A Montessori Teachers Approach to Picture Books in the Elementary Classroom by Donna Paul

Please welcome picture book author, teacher, and eternal optimist Donna Paul to Frog on a Blog. Donna’s book Carl The Cantankerous Cat was published earlier this year. It features an engaging story, 70 vocabulary words, a glossary, and post-reading follow-up activities. Donna is a Montessori elementary teacher with over ten years of classroom experience. She’s stopped by today to share 5 principles that she keeps in mind when choosing picture books for her classroom. Let’s hear from Donna!

A Montessori Teachers Approach to Picture Books in the Elementary Classroom

by Donna Paul

Picture books are my jam! I love everything about them. So much so that I self-published my own, Carl the Cantankerous Cat. Crazy, I know! As an elementary Montessori teacher, I find it helpful to supplement lessons with picture books whenever possible. Why? Picture books are inviting, uplifting, thought-provoking, and heartwarming. Images and illustrations are powerful! The right picture book can not only imprint positive life morals but also spark the curious imagination within a reader. You know what I’m talking about. For me, it was anything with spectacularly illustrated pets. Those books spoke to me. And later I would speak them to my stepdaughter, Taylor, and share their magic with her. Now she’s going on twenty years of age (where did the time go?), and we still enjoy reminiscing about her childhood, what she grew up doing, saying, and reading. I tell you this – memories are made with picture books.

Did you know that a carefully selected read aloud can be a powerful teaching tool for learners of all ages? Picture books can captivate a class of fidgety first graders, bring jaw-dropping wonder to the early elementary years, and spark intellectual discussions with upper grades. Combining pictures and illustrations can benefit a student’s literacy skills, promote reading, improve observation skills, and encourage creativity. They encourage all types of learners to engage and explore. Amazing!

Photo credit: Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

But not all picture books are created equally. When considering picture books for my Upper Elementary classroom, I always keep Dr. Montessori’s ideas about young children and their development in mind. Remember these important principles on your next library trip!

1 – Keep It Real – Choose books that are based in reality. Children are naturally interested in the world around them. They should be exposed to books that cover real-life scenarios. Try to find books with stories of real experiences, such as daily life activities, and that show pictures of real objects, such as vehicles, rather than fantasy.

2 – Choose Beauty – Select books with alluring illustrations. Model to children how delicately you hold a picture book as if it is a piece of art. Children love beautiful things. Aesthetically pleasing books are known to grasp a reader’s attention and admiration. 

3 – Rich Language – Children want to learn new words. They want to understand unfamiliar vocabulary terms. They want to know how to pronounce long words. Words intrigue children. So, look for picture books that offer descriptive words, accurate language, and a vast vocabulary. While the illustrations take the reader on a journey, including extra description in sentences allows readers to experience the story much better.

4 – Educate Yourselves – Look for books that provide a deep, thought-provoking lesson. Expose children to the world around them via the comfort of a picture book. The reader should walk away knowing something new. 

5 – Readability – Read a few pages. How does it sound? Does the language flow smoothly or is it awkward and flat? Text that flows rhythmically and naturally is most appealing. Soothing sounds that vary in pitch and tone are effective in holding a listener’s attention. Find books that allow the reader to explore a range of emotions through the text. 

Picture books are excellent supplementary teaching tools. I love using them in my classroom. Illustrations help children understand what they are reading. Pictures guide readers to analyze the story. If children are having difficulty with the words, illustrations can help them figure out the narrative, which leads to an increase in their comprehension. Equipped with picture books that follow the guidelines above, readers are sure to flourish in and out of the classroom. 

Happy reading!

Donna Paul

A Montessori elementary teacher by trade with over ten years of experience in the classroom, Donna Paul is a self-published author and co-creator of engaging and educational activities for young learners, as well as an online ESL teacher. If she’s not working, she’s probably working out. Donna strives to live a healthy and adventure-filled life. Family, learning, writing, health and wellness, compassion, plant-based food, tiny living, loving animals, and travel are topics that make her soul smile.

An eternal optimist and fueled by the power of patience (and plants!), Donna is a believer in the good of all beings. Driven to make herself a better person and always striving to lead by example. You can find her picture book, Carl the Cantankerous Cat, on Amazon.

Happy Book Birthday to ARE YOU A POLAR BEAR? by Andrew R. Gabriel

Title: Are You a Polar Bear?

Author: Andrew R. Gabriel

Illustrator: Catherine Suvorova

Publisher: StoryBook Genius Publishing

Release Date: December 5th, 2020

Format: Hardcover and Paperback

Summary: A polar bear cub wakes in his den to the snowy world outside after a long slumber. There’s no one around, not even his mom and he can’t remember what she looks like! The little cub journeys out to find her and along the way he meets many arctic creatures that are not like him. Follow this brave cub as he goes on a journey to see if he finds someone out there just like him!

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.

Picture Books At The Library 222

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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SCOUT THE MIGHTY TUGBOAT: When an oil tanker in distress is too heavy for Scout to pull alone, she calls on her tugboat friends to help.
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MY DAY WITH GONG GONG: When May spends the whole day with her grandpa in Chinatown, she’s bored, hungry, and unhappy, until grandpa surprises her with some special treats.
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GOODNIGHT MERMAID: In this aquatic take on Goodnight Moon, meet mermaids, whales, and other ocean creatures. Rhyme
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OUR LITTLE KITCHEN: A crew of resourceful neighbors comes together to prepare a meal for their community in a joyfully chaotic kitchen.
MARGARET’S UNICORN: When Margaret discovers a baby unicorn while out exploring the wilderness around her new home, she must care for it until the other unicorns return in the spring.
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SWIFT FOX ALL ALONG: When Swift Fox’s father picks her up to go visit her Mi’kmaq family and tells her she’ll learn to be like them, butterflies fill up her belly.
TIME FOR BED’S STORY: Bed has a lot of complaints about how he’s treated by the child who owns him, such as too much kicking and drooling and too many stickers. Cute!
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LITTLE BLUE HOUSE BESIDE THE SEA: A girl loves living by the sea, from watching boats go by to exploring nature to seeing the moon shine on the water, but when a storm blows in, she retreats inside her little blue house. Rhyme
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I AM DARN TOUGH: A girl finishes a race, even after she’s fallen, even with aching muscles and a cramp in her side because she is strong on the inside and the outside.
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ELBOW GREASE: FAST FRIENDS: Monster truck Elbow Grease and his brothers meet a monster cycle, Chopper, and hope to be her friend, until she proves to be faster, smarter, more daring, and tougher than they are.
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SNOOZAPALOOZA: Count to ten with cuddly forest creatures, from a mouse to a bear, as they settle down in one furry heap to hibernate for winter. Rhyme/Concept
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PIRATE NELL’S TALE TO TELL: Captain Gnash says there’s no time for reading on his ship, but when the journey gets rough and the captain is in trouble, it’s Nell and her book knowledge that saves the day. Rhyme

Picture Books At The Library 221

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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THE SUITCASE: When a weary stranger arrives one day with only a suitcase, everyone is full of questions, but to learn the answers, they must either trust the newcomer or discover what they risk by not believing him.
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IF I HAD A UNICORN: A girl imagines what life would be like if she had a unicorn as a pet. Rhyme
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IT’S ONLY ONE!: When Rhino tosses a candy wrapper on the ground and then others begin throwing their trash on the ground, too, and it sets off a chain reaction that ruins their town, it’s up to mouse to fix things.
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EVERY NIGHT IS PIZZA NIGHT: Convinced that pizza is the best food, Pipo will eat nothing else, until her fed-up parents send her on a quest to prove that no dishes in their multicultural neighborhood are better, each is the best.
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JUST A STORY: A young reader comes upon an alluring book and he starts to read, becoming blissfully unaware of increasingly odd and outlandish occurrences looming all around him.
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I TALK LIKE A RIVER: When a child has a bad speech day at school, his father gives him a new perspective on his stuttering.
FELIX AND THE MONSTERS: A lonely guard’s love for music leads him to discover what’s actually on the other side of the wall he’s guarding.
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A BEAR IS A BEAR: When Bear wakes early from hibernation and can’t remember what he is, he tries to be like the other animals, but he realizes he’s not, and only a nap will help him remember. Rhyme
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BESS THE BARN STANDS STRONG: Bess the barn was built by able hands to keep the farm animals safe, but when she is replaced by a shiny new barn and left alone, she slumps, until a storm destroys the new barn and it’s up to Bess to save the animals once more.
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TIME TO ROAR: When great yellow beasts threaten to cut and burn the forest and destroy the meadow she loves, Sasha the bear and the other animals must find a way to stop them.
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FIELD TRIP TO THE OCEAN DEEP: A student is accidentally left behind on a field trip to the ocean deep, where he discovers a treasure chest, falls into a ravine, and makes friends with a mysterious sea creature. Wordless
NOTHING IN COMMON: Two neighbors assume they have nothing in common, until the same bright part of their day is gone–watching the love between an old man and his dog.

Interview Alert: Kitty O’Meara

It’s my pleasure to share an interview today with Kitty O’Meara, author of the lovely picture book And The People Stayed Home.

Just published, the book And The People Stayed Home began as a heartfelt poem posted on social media, which was shared over one million times, and earned Kitty the title “poet laureate of the pandemic.” It’s a testament to the resilience of people during uncertain times, as it paints a picture of life in lockdown and hope for a brighter tomorrow. Let’s hear more from Kitty!

Congratulations on the recent release of your picture book And the People Stayed Home! Please tell us what inspired you to write this special book and about its journey to publication.

KO: Thank you; that’s very kind of you!

For most of my life, writing and other creative arts have been my way to explore and process the experiences and emotions of life, so I wrote these words at the beginning of our lockdown last March, and shared them with my Facebook friends. One friend asked to share the post, and it quite quickly went viral.

I re-posted the poem to my blog and, among the thousands of comments, calls, messages, and texts I received, was one from the Managing Editor of Tra Publishing, who asked, at the kind request of Tra’s founder, if I would be interested in developing a children’s picture book based on the poem. I was overjoyed, and we began the work of co-creating this amazing book in early April. It has been a complete blessing and joy to work with these talented artists, and I’m very proud of the finished creation.

In what ways do you hope your book will touch readers, especially those most affected by the pandemic?

KO: I hope it will offer comfort, peace, and delight as a work of art, and I hope it will inspire readers to discover ways their own artistic and emotional gifts can help them cope and heal through this time of sacrifice and hardship. We’re all in this together, everyone on the planet, and I think we need to encourage each other, express gratitude to our essential workers, keep ourselves and others safe, and look for ways this experience can help us listen more deeply to our hearts and to those we love, looking for ways we can make the world a better place for all of our gifts to unfold.

I imagine teachers and parents sharing And the People Stayed Home with children, exploring their feelings and their responses to this time, naming their gifts, making art…it’s a sensitive and touching book, but also one that encourages and evokes joy.

And the People Stayed Home is beautifully illustrated. How excited were you when you finally held the finished product in your hands?

KO: I cried! A lot! I agree; it’s beautiful. I kept holding it, setting it down, reading and rereading it, marveling at the artwork…And I have such lovely memories of our video meetings, notes, and calls, sharing ideas, changing our minds, adjusting, evolving and growing this book, and ourselves, together. I named myself as a writer when I was 6, and of course worked as one in advertising and all through my career, but to be holding this gorgeous book in my hands…well, it’s been a pure blessing.

Were you expecting the poem that is the essence of your book to become so popular?

KO: Well no, not at all. I don’t think I’ve ever posted on Facebook with expectations of any kind except to share with my close friends how I’m feeling. This was a complete mystery-fluke-surprise-blessing, that’s for sure.

You are also a chaplain and spiritual director. How do those vocations affect or inform your writing? And what writing projects are you working on now?

KO: Well, I started with Theater and English degrees, and I worked in advertising, then went back for a teaching degree and taught middle school literature and language arts for many years before leaving to write full time. That was quickly curtailed by the need to care for our parents, who seemed to all experience health failures and end-of-life crises at the same time.

And after those years of journeying with death, loss, and grief, I went back to school again and trained for chaplaincy and spiritual direction, so I’ve had many careers and experiences in offering my gifts to the world, and they’ve all been enlarging and rewarding. I’ve been writing since I was very young, and I guess, have always explored themes revealed by love and loss, nature, family, joy, memory, and, increasingly, the understanding that we’re all gifted differently, and need to honor and develop those gifts to serve one another and the Earth…traveling with my parents’ friends’ and in-laws’ end-of-life journeys led me to the deep exploration of healing…not just physical diseases, but the emotional and psychic wounds that hinder the development and sharing of gift. I worked with my patients and those who have come for spiritual direction to meet those wounds and heal them, and have seen how we can heal all the way through our last breath…Because of chaplaincy and spiritual direction, the mystery, and gift, and hard work of healing (always connected to our capacity to love ourselves and others) have all become integral to my writing and my understanding of our gifts.

I think these ideas will always influence my work, including the children’s stories I’m working on now. And I think that’s because picture books take us so beautifully to symbol, silence, and mystery: they touch us deeply and trigger responses that are both very simple and very profound. And, in my case, they require co-creation, because I do not have the gift of creating visual art through illustration, and I love that, since I think healing itself, like loving, is an ongoing co-creation. Life is all about relationship.

How do you feel about being called the “poet laureate of the pandemic”, and where did the name originate?

KO: I think it was a very kind compliment, but there are many poets gifting us, always, and certainly through this time, uniquely and profoundly and in a variety of voices and styles that are absolutely necessary. We need art more than laureates, and I’m not in need of being recognized beyond the fact that my voice matters, too, and this poem touched people deeply when it had to in ways far beyond imagining.

I’ve always taken my education seriously and worked diligently to use and deepen my gifts. Writing has been a constant practice, as I said, for integration and reflection, and as a creative outlet; so, the fact that something I wrote affected others is not at all a new experience; I’ve shared my writing and received positive feedback all my life. That it affected others in such numbers is both mystery, timing, and a function of social media, a good reminder of the internet’s power. Elena Nicolaou, a wonderful writer in her own right, used the term “poet laureate of the pandemic” in her article for the Oprah Magazine Online, as a reference to the poem’s having gone viral, more than as a recognition of my lifetime achievement. 🙂

Can you tell us about the upcoming animated film based on And the People Stayed Home?

KO: I think you’re referring to the Vooks.com animation of the picture book? That has been produced and is available now on the Vooks.com site. They are a wonderful company! I love how they honor the original artwork, tweak and extend it with amazing animation, provide a narrated voiceover, and enhance everything about the original book in doing so. And the People Stayed Home was beautifully narrated for Vooks by Kate Winslet, and yikes, what an honor that is! I wish Vooks had been around when I was a child, and when I was a teacher; it’s a marvelous wonder for parents to investigate and consider joining, too. I love the creativity and myriad ways it invites children’s interaction with story; it really compliments books so magically.

Where can fans go to connect and learn more about you and your book?

KO: Information about the book is available at: www.andthepeoplestayedhomebook.com, and my blog is located at: https://the-daily-round.com/

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

KO: Thank you for your interest and wonderful questions! I hope that your readers will love this book as much as I do; it’s such a finely-crafted treasure, and one that I think could be a lifelong favorite, reminding children and their parents of a time that was both challenging and deeply precious.

And I hope you, and your readers, will be safe and well in the days to come. Keep reading; keep creating. 🙂 Gentle peace.

Kitty O’Meara lives near Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband, Phillip Hagedorn, their five rescue dogs, three cats, gardens, and books. A former teacher of middle school writing and literature and a hospital and hospice chaplain and currently a spiritual director, O’Meara has been a lifelong writer and artist. And the People Stayed Home is her first print book.

Picture Books At The Library 220

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.
LIGHTS ON WONDER ROCK: When a UFO lands in the woods behind Heather’s house and she meets a friendly alien, her dream to go to outer space comes true.
DANCE LIKE A LEAF: A girl and her grandmother enjoy each other’s company, especially during autumn, and when Grandma passes away, the girl finds a special way to remember her.
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THE BLUE HOUSE: As Leo’s neighborhood begins to change and he and his dad must move out of their little blue house, he struggles to make their new house feel like home.
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WE DISAGREE: A rat and a squirrel disagree on everything and decide that they can’t be friends, until they finally find common ground. Rhyme
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THE POWER OF ONE: Change begins with one person standing up for what is right and one act of kindness can start a chain reaction.
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A UNICORN NAMED SPARKLE AND THE PUMPKIN MONSTER: When Lucy accidentally frightens Sparkle with a scary carved pumpkin and he takes off, Lucy must first find him and then comfort him. Sweet!
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THE WORST POET EVER: Cat and Pug are each determined to become the world’s best poet, no matter what it takes, but eventually discover working together produces the best results. Fun! Mostly rhyme
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THE BEAR AND THE MOON: When the gift of a balloon floats into Bear’s life, the two companions embark on a journey of discovery as small as a clearing in the forest and as deep as the sky.
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FUSSY FLAMINGO: When Lola sneaks other snacks instead of eating shrimp and her feathers turn wacky colors, her parents plead with her to eat healthy.
OLIVER THE CURIOUS OWL: A curious owl and a friendly bug ask questions that lead them on a grand adventure away from and back to their home tree.
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NO FUZZBALL!: A cat who thinks she is a queen becomes concerned when her loyal subjects, aka her family, leave her alone and are gone all day. Adorable!
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ME & MAMA: For a little girl on a rainy day, the best place to be is with Mama.

My View Book Review: RANDOLPH THE REINDEER by Sean Patrick O’Reilly

Title: Randolph the Reindeer

Author: Sean Patrick O’Reilly

Illustrator: David Alvarez

Publisher/Year: Arcana/2020

There’s a lot going on right now. A lot. And your head is probably swirling. And maybe you haven’t been thinking about Christmas just yet.

But I think we could all use a little cheer, don’t you? With that in mind, I’m happy to share a new Christmas picture book that recently received the Mom’s Choice Award.

Combine one arrogant reindeer in training, one friendly Krampus, and one skeptical elf. Add a broken camera and a disappointed boy. Mix in a terrible blizzard on Christmas Eve and a sleighful of determination. And what do you get? A recipe for merriment, Randolph the Reindeer, a Christmas tale like no other.

Randolph dreams of pulling Santa’s sleigh. But when he fails miserably and is humiliated during tryouts, despite bragging that he’s the fastest reindeer and is sure to be chosen to pull Santa’s sleigh that very night, Christmas Eve, he decides to leave town.

In North Pole, Alaska, Randolph makes a new friend, a boy named Jamie. Jamie says Randolph can pull his sleigh. Randolph wants to show Jamie just how fast he can go, but Jamie just wants to take pictures. Randolph doesn’t listen, however, and crashes the sleigh, breaking Jamie’s special camera.

Jamie is heartbroken and Randolph feels terrible. He sets off through a blizzard to make things right. And with a little help from Nikita Von Krampus, Mrs. Clause, and Jeremy the elf, Randolph saves Christmas for Jamie just in the (Saint) nick of time. 😉

With a fun, engaging story by Arcana Studio founder Sean Patrick O’Reilly, and bright, cheerful illustrations by Warner Brothers, Walt Disney, and Nickelodeon artist David Alvarez, you and your children will delight in reading Randolph the Reindeer together this holiday season. And it may just take your mind off of other things for a bit. Happy Holidays!

Picture Books At The Library 219

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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SWASHBY AND THE SEA: No-nonsense Captain Swashby loves his quiet life by the sea, but when new neighbors settle in next door and disrupt his solitude, the sea knows exactly what he needs.
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ONE EARTH: Celebrate the beauty of nature and learn ways to protect our one and only world. Rhyme/Concept
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JOY: An exuberant little kitten bounces, wriggles, and runs through the house, chasing her ball of yarn, until she trips down the stairs and her fun comes to an end. Rhyme
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EVERY LITTLE LETTER: Walls had been built by big letters to keep out other letters, different letters, but one curious little letter was about to change everything.
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IZZY AND FRANK: Izzy loves her island, but when she has to leave her lighthouse and island life behind to move to the city, she also has to say goodbye to her seagull friend Frank.
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PLAYING POSSUM: Possums play dead when threatened, so Alfred, an unusually nervous possum, avoids attention and even friendship until he meets Sofia, an armadillo who curls into a ball when she’s nervous. Sweet!
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DANDELION’S DREAM: In a meadow filled with dandelion buds just about to flower, one dandelion blooms into a real lion and sets off to explore the great wide world. Wordless
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THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT: With care and tenderness, a bird and her mate make their family’s nest from the treasures of the forest. Rhyme
A JOURNEY TOWARD HOPE: Four unaccompanied migrant children come together along the arduous journey north through Mexico to the United States border.
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LITTLE GREEN DONKEY: Little Donkey’s favorite food is grass, but when he eats too much and turns green, his mom tries to convince him to eat something new.
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DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS: A generous, but increasingly put-upon, bear makes batch after batch of doughnuts for her woodland friends without saving any for herself. Rhyme
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A PERFECT DAY: It’s a perfect day for Seagull, perched on a rock in the sea, until crabby Crab comes along and points out all of the day’s flaws.

Remembering Green by Lisa Gammon Olson

Please welcome back picture book author Lisa Gammon Olson to Frog on a Blog! Lisa is the author of the American Herstory Series and a huge proponent of spreading kindness and preserving nature. Lisa last visited in April of 2019 to talk about her book And the Trees Began to Move. Today, on October 12th, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, an alternative to Columbus Day, Lisa’s stopped by to tell us about her latest book, Remembering Green: An Ojibwe Girl’s Tale. And Lisa has an important message for us all at the end.

Welcome, Lisa!

Good morning! My American HerStory Series, with Eifrig Publishing, features a snapshot in American History as seen through the eyes of one young girl.

My newest picture book, Remembering Green, is the 4th book in this series and features an Ojibwe heroine named Wenonah and her struggles to keep her native identity during the forced attendance of Indigenous children at residential schools.

 In the late 19th century, the United States Government began establishing Indian Residential Schools with the intent of forcibly assimilating Native American children into Euro-American culture.  In order to “Christianize” and “civilize” them, Indigenous children were taken from their families and housed in boarding schools where they were to be “educated” and stripped of their culture. 

Children arriving at the schools had their long hair cut and their native clothing exchanged for a regimented school uniform and were not even allowed to keep their native names.  They were forbidden to speak their native languages and were often beaten and treated harshly when they were caught doing so. Overcrowding, disease and abusive discipline were present in these children’s daily lives changing the very core of who they were.

In Remembering Green, my Wenonah is one such girl from the Lac Du Flambeau Ojibwe tribe in northern Wisconsin.  She runs away from the boarding school where she seeks out her great grandfather, Nimishoomis and his wisdom. Together, using their five senses, he will help Wenonah think of ways she can retain her culture and remember their customs to pass down to future generations. Even as she is learning chimookoman ways, Grandfather reminds her it is not the learning that will change her but the forgetting of her heritage that will change who she is. 

I worked extensively with the Lac Du Flambeau tribal members on this book to be sure every detail was true to history even using Ojibwe words in the story to authenticate the setting.

 My personal research discovered a beautiful culture with people who revere the earth and live in harmony with the changing seasons.  Our Native Americans were brutalized, persecuted and killed in horrifyingly vast numbers for their differences and for their land.  I often wonder how corporate America would look now had the roles been reversed and we had all learned to live in harmony with the natural world as our Native friends did.  I know which world I personally would choose to live in.

Writing historical fiction has opened my eyes to the suffering and hardships our ancestors endured in our past and I am amazed at the tenacity of the human spirit and how people have coped during really tough times.  

It’s important we bring to light the untold history of these strong, spiritual people and help them heal.  A first good step has been the national movement to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 12th in lieu of Columbus Day. 

I work in an elementary school as the secretary and I want our kids to know “there is always something positive you can do to impact others in every situation.” As a child, it’s easy to get sucked up into the enormity of life and not think you could ever possibly make a difference. 

In my first book, Dust Flowers…set in the midst of the Dust Bowl…a little girl can do nothing about the weather but she CAN grow one tiny flower and bring a smile to her mother’s face. That’s what I like ALL my books to say. What you do, DOES make a difference!  YOU ARE IMPORTANT!!!

Every human being on this planet has made an individual journey…has a rich past and story to tell.  Listen to each other in a respectful, responsible & kind manner and together we will learn all the wondrous secrets this world has to tell…Cover your ears and we will be destined to repeat these shameful failings at humanity’s peril.

First and foremost, Lisa Gammon Olson is a mom of three amazing young men; Grant, Kyle & Jay. She lives with her husband Bruce in Coon Valley, WI, where she is the secretary at the Coon Valley Elementary School….a job she adores! She believes the most important skill we can ever teach our children is “How to be Kind.” Any kindness we do, no matter how small, has the power to change someone’s life. Growing up in northern Wisconsin has instilled in her the wonder of nature… sparkling lakes, endless forests and trails littered with pine needles and possibilities. Preserving our planet and populating it with human beings who are Respectful, Responsible and Kind seems like an awesome idea.

You can learn more about Lisa’s books and the history behind the story by clicking Here or on the images below:

Picture Books At The Library 218

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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SHY ONES: Maurice the little flapjack octopus is not the type to draw attention to himself, he’s shy, but he’s not the only one. Adorable!
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THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO: When war came to Syria, many fled the city, but Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel stayed behind to care for neighbors and the hungry, abandoned cats of Aleppo.
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MILO AND MONTY: Milo and Monty are two very different dogs, while Monty loves to be around people, Milo prefers to be by himself, but both fit perfectly into their family.
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DIRT CHEAP: Birdie wants a very expensive soccer ball, but she has no money, so she starts selling dirt and learns some important lessons along the way about earning and counting money.
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PAPA, DADDY, AND RILEY: When a classmate insists that a family must have a mother and a father, Riley fears she will have to choose between Papa and Daddy.
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LAYLA’S LUCK: When Layla the ladybug enters a baking competition, she learns that she cannot always rely on her luck.
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UNSTOPPABLE: A crab who wants to fly and a bird who wants claws work together to outwit danger and become unstoppable.
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MERMAID AND ME: A girl and a mermaid become best friends as they figure out how to enjoy their favorite things together, and when the shore becomes unsafe, Mermaid must leave, but she promises to return one day.
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TAD: When Tad’s brothers and sisters start to get bigger and disappear, she worries that she’ll be left all alone in the dark with Big Blub.
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THE HIDDEN RAINBOW: Follow along to uncover the rainbow of colors hidden in a garden, which help flowers bloom and bees find food. Rhyme
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DREAM BIG, LITTLE SCIENTISTS: Meet twelve budding young scientists, each with their own favorite branch of science, as they wind down for the day. Rhyme
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THIS IS A DOG: The boisterous, energetic dog steals the spotlight as each of the other animals, from a cat to a gorilla, is introduced.

Picture Books At The Library 217

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.

Check out these fun and spooky tales, perfect for this time of year!

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GUSTAVO THE SHY GHOST: Gustavo is a very shy and lonely ghost who loves to play the violin, but when nobody shows up to his concert, his dream of making friends vanishes into the night, almost.
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ALIEN TOMATO: The curious vegetables decide the mysterious red orb that landed nearby must be a visitor from outer space, but Gopher knows better, or does he?
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SHE WANTED TO BE HAUNTED: Clarissa, an adorable pink cottage, wants nothing more than to be haunted, but her attempts to attract ghosts only make her cuter. Rhyme
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AFTER SQUIDNIGHT: A squad of squids are on a mission: make their way from the ocean to your house and leave their artistic mark by doodling on everything, even you, while you sleep. Rhyme
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I LOVE MY FANGS!: Young Dracula loves his fangs and is very upset after one falls out, especially when the Tooth Fairy tries to take it away.
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RUNAWAY PUMPKINS: When a poorly secured bus lock turns a school trip back from a pumpkin patch into a disaster, the neighbors along the road work together to turn the pumpkins into treats for the children. Rhyme
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IT’S HALLOWEEN, LITTLE MONSTER: As Little Monster makes his way around the neighborhood to trick-or-treat, Papa is there to guide him through his fears. Rhyme
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COOKIE BOO: When the cookies escape for a Halloween romp, they will have some tricks and treats before the night is through. Rhyme
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BEARS AND BOOS: When the bears search through the box of Halloween costumes, one little bear is left without anything to wear. Rhyme

Regan Macaulay Likes To Work Collaboratively

Please welcome Regan Macaulay! Regan is the author of several children’s picture books. Her latest Libby the Lobivia Jajoiana is officially out today! Isn’t that cover adorable?! Happy Book Birthday Regan and Libby!

“This childrenʼs picture book is about Libby, a lonely cactus plant who has trouble believing in herself. However, when lovely, confident Violet moves in next to her on the windowsill, Libby learns that the things that make her different also make her special.”

I really like how this book features a cactus and a violet plant. Growing up, we had tons of plants on our windowsills. My grandma had a cactus that lived for years and years, and my mom always had violet plants. It makes me smile to think the plants may have been friends like Libby and Violet. 🙂

But enough about me; I want to hear from Regan. She’s stopped by today to talk a little about the collaborative partnership she’s had with each of her illustrators. Take it away, Regan!

I love what I do, which is writing. In particular, writing for children as it brings with it specific rewards for which I am so grateful.

Working on picture storybooks over many years and now starting to see those works published in the last five, it got me thinking about what’s special about writing these short, most concise stories, where the text shares the storytelling effort with the images on each page.

What’s stimulating for me about working in the picture book category is that, since I do not have the patience to do the artwork myself, I always have a partner helping me tell the tale. So far, I’ve had the privilege of working with four gifted illustrators on five – soon to be six, then next year, seven – picture books. 

Alex Zgud worked her magic through water colour on Beverlee Beaz the Brown BurmeseSloth the Lazy Dragon, and Merry Myrrh, the Christmas Bat. We traded my storyboards for scanned sketches and paintings via email over many months on each work.  

Wei Lu works digitally, but her styles for Mixter Twizzle’s Breakfast (a sort of anime look) and upcoming picture book Dog Band (water colour, but via computer) are strikingly different, though always brilliantly colourful in the life she brings to my characters.

I’ve actually never met Javier Duarte, who works as a freelancer through Mirror Publishing. I merely sent my storyboard ideas for each page of Tamara Turtle’s Life So Far and he sent back the fully formed illustrations (black and white first, then colour once confirmed or tweaked if I had notes), ready for the next step in the publishing process!

Now, with Libby the Lobivia Jajoiana, released by Mirror World Publishing (note that this is a different publisher than Mirror Publishing), I have been blessed with a truly unique collaborative experience I will never forget. For many reasons – the search for the right publisher, then a change in publishers, as well as the technically involved artistic process of our new illustrator, Gordon Bagshaw – Libby has been years in the making. I worked with a co-writer, my husband, Kevin Risk. Our publisher, Justine Alley Dowsett, was even more closely involved than she usually is with the completion of the book over the last year or more. And Gord constructed a 360 degree digital “set” – the kitchen, in which most of the story takes place – in minute detail and with breathtaking art that straddles the line between photorealistic and fantastical illustration with digital painting.

Once Kevin and I had the manuscript vetted over several years by several different sources, including editors, publishers, educators, and parents and their children…after revisions galore…we were able to watch and participate in Gord’s step-by-step illustrating process, as if we were leaning over his shoulder. Yet Gord, though Canadian, lives in Sao Paolo and Kevin and I are both in Toronto, Ontario, and when Justine joined the process, she did so from Windsor, Ontario.

What a fabulous age to live in if you are creative, even in these uncertain and often scary times. We can reach across the miles and work with anyone anywhere in the world!  And with this recent book project, Libby, it often felt a little bit like shooting a film (and filmmaking is a part of my background as well). Gord carefully chose angles for each “shot” or page from any vantage point in that kitchen set, and was able to place the characters in their performance space and let them catch their light. Then he was able to show us every stage – from rough and unrendered to the final version ready for printing.

It seems to me there are many ways to tackle putting together a picture storybook, but one constant for me is the need to work collaboratively, even more so than you would on a typical novel. This is something I recommend writers of children’s literature become accustomed to, but I also think most writers will find it a fun, supportive and inspiring process.

Regan W. H. Macaulay writes novels, short stories, children’s literature, and scripts. Writing is her passion, but she’s also a producer and director of theatre, film, and television. She is an animal-enthusiast as well, which led her to become a Certified Canine and Feline Massage Therapist. Other picture storybooks include Sloth the Lazy Dragon, Tamara Turtle’s Life So Far, Mixter Twizzle’s Breakfast, Merry Myrrh the Christmas Bat, and Beverlee Beaz the Brown Burmese. She is also the author of The Trilogy of Horrifically Half-baked Ham, which includes Space Zombies! (based on her film, Space Zombies: 13 Months of Brain-Spinning Mayhem!—available on iTunes and on DVD), They Suck, and Horror at Terror Creek.

Picture Books At The Library 216

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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TOGETHER WE GROW: When a bad storm drives all of the farm animals into the barn, they have trouble setting aside their fears and welcoming wild animals in, too, like a frightened fox family. Rhyme
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I WILL DANCE: Eve’s cerebral palsy makes it difficult for her to do many things, but she longs to dance, and finally her dream is realized when she joins a special dance class.
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ALL ABOARD THE MOONLIGHT TRAIN: Grab your ticket and climb aboard the Moonlight Train where you can read books with a lion, eat pancakes with warthogs, climb up a giraffe’s neck to get the best view, and much more until you’re finally sleepy. Rhyme
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CLEM AND CRAB: Clem loves the beach, but not all the garbage left behind, so she takes Crab home with her to protect him, but there has to be something more she can do to save Crab’s home.
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GOING UP!: A girl and her father are invited to a neighbor’s birthday party on the 10th floor of their apartment building and meet many other neighbors on their way up in the elevator and things become a bit crowded.
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SANDCASTLE: A young girl builds a sandcastle so grand and lovely that royalty from all over the world come to visit, but they are not pleased with all the sand until she starts a game they can’t resist.
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THE THREE LITTLE YOGIS AND THE WOLF WHO LOST HIS BREATH: In this twist on the classic fairy tale, a wolf who lost his huff and puff finds his breath with the help of three yogis.
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THIS WAY, CHARLIE: Jack the goat isn’t sure about Charlie the horse at first, but the two soon form an unbreakable bond, where Jack is Charlie’s eyes as he goes blind, even after a storm puts their friendship to the test.
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A IS FOR ANOTHER RABBIT: Dr. Owl simply wants to make a proper, respectable alphabet book, but some rule-bending, rebellious, and occasionally rhyming rabbits have other ideas. Concept
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TINY BIRD: As autumn nears, flowers fade and insects become quiet, and Tiny Bird leaves his northern home for the long and perilous journey to lush southern forests.
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A FAMILY FOR LOUIE: A French bulldog who loves gourmet food has trouble finding a family that is just right for him. Adorable!
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ONCE UPON A UNICORN’S HORN: A little girl befriends a sad, tiny horse, and with a bit of magic and an ice cream cone, helps him fly.

Picture Books At The Library 215

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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THIS LITTLE PUP: When a little boy throws a ball for a little pup to catch, it bounces past many animals until it’s finally caught. Concept
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CAVE DADA: Even after a long day of hunting and gathering, Dada will do anything for Baba, but Baba wants a book, not just any book, the biggest book of all. Hilarious!
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LIFT: A girl who loves to press the elevator button finds a broken button in the trash, hangs it by her closet door, presses it, and discovers worlds beyond her imagination waiting when the door opens.
OUR FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR: Four kindergartners who think they have nothing in common become friends after sharing traditions of their favorite holidays.
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MY BROTHER THE DUCK: Stella, a fledgling scientist, has a new baby brother, Drake, and she is seriously considering the possibility that he is a duck, but furher research is required to test the hypothesis.
WHERE’D MY JO GO?: When Big Al, a little dog, gets separted from his trucker friend Jo at a roadside rest area, he patiently waits for her to return. Rhyme
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OTIS P. OLIVER PROTESTS: Otis rouses a rabble of neighborhood children to join him in a protest demonstration against baths, but notes from his mother lead to a compromise.
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THE BUG COLLECTOR: George loves bugs and decides to collect them until he realizes that watching them in their natural habitat is much better than keeping them in bottles.
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HOT HOT PANCAKES!: When Mommy Mouse leaves Max in charge while she’s out, he decides to make pancakes for his brothers and sisters, but he forgets to make one for himself.
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FOLLOW ME, FLO!: On the way to visit Auntie Jenna, Flo is supposed to follow Daddy Duck, but instead she goes a different way and attracts the attention of hungry Roxy Fox.
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THE ELEPHANT’S GUIDE TO HIDE-AND-SEEK: When an elephant who loves to play with his friends, but doesn’t like to always be the first one found in hide-and-seek needs help, he turns to The Elephant’s Guide to Hide-and-Seek.
MY BIG FAMILY: Alex is excited when his Abuela comes from Cuba to stay with him and his parents, but when even more family moves in, the house is soon bursting at the seams.

Picture Books At The Library 214

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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I AM BROWN: A joyful celebration of the skin you’re in–of being brown, of being you, and all the amazing things you can do.
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MARGOT AND THE MOON LANDING: Margot loves talking about space and the moon landing, but nobody around her seems to care or will even listen, causing Margot great frustration.
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NATSUMI’S SONG OF SUMMER: When Natsumi’s cousin visits from America, she can’t wait to share everything she loves–summertime festivals, the seaside, fireworks, and especially the cicadas.
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BRICK BY BRICK: As a little boy watches his father, a bricklayer, work hard to build the city, both dream of building a house of their own.
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DO NOT EAT THE GAME!: A girl tries to play a game with monsters, but it quickly turns into chaos when they don’t follow the rules.
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I’M NOT A GIRL: Nobody seems to understand that Hannah is not a girl, but a birthday wish, a new word, and a stroke of courage might be just what Hannah needs to show the world who he really is.
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HURRY UP!: After rushing around all day long, at home and at school, a child learns to slow down, breathe, and appreciate the natural world before going to bed. Rhyme
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LONE WOLF: So many people think Maple is a wolf that she starts to believe them, but after exploring the world outside her home, she returns to her pack.
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THAT’S MY CARROT!: In the garden, each bunny works on its own side of the fence, but one day, something unusual grows between them and they both claim it as theirs.
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CORAL: A disagreement between Coral, Filly, and Manta, three young mermaids who work together to build and safeguard the reef that is their home, must quickly be set right, or else it’s the reef that will suffer.
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RUNAWAY SIGNS: When all the street signs decide to take a vacation, their absence causes chaos throughout town, and they soon discover how important their jobs really are.
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THE NIGHT IS FOR DARKNESS: Celebrate the wondrous beauty of the natural world at night as one family moves to a new home. Rhyme

Children’s Literature: A Natural Way to Learn New Languages by Sonia Kermen

Please welcome bilingual children’s book author Sonia Kermen to Frog on a Blog. Sonia recently published Enzo Le Petit Aventurier / Enzo The Little Adventurer, a book written in French and translated into English. It includes nine stories featuring different animals, and each story ends with a proverb.

As a mom of three children from different cultures, Sonia believes it’s important to communicate the importance of languages. She’s here today to talk a bit about how children’s books can help kids learn new languages.

Children’s Literature: A Natural Way to Learn New Languages

by Sonia Kermen

Children’s literature is a natural way to learn new languages. I have recently published a bilingual book for children entitled Enzo The Little Adventurer. These short stories are written to introduce children to new languages, educate them about the life of the nine zoo animals and instill in them the simple values of life. The ability to speak more than one language is a true richness in our society.

We live in a dynamic and globalized world in which our children must be understood and accepted in whatever country they find themselves.
They, therefore, must learn to understand the country’s language as well as its culture. As bilingual speakers, our children will discover a whole other world, a wealth of knowledge that will enable them to be at home on our planet. When I left France a few years ago and moved in 2008 to the United States with my children, my family and I had to face the joys and challenges of bilingual and bicultural living.

I found children’s storybooks to be a natural avenue for children to develop their bilingual skills. It is clear that the younger treasure learning other languages, the easier it is for them. Children become more open to the outside world, more expressive, and more adaptable in new contexts.

There are, of course, certain challenges in learning to speak more than one language: young children tend to start speaking a little later than average, because instead of learning one set of words, they are learning two or three. Their minds are assimilating information in several languages at a time. Nevertheless, bilingual living sets up children for success in the future, and the delayed speech is quickly overcome by an insatiable curiosity for the world.

Children’s books evoke a child’s imagination and creativity. The vocabulary is inherently repetitive, which facilitates the acquisition of new vocabulary words. Parents can naturally dialogue with their child about the stories in one language or in another. The readers can discover cultural differences in a safe context. Furthermore, children’s books are illustrated. Vivid color drawings help boys and girls follow the scenario and easily learn new vocabulary. Paragraphs are short to keep the child engaged.

It also must be noted that the simple values of life are best taught in a narrative context. Not only do bilingual books for children allow them to learn a new language smoothly, these books also can remind the readers about what is important in life. Narratives can teach simple values for living, such as patience, forgiveness, and that we are all born under a star. We remind the education and awakening on the animals of the zoo.

Children thus keep their innocence and naïveté. I find that these stories enable adults to rediscover their childhood and to pass on our wisdom to our children. Books enable children and parents to relearn proverbs that are less common in modern society. When children and adults read together, generations encounter each other and come to understand each other better. Through bilingual children’s books, adults and children learn to better love each other and to share their world.

After several years as blog coordinator, creating slogans, presentation videos, model of various marketing campaigns and teacher, the Breton Sonia Kermen, writer since the age of nine, now devotes herself to her passion with the writing of her bilingual children’s book with Enzo Le petit Aventurier / Enzo The Little Adventurer. She is also the author of the bilingual series Les Aventures d’Enzo / The Adventures of Enzo with the name of Sonia Colasse published in 2012.

Photo from Sonia Kermen’s website: authorandmodel.wixsite.com/soniakermen

For more information about Sonia and her books, please visit:


Thanks so much, Sonia, for sharing the importance of learning languages!

Readers, my public library has an entire section devoted to bilingual children’s books. Check your library to see what they have available.

Picture Books At The Library 213

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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GREEN ON GREEN: A year is full of colors and changes and life and love, from yellow flowers in spring to white snow in winter and back again to the green of new life in spring. Rhyme
GOODNIGHT, VEGGIES: Visit a community garden where potatoes close their eyes, cabbages nod their heads, and corn covers its ears to go to sleep. Rhyme
LIBRARY BOOKS ARE NOT FOR EATING!: Ms. Bronte loves being a teacher, but she has one small problem, she also loves eating books. Rhyme
AN ORDINARY DAY: An ordinary day in an ordinary neighborhood turns out to be extraordinary as death and new life happen right next door to each other.
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UNDER MY TREE: During a visit to her grandparent’s, Susanne leaves the city behind and journeys into the forest to spend time with her favorite tree.
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ANI’S LIGHT: Ani’s world has gone dark in his mother’s absence, but when Mama finally returns, her love chases the darkness away.
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UNDER THE LILACS: When Kate’s mother and sister are too busy to spend time with her, Kate decides to build her own house under the lilacs in the backyard.
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ME AND MCGEE: It’s been a long winter and the pitcher has practiced every day, but will the Slither Ball, Brush-cut Ball, and Cannonball Express be enough to defeat McGee and the Catbirds this year?
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OUTSIDE IN: Follow along with a little girl as she discovers all the ways nature affects our lives, such as providing food and clothing, and showing when to go to bed and when to get up.
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A WAY WITH WILD THINGS: Poppy Ann Fields loves bugs and feels more comfortable with them than with people, until the day a special bugs lands on her grandmother’s birthday cake.
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JASPER & OLLIE BUILD A FORT: Jasper and Ollie have a fort building contest in the yard, but while Jasper keeps adding more and more to his fort, Ollie keeps things simple.
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PIGLETTE: Piglette prefers pampering, pastries, and flowers to mud, slop, and piggish things, so she sets off to experience the finer things in Paris.

Interview Alert: Danielle Dufayet (+ a Book Birthday Celebration Giveaway!)

It is a huge pleasure to welcome picture book author Danielle Dufayet to Frog on a Blog. Danielle is the author of three gorgeous picture books, two published last year and one officially out today via Albert Whitman & Company publishers! Happy Book Birthday to Waiting Together!

As Danielle’s books are some of my recent favorites, I jumped at the chance to learn more about her through an interview.

What inspired you to write your brand-new picture book Waiting Together?

Danielle: Deborah Underwood, The Quiet Book. It was so interesting and fun to read about all the different ways a kid experiences silence throughout the day. It made me ask: what else do kids (universally) experience throughout the day? The answer was “waiting”. For kids, being quiet is not always easy -neither is being patient.

Do you, as an English and a Public Speaking teacher, feel that teaching informs or affects your writing in any way?

Danielle: Actually, it’s the other way around. I found that I enjoy writing books that help kids feel self-empowered. From that, I designed my own public speaking course which focuses on leadership and self-empowerment. I like to emphasize self-love and positive self-talk. Those themes come out whenever I am teaching kids, if I have the opportunity.

You have two other gorgeous picture books already out in the world. For those who may not be familiar, please tell us a little about You Are Your Strong and Fantastic You.

Danielle: You Are Your Strong is about using our own resources for handling our difficult emotions (sadness, anger, worry and fear) with breath, positive thinking, self-distraction, etc. Fantastic You is all about self-love and self-compassion and forgiveness. In essence, it’s about how to treat ourselves as if we were our own best friend.

Just like your other books, Waiting Together has an eye-catching cover! How excited were you to see it for the first time?

Danielle: I was so excited! I loved that it was of a boy and his dog -which circles back to the end of the book. I love my illustrator’s work, especially her children -such sweet faces! I am very lucky to have Srimalie Bassani as my illustrator.

You’re also an artist, and I’ve seen some of your amazing art on your website. Do you hope to one day illustrate picture books, either your own or other’s?

Danielle: Thank you for your kind words! I love to paint big, colorful paintings that uplift the viewer. I enjoy expressing love and light and joy in my work and hopefully that’s what it brings to the walls. Illustrating books and painting large works are two very different types of art, but, yes, one day I may be inspired to illustrate my own book. After all, I wanted to be a cartoonist when I was young.

Your books are uplifting and encouraging, perfect to share with the children we love anytime, but maybe even more so during difficult times. Do you have any advice for kids or adults who may be struggling right now?

Danielle: My advice is to take one day at a time and to NOT be so hard on yourself. Do the best you can. Make time for self-care. Do things that bring you joy, always get a good dose of sunshine, fresh air and physical activity, watch your thoughts, for they become “things”. Practice being loving and gentle and kind to yourself and everyone.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your books, or to connect with you online?


Danielle Dufayet, born in Yonkers, New York, now lives in sunny San Jose, California, where she writes children’s books and paints. She also teaches English and Public Speaking (Self-Empowerment) to grades K-12.

Danielle read her first picture book (Little Raccoon and the Thing in the Pool) when she was 18 whereupon she was blown away by its simplicity, timelessness and transformative power. That’s when she knew it was her calling.

Thirty five years and a Master’s Degree later, she finally made her dream come true with TWO books out in 2019 – one about inner strength and the other about self-love/compassion, and a third book, Waiting Together, September 1, 2020.

Hooray for a GIVEAWAY!

To celebrate its Book Birthday, Danielle is giving away a copy of her brand new picture book Waiting Together to one lucky reader! Just leave a comment on this post by September 15 to be entered to win. The winner will be chosen at random and notified via email. Giveaway available to U.S. residents only.

Picture Books At The Library 212

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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ELSIE: When Elsie goes fishing with her six siblings, she wants to do things her way, even though they tell her not too, but they soon discover that doing things differently isn’t such a bad idea after all.
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FROG BOOTS: Dylan loves his new rain boots with colorful poison dart frogs, until he wears them to school and discovers that the boots are meant for girls.
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WHAT SOUND IS MORNING?: Welcome the day by exploring the exuberant sounds and soft silences of morning.
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DESERT GIRL, MONSOON BOY: Two families flee extreme weather in India and come together on a mountaintop. Rhyme
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WHEN THE STORM COMES: Follow several people and animals as they show the many different ways in which they prepare for a storm and take shelter. Rhyme
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THE BOLD, BRAVE BUNNY: After his brothers and sisters ruin his favorite alphabet book, Teetu the bunny has had enough of his big bunny family and decides to sneak off into the night.
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NESTING: A pair of robins build a nest together and raise their chicks, navigating a year of changing seasons and serpentine predators.
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SWING: As four very different letters arrive at the playground, each makes the next feel unwelcome, but once they begin to swing together , they have a wonderful time.
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THE BEDTIME BOOK: Mouse’s favorite book is missing, so she sets off to find it with the help of her dog friend Frank.
WOODPECKER GIRL: When a little girl born with cerebral palsy is given a paintbrush by her teacher, she’s able to express herself and freely explore the world through her paintings.
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KAIA AND THE BEES: Kaia is afraid of getting stung even though her dad is a beekeeper, but after she spends time helping care for the bees, she begins to feel braver.
A FRIEND FOR BEAR: After Bear wakes up from her long winter sleep, she’s in a rush to do everything, including running, rolling, and swimming, until her new friend Tortoise convinces her to slow down.

Picture Books At The Library 211

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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LILAH TOV GOOD NIGHT: Based on a Hebrew lullaby, a Jewish refugee family travels by night to find a safe home in a new land. Rhyme
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BIKE & TRIKE: When Lulu graduates to a bicycle with training wheels, rusty, old Trike feels lonely in the garage and worries about Lulu’s safety on her shiny, new bike.
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WE ARE WATER PROTECTORS: When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth and poison her people’s water, one young water protector takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.
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HAVE YOU EVER ZEEN A ZIZ?: The mythological Ziz is a giant bird that likes to show off by flying, singing, blocking out the sun with its wings, and resting its head upon a cloud. Rhyme
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MY OCEAN IS BLUE: Join a curious young explorer on her seaside adventure as she relates everything the ocean can be with all of its shapes, sounds, smells, and sights.
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REMEMBERING ETHAN: Sarah misses her big brother Ethan and wants to talk about him, but her parents don’t even want to mention his name, and she can’t understand why.
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CAT AND DOG’S ALPHABET: When Dog discovers the 26 letters of the alphabet, it’s up to Cat to show him all the great things he can do with them.
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DIGGERSAURS EXPLORE: The diggersaurs search for buried treasure and discover a new friend. Rhyme
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BABY CLOWN: When Frieda and Boffo Clown have a baby, the entire circus is over the moon, but there’s just one problem, Baby Clown won’t stop crying.
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DOWN UNDER THE PIER: There’s lots of fun to be had up on the pier, but it’s down under the pier, at low tide, where the real magic can be found.
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THE HOMESICK CLUB: Monica and Hannah are classmates who have moved to the U.S. from far away and miss their homes so much that they form the Homesick Club.
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THIS BOOK IS UPSIDE DOWN: Penelope Giraffe and Gus Penguin are at home on two different sides of the same world, and when something looks upside down to Penelope, it looks right-side up to Gus.

Picture Books At The Library 210

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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OVER THE MOON: When two wolves find a baby floating down the river, they take her home, nourish her, teach her, love her, watch her grow, and let her go.
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LITTLE BEAR’S TREASURES: Little Bear loves his treasures, but the other animals think they’re only junk, until Little Bird comes along.
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TREES MAKE PERFECT PETS: The whole family is surprised when Abigail chooses a tree for a pet, and Names it Fido, keeps it in her room, and takes it for walks, until it grows too big and she must reluctantly plant it in the yard.
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I GO QUIET: A lonely little girl, overwhelmed by an overpowering and hostile world, disappears into the pages of a book and her imagination and discovers her voice.
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IN A GARDEN: Follow a busy garden through the seasons from seedlings sprouting in spring and birds, bees, and bunnies visiting to the chill of fall and the stillness of winter and then back to spring again. Rhyme
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I DON’T LIKE RAIN: One sunny day, a little rabbit and his pals are playing outside, until the rain comes pouring down and spoils their fun, or does it?
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GLAD, GLAD BEAR!: Bear is very glad about going to ballet class today, gets anxious before the music starts, then joyously begins to dance.
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BOATS WILL FLOAT: Observe a wide variety of boats that spend all day from early morning to dreamy night in the bay, on the ocean, or under the sea. Rhyme
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DRAGON MEETS BOY: Dragon and Boy have many adventures together, but when Boy grows up, Dragon is left alone to guard all of Boy’s treasures until he returns.
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TIARA’S HAT PARADE: When her momma has to close down her millinery shop, Tiara finds a way to show her how much her hats mean to the community.
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ELMORE AND PINKY: Elmore the porcupine longs for a best friend, and after Pinky the skunk scares off some frightening bears, Elmore realizes his best friend has been there all along.
CANNONBALL: A Maori boy dreams of pulling off the perfect cannonball and making a big splash, but after listening to everyone’s advice, he still struggles, until he learns to listen to himself.

Picture Books At The Library 209

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.

I’m pleased to resume Picture Books At The Library with this 209th list featuring an eclectic mix of books that have been published during the first half of 2020. How many have you read?

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DIABETES DOESN’T STOP MADDIE!: When Maddie returns to school after discovering she has diabetes, she’s not ready to tell her classmates because she doesn’t want to be different.
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I’M STICKING WITH YOU: Bear and Squirrel are best friends, and wherever Squirrel goes, Bear follows, until Squirrel decides he’s had enough and wants his space.
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BUNNY BUSINESS: The bunnysitter is sick and Mama must bring Bunny to work with her, which is exciting for Bunny, but when boredom and hunger strike, Bunny must find a way to take charge.
ALREADY A BUTTERFLY: A too-busy butterfly, who spends her day hurrying and worrying, finds her own quiet place after learning about meditation and mindfulness from a flower bud.
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HOW TO SOLVE A PROBLEM: Ashima solves her problems, which are boulders with twists and turns, by seeing the possibilities and climbing to the top, but not without learning from scrapes and falls first.
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HOME BASE: A young girl and her mother support one another as one tries out for the baseball team and the other interviews for a bricklaying job, then celebrate their success together.
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USHA AND THE STOLEN SUN: Usha is determined to bring the sun back to her village by knocking down the wall that blocks it.
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KNOT CANNOT: Knot longs to be like Snake because Snake can do so many amazing things, but when a bird threatens to eat Snake, it’s Knot to the rescue.
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WHAT I LIKE MOST: A little girl observes, one by one, the things that bring her joy, but even after those things are gone, one favorite always remains, her mother.
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A LITTLE BIT BRAVE: Logan is a stay-at-home bunny who musters up the courage to set off on an adventure to find his friend Luna and, ultimately, saves her from a hungry wolf.
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THE BEAR’S GARDEN: An imaginative little girl sees an empty lot in the city and envisions a beautiful garden that brings her community together.
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MY MASTODON: Inspired by the 19th-century lives of artist and scientist Charles Willson Peale’s family, this is a tale of a girl and her favorite companion, a fossilized mastodon, which will soon travel from Philadelphia to London.

“Picture Books At The Library” Returning Soon!

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.

I haven’t posted Picture Books At The Library since my library shut down due to the pandemic in mid-March. But now that I’m back to work in the library (I had been teleworking) and shipments have resumed from our vendors, I’ll finally be able to share new picture books again!

I may be back to work, but the library building is not yet open to the public. We’ve been offering curbside pickup for the past several weeks. And we’re still promoting digital services and resources, as well as online programs (the summer reading program is in full swing) and access to digital books, movies, music, and more. If you haven’t already, check your library’s website to see what kinds of offerings they have. Even during times like these, most libraries are working hard to serve their communities.

I hope that wherever you are in the world, that things are improving. And I hope you will soon be able to visit your library to check out a few glorious new picture books. There are many to choose from! My third hope is that if you cannot visit your library, that you can access many wonderful picture books digitally. It’s not quite the same as having that physical book in your hands, but it’s something, at least.

Stay well, everyone. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. And stay strong. We’re all in this together, and we’ll get out of it together, too! Until then, read some picture books to help you and your kids escape even for just a few moments. I can’t wait to share tons of fabulous new picture books with you. Even if you can’t get your hands on the books right away, keep a list, keep them in mind, and when your library reopens, they’ll be waiting there for you. See you soon At The Library!

Five Board Books To Expand Your World by Sue Lowell Gallion

I’m excited to feature multi-published children’s book author Sue Lowell Gallion on Frog on a Blog today! Sue is known for her Pug & Pig picture book series, as well as the Tip & Tucker early reader series. She has published in several children’s magazines, and she has multiple awards and honors for her work, as well.

(Cover of and interior image from Our World: A First Book of Geography by Sue Lowell Gallion, illustrated by Lisk Feng)

Sue’s newest book, Our World: A First Book of Geography, which was just released by Phaidon Press, is a must-see, beautifully unique, nonfiction board book! Sue is here to share five of her favorite original board books, plus more information about her own wonderful book.

Five Board Books to Expand Your World

by Sue Lowell Gallion

Board book sales have increased every year over the past six years. The variety of original board books is expanding every publishing season as well. I love studying and sharing these sturdy and chewable books with kids of all ages. Board books offer author-illustrators, illustrators, and authors unique creative opportunities.

Here are five of my favorite original board books published over the last year that show some of the options available in this format. An original board book is one that is first published as a board book, not a picture book reprinted in a board book format.

MERBABY’S LULLABY, by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Elizabeth Dulemba, Little Simon, 2019

I’m a Jane Yolen groupie, but even if I wasn’t, I’d put this “hush-filled bedtime rhyme from the bottom of the sea” on the same shelf as my all-favorite TIME FOR BED by Mem Fox and Jane Dyer (disclaimer: TIME FOR BED was originally published as a picture book .) Yolen’s dreamy words and Dulemba’s soft illustrations will transport anyone into an enchanting underwater world. There is a story arc in this 51-word poem that looks back at the merbaby’s day and ends with the merbaby being tucked into a shell bed.

There are no novelty elements here and none needed. The size of the book, about 5 inches square, is grabbable for little hands yet large enough to show off the art. Board books aren’t constrained to many of the parameters of picture books. Their size, shape, and number of spreads aren’t bound by the 8-page signature, which offers loads of flexibility. A book can have an odd number of spreads, and the number of spreads may change during the design process.

GOODNIGHT, RAINBOW CATS by Barbara Castro Urio, Chronicle 2019, originally published by Zahori Book, Barcelona, Spain, 2018

Chronicle Books says, “It is time to say goodnight, which means that each colorful cat comes home to curl up in the big white house. The youngest of readers will delight as each cat enters the house with the turn of a page, and one by one, the die-cut windows are infused with color . . . with reassuring warmth, charm, and an early-concept “colors” hook.”

Little Light-Blue Cat, Little Lime-Green Cat and 10 more cats gradually appearing in the die-cut square windows will fascinate any young child. Like any brilliant board book, the format appears simple. But it’s surely an effective bedtime book as each cat comes home to the big white house with conversational, calming text. The novelty element enhances the book. That’s key.

PLAY WITH YOUR PLATE, A Mix-and-Match Play Book by Judith Rossell, Abrams Appleseed, 2020

Here’s how Abrams introduces this intriguing book: “comprised of four mini board books, each making up a quarter of the plate. Mix and match the four sets of pages to make healthy food choices and create more than 4,000 mealtime combinations! By playing the various games suggested in the book, readers will also be able to hone their concepts of colors and shapes by creating plates with, for example, only red foods or triangles.”

This book combines different concepts in a format that is fun to fiddle with. The food choices range from sushi to mac and cheese in vivid colors and patterns and sturdy flaps. Here’s a great example to see some of the possibilities in paper engineering — and dream of novelty elements that just might work with one of your ideas.

BILL AIME LES VOYAGES/I LOVE TO TRAVEL by Alexx Sanders and Pierrick Bisinski, Gallimard Jeunesse, France, 2019

My daughter lives in France, so when I was visiting her last fall I also I went to every bookstore I could find to look at the children’s books. Publishers around the world are doing wonderful things with board books. Also, novelty board books can easily transcend language differences or also can be a wonderful tool to introduce another language.

This series has multiple flaps with graduated levels. It tells a story in French and English of Bill the rabbit, who travels throughout the world via different modes of transportation, from bike and bus to hot air balloon. Again, the novelty design fits the topic perfectly. It may be hard to get your hands on a copy, but I hope this gives you an idea of its appeal.

DREAM BIG by Joyce Wan, Cartwheel Books/Scholastic 2019

Scholastic’s summary: “In this dreamy oversized board book, little ones will find the courage and strength to achieve anything they want — all by dreaming big! With inspiring illustrations of female trailblazers and icons of history and simple, hopeful text, Joyce Wan creates a moving send-off for graduates of all ages. Included in the back is a simple guide to some of the bold dreamers who came before us who followed their dreams . . . and changed the world.”

Joyce Wan’s board books are some of my favorite baby gifts. This large-format board book with metallic cover embossing doesn’t have any novelty elements such as the lift-the-flaps in some of her other titles. But the size of this chunky book combined with Wan’s vibrant, rounded illustrations will appeal to the youngest on up. The last spread introduces 15 women spotlighted in the book and ends with “you!”

There are amazing choices in board book nonfiction now. I’m a huge fan of the board book series introducing STEM concepts and careers for all kids, such as Ruth Bernstein Spiro and Irene Chan’s BABY LOVES series with Charlesbridge and Laura Gehl and Daniel Wiseman’s BABY SCIENTIST series from HarperFestival.

OUR WORLD, A First Book of Geography, by Sue Lowell Gallion, illustrated by Lisk Feng, Phaidon Press 2020

From Phaidon: “A read-aloud introduction to geography for young children that, when opened and folded back, creates a freestanding globe. Children are invited to identify and experience the Earth’s amazing geography through rhyming verse and lush illustrations: from rivers, lakes, and oceans deep, to valleys, hills, and mountains steep. Secondary text offers more detailed, curriculum-focused facts and encourages readers to consider their own living environments, making the reading experience personal yet set within a global backdrop.”

(Interior images from Our World: A First Book of Geography by Sue Lowell Gallion, illustrated by Lisk Feng)

I’m thrilled to share my first board book here as well, which released July 22. My concept was to make a board book shaped like a globe, with a stand that would be easy for a young child to grasp. I came up with the concept during a workshop on novelty board books at our annual Kansas/Missouri SCBWI conference.

(Interior image from Our World: A First Book of Geography by Sue Lowell Gallion, illustrated by Lisk Feng)

The actual submission was a 56-word poem and a small dummy showing the die-cut half-globe shape, which evolved into this wonderful collaboration with illustrator Lisk Feng and the team at Phaidon. The book has evolved a great deal during the team’s work over the past year and a half, including the addition of secondary non-fiction text to broaden its audience, and the magnetic closure so the book can stand up alone.

Thank you so much, Lauri, for this opportunity!

Sue Lowell Gallion is the author of four picture books: Pug Meets Pig, Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat, and Pug & Pig and Friends (spring 2021) — all from Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster — as well as All About Axle (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster). Gallion is also the author of three early readers (the Tip and Tucker series) with Sleeping Bear Press and is a frequent speaker at elementary schools and libraries.

Gallion was destined to write books. As the daughter of a third generation printer, she grew up immersed in the smells of paper and ink and the sound of printing presses.

When she’s not writing, Gallion likes to spend time with her grandsons and share books with children as a reading mentor with Lead to Read Kansas City. Gallion lives in the Kansas City area with her black lab mix, Tucker, who likes to hold hands.

Gallion’s represented by Liza Voges of Eden Street Literary. For more information, please go to www.suegallion.com.

Connect with Gallion via social media:
Twitter: @SueLGallion
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sue.l.gallion
Instagram: suelowellgallion

Trusting The Process by Kathleen Long Bostrom

I’m thrilled to feature multi-published children’s book author Kathleen Long Bostrom today on Frog on a Blog. I’m sure you’re familiar with many of Kathleen’s books. She’s the author of the award-winning Little Blessings series and several VeggieTales books, as well as lots of other books and magazine stories for children and adults. She and her books have received multiple awards and honors. Kathleen’s newest children’s book, Will You Be Friends with Me?, published just this month by WorthyKids, is a timely board book that celebrates friendship, differences, and diversity.

Kathleen’s here to talk a little about the connection between writer and illustrator, letting go and trusting the publisher and illustrator to help bring your story to life. Let’s hear from Kathleen!

Trusting the Process

by Kathleen Long Bostrom

My children were three, five, and seven when I began writing picture books in 1992. They’re all in their thirties now and two are about to be married. In other words, it’s been a long time!

Much has changed but one thing hasn’t: the questions I get asked. First and foremost is, “Do you illustrate your own books?”

The answer is an unequivocal, “No!” I can’t even draw a decent stick figure. Illustration is not my gift, although I’d love if it were.

I knew nothing about publishing picture books when I first began writing them, but I learned quickly. I discovered that it’s up to the publisher to choose the illustrator. People startle when I say that.  “What? You mean you get no say in choosing? That doesn’t seem fair!” I felt like that myself at first, but I’ve learned to trust the process.

After four years and 250 rejections, my first book, What is God Like? (Tyndale House, 1998) was accepted for publication. I imagined a beautiful, jacketed hardcover book with colorful, double-page layouts. The design crew decided otherwise. The trim size ending up being  9” x 6” x 6”, which fit just right in little hands. The illustrations were not gorgeous; they were simple, childlike. And absolutely perfect! The illustrator, Elena Kucharik, was known for designing the popular Care Bears. For her books with Tyndale House, she created four charming children of different ethnicities. It was brilliant. This was back in the 1990’s when diversity in children’s books was not a priority (should have been). Over the years, many children told me, “I’m in the book!” A bi-racial boy. A girl adopted from China. My blonde-haired youngest son. I couldn’t have asked for more.

That book led to a series called Little Blessings, which ended up in 20 languages around the world, selling several million copies. This did not translate into millions of dollars for me! But I had the joy of knowing that my work was in the hands of children all around the world. From the start, I learned to trust the process.

Spread from Will You Be Friends with Me? by Kathleen Long Bostrom, illustrated by Jo de Ruiter

My newest board book, Will You Be Friends with Me? (WorthyKids, July 2020) is another example. I sought to show how friends can be different in many ways. That’s what makes life great! I imagined one child speaking to another, trying to convince that child that their differences shouldn’t be a problem. But when the art team got to work, they decided on a device called “daisy chain.” One child in each spread moves to the next spread with a new child, and so on. At the end, all the children stand together, showing diversity and friendship and joy. Again, perfect! And timely, too.

Spread from Will You Be Friends with Me? by Kathleen Long Bostrom, illustrated by Jo de Ruiter

With 50+ books published, most of those picture books, I can honestly say that only once have I not been thrilled with the illustrations and how the book turned out.

It’s a fabulous collaboration, author and illustrator. And children! I love it all.

And yes, I’m still learning. I hope that’s always true.

Kathleen Long Bostrom is a Presbyterian minister who has written more than 50 books, including the award-winning Little Blessings series, multiple VeggieTales books, and the upcoming board book version of This Little Light of Mine.

Her books, both for children and adults, have sold close to three million copies and have been translated into more than 20 languages including Chinese, Russian and Indonesian. In fact, Italian versions of her books may be found at the Vatican bookstore in Rome.

Kathleen and her husband Greg, and Ellie — her little empty-nest dog — live in Carlsbad, California. Kathleen is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Agency. For more information please go to www.kathleenlongbostrom.com.

Connect with Kathleen online:
Twitter: @KathleenBostrom
Facebook: Kathleen Long Bostrom / Author
Instagram: kathleenbostrom