Picture Books

A Time to Shine

It's Book Fair time.


Every year, twice a year, I pretend to have my own bookshop. A shop that arrives in one day, packed tight in boxes and stays for one glorious week. The boxes are unwrapped and the books are displayed around the otherwise empty room and with the collective voices of all those authors chattering behind closed covers....the room simmers. 



"I wish I could just stay in here all week," says one visiting teacher. She's a fellow book lover who seems to almost follow the scent of the books down the hallway. She arrives and stands with her eyes closed, hands hanging at her sides, breathing. Her pose is akin to the pose of one who has just arrived at the ocean and is taking in the sounds of the waves and the salt air, only here the ocean is words just waiting to be read.

We live in a small town. They closed our bookstore several years ago. We have a library in which my "request" list sits like a forgotten can of beans on a back shelf somewhere, untouched. I am not alone. There are many like me who put requests in that are never answered. All those new books I am dying to read stay somewhere far, far away until...book fair. 

The kids poor in and exclaim, "book fair is here!", "I love book fair!", "I love books!" Of course it grabs my heart. You should just see their faces. It's better than an ice cream shop. It's words, stories, worlds and they can't wait to get inside. 


As I look across the tables, adding one after another to the stack I plan to read before the fair closes in a week, I can't help but think of the books like old friends. It seems like the invitation to visit was sent ages ago, but not finally, they have arrived. The faces of characters on picture books look out, bright eyed, and I think, "Now is your time to shine."

They don't disappoint. A good book never does. 


A Visit With Robin Newman

This past fall I had the honor of hosting Robin Newman, author of the hilarious Missing Food Investigator books, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake and The Case of the Poached Egg, at our school in Warrenton Virginia. Robin was amazing.


Robin Newman

 - answering questions about her book of fractured fairy tales, Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep.

First of all, she drove down from NYC, with a car full of the coolest swag (tiny broom pens! smooshy eggs you can drop and manipulate to your hearts content!) and a chipper attitude ready to inspire a team of squirrelly students.

With her glitzy witch hat in place, Robin proceeded to make our students laugh and learn all at once. Robin is fun and thoughtful and a whirlwind of ideas. Her books are funny, whimsical and perfect for emergent readers. Before she came I read The Case of the Poached Egg to my students and they were clamoring over the quirky egg jokes as they tried to "crack" the case. The best test of all though was how many asked what other books she had and offered suggestions on the next book in the MFI series. When an author inspires reading, and more reading, her job should be considered well done. Well done Robin!

And thanks.

Book Review: LOVE by Matt de la Pena and Loren Long

LOVE BY Matt de la Pena and Loren Long

I have been looking forward to this one for awhile. My son is a big Loren Long fan and ever since Last Stop On Market Street I am fairly obsessed with Matt de la Pena. I purchased it as a Valentines gift and it struck a note.

This book expands love.

I chose this for a read-aloud today. A jumpy kindergarten class loved it and I dug in for the sweet stuff, "My dad made me burned toast once too!" said one of the boys. "I had a nightmare once and my granny gave me a cuddle," said another. It was good stuff.


Then I took the book to my group of 4 year old Head Start preschoolers. As I was walking in the Head of the Program looked at me and laughed. "Good luck in there today. They are pumped up!" And they were. Twenty kids in red and pink heart shirts with bags of candy splayed out on the tables. They didn't say hello, they ambushed me. I received more hugs on my entry today than I've had all year from this group.

With all the energy I wondered if I had brought the right book. The language is a bit heavier than I typically try with this age group. The length is generous and the arc of the story is more of a flow than a punch.

I started by asking them to tell me something that they love. "My mom", "my brothers", "my pink heart shirt." It was sweet but they were super squirmy and talking over each other.

Then I started to read.

What doesn't really make sense is how a quiet book like this enraptured the class. They were spellbound. Every picture, every word, every page turn had them wide eyed and listening. It was beautiful. I explained a few things along the way. I reread a few sentences that were particularly beautiful. They never missed a beat. When I asked if they had ever had a nightmare they nodded. When I asked if someone gave them a hug after the nightmare they nodded again in a way that melted my heart.

The best though was when the girl in the book looks in the mirror and sees love in her reflection. I took a moment to look out at them and that's when a beautiful brown eyed, honey-brown skinned girl who had never spoken during my story time raised her hand and said in a quiet voice, "she looks like me." 

"Yes," I said. "Beautiful like you."

It's a gorgeous book for many reasons but mostly because of the way LOVE becomes a word that includes so much you want to burst. 

Happy Valentine's Day.