Books by Helen Ketteman

Released: Aug. 12, 2014

"A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in. (Picture book. 4-6)"
A Halloween book that rides on the rhythms of "Over in the Meadow." Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2014

"It doesn't outshine the original, but it's a romping, regional retelling that introduces new animals to boot. (Picture book. 4-7)"
"There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" gets a down-home Texan transformation. Read full book review >
SEÑORITA GORDITA by Helen Ketteman
Released: March 1, 2012

"A welcome retelling, particularly suited for reading aloud to groups. (Spanish glossary, recipe) (Picture book. 4-7)"
A sassy gordita attempts to outwit a bevy of desert creatures in this retelling of "The Gingerbread Man." Read full book review >
SWAMP SONG by Helen Ketteman
Released: Sept. 1, 2009

"Down in the swamp / where the cypress grows, / Old Man Gator" starts the rhythm "with a tip, tap, tippity-tap." Swamp flora in Goembel's acrylic wash and colored ink lines aptly frame center stage, where jazzily dressed fauna engage in combinations of sounds and moves. Each double-page spread introduces a new animal—aerial creatures such as the ibis and the wood stork, land animals such as the black bear and the pygmy rattler and water creatures such as the bullfrog and the river otter—making for a comfortable mix of the familiar and unfamiliar. Ketteman sets a you-can't-help-but-chant-it verse pattern that incorporates a different onomatopoeic sound for each animal, from the dragonfly's "whir, whirr, whirrity-whirr" to the fox squirrel's "chit, chee, chittety-chee." These set the stage for a musical jamboree in which all 13 animals complete this satisfying presentation, performing their signature moves and tones one at a time, handing off the final "TIP, TAP, TAP" to Old Man Gator. Oh, yeah. (Picture book. 2-4)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2009

What if the Big Bad Wolf was actually a Big-bottomed Boar; and the Three Little Pigs...? When her three young 'uns are old enough, Mama Gator sends them off into the world with a warning to watch out for that Big-bottomed Boar: "Tasty, tender gators are his favorite snack." The adventurous little gators build their three houses of rocks, sticks and sand, respectively. Third Gator is awakened by the snurfing and snorting of the Boar, whose sharp tusks and close-set eyes look truly terrifying. He wiggles his rump ("with a bump, bump, bump") and makes short work of the sand house. Likewise the stick house, but the stone house presents a challenge, prompting the Boar to make the mistake of trying its chimney. Ketteman's text is lean and serviceable, with country-isms and onomatopoeia lending well to reading aloud. The book's chief attraction, however, is Terry's hilarious illustrations. His funny gators have distinct personalities, and the picture of the Boar stuck in the chimney is inspired. Brisk fun. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2007

This Wild West version of Jack and the Beanstalk is sure to have readers breaking out their ten-gallon hats and asking for some southwestern fare. Waynetta and her Ma own a hardscrabble ranch in Texas, but one long dry summer threatens to put them under. That is, until the last of the longhorns is traded for a handful of magic corn guaranteed to bring luck. At the top of the cornstalk, Waynetta finds just that luck in three things a mean giant stole from her family years ago: a longhorn that produces gold cowpats, a lariat that never misses and a bucket that never empties. It takes two trips and a brave face-off against the giant, but the feisty heroine manages to capture all three. In the process, she reforms the giant, making for a less violent ending. Greenseid's illustrations perfectly suit this Texas fairy tale. Her palette is filled with greens, yellows, reds and browns, while her characters sport stereotypical western attire. There'll be a showdown at any library not stocking this title. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
ARMADILLY CHILI by Helen Ketteman
Released: March 1, 2004

Little Red Hen goes to Texas. A Blue Norther puts Miss Billie Armadilly in the mood for some chili, but when she asks Tex the tarantula, Mackie the bluebird, and Taffy the horned toad to help gather the requisite beetles, jalapeños, and prickly pear, they make excuses. So, it's "No cookin' with Billie, no sharin' the chili!" when the dish's scent draws the miscreants to her door. But despite its savor, the chili tastes "flat as a Texas prairie" to Miss Billie—until her now-repentant buddies reappear, bearing dishes of their own, to share it. Terry debuts with big Southwestern scenes, laid out in swirls and curls of rich color, through which his characters, decked out in western wear (that's a Stetson and four pairs of boots for Tex), saunter stylishly until gathering at Billie's hacienda to chatter the chilly night away. Despite the lack of a recipe—with or without beetles—here's a tale guaranteed to warm the bones on a cold night. (Picture book/folktale. 7-9)Read full book review >
MAMA’S WAY by Helen Ketteman
Released: March 1, 2001

Although the lesson is writ pretty large here, it is one worth learning, and it's in a lovely package. Wynona's mom cleans houses and sews to support her three children, but there's never any money left for extras. With sixth-grade graduation approaching, Wynona longs for a new dress, even though a friend has tactfully given her one she's outgrown. A new dress turns into an obsession, and Wynona begs and pleads and carries on. When Mama presents her with the money for it at last, Wynona recognizes what it cost her mother in time and effort. An unexpected emergency presents Wynona with the opportunity to give back, however, and she finds that Mama has altered the hand-me-down to make it fresh and new and beautiful. The watercolor illustrations are sunlit-clear and full of warm colors; Wynona's family, in their chinos and t-shirts, has a contemporary look and feel, and her blonde Mama has the soft, careworn face of a young woman who works hard. The story might also work well with readers older than traditional picture-book audiences. (Picture book. 6-10)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

Reminiscent of Aesop's Fables, Ketteman (Shoeshine Whittaker, 1999, etc.) tells a mirthful moral tale wherein a busybody armadillo learns the consequences of eavesdropping and gossiping. Armadillo has ears as long as a jackrabbit's, which allow him to hear everything he shouldn't and make it very difficult for him to get around. Those pesky ears are always getting under foot. Moreover, all the other animals, stung by his misspeak, have excluded him from the watering hole. Despite his constant thirst and "the what-for and the how-come and the why-not" scolding he's been treated to, Armadillo persists in his disagreeable behavior. He creeps about, bending an ear to other's conversations and then twisting what he's heard. He really gets himself in a fix when he crosses Alligator. One day he overhears Heron and Alligator discussing the way Toad's skin has improved, perhaps because of a changed diet. Armadillo passes this along to Toad, only his version has Alligator calling Toad's skin "plug-ugly" and suggesting she go on a diet. When Alligator discovers this she gives Armadillo what-for but she also adds gnashing teeth and some precise nipping here and there until all Armadillo has left are diminutive ears. From then on, Armadillo cannot hear quite so keenly, but his ears never trip him up again. Graves's waggish illustrations, an ideal match for the text, are painted in striking deep hues and make for fabulous eye-candy. Rarely is learning a lesson this much fun. (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1999

PLB 0-8027-8715-0 It's muddy, and the people's shoes are cruddy, in Mudville, a state of affairs that suits Shoeshine Whittaker, itinerant buffer of footwear, just fine. His wagon rolls into the frontier town early one morning, he sets up his guaranteed-shine shop, and by evening he's a richer man, with a whole town of spit-polished beauty in his wake. The next morning he is rudely awakened by the sheriff; the citizenry's shoes are no longer as "shiny as a mail-order mirror." Shoeshine points out that he didn't guarantee the shoes would stay sparkling, but must do some fast-thinking to keep the mob at bay. He puts his rags to the ultimate test, polishing up the whole town so as to keep his guarantee good; he dazzles the townfolk into a state of eyestrain, headaches, and a new wish for Shoeshine's hide. When he devises a shine-duller, the good old mud of Mudville, all returns to normal. Satisfaction guaranteed is a notion that Ketteman plays with to good comic effect. Goto's artwork lights a fire under the story's action, with mock high drama and midst-of-the-doings perspectives. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
I REMEMBER PAPA by Helen Ketteman
Released: April 1, 1998

From Ketteman (Heat Wave, 1998, etc.), a sentimental reminiscence about a Saturday train trip to the ball game and a life lesson gained from a childhood loss. A young boy accompanies his father to Cincinnati, hoping to buy a baseball glove, his savings tucked securely inside his pocket. Needless to say, he loses the money and fears he won't be able to buy the mitt. His father, instead of buying much-needed work boots, comes through with the money, and the child is determined to pay back every penny. The grainy gouache paintings have the varnished look of an aging, yellowed photograph, appropriately nostalgic. While the plot is constructed around a baseball mitt, the theme at the center of the story is the hallowed relationship between father and son in a bygone era, fondly remembered. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
HEAT WAVE by Helen Ketteman
Released: March 1, 1998

Ketteman (Bubba, the Cowboy Prince, p. 1646, etc.) repeats herself in this pack of lies fashioned into a Kansas-style tall tale. Just as Beanie was not up to the job (``too young'') in the author's 1993 tale, The Year of No More Corn, the narrator in this story has been told by her brother that girls can't be farmers. Once again there's a heat wave, once again the corn pops off the stalk. In the other book, chickens laid hard-boiled eggs; in this one the cows jump around on the hot ground so much that their milk turns to butter. That's not the end of the tall tales, which come to a close only after the narrator thinks to plant iceberg lettuce to cool the place down. Goto's eye-popping, thermometer-busting illustrations are perfectly matched to the story's exaggerated dimensions; weird angles and brash colors give the fields and farm a parched look ideal for the antics in the foreground—even though those antics are too familiar. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1997

A Cinderella parody features the off-the-wall, whang-dang Texas hyperbole of Ketteman (The Year of No More Corn, 1993, etc.) and the insouciance of Warhola, who proves himself only too capable of creating a fairy godcow; that she's so appealingly whimsical makes it easy to accept the classic tale's inversions. The protagonist is Bubba, appropriately downtrodden and overworked by his wicked stepdaddy and loathsome brothers Dwayne and Milton, who spend their days bossing him around. The other half of the happy couple is Miz Lurleen, who owns ``the biggest spread west of the Brazos.'' She craves male companionship to help her work the place, ``and it wouldn't hurt if he was cute as a cow's ear, either.'' There are no surprises in this version except in the hilarious way the premise plays itself out and in Warhola's delightful visual surprises. When Lurleen tracks the bootless Bubba down, ``Dwayne and Milton and their wicked daddy threw chicken fits.'' Bubba and babe, hair as big as a Texas sun, ride off to a life of happy ranching, and readers will be proud to have been along for the courtship. (Picture book/folklore. 6-8) Read full book review >
THE YEAR OF NO MORE CORN by Helen Ketteman
Released: Sept. 1, 1993

When Beanie complains that ``Dad says I'm too young to help'' plant corn, Grampa allows that ``that's funny, because he said I'm too old''—and wisely seizes the opportunity to describe the spring of 1928, when his successive plantings were destroyed by a string of disasters rivaling the plagues of Egypt: floods, wind, crows, a sun so hot the hens laid hard-boiled eggs and the corn popped. With the seed corn exhausted, Grampa says, he whittled a wooden ear (like the one he's making now), planted the kernels, and grew an extraordinary, never-to-be-duplicated crop of corn-laden trees. Ketteman's wry, folksy telling of her original tale is colorful and well paced. Parker's elegantly scribbled pen drawings are drenched in the sunny colors of the Midwest; the tender scenes of the boy and the old man together are especially lovely. A lively, likable tall tale. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
NOT YET, YVETTE by Helen Ketteman
Released: March 1, 1992

Dad and little Yvette spend a companionable day cleaning the house, baking a cake, and preparing a birthday party for ``a cat doctor''—a day punctuated with Yvette's eager questions and Dad's patient responses until at last the guest of honor appears. It's Mom, the vet, home from work just in time for the festivities. The simple story is deftly conveyed in natural- sounding dialogue. Trivas's colorful illustrations are lively and freely rendered (sometimes too freely, as in the case of one impossible clockface); with many cozy details, including the amusing antics of the family cats, they nicely reflect this black family's warm pleasure in each other's company. (Picture book. 3- 6) Read full book review >