Picture Book Look

Home is Where the Story Starts


This week I spent my last day as a library employee. Gone are the books, kids and amazing coworkers (read “friends”) I had the pleasure of working with. I am surely going to miss the library’s energy and excitement. And yes, the library is full of energy and excitement. It is an old wives tale that the library is a super quiet, walk on eggshells type of place. That is the library of old. Today’s library is a vibrant, lively place. Check it out for yourself. Fear not, I am just as enamored with picture books and kid lit (and nonfiction for any age) as ever, but I have decided to set out on a real estate adventure. This is a career my sister and I discussed years ago, but with kids super small the timing just didn’t seem right. Fast forward 10 years, and voila! Here we go!

I am so excited because I will still have the opportunity to help people. Now, instead of helping someone find just the right read, I’ll help them find just the right home! Housing for me has always been a super fun proposition. I think I caught the bug when I worked as an underwriter for a Kansas City mortgage banker. I have also purchased four homes in my adult life and had one built. Every one of those properties has meant something different, and yet something special to me.

Now, being the book geek that I am, you know I did some research on this new career endeavor. Where did I turn to first? Yep. The library, and boy did I find some amazing books! Books like Josh Altman’s It’s Your MoveJoseph and JoAnn Callaway’s Super Agent, Zillow Talk by Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries and The Sell by Fredrik Eklund. These books are wonderful and they have only multiplied my excitement at starting down this new path!

I have a checklist of things to mark off as I move toward my goal of becoming a real estate agent. . .Find a broker willing to bring me on. Check. Find a mentor willing to help me get my sea legs. Check. Sign up for the real estate classes themselves. Check. Now, to begin taking the classes. That will be in a few weeks. In the meantime, I will read all I can, learn all I can, and remind myself that home is where the story starts. . .


All the LOST things

Olive, the star of our story, is a peppy, optimistic girl who one day decides to go for a walk. She walks through her city, hearing all the typical, somewhat unpleasant, city sounds. There are people yelling at each other and horns honking. If you’ve ever visited a big city, you may recall just how loud and clamorous those sounds can be. Olive continues walking when suddenly, she hears a new sound coming from an open manhole. Curious, she peeks in and finds a little old lady who is keeper of All the Lost Things.

The lost things are packed away in box after box, stacked high, each box with its own label. The boxes are filled with bus passes and laughter, thoughts and bibs, marbles and homework. The old woman explains that no one has ever come for the items and Olive is free to take whatever she likes. The little girl fills five jars with treasure. Memory for her grandfather, sense of humor for her older sister, eyesight for her dad, the way for her mom (“who could never seem to go anywhere without completely losing it”) and the last jar she fills with “a rather big, rather enormous scoop of HOPE.”

The beauty of this book begins as the illustrations transform from primarily black and white into glorious color as Olive walks through her city, bits of HOPE sprinkling from the jar.

Debut author/illustrator Kelly Canby’s ( imaginative take on storytelling is truly compelling. All the Lost Things provides adults with an opportunity to talk with children about   perspective and attitude, and the impact our attitudes can have on other people.

This simple, sweet story reminds me again why I love picture books so much. They epitomize childhood, and in childhood, anything can and often does happen. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were all a little bit more like Olive, and went about our day spreading things like HOPE and JOY to others?






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Red A Crayon’s Story

The inside cover of Red says, “This is a story about a crayon I know. I wrote it for you.” The inside of the jacket was written by a pencil.  Thus begins the touching, imaginative story of a crayon whose label says red, but whose actual color is blue.

No matter how hard Red tried to draw red strawberries, they always came out blue. So did the hearts he drew and even the cherries! His friends weren’t very understanding. They thought he was lazy. They thought he wasn’t very bright. They even thought he needed to apply himself harder. Everyone had an opinion, and everyone had a plan to “fix” Red. “Maybe he needs more practice,” thought his teacher. “Maybe he just needs to mix with other colors,” thought his mom. The masking tape thought he was broken inside.

Eventually Red meets a new friend. One who asks him to make a blue ocean, but Red replies, “I can’t. I’m red.” The friend encourages him to try and the results are fabulous! And guess what? It was easy for Red to make a blue ocean! He went on to make bluebirds, and blue jeans and blueberries. . .

I love this story. It is humorous and clever and I always like humorous, clever stuff. More importantly, this story could be about any child with learning disabilities. Like my child. My son heard all  the same things Red did. Try harder. Your’e lazy. You aren’t very bright. When Red goes off the page after not being able to make the red light in the stop light, I felt his sorrow and confusion. Sorrow over not being able to do what others think he should be able to do, and confusion because he doesn’t know what he was made to do.

You may be thinking, “Oh my gosh. This is a picture book for crying out loud,” and you’d be right. Except that this is one of those special picture books that I think should be placed in every school library there is. Preschool to high school. Picture books in high school? Yes. I believe picture books have the ability to speak to everyone, and this is one of those books that I hope finds its way into the hands of thousands and thousands of special children (and educators) all over the world.

Michael Hall is the author/illustrator of Red A Crayon’s Story, along with My Heart Is Like a Zoo, a New York Times bestseller. He has authored other picture books as well. Mr. Hall can be found on the web at



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Mother Bruce

Mother Goose Bruce, by author illustrator Ryan T. Higgins. Disney Hyperion publisher.

Oh. My. Gosh. This book is adorable! Bruce is a rather grumpy but very unique bear. He doesn’t like much of anything except eggs and fancy recipes he gets off the internet.  One particular recipe that catches his interest is hard boiled goose eggs drizzled with honey-salmon sauce! (I told you Bruce isn’t your normal out-in-the-woods type bear.)

Bruce sets off to track down the ingredients to concoct this amazing, mouth watering recipe. And track them down he does! The unfortunate thing about recipes and cooking, however, is that sometimes they don’t turn out quite like the picture shows, and that is exactly what happens when Bruce tries his paw at making this particular recipe.

Mother Bruce is as funny as it is sweet. Children will love the very animated facial expressions of Bruce and his little goslings. Parents will get a kick out of the nod to all things organic and free-range. The story line is super imaginative and ends with Bruce feeling maybe not quite as grumpy as before???

Mother Bruce is already being recognized for the funny, beautifully illustrated book that it is. It was recently been named one of the Chickadee Award Books for 2016/2017! Ryan has written other picture books, including Wilfred, which was his first picture book. Wilfred was named a 2014 Wanda Gag Read Aloud Honor Book.

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Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match, Marisol McDonald no combina

By Monica Brown and illustrated by Sara Palacios. Published by Lee & Low Books.

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match (translations in Spanish) Marisol McDonald no combina, is an encouraging and empowering book for children who just don’t match. Match what? You might ask. Match anything, I would answer.

Marisol’s cousin tells her her hair color (orange) doesn’t go with the color of her skin (brown). Her brother tells her the clothes she has picked to wear (polka dots and stripes) don’t match. The teacher at school tells Marisol she can’t combine cursive and print when writing her name. Yes, everyone is quick to squash Marisol’s individuality, and soon she decides it’s time to match everyone’s expectations. But things don’t go so well. Her food is all mushy, playground games aren’t any fun and even art class is boring! Marisol comes to realize it’s okay to be herself. . .even if that means being different.

I wish there had been books like this when I was a child growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, because since the age of eight, I haven’t matched anyone either. And like Marisol, I had experiences where people pointed out my differences too. . .And there are children today who don’t match either and they need books like this to tell them it’s okay to be different!

Monica Brown wrote Marisol Doesn’t Match because she is multiracial and has also been told that she “doesn’t match.” But like Marisol, she knows better. Sara Palacios did the artwork for the book and it’s very creative. I especially love the way she used mixed media to illustrate the story. The book earned a Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor Award for Ms. Palacios’s work, and a place on the Children’s Notable List, 2012.





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Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

By Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal, published by Chronicle Books.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt you may have guessed, is a book of contrasts. Things are going on up in the garden, but alas, so too are they happening down in the dirt! This book immediately captivated my attention. The illustrations speak of simplicity, and I was reminded of Dianna Hutts Aston’s A Seed is Sleepy, which I found to be a beautiful book as well.

The book begins, as any good gardener knows, in the dead of winter. We gardeners can’t go long without our gardens and so, when the last bit of the New Year’s holiday has passed, we turn our attention to graph paper and seed catalogs, dreaming of things to come. And so it is with Up in the Garden. The story begins with a child and her Nana standing in the snow, looking out at the forlorn vestiges of last year’s work.

The book continues through the sogginess of spring. The ground warms, and earthworms and insects down in the dirt begin stirring up the soil. Soon, it’s time to plant and water. And wait. We see carrots beginning to grow down in the dirt, along with earthworms, busily going about their day. Honeybees flit from blossom to blossom up in the garden, and the days grow longer. . .and hotter. The girl and her Nana rest in the shade of a tree, pausing for a much needed drink.

The contrasts continue. Cucumber vines twist and turn, this way and that-up in the garden. Down in the dirt, however, water soaks in deeply and thirsty roots retrieve their own drink. Time continues and soon cooler winds are blowing. Pumpkins grow fat and orange up in the garden while an orb weaver spins a silky web down in the dirt.

“Hurry, hurry and harvest!” the colored leaves of fall seem to shout. The cold of winter is coming. Down in the dirt ants work feverishly gathering food to tide them over during the cold days to come.

And so, we have come full circle in the garden. Now snow quietly blankets the ground and we wait, with graph paper and seed catalogs, dreaming of this year’s gardent to come.

The author ends the book by tucking in an Author’s Note, Further Reading section and a section titled, “About the Animals,” which describes the insects and animals we met in the story.

This is a beautiful book, which shows the cycle of life through the use of a garden. It begins with dreams and hope and ends where it started, with dreams and hope.

Kate Messner has written over a dozen books for young readers including Over and Under the Snow, which I am looking forward to reading. Christopher Silas Neal is a regular contributor to the New York Times, and has illustrated multiple books.

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Here Comes Valentine Cat

So, better late than never, right? Valentine’s Day, 2016 is almost in the books and I’m just now able to post. You see, about 10 hours ago we had a concern that our computer had been infected with a virus, and instead of chancing that it actually hadn’t, I decided to spend the day running a full scan just to make sure. Thankfully, it was just a scare and all is well. Whew. . .

On to more fun and important things–Here Comes Valentine Cat! I’m not sure what I expected as I opened this book, but it exceeded anything I could imagine. I love the unseen narrator! I love the way Valentine Cat communicates through expression and the use of signs posted on sticks! Claudia Rueda did an amazing job of capturing Cat in all of his cantankerousness!

The story line is sweet, and cute, and I can see my kids loving this book as youngsters. It is so creative and begs many,  many questions giving mom and kids the opportunity to discuss their thoughts about the characters (Cat and Dog and Narrator) and the story. I have not had a chance to read any of Cat’s other adventures, but I am looking forward to doing so. Here Comes the Easter Cat will be on the top of my Easter reading list. I hope to post a review of that one weeks in advance and not the day of Easter!

I would be remiss if I wrapped this up without mentioning The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey and Don Wood. Here Comes Valentine Cat immediately reminded me of  The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, I’m sure due to the use of an unseen narrator, and the fact that both stories are darling! Super clever, both of them. I would venture to guess that if you like Cat, you’ll like Hungry Bear as well.

Happy Valentine’s Day, and I hope that like Cat, you found a new friend today!




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The Adventures of BEEKLE the Unimaginary Friend

Beekle is the story of an unimaginary friend who doesn’t have a child. He waits and waits, but still, no one imagines him. Tired of waiting, Beekle sets off on a journey to find where he truly belongs. Using strength and courage, he makes his way to the real world. Now the question becomes. . .how to find his child?

Looking here and looking there, Beekle finally arrives at a park surrounded by children running and jumping. He is very hopeful he will find a friend, his friend, soon.

The day wanes, and still no friend. But suddenly, as luck would have it, a piece of paper is blown into the tree where Beekle is waiting, and soon, he meets his friend!

The story of Beekle is timeless. The book speaks to our desire for companionship and community. It shows littles that although things don’t always go the way we imagine, they do go, and sometimes they even turn out better than we had imagined.

Dan Santat is the author/illustrator, and this is his third book for children. His artwork is darling. I especially love Alice’s facial expressions, Beekle’s crown (which is taped together like all crowns) and his little shape! Cute, cute!








I Wish You More

This is a sweet book full of encouragement and inspiration. I love the message conveyed by both the text and the delightful pictures.

“I wish you more tippy-toes than deep,” one page reads, while a little fellow stands (on his tippy-toes) in chin deep water. What child hasn’t, at some time, had the experience of drifting a bit too far out, only to realize they need to bounce quickly back to the shallow end?

Or, “I wish you more umbrella than rain.” The accompanying illustration shows mostly bright blue rain coming down upon a little person holding a red umbrella. All of the space under the umbrella is white to show there is no rain falling on the child. Darling!

Amy Krouse Rosenthal ( is the author and Tom Lichtenheld ( is the illustrator. Together they have created many award winning, best selling children’s books, but I haven’t had the pleasure of getting my hands on any of those just yet. Please check out each of their websites! So, so sweet and F-U-N!

I mentioned on Instagram last night that I Wish You More would make a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift. It’s going to be my go-to Valentine’s gift this year! Simple and heartfelt, with a radiating sense of hope and love. What more could someone wish for on Valentine’s Day, or any day? Except maybe chocolate. . .

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Beyond the Pond

Beyond the Pond is author-illustrator Joseph Kuefler’s debut picture book, (Balzer + Bray) and it is delightful! Ernest D. is a little fellow who lives in an ordinary house in an ordinary town. One day he decides to explore the depths of his pond, and in so doing, he finds an exceptional world – one that has been there all the time!

I love this book because Mr. Kuefler is the author-illustrator, and I think it’s an awe-inspiring work of art when an author can take exactly what is in his (or her) heart and mind, and bring it to life on paper. This book is full of something (text and pictures) that I as a parent think is too often missing in our kids today. . .imagination.

I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but I do want to say that Ernest D. wouldn’t have had the experiences he did had he stayed indoors playing PS4 or Xbox One. I am also not going to turn this into a review for Last Child in the Woods, (Richard Louv) except to say that our children need more books like Beyond the Pond and more friends like Ernest D. Friends who will explore the woods with them. Friends who will wade into the coolness of the creek, and dangle smelly pieces of raw hot dog into the water for some unwitting crawdad to grab. Friends who will spend warm, summer evenings chasing fireflies and searching for toads while the only sound filling the night is that of crickets.

Thank you Mr. Kuefler for encouraging children everywhere to use their imagination to look past the ordinary, to see what is truly there. . .Maybe if more children did this, they, like Ernest D., would see that just beyond the ordinary is something, well, exceptional.

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