5 Reasons to Grab A Splash of Red

Let’s mix things up this week by creating a list of five reasons you should check out this special children’s book.  After all, A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet is a picture book biography that is showing up on a lot of “Best of 2013” lists.


1. The story of Horace Pippin’s life is an important piece of history.

Horace Pippin’s grandmother had been a slave. He was a soldier in World War I. His paintings recorded many scenes unique to his times.

You will definitely want to pull this one out for Black History Month.

2. Award-winning illustrator Melissa Sweet’s insightful illustrations.

Melissa Sweet’s real strength is that she becomes one with the text and subject. For this book she and the author Jen Bryant researched Horace Pippin together and even went on a road trip. Talk about method acting, Sweet went as far as to re-create materials that Pippin would have used. No wonder she won the Caldecott for A River of Words.

3. The story is inspirational.

Horace Pippin loved to draw and paint and even won a contest as a child. During the war, however, his right arm was so severely damaged he could not lift it. Many people would have given up art, but Horace Pippin figured out a way to lift his right arm with his left and he managed to start creating again. Amazing!

4. Jen Bryant’s text

Jen Bryant is an experienced author and it shows. She knows how to capture the full essence of a person’s life and present it in a way that captures a child’s attention. For some figures, covering a portion of their life would be sufficient. For Horace Pippin, his whole life is the story and Jen Bryant recognized that fact and embraced it.

5. Let’s not forget Horace Pippin’s fabulous art, some which is shown in the end papers of the book.

See some examples in the video above, or this gallery of some of his art.

Conclusion:  The numbers for A Splash of Red add up to a book that definitely deserves a second look.

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Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. Join us at the new Nonfiction Monday blog.

The Mysteries of Angkor Wat

I have to admit I wondered about The Mysteries of Angkor Wat by Richard Sobol. How would a book about an out-of-the-way place by an award-winning professional photographer appeal to children? Turns out that this book has loads of appeal for children because Sobol let real children help him tell the story. And what a fabulous story it is.

What is Angkor Wat? Translated as “City Temple,” it is a huge temple that was built close to 1000 years ago in what is now Cambodia by people of the mysterious Khmer Empire. The Khmer Empire is mysterious because the people disappeared around the fourteenth century, leaving behind only beautiful art and buildings. No one knows for sure what happened to what was once a thriving community of approximately one million people.

As you might expect from a “Traveling Photographer,” the photographs in the book are wonderful. Once again, they weren’t what I expected. Instead of wide-angle shots of the intricately-carved buildings dominating every layout, there are many spontaneous and close-range shots of the children who live near and play in the ruins each day. In fact, Sobol shows the children and adults performing many of the same tasks as depicted in engravings on the walls of the ancient building, contrasting their bright clothing and shining faces with those of the hard, gray stone. This helps the reader relate to the images and gives a sense of time and place.

The children are instrumental in helping the author find perhaps the strangest mystery of the temple, the “dee no soo,” but I’m not going to reveal what it is. Let’s just say that it is definitely part of the child appeal.

The book would be very useful for a geography unit on Cambodia because it has maps in the endpapers and in the beginning of the book, but has potential for a much wider audience, especially those interested in Asian history and culture.

Cybils notes:  This book is definitely appropriate for the younger reader, but it will appeal to a large age range.

Reading level: Ages 6 and up
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (August 23, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0763641669
ISBN-13: 978-0763641665

Be sure to look for more information about children’s books at today’s Book Talk Tuesday.

This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Beautiful Oops is Just Plain Beautiful

What a fabulous book! Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg is sure to make you smile. Barney also has a great message: it okay to make a mistake. Use the “Oops” moments in your work (and your life) to stimulate your creativity and make something more exciting, innovative or just plain “more” than you originally planned. And Beautiful Oops has such fun hands-on appeal, you can’t wait to discover what is next.

Take a look for yourself:

You know what is sweet? Barney Saltzberg wrote the song for the video, too. Talk about a multi-talented person.

As an art masterpiece volunteer for many years, I wish I could give a copy of this book to every student I ever taught, but especially the intense little boy who tore up his art projects in first grade. But let’s face it, Barney’s message is wonderful for people of all ages in all sorts of situations. Beautiful!

Reading level: Ages 4-8 (and up!)
Hardcover: 28 pages
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company; Pop Ill edition (September 23, 2010)
ISBN-10: 076115728X
ISBN-13: 978-0761157281


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. We invite you to join us. For more information and a schedule, stop by Anastasia Suen’s Nonfiction Monday page. This week’s post is at In Need of Chocolate.

This book is nominated for a Cybils in the nonfiction picture book category.