Themed Third Thursday: The Green Edition

GirlChild turned six earlier this month, and green is her favorite color. In honor of this fact (and, you know, Earth Day and all that), I did a catalog search for children’s books with the word “green” in the title. Here are some of the eclectic results!

Green, by Laura Vaccaro SeegerGreen, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (2012–toddler to elementary): This incredibly simple book featuring lush paintings and cut-outs to peep from one page to the next defines green in a number of settings and ways. Each page has just two words, an adjective and the word “green,” and the pre-green words rhyme in an alternating pattern (like slow green, faded green, glow green, shaded green, although the first and third don’t always rhyme). Although it’s clearly meant for younger readers, I can see many elementary readers getting engrossed in the art, so it might be a good book to keep in an art classroom, too! It was also a Caldecott Honor book in 2013.

Where Is the Green Sheep?, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek Where Is the Green Sheep?, by Mem Fox, illlustrated by Judy Horacek(2004–toddler/preschool): All different kinds of sheep are found, from colorful sheep to sheep doing a variety of different things, but the green sheep remains elusive. In the end, the green sheep is found sleeping, camouflaged behind a bush. Each page contains a simple sentence stating which sheep is being shown. The refrain, “But where is the green sheep?” (repeated every few pages) helps young listeners participate in the reading, and contrasts and opposites are often used. My favorite illustration is the extreme close-up that just says, “Here is the near sheep.” BoyChild chuckled when I zoomed the book close to his face for that one!

Go Away, Big Green Monster!, by Ed EmberleyGo Away, Big Green Monster!, by Ed Emberley (1992–toddler/preschool): Cut-out pages reveal the big green monster piece by piece, then the reader tells the big green monster to go away piece by piece. This book might be helpful for children who have a fear of monsters and who need to be empowered to get rid of their imaginary tormenters. The last lines, “And DON’T COME BACK! Until I say so,” gives children a tool to banish their fears while still inviting imaginative play (including the occasional biddable monster).

Red Green Blue: A First Book of Colors, by Alison Jay Red Green Blue, by Alison Jay(2009–preschool/early elementary): Actually written by Libby Hamilton, this book is not your typical color concept book. On each page, a little boy (the one on the opening page who is experiencing a “dull and gray” rainy day) watches as a nursery rhyme takes place before his eyes, transitioning from one to the next as though he is moving through scenes that blend into one another. Although each page names a color (emphasized by bold, enlarged type), the illustrations do not go overboard on the color, making it more suitable to slightly older children than most concept books. The illustrations have muted tones and a crackled appearance, much like those old, painted wooden or ceramic plaques you might find in your grandma’s house. A picture appendix of all the nursery rhymes referenced can be found at the back of the book.

Green Is a Chile Pepper: A Book of ColorsGreen Is a Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors, by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrated by John Parra (2014–preschool/early elementary): Rhyming verse uses colors and some Spanish words to showcase Hispanic American traditions. (Although the CIP data for this book says that this is about children discovering colors in their Hispanic American neighborhood, I’m not sure where in the United States there is a neighborhood that is sufficiently rural and suited to have a monkey climbing the corn stalks…) It references Christmas and Day of the Dead traditions as well as general foods and celebrations, so it might be a good book to share with children to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15 in 2014) or for a study of Central and South America.

The Berenstain Bears Go Green, by Jan and Mike BerenstainThe Berenstain Bears Go Green (2013–early elementary): Not as long as the old Berenstain Bears books (saving paper to go green, perhaps?), this title is still not lacking in the didactic tone that typifies the series. Kids like the series, though, and I doubt this book would be any different…and it might make a good, short read-aloud for Earth Day to trigger discussion about simple ways we can be better stewards of our resources. Because it’s a recent publication, the advice given is up-to-date and at least a few items will be doable for the majority of modern children.

The Green Bath, by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Steven KelloggThe Green Bath, by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Steven Kellogg (2013): Sammy’s mother tells him to stop his adventuring and get cleaned up for his grandmother’s visit, and Sammy tries to make the best of his bath in the new green tub his father just installed. He starts to sing “The Owl and the Pussycat,” and the bathtub gets up and races to the beach where Sammy and the tub have a wild adventure with mermaids, a sea serpent, and a bunch of pirates. The tub and Sammy return to the bathroom just in time for his mother and grandmother to walk on in…then Sammy and grandma set off toward the beach in the endpapers. The book is a little odd, surely, since it implies that the bathtub adventure is real and not just Sammy’s imagination, but that doesn’t spoil the fact that this is what most young kids think when they’re playing in the bath anyway!

How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans, by David LaRochelle,How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans, by David LaRochelle illustrated by Mark Fearing (2013–early elementary): Martha, despite her parents’ proddings, refuses to eat the green beans she is served every Tuesday night with dinner. She knows that green beans are bad, but she only finds out how bad when a gang (crop?) of mean green beans comes to town and terrorizes everyone who has ever eaten or encouraged anyone to eat green beans. They end up kidnapping Martha’s parents, and only Martha’s brave act (eating all the beans that resist her insistence to let her parents go) saves them from a terrible fate. In the end, green beans are never served at their house again…but the salad is starting to look suspicious, too. I don’t know if this book will work more as an encouragement to resistant veggie eaters (would BoyChild eat green beans if he imagined that he was saving Mommy and Daddy by doing so?) or if it would make them more likely to declare a vegetable “bad,” but it’s a pretty hilarious book and probably worth trying on those stubborn vegetable haters!

One Green Apple, by Eve BuntingOne Green Apple, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ted Lewin (2006–early elementary): A little girl, Farah, who is a recent immigrant to (what I assume to be) the United States goes on a field trip with her brand new class to an apple orchard. She feels different and isolated by her dupatta (a head scarf) and inability to speak or understand English, but one classmate, Anna, tries to introduce herself and include her even though others are mean because, as Farah’s father says, their “home country and [their] new one have had difficulties.” Farah selects her allotted apple from a small, separate tree, away from her classmates, and it is the only green one that gets added to the cider press. Farah hesitates at first to help operate the press, but Anna and a boy make room for her, so she steps in. She even thinks she can taste her unique apple in the cider when they taste it. On the hayrack ride back, another child introduces himself, but when he belches, Farah notes that the laughter sounds the same as in her home country, and as she thinks about how it is only the language that sounds different and she will be able to learn that, she thinks, “I will blend with the others the way my apple blended with the cider.” Inspired by her understanding that she will learn to fit in but with her own personal flavor, she tries her first “outside-myself” word and speaks “app-ell” aloud, causing Anna to applaud her effort. The watercolor illustrations are beautiful, almost photorealistic, but the real reason I like this book is that I can see my GirlChild being the Anna in it, and I am proud of her and what she can do for lonely people around her!

Ruth and the Green Book, by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, illustrations by Floyd Cooper Ruth and the Green Book, by Calvin Alexander Ramsey(2010–elementary): This book is historical fiction set in the early 1950s and tells the story of an African American family driving south from Chicago to visit family in Alabama and the unexpected difficulties they face as they try to do simple things like get gas, use a restroom, stop to eat, or get a room at a hotel. It is told from the point-of-view of the young daughter who is put in charge of using the Green Book to find the things that her family needs along the way. The titular book–The Negro Motorist Green Book–was a book published from 1936 to 1964 that gave African Americans traveling through the United States (and eventually Bermuda, Mexico, and Canada) lists of places necessary to travelers that would accept their business. See a need, fill a need. The last page of the book gives a brief history of the book and tells that the last edition was published in 1964–the same year that the president signed the Civil Rights Bill into law, making the book obsolete. This would be a great read-aloud during a study of the Civil Rights Movement because of its true but gentle treatment of a very serious subject.

Nature's Green Umbrella: Tropical Rain Forests, by Gail GibbonsNature’s Green Umbrella: Tropical Rain Forests, by Gail Gibbons (1994–elementary): This nonfiction book features a large amount of information in a relatively unintimidating format. A large, labeled illustration on each spread introduces vocabulary and wildlife names. Illustrated maps and diagrams help explain concepts discussed in the text, a few sentences or somewhat brief paragraphs on each page. At the end of the book, different kinds of rain forests are defined and shown on a map if possible.

Do you  have a favorite green book? Share it with us in the comments!


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3-Year-Old Boy Humor: The Ravenous Beast and Chu’s Day

These are the books that BoyChild finds hilarious and worth reading and rereading this past week!

The Ravenous Beast

The Ravenous Beast, by Niamh Sharkey (2003): With folksy oil paintings for illustrations, images of cute little bite marks taken out of various edible and inedible things, you might think this is just an adorable book about various animals boasting about how hungry they are. Not so, my friends! Each progressively larger animal says he or she is hungry for one more item than the animal before (although this is not a cumulative book–each list is thematic and unique) until the Ravenous Beast–the first to proclaim his hunger–returns at the end to reiterate that he is the hungriest of all…and eats all the other animals (who appear with looks of shock on their faces as he announces by name each one he will eat). BoyChild said, “He eat all his friends?” Yep. Traumatized? No. “Read Rab’nous Bea’t ‘gain!” Like my mother said when I emailed her about his obsession, “Children are little ghouls.” Obviously, this author knows that and capitalized on it, and BoyChild can’t get enough!

Chu's Day

Chu’s Day, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Adam Rex (2013): BoyChild brings me this book and says (what I always first mishear as “Tuesday!”), “Chu’s Day!” Then he plops in my lap and prompts, “Bad t’ings happen…” If this were a typical Neil Gaiman book, really bad things would happen (like Chu’s parents being kidnapped and locked in a snowglobe by an evil doppelganger with button eyes (Coraline) or there being wolves in the walls or something (The Wolves in the Walls)), but BoyChild is happy to describe all the “bad t’ings” that happen on the few wordless pages in the book: the train’s off its tracks, the balloons escape the blown-away circus tent, and the cars and trucks fall over. (The funniest time was when BoyChild just said, “Oopsie!” (much like Chu’s response to his sneeze) instead of describing the scene on the page where the library and the diner are shown being blasted by the sneeze.) I love the fact that Chu lowers the goggles on his aviator cap every time he thinks he might sneeze; it’s a subtle touch–one that BoyChild hasn’t noticed–but it gives hints of what’s to come for the savvy viewer. It’s a simple book in the vein of the childhood classic “Stand Back,” Said the Elephant, “I’m Going to Sneeze!”, and with a baby panda as the main character, the enormous sneeze is just that much funnier!


What books are your three-year-olds loving? Share in the comments!

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Themed Third Thursday: I’m a Big Kid Now

BoyChild turned three last week, and we are officially into “big boy” mode now. In addition to being sick, then having a week of birthday celebrations (okay, just two, but they stretched all week!), BoyChild also had his second set of tympanostomy tubes inserted and his adenoids removed this week, so we’re a little short on titles this month…oops! (I tried searching “growth–fiction” and “juvenile” in my local library’s catalog, but there are enough plant books mixed in there that finding enough on-topic books while BoyChild’s attention span lasted in the play corner was a little rough!) In honor of his big day, though, I’m posting a few books about getting bigger that are geared toward the very young.  If you know of any other good titles, let us know in the comments!

Now I'm Big!Now I’m Big!, by Karen Katz (2013): In this book, a little girl talks about different hallmarks of babyhood–wearing diapers, crawling, riding in a stroller–and then proclaims, “Now I’m big!” and explains what she can do now that she’s big. Although BoyChild can’t yet do many of the “big” milestones (using the toilet regularly and self-bathing most definitely among them!), he LOVES this book and gladly chimes in his, “Now I big!” on each page and memorized some of the other phrases as well. In the end, the little girl proclaims that now she’s a big sister and can help her little sister do all her baby things…because she’s big. Even though this is told as though it’s by one child, there are both boys and girls and an assortment of different ethnicities represented as the comparison between baby and big kid on different pages. (Note: The last page shows the little girl jumping on the bed with her baby sister…and BoyChild (because of my comments the first few times we read this) always says, “Dat not safe!” You might want to make sure your “big kid” knows it’s not safe to jump on the bed with a baby, too. :) )

The Growing Story, by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury (2007):The Growing Story, by Ruth Krauss Originally written in 1947 (with illustrations copyrighted in 2007 for this most recent edition), the story of a little boy wondering if he’s really growing is pretty much timeless! In his life on the farm, he sees the crops, the livestock, and the pets growing, but he doesn’t feel like he is. He repeatedly asks his mother if she’s sure he’s growing, and she always patiently answers that, yes, of course he’s growing. He remains doubtful until winter comes again and the warm pants and coat they packed away the previous spring are now too tight and too short; then he joyously cavorts about among the animals that have been growing and informs them happily, “I’m growing too.”

Another Important Book, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Chris RaschkaAnother Important Book, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Chris Raschka (1999): Starting at age one, using rhyming, repetitive text, Brown gives a glimpse into what’s important about life up through age six. (BoyChild is currently in the individuality/self-centered stage: “The important thing about being Three is being ME.” Go figure.) Raschka’s unusual style give the illustrations a kind of retro look, and once again, a variety of differently hued children are represented fairly. In the end, Brown reminds little readers that the most important thing about each age is just “that you are YOU.”

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Don’t Let the Pigeon Be Your Cake!

Don't Let the Pigeon Be Your Cake!

This cake is an homage to Mo Willems‘ Pigeon books which BoyChild loves! This is his cake for his third birthday, and he now owns all the Scholastic storybook DVDs for the Pigeon books (and can quote The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! all the way through with GirlChild). (By the way, if you’re hoping to recreate this most awesome of cakes, it’s just a basic box of cake mix made into two 8 inch rounds and one cupcake. Frosted with Rick’s Special Buttercream Frosting (made with half butter-flavored Crisco and half unsalted butter for the shortening) tinted with Wilton’s Sky Blue food coloring gel (and I was a little heavy-handed with it, so it’s a little brighter than it ought to be) and basic yellow food coloring for the beak, I added the eye by making marshmallow fondant (subbing in marshmallow creme for the marshmallows and water, eliminating the vanilla (to keep it white), and mixing it all in a stand mixer), cutting it out with a coffee mug, and using a dab of frosting to attach an Oreo (or Oreo-like substitute) to the center. The beak is a cupcake cut in half with a little trimmed off each half to make it flat and frosted on all exposed sides (most before attaching it to the side of the cake with a toothpick in each part).) Pretty easy and totally fun, it’s a must for any Pigeon-themed party!

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March 15, 2014 · 8:40 pm

Fun Fourth Friday: The Presidential Edition

I know Presidents’ Day is long gone by now, but there’s always next year (and fifth grade president reports this spring, right? people still do those?)!

While many kids learn all they know about the POTUS through their parents’ gritted teeth or abject praises, there are somewhat more subjective (and citable!) ways for children to learn about the lives and legacies of the past and present inhabitants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In addition to a couple books about individual presidents (had a hard time finding too many that weren’t your standard elementary biography) and several encyclopedic anthologies, I’m including a list of some books that look fun and with focuses on others who have made their homes under the presidential roof.

George Washington and the General's DogGeorge Washington and the General’s Dog, by Frank Murphy, illustrated by Richard Walz (2002): This Step Into Reading book (my edition says step 2–early independent readers, 1st-3rd grade-ish) focuses on George Washington’s love of animals and one particular, obscure incident where he returned the opposing general’s dog to him after it was separated from him during battle as an acknowledgment of the bond between master and dog. Although the setting is obviously wartime, there is no blood or mention of casualties, so the story reveals a facet of Washington’s personality through a true story and is completely appropriate for very young readers. Included in the author’s note are images of George Washington on his horse, the note sent about the dog, Alexander Hamilton (who penned the note), and William Howe.

Looking at Lincoln, by Maira KalmanLooking at Lincoln, by Maira Kalman (2012): Decidedly whimsical, this book reproduces (in the illustrator’s own style) many iconic images relating to one of the most celebrated presidents of the United States. The author’s periodic musings throughout, as she interacts with the researched information, appear to be hand-lettered, and this helps set them apart from the statements of fact gleaned from the sources listed at the end of the book. Also included at the end are some brief notes of explanation for some of the images and people and events mentioned in the text.

So You Want to Be President?So You Want to Be President?, by Judith St. George, illustrated by David Small (2000): Sadly, the only copy of this I can find is terribly out-of-date–the last president it discusses is George H. W. Bush (and just calls him George Bush since there was no need for differentiation when it was published) and it mentions the lack of diversity in the office, and that has changed since its printing as well. (Reviews on Amazon say it’s been updated, but I can’t find a copy to confirm that.) I love the piecemeal approach of the So You Want to Be… series in that it brings up connections and names and random facts that are interesting enough to spark further research; it’s definitely not a book for research in itself! This book also won the Caldecott Medal in 2001 for its fun illustrations representing the presidents. Perhaps my favorite part of this book, however, is the ending pages where the author encourages any child who wants to be president to emulate the good qualities of the presidents who have gone before–no one is perfect, but everyone can try to do the best he or she can do!

Don't Know Much About the Presidents, by Kenneth C. DavisDon’t Know Much About the Presidents, by Kenneth C. Davis, illustrated by Pedro Martin (2002): I have always really liked Kenneth C. Davis’ Don’t Know Much About… books. Intended for elementary-aged children, this book (like the others in the series) tackles simple questions that children might have (“Why is it called the White House?”) as well as creating some other questions to impart trivia or important information about the subject. Although more for curiosity’s sake than for research, each president’s section gives information about his years in office and a timeline that helps place the president’s term(s) in history. Always a fun series to have in a classroom or library! (My copy only goes through George W. Bush, but there seems to be an update available that is the one linked through the cover image!)

The Presidents of the United States, by Simon AdamsThe Presidents of the United States, by Simon Andrews (2001): With timelines for major events in the lives and presidencies of each man and a brief sidebar telling the term, party, vice-president, first lady, and the number of states in the union, this book provides information that is suited to elementary age students. The text is written with headings, important terms in bold (defined in a simple glossary), and highlighted with reproductions and images of related paintings, sculptures, and documents from that president’s life, making this much like a social studies text for elementary students (maybe a homeschool textbook?). I actually really like this book for research for young learners or older students who need a simpler style or reading level. Unfortunately, no more recent editions of this book have come out, so it ends with our 43rd president. (Also, the George Washington cherry tree story is reported in a text box and is not labeled a legend; there could be other snippets like that which I missed, but it seems less likely with the less “legendary” presidents.)

Presidents (Eyewitness Books) (2000)Presidents (Eyewitness Books), written by James Braber in association with the Smithsonian Institution (2000): As is typical of Eyewitness Books, this book about the Presidents is big on images and information, but most of the content is to be found in the captions and short paragraphs on each topic. My copy is out an out-of-date edition, but the newest edition has a CDROM of clip art, a wall chart, and is apparently updated to include presidents through Barack Obama. (My copy ends with Clinton.) Because of the way the information is organized, the book is great for browsing and for finding fast facts (birth and death information and term dates are found in sidebars for each president). The presidents with more contributions to history (such as Washington, Eisenhower, and FDR) and more recent presidents have the most extensive sidebars of information and include information such as the exact date of inauguration, the age of the president, political party, and family information in addition to key historical events for the most influential presidents of the past. With an index for finding key information, this book could be used for some research, but the information is patchy enough that it is more likely a book for middle to upper elementary age students with an interest in tidbits of information about the presidents rather than extensive research.

Our Country's Presidents, by Ann BaumanOur Country’s Presidents (3rd edition), by Ann Bausum, foreword by President Barack Obama (2009): Since this National Geographic book was published in 2009, it has only a scant entry on the writer of the foreword, Barack Obama. However, the rest of the book is overflowing with detail, images, sidebars of information, and interrupting essays about historical events and other information with timelines that help place the presidents where they belong in history (which can be an extremely vague concept to many people, especially children). While it is definitely not the kind of book most people would just sit down and read through, the beginning of the book offers explanations of how it is set up and how to use the contents. Some interesting parts of each entry include a copy of the official presidential portrait (mostly paintings, some photographs), each president’s signature, and many images of primary source documents, photographs, mementos, and paintings from each term. Perfect for research or reference, budding historians, and future presidential hopefuls in upper elementary and middle school. (There is a more current edition, published in 2013. The large image of President Obama has been subbed out for an image of Washington; Obama is now shown in the strip at the bottom of the cover instead of Washington, and this is possibly because the 2009 edition was updated and printed to be put out in time for Obama’s inauguration and reverts to a more standard image with our first president as the “headliner” for the newest edition. Strangely, however, the image of Kennedy in the showcase at the bottom has been replaced by an image of Reagan instead–perhaps to avoid having three Democratic presidents featured and only Lincoln as a Republican?)

Michael Townsend's Where Do Presidents Come From?: And Other Presidential Stuff of Super-Great Importance

Michael Townsend’s Where Do Presidents Come From?: And other Presidential Stuff of Super-Great Importance, by Michael Townsend (2012): As you can probably tell by both the title and the cover image, this book is a somewhat unorthodox book about the presidency. It’s actually printed in graphic novel (also known as comic book) style and presents a huge amount of information (from presidential elections to the job of the president to presidential retirement) in a silly, accessible way. Recommended for upper elementary to middle school students because of the vast amount of information and unusual presentation style, this book is a good way to get an uninterested reader interested in the office of the president.

Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought)Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame (and What the Neighbors Thought), by Kathleen Krull and Kathryn Hewitt (2011): Covering all United States presidents from one to forty-four, some (the most notable and most recent) more deeply than others, this book provides primarily child-friendly, balanced information that would be of interest to upper elementary and middle school students. The public and private behavior of the presidents and their wives, their children and pets, any major accomplishments or scandals, and any inconsistencies between their private beliefs and their political opinions and actions are discussed in addition to the more trivial information. (This means that potentially PG-13 topics such as affairs, indiscretions, and unhealthy habits are mentioned in matter-of-fact, non-graphic ways, and anything suspected or gossiped about but unproven is typically stated as such. While these topics are not as big of a focus as they seemed in the artists book of the same series, I do recommend that a responsible adult previews this book and knows his or her child’s ability to handle more mature information before handing it over for independent perusal.) Interestingly, the one bit of information you will not find in this book is each president’s political party; a child is left to form an opinion of the person without the label to influence the decision. (I must admit that I feel decidedly more charitable toward Andrew Jackson–a president I remember for his irreverent treatment of the White House furniture!–now that I’ve learned that, shortly before he took office, his young wife died of an apparent heart attack brought on by stress due to the personal-attack campaign of his adversaries.) Besides their life in office, many of the mini-biographies include personal background information and what the president did after leaving office. Includes a bibliography.

Related titles:

First Ladies (Eyewitness Books)First Ladies (Eyewitness Books), by Amy Pastan in association with the Smithsonian Institution (2009): Again, an Eyewitness Book is a great browsing book with a ton of information tucked away in captions, images, and charts. Obviously less space is dedicated to each of these women than to their presidential spouses in the companion book, but the pictures and information will delight anyone interested in knowing more about the women in the White House! (In the Find Out More section at the end of the book, you can find websites and tourist attractions related to these women and their accomplishments!)

White House Kids: The Perks, Pleasures, Problems, andWhite House Kids Pratfalls of the Presidents’ Children, by Joe Rhatigan (2012): Organized not by president but by general topic, this book provides a look into the lives of children in the White House. Photographs, illustrations, and other images are included to illustrate the information, presented as short blurbs of related information under a heading such as “The Most Daring Stunts.” Also includes several appendices with further information about the presidential children mentioned, a list of the presidents and their wives, a bibliography, and an index to help find information scattered throughout the text about specific people.

Presidential PetsPresidential Pets: The Weird, Wacky, Little, Big, Scary, Strange Animals That Have Lived in the White House, by Julie Moberg, illustrated by Jeff Albrecht Studios (2012): This book is cleverly disguised as being about the presidential pets (and might be a way to sneak a book about the presidents into the hands of an animal lover!), but it actually is another book that gives basic facts about each of the presidents. Each president’s page has a (somewhat cheesy) poem about the president’s pets as well as a “Tell Me More!” list that both discusses more about the pets and the president. Each page also has an “Accomplishments & Events” (of the president, not the pets!) and “Presidential Stats” (basic info) list as well as a large and silly illustration about the pets mentioned.

I know I didn’t even begin to scratch the surface here, but if you know of any high-quality biographies (particularly ones that aren’t the typical stale fare–those are everywhere!) about a president, please leave a comment to share your bounty!

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Themed Third Thursday…Delayed

While this is not the weather delay that so many of us have been experiencing lately (GirlChild has missed three days of school for frigid windchills and hazardous conditions this year), Themed Third Thursday will be delayed this month due to my children tag-teaming illness and keeping me from focusing! :) Fun Fourth Friday next week will showcase the books I meant to share today.

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Themed Third Thursday: Artists Edition

To quote my sister, a youth services librarian, “No one reads picture book biographies of obscure people–only of people who have a holiday named after them. Or Johnny Appleseed.” Well, let’s change that! Most of these people are far from obscure, but artists don’t often get a lot of (juvenile) literary attention, possibly because some of the greats weren’t exactly known for their rated-G behavior. These excellent picture book and illustrated chapter book biographies for kids are a great way to combine information and art in a way even a young child can enjoy. (Links for parents/teachers/librarians to more information about the artist are included in each summary.)

Dave the PotterDave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier (2010): Written in free verse to honor the poetry of the potter himself, this book tells a little about the man known simply as Dave who, as a slave with the unusual skills of pottery and literacy, created possibly up to forty thousand high-quality pots in his seventy year life. They are unique in both their size and quality in addition to the rarity of a slave being allowed to do skilled work and the bits of verse the potter often scratched into the finished product. Both an artist’s and illustrator’s note are included as well as a bibliography.

Frida, by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Ana Juan (2002): Frida, by Jonah WinterThe life of Frida Kahlo was filled with pain, but her pain gave her the opportunity and inspiration to create the art that made her famous. Stricken by polio as a child, involved in a terrible accident as a teenager, she spent a lot of time stuck in bed, alone except for her paints. The text is written in an italic kind of font, and some younger readers may find it a little difficult to read because of that despite the short, simple sentences that make up the content. The illustrations in this book were inspired both by Kahlo’s art and by the Mexican folk art that inspired her. Includes an author and artist note.

Action JacksonAction Jackson, by Jan Greenburg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker (2002): Using a variety of primary sources about Jackson Pollock, the authors create a story around the creation of one of his most famous abstract impressionist works, Lavender Mist. Small details, like the fact that he used regular house paint for this work and the names of his pet crow and dog, bring life to the sometimes lengthy text. Again, a detailed author’s note and careful citation make this picture book a good source of nonfiction information about the artist, and the authors use occasional relevant quotes from the artist in the text as well.

Colorful Dreamer: The Story of Artist Henri MatisseColorful Dreamer: The Story of Artist Henri Matisse, by Marjorie Blain Parker, illustrated by Holly Berry (2012): The opening pages of this biography of Henri Matisse are in drastic contrast with the ending pages; the beginning, all black and white and gray; the end, exploding with more colors than it seems can fit on one page. This is how the author and illustrator help create an analogy of the way that Matisse’s dreams and his art brought color to a life he at first found drab and colorless. Although the author’s note provides some additional detail about Matisse’s life, the illustrations help tell the story by showing the emotions of the characters, samples of Matisse’s work, and, always, using color (or lack thereof) to create a mood for the reader.

Through Georgia's EyesThrough Georgia’s Eyes, by Rachel Rodriguez, illustrated by Julie Paschkis (2006): Georgia O’Keeffe was born in a time when women artists were scarce and viewed with suspicion. Using collage art and the present tense, this book follows Georgia from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin (where she was born) to the big city to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. The author’s words, chosen to share with readers the things about the artist that fascinated her, reveal the passion of an introverted woman for her art and the things that inspired it. Notes from both author and illustrator, a brief bibliography, and an afterword giving more detailed information about O’Keeffe round out this nonfiction picture book.

Just Behave, Pablo Picasso!, by Jonah Winter,Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! pictures by Kevin Hawkes (2012): Pablo Picasso wasn’t one to stay content doing the same old thing all the time. Throughout his life, he experimented with many different styles of art, even becoming the co-creator of the art form known as Cubism. The text and art of the book—filled with exaggerations and hyperbole—help to create an image of the type of man and artist that Pablo Picasso was: bold, intense, and completely unique. Includes a note about the artist and citations naming the art reproduced in the book and where the original is displayed.

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace PippinA Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin, written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (2013): Horace Pippin got his first real art supplies as a prize in a drawing contest as a child, but even before that, he had been an artist. Life, however, required him to go to work at a young age to help support his family. He was injured in World War I and had to adjust his technique in order to continue creating art. This colorful book includes not only images of some pieces of his actual art but features hand-lettered quotes from the artist as part of many of the illustrations. The writing style is engaging, and the author and illustrator both include notes as well as a good list of books and websites for reference and citation.

Bill Peet: An Autobiography (1989): Bill Peet: An AutobiographyThis Caldecott Honor book is, obviously, written by Bill Peet about himself, from the time he was just a young child through his time with Disney and on into his own work writing children’s books. Illustrated throughout, this book is a favorite of many who read his books growing up and should be introduced to a new generation!

If you’re looking for books for older children who are interested in learning more about these artists, you might consider the Who Was…? series (Picasso and da Vinci each have a title, among others) for detailed books that are relatively easy to read and are still rated-G for independent research. If you think your child is mature enough to read about some more rated-PG things responsibly, Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought) is an interesting and informative collection of mini-biographies of nearly twenty famous artists, but, as the quote on the first page says, “The great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable” (H. L. Mencken). This book talks a little more about the sexual lives of the artists than I would generally expect in a book written for children, and it really doesn’t sugarcoat some of their idiosyncrasies or personality defects or gloss over them like books for younger readers, but it really does give good information about a decent selection of artists and is intended for upper elementary readers. Teachers of younger students might consider reading this book themselves and sharing interesting tidbits about the artist to supplement some of the picture books I’ve shared to enrich the experience without getting young students in over their heads.

Although you can always use the advanced search to look up the subjects “artists biography” and “juvenile” (to make sure you’re getting children’s books) at your local library, be aware that not all children’s biographies are created equal; some will bore you to tears, and others will leave you breathless! You’ll never know until you start to explore!

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