Thursday, April 30, 2015

I Took a Walk by Henry Cole

Leaving home, a boy goes for a long walk through the woods, into a meadow, by a stream, and near a pond. He stops at each place and quietly sits. As he silently views his surroundings, the boy lists all the wildlife and insects he sees living in each of the four habitats. Once he leaves a location, he wonders which animals are watching him.

Cole's I Took A Walk is a series of lushly detailed snap shots of the natural world. In each of his acrylic illustrations, Cole portrays the boy's world teeming with creatures and plants. In many ways, this is an "I Spy" story where readers find the animals, insects, and foliage the boy sees at each of his stops. At the end of the book, Cole provides pictorial keys to help readers identify each of the items on the boy's lists. Cole suggests readers can get their own taste of nature if they will quietly look and listen in the environments surrounding them. A great book for young readers enthusiastic about nature.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Allen County Young Authors 2015

Just experienced another great year at the Allen County Young Authors Celebration! This year the two authors that joined us were Louise Borden and Mike Graf.
Louise is the author of several picture books, early readers, and biographies. She writes a wide variety of stories from losing your first tooth to celebrating our custodians to showcasing true stories from World War II. She gains much of her inspiration from the students she meets, the history she loves researching, the schools she visits, the stories from her family, and the experiences of her past.

Louise didn't always want to be an author. When she was young she wanted to be a composer. Her music teacher supported Louise's efforts, even though Louise wasn't the best pianist. But Louise never lost her love of music and composing. She sees writing her books like composing beautiful music.

Mike Graf has been an elementary teacher, a college professor, and a TV weatherman. During these professions, he has started up his love of writing by creating non-fiction and fiction books for children.

Lately he has been writing a fiction series based on the National Parks. Readers follow the Parker family, with their twins Morgan and James, as they experience adventures like dodging scorpions in the Grand Canyon, hiding from a grizzly in Yellowstone, and avoiding mountain lions in Arches and Canyonlands.

Friday these stellar authors visited schools in Allen County talking about their books, the importance of reading, and encouraging the students with their own writing.

In preparation for these authors coming, elementary and middle school students wrote their own books, thanks to the support of their dedicated teachers. These books were then submitted to and judged by the Young Author committee. The committee reads ALL the books in the county (I think there were 700+ books written this year). Then they decide which books stand out in each grade level. The chosen authors are awarded a medal and an opportunity to attend the Young Authors Celebration on Saturday morning. During Saturday's events, these students get to meet other winners, share their own stories with their peers, and hear more presentations by the Louise and Mike. Later they can get their books signed by the visiting authors.

Last weekend was the 16th year of the Allen County Young Authors program. I have been volunteering to help with the program for almost all of it's 16 years. This is hugely in part to my amazing mother who developed this outstanding program those 16 years ago. And this year went without a hitch! Louise and Mike definitely inspired the kids to be better writers and readers!

Here I am with Louise while I was volunteering on Saturday. She was so awesome to meet! She was so good celebrating the kids for writing their own books.

Then here I am with Mike Graf. I loved hearing more about our National Parks! He made all who listened to him want to make a trip touring these gorgeous places.

So another successful year, thanks to these fabulous authors, the students, the teachers, and the dedicated Young Authors committee. Well done everyone!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole

Caroline just moved into her new home on Meadowview Street. While exploring her yard, Caroline notices a lone wildflower. She tells her dad to spare the flower as he mows the grass. He agrees but then Caroline notices even more wildflowers. With string and sticks in hand, Caroline creates her own wildflower preserve. Soon the yard is overtaken by wildflowers and the mower is put up for sale.

On Meadowview Street is a thoughtful story about the power readers have on transforming their environment. When Caroline moves to Meadowview Street, she wonders where the actual meadow is located. No meadow is found, until she keenly observes the signs of one in her yard. Through her care, determination, insight, and parental support, Caroline brings the meadow back to Meadowview Street. In Cole's acrylic illustrations, he starts off the book showing the banal setting of the cookie-cutter neighborhood with plain, white houses and stark green grass. But as Caroline saves the wildflowers, more colors and details enter the illustrations. But the end of the story, Caroline’s yard is an intricately illustrated pastoral scene. A story all should read who love and appreciate nature.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Nelly May Has Her Say by Cynthia DeFelice, illustrated by Henry Cole

Nelly May is the oldest child of her large, poor family. She leaves home seeking employment from Lord Ignasius Pinkwinkle. Lord Pinkwinkle will hire Nelly May if she can remember all his special names for things around the house. After a very confusing tour of his home, Nelly May agrees to Lord Pinkwinkle’s conditions and memorizes his nonsense words.  

DeFelice based Nelly May Has Her Say on an old English folktale called “Master of All Masters”. But DeFelice has made it her own story in three distinct ways. First, she tells the story from Nelly May’s perspective by explaining why Nelly May was seeking employment. Second, DeFelice creates her own hilarious, tongue-twisting terminology used by Lord Pinkwinkle. Finally, she adds a charming, happy ending where Nelly May and Lord Pinkwinkle resolve their problems. Cole’s quirky and colorful illustrations support the humor of DeFelice’s tongue-tied tale. Cole portrays Nelly May as a small, spunky red-head whose expressions show she has the intelligence to change Lord Pinkwinkle’s odd ways. Nelly May Has Her Say is a great resource for teaching about folktales from around the world.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Big Bug by Henry Cole

This simple book about scale starts off with a close-up of a ladybug. But as the pictures zoom out, that "big bug" isn't so large when compared to the leaf its on, the dog looking at it, or the sky overhead.

In fewer than fifty words, Cole's quaint picture book teaches about perspective and size-comparisons. With Cole's detailed illustrations, readers see life from the viewpoint of a ladybug, dog, cow, and bird. But the story is well contained because its centered around the farm where these creatures reside. A fun resource for teachers, librarians, and parents to show the different levels of life surrounding young readers.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Three Hens and a Peacock by Lester L. Laminack, illustrated by Henry Cole

Tucker's Farm is a quiet place with very few visitors coming to buy produce, milk, or eggs. However, everything changes when a peacock unexpectedly arrives. At first the peacock doesn't know where to go, so he settles on strutting next to the road. His flashy feathers and screeching voice attracts new customers to Tucker's Farm. With business doing well, everyone is happy except the hens. The hens think the peacock is useless since he doesn't lay any eggs. So after hearing their complaints, the old dog suggests the peacock and hens switch jobs for the day.

Three Hens and a Peacock is a story about not judging someone because they play a different part than others. When the hens and the peacock fulfill their intended duties, the farmer has eggs to sell and a the peacock attracts customers to buy them. But when the roles switch, nothing is accomplished. This experience helps both the hens and peacock to better appreciate the other. But along with the thoughtful story, this book is richly comical thanks to Cole's watercolor, ink, and colored pencil illustrations. The exaggerated expressions Cole captures on the farm animals are hilarious. Any age group would enjoy this witty but contemplative tale.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Trudy by Henry Cole

Esme is searching for the perfect animal to live on her grandparents' farm. After viewing several unsatisfactory candidates at the county auction, Esme spots Trudy--a brown and white goat. Immediately, a deal is struck and Trudy is taken to home with Esme. Together the two form a close, loving bond. Because of that bond, Esme notices an odd pattern in Trudy's behavior. Whenever snow is predicted, Trudy goes inside her small barn. News spreads about the weather-predicting goat and people come to see Trudy in action.

Cole's book is a sweet story showing the loving ties between humans and animals. Readers can relate to Esme's dilemma of finding just the right pet. For some its a dog, cat, or bird, but for Esme, its a sweet-mannered goat. Once Esme sees Trudy at the auction, it's friendship for life. Then when Esme gives Trudy her time and tenderness, Trudy rewards Esme with accurate weather predictions and another goat to love. Cole's illustrations, done in acrylic paint, add to the sentimentality of the story with his use of warm, bright colors. Trudy is a treat for all ages.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Prairie Chicken Little by Jackie Mims Hopkins, illustrations by Henry Cole

While out on the plains, Mary McBlicken the prairie chicken hears the sounds of what she thinks is an oncoming stampede. She immediately rushes to warn two of her friends, Cowboy Stan and Red Dog Dan. Along her way, Mary runs into several other creatures and they ask about her dilemma. She warns them of the potential stampede and they, in turn, join Mary’s warning party. But a bigger problem comes to Mary’s group when the overly eager coyote, Slim Brody, shows them his personal shortcut to Stan and Dan, by way of his den.

Hopkins story is a witty and fun re-imagining of Chicken Little. In her twist of the well-known tale, Hopkins sets the stage on the Great Plains highlighting several animals found in that region: bison, prairie chickens, meadowlarks, jack rabbits, prairie dogs, and coyotes. In Cole’s watercolor, colored pencil, and ink illustrations, Cole gives the book’s characters added spunk, personality, and quirkiness, which amps up the story’s humor. But in Cole’s backgrounds, he adds in bugs, plants, and flowers also found in the Heartland region. For these reasons, Prairie Chicken Little can be a excellent resource for introducing children to the Great Plains.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole

Celeste is a small mouse living under the floorboards of a Southern plantation. While making her way through the house, Celeste is both captured and saved by one of the plantation's new houseguests, Joseph. Joseph is the teenage apprentice to wildlife artist, John James Audubon. Within the safety of his room, Joseph confides to Celeste about Audubon's maltreatment of animals and his perfectionism. But with Celeste nestled in his shirt pocket, Joseph gains the confidence he needs to aid in Audubon's revolutionary work.

A Nest for Celeste is a serious and thought-provoking piece of literature. Readers are introduced to the hardworking, courageous protagonist, Celeste. Celeste's life is constantly in danger, which paints an authentic picture of a mouse's life. From her perilous perspective, readers meet the real John James Audubon. Even though the story is fictional, the details of Joseph and Audubon's life are based on true events. Cole's breath-taking, graphite illustrations bring added suspense and clarity to the novel. Fans of such books as The Tale of Despereaux or Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH would enjoy Cole's first chapter book.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Unspoken: A Story From the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

Along the road home, a young girl watches several Confederate soldiers pass her by. Once back at her farmstead, the girl begins her chores, one of which is to fetch food from the larder. As she gathers food, the girl senses someone hiding behind the recently harvested corn. Frightened, the girl runs away. That night, however, the girl cannot stop thinking about the stranger’s needs. Later she returns offering both food and friendship. As the days pass, the girl continues to safeguard her secret visitor.

Unspoken is a masterpiece in children’s literature. This book without words speaks volumes thanks to Cole’s mesmerizing graphite illustrations. From the first page, readers are instantly transported into the Civil War period, walking along the road with the young girl. Life seems monotonous to the girl until she meets the stranger. Then the girl begins her own silent rebellion against slavery. If the girl reveals what she is doing, a precious life may be lost. So calmly and patiently she takes care of the person that destiny put in her way. In Cole’s author note, he talks of wanting to write a Civil War story. But unlike most Civil War books, Unspoken is a quiet tale showcasing the humble courage exhibited by many unacknowledged people.   

Monday, April 6, 2015

2015 Children's Literature Festival: Brad Sneed's books

I met Brad Sneed at the 2009 Young Author's celebration in Iola, KS. Brad is mainly an illustrator, but he has authored a few picture books. Brad is also a founding member of Marblespark, a program that helps parents create personalized picture books for their children. Below is a list of the books he's written and illustrated. So check out Brad's work on Marblespark, at your local library, or in a bookstore!

When the Wind Blows (2015, illustrated)
Washday (2014, illustrated)
Johnny Kaw: A Tall Tale (2013, illustrated)
Cock-A-Doodle Doo, Creak, Pop-Pop, Moo (2012, illustrated)
Mr. President Goes to School (2010, illustrated)
Big Bad Wolves at School (2007, illustrated)
The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians (2007, illustrated)
Deputy Harvey and the Ant Cow Caper (2005)
Thumbelina (2004)
Aespo's Fables (2003)
When Wishes Were Horses (2002, illustrated)
Picture a Letter (2002)
Sorry (2001, illustrated)
Bravest of Us All (2000, illustrated)
The Strange and Wonderful Tale of Robert McDoodle: the Boy Who Wanted to be a Dog (1999, illustrated)
Watch Out For Bears! The Adventures of Henry and Bruno (1999, illustrated)
Pumpkin Runner (1998, illustrated)
Smokey Mountain Rose (1997, illustrated)
Higgins Bend Song and Dance (1997, illustrated)
Unbeatable Bread (1996, illustrated)
I Heard Said the Bird (1995, illustrated)
When the Fly Flew In...(1994, illustrated)
Legend of the Cranberry: A Paleo-Indian Tale (1993, illustrated)
Turkey in the Straw (1993, illustrated)
Lucky Russell (1992)
Grandpa's Song (1991, illustrated)

Friday, April 3, 2015

2015 Children's Literature Festival: Marie Smith's books

Here is Marie Smith, Roland Smith's wife. Not only is she a talented writer, she is also a master pie-maker! Check out Marie's books that she co-authored with Roland. Several are apart of Sleeping Bear Press's series Discover America State by State.

T Is for Time (2015)
S Is for Smithsonian: America's Museum Alphabet (2010)
W Is for Waves: An Ocean Alphabet (2008)
Z Is for Zookeeper: A Zoo Alphabet (2005)
N Is for Our Nation's Capital: A Washington D.C. Alphabet (2005)
E Is for Evergreen: A Washington Alphabet (2004)
B Is for Beaver: An Oregon Alphabet (2003)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

2015 Children's Literature Festival: Sneed B. Collard III's books

There were three authors/illustrators I saw at the 2015 Children's Literature Festival that we were unable to attend their presentations: Sneed B. Collard III, Brad Sneed, and Marie Smith. I have known these three amazing creators for many years. In the next three posts I will list the books they have published. Check them out!

First up is Sneed B. Collard III. He was the first author I showcased on my blog. Sneed has written a wide array of literature from non-fiction picture books to mystery YA novels. Enjoy Sneed's books!

Fire Birds: Valuing Natural Wildfires and Burned Forests (2015)
Technology Forces : Drones and War Machines (2013)
The CIA and FBI: Top Secret (2013)
U.S. Air Force: Absolute Air Power (2013)
Listen to Patriotic Music (2013)
Look at Cubism (2013) 
Sneed B. Collard III's Most Fun Book Ever About Lizards (2012)
Global Warming--A Personal Guide to Causes and Solutions (2011)
The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale (2010)
Many Biomes, One Earth (2009)
George Washington: Our First President (2010)
Cesar Chavez : the Farm Workers' Best Friend (2010) 
Phillis Wheatley: She Loved Words (2010)
Lady Bird Johnson: Keeping America Green (2010)
Jacob Lawrence: A Painter's Story (2009)
Sitting Bull: "Tatanka-Iyotake" (2009)
John Glenn: Hooked on Flying (2009)
Eleanor Roosevelt: Making the World a Better Place (2009)
Thomas Jefferson: Let Freedom Ring! (2009)
Teeth (2008)
Wings (2008)
Science Warriors: The Battle Against Invasive Species (2008)
Reign of the Sea Dragons (2008)
Pocket Babies and Other Amazing Marsupials (2007)
Abraham Lincoln: A Courageous Leader (2007)
Rosa Park: The Courage to Make a Difference (2007)
Sacagawea: Brave Shoshone Girl (2007)
Benjamin Franklin: A Man Who Could Do Just About Anything (2007)
John Adams: Our Second President (2007)
David Crockett: Fearless Frontiersman (2007)
In the Deep Sea (2006)
Shep: Our Most Loyal Dog (2006)
In the Rainforest Canopy (2006)
In the Wild (2006)
On Coral Reefs (2006)
The Prairie Builders: Rebuilding America's Lost Grasslands (2005)
One Night in the Coral Sea (2005)
A Platypus, Probably (2005)
Animals Asleep (2004)
Deep-Sea Floor (2003)
B is for Big Sky Country: A Montana Alphabet (2003)
Beaks! (2002)
Leaving Home (2002)
Firefly Biologist at Work (2001)
Making Animal Babies (2000)
Whale Biologist At Work (2000)
Lizard Island: Science and Scientists of Australia's Great Barrier Reef (2000)
The Forest in the Clouds (2000)
Acting For Nature: What Young People Around the World Have Done to Protect the Environment (2000)
Amazing Animals: Nature's Most Incredible Creatures (2000)
Animal Dazzlers: The Role of Brilliant Colors In Nature (1998)
Birds of Prey: A Look at Daytime Raptors (1999)
1,000 Years Ago on Planet Earth (1999)
Our Wet World: Exploring Earth's Aquatic Ecosystem (1998)
Montverde: Science and Scientists in a Costa Rican Cloud Forest (1997)
Animal Dads (1997)
Sea Snakes (1997)
Creepy Creatures (1997)
Alien Invaders: The Continuing Threat of Exotic Species (1996)
Our Natural Homes: Exploring Terrestrial Biomes of North and South America (1996)
Smart Survivors: Twelve of the Earth's Most Remarkable Living Things (1994)
Tough Terminators: Twelve of the Earth's Most Fascinating Predators (1994)
Green Giants (1994)

Dog 4491: A Mystery (2013)
Cartwheel: A Sequel to Double Eagle (2013)
The Governor's Dog is Missing: Slate Stephens Mysteries #1 (2011)
Hangman's Gold: Slate Stephens Mysteries #2 (2011)
Double Eagle (2009)
Flashpoint (2006)
Dog Sense (2005)