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The Gift of Myrrh from The Wise Man

December 19, 2011

The Third Gift
written by Mary Sue Park, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Clarion Books, 2011
picture book

Newbery author, Linda Sue Park, tells us the story of a boy who follows his father in order to learn his trade. The trade? Gathering resin, myrrh, from the correct trees.

One day, three strangers in brightly colored robes, ask to see his father’s “tears” of myrrh, they’re searching for the third gift for a special baby. A special baby who they’ve traveled far to meet. Can you guess the other gifts the men already have? Gold and frankincense.

The earth-colored, realistic illustrations capture the tender relationship between father and son. When we discover their importance in a larger historical story, we’re even more captivated. The story ends as the wise men near Judea on their camels.


Colorado Picture Book Authors Disrespected By Barnes and Noble

December 12, 2011

I spent last Friday afternoon visiting with a delightful and talented group of Colorado picture book authors at the Colorado Boulevard Barnes and Noble in Denver. Colorado. The women included:

Denise Vega who writes books including Build a Burrito, a counting book in English and Spanish and Grandmother, Have the Angels Come? 

Linda Ashman who published three new picture books this year, 12 Days of Christmas in Colorado, No Dogs Allowed! and Samantha on a Roll.

Kathleen Pelly whom you’ll know from her picture books, Raj the Bookstore Tiger, Magnus Maximus, A Marvelous Measurer, Inventor McGregor, and The Giant King.

Caroline Stutson, picture book author of Cats’ Night Out, Pirate Pup, Night Train, and others.

Jessica Swaim who writes poems and picture books – Scarum Fair is her book of poems and her picture books are The Hound from the Pound and Nate by Night.

Marjorie Blain Parker another fantastic writer and author of Mama’s Little Ducklings, A Paddling of Ducks, Your Kind of Mommy and Jasper’s Day, and more.

I felt so honored to spend time with these creative women but I must tell you, these women’s talents were completely devalued by Barnes and Noble! Not only did they cram these six authors and their books at one eight foot table, they were located in the back of the store on a Friday afternoon and got minimal traffic. Okay, pretty much no traffic. I mean, who promoted this event? It was such a waste of these authors’ time! Plus, the store didn’t even have ONE of Marjorie’s books. And she called ahead to be sure there were books in stock. How can you invite an author to do a book signing and have none of her books?

Shame on you Barnes and Noble. You want book sales – and could have made money with these authors but you didn’t do your job to promote the event. No wonder book sales are down — certainly incompetent business practices and unmotivated, inept employees aren’t helping your sales any. (Could you have at least given Marjorie a gift card for her time and inconvenience of attending an event without a single book of hers? P.S. I asked an employee and she offered Marjorie drink at Starbucks. Lame.)

Remember that picture book authors depend on you, the readers, to buy their books. So, readers, please visit these Colorado authors’ websites and buy a book or three. This supports our local economy and gives your kids good books. And don’t buy the books at Barnes and Noble if you can help it. They don’t deserve your patronage. Neither does Amazon for that matter. But, buying books somewhere is better than not buying them at all.

Thanks for supporting these authors. I hope someone from Barnes and Noble reads this and gives these ladies an apology. They deserve as much.

~ Melissa

Chanukah Lights, a Pop-Up Work of Art

December 4, 2011

Chaunakah Lights
by Michael Rosen and Robert Sabuda
Candlewick, 2011
picture book, pop-up
This book is a work of art! Beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe the sensations and feelings this paper art evokes in the reader.

Chanukah Lights is about the history of the Jewish people as they search for a homeland and rebuild their communities told through the lens of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights.

As you might notice from the white pop-up imagery, the book focuses on light and different historical settings where Jews celebrate the light like an Israeli kibbutz, a refugee ship, and desert tents. Each two-page spread contains a hidden menorah for readers to find.

The author, Michael Rosen, writes, “The lights of the menorah are not meant to provide illumination. They aren’t meant to see by; they are to be seen themselves . . . by those in the house, and by all those passing by.”

Watch the YouTube book trailer of Chanukah Lights.

Don’t miss this amazing book for your family’s collection. It’s truly stunning.

The Essential Colorado Christmas Book: The Twelve Days of Christmas in Colorado

November 27, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Colorado
written by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Dawn Beacon
Sterling Children’s Books, 2011
picture book

Sophie gets a letter from her cousin, Zach, who lives in Colorado. He tells her all the fun things they’ll do when Sophie visits for Christmas! The rest of the books is letters from Sophie to her mom and dad, sharing all the fun things she sees and does in Colorado — accompanied by beautifully illustrated pictures and Ashman’s Colorado version of the familiar song, The 12 Days of Christmas.

On the first day of Christmas,
my cousin game to me . . .

a bunting in a spruce tree.

Sophie sees a Bighorn Sheep at the Denver Zoo, the Blue Bear at the Convention Center, Pike’s Peak, the Great Sand Dunes, Leadville, caves in Glenwood Springs, and a replica of Bent’s Old Fort, . . . among other things.

She makes snow sculptures, earns her junior ranger badge at  Mesa Verde, learns to ride a horse, and tries skiing.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, 
my cousin gave to me . . .

12 skiers swooshing
11 horses prancing,
10 covered wagons,
9 woven baskets,
8 dinos roaming, . . .

It’s a fantastic book for those of us who love Colorado and want to share that with our kids! Don’t you want to run out and buy it right now for your Colorado kiddos? I highly recommend you include this book in your gift giving this year!

Very Merry New Christmas Books

November 23, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas
written and illustrated by Laurel Long
Dial Books, 2011
picture book

Set in the Renaissance countryside,this intricately illustrated depiction of the classic poem will delight young readers who can search for hidden gifts within the art. Gorgeous!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (picture book)
written by Barbara Robinson, illustrated by Laura Cornell
Harper Collins, 2011
picture book

A hilarious story based on the chapter book describing what happens when the Herdmans (who have never been to church, let alone know the story of Christmas) participate in the Christmas pageant.

The Berenstain Bears ‘ Winter Wonderland
written and illustrated by Jan & Mike Berenstain
Harper Festival, 2011
picture book

A lift-the-flap story about brother and sister bear.

Ricky’s Christmas Tree
written and illustrated by Guido Van Genechten
Clavis, 2011
picture book

Ricky convinces his dad that they need a Christmas tree. Ricky and his dad have a lot of fun together getting the tree and playing in the snow.

Kevin’s Christmas
written and illustrated by Liesbet Slegers
Clavis, 2011
picture book

Kevin narrates this story of his holiday preparations – decorating the tree, setting up the nativity scene, mailing card, making presents, grocery shopping, spending time with family, and opening presents. A colorful book!

The Story of Christmas
from the King James Bible, illustrations by Pamela Dalton
Chronicle, 2011
picture book

Brightly colored scissor-cut illustrations illuminated upon a black background make this one of the most beautifully illustrated books I’ve ever seen. Dalton uses the Pennsylvania-German folk-art tradition (scherenschnitte) to make a gorgeous book.

Bad Kitty Christmas
written and illustrated by Nick Bruel
Roaring Brook Press, 2011
picture book

An alphabetical comedy about Bad Kitty who wreaks havoc on Christmas, runs away, makes friends with a lonely old-lady, and redeems himself. Very clever as always and filled with the Christmas spirit!

The Princess and the Pig and Things That Happen In Books

November 6, 2011

The Princess and the Pig
written by Jonathan Emmett, illustrated by Poly Bernatene
Walker & Company, 2011
picture book

This delightful tale tells the story of a farmer’s little piglet, Pigmella, and the queen’s little princess, Priscilla, who accidentally switch places. The king believes the switch is “the sort of thing that happens all the time in books.” The farmer’s wife, too, knows it’s “the kind of thing that happens all the time in books.

So, the girl grows up with the farmer and the pig grows up as a princess. But one day, the farmer’s wife overhears the story about the princess-pig swap. She goes to the castle with her daughter, Pigmella, to tell the queen and king the whole story. But, the queen doesn’t believe a word of it. “It’s a trick. . . It’s the sort of thing that happens all the time in books.”

And so Pigmella returns home to live a happy life with a young shepherd husband. It’s a very happy ending — one that you would read in books. 🙂

Book Play: Introduce your child to more fairy tales with these suggestions from The Book Chook. Create a dramatic play area for reenacting fairy tales. Reenact the Princess and the Pig then read and act out more fairy tales.

Cozy New Winter Picture Books

October 30, 2011

Gobble Gobble
written and illustrated by Cathryn Falwell
Dawn Publications, 2011
picture book

A young girl sees a flock of turkeys throughout the different seasons of the year. In the spring, turkeys preen and in summer, turkey babies are born. In autumn, turkeys look for food. In winter, cold winds blow and turkeys roost up in the trees. The book finishes with a note from the girl, Jenny, animal tracks to identify, and Jenny’s fun things to do.

Over and Under the Snow
written by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
Chronicle Books, 2011
picture book

With brown blue and white as the prominent colors, a  young girl and her father ski into the snowy words. She watches as a red squirrel disappears and we see his burrowed hole under the snow in the secret kingdom where the small forest animals live. As she skis, we see a shrew, a mouse, a vole in their underground homes. I love that the story ends with the girl snuggling under her blankets, dreaming of the forest animals as constellations in the sky. Messner includes a note about the subnivean zone, and the animals who live there plus books and websites for more information.

Book Play: Learn more about the animals that hibernate in winter under the snow. Have a hibernation day like this preschool.

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