Favorite Picture Books

A Twisted Tale!

According to (Creativity in the Class), Fractured fairy tales are a retelling of popular fairy tales but with changes to the characters, setting, or by changing the villain into the hero.

In fact, it was a fractured fairy tale at the book fair (when I was in third grade) that set me on a path forevermore to be in awe of picture books! That book was THE TRUE STORY OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS.

I was absolutely delighted how the author turned this story on its head and wrote Wolf as a misunderstood victim instead of a villain. And the illustrations portrayed the pigs as just plain wolfists who judged Wolf without really knowing him! So, Wolf didn’t even have a chance when he asked his pig neighbor for a cup of sugar to make his dear old granny a birthday cake and then accidentally sneezed and knocked the pig’s house down.

Later in life I came across this cute story: LITTLE RED WRITING. The characters are pencils and pens and the big bad wolf is a pencil sharpener!

After I became a parent, I had a blast reading SLEEPING CINDERELLA AND OTHER PRINCESS MIX-UPS with both of my girls! These characters rewrite their own stories to suit them much better :)

After I experienced a major bout of depression (after some eye health stuff), this book resonated with me very much… AFTER THE FALL: HOW HUMPTY DUMPTY GOT BACK UP AGAIN.

And one of my dearest book friends (Shelli R. Johannes) just released this STEM/STEAM genius- PENNY, THE ENGINEERING TALE OF THE FOURTH LITTLE PIG.

And one of my dearest book friends (Shelli R. Johannes) just released this STEM/STEAM genius- PENNY, THE ENGINEERING TALE OF THE FOURTH LITTLE PIG.

Shop these fractured fairy tales here on Bookshop.org! (Sleeping Cinderella is not available on Bookshop but is available on Amazon).

Fractured Fairy Tales in the Classroom for all ages

Rebecca Kraft Rector says, “A fun and useful skill taught as early as kindergarten is to compare (what’s the same?) and contrast (what’s different?) a fractured tale with the original tale. Children can compare/contrast characters, setting, themes, and even illustrations.”

Rebecca and I put together some fracture fairy tale lessons and activities in the Little Red and the Big Bad Editor – Educator’s Guide! These lessons can be tailored to Kindergarten up to higher elementary.

Gifting Books To Kids (the cool way) #2 – Halloween Edition!

I got a great response from my original post about “Gifting Books To Kids (the cool way)!” So, it gives me an excuse to put together and share more book/gift ideas – which makes me happy :) I hope it inspires you.

I love Halloween like a little kid. Nothing too scary, but everything else about it is SO MUCH FUN! So when I saw a couple Vampirina Ballerina books ($18 each) (illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators, Luyen Pham) in the bookstore, I grabbed them up! I found a headband ($2) that looked similar to Vampirina’s and a black tutu ($5) to go with it, a fun little make-up set ($3) and a plastic set of vampire teeth ($1). A $27 gift if you include one book or a $45 gift if you include two books :)

The next idea is very simple, inexpensive, and still lots of fun! “Boo!” by Leslie Patricelli ($8) is visual Halloween candy! I paired it with a couple of giant googly eyes ($2), a headband ($2), and 2 Cuties ($1) that I drew Jack-O-lantern faces on with a Sharpie. A $13 gift for a young Halloween lover!

I’d love to see or hear about what you come up with!

Happy Fall book gifting!


Gifting Books to Kids (the cool way :)

Filed under: Favorite Picture Books,Gifting Books | August 14, 2017

I have 2 little people running around here, so I feel like I know a little about how they react to the gift of a book and how their friends at birthday parties do too. 

I’ve given my kids, my family’s kids, and kid friends gifts over the years. And as a general observation in my small slice of life here in north Georgia, books don’t often get given at birthday parties. It sort of surprises me, because you’ll never hear – “My kids just have too many books.” Or “That book will just end up in a yard sale in a few months.” This is the stuff you will hear about toys though. And I love toys, don’t get me wrong- I’m worse than a kid at Christmas in a store’s toy section! But I think there’s a cool medium if you combine a book AND a toy into a little themed gift! Seems simple enough, but not many do it. Maybe because it takes a little extra thinking, and new books aren’t cheap, or maybe you think the kid will be disappointed when he/she unwraps a book, and maybe book choices are a personal thing? I get it. 

All I know is that my girls really enjoy picture books – even my seven year old. 

Author/illustrator, Kelly Light said, “Picture books are like an IMAX movie to a little kid.” And I agree!

Sure, you may not get the same huge reaction when your kid opens a book gift versus say … a drone or a Barbie pool, but I’d bet they will actually enjoy it longer and it will mean more to them in the short AND long term. Heck, it may even be the book that they remember after they grow up and share it with their own kids one day. It might be the book that makes them fall in love with stories, art, and words for a lifetime of adventure, learning, and thinking. Or it might just be a sweet story that they enjoy nestled in bed next to their mom or dad. Or they might just get lost looking at the pictures in wonder. Any of these is awesome, and that’s why I adore finding the perfect book for a kid and pairing a small toy along with it. It’s so fun!

More reasons why it’s cool to gift kid books:

  1. It puts a new book in the hands of a kid to keep forever.
  2. It supports authors, illustrators, agents, and publishers to make more books!
  3. If you buy at a brick and mortar store, it supports those bookstores or book sections in bigger stores. 
  4. You’ll find yourself knowing more about what’s out there in books currently. 
  5. You will be deemed “a great gift giver” by your circle :)

Typically, I prefer modern kid books over dated ones or classics. Current kid books are better tailored to the modern kid and the world they live in. But this is just from my personal opinion and experience. It really depends on the kid you are buying for. Always think of the kid first!

Here are a couple book gift ideas (Under $25) that my girls helped me come up with. These ideas are on the girly side for sure but I’ll mix it up as I post more :)

  1. The first is hot off the press! Tea with Oliver by Mika Song and a tea set. My husband found this tea set at Walmart for $5. Can’t beat that!
    $18 book + $5 tea set = $23 sweet as pie gift!

         2. This one is from author-illustrator, Samantha Cotterill. No More Bows is a winner in our house! And paired with a toy puppy covered in hair bows that she can use on her hair too is so much fun!
$18 book + $5 toy + $2 bow set = $25 cute gift!

So when you have a kid gift to buy, I challenge you to try giving a book gift (the cool way :) I’d love to see or hear about what YOU come up with!

Don’t Stop Making Picture Books for (Big) Kids

Filed under: Favorite Picture Books,Growing Up Reading | September 29, 2015

Anyone in the know about modern picture books and the market would tell you that the majority of picture books are increasingly geared to a younger and younger audience as chapter books are expected to be a part of a child’s life sooner than ever before. But I’m here to tell you (as the mother of a bright kindergartener) that this may be a mistake.

My 5 year-old daughter can appreciate reading a chapter or two per night of “James and the Giant Peach,” but it just breaks her heart if we don’t also read one or two picture books. She still lights up as those page turns unfold and the pictures tell a different story that’s not always mentioned in the text.

Picture books are a sweet part of her childhood. I don’t want to take that away too soon. Or ever for that matter. They grow up quickly enough. I want the fun to stay. Sure, we’ll finish “James and the Giant Peach” and I’m sure we’ll remember it fondly, but I’m not going to rush into another chapter book just yet.

Me and my girl have had 5 years of wonderful adventures together through picture books! Here are some of our recent favorites that are especially great for (bigger) kids:







“Chloe and the Lion” by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex








“Super Hair-O and the Barber of Doom” by John Rocco


ladybug purple






Any in the Lady Bug Girl adventures or Pinkalicious series








“Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great” by Bob Shea


carrots monster






“Creepy Carrots” and “My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.)” by Peter Brown








“Sam and Dave Dig a Hole” by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen







“Sleeping Cinderella and other Princess Mix-ups” by Stephanie Clarkson, illustrated by Bridgette Barrager


rosie iggy






“Iggy Peck Architect” and “Rosie Revere Engineer” by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts


So, Publishers, please keep making picture books for my (big) kid, and we’ll keep reading them!



PB&P: “Ladybug Girl and the Dress-up Dilemma” and make a silly skeleton!

Ladybug Girl and the Dress-up Dilemma

They’ve done it again! The husband and wife picture book team, David Soman and Jacky Davis, bring us another flipping BEAUTIFUL and thoughtful book to add to the Ladybug Girl series.

Lulu is sure of what she wants to be for Halloween… or is she? Time is running out and she is out with her family picking apples. Then something happens to remind Lulu of what she knew all along- who she is and what she wants to be for Halloween!

All the books in the Ladybug Girl series are on the longer side compared to most modern picture books, but I think it’s a good thing for kids’ attention spans to be challenged to stretch. It is written well, so you and your kiddo will barely even notice the longer format. My girl loves every second I read these books to her!

And here’s a little SILLY SKELETON you can make!

Skeleton Craft by Shanda McCloskey

1. Download and print the sheet of bones (above) onto white card stock.

2. Have a parent help cut out all the bones.

3. Watch HJ’s demonstration here:

Kids can glue them together in a silly pose. (Use brads or string at the joints if you want the legs and arms to move.)

4. Hang it up for Halloween!


Happy Halloween from Shanda and HJ!

Laney and "Creepy" the dancing skeleton with a big heart! Great job!

Laney and “Creepy” the dancing skeleton with a big heart! Great job!

A Picture Book & A Project: “Little Red Writing” and Pencil People!

"Little Red Writing" by Joan Holub, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

“Little Red Writing” by Joan Holub, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Isn’t this a cute gift idea for a kid?! I wish we had a birthday party to go so I could give this :) Valentine’s Day is coming up, too. Not bad for a $22 surprise. I found the pencil toppers and pencils in the dollar section at Target, the composition book at the grocery store, and the book at the bookstore.

Okay, back to the picture book and project!

One day, Little Red and her classmates get to write their own stories. As Little Red begins to write, she finds that there are many challenges she has to overcome to make an exciting story. She even has to face a scary pencil sharpener with quite big teeth!

Photo Feb 08, 10 12 56 AM

Photo Feb 08, 10 11 29 AM

Shanda: This book had me at Melissa Sweet- one of my favorite illustrators! And she does not disappoint! Of course I also can relate to the perils of writing a story. There are many layers to this book, so that kids of ALL ages can enjoy it. HJ is 3 years old, and she loved the excitement of the story. Older kids can really see nouns, adjectives, adverbs, EXCLAMATIONS!, and run-on sentences come to life. This would be fantastic to use in a classroom before a writing challenge.

HJ: It’s really awesome when the mean wolf came! (She likes to say the “GRRRRR!” parts.)

Photo Feb 08, 10 10 56 AM

The project for older kids: Write you own story (with illustrations) in your very own composition book, just like Little Red!

The project for younger kids: Attempt to write your own story in your own composition book, just like Little Red! I think HJ enjoyed just playing with the pencil people best :)

Photo Feb 08, 10 13 57 AM

She started off saying she was writing a SCARY story!

Photo Feb 08, 10 14 02 AM

Busy, busy! But in the end, things got epic when some of the pencil people took something from the other pencil people…

Thanks for stopping by! This post is dedicated to the new life and new story of Ellie Pearl Jones! Born yesterday! (She’s the daughter of my cousin, who is really like a sister to me :)

Also, sorry I haven’t posted in quite a while. I’ll tell you why soon…

Shanda & HJ

A Picture Book & A Project: “The Day the Crayons Quit” and recycling crayons!

Cover from "The Day the Crayons Quit" by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by oliver Jeffers

Cover from “The Day the Crayons Quit” by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

I’ve never given much thought to how I treated my crayons when I was a kid…. but now I know… crayons are people too! I’m glad they finally spoke up :)

SHANDA: I love this book SO much! It really brought me back to when I was a kid! I felt like the Critic on Ratatouille when he tastes the food at the end, and it takes him all the way back to his childhood :) There’s plenty to laugh about in this book too! HJ and I could be kids together for a few minutes! Great job Mr. Daywalt and Mr. Jeffers!

HJ: She cracked up when Peach Crayon wouldn’t leave the box because he was naked :)



So we made a whole bunch of old naked crayons for our project…

photo 1

photo 2

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Then we broke them into small pieces and divided them into the spaces of an oven safe mold. *Note- SCRATCH the paper cups you see in the photo. It works better without them. Also, they would turn out much cuter than ours did if you used a silicone candy mold that had cute shapes like flowers or something. Melt them in the oven at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes.

photo 4

Then allow them to cool completely, and use a knife to “pop” them out!

We bagged some up for church (for HJ and her cousin, Laney :)

Happy considerate coloring!

A Picture Book & A Project: “I’m Bored” and how NOT to be bored with a potato!

"I'm Bored" by Michael Ian Black, Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012

“I’m Bored” by Michael Ian Black, Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012

This kid is so bored she starts talking to a potato that thinks SHE is boring! So, she has to set the record straight: Potatoes are boring and kids can do ANYTHING!

SHANDA: I am taken with these cute, yet wild illustrations! And I love the illustrator’s success story. She really thought she was more of a writer, but was discovered big time at an SCBWI portfolio showcase!

HJ: (She likes to say “I’m bored” in a potatoey voice). If you can imagine that.

Now, grab a potato, a parent, a knife, paint, and paper! The best way NOT to be bored with a potato is to make potato stamps! Have fun!


Here’s a great link to show parents how to cut a potato stamp!





We made a gift bag with our stamps… but kids can think of lots of cool stuff to decorate! What can you come up with?


A Picture Book & A Project: “Little Mouse” and drawing a mouse!

Sometimes your mommy might call you her little mouse, but that’s silly because you’re probably nothing like a mouse at all!

"Little Mouse" by Alison Murray DISNEY HYPERION BOOKS, 2013

“Little Mouse” by Alison Murray

SHANDA: I have been hungry for a new book! So, I let myself walk into a bookstore and judge the books by their covers, literally! I didn’t read this before I bought it. I just loved the art, and took it home :) Lucky for me, the writing is lovely too. It’s really a book of comparisons and what animals you might be similar to. I am drawn to the color palette, lines, and shapes this illustrator uses. My favorite page is the precious hug at the end. The simplicity isn’t too simple for me. This is the sweet spot I’d like to find in my own work.

HJ: I like this book because I’m not like a mouse either!

 Final mouse drawing :)

Here’s the project… Learn to draw a mouse on your own! Watch the video below…


How to draw a mouse: tutorial by a 3-year-old from Shanda on Vimeo.

PB&P: “The Paper Bag Princess” and paper bag fashion design!

A Picture Book & A Project: "The Paper Bag Princess" written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko and paper bag fashion design!

A Picture Book & A Project: “The Paper Bag Princess” written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko and paper bag fashion design!

Elizabeth was a beautiful princess about to marry a handsome prince, then one day a dragon ruined everything… or so she thought. The tragedy taught Elizabeth how to spot a bum… and just in time!

"The Paper Bag Princess" written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko ANNICK PRESS, Seventieth printing, 2012

“The Paper Bag Princess” written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
ANNICK PRESS, Seventieth printing, 2012

SHANDA: This book was sent to HJ by some NYC friends. No wonder this book is a classic! The story is super fun and packed with a very important life lesson about the danger and stupidity of being in love with one’s image whether it be a forest-burning dragon or a royal prince or princess. The art has a nostalgic look for me (from the 80’s). It’s funny, unreal, and too real all at the same time. Great for young and older kids. HJ ALWAYS says “AGAIN!”

HJ: I like her paper bag, because I love it!

Image from "The Paper Bag Princess"

Image from “The Paper Bag Princess”


Now let’s embark on some paper bag fashion design! You’ll need: large paper bag, small paper bags, markers, sticky rhine stones, scissors, dolls to dress.



Step 1: Cut holes in paper bags for head and arms.

photo 3

photo 2

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Step 2: Design your paper bag princess dresses however your heart desires.

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Step 3: Try them on and play!

photo 1 copy

photo 2 copy


This project could be made more complex for older kids with trimmings, belts, beads, tiaras, etc. Let them get as creative as they want. Happy fashion designing! (I would love to get photo emails from kids who enjoyed this project :) For more books and projects visit “A Picture Book & A Project” category.


Shanda and HJ


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Shanda McCloskey, Children's Illustrator & Author