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The Picture Book Buzz

Once Upon Another Time - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF plus Book Giveaway

First things first -


Joanna Marple

on winning the original sketch by Sandra Salsbury.

Now, on to this week's #PPBF choice.

I am fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest. Besides enjoying my garden, and the animals and birds that wander through, I am very close to a Regional Wildland Park full of meadows, hikes, and waterfalls. Sandwiched between two mountain ranges and bordering Puget Sound (beaches!), it's no wonder I love being outdoors.

I was so excited by the blurb when this book was announced. I love Charles Ghigna ("Father Goose") and Matt Forest Esenwine's poetry, and I knew it would be a treat to have them team-up for this book. I looked forward to doing a #PPBF review of this book! It is as beautiful and lyrical as I expected. Encouraging everyone to use their senses and experience nature, whether its calmly watching clouds drift by or excitedly splashing in puddles, this book captures the magic and wonder of the world around us.

Once Upon Another Time

Authors: Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine

Illustrator: Andrés F. Landazábal

Publisher: Beaming Books (2021)

Ages: 4-8

Fiction/ Poetry


Poetry, nature, earth before humans, getting outside, and wonder.


With sweeping landscapes and up-close details of the natural world, Once Upon Another Time takes readers through a lyrical exploration of the world as it was before humans made their mark. Contrasting the past with the present, this expansive picture book serves as a warm invitation for children—and all people—to appreciate, explore, and protect the magic and wonder of this planet we call home.

Written by award-winning authors Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine, and illustrated by Andrés F. Landazábal, Once Upon Another Time is a stunning portrait of a world that used to exist, and can still be found—if you just know where to look.

Opening Lines:

Once upon another time

in a land of long ago,

mountains peeked up through the clouds,

bright with fallen snow.

What I LOVED about this book:

Let's start with the title and opening line. Instead of long ago or years ago, Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine add a touch of magic by tweaking and playing with "Once upon a time." Once Upon Another Time calls to mind the 'typical' fairy tale opening and mashes that with the longing for another, often simpler, time. It's the perfect title for this tribute to the simple wonders and magic of our world.

The book is a lyrical poem, which beautifully asks us to imagine what the Earth looked like before we "made our marks," or gashes, upon it. In my interview with him on Monday, Matt noted that he and Charles created -

a rhyming picture book without maintaining a strict, repetitive rhythm . . .

[they] utilize two different stanza structures [which] actually forces the reader to slow down

while reading and take in each spread, and enhances the text’s poetic qualities.

- Matt Forest Esenwine

Their initial sweet trochaic pattern of the opening few spreads imagining nature without human intervention shifts into clipped, almost staccato verses of humanity's 'legacy' upon the earth. Our detritus of planes, drones, phones, smog, and structures. Our attempts to harness Earth's riches or bend it to our will.

Text © Charles Ghigna & Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Image © Andrés F. Landazábal, 2021.

There were no cities made of steel,

no buildings, no concrete,

no highways, byways,

billboard signs,

no traffic in the street.

I love the more unusual rhymes that they employ - "concrete/street," "sunrise/skies," and "outdoors/dinosaurs." Charles and Matt masterfully take the reader back to a time before humans existed. A time when the "Earth and moon and stars awakened."

Text © Charles Ghigna & Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Image © Andrés F. Landazábal, 2021.

Then they issue a challenge, or an invitation, to the reader to get outside and feel the breeze, explore trees, play in the rain, and watch the clouds. If you think those earlier images were gorgeous, wait until you see the spreads that Andrés F. Landazábal created in this portion, as the kids explore green areas inside and outside of the city.

And speaking of the illustrations, they are stunning! For instance, in this early spread, the beginning of a sunrise, has so many glorious soft touches - a fading crescent moon, rainbow colors inching up through the sky, beautiful, subtle colors of a field of wildflowers, and a gorgeously detailed sparrow. [Sorry - this photo doesn't do justice to the textures.]

Text © Charles Ghigna & Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Image © Andrés F. Landazábal, 2021.

The pacing of the stanzas and the amazing sensory detail in the images encourages readers to pause and linger; reveling in the emotions and actions of the children and nature herself. It is a loving ode to our world. And wait until you see the final two spreads, they are wonderful counterpoints to each other and the perfect wrap back to the beginning. This is a wonderful book that will have readers, young and old, excited to get outside, to wonder, wander, and explore all the magic nature has to offer.


- where is your favorite place outside? Why? Write a poem about, or draw a picture of, this place.

- then, visit your special place and see what treasures you can find. Make a one-of-a- kind tree ( try another nature craft (

- make a list, or draw a picture, of other places near you where you can get outside and explore. Perhaps a back yard, park, field, stream, orchard, forest, or beach. List, describe, or draw things you discovered or felt in these areas.

- what is your favorite image in the book? Why? Is it similar or different from your favorite place?


Matt Forrest Esenwine has offered a copy of Once Upon Another Time to one lucky winner. Sorry, but U.S. addresses only. To be eligible, just leave a comment on this post or Matt's interview post on Monday (here). Additionally, let me know if you also share either post via social media (FB, Twitter, or Instagram) and I'll add more entries into the random drawing.

If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's joint interview with Matt Forrest Esenwine (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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