Pied Piper Pics
Woodrow for President: A Tail of Voting, Campaigns, and Elections by Peter W. Barnes and Cheryl Shaw Barnes
Woodrow G. Washingtail’s parents dreamed that he would be president from day one. He grew up tall, strong, and smart. He got good grades all the way through college, and then he went back to his home town to start a family. Woodrow ran his own business and helped out in the community. He was a good family mouse, and everyone liked him. They told him to run for town council, then senator, and then governor. After he finished his terms, he began to campaign to be president. He debated and campaigned, and eventually he became the nominee for the Bull Mouse political party. Woodrow becomes President, and after the Inauguration Ball he says that he must go to bed. Woodrow must get up the next day because there are many promises to keep.
Woodrow for President is a good book to help introduce young people to how the US government works, and how elections work. The story of Woodrow is told in a rhyming, lighthearted way. This would be a good book to pull out and read to your class or your child right around Election Day. Other good reads would be the House Mouse, Senate Mouse and Woodrow, the White House Mouse by the same authors, which talk about more aspects of government.
Check the WRL catalog for Woodrow for President: A Tail of Voting, Campaigns, and Elections.
Bella likes to write poems. Bean likes to do everything else. Bella and Bean are two different mice with two very different personalities, but they are still best friends. Bean wants to walk down to the pond, but Bella does not have time to do that. She needs to write. Bean says that she is grumpy. Bella finally writes her poems and even writes one about Bean. She shows Bean that any group of words can make a beautiful poem. The illustrations are fun and the illustrator makes sure to use lots of letters and words in the pictures. This would be perfect for a future poet or writer.
Rebecca Kai Dotlich is very much like her character Bella. She is a poet and an author and she loves to think about words.
Check the WRL catalog for Bella and Bean.
Kevin has a problem. Whenever he goes to the playground, Sammy tells him that he cannot play there, because Sammy is the “King of the Playground.” Kevin goes home and tells his dad that Sammy said he would tie Kevin up. Dad asks what Kevin would do. Kevin says he kick and try away like a cat. Kevin keeps going back to the playground, but he is still afraid of Sammy. What will he do?
King of the Playground is a good read for young children who could be dealing with a bully, or for anyone who wants to learn that friends can come from unlikely places.
Check the WRL catalog for King of the Playground.
Angelina is a little mouse that just wants to be a ballerina. She dances as much as she can all day long. The only problem is things get a little chaotic when she is dancing. Angelina doesn’t clean her room or get ready for school, and she knocks things over or makes messes while she is dancing. One day, Angelina’s mother and father give her a ballet dress and shoes. Angelina is going to go to ballet lessons! Will she be a good dancer? Will she stop making messes and start listening to her mother? Your little ballerina will enjoy the antics of Angelina in this story and the rest of her books, such as Angelina and the Princess and Angelina’s Baby Sister.
Check the WRL catalog for Angelina Ballerina.
Having trouble convincing your little ones that too many sweets are a bad thing? Well, this book is for you!
Sweet Dream Pie begins with Pa Brindle begging his wife Ma Brindle to make her “sweet dream pie”. He finally convinces her, but she doesn’t approve. Ma Brindle rolls out the dough, as Willobee Street wakes up. Then she adds everything that she can find that is sweet. Gusts of wind carry powdered sugar away, and even a cocoa powder tornado begins! Ma and Pa Brindle put the pie in the oven and set it to “special”, and the whole street knows what comes next. They pile up in the yard to get slices. Ma Brindle warns against eating more than one piece, but they can’t help themselves. Later that night, all of the people who ate too much of the pie begin to dream bad dreams, and their dreams roll out into the street and terrorize the neighborhood. What will Ma Brindle do?
This is a good read to convince children to cut back on sweets before bedtime, or for anyone who wants to read about the residents of Willobee Street.
Check the WRL catalog for Sweet Dream Pie.
Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld is a clever picture book filled with punctuation-related puns. Rosenthal and Lichtenheld tell the story of an exclamation mark who is tired of not fitting in with the periods around him. His outlook changes when he meets a question mark, who of course can’t stop asking questions (“Do you like frogs?” “Who’s taller, you or me?” “What’s your favorite color?”). The question mark interrogates him so intensely that the exclamation mark finally has to yell “STOP!” When he shouts this, the exclamation mark discovers his purpose. He had no idea that he had the power to make words into exclamations. He’s so excited that he can’t stop shouting a variety of phrases (“Home run!” “Congratulations!” “Boo!”). He immediately runs to show the periods his discovery and introduce them to his inquisitive new friend.
The illustrations in Exclamation Mark are simple and clean. The mostly black-and-white drawings are set on a background of ruled handwriting paper. When color appears, it has a dramatic effect. It’s used most effectively on the pages where the exclamation mark is discovering his purpose. Each word or phrase he shouts appears in a different color. On most pages, the text and characters sit on the ruled lines as expected, but occasionally they defy these rules. For example, on a page where the exclamation mark is running and shouting, his dialogue is set diagonally, crossing over several sets of ruled lines.
Readers need to use very expressive voices when sharing Exclamation Mark with an audience. The book is filled with exclamatory and interrogative sentences that require special intonation patterns. It’s also important for readers to use effective voice pacing, especially on the page where the question mark is peppering the exclamation mark with a barrage of questions. If a reader goes through the list of questions too slowly, the desired effect will be missing, and the next page (the exclamation mark yelling “STOP!”) won’t be as dramatic. Readers should definitely practice their presentation of Exclamation Mark prior to sharing it with an audience. Though it looks simple at first glance, this book is best for older listeners who have learned about the functions of basic punctuation marks. They will be able to understand the reasons behind the characters’ behavior and catch the pun-based humor. I’ve enjoyed sharing this story with elementary and middle schoolers. I like to make the book more interactive by inviting my audience to read aloud with me from the pages where the exclamation mark is shouting. It’s fun to hear the room fill with a chorus of voices exclaiming, “Look out!” and “Yum!” and “Encore!”
Check the WRL catalog for Exclamation Mark.
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins is a fascinating picture book that appeals to all ages. It features life-size illustrations of animals and parts of animals with simple factual statements about each creature. Many of the animals are the largest or smallest in the world in some category. For example, one spread shows the head, neck, and egg of the world’s largest bird (the ostrich), while another suspends the world’s smallest fish (the dwarf goby) in a sea of white space. The illustrations are very clean. The animals either appear on a white background or cover the entire page. A special fold-out page in the middle allows readers to see the whole length of the saltwater crocodile’s snout. Each illustration is accompanied by a sentence or two about the animal’s characteristics. For example, the words on the spread featuring a very large spider say, “The Goliath birdeater tarantula is big enough to catch and eat birds and small mammals.” Jenkins also shares statistics, like weight and height, about the animals. The most exciting page may be the one featuring a life-size gorilla hand. I’ve found that everyone is eager to “give the gorilla a high-five” to compare their hand size with the ape’s.
Whether it’s shared one-on-one or with a group, Actual Size works best as an interactive experience. For me, sharing this book feels more like a conversation than a read-aloud session. I typically make the book into a guessing game, covering up the words and asking my audience questions like, “What kind of animal is this?” and “How tall do you think this animal is?” For an older audience, readers may want to prepare by learning additional facts about the animals pictured, or may want to call on listeners to share what they know about the animals. When I read this book at a middle school, I was asked a lot of questions like, “Where does the Siberian tiger live?” and “What does the giant squid eat?” Fortunately, some of the listeners knew the answers to these questions and were eager to share that information with the group. One way readers could prepare in advance is by perusing the extra information on each animal provided at the end of the book. Actual Size is a great read-aloud for preschool and up, and a simplified reading could be suitable for toddlers. For example, I wouldn’t want to tell toddlers that the Alaskan brown bear is “the largest meat-eating animal that lives on land,” but I could make up my own words along the lines of, “This is a brown bear. It lives in Alaska. Look how big it is!” Readers could also use this book to demonstrate the big/small opposite pair. Since it requires a conversational approach, this book is best for readers who are comfortable ad-libbing in front of a group. Actual Size was a big hit on my outreach visits with elementary and middle schoolers, and I look forward to sharing it with younger children at storytimes this fall.
Check the WRL catalog for Actual Size.
The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen is an engaging picture book filled with expressive animal illustrations and lilting rhyme. Chris Van Dusen’s previous books include A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee and If I Built a Car. About The Circus Ship, Van Dusen says, “I’ve focused on light sources and textures in the artwork for this story—on details like paint peeling off the clapboards of the houses. This makes the book more complex and richer overall than my previous work. Also, this is the first story I’ve written that has a villain, which was a lot of fun.” In an author’s note, Van Dusen reveals that the idea for The Circus Ship came from a real-life event, the wreck of a circus ship called the Royal Tar in 1836. He did not try to retell that story in his book, but instead wrote “a new adventure for children that [he hopes] still captures the spirit of the Royal Tar.”
The story begins with the wreck of a circus ship off the coast of Maine. While the ill-tempered circus manager escapes in a lifeboat, the fifteen circus animals are left to fend for themselves. They swim to an island and cause all sorts of trouble for the people who live in the village there. At first the villagers are annoyed, but they change their tune after a tiger saves a little girl from a burning building. When the angry circus manager comes to the island searching for his animal performers, the villagers hatch a plan to outwit him so the animals can continue living with them.
On nearly every spread, Van Dusen’s illustrations cover the entire page, leaving no white space. Many of the pictures have parts of people or animals cut off by edge of the page, as if Van Dusen were holding a camera and couldn’t quite fit all the action in the frame. This technique effectively immerses readers in each scene of the story. The animals’ bodies and faces are very expressive. A lion’s extended tongue and slumped shoulders convey exhaustion, while closed eyes and floppy “wrists” show that an alligator is very relaxed. Most fascinating is the spread where the animals are hiding in plain sight to avoid discovery by the circus manager. A camel’s humps look very much like the haystacks in the field around him, while a monkey is wearing a baby bonnet and being pushed in a stroller. No reader will want to turn the page without finding all fifteen camouflaged creatures.
Van Dusen uses rhyming four-line stanzas, giving the story a nice rhythm. He chooses strong verbs like “staggered” and evocative adjectives like “bedraggled.” The Circus Ship is best shared one-on-one to give readers and listeners the opportunity to notice all the details in the illustrations. However, this book can work with a small group, especially if the reader has time to pause on certain pages and show the illustrations to each child up-close. This story was a big hit when I read it to a small group of elementary schoolers this spring. It would also be appropriate for sharing with preschoolers.
Check the WRL catalog for The Circus Ship.