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The Robin Makes A Laughing Sound: A Birder’s Journal

   Indie Bound    Charlesbridge Press    amazon

Designed to look like a journal, this book provides a peek into the working process of Sallie Wolf as she observes the birds in her back yard, sketches them, makes field notes, and crafts poetry.

2011 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book


School Library Journal - June 1, 2010
Wolf’s journal/sketchbook is arranged in eight-page sections by season, each beginning with a list of avian visitors. The charming, eye-catching format includes short dated nature notes written in script, some of them on glued or taped-in torn paper pieces; other paper scraps contain short typeset poems and small, labeled watercolors: an object; a single flower; a bird; a tree in seasonal array. Notes for several poems, showing words or phrases that have been crossed out and changed, are written beside the finished piece. Pen-and-ink sketches capture a baby house sparrow, a V-formation of geese, a downy woodpecker at a suet feeder, and more. Two pages of author’s notes explain how Wolf became interested in birds as a result of a seventh-grade project, and how she developed her journaling style. A page of resources includes several outstanding Web sites, some top-notch guides, and books on birding. This small, instructional guide may provide the inspiration for young authors with even a bit of artistic talent to begin keeping nature journals of their own.

Kirkus Reviews - February 15, 2010
Longtime bird enthusiast Wolf observes, sketches, paints and writes poems about the robins, juncos, wrens and cardinals that venture near her Illinois home. Here, bits of her original birder's journal are digitally manipulated with simulated torn pieces of paper and adhesive tape to create a clean, inviting scrapbook look. A spread entitled "Spring" features a list of species spotted, a lovely watercolor-and-ink sketch of a crocus, a list of warbler characteristics and a haiku about brown creepers. Thoughtful questions ("February 19--Where do birds sleep at night?") and brief cursive notes ("May 2--The black cap sits on its head like a black beret") pepper the pages, and the winsome poems range from nursery-rhyme style ("Flippy-floppy, splishy-sploshy-- / robins take a bath. / One bird, two birds, three birds, four-- / it's crowded. Splishy-splash!") to more matter-of-fact free-verse observations of bird behavior. The journal's most charming aspects, however, are the artful sketches and watercolor paintings--and the endearingly childlike sense of wonder reflected throughout.

Publishers Weekly - February 15, 2010
This journal strikes a pensive and tranquil note, emphasizing the simple joys to be found in observing nature, birds in particular, rather than providing specific tactics for identifying species. Cursive lists of North American birds appear under a heading for each season, followed by a collage of bird sketches in ink and watercolor, journal entries, and careful observations that take the form of tender, sometimes surprising poems: “A pair of nuthatches used to visit my feeder every day./ That was before West Nile virus/ spread from bird to bird.” It should find an audience in nature-lovers, writers, and other contemplative readers. Ages 9–12. (Feb.)

laurasalas - February 12, 2010
OK, I feel kind of dumb not doing a love poem on the Friday before Valentine's Day, but I'm guessing all the other Poetry Friday bloggers have this covered!

Although I like to look at birds, especially raptors, I'm not a very good birdwatcher. I can never remember which bird is which, so if it's not a cardinal, robin, blue jay, or bald eagle, I probably just call it "that hawklike bird sitting on the streetlight," or some other equally scientific observation.

This book, The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound (Charlesbridge, 2010), by Sallie Wolf, is a lovely book representation of a birder's art journal. It has sketches, paintings, words, phrases, lists, and poems. Often, you can see the genesis of the poems in the scribbled lines off to the side.

Here's one of my favorites:

Downy Woodpecker

Checkerboard back,
white and black.
Patch of red
upon his head.
King me!

--Sallie Wolf, all rights reserved

I enjoyed all the elements, which surprised me. I thought I would zero in on the poems and kind of ignore the rest. But in fact, I don't know that I would have enjoyed just the poems pulled out. Some of them aren't my style. But because they're in the context of seeing how this creative person's mind works, they all make sense and draw me in.

I think this could make a great book to have students use as a model. What a fun way to bring content area, wordplay, art, observation all together in one project!

Pink Me - February 1, 2010
Do you have a journal? A place to make lists, sketch things, glue in a clipping or a feather or a scrap of cloth? This is a book that asks, "If not, why not?"

This extremely first-person book of poetry, prose and sketches is ostensibly about birds. But, like many books that are ostensibly about birds, it is really about being alive to the world around you. Sallie Wolf watches the birds around her house for a year, making lists of species, doing little sketches, making poems. And - I don't mean this the wrong way - Sallie Wolf, a talented artist, includes many sketches here that are not intimidatingly well-executed. Gestural, instinctive little drawings. Her poetry is also notable for its humility: grounded in the everyday, she refers to sewing machines and middle school in her imagery. Drafts are included, complete with crossed-out lines. Nothing in this book is overthought or overworked.

I adore this. If you want to show a kid that anyone can make a poem, don't ask them to read Song of Hiawatha. I shared this book with an older friend last week, a hospice patient who peacefully spends a lot of time looking out the window. She's never drawn before, and to my knowledge has never written poetry, but I took her a little stash of art supplies and a sketchbook.

Modest in size, with a design palette as muted as a winter day, with glowing accents like holly berries, this accessible little book will inspire readers to look around and listen, and to record the small events they witness.

   Indie Bound    Charlesbridge Press    amazon

Truck Stuck, told in terse verse, is a lively story of something that happens frequently in the Chicago area, where Sallie Wolf lives. Andrew Robert Davies drew the illustrations.


Kirkus Reviews - December 15, 2007
Oh, no! The viaduct is too low. The big red truck gets stuck, and in no time there's a sticky traffic jam, with rubbernecking and horns honking and a virtual parade of colorful vehicles (followed a bit later by an actual parade of Boy Scouts carrying balloons). A comedy of errors ensues until a handful of helmeted traffic cops supervise the freeing of the big red truck. Wolf's rhyming text is simple but snappy, and minimal enough to be mastered by very young readers or even younger listeners. And Davies's quirky pen-and-ink illustrations should yield abundant laughter. Each vehicle (neatly identified) is a story in itself, from the long pink limousine to the exterminator's truck with the bobbing bee on top to the leaky cement mixer. A delirious age-appropriate romp.

School Library Journal - February 1, 2008
A red 18-wheeler gets stuck under a viaduct and causes a huge traffic jam. Nearby, two children who have a lemonade stand observe the incident and try to keep everyone cool by selling their wares. The police arrive and so does a tow truck, but it is too small. The traffic jam gets worse and tempers flare. The hubbub attracts news crews who interview the truck driver, and a clown hands out balloons. Eventually, a huge tow truck arrives and, after the air has been let out of the semi's tires, the road is cleared for traffic to resume just in time, because the children are out of lemonade. The bright, flat, cartoon art brings the minimal rhyming text to life and really tells the story. "Traffic cops. Whistles blow." The illustration shows the children pouring lemonade, car horns blowing, a driver losing his temper, a dog barking, police directing traffic, and a tow truck backing up. This is an excellent choice to share with youngsters, who can observe the action and name all the objects and the activities. It can also be "picture read," giving children practice in their narrative skills.—Linda Staskus, Parma Regional Library, OH

Horn Book - March 1, 2008
Sometimes an accident spells good luck. For the unnamed boy and girl running a lemonade stand in front of their house, a truck stuck under a nearby overpass is just such an event. Part rhyming book for new readers (though the word viaduct on the second page might be a struggle) and part humorous drama as the traffic jam builds and builds, this appealing story highlights the entrepreneurial spirit of the young protagonists. They go where the business is, whether it is delivering lemonade to the traffic cops or encouraging a stranded clown to attract customers with his balloons concession. Eventually, thanks to the girl's ingenuity, the truck is unstuck and the children celebrate with their new friends. Clipped sentences, all rhymes and phrases, tell this story of cars and trucks and things that won't go. "Let us through-we're stuck, too! Jobs to do. Recycling truck, excavator, limousine, exterminator. All stuck. Move that truck!" Stylized cartoon illustrations add to the humor. Skin tones are either ghostly white or dark brown, much the way children draw when faced with a small box of crayons. A stretch limo languishes behind an exterminator truck sporting a giant dead bee, and an Elvis lookalike sits behind the wheel of a pink convertible. Kids who are crazy about vehicles will love this one: it's easy to read and a whole lot of fun. Good luck, big truck!

Peter's Trucks is a rhyming picture book about a boy who loves trucks. Written by Sallie Wolf and illustrated by Cat Bowman Smith, Peter's Trucks is currently out of print. Many libraries carry it. Used copies can be found through
amazon.com .


Kirkus Reviews
An ingenious format for rehearsing a favorite topic: in pleasantly cadenced, repetitive verse, newcomer Wolf describes Peter's survey of the trucks he sees in his city neighborhood and on a visit to the country. Questioning their drivers, he learns (Epaminandos-style) that, despite the picture on its door, the milkman's truck contains no cows, just milk; the gasoline truck holds not milk, but gas, and so on until, coming satisfyingly full circle, he finds a farmer's truck full of cows. Using sturdy broken lines and bright added color, Bowman depicts the trucks in bold but loving detail while providing a multiracial cast of men and women to drive them. Just right for the "Vroom vrooom" set. (Picture book. 2-6)

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