Monday, March 4, 2019

ReFoReMo Day 2: Literary Advocate Susannah Richards Shares Stellar Mentor Texts for Picture Book Creators


By Susannah Richards

Someone asks me what I do and I tell them that I am a professor of education who focuses on literacy and books for youth. They see me reading a galley of a novel, nonfiction or a picture book and they either tell me the books they loved as a child, share books their children love, or say that they have always wanted to write a book, maybe a picture book. Outside writing and publishing fields, there is a general assumption in the world that writing a picture book is easy. How hard could it be? They are usually only 32 pages and the entire text may only be one doubled–spaced typed page. Besides, what do kids know? It must be easy to write a story for kids.

NOT TRUE. Creating picture books is complex. 2019 ReFoReMo will overwhelm you with the variety, insightfulness, and potential of the picture book. So how do you begin to write a picture book, you begin by reading a LOT of picture books–the old, the new, the classic, those with and without words, those written by one person and illustrated by another, those written and illustrated by the same person, those true, those that pay an homage to stories that have been told before, and stories never told before. While this forum, generally focuses on recently published picture books, it is important to understand the picture book so if you have not read Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang and Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children's Picture Books by Uri Shulevitz, these are two good resources to help you start your journey or refine the route. Enjoy the road to picture book making. Read and read aloud. Write and revise. Share your work in critique groups, with children, and pay attention to the reactions–does it make someone laugh, cry, pay attention, and wonder why.

The following is a list of picture books I believe are ideal mentors for picture book creators but note that I could have chosen hundreds of other books, old and new, true and blue, but right now, at this time and under these circumstances, these are the books I want you to read, share, and value to help you believe that you can tell a story in a picture book form that others may one day add to their list of favorites.

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018) This book was bound to be a classic much like the classics that inspired it, The Ox–cart Man by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney (1979) and Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (1942). The first lines carry the reader to a place of comfort and exploration. "On the highest rock of a tiny island on the edge of the world stands a lighthouse. It was built to last forever. Sending light out to the sea, guiding ships on their way." With hope and storytelling Blackall transports the reader to the past but manages to make the reader feel like this is their story, a story of family and change and balancing the past and the future.







Thank You Omu by Oge Mora (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018). Mora does an excellent job inviting the reader into the story, setting the state of its location and then using text and language that makes the reader want to follow the scent and flavor of the stew. Each sentence is precise and yet elaborate. "She seasoned and stirred it and took a small taste."








There's a Wall in This Book by Jon Agee (Dial Books, 2018)–With perfect pacing and punch lines, the text and images are a just right combination to keep the reader turning the page. Brilliant use of the gutter.












Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet by Curtis Manley, illustrated by Jessica Lanan (Roaring Brook, 2019)–For this stellar informational text, beginning with just the right questions is the entry point of exploration. "When you look toward the starts, do you ever wonder if anyone is looking back? Is earth the only planet with intelligent life. Is it the only planet with life at all?" The difference that third question makes is out of this world. Manley whittles down the science of exoplanets for the novice in eloquent and rhythmical text.



Hammering for Freedom by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, illustrated by John Holyfield (Lee & Low, 2018)–When you find a story that has not been told but everyone should know, you have to do it justice and Hubbard sets a high bar in telling the story of a man who bought himself and his family out of slavery with persistence and care. Hubbard balances the facts and the story with persistence and care as well.



The Rough Patch by Brian Lies (Greenwillow, 2018)The emotions may have come before the text but Lies weaves the two together perfectly, without apology but with hope. It is a rare picture book that tackles stages of emotion with such effective text, images and storytelling.






The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol (Roaring Brook, 2019)–Irony does not always work in a picture book but it does here. "You are looking at the strongest guys in the whole forest. Down here. On this island." The images shows the guys as specks on the island and it works because of the irony and because of the direct voice talking to the reader. They may be little but when they cooperate they are strong.  



Fox + Chick: The Party by Sergio Ruzzier (Chronicle Books, 2018)–Two friends who are so different that the reader wonders why they are friends. Ruzzier creates a picture book, comic and early reader all in one without missing a page. Each speech balloon has sparse communications that work to illuminate the friendship with its simultaneous tension and love.






Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paola Escobar (HarperCollins, 2019)–Denise chose to begin this picture book biography of Pura Belpré when she traveled to New York and the whole text is a delightful jouney. Denise uses the metaphor of growing and planting stories with rhythmic storytelling. The text "Families come to hear folktales en ingles y español dance across the stage of her stories" is just one of many lines that demonstrates why Denise was the storyteller to tell the tale of this great journey.



Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall (Candlewick, 2017)–Risks. Life is filled with them and each one is a new challenge. Cornwall shares a small moment and a big success for a young boy who is not sure whether that high diving board is worth the risk. As a reader you can feel the emotions of hesitation and pride. Just before he jumped, "his toes curled around the rough edge" and you know that he is looking for comfort and security you have to turn the page for the surprise.





So there are 10 books not the most important 10 books but the just right for right now books. And there will be books to add to this list including The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (Balzar + Bray, forthcoming May 21, 2019)








Susannah is offering a 15 minute picture book consultation about an idea or a manuscript! To be eligible for prizes throughout the challenge, you must be registered by March 4, comment on each post, consistently read mentor texts, and enter the Rafflecopter drawing at the conclusion of ReFoReMo.

Susannah Richards is an associate professor of education at Eastern Connecticut State University where she teaches courses in English Language Arts methods and Children's and Young Adult Literature. She was a member of the 2013 John Newbery Award Committee, 2017 Geisel Award Committee, the inaugural Anna Dewdney Read Together Award, the Excellence in Graphic Literature Award (Children's Fiction), and other awards committees. She is an active advocate for books for youth and those who create them. She is a frequent speaker at state, national and international conferences where she has moderated panels and conversations with Norton Juster, Sophie Blackall, Sean Qualls, Brian Floca, Kevin Henkes, Candace Fleming, Eric Rohmann, Brian Lies, Laura Amy Schlitz, Sharon Creech, Vera Brosgol, Chris Van Allsburg, Hervé Tullet, Angela Dominguez, Melissa Sweet, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Jane Yolen, Katherine Applegate, Jason Chin, Ed Emberley and others. She has coordinated many literature related events including the Rhode Island Festival of Children's Books and Authors, the Silent Art Auction at BEA, and almost always says yes to bookety, bookety related projects.

199 comments:

  1. The artwork alone in Hello Lighthouse moved me deeply. I found it and the story hauntingly beautiful. I look forward to reading through these others. Thank you for your post!

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  2. I love Just Right. I think it is a great example of the author and the illustrator being "co-authors" of a picture book. Where the whole is greater than the parts. He does such a great job of making a complex science concept accessible for children. I was also moved by Hello Lighthouse and The Rough Patch. I am looking forward to examining the others, as well.

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  3. Thank you for these great stories a great cross section of different styles available to us writers. I hope to make your right for right now picture book list someday.

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  4. Thanks for sharing this lovely smorgasbord of delicious picture books.

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  5. A fantastic variety of texts to add to my reading list. Reading this post has made me realise I need to set aside regular times to go to the library and just read. Thank you.

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  6. What a wonderful list of mentor texts. Thank you for your explanation of what a picture book is — magical:)

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  7. Thank you for these recommendations.

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  8. Yes, most people have no idea what goes into (and doesn’t go into) a great PB! Thanks for the great examples!

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  9. Susannah, I was lucky enough to see & hear you a few years ago at a spring NESCBWI conference. Great list of your current recommendations. Love JABARI JUMPS and ROUGH PATCH but need to study them further.

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  10. Thank you for sharing this wonderful list. The opening of Hello Lighthouse is one of my favorites, right up there with Owl Moon.

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  11. Excellent list of mentor texts- great variety to check out and learn from. Thanks, Susannah!

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  12. What a great cross-section of what is being published right now. Can't wait to get my hands on Hello, Lighthouse (on hold at the library) and The Little Guys (my library does not even have yet!) Loved The Wall in the Middle of the Book and have read Jabari Jumps to my students several times. My six year old who is stealing all my Reforemo books liked Thank You Omu best.

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  13. Wonderful list of titles. Thank you for your perspective on what makes these books work.

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  14. Susannah, thanks for sharing this amazing list! As a professional in K-12 science, I was especially impressed by JUST RIGHT, and with how the illustrator added a character to the nonfiction text, which was spot-on. THE ROUGH PATCH also is a favorite; the combination of text and visuals communicates grief so clearly. And FOX AND CHICK will surely go down with FROG AND TOAD as a classic. Actually they're ALL great!

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  15. This post gives me so many things to think about. Mainly, what do I want to share, what is so important to me tha I have to write it? And what gift will that story give to the audience? Thank you.

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  16. I love the breadth of your list - I recently reviewed The Wall in the Middle of the Book, Thank You, Omu! and The Rough Patch. Very different picture books, but they're all perfect in many ways. Thanks for your insightful post!

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  17. Thank you for this wonderful list Susannah. I've been returning for ReFoReMo for several years now, and each year is better than the last. Such a thrill to see my own book on the list this year. It just doesn't get better than this! :D

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    1. And your book deserves to be on this list! LOVE it and my son Sammy was super interested and engaged when we read it this morning!

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    2. Thank you, Kirsti, that warms my heart! Thanks for all you and Carrie do. :)

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  18. Thank you so much for this post. I look forward to reading these books. One has even given me an idea for a story.

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  19. I am a children's librarian and a mother to two young kids. I read a LOT of picture books. And yet every time someone puts together a list of books, I find several that I haven't read yet. Thanks for your recommendations!!

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  20. What a great, diverse list of mentor texts. Thank you for the perfect post for today

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  21. What great choices of some really great now picture books. Thank you for your selections. I found each to be a gem of a books. Carole C.

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  22. Thank you! So many good ones on this list. I'M Anxious to get my hands on the ones I've not yet read.

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  23. This was a great list of books. I absolutely loved both The Rough Patch and Planting Stories. The latter to me is what a kid's NF bio should be like.

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  24. Refining my route, thanks to you, Susannah!

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  25. Thank you for this great list. I love how Jabari learns to overcome his fear and dives. I haven't yet read Lighthouse but the first lines you shared make me want to get it!

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  26. Great list, thank you! HAMMERING FOR FREEDOM made me cry.

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  27. Thank you for sharing some books that I haven't read. I look forward to checking them out at the library. I appreciate your comments.

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  28. I was surprised to find out that a lot of these titles were not in our library system. I’ve made requests!

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  29. I’ve only managed to get my hands on half of these through my library. I love having a to-be-read-when-I-can-find-it list. It’s like a treasure hunt with a great reward at the end. A lovely story.

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  30. All great books. THE WALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK surprises me with every rereading. Can't wait to get my hands on THE LITTLE GUYS.

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  31. Thank you for this great list. I LOVED Hello, Lighthouse. The words and art are beautiful. A truly moving book on all fronts.

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  32. Susannah, I love how you pointed out the rough patch in each one of these beautiful books. I will now go back to reread and study them again. Thank you!

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  33. Thanks so much for a list of books that are all so different from each other, yet all wonderful!

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  34. what great books.... still waiting for some to get to my library, but as Jessica said above, it's good to have a "to be read whenever I find it" book list! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on picture books and literacy.

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  35. Thanks for sharing such a varied list! The lines you quoted from HELLO LIGHTHOUSE are such perfect examples of lyrical text—just say them aloud!!

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  36. Thank you for the list of great books!

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  37. Exciting list! I can’t wait to read Just Right. Thank you.

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  38. Super list! I LOVE Hello, Lighthouse and The Rough Patch -- and I'm excited to dive into the books I haven't read yet -- thanks for sharing.

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  39. This post is full of wonderful mentor texts, some of which I'm fortunate to have in my own collection.

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  40. Thanks for the NF suggestions as well. I discovered HELLO, LIGHTHOUSE soon after it came out and LOVE the way it makes life in a lighthouse so accessible.

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  41. Hello, Lighthouse was a joy to read. How wonderful to learn it was inspired by two of my favorite classics! All three are timeless. Thank you for pointing us toward future favorites.

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  42. Thanks for sharing this stellar list! So true that THANK YOU, OMU! is such a warm and inviting story!

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  43. It is so true that a PB is harder to write. So few words to get the point across. Thanks for great examples.

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  44. What a wonderful list! I'm still waiting for a couple of the titles from my public library, but I loved the assortment of humor and serious, nonfiction and fiction. All of these books share heart and emotion, and one of my favorites is THE ROUGH PATCH. So powerful!

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  45. I've read most of the books you shared and they are indeed, very special. They each offer something to study and absorb.

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  46. Thank you, Susannah, for this comprehensive list. They show so many different ways to reach children.

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  47. I have read & love a few of these. Thank u for more suggestions of quality PBs

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  48. Thank you, Susannah, for this wonderful list of just right, right now mentor PBs.

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  49. I've read most of these titles, but there are a few I've yet to find. Thank you for your insights!

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  50. Susannah, thank you for this very special list of picture books to be used as mentor texts for picture book creators. Your summaries are very well written and inspire me to read and reread these books to help me become a better writer.

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  51. Such a wonderful insight into these amazing mentor texts. Enjoying reading and learning from them. Thanks

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  52. What a terrific list of mentor texts! I loved HELLO LIGHTHOUSE and am looking forward to reading PLANTING STORIES and JUST RIGHT.

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  53. Loved a bunch of these books! And I'm sure I will love the ones I have yet to get a hold of. I'm waiting for The Rough Patch. I've heard so much about it! Thank you!

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  54. Thanks for this list. So many amazing books. It's hard not to miss a few. Reforemo keeps me reading and learning!

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  55. Thanks for the wonderful list of mentor texts! Some of the newer ones, I'm still waiting to read.

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  56. Thank you for this great list of mentor texts and for the words of validation and encouragement!

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  57. Once again, a wonderful list of books to study and enjoy.

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  58. Loved the idea that even a picture book could show the entire life of the person in "Hammering for Freedom" and "Planting Stories". The comic book style of "Fox & Chick" worked so well to get their personalities across.

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  59. I love the list of mentor texts you have chosen. Thank you for sharing the insight and encouragement Susannah.

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  60. Mac did a book about Margaret Wise Brown???!!! What? Holy awesomeness.

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  61. Somehow my 12:16 post came across as unknown. It should have been from - Carol Cole.

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  62. Carving out 15 minutes a day to read my ReFoReMo posts is a little daily treat to look forward to. Love this list of inspirational texts! Read most but can't wait for The Rough Patch and the Little Guys... 2 we haven't yet got at our library.

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  63. I'm still waiting for a few titles to come in, but I love The Rough Patch and Hello Lighthouse! Wonderful books. I also love advocating books and literacy for young readers. Thanks for sharing these great titles. :)

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  64. Thank you for introducing all these beutiful books. I loved Hello, Lighthouse (such gorgeous illustrations) and The Wall In the Middle of the Book (such simple language and story for such a huge and meaningful topic).

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  65. Thank you, Susannah. I love you choices and your insight.

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  66. Thank you, Susannah, for such great advice, and great recommendations. Nice to read and reread with a more nuanced eye.

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  67. Thank you so much for these recommendations!

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  68. Can’t wait to get started on those titles. Thanks. Barb

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  69. I enjoyed the books that you suggested, particularly Hello Lighthouse. Thanks for the great post!

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  70. I am reading these out loud (to myself) and enjoying them, but also studying them, which I've never done before. Thank you! Jon Agee's book makes me want to read his others and I can't stop looking at the illustrations in Hello Lighthouse.

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  71. Great list! I can’t wait to dive in.

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  72. I love the two lines you chose to highlight in Hello Lighthouse and Thank you, Omu! I have copied out both to re-read throughout the day. Thank you for the wonderful selection and thoughtful points about each book.

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  73. I was not familiar with most of these, but your information on each draws me into the story and makes we want to read them all. Thanks for such a great list.

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  74. I loved this selection of books. Hello Lighthouse filled me with nostalgia and longing. I loved learning about Bill Lewis and his struggle and success at getting freedom for himself and his family.

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  75. Excited to explore the texts that you mention as being rhythmical. I need to figure that out. Thanks!

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  76. Terrific! And I'm really looking forward to the new book about Margaret Wise Brown.

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  77. Wonderful list of mentor texts! Thanks so much for this post!

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  78. Hello, Lighthouse is a work of art, as are others on this list. What a rich offering!

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  79. In the last few days I had the opportunity to listen to podcasts by Sophie Blackall and Brian Lies. Both were insightful and demonstrated just how deep you can take your reader with so few words. Great list! Thank you

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  80. Thank you, Susannah, for this amazing list of mentor texts-so much to study!

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  81. I was entranced by both "Rough Patch" & "Hello Lighthouse" In fact, I held onto "Lighthouse" for a few extra days, just to revel in the artwork (which I preferred to the actual text in this case). Haven't read "Wall" yet, but looking fwd to reading it, esp given public commentary on walls, of late!

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  82. These are all wonderful books/texts. I live near a (non-sounding) lighthouse on Martha's Vineyard, so Hello Lighthouse is a new favorite for many reasons! The story is developed with cleverly understated but definitely present emotions. Authentic life from the past is covered. The illustrations are exquisite and the About Lighthouses pages are a rich addition. WOW!

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  83. So many wonderful examples of the variety and importance of picture books. I could get lost in each of these books.

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  84. I read picture books ALL the time...hundreds of them. So, I can't believe I have only read one of the books on this list. Gotta hit the library! Can't wait!

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  85. Thanks Susannah!
    Great selection here. The Rough Patch is STUNNING! I thought I had read it before but was mistaken. Really touched my heart. Great titles here to go back to time and time again. Thanks! - Lisa

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  86. Thank you very much for the wonderful suggestions of books to use as mentor texts. They make me appreciate the vast variety of picture books and the creativity they reflect. Can't wait to read them all! Very inspiring!

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  87. Beautiful list, Susannah! I found the language (and the art) in HELLO LIGHTHOUSE especially moving.

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  88. I also loved the Rough Patch, a very subtle and sensible way to touch such a delicate and traumatic event: death.

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  89. I loved Hammering for Freedom. It packs a strong emotional impact, and would be a great jumping-off point for discussion in a classroom setting.

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  90. So many great choices on this list, and some new ones to look forward to. Thanks for a great post, Susannah!

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  91. I read The Rough Patch earlier this year and was so blown away. So great to see it on the list!

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  92. I just finished reading Jabari Jumps. This is my favorite book now. I love it. My grandson will love it. He is swimming now, but maybe, just maybe, he'll love the surprise of diving.

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  93. Thank you for an eclectic mix of great stories...I also appreciated the recommended classics you mentioned throughout your piece.

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  94. Thank you for an eclectic mix of great stories...I also appreciated the recommended classics you mentioned throughout your piece.

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  95. A wonderful list of books, Susannah. Thank you!

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  96. Fox+Chick is great! Thank you for this look into picture books.

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  97. Great recommendations, Susannah! I have read many on your list, but not all, so I am looking forward to some new reads as well as looking again at some old favorites.

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  98. I enjoyed this so much! Thank you for sharing your list of books. I agree with your choices and have loved checking them out!!

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  99. Thank you for the great suggestions! I loved There’s a Wall in This Book.

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  100. I loved Uri Shulevitz,s book. Its part of my permanent library. Looking forward to ordering the other as well as all the picture books you mentioned.

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  101. I'm really enjoying reading these recommended books! From today's, I especially enjoyed HAMMERING FOR FREEDOM.

    I am wondering...HELLO LIGHTHOUSE is so beautiful, but it seems to go against the "relatable to children" and "child main character" wisdom I've often heard from agents/editors. Any thoughts?

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  102. I loved so many of the texts for today.
    I particularly loved The Rough Patch and how it so beautifully dealt with grief.
    I liked The Wall in the Middle of the Book for reminding us that sometimes what we fear is really not that scary after all.
    The illustrations in Planting Stories were amazing.
    I'd heard that Jabari Jumps was good and it sure lived up to that hype.
    My favorite of the group was probably Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet. My son and I both learned a lot reading this book.

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  103. Looking forward to re-reading several of these and exploring the ones that are new to me.

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  104. Thanks so much for the wonderful list! I just used Jabari Jumps as a comp title in a submission and I found it to be a great mentor text too!

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  105. These are excellent choices to read and reflect on. Some I have read before and will reread and others are new to me, and I am looking forward to spending time with going over them with a writer's eye and ear. Thank you!

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  106. These are wonderful selections, such fun to read through this list (and mind-blowing for a couple of them!). Thank you for sharing , Susannah!

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  107. Thanks for this great selection of diverse books. I haven't read Jabari Jumps but am looking forward to it as it reminds me of my own experience at a young age.

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  108. I still have to read JUST RIGHT and THE LITTLE GUYS, but I've read the others and they're great! Thanks for sharing your insights with us!

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  109. A great selection of stories. I enjoyed reading them all.

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  110. I look forward to delving in and reading them all!

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  111. I absolutely loved Hello Lighthouse and Thank You, Omu because they both drew me in and didn’t let go until the end. And then I wanted to read them again.

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  112. I loved the Wall in the Middle of the Book! I love when text says one thing then the pictures say something different. I love how they used the gutter of the book and what a great way to remind others not to be scared of the unknown.

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    1. My name didn't show up... Mary Beningo. Still learning how to comment I suppose!

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  113. Thanks so much for this list and for incorporating the old with the new books. One of my all time favorites is Ox Cart Man. Now I must get Hello Lighthouse to do the comparison. And, of late, Rough Patch has been added to my favorite list. The concept of loss is so creatively presented by Brian Lies. I could go on, but will stop here and thank you again, Susannah.

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  114. Loved all the mentors here. Will go back and study several more closely.

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  115. I'm looking forward to reading these titles. Classics for sure!

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  116. Thank you for this informative post!

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  117. It is funny how people thinking writing picture books is easy.
    This list was great! Thank you!!

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  118. This list is still on hold for me bit harder to find but I look forward to reading them and learning more. Terri DeGezelle Michels

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  119. Such an outstanding list of picture book titles. It is certainly curious to me, as well, how so many misconceptions there are about the simplicity of writing a picture book.

    Thank you, Susannah.

    Suzy Leopold

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  120. Great titles and looking forward to reading The Wall in the Middle of the Book!

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  121. Very impressed by LIGHTHOUSE. Thanks for these mentor texts-lots of good ones that just set the stage for perfect picture book writing!

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  122. I love seeing what resonates with other readers and writers. Thanks for sharing your list, Susannah! (Hammering for Freedom is a fantastic book!)

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  123. Thanks for these excellent mentor texts and your helpful notes on each.

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  124. Thank you for these wonderful examples and your perspective on why they work so well. It's so helpful to see a variety of styles and stories and think about why each one is so satisfying to read.

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  125. You said it perfectly-"Writing Pb's is complex." But researching and reading mentor texts, helps bring us that much closer to mastering the craft. :)

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  126. Writing picture books is complex but I love the challenge

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  127. Love your point about the "complexity" of a PB. Excellent list for us to study, Susannah, as we study the PB Craft while also writing and revising PBs. Thanks!

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  128. Thanks, Susannah. Talk about eliciting emotion: The Rough Patch made me cry.

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  129. I cannot wait to read Hello, Lighthouse, The Rough Patch and The Little Guys. I'm still on hold at the library. I loved Jon Agee's book! Thanks for sharing.

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  130. Hello, Lighthouse! and Planting Stories were just absolutely beautiful. Really enjoyed Just Right and Thank you, Omu as well. Overall great choices for day 2. Rough Patch was so moving.

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  131. This is a great list, thank you for putting it together!

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  132. All these books are so beautiful. Many times the I love a PB but my young daughters don't, and this list we all adored. Thank you for your insights and for these choices.

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  133. Some of these books I have read and some I have not. They ones I haven't read, I am looking forward to reading, especially after seeing this post. Thanks!

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  134. My comment above, posted as Unknown?

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  135. Some of these books I have read and some I have not. They ones I haven't read, I am looking forward to reading, especially after seeing this post. Thanks!

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  136. Looking forward to reading these, thanks!

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  137. Wonderful post featuring some of my favorite books along with a few surprises for me to check out!

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  138. All of these books are wonderful and different in so many ways, too. I enjoyed re-reading old friends, and finding great new texts for guidance on some current MSs. Thank you!

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  139. Such a great list of books! Thanks for sharing.

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  140. Wonderful diverse collection of books. Thank you!

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  141. Thank you for sharing this amazing list!

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  142. There are treasures on this book list and many excellent examples of text and pictures interweaving to form a story. Thank You, Omu and Planting Stories have become new favorites. Thank you.

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  143. A great, eclectic list that demonstrates the power and versatility of the modern picture book. Much of Susannah's picks read like a hit list of the kind of books that touch and inspire me the most.

    Very cool to see that she noted the influence of OX-CART MAN on HELLO, LIGHTHOUSE, the former a book I read just a bit before Sophie Blackall's modern masterpiece and loved just as much. I think that Blackall and Barbara Cooney (the Caldecott-winning illustrator of OX-CART MAN and others) share a similar romantic aesthetic in their visions of the past, drawing out the beauty of the natural world with a touch of rosiness that feels honest. Both texts have a circular lilt to their narratives, going through the daily motions of the adult characters whose hard work and toil begin to sound like a poetic ritual in the hands of Blackall and OX-CART author Donald Hall.

    THANK YOU, OMU is simply charming, an urban folk tale whose warm palette of colors and compositions fills you up with happy like one of Omu's very own bowls of thick, red stew.

    Like the two previous titles, I read THE ROUGH PATCH shortly before the reading list for ReFoReMo was announced. Like others have been saying, one of the greatest things about this book--aside from Brian Lies' truly awe-inspiring artwork (I could look at the interplay of light and shadow in this book for days)--is how it takes what would frequently be the end point of so many other picture books--the loss of a loved one--and positions that traumatic event at the beginning and then works from there. It's one of the most honest depictions of grief I've yet seen in this medium, covering the whole spectrum from initial despair to anger to acceptance. That middle point is especially important. Lies never comes right out and says that his character was angry at his friend's death. What he does instead is even more beautifully heartbreaking. He perfectly conveys the voice of someone who has become blinded by their grief and who wants the world to suffer with him. You can feel his dark joy at the garden's gradual decay and destruction. He wants this once beautiful place to look as bad as he feels. That's *so refreshing* to see in a children's book. That being angry and wanting to live in this black pit of despair is a natural part of the process. Thankfully our foxy hero discovers that to live like this is to exist as a prisoner to his own darkness, and that reuniting with old friends and making new ones is like receiving a full pardon from that lonely, dank cell.

    Before this comment turns into a novel, I just wanted to give one last shout-out to HAMMERING FOR FREEDOM, a new read for me inspired by this post. All I'll say is that any time we artists and writers feel that our creative journeys may be going along bumpily or that we're not meeting our goals the way we'd like to, pick up this book and remind yourself that you're not waking up every morning for 26 years to break your back in a blacksmith shop just so that you can buy your freedom back from your own father. Talk about a butt-kicker story that needed to be told!

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    1. Hi Jose, I just HAD to comment. What you wrote about HAMMERING FOR FREEDOM...that's the essence of my desire to tell William's story. I was so inspired by his resolve, and so embarrassed about the times I've thought about giving up on a project simply because it didn't come to fruition when I thought it should. William and people like him inspire me. :)

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    2. Thanks for paying the inspiration forward, Rita.

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  144. Susannah,
    Thank you so much for sharing these great books! I've read about 1/2 now and love them. Thanks!

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  145. There were many on this list that I had not read before. I absolutely loved THANK YOU, OMU. I love how it has the feeling of a folktale but yet it feels modern as well.

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  146. So many more wonderful books to love an appreciate! <3

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  147. Thank you for the list! What a great variety of wonderful books.

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  148. Creating picture books is complex! One step below rocket science:)

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  149. I really appreciate the perspectives on each of these books. Thank you.

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  150. So many of these are awesome. Yes, even stellar. Some day, I hope mine will be stellar as well. Gotta reach for the stars, right?

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  151. Thank you so much for the list and for Thank You Omu in particular! I realized that what lacks in one of my MSs is a better setting - I was so used to thinking of it in a certain way, I didn't realize the reader's don't even know the place so familiar to me!

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  152. I especially like Jon Agee's "The Wall in the Middle of the Book" for how it shows a complex issue visually. Thank you for this list.

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  153. Thank you for this list of "just right for right now" mentor texts. So much research went into "Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet". Curtis Manley did a great job explaining a complicated subject to a young audience.

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  154. Very thoughtful list of mentor texts! Thank you for sharing your insights!

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  155. I'm adding Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet to my list. And I connected so much with The Rough Patch by Brian Lies. Thanks!

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  156. Thank you Susannah for this powerful list of picture books! I just picked up The Wall in the Middle of the Book - how clever to use the gutter as a "character" in the book. Can't wait to pick up The Rough Patch and The Little Guys!

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  157. Thanks, Susannah. Wonderful insight, as usual.

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  158. Thank You Omu is such a warm hug of a story that you just want to share like she shares her stew, and the other suggested titles are awesome too. Thanks.

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  159. I'm sick so perhaps I've already said this when in the midst of a congestion-induced brain fog, but I really appreciate this list of books.

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  160. I love the artwork in Lighthouse. The one thing I would have liked to have seen illustrated in that book - was - where was the bathroom?

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  161. Loved Hello, Lighthouse and look forward to reading more books from this list especially Hammering for Freedom and The Rough Patch.

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  162. Thanks for not only a diverse culturally rich list of impressive books, but also sharing the different dynamics in each story--it made me appreciate the study and dedication to really analyzing picture book as an art. Loved Mr Cruz's analysis and it was a treat, that the author Rita Lorraine entered the dialogue to share part of her process. Very very inspiring!

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  163. I love how each of your books features a special approach, the use of the gutter, the text that helps you to connect with all your senses. This is what I love about they month. Its so easy to get stagnant and write the same way. Thanks for the new perspectives.

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  164. Thank you for your choice of books. I always enjoy another's insight.

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  165. So many favorites on this list - The Wall is so brilliant in its simplicity - and new ones to add. Thank you.

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  166. Fabulous selection of books. Thanks for this post!

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  167. Frank Wilson McCollMarch 9, 2019 at 12:10 AM

    The Rough Patch is incredible. SO much feeling in such simple words.

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  168. Thanks for the list of inspiring books, many of which I hadn't read yet.
    Darcee Freier

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  169. Such an excellent list! It's difficult not to be intimidated by these titles. So far I've been pouring over The Rough Patch to study it's pacing and the alignment of the pictures and text. Just brilliant.

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  171. Thank you for these recommendations!

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  172. Great list! So far my favorites are There's a Wall in This Book and The Rough Patch

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  173. The two biographies in this book just blew me away. I loved being able to share Hammering for Freedom with my kids (both the 1st grader and the 6th grader), since it's a fantastic new telling of a time we need to remember. And you can't go wrong with a story-telling-librarian-book! So grateful that Pura Belpré brought her stories to our children, and that Anika Aldamuy Denise brought Belpré's story to life!

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  174. Enjoyed reading this post. Thank you!

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  175. What a fun job you have! Thank you for this list of wonderful reads.

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  176. Thank you so much for choosing such helpful and wonderful mentor texts! It was illuminating to read the reasons you chose these particular texts right now.

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  177. Thanks for sharing this lists of mentor text!I look forward to reading them soon.

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  178. I've read a couple of these, but many are going on my "to be read" list right now! Thanks!

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  179. Such wonderful books. Makes me feel a bit intimidated but we each have a story to tell. Thank you.

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  180. Can't wait to read these recommendations! Thanks!

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  181. Fabulous list of mentor texts. Thank you!

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  182. Thank you for this post, Susannah. I'm looking forward to studying these titles

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  183. Thank you! I always enjoy your insight.

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  184. Thanks for your thoughts and thanks for sharing.

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  185. I especially love "Hello Lighthouse", and "The Wall in the Middle of This Book" felt so timely. Thank you for your post and encouragement!

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  186. This is such a well rounded list! All these books are magic. "2019 ReFoReMo will overwhelm you with the variety, insightfulness, and potential of the picture book" is a very true statement. I found it helpful to type up the texts of my favorite picture books so that I could go back and deconstruct them later. Thank you for sharing!

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