Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Mess That We Made

Welcome to the Day-After-Earth-Day edition of Perfect Picture Book Friday!

To celebrate Earth Day, I have an absolutely wonderful book to share – one I think you’ll all enjoy and appreciate! (It is one of those wish-I’d-written-this! books 😊)

Title: The Mess That We Made

Written By: Michelle Lord

Illustrated By: Julia Blattman

Publisher: Flashlight Press, January 2020, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 5-7

Themes/Topics: environmental issues – importance of awareness and change

Opening: “THIS is the mess that we made.

These are the fish that swim in the mess that we made.

This is the seal
that eats the fish
that swim in the mess that we made.”

text copyright Michelle Lord 2020, illustration copyright Julia Blattman 2020, Flashlight Press

Brief Synopsis: [From the publisher] “The Mess That We Made explores the environmental impact of trash and plastic on the ocean and marine life, and it inspires kids to do their part to combat pollution.”

Links To Resources: The Mess That We Made Word Search; book back matter Includes facts about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, ocean pollution, and Calls to Action for kids and grown‑ups to share.

Why I Like This Book: In the cumulative tale tradition of This Is The House That Jack Built, this rhythmic, sometimes rhyming story shows kids in an age-appropriate way how human behavior is affecting the ocean ecosystem. The vibrant art shows what is happening to the ocean water and the creatures who live there without being so explicit that it would be upsetting. As the story progresses, the illustrations show more and more garbage in the water, building to a full page spread with the very simple text: “Look at the mess that we made.”

text copyright Michelle Lord 2020, illustration copyright Julia Blattman 2020, Flashlight Press

This spread invites readers to pause and really look at and think about what we, as humans, are doing to the world. But the story does not end on that distressing note. Instead, it turns a corner and begins to show all the things we can do to make things better, until it ends on a positive note:

text copyright Michelle Lord 2020, illustration copyright Julia Blattman 2020, Flashlight Press

The book has an important message, handled deftly, so that young readers understand the necessity of change and feel empowered to make it. The back matter includes additional interesting and educational material. A wonderful choice for every library!

In case you’d like to see more, here is the book trailer:

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific blog links (and any other info you feel like filling out 😊) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! 😊

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Listening To The Stars: Jocelyn Bell Burnell Discovers Pulsars PLUS Author Q&A, Special Activities, AND A Giveaway!

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

Today I have a special treat for you!

I’m going to share the book first, so you can see what we’re talking about, and then I have a little Q&A with the author that I think writers, teachers, parents, and all readers will find very interesting as well as some activities that she prepared especially for us to do with our children and students! So please see below in the “Links to Resources” section for all that bonus material! (It includes a recipe for Disappearing Crunch Cookies and I know you won’t want to miss that! 😊)

As if all that weren’t enough, the publisher, Albert Whitman, is offering a copy! So if you leave a comment on this post between now and Thursday April 8, you will be eligible for the random drawing that could make you a winner!

Title: Listening To The Stars: Jocelyn Bell Burnell Discovers Pulsars

Written By: Jodie Parachini

Illustrated By: Alexandra Badiu

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company, April 1, 2021, Nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: biography, astrophysics, astronomy, girl power

text copyright Jodie Parachini 2021, illustration copyright Alexandra Badiu 2021, Albert Whitman

Opening: “Does the galaxy have a sound?

Is it loud and full of thunderous booms?
Soft murmurings, whooshing whispers?
Blips and bloops, like laughter and hiccups?


When Jocelyn Bell was young,
she never dreamed that she would spend
her life listening to the stars.

But sometimes, if you open your mind,
you can hear the universe.”

text copyright Jodie Parachini 2021, illustration copyright Alexandra Badiu 2021, Albert Whitman

Brief Synopsis: A biography of astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who helped build a radio telescope that contributed to her discovery of pulsars, which some scientists consider to be the greatest astronomical discovery of the twentieth century.

Links To Resources: the back of the book includes a glossary and an author’s note; and I have a special treat for you – some activities from author Jodie Parachini!

Welcome, Jodie! Thank you for joining us!

What drew you to this subject?

The first question people ask when I tell them I wrote a book about Jocelyn Bell Burnell, is

“who’s that?”

When I explain that she’s an astrophysicist who discovered an astronomical marvel called pulsars, they ask,

“Why haven’t I heard of her?”

Exactly. Then when I mention that she wasn’t awarded a Nobel Prize for it (it went to her male colleagues), they stare in wonder and say,

“Haven’t I heard this story before?”

Yes, sadly. Women such as Rosalind Franklin (who worked on the structure of DNA with Watson and Crick), Chien-Shiung Wu (who worked on the Manhattan Project), and Lise Meitner (who helped discover nuclear fission), were rarely acknowledged for the incredible contributions they made to science. But one of the reasons I love writing picture books is to get these stories out there. Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s story, like those of so many women who work in the STEM fields, should be read, discussed, treasured, and celebrated.

Which do you prefer writing, fiction or nonfiction?

Great question! But I can’t answer it—it’s like choosing which child is my favorite.

I’m drawn to telling stories and I tend to pounce on whatever idea strikes me at the moment. Which means I usually have a few picture book ideas in progress at once. Sometimes I can’t get a rhyme out of my head and other times I hear a story on the news and think I MUST research it further. I let my haphazard brain lead the way!

The nonfiction appeals to my inquisitive and curious nature, the fiction to my creative side. I’m sure there’s a right brain/left brain comment that could be made about this! Hmmm, Righty wants to go to the Library while Lefty wants to pick daisies… I sense a new picture book idea percolating!

I have four more nonfiction and three fiction books coming out in the next two years, so luckily I don’t have to choose between Righty and Lefty!

Do you have any advice for other writers on getting published?

I do not have a traditional publishing story. Like many writers, I spent years getting rejections (I still do). I’ve never had an agent (ahem, see what I mean about rejections?) but I’ve been persistent about following up every opportunity possible when it comes to my manuscripts. Sometimes that means:

1. Pursuing every lead with editors or publishers you meet (for example, I met an art director at a conference. He didn’t think the first story I pitched was right for his publishing house, but I followed up with another in an email, and that one will be published in 2022. I could have just licked my wounds and retreated after the first rejection but sometimes perseverance is key.)

2. Believe in your work, but be flexible enough to alter it. Editors often know the market better than writers. Sometimes it takes (what feels like) hundreds of rewrites to get to the final product. Why start out with a fixed, single-minded vision when collaboration (with awesome editors and amazing illustrators!) is so much fun!?

3. Most writers jump into querying agents/publishers too quickly. The dream of being published is powerful, but I have found that taking classes or joining writing groups and listening to the advice of teachers and peers when it comes to how to improve my work is invaluable. Learn to tell the difference between a first draft and a polished draft by getting the manuscript in front of readers. Their opinions or critiques can open up a whole world of ideas, and, eventually, make you a better writer.

Thanks for listening, kidlit folks, and I wish all of you success of your own writing journeys!

And now for the activities!!!

I have two artsy-fartsy (my mom’s term) crafts for today—the first is a spinning star…perfect to represent the pulsars that Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered (pulsars are neutron stars that spin and send off radiation, but luckily these ones are just made out of paper). I have to admit, origami and I have never gotten along. I’m more of a modernist, throw-paint-at-the-canvas type of artist so I find folding paper in a structured, precise way quite difficult. That’s why I added the second paper star video, which is much easier and although it’s supposedly a Christmas star, I see no reason why it can’t be made for Easter too! Just grab some pastel paper, scissors, and glue!

Origami Spinning Star

Here’s the easier “Easter” Star

Double plus, I have to leave you with an amazing recipe for Disappearing Crunch Bars. (So named because as soon as you make them, they disappear completely. Trust me.)

Only 4 Ingredients:

Saltines (a column or two)
Butter (2 sticks)
Light Brown Sugar (1 cup)
Chocolate chips (12 oz semi-sweet, milk/dark/white, whatever you like)


Preheat the over to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking pan with foil. Place 1 layer of saltines on the foil. Boil the butter and sugar for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, then pour the caramelly mixture directly over the saltines and use a baking brush to cover the saltines in the caramel. Place in oven for 7 minutes, then remove and immediately pour the chocolate chips over the pan. Spread the chocolate with a brush as it melts, to coat. Cool in the fridge or preferably freezer. Peel from the foil and break into bite size (or larger J ) bits and keep in the freezer. YUM.


text copyright Jodie Parachini 2021, illustration copyright Alexandra Badiu 2021, Albert Whitman

Why I Like This Book: I love learning about interesting people I previously knew nothing about! Jocelyn Bell Burnell has been a groundbreaker in astrophysics as well as a voice for gender equality in science. When I read about how what should have been her Nobel Prize (at least partly if not completely!) went to two male colleagues I was incensed on her behalf! Jocelyn’s dedication to her research is amazing. She worked her way through 3 miles of paper printout from the radio telescope to discover patterns that would lead her to neutron stars and pulsars. At age 77 she is still contributing to the field of astrophysics and leading the way for girls and women to achieve their scientific goals. She has truly been a pioneer. An inspirational read for all young readers!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific blog links (and any other info you feel like filling out 😊) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! Go out and look at the stars! 😊

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Planting The Wild Garden

My friend Nancie has the most beautiful garden!  Nine neat beds constructed of railroad ties, filled with a dark, rich mixture of soil and compost.  Tidy rows of sturdy plants, green and healthy-looking against the dark earth.  Lettuces and beans, peas and tomatoes, squash and eggplant, not a weed in sight.  And the whole kit and kaboodle surrounded by a fence to keep the deer out.  It’s a sight to behold and I totally covet it.  It makes me long for a garden!


As you all know, I am the Black Thumb of Poughquag.  Little plants tremble at my approach, and their lives are at risk whenever I’m in charge!  Not intentionally, of course!  It’s just an inborn curse or something.

My daughter is pretty good with plants, but she no longer lives at home and is thus unable to provide the kind of supervision I need to be allowed around plants (i.e. constant! 🙂 )

So we have come up with a solution.  (Hopefully! 🙂 )

Small scale gardening.

Four tiny planters with one plant each on the back deck where the deer (hopefully) can’t reach them and where (hopefully) they will catch my eye often enough that I’ll remember to water them in between her visits.

Have you noticed how many times the word “hopefully” has appeared already?  I’m afraid this does not bode well for my gardening experiment…!

But for better or worse, I have a tomato plant, green beans, mint, and by this weekend I’ll (hopefully – oops, there I go again) have a pea plant.

Think good thoughts and send positive energy to my tiny garden which will undoubtedly need all the help it can get! 🙂

And for today’s Perfect Picture Book, wild gardening that works in spite of black thumbs!

Wild Garden

Title: Planting The Wild Garden

Written By: Kathryn O. Galbraith

Illustrated By: Wendy Anderson Halperin

PeachtreePublishers, 2011, Nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: nonfiction, nature, seeds, how things grow

Opening: “The farmer and her boy plant their garden.  They drop seeds – tiny, fat, round, and oval – into the earth.  From these seeds, pumpkins and peas, carrots and cabbages will grow.  In the wild meadow garden, many seeds are planted too, but not by farmers’ hands.

Brief Synopsis: From the publisher: “A farmer and her son plant vegetables in their garden, and the wind carries a few seeds away. Birds and animals may carry some along with them on their travels. Sometimes the rain washes them away to a new and unexpected location. And sometimes something more extraordinary occurs, as in when the pods of the Scotch Broom plant open explosively in the summer heat, scattering seed everywhere like popcorn. Year-round, we all play a role in the dispersal of seeds throughout our landscape, planting the wild garden together.”

Links To Resources: the back of the book contains a bibliography of useful resources; make your own garden: plant seeds in a paper cup or a small pot on the windowsill – flowers or herbs grow quickly and well.  If you have space for more, plant some vegetables!  See what you can grow.  Explore outdoors and see what kind of seeds you find.  Dandelions with their delightful cottony fluff that you can make a wish on and blow?  Winged maple seeds that you can peel back and stick on your nose?  Acorns that you can collect in a bucket and build little houses out of?

Why I Like This Book: In simple language with beautiful illustrations, the author and illustrator team up to share verbal and visual information on how seeds in nature are spread about to propagate.  There are plenty of onomatopoetic and action words to make reading the text interesting, lively, and fun.  Detailed illustrations show close-ups of different kinds of seeds, nuts and pods along with many species of birds and animals who help spread them around.  There is something for everyone in this delightful and informative book.  A great choice for the budding gardener in your house or for a classroom or library.


Text Copyright Kathryn Galbraith 2011, Illustration Copyright Wendy Halperin 2011

I hope you like it as much as I do 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what picture book gems you’ve chosen this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Eat Like A Bear

So there I was, being uber-organized.  My post was written and scheduled not just on time, but AHEAD of time!  And what should happen?

No idea!

But somehow my entire post disappeared – down to the last comma! – so I had to rewrite the whole thing from scratch this morning after barn chores (which was when I realized wordpress had swallowed it whole and my post had never gone up!)  My sincere apologies for the tardiness of this post!

So let’s try again…

It’s May, and on Blueberry Hill, that means the bears are up!

Our bears are black bears – lumbering, relatively peaceful creatures who would just as soon not tangle with people or dogs, but who are more than happy to raid the trash cans in the garage or the bird feeder at every possible opportunity!

We have two regularly-visiting bears in our neck of the woods.  One is young, glossy-coated, and healthy-looking – we have watched him saunter across the yard and help himself to ripe apples from our tree in September.  The other one is an old curmudgeon, scarred and a little thin and scruffy-looking.  His life is much more challenging.  He suffered an injury at some point – caught in a trap? 😦 – and as a result is missing a forefoot.  He has learned to compensate and gets around all right, but I forgive him for raiding the trash cans if I’m foolish enough to leave the garage door open 🙂  Did you know he loves to lick the chocolate residue from inside the foil chocolate easter egg wrappers?  Clearly we are twins separated at birth 🙂

Since I have bears on the brain, today’s Perfect Picture Book is about bears – not black bears, but the threatened brown/grizzly bear that roams the wilds of Alaska and the Rockies and such.  I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Eat Like A Bear

Title: Eat Like A Bear

Written By: April Pulley Sayre

Illustrated By: Steve Jenkins

Henry Holt & Co, October 2013, Nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: nonfiction, animals (bears – brown/grizzly), nature

Opening: “Can you eat like a bear?
Awake in April.  Find food.
But where?

Drink like a bear — from a stream.
Leaping trout?  None about.
Bushes?  Bare.  No berries there.
It’s been four long months since fall,
when you were full.

Brief Synopsis: From the jacket: “Can you eat like a bear?  Be a grizzly bear, waking up in spring.  What is there to eat in April?  In May?  Sniff, listen, and look.  Paw, claw, and pull.  Catch fish, munch berries, and nibble seed-filled pine cones.  But be sure to fill up for the long winter ahead…”

Links To Resources: the back matter in the book is a resource in itself, filled with information on brown/grizzly bears, their habits, habitats, diet, threatened status, and current scientific studies.

Why I Like This Book: the text is interesting, simple and accessible, yet written in engaging language that is fun to read aloud, including little repeated patterns like “paw, claw, pull” that young listeners will learn to anticipate and join in on.  The information presented is age-appropriate and not overwhelming.  The art is a perfect complement for the text – very appealing, making the potentially-scary grizzly bear fairly warm and friendly-looking.  My knowledge of artistic technique is virtually non-existent, but Booklist described it thus: “Jenkins fixes the action in the Rocky Mountains with his trademark cut- and torn-paper collage. Using a variety of materials, including handmade Mexican bark paper for the bears, he achieves a remarkable variety of line and texture, as crisp leaves and flowers contrast with fuzzy fur” which I think gives a pretty good idea of what it looks like 🙂  This is a great title for the nonfiction lover in your life, or for a classroom or library!

I hope you like it as much as I do 🙂


Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 1.29.39 PM

Text copyright April Pulley Sayre 2013, Illustration copyright Steve Jenkins 2013

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific links (and any other info you feel like filling out 🙂 ) to the form below so we can all come see what you chose for this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!! 🙂