Banning Books

Red A Crayon's Story
This month we had planned to write about several books we love that have been banned, but we realized that along with giving you a list of banned books we really wanted to write about the current tsunami of book banning in our country.

Library Love

When the Babies Came to Stay Christine McDonnell
Libraries! We want to look at books about these magical places, portals to our world, our selves, and other worlds and selves we might become.

Poets and Picture Books

How to Write a Poem
Poets and picture book writers both know the weight of a word, the sound of a syllable, the turn of a line, and they both know that every word matters.

All about Green in the Middle of Winter: Trees

The Leaf Detective
In the cold, white of winter, we find ourselves occasionally thinking of green woods, tall trees, and the busy sounds of birds and squirrels.

Art Will Out

Ablaze with Color
This month we have been thinking about the mysteries of the visual arts—how some artists must create, no matter the circumstances.

Sharing Wonder: April Pulley Sayre

Trout Are Made of Trees
We have been thinking about wonder—about the fascination we have for the beauty, the intricacy, the mystery of the workings of the natural world.

Celebrating Black Women in the U.S.

Shirley Chisholm Dared
We feel called this month to celebrate the many accomplishments of Black women in this country — some of whom are historical icons, too many of whom we have we have never heard of.

Refugees

Dreamers
Heard on the news: “No one wants to be a refugee.” Here's a look at four picture books that share the refugee experience with young readers.

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson: Voices from History

Almost to Freedom
Books have been a part of Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s life since the day she was born. “My mother found my name in a novel she was reading,” Nelson says. Books and family and history form a thread through many of Nelson’s award-winning picture books.

Julius Lester

Sam and the Tigers
Julius Lester loved language and he loved story. Language, Lester wrote, is not just words and what they mean; music and rhythm are also part of the meaning.  Just reading his books for children makes us want to read them out loud to hear that music and rhythm along with his gift for putting words together.

Carole Boston Weatherford

Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom
Carole Boston Weatherford has been writing since she was in first grade. Her father taught printing and was able to publish those early stories. Weatherford has written dozens of picture books for young readers — and all readers. We cannot be exhaustive here, but we can introduce you to this wonderful writer.

Ashley Bryan: Brave for Life

Beautiful Blackbird
Ashley Bryan's life has been so full of making children’s books and there are so many wonderful children’s books that we can only call out a few—a few enticements, and encourage you to take yourself on a wonderful journey into Ashley Bryan’s world.

In the Neighborhood of Eloise Greenfield

The Great Migration: Journey to the North
Eloise Green­field In this sea­son of gift-giv­ing we want to look at the gift of poet­ry, specif­i­cal­ly the poet­ry and writ­ing of Eloise Green­field. Since pub­lish­ing her first poem in 1962, she has writ­ten more than forty-five books for chil­dren and was the recip­i­ent of the 2018 Coret­ta Scott King Vir­ginia Hamil­ton Award for Life­time Achieve­ment.
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Catherine Urdahl and Her Reading Team
December 2020

cover image
Rais­ing Star Read­ers is delight­ed to intro­duce a new Read­ing Team, this one led by children’s book author Cather­ine Urdahl. Here, Cather­ine shares some heart­warm­ing read­ing moments, with enough book-love and remem­bered sum­mer sun­shine to take the chill out of the cold­est of Decem­ber winds:
Juni and Catherine I read to my daugh­ters from the time they were infants, and now I have the joy of read­ing to my two-year-old grand­daugh­ter Juni and my new grand­son Col­by.
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We Are Grateful

You Hold Me Up
We have to con­fess to book envy — that is encoun­ter­ing a pic­ture book and wish­ing that we had writ­ten it. The book’s approach is so arrest­ing, the heart of the book so big, the images so rich. Such books not only make us wish we’d done them, they change what we want to do and what we can do.
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Javaka Steptoe

Radiant Child
Though our focus this month is on Javaka Steptoe, we want to begin this column with another book by his father, John Steptoe, Daddy is a Monster…Sometimes. This book is narrated by two children, Bweela and Javaka, who begin, “We are Bweela and Javaka and we have a daddy. He’s a nice daddy and all, but he got somethin’ wrong with him… .”

John Steptoe’s Beautiful Books

Stev
This month we want to celebrate the work of John Steptoe, brilliant artist and writer, who was born on September 14, 1950. His work is a year-round birthday present to all of us.

The Very Amazing Eric Carle

The Grouchy Ladybug
Phyl­lis: Spring is final­ly here, and the pol­li­na­tors are buzzing in the blos­soms, so we thought we’d write about bugs this month. Plus, we’ve just fin­ished a book with our good friend and fel­low writer Liza Ketchum about the rusty-patched bum­ble­bee, the first bum­ble­bee to be list­ed as endan­gered. Once we start­ed look­ing for bug­gy books, we found so many by Eric Car­le, from very hun­gry cater­pil­lars to very grouchy lady­bugs to very lone­ly fire­flies that we decid­ed to look at his body of work.… more

Books about Baking Up Family Time

Jack­ie: We decid­ed to hon­or the nation’s new­found love of bak­ing with a col­umn on pic­ture books focused on bak­ing. We still don’t have libraries (a great ben­e­fit of this con­fine­ment is the reminder of how spe­cial and nec­es­sary are libraries in our lives) so we are lim­it­ed to books we can find read aloud on Youtube.… more

Just Spring

Duck in the Truck
Phyl­lis: e.e. cum­mings said it best when he described the world as mud-lus­cious and pud­dle-won­der­ful. Snow melts and runs bab­bling away, days length­en, green sprouts of skunk cab­bage and rhubarb poke out. This month we are look­ing at mud­dy, squishy, rainy, wet sto­ries in hon­or of spring. Mud by Mary Lyn Ray, illus­trat­ed by Lau­ren Stringer, begins, “One night it hap­pens.…… more

Tree Talk

We have been think­ing of trees — green, leafy, bloom­ing, buzzing trees. It’s not that we’re tired of win­ter. We love win­ter. Phyl­lis even has snow­shoes — and uses them! Jack­ie loves walk­ing in the snowy qui­et and the near­ly mono­chro­mat­ic land­scape. We both love can­dles, sweaters, and hot soup. But every now and then we think of green.… more

A Blizzard of Snow Books

Snowflake Bentley
We’re snowed under right now, what with teach­ing and writ­ing and, well, snow, so we thought we’d offer up a bliz­zard of books about the white stuff that falls from our skies.  Curl up with a child, a cup of warmth, and enjoy win­ter in the pages of a book. The Snow Par­ty by Beat­rice Schenk De Reg­niers and Ber­nice Myers A lone­ly woman who lives with her hus­band on a Dako­ta farm wish­es for a par­ty. … more

Celebrating Winter Celebrations

Phyl­lis: Win­ter has come down like a snowy blan­ket, and ani­mals in our world have migrat­ed, hiber­nat­ed, or are shiv­er­ing their way through the months ahead. But ani­mals in pic­ture books have oth­er ideas. Why not be a part of December’s cel­e­bra­tions of Hanukkah, Christ­mas, Sol­stice or help a friend in frozen need? These books make us feel as cozy as a cup of tea, a light­ed tree.… more

Cookies

Mr. Cookie Baker
Jack­ie: Novem­ber is a month to cel­e­brate food and fam­i­ly, to cel­e­brate mak­ing meals and eat­ing togeth­er. Phyl­lis and I both love pie. And we often review pie books in Novem­ber but we are run­ning out of pie sto­ries. (Writ­ers out there: more pie sto­ries, please.) So, this year we decid­ed to look for cook­ie sto­ries. Who doesn’t love a cook­ie?… more

Celebrating the Square Pegs

This month the two of us are actu­al­ly in the same place at the same time, and we’re hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion about square pegs. We are all not just square pegs and round pegs. We are tri­an­gles, pen­tagons, hexa­gon, oval, rhom­boids, stars. There are shapes for every­one and places, too, where each of us fits best. But we all know what being a square peg means.… more

Friends, Friends

Jerome By Heart
Jack­ie: We two friends have been doing this blog since 2015. Yet, we’ve nev­er done a col­umn on books about friends. We know there are many, and many clas­sics, such as the always-sat­is­fy­ing Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel, or William Steig’s Amos and Boris, or James Marshall’s George and Martha. But today we want to look at three, one by one of our favorite writ­ers Lucille Clifton.… more

The Lost Forest

The Lost Forest
How many books can you name that are about sur­vey­ing … and a mys­tery? I know. Right? And yet we see sur­vey­ors every day in fields, on busy street cor­ners, and in our neigh­bor­hoods. What are they doing? Would it sur­prise you to know that near­ly every acre of your state has been sur­veyed? That knowl­edge about those acres is record­ed on plat books and maps that peo­ple in gov­ern­ment and com­merce con­sult all the time?… more

Weathering Weather

Come On, Rain!
Phyl­lis: Min­neso­ta has had a win­ter full of weath­er this year. We’ve just fin­ished the snowiest Feb­ru­ary on record, and now March is blow­ing down on us with the promised of wind and rain and (most like­ly) still more snow. An anony­mous British poet wrote of the weath­er, “We’ll weath­er the weath­er what­ev­er the weath­er.” We decid­ed to not only weath­er the weath­er but to cel­e­brate it with a few weath­ery pic­ture books.… more

Making Something Out of Nothing

Thank You, Omu!
Jack­ie: We are in cold, cold win­ter. Too cold to read seed cat­a­logs – spring just seems too far away to imag­ine frag­ile green. We are con­fined to cab­in. What to do but think of repur­pos­ing, mak­ing some­thing out of noth­ing, or next to nothing? Stone Soup by Mar­cia Brown has always been one of my favorite some­thing-out-of-noth­ing (or at least some­thing out of stones) sto­ries.… more

Knit One, Purl Two

Too Many Mittens
Phyl­lis: Two sticks and some string. That’s the most basic def­i­n­i­tion of knit­ting. The sticks might be met­al or wood. The string might be yarn or flax. But in the hands of a knit­ter, even an unskilled one such as I, they become magic. In the chilly months, we bun­dle up in cozy sweaters, snug mit­tens, hats that hug our heads.… more

My Little Love-One, What Shall I Sing:
Looking at Lullabies

Hush!
Phyl­lis: Win­ter in the north is made of longer and longer nights. What bet­ter time to think about lul­la­bies, those songs we sing to our babies to help them sleep? Research has shown how sim­i­lar lul­la­bies are all around the world in the sounds and rhythms they use to soothe babies. So we thought we’d take a trip with some of those lul­la­by books, and a few more besides.… more

Pie and Gratitude

Novem­ber is a month of grat­i­tude — and, for us, a month to cel­e­brate Pie. We all have a favorite. Many of us have child­hood mem­o­ries of good times and pie. We all wait for the days when we can eat pie for break­fast. So we two thought this would be the per­fect month to look at pic­ture books about pie.… more

Lucille Clifton: All About Love

Poet Lucille Clifton in a 1998 inter­view “Doing What You Will Do,” pub­lished in Sleep­ing with One Eye Open: Women Writ­ers and the Art of Sur­vival, said, “I think the oral tra­di­tion is the one which is most inter­est­ing to me and the voice in which I like to speak.” Asked about the most impor­tant aspect of her craft, she answered, “For me, sound … sound, the music of a poem, the feel­ing are most impor­tant.… more

Taking Time for a Close Look

Woodpecker Wham!
Jack­ie: Phyl­lis is on the road with her beau­ti­ful and infor­ma­tive new book Search­ing for Minnesota’s Native Wild­flow­ers. [While Phyl­lis is out of the room, I will say that I love this book. It makes me want to get out and find flow­ers. Iowa has many plants in com­mon with Min­neso­ta and I look for­ward to tromp­ing with Phyl­lis and Kelly.)… more

Summoning Spring

Jack­ie: Spring is a lit­tle late com­ing to the Mid­west this year. But we can remem­ber sun­ny days with vio­lets and tril­li­um bloom­ing and rainy days that turn the grass green (instead of the snow we con­tin­ue to get in mid-April). Rainy days make us think of ducks and we are going to beck­on reluc­tant spring with sto­ries of ducks.… more

Dearie Darling Cuddle Hug: A Tribute to Wendy Watson

When our chil­dren were young we both spent many hours with them pour­ing over Wendy Wat­son’s illus­tra­tions for her sis­ter Clyde’s rhymes in Father Fox’s Pen­nyrhymes and delight­ing in the sounds and the silli­ness of the rhymes them­selves. We felt as though we had lost a per­son­al friend when Wendy Wat­son died, even though we had nev­er met her.… more

Spend the Day with Arnold Lobel

Phyl­lis: Feb­ru­ary is the month of valen­tines and lovers, and we spent a day (through his books) with some­one we love: Arnold Lobel. He wrote easy read­er sto­ries that help chil­dren crack the code of read­ing, give them fun sto­ries with char­ac­ters who remind us of peo­ple we know and that give read­ers of all ages plen­ty to think about.… more

Let It Snow!

Katy and the Big 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. When my grown daugh­ter saw a copy of Katy and the Big Snow by Vir­ginia Lee Bur­ton on my book­shelf, she cried, “Oh!… more

Pie Season

How to Make Apple Pie and See the World
Jack­ie: This is grat­i­tude sea­son and that is a good reminder. Many of us have plen­ty to be grate­ful for and we often for­get that while wait­ing for the next good things. It’s also Pie Sea­son. It is the one time of the year at my house when we have no holds barred on pie. Every­one gets to have a favorite at Thanks­giv­ing.… more

To Bee or Not to Bee

Jack­ie:  It’s good to be back on this blog this month. We took a nec­es­sary break, but can­not be away from talk­ing about books for too long. The pres­sure builds… Phyl­lis is busy writ­ing in the North Woods, so I am bee-side myself with enthu­si­asm for doing this blog. We have a make-shift bird­bath on our deck, next to our hum­ming­bird and ori­ole feed­ers, and this sum­mer the bees have found the bird bath.… more

The Funny and the Heart

Jack­ie: Recent­ly Phyl­lis and I read a heart-break­ing col­umn in The New York Times, writ­ten by author Amy Krouse Rosen­thal, who wrote many children’s books, and a cou­ple of books for adults. The col­umn, writ­ten as a love-note to her hus­band from a dying wife, was heart­felt, sad, and fun­ny all at the same time. We both wished we had known Amy Krouse Rosen­thal.… more

March Shorts

If You Were the Moon
Oooo! Here in Min­neso­ta, shorts in March mean chills. These books will give you chills – in a good way! Cat 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.… more

Our Hearts Will Hold Us Up

More, More, More Said the Baby
Jack­ie: It seems per­fect­ly appro­pri­ate that the Man­ag­er of Hol­i­day Place­ment  has placed Valentine’s Day, a day to cel­e­brate love and affec­tion, right in the mid­dle of cold, dark Feb­ru­ary. I want that cel­e­bra­tion to spread out for the whole month (why not the whole year?) the way the smell of bak­ing bread fills an entire house, not just the kitchen.… more

The Books in the Night

Night on Neighborhood Street
Phyl­lis: Night means many things: the ter­ri­fy­ing dark­ness behind the garage where I had to car­ry the garbage after sup­per as a child, the dark night of the soul that depres­sion brings, the hours between sun­set and sun­rise that grow longer and longer as our earth turns into win­ter. But night holds com­fort as well as fear, and this month we want to look at books about the gifts that night and dark­ness can bring.… more

William Steig and Transmogrification

Doctor De Soto
Jack­ie: After Phyl­lis and I read Amos and Boris for our last month’s arti­cle on boats we both won­dered why we hadn’t looked at the work of William Steig. He so often exe­cutes that very sat­is­fy­ing com­bi­na­tion of humor and heart. Steig’s lan­guage is fun­ny but his sto­ries reg­u­lar­ly involve wor­ri­some sep­a­ra­tion and then return to a lov­ing family.… more

Coming Home to Safe Harbor

Phyl­lis: This sum­mer I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to sail for a week in Lake Supe­ri­or, so we are turn­ing our thoughts to books about the sea (includ­ing the great inland sea that bor­ders Min­neso­ta, so vast it makes its own weath­er).  If we can’t go sail­ing right now, we can at least read about it in a fleet of good pic­ture books.… more

One North Star, Three Creative Artists

One North Star
Bet­sy Bowen’s book, Antler Bear Canoe: a North­woods Alpha­bet, has been a favorite alpha­bet book for the last 25 years, remind­ing every read­er about the things they love in their unique environment. Now, a count­ing book will sit allur­ing­ly on the book­shelf next to that title. One North Star: a Count­ing Book (Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press) has been writ­ten by Phyl­lis Root, and illus­trat­ed with wood­cuts by Bet­sy Bowen and Beck­ie Prange.… more

A Few Tall Tales from the Land of Rampaging Zucchini

Jack­ie:  Phyl­lis, the zuc­chi­ni seeds you gave me have grown into a plant that knocked on our back door this morn­ing. I gave it cof­fee and it retreat­ed to the yard, head­ing toward the alley. When I was a kid one of my favorite sto­ries was the tall tale of Paul Bun­yan. I laughed at the exag­ger­a­tion, the total wack­i­ness of an ox so large his foot­prints made the Great Lakes.… more

Tomi Ungerer: Far Out Toward the Heart

Tomi Ungerer
Phyl­lis: Tomi Unger­er has writ­ten and illus­trat­ed over 30 books for chil­dren, along with over 100 oth­er books. I didn’t know much about him until Jack­ie sug­gest­ed we do a blog on him, and I’m so glad she did. I came home from the library with a stack of his books, which range wide­ly from the ridicu­lous to the mysterious.… more

Gardening and Farming Delights

Farmer Duck
  Jack­ie: At last — we made it to spring and all the usu­al accou­trements have shown up — lilacs, vio­lets, the smell of apple blos­soms, and thoughts of sprout­ing seeds and grow­ing veg­eta­bles.  How could we not look at pic­ture books about gar­dens and farm­ing this month? I have to con­fess, Phyl­lis, I did not know of Miss Jaster’s Gar­den, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by N.… more