the girl who ran: bobbi gibb, the first woman to run the boston marathon

The very first thing you notice about this picture book is the gorgeous cover art. The Girl Who Ran in large, white font, against a fiery watercolor background slanted crosswise on the dustjacket. And then you see the little picture of Bobbi Gibb at the bottom, running with her hair streaming behind her, echoing the colors above. If it gets you to pick up the book, the cover has done its job. In this case, I don’t see how anyone could resist it!

the girl who ran: bobbi gibb, the first woman to run the boston marathon by frances poletti and kristina yee, illustrated by susanna chapman cover
“She said she would do it, she wasn’t a liar; she’d show them by running like the wind in the fire.” When Bobbi Gibb saw the Boston Marathon her mind was set—she had to be a part of it. She trained hard, journeying across America to run on all kinds of terrain. But when the time came to apply for the marathon, she was refused entry. They told her girls don’t run, girls can’t run. That didn’t stop Bobbi.

This picture book tells the true story of how she broke the rules in 1966 and how, one step at a time, her grit and determination changed the world. The energetic and bright illustrations capture the emotions of Bobbi’s journey and the fluidity of running. Created in collaboration with Bobbi Gibb, The Girl Who Ran is perfect for would-be runners, kids of all ages, and everyone out there with a love of sport.

Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee's picture book,  The Girl Who Ran: Bobbi Gibb, The First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon, illustrated by Susanna Chapman (who also created that gorgeous cover!) tells the story of Bobbi Gibb. Who is Bobbi Gibb? She is the first woman to run the Boston Marathon (the most famous marathon in America). Bobbi loved to run from a young age, and she ran, as the book repeats, “like the wind in the fire.” The book chronicles how attitudes toward her running changed as she grew up – she faced not only official rejection from race officials, but at home, from her family. But after secretly training and determining to race, Bobbi would not be dissuaded. And her mother changed her mind! So Bobbi ran, right into history. And her life, and the lives of others changed because of that.

On one hand you could characterize this picture book as an inspirational biography for younger readers. But really, it’s more than that. The prose is lyrical, and it’s accompanied by lovely art that will appeal to any reader, whether they prefer nonfiction or not. It also doesn’t hesitate to tell the story of familial disapproval and conflicts between traditional gendered expectations and personal aspirations – something that we can always use more of in books for younger kids.

As expected in a book about a runner, most of the page spreads show movement, and the illustrator portrays this with the swirls of watercolor “fire” so that you can see Bobbi’s path through the landscape. The art really shines, and in the final pages, at the marathon finish line, there’s a foldout spread that broadens the scope of the moment into something dramatic.

Another positive: at the end of the book there’s a concise 2-page spread with both a formal biography and a timeline showing Bobbi’s marathon runs, Boston Marathon milestones and women’s involvement. It would be a good starting point for a school project!

In all, The Girl Who Ran is a beautiful picture book that illustrates the value of persevering despite setbacks, or even the disbelief or opposition of your family.

Recommended for: readers ages 6-9 who are interested in nonfiction biographies, running, and people overcoming the odds, and folks any age who enjoy positive, inspirational stories.

Fine print: I received a copy of this title for review from the publisher. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

two wintry picture books that don't feature holidays

Caution, caution! The holidays are closer than they appear! If you haven’t yet, check out my picture book holiday gift guide for last-minute gifting ideas. And if you don’t celebrate and/or are already thinking of the long months of winter that happen after the holiday build-up, let me recommend a couple of picture books to you. Both Almost a Full Moon and Once Upon a Snowstorm feature evocative wintertime scenes, without any mention of specific holidays. They also both have art of a young person riding a wild animal (a favorite legend!) in the snow.

almost a full moon by hawksley workman, illustrated by jensine eckwall cover
Almost a Full Moon is a warm-hearted story of family, community, food and home. A boy and his grandmother host a gathering in their small cabin in the middle of winter. Friends travel from near and far, and some new friends even turn up. The walls of the cabin are elastic and the soup pot bottomless; all are welcome. Based on the lyrics of Hawksley Workman's song from his holiday album Almost a Full Moon, this book evokes both the cold and the coziness of a winter's night: crisp clean air, sparkling snow, the light of the moon, welcoming windows, glowing candles, family and friends. The spare text is beautifully complemented with the rich illustrations of Jensine Eckwall. She brings beauty and a hint of magic to Workman's evocative lyrics; together, they create a world and a night that will enchant readers of all ages.

Hawksley Workman's Almost a Full Moon, the book, is a story based on a song of the same title – about the weather turning cold, making soup, and eating it with friends. I read the book before listening to the song, and thought it simplistic at best. What saved it were Jensine Eckwall’s engrossing, whimsical watercolor images, filled with a welcoming, homey scenes, soup-making, woodland creatures, and both ordinary and fey characters.

And THEN. Then I listened to Workman’s song, and it all coalesced. Almost a Full Moon, the song, is a haunting, solemn kind of wintry meditation on sharing food and fellowship. It kept coming back to me, days later, even though I’d only listened to it once. So I get it now – why this song became a book. But if you’re going to read the book (and you should because the illustrations are FABULOUS – including the star chart endpapers!), listen to the song as well. And maybe the combination will inspire you to make a soup and invite friends as well as strangers to your table!

once upon a snowstorm by richard johnson cover
The Snowman meets the Polar Express in this dazzling picture book, sure to be a new holiday classic.

The story of a father and his son who live by themselves in a cozy cabin in the woods. But, one day they are separated out in the beautifully falling snow. The boy is lost and falls asleep. When he wakes up he is surrounded by blinking eyes, a rabbit, a fox, an owl and all manner of other creatures have surrounded him! But with a bear hug he and the woodland animals become best of friends! But soon he misses his dad and so the animals bring him back home. The father opens up his heart and home, and lets nature and love envelop their previously lonely existence.

Richard Johnson’s picture book Once Upon a Snowstorm is a wordless story about a boy and his father who go out in the snow one day – and then lose each other. The boy ends up taking refuge with a group of animals, eventually finds his way home – and brings his new friends with him. While wordless, the story narrative is fairly well-defined – but children will enjoy putting their own words to the wintry scenes and the age-old experiences of getting lost, finding new friends, and returning home again.

Johnson’s art is the star of this book, with snowy landscapes, woodland creatures, and arduous journeys depicted in a beautiful detail. My favorite page spread showed the animal faces, close-up, when they discovered the boy (and the boy discovered them!). It was a laugh-aloud moment with an otherwise quiet book, and that’s how I know it’ll be a hit with kids – especially the 3-to-5-year-old set.

Both books have their poignant moments, feature woodland creatures, snow-covered hills, and children improbably riding wild creatures. And there’s nary a holiday in sight! If those things sound good to you, pick up Almost a Full Moon and Once Upon a Snowstorm, make yourself a mug of hot chocolate, and settle in for some snug winter reading.

Fine print: I received copy of Once Upon a Snowstorm for review consideration from the publisher. I got Almost a Full Moon from my local library. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

the snow lion

It’s been a gray, wintry day here in Washington, DC – the kind where I am constantly refreshing my coffee and tea in an effort to ward off the chill. Winter is one of my favorite seasons, in part because of the holidays, yes, but also because I love bundling up in oversized sweaters and plopping a knitted hat with a pom-pom on my head. Caro, the heroine of Jim Helmore and Richard Jones’ The Snow Lion, dresses like I do in winter, and that was just one of the things to love about this quiet, beautiful picture book.

the snow lion by jim helmore and richard jones cover
After moving to a new home, Caro wishes she had a friend, but she’s too shy to meet the neighborhood kids. With a little imagination, however, Caro finds the Snow Lion. Together, they have all kinds of fun racing, climbing, and playing hide-and-seek. But when the boy next door asks Caro to come play, Caro isn’t so sure. Then, the Snow Lion has an idea! Making new friends isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it in the end.

This powerful but gentle story about making new friends is gorgeously illustrated to celebrate the magic and imagination that fills every page and will appeal to any shy or lonely young reader.

Caro and her mother have just moved, and everything in their new house is white, white, white! It would seem a little lonely and soulless, except that almost immediately Caro meets a Snow Lion. This Lion blends in with the white walls, helps her explore her new home, and encourages her to be brave and reach out to make new friends. Soon Caro’s life is full of color and friendship!

The Snow Lion is a sweet, simple, and sincere story about loneliness, taking leaps of faith, making new friends, and remembering the old ones. Though the Snow Lion is never named as such, it is an imaginary friend (but as anyone who has had an imaginary friend knows, that doesn’t make them any less real!). I liked that it was never called out in the text, because I think it will make sense to children who already daydream, and open the imaginations of those who don’t so much.

Another thing to love is the way that Helmore has framed Caro, a naturally shy character (in a new setting, to boot!), in a dynamic and positive light. The focus is not on being left out (which I’ve seen many times in picture books and is fine for what it is!), but on finding ways to play with what you have, and then later on being courageous, reaching out, and making friends.

The art! When am I going to get to the art?? Well, as you must be able to tell from the cover, Richard Jones’ mix of paint and Photoshop illustrations are simply lovely. Jones has an eye for patterned, geometric details, and while the palette is at first very muted (all that white!), color and texture gradually seep in as the world opens up for Caro. I really adored the illustrations and would happily open this book again and again just for those. I also desperately hope that there are stuffed, all-white lion toys somewhere out there in the world to pair with this book. That would be sticky-sweet. And! On a final note, the endpapers, which are a cool silver-and-white pattern! They should be made into wrapping paper. I’d buy at least 2 rolls.

Overall, The Snow Lion is quietly delightful – a good book for wintry days.

Recommended for: readers ages 3 and up, for storytimes and one-on-one reading, and especially for shy little ones (or those who’ve just faced a big change).

Fine print: I received copy of this book for review consideration from the publisher. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

harry potter gift guide

Do you know someone who loves Harry Potter A LOT but seems to already have everything they could possibly want related to the series? Are they picky about gifts? Do they prefer tasteful/useful items? Are they me? (asking for a friend) But seriously, there are about ninety-billion (slight exaggeration) HP-branded items in the wild, and how will you pick the right one for your loved person this holiday season!? *tears out hair, with drama*

Here, have this holiday gift guide. It features new Harry Potter items that are Cecelia-approved (aka my mother would see them and not know to associate them immediately with HP)(my mother has never seen the books/watched the films, but that’s a story for another day). Okay one final aside, I can’t resist.

In retrospect, one of the funniest moments of the mother-daughter Scotland vacation we took in May/June this year (for my mom’s 70th birthday ostensibly, but I snuck plenty of Harry Potter landmarks in, like riding the Hogwarts Express and visiting Tom Riddle’s grave!) is that when we got to the cafĂ© in Edinburgh where Rowling did most of her writing my mom looked around and said “I didn’t know Harry Potter was still a thing!” I almost melted into the sidewalk. “Yes, Mom, Harry Potter will always be a thing.” My mom: “Huh. [pause] Do you think they have hot chocolate?” (they do, but it’s terrible)

2018 Harry Potter Holiday Gift List (finally)


Morsmordre Crossbody Bag – This bag prompted me to put this gift guide together because it is SUBTLE and AWESOME and I can just imagine myself smiling smugly when my mom asks “is Morsmordre a designer brand?” As to why I would want it to begin with, let me put it this way: I read a lot of Drarry fanfic.



Amortentia Crossbody Bag – Okay but as soon as I was on the BoxLunch website I found that they have a whole range of cool HP-themed bags and this one is legit too perfect not to showcase. For your friend who is bubblegum on the outside and danger on the inside. Also if you liked these bags they have a Horcrux Collection. *eyes them all longingly*



Ron Weasley Yule Ball Ornament – Just looking at this makes me laugh, it’s so perfect. Your HP-loving friend’s tree needs this. I don’t make the rules!



Harry Wanted Poster Enamel Pin – You’ve noticed that enamel pins are having a moment (I assume). I argue that you must have this one for a complete and proper set of flair. 

Magic Photo and Video Printer – This is SO AWESOME and you’re going to look at the price tag and feel like you've been Kissed by a Dementor. BUT. It is amazing that we’ve made the moving pictures from Harry Potter a reality (with a little help from your iPhone/android). I have one and using this in your DIY photo booth is the perfect party activity!



Williams Sonoma collection of Harry Potter candies – I am weak for aesthetics, and I know you could probably rig up a version of this at home but I just want to believe I could line these jars of HP-inpsired candies up and transform my kitchen into Honeydukes, okay??



Quidditch carousel candle topper and Hogwarts candle pot – Oooooooo. This set will Lumos your wintry nights. It's beautiful, and stylish, and keepsake-quality. I think it speaks for itself.



Maurader’s Map towel set – I realize that these are backordered and so won’t arrive in time for Christmas, but aren’t they great?? Subtly says "I am up to no good." Cool. In my favorite neutral (gray). I wants it.


Dobby Christmas socks (quidditch-themed this year) – Snitches and brooms on contrasting color socks. What more could you want?? (can you tell I’m getting increasingly more excited/frantic as we go?)(I want it all!!!)


Ron Weasley sweater socks – Yo, just a hint of HP and the coziest looking socks ever. Your feet will thank you.



Azkaban prisoner sweater – I’m including this mostly because it made me laugh, and I would want it (I’m a little twisted). Easiest Halloween costume ever, plus a cozy sweater for wintertime when you’re bundled up on the couch in your Gryffindor throw blanket that you no doubt already own/have made. I may be projecting here.


Owl post earrings – Can you put a price on elegance, subtlety, and/or not having your ears turn green?? In review, I want these.

So there you go. Thanks for taking this ride with me. Further suggestions welcome in the comments!

Fine print: All images from retailer sites (directly linked in the post). I did not receive any compensation for this post and it's not sponsored.
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