Monthly Archives: February 2016

Perfect Picture Book Friday – The 3 Little Dassies

To help celebrate #TellaFairyTaleDay, I chose a retelling of the Three Little Pigs, with a Southwest African twist.

Title: The 3 Little Dassies3_little_dassies_book_75

Written & Illustrated By: Jan Brett

Publisher/date: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2010

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes/Topics: Fairy tales, Namibia, Dassies, Agama Lizard

Opening: “Hot, hot, hot! The little dassies were almost grown up and it was time for them to find their own place. Mimbi, Pimbi, and Timbi waved good-bye to Mommy, Daddy, aunties, uncles, and all their cousins and set out for the distant mountain.”

Brief Synopsis: Like the three little pigs, the 3 little dassies build three different houses to shelter from the elements and from a foe that views them as dinner.

Links to Resources: Visit Jan Brett’s author page for cards and character masks, and even videos in which Jan shows viewers how to draw a dassie. Slightly older children may enjoy finding out more about the Namib desert setting, the dassies, the agama lizard, and the eagle.

Why I Like this Book: The 3 Little Dassies is a wonderful retelling of the classic Three Little Pigs on so many levels: set in Namibia, a part of Africa about which I am relatively unfamiliar, featuring animals that are also relatively unknown (dassies, or rock hyraxes, are most closely related to elephants – who knew?), dressed in the native dress of the Herero women. And note that the generally masculine pigs have evolved to become female dassies, another plus, as we see the trio build their homes. Unlike the wolf who huffs and puffs, the eagle “flaps and claps”, an activity repeated throughout the story and sure to be repeated by young listeners, too. Even the Dassies’ names are clever: Pimbi means dassie in Swahili.

As in author-illustrator Jan Brett’s other picture books, The 3 Little Dassies includes side illustrations that tell part of the story and the illustrations are framed – in this case with swatches of Herero fabric. Finally, the resolution of the Dassies’ problem encompasses an origin myth: “…if you travel to Namibia today, you will see dassies living in stone houses…” After reading this Perfect Picture Book, my suitcases are packed!


This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: A Bucket of Blessings

I have an on-going, and seemingly never-satisfied, thirst for myths, legends and folktales from around the world, in particular origin myths. So when I saw today’s Perfect Picture Book on the recent acquisitions shelf at my local library, I had to nab it, and, like the young monkey in the story, share it.


A-Bucket-of-Blessings-Cover-NYT-homeTitle: A Bucket of Blessings

Written By: Kabir Sehgal & Surishtha Sehgal

Illustrated By: Jing Jing Tsong

Publisher/date: Beach Lane Books, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: India, legends, peacocks, water, blessings, drought

Opening: “Near a majestic mountain, in a vast jungle with many mango trees, lives Monkey. It has not rained for weeks. The village well and the pond are dry.”

Brief Synopsis: In the midst of a drought, a young monkey remembers a legend told by his mother: a peacock can make it rain by dancing. The monkey asks the peacock to dance, only to learn that the peacock needs water to make it rain. Monkey finds water, but a leaky bucket may dash his hopes for rain.

Links to Resources: Younger children can color peacocks, or try drawing them. Collages, from scraps of colored paper, wallpaper scraps or fabric, would be another interesting project. Older children can try their hands at India-themed crafts.

A hand-off race with a water-filled bucket could provide some interesting conversations as the water invariably sloshes out and disappears.

Older children can learn more about water scarcity and how they can help, at Charity Water, the charity designated by Beach Lane Books to receive a portion of proceeds from A Bucket of Blessings.

Why I Like this Book: A plucky monkey, a radiant peacock, a legend from a part of the world I frankly don’t know enough about, a problem that affects so many people in the world and gorgeous illustrations: what’s not to like about this book? The story is told simply, and the illustrations are gorgeous. Mother-son duo, Surishtha Sehgal and Kabir Sehgal, offer a non-preachy lesson on the importance of water, with a bonus donation to support


This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

Perfect Picture Book Friday – What Does It Mean To Be An Entrepreneur?

I pre-ordered the subject of today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday post because I was curious to learn how anyone could explain such a difficult concept in a way that would resonate with young listeners and because I was so pleased to see a young girl grace its cover. Last evening, I had the pleasure of discussing the genesis of the book with one of its authors, Emma Dryden, of drydenbks. I learned that she and co-author Rana DiOrio encountered problems while working on the book, but, with true entrepreneurial grit, they pivoted, solved them and produced a book that is better than the one originally envisioned. I applaud Emma and Rana for showing us all what it means to be an entrepreneur.

Happy belated Book Birthday to What Does It Mean To Be An Entrepreneur?, the sixth book in Little Pickle Press’ What Does It Mean To Be…? series.

unnamed-2Title: What Does It Mean To Be An Entrepreneur?

Written By: Rana DiOrio and Emma Dryden

Illustrated By: Ken Min

Little Pickle Press, January 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Entrepreneurship; problem solving; teamwork

Opening: “What does it mean to be an entrepreneur? Does it mean making lots of money? No.”

Brief Synopsis: From explaining what being an entrepreneur is not, to focusing on the skills entrepreneurs need, What Does It Mean To Be An Entrepreneur? follows a young girl who perseveres to open a business that solves a problem and, thus, becomes an entrepreneur.

Links to Resources: Explore the steps necessary to start a business with your own child or children by identifying a problem, brainstorming solutions, and working to realize your dreams. There are also several online resources for teaching entrepreneurship to children, although most focus on older children and teens. See for some interesting entrepreneurial games, and , which includes lesson ideas that are searchable by age group, including pre-K.

For more resources and some further perspectives on What Does It Mean To Be An Entrepreneur?, see Joanna Marple’s review.

Why I Like this Book: I’ve been working with college-age entrepreneurs at my alma mater for the past few years, and was, frankly, curious to read a picture book devoted to the subject, especially as both authors are entrepreneurs. Going beyond the “open a lemonade stand” or “rake the neighbors’ leaves” models of youth business, What Does It Mean To Be An Entrepreneur? not only shows what it means to be an entrepreneur but explores the work and skills necessary to succeed. That the problem and business solution involve dogs and that the first myth debunked is “making lots of money” are added plusses. As importantly, though, I’m thrilled to see a young girl portrayed tackling technology and entering the world of entrepreneurship.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!


The Sleeping Grump: A Valentiny Tale

When I read the rules for the First Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest hosted by the lovely Susanna Hill (kid-friendly, 214 words max, with a grumpy character), I thought immediately of an old family favorite – The Sleeping Grump: A Cooperative Game (Family Pastimes, 1981). While the Grump in this Valentiny story may or may not be a giant ogre and while the goal may not be to steal his treasure (while leaving some for him in the spirit of true cooperation and sharing), I hope I’ve captured his sleepy, grumpy character and the essence of the game.

Note: some of you may recognize the characters. Margaret tried to arrange the perfect picture for Mama in Perfect Christmouse Pic’, as brothers Mick and Tim thwarted her every move. Can the trio work together on Valentine’s Day to out-manoeuvre the Sleeping Grump?

The Sleeping Grump: A Valentiny Tale

Outside, snowflakes swirl. Wind roars; Grump snores. Inside, red glitter scatters, red candies crunch underpaw.  Red tempers flare.

“Give it back!”

“That’s mine!”


“One more to make. Then we’ll put on our red shoes! Dance! Party,” Margaret shimmies.

“Party-schmarty,” Mick teases. “You’re just making a Valentine for Wondermouse!”

Mick and Tim prance, grab Valentine, chant, “Margaret has a boyfriend!”

Margaret snatches Valentine, scampers outside. Screech! She freezes. Tiptoes around snow-covered

“Grump,” she whispers, “Asleep!” Grump stirs. Margaret scurries inside.

“No need to fear, Mighty Mouse is here,” Mick cries, swipes crumpled Valentine. “Grump can’t seize me! I’ve got a cloak for invisibility.” Mick twirls outside. Cloak swirls across Grump’s eyes. They open, shut. Mick disappears inside.

“I’m an Alien! This is Major Mouse, dropping through!” Tim flies, nabs Valentine, catapults

Flop! Ker-plop! Nosedives!


“Eew! Goo! Smarmy Alien, coming through.”

Grump snivels, sobs, pokes goopy nose inside.

“There’s gotta be a better way,” Margaret reasons. “If together, we…and then…until finally…”

Margaret tiptoes towards Grump. Mick carries cloak-covered bundle. Tim catapults with

“Valentine? For me,” Grump asks.

“Cookies,” Mick reveals. “For you,” Margaret smiles, “Please let us pass.”

“Valentine! For me,” Grump grins.

The trio trudge past…into drifts. “Too much snow! No party, no-how,” Margaret sighs.

Grump grins.”Snow-schmo! On my back! Let’s go!”

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Grandfather Twilight

To celebrate Lunar New Year this upcoming Monday (8 February), I dusted off an older book that answers that age-old question, “Just how does the Moon get in the sky?”


 5902250Title: Grandfather Twilight

Written & Illustrated By: Barbara Berger

Philomel Books, 1984; reissued, Puffin Books, 1996

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: Moon; nature; origin myths; bedtime rituals

Opening: “Grandfather Twilight lives among the trees. When day is done, he closes his book, combs his beard, and puts on his jacket.”

Brief Synopsis: At day’s end, Grandfather Twilight strolls through the woods to deposit a pearly moon above the sea, and then returns to his home for bedtime.

Links to Resources: For younger children, a discussion of bedtime routines may lesson the battle that occurs in so many households (Grandfather Twilight blows out a candle to darken his room; how do we turn off the light, etc.). Older children could research the moon or create their own story of how it appears in the sky each night (or where it disappears when it isn’t visible in the sky). They also could try their hands at origin myths that explain other natural phenomena.

Why I Like this Book: This sparsely-worded, gorgeously-illustrated picture book is the perfect bedtime story for any child (or adult). Its slow pace and soft-hued illustrations (each gallery-worthy on its own) invite calm and engender feelings of security (a dog accompanies Grandfather on his journey, and that dog and a cat guard his sleep). Three completely wordless spreads plus seven other wordless pages evoke wonder and enchantment. Grandfather Twilight is the epitome of quiet books – a perfect antidote to our crazy world or an exhausting day with an over-stimulated toddler.

I also love the story, an origin myth, Barbara Berger shares in words and pictures. Her answer to how and why the moon appears is so reassuring, “Gently, he gives the pearl to the silence above the sea.” Somewhere, a grandfatherly gentleman cares; the moon appears. The reader and the young child listening know that all is as it should be.

Little wonder that Grandfather Twilight still resonates over 30 years after its first publication.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!