Friday, September 29, 2017

Fall of the Year by Margaret Wise Brown and Illustrated by Leo Espinosa

Fall of the Year

The world's on fire in the cold clear air
The world shouts Autumn everywhere
All the little animals began to grow more fur
All the summer birds began to fly away,
The little grey kitten came out of the wind to purr
And the leaves blew away. All in one day. 

Darkness came before the night
The air grew cold enough to bite
Chrysanthemums were shaggy yellow
The leaves turned red
The leaves turned brown
The tumbled all over the frosty ground
The worlds on fire in the cold clear air
The world shouts AUTUMN everywhere. 

                                                                      --Margaret Wise Brown
                                                                                             From A Celebration of the Seasons

Isn't she adorably pleased about the fall? I love this picture! 

A Celebration of the Seasons is a collection of Margaret Wise Brown's poems found in a trunk in a barn after she died. 12 artists collaborated on an illustration for each poem and then musicians composed tunes to go with the poems. My kids love it! 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sophie's Squash Go To School by Pat Zietlow Miller & Illus by Anne Wilsdorf

This is the fun sequel to Sophie's Squash. Remember Sophie who didn't want to cook her best friend Bernice, the squash? 

In this book, Sophie is starting school. She would be nervous, but she has two squash sidekicks to make her brave.  

There are all kinds of ways to sit with squash

If any kid came to school with two squash in her arms, I would adore that child. I mean really! The imagination, the stubbornness of insisting that yes, she WAS going to take her squash to school, and the certainty that that was just what needed to happen without a care in the world for what anyone thought. That, my friends, is a child who is going somewhere. 

I always wanted to be that child. 

Unfortunately, Sophie is also stubbornly certain that she will not make any friends in kindergarten.

Things were not like home. AND her classmates threatened to eat her real, true friends. 

First day--a disaster.

Steven is fully supportive of imaginary friends. 

Sophie accepts this--"Then you don't need me."

Sophie is clearly not accepting applications for new friends. 

When you are in the same class as someone else, it is pretty difficult to ignore them completely. 

Her mother and father have a chat with Sophie about the need for human friends. 

Sophie declines'--"I have all the friends I need."

However, when you are with other kids all day, it is hard not to form friendships.\

When Roshni spilled her milk, Sophie almost shared her napkin.


The time comes when Bonnie and Baxter are getting speckled and need to be tucked away for the winter. 

Steven noticed her lack of friends and drew a consoling picture for Sophie.

Sophie was having none of it. 

Poor Steven. Poor Sophie. 

Sophie had a terrible, horrible, no good day. 

Steven tries his best to make friends, offering his frog. 

Steven is amazingly patient, I guess. 

Through all her stubborness and certainty (and Steven's persistence) Sophie begins to understand how beautiful friendship could be. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Real Cowboys by Kate Hoefler & Illus by Jonathan Bean

This book....! Oh my goodness I love it! 

Obviously I have a soft spot for cowboys. That is what marrying a cowboy from Colorado does for you. 

In this book, Hoefler shows a softer, deeper side to cowboys. 

"At night, they sing lullabies over the calls of coyotes"

The strength of true gentleness

And these pictures.... love, love, love! I always enjoy Jonathan Bean's illustrations, even when they vary wildly, such as in At Night and this book. 

Cowboys are not the careless devils they are made out to be. They aren't stupid. You can't do much when you leg is infected from a cacti puncture or your arms are blistered with sunburn. 

Real cowboys ask for help. 

I just love how Hoefler takes cowboy stereotypes and turns them on their head. 

The dust... so evocative!


This picture. I mean, LOOK AT IT. Doesn't it do something to your heart? 

I don't understand the art, but I do love it! 


It is. It really, really is. I want to frame most of the pictures and teach my kids the word.

Be gentle.
Ask for help.
Love peace.
Be safe.
See people, not races.
Never think a girl can't rope as well as a boy.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie & Illus by Ellen Forney

This is a book I have heard about for years, but didn't read. I was in a cozy read rut for several years and didn't think this would be a cozy read. Of course, it isn't. But it is so good. And for all the terrible things that happen and the difficulty of Junior's life, it is chockablock full of hope. 

(chockablock is such a useful term. I resolve to use it more frequently in life.)

Have you read this book? You should read it now if you haven't. Most everyone should read this book. It is a frequently challenged book because it is a very honest portrayal of being a teen aged boy--not the most PC and G rated species on the planet. But if don't let that bother you, SO GOOD. 

There are quite a few cartoon pictures. After all, Junior, the main character, is a cartoon artist. Ellen Forney hits all the right notes with her renderings of "Junior's" work. 

Junior's sister, Mary Runs Away

There is a lot of anger and horribleness in this book. But Junior refuses to yield to the darkness of life. He lives around the horribleness and somehow manages to keep hope alive when all the world (or at least the world around his Spokane, WA area Indian Reservation) did their level best to drown hope at its very outset. 

This is so well written. I mean, it is Sherman Alexie, so duh. Of course it is well written. But Junior is so real, so vivid. Probably because a lot of this book is auto-biographical for Alexie. 

Junior's struggle between seeking a better life and leaving the reservation is raw and funny at the same time. He has a clear understanding of what life would be like if he stayed on the reservation and also an understanding of what a complete betrayal it would be to his family, friends, and tribe  to leave the reservation. How to reconcile those two things? 

Oh the angst of being a teenager! The beginning of the individual vs. the collective--making choices that are about you and not for others.

Fisticuffs! So much humor mixed into the anguish and pain of life in this book. So well done! The humor is a little like Junior's coping mechanism. And you laugh even while you are hurting for all the hopelessness of reservation life. 

Junior's Grandmother wears basketball sneakers "because she's got mad skills."

I like how the drawings vacillate between cartoon and more intricate drawings. 

I feel ya, Junior, I feel ya. Being poor never really bothered me as a kid. But it was something you would rather people not know about you. Just.... because. 

As a teacher, I often think about this--the struggle student's have in even being awake, clothed, and present at school. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Snow White by Matt Phelan

This is a graphic novel adaptation of Snow White, set in New York City during the Roaring '20's and the beginning of the Great Depression.  

It is a pretty awesome book. There are some drawbacks, but overall, I loved it. It is a kind of dark take, so I wouldn't let little kids read this. 

The illustrations are monochromatic watercolors, which is gorgeous, but at times, I felt they were too indistinct. I wasn't sure what was really happening in the picture, which made me feel a little lost. 

There are effective use of red/pink--blotches of TB blood on the hankie her mother coughed into, Snow's red cheeks after running in the cold. 

Her mother dies, and ten years pass. Then we see her father, enchanted with an actress. 

The Queen of the Follies. Enter the wicked stepmother. 

With the horrid Queen of the Follies working in the background, Snow is sent to boarding school. 

While Snow is devastated, the Queen buys a new dress. 

For some reason, the wicked stepmother is controlled or inflamed by a mysterious ticker tape

The queen does away with Snow's father through a poisoned cocktail. 

The will does not go the wicked stepmother's way. 

So she has to get Snow out of the way. 

She hires a hitman that chases Snow into a Hobo jungle, but then can't carry out the kill. 

However, after Snow is told to run and hide, she is followed by a few thugs. 

Enter the gang of Seven, a group of street urchins who step in to scare away the thugs. 

Snow goes back to the Seven's hidey-hole in a warehouse and enchants them with stories of her school in the country. 

She takes them to see the magic of Macy's window. And the chauffeur sees her. 


Snow heads out for a quick walk. 

As she is walking, she sees an old beggar woman selling apples.

The seven realize what happened and who did it. They avenger Snow in a fabulous, accidental way. But you will need to figure that out for yourself. 

They smuggle Snow into Macy's store window and lay her on a magnificent bed. 

Detective Prince is called in. 

 Love's first kiss.

This part of the book is called "Detective Prince oversteps his bounds."

As she wakes, snow starts falling.

Of course, Snow does great things for the Seven and at the book finishes with a burst of color and Detective Prince showing up with a bouquet.