Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Little Red Hen and Stone Soup

The boys and I have been very interested in Fractured Fairy Tales lately. There are so many unique versions of classic stories, from nursery rhymes to folktales to fairy tales. I love the creative spirit that goes into making something old, new again. These rewrites are so prolific, however, that my one complaint is that it is hard to find a well-written ORIGINAL story. My young boys are getting accustomed to the variations without truly knowing what they are based on. They like these books independently, but I think they would enjoy them more if they could point out the silly differences from the original.

In a serendipitous moment, I happened to grab the following books off the library shelves, without knowing they were retellings of The Little Red Hen and Stone Soup. I decided to group them here since they are all about food :)  They are really worth the read. Enjoy!

Stone Soup - Retold

Fandango Stew by David Davis; Illustrated by Ben Galbraith - Steeped in the Old West, this retelling of Stone Soup offers a commentary on the power of community when everyone works together. Two cowboys ride into town offering to share a pot of fandango bean stew. The sheriff is wary, but curiosity gets the better of the town folk and they gather around. I love the exaggerated illustrations, the repeated fandango stew song, and the Spanish vocabulary sprinkled throughout. Join Slim and his grandson Luis as they bring a town together and then ride into the sunrise!

The Little Red Hen - Retold

Cook-A-Doodle-Doo! by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel - When Rooster finds his Great-Grandmother's cookbook (The Joy of Cooking Alone by L. R. Hen), he can't wait to try the strawberry shortcake. Of course, the dog, cat, and goose won't help, but the turtle, iguana, and pig are willing! The team starts cooking with hilarious consequences and sidebars on cooking make this is an informational how-to book, as well. You can even try Little Red Hen's famous strawberry shortcake by using the recipe at the end.

MaƱana, Iguana by Ann Whitford Paul; Illustrated by Ethan Long - When retold with a Mexican flair, The Little Red Hen is updated for a diverse audience. Iguana wants to plan a fiesta, but can't persuade her friends Tortuga (tortoise), Conejo (rabbit), or Culebra (snake) to help. The friends regret their laziness when they are not invited to the party, but they find a way to be a good friend to Iguana after all. Spanish words are included in a glossary.

Friday, February 22, 2013

PPBF: Sky Tree

My blog is ONE YEAR OLD today! I'll be celebrating with a brownie sundae :)  THANK YOU to all of my readers. Wednesday's post is for you!

1.There is still time to join in the February discussion by posting your favorite Caldecott winner. Come and see which books are already being discussed!

2. March's topic is friendship (picture book). I'll hope you'll join the discussion.

Title: Sky Tree: Seeing Science Through Art
Author/IllustratorThomas Locker with Candace Christiansen
Publisher/Date: Harper Collins Publishers/1995
Genre/Audience: Fiction & Nonfiction/Ages 5+
Themes: Trees, Science, Landscape, Seasons, Weather

"Once a tree stood alone on a hill by the river. Through the long days, its leaves fluttered in the soft summer breeze."

Synopsis: (From

A tree stands on a hill by a river. As the sky changes, so does the tree, its branches filling with clouds, stars, snow, birds, mists, and the golden spring sun. One tree can mean many things.
Thomas Locker's lyrical text records the changes in the tree's world just as simply as a child might observe them, and his magnificent paintings crystallize the natural phenomena that embellish the tree on each page. Questions at the bottom of each page lead to a unique discussion in the back of the book, where art and science are intertwined, and further depth is added to the wonder of Sky Tree.

Why I Love This Book
I really do LOVE this book. The paintings are exquisite; all use the same subject and scene, yet all are so very different. There are so many levels to this book. It follows a tree through the seasons and encourages the reader to closely observe the art while contemplating a scientific question. If you are looking for an interdisciplinary book to bridge the arts and sciences, this is it!

I used this in my third grade classroom. We picked a tree on school grounds to observe throughout the year. I'd use this book as an introduction to our periodic outings. Students did sketches of "our" tree and took notes in their science notebooks. As the book demonstrates, you could easily extend this activity by having students paint the tree they saw that day and then collect them in a class book.

The book's appendix offers answers to the science questions and furthers the discussion.

Paintings and Bio of Thomas Locker (Look for his other picture books, which are all perfect for the science classroom and teaching about the natural world.)

For more links to Perfect Picture Books, a collection of bloggers who contribute at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site, click here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My 1-year Blog-iversary!

Dear Friends,

My blog turns ONE on Friday and I am amazed!

First, I am amazed that I set a goal for myself and I stuck to it (nearly) every week for a year. Second, I am amazed that there are people like you who are interested in reading my blog!

As many of you know, I am an aspiring children's writer and one of the BIG to-dos in the writing world is to build an online platform, even before publication. I guess that's what I'm doing. Baby steps! Thank you to everyone who has stopped here to encourage me along the way.

So to celebrate all of you, this week's theme is UNEXPECTED FRIENDSHIP. Friendship will also be the March topic for the online Kid Lit Book Club that I recently started, so head over there to share your favorite picture books on friendship.

Last Friday, I used Peach and Blue as my Perfect Picture Book Friday selection. Since it would be repetitive to cover it again here, I just encourage you to click the link to learn about that beautiful story of unexpected friendship.

A Splendid Friend, Indeed by Suzanne Bloom - Published in 2005, this Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book is a simple story of surprising friendship between a goose and a bear. The goose is talkative, barging in when bear is trying to quietly read, write, and think. Bear is surprised when Goose declares that Bear is his "splendid friend," which ends in a bear hug. Children will certainly relate to friends that can be both annoying and endearing.

The Lion and the Little Red Bird by Elisa Kleven - The mixed-media collages in this book are exquisite. A lion's tail mysteriously changes color everyday and a red bird follows this unusual development with curiosity. In this quiet story about art, beauty inspires friendship and bonds the two characters in a common joy.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox; Illustrated by Julie Vivas - This sweet book about the friendship between a young boy and an older woman who is losing her memory was my Perfect Picture Book Friday pick on May 18, 2012. Click the link to check it out!

The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant; Illustrated by Kathryn Brown - On June 1, 2012, I posted this for Perfect Picture Book Friday. Click the link to learn about the unwanted and unexpected friendship of an old woman and a dog that visits her regularly.

Friday, February 15, 2013

PPBF: Peach and Blue

1.There is still time to join in the February discussion by posting your favorite Caldecott winner. I'm looking forward to chatting about these fabulous books and adding to my library list!

2. March's topic is friendship (picture book). So I'm going to get a jump start by posting one of my favorite friendship books for PPBF! Keep reading!

TitlePeach and Blue
Author/IllustratorSarah S. Kilborne/ Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
Publisher/Date: Dragonfly Books: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc./1994
Genre/Audience: Fiction/Ages 3+
Themes: friendship, frogs, peaches, dreams and wishes, color

"One still summer afternoon, a large blue-bellied toad wandered away from his pond at the bottom of a small hill. He jumped through the grass, leaping high over the snake holes, and climbed up and up and up to the hill top. There he rested in the shade of a tree and looked out over the pond below.

Synopsis: (From
He is a blue-bellied toad hopping aimlessly through life.  She is a sad peach yearning for escape and adventure.  Then one remarkable day, Peach and Blue explore the pond that Blue calls home and awaken each other to a world neither has ever really seen before.  Lush illustrations by the award-winning illustrating team of The Salamander Room and The Frog Prince, Continued perfectly complement this unique and graceful story.

Why I Love This Book
Once I allowed myself to suspend reality enough to get past the odd-couple combination of a toad and a talking peach, I found this book truly touching. Sentimental and compassionate, these fast friends help each other see the world in new and beautiful ways. But this story is not just about adventure. There is a soft undercurrent that speaks to the transitory nature of life.

Listen to the final sentences:
"I don't think I'll last forever, " said Peach.
"That's okay, " said Blue. "Not many folks do. But until then, you have me, and I have you."

This book would make a lovely and gentle read-aloud for a child dealing with the illness of a grandparent, for example. It speaks to how we can spend quality time with the people we love.

The language is lyrical and the illustrations are warm and inviting. Unfortunately, it is out of print. I hope you can find this gem at your local library!

Peach describes the colors she sees at the pond in rhyme. Find a quiet place, outside or in, to observe. Describe the colors you see. Be as detailed as you can!

Preschool Friendship Activities across centers, curriculum and circle time

Write a story! Near the end of the book, the kingfisher helps Peach by flying her from the pond to the bench. There is a beautiful illustration of this scene. Use this illustration as a writing prompt. What would the story be like if the kingfisher were the main character with Peach, instead of Blue? How would that change the story? What would their adventure be like? Would Peach see more than the pond with a flying friend?

The Dragonfly Books edition has four activity connections printed on the end-papers.

For more links to Perfect Picture Books, a collection of bloggers who contribute at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site, click here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Be a Word Collector

Have you ever started a collection? As a kid, I had a rock collection and a sticker collection. Shells, coins, and stamps are regular collection fare. But what about words? Nothing could be more apt for writers. Here are two fabulous picture books that have word collections at their core. Both are ripe for writing lessons. Enjoy!

Max's Words by Kate Banks; Illustrated by Boris Kulikov - Max's brothers have collections and he wants one too. When he decides on words, they laugh at him. Max isn't deterred. He clips big words, small words, and favorites. Max is delighted to discover that when he arranges his collection in different orders, it really matters! When he strings words together, a story unfolds. The curiosity gets the better of his brothers and the three of them begin to build a story together. Reminiscent of "Magnetic Poetry", Max's Words is a tour de force demonstrating the surprising possibilities of the English language.

The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter; Illustrated by Giselle Potter - "Selig loved everything about words - the sound of them in his ears (tintinnabulating!), the taste of them on his tongue (tantalizing!), the thought of them when they percolated in his brain (strirring!), and, most especially, the feel of them when they moved his heart (Mama!)."

Selig, teased as "Wordsworth", sets out to find a purpose for his passion. After his words help a poet, he realizes he has found his mission: "It was spreading the word - sharing his words with others!"  End papers contain Selig's word collection and a glossary for all the italicized words provides an excellent resource for all word collectors!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Kid Lit Book Club: March Topic

Valentine's Day is almost upon us and with two preschoolers in the house, it has me thinking more about friendship this year. Both my boys have started using the words "best friend" to describe a variety of people, from me, to Daddy, to each other, and, occasionally, to friends. I love that they are not exclusive at this age. They wear their hearts on their sleeves! So for March, let's find some great picture books about friendship. Do you have a favorite from your childhood? A recent library find? Post and chat about them here!

Topic #2: Picture Books - Friendship
Post between March 1, 2013 and March 31, 2013

1. Choose a picture book about friendship.
2. Share the title, author/illustrator, publication year, and the reason for your choice on the book club Google Groups page HERE.
3. Feel free to comment/discuss!

Heads Up! April is National Poetry Month. We'll be sharing our favorite poetry collections for children (PK-Teen).

Friday, February 8, 2013

Perfect Picture Book Friday

KID LIT BOOK CLUB REMINDER: There is still time to join in the February discussion by posting your favorite Caldecott winner. I'm looking forward to chatting about these fabulous book and adding to my library list!

Now on to Perfect Picture Book Friday!

TitleThe Great Sheep Shenanigans

Author/IllustratorPeter Bently / Mei Matsuoka
Publisher/Date: Andersen Press USA/2011
Genre/Audience: Fiction/Ages 3+
Themes: sheep, wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, trickster

"A lamb for my supper will taste mighty fine!"
Thought a wily old wolf by the name of Lou Pine 
As he sneakily, slyly snuck up on the flock - 
But it wasn't the sheep who were in for a shock.

He chuckled. "How stunningly cunning I am!"
As he slunk through the hedge and met... (page turn) Rambo the Ram.
"Scram!" bellowed Rambo. "Vamoose! Steer clear!
Wolves are NOT welcome! Buzz off out of here!"

Synopsis: (From

In this fractured fairy tale, the wolf is stopped at the hedge by the flock's protector, Rambo the Ram. So Lou sets off to find a disguise that will let him sneak into the flock. He tries a fuzzy bathrobe, paint, and even cotton candy, but nothing works out. Can he scare Red Riding Hood's grandmother into knitting him a costume? Or will she—like everyone else—be able to thwart the wolf's plans?

Why I Love This Book
The clever wit, hilarious illustrations, and many allusions that adults would recognize, drew me in and kept me laughing. Bently plays on the archetype of the fairy tale wolf, giving the reader an expected storyline (wolf wants lamb; wolf's plans are thwarted) by way of a very unique and unexpected route (cotton candy fleece???). I just might have enjoyed the many bedtime re-reads of this book more than my kids!

Little Red Riding Hood activities, including online storybook

Fractured Fairy Tales Interactive: read and write

For more links to Perfect Picture Books, a collection of bloggers who contribute at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site, click here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fairy Tale Mash-Ups

Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes are part of our literary conscious, which makes them ripe for allusions and altering. I've always been fascinated by retellings of traditional stories. I love a story told from a different character's point-of-view or with a twist in the plot. It's no wonder that I love the musicals Wicked and Into the Woods. 

Take a look at how cleverly the authors and illustrators of these picture books combine a variety of classic tales, or more importantly, story expectations, to create something completely unique. These stories are heavily dependent on the reader's knowledge of our collective folklore. They are mash-ups.

And the DISH Ran Away with the SPOON (Written by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel; Illustrated by Janet Stevens) - What if the DISH and the SPOON ran away at the end of their rhyme and didn't come back? Full of puns and wit, this clever story involves a FORK in the road and his map, which the CAT, DOG, and COW use to search for their friends among various nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

The Princess and the Pig (Written by Jonathan Emmett; Illustrated by Poly Bernatene) - In a story of mistaken identities and poor judgement, a baby princess and a piglet swap places with hilarious consequences. All of which are explained away with the repeated phrase, "It's the sort of thing that happens all the time in books," using classic fairy tales, such as Sleeping Beauty and The Frog Prince.

Each Peach Pear Plum (Janet and Allan Ahlberg) - From Tom Thumb to Cinderella to the Three Bears, Each Peach Pear Plum is a rollicking I-Spy adventure that leads from one classic character to another until they are all united by a sweet treat. This is a recurring favorite at my house. My 2 and 3 year old both love pouring over the details on every page and naming all the characters at the end.

The Three Pigs (David Wiesner) - While this book starts with a typical telling of The Three Little Pigs, everything begins to go awry when the wolf blows the first pig right out of the story. Wiesner's imaginative illustrations lead the pigs (and the reader) on an adventure beyond their story and into some other stories. But when they want to go home, how will they scare away the wolf for good? Read this story to find out!

The Three Silly Billies (Written byMargie Palatini; Illustrated by Barry Moser) - What happens when the bridge the three billy goats need to cross is guarded by a troll who demands a toll? Find out in this very silly story full of puns and fairy tale characters, including the Three Bears, Red Riding Hood, and Jack (and the Giant). Bonus: There is a math lesson here. Add up the coins as the characters join the "pool" and see if you can get to a dollar.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Perfect Picture Book Friday

TitleIn My Dreams I Can Fly

Author/IllustratorEveline Hasler/ Kathi Bhend
Publisher/Date: NorthSouth/2009
Genre/Audience: Fiction/Ages 3+
Themes: winter, seasons, bugs, change, friendship

Favorite Line: "I don't need food. All I need are dreams." (Caterpillar)

Synopsis: Five friends (a grub, 2 worms, a beetle, and a caterpillar) prepare for winter in their underground homes. They pass the time playing cards and sharing their stored food.  The friends look after each other and are concerned when caterpillar isn't eating. She remarks, "I don't need food. All I need are dreams." This resonates with grub, who confesses, "In my dreams I can fly." As the ground warms and spring approaches, the friends have to deal with two seemingly tragic events, until they go above ground for the first time in months and see a different reality.

Why I Love This Book: The warm hues of the illustrations and the close-knit friendships of the characters drew me in. I love the otherworldly quality of the underground homes and the transcendental storyline. Reading this story feels like a dream, both strange and beautiful. 

Use "In My Dreams..." as a writing prompt. Imagine various animals, or even inanimate objects, finishing this statement.

Prairie Insects in Winter - Virtual Exhibit

Life Cycle of Butterflies and Moths

For more links to Perfect Picture Books, a collection of bloggers who contribute at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site, click here.