A TurtleAndRobot Book List: 15 Picture Books featuring Birds

It is not uncommon for a child to latch onto a specific subject and then focus intensely on that one thing for a time. When such obsessions begin, the book purchaser’s job suddenly becomes easier and imbued with a new sense of fun—any book containing that subject will be an instant winner. But once the obvious choices pertaining to that topic have been exhausted, choosing books can become a painful, and fruitless, process. Buyer beware- that T.V. tie-in title that pertains to your child’s interest may be tempting but I assure you there are always higher quality choices still undiscovered.

I compiled this list of fiction picture books for people with a bird-loving child in their lives. Angelo by David Macaulay, a phenomenal and underappreciated book, is about a pigeon that brightens the life of an elderly stone worker. Bob Staake’s Bluebird spotlights an attentive bird that befriends a boy who is being bullied by his classmates. Whether the cobalt-hued hero of Bluebird is an actual bluebird or just a bird that is blue isn’t made clear, but that won’t matter to those who choose this remarkable wordless picture book. The remaining titles feature generalized, i.e. not necessarily naturalistic birds of a recognizable breed, as their main characters.

 

Inch by InchInchByInch

Ages 3-7

By Leo Lionni

32 pages

Knopf

1960

1961 Caldecott Honor Book

 

Time FliesTimeFlies

Ages 3-7

By Eric Rohman

32 pages

Crown Publishers

1994

1995 Caldecott Honor Book

 

A Home for BirdHomeforBird

Ages 3-7

By Phil C. Stead

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2012

 

See TurtleAndRobot’s full review here.

 

Hello, My Name is RubyRuby

Ages 3-7

By Philip C. Stead

36 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2013

 

Flap Your WingsFlapYourWings

Ages 3-8

By P.D. Eastman

48 pages

Random House

1969

(Also by P.D. Eastman, Are You My Mother? and The Best Nest)

 

The BirdwatchersTheBirdwatchers

Ages 3-8

By Simon James

32 pages

Candlewick

2002

Out of print

 

Little Red BirdLittleRedBird

Ages 3-8

By Nick Bruel

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2008

 

Poppy and EllaPoppy&Ella

Ages 3-9

By Jef Kaminsky

48 pages

Disney-Hyperion

2000

Out of print

 

Franny B. Kranny, There’s a Bird in Your HairFrannyBKranny

Ages 3-9

Written by Harriet Lerner and Susan Goldhor

Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

40 pages

HarperCollins

2001

Out of print

 

13 Words13Words

Ages 4-7

Written by Lemony Snickett

Illustrated by Maira Kalman

40 pages

HarperCollins

2010

 

See TurtleAndRobot’s full review here.

 

Bluebird

Ages 4-8

By Bob Staake

40 pages

Schwartz & Wade

2013

 

A Funny Little Bird

Ages 4-8

By Jennifer Yerkes

48 pages

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

2013

 

Feathers for LunchFeathersForLunch

Ages 4-9

By Lois Ehlert

36 pages

HMH Books for Young Readers

1996

 

AngeloAngelo

Ages 4-9

By David Macaulay

48 pages

HMH Books for Young Readers

2006

 

The Life of BirdsLifeofBirds

Ages 5 and up

By Quentin Blake

80 pages

Doubleday UK

2005

Out of print

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Turtle And Robot’s Book List for National Poetry Month

Book Lists are a brand new feature on Turtle and Robot. For my inaugural post I decided to focus on poetry, since April is National Poetry Month and, as far as “National Commemorative” months go, it gets a fair amount of attention. Libraries will likely be highlighting poets and poetry; educators all over the country will be writing curricula about and including poetry.

Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, A. A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling, and Jack Prelutsky are all synonymous with children’s poetry. And there’s a good reason for that, they’re all wonderful (and I consider at least two of them to be geniuses). But the list I’ve compiled—fifty books about, containing or pertaining to poetry—was made to provide some alternatives to that ubiquitous bunch.

 

Poetry Collections

 

I’ll Be You and You Be MeIllBeYou

Ages 4 and up

By Ruth Krauss

Illustrated by Maurice Sendak

40 pages

HarperCollins

2001 (reprint)

 

This utterly delightful book should be a staple in any child’s library.

 

Once I Ate a PieOnceIAteaPie

Ages 4 and up

By Patricia MacLachlan

Illustrated by Emily MacLachlan Charest

40 pages

HarperCollins

2010

 

BookSpeak!: Poems About Booksbookspeak

Ages 4 and up

By Laura Purdie Salas 

Illustrated by Josee Bisaillon

32 pages

Clarion Books

2011

 

Dirty BeastsDirtyBeasts

Ages 4 and up

By Roald Dahl

Illustrated by Quentin Blake

32 pages

Puffin

2002 (reprint)

 

Revolting RhymesRevolting Rhymes

Ages 5 and up

By Roald Dahl

Illustrated by Quentin Blake

32 pages

Puffin

2009 (reprint)

 

Moon, Have You Met My MotherMoon

Ages 5 and up

By Karla Kuskin

Illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier

336 pages

HarperCollins

2003

 

Bananas in My EarsBananas-001

Ages 5 and up

By Michael Rosen

Illustrated by Quentin Blake

96 pages

Candlewick

2012

 

I Saw Esaui-saw-esau-001

Ages 5 and up

By Peter and Iona Opie

Illustrated by Maurice Sendak

160 pages

Candlewick

1992

 

Ogden Nash’s Zoo Zoo-001

Ages 5 and up

By Ogden Nash

Illustrated by Etienne Delessert

84 pages

Stewart, Tabori and Chang

1987

 

Classic Poetry: An Illustrated CollectionClassicPoetry-001

Ages 8 and up

Edited by Michael Rosen

Illustrated by Paul Howard

160 pages

Candlewick

2009 (reprint edition)

 

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices JoyfulNoise

Ages 8 and up

By Paul Fleischman 

Illustrated by Eric Beddows

44 pages

HarperCollins

2004

 

Poetry for Young People: Maya AngelouMayaAngelou

Ages 8 and up

Edited by Dr. Edwin Graves Wilson Ph.D.

Illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue

48 pages

Sterling Children’s Books

2013

 

This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and ForgivenessThisisJustToSay-001

Ages 8 and up

By Joyce Sidman

Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

48 pages

HMH

2014

 

Poetry for Young People: Langston HughesLangstonHughes

Ages 8 and up

Edited by David Roessel and Arnold Rampersad

Illustrated by Benny Andrews

48 pages

Sterling Children’s Books

2013

 

God Got a DogGodGotaDog-001

Ages 10 and up

By Cynthia Rylant

Illustrated by Marla Frazee

48 pages

Beach Lane Books

2013

 

I absolutely love this book.

 

Telling a Story through a Poem, or This Whole Book is a Poem

 

Hurry, Hurry Mary DearHurryHurry

Ages 4 and up

By N.M. Bodecker

Illustrated by Erik Blegvad

32 pages

Margaret K. McElderry Books

1998

 

Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!SqueekRumbleWhomp

Ages 4 and up

By Wynton Marsalis 

Illustrated by Paul Rogers

40 pages

Candlewick

2012

 

I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery TailI SawaPeacock

Ages 7 and up

Illustrated by Ramsingh Urveti

56 pages

Tara Books

2012

 

The JumbliesTheJumblies-001

Ages 8 and up

By Edward Lear

Illustrated by Edward Gorey

48 pages

Pomegranate

2010 (reprint)

Edward Lear may still be a popular choice but it’s important to me that readers know about this Edward Gorey illustrated edition.

 

My Brother’s BookMyBrothersBook-001

Ages 10 and up

By Maurice Sendak

32 pages

HarperCollins

2013

 

This book—the last Sendak completed before his death in 2012— is an homage to his brother, whom he credits for his love of drawing.

 

Poetry with an Urban Flair

 

The Neighborhood Mother Gooseall content created for Nina Crews children's books no other usage allowed without permission.

Ages 4 and up

By Nina Crews

64 pages

Greenwillow

2003

 

Lively illustrations are incorporated into photographs of children in city settings.

 

Meet Danitra BrownMeetDanitraBrown

Ages 5 and up

By Nikki Grimes 

Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

32 pages

HarperCollins

1997

 

Harlem0-590-54340-7

Ages 6 and up

By Walter Dean Myers

Illustrated by Christopher Myers

32 pages

Scholastic Press

1997

Caldecott Honor Book

 

Hip Hop Speaks to ChildrenHipHopSpeaks

Ages 7 and up

By Nikki Giovanni

Illustrated by Michele Noiset, Jeremy Tugeau, Kristen Balouch, Damian Ward, Alicia Vergel de Dios

80 pages

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

2008

 

Here in Harlem: Poems in Many VoicesHereInHarlem-001

Ages 12 and up

By Walter Dean Myers

88 pages

Holiday House

2004

 

Other Poetic Forms

 

If It Rains Pancakes: Haiku and Lantern PoemsIfitRainsPancakes.jog-001

Ages 5 and up

by Brian P. Cleary 

Illustrated by Andy Rowland

32 pages

Millbrook

2014

 

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible VerseMirrorMirror-001

Ages 6 and up

By Marilyn Singer

Illustrated by Josee Masse

32 pages

Dutton

2010

 

A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete PoemsAPokeintheEye

Ages 6 and up

Edited by Paul B. Janeczko

Illustrated by Chris Raschka

48 pages

Candlewick

2005

 

A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic FormsAKickintheHead-001

Ages 8 and up

Compiled by Paul B. Janeczko 

Illustrated by Chris Raschka

64 pages

Candlewick

2009

 

Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single WordLemonade

Ages 8 and up

By Bob Raczka 

Illustrated by Nancy Doniger

48 pages

Square Fish

2013 (reprint)

 

Picture Books about Poets

 

EmilyEmily

Ages 4 and up

By Michael Bedard

Illustrated by Barbara Cooney

40 pages

Dragonfly

2002 (reprint)

 

The same artist who graced the world with Miss Rumphius gorgeously illustrates this fictionalized account of a young girl meeting Emily Dickinson.

 

A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced TravelersWilliamBlakesInn

Ages 5 and up

By Nancy Willard

Illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen

48 pages

HMH

1982

 

Walt Whitman: Words for America WaltWhitmanWordsforAmerica

Ages 7 and up

By Barbara Kerley 

Illustrated by Brian Selznick

56 pages

Scholastic

2004

 

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos WilliamsRiverofWords

Ages 7 and up

By Jen Bryant 

Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

32 pages

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

2008

 

The DreamerTheDreamer

Ages 10 and up

By Pam Muñoz Ryan

Illustrated by Peter Sís

400 pages

Scholastic

2012

 

Tools for Writing Poetry

 

Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book EverBestWordBook

Ages 3 and up

By Richard Scarry

70 pages

Golden Books

1999 (reprint)

 

A First ThesaurusFirstThesaurus-001

 

Ages 6 and up

By Harriet Wittels

128 pages

Golden Books

2001

 

Merriam-Webster’s Rhyming DictionaryRhymingDictionary

Ages 6 and up

224 pages

Federal Street Press

2011

 

 Words, Wit, and Wonder: Writing Your Own PoemWordsWitWonder

Ages 6 and up

By Nancy Loewen 

Illustrated by Christopher Lyles

32 pages

Picture Window Books

2009

 

Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry: How to Write a PoemPigsPizzaandPoetry

Ages 8 and up

By Jack Prelutsky

2008 pages

Greenwillow

2008

 

Though this book is by Jack Prelutsky (whom I said would not be included) is not a book of poetry but instead a very helpful guide to writing poetry.

 

Books about Words

 

13 Words13Words

Ages 4 and up

By Lemony Snicket 

Illustrated by Maira Kalman

40 pages

HarperCollins

2010

This was one of my favorite picture books of 2010. See Turtle And Robot’s review here.

 

Max’s Words MaxsWords

Ages 4 and up

By Kate Banks 

Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

32 pages

FSG

2006

 

Sparkle and Spin: A Book About WordsSparkleandSpin

Ages 4 and up

By Ann Rand and Paul Rand

40 pages

Chronicle

2006

Not the same author of The Fountainhead fame, she spells it Ayn.

 

The Boy Who Loved WordsBoyWhoLovedWords

Ages 4 and up

By Roni Schotter 

Illustrated by Giselle Potter

40 pages

Schwartz and Wade

2006

 

I Scream! Ice Cream!: A Book of WordlesIScreamIceScream

Ages 4 and up

By Amy Krouse Rosenthal 

Illustrated by Serge Bloch

40 pages

Chronicle

2013

 

Books That Include Poetry in their Stories

 

Frederick Frederick

Ages 3 and up

By Leo Lionni

32 pages

Dragonfly Books

1973

 

This is another book that should be a staple in every child’s library.

 

The Van Gogh CaféVan Gogh Cafe by Cynthia Rylant

Ages 6 and up

By Cynthia Rylant

64 pages

HMH

2006 (reprint)

 

In Chapter 3, “Lightening Strikes,” the cafe (whose only connection to Van Gogh is in the name) is struck by lightning and the food starts cooking itself. And it does so perfectly. Marc, the owner, doesn’t immediately notice because he has been spending every moment of his day writing poems; poems which, it’s soon realized, are accurately predicting the future.

See Turtle And Robot’s full review here.

 

Sam Samurai SamSamurai

The Time Warp Trio Series, Book #10

Ages 7 and up

By Jon Scieszka 

Illustrated by Adam McCauley

96 pages

Puffin

2004

 

Each book opens with a brief synopsis of the basis of the Time Warp Trio (three boys that, usually unwittingly, travel through time) so readers need not know other books in the series.

 

The Bat-PoetBatPoet

Ages 8 and up

By Randall Jarrell 

Illustrated by Maurice Sendak

48 pages

HarperCollins

1996

 

The HobbitTheHobbit

Ages 8 and up

By J.R.R. Tolkien

300 pages

HMH

2012 (reprint)

 

 

 

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The Horn Book: Design Matters, by Jon Scieszka

For some time I had been working on a post about the importance of design in books, an element that is often overlooked but plays a decidedly essential role in the creation of a good book. Skillful design can make an otherwise deficient book seem superior; a poorly designed book, that is in all other respects a worthy book, may be quickly overlooked. But a masterfully designed book that contains a captivating story and engaging illustrations is a work of art. Ironically, exceptional design may go unnoticed, as all the reader remembers is having experienced a wonderful book.

Then I read the below article by Jon Scieszka from the March/April 1998 issue of The Horn Book in which he perfectly articulates why book design matters, with a much more funny and entertaining approach. 

Scieszka was the first National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature and is the creator of Guys Read, a web-based literacy program for boys. He has written many books for children including The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, Cowboy and Octopus and Robot Zot.

The supremely talented Lane Smith illustrates many of Scieszka’s books. Smith, an author as well as an illustrator, has written many books, including It’s a Book, Grandpa Green and John, Paul, George and Ben.

The consummate designer Molly Leach, who is also Smith’s wife, designs all of his books. (Check out this great video of the two of them discussing the book making process.) Leach makes every book she puts her name to spring to life.

Together, Scieszka, Smith and Leach have created some of the most ground breaking and memorably funny best-selling picutre books of the last twenty-five years.

 


From the March/April 1998 issue of The Horn Book Magazine

design matters

By Jon Scieszka
Designed by Molly Leach [original print version]

esign is an essential part of any picture book. It is the first aspect of a book that a reader judges. It is the framework for the text and illustration. It is the subtle weave of words and pictures that allows both to tell one seamless tale.

And because good design is, by its very nature, nearly invisible in the final product, most people have no idea what design contributes to a picture book.

My idea of what design contributes to a picture book pretty much starts and ends with the first sentence of this article. But the editors of the Horn Book refused to run 478 different designs of that one finely crafted sentence. So I ran off to ask Molly Leach (designer of The Stinky Cheese Man and Math Curse) and Lane Smith (illustrator of The Stinky Cheese Man and Math Curse) exactly what it is that design contributes to a picture book.

After many intense, soul-searching question-and-answer sessions at Molly and Lane’s studio, I can now tell you:

1. Design is an essential part of any picture book.
2.  I am the best ping-pong player.
3. Asking a designer “How do you do such good design?” is a lot like asking a writer “Where do you get your ideas?”
4. Don’t let Lane keep score all of the time.

The job of a designer, in its most basic form, is to pick the style, size, and color of type, maybe pick the kind of paper and size of the book, and arrange how the type and illustrations are to be displayed on the pages available. But Molly does so much more than that in our books. When she’s done, the design tells as much of the story as the text and illustrations do.

Maybe good design is magic. How else could text plus illustration equal more than the original words and pictures? I can’t think of any other way to explain what Molly does. Though I think her work is described most succinctly on the back flap of The Happy Hocky Family (written and illustrated by Lane, designed by Molly): “Designers make pictures and words fit together in books and look nice.”

I suppose I could just list the “Top Ten Worst Design Mistakes in Picture Books.” Or maybe I should reveal “Molly and Lane’s Pet Peeves of Bad Design” — fake kid print typography, kidz

heavy-handed overstyling forboldtext,

or the same old boxed image with type underneat layout...

But that wouldn’t be nice.

The best way to explain what design can do in a picture book would probably be to look at some examples. So at the risk of sounding like a nightmare party guest explaining his favorite jokes, here is an analytical look at some of the design of our books:


EDITORS’ NOTE: Any similarity between Mr. Scieszka’s description of how he, Lane, and Molly work and how the rest of the world works is purely coincidental.

Molly designs all kinds of things, from magazines to books to CD covers. She is asked to do elegant, bold, hip, or striking design (to name just a few styles). But the most important thing she does is to find the design appropriate for the piece. Business Week’s Mutual Fund Report is not the place for “zany.” The Stinky Cheese Man was not the place for “stuffy” or “quiet” design.

When I wrote the stories in The Stinky Cheese Man, I wrote them with an ear for how they would sound read aloud. My finished version of “The Really Ugly Duckling” looked like this:

THE REALLY UGLY DUCKLING

     Once upon a time there was a mother duck and a father duck who had seven baby ducklings. Six of them were regular-looking ducklings. The seventh was a really ugly duckling.
     Everyone used to say, “What a nice-looking bunch of ducklings-all except that one. Boy, he’s really ugly.”
     The really ugly duckling heard these people, but he didn’t care. He knew that one day he would probably grow up to be a swan and be bigger and better looking than anything in the pond.
     Well, as it turned out, he was just a really ugly duckling.
     And he grew up to be just a really ugly duck.
     The End.

Which might explain why it got rejected by so many publishers. The final line, “And he grew up to be just a really ugly duck” looks a little harsh in its bare typewritten form.

Lane illustrated a goofy little duck. He and Molly designed a page turn so the duckling grows into a bigger, goofier duck on the next page (working almost like a flip book). And then it was Molly who came up with the idea to have whatever words were on the text page expand to fill the space. The final punchline sentence of the story, the transformation of the illustration, the turn of the page, and the blown-up type — text, illustration, and design — all combine to create one hilarious ending:

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Well, you’ve got to at least admit it’s funnier
than the typewritten version.

Some people have described our books as “wacky” and “zany” and “anything goes.” I wouldn’t want to say they’re wrong (because that wouldn’t be nice either), but I would like to suggest that they’re not exactly right. In order to create the humor and illusion of wacky/zany/anything goes, there has to be a reason for everything that goes. And this Law of Reasoned Zaniness applies just as inflexibly to design as it does to writing and illustrating.

In The Stinky Cheese Man Molly chose, for the entire book, a classic font (Bodoni) and used it in unusual ways (expanding, shrinking, melting) to emphasize the fact that these were classic fairy tales told in an unconventional way.

The flexible font size also made it easier for Molly to break the text at any given point to give the punchlines of the tales more punch.

The expanding text pushing the boundaries of the page (less than Molly had wanted — the printed version being a compromise between the production department insisting on borders and margins and Molly designing the type all the way out to the trim . . . “Who cares if a serif gets chopped off?”) says the book is bursting with stories.

The Red Hen speaks in red type throughout (no other character speaks in color) to visually accentuate her annoying voice.

I thought it would be funny if Jack’s neverending tale in “Jack’s Story” ran right off the page.

Molly showed me it would look funnier and more like Jack’s voice fading into the distance if the words got smaller and smaller:

The type and edge of the Stinky Cheese Man illustration melts because he smells so bad:

The title bar of “The Other Frog Prince” is crooked because it’s caught on the frog’s sticky tongue:

And every tale’s “Once upon a time” and “The End” are in color to highlight the fact that these are stock parts of a fairy tale. None of these details are specified by the text. They are design decisions that enhance and amplify each Fairly Stupid Tale.

Design sets the tone for everything

Don’t you suddenly feel like you’re reading a wedding announcement? You may not consciously know it, but when you pick up a book, you are reading its layout and typeface and color palette for clues about the story.

Modern kids are even more demanding readers of these design clues than most adults. They have been raised since birth in the ever-more visually intense world of TV, movies, and video. They are more visually literate than generations before them — quicker and better able to read what design has to tell them. They deserve good design.

Math Curse was an entirely different design challenge.

I thought it would be funny to write about a kid’s day where everything turns into a math problem. Lane thought it would be funny to paint the kid actually inside the nightmarish grip of the curse.

We both thought it would be funny to ask Molly to make (8 pages of text and problems) + (19 paintings) + (1 copyright page) + (1 dedication page) = one 32-page book that looked kind of like a math book but not so much like a math book that it would be ugly and scare people away.

Here is what a couple of problematical math text pages could have looked like:

Here is a finished spread from Math Curse designed by Molly:

 Which of these statements is true?

A. The first design looks ugly.
B. In the second design, Molly boxed problems and broke the text into sections like every ugly math book does, but she used a bold (Franklin Gothic) type clustered in funny tangencies (shifting blocks of copy) to enhance the frantic feel of the illustration.
C. Molly also used bold colors and background tints in geometric shapes to give an overall playful feel.
D. Jon is still the best ping-pong player.
E. All of the above.

If you answered “e,” multiply your Designer SAT score by your shoe size and continue on to the next section.

When Molly, Lane, and I work on a book, I usually write the text and polish it with my editor first. Lane draws preliminary sketches. We decide what to keep, what to cut, how to order things. Then Lane and Molly fiddle with the design and illustration while I perfect my topspin forehand smash.

With the three of us working in close collaboration, Molly, Lane, and I take advantage of the opportunity to play off one another’s ideas throughout the process. Words can be changed to accommodate design. Design can be juggled to allow a new illustration. Illustrations can be altered to fit a new story twist. We also get to use every last part of the book — price, flap copy, dedication, and copyright — to tell the story.

In conclusion, I would just like to say the only thing that can be said, what you know I’m going to say, what I can’t help but say: design is an essential part of any picture book.

Pop Design Quiz

Now that you are a design expert, here’s a chance to use your new skills.

Our next picture book is a collection of twisted fables.

Here is one of the stories:

ELEPHANT and MOSQUITO

     Elephant and Mosquito stayed out late one night and completely lost track of time.
     “Oh no,” said Elephant, when he finally saw a clock. “I was supposed to be home twenty minutes ago. I better call home now.”
     “Why bother?” said Mosquito. “You’ll be home in five minutes. What’s the big deal?”
     So Elephant didn’t call.
     When he got home, he got grounded for a week because he didn’t call to say he was going to be late.

MORAL: Don’t ever listen to a talking bug.

Here is one of the illustrations:

Combine the text and illustration in a two-page design that says “fable” and “twisted” and still looks nice.

Pick the sentence or sentences that best describe the main idea of this article.
      • It is important to be nice.
      • Kids are visually literate and deserve good design.
      • All hail Molly Leach, Design Goddess.
      • Jon is the best ping-pong player.
      • Design is . . . you know what (see opening sentence).

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Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo: A flawless work of fiction.

Because of Winn DixieBecause of Winn Dixie

Middle Reader

Ages 7 to 12

By Kate DiCamillo

182 pages

Candlewick

2000

2001 Newbury Honor Book

 

 

Kate DiCamillo is an exceedingly gifted storyteller and a truly talented writer. She uses her mastery to create distinctively memorable books with vivid, natural characters that come to feel like friends. She’s penned picture books, novels and books for middle readers. DiCamillo received a 2001 Newbury Honor for Because of Winn Dixie, her first book. Additionally, she won the 2004 Newbury Medal for The Tale of Despereaux and the 2014 Newbury Medal for Flora and Ulysses. She was also chosen to be the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for the 2014-2015 term.

The first time I read Because of Winn Dixie it was in one sitting. I have since read it at least three more times and each time I’ve felt that gratifying wave of exhilaration that comes from reading an incredibly special book. There’s a magical quality imbued in her words and a comfort to her stories. It’s difficult to put into words (truly, I’ve been trying for days to capture this properly) how DiCamillo weaves a story that so quickly and seamlessly pulls readers in.

Because of Winn Dixie is told from the perspective of 10-year-old India Opal Buloni. Her smart, sweet, eager, vulnerable and bold voice feels absolutely authentic and never simplified or insufficient. Readers will identify with her worries, cheer for her efforts, and delight in her accomplishments. While it’s clear that a ten year old is telling the story—the writing is simple and direct—her thoughts, feelings and observations are familiar and universal. She’s just trying make all the pieces in her world fit together as comfortably as possible.

Opal, as she’s called, has recently moved to Naomi, Florida with her father, “the preacher.” She’s having trouble adjusting; she had to leave her school and her friends and she’s been thinking a lot about her mother, who left when she was just three. But things begin to change for the better when Opal meets an extraordinary stray dog.

Anyone who has ever loved a dog can’t help but fall in love with Winn Dixie: an energetic mutt who becomes a friend to all, who smiles when he’s happy and sometimes smiles so big it causes him to sneeze. This exceptional dog captivates all who encounter him—characters in the story as well as readers of the book.

Opal first encounters the dirty, lanky stray in a Winn Dixie Supermarket—he is wreaking havoc in the produce section and causing the manager to have a conniption. The large, homely dog seems to be having the time of his life running through the store. He rounds a corner and skids to a stop in front Opal. Then, while looking right at her, he smiles wide, showing all his teeth, and wags his tail like crazy. When the frazzled manager mentions calling the dog pound, Opal suddenly claims the troublemaker as her own, and names him Winn Dixie. (Incidentally, Winn Dixie is my second favorite supermarket name, after Piggly Wiggly.)

The immediate bond between Opal and Winn Dixie is palpable. Opal’s urgency and desire to keep this dog is plain and she knows she must proceed with caution in convincing the preacher.

The preacher loves his daughter but he uses his work to keep from facing the reality of his life: that his wife is never coming back and that raising his daughter alone means also including her in his life.

Opal explains to the preacher that she’d encountered a “Less Fortunate” in need of a home. When he learns that the “Less Fortunate” is a stray dog, he tells Opal that she doesn’t need a dog but Opal counters that this dog needs her. The preacher’s resolve is no match for Winn Dixie’s broad smile and happy sneezes. The stray found a home and Opal found a friend and, more importantly, an ally.

With her mama gone, her friends in another city and her father always “preaching or thinking about preaching or getting ready to preach,” Opal yearned for someone who would just listen to her, and Winn Dixie was able to fill that void. Not only was he a great listener, he also seemed to consider what Opal was saying before “responding.” Right away Opal starts talking to Winn Dixie about everything, and talking to him gives her confidence.

Because of her talks with Winn Dixie, Opal finds the courage to ask the preacher about her absent mother. “I’ve been talking to Winn Dixie and he agreed with me that, since I’m ten years old, you should tell me ten things about my mama. Just ten things, that’s all.”

The preacher supplies Opal with ten facts about her mother—some kind, some unpleasant, but all true. And with that exchange Opal makes a tiny crack in the preacher’s protective shell, a crack that eventually becomes an entrance into a whole new relationship with her father.

Because of Winn Dixie, Opal begins to explore her new town and the people who inhabit it. She starts at the pet store. There she meets Otis, the man who runs the shop. Winn Dixie is starting to look like a proper well-loved dog and he needs a collar and a leash but Opal has no money. She quickly strikes a deal with Otis: she’ll sweep and clean the store every day to work off the cost of the items.

Ms. Franny, the librarian, suffers quite a fright when she mistakes Winn Dixie for a bear. Years before, she’d had a bear walk right into the library and steal a book from her and she’s been afraid of a recurrence ever since. Opal invites Winn Dixie inside to put Ms. Franny at ease. When Winn Dixie smiles wide at Ms. Franny and rests his head in her lap, the three are fast friends.

When Winn Dixie runs into the overgrown, tangled yard of “the witch,” Opal has no choice but to follow. There in the yard she finds Gloria Dump feeding peanut-butter sandwiches to an ecstatic Winn Dixie. “You can always trust a dog that likes peanut-butter.” The elderly, mostly blind woman becomes Opal’s newest friend.

One day, while at the pet store, Opal discovers that Otis had been in prison. Her immediate reaction is to be frightened, but Otis isn’t scary. He’s kindhearted and he takes excellent care of the animals. Early in the morning, before the store opens, he takes all the animals out of their cages and plays his guitar for them. The animals sit transfixed, like stone statues, under the spell of Otis’ alluring music. Opal can’t reconcile the seeming contradiction of an ex-con who is a good and kind person.

While having lunch with Gloria, she poses the question; “Do you think I should be afraid of him?. . . For doing bad things? For being in jail?” Gloria Dump says not a word and leads Opal to the very back of her yard. There stands a giant tree with countless empty bottles tied to and hanging from nearly every branch. Gloria—the nicest person Opal knows—explains that the bottles represent all the bad things she’s ever done and that mistakes are a part of being human.

Each new friend Opal makes shares stories of love, loss, adventure and sadness; these enchanting gems nestled amongst Opal’s frank narrative come together in a beautiful tapestry. With each new friend Opal learns something new about the people around her, about herself and about the world. She learns that every person faces struggles and one may never know what sadness and pain another person is harboring. And she learns that good friends boost each other up and help guide your way; they make the hard times in life a little bit easier and the good times in life even better.

Because of Winn Dixie is a remarkable book, one that I never wanted to end and one I know I will read again and again. Gift it to all the children you know, read it for yourself even if you do not have children, or read it aloud to your whole family.

 

View the book.

IndieBound / Powell’s / Amazon

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It’s snowing! Snuggle up and read a book, about snow!

In honor of the epic snowstorm burying my corner of the world (and pretty much all of the Eastern United States) I am reposting this list from February 9th, 2013.

 

The Mole Sisters and the Way HomeWayHome

Picture Book

Ages 2-5

By Roslyn Schwartz

32 pages

Annick Press

2003

 

The Mole Sisters are two of my favorite characters in children’s books. They’re sweet, funny, playful and irresistibly adorable. See my review of the whole series here.

The sisters are headed home when it starts to snow. And snow. And snow. Making their way through the drifts, they are diverted into a wonderful, magical cave, where they add themselves to some prehistoric cave paintings.

Not to fret, the sisters make it home safely and warm themselves by a cozy fire.

 

The Snowy Day SnowyDay-001

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Ezra Jack Keats

32 pages

Viking

1962

1963 Caldecott Medal Winner

 

This timeless classic is a simple story about a young boy as he plays and experiments with the snow that has covered his world overnight. Follow the boy in his trademark red suit as he experiences the wonder and possibility of freshly fallen snow.

An interesting and important note: The Snowy Day was the very first full-color picture book to feature a black child protagonist.

 

Tracks in the Snow Tracks-001

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Wong Herbert Yee

32 pages

Square Fish

Reprint 2007

 

A young girl heads out into the snow when she notices some mysterious tracks. As she follows the prints over a bridge, across a pond, through some woods and right back to her home she realizes that the footprints are hers from the day before. She settles in at home for some cookies and tea.

Tracks in the Snow celebrates one of the best parts about playing in the snow, coming back to a warm house for some delicious treats.

 

Over and Under the Snow OverUnderSnw

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Kate Messner

Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

44 pages

Chronicle

2011

 

While out cross-country skiing, a young girl and her father discuss the world of activity under the snow. There’s voles running through tunnels, frogs sleeping in the mud and black bears hibernating.

Simple cut paper illustrations perfectly highlight the contrast between the frozen white world above and the living earthen world below.

For those that are curious, the back of the book offers facts about all the animals and their winter activities. Interestingly, the area between the packed snow and the ground is called the subnivean zone.

 

Red Sled RedSled

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Lita Judge

40 pages

Atheneum

2011

 

Pure joy fills this mostly wordless picture book. The only text is reserved for the sound effects made by the happy animals and their new-found toy.

A small red sled has been left outside and various woodland creatures take turns going for rides, until the owner of the sled finally returns.

 

The Happy Day HappyDay-001

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Ruth Krauss

Illustrated by Marc Simont

36 pages

HarperCollins

1949

1950 Caldecott Honor Book

 

Though technically a book about spring, the book begins under the cover of snow with all the animals sleeping. Soon they are waking up and sniffing. What is it they smell?

They emerge from their burrows and start running and sniffing. They stop, and laugh, and dance! There, in the midst of all the snow and white and cold, a burst of color appears in the form of a beautiful yellow flower.

The delicious, buttery yellow of the flower is the only bit of color in an otherwise black and white picture book.

 

Bear Has a Story to TellBear Has Story to Tell - Cover

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

By Philip C. Stead

Illustrated by Erin E. Stead

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2012

 

This is not only one of my favorite books from 2012 but it’s also turning out to be one of my favorite picture books of all time. See my full review here.

 

Stella, Queen of the Snow stella-queen-of-the-snow

Picture Book

Ages 2-8

by Marie Louise-Gay

32 pages

Groundwood Books

2000

 

Gay’s watercolor illustrations are active, unrestrained and bursting with color.

It’s Sam’s first snowstorm! He and his big sister Stella head outside to play and explore. Sam, ever full of questions, wants to know what snowmen eat and how many snowflakes are in a snowball. Stella, the helpful big sister, always responds with clever and ever so slightly true answers.

 

Snow SnowC

Picture Book

Ages 2-8

By Uri Shulevitz

36 pages

FSG

1998

1999 Caldecott Honor Book

 

One of my favorite picture books ever! See my full review here.

 

Snow PDsnow

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By P.D. Eastman and Roy McKie

61 pages

Random House

1962

 

“Snow is good for making tracks…And making pictures with your backs.”

A simple story, told in rhyme, joyfully relating some of the many pleasures of snow. P.D. Eastman is also the author of Go, Dog. Go!, Are You My Mother? and many other Cat in the Hat Beginner Books.

 

Is That You, Winter?IsThatYouWinter

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By Stephen Gammel

32 pages

Silver Whistle/Harcourt Brace

1997

 

Gammel’s incredible illustrations make this a stand-out picture book. Colorful washes in every shade of blue are soon obscured by blowing white snow that seems to drip from the page.

Old Man Winter has woken up in a bad mood; he hates going to work. He jumps in his truck, flies through the sky, and spreads the ice and snow all morning long.

As he heads home for lunch, he falls into the deep snow and is rescued by a little girl.

“You make it snow for me,” the young girl tells him. Reminded that his work does have a positive influence in the world, Old Man Winter’s mood shifts and he’s happy again.

She picks him up to make sure he’s ok and readers learn that Old Man Winter is a small, wooden doll.

 

It’s Snowing ItsSnowing

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By Olivier Dunrea

32 pages

Square Fish

2002

 

Just before publishing the magic that is Gossie (see my review here), Dunrea created It’s Snowing.

Baby is fast asleep when mama sees snowflakes falling outside. She wakes baby and bundles him up. The two go outside to see, touch, taste and smell the snow, and share some of the magic and natural beauty life has to offer.

 

The Snowman thesnowman

Picture Book

Ages 3-9

by Raymond Briggs

32 pages

Dragonfly Books

1986

 

In this wordless picture book, a young boy wakes up to a snowy day and heads outside to build a snowman. Later that night, when the boy cannot sleep, he heads outside to find the snowman has come to life. The two have a night filled with adventure.

Beautifully soft watercolor panels fill this book with the frosty feeling of snow and cold.

 

The Mitten The Mitten-001

Picture Book

Ages 3-9

by Jan Brett

32 pages

Putnam

1989

 

When a young boy asks his grandmother to knit him white mittens, she warns him that they will be hard to find if he drops them in the snow. As he goes out to play in the snow he immediately drops one of his new white mittens. Before long it becomes a cozy home to some woodland creatures seeking shelter.

 

Brave Irene brave-irene-1

Picture Book

Ages 3-9

By William Steig

32 pages

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

1986

 

Young Irene braves the wind, cold and blowing snow in this story of perseverance.

The dressmaker has finished the duchess’s gown for tonight’s ball but is not feeling well enough to deliver it. Though a big snowstorm is brewing, the dressmaker’s daughter Irene offers to bring the dress to the palace. Her mother is concerned but cannot make the trip herself and, reluctantly, allows her daughter to leave.

It’s tough going, but Irene is tougher and she completes her task despite the difficulties she faces on the way.

By the beloved author and illustrator of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, the 1970 Caldecott Medal Winner.

 

Poppleton in Winter PoppletonInWinter-001

Early Reader

Ages 4-8

by Cynthia Rylant

Illustrated by Mark Teague

48 pages

Blue Sky Press

2001

 

In the first chapter of this early reader, Poppleton and his new friend Patrick (a bird) make a fence out of icicles.

Next, Poppleton makes a clay bust of his good friend Cherry Sue.

In the final chapter Poppleton has forgotten his own birthday, but his friends have not. They all surprise Poppleton with home-baked goodies and a nighttime sleigh ride.

See my review of Poppleton here.

 

Katy and the Big Snow Katy_and_the_Big_Snow

Picture Book

Ages 4-9

By Virgina Lee Burton

40 pages

Houghton Mifflin

1973

 

By the author and illustrator of the notable classics Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (1939) and The Little House (1943 Caldecott Medal Winner).

Katy the red crawler tractor was a bulldozer in summer and a snowplow in winter. When a blizzard hits her hometown, all the people are depending on Katy to save the day, and she relishes the opportunity to show that she can do just that.

 

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening StoppingByWoods-001

Picture Book

Ages 4 and up

By Robert Frost

Illustrated by Susan Jeffers

32 pages

Dutton Juvenile

Originally published in 1978

Revised edition 2001

 

Susan Jeffers beautiful illustrations of frosty New England scenes perfectly complement this famous wintry poem by Robert Frost. Capturing the silent beauty of a snowy night, her art offers answers to some of the questions raised in this well-known poem.

 

For readers interested in the science of snow, a few Non-fiction options.

 

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder StoryofSnow

Non-Fiction

Ages 4-10

By Mark Cassino

36 pages

Chronicle

2009

 

This excellent non-fiction picture book features illustrations as well as photographs of snowflakes and answers the questions about where snow comes from and how it’s formed.

 

Snowflakes in Photographssnowflakes-in-photographs-001

Non-fiction

By W.A. Bentley

Ages 5 and up

80 pages

Dover

2000

 

This book features over eight hundred and fifty photographs of snowflakes taken by American photographer W.A. Bentley (1865-1931) during a fifty year period.

Though it’s common knowledge now that no two snowflakes are alike, this was not the case when Bently began his ambitious project. In 1865 he attached a bellows camera to a compound microscope and photographed what he referred to as “tiny miracles of beauty.”

It is because of his work that we can know of and experience the wonder, magic and uniqueness contained in each miniature frozen sculpture.

(See also Snowflake Bentley, the 1999 Caldecott Winner, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Mary Azarian.)

 

The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up-Close Look at the Art and Science of Snowflakes

Non-FictionSecret LifeofSnowflake

Ages 8 and up

by Kenneth Libbrecht

48 pages

Voyageur Press

2010

 

The title says it all. Full of extraordinary photographs and detailed information about the cycle of a snowflake, this book is written by a scientist who studies snowflakes.

The universal love that children have for snow can be harnessed and redirected to foster a fascination for the fate of small frozen bits of water, crystals, and other scientific wonders.

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Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown: An instant classic.

Mr. Tiger Goes WildMr.TigerCover

Picture Book

Ages 2-8

By Peter Brown

44 pages

Little, Brown

2013

 

This is Peter Brown’s ninth picture book and I’ve grown to love him more and more with each one. With scenes that unfold in playfully designed locations, and supremely likeable, quirky characters, readers can’t help but be lured into the world of Mr. Tiger. Brown was awarded a 2013 Caldecott Honor for Creepy Carrots and, truth be told, I was a little disappointed that Mr. Tiger Goes Wild was not among this year’s Caldecott recipients.

 

Brown’s art is evocative of Ezra Jack Keats, Margaret Bloy Graham and Miroslav Sasek, yet despite displaying shades of all these masters, Brown’s pleasing and idiosyncratic artistic style stands out as uniquely his own. Certain spreads reminded me of the animated Disney film, The Jungle Book and I later read in an interview that Brown watched a lot of old animated Disney films, including The Jungle Book, while working on Mr. Tiger.

Mr.Tiger2-3

The opening spreads of Mr. Tiger Goes Wild introduce Mr. Tiger’s world, replete with upright quadrupeds adorned in stiff Victorian attire. The perfectly ordered art is created with a muted palette of grays and browns.

Mr.Tiger26-27

As the story progresses, the art grows more feral and verdant; the final spreads strike a satisfying balance between conformity and frenzy.

Mr.Tiger38

The consistent palette of greens, grays and browns is broken only by Mr. Tiger’s delightful flare of orange.

 

Brown’s skillfully efficient story telling allows for sparse text; there are several spreads with no words at all. His cheeky narrative breathes humor and energy into the already astounding artwork.

Mr.Tiger4-5

As the story opens, Mr. Tiger is a dapper, city-dwelling cat with an undeviating expression of displeasure. He lives among respectable animals in a proper society. Everyone around him seems perfectly content but Mr. Tiger is bored.

 

At this early stage of the story almost all of the characters are going about their lives with closed eyes. Mr. Tiger (who is on the verge of acting wild) and the children (who are being scolded for acting wild) are the only ones with open eyes. As soon as Mr. Tiger carries out his first wild idea, everyone’s eyes are open.

 

“And then one day Mr. Tiger had a very wild idea.”

Mr.Tiger10-11

Mr. Tiger immediately felt better and grew a little bit wilder each day; before long, he’d pushed it too far.

Mr.Tiger18-19

His friends, outraged, suggested that Mr. Tiger take his behaviors elsewhere, and into the wilderness he ran.

Mr.Tiger24-25

“…where he went completely wild!”

Mr.Tiger28-29

As time passed, Mr. Tiger grew lonely; he missed his home and his friends. He decided to return to the city.

Upon returning, Mr. Tiger found that a wonderful thing had happened. His friends and neighbors were no longer perfectly genteel—though still sporting Victorian attire, some had taken to all fours.

“Now Mr. Tiger felt free to be himself. And so did everyone else.”

Mr.Tiger40-41

 

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is all about balance—wild behavior can be beneficial, in appropriate contexts, civilized behavior is necessary if you want to exist in a society—and this book strikes a perfect balance on every level.

 

Certainly there are plenty of books that enjoy long lives as classics without any medals adorning their covers. Conversely, some medal-winning books fade into oblivion not long after their initial time in the spotlight. Though I believe this book deserved the recognition of the Caldecott committee, I also believe it will live a long life in print just like some other non-medal winning, perennially adored classics. Mr. Tiger Goes Wild will be in good company with Corduroy, Harry the Dirty Dog and Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.

 

View the book!

IndieBound / Powell’s / Amazon

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Grammy’s Schmammy’s. The Caldecott and Newbury Awards are where it’s at!

The 2014 youth media awards have been announced by The American Library Association (ALA)!

 

The John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature goes to Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures written by Kate DiCamillo and published by Candlewick Press.

Readers may be familiar with her 2004 Newbury Award winner, The Tale of Despereaux or her 2001 Newbury Honor book, Because of Winn Dixie (one of my favorite books for middle readers). Also, DiCamillo was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress for the term 2014-2015.

 

Four Newbery Honor Books also were named:

Doll Bones, written by Holly Black (the author of The Spiderwick Chronicles) and published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.

The Year of Billy Miller, written by Kevin Henkes and published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Kevin Henkes was awarded a Newbury honor in 2004 for Olive’s Ocean and was awarded the Caldecott Medal for Kitten’s First Full Moon in 2005.

One Came Home, written by Amy Timberlake and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

Paperboy, written by Vince Vawter and published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

 

The Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children was awarded to Locomotive, written and illustrated by Brian Floca and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. This phenomenal picture book will delight train lovers and quickly convert any non-train lovers.

 

Three Caldecott Honor Books also were named:

Journey, written and illustrated by Aaron Becker and published by Candlewick Press. This magical, wordless picture book is overflowing with beauty and adventure.

Flora and the Flamingo, written and illustrated by Molly Idle and published by Chronicle Books LLC. This (also) wordless picture book is bursting with pure joy! 

Mr. Wuffles!,  written and illustrated by David Wiesner and published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. David Weisner was also awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1992 for Tuesday, in 2002 for The Three Pigs and in 2007 for Flotsam.

 

Congratulations to all the award winners and honorees! Click here for a complete list of all the 2014 youth media awards.

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