Thursday, March 31, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book Ninety

When I was a little girl I was, unfortunately, the kind of child who was bullied. I did not stand up for myself, nor did I ever have the courage to say "NO!" when I needed to. These days  parents, teachers, and school staff in many towns and cities are trying to find creative ways to put a stop to bullying. It is easy to say that a school has a "no bullying policy" but it is another thing altogether to try to enforce that policy.

In today's book you will meet a bully, and you will also meet two girls who stand up to her. This is a book that every young child should read because it shows to great effect that they can say no to a bully; they can change the situation without having to resort to violence.

You're Mean, Lily Jean!Frieda Wishinsky
Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
Picture Book
Albert Whitman, 2011, 978-0-8075-9476-6
   Carly and her big sister Sandy play together all the time. They have wonderful adventures as they pretend to be dragons, knight, explorers, pirates, mountain climbers, and astronauts. Then one day Lily Jean moves in next door, and everything changes.
   Lily Jean suggests that she and Sandy should play house. Not surprisingly, Carly wants to play too, but Lily Jean says “No.” The only way Carly can play house is if she agrees to be the baby, which she consents to do, even though she does not really want to crawl around on her hands and knees.
   The next day Lily Jean comes over and she suggests that she and Sandy should play cowgirls. When Carly asks if she can play too, Lily Jean tells her that she can be the cow. Sandy suggests that they should have three cowgirls in their game, but Lily Jean insists that three cowgirls “are too many.” Reluctantly Carly plays the part of the cow, mooing and eating grass. Is she always going to have the crummy parts in their games? How long should she put up with “mean” Lily Jean and her mean ways?
   Wherever you go, you are going to find children like Lily Jean who are bossy and who like to be mean. They like to make other children feel small and left out, and it is not easy to know how to deal with them. Should one accept their demands or say “No.”
   With sensitivity and care, Frieda Wishinsky shows children how to deal with the Lily Jeans of this world. As they read the story, they will discover that there is even a way to turn a bully into a friend. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration - Book Eighty-Nine

Every parent, caregiver, or teacher is used to having their advice ignored. As a result, heads are bumped, fingers are burned on hot pans, pocket money is misplaced, goldfish expire, and so on. You get the idea I am sure. In today's picture book you will meet a child who ignores his mother's warning about what not to do on Doodleday, and he learns a valuable lesson. 

Ross Collins
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 8
Albert Whitman, 2011, 978-0-8075-1683-6
   Harvey’s mom is going to the store and she tells Harvey not to disturb his father. Harvey tells her that he will “just do some drawing,” which makes his mother completely freak out! Apparently it is “Doodleday” and “Nobody draws on Doodleday and that’’s that.”
   After his mother leaves, Harvey takes out some pencils and…yes indeed…he draws a picture. He draws a picture of a big blue “Fat…and hairy” fly. To Harvey’s horror, his picture becomes a huge (as in as big as a small cow) fat and hairy fly doddle that flies around and creates havoc in the kitchen. What is Harvey to do?
   Quickly Harvey draws a big purple hairy spider. Everyone knows that spiders eat flies. Right? Wrong. Harvey’s doodle spider is not interesting in the fly. Instead, it is interested in Harvey’s dad, and soon the poor man is trussed up and unable to move. Clearly, Harvey has a lot to learn about the dangers of Doddleday.
   This wonderful picture book will delight young artists and make readers of all ages laugh out loud. With its expressive illustrations (complete with pencil doodles) and its unique story, this is a book that children will want to read again and again. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The 2011 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is announced.

Every year the Swedish Arts Council awards a prize, which amounts to 5 million Swedish Kronor, to a person or people who have made a significant contribution to the world of children's literature. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) is the world’s largest prize for children’s and young adult literature. 

Authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and those active in reading promotion may be rewarded. The award is designed to promote interest in children’s and young adult literature, and in children’s rights, globally. An expert jury selects the winners from candidates nominated by institutions and organisations worldwide.

This year the winner of the prize is Shaun Tan.The citation issued by the jury reads:

Shaun Tan is a masterly visual storyteller, pointing the way ahead to new possibilities for picture books. His pictorial worlds constitute a separate universe where nothing is self-evident and anything is possible. Memories of childhood and adolescence are fixed reference points, but the pictorial narrative is universal and touches everyone, regardless of age.

Behind a wealth of minutely detailed pictures, where civilization is criticized and history depicted through symbolism, there is a palpable warmth. People are always present, and Shaun Tan portrays both our searching and our alienation. He combines brilliant, magical narrative skill with deep humanism.

Shaun Tan has illustrated more than 20 books, notable among them The Rabbits (1998), The Lost Thing (2000), The Red Tree (2001), The Arrival (2006) and Tales from Outer Suburbia (2008).

Shaun Tan has reinvented the picture book by creating visually spectacular pictorial narratives with a constant human presence. He uses a variety of means of artistic expression: lead pencil, Indian ink, coloured pencil, painting and various print techniques. Shaun Tan sees every book as an experiment in visual and verbal storytelling.

Shaun Tan also collaborates on animated film, musical and theatrical adaptations of his works, as well as producing fine art and murals.

Shaun Tan has received a number of literary awards, including the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis in 2009 for Tales from Outer Suburbia and a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books award in 2007 for The Arrival. At this year’s Academy Awards, Shaun Tan won the Oscar for best animated short film for The Lost Thing, based on his book of the same title.

His works have been translated into more than 10 languages, including German, Swedish, Spanish and Chinese.

Read more about Shaun Tan on

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration - Book Eighty-Eight

Suma and Sara on my work desk in their basket
I truly identify with the human character that you will meet in the book I reviewed below. Like Miss Wright, I work alone at home tapping out words on my computer. It is sometimes a lonely business being a writer, but I certainly don't lack for companionship. Just yesterday I had two cats and three dogs in my office with me. When I test out a sentence by reading it out loud, many furry heads look up to see what I am up to. I even have a basket on my desk that the two cats sometimes share. This is rather ridiculous because the basket is really too small for two cats (one of whom is rather well padded), but they do this anyway. Though this book is of course for children, adults will also greatly enjoy it.

Judy Young
Illustrated by Andrea Wesson
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Sleeping Bear Press, 2011, 978-1-58536-509-8
   Miss Wright is an author who lives in a little house on the beach. She has all kinds of adventures in the stories that she writes, but her life is very quiet and rather lonely, so she decides that she needs “something to keep me company,” and so she goes to the local pet store.
   The man at the pet store gives Miss Wright a mynah bird because he thinks that the talking bird will be the perfect companion. Unfortunately, the mynah bird does not turn out to be a good fit because the only sound it makes is to mimic the tap tapping sounds of computer keys.
   Miss Wright then brings home a monkey, which is more of a nuisance than anything else. A fish distracts Miss Wright so much that she does not write anything, a hamster running in its wheel makes her dizzy, and a cat lies across her keyboard making it impossible for her to work. Miss Wright is determined that a pet is not the answer to her problem, and then the pet shop man gives her a dog. Miss Wright does not think that the dog is going to suit her either, but she gives it a try all the same. Little does she know that the dog is going to be a bigger asset than she ever imagined.
   In this delightful picture book, we meet a lonely writer who finds that having a dog in your life can be very rewarding indeed. With wonderful illustrations and delightful characters that will appeal to readers of all ages, this is a picture book that will warm the heart and put a smile on a face. 

Scribbling Women Blog Tour

Today I have a special treat for you. I am participating in a blog book tour for Scribbling Women, a book by Marthe Jocelyn. The book is perfect for Women's History Month, and I highly recommend it. Here is my review.

Marthe Jocelyn
For ages 12 and up
Tundra Books, 2011, 978-0887769528
   For hundreds of years, women have used the written word to connect with friends and family members, to capture their thoughts, to share their lives with others, and to share ideas that they cared about. Often many of these “scribblings” disappeared, and we have no idea what the women said. However, sometimes their words were preserved on purpose or by accident, and we can now read these women’s writings many years after they died.
   For this book, Marthe Jocelyn has written about eleven women from around the world who wrote letters, journals, or books that we are still able to read today. She begins by looking at the life and writings of Sei Shonagon, a lady-in-waiting who served in the imperial court of Japan in the tenth century. Sei wrote what is called The Pillow Book, which is a kind of journal filled with a collection of lists, gossip, poetry, observations, complaints, and descriptions. Her writings capture her keen intelligence and her often caustic wit. Thanks to Sei we have a better understanding what it was like to live in the imperial court of Japan so long ago.
   Similarly, the letters that Margaret Catchpole wrote show us what life in the penal colony in Sydney, Australia, was like in the early 1800’s. Margaret stole a horse, and for this crime, she was transported to Australia where she spent the rest of her life. Though she was not educated, she wrote letters to a friend back in England, describing her new life and the trials that she had to bear. Margaret’s personality comes through in her letters, and one can almost hear her voice as one reads the phonetically spelled words she wrote.
   Isabella Beeton’s famous Book of Household Management had a profound effect on the lives of women living in Britain in the 19th century. Her comprehensive book contains 2,751 entries, which includes recipes, household tips, information about food, household management advice and much more. Isabella’s goal was to create a work that women would be able be able to use so that their homes were efficiently run, economical, and homey. She changed the way cook books were written, and helped countless women tolearn the complicated business of running a household.
   Readers who are interested in the stories of women from history will be fascinated by this book, as will readers who like to read about writers and the impact their writings have. Marthe Jocelyn tells the stories of women who scribbled in books and on pieces of paper long ago, and also not so long ago. Some of the women were famous like Isabella Beeton, Nellie Bly and Mary Kingsley, while others lived quiet more domestic lives. She shows us that these “scribblings” are truly precious, and that we have much to learn from them.
   Packed with interesting details about the times that the eleven women lived in, and with numerous quotes from their writings throughout, this is a book that will inspire both young and adult readers.

Here are some of the books that were written by the women mentioned in Scribbling Women. I thought some of you might be interested in taking a trip into the past by reading a few of these titles.

Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management by Isabella Beeton

The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagen
Around the world in 72 Days by Nellie Bly
Caprice: A Stockman's Daughter by Doris Pilkington Garimara
Incidents in the life of a slave girl by Harriet Jacobs

Please visit the other stops of the blog tour. You will find a list of the stops on the Tundra Scribbling Women Blog Tour page.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration - Book Eighty-Seven

When I was in elementary school, I had to take a lunch with me. Unlike my daughter's school, my school did not provide meals for the students. Lunchtimes were therefore very interesting because you got to see what the other children had in their lunch boxes. My mother was, and still is, a very creative cook, so I often went to school with things like chicken stew, spaghetti and meatballs, and beans and rice. The children at my table thought this was very odd until a wonderful boy who grew up in Taiwan joined us. He ate his lunch with chopsticks!

Carla’s Sandwich
Debbie Herman
Illustrated by Sheila Bailey
Carla's SandwichPicture Book
Ages 5 to 7
Flashlight Press, 2004, 0-972-92252-0
   Carla is bringing some very strange things to school for her lunches. In fact she is bringing such peculiar sandwiches to school that no one wants to sit with her anymore, and they make fun of her too. As far as Carla is concerned though, her sandwiches are “creative,” “unique,” and “different,” and not “gross,” “disgusting,” or “sick.”
   When the children in Carla’s class go for a picnic, Carla is laughed at again for having a very “different” sandwich. As the children are eating their lunch sitting on the grass under the blue sky, Buster discovers that he forgot to bring his lunch. Feeling famished, Buster accepts Carla’s offer to share some of her peculiar sandwich – and he gets a real shock.
   By telling a story that every child can relate to, the author shows her readers that being different is not a bad thing. On the contrary, it is something to be acknowledged and enjoyed.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration - Book Eighty-Six

Being different is not an easy thing to get used to, even if you are a cat. Today you are going to meet Caramba, a cat who, unlike the other cats in his world, cannot fly.

Marie Louise Gay
Picture Book
Ages 5 to 8
Groundwood Books, 2005, 0-88899-667-5
   Caramba is a cat, and like all the other cats, he has “soft fur and a long, stripy tail.” He likes to eat fish, and he purrs when he is content. However, there is one thing that Caramba cannot do. He cannot fly.
   Unlike all the other cats in his world, Caramba cannot fly, and this worries him a great deal. He discusses his situation with his friend Portia, who is a little pink pig. Though he tells Portia that he doesn’t want to try to fly, in secret Caramba does try. Again and again he tries and tries to fly, but it never works. Eventually, Caramba gives up.
   Caramba’s cousins, Bijou and Bug, cannot believe that Caramba cannot fly. “Every cat knows how to fly,” they say, and they laugh at poor Caramba, who can do so many things – except fly. Then Bijou and Bug decide that they will give Caramba a flying lesson. Little do they know that their lesson will reveal that Caramba has a hidden talent.
   This delightful book is a tribute to all those people (and cats) who are not like everyone else. It is not easy being different, and at times it can be a big trial, but at the same time, being different can have its rewards.
   With her signature watercolor, pastel, and pencil illustrations, Marie-Louise Gay gives her readers a story that is memorable and heart-warming. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration - Book Eighty-Five

Many of us have heroes that we admire and look up to. In today's picture book you are going to meet a little chick who has a deep admiration for a superhero called Wonder Pug. He never dreams that he might meet Wonder Pug in person, so you can imagine how he feels when he comes across a napping pug dog. 

Chick 'n' PugJennifer Sattler
Picture book
For ages 5 to 7
Bloomsbury, 2010, 978-1-59990-534-1
Chick is a huge fan of a book called The Adventures of Wonder Pug. In fact, he has read the book 127 times! Deciding that life in a chicken coop is too tame for him, Chick sets off to find a little excitement.
   Chick is thrilled when he finds “a real, live Wonder Pug” lying on the ground fast asleep. Chick cannot believe his luck, and he patiently waits for his hero to wake up. Eventually Chick gets a little tired of waiting, and he decides that “even a hero needs a wake-up call” every now and then.
   The pug is not very enthusiastic about being woken up, and he certainly is not in the mood to have an adventure. Anxiously Chick waits for his hero to do something heroic. What is the pug waiting for? Should Chick take the initiative?
   This funny picture book will delight young readers who wish that they could meet their favorite super hero. They will see that there are times - if you want a little excitement - when it is necessary to channel your own inner super hero.
   With wonderful illustrations and loveable characters, this book is sure to become a firm favorite with young readers. Who can resist a dozy pug and a chick with the heart of a Wonder Pug!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration - Book Eighty-Four

When you are a cat without a home or a person to love, life can be very grim indeed. In today's picture book you are going to meet a little black cat who goes on mission to find a very special kind of person to adopt him.

Emily Horn
Illustrated by Pawel Pawlak
Picture Book
Ages 5 to 7
Charlesbridge, 2004, 1-58089-103-9
   Herbert the black cat is a lonely little fellow, and since he has no one to play with, he spends a lot of time in the library. One day he reads that witches often keep black cats as pets. Surely if Herbert can find one of these wonderful stripe-stockinged, black-hatted, cauldron stirring, broom riders, he will also find someone who will want to take him in.
   So Herbert sets out trying to find a witch to be his friend. The poor cat meets people who wear striped stockings, who wear black hats, who stir a cauldron, and who have a broom, and yet none of them is a witch. Indeed some of them are mortified when Herbert asks them “are you a witch?” Is Herbert going to find what he is looking for after all? Maybe he isn’t looking in the right place.
   This story about a youngster who is trying to find a home and a friend is both amusing and touching. Readers will not be able to help feeling sorry for the lonely little cat who wants so much to have someone in his life to talk to and to be with. Bold large pastel drawings capture the innocence of the little cat and the importance of his search.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration - Book Eighty-Three

You may think that the color blue is just the color blue. Perhaps you feel that there is nothing very special about it. Today's picture book will show you that your perceptions can change if you just learn how to look at things in a new and fresh way.

BluePhilippe Dupasquier
Picture Book
Ages 5 to 7
Andersen Press, 2004, 1-84270-323-4
   A group of boys, Simon, Nigel, Ricky and our storyteller, are constantly getting bored. Nothing seems to keep their interest for long until they meet Sabrina. Though some people think that the red-haired girl is “weird”, the boys go to her house and they are amazed at what they see. This is unlike any house any of them have ever seen, full of artwork and strange looking furniture. Then Sabrina suggests that the children play “the colour game” and the colour she uses to start them off is blue.
   To play the game everyone has to lie on their back and look at the sky. What they see is blue, but they also see other things, They see that blue exists in all kinds of different forms and shades. There is no doubt that Sabrina’s game is not quite what they are used to, but it helps the boys to notice something that they never even noticed was there.
   The author’s very unique cut-out and multimedia artwork adds an interesting dimension to this thoughtful story, which explores the power of art and colour. The boys in the story discover that within each of them they have the power to discover new things and new worlds just by looking at everyday objects that are around them.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration - Book Eighty-Two

In today's picture book, we see how two children who have very different lives discover that they have a great deal in common.

Julie Cummins
Illustrated by Ted Rand
Picture Book
Ages 3 to 6
Henry Holt, 2002, 0-8050-6467-2
   With the passing of the seasons, two children who are miles apart live their lives in such different ways. Ben lives in the country, closely linked to the earth and its rhythms. Far away Jody goes about her days working and playing in a city world with its street noises, shops full of people, and conveniences. Both children do the same kinds of things, but they do them in such dissimilar ways. When they meet at summer camp, they find that their differences don’t prevent them from being good friends. They share what they have in common and explore what they don’t.
   In soft watercolor illustrations and with the clever use of insets and frames, the illustrator brings to life two very different worlds where a tree flames over a county postbox in the fall, and where slush splashes on city boots in the winter. On one side of a double page spread one sees a scene from country life, and on the other side one scenes a scene from city life. Then, as one comes towards the end of the book, both children come together on one page, sharing space and friendship. The author shows us that we can be very different because of where we come from ,and yet still have enough in common to become friends. This is a very lovely and special book.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration - Book Eighty-One

Sometimes, despite everything we try to do to avoid it, an animal finds a way to touch our hearts and enter our lives. This is the story about a little dog who manages to win the heart of a writer who really believes that she does not need a dog.

Karel Hayes
Picture Book
Ages 4 to 7
Down East, 2010, 978-089272-850-3
Harriet lives in a little log house in a village in the north. One snowy winter day, Harriet is trying to finish the book she is writing. For some reason the ending refuses to work out right, and Harriet is soon surrounded by balled up pieces of paper. Then Harriet receives a phone call from her friend Monique. Monique has a little puppy that she wants Harriet to take. Monique has been trying for years to get Harriet to take one of her dogs. Though Harriet really does not want a dog, she agrees to take the puppy for a week.
   Soon the puppy, Snowflake, is happily ensconced in Harriet’s home. She has a few accidents of course, and she loves to chew and play with scarves, slippers, mittens, papers, “and even a dictionary.” Harriet doesn’t let Snowflake sleep in her bed, but everywhere else she goes, Snowflake goes with her. All goes well until Snowflake does the unforgiveable; she chews up Harriet’s book manuscript!
   This charming picture book is based on the true story of the author’s relationship with her own dog Snowy. With charming pictures and an engaging narrative, this is a picture book that will resonate with dog lovers of all ages. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration - Book Eighty

Many years ago I discovered Shirley Hughes' Alfie books. I quickly fell in love with her characters and have been collecting the books ever since. In today's picture book, we meet Annie Rose, Alfie's little sister. Readers will surely appreciate Shirley Hughes' sensitive portrait of family life.

Shirley Hughes
Picture Book
Ages 3 to 6
Random House UK, 2003, 978-0099408567
Annie Rose is a little girl and she is a little sister. Like all little sisters, she wants her big brother to play with her, to read to her, and to share his friends with her. Annie Rose’s big brother tells us all about his little sister, and he is delightfully honest about her. We can quickly see that though she can be very exasperating at times, he loves her very much indeed. The little boy knows all her funny ways, the games she plays, and what she likes to do. He is ready to admit that she is good at playing, but he also offers up the information that he finds it "very annoying" that she "always wants to play with my toys. She seems to like them better than her own."
   With her signature illustrations, Shirley Hughes has created yet another wonderful book about childhood and the doings of children. She seems to be able to understand all the things that are important to a small child, and puts them together in such a way that we have a complete and rounded picture of a certain child's small, very important, little world. There are the toys and books, best friends, daisy chains, trips to the beach, temper tantrums, and all those significant things that make up the daily happenings in a child's life.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Spring!

Happy Spring!
Enjoy spring with books about this lovely season.

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration - Book Seventy-Nine

If you have not yet met Farmer Brown and his precocious farm animals, then you are in for a treat today. Allow me to introduce Farmer Brown, Duck, and the rest of the animals on the farm. Farmer Brown no doubt wishes that his animals would behave like normal farm animals, but they don't. In fact they are very unusual indeed.

Doreen Cronin
Illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Picture Book
Ages 4 to 6
Simon and Schuster, 2008, 978-1-4169-1630-7
   Farmer Brown is very excited because soon it will be time for the annual Corn Maze Festival, and he has big plans for his corn maze. The chickens are helping Farmer Brown by putting up a fence around the field, and the cows are helping to paint the barn. Duck doesn’t want to have anything to do with the project, but when Farmer Brown threatens not to get any more “special-order organic duck feed,” Duck has no choice. He too starts to help Farmer Brown by building the ticket booth for the hot-air balloon ride. The chickens and cows are excited about the project, but Duck is not.
   Every day Farmer Brown works on the maze, sketching, measuring, counting, and cutting. Every night Duck makes his own little adjustments to the maze. He too sketches, measures, counts, and cuts. Of course, Duck uses a glow-in-the-dark ruler, and night-vision goggles. It is clear that Duck is up to something, and Farmer Brown has no clue as to what is going on.
   Once again, Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin bring us a hilarious farmyard tale that has a delicious ending. We almost feel sorry for Farmer Brown. Clearly is doesn’t pay to cross a group of creative farm animals. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration - Book Seventy-Eight

Some years ago a book came out called The Gruffalo. In the story, there is a monster who has charmed thousands of young readers and their families. Now the Gruffalo is back, and he has his little daughter with him. In today's picture book young readers will see how the Gruffalo's child makes a very important discovery.
The Gruffalo's ChildJulia Donaldson
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler
Picture Book
Ages 5 to 7
Penguin, 2005, 0-8037-3009-8
   On a cold wintery day, the Gruffalo tells his child that no gruffalo should ever set foot “in the deep dark wood.” The child, of course, is curious to know why the deep dark wood is dangerous for gruffalos, and her father explains that the Big Bad Mouse lives there. This terrible creature has strong muscles, a “terribly long” tail, eyes that are like “pools of terrible fire,” and wire like whiskers.
   One snowy night, while her father is snoring away in their cave, the Gruffalo’s child sneaks off and she goes into the woods. She soon sees a trail in the snow and she wonders if this is the trail of the Big Bad Mouse. When she gets to the end of the trail, she discovers that the trail was made by a snake. Next the Gruffalo’s child sees glowing eyes looking down at her from a tree, but the eyes do not belong to the Big Bad Mouse either. They belong to an owl.
   After finding a number of animals who are not the Big Bad Mouse, the Gruffalo’s child finds a mouse that is small and certainly not bad. In fact, the mouse would make a tasty “midnight feast” for the Gruffalo’s child. The mouse then tells the Gruffalo’s child that he has a friend that the little gruffalo “ought to meet.”
   In this delightful picture book, the Graffalo’s child discovers that it wise to listen to her father’s warning. Readers who enjoyed the first book about the Gruffalo will love this new tale with its engaging rhyming text and its