Picture book magic (and a little quiz)

IMG_20170824_073558As I gear up for the online Picture Book Intensive I’m going to be teaching in September, I’m rereading old favorites and discovering new ones.

There is nothing like opening a new picture book for the first time. You  know how the pages resist a little bit? Like they’re holding back, keeping you in suspense just a little bit longer before the reveal! But then you’re pulled in, by the words, by the illustrations. By that feeling of, What’s next? Each page has its own anticipation. And then, when you get to the end, when it works, when it really works, there’s a satisfying, “Ahhh.”

But the old ones have their own special satisfaction. When I moved several years ago, I had to leave most of my books behind. But I grabbed a few I couldn’t imagine being without. Some had been with me since childhood. Others became favorites when my kids were small. They are not the prettiest books. Many are dog-chewed! But still, when I open them, they bring me back to that moment of first discovery. I’m reading them again now, thinking about what it is that creates that magic. There’s a synergy between words and pictures–just the right words, just the right pictures–that creates a whole that is so much more than the sum of its parts. As though it has been kissed by wonder!

There are certain lines that stay with me. Sometimes, I find myself quoting them. Can you guess which books these are from?

  1. “But the moon’s promises, what are they worth?” (Definitely my most quoted line from any book ever!)
  2. “Kuplink. Kuplank. Kuplunk.” (Well, except maybe for this one!)
  3. “John Patrick Norman McHennessy set off along the road to learn.” (Ok, so this is an easy one!)
  4. “When you go owling…” (Also easy!)
  5. “The sun has set not long ago.”
  6. “Did you know there’s a mouse in your house?”
  7. “Wrong: Kisses are pink!” (This author’s more known for her middle-grade novels.)
  8. “That’s good; that’s real good.”
  9. “But most of all, Ben thinks the trumpeter is the cat’s meow.”
  10. “He would jump on it an ride into Glory. And singing all the way.”

Share you answers. And let me know your favorite picture book lines!


Answers: 1. Nightgown of the Sullen Moon by Nancy Willard 2. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey 3. John Patrick Norman McHennessy, the Boy Who Was Always Late by John Burningham 4. Owl Moon by Jane Yolen 5. The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton 6. Bedtime Mouse by Sandol Stoddard 7. Samuel Todd’s Book of Great Colors by E. L. Konigsburg 8. Big Momma Makes the World by Phyllis Root 9. Ben’s Trumpet by Rachel Isadora 10. Rainbow Rider by Jane Yolen









  1. Great lines. I love the full Owl Moon quote, of course. And Big Momma. I will have to check out E. L. Konigsburg’s book!

    One of my favs: “That is how it is, Alice. Your birthday is always the one that is not now.” from A Birthday for Frances. I do love Francis!


    • The Konigsburg is a favorite of mine! Though the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Jennifer, Hecate, MacBeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth were some of the books that got me reading as a kid. I seem to have an affinity for books with long titles!


  2. Maura Stokes says:

    Boring perhaps, but very vivid early memories are reading Cat in the Hat and Cat in the Hat Comes Back, and taking in every single bit and color of the illustrations.


  3. I actually found Cat in the Hat a bit disturbing. Loved Yertle the Turtle, though. And Bartholomew and the Oobleck. We had a recording of, I think it was Richard Burton, reading them.


  4. My earliest memories of reading: To Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street, The Little Engine that Could and of course the wonderful classic of the Little Golden Ding Dong School series, Debbie and Her Nap. (Which I had committed to memory at age three and have used in talks about mirrors and windows, quite a bit.)

    The thing that disturbed me about Cat in the Hat was the video that my kids had, which “elaborated” on the story, translating “Cat in the Hat” into French, Spanish and, unaccountably, “Eskimo.” The French and Spanish translations were accurate but the Eskimo words were gibberish. Ha ha. I know, I know, it wasn’t Suess himself but presumably his wife and/or estate approved it.

    Suess was really quite brilliant and, in his own words, “as subversive as hell.” I think we need another Suess right about now….


  5. My earliest reading memories? The Little Golden Book The Color Kittens!
    As for subversive writers, I’m trying! 😉
    But seriously, who is writing today’s Yertle the Turtle?


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