Monday, March 24, 2014

Contest Entry: Wolfgang and the Three Little Pigs

The Contest on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog: Write a children's story, in poetry or prosemaximum 400 words, that is a fractured fairy tale. 

Wolfgang and the Three Little Pigs
by Laura Renauld
389 words

Wolfgang peeked in the window of a straw house. He couldn’t believe his luck. A pig sat at the table. Wolfgang would finally get a chance to meet a storybook celebrity!

He reached up and excitedly rapped on the door. “Little Pig, Little Pig, let me in!”

“Who is it?” called the pig.


“A wolf GANG? Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!”

The wind began to howl. Wolfgang called, “The wind will huff and puff and blow your house in.” But his warning was too late. The cottage was flattened.

“SQUEAL!” Without looking back, the pig raced down the road to his brother’s stick house. Wolfgang ran after him.

“Wait!” But before he could introduce himself, Brother Pig slammed the door. Two celebrities! he thought. Wolfgang knocked. “Little Pig, Little Pig, let me in!”

“Don’t do it!” whispered the first pig to his brother. “He’s got a gang of wolves and they just blew my house down!”

“Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!”

The wind strengthened and Wolfgang called, “The wind will huff and puff and blow your house in.” But once again, his warning was too late. The stick house collapsed. Two pigs emerged from the rubble and ran squealing down the road to their sister’s brick house.

Wolfgang ran, too. They bolted the door. Rap, rap, rap! “Little Pig, Little Pig, let me in!”

“Wolf GANG” was all Sister Pig needed to hear. “Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin. Your gang will never flatten my house, you despicable WOLF!”

 “The wind can’t blow your house down,” Wolfgang yelled.

His words got jumbled in the howling gale. “I’d like to see you try!” cried Sister. The wind was too strong. Falling sideways, Wolfgang grabbed hold of the window frame.

Tap, tap, tap. Wolfgang pressed his face against the windowpane. “Let me in!” he shouted.

Sister Pig gasped. “That’s not a wolf!” She quickly opened the window and grabbed Wolfgang’s arm. Heaving him inside, they both collapsed in a heap.

“Thank you,” Wolfgang said, catching his breath. “It is such an honor to meet the famous Three Little Pigs! You are my storybook heroes. And now you are my real-life heroes!”

“The pleasure is ours,” said Sister Pig.

“Sorry for the misunderstanding,” mumbled Brother Pig.

“Wolfgang …,” mused the first pig. “What an odd name….”

Friday, March 14, 2014

PPBF: Zephyr Takes Flight

TitleZephyr Takes Flight
Author/Illustrator: Steve Light
Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2012
Genre/Audience: fiction/Ages 4-8
Themes: airplanes, imagination

Opening: "Zephyr loved airplanes. She drew pictures of them, made them out of paper, and built them out of junk. Mostly, she played with them. One day, she hoped to fly one of her own."

Synopsis: (from Booklist)

Zephyr is well named: the little wisp of a girl is crazy about airplanes and flying. One day, after being sent to her room for a “triple loop-de-loop” crash-landing off the couch, she discovers a secret door behind her dresser that leads to “the most wondrous place Zephyr has ever seen.” It looks like an airplane hanger, filled with vintage flying machines and maps. What’s an adventure seeker to do? Zephyr climbs aboard the FS Bessie, flips a switch, and is off. After a malfunction and a bumpy landing, our ponytailed, bubble gum–chewing gal ends up in a strange land where pigs actually do fly. Zephyr helps Rumbus, the only pig without wings, before returning to her family—just in time for pancakes. Light’s (The Christmas Giant, 2010) fountain pen, pastel, and colored pencil sepia-toned illustrations exude old-fashioned charm, and swirling lines in the air emphasize Zephyr’s joy. Panels throughout nicely propel the action, while full-page spreads offer a wider view of Zephyr’s landscapes. A flight of fancy sure to appeal to the imagination. Preschool-Grade 2. --Ann Kelley

Why I Love This Book

Zephyr is spunky and imaginative, challenging the assumption that only boys are interested in airplanes. The story arc closely follows Where the Wild Things Are (Sendak): child pushes the limits and is sent to his/her room; child journeys to an unusual world; child decides to return to his/her family. The illustrations are gorgeous, full of whimsy and energy. And what's not to like in a book that "logically" plays on the expression "when pigs fly"?


Field Trip: If you are local, or are an avid airplane fan looking for a vacation idea, head to the Udvar-Hazy Center. Located adjacent to Dulles International Airport, this Smithsonian facility sports two giant hangers with planes and space vehicles galore, including an Air France Concorde and the Space Shuttle Discovery.

Free paper airplane designs

Leonardo da Vinci's Flying Machines

The Flying Pig Bookstore: a shout-out to my favorite indie children's bookshop! (Well worth another field trip… to Vermont!)

Craving more Perfect Picture Books? Author Susanna Leonard Hill compiles weekly book reviews from bloggers at Visit Fridays or click the Perfect Picture Books tab at her website for a subject listing.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Author/Illustrator Study: David Lucas

"My drawing is picture-writing – I never draw from life – I make patterns, 
as if I was knitting with ink." - David Lucas

I became enthralled with the work of David Lucas when his book The Robot and the Bluebird (2007) made its way into the pile of books my boys and I were checking out of the library.

This contemporary folktale juxtaposes the linear lifetime of a machine with the cyclical nature of migration and seasons. It plays on the meaning of "broken heart" and "live in his heart." It offers a second chance and the bond of friendship where there had only been dejection and hopelessness.

I had to read more.

Peanut (2008) is the story of a tiny monkey who is frightened by the great, big world he has just been born into.

From his perspective, insects are monsters, rain is "the sky … falling down," and sunset is the end of the world. With the help of a friend, the forest changes from frightening to magical overnight and Peanut is eager to be a part of it.

David Lucas' debut picture book as author/illustrator was in 2003 with the book Halibut Jackson.

A painfully shy boy named Halibut Jackson goes to great lengths to blend in and not be noticed. Until, one day, he miscalculates and stands out. Sometimes the most amazing things occur when you are forced out of your comfort-zone.

Here is the opening line in Cake Girl (2009) that immediately had me hooked: "The Witch was alone on her birthday… again!"

Combining celebration, magic, and menace, Lucas' story is truly a testament to the power of empathy and friendship.

From the looks of things, Nutmeg lives with her cousin and uncle in a junkyard. Everything is always the same, but when Nutmeg dreams of something different, she is rewarded in the most unusual way.

Nutmeg (2005), is one of the most quirky, off-beat, and dream-like stories I have ever read. The opening illustrations of clutter, dirt, and rust make a spectacular contrast to the pages at the end where pastels, clean lines, and new horizons prevail. All because of the power to dream.