Month: February 2014

What Time Is It?

H780_W2.tifBunny DayTimeMrWolf

As we age, time goes faster.  But when you are seven-years-old waiting for a friend to arrive, time moves at a snail’s pace.  In some ways it was easier before ML learned how to tell time.  When I said, “10 minutes til bedtime, she didn’t know if it was two minutes instead of ten that lapsed.

Learning to tell time is hard.  When a child grasps the concept, it should be celebrated.  Below are our favorite picture books we read when ML was learning to tell time.  In this short month, my time for blog posts is limited.  I’ve provided the publishers blurb.  I promise the story and illustrations were kid approved.  My brain’s just a little too fried this week to share ML’s thoughts on each book.

What Time Is It, Mr. Crocodile? by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Doug Cushman -Mr. Crocodile has big plans for finally catching–and eating–five pesky monkeys, but those little rascals dupe him again and again. By the time the clock strikes six, those mischievous monkeys actually teach Mr. Crocodile a thing or two about friendship . . . and about having fun!

Bunny Day:  Telling Time From Breakfast to Bedtime by Rick Walton and illustrated by Paige Miglio – Spend the day with a lovable bunny family from eight o’clock in the morning, when Father Rabbit wakes up his little bunnies, to eight o’clock at night, when Mother Rabbit tucks them into -bed. Every hour bunnies are busy doing something new: at eleven it’s chore time, at one they play, and at seven story time begins.

What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf? by Debi Gliori – Mr. Wolf’s day is packed, not only with his own activities and errands, but with such characters as three giggling pigs and a fiddling cat continually asking him what time it is, until, at last, it is bedtime.

Several of these books show various types of clocks throughout the book.  Some are easier to see than others.  My favorite… showing ML the sundial in What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf?

How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers


The most current picture book Oliver Jeffers illustrated, The Day the Crayons Quit is number one the New York Times Picture Book Bestseller list this week.  Drew Daywalt is the author.  We read it and enjoyed it.  You will hear more about it in a future blog posting about children’s books including examples of writing letters.  An almost lost art form in our email society.

Last night, we read How to Catch a Star both written and illustrated by  Oliver Jeffers.  Published in 2004, it was his first book for children.  ML adored the story and illustrations.  But her favorite part was when she saw the picture of Oliver Jeffers at the end.  It’s a picture from childhood.  ML said, “Hey, it’s the boy in the story.”

We want to know if Oliver Jeffers ever caught a star like the boy in the book.

Brush of the Gods – ML wants to meet the author and illustrator


We’ve received bookmarks, posters and advanced copies from some authors and illustrators.  Also, we’ve met authors and illustrators at our local bookstore.  Apparently, ML thinks I have an in with all authors and illustrators.  Last night after reading Brush of the Gods by Lenore Look and illustrated by Meilo So, ML said, “I love this book.  I want to meet the author and illustrator.”

Lenore Look lives in New Jersey.  Meilo So lives in the Shetland Isles, a subarctic archipelago of Scotland.  If either visits Quail Ridge Books, we will be there.  If someone wants to fund a visit to Scotland, ML and I will be happy to visit Meilo So on her small island.

Brush of the Gods highlights the life of Wu Daozi;  considered a master painter during the T’ang Dynasty in the seventh century.  According to the author’s note, “He introduced the concept of depicting movement in figures and their clothing.  His figures’ scarves billowed, their robes swung, and their hair blew in the wind.”  Meilo So’s illustrations use watercolor, ink, gouache and colored pencils to represent Daozi’s style.

Legend has it Daozi entered an archway painted on the mural he created for the emperor and disappeared forever.  None of his murals survived to present day.  Below is an example of his work.


The Bear’s Song – Also Known As “Une chanson d’ours”


The Bear’s Song by Benjamin Chaud was first published in France in 2011 under the title Une chanson d’ours.  It is exquisite and amusing.  Papa Bear starts hibernating, but Little Bear is too busy chasing a honeybee “to hear winter’s whisper.”  Papa suddenly awakens and realizes Little Bear is gone.  From there, a cat and mouse chase begins through the forest, the city and into The Palais Garnier as Papa Bear searches diligently for Little Bear.  The Palais Garnier is a 1,979 seat opera house in Paris.

The story is simple, but the illustrations are not.  The color scheme consisting mostly of muted red, gold, grey and black gives the book an elegant flair. ML searched for Papa Bear and Little Bear and Bee in each page spread.  She enjoyed the detailed scenes…  two woodcutters climbing a tree leaving the saw in the trunk below…  an elephant in the window of a fancy apartment house…  what ML perceived to be mermaid enjoying a drink with her date before the show.

We loved the varied reactions of people encountering the bear.  ML’s favorite scene… when the bear is on stage and everyone runs for safety.  Especially those climbing the poles to get in the balcony.

I always discover something when focusing on a book first published in another country.  With this book, the cover of the English edition differs from the French version.  See both covers above.  It’s a marketing thing.  Lauren Smith created the cover, and her website states “My job was to create a new cover and interior text layout to work more effectively for the American market while still keeping its Parisian charm.”  Maybe books with red covers sell better in France;  and books with blue covers and cuddling bears sell better in the United States.  Wishing I had the French version to see the differences in text layout.

Check out the covers for other languages below.  The Greek Version ena nanourisma gia arkoudes / ένα νανούρισμα για αρκούδες cover is the same image of the original French version but with a different color scheme and font.  The cover of the German version Bühne frei für Papa Bär! differs completely from the English and French versions.  Other than the title,The Polish version Misiowa piosenka,  Italian version Una canzone da orsi and Swedish version Björnens sång.  Same illustration, same font, same color scheme.

Thank you Chronicle Books for publishing this translation.  ML and I will remember pouring over the illustrations many years.  Check out the covers for other languages below.  We found them fascinating.  I wonder how many languages this book has been published in?  It deserves to be a star of children’s literature internationally.  We are looking forward to the English publication of Coquillages et petit ours… The Bear’s Sea Escape in August, 2014.  Amy Yu Gray created a new cover for the English edition.



ML Was Sick – It Started With Sneezing


Last week, ML missed 4 days of school.  One for sickness and the others as a result of Winter Storm Pax.  Saturday, she started sneezing.  I thought it was because our house was a little dusty.  Sunday night it became apparent she was sick.  She coughed the whole night.

The next morning when I told her she couldn’t go to school, she cried.  It was both the 100th day of school and Crazy Hat Day.  The previous afternoon, ML carefully put together her attire… a big, red, old-lady hat and a pink and white polka dotted umbrella to use as a cane.  She begged to go. I knew they would call me to pick her up as soon as I arrived at work.  So we stayed home.  Below are two books to enjoy when you’re sick.  One to make you laugh.  One to make you feel warm and loved.

In Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Adam Rex, his parents are always asking, “Are you going to sneeze?”  There’s a good reason.  Chu has a very big sneeze.  Sorry, no more details.  I don’t want to spoil the fun. The pacing and illustrations make it a perfect read-aloud.  Starting next book club, I’ll  read a picture book at the beginning.  Chu’s Day is first on the list.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee written by Philip Stead and illustrated by Erin Stead received the 2011 Caldecott Medal.  The illustrations using woodblock printing and pencil are subtle, yet rich.  Visual elements not discussed in the story add extra enjoyment.  Look for the bird, mouse, teddy bear and red balloon.  Each a story within the story.

It is one of  the sweetest stories, we’ve read.  Not saccharine… a story of genuine love and respect for each other.  Amos is a zookeeper.  He’s dependable and a good friend to all the animals in the zoo… playing chess with elephant, running races with tortoise , sitting quietly with penguin, lending a handkerchief to rhinoceros, reading stories to owl.    He knows the needs of each animal.  One day, Amos isn’t at work.  The animals wait for the number 5 bus.  Upon arriving at Amos’ home, they find he is in bed sniffling and sneezing.  Each animal takes care of Amos in their own special way.  Knowing this book’s created by a husband and wife team adds to it’s loveliness.

Coming June 2014, another Chu book – Chu’s First Day of School by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Adam Rex.  I hope the Steads are in the process of collaborating on another book.

In Honor of the Olympics – ML’s Medal


Recently, the Opening Ceremony for the Olympics in Sochi was viewed by millions.  Throughout the next few weeks, hundreds of athletes will win medals.  In my eyes, ML received a medal more important than an Olympic Gold.  Why did ML earn this medal?  For being respectful, helping others, and being excited about learning.  I akin it to her school’s version of a Nobel Peace Prize.  I know, a little over-the-top.

Even without the medal, I know ML is excited about learning and does her best to help others.  Her teachers from preschool to first grade say this every year.  She doesn’t need a medal for me to be proud.  At the same time, it’s nice to have it recognized in a special way.

ML’s modesty shows.  It wasn’t until we were cuddling for the night, she shared about receiving the medal at her school’s assembly.  I’m certain I would have bragged about it to my family as soon as I arrived home.  Probably taunted my brother on the bus ride home with “I got a medal, you didn’t!  I got a medal, you didn’t!  I got a medal, you didn’t!”

Sadly, her medal wasn’t with her. She took it off and put it with her jacket to play in the gym.  She thinks it was stolen because one child whose name wasn’t called in the assembly was wearing one.

It was late and she was almost asleep so I didn’t talk this potential theft through with her.  If it comes up again, we’ll talk about the book we read recently, Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth by Jane O’Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser.  A marble is stolen from a school exhibit.  Everyone is blaming each other.  The real thief feels very bad about what she did, but doesn’t know what to do to rectify it.

Then, I’ll remind her about the time she stole something when she was in preschool.  It will help put her disappointment in perspective.  The school’s giving ML a replacement medal.


Happy Valentine’s Day – Mommy, You’re My Woolly Mammoth!

Wooly Mammoth

You won’t think your child saying, “Mommy, you’re my woolly mammoth” is a compliment, until you read How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth by Michelle Robinson and illustrated by Kate Hindley.

We laughed through this 10 Step instructional book.  I appreciated the clever use of an umbrella in Step 6.  ML guffawed at Step 8.  It involved a trampoline and mud.  We really howled at the hairstyles in Fig. 1 – Fig. 8; reaching a unanimous decision.  “Bubble Bliss” is the most attractive hairstyle for a woolly mammoth.

The illustration on the last page spread explains why I consider, “Mommy, you’re my woolly mammoth” a compliment.  It’s  snuggly.  Yes, I know snuggly isn’t a word.  It should be.

Happy Valentine’s Day from ML and her woolly mammoth.