Book Review MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS: A Teacher And Writer’s Perspective by Laura Roettiger

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Everything about the book Maximillian Villainous (Running Press Kids, 2018) made me know it was going to be a hit at school. To be honest, I was excited to find this book at the library and I knew my enthusiasm would add to their interest. The title alone captured the imagination of the children who wanted to know more about this villainous monster. But wait, Max isn’t a villain! And right away, the author had us engaging with the main character.

The class of second and third graders may not know about the rule of three, expertly employed by author Margaret Chiu Greanias, but they sure appreciated the way it was woven into the story. The three tasks for Max: “1. Steal something 2. Make someone cry 3. Gain fame by being devious” are cleverly highlighted in the illustrations so that children focused on the list. We even compared it to the classroom rules, which was fun and another way to interact with the story. Of course, the students explained the tasks were the opposite of what they should be, demonstrating that the author and illustrator did a great job engaging the readers early in the story.

As a picture book writer, I’ve been studying different aspects of craft and I know how important page turns are. This book is a model of page turns done well. I’d like to mention two excellent examples. The first that attracted attention (read children needed to chime in with their predictions) involved the bunnies digging in the Sandman’s stash of magic sleeping dust. Many of the children knew what would come next. The other is when Max has an idea, complete with the villainous “Mua-ha-Ha!” This was definitely the class’s favorite part of the book (read everyone was making the sound and believed Max was turning into a villain like the rest of his family.) Well played, Margaret!

The illustrations (by Lesley Breen Withrow) in Maximillian Villainous are fantastic. They are colorful, full of wonderful detail, but not too busy, and whimsical, matching the tone of the story. Even the way the Illustrations were laid out on the pages and the use of signs and notes created a high level of interest for the children and for me.

This book definitely earns 5 stars from me because it’s got humor and heart on every page. Additionally, it allowed for a fun reading lesson learning about problem and solution in a story where they weren’t as obvious as in many books. This helped me know what the children understood and which ones needed more help. It is more proof that picture books are excellent vehicles for learning.

Laura R

Laura Roettiger is the author of the picture book Aliana Reaches for the Moon (Eifrig Publishing, 2019) She has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where she worked in Environmental Education and is now a mentor for reading and writing at a STEM school. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and letting them know she believes in them. Laura has three children of her own, all of whom were led by curiosity and creativity into STEM-related professions. Laura is also a part of #PictureBookBuzz, a group of authors with books being released in 2019.

Find Laura on Twitter @ljrwritenow and at her website LauraRoettigerBooks.com.

CNY Literary Festival

Library Logo

The Community Library of DeWitt & Jamesville is hosting its 1st CNY Literary Festival on Friday, November 30 from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm.

• Meet more than 30 local authors
• Author readings from select works
• Book signings
• Light refreshments
• Giveaways

Join me for a celebration of local authors and participate in a community experience that encourages the love of reading, writing, and the value of literacy in our community. The event is for all ages, with 38 authors of fiction, narrative nonfiction, and children’s books looking forward to chatting with you. (psst! Bruce Coville is scheduled to appear!)

With Christmas just around the corner, there’s sure to be a book to suit the taste of everyone on your list!

The Community Library of DeWitt & Jamesville is conveniently located at 5110 Jamesville Road, a short distance from 481 Exit 2. The Library’s CNY Literary Festival is generously sponsored by Community Bank N.A., DeWitt Office.

As an employee of the Library, I’ll be working at the festival, as well as participating as an author. I hope to see you there, too! 🙂

Random Pic Of Cuteness: Writing Prompt #7

Just for fun, I’m sharing–at random–cute photos to inspire your picture book writing. Perhaps a picture will spark an idea for a character, setting, or even an entire story. Have fun!

Frog

*All photos are available in the public domain (or were taken by me), and are free to use and share.

 

Picture Books At The Library 170

At The Library Too

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

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GIRAFFE PROBLEMS: A giraffe goes on and on about how awful his neck is until he meets another animal who needs his help.

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HOW TO BE A T. REX: When Sal grows up, she’s going to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex because being human can be a real drag.

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HEY, WALL: Armed with pencils, paints, dreams, and Grandma Addy’s memories of how beautiful the neighborhood once was, Angel and others paint the cold, empty wall.

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THIS IS A CIRCLE: Circles and squares are introduced as a most unusual group of friends sings, sails, huffs, and puffs. Fun!

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A DOG NAMED HAKU: During a Hindu festival in Kathmandu, Nepal, brothers Alu and Bhalu search for a dog they can honor with food and gratitude.

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ERASER: Eraser is tired of cleaning up everyone else’s mistakes and wants to create instead.

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AN UNLIKELY BALLERINA: A small, frail girl with wobbly legs and turned-out toes becomes the first Jewish prima ballerina assoluta in history.

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CROW NOT CROW: A girl accompanies her father for the first time on a birding expedition and learns how to identify several birds.

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THE REMEMBER BALLOONS: James has a bunch of balloons, each of which holds a special memory, but he notices that as his grandfather ages, he loses balloons, while James gains new ones.

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KITTEN AND THE NIGHT WATCHMAN: Being a night watchman is a lonely job, especially when you’re away from your family.

Laura’s Book Reviews: Catalina and the King’s Wall AND Mela and the Elephant

Please welcome author and teacher (and Frog on a Blog follower) Laura Roettiger! Laura is the author of the forthcoming picture book Aliana Reaches for the Moon. She’s also a mentor for reading and writing at a STEM school in Colorado. She likes to use books in pairs or threes to encourage her students to make connections by comparing and contrasting them.

Today, Laura shares two books that celebrate kindness in very different ways.

I love the idea of reviewing two or more books on the same theme together. And books on kindness are some of my favorites. But what makes Laura’s reviews really special is that she’s shared the books with her students and has based her reviews, partially, on their responses to the books. As she says, “It’s an authentic way to talk about the books.” I’m thrilled to have Laura as a reviewer on Frog on a Blog!


As a teacher and curriculum developer, I don’t think of books in isolation. We always ask our students to “make connections.” In the younger grades, we ask students to make text to text, text to self, and text to world connections.

As a picture book writer, I’ve been studying picture books this year. Many, I’ve discovered on this blog (Frog on a Blog)! I like to think of how books relate to each other or something happening in the classroom or larger world.

Two books I really enjoyed this year are Catalina and the King’s Wall (Eifrig Publishing, 2018) by Patty Costello (ill. by Diane Cojocaru), and Mela and the Elephant (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018) by Dow Phumiruk Ng (ill. by Ziyue Chen). On the surface, they are very different books; one is like a many layered cake, while the other is beautifully simple. I like sharing two seemingly different books and asking my students to find similarities.

Catalina, a baker, needs to outsmart the king who wants to build a wall to keep out foreigners. (Yes, there is a political undertone, and according to the author, this was the inspiration for her book.) Lucky for Catalina, the King has a sweet tooth and she is able to use this weakness to her advantage. The illustrations are vibrant and children will be charmed by the abundance of colors, baked goods, and a tiny mouse who can be found on each page. The lessons of inclusion and acceptance are woven throughout, but the overarching theme of kindness is what my second and third graders took note of.

Mela is a little girl who wants to go on an adventure down the river without her little brother. A simple, negative exchange between them at the beginning allows the reader to anticipate what will happen when Mela gets lost and needs help. This Thai folktale is a more obvious story of kindness, but is in no way preachy, and the students were easily able to relate to Mela. The illustrations are also charming, but simpler, to match the story.

Personally, I give each of these books 5 stars because they both work as a good combination of text and illustration, telling compelling stories that work for a variety of ages.

Laura RLaura Roettiger is the author of the picture book Aliana Reaches for the Moon (Eifrig Publishing, 2019) She has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where she worked in Environmental Education and is now a mentor for reading and writing at a STEM school. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and letting them know she believes in them. Laura has three children of her own, all of whom were led by curiosity and creativity into STEM-related professions. Laura is also a part of #PictureBookBuzz, a group of authors with books being released in 2019.

Find Laura on Twitter @ljrwritenow and at her website LauraRoettigerBooks.com.

Keep an eye out for Aliana Reaches for the Moon, available February 19, 2019! 

Picture Books At The Library 169

At The Library Too

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

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FRANKENBUNNY: After Spencer discovers his big brothers’ stories about Frankenbunny aren’t true, he hatches a plan to teach his brothers a lesson.

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HARRISON P. SPADER, PERSONAL SPACE INVADER: Harrison loves life and wants to share his joy with everyone, but first he needs to learn about personal space.

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GIRLS CAN DO ANYTHING: Every different type of girl is celebrated, because each girl is unique.

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THE ONLY WAY IS BADGER: Badger wants everyone to be more like him, and when they’re not, he sends them away to the other side of the wall.

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GRANDMOTHER’S VISIT: Grace receives one final visit from her grandmother after she’s passed away.

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BUSINESS PIG: One little pig is passed up for adoption, no matter how many charts he presents or resumes he hands out. Adorable!

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THIS IS MY EYE: Join a young girl as she explores the shapes, colors, patterns, people, and perspectives of her beloved city.

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THE BUNNY BAND: When Livinia the badger threatens to turn her garden thief into stew, the bunny pleads for his life, promising a rich reward if she lets him go.

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HOW TO FEED YOUR PARENTS: Matilda’s parents are picky eaters, so Matilda decides that if she wants to try something new, she’ll have to cook it herself.

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THANK YOU, OMU!: When the aroma of Omu’s homemade stew fills the air, her neighbors arrive, one by one, for a taste until all is gone except for her generous spirit.

Picture Books At The Library 168

At The Library Too

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

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HENRI’S HATS: Henri does not know that his Grand-Papa has gone on grand adventures until he discovers a trunk full of the most amazing hats.

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HECTOR’S FAVORITE PLACE: Hector worries about everything that could go wrong if he left his house.

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HEY, HEY, HAY!: Celebrate farming, family, machines, and hard work while you learn how hay is made.

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ATTACK OF THE 50-FOOT FLUFFY: When Claire and her stuffed rabbit Fluffy become very, very angry, watch out!

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ELLA & MONKEY AT SEA: Ella and her best friend Monkey do not want to board a ship and leave behind their home in Holland.

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LENA’S SHOES ARE NERVOUS: Lena must find a way to convince her shoes not to be nervous about the first day of school.

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AND THERE WAS EVENING, AND THERE WAS MORNING: Tells the story of how God created the world, describing six days of work fashioning everything from seas and clouds to animals and people, to finally resting on Shabbat.

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THE DAY WAR CAME: A young girl, displaced by war, must fight for survival until help finally comes.

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MAPPING SAM: Where does Sam go when her people are tucked in bed and she slips out into the beckoning world?

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IF YOU’RE GOING TO A MARCH: A first introduction to what you’ll need and what you’ll see and do if you’re going to participate in a march.

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ADRIAN SIMCOX DOES NOT HAVE A HORSE: Chloe gets angry when her classmate Adrian claims to have a horse.

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THE DRESS AND THE GIRL: A girl loses her dress when she leaves her Greek island home and immigrates to America.

Picture Books At The library 167

At The Library Too

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

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NEON LEON: Leon can’t change color like the other chameleons and longs for a place to blend in.

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WE LOVE DINOSAURS: Dinosaurs of all shapes, sizes, and colors are loved by kids.

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BULLY: When a selfish bullfrog takes over a lily pond, the other residents decide to unite and take action. Love the cover!

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STERLING, BEST DOG EVER: A little dog pretends to be a fork and other household things in order to find and keep a home. Adorable!

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BRAVE ENOUGH FOR TWO: With Hoot by her side, Olive sets off on an adventure, even though she’s not brave. Excellent art!

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TAKE A HIKE, MILES AND SPIKE: Miles and Spike take a hike through the forest, destroying the habitat as they go and rudely dismissing the forest creatures. Clever word play, and I like the colors!

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TINY LITTLE ROCKET: A rocket takes a trip through the solar system, past the sun, and narrowly misses a meteor before returning to Earth. Striking art!

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TESSA TAKES WING: Tessa plays and flies around her room while the rest of the family is asleep. Sweet!

 

Picture Books At The Library 166

At The Library Too

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

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ANGEL IN BEIJING: A girl finds a white cat and takes her all over the city of Beijing on her bicycle.

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LUCY AND THE STRING: When Lucy sees a string and gives it a yank, she’s surprised by what she finds on the other end.

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HOW TO BE A LION: Leonard the lion and his friend Marianne the duck stand up for themselves against a pride of lion bullies.

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T. REX TIME MACHINE: When two hungry dinosaurs jump into a time machine, they’re transported to present day.

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NECK & NECK: Leopold the giraffe is the star of the zoo until a bobbing rival ruins everything. Funny!

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THE DRAGON AND THE NIBBLESOME KNIGHT: Mistaken identity allows two sworn enemies–a dragon and a knight–to become friends. Great art!

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A WEREWOLF NAMED OLIVER JAMES: One moonlit night, Oliver unexpectedly turns into a werewolf. Fun, and I like the use of color!

Picture Books At The Library 165

At The Library Too

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

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A DOG NAMED DOUG: Doug digs miles underground, then takes a detour through the White House before digging some more. Fun and colorful!

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WHEN THE COUSINS CAME: Lila’s cousins do some things differently, but she loves when they come to visit.

 

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PRETTY KITTY: As more and more cats show up on his doorstep, an old man must decide whether or not to let them in.

 

 

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OFF & AWAY: When Jo’s father becomes ill and cannot deliver the messages in bottles, she takes on the job, even though she’s afraid of what lives in the ocean. Striking art!

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GINNY GOBLIN IS NOT ALLOWED TO OPEN THIS BOX: Ginny tries everything she can think of to reach and open a box that she’s not supposed to touch.

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MIXED: Red, Yellow, and Blue all lived in harmony until the day that Red declared that Reds are the best. Clever book combining colors and diversity!

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GOOD DOG: A little stray dog searches for a friend. Sweet!

 

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CAT WISHES: A snake grants a hungry cat three wishes after the cat spares its life.

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A BIG MOONCAKE FOR LITTLE STAR: Little Star creates the phases of the moon as she nibbles away at the mooncake. Clever!

 

Picture Books At The Library 164

At The Library Too

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

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ON GULL BEACH: A boy chases after sea gulls as they play with a star fish.

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BIG BOX LITTLE BOX: A curious cat investigates every box it can find and makes a friend along the way.

SHORTY & CLEM BLAST OFF: Clem won’t let Shorty help him build his spaceship.

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LORETTA’S GIFT: Loretta tries hard to find the perfect gift for her new baby cousin.

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PICNIC WITH OLIVER: While on a picnic, Philbert gets caught in a storm and Oliver must make a daring rescue.

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HOW TO KNIT A MONSTER: After Mrs. Sheep insults Greta Goat’s knitting, Greta knits a wolf that swallows Mrs. Sheep whole.

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I FEEL TEAL: A girl experiences many feelings, represented by colors, during the course of her day. Nice art!

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STEGOTHESAURUS: Stegothesaurus has little in common with his fellow dinosaurs until he meets an allosaurus that’s as hungry for synonyms as he is. Super cute and clever!

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GO FISH!: Goose and friends have trouble catching a fish on their fishing trip. Cute!

 

Interview Alert: Robin Newman

Today, I’m excited to feature an interview with one of my long-time kid lit pals, author Robin Newman! As many of us do in the kid lit industry, I met Robin virtually, when she became one of Frog on a Blog’s very first followers, and she has remained one ever since. She’s watched this humble space change (through at least four WordPress themes) and grow over the years, and she’s been so kind to share my posts.

Robin’s fourth book NO PEACOCKS! was recently released. And it’s the perfect time to learn more about the book, about Robin, and about the beautiful peafowl who inspired her.

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Q. I know that you were once a practicing attorney. When did you decide that writing children’s picture books was what you really wanted to do? And what do you like best about writing children’s books?

R.N. I had gone from being a miserable Workers’ Compensation attorney to editing energy and environmental treatises and journals. Both jobs helped me realize that I enjoyed writing. Around the time when I was a legal editor, I started writing short stories. My twin sister worked at John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and they sponsored one of the short story writing contests at Symphony Space. I entered and lost. Year after year. Rinse and repeat. But I was writing. After my son was born in 2006, my husband suggested I take a writing class—my first writing class. I signed up for a children’s fiction writing class and as soon as I walked in, I knew I had found my people.

I’ve always loved the creative aspects of writing. And a big part of that creativity, especially when you write for children, is trying to figure out how my writing will get young readers excited about reading and writing. (This includes my own son who is one tough customer to please.)

Q. You’ve based No Peacocks! on three real peacocks that live on the grounds of The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. How did these feathered celebrities inspire your story?

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This is Harry or Jim or Jim or Harry. Harry is named for a former dean, The Very Reverend Harry H. Pritchett Jr. and Jim is named for the dean of The Cathedral, The Very Reverend Dr. James A. Kowalski.

R.N. From the moment I saw the peacocks, I knew I wanted to write about them. Every day at school drop off and pick up, I would watch them—as did my dogs, Madeleine and Cupcake, who were just as excited to see them as I was. (I wish I could say it was reciprocal for the peacocks, but they HATE dogs.)

Robins dogs

Peacocks are obviously beautiful, but they are also wonderfully quirky, stubborn, and mischievous. They are extremely protective of their food, not to mention, they’re omnivorous foodies.

White peacock

This is Phil. He’s named after Phillip Foote, the former head of The Cathedral School.

So, even though I knew I wanted to write about the peacocks, I still needed a story. One day while I was attending a meeting for the school’s book fair, one of the administrators interrupted the meeting to ask—“Did anyone leave a stroller on the porch with a sandwich? Because one of the peacocks just ate it.”—And at that glorious ah-ha moment, I knew I had my story.

Q. I’m really, really curious—are the real Phil, Jim, and Harry friendly, and can the kids who attend The Cathedral School interact with the birds?

R.N. The peacocks are extremely sociable. Either Jim or Harry loves to hang out on the school’s porch right in front of the door at pick up time making it impossible for the kids to get out unless he’s shooed away.

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The peacocks also enjoy hanging out with the kids in the schoolyard. I’ve seen them on top of the jungle gym. They also will investigate the piles of book bags in the hope of finding a snack or two. All that said, they do keep their distance from the kids. They’re definitely not pets.

Q. This is your second book illustrated by Chris Ewald, yet the books are by different publishers. How did this come about and were you able to collaborate with him on No Peacocks!?

R.N. Chris and I are both represented by the amazing Liza Fleissig at the Liza Royce Agency. When I was asked if I had any thoughts on an illustrator for No Peacocks!, I suggested Chris.

When Chris came up to New York for the Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep launch party, he met me one day at school pickup to see the birds and to get a feel for the grounds and the neighborhood. In terms of collaboration, I have made some suggestions to Chris but ultimately it’s up to Chris to decide whether he wants to use those suggestions or not.

Q. Tell us a bit about your writing life. Do you have a routine or a favorite place to write? Where do you usually find inspiration?

R.N. Everything revolves around my son’s schedule. As soon as he’s off to school, I head to my tiny office to write. Later in the day, when I hear the door open and slam shut, followed by the thud of a book bag hitting the floor, and my son’s version of “Hi Mom! I love you.” Translation: “Mom, I’m hungry. Where’s the ice cream?,” I know it’s time for me to put away my work.

Like most writers, I get inspired by books, newspaper articles, kids (especially my son!), teachers, librarians, school, cartoons, childhood memories, siblings, dogs, food, etc. In a nutshell, I get inspired by just about everything. Not until I sit down and write a draft and bring it to my critique groups, do I realize if those “ideas” are worth pursuing or not.

Q. What are your favorite childhood picture books?

R.N. Madeleine, Babar, and Pierre in The Nutshell library were some of my all-time favorite childhood books.

Q. Why do you believe picture books are important? 

R.N. Picture books (and in this category I also include board books) are a child’s entrée to reading. They help children learn about social relationships, develop language skills, understand their environment, and expose them to real and imaginary worlds that are far from their own reality. They help children better understand their feelings, conquer their fears, inspire creativity, encourage social responsibility, and hopefully help them on the path to becoming lifelong readers.

Q. Where can fans connect with you online?

R.N. Website: www.robinnewmanbooks.com 
Twitter: @robinnewmanbook
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/RobinNewmanBooks/339179099505049

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share? What’s next for Robin Newman?

R.N. I am constantly writing and revising my journey as an author. I’ve been working on the third book in my Wilcox & Griswold mystery series, and on a number of picture books. Stay tuned.

Thank you, Robin! We will definitely be watching eagerly for your next book!


Robin Newman

About Robin Newman

Robin Newman was a practicing attorney and legal editor, but she now prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs and peacocks. She is the author of the Wilcox & Griswold Mystery Series, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake and The Case of the Poached Egg, as well the picture book, Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep, illustrated by Chris Ewald. She lives in New York with her husband, son, goldfish, and two spoiled English Cocker Spaniels, who are extremely fond of Phil, Jim, and Harry.

Picture Books At The Library 163

At The Library Too

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

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TINY, PERFECT THINGS: A child and grandfather marvel at all the perfect things they see as they take a walk.

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ONCE UPON A SLIME: Beginning with Goldilocks, various fairy-tale characters are drenched in slime and join forces to discover who is responsible.

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THEY CAME: When a spaceship lands on Earth, a small town launches into a frenzy until a boy named Stephen explains why the aliens came.

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MUSTAFA: Mustafa feels out of place in his new country with strange customs and strange language he doesn’t understand.

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A PLACE FOR PLUTO: Pluto feels lost, confused, and left out when he finds out he’s not a planet.

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SOMETHING SMELLS!: When Elliot wakes up to a terrible smell, he’s determined to find the source.

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SUPER MANNY CLEANS UP!: Manny and his friend Gertie join forces to clean up their local park.

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HENRY AND THE YETI: Henry sets off to prove that yetis exist.

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KING BEN AND SIR RHINO: Ben must learn how to be a good friend if he wants the other animals to play with him.

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ROCK ‘N’ ROLL SOUL: With the school talent show coming up, one young music lover dreams about creating the perfect act.

Top 5 Books For Kids to Learn ABC’s by Ilham Alam

ABC imageParents, have the past few weeks been hectic because your kids are going back to school? You may even be feeling emotional because your little one is starting preschool or kindergarten for the first time. Do they know their ABC’s? Is there a way you can help them learn? Of course! ABC picture books! 

Author and mom Ilham Alam has stopped by today to share her favorite books for helping kids learn the alphabet. Read on for a great selection of ABC concept books!

Top 5 Books for Kids to Learn ABC’s

By Ilham Alam

September is finally here, which brings with it cooler temperatures, apple cider and apple picking, harvest and pumpkin farms, and leaves of red and gold. It also brings the back-to-school season with kids back in their classrooms, many of them for the very first time.

As a parent/guardian, how can you best prepare and help your child succeed during Kindergarten? By ensuring that their learning in the classroom is reinforced at home, if your child is not already familiar with their basics like ABC’s by the time they reach JK.

Here are the Top 5 books for kids to learn their alphabets. I have read all of these books with my oldest son, who’s off to Kindergarten this year. We both enjoyed these books for various reasons and are recommending them to you:

Dinosaur A-Z: For Kids Who Really Love Dinosaurs

Dino ABC

This book has photo-realistic pictures of 26 of these prehistoric and majestic creatures, complete with short facts about each of the dinos written in the first-person and meant to make your child laugh along while they learn. I credit this book for teaching my son his alphabets, including the correct order of the letters. In addition, the book spells out the pronunciation of each of the long names phonetically, ensuring that your child begins to connect the letters with sounds. We have had this book for a year and my son still requests to read this a few times a week as it’s not only taught him fun dino facts thus encouraging his passion, but also, he has learned his alphabets and beginning reading skills using the now-familiar words. I cannot recommend this enough and this book is our favourite of the bunch.

Dr.Seuss’s ABC

Seuss ABC

Who doesn’t love the silly rhymes found in Dr. Seuss’s iconic books? This ABC book is no exception and has illustrations featuring many of Dr. Seuss’s familiar characters. The text goes full throttle right from the beginning in fast-moving, foot-tapping, finger-snapping rhymes. What I liked about this was that it also introduces big and little letters to your child, so that visually your child can see where and why big and little letters are used.

Elmo’s ABC Book

Elmo ABC

This ABC book features another iconic children’s character: Elmo from Sesame Street. The book cover is a bright blue making our fuzzy red monster stand out, thus attracting your child’s eye and inviting them to read it. Inside, we meet Elmo and his friends as he tries to figure out what his favourite letter of the alphabet is. Elmo is having a hard time deciding because there is something to love about each letter. For example, he loves the letter ‘B’ as Elmo loves cute babies. Keep reading to discover what Elmo’s favourite letter is. This book stood out for me because it helps to introduce kids to everyday words corresponding to each letter.

Chicka Chicka ABC by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault

Chicka ABC

I am sure you have heard of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom? This is the alphabet version which begins,

A told B, B told C/

I will meet you on top of the coconut tree 

This is another fantastic way for your kids to learn their alphabets as it turns it into a catchy song, which is a great way for your kids to remember and get comfortable with a new concept. And I found it unique that bright colours like orange and hot-pink are the dominant colours used here. You can also put on a YouTube video of the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Alphabet song and dance along to it as well, to further help with the memorization of the alphabets. 

Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert

Eat Alphabet

This is a different type of alphabet book as each of the alphabet pages have colorful, painting-like pictures of different foods corresponding to each letter. It is a good book for kids to learn of the many different types of food. This could even inspire your little one to try new foods, which is what my son and I like about it. However, this does not have fun rhymes like the other ones listed here.


Thank you, Ilham, for the terrific list of ABC books that are sure to help any child learn the alphabet and have fun at the same time!


Ilham Alam

Ilham Alam

Ilham is a Student Advisor by day and a writer and Children’s Book Author by night. She has her upcoming picture book, Wonder Walk, releasing later this year, to be published by Iguana Books. An avid children’s lit book reader and traveler, she has documented her adventures on her book review and family travel blog, Story Mummy: www.storymummy.com.

LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour + Giveaway -AND Introducing Little Owl

I adore picture books that highlight the themes of love and kindness. That’s why it’s my great pleasure to be a stop on Laura Sassi’s LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour. Readers, this book is incredibly sweet (and I don’t mean because it includes a little something about a box of chocolates), and the ending (which I won’t give away) is darling. Speaking of darling, check out the cover of LOVE IS KIND, featuring Little Owl, the star of the book.

Love is kind cover

And, guess what? You get to meet Little Owl, the brand new story time puppet, right here on Frog on a Blog! Hello Little Owl!

Little Owl

Laura’s stopped by today to talk about how she uses puppets to enhance the story time experience and engage her young audience, and how you can too. Little Owl will soon be joining her on her author visits.

MEET LITTLE OWL: Using Puppets to Engage Young Readers

I started using puppets with the release of my very first book. Since a pair of skunks play an important role in that book, and thinking that my very youngest readers might not be familiar with the species, I thought having a pair of skunk puppets would be an engaging way to introduce the story. The former teacher (and crowd control freak) in me, also thought skunk puppets might be a friendly way to help young audiences settle down before and during the reading since, as you know, skunks are notorious for making a big stink if they get startled.

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Those skunks became such an integral part of author visits, that I decided to incorporate puppets into the author visits for every one of my books – skunks for GOODNIGHT ARK, a rooster for GOODNIGHT MANGER, a seal and mouse for DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, and now, for LOVE IS KIND, my newest release, a darling little owl.

Now, in celebration of sharing books with little ones, here are TEN tried-and-true tips for using puppets to enhance a story time experience.

Before the story time.

1. Pick a puppet that fits the book. The puppet you choose can either be a protagonist, like my seal, mouse and owl, or minor characters such as my skunks and rooster. The most important thing is that you have a good reason for picking that puppet – a reason that enhances your story time.  For example, the skunks are useful in introducing an important and fun subplot in GOODNIGHT, ARK.  (They are hiding under the bed in every spread until – at last – they make a big stink that’s important to the resolution of the story.) And that rooster, while very minor to GOODNIGHT, MANGER, becomes a fun and engaging way to introduce the concept of loud vs. quiet voices when putting a baby to bed.

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2. Play… and plan ahead of time! This is probably obvious, but it’s worth spending time in advance putting together a little stand-up routine for you and your puppet.  This is your chance to tap into your inner comedian.  The more you ham it up, the more the kids will love it! 

3. Practice your ventriloquist skills. There are two ways to use your puppet. Either you can just talk with it and it can shyly nod, react etc., OR you can have that puppet actually converse with you, or “cock-a-doodle-doo” as my rooster does and SING as that darling Diva Delores loves to do! If you decide to have them speak, then I’d recommend practicing your ventriloquist skills in front of a mirror ahead of time.

During the story time.

4. Use your puppets to break the ice. If you are a little shy, like me, then you’ll probably agree that mingling is easier with a buddy.  In that awkward “before the story time officially begins” period, I’ve discovered that EVERYBODY enjoys a little mingling with the author and her storytelling companion – especially when it’s a cute stuffed animal puppet.

5. Have your puppets help introduce the story.  This takes a little planning ahead of time (see step 2), but a short puppet routine is a great way to introduce the themes of your story, any special concepts, or just to get the kids excited.  For DIVA DELORES, for example, my seal puppet likes to sing for the audience so they can hear what opera sounds like. Then she invites them to join along in singing the refrain that appears on certain spreads in the book.  I haven’t finalized exactly what Little Owl is going to do before I read LOVE IS KIND, but it will surely have something to do with kindness and love.

Diva Delores

6. Have the children model for the puppets what “good listening” looks like before you read.  It’s amazing how eager young readers are to engage with the puppets, and I’ve discovered over time that little ones especially like the opportunity to model for my puppets what good listeners look like.  So, I have THEM show the puppets what it looks like to sit quietly with eyes on reader, ready to be read to. (I also use those skunks to my advantage (see intro)). 

7. Use your puppets to engage young readers in some post-reading ponderings. After my readings, I like for the kids to reflect with me on what the characters in the story learned and I’ve found that involving the puppets in the process is effective and popular. For example, after reading GOODNIGHT, MANGER we ponder what made the difference in getting Baby Jesus to sleep.  (The answer has to do with creating a quiet, peaceful atmosphere). Then, together, we see if we can teach our very NOISY rooster to do a quiet cock-a-doodle-doo.  If he learns well, we invite him to join as we sing a final lullaby to Baby Jesus. For LOVE IS KIND, I think I will have Little Owl help me select volunteers to share their post-reading thoughts by looking with me for participants who are showing kindness by being good listeners with each other during our post book chat.

8. Include your puppets in the story time farewell.  This can be very motivational if your audience is getting antsy because you can promise your young participants that if they hold on just a little longer, then they can pet and hug the visiting puppet!  They love this!  And I am just charmed by how many “I love yous” each puppet has so gently received over the last four years since I first started using puppets.

After the story time.

9. Have a puppet de-briefing session with yourself. After each story time, I find it helpful to evaluate what worked, what didn’t, and what I could do next time to make that puppet even more integral to my story time. For example, it wasn’t until I had done a few story times in that I decided to have my GOODNIGHT, ARK skunk puppets engage my audience in a little quiet “thumbs up” challenge.  But it worked so well, that now, at every GOODNIGHT, ARK story time, my skunk puppets challenge the audience to quietly put “thumbs up” as soon as they spot the skunks on each spread – which makes for a nice set up to the stinky climax! 

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10. Most important:  HAVE FUN!  Yes, let’s not forget this last important tip. If you are having fun, it will be contagious!

Thank you for having me, Lauri, and I hope my love for puppets inspires others to experiment with incorporating something new into their story times as well.


Hurrah for puppets! And what a fun post! I wonder if that monkey puppet is still around that I had when I was a kid. Hmm…


Folks, don’t forget to check out the other stops on the LOVE IS KIND tour. 

Love is KInd Blog Tour Schedule

Giveaway

ZonderKidz, the publisher of LOVE IS KIND, has generously agreed to give away a copy of the book to one U.S. blog reader. Just leave a comment here to be entered to win. A winner will be chosen at random on September 30. Be sure to follow Frog on a Blog so that I can contact you if you win.

Thank you Laura and ZonderKidz!

Picture Books At The Library 162

At The Library Too

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

 

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BIGGER THAN YOU: Dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes discover that cooperation, creativity, and being a good friend make playtime the best time.

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BE OUR GUEST!: At the Parker Palm Springs Hotel, you can sip lemonade with flamingos, play games with penguins or a zebra, and explore the beautiful grounds with a tiger, a camel, or an elephant.

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THE DINOSAUR EXPERT: Kimmy can’t wait to share her fossil facts with all of her friends at the natural history museum.

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AYOBAMI AND THE NAMES OF THE ANIMALS: Ayobami dreams of going to school, but to reach the schoolhouse, she has to take a dangerous path through the jungle.

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SEED MAGIC: Little Spider teaches her friend Anxious Ant about the life cycle of plants.

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JACK B. NINJA: Jack sneaks over castle walls, swims through hidden tunnels, and uncovers a secret treasure, all while avoiding detection.

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MAGNOLIA’S MAGNIFICENT MAP: It has taken Magnolia months of exploring and sketching to create her latest map. There’s just one problem, it’s not finished.

LITTLE BROTHERS & LITTLE SISTERS: Explores the relationship between younger and older siblings.

 

Picture Books At The Library 161

At The Library Too

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

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When Juno returns from a nighttime adventure, she finds a polar bear near the door she left open, and she must summon all her courage to save her boy.

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A boy and his family visit the local public gardens throughout the year to see the turtles.

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On a gray and rainy day, Kat feels better after writing a song and singing it around the neighborhood.

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Newly arrived at boarding school, a boy finds an invitation and goes on an adventure that may lead to friendship.

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Fox is lonely and confused when winter comes and his friends Chipmunk, Marmot, and Bear take to their beds and he can’t wake them up.

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Fox sets off to find the golden glow, a very rare plant from the Wellhidden family that grows high in the mountains.

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Piggy is unhappy living with a boy named Thomas. A chance encounter with a wild pig may lead him to discover what lies beyond the fence.

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Bear is hungry and Gertie wants to help, but finding the perfect snack is harder than it looks. Funny!

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Hedgehog wakes up needing a hug, but has trouble finding a friend who will get so close to his prickles. Cute!

My View Book Review: Hedge Hog!

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Title: Hedge Hog! (or Hedgehog!)

Author/Illustrator: Ashlyn Anstee

Publisher/Year: Tundra Books/2018

Back Cover Blurb: It’s Hedgehog’s hedge and he isn’t sharing.

*Review copy provided by Penguin Random House Canada


All of the animals in the garden are preparing for winter. Finding a cozy place to call home for the season, like a burrow, hive, or nest, is at the top of everyone’s list. The animals need shelter in order to survive the coming cold. 

The bees, foxes, birds, and groundhogs happily share their homes with the other animals. Grasshopper, who dwells under the hedge, does too, especially after Hedgehog–who lives in the hedge, all by himself, and likes it that way–turns the other animals away.

As more and more animals show up on his doorstep looking for a place to stay, Hedgehog becomes increasingly agitated and he puts up signs and builds a fence to keep them out. But when Grasshopper accuses him of being a hedge hog, he goes inside and slams the door, with disastrous results. How will the others react now that Hedgehog is the one in need?

Though overflowing with cute, expressive characters, and featuring an unusual setting and fun text, the book offers readers something more–a message about helping others, sharing what we have, and being gracious.

Taken literally, opening our doors and allowing strangers to move into our homes is unrealistic and potentially dangerous. But opening our hearts to help those in need is something each one of us can do in our own way. Whether you donate to a worthy cause, volunteer your time, assist a neighbor, or simply show thoughtfulness by holding a door for someone, you can make the world a better place. We all can. Let’s start today. 🙂

Random Pic Of Cuteness: Writing Prompt #5

Just for fun, I’m sharing–at random–cute photos to inspire your picture book writing. Perhaps a picture will spark an idea for a character, setting, or even an entire story. Have fun!

Foal

*All photos are available in the public domain or were taken by me, and are free to use and share.

Picture Books At The Library 160

At The Library Too

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

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A young girl finds an injured crow and nurses him back to health.

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A girl demonstrates how to take care of a dog.

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When Kitty learns that her teacher is home sick from school one morning, she gets worried.

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A boy visiting his father in prison explains why he both loves and hates him.

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Duck gets a job in the city, but discovers it’s not the right job for him.

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On the way to Grandma’s house, Red is delayed and distracted by Wolf. What are the woodland creatures up to?

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Lucy wants a dog, so she goes in search of one and finds a bear instead. Will the bear make a good dog? Cute!

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Nate, who loves sharks, cannot swim, but with his brother’s prodding, a good coach, and a lot of determination, he learns to swim like a shark.

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At the zoo with her family, a girl mopes around until she meets a new friend on the monkey walk. Fun!

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Tomato explains why he’s a fruit and belongs in the fruit bowl. Funny and informative!

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A lonely robot decides to build himself a companion. Sweet!

 

Picture Books At The Library 159

At The Library Too

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

This group is overflowing with gorgeous art! 

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Two kids explore an abandoned house and imagine who might have lived there.

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As twilight falls, some animals come out to graze while others are settling in for the night.

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Separated from her mother, a young whale swims the oceans for decades until she finds a young girl who shares her vision of one planet for which all are responsible.

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Fred tries to keep still, but it’s so hard to keep that bouncy feeling inside.

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Follow the clues to guess which adorable baby animal appears on the next page.

Start With The Whys And Improvise! by Damian Synadinos

Do you like to write children’s books? Do you know why? There’s no right or wrong answer. We each have our own reasons. We probably have more than one reason, and our reasons can change depending on what we’re writing. 

I like to write picture books for lots of reasons. I love how picture books can represent so many things for kids (and adults): They can be windows to the world, mirrors in which to see oneself, gateways to literacy, tools for together time, mini-museums of art, and generators of joy. (Stay tuned for blog posts featuring examples of these.)

Author/Illustrator Damian Synadinos has his reasons, too, for creating his picture book HANK AND STELLA IN SOMETHING FROM NOTHING, a unique story that features improvisation. Today, he’s stopped by to share the inspiration behind the book and to encourage all writers to Start With Why

Cover

Start with the Whys and Improvise!

by Damian Synadinos

I think that understanding Why we do things is important. By “Start with the Whys”, I mean “first try to identify and understand the reasons you want to do something, and then use those reasons to help guide What you do and How you do it.”

When I first considered writing a children’s book, I “started with the Whys”. I asked myself “Why do I want to write a children’s book?”

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I eventually identified many reasons, but the main reason was, “to help my kids laugh while they learn”. Like many kids, mine love to do both. However, some children’s books are very entertaining, but not very educational, while other children’s books are very educational, but not very entertaining. And while there is nothing wrong with that, in order to satisfy my reasons, I wanted to write a book that was both entertaining and educational. And, by identifying and understanding my reasons for writing a children’s book, it helped guide me as I determined What to write about (improv – to be educational) and How to write it (as a picture book – to be entertaining).

“Improv” is short for “Improvisational theater”, which is, essentially, creating something from nothing. Players create and perform shows simultaneously and in the moment, without any script, props, or costumes.

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My own improv training “Started with the Whys”. On day one, the teacher asked the class, “Why do you want to learn improv?” Over 50 nervous and excited teenagers, young adults, and seniors gave vastly different answers and reasons, such as “to think more creatively and quickly”, “to improve my interactions and relationships with others”, “to boost my self-confidence”, and of course, “to entertain and perform on stage”.

Over the next year, we learned the fundamental principles and skills of improv. Things like “focusing on the present”, “ways to get and explore ideas”, “how to react to accidents and mistakes”, “the importance of practice”, and “the benefits of diversity”. These principles and skills helped each student satisfy their reasons for learning improv. And, improv can help children with the same! The fundamental principles and skills of improv are as useful on stage as they are at play and in life. Improv is a great way to help children develop their imaginations, learn to play cooperatively, increase their confidence, and much, much more.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve performed hundreds of improv shows and even use improv to teach adults various life skills in a variety of contexts. And, I wrote “Hank and Stella in Something from Nothing” to be an entertaining and educational way to introduce my kids (and more!) to improv so they can laugh while they learn.

And so, I encourage new authors to “Start with the Whys” to help guide What and How to write your book!

For more information about “Hank and Stella in Something from Nothing”, visit https://www.hankandstellabooks.com/.

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Damian SynadinosHello! My name is Damian Synadinos. I’m born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, the father of 2 wonderful kids, an improviser with 10+ years of experience, and the author and illustrator of “Hank & Stella in Something from Nothing”.

Photo from Amazon.

Bio from Damian Synadinos’ site: https://www.hankandstellabooks.com/.

Picture Books At The Library 158

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I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

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Amanda and Bitsy’s friendship may be ruined after they discover their birthday parties are on the same day.

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Jim connects each of his found objects–a stone, a key, and a button–to fantastical tales of why they are so important.

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Gideon was going to build the most stupendous sand castle the beach had ever seen–without his sister’s help.

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When Peter and his dog Nell arrive to school one day and discover the books missing, Detective Dog Nell is ready to solve the case.

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A dugong tries to convince two children that she is a mermaid.

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Nelly loves to wear her new swimsuit for everything—except for swimming.

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After twins Ally and Mae come home sick, it’s up to Nanny Paws to take care of them.

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Celebrates a diverse community on a Sunday morning at an inclusive church that welcomes all people. Great message!

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Kangaroo tries to make friends with Koala using bubbles. Sweet!

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On Mouse and Monster’s camping trip, things quickly go awry after Monster eats all of the supplies. Cute!

Little Owl is afraid of falling and will not try to fly until his friends persuade him to say a special word and keep trying even after he fails. I like the art!

Hopping Back Into The Classroom by Alexandria LaFaye

Hey, everyone, it’s almost time for the kids to go back to school! If you’re a parent or a teacher, you already know that, huh? And you probably already know that there are lots of picture books that feature schools. But do you know how to choose the best ones to share?

Multi-published author and educator Alexandria LaFaye stopped by to offer her thoughts on finding the perfect picture books that will help your child navigate a new school year. Be sure to read to the end for a very special giveaway!

Hopping Back into the Classroom:
A Look at Some Great School-Centered Books to Kick off the New School Year

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Many kids are itching to get back to school to see their friends, get to know their new teachers, head out to recess, and use those new school supplies—oh and there’s the school work too. Books are a big part of making the beginning of school a great success. The books teachers read help ease kids back into the routine of things or introduce new students to the way things work. For some kids, these books are an essential part of helping them get through their first day jitters.

A Few Great School-Centered Books

My favorite book in this genre is I Love You All Day Long, written by Francesca Rusackas and illustrated by Priscilla Burris, because it reassures preschoolers and kindergarteners that starting school will be a wonderful adventure and that their parent’s love will sustain them all day long. 

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This year, Priscilla offers a wonderful solo addition to the genre with  Hello School, which shows kids how to face their first day jitters while bringing them into a wonderfully diverse and kid-centric classroom. 

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Ryan T. Higgins takes a hilarious turn at the first day of school scenario with the wonderful We Don’t Eat Our Classmates. Who wouldn’t love a book with a description that starts, ‘It’s the first day of school for Penelope Rex, and she can’t wait to meet her classmates. But it’s hard to make human friends when they’re so darn delicious!’

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The “Secret” Formula for a Great School-Centered Book

When creating or selecting school-centered books, it’s essential that they realistically represent the diversity of a classroom, address a child’s emotions in a way that is embedded in the story, and remain true to how a child sees the world, and offer a curriculum-rich environment.  It’s also wonderful if the book includes a unique and stereotype-free view of teachers, librarians, and school staff. Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series lampoons the dangers of staff stereotyping to hilarious effect.

No Frogs in School

This fall, I’m throwing my own backpack into the classroom (aka hat into the ring) with No Frogs in School. The story centers around Bartholomew Botts’ love for pets, hoppy pets, hairy pets, and scaly pets too. He loves them so much that he has to bring one to school each day. His classroom guests create havoc, making things tough for Bartholomew’s exasperated teacher, Mr. Patanoose.

In creating this story, I worked to embed the curriculum into the story in a kid-centric way by doing things like having the frog-toting Bartholomew contemplate the complexities of color combining.  As he learns that mixing green and yellow makes blue, he wonders how frogs get to be different colors.

Eglantine Ceulemans’ illustrations are fantastic because the class she’s drawn reflects the diversity of the characters I created and the room she’s rendered is so full of wonderful enrichment elements. Not to mention, the quirky kid antics she’s included. It’s because of her amazing artwork that Kirkus said that “each page lends itself to an energetic seek-and-find storytime that promises new discoveries upon multiple reads.”

In the story, I also tried to defy teaching stereotypes by featuring a talented male teacher in an early elementary classroom.  The final feature of my book that reflects my vision of a great book for school-aged children is that Bartholomew is from a multi-ethnic family, like so many kids today who don’t often see their families reflected in the books they read.

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Classroom Library Building Book Giveaway

To celebrate students, teachers, and the need for inclusive classroom libraries, I’m offering a giveaway of 31 books for a K-2 classroom, including a signed copy of NO FROGS IN SCHOOL.

If you’d like to enter to win, you can visit my Facebook community Sylvanocity and check out the pinned post. I’ll be reviewing books from the giveaway each day in August, so that interested teachers can see the books they might win. The contest runs Aug 1-30th. This collection would be a nice expansion or foundation for an inclusive classroom, which would be a great welcome back to school present for any K-2 teacher.

Care to Host a School Visit with A. LaFaye?

Speaking of schools, I LOVE to visit schools and inspire kids to be life-long readers, to follow their talents, to learn to love writing and revision, and to value every member of their school community.  Here’s a sneak peek at A School Visit with A. LaFaye.

I hope you’ll share your favorite school-centered books in the comments below.  Let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to hear from you!

A LaFaye

A. LaFaye

 

For more information about Alexandria LaFaye and her books, please visit her website: 

https://www.alafaye.com/