HMH Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Oct. 6, 2020
Suitable for ages: 4-7
Themes: Boy, Teddy Bear, Underappreciated, Humor, Love
Opening: “From day one…things have gone downhill. I’ve been a pillow… a hankie…”
Book Jacket Synopsis:
Louis the bear has had enough. He feels overlooked and underappreciated. If he’s not being used as a hankie, he’s being hung out to dry — literally. This teddy can BEAR it no longer, so he’s sneaking away just as soon as he can!
Then again, there’s no use running off in the rain. Or during show-and-tell. Or when there are delicious snacks to be had. Maybe Louis has something to lose, after all…
New York Times best-selling creator Tom Lichtenheld and newcomer Julie Rowan-Zoch’s hilarious peek into a teddy’s secret life is salty and sweet, grumpy and tender, and a heartfelt tribute to those we cherish.
Why I like this book:
Tom Lichtenheld’s Louis is packed with kid appeal! His text is spare, but delivers bear’s grumpy comments with humor and fun wordplay. Most children have a beloved Teddy Bear or favorite comfort animal they drag around and love to death. How clever to tell the story from the bear’s perspective. Children will giggle at his comments. But they just may think about how they treat their own favorite bear. Golly, aren’t bears and comfort animals meant to be loved and squeezed to death — literally? Louis is a fun read aloud at bedtime or in the classroom. Will bear ever have a change of heart?
Julie Rowan-Zoch’s colorful and expressive illustrations are a nod to children that this bear is upset and had enough! Bear’s body language is priceless — the look of utter disgust at having his paw used as a hankie, tightly closed eyes as he’s poked with needles, the dismay at being left on the school bus, and the frowns and forehead wrinkles. Rowan-Zoch’s creative use of white space make each adorable illustration pop. Make sure you check out the end papers.
Resources: Draw a picture of your own bear or favorite stuffed animal. Name three things you love most about your bear. What are three things you like to do with your bear? Do you think your bear get’s lonely?
Tom Lichtenheld might seem a little old to have a teddy bear, but he’s a kid at heart and I like hanging out in his studio. To pay him back for many years of free crayons, a warm bed, and chocolate-strawberry cupcakes, I decided to let him write a book about me. You can learn about his other — less interesting — books by checking out his website.
Julie Rowan-Zoch grew up collecting freckles and chasing hermit crabs in New York, and spent years slicing rich breads in Germany before waking up to 300 days of blue Colorado skies. If she doesn’t answer the door, look in the garden! Visit Julie online at her website or on Instagram @jrzoch. She has authored and illustrated a debut picture book, I’m a Hare, So There!
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
From the Book Jacket: What do you get when you combine a word and a number? A wumber! Playing tribute to William Steig’s C D B!, book crea8ors Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld have wri10 this s2pendous book that is perfect 4 readers in kindergar10and up.
Why I like this book: Rosenthal has written a very creative and clever concept book for children. It’s words created with numbers. There is no specific story, just lots of fun word puns with letters substituted with numbers. Lichtenheld’s illustrations are colorful and give lively visual clues of what is being said. The characters on each spread have conversations that kids will have fun decoding. And some of the word/number plays are a bit challenging and will help kids learn a new language. After all, many kids today are using coding messages as they text messages to their friends. Good left/right brain entertainment! For example:
“He pinched my belly but10!” With Dad responding “I think you’ll sur5.” (They just do this 4a10tion.)
He lost his first 2th. He is el8ed!
We have the 2na salad and the pl8s. What have we 4gotten? The 4ks!
Resources: Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld have created a teacher’s guide for WUMBERS. They are the NYT best-selling authors of Duck! Rabbit!, as well as many other children’s books.
Opening: “! He stood out from the very beginning.”
Synopsis: An exclamation point feels that he stands out from all the periods. Although he tries to fit in, he isn’t like the other marks. He is depressed until one day he meets a question mark ?, who pellets him with questions until he yells Stop! He tries bigger words: Wow! Yippee! Way to Go! Cool! Boo! Then more exclamations rush from his mouth and he shows all his friends what he can do. At last he’s found his purpose.
Why I like this book: Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld have teamed up to create another very simple and creative story that both children and adults will find an entertaining way to understand the role of a period, question mark and exclamation mark. The story idea is brilliant. I also think their humorous story will spark many meaningful discussions at home and in the classroom about fitting in, self-expression and finding one’s place in the world. Lichtenheld’s illustrations really bring the punctuation marks to life in a delightful way for kids. The background looks like lined homework paper. The marks all have facial expressions. The art is simple and progresses to an explosion of colorful words at the end. This book is a must for the classroom. Visit Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld at their websites.
E-mergency is illustrated and written by Tom Lichtenheld and Ezra Fields-Meyer. It was inspired by Ezra, a 15-year-old student and an expert animator, who created a short animation video titled Alphabet House. Kids of all ages and adults will enjoy the wit and humor, and laugh out loud when they read E-mergency. Lichtenheld used ink, pencils and pastels to create his very detailed, bold and colorful illustrations. Brilliant and funny!
All the letters of the alphabet live together in a big house. The letters rush downstairs for breakfast one morning, when E tumbles down the stairs. It’s an E-mergengy! A takes action and asks J to call 911. The EMT’s arrive and take E to the hospital. But, who will take E‘s place? The obvious choice is O, who is well-rounded. All the letters jump into action. An announcement is made on television shows and in newspapers to alert the public that E is out of service and O will stand in. “Pormanont injury could occur if pooplo uso E.” D and C “travol to Washington to alort the govornmont.” For some reason, E, is not recovering and the other letters must find the culprit who has been “disoboying tho lottor law!” E-mergency is a cleverly crafted and illustrated book.
Author Interview With Tom Lichtenheld
Tom has joined us today to discuss the intriguing story behind E-mergency and his collaboration with Ezra Fields-Meyer. Released Oct. 19 by Chronicle Books, E-mergency has been named one of the Best Picture Books for 2011. It also received a starred review the Booklist. He is the author of 15 books, three of which have been NYT bestsellers: Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, Shark Vs. Train and Duck! Rabbit!
How did you first learn about Ezra and his “Alphabet House” video?
Tom Fields-Meyer, a freelance journalist, decided to write a memoir about raising his son Ezra, who has high-functioning autism. As part f his research, Tom read other memoirs, among them Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. Tom contacted Amy for advice and mentioned in passing that Ezra had an idea for a children’s book about animals. Amy mentioned it to me and told me Ezra had done a video on YouTube called Alphabet House.
I viewed the video and was immediately intrigued by the idea of a letter being injured, wondering what would happen as a result. Of course, everyone knows a person can’t work when they’re in the hospital, so I figured the same would be true of a letter; it would have to be taken out of commission while recovering and temporarily replaced by a substitute letter. Chaos and hilarity would certainly ensue, especially if the injured letter was ‘E’, the most frequently used letter in the English language.
I contacted Tom and asked if Ezra would be interested in seeing what I could do to extend the story into a book, and he was very excited by the prospect. From there, I wrote a first draft, sketched out the first half of the book, and put together a proposal for Victoria Rock, my editor at Chronicle Books. Victoria loved the idea, so we were off and running.
Did you work closely with Ezra, and did he have specific ideas about what he wanted incorporated into the book?
Ezra’s big contribution was his video, which established the all-important, fundamental idea about of the story; one of the letters getting injured and being taken to the hospital. From there, I had a pretty clear idea of what would happen as a result of the mishap, so I wrote the manuscript then sent it to Ezra so he could see it taking shape. One of the comments I got from Ezra says a lot about him; he asked that I give every letter a role in the story. I took it to heart and, I think, delivered on it. We’ve never met in person, but we had a wonderful Skype visit after the book was done, and I feel like I know him just from hearing stories from his dad and reading his dad’s book.
Were there any surprises for you?
After the book was done, Ezra went over it with his uniquely analytical eye and, of course, found a couple of minor inconsistencies. For instance, the front endpaper introduces the cast of the book, that being an alphabet, including a question mark and an exclamation mark. Ezra asked me why the period wasn’t included, since he appears once in the corner of a page. I had to admit the oversight, but I wasn’t surprised so much as humbled by his exacting analysis.
I’m sure Ezra learned a lot from you, but what did you gain from the collaboration?
As much as I’m thrilled with the book we created together, meeting and learning about Ezra made the process of creating it a uniquely joyful and inspiring experience. As I read Tom’s book, Following Ezra, I sent occasional notes to him about what I was learning.
I learned that The Social Contract, that unwritten agreement that allows societies to live in relative harmony, is a dauntingly complicated and contradictory arrangement when seen through the eyes of a literalist.
It occurred to me that people with autism are just doing in the extreme what the rest of us are doing every day; trying to find order in a disorderly world and seeking experiences that make us feel alive.
I remember thinking this after I read “The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Nighttime,” and learning about Ezra confirmed it; we all exhibit traits of autism to varying degrees. Who among us hasn’t been limited by some kind of social awkwardness, lack of self-awareness or irrational, ritualistic behavior? Speaking for myself, there are times when I’ve felt like Ezra might be not only more well-adjusted than I am, but also more insightful!
I gained a new respect for Judaism, for its emphasis on memory, rituals, and healing a broken world.
Most of all, Following Ezra made me realize the healing power of patience, creativity, family, and community.
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article written by Tom Fields-Meyer called “Embracing Ezra.”
Is Ezra still creating animations? Is that his dream?
According to his father, Ezra created Alphabet House at age 12. “Now he’s a tenth grader, and still very interested in animation. He takes classes at a remarkable program in L.A. called Media Enrichment Academy, which trains special-needs children to use technology to express themselves in all sorts of creative ways. He spent nearly two years on a detailed parody of the opening title sequence of “The Simpsons.” He has a great sense of humor and a wonderful talent for drawing funny faces. More recently he created a short movie based on a Shel Silverstein poem about two cardboard boxes who become friends. He does dream about a career as an animator. He also loves animals, and thinks about a career as a zookeeper. Maybe he’ll end up animating animals. Or zookeepers.”
What do you like best about your book?
I’d like to think it hits the sweet spot where silliness meets educational value. I worked with a reading specialist to make sure it includes lots of language lessons within the jokes, so there’s some method to the madness. If it’s embraced by children and teachers alike, I’ll know I’ve reached my goal. As far as content goes, my favorite bit is where the letters are gathered around the Liberty Bell and they spell out “THUD” while one of them says, “It just doosn’t havo tho samo ring to it, doos it?” I giggled to myself as I drew that one.
Do you have any new books in the works that I can mention?
Yes, I have a book called Zero the Hero, written by Joan Holub, that will be released Feb. 28, 2012. On my drawing board right now is a super-clever book written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.
Thank you Tom for the interview! Best wishes to you and Ezra for a successful book launch of E-mergency!
Copyright (c) 2011, Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved
After reviewingCloudette by Tom Lichtenheld this week, I decided to share some of his other treasures.
What Are You So Grumpy About? is written and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld for children 4-8 years. Lichtenheld has hit another home run with kids with his bold, detailed and outrageous illustrations. I have only one word for this book, hilarious! You only need to read this book once, for kids to get its message. It will be a favorite for a long time.
There are many reasons for feeling grumpy, and this book is packed with them. For instance, getting up on the wrong side of the bed and stepping on a pointy toy, someone leaving the toilet seat up, eating grown-up cereal and weird food, too many chores, receiving underpants for your birthday, getting cooties when your sibling touches you, picking up your room, and visiting the most boring museums with your dad.
Lichtenheld cleverly understands what triggers a kid to feel grumpy. But, he also knows the secret remedy for a grumpy kid. LAUGHTER! You can’t be grumpy if you are laughing. A great book that explores moods.
What’s With This Room?is another funny and engaging book written in verse and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. The illustrations are very detailed, bold and lively. If your child has a messy room, this book certainly is a must read! But beware, the mess is so bad you can almost smell it — another sign of winning book. Kids will spend time just looking at every detail on each double-page spread and laugh out loud. The story’s point about cleanliness is clear.
Mom enters her son’s room with hands on her hips and demands to know “what’s with this room and all its clutter and filth?” So begins the lengthy tug-of war conversation between a mother and her son: from the piles of clothes, the moldy food, the stinky runaway shoes, to the smelly monster under the bed that ate a stinky sock and died, and a closet filled with vermin and varmints. Both Mom and Dad demand to know how his room got in this state of disarray? And, for every complaint the child has a clever response. I won’t share the son’s answers or give away the ending, because it is too humorous. This is a great read for both kids with their parents.