Thursday, January 27, 2011

MORE BEARS! (Picture Book)

by Kenn Nesbitt, illustrated by Troy Cummings

Soucebooks Jabberwocky-Sourcebooks, 2010

A Book Review by

Violet the Telekinetic Puppy

I’m Violet and I like bears. Do you like bears? I bet you like bears because everybody who is not a salmon or a honey bee likes bears. So if you are not a salmon or a honey bee I have a book to tell you about. If you are a salmon or a honey bee I will have a book to tell you about another time.

MORE BEARS! is a really good book with lots of bears in it. Guess how many bears are in the beginning of the book. If you guessed 27 you are wrong. If you guessed zero you are right. But I bet you guessed 27 because I bet you thought a book called MORE BEARS! would have lots of bears in it. Well it does, just not at the beginning of the book and that is why you are wrong if you guessed 27.

At the beginning of the book the author is sitting at his desk writing his story and it is a story with no bears. I don’t know why he is writing a story with no bears because everybody who is not a salmon or a honey bee likes bears and the author is not a salmon or a honey bee.

Do you know what happens? I will tell you. The author hears kids shouting at him and they are shouting “MORE BEARS!!” because they want the author to write a story with bears in it. And because the author wants readers to like his story he adds a bear. But the kids want more bears so they shout “MORE BEARS!!” So the author adds more bears. But the kids want even more bears so they shout “MORE BEARS!!” again and again. And pretty soon the book is full of bears. Guess how many bears? If you guessed 27, you are wrong. There are lots more than 27. There are lots and lots of bears. There are so many bears that I can’t tell you how many, that is how many there are.

It’s fun to look at all the different bears. They are all different colors and sizes and are all doing different things. There is a cowboy bear and a surfing bear and a space bear and a juggling bear. There is even a dancing bear like in the last book I told you about and that book was CLEVER JACK TAKES THE CAKE. But there isn’t a birthday cake in this book, just three bears making cupcakes and lots and lots of other bears.

My favorite bear is the baby bear named Mr. Fluffy. Maybe that will be your favorite bear, too. Or maybe your favorite bear will be the superhero bear or the artist bear or the bear with a purple caterpillar on his nose. Do you know what? I changed my mind. The bear with the purple caterpillar on his nose is my favorite.

Pretty soon there are too many bears. I know that is hard to believe but it is true. So the author makes a decision. Guess how many bears there are at the end of the book? If you guessed 27 you are wrong. If you guessed zero you are right. The author is tired of all the bears and makes the bears get out of his story. The kids have a new idea of what should be in the story. Guess what they want now? I am not going to tell you what they want in the story because you will see for yourself when you read this book. But I will tell you that when you find out what it is, you will laugh because this is a funny book.

Here is a list of who will like this book:



Everybody else who is not a salmon or a honey bee.

Here is a list of who will like NOT this book:


Honey bees.

The end. Good-bye.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kathi Appelt, Interview

Tuesdays with Morzant:

Getting to Know an Author

MORZANT: Zulko, humans. Today I’m talking with author Kathi Appelt. Welcome, Kathi. I’m happy to meet you. Bigfoot speaks highly and frequently of your performance years ago in YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN. I understand you were quite convincing as Snoopy. Tell me, how did you prepare for the role of a food-obsessed beagle?

KATHI APPELT: As you know the big number in that play is “Suppertime.” Since I’m all about Method Acting, I had to be sure that I portrayed Snoopy authentically, so for several weeks all I ate was Purina and Alpo. Grrrr.....

MORZANT: You certainly seem to be as dedicated to your writing as to your acting. You’ve written picture books, novels, short stories, poetry, and non-fiction. How do you account for your multitudinous body of work? Do you time travel? Or perhaps you acquire manuscripts from other versions of yourself in parallel universes?

KA: Actually, all of those reasons sound rather more glamorous than the truth, which is that I get bored with myself and my own writing fairly quickly. I’ve learned to cope by switching genres from time to time.

MORZANT: BIGFOOT READS followers are familiar with my studies of Earth literature. In POEMS FROM HOMEROOM: A WRITER’S PLACE TO START, you tout writing creatively as liberating in its allowance of the invention of personalities and settings that never before existed. Forgive me, but aren’t you basically saying that it’s fun to fib?

KA: Well of course. One of the wonderful things about being a human is that we get to make stuff up.

MORZANT: I see. For a number of years, you taught creative writing to children and adults. Did you observe a difference in how children and adults approach creative writing?

KA: Up until they’re in about the 4th grade, young Earthlings are much less inhibited by perfection. They’re more about the Story itself than about the commas and dangling participles. After 4th grade, we get much more bogged down by those matters of grammar and logic. More self-aware I guess, which is too bad.

MORZANT: “Bogged down” has such negative connotations. Personally, I find a strict observance of logic to be stimulating. Do you believe that anybody can learn to write creatively?

KA: Barring some physical or mental issue, yes, I do believe that anyone can learn to write creatively. Yeppers.

MORZANT: I’m thinking specifically of my friend Norman who is a half-invisible turtle. He’s been working on a novel. Although my studies of Earth literature are just beginning, based on my research to date, I’m tempted to conclude that Norman’s novel is the worst story ever written.

KA: There’s a critic in every room.

MORZANT: Perhaps you’re correct and I’m being unduly harsh. On the other hand, the last scene he shared with me included a termite playing penny hockey with a walrus while they contemplated the meaning of life. But I digress.

I must admit that a particular poem from POEMS FROM HOMEROOM inspired me to expand my own writing repertoire beyond scientific reports. In the poem, Dreaming in Haiku, a boy with mathematical inclinations is drawn to the poetic form haiku because of its adherence to a structure dictating that each of its three lines consist of a fixed number of syllables. Being a mathematically-inclined being myself, I endeavored to write haiku. I found the experience not unlike solving an equation. Here’s my solution:

Numbers are my friends

I add them when I’m able

Wish they’d multiply


My friend, this is sweet.

If you write one each morning,

multiply they will.

MORZANT: I did enjoy writing haiku, but I’m baffled by other poetic forms. Many of your picture books are written as poetry and your novels use poetic imagery. What purpose does poetry serve? Isn’t it more efficient to say what you mean directly?

KA: It might be more efficient, but it wouldn’t please the ear. I’m all about happy ears.

MORZANT: Poetry may be a pleasant diversion, but I’ve found some evidence that indulgence in exuberant language may lead to anarchy. The copy of POEMS FROM HOMEROOM that I borrowed from the public library contained the graffito “[name redacted] is a HUNK” written in pencil near the poem The Yearbook Photographer. Do you feel your creative writing contributed to the delinquency of this library patron? I can’t help but wonder what this particular yearbook photographer is a hunk of.

KA: If my poem moved a person to act, even in this way, that sort of makes me smile, makes me feel that the graffiti artist and I made a small connection.

As for the hunk part? The yearbook photographer is likely a “hunka hunka burning love.”

MORZANT: On a side note, I understand your husband is a photographer. I feel foolish asking, as the odds of an affirmative answer are essentially astronomical, but has he ever successfully photographed Bigfoot?

KA: My hubby was a professional photographer for several years. He’s not in that business any longer. He mostly took photos of weddings, so unless Bigfoot got married, I doubt Ken took his photo.

MORZANT: No, Bigfoot is a bachelor. I wonder if your husband has any theories as to what might be causing Bigfoot’s photography impediment? I’m at a standstill in my research and I’m willing to entertain any suggestions.

KA: Like most of us, Bigfoot probably just doesn’t think that having a portrait made is all that much fun. Plus, he’s probably sick of the paparazzi!

MORZANT: If only the answer were so simple. But I mustn’t dwell on the cause of his blurry photographs now. Let’s get back to you and your books. You’ve written about dogs, cats, bats, bears, pigs, crows, seagulls, horses, and elephants. Furthermore, in answer to a reader who inquired as to why you included crabs in your middle grade novel KEEPER, you stated in a video on your blog that you feel crabs have received short shrift in literature. I feel gastropods are similarly ignored. Have you ever considered writing about them? Earth readers have been deprived of a gastropod book for far too long. Would you consider filling this gross literary void with a well-researched tome, or even a poem?

KA: Excuse me, but perhaps you have never read SOME SMUG SLUG, by Pamela Duncan Edwards? Or THE AMAZING TRAIL OF SEYMOUR SNAIL, by Lynn E. Hazen? It’s not gastropods who are underrepresented in literary letters. It’s squids. With the exception of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, in what tome can you find a squid in the role of hero?

MORZANT: I’m not familiar with either of those gastropod books, but you can be sure that I will be soon. Thank you for informing me about them. I shall pursue your theory about squid books. If true, that does seem a shameful oversight.

I noticed that many of your characters dance: the bats in BATS AROUND THE CLOCK, the cats in THE ALLEY CAT’S MEOW, and the pigs in PIGGIES IN A POLKA. I don’t have a question regarding this. I merely thought it was worth mentioning.


MORZANT: Indeed I did. I also neglected to mention TODDLER TWO-STEP and RAIN DANCE. It’s fascinating that dancing recurs so frequently in your work. Is that a reflection from your life?

KA: Hah! I only dance in my imagination, and okay, also when I drink.

MORZANT: I wasn’t aware of a connection between rhythmic movement and hydration in human physiology. It seems I’ll never learn all there is to know about Earth and its inhabitants.

Several months ago the Cryptid Book Club discussed KEEPER, a book in which there are mermaids. During that meeting, and since, I’ve been widely criticized by my friends for monopolizing the meeting with my questions about which creatures exist on your planet and which do not. My friends entertained themselves by providing me with spurious answers. Can you please tell me if are mermaids real? If so, have you ever met one?

KA: Of course mermaids are real. You can see them up close and personal at Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida. If you sign up early, you can even attend Mermaid Camp.

Have I ever met one? Did I meet my grandmother?

MORZANT: I recently learned how to recognize a rhetorical question and I believe I’ve spotted one here. You mean to say that you most assuredly have met your grandmother. Furthermore, she was a mermaid. This means I now have confirmation independent of my jokester comrades that mermaids do indeed exist. Truly fascinating. I intend to travel to Florida at the earliest opportunity to attend Mermaid Camp. I assume the mermaids there will take me canoeing and teach me how to make lanyards.

KA: They will probably also let you in on the secrets of opening oysters with your jaws.

MORZANT: Oh, dear. I trust the oysters are willing participants in that activity. In any case, Zeentonians don’t have jawbones. During that lesson I’ll take a hike or compose a campfire song. Maybe Oliver will let me bring his ukulele with me. Ever since Bigfoot read KEEPER to Oliver, Oliver has wanted to learn to play the ukulele like Dogie can. He’s had some difficulty strumming the ukulele with his paws, but he’s a persistent puppy. I have no doubt he’ll master it eventually. Do you know how to play any instruments?

KA: I played the flute when I was in high school, but now I just play the radio. I’m good at that.

MORZANT: In my research for this interview I discovered that as a child, your best friend was an imaginary horse. Have you kept in touch through the years? If you had a falling out, I’ll understand if this is a painful subject you’d rather not discuss.

KA: Yes, my imaginary horse’s name was Olaf. I haven’t seen him in years, ever since he galloped off to his imaginary pasture and joined up with the imaginary herd.

MORZANT: I also learned that you live in Texas, in the United States of America. Norman informed me that most Texans have at least two pet armadillos. How many do you have and do you find that they snore loudly?

KA: I have lost count of the armadillos. They don’t snore, but even if they did it wouldn’t matter because they sleep during the day and so don’t bother me.

MORZANT: As I’m sure you’re aware, Texas airspace is heavily trafficked by extraterrestrial craft. Have you ever seen what your people call “UFOs”? For the record, I have nothing to do with exsanguinated livestock.

KA: Ask me about my sister’s abduction.

MORZANT: Please, do tell.

KA: Well, the sister who had Christmas dinner with me swears that aliens picked her up. I’m still waiting for them to return my real sister.

MORZANT: I must tell you that your sister is having fun at your expense. Extraterrestrials have been known to give a human or two a tour of their spacecraft or a lift to the post office, but the concept of alien abductions is a human invention. One moment. It occurs to me that your sister isn’t the teaser, but rather it is you who are teasing me. You did confess earlier, did you not, that it’s your prerogative as a human to, how did you phrase it—to “make stuff up”? I hope it’s not rude for me to admit that I’m suspicious of virtually everything you’ve said today.

My final question is one better suited to your now obvious playful inclinations. I’ve become intrigued by the notion of hypothetical questions and I’d like to ask you one now based on a creative writing prompt from POEMS FROM HOMEROOM in which you set forth a scenario whereby one may bring three companions with them to a deserted island. My question for you is, which three cryptids would you bring with you on an all-expenses paid (by you) trip to Hawaii?

KA: For sure, no zombies. But Sasquatch would be fun to meet. And Nessie too. I think Pan would make a good traveling partner.

MORZANT: Bigfoot informed me there are no such things as zombies, so you needn’t worry about a zombie disrupting any luaus you attend. Bigfoot and Penny might be a bit disappointed that you’d pass over their company for Bigfoot’s Canadian cousin and Penny’s great uncle Bill’s ex-girlfriend. Not to be immodest, but I’d be a superior traveling companion to any of your choices. I’m a delightful conversationalist, which helps pass the time at airports, I pack lightly, and I usually have stretchy foods on hand for snacking. But I harbor no resentment toward you for not inviting me on this hypothetical vacation. Instead, let me thank you for sharing your time and writing insights with me and the BIGFOOT READS audience.

KA: I was actually planning to put you all in my suitcase. That way it’s only $25 for your airfare. (Can I just say that I’m relieved about the whole zombie thing? Whew!)

MORZANT: As I suspected. You’re as much of a kidder as Norman. Although, might I add, a much better writer.

Good-bye for now, humans. To keep you busy until we meet again, might I suggest you read some of Kathi Appelt’s wonderful, and sometimes mermaid-filled, books. Here’s a sampling of her work:



(illustrated by Keith Baker/Harcourt, 1993)


(illustrated by Neil Waldman/HarperCollins, 1995)


(illustrated by Dale Gottlieb/Henry Holt, 1996)


(illustrated by Melissa Sweet/HarperCollins, 1998)


(illustrated by Ward Schumaker/HarperFestival-HarperCollins, 2000)


(illustrated by Emilie Chollat/HarperFestival-HarperCollins, 2001)


(illustrated by Jon Goodell/Harcourt, 2002)


(illustrated by Arthur Howard/Harcourt, 2002)


(illustrated by LeUyen Pham/Harcourt, 2003)


(illustrated by JOY FISHER HEIN/HarperCollins, 2005)



(co-authored with Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer/HarperCollins, 2001)


(with illustrations by David Small/Atheneum-Simon & Schuster, 2008)


(with illustrations by August Hall/Atheneum-Simon & Schuster, 2010)



(Harcourt, 2000)


(Henry Holt, 2002)


(Henry Holt, 2004)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Briar’s Journal (January 17 to February 1, 2011)

Dream Entry*

Date: May 7, 2004

Bigfoot throws an orange frisbee. It’s rubbery. I watch it wobble as it sails away.

“What are you waiting for?” Bigfoot says to me. “Fetch!”

Of course I’m insulted. But when I look up at the frisbee, I see that it has transformed into a giant peanut butter cookie. Peanut butter cookies are my favorite, so I’m compelled to chase it.

The giant cookie keeps sailing and sailing. It’s not an especially windy day, so there’s no good reason the cookie hasn’t landed yet except that this is a dream. When I get close enough to grab it out of the air, the cookie turns back into an orange frisbee. As soon as I stop chasing the frisbee, it turns back into a cookie and I start to run after it again. This happens over and over. Eventually the cookie starts to mock me. It calls me “molasses mutt” and “Poky Little Puppy.” The angrier I get, the more the cookie jeers. I want to sink my teeth into that cookie so bad.

I lose sight of the cookie when it sails over a hill. Looking down from the top of the hill, I see the cookie has finally landed in a field of grass next to a proportionally large bowl of milk. Bigfoot is standing in the field beside an orange oven. He’s wearing an apron covered with peanut butter and flour. He beckons me with a spatula. I run to join him. While he’s bent over pulling a tray out of the oven, I chomp down on the mean cookie. My mouth fills with paper. I look at the cookie to see what’s wrong with it. It’s not a cookie at all. It’s a book.

“I didn’t bake that for you,” Bigfoot says. “That’s for Penny.”

He’s holding a tray. On the tray is a thick and steaming hot book.

“Bookies are best straight from the oven, don’t you think?” he says.

Then he points beyond the orange oven to books stacked on oversized plates. Next to each plate is an oversized glass of milk and a place card. I examine each stack hoping to find a peanut butter cookie, but I wake up before I do.

On BIGFOOT’s plate:


by Brendan Halpin and Emily Franklin



February 1, 2011

BRASS MONKEYS by Terry Caszatt


Mackinac Island Press-Charlesbridge

February 1, 2011

On MORZANT’s plate:




January 17, 2011


illustrated by Nora Krug



January 20, 2011


illustrated by Wayne Geehan



February 1, 2011

On PENNY’s plate:

SUBJECT SEVEN by James A. Moore



January 20, 2011

DROUGHT by Pam Bachorz


Egmont USA

January 25, 2011

VESPER by Jeff Sampson


Balzar & Bray-HarperCollins

January 25, 2011



Farrar, Straus and Giroux

February 1, 2011

MIND GAP by Marina Cohen



February 1, 2011



Little, Brown-Hachette

FEBRUARY 1, 2011

On NORMAN’s plate:

THE RENDERING by Joel Naftali


Egmont USA

January 25, 2011

BONGO FISHING by Thatcher Hurd


Henry Holt

February 1, 2011



First Second-Roaring Brook

February 1, 2011

On BEVERLY’s plate:




January 20, 2011


illustrated by Michael Wertz


Tricycle Press-Random House

January 25, 2011

DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver



February 1, 2011

On OLIVER’s plate:


illustrated by Steve D’Amico



January 20, 2011



Atheneum-Simon & Schuster

January 25, 2011




January 25, 2011


illustrated by Jeff Mack


Paula Wiseman-Simon & Schuster

January 25, 2011

On LENNY’s plate:


illustrated by Lee Harper



February 1, 2011

RAJ, THE BOOKSTORE TIGER by Kathleen T. Pelley,

illustrated by Paige Keiser



February 1, 2011



Kids Can Press

February 1, 2011

On VIOLET’s plate:


illustrated by Jack E. Davis


Katherine Tegen-HarperCollins

January 25, 2011

I MUST HAVE BOBO! by Eileen Rosenthal,

illustrated by Marc Rosenthal


Atheneum-Simon & Schuster

January 25, 2011

A PET FOR PETUNIA by Paul Schmid



January 25, 2011

RIBBIT RABBIT by Candace Ryan, illustrated by Mike Lowery



February 1, 2011

* The dream entries from Briar’s journal contain premonitions of books that will be published in the future. Briar’s dream self foresees the books’ summaries and knows which will likely appeal to each of her friends. Briar always wakes up before she can see whether her friends will enjoy the books.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

CLEVER JACK TAKES THE CAKE by Candace Fleming, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (PICTURE BOOK)

A Book Recommendation by
Violet the Telekinetic Puppy

If you ever have a birthday party you should invite Jack. Jack gives the best presents. In CLEVER JACK TAKES THE CAKE (Schwartz & Wade-Random House, 2010) Jack takes a cake to the Princess’s birthday party.

At first when Jack gets invited to the Princess’s birthday party he doesn’t know what present he will give the Princess because he is poor and doesn’t have much to give. But Jack is clever and he comes up with a really clever present. He makes a special birthday cake to give to the Princess.

Jack is a really good baker and he works really hard and makes a really pretty cake. It has two layers and candles and “happy birthday” words and a giant strawberry on top. It’s so pretty you almost wouldn’t eat it but then you would because it’s a cake and cakes are for eating no matter how pretty they are. Jack has to walk a far way to the party and he is so excited the whole way to the party because he can’t wait to give the cake to the Princess.

But on the way to the Princess’s party Jack has lots of troubles. Blackbirds eat the “happy birthday” words and Jack has to pay a troll with one of the cake’s layers so that the troll will let Jack cross the bridge. Then Jack goes into a really dark and creepy woods and he has to use up the birthday candles so he can see where he is going. Then a dancing bear eats the rest of the cake because I guess dancing makes bears hungry. By the time Jack gets to the Princess’s party all that’s left of the pretty cake is the giant strawberry. Do you know what happens then? Jack finds out that the Princess is allergic to strawberries so he doesn’t have any birthday present at all to give to the Princess.

So Jack has no present for the Princess and everybody knows you have to bring a present to a birthday party especially if it’s a birthday party for a princess. Just when you think Jack isn’t going to have a present to give the Princess, he does. Jack ends up giving the Princess a present she likes better than all the other presents she gets. Do you want to know what the present is? You can beg all you want but I’m not going to tell you, even if today is your birthday. You’ll have to read CLEVER JACK TAKES THE CAKE yourself.

Here is a list of who will like this book:

Readers who like cake.

Readers who like good stories.

Readers who have birthdays.

The end. Good-bye.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rhetorical Question Versus Hypothetical Question

Tuesdays with Morzant:

Morzant Confesses an Error

MORZANT: Zulko, humans. Today I planned to interview Bigfoot, but instead I must use this time to correct an error I made in my last blog post. You may remember that I began a study of the bizarre Earth custom whereby one poses a question based on an improbable set of circumstances. I incorrectly referred to that type of question as “rhetorical” when it is actually “hypothetical.” I apologize for my ignorance of the intricacies of Earth discourse. Apparently when a rhetorical question is asked, the asker does not intend to receive an answer. Please don’t be offended, but sometimes Earth conventions make my brain hurt.

BIGFOOT: What made me think this interview wouldn’t be postponed? Again.

MORZANT: Probably your optimistic nature. I’m sorry, Bigfoot, but ever since I discovered my mistake, I’ve been impatient to correct myself publicly.

BIGFOOT: How could you not be?

MORZANT: Exactly. Although, I suppose I could have contented myself with editing the “Which Books From 2010 Would You Take With You to a Deserted Island?” post and changing all references to that question as “rhetorical” to “hypothetical.” However, that didn’t seem a sufficient act to repair my reputation as a conscientious researcher. I wanted to address this openly and immediately.

BIGFOOT: If not now, when?

MORZANT: Next Tuesday would have been the next opportunity, given that Tuesdays are my assigned days to contribute to the BIGFOOT READS blog. But I was too anxious to wait another week to clear the air.

BIGFOOT: Who could blame you?

MORZANT: Beverly, for one. Have you ever noticed how critical she can sometimes be? Bigfoot, I’m still concerned. What if our readers have lost all respect for me?

BIGFOOT: How could they not?

MORZANT: You’re right. A tad blunt perhaps, but I value your honesty. I need to find a way to rebuild their trust in me.

BIGFOOT: Could you obsess about this any more?

MORZANT: I imagine I could. Maybe if I dedicate the entirety of my future research efforts to the various kinds of questions used in Earth communication, our readers will eventually forget the blunder I made. Do you think that would help?

BIGFOOT: How should I know?

MORZANT: As a being from this planet, I’d have assumed you’d be familiar with the approximate duration of its inhabitants’ memory. You know, I can’t help but wonder why not one one of my friends corrected me as I continued to misuse the word “rhetorical” all through that post.

BIGFOOT: Are you looking at me?

MORZANT: Of course I’m looking at you. There’s nobody else here. Now that you mention it, though, I’m surprised Norman hasn’t made an appearance. He’s disrupted every other attempt I’ve made to interview you thus far. I guess he suspected I’d postpone the interview on my own.

BIGFOOT: So what?

MORZANT: Now that you know Norman is out to sabotage my attempt to interview you, we may be able to circumvent his tricks. Is there a reason you’re being so rude today, Bigfoot?

BIGFOOT: Do bats whistle in the dark?

MORZANT: I’m not certain. Bats do reside in dark places, but I doubt they possess the ability to whistle given that they—wait. Everything you’ve said to me today…have you been speaking solely in rhetorical questions?

BIGFOOT: You noticed that?

MORZANT: Yes. Tell me, does the fact that I supplied an answer to each of your questions negate their rhetorical nature? Or did the questions retain their rhetorical properties merely because you didn’t require a response?

BIGFOOT: What do you think?

MORZANT: I’ll need to contemplate that further. In the meantime, could you please promise that the next time I misuse a word, you’ll inform me so I can avoid appearing foolish?

BIGFOOT: What are friends for?

MORZANT: I’ll take that as a “yes.” I ask you, humans: Hasn’t this experience been illuminating? Good-bye for now.