Caldecott Medal 2016 – Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

Finding Winnie

Two of ML’s friends chose Finding Winnie:  The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick and illustrated by Sophie Blackall to win the Caldecott Medal.  It’s wasn’t ML’s first choice.  However, she was excited it won.  Especially, after we read it aloud again last night.

In the past few years, there’s been a surge in beautifully illustrated nonfiction titles and biographies in children’s publishing.  I’m glad to see one of these books chosen for the Caldecott.  I’ve been working on a post about illustrated biographies for awhile.  As two of the Caldecott Honor books were illustrated biographies, I need to get back to it.

Congratulations to Sophie Blackall.  And thank you to Lindsay Mattick for providing the story about Finding Winnie, a book that will stand the test of time.  ML’s favorite illustration was the family tree.

Books Comparing Now and Then

A Fine DessertWhale Trails

Recently ML and I were introduced to the app Trivia Crack.  We’re addicted.  It’s like Trivial Pursuit but online.  This has sparked an interest in history for ML.  Two picture books arrived recently to fuel her new passion.

A Fine Dessert:  Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Sophie Blackall – We followed the making of blackberry fool from Lyme, England to present day San Diego stopping in outside of Charleston, SC in the 1800s and Boston, MA in the 1900s.  ML is eager for blackberries to be in season so we can try the recipe.  We may go blackberry picking and make a whisk with clean, soft twigs like the mom and daughter in the 1700s.  However, we will buy the cream at the grocery.  We don’t have access to cows we can milk ourselves.  The details in the illustrations span centuries. . . from an ice pit in the hillside to gumball machines at the supermarket.

Whale Trails:  Before and Now by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by G. Brian Karas – A delightful tale comparing today’s whale watching industry with whale hunting ships of the 1800s.  Each page spread includes one page showing a modern whale watching adventure in bright gouache and acrylic;  and a page that looks like aged paper with black toned illustrations.

Why Picture Books are Important

PictureBook Ambassador

Today, a friend alerted me to a post called Why Picture Books are Important by Sophie Blackall at  Who knew November was Picture Book Month?

Each day, the site shares a post “from a picture book champion explaining why he/she thinks picture books are important.” I haven’t had a chance to read all the posts; but two have jumped out already.  Sophie Blackall’s post brought me to tears.  ML and I are fortunate to have access to so many picture books.  Not everyone does.  Ame Dyckman’s post eloquently explains why I think you should keep reading picture books to your child even after they can read.

Picture books transcend time and place.  If I were a famous picture book author/illustrator asked to write about why picture books are important, the following story would be included.

One day, while working at the library, a woman in her sixties approached me.  She asked for picture books to read to her eighty-five-year old mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease.  Her mother was no longer able to communicate verbally.  The daughter explained, “I read her one of the books she read to me as a child recently.  Mom hung on every word and poured over the pictures.”  I hope ML and I are never in this situation.  If we are, I hope she continues our tradition of reading picture books.  Eight years so far; and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon.

Why are picture books important?  Five words… picture books help people connect.


After Ivy + Bean – A Booklist for Eleanor

My friend requested some series ideas for her daughter, Eleanor, when she finishes the Ivy + Bean books written by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.  Eleanor is on book nine.  Time is of the essence  as there are only ten books in the series.  All the books I recommend below are on similar reading levels and include illustrations.  I’ve featured picture books by illustrators of most of these series.  The combination of high quality stories and engaging illustrations make an early grades chapter book desirable to children bridging the gap from picture books to chapter books.

Like Pickle Juice On Cookie









Like Pickle Juice on A Cookie by Julie Sternberg and illustrated by Matthew Cordell – I don’t think ML and her friends will be able to resist a book where the first chapter states, “I had a bad August.  A very bad August.  As bad as pickle juice on a cookie.  As bad as a spiderweb on your leg.  As bad as the black parts of a banana.  I hope your August was better.  I really do.”  The main character’s name is Eleanor just like ML’s friend.  There are two more books in this series with equally funny titles.  Like Bug Juice on a Burger and Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake.


Nikki Deja

Nikki and Deja by Karen English and illustrated by Laura Freeman – Nikki and Deja are best friends who happen to live next door to each other.  As a former teacher, the author understands the trials and tribulation of being a third grader.  Along with the importance of friendship.  With only five books in this series, I hope another is published soon.

Judy Moody

Judy Moody by Megan McDonald and illustrated by Peter Reynolds – Judy Moody has been around for 14 years, and she continues to resonate with elementary school students.  She’s funny, fiesty and always in a mood.  The illustrations are authentic.  Just like Judy Moody’s brother Stink, I’ve seen ML lie upside down on the couch with her head touching the floor and her legs against the back of the couch.  There’s a reason titles continue to be published.










Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry and illustrated by Middy Thomas – I’ve posted about Gooney Bird before.  Click on Gooney Bird Greene to see the post.


Clementine by Sara Pennypacker and pictures by Marla Frazee – No series post for a second grade girl is complete without mentioning the Clementine books.  All you have to do is read this quote from page one.   “Someone should tell you not to answer the phone in the principal’s office, if that’s a rule.”

Looking forward to seeing which books Eleanor decides to try.  ML’s on an Ivy + Bean kick right now, wanting to read all of them.  I’ll put Eleanor in charge of recommending ML’s next series.


The Baby Tree and Another Brother

AnotherBrotherBaby Tree

When ML was three she said, “I know I popped out of you, but how did I get in?”  We were in a restaurant, not the most conducive place for explaining how babies are made.  So I did what I do often,  I turned it back to her with a question.  “How do you think?”  She replied, “I think I popped into you.”  Technically she was right.  So I agreed and the conversation ended.

A few weeks ago, she called me to tell me she was getting a new sibling.  Obviously and thankfully, not from me. Yesterday, she stuck out her lips, moped and shuffled her feet while complaining  “It’s going to be another brother.”  Immediately, I thought of one of my favorite picture books from 2012, Another Brother by Matthew Cordell.  I posted about it last July when ML”s friend’s second brother arrived.  I’m bringing it home tonight.

Today, a new book arrived at the library called The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall.  Looking at the cover, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Truthfully, the cover freaked me out a little.  But it’s one of my favorite author/illustrators;  so I withheld judgement.  This is a case where you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.  A young boy learns a new baby is coming.  He begins questioning people on where babies come from and receives a variety of answers.  ML’s seven and it’s time she learned how babies are made.  This book will provide a perfect segway into the conversation.

Any advice or stories of your experience explaining where babies come from to children?

Summer Camp… What does ML Think?

Camp TimberwoodCookingCampDisasterIvyBean Make Rules

Below is the transcript of last nights phone conversation with ML.

Me: I signed you up for 4 weeks of Y Camp today.

ML: No fair!

Me: – (guilty working mom thoughts bubbling up)

ML: Only 4 weeks at Camp Skyline. Why can’t I go more?

In college, I worked as a Camp Counselor for two summers.  Then, I was the Program Director for the 9 & 10 year old girls for two summers.  I saw firsthand the wonderful opportunity camp is for girls to develop independence and experience new things.  Recently ML asked to go to sleep-away camp.  I’m fully supportive of this idea.  So it’s time for me to start saving pennies.  Sleep-away camp isn’t cheap.  It won’t be an every summer thing for ML.  However, I will try my best to get her there a few summers.

Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood by Ellen Conford was one of my favorite books during my late elementary school years.  I don’t recall the plot.  I only remember I loved it.  Here’s the plot summary from Goodreads. . .  For thirteen-year-old Melanie Kessler, going to overnight camp was no way to spend a summer vacation. Right from the start, Melanie knew there was going to be trouble. Getting stuck with the six-year-old Tadpoles in the beginners’ swim class was downright embarrassing. So was her horse’s decision to take a trot in the lake–with Melanie aboard!

Now, to top things off, Melanie finds herself falling in love with Steve, the cutest boy in camp.  Of course, she’s not the only girl to feel this way.  Can she keep her archrival, Erica Stone, from breaking things up between her and Steve before they even get started?  This just might turn out to be Melanie’s best summer ever!

A few years ago, I bought a copy at a used book store.  When ML is older, I’ll share it with her.  In the meantime, I’ll encourage her to read two early chapter books about camp.

Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew:  Cooking Camp Disaster by Carolyn Keene and illustrated by Macky Pamintuan – Nancy and her friends are excited to spend part of their summer at a cooking camp, but when the recipes start making kids sick, they must find out who is sabotaging the food.

Ivy + Bean Make the Rules by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall – Seven-year-old Bean is too young to go to the camp her sister Nancy is attending, so she and her best friend Ivy decide to create their own camp.


ML is Branching Out – Ivy + Bean


Every time we visit the library I ask, “Why don’t you try an Ivy + Bean book?”  ML responds, “No.”  I admit I haven’t read any of the books, but lots of girls ML’s age ask for them.  I’ve held off reading them. . . hoping ML would eventually be interested.  Then, we could read them together.  Well, that moment has arrived.  Last night she showed me a book.  “Look!  I checked out an Ivy + Bean book, and I already read 5 chapters.”  With that speed reading, I may not have chance for us to read them aloud.  There are 10 books in this series by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.  ML’s starting with book 4 Ivy+ Bean Take Care of the Babysitter.  Like most series for this age, I don’t think it matters the order you read them.

ML still reads the Rainbow Magic books.  She’s saving her  money to buy the Rainbow Magic Earth Fairies Series from the latest Scholastic book order flyer.  I asked, “Do you want to donate them to the school library when you are finished?”  She said, “That’s what I was thinking.”  She’s paying $7 and is very proud of it.  I’m covering the rest.  I love it my daughter wants to spend her money on books.  Then, share them with others.

We continue to read picture books and marvel over the illustrations.  Last night, she was still awake when I arrived home from the board meeting for Postpartum Education and Support.  A cause which, as a survivor of a postpartum mood disorder, is near and dear to me.  ML informed me she couldn’t sleep because she wanted me to read her a book.  She picked A Gift For Mama by Linda Ravin Lodding and illustrated by Alison Jay from my 8 Great New Picture Books post.  She loved it.  I shared about my time in Vienna showing her places in the book I visited.  She didn’t realize European cities include buildings from a long time ago and modern days.