Monthly Archives: November 2018

Free Friday: Pocket Full of Colors


81dfGU3cSFLPocket Full of Colors is a relatively new picture book that was released in 2017, written by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville, and illustrated by Brigette Barrager. It is a nonfiction text about Mary Blair, the artist behind the Disney ride called “It’s A Small World.” While it is about Mary Blair’s life, it is not the format of an informational text, but rather like a typical picture book. It’s exciting and colorful illustrations make this biography engaging and interesting to read, and children will thoroughly enjoy getting to know Ms. Blair through reading this story of her life.

At the beginning of the story, you learn about how Mary Blair grew up loving colors. She wanted to continuously learn new ones, and use them in her paintings. When she grew up, this translated into her work. She got a job at Walt Disney helping to design some of the artwork for their movies. She was one of the first women to ever be hired, and she was excited for the prospect of using her colors to create as her profession. However, she faced a company run by men in the 1940s, where the animations were done in black and white and no one wanted to hear her opinions and where her colors were rejected. She quit this job to go elsewhere, where she was free to use her colors to her heart’s content. Eventually, Walt Disney himself contacted her to help him create a new ride for his park—It’s A Small World. He would need her immense knowledge of colors to design it. Upon making a deal with him that she was in charge, she agreed to create the ride that is still loved by so many children to this day.

While this book is full of interesting facts about Mary Blair’s life and her experiences with Disney, it is amazing to read and full of beautiful illustrations to match Mary Blair’s affinity towards using color in her art. Children of all ages will love this biography teaching about how a Disney ride came to be and about an artist whose progressive artwork came to be recognized despite gender inequality within the workplace and setbacks in her career.



Pocket Full of Colors is also rich with opportunities for academic language. It contains countless names of non-typical colors, which can be used as instruction in the classroom. It also provides opportunities for enactment! Have students become Mary Blair and act out scenes from the book, or paint like her using colors beyond your imagination as an art integration activity.


This book would be a great addition to a classroom library, and to classroom instruction on topics such as influential women, biographies, reading nonfiction texts, comparing and contrasting to other texts or even to learn about history. It has so many facets where it can fit into a lesson and enhance students’ reading literacy skills alongside content that is being taught in the classroom. It is one of my favorite new picture books, and I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I did!

-Ariele Lerner

Free Fridays: Nursery Rhyme Comics



This Free Friday will focus on a fresh new take on traditional nursery rhymes, Nursery Rhyme Comics, a collaboration between 50 different cartoonists. Leonard S. Marcus introduces the book, explaining that this book seeks to celebrate and transform these beloved tried and true 50 classic nursery rhymes. Each cartoonist will take their own specific inspiration in order to interpret these poems and present them in a new way. Some are based on misconceptions that the artist had themself about the poem as a child, some decide to take the rhyme ultra-literally to a comedic effect, while others just show the classic rhyme with a beautiful new illustration. This book is ideal for the young reader who may not want to read a book cover to cover, but can flip open to any page in the book and be delighted by the comical and fantastical, and often familiar, story being told.

Because of the unconventional format, one blog post cannot do the entire book justice, but I have chosen to showcase a few select cartoonist and nursery rhymes as a preview into the book.

fullsizeoutput_35f9Stephanie Yue puts a twist on the typical way of viewing the mouse in “Hickory, Dickory, Dock.” Rather than showing the mouse as fearful and startled by the clock’s ringing, Yue decides that the mouse has taken on the important job of ringing the bell to signify the time, before hang gliding to safety.


R. Dart takes a nursery rhyme I had never even heard of before, “If All the Seas Were One Sea” and illustrates it absolutely beautifully. The swirling words, comedic speech bubbles, and lovely colors come together to make this spread one to notice.


Cytil Pedrosa turns one of the most popular nursery rhymes, “This Little Piggy,” into a modern tale of revenge and scheming, unpredictably ending in the antagonist wolf becoming a vegetarian.

– Annagayle Lance

Winner’s Wednesday: The Ugly Duckling


For my Winner’s Wednesday book I chose The Ugly Duckling, a classic children’s picture book, which was a 2000 Caldecott Honor Book. While this book received this honor 18 years ago, it is just as relevant today as it was then. FullSizeRender-11


The story of The Ugly Duckling follows a “duckling” that does not look like the other ducklings that surround him. He is teased and prodded his whole life, and promptly runs away. Despite running away, he still receives maltreatment from those around him, and suffers through a hard winter and not fitting in. One day, he finds a flock of birds that he wants to follow, and realizes when he looks at his reflection that he looks just like them!


He is actually a swan, not a duckling, and is the most beautiful swan that there is. He learns from this experience that he is glad he was lonely and suffered, because it allowed him to finally experience true happiness when the time arrived and he was able to recognize this.


I think that this picture book has beautiful and engaging illustrations to match the plot of this story. The author and illustrator successfully show the adversity that this duckling experiences, and how it helps him grow in the end when he has finally found his place as a swan.


The Caldecott honor is definitely suitable for this picture book—the pastel colors and beautiful scenery and animals are very inviting to the reader. The illustrations are amazingly detailed and intricate, which I believe is remarkable considering that they were done with watercolors.


This book is still relevant in today’s world, maybe even more so now than when it received this honor 18 years ago. Many children feel out-of-place at some point in their lives, and this story is something that most can relate to if not personally then something that they have witnessed someone close to them experiencing.


It shows that you should be kind to everyone, and not put him or her down due to looking different from you—everyone is unique and that is what makes him or her special. But, it also teaches that eventually, if you are persistent in trying to find happiness, you can find it no matter how much suffering you have endured throughout your life.

This book would be enjoyed by children and adults of every age, and will bring joy to all who read it.

-Ariele Lerner


Traditional Thursday: Farewell to Shady Glade


For this Traditional Thursday I chose Bill Peet’s 1966 book, Farewell to Shady Glade.

Image result for farewell to shady glade

This book follows the animal inhabitants of a once-idyllic habitat called Shady Glade, whose peace is threatened by the daily approach of rumbling noises. The raccoon climbs to the top of their sycamore tree and spots the source of the rumbling: giant machines clearing the ground, heading straight in their direction! The animals decide they must leave Shady Glade and find another place to live. Led by the raccoon, they all leap on top of a passing train from a branch of the sycamore tree. They ride the train through the countryside, not knowing how to get off. The train stops in a station, but a city is not a suitable place to relocate. The animals get lucky when the train stops at a rock slide, just under the branch of a sycamore tree, and they get off at a spot “almost exactly like Shady Glade.”

The illustrations in this book are beautiful and feature picturesque scenery of natural lands and saddening smog and destruction. Bill Peet was inspired to write this book by his anger upon seeing the creeks and woodlands of his childhood in Indiana destroyed by development. He wrote another book, The Wump World, a few years later that also addressed environmental problems. Both books were published before The Lorax, which Bill Peet argues has similarities to his books (


I love that Farewell to Shady Glade tells the perspective of animals whose home is being destroyed by humans for development.The animals in this book have personalities that add humor to the story; the raccoon is the wise leader, the rabbits are nervous, and the bullfrog is grumpy but always right. Though I enjoyed the characters, I found it disappointing that all the characters that spoke were male.

The only issue I have with the story is that the animals are perfectly able to replace their old home, as if there were no serious damage. In reality, the destruction of habitat results in reduced animal populations–we don’t find out whether the new shady grove is already fully occupied by other animals. Parents and teachers can have important discussions with children after reading this book, and I think it can be a powerful learning tool.

-Nora Yanai

Winner’s Wednesday: My Friend Rabbit


“My friend Rabbit means well. But whatever he does, wherever he goes… trouble follows.”

This lighthearted tale about a lively rabbit, told from the perspective of a mouse narrator, won the Caldecott Award in 2003 for Eric Rohmann’s illustrations. The book opens with the above quote accompanied by an illustration of a toy airplane stuck in a tree and mouse covering his tiny eyes in disbelief.

Rabbit says, “Not to worry, Mouse. I’ve got an idea,” at which mouse throws back his head undoubtedly thinking “Here we go again.”

The illustrations in this book are quite remarkable. Rohmann infuses rich personalities to even the tiniest characters, uses the entirety of the space, and at times solely relies on the illustrations, as many of the book’s pages are wordless. However, these wordless pages are certainly not lacking in any way, as the illustrations carry the narrative beautifully and with humor.

Rabbit’s idea to get the airplane down from the tree is to stack different animals on top of each other until they can reach it. Rabbit is shown dragging an elephant into the frame for the base. Then he brings in a rhino, a hippo, a deer, an alligator, a bear, and a duck (followed by her ducklings). Rohmann makes it clear from the expressions on the animals’ faces that everyone thinks this idea is crazy except for Rabbit.

The most entertaining page of the book, in my opinion, is the center page where Rohmann actually turns his illustrations ninety-degrees, so that the book should be viewed vertically. This way he can better capture the monumentality of the animal stack. It starts with the elephant who seems unenthused to be present. Then a rhino is on top of the elephant, followed by the duck, deer, bear, hippo, alligator, rabbit, squirrel, and mouse. This arrangement leaves the poor duck to be carrying the most weight and Rohmann thoughtfully illustrates her distress by including sweat marks around her head. In the very top corner you can see the tip of the airplane wing and in the very bottom you can see the ducklings frantically running around the stack.

The page after shows just how close the ensemble was to the desired airplane: seemingly less than an inch. But they reach too far and they all fall down with a crash. That is, except for mouse who grabbed onto the plane as everyone else was falling. Once the animals get back up, they assemble in a circle around Rabbit, glaring at him. At this point, I imagine Rabbit realized this wasn’t a good idea after all, as he is staring with big, regretful eyes at the reader. Luckily, mouse saves the day by swooping down to save Rabbit in the airplane. However, the first line of this book remains true. Rabbit was so busy hugging mouse for saving him that he caused mouse to crash the airplane into a tree… again. Rohmann leaves the reader with a sense of adventure to come by ending the book with Rabbit saying, “Not to worry, Mouse, I’ve got an idea.”

Rohmann’s illustrations were not only remarkable enough to win a Caldecott Award, but they also caught the eye of television producers. In 2007, NBC started premiering a televised version of this book called My Friend Rabbit on Disney Channel in the UK, Ireland, and Canada. This television program embodies the same heartfelt characters and similar playful plots and has been so successful that it won the Pulcinella Award for Best Preschool Series in 2008 and the Alliance of Children’s Television Award for Best Preschool Series in 2009.

This story would be appealing to a wide age-range of children, as I imagine that almost every child can find a little of themselves in Rabbit. Young toddlers would be interested in this book as they could easily engage through the telling illustrations, but I could also see children around the age of six or seven delighting in this book because of its great humor. Whatever age, My Friend Rabbit is ultimately a heartwarming tale that is sure to bring a smile to a child’s face.


Sydney Hill

Trendy Tuesday: I Am Enough


For Trendy Tuesday I chose I Am Enough, written by Grace Byers and illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo. As told by the front flap of the dust jacket, this book is “an inspiring lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another.”

The start of the book is a pattern of phrases, with some that rhyme. “Like the trees, I’m here to grow. Like the mountains, here to stand. Like time, I’m here to be, and be everything I can.” The corresponding illustrations show a child in motion, and children could enjoy acting out the different ideas in this book. Many of these phrases connect to nature and being outside, which is another important aspect of caring for other people and our planet.

This page is a nice reminder that not everything is perfect, and even when things are hard, we are enough and we can continue to try.

I think the best part of this book is the illustrations. They are vibrant and lifelike, depicting a diverse group of girls all interacting and accepting each other. The main character, present on every page, is a black girl with big, beautiful hair. Many of the other children in the illustrations are varying shades of brown, and a few are white or Asian. Though they are all girls, the children are also diverse in other ways, with a few in wheelchairs and one wearing a hijab.

I love this book’s message that part of accepting each other is that people won’t always agree on everything, and that’s okay. Many other children’s books focus on what is similar about all people, but it is just as powerful to recognize our differences and individuality.

-Nora Yanai

Marvelous New Picture Book Monday: I am Human


I am Human

By Susan Verde, Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Abrams Books for Young Readers (2018)


I am Human is the third in a lineup of books created by Susan Verde and Peter Reynolds. Before this, they wrote I am Yoga and I am Peace. All three books were made in the spirit of mindfulness and shared humanity as we all strive to become our best selves. The main character in this book is the child on the cover. No characters are given names, and no dialogue ever takes place. We see the child wearing what is most likely their own combination of clothes, interacting with other children and adults, and thinking through the choices of daily life. The color palette is vibrant, with all of the illustrations against a white background. This creates a feeling of open space, as if the main character’s actions are done freely and individually in any setting.


One of my favorite parts of the book is where the main character acknowledges the reciprocal nature of their feelings. As humans, we have the ability to be hurt by others; we also have the ability to hurt them. This is one of many powerful conversations that can be started from this book. I also appreciated how this and other pages reference being imperfect and making mistakes. These are aspects of human nature that really are not talked about as much as might be useful. Without constant conversation, the ideas of being imperfect and making mistakes are stigmatized rather than normalized.


Another beautiful section talks about the journey of finding one’s place in the world and deciding which direction to take. Children of all ages can relate to the idea of having “big dreams;” this page alone provides powerful opportunities for reflection in conversation and writing.


The last page in the book has the busiest design, having the inverse white-to-color ratio of the rest of the pages. I love that the child recognizes that they are surrounded by all different types of people who are progressing together on the journey of life. The message of the book is thoughtful and touching, provoking contemplation in readers of all ages. The way it explicitly addresses aspects of relationships, kindness, problem solving and decision making distinguishes this book from the rest of its kind.



Traditional Thursday: Strega Nona


For this week’s Traditional Thursday I selected a classic, Strega Nona, tale retold and illustrated by Tomie de Paola.

Strega Nona tells the story of Strega Nona, or “Grandma Witch” who is the subject of all of the whispers of the town of Calabria. However, everyone knows she has the magic touch and the people of the town go to her to fix all of their problems. As Strega Nona is getting older, she announces to the town that she is going to need help taking care of her house and garden. A man by the name, “Big Anthony,” starts to work for Strega Nona. Strega Nona gives him explicit directions to not touch the special pot of pasta in the house.

However, Anthony develops a deep fascination about this pasta pot. When Strega Nona goes out of town for a few days, he finds the perfect opportunity to explore the special pasta pot. Anthony sang the special song, and soon enough the pasta pot started making pasta left and right. At first it seemed great, pasta for everyone! Unfortunately, Anthony did not know how to stop making the pasta and it took over Strega Nona’s entire house and soon enough flooding into the town. Finally Strega Nona came back to town, and knew exactly what to do, she blew three kisses and the pasta suddenly stopped flowing. Strega Nona knew the perfect consequence for Big Anthony, he would have to eat all of the pasta in the town!

Strega Nona is an excellent picture book that also appeals to readers of all levels. Not only is it an old classic that adults can enjoy reading to their children, but children of all different reading levels and ages can enjoy as well. De Paola uses vivid and detailed illustrations that provide a mirror to the text while also giving an even more detailed picture of what the village look like that is not provided by the text.

Not only does the text flow beautifully, but there are also underlying messages that can teach important life lessons to children of all ages. For one, greed. Big Anthony learns the hard way not take more than you are given. Strega Nona provides Anthony with a salary, a place to sleep, food to eat and just one rule, not to touch the pot of pasta. However, when Anthony uses the pot of pasta and has to face the consequences, children of all ages can learn about the importance of being grateful for what you have. However, the message is not overbearing and is still a great storybook for all children. I think it can be read in a classroom setting followed by a discussion in an elementary school while also as a bedtime story at home. Strega Nona’s versatility and vibrance is what makes this tale one of my favorites, and a perfect fit for the week before Thanksgiving, a time of being grateful for what we have.

Macie Wasserberger

Winner Wednesday: Noodleheads See the Future


For this week’s Winner’s Wednesday, I chose the 2018 Geisel Honor Award winning book, Noodleheads See the Futurewritten by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss, and illustrated by Tedd Arnold. 

This book is a beginner level chapter book that is full of puns and slapstick humor, illustrated and formatted in a comic book style. Each chapter is based on different traditional folktale motifs, and the authors and illustrator bring these rich folktales to the young readers through two silly Noodlehead brothers, Mac and Mac, who take things very literally. For instance, they try hard to take their hands off when their uncle asks to give him a hand, which is an idiomatic phrase that should not be taken literally. 

Throughout the book, the two brothers are certain that their mother will bake cake as a treat if they help her make a beautiful garden, and off they go to the woods to collect firewood for the oven. In the woods, Mac and Mac meet their friend Meatball and soon are convinced that Meatball can see the future.

This book is unlike most comical books, though. As briefly mentioned, the authors’ note at the end of the book reveals that this book was inspired by motifs that various folktales about fools share around the world. The authors draw different motifs and tale types from three books: The Storyteller’s Sourcebook: A Subject, Title, and Motif Index to Folklore Collections for Childrenby Margaret Read MacDonald, The Types of the Folktaleby Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson, and A Guide to Folktales in the English Language by D. L. Ashliman, and explicitly reference the specific motifs and tale types that they pull from those books in the authors’ note.

Young emergent readers will greatly enjoy this book and its simple text and catchy illustrations. Even more so, this book might be a great way to introduce and discuss different idioms with English Language Learners. Those who already know the idioms will appreciate the humor made out of the brothers’ literal interpretation of the idioms, and all readers will find the foolishness of these two brothers comical. Who doesn’t like stories that are full of humor and foolishness?


-Elle Kim

Trendy Tuesday: Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey


For today’s Trendy Tuesday, I looked at a book that has to do with a very hot topic right now: refugees. The book I chose to review is Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journeyby Margriet Ruurs and illustrated by Nizar Ali Badr. Aside from the subject matter being a current topic that is all over the news, the illustrations and other aspects of this book are extremely “trendy. First, just looking at the cover we see a very clear illustration
of what looks like people walking and carrying lots of stuff over their head. This illustration is created entirely of stones and pebbles. With a flip of the page, the reader turns to the endpapers of an entire page of stones, foreshadowing how the illustrations will appear throughout the book. In the Foreword, Ruurs explains how she stumbled upon Badr’s beautiful artwork on Facebook and was immediately drawn to it. Ruur was thrilled when she finally got in contact with Badr and she decided that a portion of the proceeds of her book would be donated to organizations that helped refugees. Ruur notes that she hopes to raise awareness of the experiences of refugees but also to foster a sense of peace, love, and convey the power of helping.

This simply told, yet complex story follows a family who must flee from their village to find refuge in Europe. The story is told from a child’s, Rama, point of view in which she describes how her life was changed forever. She gives a candid account of her experiences: one day she is playing outside, going to school, eating and drinking with friends and family and the next everything started to change. People were leaving the village, the birds and animals were no longer around, and food was scarce. Her family had to leave the village to be free and safe from war. Rama became upset because she did not want to leave the life she has loved for so long; however, she went along with her family carrying bundles of clothes and blankets to stay warm. They walked very far until they reached the sea where they took a boat all the way to land in Europe.  They planted seeds in memory of those who were lost on this treacherous journey. Rama finally realizes that she is walking toward hope and toward a brighter future. Her family finds new neighbors who welcomed them with open arms and Rama is ready to start a new life in a safe and peaceful environment.

At the end of this book, there is a list of ideas that the reader can do to make a difference and take action to help refugees.  This aspect of the book was very ‘trendy’ because it really promotes activism in young children. In our current climate, activism is an important skill that young children should be encouraged to do. The entire book is also written in Arabic (under the English words) which was very unique. The story of this family is told in such an engaging way as it grabs the reader in through simple and relatable language as well as the expressive illustrations. The most unique and trendy part of this book is the illustrations. The stonework is something that most readers have probably never seen before. It is mind-blowing to see how much a compilation of stones can actually convey to the reader. Badr does an exquisite job of conveying a family’s story, their emotions, and hardships through this unique illustration medium. The stones represent so many people and settings in the book including bundles of clothes, a man fishing on a rock, children playing in a village, parents holding their children, flowers, and more. Although pebbles do not have facial expressions, the reader can take note of other signs of emotional expression such as body language of characters. This really helped me analyze the illustrations.

Overall, this book succeeds in telling a moving tory of a refugee family, but more importantly a story of love, hope, and friendship. The simplistic yet powerful text and illustrations help connect the reader to what is happening in the story.  Ruur concludes her moving story by inviting the reader to take action and help people like the characters in the book. This aspect really brings the story to life and is a great stepping stone (no pun intended) for future conversation about the Syrian refugee crisis and other themes throughout the book.