Monday, December 28, 2009

Review #54: The Lion and the Mouse

Dad:  This book is called...
(Silence as everyone looks at the amazing cover)
Gracie (age 9):  It's called "A giant lion face."
Lily (age 6):  It's called "The Lion and the Mouse"!
Gracie:  There's no title!
Isaac (age 11):  Check the first page inside.
Dad:  Tell me about "The Lion and the Mouse."
Gracie:  It was simple.
Isaac:  It's not simple!  It has really good details.
Gracie:  Well, the story is simple.  The pictures are really, really detailed, but the story is simple.
Isaac:  Right.
Gracie:  The story is about a mousie and a lion.  The mousie said to the lion... well, actually it didn't say anything because mice don't talk.
Lily: (singing)  The Lion and the Mouse
  is about a mouse
    who got caught by a lion
      and the lion let him go
  And then....
    The mouse saved the lion
      from a trap
        by chewing the trap open
          La la la - doo doo!
Gracie:  That is so going in our Audio Snippets.
Dad:  Now, how is this version different than other versions of "The Lion and the Mouse"?
Lily:  It has no words.
Dad:  Do you like that or not?
Lily:  I like it.  Because then we get to make up the words.
Gracie:  There were no words in it except for a few.  I think the only words were "roar," "squeak," "whoo-whoo," and "scritch."
Dad:  So, I just read the story a minute ago... but if you had read it, would it have been completely different?  One person might read it in a funny way with lots of jokes.  Another person could make it really suspenseful and exciting.  Or someone could even do a musical version -- like Lily.
Lily:  Yeah!
Gracie:  Ha ha hahh HA ha!
Lily: (Singing)  "Whoooo, whooo... An owl's going to eat me..."  I'm singing it!
Dad:  Gracie, you tell me about the story.
Gracie:  Well a mousie disturbs a lion.  The lion decides to let him go and is like, "Rawr."
Dad:  Do you think the mouse knew what the lion was saying?
Gracie:  Hee hee...  No.
Dad:  What did the mouse say in return?
Gracie:  "Squeak."  Which means, "If you let me go, I'll do a favor for you."
  Then the lion says, "Roar."  Which means, "Okay, but what can a puny, little, squishy mousie do?"
  Then the mouse is like, "Squeak."  Which means, "Well, you never know..."
  Then the lion gets stuck in a trap, and the mouse is like, "Squeak."  Which means, "What happened?"
  Then the lion is like, "Rar."  Which means, "I got stuck in a trap!  Oh no, oh no!  Now I'm gonna die!  I can't get out!  Not even my sharp, sharp claws can cut through the rope!  Oh no!"
  Then the mouse is like, "Squeak."  Which means, "I'm on it!"
  Then the lion is like, "Rawr, rawr, rawr, rawr, rar, rawwwr, rawr, rawr, rawr!"  Which means, "Thanks."
  Then the mouse chews the rope though and says, "Squeak squeak."  Which means "No problem."  The end!
Dad:  Wow.  That was quite an epic telling.
Gracie:  Ha ha ha!
Dad:  I think we just proved that each person who reads this book will read it in a completely different way.
Gracie:  Yeah!
Dad:  This book is made by Jerry Pinkney.  Tell us what his pictures look like.
Lily:  The pictures are very detailed.  I can tell he was trying to make them really realistic.
Isaac:  Is it made with watercolor?  It looks like watercolor.
Dad:  Yep!
Gracie:  I can not paint like that.
Dad:  That would take a lot of practice, huh?
Lily:  Wait.  He did this with watercolor?  How did he do that?
Dad:  Ha ha!  It's amazing, isn't it!
Lily:  He is a good watercolor painter.
Dad:  He's been painting for many, many years.
Gracie:  He is definitely one of the greats.
Dad:  What did we notice about the few times that words do appear in the book?
Gracie:  They are not even typed!  He draws them!
Lily:  Actually he paints them.
Dad:  I love hand lettering in books.  And he even designed different fonts for each of the characters.
Gracie:  Big bold letters for a big bold lion.  And teeny cute letters for a teeny cute mousie.
Dad:  How does he make the lion itself look really big?
Lily:  He made the lion cover up the whole page.
Dad:  And how did he make the mouse look small?
Isaac:  He put him right next to the lion
Dad:  So by contrast... by comparing the two.  What about the times he draws the mouse up close?  How can we still tell he's actually small?
Gracie:  There's usually giant blades of grass.
Lily:  He makes the blades of grass go all the way off the page.
Gracie:  And there's a giant lion tail.
Dad:  So there's still a comparison of scale, even when the lion's not covering up the page.
Isaac:  He uses panels.  Mostly for the mouse.  When it's just the mouse on the page, he puts him in all these little panels.
Dad:  Is it always just for the mouse?  That's a good observation, Isaac.
Isaac:  He used it once for the lion -- when you could only see his feet.
Dad:  Maybe panels are another artistic device to make the mouse look small.
Gracie:  The mice are so cute!
Dad:  What does Mr. Pinkney bring to the story by giving families to the mouse and lion?
Gracie:  It makes you care for them more.  Don't eat him, Mr. Lion!  He's got a family to care for!
Dad:  Now we won't know for a couple weeks yet, but I'm guessing this book will win the big Caldecott medal this year.
Gracie:  It deserves it.
Isaac:  It's so detailed.  It's so cool.
Dad:  Wouldn't it be fun to pick a book for a "Bookie Woogie Award"?  Each year our family could pick our favorite book of the year.
Gracie:  But that might make people jealous, because I would give it to "The Hiccupotamus" 3 years in a row.
Dad:  No... I would definitely be disqualified from winning.
Gracie:  Gasp!  That's like cheating.
Dad:  It's not cheating to take yourself out of the running for your own award.
Gracie:  But dad, do you think libraries would let us put shiny stickers on the books?
Dad:  No no no... we wouldn't do that.  We could just say congratulations and maybe draw the winner a picture or something.
Gracie:  Could we put a shiny sticker on the drawing?
Dad:  Oh, sure.
Gracie:  Woo hoo!
Dad:  The allure of shiny things...
Gracie:  Wait.  Where would we get shiny stickers?
Dad:  This book would definitely be in the running for a 2009 Bookie Woogie Award.  Alright, as we wrap up, is there anything else you want to say?
Kids:  Read the book!  Read the book!
Dad:  How do you read it?
Gracie:  Uh...  I mean...  Look at the book!  Look at the book!

mouse and lion, by Lily

lion, by Gracie

mouse, by Isaac

Author/Illustrator: Jerry Pinkney
Published, 2009: Little, Brown & Co
Like it?  Find it

Monday, December 21, 2009

Review #53: This is the Stable

Lily (age 6):  This book is called "This is the Stable."  It's about Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus.  We are reading it because it's almost Christmas, so that is special.
Dad:  I love the pictures in this book.
Lily:  You do?
Dad:  That's why I wanted to do this one.
Lily:  It is?
Dad:  Yep.
Lily:  Or maybe you wanted to do it because it's Christmas.
Dad:  Well, both.  Out of all our Christmas books, this year I wanted to highlight this one.
Lily:  Okay.
Dad:  Cynthia Cotten wrote it.  And it is illustrated by Delana Bettoli.
Gracie (age 9):  I have a rhyme...  Delana Bettoli eats ravioli.
Lily:  Does she really eat ravioli?
Isaac (age 11):  Everyone eats ravioli.
Dad:  What did you think about the writing?
Lily:  It always rhymes things.
Isaac:  I bet this could be a song.  I really think this could be a song.  I bet it was a song.
Lily:  This is kind of like a Bible story.  But the author made up her own words.
Gracie:  It tells a good story and makes it fun to read.  Some people think reading the Bible is boring.
Dad:  Like who.
Gracie:  I don't know.  Katie just said she knows some people.  My friend Katie knows a lot of people.
Isaac:  Each part of the story starts out like, "This is the stable," "These are the shepherds," or "These are the wise men."  Then after every few pages it ends with "in the stable dusty and brown."
Lily:  They always say "...the stable dusty and brown," "...the stable dusty and brown."
Dad:  That's called "repetition."
Gracie:  The pictures are so pretty.
Dad:  For a book that keeps saying "dusty and brown" over and over again, did the pictures look dusty and brown?
Lily:  NO!  They are colorful and happy.
Gracie:  They are the opposite of dusty and brown.
Dad:  So there's some contrast going on.
Lily:  This is colorful.  This book is a rainbow.
Gracie:  Colorful and detailed.
Isaac:  It's really cool how the illustrator dabs color.  Like, the ground is a dark color, and then there are all these little splotches on top of it.  Every picture looks like it has layers.
Gracie:  In almost every single last picture there are angel wings.
Isaac:  Every page has hidden wings.
Gracie:  Where are the wings on this page?  Oh, I see the wings.
Lily:  There's the wings.  There's the wings again.
Gracie:  It also has cool borders on every page.  Such neat borders.
Isaac:  On this page, the border around the picture is all these twigs entwined together.  And then at the bottom there are flowers.
Gracie:  There are lots of details.  The illustrator must really like patterns.  Because there are so many patterns.  Every single thing has at least one type of pattern.
Dad:  The borders, the clothing... everything is very decorated.
Gracie:  My favorite picture has four angels, and they've all got such colorful clothes.  The dresses have such pretty patterns.  One has snowflakes and flowers, one has... actually all of them have flowers.
Dad:  Usually when you see pictures of angels they are just dressed in white.
Lily:  This is colorful!
Dad:  These are the most colorful angels I've ever seen.
Gracie:  This Christmas book is better than all the rest because it's prettier.
Dad:  Well, do you guys have any Christmas greetings for our readers?
Isaac:  Merry Christmas everybody!
Lily:  Have a good Christmas - ho ho ho.
Gracie:  Merry Christmas from Bookie Woogie!
Lily:  Ho ho ho!
Isaac:  We should ask what people's favorite Christmas story is.
Gracie:  If you tell us your favorite Christmas story, you could win...  um...
Dad:  Maybe they could win your drawings?
Isaac:  Yeah!  I'll give mine away.
Gracie:  I'll do it.  Contest!
Dad:  Really?  Do you want to?  I've given away books before...  Do you want to give away your pictures this week?
Gracie:  Yes!
Dad:  So what are the rules?
Gracie:  Leave us a comment and tell us your favorite Christmas book.  You can win our actual drawings.  Not just copies.  The actual drawings.
Dad:  So one person wins all three, or what?
Gracie:  First prize gets the best picture we drew, second place gets the second best...
Dad:  HA!  Well, who decides which one is best?
Gracie:  You!
Dad:  I can't do that.  How about this...  how about we give the winner their choice.
Gracie:  First place gets to pick first.  Second place gets to pick second.  And last place gets the left over.
Dad:  Hah - the "left over"?
Lily:  But Daddy!  What if they pick mine for last!?
Dad:  I'm sure all your pictures will be wonderful!  And maybe they'll pick yours first...
Lily:  But what if no one likes mine?
Dad:  Okay, we won't do that.  We always want this to be fun.  Maybe we'll assign the pictures randomly.  We don't want anyone to feel bad.
Lily:  Mm-hm.
Gracie:  Now let's go do our drawing party!  We can use the brightest colors we've got!
Dad:  Great!  And give us your rules one more time...
Gracie:  Leave a comment and tell us your favorite Christmas book.
Dad:  At the end of the week, we'll randomly pick three winners to receive orginal Z-kids art!  The pictures are below, and we'll match them to the winners randomly as well.  Good luck!  Spread the word!

wise man, by Isaac
baby Jesus, by Lily

angels, by Gracie
Author: Cynthia Cotten
Illustrator: Delana Bettoli
Published, 2006: Henry Holt
Like it? Find it

Monday, December 14, 2009

Review #52: The Happy Hocky Family

Dad:  Today we're looking at "The Happy Hocky Family."
Lily (age 6):  Lane Smith wrote this book!  Lane Smith.  Yeah.
Dad:  Do you know who that is?
Lily:  No.
Dad:  Lane Smith also illustrated--
Isaac:  "Stinky Cheese Man"?
Dad:  You're right!
Lily:  I love that one!
Gracie (age 9):  This book is even funnier than Stinky Cheese Man.
Dad:  Do you know any of the other books Lane Smith worked on, Isaac?
Isaac (age 11):  The other Happy Hocky book.  The sequel.
Dad:  Ha ha.  Yes he did.  What would you say about "The Happy Hocky Family" to people who have never had the pleasure of seeing it before?
Gracie:  It's your loss.
Dad:  What if they go read it now?
Gracie:  Your not-loss.
Dad:  How would you describe the art style in this book?
Gracie:  Average.
Dad:  Average?  What do you mean by that?
Gracie:  Not too complicated.
Dad:  You mean "simple" maybe?  Not average.  "Simplified."
Lily:  Simplified.  I like that.
Isaac:  The pictures are stampy looking.
Gracie:  Pretty much it's just red, yellow, black and white.
Isaac:  The book is a whole bunch of little, tiny stories.
Dad:  Does the style of the writing match the style of the pictures?
Isaac:  They are both simple.
Dad:  Give me an example of what the stories might sound like.
Isaac:  "I like cookies.  Do you like cookies?  I like cookies.  I like my cat.  He is a brown cat.  He fell in an apple pie."
Dad:  Who are the characters?
Gracie:  Mr. Hocky, Mrs. Hocky, Henry Hocky, Holly Hocky, Baby Hocky, and Newton.  Newton is their dog.
Dad:  Tell me about the kids in the family...
Gracie:  Henry and Holly are the brother and the sister.  And I want a "tomato ketchup" shirt!  Henry's got a shirt that says tomato ketchup on it!  The Hocky family is so lucky.
Isaac:  Henry and Holly are trying to get back at each other over and over again.  They are archenemies.
Dad:  I wouldn't say they are enemies.  Remember - they play together nice with their toys.  Are they just like brothers and sisters that tease each other?
Lily:  Yes.  Just like what Gracie does to me.
Dad:  What does Gracie do to you?
Lily:  She teases me.  She calls me a "Lumpy Monkey."
Gracie:  Hee hee HA heehee heeee...
Lily:  Tah, hah Ha ha ha...
Gracie:  But she is though!
Lily:  YOU are a Lumpy Monkey!
Gracie:  No you are.
Dad:  Alright, what about Newton?
Isaac:  Newton is a dog.  And that dog has eye problems.  His eyes are totally opposite sizes.  One is little and one is huge.
Gracie:  They are the exact same size - look.
Isaac:  No they are not...
Gracie:  That's his spot.
Isaac:  That's a spot?
Gracie:  Yes!
Dad:  He has a ring around his eye.
Isaac:  I thought it was an eyeball!
Gracie:  Ha ha hah hah ha...
Dad:  That would have been a huge eye.  What else can you say about Newton?
Isaac:  Well, his mouth is like a duck-mouth.
Dad:  Newton didn't have too many stories in this book, did he?
Isaac:  He got eaten.
Gracie:  By a crocodile.  There's a crocodile's mouth, and Newton's leash is leading into it.  But then he got thrown up.
Dad:  Well, we don't know if he got thrown up...  But he does reappear at the end of the book.  Now, which is your favorite story in the book?
Gracie:  I like the Baby Hocky stories.
Dad:  Baby Hocky is definitely the best, huh?
Gracie:  Baby Hocky rocks!  Peace out dude!  Peace out Baby Hocky!
Dad:  What does that even mean?
Gracie:  I have no idea.
Isaac:  I like Baby Hocky.  He's cool.  Or she.
Gracie:  Me too.  Awesome.  And I have a question for Mr. and Mrs. Hocky.  Why do you call him Baby Hocky?  Doesn't he have a real name?
Dad:  Tell me about Baby Hocky.
Gracie:  He's always looking at the best of things.
Isaac:  He's an optimist.
Dad:  Oo!  Big word, Isaac.
Isaac:  Most of his stuff gets half-destroyed.  Half-ruined or destroyed.
Gracie:  Every time he's proud of something -- then it gets ruined -- then he says "Look at what I've got."  Like, once his balloon popped, and then he says "Look, now I've got a string!"
Isaac:  I want a string!  I'm going to pop my balloon so I can get a string too.
Lily:  And his white coat gets splashed with oil, but now he has a white hat!  It is awesomeness.
Dad:  Does Baby Hocky get upset when the candy apple yanks his tooth out?
Lily:  No.  Because he's got a tooth for the tooth fairy!
Isaac:  I wonder if I've had a candy apple?
Lily:  I'm always glad when I get a tooth out.  I had a tooth for the tooth fairy last night!
Dad:  Lily has a tooth for the tooth fairy practically every night!
Isaac:  I want a candy apple!  I've never had a candy apple.
Dad:  Maybe that's what we need to do, Lily, when you have your teeth hanging there for so long...  we'll just give you a candy apple.
Lily:  Yeah!
Gracie:  Baby Hocky has a huge belly button.
Lily:  And he only wears diapers.
Gracie:  Baby Hocky doesn't have a nose.
Lily:  And the only one without a neck is Baby Hocky!
Isaac:  That's true.
Lily:  Everyone else has stick-necks.  And the baby doesn't have any neck.
Gracie:  They are stick figures.
Lily:  And everyone has red ears.
Dad:  They do.  I never noticed that.
Gracie:  They have bloody ears.
Dad:  Ew.
Gracie:  Probably because Holly's red ants bit all their ears.
Dad:  Wonderful.
Gracie:  They should make Baby Hocky plush toys.  They would be awesome.
Dad:  Maybe his tooth would be detachable.
Isaac:  There could be a red string stuck to it.
Dad:  Ew.  That's what Lily's teeth look like when they won't come out, hanging from tooth guts.
Gracie:  I love you Baby Hocky!

Baby Hocky likes seals and Newton likes crocodiles, by Lily

crocodile x-ray, by Isaac

and a new Baby Hocky story by Gracie:"I have 2 pets!  Do you have 2 pets?  I have 2 pets!"

(the elephant is spooked by the mouse)

(the elephant bolts...)
"I have 1 pet!  Do you have 1 pet?  I have 1 pet!"


"I have 2 collars!  Do you have 2 collars?  I have 2 collars!"

Author/Illustrator: Lane Smith
Published, 1993: Viking
Like it?  Find it

Monday, December 7, 2009

Audio Snippets II

Howdy all!  Times have been crazy here lately for the Z-Fam.  Isaac has had a horrible sore throat, Dad has been on the road doing school visits and book signings, and our digital recorder's memory has reached full capacity.  So in lieu of a new review this week, let's take a listen to a few choice audio snippets pulled from the last few months before I wipe the recorder clean again.  I hope you enjoy them!  (I've also included links below to the original reviews if anyone wants to revisit them.  And if anyone has trouble with the audio loading in this post, this alternate version may work better for you.)

After pulling these favorite clips from the past 18 recordings, I noticed a couple of reoccurring qualities.  First, there is a very musical bent to this batch.  And second, we get a lovely glimpse into the goofy terrain that is Lily's brain.

I submit Exhibit A:  Lily's thoughts on "The Arrival."  (And you will need a translator: she says, "It is a nicely, strangely, weirdish, story..." and after that everything descends into chaos.)

Gracie struggles to find the right word to describe the protagonist from "The Arrival."

Lily sings us the title of our next book: "Down the Back of the Chair."

We like Polly Dunbar's name:

The Lunch Lady books are about a couple of cafeteria workers who secretly fight crime in their spare time.  We homeschool so, for us, Mom is teacher, principal, librarian, and lunch lady all rolled into one.  I asked Lily if she thought her lunch lady fought crime...

Lily shares an evil librarian's laugh:

Upon opening the Lunch Lady books, Gracie immediately improvised an accompanying soundtrack.  She became "Theme Song Girl" and carried on for all 25 minutes of our review.  Here are a few highlights:

Gracie shares her favorite picture from "The Hiccupotamus"...  and then I make her cry:

Lily is once again incoherent... Doodle-loodle-loodle...

I have no idea what Lily says here, but it sure is funny:

When we reviewed "Where the Wild Things Are" Isaac was in a bizarre mood.  Way bizarre.  I had to turn off the recorder and tell him to stop saying such crazy stuff.
"I'm not saying crazy stuff," he claimed.
"You just did," I retorted. "When we were talking about the pictures breaking out of the borders."
"I did not," he insisted.
"You said 'the trees are poofing out of the chickens,'" I countered.
"What!?" he exclaimed incredulously. "I said the trees are coming out of the borders."
"No, you said 'chickens'."
"I did not!"
"You did!"
Then Dad realized - hey - we've got a tape recorder to settle this...

Ah, sweet victory...

You know you've got a wonderful kid if his most serious vice consists of randomly saying the word "chickens."

Lily breaks into song while reviewing "Jeremy Draws a Monster."

Gracie invents Tubecats:

Gracie has words for Peter McCarty:

Isaac and Gracie try to pronounce Dieter Wiesmuller's name:

Gracie bestows a name upon the kid in "Nugget on the Flight Deck."

While reviewing "Who Needs Donuts" we discovered that Lily once accidentally loved ducks more than people:

If you haven't guessed, reviewing with kids can be a very chaotic experience.  Here's a bit of the behind the scenes drama that you all fortunately get to miss:

And for our final clip, sweet Lily offers herself to "The Book That Eats People."

Hope you had fun listening in!  If you liked these and want to hear more, you can check out our first batch of Audio Snippets: here

Monday, November 30, 2009

Review #51: The Book That Eats People

Dad:  So what are we reading here?
Lily (age 6):  "The Book That Eats People."  It's about a book that eats people.
Dad:  The book in the story is about this book -- the very book in our hands.
Lily:  Yeah.  It's the book that eats people.
Dad:  The book we are holding eats people.
Lily:  Yeah.
Dad:  And Lily, you said it's not a good book?
Lily:  Yeah.  Because it eats people.
Dad:  Oh.
Lily:  Actually, everything you could say about this book is "It eats people."
Dad:  Because that's the main point, huh.
Lily:  Yeah.  It's a book that eats people.
Gracie (age 9):  This book is about the book.  It's a book about itself.
Isaac (age 11):  This is a weird book to review.  Why are we going to review it if it wants to eat us?
Lily:  It's an evil book that eats people!  Beware of it!  You might find it in the library.  You should kill it.
Isaac:  Destroy it at first sight!
Lily:  We've got to stomp on it and destroy it and put it in a fire.
Isaac:  Or a paper shredder.  Where's a paper shredder?  We need to go to Staples and borrow their paper shredder.
Gracie:  The book tells you warnings and cautions.
Lily:  Like, put something heavy on it if it starts growling.
Gracie:  And don't read it with syrupy fingers.  Or a cookie in your pocket.
Isaac: (whispering)  Dad!  Pssst!  Dad!  What if the book realizes we just ate pizza for dinner 10 minutes ago?
Dad:  It can probably smell the food still on our breath...
Isaac:  Oh no.  I think my hands smell like cookies.
Dad:  So what is the story about?
Lily:  About the kids that the book ate so far.
Isaac:  It has eaten a whole lot of people.  Including Sammy.
Dad:  Sammy Ruskin.
Isaac:  At least it's not my friend Sammy Emmons.
Dad:  And who was that little cutie it ate?
Gracie:  Victoria.  She IS cute.
Isaac:  Way too cute.  She's so cute that she looks sort of evil.
Dad:  Tell me about the pictures...
Isaac:  The pages are done in all different styles.
Dad:  There are lots of collages.  You guys might have fun doing collages.  The illustrator made it look like things are taped in there... or like different papers are stacked on top of each other.
Isaac:  I don't know what I should say.  "Read the book" or "Don't read the book"?
Dad:  What is good about the book?
Isaac:  It's a good, great, awesome book with cool pictures.
Lily:  It IS a good book.
Dad:  What is bad about the book?
Isaac:  It could bite your hands off.
Dad:  So you are conflicted about whether to recommend it or not...
Isaac:  I recommend it very much.  Because we don't want it at our house one more day.
Dad:  We got this one from the library...
Gracie:  And this book is overdue, so we have to pay money.
Isaac:  We're paying money to have a book that is evil?  That's kind of weird.  They should be paying us because we kept it away for extra long.
Dad:  This is my very favorite book of the year, did you know that?  I think this is the best book of 2009.
Isaac:  What?  One that eats people?  And is evil?
Dad:  Yep.  I love it.
Isaac:  I don't believe it.  How could you?
Dad:  Now we've been having fun, but tell me really... do you think there is anyone that shouldn't read this?  Do you think it could actually scare kids?  Or do you think all kids would know this is just fun and silly?
Gracie:  If you are a kid who is very, very, very, very, very, very, very cautious about everything, then don't read it.
Dad:  What kind of kids would enjoy a book like this?
Gracie:  Goofy kids.  Me!
Lily:  I like this book!  Because it's a fun book.
Gracie:  It's a terrifying book.  In a good way.
Dad:  It's fun to be silly and scary sometimes, isn't it.
Gracie:  Yeah...  If only it didn't eat people...
Isaac:  Everyone, say good things about this book so it won't eat us.
Dad:  Do you have any words for the creators... John Perry and Mark Fearing?
Gracie:  Yeah.  If the book didn't already eat you guys, make more books!
Isaac:  It probably ate them already.
Dad:  Did it look like it wanted to nibble any of you guys?
Isaac:  It was staring at Lily.
Gracie:  Evie is plump.  We could feed her to the book.
Isaac:  Throw her to the beast!
Lily:  Let the book eat me.
Dad:  Let the book eat Lily?
Lily:  Yes.
Dad:  You are willing to sacrifice yourself?
Lily:  So he won't eat any others of you.
Dad:  That's so nice of you.  (kiss)  Awww... that was very kind of you, my little sweet girl.

collage of carnage, by Isaac

the zookeeper brought pizza and cake... but he was too late, by Lily

the book that ate Gracie, by Gracie

Author: John Perry
Illustrator: Mark Fearing
Published, 2009: Tricycle Press
Like it:  Find it

Monday, November 23, 2009

Review #50: Give Thanks to the Lord

Dad:  Happy Thanksgiving!  Today we're looking at "Give Thanks to the Lord."  It is written by Karma Wilson of "Bear Snores On" fame.  And guys, do the pictures look familiar to you?  Think of our very, very first Bookie Woogie review ever...
Gracie (age 9):  "The Dog Who Belonged to No One"!
Isaac (age 11):  Ah, that's it!
Dad:  Yep, Amy Bates illustrated this one as well.
Gracie:  The art is really sketchy and loose.
Dad:  I love how she's not worried about showing the sketches underneath the paint.  It's great... so scribble-y.
Lily (age 6):  They are mostly all warm colors.
Isaac:  It's all reds, yellows, oranges.
Dad:  What do those colors remind us of besides warmness?
Lily:  Fall.
Dad:  Even though the season is cold, all the warm colors make you feel cozy inside.
Isaac:  My favorite picture is the one with the hot chocolate.  The picture looks so warm and awesome.
Dad:  Notice how the kid in the front looks sharper, and all the other people behind him kind of blend into the background...
Isaac:  I know why!  If you look, there's all this white around the boy that makes him pop out.  It makes it easy to tell he's there.
Dad:  You can tell he's supposed to be the focus.
Isaac:  But you don't really notice the white unless you look hard.
Dad:  I've started doing that in my pictures a bit.
Gracie:  My favorite picture is the last one.  The mommy is carrying the little boy upstairs.  And he is hugging her.  And it looks like he is sleeping.  And he is happy.
Isaac:  What is your favorite picture, Lily?
Lily:  I like the one where the boy and the grandpa are full.  And the dog is licking the plate.
Dad:  Our Mom wouldn't be happy with the dog for that.
Lily:  That dog is on every picture.
Dad:  I never even noticed that.  Oop - except this one.  He's in almost every picture.
Gracie:  The dog is my favorite character.
Lily:  He looks like Marley.
Dad:  How do you know Marley?
Lily:  I don't know.
Isaac:  Commercials.
Gracie:  The pictures really matched what the story said.  She somehow managed to think of the most perfect way to show everything.
Dad:  So tell me about the story...
Gracie:  The story has lots of poetry in it.
Lily:  It's a poem.
Gracie:  And it had alliteration!  "Food and family and fun."
Dad:  What was the poem about?
Lily:  Thanksgiving.
Isaac:  Food.
Gracie:  Fall.
Isaac:  Food, pie...
Gracie:  Leaves.
Isaac:  Apple pie!
Lily:  They talked about being full.
Isaac:  Pumpkin pie!  Whipcream!  I never had as much whipcream on my pumpkin pie as that kid.
Dad:  Isaac, you are Food-Boy.
Isaac:  That's because I like all food.
Dad:  Speaking of pie, you made a pumpkin pie this year, didn't you Isaac.
Gracie:  Ahhhh, that was heavenly.
Dad:  It's like Karma Wilson sat down and said, "What comes to mind when I think about Thanksgiving."
Isaac:  Like, her ten favorite things about Thanksgiving.
Dad:  Her favorite things seem to be similar to our favorite things.
Gracie:  And the boy is putting olives on his fingers.  I love doing that!
Isaac:  I have a confession to make.  I can't stand olives.  They make me gag.
Dad:  The kids in the book pull a wishbone.  Do you guys ever do that?
Isaac:  I'm the unluckiest person in the world with wishbones.  I never win against Gracie.  Or anyone, really.
Gracie:  I always get the knob.  I always get the wish.
Dad:  And you guys played in the leaves recently.  This book has all the fun fall stuff we do!
Gracie:  This year I hid in our pile of leaves, then popped up and scared Elijah.
Isaac:  I dove off our hill and landed in the leaves.  Dad made this pile by the hill, so I ran and jumped off the hill into the pile.
Lily:  I love the hill.
Dad:  You guys are lucky to have a cool hill in the yard.  It's good for sledding in the winter and leaf diving in the fall.
Isaac:  The author was good at capturing Thanksgiving things.
Dad:  So you think this is a good Thanksgiving book, even though there aren't pilgrim and turkey characters in it?
Isaac:  There's a turkey in it.  Not a turkey running around.  But there's a turkey!
Dad:  Yum yum.  Poor turkey.
Lily:  I like this book because it's about God.
Dad:  Do you remember what we were talking about earlier?  Why isn't it called "ThanksBEING Day"?  Why is it "ThanksGIVING"?
Gracie:  Because it's "Giving Thanks."  The words are just backwards.  But who are you giving thanks to?  You have to be giving thanks to somebody.  And we are giving thanks to God.
Dad:  Yep.  The point of the day is not "thankfulness" itself.  Not just being thankful.  The point is the One to whom we give the thanks.
Isaac:  God.
Dad:  So did Karma Wilson get it right?
Gracie:  "Give Thanks to the Lord."
Dad:  So, what things do we have to be thankful to God for?
Lily:  He made my friends.
Gracie:  Our family.
Lily:  I'm thankful for my family because they take care of me and play with me and they are my friends.
Isaac:  Pretty much everything.  Thank God for everything.
Dad:  But give me some specifics.
Isaac:  Pumpkin pie.
Gracie:  I'm thankful for Bookie Woogie.
Dad:  So then, tell me what you think -- what does God have to do with Bookie Woogie?
Isaac:  He gave us the idea for it.  He gave us our brains.
Gracie:  He gives us the inspiration to make the pictures.
Dad:  Your creativity.
Gracie:  And He gave the people who made these books the ideas for their books.  So actually, He has a LOT to do with Bookie Woogie.
Dad:  Good conclusions!
Isaac:  This is a good book.  I like this book.

throwing leaves, by Lily

dog spies pumpkin pie on the table, by Isaac

leaf pile, by Gracie

Author: Karma Wilson
Illustrator: Amy June Bates
Published, 2007: Zonderkidz
Like it?  Find it

Monday, November 16, 2009

Interview #3: Aaron Reynolds

We've got another interview for you this week!  We're delighted to share a conference call style conversation that the kids and I recently had with Aaron Reynolds, author of "Joey Fly Private Eye."  It's been a lot of fun to put the kids in contact with creative folks, to let the kids pick their brains, and to simply talk about creativity together.  Thanks for engaging with us Mr. Reynolds!

The portrait of Aaron Reynolds is by Gracie, who I think can now (with 3 in a row) be declared our official Bookie Woogie portraitist.

And with that, we'll get started...

Dad:  So guys, tell me about "Joey Fly Private Eye."
Isaac (age 11):  The story is a about this fly who is a detective named Joey Fly.
Lily (age 6):  He's a good detective.  Joey kept saying, "We've got to have proof!"
Gracie (age 9):  The characters are all bugs.  Bug world!
Isaac:  Joey's sidekick is Sammy Stingtail who is a scorpion.  Sammy is really clumsy.
Lily:  He has a long tail and he keeps whacking, whacking, whacking everything!  Sammy is learning to be a detective.  But right now he's just cleaning up the office.
Dad:  Does the office get very clean?
Isaac:  It looks like a tornado went through the office because his tail keeps bumping into everything.  He'll pick up one piece of paper, but he'll destroy fifty three thousand things while picking it up.
Dad:  What kind of book is this?
Lily:  It's a wordy book.
Isaac:  It's a graphic novel.
Dad:  What is a Graphic Novel, for any of our readers who might not know...
Isaac:  It's like a comic book.  Imagine a book, but when you open it up there are comics inside.
Dad:  So how is that different from a comic book?  It's longer?
Isaac:  It's in a book - not a magazine.
Gracie:  This is also a funny book.  Puns!  Bug puns!  You know how some people say, "Life in the big city"?  Joey Fly on the beginning page says "Life in the BUG city!"
Isaac:  It's a mystery story too.
Lily:  It's a detective book.
Dad:  Have you guys ever read any mystery books before this?  We have a lot of Nate the Great books...
Isaac:  I've read Hardy Boys books too.
Dad:  Good job guys.  Now for our interview with Aaron Reynolds!  It's nice to meet you...  or, to meet your voice.
Aaron Reynolds:  It's good to meet your voices!
Gracie:  Guess what!
Aaron Reynolds:  What?
Gracie:  My dad's name is Aaron too!
Aaron Reynolds:  I know -- coolest name ever!
Dad:  This is the first time on Bookie Woogie that we're talking about a book we didn't read together as a group.  None of the kids could wait to get their hands on it, so we each read it on our own.  I'm assuming you guys liked "Joey Fly" since you devoured it?
Gracie:  I read it, like, five times!
Aaron Reynolds:  You did!
Lily:  I read it two times.
Aaron Reynolds:  That's awesome.  What was your favorite part?
Gracie:  My favorite part was when Joey was talking to the ladybug, Gloria.  And Gloria tells Joey, "She had a funny look on her face, like she'd just found a fly in her soup."  And then Joey says, "That hurt."
Aaron Reynolds: (laughter)
Gracie:  That's funny!
Lily:  Yeah, that's my favorite part too!
Isaac:  I just like the whole book.
Gracie:  Do you have a favorite part?
Aaron Reynolds:  Oh man... that's a tough one.  I think my favorite part is at the very end when Joey tricks the culprit into revealing herself.  I thought it was pretty sneaky of him.
Dad:  Earlier this week Isaac was trying his hand at writing a mystery story.
Aaron Reynolds:  Oh, cool...
Dad:  And he had a bit of trouble.  What was the main problem you were having?
Isaac:  I couldn't get all the clues to match up.
Aaron Reynolds:  Yeah, that's hard isn't it?  Mysteries are tricky.  I think it's harder than writing a regular story.
Dad:  Isaac had some good ideas for clues.  He knew how they would reveal the ending.  I think he just didn't know how to pace all the clues into a story.
Isaac:  I knew a few of the clues pointed to one person.  But I couldn't figure out how to get all the clues to do it.
Aaron Reynolds:  I have trouble with that sometimes too.  Sometimes I figure out the clues that lead up to the ending as I write.  Other times I jump to the ending and think backwards... I reveal the whole thing to myself in my imagination and then think about all the things that the crook might have missed or left behind.  I also don't want the clues to be obvious.  When you find a clue, I don't want everyone who is reading the book to go, "I know what happened!"  I also watch a lot of cool mystery movies.  And when I see other people who do mysteries really well, it gives me some ideas.
Gracie:  We watch Scooby Doo.
Aaron Reynolds:  Scooby Doo!  I love Scooby Doo.
Isaac:  Because you are writing the story and it is a graphic novel, do you ever worry about how the pictures are going to come out?
Aaron Reynolds:  That's a great question.  The guy who illustrated the book - his name is Neil Numberman.  He and I did not know each other until after the book came out, so we never worked together.  We never spoke once during the creation of the book.  So how the book looks was totally in his hands.  And I'll tell you guys a secret.  When I first saw his sketches of Joey, I hated them!
Dad:  Uh-oh!
Aaron Reynolds:  Ohhhh... I hated them.  I thought to myself, okay, the main character you've drawn for my book doesn't even have a mouth.  And he doesn't have pupils in his eyeballs!  How are you going to do a main character like this for an entire 98 page graphic novel?  How are people going to know how he's feeling?  I was a little worried about it.
Dad:  So did you see some actual pages?  Or just some character sketches?
Aaron Reynolds:  Character sketches.  It was when the publisher thought they wanted Neil to do the book, but they hadn't decided yet.  My editor wasn't showing me to ask "Is this okay."  Because I don't get to decide.  They decide.  But my editor did go back to Neil and told him how I was feeling.  So Neil made a sheet of the 50 emotions of Joey Fly.
Gracie:  Yikes!
Aaron Reynolds:  He drew 50 different little pictures of Joey feeling different emotions.  My editor sent that back to me and I was like, okay I'm sold.  If he can make this character work in 50 different expressions -- and in each one I knew exactly how he was feeling -- then I'm sold.  So yes, sometimes I do worry about the illustrations because I don't get a lot of control over it.  But you learn to trust these artists who are in the mix... they're usually pretty good.
Dad:  Ahh, those stinkin' artists....
Isaac:  I like Joey.  He's my favorite character.
Dad:  Actually, right before the interview, mere moments ago, I was telling the kids that I loved the fact that Joey only has a little tube for a mouth and pupil-less eyes.  I thought it was the coolest part of the whole book.  But see, that's another artist talking.
Lily:  Who is your favorite character?
Aaron Reynolds:  I really love Joey.  And I've also got a new favorite...  Now, you guys haven't even seen it yet, but I've looked at the sketches for Joey Fly #2 --
Gracie:  GAAASP!!!
Aaron Reynolds: (stunned pause followed by laughter)
Dad: (also laughing)  Wow - all the air just got sucked out of the room here.
Lily:  There's going to be another one?  Yeah!  There's going to be another one!
Aaron Reynolds:  Number 2 is already written, and Neil is illustrating it right now.  He's already done the sketches, and he's doing the final artwork right now.  He'd better be doing it right now... today!  And I'm already writing #3.
Dad:  Yay - We were wondering if there would be more.  That's good news!
Aaron Reynolds:  So my favorite-favorite character is from the second book.  His name is Harry Spiderson, and he's a brazilian tarantula.
Dad:  We're going to have to hide that from Mom...
Gracie:  She freaks out!
Aaron Reynolds:  Doesn't like spiders?
Gracie:  Nuh-uh.
Aaron Reynolds:  I don't like them in real life either.
Lily:  I'm not afraid of spiders.  And spiders are even half poisonous.
Dad:  Half poisonous?  Which half?
Lily:  The top half.  If they bite you.
Dad:  So is Harry a nice spider or a creepy one?
Aaron Reynolds: He's a good guy.  He's actually the customer that comes to Joey for help.  We think he's a bad guy at first because, you know, what do spiders eat?  They eat flies.  So we're a little worried about him at first, but he turns out to be okay.  He's a little dramatic though.  The whole story takes place in a theater, and he's the director of the theater company.
Dad:  Gracie, you were on the stage recently, weren't you...
Gracie:  Yes!  I was doing a skit at my drama camp.
Aaron Reynolds:  Very cool.  Very cool.  Before I became a writer I was an actor in Chicago.
Gracie:  And you write plays.
Dad:  Yeah, we did some looking online and found a few songs you wrote and some of the plays you were in.
Aaron Reynolds:  You did?
Gracie:  You had little red pointy horns!
Aaron Reynolds: (laughter)  You saw that, did you?
Dad:  You don't have horns in real life do you?
Aaron Reynolds:  Not in real life.  Ah, that's the bad thing about letting someone video you doing drama...  You never know when it's going to pop up.
Lily:  Gracie was a cowgirl.
Gracie:  Yeah, in my skit I was a wrangler.
Aaron Reynolds:  Cool.
Gracie:  I still remember all my lines.
Dad:  It didn't surprise any of us that Gracie took to drama pretty well.
Gracie:  Which one is your favorite?  Writing graphic novels, writing picture books, writing plays, or writing songs?
Aaron Reynolds:  You know I like them all.  They're all a little different.  Right now I really love graphic novels.  In a lot of ways it's like writing plays.  When I write a graphic novel, I don't write a story like a regular book.  I write a script.
Dad:  Yeah, we were wondering what that looks like... how writing a graphic novel looks different than writing a picture book.
Aaron Reynolds:  Gracie's script at drama camp probably gave the name of a character and what they say, and then the name of the next character and what they say.  And also stage directions that tell where you walk and how you move.  That's a lot like how it looks when you are writing a graphic novel.  It's just 100 pages of a script.
Gracie:  100 pages?
Aaron Reynolds:  You're right... the finished script is probably more like 60 or 70 pages once it had all the stage direction in it.
Gracie:  Was "Joey Fly" fun to write?
Aaron Reynolds:  It is fun to write.  But you know what, I'm writing the third one right now and I'm not having fun.  I'm having a hard time figuring out what I want to have happen.
Gracie:  You're writing it right now?
Aaron Reynolds:  Well, not right now, not while we're talking.
Lily:  Oh, you mean like in this part of the week.
Aaron Reynolds:  Yes.  These days.
Lily:  Gracie writes songs too.
Gracie:  Yeah, I usually only write Jesus songs.  Except once when we were at Disney World, just quick off the top of my head I made up a song about a kangaroo and a turtle which I do not want to sing right now.
Aaron Reynolds:  But now that you said it, I have to hear it!  Let's hear it!
Gracie:  It's embarrassing!
Isaac:  Sing it!
Lily:  Sing!  Sing!
Gracie:  It's embarrassing - no!
Dad:  Well, what if Mr. Reynolds sings you a little something?  Then will you sing for him?
Aaron Reynolds:  Oh my goodness.  Alright, I'm embarrassed too, Gracie.  Neither of us have to sing.
Gracie: (giggles)
Aaron Reynolds:  Sometimes we creative people are actually pretty shy.
Dad:  But it's fun -- we get to hide behind other characters, right?
Aaron Reynolds:  This is true.
Dad:  I was wondering what other graphic novels you like.  Are there any other ones that you take inspiration from.
Aaron Reynolds:  I love Babymouse.  Do you guys know Babymouse?
Gracie:  I LOVE Babymouse!  They're my favorite books ever!
Lily:  Me too.  But I also like Joey Fly.
Aaron Reynolds:  Well if I rate up there with Babymouse, then I'm very happy.  Because Babymouse is awesome.  There's also a series called Jellaby.  Have you seen Jellaby?
Isaac:  Yes!
Lily:  Yeah!  I love Jellaby.
Dad:  These guys are very into graphic novels.
Gracie:  Oh yeah!
Aaron Reynolds:  Owly?  Do you guys like Owly?
Gracie:  Yeeeeeah.  I love Owly.
Aaron Reynolds:  And there's a new series -- the second book just came out -- it's called Amulet...
Isaac:  Oh yeah.
Lily:  AW!  I love Amulet!
Gracie:  Whenever we get an Amulet book, everybody races to see who can finish it first.  And there's always fighting about who can read it first.
Aaron Reynolds:  Did you guys just get the second one?  It's so good.
Dad:  Yeah, we have it sitting right here on the table next to us... from the library...
Gracie:  We love, love, love Amulet.
Lily:  We already finished book 1 and book 2.
Aaron Reynolds:  Did you?  I got book 2 and just finished it a couple weeks ago.
Dad:  It sounds like Mr. Reynolds has the same taste in graphic novels as you guys.
Gracie:  Awesome!
Dad:  Anything else you guys want to say as we wrap up?
Isaac:  Thank-you for letting us interview you!
Lily:  And thank-you for writing Joey Fly.
Gracie:  It's a cool book.
Aaron Reynolds:  Oh, you're welcome.  I'm so glad you guys like it!  I can't wait for you guys to see the second one.
Lily:  I can't wait!

"She had a funny look on her face, like she had just found a fly in her soup," by Lily

Delilah, Flittany, and Sammy Stingtail, by Gracie

Sammy returns, by Isaac

Author: Aaron Reynolds
Illustrator: Neil Numberman
Published, 2009: Henry Holt
Like it? Find it