Monday, October 6, 2014

Don't Judge a Book by It's Cover By ~Suzy Leopold

Most everyone has heard the saying and even used the figurative language, “Don’t Judge a Book by it’s Cover!”  Did you know that this saying is an English idiom? Did you know that Bo Diddley, a rock and roll pioneer, recorded a hit song in 1962, entitled "Don't Judge a Book by It's Cover?" Put on you dancing shoes and check out this rockin'song, with the Bo Diddley beat -- bomp, ba-bomp. 

This metaphorical phrase, with the meaning of, you should not prejudge the worth or value of something by its outward appearance alone, I was recently reminded of. I am pleased to admit, I was wrong to judge a book by it’s cover. How assuming of me!
Show Me a Story!
Why Picture Books Matter
Show Me a Story! 
Why Picture Books Matter 
This book contains conversations and interviews with twenty-one of the world’s most celebrated 
authors and illustrators and is 
compiled and edited 
by Leonard S. Marcus. 
A forward is written 
by David Wiesner. 
The book is published by 
Candlewick Press, 2012.

Initially, my thoughts were . . . This is not a book about the craft of writing literature for kids. I must return this requested book to the library. As an inspiring children's picture book author, reading books about the craft of writing is what I thought I need to read to grow and learn. I was wrong!

During each of the interviews, Leonard S. Marcus is on "a kind of mad quest for the vital thread that links an artist’s life story to the stories and images for which he or she is known.” 

The conversations included:

  • What childhood experiences prepared each of you to develop your creativity?
  • What inspired each of the authors and illustrators?
  • Why did the authors and illustrators choose picture books to share their passion through writing, painting and drawing?
  • Who offered help and guidance throughout their journey?
  • What were your first memories of books? Was reading important to you?
  • What training, education, and schooling did each of the authors and illustrators acquire?
  • And much more.
Through the many conversations between Leonard S. Marcus and the distinguished authors and illustrators, Marcus touches on the history of how picture books came to age. Did you know that the debut of the picture book took place during the 1930s, after our nation was recovering from the Great Depression? 

As educators, we know that emergent readers "read" pictures before they read words. Visual language is conveyed through children's picture books. The illustrations and words in a picture book must work together to create a beautiful art form that becomes a story that kids want to read and listen to over and over again. And these twenty-one authors and illustrators have demonstrated that over the many years their picture books have staying power. Collectively, their many stories and images continue to be read over and over again.
Show Me a Story!
Today, I will highlight three of the authors and illustrators that are featured in Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter. Leonard S. Marcus conducted conversations with the following authors and illustrators:
  • Mitsumasa Anno, 1926,
  • Quentin Blake, 1932, Sidcup, Kent, England
  • Ashley Bryan, 1923, New York, New York
  • John Burningham, 1936, Farnham, Surrey, England
Eric Carle 1929 Syracuse, New York
Eric Carle
Dummy Spreads

During classroom visits, Eric Carle describes Goethe's Color Theory as an art exercise with the children in the classroom and enjoys asking the attentive kids,“Do you think I can fool your eyes?”
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Lois Ehlert, 1934, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin
Lois Ehlert
Sketches and preliminaries

Lois Ehlert believes that there are art supplies all around us. She considers sticks, corn kernels, buttons, and feathers, as important as her paints and stacks of brightly colored paper. Ehlert was encouraged by her parents and grew up with arts and crafts as her favorite playthings.
Leaf Man

  • Kevin Henkes, 1960, Racine, Wisconsin
  • Yumi Heo, 1964, Seoul, South Korea
  • Tana Hoban, 1917, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 
     DOD 2006
  • James Marshall, 1942, San Antonio, Texas, 
     DOD 1992
  • Robert McCloskey, 1914, Hamilton, Ohio, 
    DOD 2003
  • Helen Oxenbury, 1938, Ipswich, England
  • Jerry Pinkney, 1939, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Chris Raschka, 1959, Hundington, Pennsylvania
  • Maurice Sendak, 1928, Brooklyn, New York
  • Peter Sis, 1949 Brno, Czechoslovakia
  • William Steig 1907, Brooklyn, NY DOD 2004 Jeanne Steig 1930, Chicago, Illinois
Rosemary Wells 1943 New York, New York 
Rosemary Wells

Rosemary Wells creates memorable characters, simple but satisfying stories, and a robust sense of fun. And she does this all within the space of a few small pages.

Rosemary Wells encourages parents to read to their children at least 20 minutes everyday. “Children who don’t have reading aloud experience with their parents on a regular basis are missing out on one of childhood’s most important experiences.”
Bunny Cakes
  • Mo Willems, 1968, Chicago, Illinois
  • Vera B. Williams, 1927, Hollywood, California
  • Lisbeth Zwerger, 1954, Vienna, Austria
No one likes to be told they are wrong! However, in this case, I am happy to be proven that I was wrong! This book did not teach me about the importance of rhythm and rhyme. It did not inform me of required picture book elements: a beginning that hooks the reader with fabulous first lines, a middle with dialogue by strong, believable characters that moves the story forward nor a satisfying end.

However, through the journeys of these twenty-one authors and illustrators, I acquired new knowledge and information about writing picture books for children. I was wrong to have judged this book by it's cover! 

Do you have any favorite authors/illustrators listed above? Please share a book title, by one of these individuals, that is dear to your heart.

This I know, I am not wrong, and I am sure you will agree . . . picture books matter because they make a difference in the lives of children.


  1. I love this book (and I love pretty much anything written about children's books that Leonard Marcus writes--and he's written a LOT). In fact, I'm going to one of his sessions this week at the Longwood Children's Book Festival. :P

    1. Marcie: Leonard Marcus, as you may know, is referred to as a *rare bird!* I look forward to reading more of his superb books. Enjoy the presentation at the Longwood Children's Book Festival.

  2. Great post--thanks for bringing attention to this book. Love the touch of fall you added to the photos. Another great thing about this book is how you can see their lives in parallel and their art in comparison.

    1. Pat: Since Autumn color and breezes are happening on the Midwest prairie, just thought I would share this season's beauty with all. You made an excellent point of seeing "their lives in parallel and their art in comparison." Perhaps you noted author James Marshall from San Antonio, Texas. My husband and I moved from SA to Illinois two years ago.

  3. great post - inspired me to put the one-and-only copy in our entire 40-library system on hold. and no, I am not feeling guilty (at least not very much). I would have picked up this book by its cover alone had I seen it on a library shelf.

    1. Hi Sue: See the reply below that I made to you! ~Sue

  4. A very informative post, Suzy! Thanks. I haven't read this book yet but will if I get the chance!

    1. Hi Tina: Happy to know you acquired some new knowlege and information. ~Suzy

  5. Hi Sue: The cover illustration by Mo Willems is what captured my attention with the characters Pigeon and Duckling. Such an excellent read. So, once your book arrives, pour yourself a cup of hot tea, find a comfy chair and read and read some more, without feeling quilty. ~I am a Sue, too; AKA Suzy!

  6. I can't wait to take a peek at this book, Suzy! Several of my favorite illustrators are on your list, including Kevin Henkes and Helen Oxenbury.

  7. Patty: Ah yes! Kevin Henkes and Helen Oxenbury! I just love Kitten's First Moon and Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, both by Henkes. I learned that Oxenbury is married to John Burningham, an author and illustrator of children's books. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. ~Suzy

  8. Suzy - a nourishing article, appreciations to you. When I heard Leonard Marcus speak at Hollins University's children's lit program, I felt that he found the Holy Grail that linked creators in the children's lit. field together. I recommend his MINDERS of MAKE-BELIEVE to you if you haven't discovered that one.

    Today's title, which has a fun Mo Willems' cover, is new to me & I hope to read it.

    I think these author/illustrators interviewed in Show Me a Story! have retained their wondering nature from childhood while applying hard work,organization & focus to their craft.

    I luv your fall tableau photo with Marcus book in it. And thanks for featuring LEAF MAN, which is one of my favorites to read in school this time of year.

    An inspiring post, all around.

  9. Jan: You are appreciated. I look forward to reading your recommendation of yet another excellent book by Leonard S. Marcus. I certainly agree with your thoughts about the 21 authors and illustrators featured in the book, Show Me a Story! All of them have stood the test of time with their beautiful picture book stories. You warm my heart and I am happy to know you appreciate the Autumn display. Leaf Man is a favorite mine, also.

  10. I'm embarrassed and excited to say that I had not heard of this book prior to your post. Guess who is requesting it from his library right now? Thank you, once again, for opening my eyes to a new resource. As GROGGERS, we are constantly shining our lights on tools that are so very powerful for our imaginations. Thank you!