Bill Martin, Jr. 1916-
Bill Martin, Jr.
(Full name William Ivan Martin, Jr.) American author of picture books.
The following entry presents an overview of Martin's career through 2003.
A respected and prolific children's author and educator, Martin's literary career has spanned more than fifty years, beginning with the publication of his first work, The Little Squeegy Bug (1945; revised, 2001). Martin frequently collaborates with a variety of writers and illustrators in his long line of picture books, which are typically composed with the developmental needs of young children in mind. Through clever wordplay and repetition, Martin creates narratives that both entertain and enrich the language skills of young readers. Working with Peggy Brogan, Martin also co-founded the Owl Reader line of children's books at the publishing house Holt, Rinehart & Winston and helped launch the renowned reading program Sounds of Language. In 1967 Martin released his most acclaimed work to date, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, beginning a continuing partnership between the author and respected illustrator Eric Carle.
Born on March 20, 1916, in Hiawatha, Kansas, Martin received his first lessons in storytelling from his grandmother, who often recited tales about his family's history. After attending Kansas State Teachers College, Martin taught high school journalism, drama, and English until 1941. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Air Force and served throughout World War II as a military newspaper editor. During this period, Martin received a letter from his brother, Bernard, who had been injured in a military training exercise. Bernard asked his brother to write a children's book that he could illustrate during his convalescence. The result was The Little Squeegy Bug. After the war, Martin and Bernard started their own publishing company, Tell-Well
Press, and released the book. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt mentioned The Little Squeegy Bug on the radio, and the book subsequently sold over half a million copies. Martin and his brother produced numerous children's books during the next several years, with Martin writing and Bernard illustrating. As an author of children's literature, Martin became increasingly interested in children's reading habits and enrolled in graduate school at Northwestern University. After receiving his M.A., he accepted the position of principal at Crow Island Elementary School in Winnetka, Illinois. At Crow Island, Martin participated in developing and implementing a series of innovative classroom instructional methods. Martin received his Ph.D. in Reading and Child Development in 1961 and left Crow Island to join the publishing house of Holt, Rinehart & Winston as an editor and creator of elementary school reading materials. During his seven-year association with the firm, Martin produced the Sounds of Language textbooks for first through eighth graders. He also developed science, arithmetic, literature, language, and social studies collections, including the "Bill Martin Freedom Books" series, which alerts children to the concepts and responsibilities of living in a democracy, and the "Bill Martin Instant Readers" series, which use rhyming language to strengthen and enlarge children's reading skills. Martin left Holt, Rinehart & Winston to begin a freelance career in 1967 and has since continued his interest in writing and education through publishing and serving as a visiting professor at colleges and universities. During the 1980s and 1990s, Martin began collaborating with John Archambault and Michael Sampson, with whom he co-authored several children's titles over the next two decades.
Two notable books that emerged from the Tell-Well Press period have been re-released in recent years—The Little Squeegy Bug and Chicken Chuck (1946; revised, 2000). The Little Squeegy Bug is the story of an ambitious bug that becomes a firefly with the help of a caterpillar and spider, becoming the first of many animal-related titles the Martin brothers produced in the 1940s and 1950s. Chicken Chuck is another tale of animal transformation, in which Chuck's ingestion of a blue seed causes a feather to grow on his forehead. Chuck's change makes him arrogant and jealous, resulting in an adventure at a circus that ends with all of the barnyard animals getting blue feathers of their own. Another notable title from this period, Knots on a Counting Rope (1966; revised, 1987) was later reworked with co-author John Archambault and republished in 1987. In the story, an Indian grandfather encourages his blind grandson to remember events from his past and to face future challenges with confidence. The old man leaves the boy a knotted rope to symbolize the passing of time and to help the child remember his history.
Several of Martin's older titles have received newly updated or revised editions in the past two decades, including The Happy Hippopotami (1970; revised, 1990), which follows a swarm of hippos in humorous situations on the beach, accompanied by Martin's signature rhyming and appropriately silly text. The Maestro Plays (1970, revised, 1994) builds a story around a musical conductor who explains to readers how he plays a variety of instruments. Fire! Fire! Said Mrs. McGuire (1970; revised, 1995), an adaptation of a classic rhyme, originally appeared in 1970 but received new illustrations in a 1995 edition. The Wizard (1970; revised, 1994) centers on an awkward magician who falls into his own cauldron, while The Turning of the Year (1970; revised, 1998) uses stark poetic language to detail the changing seasons. One of Martin's most popular collaborations with Archambault was Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (1989), a lively alphabet book with artwork by Lois Ehlert, in which the authors assemble the ABCs in a mad dash to the top of a tree.
In addition to his partnership with Archambault, Martin also teamed with Michael Sampson to create several children's works during the 1990s and beyond. Their first efforts revolved around sports themes—Swish! (1997) recounts the details of hotly contested girls' basketball game. In Little Granny Quarterback (2001), an elderly woman—a former high school quarterback—sees that her favorite football team is losing on television. Getting out of bed, she goes into the television and leads the team to victory, though close observers of the illustrations will see that she has never left her bedroom. Rock It, Sock It, Number Line (2001) constructs a counting primer with the help of dancing vegetables, while I Pledge Allegiance (2002) attempts to explain the pledge to students by breaking each line down and providing historical context. In Caddie, the Golf Dog (2002), a stray blue dog finally finds a home for herself and her little pups on a golf course.
In his last year at Holt, Martin published Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, an "instant classic" which became a prototype template for Martin's subsequent works with Carle. Told through verse, Brown Bear helps to teach basic colors to young readers by having a bear describe the different animals and shapes he sees in the forest. Martin reprised this motif in Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? (1991), which focuses on the sounds made by a group of zoo animals. In Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? (2003), the duo explore the world of endangered species, asking children to identify animals by their movements. Through the pages of the book, the readers see "bald eagles soaring," "spider monkeys swinging," and "macaroni penguins strutting." Martin also adopted the Brown Bear format for Adam, Adam, What Do You See? (2000), a Christian children's tale—illustrated by Cathie Felstead—that presents a number of well-known biblical figures.
With the exception of The Little Squeegy Bug and Chicken Chuck, the critical reception of the Tell-Well Press books has been largely negligible. Since that time, however, Martin's works have received high marks from both reviewers and child development specialists. Martin's ability to create rhythmic, descriptive verse and clever rhymes has often been praised by critics who comment that the author's simple but skillful story constructions hold great appeal for beginning readers. His few negative reviews have generally addressed situations in which commentators felt that the story's message was confusing—such as Chicken Chuck—or in which problems were noted with the artwork. For example, the Publishers Weekly review of Rock It, Sock It, Number Line has noted that "the numerals do not accompany the corresponding number of vegetables," making the work confusing for young readers. Despite such claims, reviewers have been largely appreciative of Martin's appealing storylines, engaging sense of humor, and continuing emphasis on the importance of developing language skills.
*The Little Squeegy Bug [illustrations by Bernard Martin] (picture book) 1945; revised edition, 2001
Chicken Chuck [illustrations by Bernard Martin] (picture book) 1946; revised edition, 2000
Teach Me to Pray (picture book) 1950
†Knots on a Counting Rope [illustrations by Joe Smith] (picture book) 1966; revised edition, 1987
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? [illustrations by Eric Carle] (picture book) 1967
Fire! Fire! Said Mrs. McGuire [illustrations by Ted Schroeder] (picture book) 1970; revised edition, 1995
The Happy Hippopotami [illustrations by Bob Velde] (picture book) 1970; revised edition, 1990
The Maestro Plays [illustrations by Sal Murdocca] (picture book) 1970; revised edition, 1994
Old Devil Wind [illustrations by Robert J. Lee] (picture book) 1970; revised edition, 1993
The Turning of the Year [illustrations by Samuel Maitin] (picture book) 1970; revised edition, 1998
The Wizard [illustrations by Sal Murdocca] (picture book) 1970; revised edition, 1994
The Ghost-Eye Tree [with John Archambault; illustrations by Ted Rand] (picture book) 1985
Barn Dance! [with John Archambault; illustrations by Ted Rand] (picture book) 1986
Here are My Hands [with John Archambault; illustrations by Ted Rand] (picture book) 1987
Listen to the Rain [with John Archambault; illustrations by James Endicott] (picture book) 1988
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom [with John Archambault; illustrations by Lois Ehlert] (picture book) 1989
The Magic Pumpkin [with John Archambault; illustrations by Robert J. Lee] (picture book) 1989
Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? [illustrations by Eric Carle] (picture book) 1991
Sounds of a Distant Drum [with John Archambault and Peggy Brogan] (picture book) 1992
A Beautiful Feast for a Big King Cat [with John Archambault; illustrations by Bruce Degen] (picture book) 1994
Swish! [with Michael Sampson; illustrations by Michael Chesworth] (picture book) 1997
A Beasty Story [with Steven Kellogg; illustrations by Steven Kellogg] (picture book) 1999
Adam, Adam, What Do You See? [with Michael Sampson; illustrations by Cathie Felstead] (picture book) 2000
Little Granny Quarterback [with Michael Sampson; illustrations by Michael Chesworth] (picture book) 2001
Rock It, Sock It, Number Line [with Michael Sampson; illustrations by Heather Cahoon] (picture book) 2001
Caddie, the Golf Dog [with Michael Sampson; illustrations by Floyd Cooper] (picture book) 2002
I Pledge Allegiance [with Michael Sampson; illustrations by Chris Raschka] (picture book) 2002
Trick or Treat? [with Michael Sampson; illustrations by Paul Meisel] (picture book) 2002
Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? [illustrations by Eric Carle] (picture book) 2003
*michael sampson co-authored the revision with pat corrigan contributing illustrations.
†john archambault co-authored the revision with ted rand contributing illustrations.
Bill Martin, Jr. and Elizabeth Devereaux (interview date 25 September 2000)
SOURCE: Martin, Jr., Bill, and Elizabeth Devereaux. "PW Talks with Bill Martin, Jr." Publishers Weekly 247, no. 39 (25 September 2000): 114.
[In the following interview, Martin discusses Adam, Adam, What Do You See? and his process of collaborating with his co-author Michael Sampson.]
[Devereaux]: After producing so many illustrious mainstream children's books, what made you decide now to writeAdam, Adam, What Do You See?, a Christian children's book?
[Martin]: I really didn't decide—I felt it. As a Christian, I spend much time in meditation and prayer. I suppose the concept had been building for several days. At a conference in May 1999, a teacher had asked me why I did not write more stories like Brown, Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Two days later, my writing partner, Michael Sampson, and I were making an eight-hour drive. As is our custom, we brainstorm and write during these trips. I started thinking about the teacher's question and the pattern ofBrown Bear, and began praying for an idea. Suddenly, Michael turned off the music and said, "Why don't we play around with theBrown Bear pattern and Bible characters?" It was the answer to my prayer and confirmation of what we were to do.
This is actually my third Christian book. I wrote Teach Me to Pray andThank You, God in the 1950s. I'm happy to write another Christian book today that will help young children learn more about the great heroes of their faith.
How do you and Michael Sampson collaborate? Can you describe the process of writing with a partner?
We work together face-to-face. Our houses are 100 yards apart—across a lake from one another. We write together at my kitchen table, with pencil and paper. We are a good team because I am auditory and Michael is visual. I have to hear the language and Michael has to see it. Our contributions to a manuscript are about 50/50. We do not mind disagreeing about the way a line sounds, and keep at it until we are both satisfied. Some manuscripts go through 50 drafts before we are finished.
How did you choose the particular biblical figures represented inAdam, Adam ?
We just brainstormed. Our list was too long—there are so many figures to choose from. It was tough to edit some of the characters out—we fell in love with them as we studied them from Scripture and wrote their lines. In the end, the publisher was kind enough to let us move from a 32- to a 40-page book and to keep a few more biblical figures.
How did the biblical foundation ofAdam, Adam affect your own use of language?
The influence was significant. We read the entire biblical selection and honed our lines to reflect the actual story.
Why are you publishingAdam, Adam with a religious house instead of a general trade publisher?
This book needs to be in Christian bookstores. And Christian bookstores generally do not stock non-religious picture books. Our publisher Tommy Nelson, sells to both the religious and general markets. But more importantly, we needed the editorial staff at Tommy Nelson to help us avoid making some sort of major biblical blunder.
Do you plan to write more books with Christian themes?
Yes, indeed—we are at work on two now.
Elizabeth Underwood Patterson (essay date July 2002)
SOURCE: Patterson, Elizabeth Underwood. "The Professional Legacy of Bill Martin, Jr." Language Arts 79, no. 6 (July 2002): 515-20.
[In the following essay, Patterson provides an overview of Martin's life and career and creates a "life litany" based on an analysis of Martin's recurring themes.]
I first met Bill Martin, Jr. in 1990 when he visited Hawthorne Elementary School in downtown San Antonio, where I was completing my student teaching. After the children went home, Bill talked to our faculty about his language and teaching philosophies. He began by describing a scene from his visit to a kindergarten classroom that morning:
I saw a miracle today. I was in a classroom, and a kindergarten child got up, took a piece of paper on which she had written a story, and read. She must have read for four minutes, a long story she had written. She read it in the cadences and the melodies of speech. She didn't falter over words. There was a flow of language that was so unconscious of word that it just followed the trails of meaning that were illuminated by the language. That is a miracle.
My initial response was skepticism. His words sounded so romantic, and I wondered if he was trying to mesmerize us with his language. I had been in the classroom when the kindergarten child, Carolina, read her story to Bill, and I knew that her writing involved scribbles on a page. As he continued to speak about the "miracle of language," I noticed that his language was filled with respect for children. As Carolina, an emergent reader and writer, had written and read her own story, Bill had heard important signs of language development. Little did I know that, years later, I would delve into Bill's life to try to understand his philosophies of language and reading instruction, as well as his place in the field of language and literacy.
Over a three-year period, beginning in 1997, I traveled to Commerce, Texas, to interview Bill about his life and career. We completed over 46 hours of interviews, and out of those transcripts, I created a chronological look at Bill's life. Although I studied many dimension of his life, my focus here is Bill's professional legacy. In the following section, I briefly trace Bill's early years before highlighting his professional milestones. I then describe themes that emerged from my study of Bill's career. In order to allow the story to flow with few distractions, I do not identify the original interview transcript for each of Bill's quotes; instead, I ask readers to assume that his words originate from our interviews between June 1997 and February 2000. I have included conventional citations for all other sources.
BILL'S EARLY YEARS AND PROFESSIONAL MILESTONES
Bill Martin, Jr. was born on March 20, 1916, in Hiawatha, Kansas, a small town of 2,000 people. Bill grew up during the years leading up to and including the Great Depression, when "We were all poor." Bill was the middle of five boys, and from the age of 10, Bill always held a job to help relieve his family's financial strain. His favorite job was working as an usher at the local movie theater, where he developed a love of foreign language and language as an art form. Even today, Bill recognizes the value of those early experiences with language: "I love those pungents of language: foreign language and language of the local theater. I never tired of it."
Bill shared his love of language with his grandmother, "a robust sod-busting woman who threaded the family history into story form to the continuous delight of the Martin children" (Larrick, 1982, p. 492). Bill's grandmother was an avid reader despite having had only three months of formal schooling. Although Bill shared a growing love of oral language with his grandmother, he was unable to enjoy reading as she did. Bill explains, "Oh, I could read a sentence—but never 15 connected sentences through which an idea or concept emerged. The emotional chaos of my childhood precluded quiet, sustained period of concentration that reading demands" (Martin, 1978, p. 34). When I asked him to elaborate on his emotional chaos, Bill replied, "I don't want to talk about my parents, and I don't want to talk about my life situation, but poverty is a source of reading failure. It's almost inevitable. If a child is born into a bookless and language starv[ed] world, he doesn't get that early assist."
Throughout his elementary and secondary school years, Bill encountered encouraging teachers who provided him with positive classroom experiences with language. Miss Davis, his fifth-grade teach, read aloud to her students and invited them "down a marvelous avenue into literature." Later, Miss Nevius, Bill's eleventh-grade English teacher, dramatized a Shakespearean play each semester and instilled in Bill an understanding of "the power of the speaking voice and the impact of drama" (Martin, 1987, p. 35). Bill remains thankful for teachers who fostered his love of language without dwelling on his reading difficulties.
During his college years at Kansas State Teachers college in Emporia, Bill encountered more outstanding teachers, including Professor Richard Roahen, who encourage Bill to read in order to improve his writing. Professor Roahen lent Bill Northwest Passage (Roberts, 1937), and after weeks of plodding through the pages, Bill completed reading his first book. From that time on, reading became easier because he "knew it could be done" (Martin, 1996).
After graduating in 1938, Bill remained in Kansas and spent the next three and a half years teaching high school dramatics, English, and journalism. Recalling his early years of teaching, Bill said, "Well, I wasn't the best teacher, but I think the kids found the courses interesting and the subject matter palatable." He added with a laugh, "I didn't feel much older than the kids themselves."
On December 8, 1941, the day after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Bill enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he spent four years serving as a newspaper editor at Barksdale Field near Shreveport, Louisiana. One day he received a letter from his brother in Kansas City.
Bernard had been injured in the army while completing an obstacle course, and he hoped Bill would write a children's story so that he could illustrate it while he recovered. One Sunday morning while on secure duty, Bill put a sheet of paper in the typewriter and wrote a story about a little bug searching for his identity. In late 1945, Bernard and Bill completed their first book,The Little Squeegy Bug. When they couldn't find anyone to publish their book, they decided to establish their own publishing company in Kansas City, Tell-Well Press. Bill was discharged from the military on November 10, 1945, and he relocated to Kansas City to work with Bernard.
Over the next 10 years, Bill and Bernard collaborated on more than 20 books, bringing out a new book each spring and fall. Bill also developed his storytelling technique. Promoting his books in department stores, bookstores, and schools, he learned to tell stories to the audience. Late in his writing years at Tell-Well Press, Bill traveled to the New York City Library, where he asked the children's librarian to read his work and give him advice. She said simply, "How do you tell a young man that he has no talent for writing?" Bill had "longed to write a book that somebody would say was well-written," but he realized he had "run out of know-how." Bernard and Bill "closed up shop" at Tell-Well Press in 1955, and Bill made an important decision. "I decided if I was going to write for kids, I had to know more about children—how children acquire language and how they become committed to reading a book—so I applied to graduate school."
Bill entered Northwestern university in 1956. While he attended graduate classes, he worked for John C. Winston Publishing Company traveling around the country to promote the company's elementary reading materials at reading conferences. Whether on campus or on the road, Bill constantly practices reading by himself. "People thought of me as a bookworm, and I wasn't. I was a student trying to learn to read. I could figure it out. Just by addressing the printed pages, I was learning so much."
Throughout his graduate career, Bill worked with Paul Witty, a professor in early childhood and reading education whom Bill had gotten to know "on the circuit." Bill feels certain that Dr. Witty knew of his shortcomings in reading, yet he never mentioned them. Bill recalls, "He always talked to me in such a way that I retained my self-respect, which is a great art." As they studied children's reading interests and needs for reading success, his mentor once told him, "Bill you are going to be one of the outstanding literacy teachers of your time."
Despite his continuing struggles as a reader, Bill earned his master's degree in 1957 and continued to pursue his doctorate. When Bill completed all of the doctoral requirements but the dissertation, he decided to apply to become the principal at nearby Crow Island Elementary School. He applied for the appointment, received the job, completed a course in August to give him "authenticity to become a principal," and began his career as an elementary school principal in the fall of 1958. Of the three years he served at Crow Island, Bill smiled and said, "Well, I wasn't the best principal, but I was enthusiastic."
After taking three years to complete his literature review, Bill finished his dissertation and graduated with his Ph.D. in Reading and Child Development in 1961. Soon after, he resigned as principal of Crow Island. Holt and Rinehart Publishing Company had merged with John C. Winston, and the newly formed company sought Bill to head up the elementary division. During this decision-making time, Bill was also offered university teaching positions. Although he struggled with his career decision, Bill eventually decided that the was, indeed, meant to be "a book man."
Bill arrived in New York in 1961, and he immediately began his work at Holt, Rinehart and Winston. He also started hosting Bill Martin conferences, making presentations with teachers whom he had met while visiting their classrooms. At these annual summer conferences, Bill enjoyed the ongoing opportunities to "talk to teachers about loosening up their curriculum."
Soon after Bill began his work at Holt, Rinehart and Winston, he realized that he needed a writing partner. He found Peggy Brogan at the American Toy Company and immediately realized that she was talking his language: "lots of poetry, lots of reading aloud, lots of happiness, and lots of success." Peggy joined Bill, and they created their first series, the Owl books.
Bill and Peggy initially published the Little Owl series, a set of 40 books and accompanying cassette tapes, for firstand second-grade classrooms. The literature set included stories, poems, and chants for math, science, and social studies. The cassette tapes accompanying the Owl books were central to the reading program. "Everything was in dialogue with the children." Soon they expanded the Owl books to other elementary grades.
The Little Owl books sold very well; in fact, Bill still remembers receiving a note from the CEO of the company congratulating him on selling the first million dollars worth of readers. In June of that year, soon after he received the congratulatory notes, Bill got a call from a Holt salesman in Texas asking Bill to transform the Owl readers into a basic reader format. Bill and Peggy created the reading program, Sounds of Language, by collecting a collage of stories, poems, songs, chants, and illustrations to fill books at different grade levels. Bill and Peggy decided that the teacher's editions to accompany the student books would look far different than the prescriptive teacher's guides on the market. Bill and Peggy explained to teachers that the insights they provided throughout the teacher's editions were to serve as mere launching points for the teachers' unique teaching ideas:
At no time is an annotation so prescriptive that it precludes your insights from the teaching process. To the contrary, the annotations are geared to triggering all your insights and hunches in helping children latch on (emphasis in the original) to language and their humanity.
(martin & brogan, 1974, p. 4)
Although Bill and Peggy received "lots of support" for their reading program from teachers, they also heard from the adversaries, "some rabid women in Texas who really got after me." These teachers disagreed with the freedom that Bill and Peggy had written into the program. Many teachers wanted them to keep the Sounds of Language student books but to rewrite the teacher editions. Even the salesmen returned to New York and said, "We're losing millions of dollars. I've got a teacher who is respected and who could write a good teacher's guide." Bill responded simply, "No." The salesmen continued, "But you don't have this and you don't have that," to which Bill answered, "Purposely." He wanted teachers to understand that "their best teacher's guide happens in their heads."
In the end, Holt, Rinehart and Winston "sold lots of books . . . but nothing like if it hadn't been for the fights." Bill realized that by refusing to change the teacher's editions, he had angered the company's salesmen. Eventually, Bill resigned and spent the next several years holding his summer conferences, traveling to schools around the country, and writing children's books. He also continued to hone his ability to read. Although reading remained laborious, Bill considered himself an avid reader.
In the early 1980s, Bell met John Archambault, a college student and aspiring writer who asked Bill to look at his writing. Eventually, Bill and John began to collaborate. They wrote several children's books, includingThe Ghost-Eye Tree (1985),Barn Dance! (1986), andChicka Chicka Boom Boom (1989).
During his years in New York, Bill became friends with Michael Sampson, a professor at East Texas State University in Commerce, Texas. They had met at a conference, and in the early 1980s, Michael invited Bill to speak at a meeting in Commerce, Bill and Mike enjoyed working together, and soon they began to host conferences on other campuses. Their collaboration would continue for years to come.
In the early 1990s, while still living in New York City, Bill began to notice a change in his health. "I could tell that my body was deteriorating. It was harder for me to get around." Michael Sampson and his family had bought acreage outside of Commerce, and they invited Bill to move to Texas and become their neighbor. In 1993, Bill moved to the woods outside of commerce, Texas, and settled into his house on Brown Bear Trail.
Since that time, Bill has slowed down a great deal. He is now 85 years old, and he has lost much of his abilities to see and hear. As he grows older, however, Bill remains thankful. Laughing, he said, "I can't hear. I can't see. I almost have to dictate now what I write, but I'm not bored. I have been blessed, no doubt, to have grown old without pain, and that's such a benediction."
Despite his declining health, Bill occasionally attends summer conferences and continues to write children's books. "It's a thrilling experience to get an idea that you think would make a book. It's an exhausting experience to have to stay with it until the sentences make sense and build a patter, a sound, a story, that is satisfying." In the end, Bill Martin, Jr. writes because "it is still a pleasantry to write a sentence that sings."
Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot explains how she searches for a "life litany" within every story as she examines her data for emergent themes. A life litany is "an insistent theme, a driving current that flows through each life journey" (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Davis, 1997, p. 197). Searching for Bill's life litany became the first step in creating themes based on his life story.
I once asked Bill what title he would give his own life story. He paused and said, "It would be something that suggests a quest and an effort to improve my relationships to others through language." The more time I have spent with Bill, the more I understand the centrality of language in his life. When I first heard Bill speaking in 1990, he said, "It is with language that we create our lives. It is with language in the head that we enlarge the life space. . . . We live out our language." Bill's language "in the head" helped broaden his understanding of the world as a child—from the small rural town of Hiawatha to faraway places in the moves, and in the stories and plays his teachers read aloud in school. Bill believes that language is at the heart of individual understanding, but it is also central to any relationship:
Man lives by his language. My personality is shaped by the way I string the words together. How I think, how I feel, how I intake the outside world and communicate my inside world back is all shaped in my sentences.
(martin, 1971, p. 21)
Language becomes more than the center of Bill's reading program. Language forms the core of Bill's life with others. Within this life litany, "language guides our lives with others," I identified five emergent themes that all relate to children and teachers, the people with whom Bill has worked throughout his career.
RESPECT CHILDREN AS LANGUAGE USERS
In his Sounds of Language teacher's editions, Bill writes,
It should not surprise you to know that even at the first-grade level, a child is already something of an expert in analyzing language, a fact overlooked in most reading programs. . . . The aim is to help him become aware of what he intuitively knows about language, and to help him explore and verbalize old and new learnings.
(martin & brogan, 1974, pp. 2-3)
Even today, Bill remains thankful for his teachers who respected him as a language user, instead of labeling him as "slow" because of his difficulty with reading.
WE HAVE MUCH TO LEARN FROM CHILDREN, IF ONLY WE'LL WATCH AND LISTEN AND LEARN
Bill believes that teachers must spend time with students in order to understand them:
We must not assume anything about children and their learning until we have observed it. And then we may begin to make some assumptions, but very modestly. . . . And so we all sit down, and when a child talks, we listen. When a child talks to us he's trying to tell us about his life. He's trying to tell us who he is, where he came from, and what he wants. Children want us to know about them.
Bill encourages teachers to listen to children's explanations to see if the children have figured out a particular literary structure. Bill has always believed that children have "natural ways" of sharing with teachers what they know and need, if only we will watch and listen to them.
HUMOR IS UNIVERSALLY MOTIVATING AND ENGAGING FOR KIDS
Bill has always sensed that children benefit from humor in the classroom. When I asked him what role humor had played in his own development as a child, he replied, "I think that humor is very close to self-approval. When you can laugh at things, it helps you get rid of your disparagement." Bill believes that humor not only helps children accept themselves, but it is central to the learning experience. "So many people don't understand that the fun that you have in learning is rooted in the laughter in and around your activity."
On a drive home from Commerce one morning, I listened to some of Bill's old Owl Reader cassette tapes. I was immediately struck by the humor Bill found as he read his stories, such asHappy Hippopotami, and invited the children to join him in the reading. When I shared my reaction to his recordings, he laughed and said, "And that laughter was so easy to create because it was natural." By including humor in his recordings and texts, Bill hoped to engage children in lighthearted language learning and motivate them to continue to develop more insights into language and how it works.
TEACHERS MUST ENGAGE WITH CHILDREN IN LANGUAGE USE
Bill has always believed that teachers must read aloud to children every day. Since his early days with Miss Davis and Miss Nevius, Bill has believed in the power and importance of reading aloud because reading aloud deposits literary and linguistic structures in children's storehouses (Martin & Brogan, 1966). Children add to their linguistic treasuries by hearing their teachers read stories and poems aloud on a daily basis.
Reading aloud to children also provides an invitation for children to join in exploring the printed page. Especially if children struggle with reading, as Bill did, reading aloud provides a safe entry into print. Bill understands that "reading aloud is a very provocative and successful method of inviting children to print." Bill believes that the more we engage with children in language use, the more we join them in discovering new insights into language:
Teachers must say to the children, "Oh children, I just noticed something here. I've been teaching from this book for three years, and I've never seen this before." That kind of going back to the basic source, the wonderment that books give us and hold us to . . . it's a joy.
By engaging with children in language use, we provide ongoing opportunities to learn more about the complexities and "the wonderment" of language itself.
TEACHERS ARE VALUABLE
In each of the Sounds of Language teacher's editions, Bill's first words are "Hello, good teachers." From the opening page, Bill highlights his respect for teachers. After I read this greeting in several teacher's editions, I returned to the first time I had heard Bill speak. And again, the first words out of his mouth that afternoon were, "Thank you, good teachers." The more I have listened to Bill talk about his former teachers, as well as teachers he has worked with in more recent years, the more I understand that he truly believes in and respects teachers.
Bill's respect for teachers goes far beyond merely greeting them with kind words. Through the years, he has understood just how valuable his own teachers were in his language development:
I have never lost touch with Miss Davis' linguistic sensitivity, with Miss Nevius' dramatic beckonings, nor with Mr. Roahen's literary disciplines. They imprinted in my memory models of how a sentence runs its fluent course and carries with it an awareness of literary completeness.
(martin, 1978, p. 38)
Such valuing of teachers grew as Bill worked with teachers all over the country. Bill's enthusiasm and respect for teachers past and present highlight the fact that he has always believed that teachers are, indeed, valuable. In the end, it is Bill's belief in good teachers and his insights into the power of language that are his professional legacy. Just as he continues to live his life litany, "a quest and an effort to improve my relationships to others through language," he encourages all of us who teach to do the same:
Finally, lest we forget, the primary purpose of teaching is to help children claim kinship with humanity . . . For it is on the wings of words that we claim our identity with our culture. We must help children find access to those words.
(martin, brogan, & archambault, 1991)
Larrick, N. (1982). "Profile: Bill Martin, Jr." Language Arts, 59(5), 490-494.
Lawrence-Lightfoot, S., & Davis, J. H. (1997). The Art and Science of Portraiture. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Martin, B., Jr. (1967). Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? New York: Holt.
Martin, B., Jr. (1971). "Catch a Skylark While He Sings." In M. W. Essex, G. R. Bowers & R. A. Horn (Eds.), Building Blocks to Success (pp. 20-27). Columbus: State of Ohio Department of Education.
Martin, B., Jr. (1978). "Booking for the Long Flight." In M. P. Douglass (Ed.), Claremont Reading Conference Yearbook Vol. 42: Reading for Life (pp. 33-39). Claremont, CA: Claremont Reading Conference.
Martin, B., Jr. (1987). "The Making of a Reader: A Personal Narrative." In B. E. Cullinan (Ed.), Children's Literature in the Reading Program (27-31). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Martin, B., Jr. (1996). A Visit with Bill Martin, Jr (Video Cassette Recording). New York: Holt.
Martin, B., Jr., & Martin, B. (1945). The Little Squeegy Bug. Kansas City, MO: Tell-Well Press.
Martin, B., Jr., & Brogan, P. (1966). Sounds of Home. Teacher's ed. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Martin, B., Jr., & Brogan, P. (1974). Sounds in the Wind. Teacher's ed. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
Martin, B., Jr., & Archambault, J. (1985). The GhostEye Tree. New York: Holt.
Martin, B., Jr., & Archambault, J. (1986). Barn Dance! New York: Holt.
Martin, B., Jr., & Archambault, J. (1988). Listen to the Rain. New York: Holt.
Martin, B., Jr., & Archambault, J. (1989). Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. New York: Holt.
Martin, B., Jr., Brogan, P., & Archambault, J. (1991). Sounds of Mystery. Teacher's ed. Allen, TX: DLM.
Roberts, K. L. (1937). Northwest Passage. New York: Doubleday.
THE LITTLE SQUEEGY BUG (1945; REVISED EDITION, 2001)
Carolyn Phelan (review date 1 September 2001)
SOURCE: Phelan, Carolyn. Review of The Little Squeegy Bug, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Pat Corrigan. Booklist 98, no. 1 (1 September 2001): 117.
Ages 5-7. A little bug meets a big bumblebee, who tells him that he too can get silver wings if he climbs to the sky. The plucky bug climbs the tallest cattail he can find, where he befriends a kind caterpillar. Together they visit a helpful spider, who fits the bug with little silver wings, a bright star-lantern to carry in his tail, and a new name: Squeegy the Firefly. The jacket-flap copy indicates that the text is a shortened version of Martin's first book,The Little Squeegy Bug (1945). The story is still a bit long for many preschoolers, but the humble bug's magical transformation will draw in listeners. The smooth and sassy digital artwork by promising newcomer Corrigan is at its best in the bolder, more dynamic pictures. Primary-grade teachers will find this useful for units on bugs.
Janice M. Del Negro (review date January 2002)
SOURCE: Del Negro, Janice M. Review of The Little Squeegy Bug, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Pat Corrigan. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 55, no. 5 (January 2002): 179.
After an encounter with an impressive bumblebee, a little squeegy bug goes in search of wings so he can be a bumblebee, too. After saving the little squeegy bug from a storm, a kind old caterpillar named Creepy takes LSB to visit Haunchy the Spider, who "lives in a castle of webs at the end of the cattail leaf." Haunchy spins the little squeegy bug a pair of silver wings, then reaches into the sky, pulls down a star, and hangs it on the bug's tail, telling him, "With your light you can help people. You can light the way through the night for everyone in the world. You shall be called Squeegy the Firefly, the Lamplighter of the Sky." The story itself, a revised edition of Martin's first story (written over fifty years ago), is a homage to old-fashioned didacticism—the journey itself is without tension, and the conclusion is more convenient than logical. Corrigan's computer-enhanced illustrations make thisLittle Squeegy Bug one bright and shiny (if not necessarily involving) package, however, and the airbrushed style and lavish use of spot lamination enhance the slickness of the graphics. The visual polish and the art's geometric playfulness may be enough to attract if not hold young viewers.
CHICKEN CHUCK (1946; REVISED EDITION, 2000)
Diane Roback and Jennifer M. Brown (review date 17 April 2000)
SOURCE: Roback, Diane, and Jennifer M. Brown. Review of Chicken Chuck, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Steven Salnero. Publishers Weekly 247, no. 26 (17 April 2000): 80.
One of Bill Martin's (Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? ) lesser efforts, this incoherent tale [Chicken Chuck ] features a rooster named Chuck who swallows a blue seed one day and sprouts a blue feather in the middle of his forehead. He proclaims himself the barnyard boss, but soon his flunkies spy a poster of a circus horse with two blue feathers on his head. A fact-finding junket to the circus ensues, with much mayhem when an allergic monkey yanks out Chuck's special plume then sends the animals home with a whole box of blue feathers—one for everyone. Chuck's one-upmanship (he wears two feathers) and his continued search for another blue seed at the book's end, however, muddy whatever message the authors are trying to send. It's even unclear why the animals would want a blue feather in the first place. Martin teams up with his brother, Bernard, for this overwrought story, and his usual wordplay goes missing. First-time illustrator Salerno's mixed media drawings with perkily scrawled outlines give a nod to '50s illustrations, but these are overshadowed by glittering foil overlays and blue type treatment wherever the phrases "blue seed" and "blue feather" appear. The glitzy cover hologram belies a dull tale. Ages 4-8.
Linda M. Kenton (review date June 2000)
SOURCE: Kenton, Linda M. Review of Chicken Chuck, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Steven Salnero. School Library Journal 46, no. 6 (June 2000): 120-21.
PreS-Gr 2—Chicken Chuck ingests a blue seed that causes a glittery blue feather to sprout from his forehead. The other barnyard animals want one, too, but no one else finds a similar seed. Chuck's power trip is sidelined when the circus comes to town and a poster shows a beautiful white horse with two blue feathers. Chicken Chuck storms off to the circus to find him, only to lose his own feather. A monkey reveals the horse's secret and bestows upon Chuck and his friends special tie-on blue feathers. The barnyard becomes "a mass of bobbing feathers," with Chicken Chuck asserting his individuality by wearing two. "He hopes some day he'll find another blue seed. . . ." This is a good read-aloud for children who can appreciate a longer story and who can discuss being different. What really makes [Chicken Chuck, ] however, is the art. The hologramlike cover, with its silver, foil-like background, beckons youngsters. The blue feather is decorated with silver filigree, a leitmotiv repeated to the end-papers. The retro-looking mixed-media illustrations are reminiscent of fanciful 1950s designs. The same page may include dazzling color images along with soft-black charcoal outlines. The former highlight the plot action while the latter accent the pastoral setting. Every page is a whimsical visual treat.
KNOTS ON A COUNTING ROPE (1966, REVISED EDITION, 1987)
Diane Roback (review date 25 September 1987)
SOURCE: Roback, Diane. Review of Knots on a Counting Rope, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Ted Rand. Publishers Weekly 232, no. 13 (25 September 1987): 109.
Gathered near a campfire under a canopy of stars, a Navaho Indian boy hears the tale of his birth from his grandfather. Born on a windy night, the child was weak and frail. In the early morning, Grandfather brought him out to meet the morning. Two blue horses galloped by, stopped and looked at him; the baby raised his arms to them. Grandfather said, "This boy child will not die. The great blue horses have given him the strength to live." Named Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses, the child later needs that well of strength to deal with the fact that he is blind. Rand's atmospheric, vivid paintings evoke the tale's sensibility as they move it along. The beauty and vastness of the Western sky and the intimacy of two loving figures by a campfire are portrayed with equal fluidity. [Knots on a Counting Rope is] a rich tale of intergenerational love and respect, that is bittersweet and unsentimental. It is a moving collaborative effort that reverberates long after the book is closed. Ages 5-8. (October)
BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, WHAT DO YOU SEE? (1967)
Sally R. Dow (review date May 1992)
SOURCE: Dow, Sally R. Review of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle. School Library Journal 38, no. 5 (May 1992): 92.
PreS-Gr 1—In this new edition of the popular classic [Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? ], (Holt, 1983), the same clean design and crisp text remain. Illustrations, however, have been slightly altered. Stronger colors and more texture help delineate animal bodies more sharply. Positions and shapes are slightly changed, resulting in a less static look. Red Bird is shown in flying positions with a sleeker body, sharper beak, and more carefully defined tail and wing features. Yellow Duck has webbed feet and an open bill; Blue Horse has black hooves and teeth showing; Green Frog a spotted back and pink tongue; the former Mother with pale pink skin has become Teacher with beige skin tones and darker hair. The overall effect is livelier and more interesting, although changes are minimal enough that the old edition is still serviceable. When replacements are in order, this will be a welcome addition.
FIRE! FIRE! SAID MRS. MCGUIRE (1970; REVISED EDITION, 1995)
Carolyn Phelan (review date 15 March 1996)
SOURCE: Phelan, Carolyn. Review of Fire! Fire! Said Mrs. McGuire, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Richard Egielski. Booklist 92, no. 14 (15 March 1996): 1266.
Ages 2-5. Martin's adaptation of the old nursery rhyme [inFire! Fire! Said Mrs. McGuire ] appeared in a little picture book in 1970, but the new illustrations are bigger, brighter, and more original in concept, with active women definitely in the forefront. Each two-page spread illustrates a verse phrase and brings a new "Mrs." into view. "'Fire! Fire!' said Mrs. McGuire" shows a television newscaster announcing her story; "'Get out of my way!' said Mrs. Lei" shows a fighter rushing past her distracted comrades up the apartment house stairs toward the smoke. Children will find clarity, action, and humor in the gouache paintings that give this rhyme a modern look to go with its read-aloud sound.
Publishers Weekly (review date 18 March 1996)
SOURCE: Review of Fire! Fire! Said Mrs. McGuire, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Richard Egielski. Publishers Weekly 243, no. 12 (18 March 1996): 68.
The slapstick humor and fast-paced action of this version of an old rhyme begin immediately on the cover: "Fire! Fire!" shouts the title as the WXYZ Helicopter news team spots the smoke. In signature rhymed verse, one line per page, Martin supplies the simple dialogue ("'Where? Where?' said Mrs. Bear. 'Downtown' said Mrs. Brown") while Egielski fills the pages with tumultuous events and a modern—and human—cast of characters. Mrs. Bear is a Carol Channing look-alike wearing an enormous fur hat and coat, and Mrs. Kitty ("What a pity!") is a bespectacled waif with an apartment filled with cats. Throughout, the women star: Mrs. Kopp ("Near the top!") is a police officer directing the crowd, and Mrs. Chi ("Let me see!"), a photographer, records the events. At the end of [Fire! Fire! Said Mrs. McGuire ], the men and women firefighters find to their surprise that the smoke is caused by the many candles on old Mrs. Wear's birthday cake. From beginning to end, Egielski's rumble-tumble stage business and inventive subplots combine with Martin's comic puns and rhythmic verve to make this picture book a fivealarm delight. Ages 2-6.
Martha Topol (review date June 1996)
SOURCE: Topol, Martha. Review of Fire! Fire! Said Mrs. McGuire, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Richard Egielski. School Library Journal 42, no. 6 (June 1996): 117.
PreS-Gr 1—The pace is rigorous, the rhymes are silly, and the all-female cast is strong as these women track down the cause of smoke and ultimately discover it to be a birthday cake for an octogenarian. The text [ofFire! Fire! Said Mrs. McGuire ] is adapted from an old American nursery rhyme. The one-line-to-a-page verse keeps the pages turning as readers chase down the fire with Mrs. Kelp, Mrs. Kopp, and Mrs. Orr (an amazon of a woman), among others. Egielski's broadly humored, jam-packed illustrations expand the text thoroughly. He creates each character's role—the firefighter, the cop, the photographer, the babe—to its fullest. From the declaration of "Fire!" by Mrs. McGuire to the fall of the McDavis family, everything is visually on the go with people running, crowds gathering, and cats flying. This book will encourage multiple readings as children choose to rejoin the wild adventure. The abrupt, out-of-sync ending will surprise even seasoned readers, at best into a laugh, at worst into a puzzled frown. They'll probably end up inventing their own wacky rhymes.
THE HAPPY HIPPOPOTAMI (1970, REVISED EDITION, 1990)
Diane Roback and Richard Donahue (review date 15 March 1991)
SOURCE: Roback, Diane, and Richard Donahue. Review of The Happy Hippopotami, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Betsy Everitt. Publishers Weekly 238, no. 13 (15 March 1991): 57-8.
[InThe Happy Hippopotami, ] Martin (Chicka Chicka Boom Boom ) and Everitt (Frida the Wondercat) introduce some hippos who just wanna have fun, and they certainly have precisely that on their "hippoholiday" at the beach. Playful rhymed couplets describe how the hippopotami spend their day. Some lie on the sand in gaily colored bathing suits: "Like a stretch of granite boulders / Except, of course, for sunburned shoulders." While "hippopotamamas" give their children snacks and "hippopotapoppas" visit the "candy shoppas," "hippopotadaughters" swim and "hippopotasons" squirt water guns. Most lovable of all are the "hippopotapooses": hippo toddlers who stuff their pockets with jelly "sandwiches." Seeming to spill off the pages in their jollity, Everitt's spirited illustrations are sure to endear these playful creatures to kids—who will have as much fun as the hippos do. Ages 4-8.
Anna DeWind (review date July 1991)
SOURCE: DeWind, Anna. Review of The Happy Hippopotami, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Betsy Everitt. School Library Journal 37, no. 7 (July 1991): 61.
K-Gr 2—[InThe Happy Hippopotami, ] a herd of happy hippopotamamas, hippopotappoppas, and hippopotapooses board picnic buses and set off for the beach in the rollicking tale. The rhyming text banks on children's appreciation of silly-sounding words, but the humor is strictly of the one-trick-pony variety. The wordplay becomes numbing and the rhyme forced, as page after page of big-lipped hippos lumber by, eating poppasicles, playing steel guitars, and vying for hippopotaprizes. Like cotton candy, the illustrations are fluffy and appealing, but lack substance.
THE MAESTRO PLAYS (1970; REVISED EDITION, 1994)
Elizabeth Devereaux and Diane Roback (review date 8 August 1994)
SOURCE: Devereaux, Elizabeth, and Diane Roback. Review of The Maestro Plays, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Sal Murdocca. Publishers Weekly 241, no. 32 (8 August 1994): 426.
[InThe Maestro Plays ], Radunsky's (The Pup Grew Up!; Hail to the Mail) stylized, hand-colored, cut-paper art triumphantly illustrates Martin's (Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? ) playful paean to adverbs. At center stage is a clown-like creature, "The Maestro," who plays a progression of instruments. And how does he play? In an intriguing variety of ways, including some that are easy enough to understand ("flowingly, glowingly, knowingly, showingly, goingly") and some that will require youngsters to use their imaginations ("nippingly, drippingly, zippingly, clippingly, pippingly"). The book's mischievous type (it changes size and position from one spread to another), rompish rhyme and dazzling colors will keep youngsters turning the pages . . . quickly, contentedly, repeatedly. Ages 2-6. (Sept.)
Ilene Cooper (review date 1 November 1994)
SOURCE: Cooper, Ilene. Review of The Maestro Plays, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Sal Murdocca. Booklist 91, no. 5 (1 November 1994): 507.
Ages 3-5. Here's a book that will wake readers right up. It's big and bold and uses words in a glorious, rousing fashion. The Maestro is a clownlike figure who appears beating a big drum on a pure red page. "THE MAESTRO PLAYS. HE PLAYS PROUDLY. HE PLAYS LOUDLY." And as the story moves on, he plays a tuba "reachingly" while riding aboard an elephant; "flowingly, glowingly" as he charms snakes with his pipe; and "swingingly, flingingly" while flying through the air on a trapeze. The bright collage-style artwork is cleverly executed and deceptively simple, it uses its circus setting to good effect. [The Maestro Plays ] will be a great choice for a story hour—no problem seeing this all the way in the back row—and the word play makes vocabulary fun.
Lolly Robinson (review date March-April 1995)
SOURCE: Robinson, Lolly. Review of The Maestro Plays, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Sal Murdocca. Horn Book Magazine 71, no. 2 (March-April 1995): 186.
Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky. Introducing the joys of music, a clown—the maestro—plays or attempts to play fourteen musical instruments. Bold illustrations use bright colors and shapes that are both easily recognizable and graphically attractive. The large, square book provides a few tall, vertical double-page spreads that require the reader to turn the book on its side. Martin's text again shows his love for words, reveling in both their meaning and the sounds they make. "THE MAESTRO PLAYS. / HE PLAYS PROUDLY. / HE PLAYS LOUDLY. / He plays slowly / he plays oh..ly." Radunsky's illustrations are visual representations of the feelings that each instrument evokes. For the double-page spread following the maestro playing the accordion, the text reads, "He plays nippingly, drippingly . . . zippingly . . . clippingly . . . pippingly" while the art shows five red pigs dancing with abandon in a circle against a blue and green background. A vital and vibrant book, [The Maestro Plays ] succeeds in describing music through words and images.
OLD DEVIL WIND (1970, REVISED EDITION, 1993)
Joy Fleishacker (review date November 1993)
SOURCE: Fleishacker, Joy. Review of Old Devil Wind, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Barry Root. School Library Journal 39, no. 11 (November 1993): 86.
Pre-S Gr 2—[Old Devil Wind is] a creepy cumulative tale that's just right for Halloween. "One dark and stormy night" a small ghost floats out of the wall and begins to wail. He is followed by a stool that thumps, a broom that swishes, a candle that flickers, and so on, taking the readers on a journey through a mysterious, haunted dwelling. After a hook-nosed witch rides her broom around the house, the wind blows all of the objects away, not to be seen again "till HALLOWEEN NIGHT!" While the rhythmic cadence of the language builds suspense, the simple, repetitive text encourages non-readers to chant along as each thing makes a noise. Root's dark-toned watercolor and gouache illustrations have a crooked, slightly distorted look, as if viewed through thick glass. Billowing smoke, creeping mist, and shadows cast by moonlight add to the book's delightfully spooky mood. Other eerie add-on tales include Linda Williams's The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything (Crowell, 1986) and Ruth Brown's A Dark, Dark Tale (Dial, 1981).
Mary M. Burns (review date January-February 1994)
SOURCE: Burns, Mary M. Review of Old Devil Wind, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Barry Root. Horn Book Magazine 70, no. 1 (January-February 1994): 65-6.
Illustrated by Barry Root. "One dark and stormy night Ghost floated out of the wall and he began to WAIL." With this deftly crafted, economical statement, Bill Martin launches young audiences into an appropriately eerie setting where object after object—including stool, broom, window, and fire—join in a cumulative, offbeat danse macabre suitable for Halloween as well as other spooky occasions. Emphasis on lengthened inflection in the climactic lines detailing the wind's power to eliminate the noisy assemblage from "BROOOM" to "WIIIIIITCH" makes this a wonderful excursion into vocalization well suited to interactive story hours. In a fine book for reading aloud, Barry Root's illustrations [inOld Devil Wind ], featuring a dark palette, limited content, and surreal distortion, are deliciously ghoulish without being too scary.
THE TURNING OF THE YEAR (1970, REVISED EDITION, 1998)
Christy Norris Blanchette (review date August 1998)
SOURCE: Blanchette, Christy Norris. Review of The Turning of the Year, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Greg Shed. School Library Journal 44, no. 8 (August 1998): 144.
PreS-Gr 2—Month by month, this heartwarming poem evokes the joys of each season. Martin's precise use of words is key to the success of the book: "In January, out I go / to welcome winter's icy blow. / In February, bound with snow, / I sled the hillside, top to toe." No matter the weather, Shed's softly focused gouache-on-canvas paintings are full of warmth. He blends both contentment and exuberance into each brushstroke, offering up a pleasing portrait of each month. Full-page scenes showing the activities of a boy and a girl are accented with close-up illustrations of familiar seasonal objects—fireflies in June and mittens in December. [The Turning of the Year is] a delight any time of the year.
THE WIZARD (1970, REVISED EDITION, 1994)
Elizabeth Deveraux and Diane Roback (review date 18 July 1994)
SOURCE: Deveraux, Elizabeth, and Diane Roback. Review of The Wizard, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Alex Schaefer. Publishers Weekly 241, no. 29 (18 July 1994): 244.
Aided by his assistants—a frolicsome frog, an albino rat and a green gnome—a wizard prepares to cast a spell, reciting all the while, "I dance. I sing. I twinkle. I wing," he proclaims, maneuvering acrobatically around his workshop until he lands in his bubbling cauldron: "I disappear!" First-time illustrator Schaefer, working in glowing oils, makes the most of Martin's (Old Devil Wind ) jaunty but minimalist rhymes [inThe Wizard ], creating scenes so full of activity that they fairly zip off the page. [InThe Maestro Plays ], the wizard, a weirdly plastic figure, makes stardust with glowing stars and a handheld cheese grater; is rated (e.g., "9.5"; "10") by his assistants on the fierceness of his growl; and plays pingpong over his cauldron while a beetle uses the net as a high-wire. In other scenes, the rat surfs on a wave cresting in the cauldron and the frog skis down a hill of bubbles. A high-energy, if slight, romp, with an agreeably puzzling ending: Is the wizard's disappearance the accidental result of overexuberance, or the intended culmination of carefully orchestrated spells? Ages 3-8. (Sept.)
HERE ARE MY HANDS (1987)
Diane Roback (review date 24 April 1987)
SOURCE: Roback, Diane. Review of Here are My Hands, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Ted Rand. Publishers Weekly 231, no. 16 (24 April 1987): 68.
[Here are My Hands is] a surprising celebration of physiological parts and their uses that includes: "Here are my hands for catching and throwing. Here are my feet for stopping and going. . . . Here is my elbow, my arm, and my chin. And here is my skin that bundles me in." Rand's pictures spill off the page as different children enact the very funny, very pure chant. It's repeatable, rereadable and particularly adept at showing some of the various activities associated with the assorted limbs. Simply told, these short phrases say more with less. From the collaborators on many other books, including last season's Barn Dance. Ages 4-7. (April)
LISTEN TO THE RAIN (1988)
Barbara S. McGinn (review date October 1988)
SOURCE: McGinn, Barbara S. Review of Here are My Hands, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by James Endicott. School Library Journal 35, no. 2 (October 1988): 126.
PreS-Gr 2—Martin and Archambault have teamed up to create another lyrical book—this time a rhyming story about rain. [Listen to the Rain ] is brief, yet each page is so much fun to read that children won't feel shortchanged. Endicott's double-page watercolors in hues of blue and red capture both the quiet and the angry moods of a rain. His portrayal of "the lightning-flashing / thunder-crashing / sounding pounding roaring rain" is elegant in its simplicity—a thunderbolt, a falling leaf, and a large claw are drawn against a pink-hued wash. Creative children will love these illustrations. Although the artwork is a perfect complement to the text, the authors' lyrical words can stand alone and probably will be memorized by many children who will be fascinated by the sounds and inner rhyme scheme. The words literally roll off of the tongue: "Listen to the quietude, / the silence and the solitude / of after-rain, / the dripping dripping dropping / the slowly slowly stopping / the fresh / wet / silent / after-time / of rain." A book that parents, teachers, and children will read again and again and again.
CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM (1989)
Diane Roback (review date 13 October 1989)
SOURCE: Roback, Diane. Review of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Lois Ehlert. Publishers Weekly 236, no. 15 (13 October 1989): 51.
In this bright and lively rhyme, [Chicka Chicka Boom Boom ], the letters of the alphabet race each other to the top of the coconut tree. When X, Y, and Z finally scramble up the trunk, however, the weight is too much, and down they all tumble in a colorful chaotic heap: "Chicka Chicka . . . BOOM! BOOM!" All the family members race to help, as one by one the letters recover in amusingly battered fashion. Poor stubbed toe E has a swollen appendage, while F sports a jaunty Band-Aid and P is indeed black-eyed. As the tropic sun goes down and a radiant full moon appears, indomitable A leaps out of bed, double-daring his colleagues to another treetop race. This nonsense verse delights with its deceptively simple narrative and with the repetition of such catchy phrases as "skit skat skoodle doot." Ehlert's bold color scheme, complete with hot pink and orange borders, matches the crazy mood perfectly. Children will revel in seeing the familiar alphabet transported into this madcap adventure. Ages 2-6. (Oct.)
John Philbrook (review date November 1989)
SOURCE: Philbrook, John. Review of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Lois Ehlert. School Library Journal 35, no. 15 (November 1989): 89.
K-Gr 3—Rap comes to alphabet books. Martin and Archambault have produced an engaging rhyme with restless, exciting rhythms to convey the humorous adventures of the letters of the alphabet and a coconut tree. Essentially "A" bets the others it can beat them to the top of the coconut tree—and the race is on. Ehlert's bright, primary color illustrations add to the fun as the 26 climb the tree, fall down (requiring parental care and bandages), and abandon their efforts (although "A" mischievously starts off again at night). In the illustrations, the 26 protagonists are lower-case letters, while their parents are upper case, adding another dimension—although the humor may be more appreciated by older children. [Chicka Chicka Boom Boom ] is not a first alphabet book as the mishaps of the letters greatly overshadow the tutelary value. Still, this goes further in making arid print more friendly and comfortable than other books of this genre.
THE MAGIC PUMPKIN (1989)
Diane Roback (review date 13 October 1989)
SOURCE: Roback, Diane. Review of The Magic Pumpkin, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Robert J. Lee. Publishers Weekly 236, no. 15 (13 October 1989): 52.
A deceptively simple text with a lyrical rhythm describes a pear-shaped pumpkin growing in a garden, who unexpectedly whispers that he'll protect the yard from the "foolies." Soon a face is carved, with an eerily grinning mouth "which came to life / with candlelight, / to stay the mischief / of the night." Several creatures (among them fox, skunk and owl) pay scary visits, and then, at last, the foolies do arrive—and the pumpkin turns out to be the leader of their gang. "With that / I snuffed his candlelight . . . / and the turncoat withered / out of sight." The foolies are foiled. And Lee's Halloween pumpkin rots away, smoke seeping out of his black eyes. While [The Magic Pumpkin ] contains an air of mystery suited to the holiday, unclear portions will no doubt confuse young readers. Why is the pumpkin a rebel, and what purpose does this serve in the story? What is the reason for his sudden—and rather grisly—demise? Lee's fragile watercolors cast an appropriately haunting aura to the strange proceedings. Ages 4-7. (Oct.)
Jean H. Zimmerman (review date December 1989)
SOURCE: Zimmerman, Jean H. Review of The Magic Pumpkin, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Robert J. Lee. School Library Journal 35, no. 16 (December 1989): 86.
Gr 1-3—An unseen speaker's pumpkin comes to life in the Halloween picture book. The narrator goes into the garden to select a pumpkin, finds the perfect one, and is startled when it whispers, "Choose me! . . . I'll keep the foolies from your yard!" The narrator carves a face in the pumpkin and places it at the door. The yard is then visited by twin foxes, "four mystic giants disguised as skunks," an owl, and some mice, all of whom the narrator finds (for some unknown reason) threatening. When the "foolies," little leprechaun-like people with tails, parade into the yard with batons and musical instruments, the jacko'-lantern changes. "He sneered! He snorted! He danced! He sang! He was the leader of the foolie gang!" Although the only change that the readers see is human eyes peering out of the pumpkin, the narrator feels betrayed, calls the pumpkin a traitor, and blows out the candle, causing the pumpkin to shrink and wither out of sight. Lee's watercolors are painted in appropriate fall colors and could be easily seen by a group as well as individual readers. The text itself is too sophisticated for the children who will be attracted by the picture-book format and large pumpkin on the cover. It is unlikely that even older elementary students will understand the literary allusion, "tonight will be your albatross!" The illustrations are attractive and evocative of the fall season and [The Magic Pumpkin ] could be used as a Halloween readaloud, but it will not have the enormous appeal of Martin'sBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
POLAR BEAR, POLAR BEAR, WHAT DO YOU HEAR? (1991)
Diane Roback and Richard Donahue (review date 30 August 1991)
SOURCE: Roback, Diane, and Richard Donahue. Review of Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle. Publishers Weekly 238, no. 39 (30 August 1991): 81.
It's been 25 years since these two talented men put their heads together, but the fruit of their latest collaboration, [Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? ], is well worth the wait. Continuing in the spirit ofBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, their new book incorporates the same clean design and crisp text, but this time the action takes place at the zoo, where elephants, hippos, lions and such are asked what they hear—each answer leads to the animal on the next page, and culminates with a zookeeper who "hears" a pageful of multiracial children disguised as their favorite animals. Carle's characteristically inventive, jewel-toned artwork forms a seamless succession of images that fairly leap off the pages, and educator Martin, ever tuned in to what children like best, has assembled a thoroughly rowdy menagerie—including a fluting flamingo, bellowing walrus and hissing boa constrictor, to name a few—imitations of whose sounds will doubtless soon be echoing in many homes and classrooms. A visually and aurally splashy work, this is a splendid successor toBrown Bear, one that no fan of that popular bruin will want to be without. Ages 2-4.
Ruth Semrau (review date November 1991)
SOURCE: Semrau, Ruth. Review of Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle. School Library Journal 37, no. 11 (November 1991): 102.
PreS-Gr 1—In a logical sensory follow-up to Martin's and Carle's wildly successfulBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Holt, 1983), this dynamic duo now offers sounds. The polar bear hears a lion roaring, who hears a flamingo fluting (!), who hears a zebra braying, and so on through a varies list of animals. At last the zookeeper announces that he hears the children roaring, snorting, fluting, etc. While the format [inPolar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? ] is very similar to the previous book, Carle's trademark collages have never been more beautiful. Huge animals fill the double-page spreads, glowing with light-filled colors, sans superfluous background. Teachers will smile with delight when they see this wonderful book, and students are sure to utter the familiar request, "Have you got another one like this one?"
A BEAUTIFUL FEAST FOR A BIG KING CAT (1994)
Diane Roback and Elizabeth Devereaux (review date 30 May 1994)
SOURCE: Roback, Diane, and Elizabeth Devereaux. Review of A Beautiful Feast for a Big King Cat, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Bruce Degen. Publishers Weekly 241, no. 22 (30 May 1994): 55.
Each time the small mouse teases the cat [inA Beautiful Feast for a Big King Cat ]—"Big cat, big cat, / catch me if you can!"—he is saved by his intrepid mother, who yanks the cat's tail or tweaks his nose with the fireplace tongs. The third time around, however, the cat takes a shortcut and catches his prey. The little mouse doesn't despair. Rather, he "start[s] to think," then temps the cat with visions of "fried chicken bones / with catnip crust . . . / and plump juicy livers / in sweet sugar dust": when the cat closes his eyes to contemplate the feast of which he thinks himself worthy, the mouse escapes. Archambault and Martin's rambunctious plot and lively, rhymed verse are perfectly complemented by the slapstick in Degen's detailed and faintly Victorian illustrations. The cat, both menacing and comical, lies in a yellow waistcoat on a chaise lounge reading The Feline Times—"Kitty Crisis: Litter Supply Boxed In"—while the cozy mouse house hums with domesticity. As rhythmic as Archambault and Martin'sChicka Chicka Boom Boom and as endearing as Degen's Jesse Bear books. Ages 3-8. (June)
Marianne Saccardi (review date July 1994)
SOURCE: Saccardi, Marianne. Review of A Beautiful Feast for a Big King Cat, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Bruce Degen. School Library Journal 40, no. 7 (July 1994): 73.
PreS-Gr 3—This lesson about the dangers of teasing is presented in a delightful package. A young mouse taunts, "Big cat, big cat, catch me if you can!" Twice the rodent manages to escape to his house, where his mother forcefully warns the big bully to "pick on someone your own size." But on the third try, the cat takes a shortcut and grabs the mouse before he can reach home. Only the youngster's quick thinking allows him to escape. The rhymed text, repetitive phrases, and patterned plot make [A Beautiful Feast for a Big King Cat ] the perfect choice for beginning readers. The dialogue appears in italics, encouraging readers to dramatize the story. Degen's large, watercolor illustrations are filled with wonderful, Victorian period detail. Occasionally, text appears in a decorative frame centered with a crown or bordered with fancy flowers and wrought-iron designs. King Cat himself looks somewhat like a critter from a Beatrix Potter tales. While the young mouse may never go to King Cat's house again, young readers will definitely keep coming back to this book for more.
Elizabeth Deveraux and Diane Roback (review date 21 July 1997)
SOURCE: Deveraux, Elizabeth, and Diane Roback. Review of Swish!, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Michael Chesworth. Publishers Weekly 244, no. 29 (21 July 1997): 200-01.
Martin (Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? ) teams up with Sampson (The Football That Won) for this account of a girls' championship basketball game between the Cardinals and the Blue Jays. As the seconds tick away, girls pass, dribble and shoot until a final Cardinals' basket breaks the tie. Part sportscaster ("Referee hands the ball to Lynn, Blue Jay pass comes bouncing in") and part cheerleader ("Only 3 seconds more, pass it now, we gotta score!"), the narrator imparts a sense of urgency that young basketball fans may initially find contagious. Yet a sometimes sloppy rhyme scheme (rebound/bounds; brows/how) and the repetition of the word "dribble" may make [Swish! ] a disappointing read for some sidelines spectators. The visuals make the most of Martin and Sampson's text. With a predominantly red, white and blue palette, Chesworth's (Television) cartoon art creates the illusion of camera shots as aerial views from the bleachers are juxtaposed with close-ups of on-court action (e.g., a concentrating Cardinal preparing for a lay-up shot or the scoreboard viewed from between a running player's legs). Clever use of white space adds to the instantreplay energy; in this game, the art gets the extra point. Ages 4-7. (Sept.)
Connie C. Rockman (review date November 1997)
SOURCE: Rockman, Connie C. Review of Swish!, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Michael Chesworth. School Library Journal 43, no. 11 (November 1997): 93-4.
K-Gr 3—With rhythmic rhyme and dynamic art, Swish! draws readers into the final minute of a hotly contested game between two girls' basketball teams, the Cardinals and the Blue Jays. The text echoes the fast-paced excitement of the game, punctuated by the slower "dribble . . . dribble . . . dribble" as each player decides where to place the ball. Both sides score and the red team calls a frantic time out, coming back to win with a three-pointer in the last second. Chesworth's drawings are full of motion. He zooms in from the first picture where the perspective is high in the bleachers, and then swoops down into the middle of the court with the team. Readers can nearly hear the gasping breaths and smell the sweaty uniforms in the struggle for that winning basket. The cartoonlike character of the pictures and the primary colors of the uniforms make this a bright and cheery choice for reading aloud to budding basketball enthusiasts. It makes an interesting contrast to the more serious tone and subdued colors of Robert Burleigh and Stephen Johnson's Hoops (Harcourt, 1997).
Ilene Cooper (review date 15 December 1997)
SOURCE: Cooper, Ilene. Review of Swish!, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Michael Chesworth. Booklist 94, no. 8 (15 December 1997): 704.
Ages 5-8. The Cardinals are playing the Blue Jays in this appealing book in which short, rhythmic bursts of text capture the energy of a girls' basketball game. "Referee hands the ball to Lynn. / Dribble . . . dribble . . . dribble . . . / Janet passes off to Kim, / outside shot goes off the rim." The fastpaced action moves back and forth between the hardworking teams until a final basket puts the Cardinals over the top. The final picture shows the clasped hands of all the players after the final buzzer goes off. The energetic text is matched by Chesworth's ink-and-watercolor artwork that features multiracial teams of girls zooming up and down the court. Older kids may like this just as well as primary-graders. A popular topic combined with a short, repetitive text makes [Swish! ] a good choice for those learning to read.
A BEASTY STORY (1999)
Diane Roback, Jennifer M. Brown, and Cindi Di Marzo (review date 19 July 1999)
SOURCE: Roback, Diane, Jennifer M. Brown, and Cindi Di Marzo. Review of A Beasty Story, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Steven Kellogg. Publishers Weekly 246, no. 29 (19 July 1999): 193.
"Nick's Tricks and Hank's Pranks, Incorporated" are the words painted on the side of a truck rolling through the forest on the front endpaper of this mischievous caper; mice Nick and Hank themselves surface on the title page, offering observant youngsters a clue to the plot that lies ahead. In large type well geared to beginning readers, the text sets the scene for each spread—and reinforces knowledge of colors: "In a dark, dark wood there is a dark, dark house. / In the dark brown house there is a dark, dark stair." Appearing in speech balloons within the whimsical illustrations, the ingenuous, rhyming dialogue of four wide-eyed mice supplements the narrative. The intrepid mice venture into the shadow-filled house and creep down a dark, dark red staircase to a cellar with dark, dark blue walls, and so forth, until they find a dark, dark green bottle. The "beast" that floats out of it is only the first of the book's surprises. A high-spirited balance of concept book and adventure tale, [A Beasty Story ] should find an enthusiastic reception among the many fans of Martin (Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? ) and Kellogg (Is Your Mama a Llama?). Both artist and illustrator shine as they playfully illuminate this "dark, dark" setting. Ages 3-7. (Aug.)
Pat Leach (review date September 1999)
SOURCE: Leach, Pat. Review of A Beasty Story, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Steven Kellogg. School Library Journal 45, no. 9 (September 1999): 195.
PreS-K—A wonderful collaboration by a talented pair. Their tale happens in "a dark, dark wood," but ends in a silly, silly way. Four mice explore a "dark, dark house" and find (in a dark purple cupboard) a dark green bottle holding a yellow-eyed monster that escapes, sending the mice fleeing. Large-print rhyming text appears at the top of each page; the story is embellished by the mice, who expand upon the narrative in bubble captions, also in rhyme. The initial tone is a little ominous, but the little critters seem too nice to have anything really bad happen to them. Observant children may note the clue in the endpaper—the delivery van for "Nick's Tricks and Hank's Pranks," complete with a logo of two big yellow eyes. As if scariness and rhyming text weren't enough to guarantee success, the authors toss in some color naming. All of the elements add up to a picture book with plenty of appeal. Lap listeners will enjoy lingering on the ample details, and [A Beasty Story 's] size and the story's rhythm are perfect for sharing. The relatively intense color palette and simple settings will allow children at the back of the group to enjoy the pictures, too. Kellogg's trademark animals and his ability to create action on a page are well in evidence. This one is sure to be a hit.
Linda Perkins (review date 15 September 1999)
SOURCE: Perkins, Linda. Review of A Beasty Story, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Steven Kellogg. Booklist 96, no. 2 (15 September 1999): 268-69.
Ages 4-8. On the dust jacket [ofA Beasty Story ], four sporty mice warn readers that a beast "hovers between the covers." The story continues on the opening endpapers and an important visual clue occurs on the title page. As the four explore "a dark, dark house," each page introduces a new color and takes them closer to the beast, who emerges from a dark green bottle and flies away with the brave mice in pursuit. A rhymed narrative tells the story along the top of the pages, with the mice commenting in rhymed conversation as they move through the adventure. The silly resolution will appeal to young children. Ironically, a real monster appears on the endpapers. Kellogg's lively ink-and-watercolor art strikes just the right note for the gently suspenseful story. The rich repetitive language and the introduction of numbers and colors make this appropriate for classroom use. The parallel structure, buoyant tone, and clever details—reminiscent of Peggy Rathmann's 10 Minutes till Bedtime (1998)—ensure more than one reading. Beastly good fun!
ADAM, ADAM, WHAT DO YOU SEE? (2000)
Publishers Weekly (review date 25 September 2000)
SOURCE: Review of Adam, Adam, What Do You See?, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Cathie Felstead. Publishers Weekly 247, no. 39 (25 September 2000): 113.
Adapting the structure and rhythms of Martin's classicBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? to Christian themes, Martin and Sampson (Star of the Circus) offer young children a friendly, age-appropriate introduction to biblical figures and concepts [inAdam, Adam, What Do You See? ]. In just a few words, the authors encapsulate and allude to the Bible's most dramatic moments, leaving plenty of room for discussion and leading readers to the biblical verses that serve as sources. Adam, answering the title question, says, "I see creation all around me"; Genesis 2:4-25 is cited. Abraham's response is distilled with particular thoughtfulness: "I see a starry sky blinking at me." Evenly divided between Old and New Testament personages, the volume builds to an encounter with Christ ("Little Child, Little Child, / What do you see? / I see Jesus watching over me") and a Christian coda ("Jesus, Jesus, / What do you see? / I see [the previously named characters] all seeking me"). Felstead's (Who Made Me?) exuberant painted-paper collages honor Eric Carle's work in [Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? ] and its companions, although her palette is milder. Her compositions vary the pace, alternating moments of tranquility (e.g., Ruth happily entering "a new land waiting for me") with lots of action (Paul fleeing his cell, stones cascading in the background, illustrates "an earthquake setting me free"). The simplicity of text and art belie masterly craftsmanship. Ages 3-7.
Patricia Pearl Dole (review date December 2000)
SOURCE: Dole, Patricia Pearl. Review of Adam, Adam, What Do You See?, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Cathie Felstead. School Library Journal 46, no. 12 (December 2000): 134.
PreS-K—Using the familiar format of [Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? ] (Holt, 1983), Old and New Testament biblical figures are queried about what they see [inAdam, Adam, What Do You See? ]. Adam sees Creation; Noah sees animals in the ark; Abraham, a starry sky; Joseph, a coat; Moses, the Red Sea parting; Samson, strength from God; Ruth, a new land; Mary, Baby Jesus; Peter, miracles; etc. Each rhymed question and answer has a Scripture quotation cited to lead children to the appropriate Bible story. The final portrayal of what Jesus sees is ambiguous in that it indicates that all of these people are seeking him. The book is thus restricted to use in a Christian setting. In that context, it provides an excellent discussion starter and lead-in to the various stories. The flat, cartoon-style, double-page illustrations, with their interesting perspectives and brilliant colors, are lively and eye-appealing.
LITTLE GRANNY QUARTERBACK (2001)
Barbara Buckley (review date December 2001)
SOURCE: Buckley, Barbara. Review of Little Granny Quarterback, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Michael Chesworth. School Library Journal 47, no. 12 (December 2001): 106.
K-Gr 3—Martin has coupled his notorious sense of humor with his favorite sport to come up with a quirky little picture book [inLittle Granny Quarterback ]. Granny Whiteoak, who was a star quarterback in her youth, hears on TV that her team is in trouble. She leaps from her bed and into the television, coming out at the stadium where she defeats the opposition with a startling touchdown. The supreme silliness is elevated by the rhyming verse and hilarious illustrations. While many young readers may be unfamiliar with the football terms, such as "snap from the center," they will immediately get the rhythm and the playfulness of the words. Everyone will be cheering for Granny, who ends up back in bed nursing a sore head.
ROCK IT, SOCK IT, NUMBER LINE (2001)
Publishers Weekly (review date 20 August 2001)
SOURCE: Review of Rock It, Sock It, Number Line, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Heather Cahoon. Publishers Weekly 248, no. 34 (20 August 2001): 78.
Rather than admonish children to eat their vegetables, Martin and Sampson (previously paired forSwish! ) urge youngsters to give this food group a listen [in Rock It, Sock It, Number Line ]. An okra, onion and a trio of broccoli trees kick off the party as the vegetables join with the numerals one through 10. The story unfolds through the dreams of a farm boy and girl, who doze in the vegetable patch on a hot summer day. A phalanx of 10 scarecrow guardsmen herald the showstopping arrival of each creamy peach numeral amid the carrots, squash, eggplants and beets: "One rockets through the sky, / and parachutes down with a pumpkin pie," while "six arrives with an old guitar, / tells the yams / he's a country star!" But the conceit does not quite cohere—it feels like several ideas stitched together. Those just learning to count may be confused: the numerals do not accompany the corresponding number of vegetables (the numeral five, for instance, arrives with three "broccoli trees"; five yams arrive with the numeral six). Despite the title, the numerals never do line up. Cahoon's characters, however, embody a winning, retro cheekiness; her vegetables and numerals burst with joie de vivre. Ages 3-5.
Piper L. Nymen (review date December 2001)
SOURCE: Nymen, Piper L. Review of Rock It, Sock It, Number Line, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Heather Cahoon. School Library Journal 47, no. 12 (December 2001): 106.
PreS-K—"On the castle side / of the garden green, / vegetables grow / for the king and queen" begins this rhyming counting book [Rock It, Sock It, Number Line ]. Children will enjoy the smiley-faced, fleshcolored numbers that dance and cavort with the garden-inspired characters throughout the pages, and the silly verses that go with them, counting to 10 and back again. The computer-generated illustrations in an appealing and hip layout are engaging, with smiling faces for okra and broccoli alike. However, this book does not measure up to the classic status of Martin's titles written for the same audience, such as Chicka Chicka Boom Boom ([Simon & Schuster], 1989) andBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Holt, 1983). The rhythm is occasionally forced, and there are some potentially confusing scenes. Young children will most likely expect the number identified on each page to match the number of objects described there, but this is seldom the case. For example, when "Two flips / into the air, / lands on the back / of a hungry hare," three hares appear in the illustration. Shortcomings notwithstanding, this picture book is quite enjoyable. The "Rock it, sock it, / number line! / numbers and veggies—/ party time" refrain is catchy and could certainly be enjoyed in a program about numbers, gardens, or even soup.
CADDIE, THE GOLF DOG (2002)
Linda Ludke (review date December 2002)
SOURCE: Ludke, Linda. Review of Caddie, the Golf Dog, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Floyd Cooper. School Library Journal 48, no. 12 (December 2002): 108.
PreS-Gr 2—In this touching story [Caddie, the Golf Dog ], Jennifer is upset when her parents won't let her keep the dog that appears on their doorstep. When the stray runs away, two brothers discover her on a golf course and quickly become attached to her, naming her Caddie after her penchant for catching golf balls. She becomes a beloved member of the family and surprises everyone by giving birth to five puppies. When Jennifer's parents change their minds and decide that she can have a dog, she answers an ad in the paper for free blue heeler puppies and is reunited with the stray. Faced with a dilemma, the children agree to allow Caddie to decide where she will live. The final solution pleases everyone—she stays with the boys and Jennifer takes the last puppy. The emotions described will resonate with children, especially the sadness of having to give up a beloved animal. Cooper's distinctive oil-wash style creates softly focused illustrations that complement this gentle tale. An animal story with lots of heart.
Helen Rosenberg (review date 1 December 2002)
SOURCE: Rosenberg, Helen. Review of Caddie, the Golf Dog, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Booklist 99, no. 7 (1 December 2002): 676.
PreS-Gr. 3. [InCaddie, the Golf Dog, ] Jennifer has barely had a chance to get to know the stray dog that she has named Diamond when it runs away in a storm and ends up on a nearby golf course, where she's "adopted" by the young Tyler brothers, who name her Caddie because "she helped them with every shot." Soon Caddie becomes part of the Tyler family, and one day she surprises them with five healthy puppies. The Tylers find homes for most of the pups; finally, only one is left, a pup with the little diamond marking on her head. It's no real surprise when Jennifer's father responds to the ad for free pups, and Jennifer is reunited with her beloved Diamond. Then comes the boys' selfless act: they let Caddie decide to whom she belongs. The dog chooses the boys, but Jennifer gets the puppy, who claims the name Diamond for her own. This collaborative effort from two award-winning authors is a tender story about the strong affection between pets and their people; its warmth is beautifully reflected in Cooper's large, expressive illustrations, which capture a broad range of emotions on the faces of both Caddie and the folks who care for and love her.
I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE (2002)
Diane Roback, Jennifer M. Brown, and Jason Britton (review date 26 August 2002)
SOURCE: Roback, Diane, Jennifer M. Brown, and Jason Britton. Review of I Pledge Allegiance, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Chris Raschka. Publishers Weekly 249, no. 34 (26 August 2002): 68.
Martin and Sampson's (previously teamed forAdam, Adam, What Do You See? ) timely volume [I Pledge Allegiance ] breaks the Pledge of Allegiance into digestible phrases or words and explains their meaning along with some history. Raschka's artwork makes a felicitous match; his highly conceptual style keeps the treatment playful yet respectful. Dressing the pages in a patriotic palette of snappy red, white and blue (jazzed up with torn-paper collage in shades of orange, green, black, yellow and more), he creates a series of clever visual counterpoints to the authors' careful deconstruction. As the text defines and explains each phrase or concept, Raschka bolsters the passages with child-friendly images. For "allegiance is loyalty," readers see a dog wagging its tail while, for "liberty" (described as an individual's freedom "to make his or her own choices"), individuals literally choose their own path as they step out onto stripes of various colors. The authors also include interesting background, such as the meaning behind the colors in the American flag ("Red is for courage. White is for purity and innocence. Blue is for loyalty and fairness") and the pledge's origins (it was written by Francis Bellamy in 1892 as a poem for children). Simple without being simplistic, this cleverly designed volume spells out the concrete meaning behind the words in the Pledge of Allegiance while deftly communicating the democratic spirit and principles that inspired it. Ages 6-9.
Gillian Engberg (review date 1 September 2002)
SOURCE: Engberg, Gillian. Review of I Pledge Allegiance, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Chris Raschka. Booklist 99, no. 1 (1 September 2002): 120.
K-Gr. 4. Finally, here's a picture book [I Pledge Allegiance ] that helps young children move beyond rote recitation of the Pledge to find meaning in its language. Deconstructing the poem word by word, the bright spreads feature a word or phrase in large type with explanations appearing in smaller print. Simple, precise definitions for words such as allegiance and republic mix with historical facts (including who wrote the Pledge and when) and insight into patriotism and its symbols ("Why our flag isn't orange and pink"). Raschka's cheerful, abstract ink-and-paper-scrap collages really work here. God, for example, is a spiral of deep-blue paper scraps above non-denominational text: "Many people believe that a democracy is a reflection of how God thinks—every single person is important." On another spread, a crowd of brush-lined cartoon figures and bright color blocks show each figure's uniqueness as well as the dazzling impact of the united whole. Profound in their simplicity, the text and images are still difficult, and they may work best in group discussion. Given all the recent controversy over the Pledge, this is the book parents and teachers have been waiting for.
Elizabeth Bush (review date October 2002)
SOURCE: Bush, Elizabeth. Review of I Pledge Allegiance, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Chris Raschka. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 56, no. 2 (October 2002): 68.
The "plejuleejuns," variously muttered, mumbled, and garbled each morning in classrooms nationwide, gets some attractively packaged and much-needed exegesis [inI Pledge Allegiance ]. Martin allots a mere word or two to each page and lingers to comment on its meaning or to offer a tidbit of related information: "pledge / A Pledge is a promise / allegiance to / Allegiance is loyalty"; "God, / Many people believe that a democracy is a reflection of how God thinks—every single person is important." Raschka's ink and torn-paper spreads, with Cubist figures in patriotic red-white-blue, further illuminate the document's meaning with such kid-accessible images as joined hands (pledge), a waggy-tailed dog (allegiance), and a flag that dissolves into red—striped sun rays under blue clouds and over rolling blue hills (nation under). No mention is made of how the pledge's current form differs from Francis Bellamy's 1892 original, or why the formulation has taken deep root in elementary-school culture. The point is here to define and explain—and define and explain it does, clearly and stylishly: "America grows and changes as the world changes, but we always try to hold on to the principles of 'liberty and justice for all.'"
PANDA BEAR, PANDA BEAR, WHAT DO YOU SEE? (2003)
Diane Roback, Jennifer M. Brown, and Joy Bean (review date 16 June 2003)
SOURCE: Roback, Diane, Jennifer M. Brown, and Joy Bean. Review of Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle. Publishers Weekly 250, no. 24 (16 June 2003): 68.
More than 35 years ago,Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? introduced two men who are now giants in the children's book field, Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle. Two years ago they collaborated on Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, and now they join forces a third time to zero in on endangered species. Martin's rhyming couplets dance to a now-familiar brisk beat, parading past a lineup that includes a water buffalo, spider monkey, macaroni penguin and whooping crane, among others. As before, each animal's response to the question "What do you see?" prompts a turn of the page and a new creature to view ("Sea Lion, Sea Lion, what do you see? / I see a red wolf sneaking by me"). In the end, a "dreaming child" sees the entire cast of critters, "all wild and free." The bouncy repetition and streamlined presentation is keenly attuned to a preschool audience, who will also find much to pore over in the artwork. Carle's signature jewel-toned tissue paper and acrylic collages are simple enough for youngest onlookers to appreciate, yet filled with subtleties to delight adult eyes (such as the cool, lush blues of sea and sky) and he creates a sense of forward motion through his positioning of the animals (they all face toward the right-hand page). [Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? is] another standout from the creators of a line of perennial favorites. Ages 2-5. (Aug.)
Sally Lodge (essay date 7 July 2003)
SOURCE: Lodge, Sally. "A Bear of a Project for Martin and Carle." Publishers Weekly 250, no. 27 (7 July 2003): 20-1.
[In the following essay, Lodge chronicles the conception, creation, and marketing of Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?]
In the mid 1960s, former educator Bill Martin, Jr. was an editor at Holt, Rinehart and Winston, where his responsibilities included writing books in a paper-over-board series entitled The Sounds of Language, which the publisher marketed directly to schools. One of those books,Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, he penned one day as he commuted to work on the Long Island Rail Road. Not long after that, Martin was flipping through a magazine at his dentist's office, when an ad featuring a collage illustration of a bright red lobster caught his eye. Thinking that this art style would be a perfect match for the text ofBrown Bear, Martin contacted its creator, Eric Carle, then art director of an ad agency, who agreed to illustrate the book—his very first.
Published for the school market in 1967,Brown Bear 's repetitive, rhythmic text and spare, cheerful collages received high praise from teachers, many of whom contacted Holt over the following years to suggest that the publisher release a trade edition of the picture hook. What Laura Godwin, v-p and associate publisher of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, called "the sheer volume of these requests" convinced the publisher to do just that, in 1976. A second collaboration between Martin and Carle,Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, followed in 1992. Similar in tone and style to their first joint effort, this volume also resonated with adults and children alike: the two books together have sold more than eight million copies and have been translated into eight languages.
And now, 11 years later, comes a third book featuring a bear on its cover. Due in August from Holt with an elephantine first printing of 250,000 copies, Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? introduces members of endangered species commenting on the movement of other animals ("Panda Bear, Panda Bear, what do you see? I see a bald eagle soaring by me"). "This book was a long time in the works," Godwin commented. "Bill, Eric and Holt all wanted to do a follow-up to the first books, but no one wanted to do a sequel just to do a sequel. A third book had to be something that stood on its own and had its own voice."
Martin recalled his search for that voice. "I had written about a brown bear and a polar bear, and for years I wanted to introduce my favorite bear—the panda—to young readers," he noted. "But the challenge was the pattern—the first book was about sight and the second was about hearing. What would Panda Bear be doing? The breakthrough came when I suddenly thought about exploring the pattern of how animals move. I knew I was on the right track when I discovered a Spider Monkey swinging and a Macaroni Penguin strutting." When he had completed half of the book's text, Martin called Carle to tell him about the new project. "His answer was immediate," the author reported. "He said, 'send it to me—I can't wait to begin the art!'"
Carle was very pleased to hear Martin's news, since, in his words, the two had over the years "corresponded occasionally, bouncing text ideas or book dummies between us. But I think until we started talking about the text forPanda Bear, neither of us was on board with an idea for another book. We had some good ideas, but I am glad that we waited until Bill was able to come up with a bear book, because it is fitting that we continue this series that started withBrown Bear. "
WORKING DOUBLE DUTY
The artist put double effort—literally—into this project, creating two versions of his collage art. "After completing the first version," Carle explained, "I realized that something wasn't right, so I started over. In the second set of illustrations, I included painted backgrounds and I did this for two reasons. I wanted to place the animals in their own environment and felt the painted backgrounds would provide a sense of the natural surroundings where these endangered animals live. I also wanted a unifying effect throughout the book that connected the individual pictures. I think adding backgrounds helps to achieve this sense of continuity." Carle expects that the unused art will eventually be displayed at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass., where much of his original work is located.
Martin's decision to devotePanda Bear to endangered or threatened creatures came out of his lifelong love of animals and his concern that, in his words, "we are losing many unique and beautiful creatures. I hope this book will pass along my desire to save our animal world to children, and that they will succeed in turning the tide." Carle echoed this hope, noting that he too has been a lover of animals since childhood, when his father would take him for frequent walks in the forest and talk to him about the animals that lived there. "I am very pleased thatPanda Bear is about endangered animals and hope that it will in some way help to encourage the protection of these beautiful creatures," he said.
For its launch ofPanda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?, Holt has created promotional materials that include a retail floor display, posters, plastic bags and book plates designed by Carle and signed by the collaborators. The publisher also has a school and library marketing plan in place, and Carle will make selected appearances, including one at the San Diego Zoo.
Asked about the possibility that this author and artist will do yet another book together, Carle responded, "That would be nice—when there is just the right story to tell." There may soon be. Martin said he is now working on a project that he would love Carle to illustrate, yet he refused to elaborate, commenting "I'll be secretive because I don't like to talk about what I'm working on—talk saps the refreshing experience of writing." Obviously their publisher would welcome another Martin-Carle collaboration. Godwin said, "Once you start with a classic it can be hard to follow it up, but I was thrilled to have seen a book of the quality ofPanda Bear in the making. I would love to see them do something else together. Nothing would make me happier." Fans of this duo's collaborative work will heartily concur.
Julie Roach (review date August 2003)
SOURCE: Roach, Julie. Review of Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle. School Library Journal 49, no. 8 (August 2003): 138.
PreS-Gr 1—While some adults may sigh at the similarity of this title toBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (1983) andPolar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? (1995, both Holt), children will be thrilled. A water buffalo, a green sea turtle, a black panther, and other animals answer that familiar call, "What do you see?" Readers view all these creatures and more, a treat considering that the 10 animals featured are all endangered species and therefore rare sights. [Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? ] closes wistfully with a dreaming child who sees the animals all "wild and free." Names like "macaroni penguin" contribute to some awkwardness in the text's rhythm, but the bright collage images and lilting language bring the animals to life on the page—soaring, swinging, or even strutting. Opening with a helpful note on the importance of animal protection, this title will make a perfect segue into conversations about endangered species.
Brodie, Carolyn S. "What Have You Written? Bill Martin, Jr." School Library Media Activities Monthly 20, no. 7 (March 2004): 45-7.
Presents a chronological bibliography of Martin's works.
Baynum, Lynn F. "Sharpening Your Senses." Science and Children 41, no. 8 (May 2004): 18-20.
Explores how Knots on a Counting Rope can be used to teach children about the function of the five senses.
Burke, Tina L. Review of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Lois Ehlert. Childhood Education 66, no. 4 (summer 1990): 262.
Asserts that Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is "[e]qually attractive" to both younger and further developed readers.
Livengood, Amy. Review of Caddie, the Golf Dog, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Childhood Education 79, no. 4 (summer 2003): 246.
Offers a positive assessment of Caddie, the Golf Dog.
Walton, Julie Yates. Review of Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?, by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle. New York Times Book Review (18 January 2004): 19.
Praises the evocative illustrations and themes in Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?
Additional coverage of Martin's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Contemporary Authors, Vols. 117, 130; Literature Resource Center ; Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, Eds. 1, 2; and Something about the Author, Vols. 40, 67, 145.