wilson,” Thames & Hudson, 2004.

Stitching Stars, The Story Quilts of Harriet Powers, Lyons, Mary E, African-American Artists and Artisans series, 1993, Charles Scribner’s & Sons, historical overview of late 1860’s, slave life, and Ms. Powers’ works and history.

A QUIRKY SURVEY OF TEXTILE TECHNIQUES 
USED IN ILLUSTRATIONS
FOR CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS

QUILTED INSPIRATIONS

Alphabet Atlas

 

The Alphabet Atlas
written by Arthur Yorinks
illustrated by Adrienne Yorinks
Winslow Press, 1999

Machine quilted, collaged continents

Hummingbirds  

Hummingbirds
written by Adrienne Yorinks and Jeannette Larson

illustrated by Adrienne Yorinks
Charlesbridge Publishing, 2011

Nonfiction combined with mythic, all quilted

Patchwork Folk Art  

Patchwork Folk Art, Using Applique & Quilting Techniques
written and illustrated by Janet Bolton
Sterling/Museum Quilts Book
Sterling Publishing Co, 1995

Not a children’s picture book but an excellent introduction to narrative in patchwork collage.

Mrs. Noah's Patchwork Quilt  

Mrs. Noah’s Patchwork Quilt
A Journal of the Voyage with a Pocketful of Patchwork Pieces
written by Sheri Safran
illustrated by Janet Bolton
Tango Books (England), 1995

Presents a how-to along with the story of Mrs. Noah’s quilt, and a back pocket includes patterns of quilt pieces appearing in the illustrations.

Tar Beach  

Tar Beach
written and illustrated by Faith Ringgold
Crown Publisher, 1991

Based on one of Ringgold’s quilts held by the Guggenheim Museum. The story arc and quilt borders all carried over to the picture book so, in this case, the book is inspired by the quilt.

Quiltmaker's Gift  

Quiltmaker’s Gift
written by Jeff Brumbeau
illustrated by Gail de Marcken
Scholastic Press, 2001

In which the creation of a quilt changes the heart of a greedy king. Each page features a different quilt block that fits into the context of the story.

The Keeping Quilt  

Keeping Quilt
written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco
Simon & Schuster, 1988

A quilt made from a family’s clothing is passed down in various guises for more than a century, a symbol of their enduring love and faith.

CLOTH AND THINGS IN THE SEWING BASKET

Pat the Bunny  

Pat the Bunny
written and illustrated by Dorothy Kunhardt
Golden Book, 1940

Spiral bound with a small trim-size, this classic book uses actual bits of fabric to “feel” and “lift.”

Wag a Tail  

Wag A Tail
written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Harcourt, Inc, 2007

Collaged papers and cloth, with buttons and “pinking shear” edging throughout.

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf  

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf
written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Harcourt Brace & Company, 1991

Burlap, kite tails, string and bits of cloth are used in the collages.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat  

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat
written and illustrated by Simms Taback
Viking/Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 1999

The main character—a diminishing coat—is actual cloth and is collaged with other bits of cloth curtains, rugs and clothing, and then all adhered to a painted surface.

Mama Miti  

Mama Miti
written by Donna Jo Napoli
illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010

Nelson has combined cloth with painting for both landscapes and clothing.

Hands  

Hands
written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Harcourt Brace & Co, 1997

Ehlert has used actual objects: work gloves, apron swatch, sewing tools, scissors, pattern tissue—in this ode to making things as a child.

PAPER TREATED AS CLOTH

Paper Illusions  

Paper Illusions, The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave
by Barbara and Rene Stoeltie
Abrams, 2008 (English edition)

Lavish photographs of life-sized paper costumes made to match Renaissance period cloth using painting, folding, gluing, stitching to create the illusion of cloth.

Mole's Hill  

Mole’s Hill: a Woodland Tale
written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Harcourt, 1994

Inspired by Woodland Indians ribbon applique and sewn beadwork, the paper is often dotted and pieced as if stitched and beaded. An author note describes this handwork and how it inspired her approach.

Seeds of Change  

Seeds of Change
written by Jen Cullerton Johnson
illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler
Lee & Low Books, 2010

Distinctive Kenyan-styled flower print dress patterns are used as the inspiration for paintings of dresses and mirrored in landscapes.

STITCHING

Fabric Pictures  

Fabric Pictures
A Workshop with Janet Bolton, Creating a Textile Story
written and illustrated by Janet Bolton
Jacqui Small LLP, Aurum Press, 2015

Not a children’s picture book but an excellent workshop-in-a-book on creating narratives with applique.

Baby's First Book  

Baby’s First Book
written and illustrated by Clare Beaton
Barefoot Books, 2008

Hand sewn felt, vintage fabrics, buttons, and stitched lettering collaged for a baby’s compendium of subjects. ALL items and backgrounds made of cloth.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves  

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
adapted by Joan Aiken
illustrated by Belinda Downes
A Dorling Kindersley Book
Penguin Company, 2002

Downes uses fine fabrics appliquéd with rich embroidery, incorporating a consistent running stitch to outline and embellish.

CLOTH AS SUBJECT

Cloth Lullaby  

Cloth Lullaby, The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois
written by Amy Novesky
illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2016

The illustrator uses woven lines, [similar to some of Bourgeois’ later drawings] to create a textile sensibility in the illustrations amid the early years, and then the same vocabulary is used to visually describe the sculpture of her adult artist years.

Pattern for Pepper  

A Pattern for Pepper
written and illustrated by Julie Kraulis
Tundra Books, Random House/Canada, 2017

From Herringbone to Dotted Swiss, from Argyle to Toile—a visit to a tailor’s shop becomes a compendium of fabric patterns with each fabric sampled in the hunt for the perfect pattern for Pepper. Oil paint and graphite on board.

THREE-D CLOTH AND FELT

Pocketful of Posies  

Pocketful of Posies, A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes
collected and illustrated by Salley Mavor
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010

64 traditional nursery rhymes are illustrated with hand-sewn fabric relief collages, including dozens of figures.

Felt Wee Folk  

Felt-Wee-Folk, 120 Enchanting Dolls
“New Adventures”
by Salley Mavor
C&T Publishing, 2015

This is a how-to book for creating characters and scenes as pictured in Pocketful of Posies.

Pride & Prejudice  

Cozy Classics
Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice
by Jack and Holman Wang
Chronicle Books, 2016

Entirely illustrated by felted 3-D characters that are set in an environment, superbly lit, and photographed to tell classic tales in one word page turns. Several classic titles are included in this series.

Roarr Calder's Circus  

Roarr, Calder’s Circus
a story by Maira Kalman
photos by Donatella Brun
designed by M&Co for
the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1991

Using bits of Calder’s spoken text from the film of his hand manipulated circus, Kalman expands the language and characterizations. Calder’s circus characters of wire and cloth are photographed and then collaged across the double-page spread.

THE DYED BOOK

We Got Here Together  

We Got Here Together
written by Kim Stafford
illustrated by Debra Frasier
Harcourt Brace, 1994

Shibori, a resist dyeing method, is used to pattern Japanese gampi tissue paper (long fibered tissue) as ocean and rain, in both pipe resist and braided resist techniques, respectively. Shibori tissue paper is combined with Japanese dyed sheets in collages on illustration board.

SPECIAL GUEST

Catharine Ellis  

Catharine Ellis, self published, three titles:

Cape Cod: The Present, Blue, and Mapping Color (written by Nancy Penrose, illustrated by Catharine Ellis). Find Catharine’s resources and publications here.

(Each of these chapbooks is illustrated using photographs of natural dyed fabrics, sometimes additionally stitched on the surfaces, while abstractly defining the text.)

What are your favorite books illustrated with textiles? Send us your recommendations.

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