Douglas Wood has brought to life a pivotal moment in world history through his book Franklin and Winston: A Christmas That Changed the World. He covers the historical facts accurately and humorously while describing Prime Minister Churchill’s visit to the White House during Christmas 1941. Children will certainly enjoy this peek into a president’s life with everything from friendship and feasts to speeches and schemes. In the end, the visit was a success. The United States agreed to an alliance with Great Britain for the duration of the war. Indeed, this vacation (of sorts) marked a turning point in the progress of the Allied Powers which allowed them to save the world from the tyranny of war.

This engaging book is made even more delightful with Barry Moser’s incredibly detailed watercolor illustrations. He has painted portraits of Churchill and Roosevelt both as children and adults, and he effectively depicts the antics of both world leaders. Additionally, his representations of naval ships, Japanese war planes, and U. S. airplanes are impeccable and draw the reader into the era of World War II. The final full-page illustration of Harry Hopkins’ letter to Mrs. Churchill brings a satisfying end to an exciting journey back in time.

How could you use this book in a unit on World War II? Additionally, would you find this story useful when teaching about courage and friendship?


This weekend, we are reading Franklin and Winston: A Christmas That Changed the World written by Douglas Wood and illustrated by Barry Moser. This colorful picture book is a delightfully historic account of the Christmas that United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill shared in 1941. That December, just after the Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbor naval base, Churchill traveled to Washington, D.C. to visit with the president. Churchill and Roosevelt spent the holiday making war plans. In this book, Wood chronicles both the political debates and festive escapades at the White House that Christmas.

I know most people don’t enjoy learning about history, but this book offers an enjoyable viewpoint. Read it yourself, and tell me what you think of Christmas in 1941.

The Black Bull of Norroway is a story very similar to “The Beauty and the Beast.” The heroine of each story is a young girl with two greedy older sisters, and the heroine must learn to love a monster. Yet, the plot of this story stands on its own.

In “The Beauty and the Beast,” Beauty (Belle) is portrayed as a self-sacrificing daughter who only agrees to marry the beast so that she can save her father. However, in The Black Bull of Norroway, the bull treats Peggy Ann kindly from the very beginning and takes care of her. Peggy Ann’s trial comes later in the story. After she has helped the black bull regain his human form as the Duke of Norroway (Norway), she becomes lost, and he cannot find her. Peggy Ann works for seven years before she is able to search for the Duke, only to find that he is engaged to another woman. Peggy Ann, though, is not going to give up, and finds a way to win him back.

This book is a wonderful story to use with any lesson or unit on fairy tales, especially when comparing similar fairy tales. Charlotte Huck’s writing is very artistic and descriptive, and Anita Lobel’s watercolor illustrations are beautiful – they could practically tell the story on their own! I encourage you to find this book and then put it on your classroom bookshelf.

Welcome to another Picture Book Weekend! This weekend we will take a look at a Scottish fairy tale. The Black Bull of Norroway is retold by Charlotte Huck and illustrated by Anita Lobel. This is a similar story to “The Beauty and the Beast” and “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” as the Black Bull of Norroway is a monster who is later tamed by a young lady. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I look forward to posting the review tomorrow, Sunday, 24 June 2012.

This weekend we will take the opportunity to read some nonfiction. Yellowstone National Park is one of my favorite places, and it provides so many interesting things to learn. This weekend’s book is The Great Yellowstone Fire by Carole G. Vogel and Kathryn A. Goldner published by the Sierra Club and Little, Brown.

This informational picture book provides an accurate view of life in Yellowstone. Readers will learn about the history of the park and the history of fighting natural wildfires. Photographs document the progressions of the fire that changed the landscape of much of Yellowstone in the summer of 1988. The Great Yellowstone Fire will have you eager to learn more about this wonderful place and might even convince you to hop on the first plane headed to Wyoming.

James Marshall has written five short stories about George and Martha in George and Martha: One Fine Day.

  1. The Tightrope: Martha loves walking on her tightrope, but Martha loses her confidence when George becomes frightened.
  2. The Diary: Martha cannot seem to find a private moment to write in her diary. Will George learn to be polite and respectful of Martha’s wishes?
  3. The Icky Story: George decides that lunchtime is the perfect time to tell icky stories, so Martha comes up with a plan to prove to George how undesirable such stories are when one is eating.
  4. The Big Scare: When George scares the daylights out of Martha, she threatens to scare him, too, but when?
  5. The Amusement Park: After a day of fun, Martha gets her revenge and scares the daylights out of George.

Each of these amusing stories is accompanied by charming drawings. The pictures are simple but engaging. Marshall is able to put the weight of every emotion into the faces of each hippopotamus. You will always find George or Martha looking amused, innocent, annoyed, sly, or angry. George even turns completely green when Martha tells her icky story!

Through George and Martha, Marshall has written several unassuming moral lessons. Children learn the importance of minding their manners at the table and toward individual people, and they learn the value in encouraging their friends. George and Martha provide teachers and parents with the perfect opportunity to fulfill a teachable moment.

For another look at George Marshall’s work, read this article which places George and Martha as #48 on a list of Top 100 Picture Books!

It’s Saturday again, and time for another Picture Book Weekend! Today we’ll be reading George and Martha: One Fine Day by James Marshall. George and Martha are two best (hippopotamus) friends who are always having exciting little adventures, and they have been two of my favorite storybook characters for as long as I can remember. While reading this book, consider what it means to be a friend and the different ways we should (or should not) treat our friends. Then, if you find some other George and Martha stories, let me know what you think of those, too!

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems is a wonderful story for any child who has an attachment to a stuffed animal or blanket. In this story Daddy, Trixie, and Knuffle Bunny take a trip to the Laundromat. Trixie helps Daddy do the laundry, but she leaves Knuffle Bunny behind.

Every child, no matter how young or old, fears that she will lose something. Mo Willems’ illustrations help the reader see Trixie’s emotions as she and Knuffle Bunny experience their frightening adventure. In the pictures, the background scenes are black-and-white photographs of the cityscape where Daddy and Trixie live, and all of the people are Mo Willems’ own cartoonish color drawings superimposed on the photographs. It is an interesting medium that produces a realistic but whimsical mood for the story. The characters are larger than life, playing to the child’s imagination, but the setting is exactly what any city kids might see.

I know that most children won’t be making comparisons between their own lives and the pictures in the book, but it does highlight the important fact of the story: Take care of your favorite things. When Trixie didn’t take care of Knuffle Bunny, she lost him. However, Mommy and Daddy love Trixie so much that they dash back to the Laundromat, and Daddy won’t give up searching for Knuffle Bunny. As teachers and parents, it is our job to take care of our students and children so we can teach them how to take care of their belongings.

What are your thoughts on this story? Did you enjoy it? Were you able to learn or teach a lesson with this book? Have you had your own experiences with a lost toy or favorite thing?

Find out more about Mo Willems, Trixie and Knuffle Bunny, and all of his other books on his website. Let us know what you think of his other books, too!

I love traditions, so we’ll start one here. Every weekend we will read and review a new picture book. This weekend we’ll start with Knuffle Bunny: A Cautonary Tale by Mo Willems. This precious little book almost brought tears to my eyes. So, go find this book, let yourself get a little sentimental, and we’ll have the review ready on Sunday, 3 June 2012. Then, come back every Saturday for more picture book fun!