Monthly Archives: February 2018

Winner Wednesday: Where the Wild Things Are


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Where the Wild Things Are by Maurie Sendak was one of my favorite books growing up and since it has not been reviewed on the blog in a while I wanted to feature it for this week’s “winners Wednesday”. Sendak received the Caldecott medal for the book in 1964 and many other smaller awards and recognitions. The book is still a favorite among children today, many years after its publication. So, what makes it such a hit? For starters, Sendak’s illustrations of “the wild things” are like nothing that has been seen before. Upon further investigation, I learned that this is because he used caricatures of his relatives that he drew during his childhood. This explains why his drawings are so unique.


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Sendak is also very creative with his illustrations. For example, on one of the first pages of the book, when Max is still at his house, the illustrations feature a drawing hanging on the wall that resembles one of “the wild things”. The fact that a picture of the monster hangs in Max’s house helps to support the interpretation that his trip away from home was just a figment of his imagination.

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Another creative feature of Sendak’s illustrations are the size of the pictures on the page. When Max is at home at the beginning of the story, the illustrations are in the center with a white border around them but when Max enters into the jungle they become gradually bigger, taking up more space on the page. The increase in the size of the illustrations could be a single to readers that they are entering further into Max’s imagination.

portfolio_wtwta4bAdditionally, Sendak makes use of color in his illustrations to indicate emotions. He uses more muted colors at the beginning of the story to indicate that Max is upset. The colors become more vibrant during the middle of the story when Max is enjoying his time in the jungle but again become muted when he is upset and ready to go home.

In terms of the text features that make this book stand out, some theorize that it stands out because it is story about a boy who manages his anger by using his imagination to remind him of his mother’s love. These are all components that children can relate to. This book could be a great way to use to talk to children about managing their emotions.

-Reagan Jernigan



Trendy Tuesdays: Dear Girl,


new doc 2018-02-26 15.31.09_2With a lot of focus in the media on female empowerment it is not surprising that this message is being passed along to children in the form of picture books. The book Dear Girl,, written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal and illustrated by Holly Hatam, is one of those books that seeks to promote a message of kindness to oneself. What makes the authoring of this book unique is that it was written by a mother-daughter team and as such the book reads as a letter from a mother to a daughter.

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The book reads like a letter to a young girl where each set of opposing pages addressesdifferent ways that girls can be powerful and unique. The book stars with “Dear Girl, Keep that arm raised! You have smart things to say!” This focuses on the concept of girls being kind to themselves and allowing themselves to be unique. This is part of a larger message of kindness that Amy Krouse Rosenthal worked to promote throughout her life including several large community projects that involved people getting together to be kind. This book follows that message but makes it personal to one girl.

Even though the main character is a white girl, the book contains diversity in the other characters used. I think that this is appropriate because the main character seems to visually represent Paris Rosenthal representing the personal mother-daughter pair who authored this story. The diversity in other characters allows the author to address the fact that all girls no matter how they look deserve to feel that they are special because of what they look like. This concept is especially important for young people because in a society that constantly tries to change people, it is important to be proud of who you are. I also liked her page about talking to people who are like and not like you because the only thing different between the two pages were the clothes of the people.

In addressing a theme that has been especially apparent recently with movements such as #metoo, the book dedicates a spread to telling the girl that it is ok to say no. As a movement we focus on telling girls that they can do everything, which this book supports, but I liked the fact that it addresses that just as it is important to know that you are smart and strong enough to say yes, it is also important to feel that you have the power to say no. I also liked the fact that in the illustration the “NO” is large and is physically overwhelming the girl because it truly demonstrates that it is powerful to say no. In an environment where people are not always safe, it is important to tell girls that they have the power to dictate what they participate in for themselves.

The book ends with the advice “Most of all, dear girl who I love, know that you can always always always…turn to me.” In a letter that I can imagine getting from my mom or giving to me students, I think that it is important that the book ends with the concept that you are always loved and that you always have someone to turn to. A large step in the empowerment of women has been that people are now talking and sharing their stories. If we want to continue making progress then we need to make sure that all people, especially young children, know that they are not alone.

A few months before this book was published Amy Krouse Rosenthal passed away. She had been battling cancer while writing the book which led to her and her daughter co-authoring the book. Paris Rosenthal, Amy’s daughter, went on the Today Show after the passing of her mother to talk about this last book that she co-authored with her mother and to address what this book meant to her. In the video, Paris says that her favorite part of the book is that girls can pick any page of the book and read it when they most need to. This is important because we all need little reminders and it is nice that the reader can pick whatever page feels most relevant at the time to explore.

After reading this book, I can imagine using with the future children in my class so that I can share the message with them that they are unique, powerful, smart, and most of all that they are loved and will always have someone to turn to.

-Samantha Kapner


Marvelous New Picture Book Monday: Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix

Marvelous New Picture Book Monday: Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix

I just finished reading Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee and I highly enjoyed it. The cover of the book is very eye-catching with the colors and the graffiti-style illustrations. This book is unlike any other than I’ve read so far in children’s literature and I absolutely loved it. It follows the journey of Roy Choi, a boy who was born in Seoul, Korea, but moved to Los Angeles, California when he was two years old. Roy’s family owned a restaurant called Silver Garden and he remembers the restaurant as his “best good place”—the place where his mom cooked and his family spent time together in the kitchen testing out the food and helping out.


The story then follows as Roy grows older and his family moves out to the suburbs where they opened a jewelry store. Roy’s parents were happier because they were making more money, but Roy was not happy because he felt like he didn’t fit in here like he did in the city—no one in his classes or neighborhood looked like him or had the same snacks as he did. When Roy graduated he was very confused as to what was next for him, and this is depicted brilliantly as the only page in the book that is dark, gloomy, and lacking the vibrant artwork found on the other pages. Roy decides that his fit is in cooking, so off to culinary school he goes! But, he finds that the demands of working in fancy restaurants isn’t for him, and finally Roy finds his true place working as a chef on the Kogi BBQ Truck, serving Kogi food to the people of his city.


One of the first things I have to comment on regarding this book is the illustrations. The fact that Man One chose to complete all of the illustrations are done in graffiti style, an art form that many stereotype as “bad”, “street” or “hoodlum”, is fantastic.  Using a medium that comes with such a negative stereotype in a children’s book defies these ideas that graffiti is negative and exposes children, and their parents, to an art form that doesn’t get a lot of positive recognition.


I also love how in the illustrations, Man One chooses to portray people who look different. There is Roy, a Korean-American, who looks like a Korean-American. There is also a guy with bright blue spiky hair and lip piercings that Roy serves in his food truck and it comes off completely natural. Children need this exposure to different types of people because the world is full of people who are different from them, whether it be different ethnicities, skin colors, hair styles, etc. Having lots of different people together and having the characters looking happy and relaxed sticks with children and increases diversity of their thoughts. Getting early exposure to people who look different, choose to dress differently, or have body markings like tattoos or piercings allows children to normalize it and accept it as a fact of life and as good thing! As stated in the book, “Roy saw that Kogi food was like good music, bringing people together and making smiles. Strangers talked and laughed as they waited in line–Koreans with Latinos, kids with elders, taggers with geeks”.


While I believe it is so important that this book follows a Korean man and showcases Korean culture through the food and the language, I do believe that Chef Roy Choi is a book that is relatable to all who read it. Yes, it focuses on a Korean family and mostly Korean food, and it even showcases Korean vocabulary which is extremely important as a window for children to experience a different culture than their own and as mirror for Korean and other Asian-American children to relate to a character in a book that looks like them. However, this book also follows the path everyone faces as they grow up: where do I fit in and what will I do with my life? Roy’s experiences not feeling like he fit in and not being quite sure where his place in the world was is something many children and adults feel which makes the book extremely relatable to anyone who picks it up. The reader is left feeling motivated to cook. The very ending of the story calls for readers to help Roy spread Kogi cooking by by “mixing new dishes, sharing all we can, cooking with sohn-maash and cooking with love”.


By Haley Jones

What Do You Do With a Problem?

What Do You Do With a Problem?

what do you do 1What Do You Do With a Problem? was published in 2016 by Compendium. This story, written by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom, follows a child through their journey with a problem. The child tries to ignore their problem but quickly realizes that this problem starts to take over and demand their attention. The child realizes the problem is not going to go away on its own and they will have to face the problem head on. In doing so, they learn their problem is not what they thought it was at all.

Not only does the story address an issue that everybody experiences throughout their life, it provides hope for everybody as they face the problems they will face. The author does note that this is not only a book to help children learn how to deal with their problems, but it is a book that people of all ages can learn from.

The illustrations of the story were very fascinating to me. Throughout the story, Benson what do you do 2does a wonderful job of capturing the emotions of the child through the facial expressions and colors used in the background. Besides the subtle colors used for the child, the only other colors used are purple and yellow. These complementary colors are used to portray two very different emotions and detail the transition in the story. The purple, which is also the color of the cover under the book jacket, is used for the “problem.” As the problem becomes bigger and bigger, the colors become deeper and deeper purple. Once the child starts to face the their problem the colors start to brighten as yellow is introduced. I also enjoyed the use of these colors to depict what the child was focused on, as the rest of the illustrations were black and white. what do you do 3

This book, not only works to teach an important lesson to its audience, it does so with beautiful and well designed illustrations.

-Anna Lee McLean

Trendy Tuesday: Little Red Riding Hood


For my trendy Tuesday blog post, I wanted to find a newer version of a classic tale. Little Red Riding Hood is a retelling of the classic fairy tale by Bernette Ford and illustrated by Tom Knight.

new doc 2018-02-18 15.37.25_1The author holds close to the familiar plot of the fairy tale including how red riding hood grandmother made her a red cape with a hood that she never took off, her mother packing her a basket of goodies, red riding hood ignoring her mom’s warnings and talking to the wolf, the wolf swallowing the grandmother and then dressing up as her, and the woodsman red riding hood. The language in the book is simple and print size and space between words is appealing to beginning readers. I also enjoyed that the author kept the traditional exchange between the wolf and red riding hood where red says “why, grandma, what big eyes you have” and the wolf says, “the better to see you with, my dear”.

A difference in this version of the fairy tale is that the wolf stomach has a zipper that the woodsman unzips and finds red riding hood’s grandmother safely inside. This twist on the classic story might comfort parents who are concerned with the violent nature of the story.

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The illustrations in the story are watercolor and are bright and colorful with black outlines around the edges of the figures and then the images were finished digitally. The illustrations are cartoon like which lightens up the scary nature of the story and makes it more suitable for younger children. I also liked how the images were on a white background because it really made them pop out. The book has some double page spreads but also vignettes that have illustrations for each text grouping.

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I also really enjoyed the images on the end pages. The page at the front of the book is a double page spread that shows all different characters, children and animals, reading books in a house during the day. The last page is also a double page spread that shows the same house but at night and the only animal reading now is an owl. Overall, this version of Little Red Riding Hood is a great twist on fairy tale that keeps the most classic parts of the story but uses illustrations and surprise ending to make the story more suitable for younger readers.

-Reagan Jernigan

Marvelous New Picture Book Monday: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut


This week I read Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, written by Derrick Barnes, Illustrated by Gordon C. James. Crown was one of the Caldecott honorable mentions for 2018 and after reading it I can see why. Not only is the writing brilliantly done with incredible detail surrounding the event of getting one’s hair cut, but the illustrations are unique and add a lot to the story.


I really loved the illustrations and believe they matched the story well. It seems like the medium for the illustrations are heavier layered paints, and especially in the image below you can see where the illustrator Gordon C. James used a specific tool to manipulate and carve away the paint on the man’s hair to show his “fresh new cut”. You can see where each brush (or maybe even finger) strokes were done to give the illustrations a very authentic and personally made look.


One of the lines I loved towards the beginning of the book was when the main character says, “You came in as a lump of clay, a blank canvas, a slab of marble. But when my man is done with you, they’ll want to post you up in a museum”. Not only are the words, the rhythm and sound of the text poetic, but the imagery of a “lump of clay” is carried out through the illustrations. The way the illustrations are done, it almost looks as if the people are clay figurines, manipulated and carved into wonderful pieces of art.


Something else I love about this book it that it’s about a diverse character, a very relatable young black boy. In ENED 2200 we have talked a lot about the severe lack of diverse characters in picture books and the resulting inability of people of color to see themselves properly represented.

Although I am speaking from my own experiences as a white woman, I can see Crown as a step in the right direction with a main character a lot of young black boys could relate to and story they could imagine themselves in. In Crown there are a lot of specific haircutting terms such as do-rag, faux-hawk, deep part, skin fade, shape up, tapered sides, and crisp but subtle lines. I have personally never used these terms when getting my own haircut, but these could be terms some black boys interact with in their daily lives. To have this language represented in a picture book with incredible illustrations and beautiful writing, being able to read this book and see terms you use and interact with represented, is an incredible thing every child should be able to achieve.


I really enjoyed this book and hope more like it are written and illustrated in the future.

-Katrin Fischer

Free Friday: Books I Can Share With My Grandma


I went to the Nashville Public Library recently and I  came across a category in the Children’s Section that left me utterly delighted. It was a whole row of shelves dedicated to bilingual books. The books were both translations of english books and imports from other countries. There were books representative of African cultures, Asian cultures, and Latino cultures. To anyone from the Nashville area, this may not be new information, but for me, there is nothing like this at the library back home. I would definitely have noticed. When I was younger my Grandma would pick me up after school and then we’d head to the library. She knew I loved reading, and enjoyed seeing me get so excited about new books. Grandma is from Nicaragua, and between my preference to speak english and her comfort in speaking spanish, there were times where that language barrier came between us. Our love for each other didn’t need words, but we never really read stories together or had an easy conversation about the books I was enjoying. I felt like we missed out on those small, but endearing moments. If there was a bilingual section at my library when I was younger, maybe it wouldn’t have taken me as long as it did to learn enough spanish eavesdrop on the adults’ conversations, but I know for sure I would have had wonderful story-time with Grandma. I still might when I tell her about this, she’s always telling me I need more practice!


I picked two books with spanish translations to breifly review that I think Abuelita and I would have enjoyed. The first La Abuela en la Ciudad is a translation of Nana in the City, a 2105 Caldecott Honor Book by Lauren Castillo. In this story a young boy goes to sleep over at his Grandma’s.  He finds the city scary and noisy.  When his Abuela gives him a red superhero cape she made, he feels braver and realizes that the city has beauty and music to it.


The second story is Mamá the Alien/Mamá la Extraterrestre by René Colato Laínez, illustrated by Laura Lacámara. In this book, a young girl sees her mother’s Resident Alien card and believes her mother is from outer-space. It is a sweet story as the young girl tries to figure out what kind of alien her mom is and learns in the end what the card really meant and how proud her mom is to become a citizen. What was also great about this book was that it has the spanish text and the english text side by side.  Laínez, purposely wrote it this way because he said he wanted it to help children learn both languages.


      These are stories that I would have loved to have read with my Grandma and I am glad other kids now have that opportunity. There was a bit of empty space between the shelves and I hopefully look forward to a day where it is completely filled.

Raquel Molina

Trendy Tuesday: Ada Lovelace: Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer


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One of the 21st centuries greatest trends, in my opinion, is not only the push for women in STEM fields, but also representing women that were and are involved in the development of science, mathematics, and engineering. The book Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: the First Computer Programmer written by Diane Stanley and illustrated by Jessie Hartland portrays the story of Ada Lovelace. Lovelace was integral in the development of programming in a time where women were not typically involved or portrayed being involved in inventing, or the STEM field. The story includes many themes that are relevant to women’s rights and women’s fights today: persistence, working against stereotypes, being proud of one’s accomplishments, and innovation.


The story begins following Ada as a child: a child whose imagination and curiosity were unstoppable and could not be contained- even by her mother. Against her mother’s wishes, Ada invented flying wings that could take her across the city with a birds eye view. She wanted to write about them and share what she had created with the world. Lady Byron, Ada’s mother, tried to curb her daughter’s “emotional and creative” spirit, like her late father, and wanted her to become more “calm and rational,” like herself. To do this, Lady Bryon steered Ada towards a high-class science doc 2018-02-12 11.39.35_2

However, Lady Byron did not realize that this education would only fuel Ada with more curiosity. Growing up during the Industrial Revolution, Ada learned about the importance of machines and how they worked. She was inspired by Joseph Marie Jacquard, who created a machine that could weave any pattern. Ada thought that she could adapt his design to make more than just weaved doc 2018-02-12 11.39.35_3

This idea-turned-dream got temporarily interrupted by her mother’s quest for Ada to get married. While parading Ada to different parties, Ada not only met a future colleague, scientist Charles Babbage, who was an innovative scientist that she decided she wanted to work with, but also her future husband, the Earl of Lovelace. With the Earl of Lovelace, Ada had three children before she continued to pursue her dreams of becoming an incredible inventor.

Ada returned and finally got to work with Charles Babbage, who had created an Analytical Machine, which was a mathematical genius, and could solve any problem. He asked Ada to explain the workings of the machine for a footnote, and Ada elaborated on all that a machine like this could accomplish- which is what is currently known as programming doc 2018-02-12 11.39.35_5

Ada didn’t sign her name, as she was afraid others would not trust the information she presented if they knew it was written by a woman. She signed by her initials, and was proud to stamp her mark on the beginning of what would develop to be an integral aspect of the computer age.

Overall, this book is an excellent read for children of all ages and all gender identities. To know that women are capable- and always have been is a message that all children should receive. Furthermore, this story is even more important because women and their contributions during history are more often than not left out of history books. By supplementing history lessons with this book, or others of its sort, young children will receive more of a full understanding of the world’s history, and receive more perspectives.

Not only these ideas, but the themes of staying true to oneself, defying what society tells you what you can do, pursuing dreams even if they get temporarily put on pause, and determination, make this a good book to read, whether it is to a classroom full of children, at home with kids, or to anyone, any age, who is willing to listen.

-Annie Leck







Marvelous New Picture Book Monday: Miguel and the Grand Harmony


Miguel and the Grand Harmony, written by Newbery Medal Winner Matt de la Pena, Illustrated by Ana Ramirez.

In Barnes and Noble this is one of first the books that jumped out at me. The beautiful cover was intriguing, and when I flipped through it every page was full of vibrant color and beautiful illustrations.


The book is a beautiful story from the point of view of music, following the beauty of music notes and the power they can have. Miguel has music in heart, and thanks to the meddling of music itself finds a broken guitar and later a new set of strings. He fixes the guitar and is then able to take the music in his heart and make it real.


My favorite illustrations are the one representing music. They are all beautiful and colorful, and in most of them the sounds are represented by an array of budding flowers.  The images make you feel warm and connected the piece, and you can’t help but feel happy. There is truly a magic in the images and the way music is portrayed.

The Spanish influence also helps the story come alive, with the familial love, Spanish words, mariachi bands and the to general connection to music as a living force.


The people and the colors make each of the images come alive with a personality of their own. There is so much life in each image from the people and color, and also by the trail of music– represented in the photo below by a soft pink and flowers.


Fun Fact: Miguel and the Grand Harmony is inspired by Disney’s new film Coco. The similarities are apparent if you compare the two covers, the main characters, the dog they befriend, and the theme of music throughout both pieces.


-Katrin Fischer

Free Friday: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Things About Me


My pick for Free Friday is the fabulously weird story by Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On: Things About Me. The story comes from a short film made by Slate and Fleischer in 2010 of the same title which aired at film festivals all over the world.

Meet Marcel. Marcel is partially a shell. But he has a face and shoes, which are two things he likes very much about himself.  

In the book, we get to explore our world from the perspective of a tiny shell. We meet Marcel’s dust bunny dog Alan. Alan doesn’t know any tricks, but Marcel likes to drag him around.

On every page, we get to see some way in which Marcel interacts with our giant world. Marcel even visits an amusement park, but you’ll have to read it to figure out what rides he likes.

This book contains beautiful, realistic paintings that bring us down to Marcel’s perspective to view our world in a whole new light. These paintings and the story create many opportunities for engaging narrative writing activities in the classroom. Read this story book to young students and bring them into Marcel’s world. Then, ask them to become one of Marcel’s many small neighbors and have them write and illustrate their perspective of the world as if they were Marcel. This book can be the key that opens up vast new worlds for young writers, worlds that exist just below their eye level.

-Katy Roach