Monday, November 18, 2013

Loved to Pieces . . . with Cynthia Platt

This morning, we welcome Cynthia Platt, children's book author and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt editor to The Little Crooked Cottage!  

Not only did Cynthia share her first favorite book with us, she told us some of her all-time nonfiction favorites, too. It's a great reading list to share with kids at home or in the classroom. 

"Choosing a single favorite picture book is no small task—although narrowing it down to my favorite childhood picture book makes the decision much easier. It was, without question, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Boise Heyward and illustrated by Marjorie Flack.

First of all, it’s long—the kind of narrative you can really sink your story-listening teeth into. And the story it tells is one that spoke to me on many levels as a strong-minded feminist youngster with a strong streak of Romance (capital R completely intended) about her.

It’s the story of a little girl bunny who aspires to be one of the five Easter bunnies (yes, five—hey, it’s a big job!), but is told she’ll never be good enough. Twenty-one babies later, she wonders if the naysayers might have been right. But this single mother of many proves everyone wrong (perhaps even herself) by proving herself to be wise and kind and swift (all in the job description) and becoming not only the newest Easter Bunny, but the best of them all. When she takes on the hardest egg delivery of all time, she proves herself to be wise and kind and swift and brave, and becomes a Gold Shoe Easter Bunny.

This was my mother’s favorite story when she was a girl, then mine, and then my daughter’s—loving this book is literally a family tradition. It might be those gorgeous pastel illustrations, the dreamy piles of Easter eggs, or the hero’s journey to complete the most difficult task of all. It might be the message that you can dream—and do—big things that drew me to this story. I think it’s really a combination of all of these things that makes this story magic for me, and now for my daughter."

Easter egg inspired by the book, and given to my daughter for Easter
this year along with a little note from Cottontail herself
Golden Shoes charm
"Now, I’m an editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, where I specialize in nonfiction, so I was also asked to pass on a few nonfiction favorites as well, which is almost too much fun to think about!"

First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

"What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said? It’s deceptively simple, perfectly and delectably age-appropriate both in concept and factual information, and makes something as remarkable as physical transformations in the natural world understandable and filled with wonder, all at the same time. Reinforcing the idea that we all grow and change while giving specific, even magical, examples of it (all with those cut-outs—those cut-outs!) makes this a perfect book to read and explore."

Me, Jane by Patrick McDonnell

"How does a little girl become a legend? What makes her grow up to be a household name? The language of the storytelling is perfect for the age group (are you sensing a theme?), but also somehow in keeping with who Jane Goodall is (at least what we know of her publically)—strong, unobtrusive, but powerful in ways that lie deep. The juxtaposition of Patrick McDonnell’s illustrations and the earth-toned flora and fauna on opposing pages doesn’t hurt, either."

Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote by Tanya Lee Stone and Rebecca Gibbon

"I discovered this book when my daughter wrote a report on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and became OBSESSED with the Suffrage movement (we own, and wore, “Votes for Women” buttons to vote in the last local election). I love this book because of my daughter, but my affection for it goes beyond that. It’s just a good story, well told. The illustrations are clear, tell readers something concrete about the time period, and yet they are warm, too. Again, I find the text and art to be apt reflections upon the subject matter. The old saying goes, “let the punishment fit the crime.” In this case, let the words and art fit the life. And they do—admirably."

The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins

"I’m maybe just a little bit afraid of bugs. That’s not a bad thing to admit, right? So when I find a book that makes bugs not only palatable but downright gorgeous and fascinating, I take notice. From the front of the jacket down the very last page of the book, Steve Jenkins’s The Beetle Book is fascinating and just plain beautiful. I love all of his picture books (and as someone who works at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, I’ve read a lot of them!), but this one always stands out for me because it took me out of my normal phobia and made me sit up, pay attention, and even thoroughly enjoy something I normally avoid. And that, my friend, is a successful" picture book.

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary Story of Shackleton and the Endurance by Jennifer Armstrong

"This one is for an older audience, but a gem in my opinion. If my daughter is obsessed with women fighting for the right to vote, it’s fair to say that I’m little obsessed with Ernest Shackleton. And I’m picky about my Shackleton books (of which I have read many). Featuring images from the expedition’s photographer, Frank Hurley, and some wonderful storytelling, this book stands out from the pack of books for kids about Shackleton."


Cynthia Platt is a children’s book editor and writer, and an MFA student in Lesley University’s low-residency creative writing program. She is the author of two picture books, Panda-Monium and A Little Bit of Love (Tiger Tales) and numerous Curious George books. She is also the mother of a young daughter and the wife of a science teacher. Cynthia lives with her family in a little yellow house with a snug green yard, not far from the sea.

Learn more about Cynthia and her books on her author blog:

A Little Bit of Love
by Cynthia Platt; Illustrated by Hannah Whitty

“Neat lessons on baking and rural life are nicely folded into Platt’s tale of family love. Whitty’s illustrations are well-composed, with telling details and subdued colors. Charming.” – Kirkus

by Cynthia Platt; Illustrated by Veronica Vasylenko

“[T]he springy text suits the breezy trek. . . . [A] light and airy romp.” School Library Journal
A charming book. Many kids will enjoy following along Beckett’s journey to satisfy his hunger.”  
The Children’s and Teen’s Book Connection


  1. Fabulous! Popping over to Cynthia's blog to let her know how much I agree with her choice of book!