Sue Ann Martin

Host, The Children's Bookshelf

Sue Ann Martin is professor emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts and the founding and past Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.  She first became interested in children’s literature when she wrote her Ph. D thesis on the oral characteristics of the Caldecott Award-winning children’s books.  Her Ph. D is in Speech and Interpretation with a cognate in Early Childhood Education.  She went on to review children’s books for the Detroit Free Press, write three popular resource books for teachers regarding children’s books and the creative process.   She also reviewed newly-published books for Arts Almanac specials on WCMU Public Radio.  Her 2002 children’s books special for WCMU won a Merit Award in Special Interest Programming from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.

“Reading books aloud to young children,” Martin says, “is one of the most satisfying ways to introduce them to the beautiful sounds and lilts of the language, to the wonders of the world, to the excitement of suspense and to the pleasure of concentration, while at the same time, bonding with the child in a genuine, long lasting way.  My mother did the same for me as she read hours and hours of Robert Louis Stevenson poems.”     

Super Manny Stands Up! written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by  Stephanie Graegin is a picture book in celebration of speaking up and speaking out whenever you see acts of bullying.  The star of this animal tale is Manny, a quiet little raccoon who loves wearing capes.


 Manny owns six capes: a blue cape for when he feels fearless and must fight sea creatures, a red cape when he feels strong and must fight zombies, a yellow cape when he bravely takes on the evil cloud monsters, a purple cape when he must be powerful enough to match wits with alien robots and a green cape when he comes up against the forest giants. The sixth cape, however, is an invisible cape! Manny does not wear it when he’s play acting but only when he sees mean actions in the real world.

A Different Pond written by poet Bao Phi and illustrated by graphic artist Thi Bui is a touching story about a family from Vietnam and how the mom and dad go about raising their family in America, their new home.

This picture book, told in first person by the young boy, is softly spoken and beautifully genuine. The boy is aware of the fact that his dad works two jobs, his mother also works and sometimes his classmates say difficult things. “A kid at my school said my dad’s English sounds like a thick, dirty river. But to me his English sounds like gentle rain.”

The star-laden sky and the blueness of the pond before the sun comes up, where the father has taken his young son to fish for that night’s dinner, wraps the story in a cloak of love. The soft mist of the early morning and the sweetness of the interaction between dad and son are beautifully captured in both poetic words and tender pictures.

Alexander Graham Bell: Answers the Call, written and illustrated by Mary Ann Fraser is an unusually interesting picture book biography. Readers between 6-9 years of age will not only enjoy the story of the invention of the telephone but will also find out how Aleck’s childhood curiosity about sound itself played an important role.

Aleck was born in Scotland in 1847. His mother, Eliza Bell, had been deaf since childhood and his father, Melville Bell, was a speech therapist. His mother played the piano and heard the notes by using an ear tube. In fact, Aleck often communicated with his mother by speaking into the tube as his mother listened on the other end. He was captivated by sound and even learned the 129 sounds his father taught when instructing lessons in Visible Speech.

“Baby Goes to Market,” written by Atinuke and illustrated by Angela Brooksbank is an adorable tale set in South West Nigeria for young children 3-7 years of age.  The musicality of the words along with the detailed and colorful illustrations are captivating.

The darling little big-eyed Baby does what comes naturally when he goes to market with his Mama riding in her back pack---he is cute! As Mama buys necessary staples such as rice, palm oil and a new pair of flip flops Baby makes sure he catches the attention of the other sellers. Consequently, entirely unknown to Mama, Baby is given many wonderful things to eat. The banana seller likes Baby’s curiosity and gives him six bananas. He eats one and places five in the basket that rides smartly atop Mama’s head. The orange seller thinks Baby could be hot so she gives him five juicy oranges. Baby eats one and places four in Mama’s basket. The biscuit seller thinks Baby is cheerful so he gives him four sugary biscuits. Baby eats one and places three in the basket and so on.

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney is a breathtaking historical account of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s support of the sanitation workers in Memphis who went on strike February 11, 1968, his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech and his assassination on April 4,1968.

This illustrated book for ages 10 and up is beautifully written in poetry and richly illustrated in watercolor, gouache and India ink. The words are engaging as they move the reader through the challenges facing the strikers and the struggles facing Dr. King. Andrea Pinkney calls her narratives “docu-poetry” and invites teachers to have their students read them aloud. The inspired illustrations by Brian Pinkney are characterized by circles of swirling colors that match the ever-growing intensity of the facts on the ground.

The Player King, written by Newbery Medal winner Avi, is based on a true story set in 15th Century England about an orphan boy who was groomed to play the part of the missing Edward the 6th, Earl of Warwick and to take back the throne of England from Henry the 7th.

The story is told in the first person by the teenage boy who has no identity but has taken the name Lambert Simnell. He slaves long and difficult hours cooking mutton on a spit in the kitchen of a tavern located in Oxford. This historical novel is tightly organized, full of action, drenched in political intrigue and very engaging.

It begins in the year 1486 when a priest and his accomplices buy the boy from the tavern owner and begin to transform him into the missing Earl of Warwick. The transformation requires long days of lessons---he must become acquainted with history, his family, dates and courtly manners. He must also learn to read, walk about in silk robes, talk with both flair and wisdom and, much to his great worry, lead an army!

The Bad Mood and the Stick, written by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Matthew Forsythe is a clever picture book about how a bad mood, under the right conditions, can jump from one person to another.

As the story begins a little girl by the name of Curly is in a very bad mood because her Mom passed by the ice cream store while they were out walking without getting she and her younger brother some ice cream. The bad mood appears as a cloud over Curly’s head. Being in such a bad mood Curly picks up a stick and pokes her brother with it. Mom reprimands her and tells her to apologize! This puts Mom in a bad mood as the tricky little cloud moves from over Curly’s head to under Mom’s arm.

“Piece By Piece” written by Stephanie Shaw and illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault is a beautiful fairytale told in both lyrical language and graceful lines about a weaver and how she stays true to her artistic gifts and triumphs over greed and rejection.

The weaver gathers memories of things from nature and places them in her collection basket while her children play on the seashore. She then weaves these visual, tactile, auditory memories such as “the crunch of leaves,” “the leap and splash of a fish” and “the kiss of the sea as it reaches the shore” into her cloth. When the cloth is fashioned into a dress she takes it to the village shopkeeper in the hope she can sell it and buy food for her children. But the shopkeeper complains that it is too shimmery and tells her to take that part out of the dress.

“Princess Cora & the Crocodile” written by Newbery Award winner Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrated by Caldecott Award winner Brian Floca is a fun-filled chapter book for 5-8 year olds about a real problem set in a make believe world.

“Found Dogs” written and illustrated by Erica Sirotich is a counting book full of rhymes, colors, numbers and dogs. All fifty-five dogs are waiting at the pound to be adopted.