Allison's Book Bag

Trying Out Picture Books

Posted on: January 20, 2012

One of the benefits of trying to read books in a variety of categories is that I start noticing age groups and genres which I tend to neglect. Take picture books as an example. So far, I have reviewed three. At the end of this month, I’m taking on a new venture to turn that omission around. I’m starting a before-school reading club for primary students.  In it, we’re going to read picture books and maybe some chapter books.

While waiting for my reading club to begin, I’ve been reading some of the more popular picture books out there. As part of my teasers this week, I’m featuring mini-biographies and fun links connected with six of them.

Onto the books!

Fuddles by Frans Vischer

Frans-VischerFirst up is Fuddles. This funny cat book is by Frans Vischer, who lived in Holland until he was eleven. Then his family immigrated to America. Vischer always liked to draw. Now being a shy, new immigrant kid that spoke little English, Vischer relied on his drawings to communicate. His high school art teacher taught him that is more to art than Mickey Mouse. Because of her, Vischer explored other forms of art such as painting and sculpture but animation remained his favorite. Upon graduation in 1981, Vischer landed a job with the The Walt Disney Company. Since then, he’s worked on such recognizable films as “The Princess and The Frog” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” at Disney, “Cats Don’t Dance at Warner Bros.”, and “The Road To El Dorado” at DreamWorks. Vischer was inspired to write Fuddles by the antics of his own enormous and lovable cat.

Hooray for Miss Amanda and Her Alligator by Mo Willems

Next up is Hooray for Miss Amanda and Her Alligator. This multi-chapter picture book is by Mo Willems. After graduating from Tisch School of the Arts, Willems spent a year traveling around the world drawing a cartoon every day. Returning to New York, he kicked off his career as a writer and animator for Sesame Street, where he earned six Emmy Awards during his tenure. During his nine seasons at Sesame Street, Willems also served as a weekly commentator for BBC Radio and created two animated series. During this time, he also began writing and illustrating picture books.

If you want to know more about Willems, you can read his extensive credits at CanYou Give Me Your Biography?. You can also learn more about him by reading What are your favorite interviews? Personally though, I like his short biography the best:

Mo Willems makes funny drawings that hopefully will make you laugh.

If you become a fan of Hooray for Miss Amanda and Her Alligator, you might appreciate the accompanying Classroom Activities. The PDF contains lessons on making friends, playing with friends, and surprising friends.

The Desperate Dog Books by Eileen Christelow

Third on my book list is Letters from A Desperate Dog and its sequel The Desperate Dog Writes Again by Eileen Christelow. Both comic-strip style books are about a high-strung mutt named Emma, George the painter, and his cat. Here are the rest of the bare-bone facts about Emma, which I nabbed from Christelow’s site:

  • Hobbies: Eating
  • Favorite thing to do: Eating
  • Favorite sport: Eating
  • Favorite food: You name it; I’ll eat it! Cell phones, Halloween candy . . .
  • Job: Keeping my humans in line.
  • Skills: Ladder-climbing, mouse-hunting, eating and…
  • . . .Shh-h-h! Don’t tell anyone—writing on the computer.
  • Favorite newspaper column: Dear Queenie

Care to dig deeper? You could “like” Emma on Facebook.

Need a classroom guide? You could download or print this PDF.

As for Christelow herself, you can find all my biographical notes about her nicely collected together in an earlier post: Authors Week Ahead

Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott

Fourth on my book list is a book with an irresistible title: Even Monsters Need Haircuts. Author Matthew McElligott has a studio in his home which he shares with his wife, his son, and several animals including two horses, about a dozen chickens, a rabbit, some cats, some fish, and a dog. He has been a working, published writer for about fifteen years, but has been drawing and making up stories for as long as he can remember. He especially likes to draw buildings and machines. Whenever he travels, he brings along a sketchbook. By the time he gets home, it’s filled with pictures of churches, castles, bridges, and landscapes. In his newest book, you’ll find just as many illustrations of humans and monsters.

Using The Monster Machine, you can create your own custom monster, print it out, color it and put it together. Simply follow the directions above, and make sure you have a piece of paper in your printer.


Next up on my book list is The Snow Blew Inn by Dian Curtis Regan. Unlike the other authors whom I profiled above, her biography starts with a writing background instead of a drawing one. She often wrote poems for family and friends, along with skits for high school pep rallies, and even a play for a local church. Yet initially she considered writing a hobby rather a career. Than two things happened. First, the editor of a local magazine asked her to write a children’s Christmas story. Regan liked the idea of getting paid for doing something she loved to do. Second, she attended her first writers’ conference. After listening to authors talk about their writing careers, she enrolled in literature at the University of Colorado. After graduating,  she taught school in Denver until deciding to “take one year off to write.” More than a year has passed and she is still writing full time.

A more extensive biography, along with many interviews, can be found at her About the Author page. Specifically, younger readers might want to read her Letter to Young Writers and A Kids Questionnaire to Author. Older readers might want to download her Free Curriculum Guides. Regan’s whole site is fun and informative. Surf over there and explore it!

Last, on my book list is Zoozical by Judy Sierra. She grew up liking to read and to write. In elementary school, she worked on word puzzles, wrote poetry, drew, made books, and put on plays with friends. Later, in high school, she edited the newspaper and literary magazine. Yet in college she thought of becoming a college professor. Then she learned about the perfect job for her: a children’s librarian at a public library. There, she could read children’s literature, tell stories, and put on puppet shows. Eventually, the latter interest won out. She left the library to to start a traveling puppet theater with her husband. Before she became a full-time author, she actually performed all around the U.S and taught puppetry as artist-in-residence in schools and museums. Naturally, her first published books were about how to tell stories and put on puppet plays. Even Zoozical is about how animals produced a stage play. Regan has even produced a Sing Along Musical for it. As with most others here, you can also find a Teacher’s Guide to her books.

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Fall 2017: Focus on Cats!

All things cats ahead! I will post roundups of cat training books, cat Trap-Neuter-Release books, cat coloring books, and cat cozies. For all other animal lovers, I will also post roundups of dog cozies and zoo books.

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