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
image avail­able
 

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
image avail­able
 

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.

need cov­er image  

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.

need cov­er image  

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.

need cov­er image  

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.

need cov­er image  

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.

need cov­er image  

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.

need cov­er image  

A Gift of Mistle­toe
writ­ten by ?????

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

No syn­op­sis yet.

need cov­er image  

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.

need cov­er image  

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.

need cov­er image  

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!

need cov­er image  

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.

need cov­er image  

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.

need cov­er image  

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

No syn­op­sis yet.

Read more...

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 élite 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!

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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?

 

Read more...

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 BlumenthalHell,” 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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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?

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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 élite 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!

Read more...

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
Read more...

Revisions Part IV

Page Break

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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.]

Read more...

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 crêpe 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.

Read more...

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 Appliqué & 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 appliqué 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 appliqué.

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.

Read more...