Archive for March, 2011
Thursday, March 31st, 2011
Sometimes in early spring we can feel a little stuck. We want it to be sunny and warm but things aren’t quite happening as quickly as we like. Or maybe, with all the rain and melting snow, we are quite literally stuck in the mud!
Getting stuck in the mud is a pretty common theme in picture books. Often the scenario is the same, a bunch of animals pile into a truck, barrel down a muddy road and…you guessed it…get stuck. Even though the situation is the same, it doesn’t keep each book from being wonderfully funny and silly in its own way. Here are some “stuck in the mud” favorites:
Duck in the Truck by Jez Alborough (Kane/Miller, 2008)
Wonderful rhyme and wordplay, complemented with silly and bright illustrations, make this book an absolute joy to read aloud. Duck finds himself stuck in the mud and needs the help of a variety of different barnyard animals in their own transportation (a goat in a boat, a sheep in a jeep, etc) to help pull and push him out.
Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw, illustrated by Margot Apple (Houghton Mifflin, 1986)
Another wonderful book written in rhyme. A family of sheep squeeze into a tiny jeep for a ride, but these sheep are not the most conscientious of drivers! A variety of mishaps will keep preschoolers giggling and adults will love all the funny details added by illustrator Margot Apple. Two strong pigs help to push the jeep out of the mud (check out their tattoos) but once the sheep are back on the road, they find their troubles are not over yet!
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008)
This sweet book combines a cast of barnyard animals with anthropomorphized cars. The friendly little blue truck is nice to all the animals as he casually drives down the road, but the big important dump truck honks rudely for everyone to get out of his way. When the big dump truck gets stuck in the mud, however, the little blue truck and the animals all work together to get him out, showing the true value of manners and friendship. This book is wonderfully designed with the shape of the text sometimes mirroring the action, bumping along or HONKING LOUDLY. (I especially love the illustration of the little blue truck tiny in the dump truck’s rear view mirror!) The sound effects in the text make it a great book to read aloud, with your whole audience chiming in.
Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud by Lynn Plourde, illustrated by John Schoenherr (Scholastic, 1997)
The hilarious rhyming text of this book bounces along in this sort of cumulative tale, filled with funny slang and nonsense words to make everyone giggle. As a farm family tries to drive down the road, they find pigs in the mud blocking their way! One by one a family member gets out of the car to try to move an animal, but as the story progresses more and more farm animals are stuck in the mud – pigs, chickens, sheep, even a bull! – but they nothing the family does can get them to budge. Good think they have a spunky grandma to save the day!
We all get stuck sometimes, but these books show that good friends are always there to help pull you out. Do you have a favorite picture book about getting stuck in the mud? Tell us about it!
Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
Even though I can still see bits of stubborn snow hiding out in the shadows, I know that spring is here! Crocuses are already blooming and daffodils and tulips are not too far behind. The days have been clear, bright and sunny, even if they’ve been deceptively cold. So while we wait for the temperatures to rise and the sun to warm our gardens and bring us green again, here are a few favorite picture books to welcome back spring.
The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Marc Simont (HarperCollins, 1949)
The animals spend the winter asleep in their respective homes – squirrels in the trees, bears in their dens. But despite the still falling snow, a gentle far-away scent of spring awakes the animals and sends them racing and sniffing through the forest until they find the first flower of spring coming up through the snow. Ruth Krauss (author of The Carrot Seed and so many more of my favorite books) has a gift for powerful simplicity. Marc Simont’s black-and-white illustrations, perfect for capturing the stark bleariness of a long winter, are juxtaposed by the brightness of a yellow flower beaming out of the monochromatic palette on the last page. This Caldecott Honor book is spring to me.
The Boy Who Didn’t Believe in Spring by Lucille Clifton, illustrated by Brinton Turkle (Penguin, 1973)
Poet Lucille Clifton, author of the Everett Anderson series of picture books, was one of the early authors that brought the African American experience into books for children in the late 60s and early 70s. While this book may in some ways feel dated due to the clothing or the slang language, its story truly stands the test of time. In this book, King Shabazz doesn’t believe in spring because in his immediate urban surroundings, spring is not obvious. His teacher and mother try to explain signs of spring such as birds hatching and crops coming up, but King Shabazz just doesn’t believe it.
From my first reading of this book I instantly fell in love with this child who is so sure of himself and doesn’t take anything for granted just because an adult says so. He has to see spring from himself to believe in it, so with his friend Tony Polito, he goes out to search for spring. While there’s no spring on the concrete playground or at the neighborhood store, King eventually looks in places he doesn’t usually explore and he and Tony finally find what they’re looking for. “Man, it’s spring.”
Spring is Here by Taro Gomi (Chronicle Books, 1989)
Spring is a time of new growth. Spring is Here pairs colorful, minimalist watercolors with a simple engaging text, perfect for babies and toddlers, as it cycles through the year. Gomi masterfully incorporates foreground and background (watch as the spots on the cow become the soil on the ground) with every page turn, as the land and the characters change with the passage of time, throughout the four seasons. Taro Gomi’s books are all so wonderful at focusing on the everyday world of the child and this bright springtime book is definitely one to grow with.
Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit by Il Sung Na (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010)
By the creator of A Book of Sleep, this book is another display of wonderful illustration with colorful handmade papers, digitally collages together to create the sweetest animals in colorful prints and textures. How do a variety of animals spend the winter? Do they grow thick coats or migrate to warmer climates? With simple text, Il Sung Na shows how each animal family makes it through a snowy winter, rewarded with the cheery promise of a bright spring ahead.
Forever Friends by Carin Berger (Greenwillow Books, 2010)
This story of sweet friendship between a little brown bunny and blue bird is illustrated in the most wonderful mixed media collage. Berger captures the color of spring perfectly with papers in shades of yellow and lime that mirror the electric green of new grass and budding leaves. This special woodland friendship starts in the spring and lasts all year, despite being physically apart during the snowy winter. A nice reminder of life’s constants like friendship and the cycle of the seasons.
What are your favorite books to read about spring?
Monday, March 28th, 2011
Spring has sprung! Little crocuses and snowdrops are already flowering here in Massachusetts, with daffodils and tulips not far behind. It makes you get excited for full spring and summer blooms, doesn’t it? So let’s celebrate our early spring flowers with some flowers from our favorite picture books. Can you name each illustrator (or book title) of each of these flowers? Put your guesses in the comments below and I’ll put the answers in the comments on Friday. Good luck and Happy Spring!
Saturday, March 26th, 2011
Photo by Marty Umans
This Sunday, March 27th at 11:30 am come meet best-selling and award-winning author/illustrator Mo Willems. Our own Andy Laties will be talking with Mo in our auditorium about his beginnings and his books as part of our regular BookTalk series. This event is free for all and does not include museum admission.
Even if you can’t make it, stop by our virtual Mo Shop! We have all things Mo Willems – books, t-shirts, tote bags, plush toys, and games! And be sure to check in with us after the event to see if we have any autographed books.
Hope to see you all there!
Thursday, March 24th, 2011
After yesterday’s maple syrup post, I’m in the mood for pancakes! Even among the fussiest eaters, pancakes are usually a breakfast favorite. But what goes into making pancakes? Two of my favorite picture books explain it all quite nicely:
Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola (Harcourt, 1978)
This wordless picture book shows with comic and cartoon-like illustrations the steps that go into making pancakes. The hungry woman in this book does not use a mix! She gets all her ingredients fresh from the farm (okay fine, she doesn’t grind her own wheat to make her own flour) even if that means going outside to collect the eggs from hens and to milk the cow and churn it into butter. I love that she even buys fresh maple syrup from a neighbor. With all the freshest ingredients collected, these are bound to be the best pancakes ever. But when she gets home, she finds she’s going to have change her plans! This funny, surprise ending leaves readers with the motto “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Look closely at the illustration and you can read Tomie’s own pancake recipe to try and make your own. (Shhh, I won’t tell if you don’t churn your own butter to make them!)
Once you’ve tried Tomie’s pancakes, you have to try out Eric Carle’s recipe next! It’s included in the back of Pancakes, Pancakes! (Simon & Schuster, 1990). Eric’s preferred pancake is thin like a crepe, which you can eat flat or rolled up with jam or maple syrup inside! They’re “devastatingly delicious”. Here’s a photo of Eric eating pancakes for breakfast!
In Pancakes, Pancakes, Jack wants pancakes for breakfast but he has to get all the ingredients before his mother can make them. I love this book because it really goes into the detail of not only how pancakes are made, but how a variety of foods we take for granted, get on our plates. To get flour, Jack must go cut down wheat from the fields and take it to the miller to grind into flour, gather eggs from the hens, milk the cow and churn the butter. There are also wonderful step-by-step illustrations in Eric Carle’s beautiful cut paper collage technique showing how to prepare and cook pancakes. After reading this book, you and your kids have no excuse not to make your own!
Just be careful you don’t make yours too big or you might have a real problem on your hands!
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, illustrated by Ron Barrett (Simon & Schuster, 1978)
Do you have a favorite book about pancakes?
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
from A Farmer's Alphabet by Mary Azarian (David R. Godine Publishers, 1981).
In New England, March means maple syrup! Ever since late February, when I saw the metal sap buckets make their first appearances on the trunks of maple trees, I’ve felt my springtime craving for the sweet syrup return. I have fond memories of the early spring trips to the sugar shack with my parents and sisters while there was still snow on the ground. There we’d watch them boil and boil the sap down over open fires while we’d feast on giant pancakes. I even had a good New England upbringing by hardy Yankee parents who once tried their own hand at tapping maples and boiling the sap down to syrup right in our backyard. But I know that this old tradition is foreign to a lot of people. I remember laughing when local Northampton, MA author, Rich Michelson told me that his first draft of Tuttle’s Red Barn had maple syrup being made in the fall! (In his defense, he’s a born and bred city man and that’s what editors are for anyway, right?)
There are many wonderful books for children that feature making maple syrup with wonderful illustrations. Here are a few of my favorites:
Ox Cart Man by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney (Puffin Books)
This award-winning picture book follows a year in the life of this New England family during the 1800′s, from shearing the sheep, spinning the wool into yarn and tapping the sugar maples to make syrup to sell at the market. Barbara Cooney’s landscapes are especially beautiful and will make anyone wish they were in New England, even if just for a moment.
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Garth Williams (HarperTrophy)
In a chapter titled “The Sugar Snow” (which I think may also now be available condensed as its own picture book) Pa explains step-by-step to Mary and Laura how their Grandpa turns sap from maple trees into sweet syrup and sugar. It was in this book that I first learned what weather conditions are best for making maple syrup. “It’s called a sugar snow, because a snow this time of year means that men can make more sugar. You see, this little cold spell and the snow will hold back the leafing of the trees, and that makes a longer run of sap.” So at least there’s something good about this snow we just got during our first week of spring, right?
Have you ever tried maple sugar on snow? When the syrup has boiled hot enough and then it hits cold snow, it balls up into a sweet and hard candy. Both From Dawn till Dusk by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, illustrated by Mary Azarian (Houghton Mifflin) and the new Sugar on Snow by Nan Parson Rossiter (David R. Godine Publishers) show how this special treat is made, while beautifully illustrating how making maple syrup is a family tradition that can bring everyone close.
Toot & Puddle by Holly Hobbie
In Toot and Puddle by Hollie Hobbie (Little, Brown & Co., 1997), Puddle checks the sap buckets on his maple trees. As the two pigs lead readers throughout the year, you learn that where Puddle lives, “March meant maple syrup. Puddle wished Toot were there to taste the pancakes.”
Yum! Pancakes may very well be the perfect food to go with homemade local maple syrup, and there’s no lack of picture books about pancakes either! So stay tuned tomorrow when I share a few of my favorite pancake books (including Eric Carle’s very own pancake recipe).
For more information for children on how maple syrup is made, the blog wordplayhouse has some great photos and clear step-by-step instructions. Check out these free printables perfect for using with your own kids or in a classroom. I also found a great recipe here for maple syrup caramelized popcorn that I tried right away – very yummy!
Have you ever tried making your own maple syrup? Do you have a favorite book for introducing kids to this unique process?
Monday, March 21st, 2011
It’s finally spring! Here in the Northeast, the days are already feeling longer, the tulips and daffodils are starting to poke out from under the receding snow, and the weather is slowly but surely getting warmer. Returning song birds, eggs hatching, tree leaves budding, and baby bunnies are all signs to me that spring is has come again. After a good old fashioned New England winter packed with snowstorms and ice, it certainly feels welcome. So let’s welcome in spring with a few of our favorite picture book characters…bunnies! Can you name the illustrator behind each of these popular long-eared pals?
Put your guesses in the comments below (book titles are okay, too, if you can’t remember the artist!) and I’ll put the answers in the comments on Friday if you want to check back and see how you did. Good luck and Happy Spring!
Thursday, March 17th, 2011
Happy Birthday to the Very Hungry Caterpillar!
Sunday, March 20th is Very Hungry Caterpillar Day and we feel like celebrating another great year with our favorite Eric Carle character! How better to celebrate 41 years of such a memorable and beloved book than throwing a party!
Today we are giving away a suite of Very Hungry Caterpillar-themed party supplies. These are some of our hottest sellers on our website and for this special day, we’re giving one lucky blog reader a complete set so they can throw their own Caterpillar party! They make the perfect decorations for birthday parties, baby showers or for any kind of party, really.
This giveaway includes 1 package each of:
Paper plates, cups, bowls, party hats, party horns, balloons, cupcake wrappers, big bowls, a tablecloth, invitations, thank you notes, pin badges, stickers, bubbles, favor bags, birthday banner and birthday garland! You can check our website here to see how many of each come in a package (usually about 6-8 per package).
All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below before Friday, March 18th at 12:00 EST. After that we’ll close the comments and announce the lucky winner. Good luck and party on!
Comments now closed.
I’m a bit late announcing the winner because we are having such a busy and wonderful birthday weekend here at The Carle, but the winner of the party supply set is….Jana Putos! Congratulations, Jana. We’ll be in touch with you shortly about sending your prizes. Thank you all for your lovely birthday wishes and we’ll be back in April for another giveaway!
Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
Red Wagon (Philomel Books) written and illustrated by Renata Liwska
This sweet picture book by the illustrator of THE QUIET BOOK, a New York Times bestseller, is short enough for the very young, but with enough to ponder that older readers will be charmed, too. We start with a brand-new little red wagon, and Lucy’s mother’s suggestion that she take it to the market, which sounds to Lucy like a chore. Her animal friends are busy flying kites, but are drawn to the red wagon, and chore quickly becomes adventure. While the short text stays true to reality, we see the red wagon become a ship as puddles turn to sea. As we turn pages, the red wagon becomes a covered wagon, part of a circus trailer, a train, a rocket ship, and a construction site truck.
The textured pictures are made from pencil, with a tactile quality that pulls you in, and digitally colored in warm tones. With their button-like eyes and jaunty footsteps, the bears, badgers, bears, raccoons, squirrels, and hedgehogs lean toward being toy-like, like E.H. Shepard’s illustrations for Winnie-the-Pooh. Plump and fuzzy, Lucy and her friends are sure to brighten both story hours and bedtime.
Pick up a copy of Red Wagon or read more Top of the Shelf book recommendations.