Showing posts from March, 2013


Yes, it's that time of year again... The fourth annual celebration of poetry! Today I am reposting an article I wrote in 2010 that was mostly to convince myself of the importance of poetry in our lives, but will hopefully convince you too, if you need it. But, if you do nothing else poetic this year, I hope you and your kids will celebrateNational Poem-in-Your-Pocket Daywhich isTHURSDAY APRIL 18! Almost every day this month I will feature a poem or review of a book of poetry for kids (including a book created specifically for Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day with tear-out, pocket size poems to share) that I hope you and yours will take a minute to read, to yourself or out loud, and enjoy. Poetry can force us to slow down and pause, to look around and notice things, to laugh out loud.
If poetry just isn't your thing, stick around anyway. I will be posting a few book reviews this month, includingRUMP: The True Story of Rumplestiltskinby Liesl Shurtliff.

Why Poetry Matters

I wrote this in 2010 for my first ever celebration of National Poetry Month, as much to convince myself of the importance of poetry in our lives as to convince you, my readers. If I convince you or you don't need convincing, scroll down for links to some really great resources for poetry - for kids and adults - and ways to play with it.

Why Poetry Matters is actually the name of a very thorough, academic book by Jay Parini that I started reading a month or so ago when I got the idea to hop on board the National Poetry Month train and feature poetry on my blog for the whole month of April. I wanted to challenge myself and read the kind of texts I read in college so that I could give my readers a really solid reason for why they should read poetry to their children and for themselves. After becoming an art school drop-out, I went on to study literature, poetry specifically. I even wrote a 100 page thesis on the last book of poetry written by a famous American poet who shall remai…

The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook, by Joanne Rocklin, 240 pp, RL 4

The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook is NOW IN PAPERBACK!!!

Joanne Rocklin surprised and wowed me with her last book, One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street and goes above and beyond with her new book, The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook. Both books are illustrated by the marvelous Chris Buzelli, and I wish there was more of his art inside the books as well. I'll be honest. I usually do not enjoy reading real-life-family-trouble type stories. You know, the kind that usually win the Newbery, like The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron. I read to escape, so I find myself making a concerted effort to stick with a book in which a child struggles with what life has dealt her or him. Also, as main characters, these children often take on layers of personality that sometimes feel disingenuous or not quite real. Perhaps because of my prejudice going in, I find myself (more and more) pleasantly and often enthusiastically surprised by this type of book when I do choose to read it. Joanne Ro…

Again! by Emily Gravett

Again! is the newest book from Emily Gravett. I fell in love with Gravett's picture books when I read her first, Orange Pear Apple Bear, which came out in 2007 an makes a fantastic board book! Made up of only five words and gentle pencil lines and water color washes, Orange Pear Apple Bear is a stellar example of a seemingly simple picture book that makes a lasting impression. Gravett's books range from the seemingly simple (Orange Pear Apple Bear, Blue Chameleon, Monkey and Me) to picture books with long narratives and detailed manipulatives like flaps, folds, postcards, die cuts and more (Meerkat Mail, Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears, Spells). And, of course, there is The Rabbit Problem, which I reviewed back in 2011. Every book is beautifully drawn and illustrated with a a palette that somehow manages to be vibrant and gentle at the same time.

With Again! and her story of a little dragon who loves his bedtime book, Gravett delivers something in between - a seemingly sim…

Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas!, by Philippe Coudray, RL 1.5

When Philippe Courdray's Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking was released in August of 2011, it was a big hit in my home, one of the first books my son took to bed with him and actually READ instead of just looking at the pictures. Besides being yet another superb book from TOON Books, and a great beginning to read book, Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking is a smart, funny book that I have since heard described as The Far Side for kids. If Mo Willems's Elephant & Piggie can be described as driven by a sort of manic, slapstick humor, then Benjamin Bear and his smaller forest friends are more philosophical and thoughtfully serious-minded in their silliness. And, in the end, their silliness (or fuzzy thinking) usually makes some kind of sense. Philippe Coudraymakes readers laugh, but he also makes them think about why they are laughing.
As I said in my review of Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking, succinctly describing the antics of Benjamin and his friends in writing is tough. It'…

Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking, written and illustrated by Philippe Coudray, 31 pp, RL 1.5

BENJAMIN BEAR in Fuzzy Thinking

TOON BOOKShits another home run with their latest offering, Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking by Philippe Coudray. This book had me and my son in stitches when read it together. If you can imagine a little bit of the zaniness of Elephant & Piggie rubbing off on the bear from I Want My Hat Back who has chosen to befriend rabbits, not eat them, then you can begin to get a feel for Benjamin and how he operates. The book is made up of thirty-one single page adventures that range from subtle to deadpan to silly to sweet. I think that Benjamin really speaks for himself, so please check out the images below. Although this review is brief, do not consider this a reflection of my feelings for the book, which will always be special to me. The night after we first read Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking my son took it to bed with him and actually READ the words and not just the pictures as he is wont to do. It made my heart sing a little to wak…

Barry's Best Buddy by Renée French

Something I especially love about TOON Books is the exposure I get to the works of acclaimed cartoonists from all over the world and the slightly left of center sensibility they bring to the beginning reader graphic novels they create for this publisher that is now five years old! Bringing these author-artists who have thriving careers creating works for adult into the children's book world has added (a much needed) breath of fresh air - especially when it comes to beginning readers. Eisner Award nominee Renée French is yet another of these creators bringing her style and sensibility to TOON Books.
Barry's Best Buddy(Level 1) is a classic odd couple story which makes for some of the best beginning reader books. And I have to say, Barry's best buddy has to be one of the BEST creations I have seen in  long time. Barry's best buddy is Polarhog, a lumpy, toothy, kindhearted fellow who is good at planning surprises and keeping a secret.
Polarhog arrives at Barry's house…

Modern Cartooning: Essential Techniques for Drawing Today's Popular Cartoons by Christopher Hart

Modern Cartooning: Essential Techniques for Drawing Today's Popular Cartoons by Christopher Hartis technically an adult book. But it is SO easy to use you don't even have to know how to read to follow Hart's step-bystep instructions. However, readers will definitely benefit from Hart's extensive knowledge and straightforward style. Hart is the author of over 150 how to draw books for kids and adults and he has a series of "how to" videos on YouTube for the serious illustrator. I got this book with my eight-year-old in mind. He loves to draw and he loves to watch cartoons. And, if he's anything like his older brother, his interest in drawing will taper off in a few years and I want to do whatever I can to prevent that from happening. The word "modern" in the title means that the characters in Hart's book look like those your kids are seeing on shows like Phineas and Ferb and Fairly Odd Parents.

Hart breaks his book into nine sections, beginni…

The Popularity Papers: The Awesomely Awful Melodies of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang by Amy Ignatow, 208 pp, RL 5

The Popularity Papers: The Awesomely Awful Melodies of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang by Amy Ignatow marks the fifth book in the series since it started in August of 2010. On the off chance that you are not familiar with this series, please read my review of the first book in the series, Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham Chang in which I go on at length about all the wonderful, inspirational, thoughtful, creative things that Amy is doing with this series. And please note that books #1, #2 and #3 are now in paperback! If you are familiar with the series, The Popularity Papers: The Awesomely Awful Melodies of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang begins three days after the end of book 4, The Popularity Papers: The Rocky Road Trip of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang. This is one of the few series that I have continued to read and review on my blog because I love it so much and want to keep you all up to date on …

Sneaky Art: Crafty Surprises to Hide in Plain Sight, by Marthe Jocelyn, RL : ALL AGES

First, I fell in love with SNEAKY ART:Crafty Surprises to Hide in Plain Sight by Marthe Jocelyn. Then, when I sat down to write this review, I realized (dramatic gasp) that Marthe Jocelyn is the author of one of my favorite books, Mabel Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril and Romance, which, to use a completely reductionist shorthand, a historical companion to Anne of Green Gables, being set in Canada in 1901. Mabel is every bit as expressive, intelligent, brave and boisterous as Anne Shirley and, coming of age in the era of great societal shifts around women's rights, very interesting. 
SNEAKY ART:Crafty Surprises to Hide in Plain Sight is not your average craft book in more ways than one. The subtitle, Crafty Surprises to Hide in Plain Sight refers to temporary art for public places. The spirit of the projects in this book, most of which call for things you probably already have around the house, from sticky notes to magazines to pennies, pipe cleaners and empty juice box…