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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Joyce Sidman

This Is Just To Say

April is National Poetry Month, which is as good an excuse as any to take some poetry books off the shelf and have a read. I’m quite methodical in April—it’s the hint of spring in the air, I suppose. I clean my office and then I build a stack of wonderful poetry books—some Billy Collins, a little Emily Dickinson, a tome of Robert Frost, Shakespeare’s sonnets, Mary Oliver, naturally…..

On top of this fine stack I put my collection of Joyce Sidman books. This means, to be honest, that I seldom make it down to the “grown-up” poets. Which is fine—I’m quite perfectly happy wandering in Joyce’s books for the entire month. The others can be read…whenever. Joyce’s books have pictures. In the words and on the pages. I think all poets should be illustrated.

I say “Joyce,” all familiar like, because I know her. Which seems too fantastic to be true—I know none of those other poets, except through their work. But Joyce I know—I saw her this past weekend, in fact. I hear her voice in her poems—even when it’s not her voice speaking. (I hear Billy Collins in his poems, too, but Joyce’s voice is not so deadpan.)

We’re several days into April and I’ve yet to make it past the book that is possibly my favorite in my Joyce Sidman collection: This is Just To Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness. It’s a slim volume—paperback. Sometimes it gets shoved back on my bookcase and I panic when I look up and don’t see it right away. It’s illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, an artist whose website I sometimes visit just to browse and mutter her last name over and over again like its own poem. She has illustrated a few of Joyce’s books. They are an inspired pair, I think.

I bought this book as soon as I saw that the very first poem was, as I suspected, William Carlos William’s “This Is Just To Say,” one of my most favorite poems. Another of his poems “The Red Wheel Barrow” is one of the only poems I’ve managed to keep memorized since college. I recite it when walking sometimes still.

Joyce uses William’s poem, “This is Just To Say,” as a model when she teaches, so says her website. And it is the model for this brilliant book of poetry: a story—or perhaps I should say stories—told through poems of apology and forgiveness.

I’m embarrassed to say that I did not realize this book told stories until I read some of the poems aloud to a group of pre-schoolers. An astute 4-year-old pointed out to me that one poem went with another, which is when I realized the poems were in pairs. (We’ll just focus on the brilliance of the 4-year-old and not my sloppy reading.) Ever since, when I read this book, I read the apology poem and then the “follow-up poem,” which is often a forgiveness poem, but sometimes just an explanation—and therein lie the stories. And these stories—my heart!—they run the gamut of the lives of children. From dodge ball games to mean things said…from things breaking to breaking hearts…from secrets kept to confessions made….from crushes to honest-to-goodness love…from frightened kids to despairing parents.

It’s the best of poetry, truly. Accessible, meaningful, rich. I’ll just spend this April here, thank you very much.


March Shorts

Oooo! Here in Minnesota, shorts in March mean chills. These books will give you chills–in a good way!

Cat Goes Fiddle-I-FeeCat Goes Fiddle-I-Fee
Adapted and illustrated by Paul Galdone
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1985
(reissued in April 2017)

I recognized the title immediately as I song I know well, sung as “I Had a Rooster” by Pete Seeger on Birds, Beasts, Bugs & Little Fishes in 1968. Turns out, I remember the rhyme more than the words. Galdone wrote a different adaptation of this folk tale, one that is irresistible for reading out loud. In fact, even if you’re sitting alone in a room by yourself, you’re going to want to read this out loud. The words and the rhyme scheme are fun. Kids at storytime and kids in a classroom and kids sitting on your lap will want to sing along … and quite possibly dance. In this new edition, Galdone’s illustrations are friendly. Find the snail. Who shares the page with the dog? There are many animals to examine and they don’t always make the expected sounds: “Hen goes chimmy-chuck, chimmy-chuck.” As the tale builds cumulatively, it’s a good exercise in memory and repetition, and just plain fun. Turns out it’s a different story than Seeger’s so both of them could be used. 

Hoot & Honk Just Can't SleepHoot & Honk Just Can’t Sleep
written and illustrated by Leslie Helakoski
Sterling Children’s Books, 2017

Two eggs, one from an owl’s nest and one from a goose’s nest, tumble to the ground during a wind storm. When the mamas take home the wrong eggs, the hatchlings are confused. The owlet doesn’t like the food the other goslings like and the gosling doesn’t want what the owlets are hungry for. And their sleep patterns are quite different. A wonderful way to open up the discussion about different birds with young listeners, this is a gorgeous book with a happy-go-lucky spirit. Illustrated by Helakoski with pastels on sanded paper, the color is sumptuous, the views have depth, and everyone’s going to want to touch the bird’s feathers. And who can resist the main characters’ names? Hoot. Honk. Hoot and Honk. 

Charlotte the Scientist is SquishedCharlotte the Scientist is Squished
written by Camille Andros
illustrated by Brianne Farley
Clarion Books, 2017

I squealed after I read this book. This is exactly the book I would have read and re-read when I was a kid. The fly papers are diagrams of the inside of a rocket, labeled carefully so there’s much to ponder. Charlotte is a bunny rabbit with a problem. She is a serious scientist with no room to conduct her work. She has a large family, as some bunnies do, and they’re always underfoot. So Charlotte employs the Scientific Method to solve her problem. She creates a hypothesis and tried her experiment and draws a conclusion. And all of this is done with a great amount of humor supplied by the author and the illustrator, a seamless story. That carrot-shaped rocket is delightful and so is the bunny in the fishbowl. At the end of the book, there’s a feature “In the lab with Charlotte,” that uses Charlotte’s experiments for a discussion of the scientific method. Highly recommended.

Anywhere FarmAnywhere Farm
written by Phyllis Root
illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Candlewick Press, 2017

Where can you farm? Anywhere! Together, Root and Karas present convincing arguments for growing your own food wherever and however you can. “For an anywhere farm, here’s all that you need: soil and sunshine, some water, a seed.”With soft vignettes that look closely at ways and means to plant seeds, “Kale in a pail, corn in a horn,” to circular depictions of neighbors tending their small-scale farms, to two-page spreads that show an urban community involved in gardening, the blend of poetry and illustrations make this book an appealing invitation to try your hand at farming … anywhere. Readers will have fun detecting all the places growing plants can be supported. As kids and adults of all ages and abilities work together, the lush end to this book is a satisfying one. Excuse me, won’t you? I’m off to germinate my seeds!

written and illustrated by Anna Walker
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017 paperback

I pronounce this a Picture-Book-of-the-Absurd, delightfully so. “Peggy lived in a small house on a quiet street.” Her chicken coop in the backyard of a suburban house has a trampoline outside. “Every day, rain or shine, Peggy ate breakfast, played in her yard, and watched the pigeons.” In a series of nine “slides” (do you remember slides?) on each page, we observe Peggy doing just these things … with joy and When Peggy is blown off her trampoline by a strong wind into the unfamiliar environment of downtown, does she panic? No. She takes the opportunity to explore. In vignettes, Peggy eats spaghetti, she rides an escalator, and she shops for bargains. The soft, muted watercolor palette of the book is punctuated by Peggy’s black feathers, making her easy to follow as she ultimately decides she’d rather be at home. But how will she get there? Clues planted earlier in the story give her ideas and ultimately she finds her way back to her chicken coop with new-found friends. This is an ideal book for sharing one-on-one, examining the humor on every page as the intrepid Peggy shares her story.

written by Joyce Sidman
illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017

Do any of us spend enough time noticing the natural world around us? Do we look at the shape of things? Do we wonder enough about why they are in the shapes they are? What about all of the round things in the world? The moon. water, lily pads, rocks … so many specific things to notice, observe, and appreciate. Joyce Sidman’s poem leads the listener into this exploration: “I love to watch round things move. They are so good at it!” Yoo’s illustrations find things to show us that are not in the text … words and illustrations blending together into a book that is more than its parts. Colorful and charming, the book’s design gets everything right. Even the author’s bios on the back jacket flap are presented in round shapes! Two pages in back ask “Why are so many things in nature round?” Short paragraphs from the author will broaden your vision, leading to discussions and noticing more each time you walk outside.

If You Were the MoonIf You Were the Moon
written by Laura Purdie Salas
illustrated by Jaime Kim
Millbrook Press, 2017

From the glossy cover to the moon’s expressive face to the bracketed, you-didn’t-know-that facts, everything about this book is appealing. Salas has a way of looking at something as familiar as the moon while encouraging us to think about it in fresh ways, poetically observant, waking-you-up ways. The moon as a ballerina? Of course, and for very good reason. In brackets, the facts: “The moon spins on its invisible axis, making a full turn every twenty-seven days.” Kim illustrates this spread with a contented, ballet-dancing moon that can’t help but make the reader smile. “Weave a spell over wonderers.”? The bracket inspires us with “Claire de Lune” and “The Moon is Distant from the Sea.” The illustration shows the Baule people of the Ivory Coast in festival masks. All of this is set in the vibrant colors of a moonlit night. It’s an inspiring book presented with the right balance for kids who love a poetic presentation as well as factual information.


Bookstorm: Scaly Spotted …

In this Bookstorm™:

Scaly Spotted Feathered FrilledScaly Spotted
Feathered Frilled:
how do we know what dinosaurs really looked like?

written by Catherine Thimmesh
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2013

No human being has ever seen a triceratops or velociraptor or even the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex. They left behind only their impressive bones. So how can scientists know what color dinosaurs were? Or if their flesh was scaly or feathered? Could that fierce T. rex have been born with spots?

In a first for young readers, Thimmesh introduces the incredible talents of the paleoartist, whose work reanimates gone-but-never-forgotten dinosaurs in giant full-color paintings that are as strikingly beautiful as they aim to be scientifically accurate, down to the smallest detail. Follow a paleoartist through the scientific process of ascertaining the appearance of various dinosaurs from millions of years ago to learn how science, art, and imagination combine to bring us face-to-face with the past.

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book, Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled. You’ll find books for a variety of tastes, interests, and reading abilities.

Dinosaur Digs. There are some very cool dinosaur digs throughout the United States in which you and your children can take part.

Dinosaur Nonfiction. It’s difficult to assign a reader’s age to these books. High interest levels can raise proficiency and the graphics can be read even when the words can’t be. You may need to give these books a try to see if they’re within the skills of your reader. Enjoy Gilded Dinosaur to read about two competing paleontologists who tried to outwit each other. Prehistoric Life from DK Publishing looks at all elements of the earth at the time of the dinosaurs. Dinosaurs: a Concise Natural History manages to be funny and informative.

Drawing. From Audubon to Charles R. Knight on animal anatomy to step-by-step instructions for drawing dinosaurs, there are books here that will inspire artists-in-the-making to learn more about dinosaurs while they draw them as particularly as the paleoartists do.

Fiction. From picture books to novels, from the youngest children to adults, dinosaurs are favorite subjects for writers because they’re much loved by readers. You’ll enjoy books such as Danny and the Dinosaur, Jurassic Park, and Okay for Now.

Fossil Hunters. We recommend books that range from Mary Anning’s discovery of the first complete ichthyosaurus fossil to Bob Barner examining dinosaur bones to determine what they ate to Anita Silvey’s daring plant hunters.

Graphic Novels. Dinosaurs are a favorite topic for cartoonists. Some of their graphic novels, such as Barry Sonnenfeld’s Dinosaurs vs Aliens are epics.

Paleoartists. In addition to the work of the paleoartists featured in Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled, you’ll read about Charles R. Knight, Waterhouse Hawkins, Julius Csotonyi, and others. These scientist-artists are larger than life!

Paleontology. Ladies and gentlemen! Step right up! You’ll be amazed by the feats and discoveries of the paleontologists in these books. Whether it’s Mr. Bones, Barnum Brown, or The History of Life in 100 Fossils or Jessie Hartland’s How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum or Joyce Sidman’s Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors, there are books here that will enthrall you.

Techniques for using each book:



Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled Companion Booktalks

To get you started on the Bookstorm™ books …

cover imageAge of Reptiles and Age of Reptiles: the Hunt, Richard Delgado, Dark Horse Books, 2011. Ages 12 and up.

  • Wordless storytelling through beautiful (sometimes gory) art
  • What happens when you steal the T-rex eggs? What happens when an Allosaurus takes revenge on the Ceratosaurs that killed his mother?
  • The author-artist has worked on movies such as Men in Black, The Incredibles, WALL-E

cover imageCaptain Raptor series, written by Kevin O’Malley, illustrated by Patrick O’Brien, Walker Books, 2005. Ages 5-8.

  • Dinosaurs are the characters on the planet Jurassica
  • Rocket ships and action
  • Good guys, bad guys, scary stuff, and fun inventions

cover imageThe Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, written by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Brian Selznick, Scholastic Press, 2001.

  • Biography of  19th century paleoartist Waterhouse Hawkins who popularized dinosaurs and once threw a dinner party inside one of his dinosaur sculptures
  • Just why are pieces of his dinosaur sculptures buried in New York’s Central Park?
  • Caldecott Honor book

 cover imageDinosaurs: the Grand Tour, written by Keiron Pim and Jack Horner, The Experiment, 2014. Appropriate for children and adults.

  • Report material on more than 300 dinosaurs and the scientists who have discovered and studied them
  • Helpful organization (color-coded by Geologic period) with gray scale illustrations
  • Includes Chinese and Native American mythology linked to dinosaurs

cover imageHow the Dinosaur Got to the Museum, Jessie Hartland, Blue Apple Books, 2013. Ages 6 to 9

  • Picture book about the teamwork needed to bring a dinosaur skeleton to a place where many people can see it and learn from it (the Smithsonian Museum)
  • Solid information delivered in bright art and lively language
  • A Booklist “Top Ten Sci-Tech Books for Youth” (2010)

cover imageHow to Draw Incredible Dinosaurs, written by Kristen McCurry, illustrated by Juan Calle, Smithsonian Drawing Books/Capstone Press, 2012. Ages 5 and up.

  • Step-by-step instructions for ages 5 and up
  • Each drawing lesson comes with a brief “bio” of the dinosaur model
  • One in a set of 4 drawing books (also: Incredible Ocean Animals, Amazing Animals, Amazing Spacecraft)

cover imagePaleontology: the Study of Prehistoric Life, written by Susan H. Gray, Scholastic, 2012. ages 4 and up

  • A beginning introduction to the science of paleontology
  • Quick facts in colorful large font, illustrated with many photographs
  • Includes history of paleontology, how scientists date fossils, the tools they use

cover imagePlant Hunters: True stories of their daring adventures to the far corners of the Earth, Anita Silvey, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012. Ages 8 and up.

  • Scientists have had the craziest adventures
  • Beautifully illustrated (many archival photographs) and usefully organized—great report material
  • Includes a chapter on contemporary scientists

bk_BulletPrehistoricLifPrehistoric Life by DK Publishing, 2010. Ages 8 and up

  • Dinosaurs and more: the plants, invertebrates, amphibians, birds, reptiles, and mammals from the origins of life in the sea to the evolution of man
  • DK’s signature exploded diagrams, cutaways, and high-interest visuals
  • Coffee table-beautiful and with tons of report material

cover imageStone Girl, Bone Girl: the Story of Mary Anning, written by Laurence Anholt, illustrated by Sheila Moxley, Frances Lincoln, 2006. Ages 6-9

  • Mary Anning: Struck by lightening as a baby, famous at age 12, a girl working in a man’s world
  • Vividly illustrated picture book story about the most famous fossil hunter of all (and the inspiration for the wicked tongue twister “She Sells Sea Shells”)
  • Puts an engaging, human face on the 19th century icon by mixing biography with an element of tall tale

cover imageUbiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors, written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beckie Prange, HMH Books for Young Readers, 2010. Ages 7-12.

  • Mammals and birds and reptiles that have survived extinction, excellent for contrast in a discussion about dinosaurs
  • Each spread includes a poem, facts, and a hand-colored linocut
  • From the creators of the Caldecott Honor Book Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems




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