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.… more
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… .”
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.… more
In 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.… more
Watching birds is one of the joys of the outdoor year (or the indoor year, given the right window placement). Emily Dickinson notes the “independent ecstasy” of their songs. And we can discern personalities in certain birds. Jays will peremptorily take over a feeding station. Chickadees perkily fly in for a seed or two or a sip of water.… more
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.… more
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
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
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