Our culture has a strange obsession with facial hair. Mustaches are popping up everywhere! I’ve seen necklaces, erasers, even this somewhat disturbing pacifier…and it’s not just mustaches. I have friends who are growing out Grizzly Adams type beards with way too much enthusiasm, and then there’s this crazy bearded fellow that keeps showing up on my facebook page. Ewww. What is it about facial hair that is so fascinating to us? A quick trip on google informed me that men have been taking a sort of weird pride in their facial hair for generations…dating all the way back to Victorian times. And even more interesting is the history of defacing pictures with the addition facial hair, most famously done by Marcel Duchamp in his piece, L.H.O.O.Q., which depicts the Mona Lisa with a mustache and goatee. There is no denying it…there is just something about facial hair which makes us stop and take notice. Sometimes we draw back in horror, other times we giggle, but it certainly gets our attention. It’s no wonder then, that I was drawn in by the cover and title of this week’s chuckle-worthy selection for Perfect Picture Book Friday.
- Written By: Mac Barnett
- Illustrated By: Kevin Cornell
- Published By: Hyperion Books (October 25, 2011)
- Suitable For: Ages 4-8
- Topics/Themes: Selfishness, Vanity, Compassion, Making good choices, Learning to laugh at yourself
- Opening: “Duncan was a terrible king, but he was terribly handsome.”
- Synopsis: (from Amazon) King Duncan is terribly handsome, but a terrible king. His kingdom is in ruins, and when his subjects appeal for help, he only builds more tributes to his handsome face. His subjects are finally ready to stand up for themselves, and they have just the plan to get out of this hairy situation.
- Resources: So after I spent a couple of hours preparing this post and getting completely sucked into the history of facial hair (seriously! fascinating.), I did a search for resources and discovered that this book had already been covered in the Perfect Picture Book Friday family. Oops. Because I took a little hiatus from PPBF in November and December, I missed it, but the lovely Penny wrote a great review and I encourage you to head over to Penny and Her Jots for a little bonus take on MUSTACHE! She has some great ideas for activities to go along with this book. In addition to those, I would encourage you to go through the book with your kids and find the places where King Duncan had an opportunity to make a better choice but didn’t. I did that with mine, and after we found those places we talked about what it means to have compassion, and put the needs of others before yourself. And extra points if you have these conversations while wearing a homemade mustache!
- Why I Like this Book: This book clearly falls into the category of majorly silly fun. The illustrations are hilarious and there are lots of hidden treats in them if you pay attention. But one thing I really love about this book is that it has a pretty clear message that is not delivered in a heavy-handed way. It is quite obvious from the beginning that King Duncan is the example to avoid. He is a terribly self-centered king, but in a sort of clueless way that is just the tiniest bit endearing. When the townspeople finally start to act out and get his attention, he is completely baffled by their actions and makes a series of even worse (and of course, funny) decisions. The best part really is the end, when we get to see a smidge of change from the dopey king. I don’t want to give it all away, but let’s just say that King Duncan learns to not take himself so seriously. Love this book!
Don’t forget to head on over to Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and check out the other fabulous selections for Perfect Picture Book Friday!
Some of my favorite childhood memories are of lazy weekend days spent watching movies with my brothers and sisters. In addition to some terrible bootleg copies of Disney movies, we also had a smattering of films that we had taped off of the TV. One of those movies was The Wizard of Oz. When it was my turn to choose, I almost always picked Dorothy and Toto and the ever-delightful yellow brick road. But each time we watched it, and the Wicked Witch of the West arrived on the scene, I began to regret my choice. I mean, that lady was scary…her laugh, her terrible green face, and don’t even get me started on the monkeys. I was afraid. And yet, time and again, I made the same choice. Why?
When we’re children, there is something kind of great and exciting about being afraid. We love roller coasters and ghost stories and sometimes even wicked witches who torment young girls in ruby slippers. But as we get older, fear takes on a whole other life. Our fears become much more significant and real. We fear things like disappointing our families, losing our loved ones, or messing up our kids because of our own issues. And it is all too easy to let those fears rule us. I know this because for the last couple of months, I have let worry and anxiety lead me. Fear has been the boss of me. I wrote a little bit of my story when I visited Elizabeth Stevens Omlor’s blog in November. If you read what I wrote there, it sounds like I had a little panic attack, made some changes, and things were all better. But I am learning that the battle against fear is not so easily won.
It’s a new year…a time to make resolutions…to choose words and taglines and symbols that propel us toward growth. It won’t come as a surprise that mine is…
BE NOT AFRAID
Parker J. Palmer, in his wonderfully enlightening book, LET YOUR LIFE SPEAK, says that this call to “Be not afraid,” doesn’t mean that we cannot have fear. Everyone has fear. But it does mean that we do not need to BE the fear we have.
We have places of fear inside of us, but we have other places as well–places with names like trust and hope and faith. We can choose to lead from one of those places, to stand on ground that is not riddled with the fault lines of fear, to move toward others from a place of promise instead of anxiety. As we stand in one of those places, fear may remain close at hand and our spirits may still tremble. But now we stand on ground that will support us, ground from which we can lead others toward a more trustworthy, more hopeful, more faithful way of being in the world.
So here’s to 2013. A year to choose hope and not fear. A year to let faith rule. Lift high your buckets and toast with me, to a year of dousing the wicked witch until she melts into nothingness. Cheers!
Not too long ago, on our weekly visit to the local library, I stepped away from the picture book section to help my son choose some middle grade books. When I returned, my little girls had assembled a stack of titles. These are the books they had chosen:
- GOLDILICIOUS by Victoria Kann
- SHOE-LA-LA! by Karen Beaumont & Leuyen Pham
- PRINCESS BESS GETS DRESSED by Margery Cuyler & Heather Maione
- PRINCESS BABY by Karen Katz
- BELINDA BEGINS BALLET by Amy Young
- ANGELINA AND THE ROYAL WEDDING by Katharine Holabird & Helen Craig
Anyone want to guess the common thread? That’s right…every single cover was shiny, glittery, sparkly, princessy, in-your-facessy PINK. Pink and shimmery is clearly a popular way to go with book covers! And it makes sense…most of the little girls I know have had some sort of princess/fairy/ballerina birthday party sometime in their short lifespan. But what happens when a little girl *gasp* doesn’t like pink? Since the dawn of Fancy Nancy, I have wondered if the pendulum would ever swing the other way. I wondered if there would be a response to the princess craze in the form of picture book heroines who represent a sort of “anti-princess.” Izzy, the main character in today’s Perfect Picture Book Pick, is one such heroine.
PUZZLED BY PINK
- Written and Illustrated By: Sarah Frances Hardy
- Published By: Viking Juvenile (April 12, 2012)
- Suitable For: Ages 3 and up
- Topics/Themes: Individuality, Siblings, Birthdays
- Opening: “Today is my sister Rose’s birthday party. She’s really, really into fairies and princesses and everything pink.”
- Synopsis: (from jacketflap) Izzy’s sister Rose loves pink. In fact, she’s planned an all-pink birthday party, where the guests will wear fairy wings and tutus. Not Izzy! She’s puzzled by pink, and she’s planned her own party in the attic. Her guests will be ghosts and spiders and monster dolls. But when Rose crashes the party and decides to prove that her magic want really works, a surprise guest joins the fun!
- Resources: When we read this book for the first time, my 10-year-old son had been listening to the story as well, and his first comment was, “SEE…not every girl likes pink!” He thought Izzy was pretty cool, with her love of monsters and ghosts and all things creepy and crawly. Immediately, we launched into a very basic discussion of gender stereotypes. We asked questions like, “Why is pink a color for girls?” “Is it okay for boys to like pink, too?” and “Would you feel comfortable telling your friends that you did/didn’t like pink?” To be honest, I wasn’t expecting such a productive conversation to come out of reading this book, so it was a wonderful surprise. I think this story could launch many a discussion about choosing to be yourself in the midst of societal pressures. And on the lighter side, I also found a website that gives you instructions on how to throw your very own Izzy-esque Tea Party. How cool is that?
- Why I Like this Book: In this story, we see two very different little girls, each celebrating who they are. Izzy has a bit of a harder time than Rose, since Rose’s choices are more the social norm. The very first page illustrates this beautifully, showing the sisters’ room…one side drenched in pink, and the other in stark contrast. The sibling interactions are very realistic, each thinking that their way is better, and each trying to make the other see the error of their ways. But in the end, we get the two coming together to deal with the issue of their “surprise guest,” and we see that the sisters, though very different, are there for each other. Sarah Frances Hardy has created a charming book that celebrates sisters, and gives us an opportunity to talk about expressing our individuality, even when it goes against the grain. And that, my friends, makes for a pretty perfect picture book!
10 minutes before I pick my kids up from school each day, I take a moment to make sure that I am ready. Ready to clear my own thoughts and worries from my head, ready to listen, ready to engage with the rapid-fire of excitement or wonder or even disappointment that is sure to be released as they pile in the car. My kids circle and pounce on each pause in conversation, eager to fill the airspace with the details of their day. And while it is sometimes overwhelming to be bombarded with the every thought and emotion of 4 young children, the truth is that I really do love it. Each and every afternoon is filled with a new story. And yet, when we sit down and ask kids to write a story, they often find it difficult. These same kids, in whom story bubbles up and overflows each day, find it hard to put it down on paper. The innate story sensibility that we all have is not enough. There is a process and a method to writing a story that is not always as natural. And that, my friends, is where this book, a Perfect Picture Book called ROCKET WRITES A STORY, comes in.
ROCKET WRITES A STORY
- Written and Illustrated by: Tad Hills
- Published by: Schwartz & Wade Books, July 24, 2012
- Suitable for: Ages 4 and up
- Topics/Themes: Reading, Writing, Words, Books, Story, Friendship
- Opening:“Rocket loved books. He loved to read them to himself or to sit quietly by his teacher, the little yellow bird, as she read them aloud. Rocket even liked the way books smelled. When he opened a new book, it smelled like a place he’d never been to, like a friend he’d never met.”
- Synopsis: (from author’s website) Rocket loves books and he wants to make his own, but he can’t think of a story. Encouraged by the little yellow bird to look closely at the world around him for inspiration, Rocket sets out on a journey. Along the way he discovers small details that he has never noticed before, a timid baby owl who becomes his friend, and an idea for a story.
- Links to Resources: The possibilities for using this book are endless. The book takes you along Rocket’s path of writing a story, and you could easily follow the steps he takes to help your own kids write a story. You could start with something as simple as word collecting. In the beginning, Rocket collects words he finds interesting and puts them on his word tree. You could make this same word tree. Rocket then uses those words in his story. You could do the same. Another exercise you could steal from Rocket would help kids know how to develop story characters. Rocket asks questions such as, “What color is her beak?” and, “What does she do every day?” in order to understand his main character better. This book could be a jumping off point for a myriad of writing exercises! On top of all of that, if you are interested in learning more about the “real” Rocket, you can visit the website of Tad Hills and find an adorable picture, as well as a video.
- Why I Like this Book: As a writer, I found this book fascinating. Rocket’s writing process really does mirror my own! Panic as you stare down at that blank page? Check. Frustration as your story comes out only in bits and pieces over a long period of time? Check. Going for walks, roaming the land, in search of inspiration? Check. Who knew Rocket was a tortured artist? While my kids probably didn’t see the writerly nuances of the story, they still love it. Rocket is so adorable, as is his teacher, the yellow bird. And they make a new friend in this story…a shy owl whose lovely scent of feathers and pine needles provides just the inspiration Rocket is looking for. It is a fun read for all!
The first day of school brings with it a plethora of emotions. For kids, there is usually some combination of excitement and trepidation, anticipation and hesitation, hope and fear. For parents, there is
euphoria! a similar mix of emotions. It’s no wonder that there have been more than a handful of books written to help all of us get through it. Today’s selection for Perfect Picture Book Friday is one of these books…one that handles the subject with a fusion of sweetness and humor that is fun for parents and kids alike.
SEA MONSTER’S FIRST DAY
- Written By: Kate Messner
- Illustrated By: Andy Rash
- Published By: Chronicle Books, June 22, 2011
- Suitable For: Ages 4-8
- Topics/Themes: First day of school, conquering fear
- Opening: “This is it,” my mother said. “You’re a big sea monster now, Ernest. Remember to introduce yourself, play nicely, and use your imagination. I’m sure you’ll have lots of fun.”
- Synopsis: (from jacketflap)
Sea monster Ernest is starting his first day of school. But starting school is a big job! Fitting in when you’re a sea monster is tough enough, and there’s so much to learn and do—reading, singing, playing hide-and-seek with the fishermen, lunchtime in the algae patch….This funny, charming twist on the worries and joys of starting school will reassure and delight the smallest children and the largest sea monsters alike.
- Links to Resources: Sea monsters really are amazing creatures, and what kid wouldn’t want to learn more about them? Parenting Science has a huge list of educational resources for kids (and parents, too!) Also, Russell Hawley art has a collection of printable drawings of prehistoric sea creatures that would make great coloring pages.
- Why I Like this Book: This book combines the funny and sweet in the compelling tale of this unique creature’s fear of the first day of school. Funny, because Ernest’s size creates some challenges when it comes to feeling comfortable at school. Marco Polo and hide-and-seek don’t work out well for a sea monster, especially when his playmates are fish. And it is sweet because we get to see Ernest learn to make friends and overcome his fears about school. This would really make the perfect book to read to a child who is nervous about going to school!