Monday, October 26, 2009

Review #48: The Adventures of Marco and Polo

Dad:  This is going to be a very special review today...
Isaac (age 11):  It is?
Dad:  This review marks one complete year of Bookie Woogie reviews!  Our first review posted in the first week of November '08, and this one will post in the final week of October '09.  So -- congratulations you dudes!  One year of Bookie Woogie!
Isaac:  Sweet!
Dad:  Does that mean we can quit now since we made it through a year?
Isaac:  No.  No.
Gracie (age 9):  Keep it up!
Isaac:  How many Bookie Woogies have we done?
Dad:  Well, 52 weeks worth, but shy of 52 reviews since for some of those weeks we did non-review posts -- an author interview, audio snippets, things like that.  We posted every week though.
Lily (age 6):  Today we are going to do "The Adventures of Marco and Polo."
Dad:  This book has my favorite illustrations of any picture book I've ever seen.
Gracie:  Really?
Dad:  Yep.  So I thought this would be a good conclusion for year one of Bookie Woogie.
Lily:  Marco is a Monkey.  And Polo is a penguin -- Oh!  I just thought of something about their names!  Penguin and Polo both start with P, and Monkey and Marco both start with an M.  It's alliteration!
Dad:  It is alliteration - good job remembering that big word!  Now that's interesting because this book wasn't originally written in English.  It was first published in German, and their names were "Pin Kaiser" and "Fip Husar."
Gracie:  "Pin" is penguin.
Dad:  You think so?  I don't know... could be.  We'll have to look it up somewhere.
Isaac:  Who wrote this book anyway?
Dad:  I have no idea how to say this name...
Isaac:  Dee-ter Wiz-im-myoo-lar...  Wiz-zim-u-ler...
Dad:  It's Dieter Wiesmuller.  We'll only be typing it anyway.
Isaac:  Dieter Wizz-mew...  Wiz-zoom-u-lar...
Gracie:  Die-tee-tooler...
Isaac:  Wiz-ZOOM-miller...
Gracie:  Dieter...  Wiz-a-ma-looger.
Isaac:  Wizama-lure.  It sounds like fish bait.
Dad:  Hopefully he doesn't hear us mangling his name.
Gracie:  Wizzamaloogader.
Dad:  He lives in Germany.  In order for this book to be in English, someone translated it.
Lily:  You made a book like that!
Dad:  Yeah, the Howie books eventually got translated into Spanish.  And they changed Howie's name just like they changed "Marco" and "Polo."  "Howie" got changed to "Fido."
Isaac:  What about "The Hiccupotamus?"
Dad:  That story would be hard to translate.  Too much nonsense.  How would you translate words like "cementipede"?  Anyway, back to "Marco and Polo"...
Isaac:  So it's about this monkey and this penguin.  The monkey goes on a cruise to the... North Pole... I think...
Dad:  South...  or maybe North...  Arctic...  Antarctic...  I don't know.  I can never remember which pole has penguins.  We'll have to look that up somewhere too.  This book just says "polar sea."
Isaac:  Whatever the "Penguin Pole" is...  the monkey goes there.  In this ship.
Lily:  Dad, are those bathtubs?
Dad:  They look like bathtubs, but I think they are boats hanging on the side of the ship.
Isaac:  They are kind of like escape pods for if your ship sinks.
Dad:  Lifeboats.
Isaac:  Anyway, the penguin shows the monkey around.  And he introduces him to all his millions and millions of penguin friends.
Dad:  Would it be hard to remember all their names?
Isaac:  It would be like, "Hi George, Hi Sam, Hi Cookie, Hi Dude, Hi Superman..."
Lily:  That baby penguin is a cutie!
Gracie:  The monkey is like "La, la, la, la... look at all the pretty sites."  Then he's like, "It's cold here," and he freezes.
Lily:  Then the monkey sails back to his home, and the penguin follows him.
Isaac:  The penguin wanted to see what "warm" is like.  When they got to the jungle... I don't know which jungle... the monkey showed him to all his friends, which were millions and millions of monkeys.
Dad:  Would you like to have that many relatives?  People think we have a lot of kids in our family.  What about these guys' families?
Gracie:  Aw, they should have done bunnies in this book!  Katie said that her science teacher said that a rabbit -- or bunny or hare or something -- could have 12 babies in, like, three minutes.
Dad:  Three minutes!?  I don't know about that.  Three months maybe?  Although sometimes it seems like you Zenz kids come along every three minutes...
Isaac:  Anyway, the monkey shows the penguin around and takes him to Victoria Falls.
Gracie:  That's my favorite picture in whole the book.  It's sooooo beautiful.
Isaac:  Victoria Falls are real, right?
Dad:  Yep.  Real place.
Gracie:  And the penguin is like, "La, la la, la... this is neat.  Oh, it's hot here.  Oh no, this means we can't be together!"
Isaac:  They wanted to find a place where they could both live.  So they tried a city - like New York, I think.  The temperature was fine for both of them.  But it was too loud and noisy, and the cement was too hard and bumpy.
Dad:  The monkey's tail would probably get run over by a car.
Isaac:  He already has a big tail - it's huge!  It's as big as a whale.  That would make it even longer.  It's already like 5 feet long... if it got run over it would be 10!
Gracie:  So the penguin and the monkey went back to their own homes and sent each other postcards to stay in touch.
Isaac:  Dad, my favorite picture in this book is the same as your favorite.  The one in the jungle with the three parrots flying.  The monkey is swinging in a tree and the penguin is walking on the ground amazed.
Gracie:  Look at his face!
Lily:  He's amazed.
Gracie:  And everything is green.  Everything is bright yellowy greenish.
Isaac:  It's amazing coolness.
Dad:  I'd like to go to that place... walk across that little bridge...
Isaac:  I'd jump in the river.  And I'd find piranhas in there.  So I'd jump out of the river.  And piranhas would start chasing me.
Gracie:  My favorite is the picture of Victoria Falls.  It's this giant waterfall - actually it looks kind of like two waterfalls.  There's this huge mountain thing coming up out of the waterfalls.  The monkey and the penguin look half of an inch tall compared to the waterfall.
Dad:  Do you remember ever seeing a waterfall?  You have seen Niagara Falls - twice.  But I bet Isaac is the only one who remembers.
Isaac:  That was awesome.
Dad:  Once we were passing by that way.  Isaac and I quickly hopped out of the car, ran over, and I said, "This is the biggest waterfall you'll ever see."  And then we just jumped back in the car and drove away.
Gracie:  The colors in this book are so pretty.
Lily:  At the jungle there's all these warm colors, and back here in the ice there's all these cool colors.
Dad:  You're right - warm and cool.  Good job - you remember those terms!  In fact, when I do art lessons, I always bring this book out to demonstrate warm and cool colors.
Isaac:  I like all the warm colors and cool colors.
Dad:  Now, here's something that I think is awesome.  Look at the difference between these two pictures.  The characters are in the exact same pose -- they've just switched places.
Lily:  But this picture is cold, and this one is hot.
Dad:  Right, and here's the thing -- you don't need any words to tell you that.  Just because this is done in all cool colors, and this is done in all warm colors, this one feels incredibly cold and this one feels incredibly hot.  Just because of color.  There's not even anything in the background except for color.  But you know exactly what's going on.  That's how powerful color can be.
Lily:  Even I feel hot when when I see this picture.  And I feel cold when I see that one.
Gracie:  Mm-hm.  It even works on us!  I feel cold!
Dad:  Isn't that neat?  You can use color to change the way a person's body feels while they are reading!
Lily:  Aw - look at this one...  Now I feel hot...
Dad:  Let's go put ice cubes in your pants...
Isaac:  No thank you.
Dad:  Now, which place would you rather visit?  The jungle or the icy world?
Gracie:  Jungle!
Lily:  I'd rather go to the jungle.  It's warmer there.
Dad:  Me too.  We live where it's cold, so I've had enough of ice over the years.  Although, those ice chunks would be fun to climb on.  Do you remember when we went to the beach that one winter, Isaac?
Isaac:  Yeah!  That was awesome!  I was walking on water!
Dad:  It looked a lot like this picture.  There were giant ice chunks washed up all over the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Isaac:  We hopped around on them...
Dad:  And there were huge cracks between them...
Isaac:  I knew the beach was behind us and we were over the water.
Dad:  So maybe it would be fun to go visit the penguin.  Climb around on the giant ice chunks.
Isaac:  That was awesome.
Dad:  So any last thoughts on this book?
Isaac:  It's a good book that you have to read.  It's super cool.  It has lots of colors and a really good story.
Gracie:  People should read this book.  Because if you don't read this book, then you are missing out on lots of things... you are missing out on beautiful paintings and great imagination and wonderful use of color...
Dad:  That's a good blurb right there!  If I were a publisher, I'd type that up and stick it on the back cover.
Gracie:  Sweet.
Lily:  I have a blurb!
Dad:  What's your blurb?
Lily:  "I like monkeys."

penguin and monkey swinging, by Lily

very hot Marco and Polo, by Isaac

Victoria Falls, by Gracie

Author/Illustrator: Dieter Wiesmuller
Published, 2000: Walker Books
Like it? Find it

Be sure to visit next week!  We'll be celebrating Bookie Woogie's 1 Year Anniversary with an Author Interview and a Giveaway!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

international attention...

This summer I was contacted by "Lemon Tree," a fancy South Korean women's magazine.  They were writing four articles about reading initiatives in different countries around the world.  The magazine had lined up representatives from Denmark, Japan, and France, and now needed one for the U.S.   Apparently their South Korean editor is a big fan of Bookie Woogie and had also read some interviews I'd done online.  Somehow through all this she determined that I was a good spokesperson for the state of literacy in the U.S.  (?!?!?)

I assured her that I was in no position to speak on behalf of the country.  But I certainly could share my own personal beliefs and could relate the practices of our own specific family.  Eventually I did the interview, and the kids posed with a few of my books for some photos (taken by our talented friend Julie Emmons).

We recently got a copy of the magazine -- a beautiful, spiffy, glossy, 350 page magazine.  I thought I'd share the results: a nice full spread!

Since the article that was eventually constructed is in Korean, I have no idea what it actually says.  But I do know what the interview contained...  So for anyone interested, here you go!

Lemontree:  I wonder if the American children’s reading education system is family-oriented or government-oriented.  I mean, in Korea, Children’s reading education is not an urgent gov issue, but parents are obsessed with their kids reading these days.  It’s a kind of trend due to the catchphrase “if your children read, they will achieve good academic score at school.”  So they start to read books (many English books too) to their baby right after they’re born to be smart at school.  The funny thing is that parents don’t read books that much for themselves.  3 Korean adults out of 10 don’t read a book a year. -- that’s contradictory, you know.  In contrast, I found the American reading education very impressive, because the gov. runs a reading campaign for kids, not small but in a big scale, for children’s reading.  I’m curious about whether those passions on reading education happen because families ask them to or if gov. urges family to read kids many books.  Where does the passion does come from?

AZ:  The American family and the American government both share a strong passion for education and reading initiatives.  It think that passion is circular.  The topic is such an important one for American families, so as a result folks in government are quick to champion these causes.  And because the government therefore spends great time and energy promoting these things, the public continues to recognize their importance.  And round and round it goes... each side increasing the passion of the other.  Right now we have a generation of young parents who, as kids, grew up watching wonderful programs on public television (government sponsored television), programs that daily praised the importance of reading.  These are wonderful shows that are still around today, like Sesame Street for example.

Lemontree:  Please tell me how the public sector is helping your children’s reading.  Libraries, schools, and other public institutions.  According to your former interview with Tara, you borrowed books from the library, 30~40 at a time.  You even have 3000 book at home.  Why is that so?

AZ:  Public libraries are wonderful resources.  Their book collections are ever-growing.  Libraries also host programs throughout the year to get kids excited about reading.  Both of the libraries in our area recently ran summer reading programs with weekly events and prizes.  Magic shows, puppet shows, author visits, craft hours, pet shows, dance troupes all brought families through the library doors.  And local businesses donated books, free food treats, even free trips as prizes for kids and families who read a certain number of pages to qualify.  Our kids plowed through many more books trying to win goodies than they would have on their own.  It was good for them to have that encouragement.  In our family, we love books anyway, so it's not odd to find 30 to 40 books checked out of the library at any given time.  We also have a huge collection of our own books gathered over the years, which includes over 3000 children's books alone.  We have 7 bookcases in our living room, a wall of books in the girls' room, multiple bookcases in my studio, bookcases in closets, books in cupboards... tucked everywhere we can find room!  We simply love books: they transport you, they teach you, they connect you with other people's dreams and ideas, they are beautiful things.

Lemontree:  When do American parents start to read books to their children?  In your case?  Do you think reading books to a baby in a very early stage, like right after giving birth, is good idea?

AZ:  I don't know if there is a typical age that American parents start reading to kids.  It most likely varies widely from family to family.  In our home we haven't really initiated reading attempts.  With so many books around, it is simply a matter of time before our children toddle up with a book they've grabbed off the shelves on their own.  They see us read; they see their siblings read.  They are naturally curious to try it out as well.  I wouldn't discourage reading to a child right after birth.  There is certainly no harm that can come from it.  Whether or not "Reading" itself has any benefit at that early age is debatable -- but certainly the closeness physically, the sound of a parents voice, the rhythm of language all have their own benefits.  And it could lead to the formation of good habits for the parent early on.

Lemontree:  When do you usually read books to your children?  Once a day?  How many hours?  Do you reserve time for this?

AZ:  We "homeschool" our children -- we teach them ourselves in our home rather then send them to a public or private classroom.  Therefore, reading takes place on a daily basis as part of the educational process.  In addition, we also read often for pleasure.  We read during quiet moments -- or when we need to create quite moments!  Pleasure reading is not scheduled or even required in our family.  I do read a book to the older children at night before bed -- this we attempt to do every night.  We work our way through longer books for this activity, a chapter or two each night.

Lemontree:  On your blog ‘Boogie Woogie,’ you guys talk about a book once a week, don’t you?  Who thought of making this blog?  That’s quite brilliant. ^-^  Please tell me the first motivation of the blog.

AZ:  One day I simply realized there was a void.  There are plenty of adults talking about the children's books they love.  But no children doing it!  If I were to start a review blog like everyone else, sharing my own opinions, I'd be lost in the crowd -- just another voice out of many.  But children reviewing children's books, for some odd reason, is a novelty.  So the Zenz family stepped in to fill the gap.  It has been a lot of fun.

Lemontree:  How do your children like blogging their discussions about books?  It seems quite delightful. ^-^  Please describe the scene of your discussion.  Do you all gather around the living room?  Do you guys sit on the sofa?  Having some snacks?

AZ:  Here's a bit about our reviewing process:  We try to alternate between newly released books and old favorites.  We also make sure each of us gets to pick a title.  Ideally we try to review four books in a single sitting and then post one review a week over the following month.  The three oldest kids and I each select a book and all gather on the couch.  I read the first book and then turn on the recorder and start asking questions.  We've learned some tricks over time... unless I ask questions to the youngest child first, she won't get a word in edgewise.  Once everyone has had a chance to comment, we move on to the next book, one at a time until we're worn out for the day.  Later in the week we will gather at the table for a drawing party, and everyone creates a picture based on the books we've read.  (I draw with them too, even though only the kids' pictures get posted.)  Later on I listen to the recordings and type up the conversation.  We record much more than I eventually post - I just type up the best bits.

Lemontree:  I think you ask the perfect questions to your children during the discussion.  You do not disturb their thinking, do not give too much information, urge kids to tell their thoughts.  However, many Korean parents find it quite difficult discussing books with kids.  They force kids too hard to tell what the topic is, what do you learn from it, do you know the meaning of the word, etc.  So their kids don’t enjoy the discussion with parents.  Tell us some of your know-how.  What’s your advice for them?

AZ:  In a schoolroom setting things might be different... teachers need to track a child's progress and comprehension.  I think it's important for parents to remember that when we read to our own children, it is primarily for pleasure.  It is a form of play.  And part of the fun is finding out what is going on in the kid's head.  I don't worry about seeing if they can respond to the thoughts going on in my own adult head.  I try to ask exploring questions to find out what is in theirs...  "What did you think?"  "Why?"  "Tell me more about that."  They are open-ended questions that a child could respond to in any number of ways.  I put aside any agenda of my own.

Lemontree:  Drawing about the book is also quite enjoyable.  Who’s idea was that?  Do they enjoy drawing about their reading?  It seems not easy task even to me.  Haha.

AZ:  I am an illustrator myself.  And for an illustrator there are few joys greater than getting fan art from a child who has read your books.  It is a wonderful gift, and the joy one receives stays with you for days.  Knowing this firsthand, and also knowing that many authors and illustrators will be reading these reviews we're crafting, I wanted to make sure fan art was a major aspect of the site.  My kids draw all day long anyway.  Creating a piece of fan art simply provides them with some additional subject matter.  It also gives them a chance to experiment with different styles and materials as we look at different illustrators' work.

Lemontree:  How do you choose your book out of 3000 books for Boogie Woogie?  And how do you choose books for Z-kids ordinarily?  Do you have a tactic for that?  By the way, how did you collect all the 3000 books?  Is it because of your profession?

AZ:  I started collecting children's books in college, long before I had kids.  Long before I had any idea that I would eventually be involved in creating books.  It was for my own pleasure.  I love art.  I love story.  Picture books are a beautiful combination of the two.  The fact that they were supposed to be for children didn't bother me.  Now that I'm an illustrator, we survive off of starving-artist income.  So I don't have the luxury of purchasing many brand new books from traditional stores.  Instead I have regular rounds I make to second-hand sources: library used book sales, second-hand shops, garage sales.  I'm very selective in what I pick up.  The number of books doesn't imply low standards, but instead reveals how persistent I am at hunting.  Most times I walk away empty handed.  But a book here and a book there adds up over the course of 10 years of diligent watchfulness.  I look for compelling stories and beautiful illustrations.  Out of all those books, I have 100-200 favorites that I keep up in my studio on a special bookshelf.  It's from out of this "cream of the crop" that we pick our stories for "Bookie Woogie."

Lemontree:  Do you have a must-read book list for your kids?  or for Korean Lemontree readers?

AZ:  I don't have any particular books to recommend, but I do have some favorite author/illustrators whose work is consistently good.  I love anything by David Wiesner, Eric Rohmann, Adam Rex, Peter McCarty, and P. J. Lynch to name a few...

Lemontree:  In the US, are there any book trends?  Recently in Korea, educational cartoon was big.

AZ:  Right now Graphic Novels are huge, and they are growing in popularity year by year.  The "Babymouse" series is a good example of a successful set of graphic novels.

Lemontree:  Did you have any trouble with reading education with Z-kids?  Such as, they refused to read books at times?

AZ:  Both my oldest son and my oldest daughter took a long time before wanting to read wordy books on their own.  They enjoyed picture books, but were reluctant to move on to reading chapter books.  We tried many different things to encourage them -- none of which, I believe, actually helped at all.  In the end, it was all a matter of time.  In their own time, when they were ready, they took off on their own.  The best thing we did was to simply have a variety of reading options available and accessible to them for when they were ready.  They both are eager readers now.

Lemontree:  Do you have any know-how to make Z-kids read so many books?

AZ:  The best thing we do is model it.  They see us read.  We surround ourselves with books.  They think it's normal -- they don't know any different!

Lemontree:  Please describe your up-coming book "The Hiccupotamus."

AZ:  "The Hiccupotamus" is a fun, silly story about a hippopotamus with very bad hiccups.  Since he is such a large animal, the impact of his hiccups are disastrous for the creatures around him.  The other animals gang up and try to cure him by spinning him around, dunking him under water, tickling him, and scaring him.  It is very colorful and filled with active, expressive characters.  In English, the rhymes create many crazy nonsense words which make it a lot of fun to read out loud.  I created "The Hiccupotamus" a few years ago, and it was published by a tiny, tiny company -- in fact, it was the only high-end picture book they ever put out!  Now years later, another wonderful publisher called Marshall Cavendish has discovered this little lost gem and is putting it back on shelves!  I'm so delighted.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Review #47: Jeremy Draws a Monster

Gracie (age 9):  "Jeremy Draws a Monster" is by Peter McCarty.
Dad:  This is a departure from his regular style.  Do you remember "Hondo and Fabian" or "T is for Terrible" or "Little Bunny on the Move"?
Gracie:  Little Bunny!  "Little Bunny, where are you going...?"
Dad:  This is that same guy.
Gracie:  Definitely a different style.
Lily (age 6):  The most fun thing about this book is the drawings.
Isaac (age 11):  Some of it is colored, some of it is just black and white.
Gracie:  Peter McCarty's drawings are totally sweetness.
Dad:  Alright, so tell me what the story was about...
Isaac:  There once was this kid named Jeremy, and he never went outside because he liked to draw.  One time when he got bored he drew a monster.
Gracie:  Jeremy had a magical pen!
Dad:  Was it a magic pen?  The book never said it was magic.  It just says "fancy pen."
Gracie:  It's got to be magic.
Dad:  I suppose so -- the monster did come to life.
Gracie:  I want a fancy pen too.
Lily:  Jeremy got in trouble -- because it's a monster!
Gracie:  The monster says, "Give me a hamburger.  Give me a sandwich.  Give me a hot dog.  Give me cake.  Give me a toaster.  I like toast.  Give me.  Give me.  Give me a fancy hat!"
Isaac:  Jeremy got angry.  And a little annoyed.  So he drew the monster a bus ticket and a suitcase and threw him on the bus.  And it drove away, never to be seen again.  Because it was only a one way ticket.
Dad:  The story kind of reminds me of you guys.
Isaac:  What do you mean?
Dad:  Mom and I made you guys.  And now you need all this stuff.  Maybe we should stick you on the bus.
Gracie:  If you did that, Mom would be sad for the rest of her days.
Lily:  When the monster leaves, there is a rainbow colored flower thing in the sky, and it is awesome.  That was my favorite part.  It was a rainbow made out of colored flowers.  (Lily starts singing) "Yeah! He's leaving because he made so much trouble... so I got him out finally! Out of the house!"
Gracie:  Jeremy finally has to go outside to put the monster on the bus, which is a cool coincidence because Jeremy finds some friends and they play ball.
Lily:  Now there is a friend.  Jeremy will always go outside now.
Gracie:  I still don't feel like the monster is gone for good.
Dad:  So what did you think of that monster?
Lily:  Greedy.
Gracie:  "Gimme, gimme, gimme.  I'm selfish, I'm selfish.  Gimme, gimme, gimme.  Blah, blah, blah."
Dad:  Can you describe what the monster looks like?
Gracie:  He's freaky.
Isaac:  He's cool.
Gracie:  Awesomeness freaky.
Lily:  He's a blue oval with freaky toes and horns.
Isaac:  And flowers all over him.
Dad:  I love his cheeks and the lines that go to his nose.  Aren't those weird?
Gracie:  Those are freaky.
Dad:  That's the coolest part!  The line that goes cheek to nose -- so cool.
Gracie:  Jeremy and the monster both have 3's on their shirts.
Dad:  I don't think the monster is wearing a shirt.
Isaac:  He's naked.
Gracie:  He's a naked monster!
Lily:  The monster has a number 3 on his belly.  Because the boy has a number 3 on his shirt.
Dad:  What do you think that means?  Why do they both have 3's?  Do you think it means that the things we create are part of ourselves?
Gracie:  No.
Dad:  Oh.
Gracie:  Jeremy's favorite number is 3.  So he wears a 3.  And he made his monster have a 3.
Dad:  That's a much simpler explanation.  I think you're probably right.  Anything else you want to say about the pictures?
Isaac:  Jeremy drew with pen -- and I think this book is probably made out of pen.
Gracie:  Guess what!  Peter McCarty made this book with his magic pen!
Dad:  So, is this a book about creativity?  Is it a book about greediness?  Or is there no lesson - is it just fun?
Gracie:  Don't be greedy or else your parents will put you on a bus.
Isaac:  I think it's about creativity.  Because Jeremy has a good imagination.
Dad:  But would it encourage creativity or discourage it?  Jeremy found himself in pretty big trouble.  Maybe the point is: Be careful what you draw?
Gracie:  Yes.  Like one time, I drew a picture, and I got punished for it.
Dad:  Yeeeeeah..... We won't describe what the picture was, will we?
Gracie:  NO!
Dad:  That's an episode of life we'd like to forget.  But we did learn there are consequences for our actions.
Gracie:  Yes, you punished me!
Dad:  Now, Jeremy's magic pen could bring things to life.  Would you guys want to have a pen like that?
Gracie:  Yes!
Dad:  But what happened when Jeremy had a pen like that?  Did it turn out good or bad?
Gracie:  It turned out bad.  But I would only draw fluffy little kitties.
Dad:  What if the fluffy little kitties were demanding?
Isaac:  Make them with no mouths.
Gracie:  Yeah - I would make them with no mouths.
Dad:  How are they going to eat stuff if they don't have mouths?
Gracie:  There's a little tube in their heads.
Dad:  What?  So you ARE making a monster!  By the time you're done describing these kitties with no mouths and tubes on top of their heads... I think you've just designed a monster!
Gracie:  Awesome!  I'm going to draw that!  Right now!
Lily:  If I had a magic pen, I would draw Evie.
Dad:  We already have baby Evie.  Would you draw her again so she could have a twin?
Lily:  Yes!
Dad:  Isaac, what would you draw if you had a pen that could bring things to life?
Isaac:  I would draw another magic pen so if the first one broke, I'd have another one.
Dad:  You'd make some backup?
Isaac:  I'd make a million magic pens.
Dad:  Where do you think the monster went on the bus?
Gracie:  Jeremy put the monster on a bus to go to a happy land of wonderness.  The monster hopped off the bus, and he saw a glorious land of magic monsters...  and my tube cat.  And he said "Look at all the butterflies. I want a sandwich!"
Dad:  Lovely.  Are there any last things you want to say about this book?
Gracie:  Draw me a sandwich!
Dad:  Anything you want to say to Peter McCarty?
Gracie:  I have words to Peter McCarty.  You should make more books like this.  This style is totally the latest look for books.

the monster wants a cookie before he goes, by Isaac

"Draw me a friend!" by Gracie

Lily draws a monster (that wants a balloon
and a sandwich)
, by Lily

feeding a tube-cat, by Gracie

Author/Illustrator: Peter McCarty
Published, 2009: Henry Holt
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Review #46: Where the Wild Things Are

Dad:  "Where the Wild Things Are" is probably one of the 3 most famous children's books ever made.
Isaac (age 11):  What are the other two famous ones?
Dad:  I've always thought the three best known are probably "Where the Wild Things Are," "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," and "Goodnight Moon."  I would guess just about everyone, at least in this country, will have heard of those books even if they haven't read them.
Gracie (age 9):  What is "Goodnight Moon"?
Dad:  You don't know that one?  We have it.  There is a hole in your picture book knowledge!  Anyways... back to this book.  Do you know who made "Where the Wild Things Are"?
Gracie:  Nuh-uh.
Dad:  Maurice Sendak.
Gracie:  Who is she?
Dad:  A man.
Gracie:  Who is he?
Dad:  Uhhh... one of the most famous picture book makers ever.
Gracie:  Then why are we reviewing it if everybody already knows what this book is about?
Dad:  Well, people might like to know what you think about it.  I know what I think about this book.  And I've read what other grownups have had to say.  But I have no idea what you three guys think about it.
Lily (age 6):  I like it!  I like it!
Isaac:  Kids like this book.
Gracie:  Maybe there is someone who doesn't know about it, just like I didn't know about "Goodnight Moon."
Dad:  So tell us what happens.
Lily:  There's this boy that gets into a wolf suit.  Max.  And he says to his mom, "I'm going to gobble you up!"
Dad:  Did his mom think that was precious of him?
Lily:  No.  She said, "Go to your room without supper."
Gracie:  He's got a tall bed.
Isaac:  He does have a tall bed.
Lily:  And then his room turns into a wild place!  A forest.
Gracie:  His room becomes a world around him...  The world is in his room -- and it's really sweet.
Isaac:  Somehow this sailboat appeared, and he goes on this trip.  He went to an island and the wild things are there.
Lily:  They rolled their terrible eyes...  they showed their terrible claws...  they... did something... with there terrible teeth...  and they roared their terrible roars!  Mwoo haw haw!  Mwoo haw Haw HAW!
Isaac:  They were going to eat him, but he tamed them with a staring technique.
Gracie:  They make him their king.  And they have a wild rumpus.  And a monster runs into a tree.
Dad:  What else happens during the wild rumpus?
Isaac:  Crazy stuff.
Gracie:  Swinging.
Isaac:  Banging and jumping.
Gracie:  Having a parade.
Isaac:  Doing the conga.
Gracie:  After the wild rumpus stops, Max sends them to bed without supper.  But then he feels bad and wants to go home to his mommy.
Isaac:  He sailed away back to his room, and his supper was on the table.
Lily:  And it was still hot.
Dad:  Any votes on whether this all really happened to Max, or was he imagining?
Isaac:  It's really happening.
Gracie:  It's magical!
Lily:  No, it's his imagination.
Gracie:  It was not a dream.  How could it be?
Dad:  Look at this... what kind of moon is out when Max returns home?
Gracie:  Full moon.
Dad:  But what about when he left?
Gracie:  Not a full moon.
Dad:  So a lot of days went by.
Gracie:  Yeah, but his supper was still hot!
Dad:  Ahhh, so confusing.  So we don't really know.  There are clues that suggest it could be either way.
Gracie:  I think he went into a portal.
Dad:  Why do you think this book is so famous?
Gracie:  Because of the cool words.
Dad:  What did you think was cool about the writing?
Gracie:  It just sounded pretty.  Not pretty... it just sounded cool.
Dad:  I don't know if you guys looked at the words while I was reading.  But he doesn't use many periods.  All the sentences string together - they just keep going and going.  You guys would probably get in trouble in school for writing like that.
Lily:  I never make periods.
Dad:  Now if you forget to use periods, you can just say, "Maurice Sendak didn't always use periods!"
Gracie:  Hee hee!
Isaac:  We can get out of doing that extra work!
Dad:  What did we notice that happens to the borders around the pictures?
Isaac:  The pictures get bigger... and bigger... and bigger... until they touch the edge of the page.
Lily:  Then it gets over here onto the other page.
Gracie:  Max's world is getting bigger.
Lily:  And the leaves of the trees are poofing out of the picture.
Gracie:  When Max starts going towards the wild rumpus, the pictures get bigger and the borders shrink.  But when he goes away from the wild rumpus the borders get bigger and the pictures shrink.  So that's sneaky craftwork!
Dad:  I have two things I like most about this book.  I like how the borders around the pictures shrink and grow, and I like the design of the creatures.
Gracie:  I think Maurice Sendak had to be really creative to think of all those wild things.
Isaac:  I have a question...  He's half monster and half... duck?  Right?
Dad:  Who?
Isaac:  This dude.
Dad:  Ha ha ha...  He's whatever...  I don't know...  The monsters all look like bits and pieces of things.
Isaac:  Maybe he's half bear, half duck, half monster.  And his cousin twice removed is a dragon.
Lily:  That's a lion with horns.
Isaac:  Can I name all the monster guys?  This is Hairy....  Duckfeet....  Buffalo....  Parroty...  and Hornnose.
Dad:  What about that weird little goat man on the other page?
Isaac:  Joe.
Isaac:  What's wrong with "Joe"?
Gracie:  I get to name the sea serpent.  The sea serpent's name is Waterfull Nosetoot!
Lily:  I get to name this guy -- he's Bignose.
Gracie:  And this one's name is... "I-Walked-Into-A-Tree--Ouch"!
Lily:  There's a new guy!
Isaac:  No, that's Duckfeet.
Dad:  Isn't it weird that the monsters are all the same size except for that little goat guy?
Gracie:  I like Goat Dude.  He's awesome.  He's my favorite monster.
Lily:  Baaaa...  baaaaa...
Isaac:  They are cool monsters.
Lily:  My favorite thing about the book is the monsters.
Dad:  Would you like to meet those guys in real life?
Lily:  No way.  They would gobble me up!  Because I don't have Max's trick.
Dad:  You couldn't stare into the monsters' eyes?
Lily:  I would blink.
Dad:  Now in the book, Max's mother sends Max to bed without supper.  Later Max does the same thing to the monsters.  Why do you think that is?
Isaac:  Because he's the king.
Lily:  But it made him feel sad.
Dad:  Do you think moms and dads like having to discipline?
Isaac:  We can ask someone about this.  Dad, do you like disciplining us?
Dad:  It makes me sad when I have to do it.
Gracie:  Then don't do it anymore!
Dad:  But what would happen if we didn't ever discipline you?
Lily:  We would be selfish!  Mean!  Terrible!  A brat!  A monster!
Isaac:  I would be Duckfeet.
Lily:  I would be Bignose.
Gracie:  I would be "I-Walked-Into-A-Tree--Ouch."
Dad:  Max was pretty monstrous.
Gracie:  He made a mischief of one kind unto another.
Dad:  It's fine to be wild and silly from time to time.
Gracie:  Wild, yes.  Naughty, no.
Dad:  Wild at the right times.  Not all the time.
Lily:  If Max wasn't wild, the monsters were going to eat him.
Dad:  Does anyone want to say anything about the "Terrible Yellow Eyes" blog?
Isaac:  Oh!  Everyone should go there!
Gracie:  It's a blog where famous artists make their own versions of "Where the Wild Things Are" pictures.
Dad:  Including you three!
Isaac:  It has tons of art from different artists.
Dad:  It's kind of like what you guys have been doing for a whole year here at Bookie Woogie.  But you do a different book every week.
Gracie:  Oh my goodness!  They copied!
Dad:  Last thing... are you excited about seeing the movie?
Gracie:  Yes I am.
Dad:  How long did it take us to read the book?
Isaac:  Two minutes.
Dad:  How do you think they're going to make a movie out of a two minute picture book?
Isaac:  People have done it before.  The Iron Giant was a shorter book.
Gracie:  They'll just add stuff.  I'm excited to see "I-Walked-Into-A-Tree--Ouch."
Dad:  We'll have to see what the movie-people named the monsters.
Gracie:  What if they didn't name him "I-Walked-Into-A-Tree--Ouch"?
Isaac:  They're not going to name him that.
Gracie:  Oh no!

by Isaac

by Gracie

by Lily

Check out the site 5 Minutes For Books for our review of the "Where the Wild Things Are" movie!

Author/Illustrator: Maurice Sendak
Published, 1963: Harper & Row
visit: the Terrible Yellow Eyes blog
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Monday, October 5, 2009

Interview #1: Deborah Diesen

The kids have been wanting to try their hand at doing an interview for some time now.  They've practiced on me in a couple of previous posts.  We recently got our first big chance when author Deborah Diesen visited a nearby library.  After the storytime wrapped up and the crowds eventually thinned, she kindly spent some time visiting with us.  The five of us sat in a circle on the big storytime rug and had a great little chat!  We had lots of fun -- Thanks Deborah Diesen!
(Portrait of Mrs. Diesen by Gracie)

Dad:  Alright, before the interview, how about you kids tell our readers a bit about Mrs. Diesen's book "The Pout-Pout Fish"...
Isaac (age 11):  Okay, it is about this fish.
Gracie (age 9):  Mr. Fish.  Hee hee!  I like the name Mr. Fish.
Isaac:  He had a pout.  He is always pouting.
Gracie:  He's "a pout-pout fish with a pout-pout face, so he spreads the dreary-wearies all over the place."
Lily (age 6):  He met these guys -- underwater people -- that said, "Stop pouting."
Gracie:  He sees a clam that says, "Stop pouting!"  He sees a jellyfish that says, "Stop pouting!"  He sees a bunch of guys that always say "Stop pouting!  Stop pouting!"  But he can't stop pouting because he's a pout-pout fish.  But then he meets Shimmer.
Lily:  Shimmer is a kiss-kiss fish.
Gracie:  And instead of saying "Stop pouting," she says... nothing... actually.  She just kisses him.  Kissie-kiss!
Isaac:  Then he starts smiling and kissing people.
Lily:  He knew he was a kiss-kiss fish instead.  He was never pouty ever again!  He spread the cheery-cheeries all over the place.
Dad:  Great!  Thanks guys!  And now, we get to talk with the author of this wonderful book, Deborah Diesen!
Deborah Diesen:  First, I really love your blog.  I've looked at it before...
Gracie:  You have?!
Deborah Diesen:  Mm-Hmm.  And my friend Boni loves your blog too!
Dad:  You guys remember who that is -- Gracie, you drew a picture of a dragon eating her.
Deborah Diesen:
  She loved that!  So, do you like doing the blog?
Isaac:  Yeah.
Lily:  I like drawing the pictures.
Dad:  These guys are little artists.
Deborah Diesen:  Writing gets encouraged in kids a lot... but drawing, not so much.  So I love to see kids drawing and doing art.
Gracie:  Our family would be VERY different if we didn't draw as much.  Totally different.
Dad:  As a kid, the worst punishment I ever received was not being allowed to do anything art related for a whole day.  I don't remember what I had done wrong, but I can assure you that whatever it was, I never did it again.  It was torture to be kept from touching a crayon or a pencil all day.
Gracie:  Gasp!  You poor thing.  That's terrible.
Dad:  Alright, let's try an interview!  Who's got a question for Mrs. Diesen?
Isaac:  What is your favorite part about "The Pout-Pout Fish"?
Deborah Diesen:  The thing I like most visually about the book is the cover.  I'm not a very visual person, and to be honest, when I wrote it I didn't know what Mr. Fish looked like.  But when I saw the art that Dan Hanna made, I said, "That's it exactly!"  The cover is so striking, and it tells a little bit of the story with just one picture.  Dan Hanna did a tremendous job with the pictures throughout the book.  But the cover starts to tell you the story.  The story doesn't start on page one.  It starts with whatever part of the book you see first.
Dad:  And guys, look at all the funny stuff happening on the back cover, for when you are done...
Lily:  On the back cover there's a whole bunch of sea creatures behind the pout-pout fish!  On the front it looks like he was alone.  But on the back there's a whole bunch of creatures, and they're even having tea parties.
Isaac:  How would they have a tea party underwater?  Ha ha...  All the tea would just be floating around!
Deborah Diesen:  Dan Hanna has a real sense of whimsy about those details in the illustrations.  There's going to be a sequel to this called "The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark," and he had a lot of fun with the details.
Gracie:  How did you come up with the idea for these books?
Deborah Diesen:  I was making faces with my son because he was in a grouchy mood.  We were just horsing around about looking pouty, exaggerating our pouty faces to each other, and I suddenly realized we looked like fish.  I wrote down the phrase "Pout-Pout Fish" on the back of an envelope.  It was a few days before I started writing the story, but at least I had grabbed the idea.  Because good ideas are like birds.  When you are lucky enough to have one land on your shoulder, you need to write it down immediately -- or it will fly away and land on someone else's shoulder, and they'll write your story instead of you.
Dad:  This book has the catchiest refrain.  We'll be out in public somewhere, and I'll find myself randomly saying out of the blue, "I'm a pout-pout fish with a pout-pout face..."  You guys hear me say that all the time, don't you...
Lily:  Yeah...
Gracie:  "I'm a pout-pout fish with a pout-pout face, so I spread the dreary-wearies all over the place."
Dad:  Not that I'm pouty at the time.  You've just worked up a very catchy phrase there!  It sticks in your head like music.
Deborah Diesen:  It may come from the fact that I played the clarinet when I was growing up.  I have at least a passing familiarity with musical rhythms.  When I'm writing things I hear them like music.
Gracie:  There's actually a fish called a "pout fish."
Deborah Diesen:  That's right, there is!  I didn't find that out until after I had written my story.  At first I was sad because I thought, "Well, now I can't have this story about a pout-pout fish."  But then I thought -- they are actually entirely different from each other.  I think the real pout fish is an eel.
Gracie:  Their names are different too.  This one is the "Pout-Pout" Fish, and that other one is just the "pout" fish.
Dad:  Interesting!  I had imagined that you stumbled across the pout fish and thought, "Oh, that sounds like a story."  But that's not the case.
Deborah Diesen:  Right, it was the other way around.
Lily:  How did you choose which guys the pout-pout fish would meet?
Deborah Diesen:  After I decided to write about Mr. Fish, those were just the creatures that went through my head when I thought of the ocean.  I probably should have worked a little harder to keep them all in one part of the ocean.  I picked fish and creatures that don't necessarily hang out together.  But Dan did a good job at putting the creatures into their actual environments.  But mostly, those were just the ones I thought of... the clam, the squid, the jellyfish, and... whom have I left out?
Gracie:  The octopus!
Deborah Diesen:  Yep.
Isaac:  Wasn't there a worm in there too?
Deborah Diesen:  Yeah, the ones that aren't named are ones that Dan added.  Dan lives in California so he has some familiarity with the ocean.
Gracie:  What kind of fish is this?  "Shimmer" is a pretty fish.
Deborah Diesen:  She's another made up fish, just like Mr. Fish -- there's no other fish in the ocean that looks like him.  And she's just made up too.  Although, Dan Hanna may have modeled her after something.
Lily:  I have another question...  Did you write any books when you were littler like us?
Deborah Diesen:  Yep!  Right around your age is when I started writing.  You are seven?
Lily:  Six...
Deborah Diesen:  Okay, I was probably a little older than you.  But right around your age I started writing a lot of rhyming poems.
Gracie:  Isaac hates writing poems.
Deborah Diesen:  And that's okay!  You've got to write what you like!
Isaac:  I'm good at it...  it just takes me forever to think of one.  Once a poem just came into my head, and I was very proud of it.
Deborah Diesen:  Do you have a Rhyming Dictionary?
Isaac:  Uhhhhh...
Dad:  I do.  Isaac, I'll get it out for you when we get home.
Deborah Diesen:  That helps get ideas sometimes.  That's how I came up with "kaleidoscope of mope."  I was looking in the "ope's" and thought, "I've never seen 'kaleidoscope' and 'mope' put together - I'll try that."
Isaac:  Dad, is that where you got your rhyming word for Orange?
Dad:  Uh, no.  I did not.  No.
Deborah Diesen:  My rhyming dictionary doesn't have a rhyme for Orange!
Dad:  When I was a kid I knew there was supposed to be no rhyme, but I was determined to prove that wrong.  The closest I managed was "Door Hinge."
Deborah Diesen:  That is petty close!  And I also think it's fine to just make some up.
Dad:  Well now, I have a question...  I wonder if you are a good speller?
Deborah Diesen:  I have to work at it.  I'm not a great speller...
Dad:  So that shouldn't discourage anyone here from writing?
Deborah Diesen:  Not at all.  I have misspellings in some of my drafts and that's okay.  I don't worry about my penmanship when I'm writing my stories, I don't worry about my spelling...  Worrying about those things doesn't come until the second, or third, or sometimes even the fourth draft.
Dad:  Wonderful!  Well, are you guys happy to meet a new author?  To make a new friend?
Kids:  Yeah!
Deborah Diesen:  Well, I was thrilled to meet all of you.  I just love your blog.  I hope you keep doing that.  And I hope you keep writing and drawing and reading lots of books.
Gracie:  We will keep reading books.  You should see how big the bookshelf is in our room!
Deborah Diesen:  Ha ha, I can imagine!
Gracie:  It's like our house is a mini library!  We have books everywhere.
Dad:  Anything else you guys want to say?
Kids:  Thank-you!
Deborah Diesen:  Well, you're welcome.  (shaking hands) Lily, pleased to meet you.  Isaac, pleased to meet you.  Grace, pleased to meet you.  I feel very honored.
Lily:  You forgot my Daddy.
Deborah Diesen:  Oh, pleased to meet you!
Dad:  Ha ha, very nice to meet you too.

the pout-pout fish, by Isaac

shimmer fish about to kiss Mr. Fish, by Lily

shimmer fish, by Gracie

Author: Deborah Diesen
Illustrator: Dan Hanna
Published 2008, Farrar Straus Giroux
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