Friday, November 30, 2012

Challenge Complete!

It is the last day of November, making today also the last day of the Picture Book Idea Month Challenge and Picture Book Month.

We've posted 30 ideas for picture books - challenge complete! Technically, one is then supposed to go write a picture book so the challenge isn't entirely complete. Nonetheless, check out the basically-triumphant list here.

The organizers of the two national celebrations of the picture book have pulled together wonderful resources on their own web pages, including archives of a post-a-day from writers, illustrators, and others involved in picture book making, editing, and reading. Check them out here:
Add all these lists together and you've got 90 picture book related ideas! That's not even counting the fabulous ideas from the participants in our Picture Book Month kick off (here) and the ideas contained in their recommended picture book reads (here).

And that's still not counting all of your picture book ideas.

It's enough to keep us busy until next November. . .and beyond.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Everybody Wins! Vermont & the Giving Tree

Share your love of books with the children of Washington County this holiday season through the Giving Tree partnership between Bear Pond Books and Everybody Wins! Vermont.

Everybody Wins! Vermont is a mentoring program that connects adult mentors with students in local schools - almost 700 students were matched last year! Mentors introduce elementary school aged children to the enjoyment of books. Their focus on the pleasure of reading encourages children to read more, and so become stronger readers who can be confident students.

This holiday season, Bear Pond Books will match any book you purchase to donate to Everybody Wins! Vermont with our own book donation, along with a 10% discount. Visit the Giving Tree in the Children's Loft to learn more.

And if you want some inspiration about the difference a book can make, check out the recommended read: Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book. This book asks over a hundred leaders in a variety of fields the question "what children's book changed the way you see the world?" and compiles the lessons they've learned from the books that changed them.

We also thank Amy Cunningham, Executive Director of Everybody Wins! Vermont, for coming to our November 3rd kick off to Picture Book Month and discussion of early literacy - you can read about that event here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

David Martin - Playing with Language

On November 3rd we were lucky to have Amy Cunningham, Grace Greene, Leda Schubert and David Martin all come to speak at Bear Pond Books as we kicked off National Picture Book Month. General materials from the day are here and a virtual display of recommended books is here (you can order online). These posts look more closely at what each speaker had to say, with a focus on the Common Core State Standards.

David Martin points out what probably should be obvious ". . . a young child's job is to play, and they'll play with whatever is available. . . toys, water, food . .  .give them something that makes noise, like their mouths, and they'll play with that too."

He uses this fact to justify getting a lot of nursery rhyme songs stuck in our heads. But of course there's a lot of playing with language in nursery rhymes, here is an example he wrote out for us:

My favorite Mother Goose rhyme for using in classrooms is:
To market, to market
To buy a fat pig.
Home again, home again
Jiggety, jig

To market, to market
To buy a fat hog.
Home again, home again
Jiggety jog.

I like it because expands so easily and can get so silly.
To market, to market
To buy a fat cow.
Home again, home again
Jiggety jow.

To market, to market
To buy a fat alligator.
Home again, home again
Jiggety jaligator.

I’ve done big class books where every student got to do two pages.  On page one they wrote the first verse and illustrated it with that animal, e.g. a fat alligator, and on the second page they wrote the second verse and drew a fat jaligator – whatever that looks like.  I’ve seen jeetahs and jakes and jelephants.  And if using the word fat is a problem, use big instead.  Or colors - a blue pig, a green ant...

David likes to start books as songs, you'll see a lot song based books from David in the November 3rd read aloud recommendations (here).

Simple songs have all the components of encouraging language play for young children: repetition, rhythm, rhyme, and anticipation. Anticipation lets kids think ahead and, as David puts it, that's empowering. Here's an example of an anticipation game he plays based on The Hungry Thing, a book about how a little boy sees through grown ups' silly ideas (and silly words) to figure out what the Hungry Thing wants to eat:

It’s easy to continue this in a kindergarten classroom with a brown bag lunch.  Pack a lunch, maybe a sandwich, an apple and juice.  Show the bag to the class, reach into it, feel around for the sandwich and say something like, “Oh, I think I have a bamwich for lunch today.  Then let the kids show how much smarter they are than you.  That’s not a bamwich.  It’s a sandwich, Mrs. Gremmelsbacher.  Then pull out the sandwich so they can see that they were right.  Next go for the mapple and the goose.  Kids showing us how much smarter they are than us is one of their favorite things to do, and it’s important.  Full disclosure:  I did not invent this game.  I borrowed the idea.
It's all very ridiculous but there's something serious here, too. Below are links to recent articles David recommends on the importance of early education:

Check out David's website at: and Facebook page:
David Martin takes notes on what Grace Greene is saying. . . .

Friday, November 16, 2012

Leda Schubert - Building Stories from Research

On November 3rd we were lucky to have Amy Cunningham, Grace Greene, Leda Schubert and David Martin all come to speak at Bear Pond Books as we kicked off National Picture Book Month. General materials from the day are here and a virtual display of recommended books is here (you can order online). These posts look more closely at what each speaker had to say, with a focus on the Common Core State Standards.

For Leda Schubert, the first step in writing good non-fiction picture books is to ". . . be curious about absolutely everything."

Curiosity pulls you into finding new stories and exploring the topic once you've found them. A lot of research goes into non-fiction picture books. Today, educators can get information on these books' topics beyond the primary text and pictures. That wasn't always the convention for picture books, but now you can look for:
  • End notes and bibliographies
  • Recommendations for further reading
  • Side bars that add details without interrupting the illustrations or story text 
  • Educator guides linked from publishers' and authors' websites 
For an example of an author site with all sorts of information on how the research was done check out Meghan McCarthy's site for The Incredible Life of Balto (here). There are video clips, photos, texts, animations, author discussion, even pictures showing how the cover of the book was carved. And no, we're not saying who Balto was because you really need to check out this site.

Like Grace Greene, Leda's talk tackled the challenge of supporting a love of learning. Doing research is clearly part of Common Core, but it's incomplete without engaging the students in that research and feeding their curiosity. Here are some ways of looking at research that can meet that challenge:
  • How do you decide what story to tell?
    Leda remembers a writers' group where one writer loved the idea of writing about Snowflake Bentley, but was told no one would be interested in this story. Another writer, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, stayed with her fascination and her book Snowflake Bentley, with illustrations from Mary Azarian, won the Caldecott Award and Lupine Award. Don't give up on what excites you! (Here's a similar story from a Picture Book Idea Month blog post by Kayla Skogh - click here)
  • Where is the detective work?
    Meghan McCarthy's site
    illustrates the detective work of how she figured out what color Balto's fur was, when all the pictures of him were in black and white.
  • How can you find a connection with the person being researched?
    The book Me. . . Jane builds a connection between young readers and Jane Goodall by starting with Jane's stuffed monkey toy. The toy connects Jane's grown up accomplishments to what fascinated her as a child.
  • What perspective tells the story best? How do you create this perspective?
    Leda's book Ballet of the Elephants could have focused on a character (and she tried that) but instead focuses on the event. In Leda's book Monsieur Marceau the pictures by Gerard Dubois convey Marceau's point of view through illustrating movement - something that a mime like Marceau would have observed and practiced constantly.  
Finally, when in doubt, read Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book. This book asks over a hundred leaders in a variety of fields the question "what children's book changed the way you see the world?" Leda promises you'll be inspired by their answers.

Check out Leda's website at: 

Postscript: Congratulations to Leda for having her book Monsieur Marceau selected as a 2013-2014 Red Clover Award Nominee! See all nominated books here

Leda Schubert, Nov. 3rd, 2012, Bear Pond Books

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Grace Greene - Teaching Love of Literature

On November 3rd we were lucky to have Amy Cunningham, Grace Greene, Leda Schubert and David Martin all come to speak at Bear Pond Books as we kicked off National Picture Book Month. General materials from the day are here. These posts look more closely at what each speaker had to say, with a focus on the Common Core State Standards.

"Never in the Common Core does it say anything about love of literature, but that is implied - got it?"

Grace Greene reminds us that just because someone has built a set of standards doesn't mean learning can't be fun, inspiring, and something kids will enjoy. Or, put another way, the direction to "demonstrate understanding of the text" doesn't have to mean a daily quiz.

Picture books offer more opportunities for meeting standards while instilling a love of literature than we had time to discuss. Grace's handout covers many of them (all handouts are linked here). Some highlights:
  • Common Core asks for comprehension of the text - in a picture book, that's both words and pictures. Grace reads picture books at least three times, first for words, then for pictures, then putting words and pictures together. The book Z is for Moose  illustrates (literally) the idea of storytelling through both words and pictures. It starts using pictures to tell the story even before the title page.
  • Picture books can teach up through multiple grade levels. Margritte's Marvelous Hat can be a basic picture book story for young children, an introduction to the painter Rene Margritte for older elementary school students, and a study in surrealist art for middle school students.
  • Goldlilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is a fractured fairy tale - which gives an opportunity for students to compare the original Goldilocks with a dinosaur populated version, discuss what makes the new version funny (the author, Mo Willems, is very funny), and make up their own fractured fairy tales. The end papers illustration gives some prompt ideas for other fairy tale spin offs.
  • The book Rocket Writes a Story is a lesson in, as the title implies, writing a story. It not only helps young readers get started writing their first stories, it also shows how writing a story isn't always easy. Random House, the publisher, provides a learning guide for this book. The first book in this series is How Rocket Learned to Read, which also comes with a learning guide from the publisher.
Last, but certainly not least, Grace notes that the Moose and Rocket are both available as stuffed animals.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Inspiration for Picture Books & Early Literacy

Picture Book Month begins with David Martin, Grace Greene, Leda Schubert
We had a full house on Saturday (Nov. 3rd) for our morning  of inspiration for picture books, early literacy and common core standards. David Martin, Grace Greene, and Leda Schubert (pictured above) all provided information and amusement. Amy Cunningham of Everybody Wins! Vermont introduced her mentoring program. Unfortunately we don't have a good picture of that (sorry, Amy) but we do have a link to December's Bear Pond Books & Everybody Wins! Vermont Giving Tree partnership here.

As usual we had more handouts than table space. So, we've collected the resources in electronic form at the bottom of this post. We also have blog post versions of each picture book speaker's comments, with links to even more resources for educators:

And, of course, don't forget to celebrate National Picture Book Month by discovering some new picture books and following along with our Picture Book Idea Month Challenge!
These links open in Google Docs - if you're having trouble with them try this version instead. 

What other resources can you find on the Educators & Librarians' resource section of the Bear Pond website? Here's a handout to share with information on how to get here and what you'll find: website handout (as seen on 11/3/12)
Virtual Book Display & Online Ordering Here

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Picture Book Idea Month Challenge

It's time for the Picture Book Idea Month challenge (see the earlier post here). As part of celebrating National Picture Book Month, we're taking the challenge to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. Follow along at the Bear Pond Books page on Facebook. New ideas will also be collected here, so mark the page.

You can read daily thoughts from established picture book authors and illustrators in not one but two picture book month blogs:
And of course don't forget to check out information from our November 3rd kick off event.

Want some really good picture book ideas? Check out our virtual display board of recommended reads. 

Idea #1

The Cookie Crumb Trail: A retelling of the classic Hansel & Gretel fable becomes a choose your own adventure style picture book for young readers. It comes with sets of cookie crumb stickers so that children can mark the path they take through the tale and return to try a different route next time.

Idea #2

The Orange Shoe Dripped from the Underbelly Tree: When Reginald’s until-now-silent cat proudly delivers the message that “the orange shoe dripped from the underbelly tree,” Reginald embarks on a game of reverse telephone to uncover the original sentence. Along the way, the translations he hears reveal a lot about others’ perspective on the world, including that of the mysterious message sender.

Idea #3

Mix & Match Dancers: Like the books that flip different sections of animals together to create bizarre new creatures, this book combines feet, body, arm and head movements to complete odd dances. Do you want ballerina toes with flapper knees, disco arms, and chicken dance head? The final touch is to choose a music track and try out your new dance (Comes with CD).

Idea #4

Heartbreak Hotel: Who goes to the Heartbreak Hotel? Well, there’s the boy who dropped his ice cream cone for one. Then, the girl who got the flu on her birthday, the twins who no one can tell apart (even though they don’t even like each other), and more keep arriving. Once they’re all assembled they’ll need to find a way out of Heartbreak. And yeah, a king shows up. He’s eating a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Idea #5

The nation is filled with outhouse races - including right here in Vermont. Is it possible that no one has made a picture book of the Glorious History of the Great Outhouse Races?

Idea #6

The Pennysavers Club: When the U.S. Treasury decides to discontinue the penny, they're left wondering what to do with all those coins out there. So they hold a contest for the most creative ideas - the prize is, naturally, a million pennies. Book readers vote on their favorite (we had to get a voting reference in somehow . . . and here's another one, check out the election primer picture book See How They Run by Susan Goodman)

Idea #7

Crafts for the Rest of Us: There exists a small group of people who make craft projects that look just like the perfect pictures in the guides. And then there’s the rest of us. The narrator of this guide to craft projects is a crafting disaster, while side bar pictures show perfect photographs each project step, she proceeds to flub every attempt – but finds something useful to do with each creation in the end.

Idea #8

The History of Animation: A box set of flip books that show the history of animation from flip books to computer generated images. Each book animates an aspect of a key technique while the last several pages offer a more detailed explanation.

Idea #9

Canopy: The canopy over Louisa’s bed is a colorful mosaic of geometric shapes, like Moorish tiles or a fancy quilt. As she falls asleep, each pattern unfurls itself to reveal they’re made from shapes of leaves, fruits and blossoms from different varieties of trees – which they reunite with in the dream world woods.  

Idea #10

Ha Ha Hee Hee Snort and Gufffaw: Page by page illustration of all the ways people laugh from tittering to hardy Ho's, complete with pronunciation guide. Return to the pictures and look past the laughing people to figure out what’s so funny.   

Idea #11

Timeless Toys: Vermont's Shelburne Museum has an extensive collection of vintage toys, including automata or simple mechanical toys. A pop up book of these historic toys can teach lessons in history and simple mechanics in an imaginative way. 

Idea #12

Chester’s Sleep Sheep: Chester’s parents are scientists, so when he has trouble falling asleep the sheep arrive with projector, PowerPoint, and detailed technical explanations of how the sleeping process works. The next step is how to add a little of the magic back into the dreaming world –showing the ways that science and imagination intersect.
Idea #13

Paint Box: Some picture books tell stories with words and pictures, some with ju
st pictures, what about telling a story with neither? Paint Box’s pages are each painted one single color – but different textures, raised patterns, indented patterns, entire scenes made in relief, all create a singular world for “readers” to explore.

Idea #14

Winter Woods: In this retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with a naturalist slant, the heroine explo
res the winter woods looking for color and signs of upcoming spring to bring to her grandmother. Her close attention to the world around her leads her discover (and thwart) the wolf’s plans before he arrives at Grandmother’s House.

Idea #15

When grown ups get it wrong. . . okay, every kid loves it when grown ups are wrong, but we can be a little more constructive than that. This series of picture books examines scientific theories that turned out to be incorrect to show the ways that theories get tested and thinking changes. Starting with how Pluto stopped being a planet.

Idea #16

The Wedding Cake: Lillian is a Pastry Prodigy. She’s assistant to her father, the greatest pastry chef in America, and very proud of their world famous confections that she believes to be flawless. . . until they’re tasked with baking a perfect wedding cake. As it turns out, nothing is ever perfect and 53 attempts later, it’s up to Lillian to convince the wedding party to be happy with what is possible.

Idea #17

Pizza Perfume: Just like an earlier idea pondered why no one has done a picture book on the Great American Outhouse Race, it also bears noting that the time is ripe for a picture book about making smell maps of cities. One example is linked here. Is there a picture book about this already? Let us know!

Idea #18

This idea more of a futuristic day dream than a book synopsis but. . . at our 11/3 picture book event, David Martin talked about silly rhymes and mentioned kids drawing jaligators and jelephants. Soon after that, Blu Bin - a 3D printing company in Poultney - gave a presentation in town where they talked about kids coming in to design & print their own toys. You can see where this is going . . . the nonsense verse of the future when 3-D printer owning children can design their own Jabberwockys and star bellied Sneetches.

Idea #19

Sandwiches Lizzie has finally been allowed to make her own sandwiches for lunch at school. She starts with an orange sandwich (carrots, oranges, Doritos and taffy), then she tries an all-cheese sandwich (if a thick slice of cheddar is good, then three inches of cheddar, provolone, blue cheese, cream cheese, chevre, brie, and American, with Parmesan on top, must be better, right?). She tries a Jell-O sandwich (which turns out not to taste like an ice cream sandwich that doesn't melt) and a bouquet sandwich (she's been learning about edible flowers in science class). Nothing works. Lizzie needs to figure out how parents seem to know what makes for a tasty sandwich recipe before she gives herself another stomach ache.

Idea #20

Penelope's baby brother has arrived - on Leap Day! A kid born on Leap Day is going to need his big sister to do a lot of explaining about how calendars work. Penelope knows she has a lot to learn, like why Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday but Christmas changes days and holidays like Hanukkah change days *and* dates! And on certain days the clocks go forward or back an hour, but they don't do that everywhere. And the day it is today is not necessarily the day it is in China. And the more she thinks, the more confusing everything becomes until she's asking what is time, anyway?

Idea #21

Eurekas and Erasers: It’s true that creating something new always takes effort, but the path to invention follows a lot of routes. The origins of familiar objects tell about ideas that were a rush of inspiration, a rush of a hundred revisions, a team effort, something set aside for decades before being finished, flops that were later revived, ideas sparked by contests or by school assignments . . . this book shows that you’ll never know how a thought might end up becoming a success story.

Idea #22

The Curious Cuisine of Anna Smith: Anna loves all kinds of food – the normal pizza and milkshakes, sure, but also treats from around the world: salted plums, pickled herring, sea urchin, sea cucumber, bone marrow, the stinkiest cheeses and the spiciest chilis. Whenever a visitor from a foreign country comes to town, Anna gets a place at the table to try new cuisines. The only downside of her curious appetite is that soon enough, she gets bored. Searching for a new flavor to try, Anna teams up with her gardener neighbor to explore the heirloom foods they might grow and maybe start their own cuisine.

Idea #23

Jack and Jill and Perspicacity: When Rory’s kindergarten teacher asks the class to finish the sentence “Hickory Dickory Dock, The mouse ran up the . . .” he says “albumen”. Or “Little Jack Horner sat the in the. . .” “Perambulation.” Rory has read the dictionary. He doesn’t know what the words mean, exactly, but he knows that “maudlin” sounds more interesting than “mouse” and “lambent” is somehow more interesting than “lamb.” His teacher just thinks he’s wrong. How will they reach a compromise?

Idea #24

Paint: We all know that you can peel back layers of paint to see the different colors on a house or a room, what if you could go back through the layers to see the history of paint itself? This book creates an imaginary room to do just that, from the lighted pixels of a virtual wall back all the way to bugs, plants, and soils used for pigment by our ancestors.

Idea #25

Map of the World: Inspired by the Micro Planet photographs of Catherine Nelson, this collection asks artists who are intrigued by landscapes and imaginative maps to render a child’s eye view of the world.

Idea #26

Pretty as a Computer: Cindy’s grandmother does *not* like the tech gadgets that Cindy and her father love to play with. Trying to make peace, Cindy’s mother forces her to set aside her beloved computer animations and start drawing paper pictures for grandmother to stick to the fridge and paper cards to set on the mantel. Now Cindy needs to learn how to be as satisfied with a crayon as she is with a mouse . . . and maybe illustrate for her grandmother why she should give computers another chance.

Idea #27

The Sing Along Sisters: Anna and Isabel can make up songs to anything, they’ll sing harmony to the car’s thumpety thump over bridges, hum five minutes of variations on the intro to a news hour, and dance along to the kitchen timer. Now their father has asked for a Christmas present – words to pieces of music they haven’t heard before, but which they later find out is a ballet by a guy name Tchaikovsky.

Idea #28

In the spirit of non-fiction picture books, like the earlier ideas for outhouse races and smelling maps, it's time now propose a picture book version of the rules used for judging kid-favorite contests, like the smelliest sneakers or the ugliest dog. (Inspired by this Edible Geography post on rules for judging the best egg).

Idea #29

Daisy: Daisy’s friends all seem to have a good reason to be named what they’re named, Helen is named for her grandmother, Reid because it’s Scottish for red-headed and he was born with red hair, Lavinia is named after a famous poet’s sister (she goes by Vinny). But when Daisy asks her parents they shrug and say that Daisy sounded cheerful. She wants a better reason than that! And so she goes on a search for a new name to use.

Idea #30 The never ending idea. . .

Roger always wins at games and Roger’s little brothers, Sam & Todd, have a foolproof plan to change that. They’ll invent a game of hide-and-seek-and-tag-and-checkers-and-hangman-and-dodgeball-and-scavenger-hunt-and-hopscotch-and-trivia-and. . . . they’ll keep adding new elements until they finally come out on top. Young readers have a chance to play along with the brothers, finding hidden objects in the scavenger hunt, advising Roger on his next move in checkers before turning the age, using an erasable board for hangman and tic-tac-toe, measuring a photo finish on the footrace, plotting the fastest route through the obstacle course, and so on. Blank pages with markers, playing pieces, and stickers let readers work with Sam and Todd to invent a new challenge. Will the game really be never ending?