• Picturebooking Prof

What We're Reading, July 2019

Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons

There Was a Bold Lady Who Wanted a Star

Big Truck and Little Truck

Okay, I really can’t believe that we’re already more than half-way through July. This summer is flying by, as they always do, and with all of our travels I have had to take a hiatus from posting as regularly as I usually do. We have a new batch of library books, though, so I wanted to take a few minutes to share the three favorites from our recent haul—those titles that I already have memorized, even though we’ve only had them 4 days!

You might notice that these are what might be considered more “classic” titles, as they were published ~15-20 years ago. I usually try to stick to more recent picks for these posts, but since these are so well-loved, I thought it a good opportunity to highlight some gems from years past. 😊

The three picks:

  • Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons (2006, Amy Krouse Rosenthal; Illustrated by Jane Dyer; Harper Collins)

  • There Was a Bold Lady Who Wanted a Star (2002, Charise Mericle Harper; Little, Brown and Company)

  • Big Truck and Little Truck (2000, Jan Carr; Illustrated by Ivan Bates; Scholastic)

Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons (2006)

I’m actually surprised that this book has risen to the top, since it is so in-your-face with “lessons.” The general wisdom I’ve heard as an aspiring author is to absolutely avoid overt “lessons” in stories, as they are a turn-off for kids. Well somehow, this book does the lesson thing unabashedly and still manages to be the first one picked to read each night before bed.

The approach? COOKIES! By presenting lessons in the context of cookie-themed vignettes, the author presents enough of a story to hook the kids while also imparting important truths. As a psychologist, it makes sense that one of my favorites is the spread that includes “OPTIMISTIC” and “PESSIMISTIC”—PESSIMISTIC means, “How awful, how absolutely dreadful—I have only half my cookie left.” OPTIMISTIC means, “This is great—I still have half my cookie left.” My gerontologist side also really appreciated the final “lesson”: WISE means, “I used to think I knew everything about cookies, but now I realize I know about one teeny chip’s worth.” This rings true not only in general, but also in my career (the more “expert” I become in my field, the more I realize I don’t know) and in my children’s writing (as soon as I think I’ve got a handle on this whole business, I realize there is something else I had no clue about!).

These “lessons” are paired with lovely watercolor illustrations that feature children alongside various animals—sometimes whimsical, sometimes a bit odd (the horse walking upright in a trench coat was interesting), but always engaging to my littles, and always illustrative of the concept at hand. Hey, how can I argue with a book that teaches my little ones about cooperation, generosity, honesty, and loyalty? Sure, I’ll read it again, honey.

There Was a Bold Lady Who Wanted a Star (2002)

As the title makes clear, this pick is a twist on the classic “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” pattern, but with a little more of a story to tell. My son picked it out because of the rocket on the cover, but he keeps reaching for it because of the fun illustrations and the appealing idea of catching a star. Basically, this “Bold Lady” continually upgrades her mode of transportation (running shoes, skates, bike, car, plane, rocket) until she reaches her goal—pocketing a star. But why did she want a star? The last page reveals this bold lady presenting the star in a jar to her son, who loves space. Ah, what a mother won’t do for her kids, right? I appreciate the metaphor and my little guys enjoy the rhyme!

Big Truck and Little Truck (2000)

So this one’s the oldest of the bunch, but it’s also the favorite. It tells the story of a big truck and a little truck, which are presented in the vein of a father and child—the big truck teaches the little truck all he knows, and the little truck looks up to big truck and wants to be just like him. The story here is much wordier than would probably be acceptable in today’s publishing environment, but it flows well and is enjoyable to read aloud. The illustrations are sweet and nostalgic, hastening us back to a simpler life on a farm with hard-working people and hard-working trucks.

The theme of the book—a kind of “I did it!” anthem for little truck when big truck has to go away to get fixed—resonates with my 4-year-old, who is in that difficult in-between stage of not-a-baby but not-quite-a-big-boy. He tries so hard to be “big” and loves to help (or do it himself), and watching little truck learn and succeed on his own is something that he aspires to and connects with.

One of my favorite aspects of this book as an author is the sprinkling of alliterative phrases like “bushel baskets brimming with brussels sprouts” and the lyrical moments like “Big Truck was gleaming and Little Truck was beaming as their engines hummed happily together.” So lovely!


So that’s it! Although the Cookies book is the only one of the three titles still in print, these are definitely ones to add to the checkout list for the next time you’re at the library.

And yes, I feel very old referring to something from the year 2000 as “classic”—but since it was a time before TSA, smart phones, or Facebook, it really was a long time ago! Ah, the good old days of dial up internet, landline phones, and flying with a whole jar of peanut butter (that’s a story for another day)…

Happy reading, happy writing, and happy summer!


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