Tag Archives: Knopf

Growing up sweet: Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine

rosie sprout

Naturally, my thoughts have shifted in a very Kindergarten direction since I found out that’s what I’ll be teaching next year. My list of Ideas / Things to Figure Out is getting longer by the minute, not to mention my list of picture books I love and want to “do cool things with” next year.

Pretty close to the top of that list is this lovely little treasure: Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine, by Allison Wortche. It is darling. It makes me smile and feel warm and fuzzy, and as a teacher, I can say that it’s a pretty fair representation of life in a typical classroom.

In Rosie’s class, it’s all about Violet. Violet is the fastest, the loudest, the fanciest, the Best. Everything Violet does seems to turn out perfectly, and Violet is not shy about soaking up the limelight. Sweet little Rosie is tired of hearing about it. So when Ms. Willis announces that they will each be growing their own plants in little pots, all of the kids (Rosie included) get ready to see VIolet be the best in the world at gardening. When the first pea sprouts appear, it would seem that Violet’s is off to a speedy start. But when Violet gets the chicken pox, Rosie has to make a choice. Will she sit by and let Violet’s plant wither, or will she do what’s hard but what is kind?

This one could’ve easily turned into a story that was unbelievably sweet and simplistic. I think Rosie’s reaction to Violet is really true to life. Violet drives her crazy, and Rosie quietly stews about it. When she sees Violet’s plant is growing faster than everyone else’s, Rosie dumps soil on top of it. Also, there’s a cute twist at the end that every teacher – and grown up – will smile about, because it’s not a happily ever after ending, it’s a true one. The only thing I wish was different is the fact that the teacher doesn’t really seem to do much in the way of guiding VIolet to become a little more tolerable and sensitive. The teacher comes off as quite passive in the situation. However, since the story is from Rosie’s perspective, perhaps it’s realistic that she wouldn’t necessarily observe her teacher’s response to Violet.

Patrice Barton’s illustrations are just wonderful. They are full of soft tones and have an expressive messiness to them that I just love. Each picture is packed with energy and emotion, just like a classroom full of kids this age really is.  

I am already thinking about how this book could have a place in a unit on plants, and growing things – not to mention growing good kids!

Maybe we could grow wheatgrass eggheads:


(Here’s a post that shows you how – just add googly eyes and you’re done!)

I know this for sure. I plan to pack my class full of adorable, so Rosie Sprout should fit right in.

Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine is published by Knopf.

Quite possibly my favourite book of 2012: The FitzOsbornes at War by Michelle Cooper

I am sure I’ve said before that I cannot resist a well-told war story. Add quirky characters, romance, heartbreak, and a sweeping scope, and I’d say you’re talking about my perfect book, or you might well be describing Michelle Cooper’s first class novel, The FitzOsbornes at War. I finished this book, the last in the Montmaray Journals trilogy, this morning, and the moment after reading the final word I wanted to go back to Book 1 and begin all over again. It has earned a place on my all time favourites shelf, right beside the first two in the series (after I get all of them for Christmas, that is).

In the second book, The FitzOsbornes in Exile, the royal family of Montmaray is forced to flee their home when the Nazis invade their remote island kingdom. They found refuge in London, and in Book 3, they discover they cannot escape the war and its tragic consequences. King Toby and his cousin Simon join the RAF, Princess Veronica translates for the Foreign Office, Princess Sophie works (rather reluctantly) for the Food Ministry, and Princess Henry just wants to do anything but go to boarding school. Rounding out the cast are other familiar faces from the first books, as well as famous historical figures. Cooper weaves fact and fiction together into an entirely convincing and deeply satisfying narrative.

The prime reason why this book will take such hold of you is Sophie’s voice. Like its predecessors, The FitzOsbornes at War is written as Sophie’s diary. Sophie FitzOsborne springs off the page, lively and opinionated and yearning for love and happy endings for everyone she cares about. Thanks to her voice, as well as the wonderful level of day to day detail in the story, you leave this book feeling that you have some understanding of what it could have been like to come of age during such a desperately hard period of history.

Finally, do yourself a favour. Do not make the same mistake I did. Do not go hunting around at the back of the book just to see what’s there. If you do, you might find the Family Tree hiding back there and then you may not be able to look away and then your eye will wander until you see things, spoilerish things that you never wanted to see at all. It is saying something about the brilliance of this book that I found said spoilerish things and I still loved every single minute of the story as I read it.

I really, desperately, want there to be more story, more FitzOsbornes, more Montmaray. Please, Ms Cooper, we’ll read it, we promise. Or at the very least, please, someone out there who produces brilliant British miniseries, get working on this already, so that we will have something to watch once Downton Abbey is done.

You may want to take a look at Michelle Cooper’s blog series, How to Write a Historical Novel in Seven Easy Steps, beginning here. Easy? Right. If you’re Michelle Cooper…

The FitzOsbornes at War is published by Knopf.

(Are you listening, Santa?)

Day 8, book 8: I Like Old Clothes by Mary Ann Hoberman

Confession: I don’t much like old clothes. I was raised by a woman who passed on to me her undying love of J. Crew catalogs and expensive things. (You’re the best Mom). And so, I was never destined to be a thrift store shopper. As pretty as they might look on etsy, vintage shoes sort of gross me out. In all honesty, sometimes when I try something on in a store and I think about the fact that at least one person has probably tried this very item on before me, I’m not so cool with the idea. It is therefore surprising that after reading I Like Old Clothes by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Patrice Barton, I feel a twinge of inspiration to go hunting for my own pre-loved treasure.

This has to be one of the loveliest little books I’ve read in a while. It has charmed me completely. I am going to stop hugging it now so that I can put it down and look at it properly and tell you all of the things I like about it. First (and foremost), the illustrations are heavenly. I had not come across Patrice Barton’s work until today, and now I plan on ordering all of the picture books that she has ever illustrated for the school library. The illustrations are soft, with a warm and smudgy, almost worn quality to them, which perfectly matches the theme of Hoberman’s poem. Barton uses a variety of textures and patterns on top of and against each other to mimic the appearance of different fabrics, all of them well-loved and a little washed out. Everything blends and goes outside the lines to create a sense of imperfection, but also liveliness and movement. I pretty much want to have one of Patrice’s pictures framed on the wall in my bedroom.

And if the illustrations alone aren’t enough to put you in a smiley kind of mood, Hoberman’s words should do the trick.

“I like old clothes.
I really do.
Clothes with a history,
Clothes with a mystery,
Sweaters and shirts
That are brother-and-sistery…”

The text doesn’t really have a narrative line, and that’s fine. It’s an exploration and pure celebration of the wonders of old stuff. In an age when everyone, including children, covets the new, I’d say there couldn’t be a better time to read this picture book and consider its message. I’ll bet you’ll fall head over heels for the whimsy and sweetness here, just like I did. Maybe there’s room in my closet for some “not-my-own-clothes” after all.

I Like Old Clothes is published by Alfred A. Knopf.