Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Turtle Love

I love turtles and tortoises. We grew up with plenty of California desert tortoises in our backyard. That's me on the left feeding Mongo a humongous piece of juicy lettuce.
While it is still winter and all the tortoises are in hibernation, dreaming of spring blooms, I am settling down with a nice cup of ginger tea and reading Emma's Turtle to my toddler. She especially loves the imagery.

Illustrator Marsha Winborn is a graduate of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the illustrator of more than 35 books and she really knows how to bring a smile to a child's face. My little C loves her silly bugs and orange striped cat the best and I think the turtle and garden gnome are the sweetest.

Eve Bunting is the author and she is also a Caldecott Medal winner for her book, Smoky Night. She lives in Pasadena, California.
Emma's turtle lives in a backyard pen. He loves to listen to Emma's stories about far away lands and one day decides to see the world beyond his pen. He adventures only a few yards from his home and imagines he is in Australia, India and China. Turtles walk very slow and he is happy when he finds Emma who puts him back in his pen and feeds him strawberry slices. mmmm It's almost strawberry season!
Okay, here's one more picture of Mongo and I. I asked my mom if she could dig up a picture of me with a turtle and she sent 5! (It was a tough decision.) Mongo is still around and roaming freely in our parents' backyard. I wonder how old she is now........

Saturday, February 21, 2009

No, I want Daddy And Spring

Children change their allegiance like the weather especially if they don't get what they want. No, I want Daddy! written by Nadine Brun-Cosme and illustrated by Michel Backes wonderfully illustrates this childhood sentiment.

"Anna comes home from school feeling happy and full of plans." But her mama said no to candy, TV and no to a playdate. Mama was in a bad mood and Anna didn't understand why. So when Daddy comes home Anna is delighted and wants nothing to do with mama. She even sends her away at tuck in time. But Anna can't sleep. (OK as I'm writing this post my three year old hid this book so I would get off the computer, but now I've recovered it.) Anna can't sleep. She feels like crying as she watches the door. Then she sees mama's shadow and she feels much better. Mama apologizes that she was tired so she said no to everything. Tomorrow Anna can have her friend over. Mama reads a bedtime story and with a kiss and a hug, "Anna happily closes her eyes... and falls fast asleep." I really like to have books at home that describe/illustrate emotions for young children who may not yet have the words to explain feelings of rejection, remorse or discontent.

Discontent reminds me of the opening paragraph from The Wind in the Willows. After the torrential rains we've had here, the sun is shining and I'm watching spring flowers pop up everywhere. Welcome Spring!

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home.... Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.

Monday, February 16, 2009

President's Day

I am pleased to share this picture book which was sent to me by William Marks, the independent author/publisher of 3 wonderful books. He is also the father of 3 young children.

Rhyme is the ideal picture book to review on President's Day. It's the story of a pig named Rhyme who lives in the town of Muck. He is popular amongst the other pigs and gets elected to the Sty Council. Rhyme's slogan throughout the story becomes "Dirt Doesn't Hurt" and all the pigs are happy as he is successful in keeping the streets dirty. When Rhyme takes time off to move to another city, his archrival, Ulyses S. Grunt is elected Penator and cleans up the streets. The the pigs of Muck are unhappy. Rhyme realizes he misses his dirty town and returns to Muck. He defeats Grunt and is elected Penator and once again, the streets of Muck are dirty and every pig is joyful.

William Marks is the founder of MPC Press which stands for (Marks Publishing Company). It's always inspiring to know that" if you have a book that you want to print and can't find a publisher, you can always do it yourself." (quote taken from Will's interview at Book Bites for Kids on BlogtalkRadio). Also, if you have written a book and you are not an illustrator, Will suggests searching the internet for artists. That's how he found Erin Gennow.
Erin's watercolors are sweet and fun. It made me laugh to see all the shops and buildings she illustrated for the town of Muck with names like Boar-ders Books, the Church of Styentology and Pen-ny's Cafe.
Rhyme is a great book for teaching children about famous Presidential speeches. There is a glossary at the end with the original sources for Rhyme's famous speeches. For instance, Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address becomes the source for:

Four boars, whom some of you may know,
Found this land seven years ago.
Right here where you're sitting down,
They brought forth Muck, a new town-
Where every pig, every snout
Is created equal, none left out.
...So I say to this crowd:
Of Muck we shall all be proud

The speeches make it extra fun for parents to read aloud to their kids. Enjoy President's Day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Momma, Where Are You From?

In honor of February's Black History Month, I want to share Momma, Where Are You From? by Marie Bradby. The story is told as a mother's reply to her daughter's question about her childhood and is written in gorgeous, poetic, visual detail. "To get to where Momma comes from you have to travel through the roads of memory."

"I'm from Monday mornings washing loads of clothes in the wringing washer, " Momma begins. She recalls the cries of the fishermen selling croakers, the tunes of Ellington and Basie, and the bus that carried her older brothers and sisters way across town past school, after school, after school until it stopped at the school where all the students were brown- some light, some dark, and some in between.

This mother's story reminded me of Hampton Roads, Virginia, where the croaker fish are abundant in the Chesapeake Bay, the neighbors share green beans from their gardens and we kick the gumballs from the gumball trees on our walks to school. It turns out, the author, Marie Bradby is a graduate of Hampton University!

The local news has been celebrating the 50 year anniversary(not long ago) of the Norfolk 17. A time when, even after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, 151 transfer requests of black students to attend white schools were denied. However, the district court decided it would "grudgingly admit 17 of the 151 applicants to 6 of the city's all-white secondary schools." The schools were not happy with the decision and closed down until February 2, 1959 when the closings were ruled unconstitutional.
Chris Soentpiet has won more awards for his illustrations than any artist I know of. His watercolors are warm, glowingly gorgeous and humanly realistic. These are two of my favorite images. The little girl with the green beans reminded me of a super simple, tasty recipe that my dear friend Kim gave me. It was her Nana's who is from Portsmouth, VA:

Good Southern Green Beans
For every 1lb of green beans, (or 15.5 oz. can undrained)
add 1 tbsp. of white sugar
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. of butter
cook on low in a covered pot for 1-2 hours
check fluid regularly

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Bestest Lauren Child

I've been thinking this morning how much we LOVE Charlie and Lola, well all of Lauren Child's characters really. She is amazing because not only does she illustrate and write picture books, she is the associate producer of Disney's Charlie and Lola programming. We don't watch a lot of TV or videos because they distract from activity time and reading time but the Charlie and Lola program is so well done it's a natural transition from book to animated series. Other book characters have successfully made the transition. I'm thinking of Clifford, Curious George, and Martha the Talking Dog right now, but they are familiar cartoons while Charlie and Lola is animated mixed-media. Note: One of our favorite lift the flap books is Sizzles is Completely not here. And below is the Bestest clip... LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Charlie and Lola!