Category Archives: Children’s Books

The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett

The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett

THE GIRL AND THE BICYCLE by Mark Pett is my pick for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Written and Illustrated by: Mark Pett  9781442483200_p0_v5_s260x420

Publisher: Simon & Schuster April 2014

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Determination, kindness, generosity, selflessness

Synopsis: A wordless picture book about a girl who wants to buy a bicycle, and the neighbor who she works for to earn money  toward her goal. She works and saves as the seasons pass, however, when she finally has enough to buy it, the bicycle is no longer available. In the end the girl is rewarded for her acts of kindness and her willingness to work.

Opening pages:  The book begins with a double-page spread of a little girl holding the hands of a little boy walking toward a storefront display window. The only color on the second page is part of the green frame on a bicycle in the window. On the next page, the girl stops suddenly when she sees the bike.

Why I like this book: The themes are why I love this book! They are universal and timeless. And the story flows so easily, all through the illustrations. Very impressive. This book is sure to be around for generations. See if you can catch a clever hint on the first spread that shows why the neighbor hired the little girl to work when others did not!

For more book reviews, go to author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book page to see other January 16, 2015 reviews.


The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie

The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday! My pick for today is The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie by Chris Van Allsburg.

This book has garnered reviews that swing like a pendulum! Some hate it while others love it. There’s only one way to find out how it makes you feel, read it.

Title: The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie sweetie pie

Written & Illustrated by: Chris Van Allsburg

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2014)

Suitable for ages: 5-8 (according the publisher)

Themes/Topics: pet responsibility & ownership, animal adoption & care, abandonment, longing, courage

Brief Synopsis: Sweetie Pie is a hamster adopted from a pet store who ends up in the care of multiple children who are either not ready for pet ownership or who are just neglectful. Sweetie Pie goes through a few owners, one who leaves him outside stuck in a plastic hamster ball, another who leaves him out in the snow. In the end Sweetie Pie escapes and joins a family of squirrels, finding solitude in the outdoors.

Opening pages:  “He’s sooo cute!” squealed the pigtailed girl. The hamster had heard these words before. He’d once shared his home with a dozen friends. One by one, they’d all been taken away.

He’d been left behind because whenever a child had picked him up, he’s squirmed and scratched.”

Why I like this book: Sweetie pie is not the best pet. Why? Is his behavior innate? Is it possible his  environments affected him? Readers have some pretty strong opinions about this book! I see it as an example of a picture book appropriate for older audiences. Firstly, the text is far lengthier than many of the newer 500-700 word picture books; secondly there are many social factors that can be discussed using Sweetie’s Pie’s situation, his desires, and the behavior of the children and adults that are supposed to care for him. It’s not a funny story, but rather poignant. A good read for anyone studying animal care or for parents or teachers who are considering getting a pet for the home or classroom. I would recommend parents and or teachers read it first because it does stir many different emotions, some which are just not pleasant but totally authentic. So where some see it as not a great book coming from what they expect from the well-known author, I feel it’s that this book isn’t funny or witty or clever. Some books are good because they stir up strong emotions and opinions.

For more book reviews, go to author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book page.

Ghosts for Breakfast

Ghosts for Breakfast

Title: Ghosts for Breakfast

Written by: Stanley Todd Teraski

Illustrated by: Shelly Shinjo

Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc. 2002

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Japanese culture, immigration, ghosts, community, cultural awareness

Brief Synopsis: Neighbors fear there are ghosts in the fields where they farm. A man and his young son go out to prove otherwise.

Opening pages:  “PON! PON! PON!

The pounding at the door shattered my family’s peaceful evening


Who could it be at this time of night? I saw Mama’s puzzled look as Papa opened the door a crack and peered out.

“Ah, Papa delighted, “”The Troubelsome Triplets.”

Why I like this book: Set in a farming town during the 19th century when Japanese families immigrated to the west coast, this story is about how a father and son tackle fear of ghosts that their neighbors are convinced are real..


For more book reviews see author Susanna Hill’s page, Perfect Picture Book page.


Shy Mama’s Halloween by Anne Broyles

Shy Mama’s Halloween by Anne Broyles

Title: Shy Mama’s Halloween

Written by: Anne Broyles

Illustrated by: Leane Morin

Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers; (August 1, 2000)

Age Range:4 and up

Themes/Topics: holiday, courage, shyness, immigration, cultural awareness

Brief Synopsis: Anya and her sisters want to go trick or treating in their new neighborhood. Their papa agreed to take them but now he’s sick. Their shy mother overcomes her fear of all things new and experiences her first Halloween.

Why I like this book: A nice story about the holiday seen through the eyes of immigrants new to the United States.

Resources: See the author’s site for a teacher’s guide.


It’s A Book! by Lane Smith

It’s A Book! by Lane Smith

This is an awesome book, about books! It’s a Book! by Lane Smith is a story about a donkey, er, jackass who discovers the concept of a book.

“Do you blog with it?” the donkey asks.

“No, it’s a book,” the monkey explains.

“Where’s the mouse? Does it need a password? Can you make the characters fight? Can it text, tweet, toot?”

No, none of that, the monkey explains.

There are so many children out there like that donkey! Hopefully this summer, a monkey will help them discover a book!

It’s a Book: Lane Smith: 9781596436060: Books

  • Roaring Brook Press; First Edition edition (August 17, 2010)



Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet Wong

Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet Wong

Just in time to find and read for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.

Title: Apple Pie 4th of July
Written by: Janet S. Wong
Illustrated by: Margaret Chodos-Irvine
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; May 1, 2006
Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: celebrating holidays, community, immigration, cultural awareness, third culture adults and kids

Brief Synopsis: A little girl questions her parents’ understanding of the Fourth of July holiday when they open their store to sell Chinese food.

Opening pages: “Seven days a week, fifty-two weeks, three-hundred-sixty-four days a year (and three-hundred-sixty-five in a leap-year) our store is open.

Christmas is the only day we close.

Even on Thanksgiving we open the store.
Even today, New Year’s Day.
Even today, the Fourth of July.”

Why I like this book: Firstly, the main character is a feisty female! The book is based on a true life conversation with the author and her father on the Fourth of July. The book is based on a true life conversation with the author and her father on the Fourth of July. But the conversation was brief because her parents were busy selling food from their family mini mart. When asked why the store opened on the holiday, “And why not, “Fireworks are Chinese, father says.”

Wong is able to show the complexity of cultural adaptation. A perfect book for third culture kids and adults.

How do you celebrate the Fourth of July?

Resources: (author interview) (page 9)

Apple Pie

Arturo and the Navidad Birds

Arturo and the Navidad Birds

Title: Arturo and the Navidad Birds

Written by:  Anne Broyles

Illustrated by: KE Lewis

Pelican Publishing Company, Inc. 2013, Fiction

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: honesty, accepting responsibility, courage, compassion, forgiveness, cultural awareness

Brief Synopsis: Arturo helps his grandmother Abue Rosa decorate her Navidad tree. She explains the origin of each ornament from her childhood, and those she received as gifts from friends. Arturo breaks one of her treasured ornaments when Abue Rosa is not in the room. And after she returns and asks if he’s seen the ornament, he hides it from her. Arturo then tries but fails to repair the ornament. But then he is remorseful and tells his grandmother what happened. Abue Rosa is forgiving and takes what Arturo made from the broken ornament and adds it to her Navidad tree and comforts him by saying to Arturo, “People are more important than things. mi’jo.”

Opening pages:  “Arturo bounced up and down in front of the pine tree. “Hurry, Abue!”

His grandmother called from the kitchen, “Momentito, mi’jo.”

Arturo saltaba una y otra ves frente al árbol de pino. “Date prisa, Abue!”

Su abuela lo llamaba desde la cocina, “Momentito, mi’jo.”

Arturo frowned at the sting of unlit lights. “Our Navidad tree looks empty.”

Abue Rosa wiped her hands on her apron as she bustled into the living room. “It will soon be full.”

Arturo fruncíó el ceño al mirar las luces de Navidad sin encender. “Nuestro árbol de Navidad se ve vacío.”

Abue Rosa secó sus manos en el delantal mientras caminaba dentro de la sala. “Pronto estará lleno.”

Why I like this book: This is a heartwarming story of the relationship between a boy and his grandmother. The themes are universal. The boy, Arturo makes a mistake, is not honest in the beginning, and tries a resolution that fails. His grandmother is forgiving and shows Arturo her love by explaining that people are more important than things.

This book is an example of what the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign running this May 1-3, 2014 is all about. The front cover and title tell us the book is representative of one of the underrepresented groups in the world of children’s literature because the illustrations include a child and adult who have toffee colored skin. All people can be described by color; but this book is written about people with skin of a particular color who are part of a particular culture. In addition, Arturo and the Navidad Birds is a story any child or adult, regardless of the color of their skin, will enjoy. And for an extra bonus, the reader may learn some Spanish words since the book is published in both English and Spanish. Kudos to the author and illustrator. Well done, Pelican Publishing.

Resources: Free teacher study guide on the author’s site.



The Elijah Door: A Passover Tale

The Elijah Door: A Passover Tale

As a newbie to the field of children’s book writing and publishing, it was a thrill to meet award-winning author Linda Leopold Strauss at a local SCBWI workshop and listen to stories about her long and successful career. She shared wonderful stories as well as provided advice about the craft of writing and the business of publishing a newbie like myself will always cherish.

One of Linda’s books that comes to mind during this Passover is The Elijah Door: A Passover Tale. The story is about two very close Jewish families, the Lippas and Galinskys. The families are so close that Rachel Galinsky and David Lippa want to get married, but their parents get into a feud. The neighbors and town rabbi intervene and come up with a plan to bring the two families together to celebrate Passover.

In addition to an engaging story, the woodcut illustrations by Alexi Natchev help the person being read to, or the reader, to imagine the old country back then located somewhere around Poland and or Russia. ”Alexi Natchev’s beautifully colored block prints evoke an Old World feel but also are playful and filled with expressive detail and movement.” – Arizona Jewish Post, 3/20/2012.

Blogger Planet Smarty Pants recommendations.

By Linda Leopold Strauss Holiday House (February 20, 2012)

Elijah door


The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting PPBF Review

The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting PPBF Review
Title: The Wednesday Surprise
Written by: Eve Bunting
Illustrated by: Donald Carrick
Suitable for ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: adult literacy, overcoming challenges, compassion
Brief Synopsis: Anna and her Grandmother plan a special surprise for her father. She is teaching her Grandmother to read.
Opening pages: “I like surprises. But the one Grandma and I are planning for Dan’s birthday is the best surprise of all.
      We work on it Wednesday nights. On Wednesdays Mom has to stay late at the office and my brother Sam, goes to basketball practice at the Y. That’s when Grandma rides the bus across town to stay with me.”
Why I like this book: I adore the idea that Anna taught her grandmother to read and that her son was so proud of her. A must read for all ages and genders because it introduces the reader to adult illiteracy. Illiteracy may result from having a language barrier or disability or from being born into a culture or country that does not value girls’ education. As women’s history month come to an end, and I reflect upon the lives of women who overcame challenges like Anna’s grandmother and were role models for future generations. This book reminds us that even though hurdles exist, and for girls and women in particular, change is possible. To quote the title of the song sung by Loretta Lynn, “We’ve come a long way baby’’. Don’t stop now!

Suki’s Kimono

Suki’s Kimono
Title: Suki’s Kimono
Written by:  Chieri Uegaki
Illustrated by: Stéphanie Jorisch
Kids Can Press,  2003, Fiction
Suitable for ages: 3-8
Themes/Topics: celebrating individuality, determination, cultural awareness, tolerance, acceptance
Brief Synopsis:  Suki’s decided to wear her kimono, a gift from her grandmother, on the first day of school. Although her sisters did not want her to, Suki wears it anyway. On her way to school the kids laughed at her, but Suki’s kimono helps her relive those happy summer memories of her Japanese grandmother’s visit and all the things they did together. Her classmates also laugh and tease her but when it’s her turn to share what she did over summer break, Suki’s enthusiasm and joy is mesmerizing.
Opening pages:  “On the first day of school, suki wanted to wear her kimono. Her sisters did not approve. “You can’t wear that,” said Mari. “People will think you’re weird.”
“You can’t wear that,” said Yumi. “Everyone will laugh, and no one will play with you,’’ said Yumi.
‘’You need something new, Suki.” You need something cool.’’
Why I like this book: Suki demonstrates her individuality by choosing to wear a kimomo to school even when her sisters disapprove and warn her it may be an unpopular choice. The dialog between Suki and a girl on the playground who asks her about her “funny’’ clothing and Suki ‘s explanation shows that it’s okay to question as long as you are open to understanding another’s opinion. Suki is delighted to both show and tell her classmates about the summer spent with her Japanese grandmother. Suki’s teacher and the classmates realize wearing the kimono helps her recreate those happy summer memories.  And from Suki we learn that despite being laughed at or teased for doing something  different, sometimes it just doesn’t matter.

”Grab Your Hat and Read with a Cat” on Read Across America Day, March 3rd

”Grab Your Hat and Read with a Cat” on Read Across America Day, March 3rd

Reading to a child to celebrate the birth of Dr. Suess is absolutely how I think he would have wanted to be remembered and honored. He had such a love of children and learning. And Dr. Suess knew the importance of learning to read and making it fun too. His use of rhyme sparked a love of words and language in many of his young readers as well as adults. So remember…

“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.”


Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story of the Underground Railroad

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story of the Underground Railroad
Henry’s Freedom Box
A True Story of the Underground Railroad
Written by: Ellen Levine
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Scholastic Press, January 2007, Historical Fiction
Suitable for ages: 7-10
Themes/Topics: Biography and Autobiography, Slavery, Underground Railroad,  Abolition, Determination and Perseverance
Brief Synopsis: Henry is born a slave one day around 1830 in the state of Virginia. But Henry does not know his birthdate or his age.  As a child, Henry is sold and taken away from his mother and family. Many years later, his wife and young children are also taken away from him and sold. Henry doesn’t know his birthday, but knows one day he wants freedom. Through heartbreak and time Henry finds others who want the same for him and he is able to break free from bondage.
Opening pages:  “Henry Brown wasn’t sure how old he was. Henry was a slave. And slaves weren’t allowed to know their birthdays.
Henry and his brothers and sisters worked in the big house where the master lived. Henry’s master had been good to Henry and his family.
But Henry’s mother knew things could change. “Do you see those leaves blowing in the wind? They are torn from the trees like slave children are torn from their families.”
Why I like this book: Freedom. It’s something children desire very early in life. Humans want choice and independence. It’s what Henry wants but he is born in a time when his freedom is not allowed. This Caldecott Honor Book introduces kids to a very complex time in US history through a biography loosely based on a true story of a slave named Henry “Box’’ Brown.  Henry is sold to another master as a young child but tries to make the best of a terrible situation. He marries and has a family of his own and they mean the world to him. Then his wife and children are sold and Henry is devastated. Henry then enlists the help of an abolitionist and together they make a plan to mail Henry through the Underground Railroad to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and freedom. Kadir Nelson’s illustrations are wonderfully supportive of the story. Readers of all ages can identify with Henry when he is accepting of his situation, when he is happy and when he is filled with despair. And all readers will certainly want for Henry what he wants for himself- freedom.

Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds

Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds


Written by: Aaron Reynolds

Illustrated by: Dan Santat

Chronicle Books, August 2013, Fiction

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: nature, differences, self-awareness, accepting who you are

Brief Synopsis: The lion, great white shark and timber wolf are feeling misunderstood and sad because other animals fear them just because they eat their relatives.

Opening pages:  “The lion is known throughout the animal kingdom as the “”king of beasts.” The great white shark is the most feared predator in the oceans. And the Timber wolf’s howl strikes terror into the hearts of fuzzy woodland creatures everywhere. But even SAVAGE CARNIVORES get their feelings hurt.

Why I like this book: Carnivores is hilarious. The lion, great white shark and timber wolf are feeling rejected. They come up with ideas so the other animals will like them but their solutions fail because it’s just not the way the animal kingdom works. They are predators and come to accept themselves as they are…and at the end you learn they truly are what they are…carnivores. Belly laugh funny!



Later Tartan Gator: A New Orleans Tale

Later Tartan Gator: A New Orleans Tale
Later Tartan Gator: A New Orleans Tale
Written by: Lorraine Johnston
Illustrated by: Preston Asevedo
Mascot Books, April 2013, Fiction
Suitable for ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: kindness, courage, community, cultural awareness
Brief Synopsis: An alligator at the New Orleans Audubon Zoo gets into colorful trouble when Scottish tourists ignore the sign “DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS AT ANY TIME”. A little girl comes to the rescue through the help of local shopkeepers.
Opening pages:  “If you’re ever going to visit Audubon Zoo, remember this story, it is quite true. There is an old alligator who sits in his pen. He’s got quite a story, it all started when…”
Why I like this book: Later Tartan Gator: A New Orleans Tale written by Scottish author Lorraine Johnston weaves the love of her own culture with the culture of New Orleans through her choice of setting and characters. Themes and topics addressed are valuable teaching tools. The alligator learns there are consequences when rules are broken. A little girl shows kindness and courage by her desire and actions to help him solve his problem. And through cooperation with a community chocolate shop, the little girl helps the alligator return to his original self.




Oh My Goodness…Sub It Club One Year Anniversary

Oh My Goodness…Sub It Club One Year Anniversary

Although I am still very new at this writing gig, I have learned something that is obviously not new. And that’s the outpouring of support and opportunity out there for writers.

I recently participated in ReviMO hosted by author Meg Miller just this weekend and completed my last writing prompt for Start the Year Out Write 2014 hosted by author Shannon Abercrombie. I will begin 12X12 with author Julie Hedlund soon and today I found Sub It Club created by Heather Ayris Burnell, Dana Carey and Lisha Cauthen when pursuing the SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) boards. WOWZA.

I think I’ve come full circle! Writing tips, revision tips, and submission tips covers a huge chunk of the creative process. I want to participate in Sub It Club because although I like to write, and really do not mind spending the time to revise, I need to learn when to stop and submit. After all the hard work of writing and revising, my goal is to learn to pitch and query to sub it.

For the club’s first anniversary they have a great one year anniversary giveaways. Writer’s can enter to win a submission opportunity to Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary, or Mira Reisberg of Hummingbird Literary or a first 15 pages plus query letter critique from agent Sean McCarthy, a Query Package Critique from author Kristine Asselin, or a First Five Pages critique from author Veronica Bartles.

Let’s do this!


Louisiana culture celebrated on Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Louisiana culture celebrated on Multicultural Children’s Book Day

In celebration of the first annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day I choose to highlight “Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras La Chatte Noire” written by Todd-Michael St. Pierre and illustrated by Diane Millsap. The book is about a cat who lives in Jackson Square in the Vieux Carré (French Quarter) neighborhood of New Orleans. The cat searches for a friend and visits many historical spots in the quarter and around the city. The book is written in English and French. What a lovely tribute to the city of New Orleans!

Happy reading y’all!

Mardi Gras La Chatte Noire

Multicultural Book Day is January 27, 2014

Multicultural Book Day is January 27, 2014

One day there may no longer be a need to have a ”day” to remind people to read books about the diversity within our own country and the world. But until that day comes, I invite you to celebrate Multicultural Book Day. Yay!

Why you ask? Meera Sriram lists 10 reasons in her blog post.

And who can argue with what Mahatma Gandhi said, No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive. Diversity is all around us to embrace.

Anyone looking for titles can check out the sites below. Some of my favorite books are about different cultures found here in the USA and around the world. Read a few, or read a lot, and maybe some will become favorites of yours too.

Multicultural Book Day

Taking the Challenge: Start the Year off Write

Taking the Challenge: Start the Year off Write

Shannon Abercrombie is offering a writing challenge this month, ”Start the Year off Write 2014”. On January 5th, for 21 days, participants will receive a daily writing prompt/exercise to complete. An impressive list of authors and illustrators will share their talents with participants. And there are prizes! With every completed challenge participants earn an entry to win one of many amazing prizes. Grand prizes include agent critiques, editor critiques, and proofreading services.


Challenges like these are not the same as writing contests or competitions, this is a challenge to beat your personal best. At the start of a new year some people join a gym and set goals to lose weight or increase muscle. Writer’s write. Writing exercises help develop mental muscle. For some, the challenge will be to lose that negative perception that may have resulted from rejections.

I’m taking this challenge because I want to flex my creative muscles throughout 2014. And before we’ve started I’ve already come up with my own personal challenge. My goal is to turn my first picture book projected for publication in 2015 into a series!

Write on.

International Picture Book Month

International Picture Book Month

Today marks the end of International Picture Book Month. I started my collection long before I had children of my own. What makes them so appealing?

Picture books are described as an art of visual storytelling. Lots of pictures but not a lot of words yet are quite challenging to illustrate and or write. The story must be compact yet have a beginning, middle, and end. There must be a setting that includes characters, a problem, and solution. The illustrations are accompanied by text of complex simplicity. The pictures help to construct meaning in the absence of words. In most cases, each on its own is not enough.

Children enjoy picture books because illustrations help them add meaning to the text. The Bracelet written by Yoshiko Uchida and illustrated by Joanna Yardley comes to mind. Emi and her family are Americans of Japanese heritage sent to an internment camp during WW2, and her best friend gives her a bracelet as a reminder of their friendship. The words tell a story about a difficult time in American history, the illustrations help the reader with the emotional journey Emi and her family experience during this time. Another book that comes to mind is The Elijah Door: A Passover Tale written by Linda Leopold Strauss, and woodcut illustrations by Alexi Natchev. The story is about two Jewish families living in the old country (Russia) who get into a feud. This review explains the importance of the book’s pictures, ”Alexi Natchev’s beautifully colored block prints evoke an Old World feel but also are playful and filled with expressive detail and movement.” – Arizona Jewish Post, 3/20/2012. The illustrations help the person being read to, or the reader, to imagine Russia back then. Eve Bunting’s book One Green Apple illustrated by Ted Lewin is a story about Farah, a Muslim girl who struggles to learn English and fit in her new school after her family immigrates to the United States. The illustrations are bright and engaging giving hope that the character will indeed find her place.

Picture books can be timeless and address issues common to childhood. They are often used to support curriculum in schools. Parents and teachers are often able to find just the right book to address a particular topic like belonging, bullying, courage, conflict, motivation, etc. at a time when it matters most to a family or student. Where the Wild Things Are is a timeless classic written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak that has 12 lines. The emotion is packed in the words and illustrations and certainly germane to children who are in or have been to that dark place and time in their young lives.

Are picture books still relevant? According to the PEW research center, even in this digital age, tech savvy parents still consider reading print books very important when it comes to their children. Yet, for the first time, Dr. Seuss books are now available in e-book format. Susan Brandt, the president of Dr. Seuss Enterprises says the e-books will mirror the classic print versions. The debate rages on about ”real” print media vs. the ebook format, but one thing is crystal clear, when a need arises, picture books have it covered.

Read and write on.