Tag Archives | Joyce Sidman

Books about the Night

Night­time is a mag­i­cal time for kids. It’s a time for explor­ing the night skies. It’s a time for dream­ing cozy dreams.  It’s a time of mis­chief when it comes with the thrill of being allowed to stay up late.

Night­time pic­ture books have always had an allure for me because of the top­ics they explore and the amaz­ing and var­ied art by illus­tra­tors chal­lenged with the task of draw­ing the dark. Such gift­ed people!

Here is a list of ten remark­able night­time pic­ture books. Enjoy!

Owl Moon

Owl Moon
writ­ten by Jane Yolen
illus­trat­ed by John Schoen­herr
Philomel, 1987

A Calde­cott Award win­ning book in which a father and daugh­ter take a night­time walk in the woods in search of owls. Beau­ti­ful sen­so­ry descrip­tions of nature and a love­ly parent/child story.

Sky Sisters

Sky Sis­ters
writ­ten by Jan Bour­deau Waboose
illus­trat­ed by Bri­an Deines
Kids Can Press, 2000

Two young sis­ters expe­ri­ence the thrill of hik­ing on a win­ter night beneath a glim­mer­ing “Grand­moth­er Moon,” with glimpses of wildlife and a final sur­prise: danc­ing North­ern Lights. Gor­geous lan­guage and won­der­ful sib­ling book.

If You Were Night
writ­ten by Muon Thi Van
illus­trat­ed by Kel­ly Pousette
Kids Can Press, 2020

A beau­ti­ful book with echo­ing phras­es that chal­lenge lit­tle night­time explor­ers to dream of what they would do if they were night. There is so much to savor about this book with its del­i­cate paper cut illus­tra­tions and tiny wood­land crea­tures. Such a dreamy feel!

If You Look Up to the Sky
writ­ten by Angela Dal­ton
illus­trat­ed by Mar­gari­ta Siko­rska­ia
Beaver’s Pond Press, 2018

A calm, reas­sur­ing, wise book that reminds young read­ers they are loved and there is hope. Beau­ti­ful art. Sim­ple text. Great bed­time read.

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

Poet­ic and lyri­cal with won­der­ful, kid-friend­ly illus­tra­tions, this night­time read is actu­al­ly non­fic­tion in dis­guise! It boasts lay­ered text: a dreamy sto­ry line sup­port­ed with a whole host of fun facts about the moon. A real treat.

Dark Emper­or & Oth­er Poems of the Night
writ­ten by Joyce Sid­man
illus­trat­ed by Rick Allen
Houghton Mif­flin, 2010

Poet­ry as only Joyce Sid­man can write and stun­ning, detailed art make this night­time read per­fect for lit­tle nature lovers want­i­ng to explore the world after dark.


The Tina­ja Tonight
writ­ten by Aimée M. Bis­sonette
illus­trat­ed by Syd Weil­er
Albert Whit­man, 2020

The desert is dry, dusty, and hot, hot, hot dur­ing the day; but night­time is a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. At night the desert comes alive and its thirsty res­i­dents emerge, search­ing out the cool waters of the tina­ja. With lay­ered text, this book works well as a read aloud and in the class­room. Weiler’s art is magical.

Night Dri­ving
writ­ten by John Coy
illus­trat­ed by Peter McCar­ty
Hen­ry Holt, 1996

A dark­en­ing sky, a long jour­ney, the safe feel­ing of rid­ing in a car with Dad behind the wheel. This is a warm­ly told, nos­tal­gic sto­ry, illus­trat­ed incred­i­bly in black and white. Who doesn’t love a road trip?

Vin­cent Can’t Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky
writ­ten by Barb Rosen­stock
illus­trat­ed by Mary Grand­pre
Alfred A. Knopf, 2017

Is dark­ness tru­ly black? Not to Vin­cent Van Gogh. This beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed pic­ture book biog­ra­phy intro­duces young read­ers to an incred­i­ble artist who danced to the beat of his own drum.

Always Look­ing Up:
Nan­cy Grace Roman, Astronomer
writ­ten by Lau­ra Gehl
illus­trat­ed by Louise Pig­ott and Alex Oxton
Albert Whit­man, 2019

A pic­ture book biog­ra­phy about one of my favorite women of sci­ence — the Moth­er of the Hub­ble Tele­scope. Per­fect for young read­ers who dream big dreams. Nan­cy Grace Roman was a cham­pi­on of persistence.


Poetry Teatime

On Hal­loween morn­ing, Pooh Bear came for a vis­it on our porch. There was cof­fee for her par­ents and hot choco­late with whipped cream and sprin­kles for her, as well as a round of pas­tries for all. A love­ly morn­ing, how­ev­er dis­tanced and masked we had to remain.

This adorable Pooh is loqua­cious — her par­ents talk and sing and read with her all the time and so at the age of two she could basi­cal­ly hold her own on a speech or debate team. She has at the ready count­less lit­tle vers­es and songs with which to enter­tain. (Her father is an ele­men­tary school music teacher.) Like Pooh, she enjoys the rhythm and song of words, as well as clever bits of repeat­ed syl­la­bles and non­sense expres­sions. She cracks her­self up, and any­one lis­ten­ing as well.

She’s new to Pooh, but she fell for him hard. And I sus­pect she will grow to love his lit­tle hums, his mur­murs and songs, his vers­es and lines, as she learns them in the sto­ries. She’s just that kind of kid. Hav­ing had that kind of kid myself, I had lit­tle bits of Pooh poet­ries run­ning through my head the rest of the day.

Cot­tle­ston, Cot­tle­ston, Cot­tle­ston Pie,

A fly can’t bird, but a bird can fly….


                                                               The more it SNOWS-tiddely-pom,

                                                               The more it GOES-tiddely-pom

                                                               The more it GOES-tiddely-pom

                                                               On snowing….


Tra-la-la, tra-la-la

Tra-la-la, tra-la-la…  


Pooh’s “hums,” as he likes to call them, were my intro­duc­tion to poet­ry. It’s also sort of where my ear­ly poet­ry edu­ca­tion end­ed. My moth­er read us Win­nie-the-Pooh and I always liked the bits of vers­es Pooh’s “very lit­tle brain” came up with on walks in the hun­dred acre wood. I espe­cial­ly liked the tid­dly-poms and tut-tuts and tra-la-las.

I read the same Pooh sto­ries to my kids. And #1 Son lis­tened to a BBC pro­duced Pooh audio­book at bed­time until the cas­sette tape was worn thin as lace. He could tid­dly-pom with the best of them at one time.

Children’s poet­ry has increased sev­er­al fold in the last cou­ple of decades — so many more choic­es! We can now read fan­tas­tic poems that don’t always rhyme. We can enjoy rhythms and sounds from a vari­ety of cul­tures. There are new forms to delight in, and whole nov­els writ­ten in verse.

I con­tin­ue to add to my col­lec­tion, even though I have no young read­ers at home any­more. Beside Pooh’s hums on my shelves I have the work of poets I know: Joyce Sid­man and Lau­ra Pur­die Salas. I have Out of Won­der, and We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voic­es fac­ing out because the titles and the art speak to me — not to men­tion the poet­ry inside. I have two copies of I’m Still Here In the Bath­tub because we loved it so much when the kids were small. I’ve got William Car­los Williams poet­ry next to Shel Sil­ver­stein books, and sev­er­al vol­umes of drag­on and dinosaur poetry.

I was com­mit­ted to work­ing poet­ry into our reg­u­lar read­ing when I was still read­ing to the kids. Some­times we did this with suc­cess. Often it was the art that kept them lis­ten­ing to words along side — poet­ry books are often beau­ti­ful visu­al­ly in addi­tion to aural­ly. But I always felt like I wasn’t doing the poet­ry genre justice. 

But now — now there’s this thing called Poet­ry Tea Time! I so wish this had been a move­ment when my kids were lit­tle. I think it’s the food and drink that makes it work — it cer­tain­ly would’ve helped my poet­ry par­ent­ing efforts. I fol­low these poet­ry tea timers on the social medias and I’m here to tell you, #poet­ryteatime will fill your feed with joy and good­ness. Chil­dren gath­ered around the table or the pic­nic blan­ket, read­ing poet­ry, pass­ing around books, laugh­ing, munch­ing the­mat­ic (or non­the­mat­ic) treats, sip­ping tea (or lemon­ade or hot choco­late). There are no rules about this — some­thing easy, some­thing yum­my, some­thing beau­ti­ful, and a side of poet­ry. I sus­pect poets are nur­tured at such tables.

This poet­ry and tea thing has the pow­er to change your out­look on life. Hope and joy can be yours, my friends! I have start­ed read­ing poet­ry dur­ing my after­noon tea time (a new covid rit­u­al!) and it has made all the dif­fer­ence. Try it and see if you don’t Tid­dly-pom!

Should you be inspired to have a Pooh Poet­ry Tea Time, well sim­ple ideas are a click away.


Aimée Bissonette

Aimee Bissonette's Self on the Shelf

Aimée Bis­sonet­te’s selec­tions for Self on the Shelf

A few days ago, I scanned my many book­shelves in antic­i­pa­tion of writ­ing this piece. My charge was to assem­ble a small stack of books that had sig­nif­i­cance to me.  Per­haps, I thought, I’ll write about my love for mys­ter­ies. After all, I spent count­less hours as a young girl devour­ing the Hardy Boys and Nan­cy Drew mys­ter­ies before mov­ing on to Agatha Christie, Tony Hiller­man, and Sara Paret­sky. Or maybe, I thought, I could write about my love for mem­oir. To me, well-craft­ed mem­oir is a gift.  It pro­vides an insider’s view — the weight of a per­son­al sto­ry that expands my knowl­edge and under­stand­ing of events and expe­ri­ences that are for­eign to me. 

Both mys­tery and mem­oir would have been fun to write about and each would have giv­en some insight into how books have shaped my life. I know, though, if I’m going to be hon­est, with me it all comes down to poetry.

I have loved poet­ry from the begin­ning and I have writ­ten poet­ry across the years: in ele­men­tary school where hol­i­days were always a favorite top­ic; as a teenag­er and in col­lege where the pre­dom­i­nant theme was rela­tion­ships; and as an adult with a strong bent toward nature writ­ing.  And because poet­ry was always a big part of my life, I shared it with my daugh­ters, cul­ti­vat­ing a love of poet­ry in them that lasts to this day. 

Which books mat­tered most? There are so many — it’s hard to say. Here’s a small sam­pling, though, that made a dif­fer­ence for me.

As you see in the pho­to, my first book – the book at the top of the stack – has no cov­er and no spine. It did once, of course, but I have no mem­o­ry of that. I am sure it suf­fered wear and tear in my hands and the hands of my six sib­lings. It also endured many cross coun­try moves.

Why is this book spe­cial? This book was my mom’s when she was a lit­tle girl. It’s a 1938 edi­tion of 200 Best Poems for Boys and Girls com­piled by Mar­jorie Bar­rows for the Whit­man Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny. When this book was final­ly passed down to me, I didn’t give it up. 

As a girl, I read and reread the poems in this book. I mem­o­rized and recit­ed them. The book is full of well-known and less­er known children’s poems about frogs and trees and pirates and gob­lins. It made my imag­i­na­tion soar.  It also intro­duced me to the wry, clever poems of Ogden Nash whose “The Tale of Cus­tard the Drag­on” is still a favorite. It starts like this:

Belin­da lived in a lit­tle white house,
With a lit­tle black kit­ten and a lit­tle gray mouse,
And a lit­tle yel­low dog and a lit­tle red wagon,
And a realio, trulio, lit­tle pet dragon.

Now the name of the lit­tle black kit­ten was Ink,
And the lit­tle gray mouse, she called her Blink,
And the lit­tle yel­low dog was sharp as Mustard,
But the drag­on was a cow­ard, and she called him Custard. 

Tale of Custard the Dragon

As you might imag­ine, a rol­lick­ing sto­ry unfolds in this poem reveal­ing that all isn’t as it seems and Cus­tard plays a sur­pris­ing role! I love to share this poem with kids when I do school vis­its. It sparks laugh­ter and con­ver­sa­tion. Look it up, you’ll love it, too.

The next book in the stack was anoth­er child­hood favorite, A.A. Milne’s Now We Are Six. I long ago lost my own copy of this book (remem­ber the mul­ti­ple cross coun­try moves?). The one in the pho­to is the copy I bought for my daugh­ters when they were lit­tle.  I have mem­o­ries of sneak­ing away to a qui­et place with this and oth­er books — not an easy task in a house with sev­en kids.  Lucky for me, one of the last hous­es we lived in was a refur­bished board­ing house. It had a big walk in linen clos­et that I treat­ed as my per­son­al read­ing room. I’d gath­er my books, pull the string on the light fix­ture, shut the door against the noise, and lie among the blan­kets and pil­lows, relat­ing might­i­ly to Milne’s “Soli­tude”:

I have a house where I go
When there’s too many people,
I have a house where I go
Where no one can be;
I have a house where I go,
Where nobody ever says “No”;
Where no one says any­thing — so
There is no one but me.

The next two books in the pho­to are from a wide shelf of poet­ry books my hus­band and I shared with our daugh­ters as they grew up. The Ran­dom House Book of Poet­ry for Chil­dren includes poems by so many won­der­ful children’s poets. Its pages are dog-eared and smudged. We read it over and over. It makes me think of blan­kets and paja­mas and cud­dling on the couch. Good memories.

Our daugh­ters also loved every one of Shel Silverstein’s books. This copy of Where the Side­walk Ends (which long ago lost its dust jack­et) shows how well loved his books are. We still rem­i­nisce about our favorites. Does any­one remem­ber “Warn­ing” fea­tur­ing a Sharp Toothed Snail? My girls still laugh about that one. One of my favorites is “Hug O’ War”:

I will not play at tug o’war.
I’d rather play at hug o’war.
Where every­one hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where every­one giggles
And rolls on the rug.
Where every­one kisses,
And every­one grins,
And every­one cuddles,
And every­one wins. 

Not a bad sen­ti­ment for today’s times, huh!

The remain­ing books in the stack are impor­tant for many rea­sons. Among oth­er things, they rep­re­sent my love for read­ing and writ­ing nature poems. Morn­ing Earth is by John Cad­dy, a won­der­ful poet and nat­u­ral­ist who taught the first poet­ry class I dared take at The Loft. For years, John emailed a poem a day to teach­ers and class­rooms all over the world. In doing so, he made poet­ry — and nature — more acces­si­ble to kids. Here is one of his poems, titled “Novem­ber 26”:

In a snowy field
three jun­cos feed.
Their weight curves down
the stalks of weeds
as they pluck the fuel
the fire needs.

The next books in the stack, Poets of Boca Grande and Amethyst and Agate, con­tain poems from two of my favorite nat­ur­al places: Florida’s gulf coast and Lake Supe­ri­or.  I often buy poet­ry books when I travel.

The final books, The Cuckoo’s Haiku (a gift from a writer friend) and Song of the Water Boat­man, are books I use with stu­dents when I am vis­it­ing schools. Read­ing and writ­ing short poems is a great warm up exer­cise for young writ­ers. I also use these books as men­tor texts for my own writ­ing. If one day I could write one poem as love­ly as any of Joyce Sidman’s, I’d be thrilled.

So, that’s my stack. A small sam­pling, but I am sure you get the idea.  I love poet­ry – its spare lines and lush descrip­tion; its humor; the emo­tion it evokes. And I know read­ing and study­ing poet­ry help me write pic­ture books.  The notion that every word counts is true to both, as is the impor­tance of line breaks and page turns. 

I still love a good mys­tery. And if you know me, you’ve like­ly heard me rec­om­mend a mem­oir or two, but at the heart of all my read­ing, writ­ing, and inspi­ra­tion is poet­ry. I feel blessed to have it in my life. 


Sense of Wonder

The Sense of WonderIn her book A Sense of Won­der, Rachel Car­son wrote:

If I had influ­ence with the good fairy who is sup­posed to pre­side over the chris­ten­ing of all chil­dren, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of won­der so inde­struc­tible that it would last through­out life, as an unfail­ing anti­dote against the bore­dom and dis­en­chant­ments of lat­er years, the ster­ile pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with things that are arti­fi­cial, the alien­ation from the sources of our strength.

To a young child or a lis­ten­ing heart every­thing is a won­der. How do bees find the right flow­ers for nec­tar and pollen? How do birds find their hid­den migra­tion high­ways in the sky? How does a seed turn into a tree?

This month we want to write about children’s books that nour­ish that sense of won­der and get kids outside.

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the MeadowBut­ter­fly Eyes and Oth­er Secrets of the Mead­ow by Joyce Sid­man, illus­trat­ed by Beth Krommes, is itself a won­der of poet­ry and art. Two poems per dou­ble page spread, each of which ends with the ques­tion “What am I?” alter­nate with a dou­ble page spread that answers the ques­tions (although the art gives plen­ty of clues) and gives more infor­ma­tion about the rela­tion­ship between the two sub­jects of the pre­vi­ous poems. So spread with a poem about sleep­ing rab­bits and one about a hunt­ing fox is fol­lowed by a spread explain­ing how fox­es use their incred­i­ble hear­ing to hunt rab­bits and how baby rab­bits hide until they are ready to go out into the mead­ow on their own. (Their moth­er vis­its them only occa­sion­al­ly so as not to reveal their nest to preda­tors.) This book is a won­der­ful reminder to all of us to look close­ly, to pay attention.

We both love the poem in which the owl is apol­o­giz­ing for his sharp talons, keen eyes, silent wings, and hooked beak, not as one first thinks, because he is sor­ry to be a predator.

I’m so sor­ry. For you, that is.
All this works out quite well for me.

The com­bi­na­tion of ques­tion poems, expla­na­tion of the inter­con­nec­tions of species, and vivid, bril­liant art reveal the com­plex­i­ty of the mead­ow and make us want to ven­ture more often into the mead­ow, where a web of life as intri­cate as a spider’s wed exists.

The Salamander RoomThe Sala­man­der Room by Anne Maz­er, illus­trat­ed by Steve John­son, tells how a lit­tle boy Bri­an finds a sala­man­der in the woods and takes him home, where his moth­er asks him, “Where will he [the sala­man­der] sleep?”

Bri­an answers,

 “I will make him a sala­man­der bed to sleep in. I will cov­er him with leaves that are fresh and green, and bring moss that looks like lit­tle stars to be a pil­low for his head. I will bring crick­ets to sing him to sleep and bull­frogs to tell him good-night stories.”

To each of his mother’s ques­tions — Where will he play? What will he eat? — Bri­an tells how he will trans­form his room to make it a home for a sala­man­der and friends. Brian’s expla­na­tions and the lumi­nous art turn his room into a place for birds and bull­frogs with trees and ponds until he has lift­ed off the ceil­ing of his room. To the last ques­tion, “And you — where will you sleep?” Bri­an answers,

I will sleep on a bed under the stars, with the moon shin­ing through the green leaves of the trees; owls will hoot and crick­ets will sing; and next to me, on the boul­der with its head rest­ing on soft moss, the sala­man­der will sleep.”

He answers.

Who wouldn’t want to sleep in a sala­man­der room? Magical.

Wild BerriesWild Berries, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Julie Flett, one of our favorite authors and illus­tra­tors, tell how Grand­ma used to car­ry Clarence to pick wild berries and sing to him, but now he is big enough to car­ry his own buck­et, sing with Grand­ma, and pick berries with her tup tup.  [Flett so skill­ful­ly cap­tures the sound of berries drop­ping into a buck­et.] While they pick he and grand­ma eat berries until their lips turn pur­ple and Clarence observes the world around him.  An ant crawls up his leg, a spi­der spins a web, a fox sneaks past. He leaves berries on a leaf for the birds and oth­er ani­mals who say nanasko­mowak, Cree for thank you.

Each spread of this love­ly book includes Cree words print­ed in red in the same size font below the Eng­lish words in black. An end­note explains that this is Swampy Cree, one of sev­er­al dialects, and includes a pro­nun­ci­a­tion guide. A recipe for wild blue­ber­ry jam makes us wish it were ear­li­er in the sum­mer so we could go find some tart wild berries, pick them, and make jam.

Flett’s palette of greens, browns, blues, and soft yel­lows is punc­tu­at­ed by red on each page:  grandma’s red skirt, a red sun, red fox, red but­ter­flies, flow­ers, and red breast­ed birds that sing (nikamo) in the clearing.

Here again, we find the won­der of the nat­ur­al world. And the joy of look­ing closely.

Yellow TimeLau­ren Stringer’s Yel­low Time, illus­trat­ed by the author, is anoth­er lumi­nous book about fall and the turn­ing of leaves. The text describes yel­low time when the leaves all turn. It begins,

The squir­rels are too busy to notice.
And the geese have already gone.
Oth­er birds have left too,
But not the crows.
Crows love yel­low time.

So do the chil­dren, whom the art shows in increas­ing num­bers com­ing out to play, smelling the yel­low time air “like wet mud and dry grass with a sprin­kle of sug­ar,” run­ning in the swirling leaves, danc­ing in a whirl­wind of yellow.

Every­where fills
with yellow.
A symphony
of yellow.

 As the leaves all fall and the book winds down, the chil­dren return home, one by one with

bou­quets of yellow
to press in thick books
to remember…
what a love­ly yel­low time it was.

With lines and col­ors that swirl and with spare, poet­ic text, Stringer’s book is a sym­pho­ny to fall and the joy chil­dren take in leaves falling. And who is ever too old not to enjoy the swish of walk­ing through leaves?

Rab­bits, owls, sala­man­ders, berries, fox­es, leaves, crows, earth, trees, wind, sky: we are all related.

And isn’t that a wonder?


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




Peace is elu­sive. It is a goal of some peo­ple at some time in some parts of the world. As John Lennon wrote: “Imag­ine no pos­ses­sions / I won­der if you can / No need for greed or hunger / A broth­er­hood of man / Imag­ine all the peo­ple shar­ing all the world …” Is peace pos­si­ble? Do we give up because there will always be peo­ple who want pow­er, mon­ey, land … or just plain don’t like the kid next door?… more

Bank Street’s 2010 Choices

We eager­ly await the annu­al list of books cho­sen by the Bank Street Col­lege of Edu­ca­tion as books that work well with chil­dren from birth to age 14. Each year, the Chil­dren’s Book Com­mit­tee reviews over 6000 titles each year for accu­ra­cy and lit­er­ary qual­i­ty and con­sid­ers their emo­tion­al impact on chil­dren. It choos­es the best 600 books, both fic­tion and non­fic­tion, which it lists accord­ing to age and category.… more

Celebrating Earth Day

How did you cel­e­brate? How about your class­room? Your library? Your family? We went to Joyce Sid­man’s pub­li­ca­tion par­ty for Ubiq­ui­tous: Cel­e­brat­ing Nature’s Sur­vivors (Houghton Mif­flin), illus­trat­ed with linoleum block prints by Becky Prange, who lives in Ely, Min­neso­ta, and was trained as a sci­en­tif­ic illus­tra­tor. When Joyce explained how Becky cre­at­ed the amaz­ing time­line on the end­pa­pers of the book … well, there has to be a fair amount of genius in both the author and illus­tra­tor of this book.… more

Monday morning roundup

Hey, Joyce Sid­man, your new book, Ubiq­ui­tous, has done the Most Unusu­al … five starred reviews! In 2009, only 13 books received five starred reviews (if you’re curi­ous, check out the See­ing Stars 2009 doc­u­ment, stored on Radar, the CLN mem­bers’ home page). Book­list, The Horn Book, Kirkus Reviews, Pub­lish­ers Week­ly, and School Library Jour­nal all think so high­ly of this book, illus­trat­ed by Beck­ie Prange and pub­lished by Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, that they’ve giv­en Ubiq­ui­tous the cov­et­ed star.… more