Apr 28, 2015

The Right Tool for the Job: Specialty Titles, including GO, PEA, GO!

The false alarm issued by the New York Times in 2012 that picture books were fading into oblivion launched me into the blogosphere to protest that misguided view. The widespread and overwhelming rejection of that claim has been supported by sales numbers and publishing patterns during the ensuing years. 

Picture books are often marketed as having a target age, a concept that I believe is often ill-conceived. In fact, the gist of the original NYTimes article was that picture books would, in the future, be limited to those aimed at babies and toddlers, rapidly replaced by "big-kid-books" and/or media in digital format. There are, certainly, picture book titles that are outgrown in content and subject matter, just as there are picture books whose content, language, or frame of reference require more age and life experience. My posts generally focus on the ocean of titles that fall somewhere between those shores, offering value and appeal across many ages, purposes, settings, and populations. 

With so many other blogs advocating picture books, I've enjoyed the freedom to narrow my focus to suit my own purposes. My posts tend toward picture books that are or could become timeless classics, offer valuable life lessons, explore important topics, or otherwise represent valuable additions to home, library, and classroom collections. 

In this post I'm stepping away from that pattern to look at the specialized market that addresses the use of picture books for very specific purposes such as developing table manners, safety habits, bathing, and toilet training. The list could go on and on, and it does. 

These titles, often in series, serve an explicit purpose but also underscore the bigger picture: books are part of our lives on every level, can do more than entertain, and don't necessarily appeal to everyone equally. An example of that is the FRED ROGERS (of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood) series of titles. 

Another focused series is BEST BEHAVIOR, by Free Spirit Press. Each title is narrowly focused and many include the  title pattern:
  ___________ is not for _____________. 
It's an approach I suspect appeals more to the adults than to the kids involved in the reading of these books. I'd have preferred something like "Hands are for _____________" or "Noses are for _____________", but adults buy the books.

Both of these series showcase images of children in the target age, either through photographs or simple drawings. Both, admirably, picture diverse populations.

Both are also what could be termed early-childhood nonfiction or informational text, and they stay in print because they are well-suited to their purposes and to the ever-renewing market in the target demographic.

Then there's this new release from Running Press Kids (RPKids) , GO, PEA, GO! by Joe Moshier and Chris Sonnenburg. 
This book's exuberant and energetic word play, rhyme, repetition, and a wacky premise combine in a story that succeeds on multiple levels. 
For the intended age (potty training, whatever that age may be) it's entertaining and appealing. It stands up to repetition and the humor will "seep" through to the kids, although I see caregiver adults noting and enjoying the word play more than the kids will.
Those trying to develop sensory awareness (the feeling of needing to "GO") are easily distracted by other activities, so the single-minded effort (and mantra) to "GO, PEA, GO!" will ring true.
It's not timeless lyrical text, but it's accurate enough in meter and rhyme to work. A bonus that adults will  appreciate is the chart (arranged like a race track) and stickers to record success and help establish habits. The stickers limit the usefulness of this book in libraries or group settings, but creating personal charts for each individual is a simple enough process. 

So, take a look at these books and others with specialty purposes. They may well be ones that are fondly recalled FAR into adulthood, right alongside Pat the Bunny. If you find yourself caring for someone at this critical learning stage, give this one a look. 

Running Press Kids is featuring GO, PEA, GO in a blog tour that includes giveaways. To read what others have had to say about this recent release, click the active links below.

By Joe Moshier and Chris Sonnenburg
Blog Tour Schedule 

 Click here to link to the RAFFLECOPTER giveaway.

This contest will run from 4/22 to 5/4 @ 12 AM EST. 
Running Press Kids  will give away ONE prize pack that includes a pea plush, pea beach ball, pea tote bag, pea hair clips, stickers, and a copy of the book. 
THREE people will win a pack including a pea beach ball, pea postcards, stickers, and a copy of the book. 
FIVE runners up will receive a copy of the book and stickers. Winners will be contacted by email and must notify us within 48 hours of the notification email with address and acceptance. 
Please note that winners can be from the US only. 

Apr 13, 2015

No Age Limit on Heroism: DOYLI TO THE RESCUE

I feel so blessed and secure in my life that I rarely find myself longing for additional funds. I do, though, wish I had the means to contribute more to the many worthy causes that my modest means allow me to support. As it is, I do my due-diligence and reassure myself that each and every dollar pledged will be put to maximum benefit for the intended recipients.

Crowd-funding of various projects and people has become commonplace. The result, in my opinion, is that appeals need to be scrutinized thoroughly before any of MY funds make their way into the hands of others. Vetting those appeals, even the most heart-tugging, can present serious challenges.

Crickhollow Books, April 22, 2015
I was both confident and excited to offer my small support to the recently successful Kickstarter publishing project,  DOYLI TO THE RESCUE: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon, photos and text by Cathleen Burnham. 
The result...TA-DA!  
The book will release on EARTH DAY, APRIL 22, 2015. I received my own copy in advance to review.
Some background first. Cathleen Burnham is an experienced travel and wildlife photojournalist.This title is one of a six-book-series she's creating for the WORLD ASSOCIATION OF KIDS AND ANIMALS. 

On a family vacation to the Amazon and subsequent travels she became aware of the fragile state of many animal species and their habitats, often in areas with limited financial resources.  She encountered individual young people who are making small-scale but powerful contributions to protect some of those threatened species. The WAKA Books program is Burnham's effort to share their stories and inspire other young people around the world to seek and pursue their own projects to save our planet.
This excerpt from the author note in the back of the book describes her mission:
"This story is a seed. Maybe you and your friends and family can come up with 
something YOU can do, in a small way, to help protect other creatures 
who might need a helping hand."

My thoughts, now that I've examined the book closely:
DOYLI TO THE RESCUE: SAVING BABY MONKEYS IN THE AMAZON is a winner by any measure. The target audience is aptly described as fourth- and fifth-graders, who will find that the photos and text are not only accessible but intriguing and appealing. 
Doyli's smiling face will make her feel like a friend from the start. Her life is one that could appear alien and distant, but instead reveals relationships, activities, and interests that are both familiar and exciting.
Burnham's photos are highly professional but also have a candid quality that suggest a family photo album. Doyli's engagement in a wider community, including school, the marketplace, and interactions with various friends and relatives encourage high level discussions with readers to compare and contrast Doyli's life to their own. 
The WAKA site indicates teaching guides and other resources are in the offing, as are subsequent titles in this series. Guides aren't necessary to begin using this immediately. The book design offers every aspect of nonfiction reading described in the Common Core State Standards,including picture captions, maps, clearly labeled species, specific vocabulary  and back matter. 
This book will definitely jumpstart further research into global locations, biomes, endangered species, interventions, and local issues.
In my opinion this book will intrigue and interest readers of any age. I look forward to meeting the young heroes in titles yet to come.

Please share the info with friends who like positive, uplighting books for kids: 

Apr 4, 2015

And the Themes Roll On: April is POETRY MONTH

Candlewick Press, 2015

Poetry, when well done, is a form of prayer. 
It inspires, it lifts the spirit.

It celebrates and laments.
It reveals our humanity
and unites our souls.

Its words, sounds, and  rhythms
set the pace of our pulse. 

Poems make me erupt 
in silly giggles,
gasps, sighs, 
and weeping. 

Poetry's forms are 
as rigid as haiku 
and as free as stories in verse.

All this and more in poems, and only a month to celebrate?

I could use more than a month to sing the praises of just one poet, Helen Frost, and her recent release, SWEEP UP THE SUN. The photographic illustrations by Rick Lieder should, in my opinion, make this title a front runner for Caldecott consideration in 2016

Frost wields poetry like a paintbrush in generating "master-pieces" in the truest sense of the word. I've read each and every book she's written and marveled at her capacity to make even the most complex and challenging poetic forms read like spontaneous storytelling. In each she bends her words to forms that serve the themes, moods, and characters. 

In SWEEP UP THE SUN I transcribed the entire text in an effort to understand Frost's alchemy. The entire text is ninety-eight words. 
I counted by hand, used digital tools, rechecked my transcription. 
Yep. Only ninety-eight words. 
Each is a gem, exquisite in its setting.
I want desperately to quote the introductory passage that provides the titles, but that requires thirty-four words of her total text. I won't cite a third of a book, even with quotations!
I'll stretch this far:
"Rise into the air
On the strength of your wings
Go out to play in the sky, "
Breathtaking, right?
Now imagine equally breathtaking photography that captures some of the most remarkable images of birds in flight that you'll ever see. 
No, you can't imagine his magnificent images -- the action, the lighting, the colors.
Just get your hands on this book as soon as possible and read it.
And again.

As much as I am enthralled by this book, I continue my boycott of naming "favorites" in titles or authors, because so many have done so much so well for so many centuries. 
To demonstrate that, I'll close with several links to other posts that in turn link, and link, and link. Follow those varied trails to savor the richness of poetry and share your own favorites, widely and often.
From the Latin@s in Kid Lit post: Poetry from their archives.
KIDLitoSphere Central: A link to links

Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.