The kids’ section in our local library is nicely sectioned off to one side. After several years of weekly library trips, my 4yo is familiar enough with the library rules that I let her roam free and make her selections while I keep an eye on her less-experienced brother and make a few selections of my own.
Last week she came running up to me breathlessly.
“Mommy, I found a tiger book! Can you reach the tiger book for me, please?”
Not an unusual request, but I was pleasantly surprised by her selection, which was displayed on top of one of the rows of shelves:
Remember this book? I had a copy in my childhood, but to be honest, I hadn’t thought of the book in many years. And yet, there it was, displayed at our local library, and able to catch the attention of my 4yo.
We brought it home, and it was the first one she selected to read. And then we read it multiple times over the next couple days.
Yesterday, while riding in the car, I heard her recite,
“And it wasn’t just a word.
It was a whole sentence.
And that sentence was…
‘I made it!’ “
I love that somebody in the library thought to pull this book off the shelves and display it. I love that my child was attracted by its simple, original cover. I love that she wanted to read it over and over again, enough to then be able to quote its message.
And I love the flashback it gave me.
Published by: Disney-Hyperion
Release date:March 2013
From the publisher:
In this sixth entry in the thoroughly entertaining Clementine series, the third and fourth grades takes a field trip to Plimoth Plantation, where Clementine learns a few things about rules: who gets to make them, who has to live with them, and when it’s high time to break them.
Sara Pennypacker (www.sarapennypacker.com) was a painter before becoming a writer, and has two absolutely fabulous children who are now grown. She has written several books, including the Clementine series, all illustrated by Marla Frazee, The Amazing World of Stuart, Sparrow Girl, and Summer of the Gypsy Moths. She grew up in Massachusetts and splits her time between Cape Cod and Florida.
Hi, and thanks for letting me guest post here. Poking around the site, I felt right at home, and found myself wishing there had been a resource and a community like this when I was raising my kids, especially for the two years we homeschooled.
It was while we were homeschooling that I fell in love with children’s books (my kids were 7 and 9 when we began, and we practically lived at the library) and decided to write them myself. The experience also planted the seeds for what would later become my CLEMENTINE series.
Clementine is the character closest to my heart, because she’s based on a combination of my son and my daughter. Like Clementine, Caleb had some issues with attention (which, okay fine, he got from his mother.) I never mention the letters A.D.D. in the books, because it would be completely inappropriate to do that, but anyone reading them would notice that Clementine is a bit distractible and impulsive.
The first thing I wanted to do in this series was to hold the mirror up to the positive traits children like my son often shine with: artistic ability, empathy, and creative problem solving – three things the world could certainly use more of.
The second thing I wanted to explore was the exquisite grace of an ordinary, functional family. Because it seemed to me that contemporary children’s fiction had become a little heavy on the dysfunctional side. I had nothing against these beautiful, important, life-changing books that tackled a variety of difficult family problems, but I wondered: where were the books that found healthy family relationships story-worthy?
Books are supposed to be both windows and mirrors for kids – some books will reflect a reader’s experience back at him, saying, “Look, there you are in this story, a member of the human tribe already. Welcome!” and some books will show her new paths to take within the human experience. I wanted to write about an average family dealing with the everyday challenges of raising kids well – to work as a mirror for those kids who enjoyed that privilege, and to provide some vicarious safety for kids who didn’t.
There’s a problem with giving your character this much security, though – no tension, that dramatic current that impels a reader to turn those pages! Clementine is always protected and supported, both by a terrific school environment (the long-suffering, seen-it-all Principal Rice is one of my all-time favorite characters) and so she’s very confident. That’s the part I’ve taken from my daughter – Hillary at age eight, was completely comfortable and successful in her world. Her insights on the world she felt so on top of were hilarious, so the solution to the no-tension problem was humor – if the readers aren’t going to worry about Clementine’s welfare, I want them to laugh with her about how funny life can be…even when it’s not.
Each of the Clementine books revolves around her making some kind of growth.
In the newest release, CLEMENTINE AND THE SPRING TRIP, I decided to expand her sense of justice a little, the way it often happens for kids this age. She meets a chicken and wakes up to an injustice in the world – people eat animals! – and decides to do something about it.
I’ve just wrapped up the seventh book in the series, due out in 2014, which will be the final one in the series, and I’m already missing this family terribly. Telling their stories has been the most profound joy and honor of my writing life.
Thank you, Sara, for a behind-the-scenes peek at Clementine! We’ll be looking forward to the final book, and in the meantime, going back to read the first five. And those who want even MORE of a sneak peek, you can currently read chapter one here!
And thanks to Disney-Hyperion, I have a copy of Clementine and the Spring Trip for YOU! Giveaway is open from now until July 2nd (U.S and Canada residents).
And be sure to check out the other stops on the tour for more Clementine fun!
Published by: Disney-Hyperion
Release date: April 2013
From the publisher:
A cuddly and determined lion cub emulates his father, the King of the pride, in many different ways in this gorgeously illustrated picture book set on the African savanna.
Need a last-minute Father’s Day gift? You know how I feel about the lasting power of giving books as gifts, right? And this one is just perfect.
From the time the sun starts to rise, little Kito is by his Papa’s side. Whether they are dozing from the hot sun, playing on the savanna, or helping the females with the evening hunt, Kito and Papa are a team. And when the sun goes down and the moon rises again, Kito and his Papa stand guard together, current and future king.
This story has a very warm and cuddly feel, more traditional in nature. And the acrylic illustrations are stunning. Full page spreads of the savanna at different times of day, a giant king and his small son. It’s almost larger than life.
Toni and Mike were kind enough to answer a few questions. Here’s a little more about this wonderful team.
Toni Buzzeo is the author of nineteen picture books for children, including Stay Close to Mama, a companion to Just Like My Papa, the Caldecott Honor winning One Cool Friend, illustrated by David Small, and No T. Rex in the Library, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa. For sixteen years, she worked as a Maine school librarian. She combines her knowledge of children’s literature with her love of children to write about characters of all stripes (including lions, giraffes, dinosaurs, penguins, loons, and human children) who explore their worlds, their relationships, and themselves in a variety of settings.Toni works both from a writing cottage just past the gardens at her colonial farmhouse in Buxton, Maine and from her sunny winter nest in Sarasota, Florida. Visit her at www.tonibuzzeo.com.
Mike Wohnoutka (www.mikewohnoutka.com) grew up in Spicer, Minnesota. His dad, an engineer, would bring home reams of paper with highway plans on one side. Mike filled the blank side of the sheets with drawings of race cars, snowmobiles, baseball players, super heroes—everything he was interested in. In high school his art teacher encouraged him to pursue art as a career. He graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a B.F.A. in illustration. Mike has published books with Random House, Dutton, Clarion, and Holiday House. He enjoys visiting schools and talking to students about illustrating children’s books. He currently resides in Minneapolis with his wife and two children.
Toni, a strong sense of love and pride (no pun intended) comes through with this story. As a parent with two young children, I can relate to the relationship between Kito and his Papa. You also have a son, now grown. Was this book in any way a walk down memory lane for you?
Just Like My Papa was very much a memory walk for me, yes! My grown son Topher, who is just now planning to start his own family, has always been very close to my husband Ken. When he was a little guy, Topher loved to work right alongside his dad—especially when TOOLS were involved.
As Topher grew older, though, he transferred his passions to computers, and he seemed less interested in being glued to Ken’s side during our never-ending renovation projects. Instead, the two spent time hiking together and pursuing interests out of doors.
A year ago, however, Topher and his wife Caitlin bought a condo and suddenly now there are long weekends during which the old tool-toting duo resurfaces, with Topher eager to learn everything his dad knows about wiring, plumbing, carpentry, and general household refurbishing. In fact, for Christmas last year, Ken built an amazing workbench for Topher, complete with storage space for every tool a guy could want. It’s such a pleasure to witness this renewed interaction between my own Kito and Papa!
This is your second collaboration with Mike Wohnoutka. Your first, Stay Close to Mama, also has an African setting and a main character with a Swahili name. Do you have a personal connection to this region?
I have a very personal connection to Kenya, Africa. I first visited for a month in 1995 and fell in love with the country and the animals. In fact, it was there that I found the germ of the story for Stay Close to Mama! I was lucky enough to return in 2012 to speak at the International School of Kenya in Nairobi after a weeklong visit to the International Community School of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. As a gift to ourselves, my husband Ken and I took three additional days at the end of our journey to return to Amboseli National Park in the shadow of Mount Kilmanjaro. What bliss! And because Just Like My Papa was underway, Mother Nature gave me the honor of spending time with the Papa Lion you see right here.
Had I been brave—or is the proper word foolish?—enough to reach out the window of our open-air vehicle, I’d nearly have been able to touch him!
Our next book, entitled My Bibi Always Remembers, is also set in my beloved Kenya and will be graced with Mike’s gorgeous illustrations. It tells the story of the elephants of Amboseli and the loving matriarch, Bibi, who in a time of great drought, cares for her family and teaches her grandchild everything she needs to know to become the family matriarch herself someday.
Mike, the full-spread illustrations in the book are stunning. As an urban dweller, I don’t get to see skies like the ones you have depicted here very often. I’m guessing your hometown of Minneapolis doesn’t get skies like these very often either, so where does your inspiration for this book come from?
Whenever I start a new book I get lots of visual reference, but there comes a point when I need to put all of that reference away and make the illustrations my own. My inspiration often comes from the emotion of the story. Fortunately Toni’s beautiful stories are full of emotion. The sky for me is the emotional core. So when Kito is asleep on his father’s paw there is only subtle contrast between the billowy clouds and sky giving the piece a calm stillness. In comparison, when the lionesses are chasing the wildebeests there is much more contrast (in color and value) in the sky to add to the drama of the scene. It’s a matter of painting and painting until I feel that I’ve captured that specific emotion I’m looking for.
Mike, you have two young children, who are prominently (and adorably!) displayed on biography
portion of your website. While they may not be learning how to lead a pride, or bring down a wildeb
Thank you, again!
Unfortunately, my father was not patient and I have no memory of him playing with me. So I was really nervous about becoming a father. I didn’t want to be an impatient, angry dad always yelling at my kids. Shortly after my son, Franklin, was born I took many ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) classes. This helped immensely. Having an amazing wife helped, too!
I want my kids to be loving and curious. Hopefully they will learn some of this from me. They will learn this by example, but also, I believe, through books. We read together so much as a family. I think this is one of the most important things I can do for them.
Toni and Mike, Just Like My Papa, is a story about a child (or cub’s) personal hero. Every child needs one of these. Did you have a personal hero in childhood?
Toni: My personal hero is the man to whom Just Like My Papa is dedicated, my Uncle John Mackey. I love him for who he is—a strong, capable, and endlessly curious man—and for who he has always been for me, my rock, the source of unconditional love through some mighty difficult times. How lucky I am to have him in my life still and to have the opportunity to spend time with him every week during the winter months I spend in Sarasota, Florida. Even now, as he struggles with a devastating loss of eyesight, I learn from his resiliency and his optimism. He really is my hero!
Mike: I would have to say my high school art teacher, Mr. Chase. He is the first person to instill the love of drawing in me. His humor and fun-loving personality was infectious. But he also pushed me and made sure I never took my talent for granted—there is always room for improvement. He was also the first person to tell me that if I worked really hard, someday I could actually make a living creating art!
Thank you so much to Toni and Mike for your time!
And thanks to the generosity of Disney-Hyperion, I have a signed copy of Just Like My Papa to give away! (Open to U.S. and Canada). Just fill out the Rafflecopter below between now and FRIDAY, JUNE 28th. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
For more Just Like Papa fun, visit the other stops on the tour.
Truckery Rhymes by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by David Shannon, Loren Long, and David Gordon
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: August 2009
From the Publisher:
For generations these classic, high-octane rhymes, songs, and tales have been passed down from truck to truck. Lucky for us, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature has collected them all into one really big, noisy volume. From “Peter Peter Payload Eater” to “Pop Blows the Diesel” to “Swing Around with Rosie,” all the classic truckery rhymes are here. Find out which one is your favorite!
Once upon a time, I used to do this Tiny Talks feature where I let my oldest kiddo share some of her most favorite, interactive books.
And then the younger kid grew old enough to want to both compete for camera attention, and interact in his own way. And so it has been a long time since we’ve done one.
But yesterday we picked up Jon Scieszka’s Truckery Rhymes from the library, and we’ve since read cover to cover multiple times. These are your classic nursery rhymes but with a Trucktown twist. While I’m familiar with Scieszka’s work, we’ve only recently started reading the Trucktown series at our house, at my preschooler’s request. So to come across this book which combines her much beloved nursery rhymes with her new Trucktown fascination? It’s been perfect.
Here she shares a couple of her favorites from the book:
As always, complete with a little 4yo ‘tude.
Or, if you’d prefer to hear a slightly more professional read, here’s Scieszka himself:
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Published by:Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release date:June 11th
Ages: 12 and up
From the publisher:
It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn’t even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he’s able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it’s been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn’t been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specifically, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm. Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings. . .
I don’t often share or review young adult novels on here, but this one caught my attention months ago, and then kept me spellbound from the first page, so how could I not share it with you? And while it’s technically classified as young adult (and the main characters are older teens), I think you might get away with doing this as a read-aloud/read together with a mature or older middle grader.
What fascinated me about the synopsis for Far Far Away was that it was a story about stories. Or, at least, a famous storyteller and his stories. The ghost of Jacob Grimm? How often do you see that as a main character?
There are a couple threads that begin separately, but ultimately combine in one glorious ending. First, we have Jacob Grimm who is held earthbound by some unfinished business. And yet, he has no idea what that unfinished business is. Then we have Jeremy, who besides being the town oddball, is dealing with a recluse father, a shop nobody wants to visit, and a mortgage nobody is able to pay. And finally we have the mystery of the children who have been disappearing over the last several years.
The story begins fairly simply, with a boy and his ghostly companion. The first half of the tale focuses on Jeremy, his developing relationship with Ginger, and his attempts to keep his family home and shop. And then…things take a twist. The second half of the story is a modernized version of a Grimm fairytale, the kind that has not been watered down for today’s younger children. The mashup of traditional and modern works incredibly well. I stayed up way too late into the night/morning reading the entire second half in a sitting because putting it down just wasn’t possible. McNeal weaves portions of traditional Grimm tales in amongst the modern day action until the reader finds himself drawing parallels and looking at well loved stories in a whole other light. And the conclusion…well, that too is something straight out of a Grimm tale.
Highly recommend for audiences who like a little thrill to their reading and can appreciate the traditional fairytale connections.