How To’s

How To Read A Wordless Book

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Two years ago, while I was acting as a judge for the Cybils and reading even more books than normal in a given year, I noted the inordinate amount of wordless picture books that had come out in 2013. It even turned out to be the Caldecott year for wordless picture books as the 2014 honor awards went to three wordless picture books: Journey, Flora and the Flamingo, and Mr. Wuffles!. It was an unheard-of year for wordless picture books. I even frequently refer to 2013 as “The year of the wordless picture book.” Clever, no?

I’ve discussed wordless books occasionally, the most important for me being South by Patrick McDonnell; but I tend to avoid discussing them as they are intimidating as a reader, and especially as an illustrator. They can be lovely and they can also be frustrating. The tendency to just barrel through each page and not pause too long is even greater because there are no words to guide you. They can be delightful to savor by yourself, but groan-inducing when brought to you by a child with full expectation of you putting on a great ad lib read.

But, a well-executed wordless picture book has gone beyond creating lovely pictures and has buried a story so deep that words cannot express it. The illustrations must do double-duty. They must draw you in, yes with their actual drawn nature; but also with their ability to tell the story with every detail, every expression, every movement and page turn.

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The most tender scene impressed on my mind and heart from South by Patrick McDonnell.

I do not have what I would consider the ultimate grasp on how to read a wordless picture book, but I thought I would share a few pointers I have gleaned to help make them less intimidating and perhaps invite you to experience them more fully. I plan on sharing a wordless picture book review every Wednesday for a while, and so I hope this serves as an intro on how to approach all the amazing picture books that come out “quietly.” I took a ton of pictures from the cast of 2013 wordless picture books, so I am going to illustrate my reading tips using those books. Taking a cue from 6 of the stellar wordless books from 2013, here are my 5 tips to reading a wordless picture book: Read the full post…

How To Be An Excellent Father: a few observations from Father Bear Comes Home by Minarik & Sendak

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Sunday was Father’s Day in the U.S. and I have been determined to do a companion to my Mother’s Day post last month, this time looking at Father Bear from our beloved Little Bear book series. Now, I am not a father, so it feels a little weird to be writing a “how-to” post on something I am not and won’t ever be. But Father Bear is such a strong literary character that it seems only fitting to devote a post to him in celebration of the holiday. In the children’s literature world, parents are often quite terrible or non-existent; so I adore the solid, faithful figure Father Bear presents. Let’s take a look at a few of Father Bear’s strengths and celebrate the joy of fatherhood through him. Here are my observations on how to be a great dad as seen in Father Bear Comes Home by Else Holmelund Minarik, pictures by Maurice Sendak, 1959. Read the full post…

How To Be An Excellent Mother: a few observations from Little Bear by Minarik & Sendak

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Yesterday was Mother’s Day here in the United States. It is an interesting holiday, that most consider to be a marketing ploy, although a previous book I’ve discussed taught me differently. I sheepishly admit that I don’t care too much about Mother’s Day. It is a fine holiday, but always feels a little overdone to me. I do love my mother and mother-in-law, and I never turn down a lovely gift or two or flowers or chocolates or any combination thereof. And I am honored that I am a mother with two children of my own. But perhaps it is because I am in what is considered the throes of toddlerhood that I feel being a mother just isn’t always marvelous. It is hard stuff. Pantloads of patience are required. Motherhood asks for lots of creativity, multitasking, functioning on very little sleep, and did I mention patience?

Well this year, I found myself pondering Mother’s Day a bit differently. My oldest daughter currently holds a deep love for the Little Bear series. As any self-respecting bibliophile would do, I introduced her to the books first. She loved them. And then I happened to remember an animated series based on the books that ran years ago. I looked it up and presto, an obsession was born. We don’t do much watching of anything around here, Mary Poppins being the typical sick-day fare, but a short “Little Bear” here and there have been much delighted in by my daughter and me as well. The books are phenomenal, and the animated series does pretty well at representing them well, although I have some beefs with the completely made up episodes and especially the added characters with more annoying characteristics. But I digress.

All this to say, I have become very familiar with the Little Bear family and I now have a very deep fondness and admiration for Mother Bear. So here, for my day after Mother’s Day post, I am resurrecting the “How To” posts to admire and learn from Little Bear’s fabulous and dearly loved Mother Bear. With the help of the first of the books, Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik, pictures by Maurice Sendak, 1957, here are my five ways to be an excellent mother: Read the full post…

How To: Children’s Book Character Costumes Part 4

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And for our final portion of children’s picture book costumes, I bring some rather obscure, bizarre, ridiculously easy, and just plain comical ideas. I really had way too much fun with this. (Don’t miss Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.) These are all less character ideas and more “be the book,” “be part of the book,” “be something mentioned in the book….” Just have some fun! Read the full post…

How To: Children’s Book Character Costumes Part 3

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And we are back today with Part 3 of our children’s picture book costume ideas. (See Part 1 and Part 2.) Today’s grouping is much smaller and might speak more strongly to the hearts of boys. These are some fun, active characters with bold moves and outfits. Let’s see some more character costume ideas! Read the full post…

How To: Children’s Book Character Costumes Part 2

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Yesterday we started a mini-series on children’s book character costumes. Tonight I bring Part 2! This is a larger grouping of characters, male and female, and most of them would be excellent adult costumes as well. As with Part 1, there are some classic characters, some more obscure, and some brand new. Let’s imagine some costumes! Read the full post…

How To: Children’s Book Character Costumes Part 1

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It’s that time of year again for all sorts of crazy costuming. While this holiday is still not my favorite, I have taken great pleasure in coming up with some more children’s book characters that would be somewhat simple to create costumes. Actually, I may have gone a little overboard with these ideas but once I got started, I just couldn’t stop thinking of more! So, I’m going to break it up into several posts.

As in my last posts with costume ideas, I’m not going to make the costumes to show you. I sincerely do not have time for all that, though it would be a blast. I am simply going to post an image of the character along with what I consider the supplies list and ideas for making a similar look. I prefer being an idea-giver! I would love it if you do create one and send me a photo! Cute kids in costumes are awesome. Read the full post…

How To Remove Library Book Sale Plastic Sleeves

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Let’s start off this post with a huge disclaimer. In no way am I suggesting or teaching how to steal library books and remove evidence of such criminal acts. This post is solely intended for fellow purchasers of library book sale discards that still have the plastic sleeves on them. Seriously, don’t steal books.

As any of my readers are well aware, I love shopping for used books. Library book sales are excellent resources as you are not only finding some great books at stellar prices, but you are also supporting the local library in their efforts of keeping open and current. I’m constantly amazed at the books I find discarded from the library, but I understand the reasons and gladly give them a loving home. The downside of library book sale finds is that they are most likely encased in plastic sleeves that can be dingy, torn and just plain unattractive. Now, I understand the purpose of those plastic sleeves, but they really aggravate me. For those books that only visit my home for a few weeks from the library, I can withstand the crinkly, slippery and shiny issues of the plastic covers. But when I’ve adopted them to my shelves, I like to see the books each day with their originally intended covers. So for a while now I’ve longed to discover an easy way to free the dust jackets from the plastic and be able to enjoy the books in a much more satisfying tactile way. My research on this however met multiple dead ends. Perhaps no one else cares like I do. Perhaps others don’t mind the plastic casings. But in the off chance that someone else would like to release their library discards, I’m giving you my steps to remove those plastic sleeves and restore the books to their former beauty. Read the full post…

How To Create A Children’s Book Character Costume, Part 2

And here’s the next set of costume ideas for being a children’s book character for Halloween or party. For some odd reason, I had a hard time coming up with girl characters, but there are a few in the bunch. (See Part 1 here.) Read the full post…

How To Create A Children’s Book Character Costume, Part 1

Yesterday a dear friend contacted me and asked if I had any suggestions for a children’s book character costume. My mind started racing trying to think of fun and potentially easy characters that could be donned. Here are a few I’ve come up with that I think would be relatively simple to create and unique as well. (Don’t forget to check thrift stores for supplies!) Read the full post…