Tag Archives: picture book

Draw Me A Star by Eric Carle

6 May

Draw Me a Star Cover

Draw Me A Star is a picture book about an artist that is requested to draw a star. Throughout the story the artist is told to draw flowers, a house, night and a woman and man. This is a beautiful story as all of Eric Carle’s stories are. It piques imagination in young readers and is sure to capture their attention.


This book is moving. Eric Carle never ceases to amaze with his beautiful illustrations and accessible narrative for young readers. I love the rhythm of this story—mesmerizing and calming. My two-year old daughter loves to listen to this story before bedtime.

Suggested Library Activity:

For younger readers (age 4-7) have students make a booklet of their own drawings. Include elements from Draw Me a Star such as flowers, stars, night, day, etc. Have students color their book and make a cover. Collect the student-made books and place in a basket.  Place the basket in an accessible location in the library. For older students, be sure to include describing words in the book under the pictures—possibly even a segway in to poetry. Use colors, numbers and other emotive and moving descriptions.

Bibliographic Citation:

Carle, E. (1992). Draw me a star. New York: Philomel Books.

Additional Book Review:

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 4– A young boy is told (readers are not sure by whom) to “Draw me a star.” The star then requests that the boy draw it a sun; the sun asks for a “lovely tree,” and throughout his life the boy/man/artist continues to create images that fill the world with beauty. The moon bids the now-elderly artist to draw another star, and as the story ends, the artist travels “across the night sky” hand-in-hand with the star. This book will appeal to readers of all ages; its stunning illustrations, spare text, and simple story line make it a good choice for story hour; but older children will also find it uplifting and meaningful. Especially pleasing is a diagram within the story, accompanied by rhyming instructions on how to draw a star: “Down/ over/ left/ and right/ draw/ a star/ oh so/ bright.” An inspired book in every sense of the word.
– Eve Larkin, Middleton Public Library , WI


Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola

17 Mar

A Caldecott Honor Book

Strega Nona is a classic tale about a “Grandma Witch”  that needs assistance with her house and garden. Strega Nona hires Big Anthony and gives him specific instructions to not touch her magic pot. During Strega Nona’s excursion to see her friend Strega Amelia, Big Anthony decides to make the most of his boss’ departure. Sure enough, Big Anthony goes and repeats the magic words that make the pot bring forth glorious noodles. To his dismay, Big Anthony cannot make the pot stop producing noodles and the noodles fill up the house and overflow out of the house. The noodles continue growing and begin to fill up the town.  Upon Strega Nona’s return, she magically ends the never ending pasta. Big Anthony learns a lesson when Strega Nona graciously offers him a fork to begin cleaning up his noodle mess. The illustrations in this story are captivating and hold the reader’s attention. This story is especially enjoyed by a younger audience (age 4-8), perhaps those students needing more visual reinforcement. Tomie de Paola’s story and illustrations are classic and not to be missed.


Strega Nona is the grandma we all secretly long for. She teaches her moral lessons silently, letting us learn by making mistakes through experience and trials. My favorite aspect of this story are the illustrations. The illustrations call to mind Medieval paintings-with their flat 2dimensional appearance. This story is a classic, delighting both young and old.

Suggested Library Activity:

Begin a multiplication lesson reading this story. Have students put one elbow pasta in to the pot. Retrieve two elbow pasta magically out of the pot. Relate this to multiplication. Write the multiplication sentence on chart paper. Do this again and again doubling the elbow pasta each time. Record on the chart to share whole group. Have students illustrate their own pots and record what comes out of their pots.

Bibliographic Citation:

DePaola, T. (1975). Strega nona: An old tale. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall.

Additional Book Review:

“From my old review: “Strega Nona lives by her lonesome in a small cottage in Calabria, Italy. A witch by trade, she cures the townspeople of their ailments, warts, and headaches. When Big Anthony is hired on as Strega Nona’s servant she gives him very strict instructions on what he is required to do, and what is forbidden. Quoth Strega Nona, ‘The one thing you must never do is touch the pasta pot’. You see where this is going. After watching the witch conjure delicious cooked pasta fully formed from the pot, Anthony is eager to show this miracle himself to the people of the town. When Strega Nona leaves on a trip, Anthony speaks her spell and feeds everyone in the vicinity delicious, piping hot pasta. Unfortunately, Anthony didn’t quite catch the trick to making the pasta stop flowing. As the villagers attempt to prevent the growing threat from destroying their town, Strega Nona arrives just in time to put everything right again. Anthony receives a just comeuppance and all is well in the world.”

Apropos of nothing, I always thought that Big Anthony was kinda cute.  This is why I’ve been careful to avoid marrying any picture book characters.  I have terrible taste in their men.

Top 100 Picture Books Poll Results. (2009, April 14th). Strega Nona: an old tale [Review of the book Strega Nona]. School Library Journal Online.

Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McGully

8 Feb

Book Cover

Mirette on The Wire by Emily Arnold McGully makes me remember what it is to dream as a child. This story set in nineteenth century Paris focuses on Mirette, a little girl raised in a hotel. Mirette catches a glimpse of the great Bellini, an accomplished high wire walker and upon seeing Bellini on the high wire Mirette is mesmerized. Mirette is determined to walk across the wire, but she soon realizes it is more challenging than it looks. Determined to walk the wire Mirette practices and practices to learn the skills it takes and develop the courage she needs to succeed. This story is simply enchanting in setting, characters and illustrations. The illustrations are pure whimsy conveying the playfulness of the story and the beautiful imagery of nineteenth century Paris. This story was awarded the Caldecott in 1993. Recommended.

Suggested Library Activity:

Use this book to introduce and discuss Impressionistic painters. Have students create their own painting of something they have always wanted to learn and accomplish.

Bibliographic Citation:

McCully, E. (2007). Mirette on the high wire. New York: G.P. Putnamʼs Sons.

Additional Book Review:

K-Gr 4– Mirette’s mother keeps a boardinghouse that attracts traveling performers . The girl is intrigued by one silent visitor, Bellini, who has come for a rest. She finds him next morning walking a high wire strung across the backyard. Immediately, she is drawn to it, practicing on it herself until she finds her balance and can walk its distance. But she finds the man unusually secretive about his identity; he was a famous high-wire artist, but has lost his courage. He is lured by an agent to make a comeback, but freezes on the wire. Seeing Mirette at the end of it restores his nerve; after the performance the two set off on a new career together. As improbable as the story is, its theatrical setting at some historical distance, replete with European architecture and exotic settings and people, helps lend credibility to this circus tale. Mirette, through determination and perhaps talent, trains herself, overcoming countless falls on cobblestone, vaunting pride that goes before a fall, and lack of encouragement from Bellini. The impressionistic paintings, full of mottled, rough edges and bright colors, capture both the detail and the general milieu of Paris in the last century. The colors are reminiscent of Toulouse-Lautrec, the daubing technique of Seurat. A satisfying, high-spirited adventure. –Ruth K. MacDonald, Purdue Univ . Calumet, Hammond, IN

School Library Journal (October 1992)

A Tree Is Nice by Janice Udry

7 Feb

The simplicity of Janice Udry’s story published in 1956, should not be considered irrelevant for today’s young reader. This story captures  many wonderful things about trees and does so in a way kids know and recognize. For most adults, the story is not immediately seen, but to a young reader the story is known–trees are amazing things and we are surrounded by them. Udry portrays trees as things to play on, things we grow, things that have limbs and trunks, and things that whisper. It is a simple, well-written book easily understood by young readers. Marc Simont’s watercolor sketches highlight the narrative and do so with vivid, bold colors alternating with muted colors from page to page.

Book Cover

This book was awarded the Caldecott in 1957 and the illustrations are still loved by children today.


Many authors that write books these days always seem to want their books to convey some deep, symbolic meaning or grapple a controversial issue. This book–not so much. It is a quiet and simple book for young readers with the apt title, “A Tree Is Nice.” Children today are always wanting to be entertained through video games, t.v., music or some electronic device that does nothing for the imagination. This book has a distinct quietness, with its beautiful illustrations and simple message of appreciating and admiring things in life for their simple beauty. This story with its simple text and beautiful illustrations is one of my favorite stories. No hidden messages– just a good solid read.

Suggested Library Activity:

After taking students on a walk outside, let them create their own trees using watercolors and various media. A book of different leaf rubbings is another activity students can do.

Bibliographic Citation:

Udry, J. (1956). A tree is nice. New York: Harper & Brothers.

Additional Book Review:

A Tree is nice seems rather too plain for a title for children. Nothing fancy or funny. But its this quality that’s held in all earnestness up until the end that also makes the book enjoyable, without laboring to interpret or analyze.

The book is a Caldecott winner and this calls for dissecting the illustration. Color and black-and-whites alternate; ink drawings draped in gray, follow and precede beautiful watercolors. Especially the watercolors, they glorify the foliage in varying seasons with splurges of warm greens, sometimes with flaming reds and bright yellows in their midst. The book is 11×7 inches in size. This allows for generous detailing of the trunks and twisted branches in varying dimensions, in browns that remind us of barks of dark chocolate. Something about the book gives us that warmth – the thick dirty white paper with rawness resembling recycled material, and the uncomplicated content of the drawings and writing, I think. The fact that is was published in 1956 connects the dots.

Book Review A Tree Is Nice.  (2011, April 22). Message retrieved from http://www.saffrontree.org/2011/04/tree-is-nice.html

Publishers Weekly (June 12, 1987)

The Caldecott award-winning book that speaks simply and elegantly of the many pleasures a tree provides. Ages 4-8. (June)

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

7 Feb

Every day cannot always be a great day! As adults that statement holds true, but some children may find it challenging in coping with this life lesson. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst captures the essence of a bad day through a child’s eyes. Excerpt from book:

“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair…I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”

This book illustrates with humor and mild sarcasm that having a bad day is not forever and despite nothing ever going right for Alexander he gets through the day. The  pen and ink drawings enhance the story by depicting key events throughout the story and also embody Alexander’s emotions. This story is a welcome addition to any primary library collection.

Book Cover


This story makes me think of my 2.5 year old daughter. My husband and I joke that she can go from the happiest girl in the world to the meanest, stubbornest little thing in milliseconds. Alexander, poor kid is having a bad day. No matter what he does, he just can’t seem to catch a break. This book makes bad days seem almost comical—at least in a book. The illustrations capture the emotions Alexander is feeling and I can almost feel his bad day.

Suggested activity:

Use this book to discuss feelings. People are not always happy, and we need to have outlets to express our sadness, anger and hurt. Have students make a list of ways  to cope with a bad day. How can they make themselves feel better? Is it a good book? A walk outside? Or time spent with Mom, Dad or a special person?

Bibliographic Citation:

Viorst, J. (1972). Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. New York: Atheneum.

Additional Book Review:

It’s been more than 30 years, and the luck of the put-upon young protagonist in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day hasn’t changed one bit. Judith Viorst’s ever-popular picture book, originally published in 1972, still holds plenty of appeal for children.

Atheneum has issued a special limited edition of this title, with a new preface for young readers penned by Viorst (aka, “Alexander’s mom”) and illustrator Ray Cruz. In addition to a snazzy dark-red cover, the interior artwork, originally rendered in finely detailed pen and ink, has been digitally colorized to highlight Alexander—and only Alexander—in each illustration, wonderfully emphasizing his frustration and sense of isolation as he encounters one rotten experience after another, from waking up with gum in his hair to lima beans for dinner.

Fleishhacker, J. (2009, October 12). Fresh approaches: Noteworthy new editions and reissues. [ Review of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day]. School Library Journal online. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6701679.html

Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

27 Jan

Margaret Wise Brown’s The Runaway Bunny tells a story about a little bunny wanting to run away from his mother. The little bunny tells his mother he is going to runaway and his mother simply responds that she will catch him. The little bunny replies, “If you run after me, I will become a fish in a trout stream.” His mother then replies she will, “become a fisherman and catch him.” With imaginative and clever dialogue this story teaches a lesson that no matter how hard the little bunny may try to runaway, a mother’s love cannot keep her away from her child. It is an endearing story with imaginative writing and quiet illustrations. A solid and standard addition to any elementary school library collection.

Insight:  I love this story for its playfulness and brightly colored illustrations. My daughter loves how the words flow like musical notes. This is a great story to read to little ones before bedtime.

Suggested Library Activity: 

This story would be especially fun used in a story time for younger readers ages 2-6. Using an extra large box acquired from a store create a puppet house. Get creative and create the mommy bunny and baby bunny, including any props and backgrounds that assist in the telling of the story. If you want to get really fancy, have a friend that plays guitar come and add music to the show. The sillier the better and the more you get into the show, the more the audience will enjoy the show. After all, isn’t that the whole point of a puppet show?

Book cover

Bibliographic Citation:

Brown, M. (1942). The runaway bunny. New York: HarperCollins.

Additional Review:

Runaway Bunny constitutes yet another divisive children’s title.  Many people (most?) would say that it’s a sweet and comforting tale of a parent’s unconditional and eternal love for their child.  But there is a segment of the population that finds the book disturbing.  Some feel that the bunny is honestly trying to make a break for freedom, but that its mother is preventing this escape, and crushing its spirit.  The book can be read a number of different ways, but generally it’s still a very well regarded picture book title.

Said Bethany Miller Cole of Children’s Literature about the book, “Clement Hurd’s black and white and colorful, dream-like illustrations grace spreads throughout the book, bringing to life perfectly the imagination of the young and the depth of love a parent has for a child. Children and the adults who love them will treasure this story.”

Top 100 Picture Books Poll Results (2009, April 7). Review of The Runaway Bunny. Retrieved from