Picture This

When I was young, ever so long ago, my mother would read stories to us before bed and sometimes she would give us a sweet to suck on. I remember her reading a book about Siamese cats while we sucked on translucent blue mint hard candies. (I’m not sure they’re even manufactured anymore.) For years every time I saw a Siamese cat, the taste of those mints would flood my mouth.

Among other books, she also read us Winnie the Pooh and Wind in the Willows, not picture books, but full of wonderful illustrations. That is the early versions before Disney got his mitts on them. She also read from Robert Lewis Stephenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verse. This also had beautiful illustrations. One of my favorite poems from that collection is “Whatever’s the Matter with Mary Jane?” The illustration is of a five or six-year-old girl throwing a hissy fit; stamping her feet and scowling a mighty scowl, while her nanny watches with surprise and bemusement. The poem is “Whatever’s the matter with Mary Jane? She hasn’t an ache. She hasn’t a pain. And we’re having lovely rice pudding for dinner again.” Not sure that’s what made me not like rice pudding, but something sure did. Mother’s introducing me to world of words of words and visual art has served me well all these years.

So this blog entry is about picture books. I highly recommend Emma Dodd’s picture books, especially I Don’t Want a Posh Dog, or Scotti Cohn’s well written non-fiction picture books, especially those illustrated by Susan Detwiller. The first of those was One Wolf Howls, which is primarily a counting and calendar book.

Let me know what picture books are memorable to you.


The first book on my list for this week is quite amusing and the illustrations really enhance the images.


Ella Kazoo will not Brush her Hair

Lee Fox

Illustrated by Jennifer Plecas

Ella has snarly, curly hair, which she does not like to have brushed. She throws away her hairbrush, hides in the cupboard, and roars at her mother “like a big, growly bear.” She whines and moans and howls. The next hairbrush her mother gets ends up hidden in various places, including under rocks in the garden. But Ella’s hair keeps growing and things get tangled up in it. Her hair grows down her back and along the floor and through the door. It tangles into everything and finally even Ella can stand it no more. Off to the hairdresser they go, who cuts off the tangles and tames the frizz. Now Ella brushes her hair without a fuss. Cute drawings and clever rhymes make this a story any child who’s had her scalp hurt when her hair is brushed will relate to. I liked the drawings of the hair with all the trash it’s picked up along the way.

BIBLIO: 2010 (orig. 2007,) Walker & Company, Ages 4 to 6, $15.99

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-8027-8836-8

ISBN: 978-0-8027-8755-2


Next up is an anthropomorphic tale about an alligator’s wedding. Very silly, but with a sweet concept about getting along.


Alligator Wedding

Nancy Jewell

Illustrated by J. Rutland

The illustrations are what make this book. Mr. Alligator takes his bride on a warm summer night when the moon is bright. She is dressed in a gown of white moss and her head is crowned by a veil of cobweb. A turtle is the preacher and all the swamp critters gather round to witness and celebrate the wedding. Frogs and water rats and spiders and turtles sit happily by snakes and herons and lots of alligators to chow down on the wedding feast. Then they belch toasts to the new couple. The bride feeds her groom half the cake, served on the end of a long-handled rake. Soon the guests are dancing to tunes of the rock and roll band. They dance the Big Beast Boogie, the Reptile Romp, Gumbo Gator Gallop, and the Swampland Stomp. The bride’s bouquet is caught by a passing pelican, but no-one really cares. And when the honeymoon barge sinks under the weight of bride and groom, they shrug and swim off without it. I can see children, but more especially their parents, getting a kick out of this rhyming picture book, even though not all the rhymes are perfect.

BIBLIO: 2010, Henry Holt and Company, Ages 4 to 6, $16.99

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-8050-6819-1


The last book is a non-fiction story of who eats what. It’s the kind of book that’s going make children squirm with the “eewies,” but want to read more.


What’s for Dinner? Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World

Katherine B. Hauth

Illustrated by David Clark

Creatures eat other creatures or plants. Each has its place in the food chain: butterfly drinks plant nectar and spreads pollen before being eaten by a lizard, which is then swallowed by a snake which is, in turn, swallowed by a road runner. Each has done its part in keeping our planet humming. Even the ugly vulture has a vital role to play by cleaning dead animals’ carcasses. Don’t be grossed out or squirmy by these poems; just enjoy the rhymes and drawings as you learn about who eats what. Remember you also must eat to stay alive and healthy. The poems tell about various critters—some large and some small—and what they eat. Take the wood turtle, for instance, that stomps on the ground to make worms pop up, or the archer fish that squirts flying insects with water and catches them as they fall. There is additional information in the back. The drawings will keep you from getting too much of the heebie-jeebies.

BIBLIO: 2011, Charlesbridge Publishing, Ages 8 to 10, $16.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-57091-471-3

ISBN: 978-1-57091-472-0



One last thing. I’m sorry to say I’ve been getting some spam comments on my blogs, so I’m going to start using a “robot detector” device to try to control the nasties out there who seem to have no other purpose in life than to annoy the rest of us.


6 thoughts on “Picture This

  1. thanks Sarah for the lovely entertaining post. My Mother read to us, and I read a great deal to my children. It’s so very importation for time spent and for showing them that reading is important.

  2. Sarah, when I was young, I loved the book Where the Wild Things Are and when I had my daughter I loved the book Stella Luna. The artistry in both captivated me. Oh, and I so remember those blue mints! I haven’t seen them anywhere either 🙂

  3. Hi Kathleen, thanks for reading my blog. I remember my mother reading “Where the Wild Things Are” when it first came out in the 60s, because there was controversy over the boy being sent to bed without dinner. I was in my 20s then and I didn’t know about the Tomi de Paolo books until way past reading to my children time. You’re right about the illustrations. Did you know that Maurice Sendak was discovered by an early children’s book editor–whose name I’ve forgotten? He was dressing a window at a 5th Ave. dress store, possibly Sachs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s