There was a tie for the top spot between two wonderful stand-alone titles! That’s right, a movie or TV tie-in did not take the top spot this year! Shocking, I know! But also pretty awesome!
The Library’s top circulating books were The Color Monster : A Story About Emotions and Sophie Johnson : Unicorn Expert. Both circulated 20 times. This may seem like a small number, but when you consider that each book may be checked out for up to 3 weeks (21 days), that 20 times means the top books were checked out over and over for the entire year!
Circulated 20 Times:
Of course, there are a couple of movie and TV tie-ins in the Top 10. Paw Patrol is on the list again this year with a book that made the list last year, and, in fact, Real Rescue Dogs circulated one time more this year than last.
And Llama Llama–from the Netflix series, not the book series–is on the list as well.
The rest of the Top 10 spotlights a terrific mix of picture books featuring ever-popular characters, such as penguins, trucks, and dinosaurs. Two surprising, but well deserving, titles made the list too: Tomie dePaola’s Quiet and Brian Lies’ The Rough Patch.Check out all of the covers below.
Circulated 19 Times:
Circulated 18 Times:
Circulated 17 Times:
What are the top circulating picture books at your local library?
Happy New Year, everyone! Let me take a moment to thank all of you for following my humble blog. I truly appreciate every Like, Comment, Share, and visit, and I hope you’ll continue to visit in 2020. I wish each of you a very happy, healthy, and successful new year! May 2020 be your year! Cheers!
Frog On A Blog will return soon with more picture book posts, so stay tuned.
I love picture books about dogs (I think I’ve mentioned that a time or two), so I’m super pleased to welcome author/illustrator Rob Biddulph to Frog on a Blog! Rob’s new picture book Odd Dog Out was just released December 3 by HarperCollins. Odd Dog Out features an adorable little dog who doesn’t feel like she belongs, so she sets off on a journey to find her place in the world.Rob’s stopped by today to share five literary dogs who have made an impact on his life.
Before we get to that, allow me to share three of my favorite dogs, one real, one literary, and one loved since childhood: my precious dog Java, Happy (from my book The Peddler’s Bed, illustrated by Bong Redila), and Sunshine (my stuffed dog in overalls, whom I received for Christmas when I was 7, and still have).
Now, let’s hear from Rob Biddulph, author and illustrator of Odd Dog Out!
5 Terrific Dogs In Children’s Books
by Rob Biddulph
Dingo Dog – Richard Scarry
Growing up, I loved reading anything and everything by Richard Scarry. His work has directly influenced me many times, particularly when I was working on Odd Dog Out. I tried really hard to cram as much detail into my artwork as he did in his. I love the idea that readers might spot something on the ninth or tenth read that they hadn’t noticed before. I would love trying to spot Dingo Dog, my favourite of his characters, as he zoomed through the pages of Storybook Dictionary or What Do People Do All Day?. He would always wear his white cowboy hat and drive his smart red sports car with sharks teeth painted on the front. I thought he was the coolest!
Snoopy – Charles M Schultz
One of my all-time favourites. He was, in turn, funny, selfish, wise, crazy and reckless. But, in my eyes, he was always loveable. I particularly liked his British World War I flying ace persona. I had a plush version of Snoopy that would sleep in my bed with me every night. In fact, I think I need to go up into my attic and see if I can find him. He must be lonely…
Odie – Jim Davis
I spent a large proportion of my childhood copying Jim Davis’s drawings of Garfield, Odie and Jon. I can still draw them perfectly now. When I speak to children on my book tours, I always advise them to have a go at copying their favourite cartoon characters from comic books or newspapers. Then I usually have to explain what a ‘newspaper’ is (!) but they eventually get the idea. I think that by working out how someone else draws a cat or a dog, it can really help when it comes to inventing your own characters. I always particularly enjoyed drawing Odie. That tongue! He’s just so loveable.
Dogger – Shirley Hughes
Dogger, the story of a little boy who loses his beloved toy dog at the school fair, is the first book I ever remember reading. In many ways, it has defined the art of storytelling for me ever since. I know from experience how difficult it is to squeeze a complete story arc into just twenty-eight pages, but Shirley Hughes somehow manages to take us on a journey through a huge range of emotions: happiness, excitement, worry, sadness and, ultimately, exhilaration. Rarely has the end of a story felt so satisfying. She also manages to throw in an element of mis-direction (we’re really not overly thrilled when Bella wins the bear) and hide a few visual clues as to what is going to happen within her wonderfully evocative illustrations. This makes the second read a very different experience to the first – something that is essential in a picture book that will, in all probability, be read night after night.
Fang – J K Rowling
Has there ever been a dog less appropriately named than this gentle giant? Well, actually, yes there has. Fluffy, the three-headed chap guarding the trapdoor leading to the underground chamber where the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone was hidden. I would have liked to have rehomed Fluffy. I think he just needed some love and affection.
After taking the world by storm with his first two picture books (Blown Away and The Grizzly Bear Who Lost His GRRRRR!), Rob Biddulph decided to blaze his own trail and is now a full-time author and illustrator. Rob Biddulph was the award-winning art director of Observer magazine.
When not working doggedly on creating his characters, he makes up stories for his three daughters and draws pictures to go with them. He lives and works in London, and his very first book, Blown Away, won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.
Thank you so much, Rob!
Happy Holidays everyone! And remember, picture books, such as Odd Dog Out, would make great Christmas gifts for the little ones on your list this year,especially dog lovers!
Title: So You Want a Puppy? Author: Raven Howell Illustrator: Ann Pilicer Publisher: Handersen Publishing Release Date: November 26, 2019 Format: Hardcover, Softcover Summary: Getting a new puppy or dog can be a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work, especially when the pup tracks muddy paw prints in the kitchen and chews on shoes. So You Want a Puppy? tells the story of a family welcoming a new dog into their home. The family learns how to train, care for, and share love with new dog Murray as they explore daily life adventures. This rhyming book for early & young readers is an introduction to pet care, responsibilities and joys. It is also a teaching resource for prospective pet owners, current pet owners – or any child who wants to learn more about dog behavior.
Are you a picture book writer? Or Illustrator? Would you like a chance to get your picture book manuscript or dummy critiqued by an industry professional: an experienced author, a professional illustrator, or a literary agent? If you answered YES! then you won’t want to miss Picture Book Critique Fest 2019, a one-time picture book critique giveaway, created by Brian Gehrlein, the brains behind the splendid site Picture Book Spotlight!Thirty-five winners will be selected and matched up with one of the thirty-five participating professionals (there are some big names here, folks) to receive a critique. This is an amazing opportunity! I’ll be applying; you should too. You only have until 9 AM CST on October 25th, so get going!Click the #PBCRITIQUEFEST logo above for more information.
Summary: If Monet Painted a Monster introduces readers to 16 different famous artists by showing how they might have painted a monster in their artistic style. Readers are then invited to create in their own unique way.
Hey, Everybody! I can’t believe this is my 200th Picture Books At The Library post! Time flies when you’re reading picture books. 🙂
To celebrate this milestone, I’m giving away two books to one lucky winner: A copy of my book The Peddler’s Bed and winner’s choice of one of the books I’ve featured in today’s post. All you need to do is leave a comment on this post (and reside in the U.S.) and I’ll choose a winner at random on September 30. Be sure to follow this blog so that I’ll have access to your email address and can contact you if you win.
Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win two books: The Peddler’s Bed, written by me, and a book of your choice from the titles listed in today’s post! I’ll choose a winner at random on September 30. Be sure to follow this blog so that I’ll have access to your email address and can contact you if you win. Good luck!(U.S. residents only)
Hello Frog on a Blog readers! With Halloween just around the corner, I decided it was the perfect time to feature something a little different today. Carlyn Beccia, author of MONSTROUS: The Lore, Gore, and Science behind your Favorite Monsters (a gorgeous nonfiction picture book for ages 9-14, which was released just last week) is here to share the spooky history and science behind el Chupacabra, a mysterious dog-like creature known throughout Puerto Rico and beyond.Read on. If you dare!!!
El Chupacabra: Beware of the Dog
by Carlyn Beccia
We are taught from an early age – don’t approach scary looking dogs, especially if we don’t know what kind of dog it is. In MONSTROUS: The Lore, Gore, and Science behind your Favorite Monsters I wrote about several cryptids – creatures whose existence have not been proven by the scientific community. Although no one seems to ever get a picture of Bigfoot, the Kraken or the Loch ness monster, there is one monster that is oddly not camera shy. Meet the legendary el Chupacabra.
The Chupacabra was first sighted in Puerto Rico in the 70’s with a wave of sightings then reoccurring in the late 1990s. During this time, livestock throughout Puerto Rico was found with its last drop of blood drained from its carcass. These Chupacabra or “goat-sucker” attacks caused panic with local residents who claimed a vampire was feeding on their livestock. Although descriptions have varied, most describe a hairless, alien-like monster about 4-5 feet tall with spikes going down its back and glowing red eyes.
Many believe this beast is a secret government project gone horribly wrong – possibly an escaped group of rhesus monkeys from Puerto Rico’s Monkey Island. Others have theorized the creature is the lost pet of aliens.
Several people got photos of this monster which begs the question; How could so many people be taking pictures of the same ugly doglike creature? The answer may be found in science…..
The Science behind the Chupacabra
The science community has a few theories to explain the legendary Chupacabra. One theory is that this monster is actually a manmade one. The Chupacabra could be a hybrid species created from inbreeding wolves, coyotes and dogs. This theory was confirmed in 2008 when History Channel’s MonsterQuest ran DNA analysis on a suspected Chupacabra. Their tests found a creature with a mix of chromosomes shared by coyotes and wolves.
Another and even more plausible theory is that these creatures are really coyotes suffering from Sarcoptic mange – an inflammatory skin condition caused by the itch-inducing mite Sarcoptes scabiei. Wolves, dogs, and coyotes infected with Sarcoptes scabiei will have extreme hair loss, skin shriveling and constricted blood vessels to the point of life-threatening fatigue. And while normally a coyote or wolf will have no problems hunting prey, once infected with mange, coyotes may choose to go after easier meals….such as livestock.
How to Survive the Chupacabra
In MONSTROUS: The Lore, Gore, and Science behind your Favorite Monsters I gave readers several tips on how to survive a werewolf attack. Fortunately, these tips can also be used with the Chupacabra because this monster most likely has canine ancestry.
You should also remember the signs that an angry werewolf, dog, or wolf is about to attack. Here is a helpful graphic from the book.
You can learn more about the science and origins of other monsters in MONSTROUS: The Lore, Gore, and Science behind your Favorite Monsters by Carlyn Beccia.
Carlyn Beccia (pronounced Betcha) is an author, illustrator and graphic designer with blood type B+ (in case any vampires are reading this). Beccia’s children’s books, including The Raucous Royals, I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat, and They Lost Their Heads have won numerous awards, including the Golden Kite Honor, the International Reading Association’s Children’s and Young Adult Book Award, and the Cybil Award. If you would like to know what she has in her zombie preparedness kit, visit her at www.CarlynBeccia.com or follow her on instagram.com/carlynbeccia.
Please welcome picture book author Stephanie Ward to Frog on a Blog. Stephanie is the author of Arabella and the Magic Pencil, which recently celebrated its book birthday. She’s also the author of Wally The Warm-Weather Penguin, an adorable book I reviewed a few years ago.
Stephanie’s here to share five terrific pencil-themed picture books, perfect for back-to-school time.Take a look!
by Stephanie Ward
The new school year is upon us and students are rushing back to their classrooms with shiny new supplies. So there’s no better time to take a moment to appreciate all the amazing writing instruments in those backpacks.
One of the first books I loved was Harold and the Purple Crayon. How amazing would it be to be able to draw whatever you need at the instant you need it?
Then, there was Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings – a children’s book series turned into a television program about a boy with a magic chalkboard that he entered into every day. Awesome!
Recently, of course, crayons have become a sensation when they went on strike (The Day the Crayons Quit) and eventually came back (The Day the Crayons Came Home).
But in 2019, the mighty pencil – and its often antagonistic eraser – is finally getting its moment.
When Pencil Met Eraser
Written by Karen Kilpatrick and Luis O. Ramos, Jr.
Illustrated by German Blanco
Ever wonder why there’s a little pink eraser on every pencil? Find out in this picture book that tells the true story of how Pencil and Eraser became the best of friends. When Pencil draws on the pages of this book, Eraser erases parts of Pencil’s work, and the book itself becomes a canvas for their different takes on creativity–until the two discover their artwork is even better when they work together.
Linus the Little Yellow Pencil
Written and illustrated by Scott Magoon
Linus and his eraser, Ernie, don’t always see eye to eye. But with the family art show drawing near, these two will have to sharpen their collaboration to make something neither one could do on their own!
Written by Susan Avingaq and Maren Vsetula
Illustrated by Charlene Chua
Susan and her sister, Rebecca, love watching their mother write letters to people in other camps. Their mother has one precious pencil, and she keeps it safe in her box for special things. One afternoon, Anaana leaves the iglu to help a neighbour, and Susan, Rebecca, and their brother Peter are left with their father. They play all their regular games but are soon out of things to do-until Ataata brings out the pencil!
Pencil’s Perfect Picture
Written by Jodi McKay
Illustrated by Juliana Motzko
Pencil is trying to draw the perfect picture for his dad. So, he asks his friends Brush, Pastel, Marker, Crayon, and Chalk what makes their art perfect. But they each have a different answer. How will Pencil be able to create his own perfect picture?
Arabella and the Magic Pencil
Written by Stephanie Ward
Illustrated by Shaney Hyde
Arabella is a beloved only child who has a picture perfect life until her brother, Avery, arrives. While she loves him, it’s sometimes hard to like him. She spends her days creating marvelous things with her magic pencil and ignoring him. But when Avery spoils a proper tea party, Arabella erases him from her life. Oops! How can she get him back?
My own book, Arabella and the Magic Pencil, was inspired by the humble pencil. Way back in eighth grade, my English teacher asked us to write a creative story. I looked down and saw a pencil on my desk and wrote about a girl whose magic pencil made everything she drew become real and everything she erased disappear forever. Today, that story sits alongside a slew of creative books about all the wonderful things a pencil (and eraser) can do.
“I believe that the combination of pencil and memory creates a kind of practical magic…” ― Stephen King, The Green Mile
Stephanie Ward is the author of Arabella and the Magic Pencil, illustrated by Shaney Hyde, published by EK Books in September 2019. Her next picture book is due for release in 2020 (stay tuned for details!). After many years in marketing, Stephanie now spends her time writing sweet, silly and sidesplitting stories for children. To find out more about her bookish activities, visit www.stephaniemward.com.
Title: FANTASTIC YOU Author: Danielle Dufayet Illustrator: Jennifer Zivoin Publisher: Magination Press Release Date: September 3, 2019 Format: Hardcover Summary: There’s one special person you get to spend your whole life with: YOU! Which means there’s no one you should take better care of! When you cheer yourself on and cheer yourself up, you make the world a happier place. Life is amazing when you share it with the people you love: family, friends, and always with YOU!
*Title: ARABELLA AND THE MAGIC PENCIL *Author: Stephanie Ward *Illustrator: Shaney Hyde *Publisher: EK Books *Release Date: September 1, 2019 (Australia/NZ – September 1 2019, USA/Canada – September 10, 2019, UK – September 12, 2019) *Format: Hardcover *Summary: Arabella is a beloved only child who has a picture perfect life, until her brother, Avery, arrives. While she loves him, of course, it’s sometimes hard to like him. When he spoils a proper tea party, Arabella erases him from her life for good. But things aren’t the same without him. How can she get him back? *Author’s Site:https://stephaniemward.com/
Do you have a children’s picture book coming out soon? I’d love to wish it a Happy Book Birthday here on Frog on a Blog! CLICK for more information.
Do you have a child who loves to watch the popular animated series PJ Masks? When you visit the library, does your child insist on checking out the PJ Masks picture books, every time? You know what I’m talking about–those small, thin, paperback books that take words and pictures directly from the TV series.
There are a lot of books like that-that were created from a popular children’s television series. But! What if I told you that in the case of PJ Masks, it was the TV series that came from books? No, not the paperbacks I mentioned earlier, but rather, a French book series called Les Pyjamasques. Ididn’t know that, you might be thinking. Neither did I, until children’s author Leslie Van Zee shared that interesting bit of info with me. And now, Leslie is here to share more about Les Pyjamasques with you.
Les Pyjamasques: A Sneaky Way to Get Your Children Interested in Learning French
by Leslie Van Zee
Hello, fellow Frog on a Blog Readers! As both an aspiring children’s author and a mom of two preschoolers, I’m an avid fan of picture books. But I also am a working mom, and I confess that my kids get a big dose of video time in addition to reading time.
To assuage my parental guilt over this, I try to at least monitor the programs they are consuming. In doing so I end up getting attached to some of the programs almost as much as my kids do. One of the series that we like in our house is the PJ Masks.
For those who aren’t familiar with them, the PJ Masks are a trio of preschool-aged children who acquire superpowers when they don their special pajamas. Then they go out into the night to thwart the plans of their mischievous arch-rivals.
My kids, ages 5 and 3, love the series. That said, I still would much rather have my little ones reading books, so I went looking to see if there were any picture books based on the series.
Lo and behold, the show is actually based on a series of picture books called Les Pyjamasques that have been popular in France for more than a decade.
Created by author-illustrator Romuald Racioppo, there are 25 books in the series, starting with Les Pyjamasques et le Grogarou (2007) and going all the way up to Les Pyjamasques et la momie d’Apophis, Tome II (2019).
All of the characters in the tv series are drawn from characters in the books, though the names are a little different. The main protagonists are:
Connor/Catboy from the tv series is known in the books as Yoyo by night.
Greg/Gekko is known as Gluglu by night.
Amaya/Owlette is known as Bibou by night, and in the earliest stories was actually a boy.
It is a shame that none of the Les Pyjamasques books have been translated into English, because they really are delightful. The illustrations are rich and full of detail and energy – much more painterly and organic in style than the cartoon series. The plots of each book are far less formulaic as well, and as a result share much more imaginative scenes and scenarios.
I also like that in the books the line between good and bad is more fluid. For example, in one story the Pyjamasques try to stop a gang of archrivals from breaking into a candy machine but then decide that they also want to eat candy and end up sharing the candy all together. I can’t help but adore these little quirks of realism. Yes, it’s good to encourage good morals and teamwork, but the tv series sometimes gets a little preachy about it.
To give you an idea of what the books are like, here is a review of the third book, Les Pyjamasques et Lilifée. Having since read all of the books online, I think this is a good representative of the series.
It’s a snowy night and a fairy-like creature named Lilifée is descending from the sky to make artistic creations with snow.
She is dainty and cultured, in contrast to the boisterous capers of the three masked little boys who intrude upon her scene.
Who are these masked acrobats of the night? They are Les Pyjamasques: Bibou, Gluglu and Yoyo (who are all three boys in the earliest books).
They are all captivated by her beauty and start vying for her attention. When their antics and one upmanship send a volley of snowballs at Lillifee’s snowman, it comes to life and climbs out of the snowbank to chase them.
Being Lillifee’s creation, however, the snowman is not as dangerous as he looks and just wants to present her with a lovely snow flower. This is the right way to win her favor, the Pyjamasques learn.
As with all the books, there are some very imaginative concepts here. I like the fact that Lilifée’s snowman is a copy of one of the giant head statues from Easter Island, and that the whole body is underneath it in the snow. The characters are very engaging, one can’t help but smile at their antics. The plot is well-paced for 3- to 5-year-olds, and the little twist at the end is very cute.
I’m not at all fluent in French, so I can’t speak much to the quality of Romuald’s prose. But it strikes me as very authentically French, such as in little details like Lilifée dismissing the Pyjamasque’s snowmen as works of bad taste.
I would encourage even non-French-fluent parents to consider hunting down a copy of one of these books. It is a great way to give your kids some exposure to a foreign language.
I have probably an intermediate-level understanding of French, and with that and handy Google Translate, I am able to figure out the gist of things well enough to satisfy my little ones, as evidenced by regular requests for these books at bedtime.
Leslie Van Zee is a mom, children’s author and former euphoniumist who lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay area. By day she develops corporate communications designed to resonate with grown up audiences, and by night she crafts stories to settle her kids in to bed that often get them too wound up to sleep. She loves fusion jazz, podcasts, and singing silly songs while doing housework. Visit her blog stories.leslievanzee.com for more book reviews, original stories and thoughts on balancing work and parenting.
Thank you for stopping by, Leslie! This was so interesting, and I especially like the original illustrations by Romuald Racioppo. Lovely!
Summary: Trucker, the big rig, loves to rule the road with his size, strength, and mighty horn. The other vehicles swerve and shake as Trucker blasts past, expecting them to follow along in awe. Then Trucker meets the louder, stronger, and kinder Train. He sees how the other vehicles gleam and swoon when Train is around. And he wonders, Why don’t they ever gleam at me?Trucker just wants Train to go away . . . until a broken railroad crossing signal changes everything. Can Trucker use his size and strength for the good of his fellow vehicles before it’s too late?
I realized recently that I don’t feature nonfiction picture books or picture book biographies as often as I do fiction picture books here on the Frog. I have a pretty good excuse. Fiction picture books are what I mostly write and, therefore, what I mostly read. So, it makes sense that fiction is what I would mostly share.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of spectacular and inspiring nonfiction picture books, including biographies, out there. Today, I’m thrilled to welcome award winning author Nancy Churnin! Her wonderful books are all about “outsiders, people that the kids don’t know that I hope will inspire them — people who are different or think differently and find that it’s their different experience or different way of thinking that helps them achieve their dreams and make the world a better place for others.”
Read on for more on this important topic and to meet the inspirational people in Nancy’s books!
Stories That Remind Kids Your Difference May Be What The World Is Waiting For
by Nancy Churnin
After selling eight picture book biographies – six published, two due out in 2020 – it strikes me that the common experience all these diverse subjects share is that they felt different, which leaves them at the start of their journey feeling as if they don’t belong.
Ultimately, through their journey they learn that their difference is their strength – the gift that they bring to the world that makes it more inclusive, that opens the door for others and, ultimately, makes their lives and everyone else’s better.
The truth of it is, as I tell kids on school visits, is that we are all different. Some of us (I remember feeling this way) go through periods where we wonder if we are aliens, because we feel as if we’re wired so differently from everyone else.
Even identical twins are not 100% identical. Too often we waste time being self-conscious about those differences – wishing for straight or curly hair, to be bigger or smaller, to have some admired one’s speed, skills, talent in a particular area.
But ultimately, if we embrace rather than agonize over our differences – whether they’re physical or emotional or even a different way of thinking or processing the world – we may find that we have the missing ingredient that the world needs.
In The William Hoy Story, How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game, kids learn about a Deaf child who was told he couldn’t play baseball because he was Deaf and couldn’t hear the umpire’s calls. The key to William’s story is that his Deafness isn’t a disability. In the book, as in life, William is proud of being Deaf.
Ultimately, William gets the idea of teaching the umpires his language, sign language, for safe and out so he can play the game he loves. Sign language helps break down a wall between the Deaf and the hearing and it makes the game better for everyone because now, even the farthest member of the crowd can see the signs.
It gives me an excuse to teach kids a few simple signs, too, which is always a hit.
In Manjhi Moves a Mountain, we have an ordinary laborer, who sees things differently and is willing to act on his vision to make it come true. Where his neighbors see an impenetrable 300-foot mountain between them and the well-to-do village where there is a school, doctors, work in the fields and markets for food, he envisions a road that cuts through the mountain, making the path easier for everyone.
People laugh at him when he trades his only possessions, three goats, for a worn hammer and chisel and starts chiseling the mountain. Twenty-two years later, when the path is completed, they recognize and applaud his heroism, while children see how important it is to hold fast to your dreams and persist in pursuing them even if others tell you they’re unattainable.
Like William Hoy and Manjhi, Charlie Sifford, the hero of Charlie Takes His Shot, How Charlie Sifford Broke the Color Barrier in Golf, has an unlikely dream. Charlie grows up in the segregated America of the 1930s-1950s where African Americans were not allowed to play on the PGA Tour. The color of his skin makes him different among golfers. At the same time he knows that he has the opportunity, if he persists, to open the door to make the game possible for everyone to play just as his friend, Jackie Robinson did for everyone who wanted to play Major League Baseball.
Later, in the back matter, kids will learn that Charlie Sifford was the one who opened the door that golf superstar Tiger Woods walked through. I also like to share with kids that Tiger Woods named one of his children Charlie in his honor.
In Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing, Irving Berlin didn’t excel at school. But he had the unusual ability to process the world through sounds. And nothing could stop him from writing the music he heard in his head and pounded in his heart. He was an immigrant, he grew up in poverty and he never learned to read music. He taught himself to pick out tunes on an old piano. Later, he hired a pianist to write the notes for the music in his head.
He used his gifts not only to enrich America musically, by creating songs we still love today, but by dedicating royalties of “God Bless America” to the children of his beloved country by designating them for the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.
Charlotte of The Queen and the First Christmas Tree was a queen, but what I emphasize in the book is how she was a royal who was different from other royals. She didn’t like dressing up or going to fancy balls. Instead, she loved taking care of children and helping her garden grow. She not only became the first royal who made charitable giving part of royal duties, she introduced the first Christmas tree to England in an effort to delight 100 children attending a party at Windsor Castle in 1800.
And now, my new book, Martin & Anne, the Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank, tells the parallel stories of two people of different genders, races, religions and countries who were born in the same year, 1929, and whose hearts beat with the same hope for a better, kinder world where “all babies would be seen as beautiful. As all babies are.”
Both Martin and Anne lived in a world filled with hate, anger, fear and unfairness, but they had a different view of what the world could be. They used their words to articulate a vision of love and opportunity for all. And while both were taken from us before their time, in this year, which would have marked their 90th birthdays, their words, vision and heart continue to inspire.
It’s my hope that kids who feel different, who worry that no one gets them, who feel like outsiders, will find kindred spirits in these books that celebrate our differences as the very thing that propel humans as a group further along in our journey toward the light.
For more about Nancy Churnin and her books, visit: