Shoes for Me! by Sue Fliess and illustrated by Mike Laughead has been released just in time to celebrate National Poetry Month in April. The story follows a colorful, bouncy romp through a shoe store with Hippo. Fliess creates a pitch perfect rhyme to keep the tempo fast-paced and exciting. You are compelled to turn the page to discover what shoes Hippo will find next.
“Feet got bigger,
heel to toe.
Time for new shoes.
Off we go!”
You get a good sense of the flavor of the book in this trailer.
Shoes For Me! is a sweet, amusing addition to your poetry shelf that is sure to appeal to the shoe shopper in all of us. It might also be useful for children who are shy about getting new shoes and need a little preparation for the big event.
Reading the book will encourage little fashion designers and poets to get creative. Satisfy their cravings with some fun “tie-in” activities.
1. Write a poem about shoes (or an article of clothing).
Shoe Acrostic (with alliteration)
What shoes should I wear today?
Draw some shoes on a piece of paper and color them with marker, crayons or colored pencils. Cut out bits of colorful cloth and glue them on the shoes. Pieces of ribbon or lace might be nice to add, too. Consider sprinkling on glitter or sequins to add shine.
If you don’t want to draw your own shoes, here are a pair of shoes to color (link is for.pdf file)
3. Decorate some canvas shoes
Clean canvas shoes
Fabric paint (older children might use acrylic)
Ribbons or lace (optional)
Sharpie marker (optional)
Draw a design onto the shoes lightly with pencil with a stencil or freehand. You might want to color areas or apply the fabric paint only to the design. Try an Google image search with keywords “canvas shoe hand paint children” to see some great ideas.
Sweet, adorable, gentle, soothing, serene. Those are the words to describe Good Night, Little Sea Otter, a new bedtime book for the youngest set by Janet Halfmann, with illustrations by Wish Williams.
Little Sea Otter is getting ready to go to sleep in his bed of kelp with his mother. Before he can shut his eyes, however, he must wish all of his friends good night. Your children will have a delightful time naming and pointing out all of Little Sea Otter’s sea creature friends, while the soothing tone of the book prepares them for their bedtime as well.
Janet Halfmann, who stopped by for an interview earlier this year, writes that she fell in love with sea otters when she was doing research for a magazine article about two young scuba divers. The divers dove in a kelp forest off the coast of California, so Janet got to know the creatures found there. If you are familiar with kelp forests, you will recognize many of the characters in this book.
In fact, reading Good Night, Little Sea Otter would be an absolutely fantastic way to get children excited about to a trip to the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium and also a sweet remembrance of their adventures afterward.
Janet has graciously stopped by to tell us about her wonderful new picture book from Sylvan Dell, Fur and Feathers, illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein. (You might remember Janet as the author of Little Black Ant on Park Street, which I reviewed back in February. )
Fur and Feathers is a sweet tale of a young girl, Sophia, who dreams the animals have all lost their coverings in a big storm. She wants to help, but how?
Janet, would you mind giving us a brief history of how this imaginative book came about?
Sylvan Dell Publishing was looking for a book on animal wraps, and right away that topic intrigued me. So I started brainstorming fun story possibilities around that theme. It didn’t take long before I came up with the idea of a storm blowing the coats off all the animals. I thought how fun it would be to have the animals dress in kid clothes, and I did that in the story. But the story needed something more. That’s when I remembered the huge sewing box I always kept handy for fixing or creating whatever when my four children were growing up. I decided to have Sophia create new coats for the animals based on what they told her they needed. Then, seemingly all on her own, Sophia began adding special touches, such as a red heart behind the polar bear’s ear and yellow bows on the snake. Adding those special touches and figuring out what items from the sewing box would work for each coat were my favorite parts of writing the story. I included animals from each group to make the book as educational as possible.
It’s fascinating that you were able to take something from the publisher’s wish list and run with it. Aspiring authors should take note.
Let’s get back, however, to your last point about making the book educational. Here at Wrapped In Foil, I love books with hands-on activities and I noticed Sylvan Dell has provided an extensive Teaching Activity Guide (in column on upper right at website) for use with Fur and Feathers. How important is it to you that your books be educational?
Whenever I can add educational elements that naturally fit the story, I try to do that. When I’m writing a story about an animal, I research that animal thoroughly. I especially like to read scientists’ first-hand observations of the animal’s life and behavior, so I can include specific telling details about the animal: how it learns to fly, what noises it makes, how it interacts with its parents and siblings. I think those specific details make the story come alive for the child. I couldn’t do as much of that in Fur and Feathers because there are so many animals, and each one is only on stage briefly. But in Little Skink’s Tail, even though the book is fiction, I was careful to make the habitat correct and Little Skink’s behavior accurate; for example, having her warm up in the sun before she begins her day and eat ants for breakfast.
Yes, I see why you couldn’t pack in a lot of detail in when you had numerous animals to “cover.” But you do have the “For Creative Minds” section at the end of the book with useful scientific information about animal classification. It fits so well because sorting is such an important skill for your target age group.
You are a successful author of over 30 children’s books. Let’s talk a minute about being a writer.
Children’s authors need to promote their own books these days, and you are in the midst of a promotional blitz. Do you have any pointers?
Promoting Fur and Feathers is somewhat easier than my previous books because I have built many relationships in the last few years. Little Skink’s Tail (2007) was my first big marketing effort because my previous books were work-for-hire projects, which authors can’t really afford to spend too much time promoting. I’m definitely not an expert on marketing, but I think it’s really important to show how much I appreciate every effort that a blogger, a bookstore, a librarian puts forth for me. For example, both my hometown library and the library in the town where I grew up were happy to host my double book launch party for Fur and Feathers and Good Night, Little Sea Otter because of our previous relationships.
How did you learn about marketing?
I’ve learned what I know about marketing primarily by noticing what other children’s writers are doing: by reading their posts on blogs, listservs, Facebook, and their articles in writers’ magazines. I’ve also read several books on marketing, and Sylvan Dell also offers marketing tips to its authors.
How do you balance writing and marketing?
I don’t know if I balance writing and marketing well. For a month or two after a new book comes out (and this fall with two new books out it’s especially hectic), most of my time is consumed by marketing: researching bloggers and asking them to review my book; contacting bookstores, nature centers etc.; creating the props needed for my interactive story times; publicizing my events, etc. At some point I just have to tell myself it’s time to stop promoting and write and hold myself to it.
Those are some great pointers. It does not sound easy, and I’m sure writers will appreciate your willingness to share your insights. For those who are interested, Sylvan Dell’s marketing information is on top right of the submissions page.
I had another question about writing. Given the recent controversies about challenged and banned books, did you have any worries that some parents might object to the animals in Fur and Feathers being “naked?”
I must admit, the thought of someone objecting to animals without their coverings never crossed my mind until I read your question. I guess I never really thought of the animals as being naked. However, Illustrator Laurie Allen Klein did, but not because of any moral issue. Her dilemma—”How To Make Naked Animals Cute.” You can read her blog post about it here. Many animals look lots different without their coverings. In fact, some look like a completely different animal. That’s the problem Laurie faced with the polar bear because under its white (actually transparent) fur, its skin is black. Laurie worried that kids would think the coatless polar bear was a black bear. Her solution: she put the polar bear in a hooded sweatsuit while it awaited its new coat. As it turned out, the scene in the story where Sophia dresses the animals in her clothes was a lifesaver for Laurie. The animals could “look cute” wearing kid clothes while they waited for Sophia to do her magic!
That’s a clever solution, thank you for sharing. Who would have thought polar bears would have had dark skin under what appears to be white fur?
Let’s “wrap” up with a lighter question.
I see your favorite animal is a cat. Do you have any cats and do they help you write?
Growing up on a farm, we always had lots of cats, and I loved them as much as they loved me. Whenever I tried to pick vegetables in the garden, it was next to impossible because the cats wanted to be right in the middle of it all. They figured playing with them was more important than any chores! Since then, our family has usually included a cat. Our cat Jackie was a member of our family for nineteen years. When she died a few years ago, I decided my five grandcats and one granddog were enough to keep me happy. I’m sure there is a cat story somewhere in my future!
Thanks so much for talking with me. It’s been great fun!
I can’t wait to see the cat story. I appreciate that you took time out of your busy fall schedule to do this interview. You willingness to share your experiences and understanding of writing children’s books is inspiring.
And now let’s take a look at Fur and Feathers:
Doesn’t that just make you want to cuddle up and read?
Edit: Exciting news: Janet has just let us know that Fur and Feathers has won a 2010 Gold Moonbeam for preschool picture books.
Fur and Feathers is for children ages 4-8.
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: SylvanDellPublishing (released August 10, 2010)
Today we have a menu of fairy tales for children served up three different ways. For the readers that like their fairy tales meaty with a fair bit of gore, then Yummy by Lucy Cousins is just what they are craving. For young readers seeking short and sweet, then You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together by Mary Ann Hoberman and Michael Emberly (illustrator) might be the right flavor. Finally, jaded palates looking for something completely unfamiliar, might be woken up a bit by The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith (illustrator).
Yummy looks like the most conventional of the three, at least at first glance. It is written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins, the author of the delightful Maisy the mouse series. The illustrations are simple and colorful. Yet a few pages into “Little Red Riding Hood” you discover this isn’t your watered-down fairy tale. Instead of sending Granny off to the closet, the wolf eats her right down with a big, hearty “Gulp!” Turn the page and the wolf’s head goes flying. Now your imagination is put to the test as out pops Granny and Little Red Riding Hood.
One of the reasons that these fairy tales have survived for generations is that they appeal to the emotions. If they were too bland, then they wouldn’t be memorable. Lucy Cousins has made sure that her version is robust, full of zest and humor. This version is the only one of the three to follow the folktales closely enough to be filed in the non-fiction section.
For the youngsters ready to read aloud, You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together is a perfect choice. Written for two voices, the poems are not simply fairy tales retold, but are fresh, clever versions. The two parts can be read by two children or an adult and a child.
One of the charms of this book is that the characters in conflict finish up reading together in the end of each fairy tale. For example, although the wolf does eat Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma, he soon coughs her up again and they all end up going out to lunch. The princess has a fine argument with the pea, but in the end they work it out. A few people may grumble this is political correctness gone awry, but the author has actually realized that when two people are reading together, they assume the parts they are reading. Children, in particular, need to be brought back together as readers so they leave the book on a congenial note. Brilliant!
The fresh illustrations by Michael Emberley are also appealing. The children look quite modern and are easy to identify with. The look compliments the light fun of the text perfectly.
As the title suggests, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, is a different course altogether. This Caldecott Honor book takes all your expectations about what a book of fairy tales should be like, and turns them upside down (sometimes literally). Characters wander about, conventions are ignored, it is truly a crazy, wildly funny and extremely creative book.
Adding to the oddities, are Lane Smith’s dark and wacky illustrations. Part collage, partly from another planet, it is hard to imagine such a riot of a book with any more traditional illustrations. This book will surely appeal to the toughest readers to engage.
If you are teaching a language arts class, then comparing these three books of common fairy tales is an enlightening exercise in how each author has an unique voice. Using the same basic ingredients, these three seasoned writers have produced three very different “meals.”