Happy Friday!
Today I’m joining in on Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday fun.

If you don’t know Susanna yet, check her out here.  Susanna writes books for children and her blog is a lot of fun.  Other than Perfect Picture Book Friday, she also features Would You Read it Wednesdays–a chance for kid lit writers to try out their pitches (and get permission to eat chocolate for breakfast).  Awesome, right?


So here’s a favorite in our family.  It’s not without a bit of controversy, but hopefully you will give it a chance!



Arlene Sardine

Written and Illustrated by:  Chris Raschka,   Scholastic, 1998

Suitable For:  Ages 4 & up

Opening :  “So you want to be sardine.  I knew a little fish who once wanted to be a sardine.”

Brief synopsis (from Amazon.com review):  Arlene starts out as a little fish who knows exactly what color her parachute is–the slippery gray-green of a sardine. Her career takes off when she and a few of her “ten hundred thousand friends” are caught in a purse net and thrown onto the deck of a fishing boat. After taking her last gilled gasp, Arlene is sorted, salted, smoked, packed in oil, et voilà, her dream has come true!

We love this book and keep it on our coffee table in our living room.  The illustrations are beautiful, but the story is so surprising and unique.  At first even we all wondered if perhaps this book was backed by PETA, but it’s not meant to be a cautionary tale.  I think the Amazon review says it best:

“Grownups occasionally need reminding that for children, the concept of death is not nearly so fraught with fear and panic and heartache as it is for adults. Arlene isn’t much bothered by it either. She knows that sardines are, by definition, dead fish–she simply marks her target and shoots for it.”

“Delicately smoked” and “hermetically” sealed–there’s a smile on Arlene’s face at the end of this story.


Do you have a favorite picture book?


Don’t forget to check out Susanna’s blog (link above)!



29 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Emma Burcart

    I have a lot of favorite picture books: Where The Wild Things Are, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, Chrysanthamum, and The Paper Bag Princess are probably my all time fave’s. They are fun to read and teach a great lesson. Plus, the kids love them. It’s so fun to see them think learning is fun.

  2. emily

    I Love Arlene the Sardine! And I recently saw a cute book at the library: “Baxter, The Pig Who Wanted to be Kosher” It is a cute story with lots of information on Jewish traditions. Also “Don’t Let the Pigeon…” series by Mo Willems are really great.

  3. Kristy K. James

    My favorite book to read to my kids was The Monster at the End of this Book (Sesame Street). It was just a fun book to read. My sister and her best friend loved it, too, when they were in HIGH SCHOOL, lol. 🙂

  4. Julie Hedlund

    How hilarious! I hadn’t heard of this book, but I sure will check it out now. I love this line in your post, btw

    “Delicately smoked” and “hermetically” sealed–there’s a smile on Arlene’s face at the end of this story. Too funny!

  5. Danyelle Leafty

    I love any book illustrated by Mercer Meyer. I also really loved The Voyage of the Basset (more adult picture book in terms of length) by James C. Christiansen (am butchering his last name :S).

  6. Ginger Calem

    I love picture books. And what a great title, Arlene the Sardine. Too cute! Some of my favorites, off the top of my head, Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, Peepo, Dear Zoo, and the Quilt Makers Quilt. The last one, Quilt Makers, is very special to me. It has gorgeous illustrations and a fantastic story. There was a fabric made that matched the illustrations that my Aunt Alice (who has since passes away) used to make me a quilt. I treasure the book and quilt that you can’t imagine!

  7. Patricia Tilton

    Coleen, what a very unusual book. I absolutely love it for begining to teach children about death. I have never read anything like this before — and it sounds like there is humor involved. Great selection for PPB Friday.

  8. Stacy Jensen

    Interesting book. At a critique group recently, we had a large discussion about whether kids would be afraid to eat jelly beans, since the story made them come to life. I think kids get it. Great pix of your nephew.

  9. Susanna Hill

    FIrst of all Coleen, I apparently got sidetracked form my mission to race over here – about 10 hours has gone by and 15 people posted ahead of me! Oops! Second, what a great picture of your nephew – what a cutie he is! – and how sweet of you to have posed him with Freight Train! You are the second person to have made my day today by posting something about one of my books. Thank you so much! 🙂 Finally, Arlene Sardine sounds like a unique and unusual book. I like the concept of a book that mentions death in a more matter-of-fact way. If Arlene isn’t bothered by it and achieves her goal, well then, voila 🙂 Thanks so much for joining the PPBF fun!

  10. Tameri Etherton

    I kept all the picture books from when both my kids were little, but they are in the attic now waiting for grandbabies to read them. I had so many favorites, Froggy and Little Bear are ones that I immediately think of, but there were others, too that have since retired to the back of my brain. We must’ve had 100 books for the kids and would cycle through them, but each kid had their favorite. We would read the over and over and over until we had them memorized. Amazing that it’s only been a few years and I can’t think of any titles. That makes me a little sad, actually. They were like old friends we visited each night. I think I might need to get them out of the attic and give them a place of prominence in the house once more. Grandbabies be damned! I want my friends back now!!

  11. Jennifer Rumberger

    Arlene sounds like a fun book. Thanks for sharing. One of my favorite PB books is The Monster at the End of the Book. Currently I’m really loving books by Kelly DiPucchio and Tammi Sauer.

  12. Kara

    I have a whole bookshelf of children’s books, mostly picture. I’m a little crazy that way:) We have lots of favorites, the pop up books from Robert Sabuda always fascinate. Your book sounds fascinating and I”m going to have to get it and see what my girls think. Thanks for the review!

  13. clarbojahn

    Books about death and loss are greatly appreciated by parents of young kids who often don’t know how to bring it up. We all know about how sad a youngster is when they see a dead bird in the spring. This book sounds just right in it’s way of dealing with death in animals, matter of fact. Especially if you aren’t vegetarian.

    Thanks for this selection and for this review. 🙂

  14. Leigh Covington

    Hi Coleen! We love Susanna’s “Freight Train Trip” book too! It’s so much fun. I have yet to read the other, so I will have to check it out.

    Also – you were the winner of a 5 page critique on my blog http://abbyfowers.blogspot.com
    Check your email and get back to me by Wednesday morning to claim your prize! 🙂

  15. C. Lee McKenzie

    Arleen the Sardine! Super great. Will have to have that one in the children’s library for sure.

    I feel totally inadequate because not only can I not write Picture Books (They are way to hard.) I can’t waggle even one ear! *Hangs head and slinks off.*

  16. Emily R. King

    I want a copy of the book about the sardine. I love it! Thanks for passing on the word about it as well as Susanna. I have three children and we’re always looking for new, fun authors to read.

  17. Theresa Milstein

    There are so many picture books I love. Now that my kids are older, I’m losing touch with the more current ones. Not Norman was pretty popular here. So was Olivia. The Red Wolf was loved by both my kids. I could compile a huge list!

    I really like Susanna’s blog.

  18. Lynn Kelley

    My all-time favorite pic book is “Love You Forever.” A tear-jerker pic book! And I’ll love it forever. Your nephew is adorable. And the Arlene pic book, well who woulda thunk? LOL!

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