Tim Hamilton

Ages 4-8 Review by Tim Hamilton What child hasn't watched dad shave off his daily whiskers, mustache, or beard and wonder where it went? In David Schiller's new book, The Runaway Beard, this is exactly how the story begins. Dad has finally decided to shave off his beard. The children (a boy and a girl) are watching as Dad lifts his razor and the beard escapes. The Beard leaps to the nearest chin, which just happens to be the baby's. Mom screams, and the Beard flees to the outdoors.

That night, the Beard signals the boy through the window. The boy lets the Beard inside, and they become friends. The next morning, they sneak off to school together. The boy, of course, is wearing the Beard. The kids on the bus snicker. (As did the children to whom I read the story!) At school, the principal tells the boy to get rid of it. The Beard then becomes a doll dress, a flower in a vase, a furry toilet seat, and even whiskers on the Mona Lisa's face.

The Beard just can't get comfortable. The children find the Beard hiding in the basement and decide to think of a way to solve their new friend's problem. It just so happens that the children's Uncle comes for a visit, and of course he's bald. The children follow their Uncle home and wave good-bye to the Beard. The next morning, Uncle wakes up to a full head of hair. He thinks his Hair Tonic has finally worked! Marc Rosenthal's comic illustrations add to the zany fun of this book, which comes with a fake beard nestled in the cover. What will happen the next time Dad grows a Beard and decides to shave it off?

Ages 4-8 Review by Tim Hamilton What child hasn't watched dad shave off his daily whiskers, mustache, or beard and wonder where it went? In David Schiller's new book, The Runaway Beard, this is exactly how the story begins. Dad has finally decided to shave off his beard. The children (a boy and a girl) […]

James Howe is known for creating wonderful characters; his latest book, Horace and Morris But Mostly Dolores is no exception. Three mice named Horace, Morris, and Dolores are the best of friends and just happen to do everything together. Their adventures, like sailing the seven sewers and climbing Mount Ever-Rust, know no boundaries. They are the forever friends. That is, until Horace and Morris decide to join the Mega-Mice Club, which just happens to be a no-girls-allowed club.

Dolores is downhearted, and decides to join The Cheese Puffs (an all-girls club). She finds out right away that seminars on how to snag a fella using Mozzarella and making gifts out of Muenster cheese are not for her. She suggests that the Puffs go exploring or build a Roque-fort. The other girls just boo! Dolores decides she misses her old friends Horace and Morris, and quits the Cheese Puffs. Another Puff member named Chloris decides she will quit also. Dolores and Chloris stop by the clubhouse of the Mega-Mice and ask if anyone wants to go exploring. There are no takers, except (guess who?) Horace and Morris and another boy mouse named Borris. The five friends go exploring and form their own club where everyone is allowed.

James Howe has given us a story that children can easily identify with, and Amy Walrod's vibrant collage and acrylic illustrations are a perfect match to Howe's story. After reading this story with my children, they wanted to go exploring, build clubhouses, and pretend to be Horace and Morris but mostly Dolores.

Tim Hamilton is a first and second grade teacher in Hermitage, Tennessee.

James Howe is known for creating wonderful characters; his latest book, Horace and Morris But Mostly Dolores is no exception. Three mice named Horace, Morris, and Dolores are the best of friends and just happen to do everything together. Their adventures, like sailing the seven sewers and climbing Mount Ever-Rust, know no boundaries. They are […]

It only takes a glance at any child's bright eyes to know that it is Christmastime again. This wonderful time of year brings with it some remarkable new holiday books. One of the year's standouts is Audrey and Bruce Wood's The Christmas Adventure of Space Elf Sam. Audrey Wood (The Napping House, Silly Sally, Sweet Dream Pie) teams with her son Bruce to create a treat for young and old alike.

Audrey wrote the story, and Bruce, a fifth-generation artist, joins the family tradition and illustrates his first picture book. A true family collaboration, the book took over two years to create. Don Wood (The Napping House, King Bidgood's in the Bathtub), Bruce's Dad and Audrey's husband, served as the art director for the book. The Christmas Adventure of Space Elf Sam (ages 4-8) is unparalleled in children's books. It is the first children's picture book illustrated using the complicated 3-D sculpting software on a very powerful computer. This same software is used to create the special effects for many high-tech movies.

As I shared this new wonder with children, their faces lit up like Christmas trees, and I saw that wide-eyed joy that only Santa Claus or a wonderful Christmas book can bring. In this story, Santa and his reindeer need help delivering presents to children that live in space colonies. Santa can't possibly fly his sleigh into outer space, so he opens a Space Elf Christmas Academy to train elves to take presents throughout the galaxy. Space Elf Sam, a student at the Academy, graduates with honors. His first mission is to take Christmas presents to the boys and girls who live at the new space colony Alpha One. Sam loads his sleigh at the North Pole and begins his journey.

A small comet strikes his sleigh, and Sam has to crash-land on the unexplored planet of Gom, where he meets little green aliens called Gommers. After Sam is taken prisoner, he introduces the Gommers to the Christmas spirit and learns that the happiness he brings to others is the most wonderful gift he can give. The illustrations are unique; my children were so caught up in this wonderful tale, they felt as if they actually visited a faraway planet!

BookPage recently sat down with Audrey and Bruce Wood and chatted about their new book and how they have celebrated Christmas at their house (The Napping House) over the years.

Where did the idea of for Space Elf Sam come from?
Audey Wood: When Bruce was four years old, he received a Moon Base Alpha Space Ship as a present. He played with it all Christmas Day. When I was tucking him in on Christmas night, he had his spaceship under his arm. He asked me, If we lived on the moon, would Santa come there, too? I wrote down what Bruce said and put it in my idea box. My idea box is full of information that I have collected over many years. I put anything in it that I think might lead to an idea for a story.

A good number of years passed, and I was visiting Bruce in San Francisco. He was studying computer animation at the San Francisco State Multimedia Center. I learned that he had been commissioned to illustrate a number of book covers. When I got my first look at his work, it was my first introduction to three-dimensional art created on the computer. I thought about the vibrant work he was doing. I knew children would like it. I told Bruce this, and he said if I had a good story, he would like to illustrate it. That's when I went to my idea box and pulled out the note about Santa and delivering presents to the moon. I worked on the story and then delivered the first draft to Bruce.

How long did it take to illustrate?
Bruce Wood: It took about two and a half years to complete the illustrations. Working with 3-D sculpting software is very complex. This is the first picture book illustrated with illustrations of this kind.

What is Christmas like at the Wood's House?
AW: We decorate the entire house. We still use all of the ornaments that Bruce made as a child and others we've made through the years. We drive around and look at the lights and go caroling. One year we had a Victorian Christmas, and all of the relatives came in costume. We always read The Night before Christmas on Christmas Eve.

BW: Being an only child, there were always a lot of presents. We would all hang up our stockings. We even hang up stockings for our pets bird, cat, tortoise, and even Tugford the Mouse. My mom even brought our collection of porcelain Santas to my office when I was working on illustrations for The Christmas Adventure of Space Elf Sam.

We hope the Wood family has a lot more gifts in store for us in the future. Merry Christmas!

Tim Hamilton is a first and second grade teacher in Nashville, Tennessee.

It only takes a glance at any child's bright eyes to know that it is Christmastime again. This wonderful time of year brings with it some remarkable new holiday books. One of the year's standouts is Audrey and Bruce Wood's The Christmas Adventure of Space Elf Sam. Audrey Wood (The Napping House, Silly Sally, Sweet […]

Complied by Paul Janeczko, Very Best (almost) Friends is a wonderful book of poems for friends of all ages. The poems in this treasury are as varied as a circle of friends. Some of the poems are humorous, while others tug at the heart. This collection, written by some of today's best-known poets and authors, was chosen with a meticulous eye and ear. Open this book and find gems like "Friendship" by Walter Dean Myers. In this poem he describes the special thread that makes two friends. There is also the funny "Another Poem to Send to Your Worst Enemy" by Colin McNaughton. In this poem one friend is calling the other names like "flat-foot-duck-toed-knocked-kneed-sweat"! Also included: "Finding a Way" by Myra Cohn Livingston, "Jim" by Gwendolyn Brooks, and "To You" by Karla Kushkin.

Other poets featured include Charlotte Zolotow, John Ciardi, Betsy Hearne, Nikki Grimes, Jeane Steig, and Judith Viorst.

The addition of Christine Davenier's lively watercolor illustrations alongside each poem brings an overall beauty to the book. A powerful book for the ear and eye, Very Best (almost) Friends makes a perfect gift for that special little — or big — friend in your life.

Complied by Paul Janeczko, Very Best (almost) Friends is a wonderful book of poems for friends of all ages. The poems in this treasury are as varied as a circle of friends. Some of the poems are humorous, while others tug at the heart. This collection, written by some of today's best-known poets and authors, […]

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