(Barefoot Books; HC $16.99, PB English or Spanish $8.99, Ages 4-9)
★ Starred Reviews – Foreword Reviews, School Library Journal
Few picture books will trigger your wanderlust more than the beautiful A Gift for Amma: Market Day in India, written by Meera Sriramand Illustrated by Mariona Cabassa. The story follows a young girl as she shops at an outdoor Indian market to find a gift for Amma—or Mother. But really, it is a celebration of color, the senses, and love.
Each spread introduces readers to not just the various items in the market, but to a vibrant color palette of dizzying loveliness. Pink is not just pink. It is lotus pink, like the flowers and sweet treats the girl considers buying for Amma. Likewise, green becomes peacock green, and orange become saffron orange. But, in such a poly-chromatic world, how can a gift of any one color ever suffice? This is the question the at heart of the story—and it is such a good one that you might suddenly look at your black and white wardrobe and ask yourself: What was I thinking? e
Readers will also love the final two spreads, which provide more information about not just the merchandise available at the outdoor markets of Southern India, but about the history of outdoor markets themselves.
A Gift for Amma is the perfect antidote for these days of remote learning and armchair traveling. It will give you hope. There is still so much waiting for us in the days ahead. And—if we are lucky—they will be very colorful.
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Today I’m happy to share an enlightening post on craft by Doubleday Books for Young Readers Editor-in-Chief, and Go, Girls, Go! author, Frances Gilbert. Many picture book authors face a challenge when writing in rhyme. Does the meter work? Does the rhyme feel forced? Is the story best told in rhyme? Frances offers helpful insights into her approach from both sides of the editor’s desk so please read on.
ON RHYMING PICTURE BOOKS BY FRANCES GILBERT
I’ve been a children’s book editor for over 25 years and one of the most common reasons I reject picture book manuscripts is that they rhyme badly. So why, for my first foray into writing a picture book myself, would I choose to write Go, Girls, Go!in rhyme??! Rhyming, we’re so often told – by editors, by agents, by fellow writers – is not encouraged. Bound to fail, hard to translate. But I love rhyming books. I love reading them, and I love publishing them. Turns out, I love writing them too.
The number one mistake in rhyming texts is when the rhyme overwhelms the story rather than serving the story. The monotony of a 32-page story all told in the same rhythm can wear a reader down after a few pages. As an editor, I often start these submissions thinking, “Okay, let’s see if this can be sustained . . .” and after a few stanzas say, “Oh please stop. I can’t do this anymore.” The sing-song-y-ness of “dah-duh dah-duh dah-duh, dah-dah” in line after line pummels a reader with sameness. It also encourages authors to make terrible word choices: odd or forced descriptions or line endings because that last word HAS. TO. RHYME. My test: Extract a line out of your rhyming text and ask yourself if you’d write it the same way if it DIDN’T have to rhyme. If the answer is no, it’s a bad line. The rhyming has to feel effortless.
Effortless AND creative. Listen to the “Hamilton” soundtrack. I know it’s a high bar, but learn from how Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote an entire musical in tight, creative rhyme full of variety and rhythm changes and surprises and cleverness and word-play delights. Internal rhymes, humorous rhymes, break-outs into a different rhythm altogether. A surprise around every corner. Now imagine if all two hours and forty-five minutes of “Hamilton” had been “dah-duh dah-duh dah-duh, dah-dah.” That’s not a ticket you’d have paid $300 for.
I broke “Go, Girls, Go!” into four primary sections, each one showcasing three girls, their vehicles, and the sound of their vehicles. It starts: “Emma drives a fire engine, / Meg conducts a train, / Jayla steers a big red tractor hauling loads of grain.” Those lines alone are not breaking any creativing writing boundaries. It’s a pretty standard A-B-B rhyme scheme. Had the rest of my text been in the same rhythm and rhyme scheme, it could have gotten old quickly. But my next two scenes actually don’t rhyme at all; they introduce the sound words and, after another page turn, end in a rallying cheer: “Vroom! goes Emma. / Hoot! goes Meg. / Clank! goes Jayla! / Go, girls, go!” The break from rhyming in these scenes, while still maintaining a bouncy rhythm, gives the reader a different reading experience for a few pages before launching into the next set of girls.
This is the pattern for four sets of girls, and then for the finale we break into a different rhythm and rhyme scheme, A-A-A-B this time: “Girls can race and girls can fly. / Girls can rocket way up high. / What about you? Give it try! / Go, girl, go!” It gives the reader an indication that the book is approaching a crescendo, and then it lands on one final cheer on the last page (which doesn’t rhyme with anything).
Did I plan this structure deliberately ahead of time? No, I just wrote it. But I followed this mantra the entire time: “Don’t bore your reader. Don’t wear your reader down. Let the rhyme serve the story.”
I was grateful that reviewers picked up on this: Booklist called the rhyming “propulsive”, which is the best descriptor I could have hoped for, with the style of the rhyme matching the forward-moving vehicles in the book. And Kirkus said, “With repeated readings, pre-readers will be reciting the words on their own,” which thrilled me, because rhyming can help kids quickly get the hang of reading along if the rhythm grabs them. And that leads to repeated readings, which is the test of any good picture book.
So don’t be afraid of writing in rhyme, but please remember: “Don’t bore your reader. Don’t wear your reader down. Let the rhyme serve the story.”
Jen Bryant, who has won numerous awards for her books for children, which include biographies of poet William Carlos Williams, and Charlotte’s Web author E.B. White, has written the biography of August Wilson. The picture book, presented in two acts and 48 pages, is an inspiring and lyrical introduction to the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Black playwright who died in 2005.
Young readers are probably unfamiliar with Wilson’s work and Bryant writes mostly about his early years at school and the beginning of his career.
Frederick August Kittel, Jr. was raised with a sister and single mother, who cleaned houses. His mother, Daisy, made sure Frederick learned to read, telling him, “If you can read, you can do anything – you can be anything.” Bryant tells about the racism Wilson and his family experienced—brick-throwing, name-calling, fights, and accusations of cheating—driving Wilson from school after school, setting him on a course of self-education, reading all day in libraries. Wilson finds the “universe opens wide” when, as a teenager, he encounters Black authors Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison.
His first paid writing job was completing his sister’s homework; he bought a used typewriter, composing poems after he finished washing dishes at the diner. The talk and stories of Black men in his community, many working at menial jobs, provided the dialogue for his poems and plays. Working odd jobs in a soup kitchen, Wilson listened to stories. “Who’s there? What are they saying … and why?” he asked himself, and these figures became characters in his dramas.
Debut illustrator Cannaday Chapman uses a limited color palette of earth tones to show the expressions on Wilson’s face and his connection to his environment.
Bryant includes a detailed Author’s Note explaining her interest in Wilson, her extensive research, and her process for writing the book. Students will enjoy her description of spreading her pages down her hallway. Feed Your Mind is an important book about an author of color, who endured poverty and racism, and whose life shows the power of literacy and community.
Guest review by Julia Wasson, veteran educator and curriculum developer.
Today Good Reads With Ronna features a guest post by the North Oak series author, Ann Hunter, because the first eBook in her series, Born to Run, is available this week on BookBub for 99 cents! Get hooked on the first book then enjoy six more books in the series.
GUEST POST BY ANN HUNTER:
Alexandra Anderson, heroine of the contemporary YA North Oak series (recommended for ages 12 and up*), is an orphan who has endured trauma in the foster care system. She’s running from a dark past.
As a teacher, I regard the interception of children at a young age to be pivotal in their approach to and success in the world. When a child knows they’re loved and is given boundaries, they can then grow and flourish.
This young runaway doesn’t believe she’ll be worthy of love when the people at North Oak—good, honest people who have taken her in—find out what she’s done. She suspects she’s better off being alone forever.
It’s important that children have a strong support system around them. There’s no better example than family.
Family isn’t always who you expect them to be. One hopes their parents will love them, but sometimes things happen. Family can extend to those who support you no matter what. They might be colorful, and crazy, and eccentric, but they put their trust in your greatness. They support you in your desire to do good in the world.
They help you find your true self. Alex discovers this through the people at North Oak, and horse racing. Her first real friend is a horse. He becomes a brother to her. She senses his spirit and desire to be great. Meanwhile, Alex’s new guardian isn’t so sure about the situation they’ve been thrown into, but she gradually falls in love with Alex as a mother should. However, she discovers her boss is keeping a secret that will change Alex’s life forever.
What kind of support system do you surround yourself with? Do they lift you up? Do they empower you and recognize your greatness?
Everyone deserves a family. Every child deserves to be loved.
That is North Oak’s goal (as a book series). Kids today need a support system. They are going through things we never really dealt to such a great extent in our own childhood days; scary topics such as bullying, suicide, and sexuality. We can’t raise them exactly the same way our parents raised us. That world doesn‘t exist anymore. We have to prepare them for a new one.
Love these children with all your fierceness. They need the sword and shield we can provide them with by enabling their confidence and giving them safe places to land.
* The series starts out middle grade, but ages up to YA with the reader as the main character ages. We follow Alex from the age of thirteen into her twenties.
Children as young as ten can enjoy the first few books which presents a great opportunity to open up discussions with their parents on the topics presented. The North Oak series is linear so it is best to read them in order.
ABOUT NORTH OAK:
North Oak champions tough issues kids and teens are facing today, such as bullying, suicide, and sexuality, all set against the exciting fast-paced world of horse racing.
BORN TO RUN (book 1)
He lost a sister. She lost a child. Alex lost everything.
Alexandra Anderson is on the run from the law. When the thirteen-year-old orphan can run no further, she collapses at the gates of the prestigious racing and breeding farm, North Oak. Horse racing strikes a deep chord in her. She hears a higher calling in the jingle jangle of bit and stirrup and in the thunder of hooves on the turn for home. It tells her she has a place in the world. But when the racing headlines find her on the front of every sports page, she realizes North Oak is no longer a safe haven. Money can’t buy love, but it just might secure Alex’s future. Will everyone at North Oak still want to offer her a home when they learn of her unspeakable crime?On the heels of Joanna Campbell’s beloved Thoroughbred Series, and Walter Farley’s Black Stallion, comes a brand new young adult horse racing series that will sweep you away like a runaway Thoroughbred.
Click here to watch this cool paperback book animation:
Ann Hunter is awesome and hilarious. She loves mentoring other writers and has a soft spot for kids and teens. She is often told it must be a blast living in her brain. She argues that the voices in her head never shut up. The only way to get relief is to let them out on to the page.
She lives in a cozy Utah home with her two awesome kids and epic husband.
NOTE: Guests posts are not an endorsement by Good Reads With Ronna
I’M HAPPY-SAD TODAY: Making Sense of Mixed-Together Feelings Written by Lory Britain, PhD Illustrated by Matthew Rivera (Free Spirit Publishing; $15.99, Ages 3-8)
“Grandma, I am so SA-MAD!”
Oh … why, Momo?” I asked my 8-year-old granddaughter.
“I’m SAD that my parents won’t let me do what I want today and I am so MAD at them!” she replied passionately.
Thus began my journey to explore children’s complex feelings and to write I’m Happy-Sad Today: Making Sense of Mixed-Together Feelings. Most books and early childhood materials focus on children selecting one feeling that represents how they feel. Yet, “mixed-together” feelings are common in childhood and throughout adulthood. Exploring the emotional life of children through this lens enriches our understanding and support of children.
All children are faced with confusing, conflicted and ambivalent feelings during situations ranging from the “every day” such as their first sleepover to confusing and devastating situations involving abuse from a known adult. Often when children are struggling with coping skills, unrecognized mixed-together emotions are present. Children’s ability to understand both their own emotions and the emotions of others improves their inner emotional life, coping skills (self-regulation) and contributes to healthy relationships with those around them.
We can help children recognize all of their feelings, validate how they are feeling, and give them the lifelong tools to accept and express these feelings in developmentally appropriate ways. And to quote my book, I’m Happy-Sad Today, “When I’m older, sometimes I’ll still have different feelings mixed together inside of me. And that’s okay!”
A MODEL OF DETERMINATION A Guest Post by Author Randi Lynn Mrvos
When I first sat down to write the story about a little first-grader named Maggie, I had not yet met Charlie, a mix-breed hound whose determination changed his life. All I knew of the story was that Maggie had a problem at school. How she would be able to solve that problem was still a mystery to me.
At that time with the seeds of this story slowly germinating, I spent the better part of Saturdays supporting my freshman daughter’s cross-country team in Lexington, Kentucky. While the student athletes stretched and warmed up, I chatted with the mothers manning the concession stand. After attending a few meets, I got to know these heard-working ladies and sadly realized they would not be present next year. Their kids would be graduating.
The following year I stepped into the role of running the concessions along with Barbara, another mom whose daughter ran on the team. Standing side by side selling bagels, bananas, bottled water and hot chocolate, I learned about Barbara’s family, her talents, and her pets.
One of her dogs was named Charlie, and later during that cross-country season, I got the chance to meet him. On that day, Barbara told me his story. She said that a few years ago, she and her family were driving in rural Kentucky in search of buying a farm. They came across an injured dog that had made a bed of leaves by the side of the road. It had used his last bit of strength and resolve to get their attention. He wagged his tail when they approached him. It occurred to Barbara that the dog may have once been someone’s pet. Without a doubt, Barbara knew they were going to bring the animal home.
The dog, after being nursed back to health, learned to walk again. Barbara and her family named him Charlie and he fit right in along with the other dog and two cats in their house. Charlie loves everyone he meets along his walks and wants to befriend everyone. Barbara says this special animal taught her so much about unconditional love, trust, hope and never giving up. Charlie is her best friend.
I was so impressed with Charlie that he became the model for Maggie’s pet. Soon after, the solution to Maggie’s problem became apparent and the themes of the story, animal adoption, compassion, determination, and problem-solving emerged.
Charlie’s story touched me in a personal way. I know what it’s like to feel rejected. Before Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell was published, it had been turned down close to fifty times. Sure, there were anger and tears, but I believed in Maggie. Like Charlie, I was determined to deal with rejection and not give up.
Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell Written by Randi Lynn Mrvos Illustrated by Emiliano Billai (Saturn’s Moon Press, $16.99, Ages 4 – 8) 32 pages, available in Hardback Visit Randi Lynn Mrvos’s website here. Get to know Maggie here.
Randi Lynn Mrvos’s Bio:
Randi Lynn Mrvos is the editor of the Kid’s Imagination Train e-zine. She has written over a hundred articles for children’s magazines such as Highlights as well as articles for Mothering magazine and The Christian Science Monitor. Mrvos lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband and cat Ozzie. Awarded prizes by the Tennessee Mountain Writers, Writer’s Digest, and the Alabama Writer’s Conclave, Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tellis her first book.
A Brief Summary: Meet Maggie, a first-grader in Ms. Madison’s classroom. Maggie has a big problem. Tomorrow is summer vacation show-and-tell. All of her classmates know exactly what they are going to talk about, but Maggie doesn’t have any idea what she can share. She could say she went on safari, or hiked the South Pole, or zoomed into outer space to Mars and the Moon. The truth is, Maggie didn’t travel during the break. The day is nearly over and Maggie hasn’t found anything to bring to school. .. until she remembers falling in love with something special over the months of summer.
For children ages four to eight and pet-lovers of all ages, Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell is a story of love and compassion. Mrvos’ children’s book was inspired by Charlie, a deserted dog that was rescued on a country road by a friend. Charlie’s remarkable story is included as well as a discussion guide for starting conversations about summer vacations and caring for pets.
NOTE: The opinions expressed here are those of the author, Randi Lynn Mrvos. No compensation was received for this coverage.
SPOOKTACULAR CHORES INJECT HALLOWEEN FUN INTO HOUSEWORK
BusyKid shares tips for making chores festive learning experiences for kids
Many kids look forward to Halloween for months, carefully planning their costumes and mapping out the houses that give the best candy. Of course the night is dedicated to fun, but leading up to the celebration parents can even make chores spooky to get in the spirit of the season while teaching kids valuable life skills.
Gregg Murset, CEO and founder of BusyKid.com recommends that parents try these chores with kids and create a money based reward system that can teach them lifelong personal finance skills.
Wipe Away the Real Cobwebs – Faux cobwebs set the scene for Halloween décor. But no one wants the real thing dangly from their ceiling, across light fixtures or in the blinds. Hand kids a duster and a flash light and put them in charge of tracking down unwanted webs from corners in your home.
Something Wicked Lurks, In the Back of the Fridge – Rotten vegetables and fruit or spoiled condiments can start to look like Eye of Newt or Pickled Chicken Tails when they are left forgotten in the back of the refrigerator for too long. Have kids sort through expiration dates, toss spoiled food and recycle cleaned out containers.
Be the Griswolds of Halloween – Holiday decorations start to collect in bins over the years and are often forgotten when new ones are purchased on a whim. Have older kids sort through old Halloween decorations checking for burned out light bulbs or holes in inflatables that need patching. Donate anything you no longer need to a local charity. Then decorate as a family!
Make Way for Monsters – Before the ghosts, goblins, emojis and princesses take to the streets to Trick-or-Treat on Halloween make sure your yard is clean and safe. Have your kids pick up after pets, trim back shrubs and tree branches so sidewalks are clear. Pick up any stray branches, rocks or leaves in the yard that could be a slipping or tripping hazard.
Follow BusyKid on Facebook here. Follow BusyKid on Twitter here.
BusyKid is the first online chore/allowance platform where kids can earn, save, share, spend and invest real money wisely. BusyKid is available on all mobile devices and operated by the same team that grew MyJobChart.com to nearly 1 million members. Though it has the same overall objective as MJC, BusyKid is easier to use, is more robust, and allows kids to receive a real allowance from their parents each Friday. No more points or trying to convert imaginary money.
Gregg Murset, CEO BusyKid
The co-founder & CEO of BusyKid, Gregg is best known as groundbreaking inventor of My Job Chart which grew to nearly 1 million members in four years. My Job Chart was the first electronic chore/allowance platform to take advantage of our modern digital society. A father of six, Gregg is a certified financial planner and consultant who also became a leading advocate for sound parenting, child accountability and financial literacy. In 2014, he was named Chairman of 2014 “Smart Money Week” for the state of Arizona, as well as, the National Financial Educators Council Financial Education Instructor of the Year. A firm believer in improved financial education in schools, Gregg has conducted hundreds of media interviews around the U.S. in hopes of much needed change. Promoting these changes, Gregg took his family on a pair of RV trips in 2014 and traveled nearly 10,000 miles in just 31 days. When the trips were complete, the family had stopped in 22 different cities in 27 states and performed normal household chores for families in need and organizations requesting volunteers. Gregg is considered a pillar of his Arizona community and is regularly attending his kids sporting events or taking them on weekend camping trips.
Guest Post By Joanna Liu, Debut Author of When I Wake Up
My favorite pastime? Bedtime reading with my children.
Snuggling up at the end of the day with Annabel (3), Atticus (1) and a gigantic stack of picture books makes me a very happy mommy. What can I say? I love the cuddles! Likewise, it makes for two contented and relaxed kids ready to settle down for the evening. It’s a win-win situation.
Really though, there’s no surprise here. It’s well-known that bedtime stories create important parent-child bonds and prepare children for sleep.
In terms of a bonding experience it can’t be beaten; 20 mins each day set aside for one-on-one time with your child. Both parent and child can escape from their daily pressures and de-stress, with a cozy environment and magical books used as stepping stones to further conversations. Even if it is evening number 30 of reading Goodnight Moon 10 times in a row, with a continuous search for that little mouse, it’s a great experience. (Anybody else have children who want the same book reading over and over for weeks at a time?).
And as for preparing your child for sleep, well, let’s face it, a toddlers’ resistance to going to bed is pretty much a universal parent struggle. So, it is music to my bedtime-reading ears that child development experts agree that creating consistency in the evening is a key part of getting children to sleep easily. By establishing a nightly routine, such as a bath followed by bedtime stories and cuddles, you are providing the child with the predictability needed to make them sleepy.
However, the benefit of story time doesn’t stop here… Hang on – what could be even better then cuddles and calm kids before bed?
Recent research has shown that a daily reading routine actually boosts your child’s brain development, improving logic skills, memory and speeding up the mastery of language.
When babies are read to, they begin to pick up on simple sounds. The more frequently a baby hears these simple sounds, the faster they can process them. As a toddler learning to speak, they have an advantage at successfully differentiating between words, such as cot, cat, car. Then, as a grade-schooler learning to read, they are far better equipped for sounding out unfamiliar words. In short, it’s a knock-on effect from having started the bedtime reading routine with fun, colorful picture books as an infant. Moreover, add to the mix rhyming and repetitive stories and you have an invaluable teaching tool.
Additionally, daily reading also improves their social and emotional development, and works on their fine motor skills as they learn to turn pages.
Yikes, that’s a lot of benefits!
With the aim of capitalizing on all of these benefits, my husband and I wrote our award-winning children’s bedtime book, When I Wake Up. The story delivers fun, positive encouragement for toddlers to get to sleep on time and does so in an educational way.
When I Wake Up tells the tale of a grumpy young girl who doesn’t want to go to sleep … until her imagination takes over and she starts to think about all the fun things she can do the next day when she wakes up. She could dance, or paint, or host a teddy tea party! There are so many exciting possibilities. Tomorrow is packed full of potential and tomorrow will be a wonderful day.
The very simple yet powerful message about getting to bed on time to enjoy the following day is happily received by toddlers without them even realising they are learning. It leaves the toddler with feelings of happiness, playfulness, curiosity … and wanting to go to bed. Two enthusiastic cuddles-and-calm-kids thumbs up to that!
Throw into the mix the quality rhyme scheme, beautiful illustrations and sturdy construction of the board book – all of which When I Wake Up has received high praise for – and it’s easy to see why it’s quickly becoming a must-have companion for nightly routines.
This evening, when you are snuggling up for bedtime reading with your toddler and a large collection of picture books, as you enter the enchanted world of story time, have a think about all of these fantastic benefits and give yourself a pat on the back – it’s not just an enjoyable routine for you and your child, it’s also a really, really important part of their development.
BOOK DETAILS: When I Wake Up Written by Ming and Joanna Liu Illustrated by Hattie Hyder $7.99 Ages 0-3
BRIEF BIO: Joanna Liu is a British stay-at-home mom living in Washington DC with her American husband and their two children, Annabel and Atticus. She has a degree in Philosophy from the University of York, England and loves to encourage curiosity. She has lived all around the world, including London, Vancouver, Switzerland, Cairo and Frankfurt. This is Joanna’s debut children’s book.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not constitute an endorsement from GRWR. No compensation was received for this guest post.
A wallet lying in the street, stuffed with cash. Not a single person anywhere in sight.
It’s a universal question for children and adults alike: when no one’s watching, will you do the right thing? How about when doing the right thing runs counter to your own self-interest? That is the premise of Walter and the Wallet.
Walter Whippingdale has been having the worst day of his life. As he walks home, shoulders slumped, head down, he discovers a wallet overflowing with cash. And suddenly, his awful day is awash with possibilities.
It’s a situation that most people have to deal with at some point in their life. And that includes me. I was working in my second year as a substitute teacher on Long Island. The school day had just ended, and, after straightening up the room for a few minutes, I headed for the parking lot.
Almost everyone had left the building by then, so no one was in front of me or behind me as I exited the building.
And there it was, just outside the doors: a small pile of cash.
I feel like I’m a very honest person. When playing volleyball, I always call it on myself when I touch the net. I’m a firm disciple in the Golden Rule—and believe that if everyone would just live by it, the Earth would be an infinitely nicer place.
So I bent over, picked it up, and counted it. $23. I obviously knew what the right thing to do was. And yet … there was the tug. From some dark corner of my brain, a tiny voice was saying “You could just slip it in your pocket. There’s not a soul in sight.”
I didn’t keep the money; I turned around and brought it into the office, telling them that if they couldn’t determine the owner, to use it to buy some school supplies. They thanked me profusely. But as I left, I felt a sense of shame. I’m a good person, I thought—so why did some small part of me want to keep that $23? It wasn’t mine. It wouldn’t have changed my life one iota.
Such is the conflict in Walter and the Wallet. But it’s not a purportedly mature, allegedly honest adult who’s confronted with a near-identical situation—it’s a 9-year-old child.
Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. One might be too busy, too tired, too distracted. But doing the right thing when it runs counter to your own self-interest is even harder. That is the dilemma I want children, their parents, and their teachers to discuss after reading Walter and the Wallet. It all comes down to that Golden Rule: what would you want a person to do if they found your wallet?
Children can learn several lessons from reading about Walter: a bad day can turn around on a dime. Money can’t buy you happiness. And of course, if you find something that isn’t yours, do everything in your power to get it back to its owner.
Walter ultimately makes the right choice, and finds that it comes with some unanticipated rewards. I’m hopeful that reading my book will help children do the honorable thing when they inevitably confront a similar scenario in their own lives.
Brief Summary of Walter and the Wallet:
Walter Whippingdale is having the worst day of his life. The girl he likes has been making googly eyes at another boy in his class. He struck out during recess. He broke his favorite watch. A giant pimple appeared on his nose. And to top it off, he somehow managed to get mustard in his eye at lunch! Walking home from school, his head is hanging low. Which is precisely how Walter spots a wallet lying in the street … a wallet bursting with cash. Suddenly, his terrible day is about to change. But how?
In this engaging tale of life lessons, first-time children’s author Billy Bloom has created a story to spark some important conversation between kids and parents about making good choices. Accompanied by Tanya Leonello’s charming watercolor illustrations, this story of childhood morality and the daily dilemmas children face, is sure to pull young readers in and get them thinking.
Billy Bloom is an elementary school teacher in New York. Before becoming a teacher, he had several other jobs, including professional Frisbee player (finishing 6th in the World Championships in 1983), newspaper editor, advertising copywriter, and volleyball league owner. He currently referees middle and high school volleyball and basketball games after school and on weekends. This is Billy Bloom’s debut children’s book.
Bruce Springsteen, Superstorms, and Fortune Telling on the Boardwalk
Inspiration for Mira Forecasts the Future
Guest Post for Good Reads With Ronna
By Kell Andrews
Brief Summary of Mira Forecasts the Future: Telling the future is a gift: you either have it, or you don’t. And Mira, daughter of the famous fortune teller Madame Mirabella, just doesn’t. When Madame gazes into the crystal ball, magic swirls. When Mira looks . . . nothing. Then one day Mira gets a pinwheel and a windsock, she finds her own form of “magic” in the science of predicting the weather—and saves the day for everyone! This engaging tale, with a fun touch of science thrown in, helps kids understand that we all have our own special talent.
Guest Post: I’m a Belmartian by marriage, which means I claim the beach town of Belmar, NJ, as a home. During Superstorm Sandy, Belmar’s boardwalk was destroyed, and many homes were damaged or demolished.
My beach town was on my mind when I was looking for a picture book idea, and it combined with a line from a Bruce Springsteen song, “Asbury Park, Fourth of July (Sandy).” “Did you hear the cops finally busted Madam Marie for tellin’ fortunes better than they do.”
Sandy, storms, boardwalks, fortune tellers — they all came together in Mira Forecasts the Future, the story of the daughter of a boardwalk fortune teller who can’t see the future with magic, so she learns to predict the weather with science.
Mira learns about weather, and this book is the story of a girl who saves a surfing contest and the day. It doesn’t take place in the present or in the past, despite Lissy Marlin’s gorgeous Boardwalk Empire inspired ilIustrations, but somewhere in between.
It doesn’t take place in New Jersey — it could be Coney Island, Santa Cruz, or any beach town. Boardwalks and beach towns seem like tourist traps to those visiting, but there are real people who live there. I wanted to capture a warm small-town environment — flavored with salt water taffy and pizza by the slice, soundtracked by calliope music and the crash of waves.
In Mira Forecasts the Future, I mixed together facts and fiction, and not just about the weather. There was a real Madam Marie, Marie Castello, who told fortunes on the Asbury boards, just as her granddaughter still does. Madam Marie was never arrested, so the fortunes she told must have come true.
There isn’t a real Mira. I hope instead there are a lot of them — kids who learn to use science to learn about nature, forecast the future, avert disaster, and make the world a better place.
Visit Kell Andrews’ website hereto find out more about the author, book signings and more.
Ava Dreams of Water began with the image of a boy in the remote Peruvian Amazon village of Yomybato …
In the sixteen years since the publication of A Long Walk to Water, awareness of the global need for clean water has grown, but unfortunately, so has the problem. Ava Dreams of Water strives to introduce younger kids to the issue, along with ideas for how they can help, and the power of friendship and dreams. I was inspired by the work of the non-profit Rainforest Flow, which brings clean water and sanitation systems to the Peruvian Amazon. Its founder, Nancy Santullo, told me about an amazing young boy in Yomybato – where a suspension bridge and slow sand filtration system had been built – who brings people across the local river in his family’s boat. In Ava Dreams of Water, I decided to connect this boy to a child in the United States by having them meet in their dreams. With a dash of magical realism, and the wondrous illustrations by Sara McCall Ephron, the characters of Ava and Juan have a true impact on one another, as I hope the book will have on the reader/pre-reader!
Clean water is one of the most fundamental needs that humans have. Earth Day gives kids the opportunity to think about what they have, what others might be lacking, and what they can do to help. Clean, healthy drinking water is a resource that no one should take for granted! This is a global issue and, indeed, there’s a growing awareness and urgency regarding the lack of healthy water in some of our American communities as well. Books about the environment, green living, conversation, and the natural world all contribute to young readers’ breath of knowledge and curiosity. Knowing that other children do not have healthy water opens the door to empathy and action.
Ava Dreams of Wateris about a real place where children just like themselves have had their lives transformed by the clean water and sanitation systems that been brought to them. Across the world, water is a health, economic, and overall quality of life issue. With a story of imagination, dreams and friendship, Ava Dreams of Water strives to embody the spirit of Earth Day by informing and inspiring a new generation of caretakers of the planet! The ability of children’s books to open minds, explore worlds, and spur creative and constructive imagination is extremely powerful. It’s our hope that Ava Dreams of Watershares the idea that it is possible to change the world for the better, one drop at a time.
A portion of the proceeds from Ava Dreams of Water goes to Rainforest Flow, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that has brought clean water to villages in the Amazon of Peru since 2003.
About Nancy Moss – Nancy lives in Los Angeles with her twin sons, Gabriel and Elias. She is a former film executive and screenwriter. Learn more about Nancy and Ava Dreams of Waterhere.
About Sara McCall Ephron – Sara writes, illustrates, and teaches art in NYC. See more of Sara’s illustrations here.
THE NORMAL NORMAN BLOG TOUR including A Guest Post from Author Tara Lazar & Giveaway
NORMAL NORMAN Written by Tara Lazar Illustrated by S. Britt (Sterling Children’s Books; $14.95, Ages 4 and up)
Normal NormanbyTara Lazarwith illustrations by S. Britt, is an ode to individuality, and a wonderfully wild and wacky way to reinforce the message to children that there’s no such thing as normal. Good Reads With Ronna asked author Tara Lazar to speak to this topic, wondering how she embraces her own unique brand of non-normality in her every day life. Oh, and since I haven’t said it yet, I recommend you unicycle, not run to your nearest bookstore to get a copy of Normal Norman AND enter our giveaway, too! 🍌
GUEST POST BY TARA LAZAR:
I am not normal.
I unexpectedly launch into foreign accents while talking. Think a “cawfee tawk” Linda Richman, morphing into a good ol’ cajun creole, followed by a dashing foray in the King’s English. (I’ve been brushing up on Nana’s Irish brogue, but it’s not quite there yet.)
I don’t dress like a 40-something, either. I know that What-Not-to-Wear show cautions against mini-skirts, Mickey Mouse sweatshirts and combat boots—especially all at the same time—but I don’t care.
Since I don’t walk very well, I’ve got a mobility scooter. I painted flames on it. Its max speed is 5mph, so the flames make me feel as close to being Danica Patrick as I’m gonna get.
I hate coffee, and I’m a writer. How weird is that? And, what’s even worse, I don’t care for chocolate. If you offered me a dish of ice cream or a plate of cheese, I’d cut the cheese every time.
Yes, I just made a fart joke. And I think it’s hysterical.
I told you, I’m not normal. And that’s precisely the way I like it.
Being normal is overrated. But when you’re a kid? Being normal is EVERYTHING! The slightest cowlick and you’re branded a nerd, a weirdo, a wackadoo. Wear glasses? Geek! Don’t even get me started on being pegged as the teacher’s pet! That was me all through my school years. I was taunted and teased, and one girl bullied me from 2nd grade all the way to senior year in high school. I didn’t dress normally enough or act normally enough for her.
I’ve tried to figure out why kids want everyone around them to conform. Maybe things are more predictable and safe that way. There’s nothing to be frightened about. Nothing will jump out suddenly, like a jack-in-the-box. You stay in your corner and I’ll remain in mine and we’ll get through this just fine.
I get it. Life is scary.
But my mission in life is to make everything fun. If that means stopping in the name of love to snap a photo with mannequins at the mall, so be it. And if it embarrasses my 12-year-old, let her turn red. Let her see that things shouldn’t be so serious all the time. Let her learn to find joy in the most miniscule things–or a medley of 6-foot plaster mannequins.
When I wrote Normal Norman, I didn’t necessarily set out to write some grand statement about all this. I just wanted Norman to be funny and to have fun. What emerged was a character who did just as he pleased and loved every minute of it. What emerged, I suppose, is me—in purple orangutan form!
The message to children, buried beneath the hilarity, is that there’s really no such thing as “normal”. With all of us being so different, how could there be only one “normal” expectation to live up to? The real normalness is being your true, normal self, in all its wonderful wackiness. Just like Norman…and me!
Imagine writing Pope Francis a letter to query him about what is most important to you and receiving a response. The chance to ask a question of someone we admire is something many, if not all of us, have likely imagined! For 30 children from around the world, that is in fact exactly what they were able to do. Selected from over 250 letters submitted, the question(s) most pressing in the minds of 30 children were presented to, and received a personal response from, Pope Francis. This correspondence constitutes the remarkable book published by Loyola Press, entitled Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World.
As a child clinical psychologist, I am often struck by the depth and perceptiveness of children’s questions. Dear Pope Francis honors the importance of, and wisdom contained within these children’s questions about God, the world in which they are living, and the faith by which they strive to live. Questions about miracles, angels, and the world’s future are presented in partnership with thoughtful and personally revealing letters of response from the Pope.
The letters included in the book come from children living in 26 different countries, living on six different continents, speaking 14 different languages. They speak directly to the pressing questions that arise in the day-to-day experiences of youth. The children’s illustrated letters are reproduced in their original format and language, and are accompanied by an English translation (where needed) and photo of each child. Each double-page spread is then completed by Pope Francis’s response as it appears on his letterhead and bearing his signature.
Ten-year-old Joao from Portugal asks the Pope what it feels like when he is surrounded by children, and in response Pope Francis writes of his happiness and the hope he feels for the future of all humanity. Revealing his own humanity, Pope Francis also writes about Joao’s drawing in which the Pope appears to be driving his “Pope-mobile” and acknowledges that he doesn’t drive which leaves his hands free for waving and blowing kisses.
Eight-year-old Josephine from the United Kingdom discovers that Pope Francis’s favorite place to pray is “everywhere…even when (he goes) to the dentist.” Karla Marie, a 10-year-old girl from Nicaragua, asks if “bad people have a guardian angel, too” and learns that everyone has an angel who tries to help them think good thoughts, but … “of course, some people don’t always listen to their guardian angels.”
Questions encompassing concerns about a parent’s death, arguments and their resolution, dancing and playing soccer, sin, forgiveness, and finding God in one another are asked of the Pope, who in turn responds with inspiring words that both teach and console.
Perhaps my favorite letter of all comes from seven-year-old William from the USA – he asked Pope Francis what miracle the Pope would most want to perform, given the chance. The Pope wrote to William that he would want to heal children, revealing in his letter his struggle to understand why children suffer. This letter, like so many in Dear Pope Francis reveals the humanity of this church and world leader in a manner accessible to children of all ages.
Thank you to today’s guest reviewer, Heather Tweddle Banis, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor of Psychology Clinical Consultant to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Girl Scout Leader and Mentor for Girl Scout Religious Awards Program Writer and Parent
The Getty Center’s Woven Gold: Tapestries of Louis XIV Exhibit, Thérèse Makes a Tapestry Review & Giveaway
On December 15, 2015, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California, unveiled its exhibit, Woven Gold: Tapestries of Louis XIV. The exhibition is displayed in three sections: Louis XIV as collector, heir, and patron of the arts. In 1662, the king founded the Gobelins (tapestries) Manufactory to decorate his residences and to aggrandize his public persona.
The Getty has released a companion book for young readers, Thérèse Makes a Tapestrywritten byAlexandra S.D. Hinrichs and illustrated byRenée Graef(Getty Publications, $19.95, Ages 6 and up).This historical fiction picture book is the story of a young girl and the real French tapestry (circa 1619-1690) Chȃteau of Monceaux / Month of December which is on display at the Getty Center. The book is set at the Gobelins Manufactory during the king’s 1643 to 1715 reign when many world-famous tapestries were woven.
Thérèse, the main character of the story, wishes to weave, but females are not allowed to do this in seventeenth-century France. Thérèse’s father is a painter who travels with Louis XIV on his political campaigns because the king often features himself in the art he commissions. When Thérèse’s father returns home with one of his paintings, Thérèse is determined to make a tapestry of that image. As the story unfolds the reader becomes acquainted with Thérèse’s family and their neighborhood. Fascinating facts about the tapestry-making process are skillfully incorporated into the story line; readers learn about this craft as they follow Thérèse on her journey.
This debut picture book for writer Alexandra S. D. Hinrichs uses language which a six-year-old (who is being read to) can understand, but has the depth to engage a teen reader. Realistic illustrations are masterfully painted by award-winning illustrator, Renée Graef. The historically accurate images are colorfully appealing for younger readers yet mature in detail and subject matter.
Another pleasing aspect of Thérèse Makes a Tapestry is that a reader may enjoy the story, then see the actual tapestry featured in the book. The thirteen tapestries in the exhibit are stunningly large—it would take four weavers about four years to complete one of these tapestries—and in a meticulous state of preservation. Hung at eye level, the gleaming threads of real gold and silver sparkle invitingly.
Reading the book in conjunction with visiting the exhibit gives an understanding of Paris during the seventeenth century and the artists who crafted these masterpieces. The weaver faced the back of the tapestry, using a mirror to view a reflection of the cartoon (a drawing or painting of the design) and to watch the image develop. During the time of King Louis XIV, weavers worked together, utilizing their areas of specialization, such as human faces or animals. Most tapestries on display at the exhibit are composed of wool, silk, and gilt metal- or silver-wrapped thread. Since the materials used faded at different speeds, the tapestry makers decided how to dye the thread both for immediate viewing and for a predicted harmonious collaboration of colors.
Understanding the time and expertise devoted to each design imparts a deeper appreciation of the tapestries which have survived the centuries. King Louis XIV’s contributions to this art form were immense. An inventory taken in 1666 noted 44 suites (or groups) of tapestries. At the time of his death, there were 304 suites with approximately 2,650 tapestries in the collection. In addition to commissioning new work, King Louis XIV actively purchased antique tapestries. Of all these tapestries, only an estimated 600 still exist. Many degraded over the years and were consciously destroyed. Others were lost during or after the French Revolution; some were burned to extract the gold and silver bullion within.
Remarkably, the Gobelins Manufactory is still functioning and the tapestry-weaving tradition carries on today. One difference is that the weavers now are all women and one weaver typically completes the entire tapestry—this would surely please Thérèse!
Marking the 300th anniversary of the death of King Louis XIV, Woven Gold: Tapestries of Louis XIV is the first major showing of tapestries in the Western US in four decades. An interesting conclusion to the exhibit is a modern piece (2001–2004) made of wool and linen by Raymond Hains. Related events such as talks, courses, and a symposium begin January 5, 2016.
Thérèse Makes a Tapestry and the exhibit are ideal companions for one another, though either can be enjoyed alone. The book is exclusively available through the Getty until its release for sale to the general public on March 8, 2016; the tapestries exhibit runs through May 1, 2016. This is an opportunity for families to spend time together then bring home a keepsake. The exhibit and the book acquaint us with this enduring craft which may seem anachronistic with our instant-gratification world. By viewing these tapestries and enjoying the accompanying book, perhaps our children will build an appreciation for the humanity and soul instilled in these masterpieces which have gracefully withstood the passage of time.
The Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049. Closed Mondays.
ENTER OUR GIVEAWAY: Win one (1) copy of Thérèse Makes a Tapestry. Plus, if you follow us on Facebook and let us know in the comments below, we’ll give you an extra entry. Follow us on Instagram and get an additional entry, too. Good luck!
Today Good Reads With Ronna is delighted to welcome author Ann Whitford Paul as our guest reviewer for Feeding the Flying Fanellis.
For those of you who loved Kate Hosford’s imaginative and beautiful Infinity and Me (I count myself as an admirer) her newest book, Feeding the Flying Fanellis, is equally full of pleasant surprises. This rollicking collection of poems isn’t just about circus performers and their acts. It focuses on the chef and what special meals he must cook for them. Opening as any circus does with the ringmaster, the chef must prepare a picnic (because the ringmaster never sits) that he tucks into his hat that the ringmaster tips in order to eat. Feeding the juggler is a struggle for everything must be round so he can easily toss his food in the air and catch it again. The high-strung tightrope walker must never have caffeine and obsessively watches what she eats—only 27 grains of rice! The lion thinks of food all day, driving the poor chef to distraction trying to satisfy his appetite so he won’t be Lion’s dessert. And then there’s the poor human cannonball who has to stuff himself to remain round.
The circus is filled with fire-eaters, trampoline performers, a ballerina dancing on a horse, a strongman and a hoop jumping dog that require special foods. The final poem features a summer circus feast prepared by the chef and the human cannonball who grew tired of being shot out of the cannon, and became the chef’s pastry assistant instead.
The illustrations are utterly charming, full of life and movement. You will sense the tension of tightrope walker, feel the pain of being shot from a cannon and the joy of swinging through the air with the trapeze artists.
Although writing and illustrating is always painstaking work, this must have been a fun project to work on and will be an equally fun book to read.
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