PPBF: To Dare Mighty Things

With warm weather at last, we’re releasing butterflies, watching birds, and swimming in the pool. Our outdoor activities prompted today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick about presidential outdoorsman, Teddy Roosevelt.



AUTHOR: Doreen Rappaport


PUBLICATION INFO: Disney Hyperion, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4231-2488-7

SOURCE: library


GENRE: nonfiction picture book biography


“’Teedie,’ as he was called, coughed, sneezed, wheezed, had raging fevers, and hardly ate.”

From the jacket flap:

“President Theodore Roosevelt is known as “the man with a plan,” the “rough rider.” His figure stands tall in American history; his legacy stretching him to larger-than-life proportions.

But before his rise to fame, he was just “Teedie,” a boy with ambitious dreams to change the world, and the conviction to see his stupendous imaginings brought to fruition.

As an American president, he left an impressive mark upon his country. He promised a “square deal” to all citizens, he tamed big businesses, and protected the nation’s wildlife and natural beauty. His fearless leadership assured that he would always be remembered, and his robust spirit now dares others to do mighty things.

In her moving picture book portrait, award-winning author Doreen Rappaport uses her well-honed approach of personal quotes and vivid prose to spin together the tale of a sickly boy who became a monumental man. Coupled with C. F. Payne’s dramatic artwork, the story of President Teddy, touchstone of American history, is brought to life.”

THEMES/TOPICS: history, biography

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Teddy Roosevelt is a fascinating character. He truly remade himself from an often-sick youth into the quintessential outdoorsman and bold politician. I’ve read other books that focused on snippets of his life, for example Rosenstock’s THE CAMPING TRIP THAT CHANGED AMERICA, but this is the first truly comprehensive biography I’ve seen. Rappaport integrates primary sources into the text and presents a balanced picture. She shows how Teddy intervened in other country’s affairs, like those of Panama, ultimately building the Panama Canal. Of course, Teddy Roosevelt could care less what others thought, she tells us. Rappaport reveals Teddy as truly larger-than-life, and Payne’s illustrations follow suit beginning with the cover. It shows only Teddy’s laughing face. No title. No author’s name. No illustrator’s name. Just Teddy, truly larger than life.


  • Rappaport’s back matter has resources for further exploration, including books and Web sites.
  • A teacher’s guide is available through her Web site.
  • She also has links to several videos of Teddy, including one of him hunting big game  in Africa.
  • And, of course, you too can dare mighty things and try some of the things Teddy did: ride a horse, watch birds, hike, and write your own books about what you find.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!


PPBF: Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard

LookUpI had to wrestle this book away from my seven-year-old. He’s been hiding it in the “reading cave” under his bed and periodically pulling it out to tempt me, allowing me to read a snippet here and there. Last night, I crawled under the bed, retrieved the book, and read it from endpaper to informative endpaper.



PUBLICATION INFO: Candlewick, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4561-8

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 8 to 12 years

GENRE: nonfiction picture book


“This is a book about one of my favorite hobbies: bird-watching (and bird drawing, too!).”

From the publisher:

“This conversational, humorous introduction to bird-watching encourages kids to get outdoors with a sketchbook and really look around. Quirky full-color illustrations portray dozens of birds chatting about their distinctive characteristics, including color, shape, plumage, and beak and foot types, while tongue-in-cheek cartoons feature banter between birds, characters, and the reader (“Here I am, the noble spruce grouse. In a spruce grove. Eatin’ some spruce. Yep.”). Interactive and enjoyable tips bring an age-old hobby to new life for the next generation of bird-watchers.

You don’t have to own binoculars and know a bunch of fancy Latin names to watch birds! No matter where you live, they’re in your neighborhood — just look up.”

THEMES/TOPICS: science, nature

WHY I LIKE LOVE! THIS BOOK: I’m a big bird fan. We have nesting hummingbirds and mourning doves along with California quail in our yard. Last year a killdeer hid her eggs among the rocks out front. Oh, and did I mention the ravens make themselves at home at our home too?

Whenever I see something cool, I like to share it with the boys. When we take walks to the park, they look for birds along our route. Taking time to slow down and observe birds in their natural habitat is such a gift in a busy world. And I can think of no better book than this one to encourage kids along the way.

Cate’s technique reminds me of the brilliant WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING HATCHLINGS. The text is 100% nonfiction, but each page features birds with speech bubbles filled with witty repartee. It’s very clever and entertaining.


  • Look up! Watch some birds in your own backyard. Put down that cell phone, gaming device, iPad, etc. and watch the birds in your yard, out the window, or at the park. Just observe. Make some notes. Even sketch or snap some photos.
  • Find out more about the birds you see at Cornell University’s outstanding Ornithology site. They have fantastic bird guides. And, if you find a nest in your yard, learn how to track it using Cornell’s NestWatch.
  • Each February join the Great Backyard Bird Count. Or just visit the site and learn lots more about birds.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

PPBF: The Daring Miss Quimby



AUTHOR: Suzanne George Whitaker

ILLUSTRATOR: Catherine Stock

PUBLICATION INFO: Holiday House, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8234-1996-8

SOURCE:  library


GENRE: nonfiction picture book, history


“Harriet Quimby was the picture of a modern American woman of 1912.”

From the publisher:

“In 1912, airplanes looked like bicycles with wings and only men flew these new machines. When the spirited young woman, Harriet Quimby, decided to learn to fly, everyone said it would be too dangerous. But Harriet tried it anyway. Soon the whole country was just wild about this daring woman, dressed in her special purple satin flight suit, who flew through the skies to become the first woman in the United States to earn her pilot’s license and fly across the English Channel.”

THEMES/TOPICS: women’ history, aviation, biography

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: What’s not to love about Harriet Quimby? While most women of her day sported corsets and long dresses, she donned a shiny purple flight suit. She also drove fast cars, wrote for magazines, and enjoyed adventure after adventure in the days before women could even vote. Whitaker’s book conveys Harriet’s spirit and zest for life in an age-appropriate way. And Stock’s watercolor images are simply heavenly.


  • Whitaker includes an in-depth author’s note and women in aviation timeline. See an online timeline here.
  • Kids can learn about the science of flight at the National Air and Space Museum’s “How Things Fly” website.
  • NASA has a number of aeronautics educator resources on its website.
  • Why not build your own paper airplane? Try different designs and see which flies the best.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!