Monday, December 31, 2007

What I’ve Been Reading: December 07

Picture Books
I have been reading and rereading lots of Cybils titles. The shortlist for the fiction picture book category will be announced tomorrow, January 1, 2008.

Other Picture Books:
Patience Wright: America’s First Sculptor and Revolutionary Spy by Pegi Deitz Shea, illustrated by Bethanne Andersen
Jabberwocky reimagined and illustrated by Christopher Myers (my review here)
Pezzetino by Leo Lionni
Water Dance by Thomas Locker
Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson by Sue Stauffacher, illustrated by Greg Couch
Sweet Land of Liberty by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins
The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale by Grace Lin
Cowboy and Octopus by Jon Scieszkca, illustrated by Lane Smith

Middle Grade
Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells
How to Write Your Life Story by Ralph Fletcher (my review here)
Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff (a reread for me right before the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie came out)
The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles (a review forthcoming)
The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Jr. Edition by David Borgenicht and Robin Epstein (review forthcoming)
Edward’s Eyes by Patricia MacLachlan
Iron Thunder: The Battle Between the Monitor and the Merrimack by Avi (review forthcoming)

Young Adult
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexi (my review here)
Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine

Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific, Ninety Days by Judith Viorst (my review here)
Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell

What’s to come: Tomorrow I'll post the Cybils fiction picture book shortlist, which I am VERY excited about. I'll also post my favorite books of 2007.

I’ll be teaching a class in children’s literature and taking a graduate class in postmodernism in children’s literature, so much of my reading for the next 5 months will be geared toward those two classes. I hope I’ll be able to post on some of my reads.

I've already posted about my favorite new-to-me authors of 2007 and my favorite illustrations of 2007.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

My favorite "new to me" authors of 2007

In a few days we'll be bringing you the Cybils shortlist for fiction picture books. I will also be posting my personal favorite books for the year in all categories. But in the meantime, I bring you my favorite authors that I discovered this year. You will notice that these people are not necessarily NEW to writing and/or illustrating. In fact, some of these people have been publishing in their field for a number of years. However, these are people I have personally just discovered in 2007 and now they are on my "I-must-read-everything-they-ever-write-or-illustrate-list". There are many people on that list for me, but I'm only listing my new ones for 2007.

Picture book authors/illustrators (BTW, these three also have VERY cool websites)
Emily Gravett
David Ezra Stein
Oliver Jeffers

Middle Grade
Rick Riordan
Trenton Lee Stewart

Jodi Picoult (mostly adult, but many crossover YA titles)
Jennifer Donnelly (also wrote a picture book)
Sherman Alexie

I feel like I really grew as a reader in 2007. I tried to branch out and read across more genres and age levels than in the past. I'm looking forward to the authors and illustrators that I will discover in 2008.

Books about Books

I’m really into common themes in books, as you can see from my recent posts on the Cybils books. This set of reviews is all about books.

The Incredible Book Eating Boy
Written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Philomel, 2007

Henry is a book-loving fanatic. He loves books so much he eats them. It started out with just a few words, then a few pages. But soon it became a bad habit and he was eating books, mostly red books, left and right.

Henry finds that his book eating habit makes him very smart. He eats books and his body absorbs the knowledge. But soon, book-eating, as one might imagine, makes him very sick. Everyone encourages him to quit. But it's hard.

Finally, he decides to stop his book-eating binge and READ them instead.

The paper on which the illustrations are done makes this book all about books. The illustrations are done on pages of old books which the author/illustrator Jeffers found were being thrown out. Egads! Well, these pages shine once again—recycled into a new book. This book’s illustrations make it hilarious! The author writes words to caption some of the pictures in addition to the actual text of the book. My favorite touch is the bite mark on the back cover corner.

A great book for book-lovers. And I’ve put in a request at my local library for more of Irish author/illustrator Mr. Jeffers’ other books.

The Boy Who Was Raised By Librarians
Written by Carla Morris
Illustrated by Brad Sneed
Peachtree, 2007

If you are a librarian, you will probably like this book because you probably know a kid like this main character. If you are a kid who spends a lot of time in the library, you will probably like this book because you know what it’s like to love the place so much you want to hang out there.

Melvin is a curious little kid. In fact, curiosity is what brings him to the library. He wants to know about everything so he goes to the local library and the local librarians to find out more about everything. These little ladies help him find books to satisfy his own interests, to help him with research for school projects, and they even feed him a steady supply of books for the summer reading programs.

The librarians love helping Melvin. “They couldn’t help it. That’s how librarians are.” And these librarians make such an impression on Melvin with their books that Melvin becomes a librarian himself.

A Celebration of Seasons

Several books nominated in the Cybils fiction picture book category were about seasonal changes and how things in nature change over the course of the year. It’s interesting to see how three different books and their creators can take the same concept and celebrate it completely different.

When the Shadbush Blooms
By Carla Messinger, with Susan Katz
Illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden
Tricycle Press, 2007

This book celebrates the Lenape Indians and the cycle of life in one year’s time. Each spread eloquently tells what goes on during this time of the year.
“When the air hums with the wings of bees, my brother and I chase the crows from our garden. Together we gather honey. My brother ducks when a bee buzzes too close. I lick from one finger a drop as sweet as summer.”

On the left side of each page the traditional Lenape family is shown performing the task of the season. In the top left corner the name of the moon is written in traditional language. On the right side of the spread a contemporary Lenape child is shown with her family performing the same tasks in modern day. In the top right hand corner the name of the moon is written in English.

This book does not go through spring, summer, fall, and winter alone, but rather through each moon. Each season is mentioned in the text, but there are more than four stages that they go through. The moons include When the Shadfish Return Moon, Grass and Geese Moon, Planting Moon, Heartberry Moon, and more.

The Illustrations in this book are done in acrylic paintings and have a tremendous amount of detail.

The back of the book has information about Lenni Lenape people, the Lenape Seasons, and more about the Lenape culture.

The Growing Story
By Ruth Krauss
Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

This book also celebrates the seasons and the growth of things in nature, but the focus is on a little boy. The little boy has small chicks and a puppy. He watches the seasons change as he helps his mother with the yard work. He watches the chicks and his puppy grow and he wonders if he is growing too.

“The days grew longer. The nights grew shorter. The grass grew faster. The flowers grew higher.” The reader knows what season it is from the clues in the text and the pictures. The pictures show the animals and the plants as they go through changes.

The little boy wants to know if he is growing like everything else. He stores his warm clothes for next winter. As the seasons change the chicks and puppy he is raising grow up. He doesn’t realize he too has grown until he tries to put on his clothes from the previous winter. He celebrates as he realizes that he has grown too.

In this story the focus is the little boy, but the seasonal changes are central to the story as that is how the little boy marks time. It also is a celebration of all the things that are important about each season—picking pears at the end of the summer, watching the leaves turn colors, and feeling the air turn cooler.

This book was first published in 1947, but it has been rereleased with new illustrations.

Written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein
G.P. Putnam, 2007

This celebration of the seasons focuses on a baby bear. He doesn’t know what to do when the leaves begin to fall off the trees. In fact, he is so worried that he tries to put them back on. But he can’t. He doesn’t understand. But he knows he must hibernate, so he does. The winter has arrived and bear is safe in his hole. But soon the spring arrives and so do the new leaves. The bear crawls out from his hole and celebrates the new leaves.

This is a simple, short book, but so much is celebrated in the few words that are in the book. The bear has the excitement of a young child discovering something for the first time.

David Ezra Stein’s illustrations are playful, simple, and perfect for this story.

Little Artists

Several picture books nominated for the Cybils fiction picture book category would appeal to young artist because they celebrate painting, drawing, and the artist’s process.

Lily Brown’s Paintings
By Angela Johnson
Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Orchard Books, 2007

Lily Brown loves to paint. When she paints, her world transforms. Lily Brown goes from the security of her loving family to a free spirit flying through the air. The subjects of her paintings speak to her and she responds by painting them. Lily even becomes part of her paintings. The text is written with Angela Johnson’s poetic words.

“In Lily Brown’s paintings,
the colors of people,
places, and things
change with her heart.”

The illustrations are all done in watercolor, but E.B. Lewis changes the style with each painting to celebrate favorite artists. Some paintings are in exquisite detail, others look very much a young child created them. The book is a celebration of an artist’s world and how an artist goes into another world to create masterpieces.

Hugo and Miles in I’ve Painted Everything
Written and illustrated by Scott Magoon
Houghton Mifflin, 2007

Roadblocks, artist’s block, writer’s block. We’ve probably all experienced these in our lives. Kids say, “I don’t know what to draw” or “I don’t know what to write.” What do you do when you experience a roadblock? Why, you go to Paris, of course!

Hugo is an elephant who is an artist. He thinks he has painted everything there is in the world to paint and feels like he has run out of ideas. He goes to his friend Miles for help. Miles suggests that Hugo go with him to Paris on a business trip to get some inspiration.

In Paris they see the famous sites, go to museums and look at paintings by famous artists, and have a picnic. It isn’t until he goes to the top of the Eiffel Tower that he gets his inspiration. He feels like he immediately need s to go home and get to work. He realizes it’s not what he paints, but how he paints it. It’s all about perspective. When he climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower he realized that he saw the city in a whole different way than he’d seen it the last few days.

Magoon plays with the name Hugo too. Hugo realizes he can paint a really large picture: “Hugomongus”, paint only in different shades of the same color: “Hue-go”, paint something in the style of another artist like Van Gogh: “Van Hugo.”

This book is a fun way to look at perspective and how it affects the creative side.

Go to Bed, Monster!
By Natasha Wing
Illustrated by Sylvie Kantorovitz
Harcourt, 2007

Lucy couldn’t go to sleep, so she decided to draw—and she drew a monster. The monster wanted to play. Lucy drew everything they would need. Soon Lucy was tired, but the monster wanted to stay awake. In order to get the monster to go to bed, she drew him a bed, blankets, pajamas, a teddy bear, and even a book.

This book is about imagination—what a young artist can do with her drawing and where the drawings can take her. Lucy realizes that her imagination keeps her up at night—the monster will not go to bed. Then Lucy finally gets her rest when her monster drawing finally gets sleepy.

The illustrations in this book are playful, fun, and very child-like. This is a great book for young artists and young monster-lovers everywhere.

Written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman
Knopf, 2007

This is another art-related book with kids drawing. I recently wrote a more extensive review of it here.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

My Favorite Literary Gifts

What literary gifts did you get for Christmas? I got 2 cookbooks:

Just in Time by Rachael Ray

Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook by Martha Stewart

My favorite gift was a set of haiku notecards.

One of the aides at my school got them for me. She said she saw them and knew I had to have them since I write haiku with the kids all of the time. I was thrilled! They are gorgeous!

My wonderful husband bought me new notepads and sticky notes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My holiday read--a gem!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
By Sherman Alexie
Art by Ellen Forney

I don’t read and review a lot of YA books. However, I try to read the National Book Award winners and other YA books that I see several people recommend. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian was well worth my holiday reading time.

It is a story of Arnold, a Spokane Indian teenager. He gets advice from one of his reservation school teachers that he should get off the reservation in order to have a life. So he does. He leaves his school on the rez and moves to a neighboring white school. His whole life changes. He isn’t accepted by the white students at the new school, and his old friends see him as a traitor.

Arnold’s thoughts, raw emotions, and deep honesty are revealed through this diary-of-sorts. I would highly recommend it to any teen, especially reluctant teen boy readers.

You can view Sherman Alexie’s National Book Award speech here.

Happy Boxing Day!

I celebrated Boxing Day by boxing up all of my Christmas decorations and old toys my daughter no longer plays with. I know, I know. I'm supposed to leave all of my Christmas decorations up until New Years. But I don't. Once Christmas is over, I'm over it. None of that making-the-feeling-last. And besides, the needles were falling off the tree. If I didn't get it out today, I'd be carrying out bare limbs come New Year's. I had guests, and while I had a good time, I'm ready for some quiet time.

The moment I carried the tree out the door, my daughter (age 3) started sweeping up the needles. Awesome child! She must not be able to stand the mess either. We had the needles up in no time.

Then it was time to weed through old toys, pack up ones that don't get played with to make room for the new ones. I also went through the mail that had been piling up while we had guests, paid the bills, went to Wal-mart, reorganized my pantry, and finished reading a book. I felt like I was productive! More to do tomorrow.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Acceptance Speech--Sherman Alexie

If you haven't seen it yet, check out the video of Sherman Alexie's acceptance speech for The National Book Award here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It was while you were sleeping...

Have you ever wondered what happens when you sleep? When you go to sleep at night, do you dream? Or do other things happen…

Three of the Cybils fiction picture book nominations tell about the things that happen when all are asleep.

Angels Watching Over Me by Julia Durango and illustrated by Elisa Kleven (Simon and Schuster, 2007) is a book I reviewed earlier, but it really fits in this category. Even though it is based on a song that says “all night, all day angels watching over me” it emphasizes the guardian angels that watch over the child no matter where he goes. The nighttime scenes are especially beautiful.

Perhaps you wake up in the morning with wild hair, tangled hair, a mess of hair. Perhaps it’s not angels that are watching over you, but a pesky Knot Fairy that visits you each night. In The Knot Fairy by Bobbie Hinman and illustrated by Kristi Bridgeman (Best Fairy Books, 2007), it’s the Knot Fairy’s job to go from house to house and check off her list of boys and girls that she has visited. When she arrives, in the dead of night, she ties each child’s hair in little bitty knots. So if you wake up in the morning and your head is a tangled mess, chances are the Knot Fairy has paid a visit.

If it’s nightmares you have, perhaps you need a visit from Engelbert Sneem and His Dream Vacuum Machine, written and illustrated by Mr. Daniel Postgate (North South, 2007). Engelbert Sneem starts off his career as a dream stealer. He sneaks into bedrooms in the middle of the night and sucks the dreams right out of children’s heads. This part of the book is quite sinister and spooky. Engelbert puts all of the dreams in jugs that he stores in his Dungeon of Dreams. Soon he realizes that he has become a NIGHTMARE! He turns from his bad ways and uses his vacuum for good. He only takes away nightmares from little children.

So, who visits you at night while you are sleeping?

Need a gift book?

There's only six days left until Christmas. Head over to Big A Little a for the December Carnival of Children's Literature. It's all about gift books. And I have gift book ideas for budding writers.

Read this before the year is out...

Edward’s Eyes
By Patricia MacLachlan
Atheneum, 2007

Edward is the perfect kid and Patricia MacLachlan is the perfect writer to tell his story. This story feels so real and so true. But it’s fiction.

Edward is part of a loving family. The family is big and it is about to get bigger with Edward’s mom expecting another baby. Edward loves to play baseball and is really good at it. Edward loves to speak French and can’t wait to teach French to the new baby. Most important of all, Edward has the most beautiful eyes imaginable. The entire book is set up to introduce you to Edward, make you love Edward, make you imagine you are looking into Edward’s eyes, make you feel like Edward was your brother, and then to let Edward die.

I knew that Edward was going to die, but I just couldn’t quite grasp it, until he did. His family donates his organs and his corneas so that part of him will live on and help someone who really needs it.

The prologue gives you the ending first, but it all doesn’t make sense until the end.

This is one of my favorite novels of the year. Simply, quiet, beautiful, sad. MacLachlan tells a story like no other.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The End

The End
By David LaRochelle
Illustrated by Richard Egielski
Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic), 2007

Have you ever wanted to read a story from ending to beginning? Well, here’s your book. This story starts with the end and works its way to once upon a time. The story tells how the prince and the princess fell in love and then tells the reason for all of the things that come before it. The story is a chain of events—some events hilariously ludicrous, as many fairy tales are. For example, a group of bunnies in the story are running away because a large tomato is rolling down the hill after them. The illustrations make the story even funnier. There are flying blue pigs in the illustrations and trees with expressions.

This would be a fun book to study cause and effect—this happened because of this. The whole story is set up this way. And what a romp of crazy events it ends. The book, of course, ends with the title page.

This book was nominated for the Cybils fiction picture book category.


Written and illustrated by Melanie Watt
Kids Can Press, 2007

Chester the cat wants his own book so badly, he takes a big red marker and marks up the original book that Melanie Watt wrote about a mouse. He plays a big of a game of “cat and mouse” (ha!ha!) with the author’s story. He draws all over her pictures with his red marker. He keeps interrupting her story with his red marker. They fight back and forth until the author finally agrees to give Chester his own story. But she makes it up HER way, which doesn’t make Chester very happy—but at least he gets his own story.

This story really does look like a regular book with red marker all over it. Chester even crosses out the author’s name on the front of the book and writes his own, crosses out her dedication and dedicates the book to himself, and doodles on the author’s picture at the back of the book. From cover to endpapers, Chester leaves no part of the book untouched. It’s a laugh-out-loud funny book because a character tries to tell the author what to do, instead of the other way around. Young children will get a kick out of this cat!

This book was nominated for the Cybils fiction picture book category.


Written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman
Knopf, 2007

This book starts out with two little girls drawing. Emma, the older sister, draws a beautiful princess asleep. Lucie, the young sister, draws a cat. Her big sister says it looks like a Scribble. Well, Lucie retaliates and really does draw a scribble all over Emma’s drawing. A fight ensues. When Lucie finally draws ears on her cat, the cat begins to take over the book. He wonders what the princess from the other drawing is up to. The cat drawing leaps from his picture to the princess’s picture. Finally, the princess and the cat connect and fall in love, much to the astonishment of their creators.

The illustrations begin in a comic strip fashion with several small boxes of action on each page. Even speech bubbles show the children’s conversation. Once the cat decides to let his curiosity take him to the princess, illustrations become a mass of pink and yellow. The cat was drawn on large yellow paper and the princess was drawn on pink. The scribbles that were once drawn in anger by Lucie, become a rope she swings on through the picture trying to catch up with the cat. In many ways this book reminds me of Wiesner’s Three Little Pigs because the illustrations take over the pages in such strange angles and the pigs wander in and out of the different stories, just like Lucie flies through the drawings as the cat wanders off.

This book is so entertaining. The story line just takes a typical moment of two sisters who get mad at each other, but this story has a unique twist in that the drawings take on a mind of their own. The illustrations clearly separate the girls’ story from the drawings’ story, so it makes it a feast for the eyes.

This book was nominated for the Cybils fiction picture book category.

Alexander is all grown up!

Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days
By Judith Viorst
Free Press, 2007

I have laughed many times at Judith Viorst’s books about Alexander, Anthony, and Nicholas. Her sons, or at least the ones she portrayed in her books, were stubborn, clumsy, and full of childhood mischievousness. So, when I read Viorst’s memoir of the ninety days that Alexander and his family moved in with her, I expected it to be like her children’s books.

It was, and it wasn’t. First of all, I felt out of breath reading the book. The sentences move at frenetic pace, but it made me understand the way she felt. When her son, her daughter-in-law, and her three young grandchildren moved in, she and her husband had been living alone for many years. Then all of the sudden, their way of life changed. Out came diapers, goldfish crackers, sippy cups, and car seats. Out came the chaos of a family with two working parents who are trying their best to raise a family in a big city.

Viorst is shamelessly honest about her own idiosyncrasies—what bugged her, how her compulsion to give advice and keep things neat bothered her new housemates. She comments on how chaotic her life became, but she is very careful not to criticize how her son and his wife parent their children.

The book made me laugh, and made me grateful that I didn’t have to move in with a mother with velvet couches and breakable things on her coffee table, who gasped in horror every time a child jumped down the stairs. Yes, she did all of these things. And she is not afraid to tell her readers how she felt.

And the real Alexander must be a good sport to have a book be written about him again. If you want to have a good laugh about intergenerational living, scoop up this short adult memoir.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Possible Caldecott Contenders?

I’ve been reading a lot of picture books lately. My daughter is a picture book fanatic (she’s three), and I’ve been reading for the Cybils fiction picture book category. I have come across some beautiful pictures from all of my reading.

One of the things I noticed the other day is that some of my favorite illustrations in picture books are books that do not necessarily have original text. In other words, the illustrator has taken a song or poem and illustrated it. In other cases, the text is an adaptation of another work.
I love the illustrations in Angels Watching Over Me adapted by Julia Durango and illustrated by Elisa Kleven (Simon & Schuster, 2007). In this case, Durango has taken the African American spiritual “Angels Watching Over Me” and used it interspersed between original text. The text compliments the beautiful illustrations that make me want to fly. There is watercolor, collage, and more. It’s stunning.

Ashley Bryan’s Let it Shine (Atheneum, 2007) illustrates three African American spirituals, “This Little Light of Mine”, “Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In”, and “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands”. He illustrates using construction paper cut-out. The colors are bright and hopeful. The people in the book are all colors, but the only detail on the people is silhouette. The animals, flowers, and buildings all have more detail done by cut paper. The music and words are all printed in the back of the book along with an author’s note about the songs. Truly a beauty to hold!

Another favorite of mine is an adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood (Little, Brown, 2007) retold and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, which I reviewed here. The illustrations are done in pencil, watercolor, gouache, and ink. Every picture is so painstakingly detailed that I could spend an enormous of amount of time taking in all of the details on each and every page. The entire story is told in a winter setting, so Pinkney’s beautiful snow scenes add to my amazement of his illustrations.

Another book which I reviewed recently is Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal (Henry Holt, 2007) by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Julie Paschkis. This one is a retelling of several versions of Cinderella, but Fleischman really made all of those versions come together and "sing". Paschkis' illustrations are phenomenal, and just as beautifully as Fleischman weaved the stories together, Paschkis was able to seamlessly illustrate the same story, with many different versions. GORGEOUS!

Last, but certainly not least, is Christopher Myers reimagined and illustrated version of Jabberwocky (Hyperion, 2007). I have always been a big fan of the poem Jabberwocky, and I read it to my 4th graders every year. I have a version illustrated by Graeme Base that I usually show them, then I read the “meaning” of the words out of Through the Looking Glass. This year, I’m adding Myers’ version to my repertoire. This is a basketball “version” of Jabberwocky. But what I find so fascinating is that Myers just didn’t decide to do a basketball illustration on his own. During his research for the book he thought he was writing, he was reading Carroll’s (Dodgson’s) journals. Carroll had written a word that referred to an ancient game that was very similar to basketball. All of this is explained in detail in the author’s note. So, the basketball “version” is rather symbolic of Carroll’s studies and original meanings of some of the words used in the poem. Even more interesting are Myers’ larger-than-life illustrations that go with one of my favorite poems.
When I noticed the pattern of my favorite illustrations of 2007 all being pictures for adapted or previously written text, I wondered how much chance they had of winning the Caldecott Medal or Honor. It is given to the artist of “the most distinguished American picture book for children” (according to the ALSC website). So I looked at previous winners in the last few years to see if any book was ever honored that had an older text (such as a song or poem) that was illustrated.

In 2003, The Spider and the Fly, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi was given a Caldecott Honor.

In 2001, Casey at the Bat, illustrated by Christopher Bing also won a Caldecott Honor.

There are numerous retellings of fairy tales that have won, including Jerry Pinkney, who won a Caldecott Honor for his retelling and illustration of The Ugly Duckling in 2000.

All of this to say, I hope my faves have a shot at the big-time. Since I’m not the judge, I wish them all the best of luck.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

7 Things About Me as a Reader Meme

7 Things About Me as a Reader

1) I read a book a day (or more) as a kid. I didn’t grow up watching a lot of TV. I lived in Thailand from age 9 to 16 and there was little TV programming available at the time. So, I played outside or with friends until dinner. After it was dark, I read a book, at least one, before bed.
2) I go to the library at least once a week. I can’t afford to buy every book I read. I log on to their website, order all of the books I want and pick them up as they come in. It saves me a LOT of money. I do buy a LOT of books, perhaps even thousands of dollars a year, but I don’t buy anywhere near what I read.
3) I always have stacks of books everywhere. I have a stack by my bed, a stack of Cybils books that are already read, one stack to be read, and one stack to be reviewed. I often have a stack of poetry books, books I’m reading for school, and books I’m reading for a graduate course I teach. My husband is building me bookshelves for Christmas to get the stacking off the floor.
4) I’m obsessive about my “to be read” list. I have a list of books that I keep on the computer of books that are available at our library that I want to check out, a list that’s not available at the library yet, and a wish list on of books that I want to purchase for my own collection. I realize I will never get to all of these books in my lifetime. It doesn’t stop me from keeping an obsessive list though. I recently started writing down all of the books I read too. Am I obsessive compulsive?
5) I almost exclusively read children’s books. I know, if you read my last month’s book log, you would see that I read several adult books, but that was unusual for me. I have favorite adult writers that I do read (Patricia Cornwell, Jodi Picoult), but other than that, I read children’s book exclusively.
6) I read a lot of magazines and journals. About the only adult literature I do read is magazines. I read a lot of foodie magazines and educational and children’s literature journals.
7) I read across all children’s lit genres, but mostly middle grade fiction, picture books, and poetry. I dabble in graphic novels and YA.

Thanks to Jen Robinson for the idea.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Great Joy

Great Joy
By Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Bangram Ibatoulline
Candlewick, 2007

If you are looking for a quiet, beautifully illustrated Christmas story, then you will like this book. Frances watches a homeless man on the street outside her apartment that plays music for people and has a monkey. Frances is heartbroken when she realizes he stays out in the cold all of the time.

She watches the man from her window. He even waves at her at night. Her mother doesn’t want her to associate with him, despite Frances’ pleas to invite him over for dinner. She invites him to her Christmas play where she will say the infamous line that Christmas angels say, “Behold! I bring you tidings of great joy!”

I like Kate DiCamillo’s chapter books much better, but this story is a soft, enchanted Christmas story.

This book was nominated for the Cybils fiction picture book category.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Book of Few Words

Orange Pear Apple Bear
By Emily Gravett
Simon and Schuster, 2007

When I first read Wolves by Emily Gravett (review here), I thought she was brilliant! Now I think she is even more brilliant. I wish I was able to write so few words and make it mean something that kids would love.

This book has only five words, and one of those words is only on the last page. The other four words (the words that are in the title) are repeated over and over again but in different sequence with different punctuation and different pictures.

What makes this book fun for young kids is that they could “read” this book very quickly. If they learn to pay attention to the pictures and learn the four words that make up the book, they could read it in no time!

Gravett’s watercolor illustration create a lot of white space on the page so the reader focuses solely on the simplicity of the words and the objects the words are illustrating. No one but Gravett could reuse the same objects and the same words over and over again and make them interesting each time.

This book has been nominated for the Cybils fiction picture book category.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Poetry Friday--A Collection and Reference

A Child's Introduction to Poetry

by Michael Driscoll

illustrated by Meredith Hamilton

Black Dog and Levanthal Publishers, 2003

I'm not sure why it has taken me four years to find this book, but it has. I stumbled across this in a bookstore while I was doing Christmas shopping. I made this purchase for myself. This is a poetry anthology chock-ful of good information. It is almost a history of poetry with samples along the way.

This anthology is broken up into two sections. The first section talks about different types of poetry, explains them, and then gives lots of examples. If the poetry contains difficult words, definitions are included in a sidebar. There are little bubbles that tell which poems are located on the accompanying CD and which track they are on. This section covers nursery rhymes, nonsense verse, haiku, limerick, narrative verse and more.

The second part of this anthology is a history of a different sort. It contains biographical information about famous poets and prints some of their poems. It includes poet greats the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, William Blake, Emily Dickenson, Walt Whitman, and more.

While it's picture book "look" might turn older readers away, this poetry anthology would really be a good resource for poetry readers of all ages. It has so much information packed into its two covers that might even help older poetry readers understand poems they read in school. It might even inspire older writers to try their hand at some various forms of poetry that are not as widely known today.

This book is going to make its way to school where I'll use it for my Poetry Fridays and as a general poetry reference.

In honor of Poetry Friday, I give you a limerick by Edward Lear:

There was an Old Man with a beard,

Who said, "It is just as a feared!--

Two owls and a hen,

Four larks and a wren,

Have all built their nests in my beard."

Poetry Friday roundup is at Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pssst! I have a great new picture book to recommend!


written and illustrated by Adam Rex

Harcourt, 2007

Adam Rex must be a master of titles and intrigue. His latest title The True Meaning of Smekday makes me say HUH? And this book's title makes me say HMM! His book Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich made me order it the title alone.

Pssst! is such an interactive, fun book to read. A little girl takes a trip to the zoo, and as she goes to each animals, they say PSSST to her. In some places it reads like a comic strip with several little boxes on a page and speech bubbles to indicate who is speaking.

The little girl is shocked when each animal makes a special request for items. The items seem strange, so she sometimes questions why they need these things. For example, the bats ask her to bring them flashlights. She wonders why bats need flashlights if they love the dark. It's the hippo that lives near them that doesn't really like the dark. The turkeys ask for corn. They don't want to eat the corn, they want to use it for clean burning fuel.

The book is filled with text in speech bubbles as the animals and the girl talk to each other. But even more intriguing is the text that occurs in signs in the zoo.

This is a romping good read aloud. Young children will want to say PSSST along with you every time a new animal appears. Older kids will get more of the clues along the way and also enjoy reading the writing that is in the signs.

What's even more surprising is what the animals do with all of the items that they requested. The little girl brings the items back and they make a get-away vehicle with the items! Even my 3 year old "got it" when I turned to the last page. We've spent a lot of time laughing over this book.

PSSST! This would make a great Christmas gift for children 3 and up!

PSSST! This book has been nominated for the Cybils in the fiction picture book category.

PSSST! Adam Rex has a blog!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Four Feet, Two Sandals

Four Feet, Two Sandals
By Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed
Illustrated by Doug Chayka
Eerdmans, 2007

In the middle of the War on Terror, there are stories that need to be told. But not about war. But about hope in the middle of the fear. Four Feet, Two Sandals is such a story. It is set in a refugee camp, in Peshawar, a city on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. It is a fictitious story, but one that represents the friendship and hope in refugee camps worldwide.

In the refugee camp, clothing is being distributed to the masses. Little was left by the time Lina arrived. She managed to get one sandal, but she couldn’t find the match. But she wore the one she had. Soon she meets Feroza, the wearer of the other sandal. They become fast friends. Feroza offers the matching sandal to Lina. Instead of each wearing one sandal, they decide to share them, each wearing the set every other day. The sandals bring these two girls together and they stay friends.

Lina soon finds out her family will be relocating to America to start a new life. They have been given a fresh start. Much like a friendship necklace, split apart in the middle, where each friend wears one half, the girls each take a sandal, hoping to meet again.

The paintings in this book are not full of detail, but almost hazy—like the desert sun. But they depict the landscape well. An author’s note at the back gives more detail about the refugee camp.

Karen Lynn Williams co-authored this book. She is also the author of another favorite of mine, When Africa Was Home.

This book has been nominated for in the fiction picture book category for the Cybils.

Teachers Guide available

What I've Been Reading--November

Picture Books
I have read over 20 of the Cybils books that have been nominated. For the full list, go here.

Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Julie Paschkis (my review here)
I Lost My Tooth in Africa by Penda Diakite
Little Red Riding Hood retold and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (my review here)
Pictures from our Vacation by Lynne Rae Perkins

Early Chapter Book
Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything by Lenore Look

Middle Grade Fiction
*While I didn't manage to do reviews on any of these books, I would highly recommend them all.
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Nonfiction for Kids
Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine (my review here)
E. E. Cummings: A Poet's Life by Catherine Reef (my review here)

Young Adult
Keeper of the Night by Kimberly Willis Holt
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (my review here)

What to Eat: An Aisle by Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating by Marion Nestle
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far by Amy Grant

Multicultural Fairy Tales

We’ve always known that fairy tales came from many different cultures, but somehow Disney has managed to make every familiar fairy tale seem Caucasian and European in descent. Two of my new favorite fairy tales bring other cultures and races back into the fairy tale tradition where they belong.
Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal
By Paul Fleischman
Illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Henry Holt, 2007

This picture book is like none I have ever seen. Paul Fleischman takes Cinderella stories from 17 countries and weaves them into one. Each story contributes a paragraph, or a few lines, but the story continues, moving from version to version. The illustrations are done with the same style, in an almost tapestry-like story telling style. However, each culture’s unique flavor is represented in the paintings, just like in the story itself. The illustrations contain the name of the culture or country of origin.
In some cases, Fleischman shows off several versions on one page. For instance, he refers to Cinderella’s beautiful gown as a “sarong make of gold” (Indonesia), a “cloak sewn of king-fisher feathers” (China), and “ a kimono red as sunset” (Japan). Her footwear is “a pair of glass slippers” (France), “diamond anklets” (India), “sandals of gold” (Iraq).
For children in our American society who only know the Disney version of Cinderella, this is a book that will broaden their horizons and their interpretation of the Cinderella story.

Little Red Riding Hood
Retold and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Little, Brown, 2007

I spotted this picture book retelling of Little Red Riding Hood on a recent trip to a used bookstore. It was in perfect condition, and obviously wasn’t very used since it was just published this fall. I knew as soon as I saw the illustrations, I wanted to buy the book. Jerry Pinkney’s detail in his illustrations is second to none. I purchased his version of Noah’s Ark for my daughter when it first came out.

The story itself is very close to the Grimm Brothers version—including the woodcutter cutting open the wolf who had swallowed the grandmother. Some children’s versions I have read have not included this gruesome detail, but I like that Pinkney kept this detail.

Pinkney has made his Little Red Riding Hood an African American girl. What makes this unique is that the story is still true to the Grimms’ version. Other versions I have read with non-Caucasian Red Riding Hoods have also been different versions of the tales (for example, Lon Po Po by Ed Young). Pinkney’s retelling and illustrations would make an excellent addition to any fairy tale collection.

Writing Books for Young Writers

I always find books for aspiring young writers just as fascinating as the books writing for adult who aspire to be writers. Two new-ish titles have been on my “to-read” list for awhile.

Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly
By Gail Carson Levine
HarperCollins, 2006

Levine, the queen of princess stories, encourages young writers to practice their craft and SAVE EVERYTHING. This book is full of writing exercises that she encourages young writers to try and SAVE. There is nothing new or earthshattering in this book. If you have read many writing books before, you will hear some of the same advice. But it’s worth hearing (or reading) again. In fact, the good thing is, Levine gives some of the advice I learned in graduate school and provides it to young writers.

Her first chapter includes Rules for Writing and The Writer’s Oath. She wants young writers to take their writing seriously.
Here is some of my favorite advice she gives:
-Writing: “The best way to write better is to write more.” p. 5
-Details: “The right details plunk us down inside the story and put us in our characters’ shoes.” p. 37
-Your brilliant words: She mentions that sometimes we write beautifully, but it doesn’t always make the story better. She says you should cut even the brilliant words because: “Do not do not DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT bend your story to accommodate your brilliant words.” P. 93
I loved this book, but I must admit, it probably won’t appeal to many adolescent boys. However, adolescent girls who want to write, or love Levine’s books, will probably pour over this book and try her many exercises.

How to Write Your Life Story
By Ralph Fletcher
HarperCollins, 2007
Ralph Fletcher adds to his series for young writers in this book about writing about your own life. He has written other books for young writers: Poetry Matters, How Writer’s Work, and A Writer’s Notebook. All of his books are written for middle grade readers. This is the age when students know how to write but have the developmental capability to really move their writing to the next level.
Fletcher’s recently published memoir, Marshfield Dreams, is mentioned frequently throughout the book because he shares his own writing experiences of how he went from memories to the published memoir. Marshfield Dreams would be a good companion read if teachers of serious young writers really wanted to study his techniques along with his finished product.
Other famous children’s book writers who also wrote memoirs are interviewed in this book. Jack Gantos, Jerry Spinelli, and Kathi Appelt talk about their experiences writing about their lives.
Memoirs aren’t the only genre that Fletcher talks about. He shows kids different genres they can use to write about their life. He teaches them how to mine their memories through neighborhood maps and heart maps (two techniques that I use every year with my fourth graders that I have read about in other writing books). He also recommends writing poetry about your life (like in "Where I’m From" poem by George Ella Lyon—another idea I do with fourth graders every year).
Fletcher gives practical writing tips to young writers. If you like Fletcher’s previous books about writing for young writers, add this one to your collection. It would be great to study along with some of the memoirs he mentions in the text.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Northern Light

A Northern Light
By Jennifer Donnelly
Harcourt, 2003

I mentioned in a previous post that I received a recommendation to read this book from a bookseller at a local used bookstore. When I got home that evening to request the book from my local library, I noticed that it was already on my “to read” list. I just hadn’t read it yet. The bookseller at the bookstore absolutely gushed over this book just telling me about it. She was so moved by it, I knew I needed to read it.

The story is set in the Adirondack Mountains in New York. It is set around the murder of Grace Brown, a well-known murder that took place in the early 1900s. It was also this same murder that inspired An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser—a book I loved in college.

Even though the book is set around this infamous murder, the story is really about Mattie Gokey, a young girl who is raising her younger siblings because her mother has died and her father is emotionally unattached to the family.

What endears the reader to Mattie is that she manages to carry the weight of the family on her shoulders at such a young age, but she also manages to be an excellent student and a promising writer. She excels in her exams in school and has the opportunity to go to college—something her father will not hear of.

In the midst of it all, she falls in love with a childhood friend, and is engaged to be married. As time goes on, she is not sure that she wants to be a wife, mother, and homemaker if it means she will not be able to pursue her dream of being a writer.

Mattie’s love of words and writing are a beautiful thread throughout the whole book. Donnelly titles the chapters with Mattie’s Words of the Day. Mattie looks up obscure words in the dictionary, memorizes their meanings, and then tries to use them in context during the course of the day. We learn her love of language, her love of writing, and her desire to get out of the life she is living.

Mattie eventually goes to work at the Glenmore, a hotel that is the place that Grace Brown and Chester Gillette are staying. There she learns Grace’s story, and begins to have the courage to pursue her dream of being a writer.

Donnelly makes Mattie's struggle honest. She struggles with trying to honor her mother's dying wish--to take care of her siblings. She wants to pursue her dream, but she is also in love, and she knows that once she marries that she'll no longer live her own life. Her struggles are real, and the decisions she makes do not come easy.

I agree wholeheartedly the enthusiasm with which this book was recommended to me. This story will stay with me for a long time.

Awards it has won:

Carnegie Medal
Printz Honor
Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Borders Original Voices Award

I Love Used Bookstores!

I love used bookstores. I love Too Many Books on Grandin Ave. While my daughter is in ballet, I can go two doors down and browse. I always find treasures there at next to nothing. The other day, I brought home:

Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis (I had never read this one before)
Belle Prater's Boy by Ruth White (set in Virginia, so many people have recommended it to me)
Little Red Riding Hood by Jerry Pinkney (this is NEW, but I paid half price for it!! I love Jerry Pinkney's illustrations and this one is phenomenal)

What I loved even more about this store is that the people who work there KNOW books (unlike when you walk into a Barnes and Noble and the sales clerks have NO clue what you are talking about when you ask for A Drowned Maiden's Hair--aah!).

The sales clerk and I struck up a conversation about children's books. She asked if I had read A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. I told her no, but it was on my "to read" list at home-- a list that has become quite lengthy. She highly recommended it, so I bumped it up to priority on my "to read" list and requested it from the library.

What a fantastic recommendation. I just finished reading it last night. It was a wonderful read! Thanks to Too Many Books for a handful of good used books and a fantastic book recommendation!

Best Books of 2007

Here are some more lists out for Best Books of 2007:

Sue Corbett of the Miami-Herald has here list out of Best Books for 2007

The Horn Book's Fanfare List of 2007 is up. Thanks to Read Roger for the link.

Kirkus Best Young Adult Books of 2007 is now available.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cybils nominations have closed

Well, the Cybils nominations period is closed. Hundreds of books were nominated. Go over to the Cybils website and check out the complete lists for each category. It is mind-boggling how many books the different committees are reading. I have big stack on the floor of my office that I'm reading. And there are more to come...

You can also get a really cool widget (that you see on your right) that displays different Cybils nominees. Go get the widget from Jacketflap and dress up your blog!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Poetry Friday--E.E. Cummings

E.E. Cummings: A Poet's Life
by Catherine Reef
Clarion, 2006

Did you know that E.E. Cummings actually prefered his name to be capitalized, even though he utilized lowercase letters so often in his poems? Catherine Reef's E. E. Cummings: A Poet's Life is a wealth of information of the often misunderstood poet. Cummings, like so many other famous writers, didn't have the perfect life, and had his work vastly criticized. I recommend this biography to middle school and high school fans of Cummings' poetry. Reef not only gives a thorough depiction of Cummings' life, but she also covers this world history that he lived through.

In honor of Poetry Friday, I give you E.E. Cummings poem "If"


If freckles were lovely, and day was night,
And measles were nice and a lie warn't a lie,
Life would be delight,-
But things couldn't go right
For in such a sad plight
I wouldn't be I.

If earth was heaven, and now was hence,
And past was present, and false was true,
There might be some sense
But I'd be in suspense
For on such a pretense
You wouldn't be you.

If fear was plucky, and globes were square,
And dirt was cleanly and tears were glee
Things would seem fair,-
Yet they'd all despair,
For if here was there
We wouldn't be we.
The Poetry Friday Roudup is at Susan Writes

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Christmas Ideas

Looking for a wonderful Christmas gift for a child who loves fairy tales or an adult who loves children's books? Look no further...

Ruth Sanderson, exquisite illustrator, has a redesigned website with a large selection of artwork, cards, tiles, and books for sale. Check out her new website here. Her artwork dons the walls of my office and the walls of my daughter's room. I just ordered a print and book from The Snow Princess. I remember seeing the original artwork for The Snow Princess one summer at Hollins. She invited all of us Children's Lit. people from Hollins for an open house to view the artwork before it went off to the publisher. Gorgeous!!

You can even sign up for her newsletter.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

National Book Award Winner

The National Book Award Winner was announced this week. For Young People's Literature, the winner was:

I have heard so many wonderful things about this book on various kidlit blogs. I have been on the waiting list to get this book from my library for weeks now. I can't wait to read it.

Friday, November 9, 2007

What I've Been Reading--October AND Mystery Solved

A few days ago I reported that a journal had gone missing! The mystery is solved. I found in the middle of a large stack of picture books that have been nominated for the Cybils in the picture book category. I had an AHA moment this morning when I walked into my office this morning and groaned at the unsightly stacks of books around my office. They are in organized piles, but they are not pretty. I thought--hmm, I never checked in the middle of these stacks. Sure enough, there was my tiny journal, sandwiched between the picture books I had already read.

In that lovely journal was my list of books I read in the month of October.

Picture Books (I also read about a dozen Cybils picture books, but I didn't include those on the list):

In Aunt Giraffe's Green Garden by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Petra Mathers

A Closer Look by Mary McCarthy

Stars Beneath Your Bed: The Surprising Story of Dust by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Ann Jonas

Fire! Fire! said Mrs. McGuire by Bill Martin Jr, illustrated by Vladmir Radunsky

Aliens are Coming: The True Account of the 1938 War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast by Megan McCarthy

Good Boy, Fergus! by David Shannon

Beauty and the Beaks: A Turkey's Cautionary Tale by Mary Jane and Herm Auch

I Spy Colors in Art by Lucy Micklethwait

Dreaming of America: An Ellis Island Story by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ben Stahl

I See a Kookaburra! Discovering Animal Habitats Around the World by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter, illustrated by Giselle Potter (my review here)

Middle Grade

Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen (my review here)

Horns and Wrinkles by Joseph Helgerson

Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf by Jennifer Holm

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

Young Adult

The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Sean Qualls (my review here)


Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars by Douglas Florian

Today at the Bluebird Cafe: A Branchful of Birds by Deborah Ruddell, illustrated by Joan Rankin

Poetry Friday--Sijo Poems

Sijo (Poems) by Linda Sue Park
Illustrated by Istvan Banyai
For Poetry Friday this week, I thought I would open up a new book that I just received from I have read about this book in various reviews and knew I had to have a copy. I love books with unusual forms of poetry.
Sijo is a form of poetry that originated in Korea. It has three lines with fourteen to sixteen syllables in each line. Sometimes it is broken into 6 lines. The tradition is to not concentrate on syllables as much as the number of stresses in each line. The first line tells about the topic, the second line tells more about the topic, and the third line presents a twist or joke about the topic.
If you like poetry that follows certain rules, try it. It's rather like putting a puzzle together.
Park's collection includes observations about everyday life, but also includes poems about school and nature.
In the spirit of the season, I give you Park's poem about Thanksgiving:
November Thursday
I don't often talk to my stomach,
but this morning I do:
"Rest up, now. Relax, get ready,
because you will need to S-T-R-E-T-C-H. . . "
Turkey! Pie! And--best of all--
stuffing myself with stuffing!
--by Linda Sue Park
Poetry Friday roundup today is over at a wrung sponge.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Best Books of 2007

It is November. Only a few more weeks and we'll be ringing in 2008. That's why book lists are starting to coming out. The best children's books of 2007.

Publisher's Weekly Best Books of 2007

Kirkus Review Best Books of 2007

(thanks to KidsLit for these links)

Others to be watching:
November 13, 2007 National Book Awards will be announced.

January 1, 2007 Cybils finalists will be announced. You can still nominate books until November 21, 2007.

February 14, 2007 Cybils Awards will be announced

Mystery to be solved...

I can't believe it's already November! I am in a dilemma--I have lost a journal! Not my current writer's notebook journal, but still, a very important journal. One of the things in the lost journal is my list of books I read for the last several months! I haven't saved my October books yet, so I have been frantically searching for it. My husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas. All I want is for him to build me wall to wall bookshelves in my office. Right now there are STACKS of books everywhere.

A Children's lit. class stack.
A Cybils stack.
A to be read stack.
A "I have no more shelf space stack".

Maybe when I reorganize after my shelves are built, the mystery journal will appear.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Haiku Books Annotated

plethora of poems
a list of good haiku books
read them with a friend

I really do love haiku books. I have mentioned this in a previous post, and I know that you have seen many of my haiku published on this blog for the very first time. Today I give you an annotated version of my favorite haiku books. Some I have reviewed before, but I thought it might be nice to have a list of all of the books (and short descriptions) all in one place.

Translated by Sylvia Cassedy and Kunihiro Suetake
Illustrated by Molly Bang
HarperCollins, 1992
Out of print

This book had previously been published in the 1960s but was rereleased with Molly Bang’s collage illustrations. The illustrations really make this book unique. The book actually opens up vertically—you have to turn it on its side. The poems are a collection of Japanese haiku that have been translated into English. They are all written along the top of the page in one long line, but the vertical illustrations made up of all kinds of items like material, cookies, buttons, rice, wire, and more really make this a “Bang” up book.

Illustrated Tim Bowers
Simon and Schuster, 2007

I did a review of this book here. This book is a collection of haiku about a family who gets a dog and their adjustment to each other. Each page contains a different haiku, but they are linked to tell the story.
by Patricia Donegan
Tuttle Publishing, 2003

This book is part of “Asian Arts and Crafts for Kids” series. This is a step-by-step writer’s guide to writing haiku geared toward kids. It gives a short history of haiku, and then guides kids through all of the key elements in a haiku (form, seasonal word, here and now, etc). There are dozens of examples of haiku throughout the book. It also guides young writers through five projects: writing a haiku, seasonal haiku, haibun, haiga, and renga. There is a glossary, a resource guide with Internet links, and a bibliography. This would make a great book for a serious young writer/poet, but it is a very useful haiku resource for teachers too.
Illustrated by Kazuko G. Stone
Simon and Schuster, 1998

I love picture book biographies, and this is a great biography of Issa, a traditional Japanese haiku poet who lived in the late 1700s-early 1800s. The text is biographical with translated haikus by Issa interspersed throughout. Amazingly, the haiku fit with the text well. The back of the book includes an author’s note, information about translation, and information about haiku.

Shadow Play: Night Haiku
Illustrated by Jeffrey Greene
Simon and Schuster, 1994.

This book is a collection of linked haiku that tell a story (like Dogku). A collection of haiku all about night.
Haiku by Issa
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Scholastic, 2007

I love G. Brian Karas and I love haiku books, so this was a must buy for me. Issa is a Japanese poet well known for his haiku. I did a review of this book here. Haiku translated from Japanese are arranged by season in this book.

Scholastic, 2004

One of the best haiku references I have come across. It was my bible when I was learning how to write haiku so I could teach my students how to write haiku. It also includes instructions for other types of poems as well.

Selected by Paul Janeczko
Photographs by Henri Silberman
Orchard, 2000

I use this book all of the time. I love to have students picture the haiku in their head while I read it to them, then show them the photographs that accompany them. The illustrations are fabulous black and white photos of scenes in a city. Janeczko explains in the introduction that haiku are usually nature poems, but that the city makes great subject matter for poetry too. Janeczko has collected haiku from dozens of well known poets in this collection.

Illustrated by Chris Manson
Atheneum, 1995

The illustrations done in woodcuts are very simple and with muted colors, but they illustrate the simplicity of the haiku beautifully. This collection of haiku is all written in the traditional seasonal haiku format. A good book to add to a collection to have when teaching children what traditional, seasonal haiku is all about.
Compiled by Grace Lin and Robert Mercer
Viking, 2005

This gorgeous collection of haiku is accompanied by snowflakes illustrated by various artists for Robert’s Snow (which proceeds go to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute). This is a beautiful celebration of haiku and art and is written and illustrated by many famous children’s books authors and illustrators. My only wish for this book? It is small gift book format. I would love for it to be a regular size picture book to show off the beauty even more. One of my favorite collections!

Illustrated by Ted Rand
Greenwillow, 2004

I did a review of this book here. Jack Prelutsky writes a haiku about different animals on each page. The fun thing about this book is that you can read them aloud to students (or show them poem) and have them guess what he is writing about, then show students the illustrations. They are riddle-like haiku.

Illustrated by Demi
Atheneum, 1997

This is another picture book biography of a traditional Japanese poet. This is the life of Basho, who lived and wrote haiku in Japan in the 1600s. The biographical prose is also interspersed with translated haiku (like the Issa book). The illustrations are beautifully done ink drawings on textured paper.

Least Things: Poems about Small Natures
Photographs by Jason Stemple
Boyds Mills Press, 2003

I love Jane Yolen because she is such a beautiful writer no matter what genre she writes in. This is no exception. She takes her son’s stunning photographs of things in nature and writes haiku about them. Also included is factual information about the animal in the photograph. This is a feast for the eyes and the poet’s heart.

Is your favorite haiku book missing? Please put a comment below and let me know. I’m always on the lookout for great haiku books.

The Poetry Friday roundup is at Literary Safari


How could I forget?
Little, Brown, 2006
This is a hilarious collection of haiku. It doesn't follow the traditional nature content of Japanese haiku, but it still follows the format of haiku. These are lots of fun to read aloud. A lengthier review here.