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Archive for the ‘picture books’ Category

In my kitchen there’s a chalkboard that says, “I’ve never met a pie I didn’t like.” Ever since birth (i.e., 23 years ago), I’ve been on an eternal quest for pie (who, me?).

So it should come as no surprise that whenever a good pie book jumps out of the oven, I like to be first in line. :)

Today, with the help of three furry pastry chefs, we’re peeking under the crust and sampling some of the goodness in The Good-Pie Party,  a delectable new picture book officially hitting shelves today by Liz Garton Scanlon and Kady MacDonald Denton.

Liz and Kady have cooked up a gentle, reassuring story about making the best of a sad situation and celebrating the lasting bonds of friendship.

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Happy President’s Day!

Can’t think of a better way to celebrate the holiday than by singing the praises of Maira Kalman’s brand new picture book biography about Thomas Jefferson.

I pretty much adore everything Maira does, and I’ve been fascinated by our red-haired, violin-playing, wine-guzzling, pea-loving, Renaissance Man foodie President ever since I first visited Monticello years ago.

In Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything (Paulsen/Penguin, 2014), Ms. Kalman has accomplished the seemingly impossible, capturing the genius, complexity, contributions, contradictions, and affecting humanness of our third President in just 40 glorious pages.

Her disarming conversational narrative, peppered with just the kind of offbeat detail kids love, is fueled by a contaigious enthusiasm for her subject. She begins:

Thomas Jefferson had red hair and some freckles (about 20 I think), he grew to be very tall and oh yes, he was the third President of the United States . . .

What was he interested in?

EVERYTHING.

I mean it.

EVERYTHING.

She mentions Jefferson’s love of books, music, flora and fauna, and that he could speak seven languages. She spotlights the ingenious design of his beloved Monticello,”a Museum of his Mind” with its famed vegetable garden, citing Jefferson’s advocacy of a mostly vegetarian diet. Though he lived a good life, “full of work and love,” it was tinged with sadness: his wife Martha died young and four of their six children didn’t live to adulthood.

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(click to enlarge)

She details Jefferson’s role as a Founding Father and author of the Declaration of Independence, brilliantly humanizing other illustrious figures like Franklin, Adams and Washington via singular details: Ben’s crazy great hat, John’s fiery temper, George’s false teeth. Then it’s all about Jefferson’s presidency (Louisiana Purchase, Lewis & Clark Expedition), before sensitively introducing the topic of slavery.

The man who said of slavery
“This ABOMINATION MUST END”
was the owner of about 150 slaves.

The MONUMENTAL MAN had MONUMENTAL FLAWS.

She tells it straight and true, and does not shy away from mentioning that Jefferson likely had children with Sally Hemings, and what a sad thing it was when people felt the need to hide their background by passing for white. Her despair over these painful issues and puzzlement over Jefferson’s hypocrisy are deftly conveyed in a way that respects young readers and will likely win their trust.

I love how Maira’s hand-lettering alternates with the standard font to highlight asides, personal thoughts and select facts. These words just brim with personality, keeping things from sounding too textbook-y, ultimately strengthening the intimate bond between author and reader.

Illuminated and expanded by vibrant and whimsical gouache paintings rendered in striking jewel-tones, Kalman’s account of Jefferson as President, scholar, statesman, architect, scientist, botanist, connoisseur, author, inventor, and plantation owner is recommended for readers of all ages who appreciate spirited storytelling and creative nonfiction infused with wit, wisdom, and the excitement of discovery.

Who better to tell about the man who was interested in “everything” than a writer and artist who herself is endlessly curious and so brilliant at curating the idiosyncratic ‘everythings’ she encounters in her own life?

If you want to understand this country and its people and what it means to be OPTIMISTIC and COMPLEX and Tragic and Wrong and Courageous, You Need to go to Monticello.

Walk around the house and the gardens.
The linden trees might be in bloom, filling the air with their delicious perfume.
Maybe you will lie down under a tree
and fall asleep thinking about
LIFE, Liberty and the Pursuit of EVERYTHING.

Five Big Soup Spoons for this one!

*   *   *

♥ Call Me Ms. Pudding ♥

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“I received my first tea set — blue-and-white willowware — on my fourth Christmas . . . I remember feeling so excited on the occasion of my first tea party that my hand shook as I poured tap water into my doll’s tiny teacup.” ~ Eileen Spinelli (Introduction, Tea Party Today)

Put on your best bibs and bonnets, there’s a tea party today!

I must confess I only just discovered this charming poetry collection last week. I know, I know. Slap me with a big fat wet noodle. How did I miss it?

After all, I’ve enjoyed Ms. Spinelli’s work for quite some time. In fact, whenever I see her name on a book cover I automatically smile :). Could be because this highly popular, critically-acclaimed author and teacher has published dozens of cool books over the years (poetry, picture books, chapter books), including my personal fave, The Dancing Pancake. *licks lips*

How could I not love a person who has a teddy bear in her office, is fond of the “sights, sounds, and aromas” of diners, bakes peach pie for her husband, and sips tea while writing her wonderful stories and poems?

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A big day in the world of children’s literature — the American Library Association has announced the winners of the 2014 Youth Media Awards!

2014 Newbery Award for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:

* * *

2014 Caldecott Award for the most distinguished American picture book for children:

Click here to see the full list of children’s and young adult books honored today!

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Squeaking of mice, I’m simply head over tails in love with THE TINY MOUSE (Lemniscaat, 2013), veteran singer-songwriter Janis Ian’s jaunty, whimsical song-turned-picture book masterfully illustrated by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert.

Janis’s rollicking tale of adventure on the high seas is packed with whisker twitching, nose itching suspense, salty humor, and many a well-turned phrase set to a catchy tune that’ll have readers of all ages joyfully singing along in seconds flat.

There was a tiny mouse
who lived in a tiny house
full of drafts and doubts, and incredible things

But this dapper little fellow soon grows bored with the high life, so decides one day to go to sea so he can drink grog and sniff “occasional snuff.”

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