Sibling relationships can be tricky. The wonder and comfort of a shared history is powerful…and yet…no one can push our buttons or get our blood boiling like a sibling. I witness the magic and the mayhem on a daily basis with my four kids. It only takes a moment to go from delighted giggles as they line up their toys to play store, to horrified shrieks as the “customer” refuses to pay the 35 cents required to purchase the stuffed pony…only seconds for the “shop owner” to take chase and wrestle the pony-lifting offender to the ground. And on bad days, for this mama, the back-and-forth bickering is more than even an afternoon Venti-Caramel-Iced-Coffee-with-Milk can fix. But on good days, Sorrys can be spoken, hugs can be shared, and in the same span of moments it took to break down, all is well again. Today’s pick for Perfect Picture Book Friday, OTTO GROWS DOWN, takes on the highs and lows of sibling relationships in bold fashion. Michael Sussman takes that “How I wish I was an only child” feeling and actually SAYS IT OUT LOUD. (The horror!) With humor and heart, Sussman and illustrator Scott Magoon come together to tell a story that children and adults alike can relate to as they navigate the both valuable and vexing in sibling relationships.
OTTO GROWS DOWN
- Written By: Michael Sussman
- Illustrated By: Scott Magoon
- Published By: Sterling, February 2009
- Suitable For: Ages 4-7
- Topics/Themes: Siblings, Family, Wishes, Regret
- Opening: “One week before Otto’s sixth birthday, his sister Anna spoiled everything by being born.”
- Synopsis: (from jacketflap) “When six-year-old Otto makes a birthday wish that his baby sister had never been born, he gets much more than he bargained for. Suddenly, time starts moving backward. Good-bye, toy-stealing baby sister! But soon, good-bye Otto, as he gets younger and younger and younger. Will Otto disappear too? Find out in this wild tale of sibling rivalry and wishes gone out of control.”
- Resources: This book is sure to produce organic conversations with your kids about dealing with siblings. Questions I asked my younger kids after reading this book included, “Is it sometimes hard to have a brother/sister?” “What feels hard about it?” “What was hard for Otto?” “How did Otto feel when his sister disappeared? At the beginning? At the end?” “What are some things you would miss if your brother/sister weren’t in your life?” The conversation is sure to flow from there. I also found this really amazing worksheet/lesson plan for older kids to imagine a “what if” type situation and write about it. It covers the topic in two parts, so here you go: Part I, and Part II.
- Why I Like this Book: I adore this book. Wait, let me say that again. I ADORE THIS BOOK! There, that’s better. So I was heartbroken to hear that it is going out of print. (sob!) This picture book has a wow factor that not all picture books do. The pairing of Scott Magoon’s comic illustrations with Michael Sussman’s smart text is genius. It addresses a universal theme in such a clever, funny, and heart-warming way. CLEVER (ok, kind of brilliant, really) because it manages to make time-travel work within the constraints of a picture book text. FUNNY because there are certain things that happen once time begins to move backward (sliding up the slide! baths that you take when you’re clean and they make you dirty!) that make adults and children alike giggle out loud. And HEART-WARMING because it addresses feelings that most kids can relate to…the wish that they were an only child…and brings about the realization that just maybe the good things outweigh the bad when it comes to siblings. So please, please leave here now and go buy one of the last remaining copies. You won’t regret it.
AFTER you go snatch up OTTO GROWS DOWN, please head on over and check out the rest of the selections today on Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!
I get asked pretty often about my take on e-books and whether or not I think traditional publishing is on it’s way out. Since I primarily write picture books, I haven’t been as worried about the shift in format. I just don’t see an app, as awesome as it may be, being anywhere near the same experience as curling up with your child and turning the actual pages of a book. While they are not the same, I am not one who you will hear bashing the e-book revolution. In fact, I see all of the apps and electronic options as a potential motivator for reluctant readers, and as a way to get good stories into the hands of those who might not normally pick up a book. And who knows, if a child who has a negative outlook on reading finds a game that they love based on a book character, then maybe when they see that book in print, they won’t be so hesitant to pick it up. With all of that in mind, I want to share with you my kids’ most recent app favorite:
PRANCING DANCING LILY
I have written about my love for this picture book before, and if you need a little reminder, you can read that blog post HERE. So I was absolutely ecstatic when Marsha Diane Arnold asked if I wanted to preview their new app! I have to say that my kids really enjoyed this one. You do get the option to read it yourself or have it read to you, as is the case with most e-picture-books. But the thing that sets this one apart and makes it extra fun is that it has some cool interactive features. My kids were tapping the screen after every turn, trying to see what else it might do. Their favorite pages: one that features a fax machine with working buttons and fax-sending-sounds, and the ones near the end where they could play Lily’s drum and ring her cowbell. This wonderful, upbeat story lends itself well to movement and sound, which makes for a super-fun app.
What about you? What do you think about e-books and their place in the picture book world? What are your kids’ favorite apps?
Many of you know that Rob and I traveled to New York City last fall right after Hurricane Sandy hit. We were supposed to fly into LaGuardia, but it was completely underwater. At the time, we thought the NYC Marathon was still on, so we changed our flight and landed in Washington D.C. instead. After I got over the initial concern I felt now that we had to make the 4 hour drive to NYC, I began to get excited. I LOVE Washington D.C., and was hoping we would have time to see a few things before hitting the road. We did, and it was wonderful.
One of the highlights was seeing the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial for the first time. I was definitely momentarily shocked by its…um…whiteness…but there was no denying that the solid granite monument was beautiful. It was striking in a way that made it quite memorable. Rain started to fall as we took in the powerful words carved into stone, and so we found shelter in the accompanying gift shop. It was there that I found this week’s Perfect Picture Book, and brought it home in hopes of sharing some of the experience with my kids.
OUR CHILDREN CAN SOAR
- Written By: Michelle Cook (Michelle Cook is the pseudonym of a book editor/author who was thrilled to collaborate with Bloomsbury Children’s Books to develop this unique text.)
- Illustrated By: AG Ford, Bryan Collier, Charlotte Riley-Webb, Cozbi Cabrera, Diane Dillon, E. B. Lewis, Eric Velasquez, Frank Morrison, James Ransome, Leo Dillon, Pat Cummings, R. Gregory Christie, Shadra Strickland
- Published By: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2009
- Suitable For: Ages 5 and up
- Opening: “Our ancestors fought…so George could invent. George invented…so Jesse could sprint.”
- Synopsis: (from Amazon) “This gorgeous picture book takes young readers through the cumulative story of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement in poetry and pictures. The illustrations introduce icons like Jesse Owens and Rosa Parks, as well as lesser-known figures in the struggle for equality. Spare prose and vivid imagery make this a truly moving and accessible book that readers of all ages will treasure.”
- Resources: I LOVED this collection of activities for home and classroom on Shadra Strickland’s blog. My favorite one was the encouragement for kids to think about the future, and to continue the story…Obama ran so that I could (fill in the blank). This book can really be a starting point for a great discussion about significant African-Americans in history and their contributions on our country’s journey toward equality. There are 11 amazing individuals featured, and each one merits their own study and discussion. The last few pages of the book give a short biography of each person featured, as well as one on each of the illustrators, so the backmatter is a resource of its own. You could choose one or two to talk about more in depth each time you read the book with your children.
- Why I Like this Book: I fell in love with this book because of its simplicity. The words are so sparse, and yet so powerful. Each illustration is done by a different artist, and each one is gorgeous. You could easily read this book 11 different times and have 11 different discussions, because each of the 11 heroes featured in the book has their own wonderfully unique story. I especially loved learning about some of the people I was less familiar with, like Hattie McDaniel. Simple, beautiful, powerful…LOVE!
Today’s book is one that I have almost recommended several times. In each instance, there was one thing that stopped me…and that thing is the sheer terror that my 5-year-old experienced as a result of reading this book. She found the book quite worrying and even had trouble falling asleep a few nights after we read it. Truth. And to be honest, once you see this book, you might understand why. The art is fantastic. It is so fantastic that you might even say it’s…haunting. I have gushed about David Shannon’s artwork before on my blog here, and will gush yet again this week. It. Is. Amazing. Now, back to my traumatized child. Fast-forward almost a year. We read the book again, and she is completely fascinated. She proceeds to ask question after question about what exactly is happening to Miss Camilla Cream, the main character in the book. And after reading it, she says, totally unprompted…”I guess Camilla learned that she should just be herself and not worry about what everyone else was thinking.” wow….yeah! So here it is, in all of its nightmare-inducing glory, this week’s Perfect Picture Book… A BAD CASE OF STRIPES.
A BAD CASE OF STRIPES
- Written and Illustrated By: David Shannon
- Published By: The Blue Skye Press, March 1, 1998
- Suitable For: Ages 6 and up
- Topics/Themes: Individuality, Peer Pressure, Learning to be Yourself
- Opening: “Camilla Cream loved lima beans. But she never ate them. All of her friends hated lima beans, and she wanted to fit in. Camilla was always worried about what other people thought of her.”
- Synopsis: (from Amazon) Camilla Cream loves lima beans, but she never eats them. Why? Because the other kids in her school don”t like them. And Camilla Cream is very, very worried about what other people think of her. In fact, she’s so worried that she’s about to break out in… a bad case of stripes!
- Resources: There are a plethora of resources available online for this book. Here are a few for you: Scholastic has a lesson plan that focuses on the worries children feel at school, and how this book addresses those worries. Parent and Child magazine takes a different bent, focusing on the idea of stripes. I especially loved the writing activities featured by webteaching.com. Pretend you are a reporter at Camilla’s house…what would your report look like? Pretend you are in Camilla’s class. How could you convince your classmates to not tease her?
- Why I Like this Book: In the end, I am recommending this book because it covers a topic that every grade-schooler deals with, and I had a great conversation with my daughter because of it. If you are trained up in writing picture books, the overt moral in this story will more than likely set off your didactic sensors. But for me, sometimes a book like this is necessary…one where the issues it is addressing don’t have to be uncovered, drawn out, or massaged. The meaning of A BAD CASE OF STRIPES is right there in the opening lines, and if you have a child struggling with being themselves in the midst of a society where fitting in is the treasured goal, it is perfection. And if you have a child who is sensitive and fearful, this might be one to skip…at least for a while. You never know when fear will transform into fascination, and when it does, you’ll want to have a front-row seat.
Head on over to Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog to see what else made the list this week on Perfect Picture Book Friday!
I love the idea of Goodreads. But somehow, I haven’t been able to get into the groove of actually participating much in it. I like being able to track the books I have read. I like being able to see what my friends are reading, and get book recommendations. And, I like seeing that even brilliant classics written by Dr. Seuss have some less-than-stellar ratings, which makes a less-than-stellar rating on my book seem not so significant. (Sorry Theo, even the best of us suffer from the occasional bout of schadenfreude!) It’s such a brilliant concept, and I want to use it…I do! So I officially declare 2013 the year of Reading Good…join me over on Goodreads, will you?
I’m curious and want to hear from you. Do you already use Goodreads, and what do you use if for? Also, in a grand experiment, I’m hosting a giveaway of my book, MARATHON MOUSE, on Goodreads, and do hope that after you answer the poll, you will head over there, connect with me, and enter to win! Thanks!