This is Not My Hat: A Review

December 29, 2012

~posted by Ruth

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

“This hat is not mine.  I stole it.”  These simple opening words to Jon Klassen’s new picture book set up the premise of yet another stolen hat story.  Not exactly a sequel to I Want My Hat Back, this book builds on the same kind of visual humor and deadpan writing that made the first book an instant classic.  Simple, dramatic tension and a kind of young people’s version of gallows humor makes the new tale simply hysterical.  Taking place under the sea, the pictures conjure up a variety of deep-water creatures, and one BIG sleeping fish who has had his little blue derby stolen by the narrator.  But he probably won’t wake up for a long time. . .or will he?  I particularly love the little crab who is quite expressive with his eyes–maybe too expressive for the little fish’s good?  Fun for everyone, from young readers to ironic teens to adults–and a great conversations starter to have around for the holidays and New Year.

Interview Your Own Little Reader/Writer, Year 2

December 22, 2012

-posted by Meghan

Last year I interviewed Molly and Jacob (when they were 4 1/2) about why people should read, who their favorite writer was and what their favorite book was.  It was so much fun that I decided I’d do it every year.  So,  couple of months ago, I interviewed them again, to see how their answers changed in a year.  It was interesting to see where they were the same, and where they are beginning to change.  If you’ve never interviewed your own kids (biological, or in the classroom), I’d love to suggest this as a great way to end the year, or kick off the new year, and keep it as a tradition! Here’s what I got from my 5 1/2 year olds…

Molly, why do you think people should read?
Because it helps them learn what signs, and in books there are sometimes signs, so about transportation, and transportation means roads and signs are on roads, so they need to learn how to write.  And read.

Why should people read books?
Because books are really good, because they have lots of pictures and the grownups can read the words and the kids are going to learn to, but the grownups reading when they get older and older.

Do you like it when Mommy reads to you?

Are you looking forward to being able to read to yourself?

Who is your favorite writer?
You and Daddy.

Who is your favorite writer of books that you have on your bookshelf?  Of kids books?
Listen to My Trumpet.  Because it goes BLLARK and that’s not really music.

Who are the characters in Listen to My Trumpet?
Elephant and Piggie.

What is it you like about that book?
Because that they don’t even do music.  Elephant uses his trumpet and he says “Try making your” and then he just gricks and Piggie follows.

Did you like that it’s funny?

Do you like funny books?
Yes.  And it’s not even music because that he just brurks and he just gricks.

So funny books are your favorite, aren’t they?  What are some other books that you think are funny?
I I I, um, what’s the book where he hurt his his, I um, what’s the book where Elephant hurt his nose?

Oh, I Broke My Trunk?

So, Mo Willems, he wrote all the Elephant and Piggie books.  Is he your favorite writer right now?
Yeah, because that, because that Elephant said a long and crazy story and Piggie follows him and wants to tell Beaver and then he broke his snout.

So you remember what other books Mo Willems wrote?
No.  Oh, I remember he wrote I Have A Bird On My Head.

That’s another Elephant and Piggie book, isn’t it.  Did he write about any other characters that you like?
(Thinks.)  What books did he write that are funny?

Well, what’s at the end of every Elephant and Piggie book?  Who does a cameo?
Bir- Pigeon.

So maybe Mo Willems also wrote the Pigeon books?

Do you like the pigeon books?

And he also wrote Knuffle Bunny.
Oh.  …

How about illustrator?  Who is your favorite illustrator right now?  Do you know what illustrator means?

What do you think it means?
I don’t know.

It’s the person that draws the pictures.  The writer writes the words and the illustrator draws the pictures.  Sometimes the author and illustrator are the same person and sometimes one person writes all the words and another person draws all the pictures.  Which of your books have your favorite pictures?
Elephant and Piggie and Pigeon.

So Mo Willems writes and illustrates his own books.  He’s an author/illustrator.  He does it all.  So right now, you’re very into Mo Willems?

Yeah, because every time he puts pigeon at the end of every book.
That’s pretty funny.  So what’s your very favorite book?  (pause) Ever?
I’m still thinking. (long pause)

What are some of your favorite books you’ve read recently besides Elephant and Piggie?

Anything else?  Have we read any other good books?
No, we just like the funny books.

What are some other funny books?
Hmmmm.  I think those are my favorite funny books.

Why should people read?
So when they see a note for them, they could know who it’s for, from and for, in case they send it to the wrong person.

That’s a good idea.  You’re right.  Well, why should people read books?
So they can have fun and remember things when they were little kids about stories.

So you like to read stories? (nods) What’s your favorite kind of stories?

Stories about firetrucks? (nods)  Who is your favorite writer?
Um, Jack.

Jack. What kind of stories does Jack write?
Firetruck stories.  (Molly – “Jack writes about firetrucks.”)

What about – who is your favorite author of books that you read?
Um… Fireman Small.

The Fireman Small book?  The author of Fireman Small is Lois Lensky.  She’s your favorite writer?  And what’s your favorite book? 

Like, if you said, Mommy, could you read me just one book today, what would you pick? 
Um, the castle book.

Any particular castle book?
Yes.  Maybe one where knights  try to fight a hippopotamus.

Does that book exist?  Should you write that book maybe?  Because I haven’t read a book where knights fight a hippopotamus! 
Maybe next year.

Maybe next year you’ll write that book?  What’s your favorite book that we have at home right now? Or have taken out of the library?
That castle one before, where you had to find the matches.

We have that book still, don’t we, where you find the matches in the castle.  We should read it.  And who is your favorite illustrator?  Do you know what an illustrator is? (Shakes head no.)  That’s somebody that draws the pictures in a book.  Sometimes the author draws their own pictures, like you and Molly, when you write books you draw your own pictures-

Zosia is your favorite?
Yeah, she is because she one time made me a picture of someone trying to save Brave.

How about – who is your favorite illustrator of a book that we have at our house?  Is there a book with pictures that you love?
Um, I think Tiny Titans.

That has your favorite illustrations?

What is Tiny Titans about?
Super Hero school.

Thank you for talking with me.  Is there anything else you want to tell me about books, or authors or illustrators?
Um, how do the authors get together and find their favorite author?

How do authors find their favorite author?

I think everybody has their own idea of who their favorite author is.  Because everybody’s tastes are different, right?  Just like with food – your taste buds are different, so your taste in books is different.


A Trio of New Picture Books Celebrating Winter

December 15, 2012

ice-flakeWelcome to winter!  Let’s celebrate.  These new picture books can remind you of the simple pleasures the cold weather can bring.  (And you can be warm and cozy inside while you reminisce. . .or plan new adventures.)

TwelveTwelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed and Barbara McClintock

If you live in a cold climate, the stories in this lovely little book will make you smile and nod your head in agreement, and encourage you to tell stories of your own about the many different kinds of ice that occur over the course of a winter.  There’s that fragile ice that’s really just a skim over a puddle, or the ice that’s like glass.  Of course, there’s skating ice, and the ice that you can hear cracking outside from your warm bed.  Obed evokes the sights, sounds, and memories of winter, while creating a cozy warm feeling of family and connection to nature throughout the vignettes in this book.  Barbara McClintick’s evocative art is the perfect accent.  Growing up in New England, we experienced all 12 kinds of ice.  In Oregon, I count about 4.  Children who live in warmer climates–say, L.A.–will be eager to explore the different icy adventures that are possible in colder climates.  And we all can visual the “dream ice” that allows us to skate in our imaginations all year long.


PerfectA Perfect Day by Carin Berger

The perfect book for sharing the wonders of a winter day with children, from sunrise to sunset.  Beginning readers can probably read this themselves, and then explore the details in the charming collage illustrations.  A favorite picture is the spread of 18 snow angels, and the children returning to their homes after their day of play.  The words are sweet and poetic–often intertwined with the flakes falling down the page.  A book to read and reread.


Cold-SnapCold Snap by Eileen Spinelli and Marjorie Priceman

The first frost on your nose can be fun, but what about an extended cold snap, with icicles hanging from everything and growing longer everyday? And the wind blowing colder, and temperatures continuing to plummet?  Everyone is trying to get warm–even the mayor with his  “toasty pink bunny slippers.”   A sweet old-fashioned story, great to share on a winter evening, with a cup of hot chocolate and flannel pajamas!

THE ARMPIT OF DOOM: A New Kenn Nesbitt Book of Poems

December 9, 2012

~posted by Ruth
The Armpit of Doom:  Funny Poems for Kids by Kenn Nesbitt, illustrated by Rafael Domingos.
We’ll say it again:  Kenn Nesbitt has a knack for making kids laugh.  His poems have been an instant hit with the elementary and middle school children I’ve shared them with.  And this latest selection is enhanced by the whimsical and entertaining pen and ink drawings of Rafel Domingos.   My favorites?  “Octoproblem,” with a sly wink to older kids who understand “pi.” “Please Don’t Read This Poem” is another delight, especially with its on-going dialogue with the reader, begging him or her to not read the poem, all in catchy verse.  Of course, if you do keep reading, he has a suggestion:

There’s only one solution.

Here’s what you’ll have to do:

Tell all your friends and family

they shouldn’t read it, too.

The poems in this collection remind me of my all-time favorite Kenn Nesbitt book:  More Bears, which we reviewed when it first came out, and have been reading and sharing ever since.
The Armpit of Doom is definitely on my “recommended” list for the winter holidays.  Enjoy!

New Winter Holiday Books! We Recommend. . .

December 3, 2012

Time for holiday anticipation–and what better way to get in the mood than through new picture books devoted to those special days.  We recommend a trio of books for your reading pleasure.  Happy Holidays!

Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin. Illustrated by James Dean
Fans of Pete the Cat will eagerly reach for this new book–and they’ll be delighted.  It isn’t in the usual Pete the Cat style, though–it’s actually a sweet parody of The Night Before ChristmasIt is like the other books in the series in its clever story and great rhythm.  We love the way Pete fills in for Santa, delivering the gifts in his minibus  sleigh full of toys!  You can listen to the author singing the lyrics  here.


chanChanukah Lights by Michael J. Rosen, Robert Sabuda
This is a beautiful book that shows the historical progression of Hanukkah celebrations around the world.  It provides a nice framework for talking about the origin and spirit of the holiday, and the history and resilience of a people.  In our family, it was a great conversation starter too for discussing the meaning of the holidays (all the holidays that occur at this time of year) – acceptance and taking care of others, which we talked about after the kids asked questions about why the Jewish people had to move so many times.  Kids like to find the one more candle lit on the menorah on each page, and parents will love the poem (that makes up the text of the book).  And everyone will adore the stunning pop-up illustrations, which are complicated and inspiring.  One note of warning: the pop ups aren’t terribly sturdy (due to the intricacies), and in our house, it’s a look-not-touch book for a few more years.


Solstice Moon Solstice Sun by Maire Durkan, illustrated by her daughter, Ellen Durkan

Picture books about the Winter Solstice are in short supply for children.  That’s why we were delighted to see this new offering, published by a small press (Brigid’s Hearth Press).  The rhyming text tells the story of Mama Owl  and her Owlet, cozy in their underground den.  Owlet knows his friends are too sleepy to come play with him on this, the shortest day of the year–and he wonders if he will ever see Spring again.  But his mother reassures him:  “Mama nestles him under her wing/’Tonight we start the path toward Spring.'” She weaves a magical story that tells of old English tales of the Holly King, the traditions of the Yule Log, and the joy  of celebrating each turn of “The Wheel of the Year.” The folk art paintings are sure to draw readers in to examine every page.