Archive for the ‘Picture books’ Category

Alternate title: I think I’ll try/defining/Gravity (performed by Adele Dazeem)

Jason Chin‘s latest picture book, Gravity, caught my eye because it got dinged by a review in The Horn Book Magazine (May/June 2014) for simplifying the science “to the point of inaccuracy.” But let’s be honest, without an advanced understanding of calculus and physics, we’re all getting the simplified version of gravity.

“Everything has gravity,” writes Chin to his pre-K audience, prompting Roger Sutton to complain:

Despite the text’s assertion, objects, whether the sun or a banana, do not ‘have gravity’; they have mass (which affects gravity). And to say ‘without gravity, everything would float away’ misses the rather more essential point that without gravity there would be no anything to float anywhere.

According to Newton, gravity is a fundamental force that depends both on the mass of objects and distance between them. The more mass objects have, the greater the gravity; the farther apart they are, the weaker their attraction. Chin makes this connection for young readers by saying “massive things have more gravity” and drawing bold pictures of outer space that depict size* and scale in a really fun way. Now if gravity is a property of matter, and all objects have mass (which Sutton correctly points out they do), then surely they have gravity.

Einstein updated Newton’s definition by scrapping the idea of gravity as a force. Instead, his theory explains gravity as the distortion of space-time geometry in response to matter and energy. (For example, the topology of space-time around the sun dictates the earth’s orbit around it.) With this in mind, if Sutton wanted to criticize Gravity for the inaccuracy of the everything would float away line, he should have nitpicked that floating away implies force.

Instead, Sutton’s second assertion–that without gravity, nothing would exist–is more of a chicken-and-egg quibble. Matter and gravity are intrinsically related, but good luck proving causality.

It’s gutsy of Chin to tackle a tricky subject for a young age in such a vivid, memorable way. When I asked physicists with PhDs how they’d explain gravity to five-year-olds, they wouldn’t stop laughing.


*We all know size matters not, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s pretend mass and size have a positive relationship



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I just discovered The Guardian’s delightful series, How to draw…, where children’s books illustrators teach you how to draw characters from their books. Today’s model: Weasel Leader and friends, of Elys Dolan’s Weasels (which I haven’t read.)

That didn’t stop me from drawing some weasels, though.

Swan Lake weasel pas de deux (paws de huit?)

Swan Lake weasel pas de deux (paws de huit?)

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floraLisa: Hello! So, Newbery reactions!
It was a good year for squirrels
Jen: and a good year for Floras!
Lisa: yes. I haven’t read Flora and the Flamingo but I could see Ulysses’ Flora attempting to dance with a flamingo
Jen: really? I think she’d be too cynical
Lisa: well, if her mother stuffed her into a tutu…
and there was a pink bird nearby…
soooooo, anything surprise you about this year’s ALA youth media awards?

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“Oh, the places you’ll go…”

Unlike Lisa, who trekked the gorgeous wilderness of CA this summer, I opted for a “staycation” in the Berkshires. (Although, technically, I only went for the day. So daycation?) On my way to Tanglewood, where picnicking is an art form, I made a pit stop in Springfield, home to the Doctor Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden and birthplace of Theodor Geisel himself!

Free and open to the public, if you can find the proper parking lot–hint: it’s not the Catholic church by the entrance–the park is a great place to stretch your legs before heading onward to other delightful destinations. See for yourself!


Doctor Seuss at his desk.

...someone like YOU...

…someone like YOU…


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Inspired by Mo Willems’ dinner doodles, my friends and I attempted our own. Behold!


Happy spring!IMAG0162


A snail with attitude. (more…)

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The New York Times had a fun article earlier this week on Dr. Seuss’ amazing hat collection. His love for headgear and this year’s chapeau sporting Caldecott winner got me thinking: what do you get when you mix the Cat in the Hat with This is Not My Hat?

This is Not My Cat in the Hat

This is Not My Cat in the Hat by Jen

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Thanks to Anita Silvey’s Book-a-Day Almanac, I now know yesterday was Ask Your Cat Questions Day. I have no felines to interrogate, so I did the next best thing and recreated Jean Craighead George’s How to Talk to Your Cat book cover:


What I used: wooden statue and construction paper

Original coverHow-to-Talk-to-Your-Cat1

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