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26. Thursday Three: Facing Fear

Three new picture books that address fear at some level. Three good ones too. Remember these when Cybils nominations open on October 1st.

The Black Rabbit
by Philippa Leathers

Candlewick Press 2013
The Black RabbitWhen Rabbit comes out of his burrow to a bright sunny day, he isn’t alone. Frightened of Black Rabbit, he runs away, finally losing his large, dark counterpart as he enters the deep, dark forest. Where he runs into wolf! But the attack of the wolf is thwarted, “Because there, standing in the sunlight behind Rabbit, was the Black Rabbit.” So little rabbit makes peace with his shadow. That Rabbit never really figures out that it’s his shadow makes his original fear more real. He’s not scared of his own shadow, so much as he’s scared of something big and unfamiliar. But when real danger is at hand, it puts other things in perspective. A great story about fear, about shadows (for your light and shadow science storytimes.) and just a nice read aloud. Soft watercolor and ink illustrations add to the charm of the story.

That is NOT a Good Idea!
By Mo Willems

Balzar & Bray, 2013
That is NOT a Good Idea!Presented like silent movie but with color, a fox spots a goose and asks her for a stroll, to his kitchen, and then to inspect his pot of soup while in alternating pages yellow chicks yell versions of “That is NOT a good idea!” that grow in intensity. But the goose had a plan all along and turns the tide on the fox in a kind of dark ending. Well, for the fox. The chicks have no problem, because they DID try to warn him. I’m not sure how the goose is the chicks mother. Adoption? Baby sitter? Or did Mo make an artistic choice in portraying baby geese like chicks? In any case, it's an interesting turn on fear where it turns out to be not what you thought. Honestly, not my favorite of his books, but a fun read aloud.

The Dark
by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Little, Brown and Company 2013
The DarkOpen on a picture of a boy looking up with trepidation out the window where the sun is setting and the simple words, “Laszlo was afraid of the dark.” A somewhat spooky set of pictures shows all the places the dark creeps into the house – down the stairs, in a closet, behind a shower curtain. The house tour ends in the basement where the dark spends most of its time "pressed up against some old, damp boxes and a chest of drawers nobody ever opened. At night, of course, the dark went out and spread itself against the windows and doors of Laszlo’s house.” The texture of the words give the dark a leading role as an entity, and then it really is a thing of sorts, calling to Laszlo, having him venture down to the basement in the darkest part of night and open the bottom drawer where… there are a collection of light bulbs for his nightlight. The dark also tells him in a long bit of text unlike anything in the picture book before and unlike anything in most picture books I've read, exactly why Laszlo doesn’t need to be afraid of the dark. Brilliant combination of author and illustrator make this an unusual and most perfect book.

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

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27. Poetry Friday: "Wake Me Up"

Certainly more relevant in the song-as-poetry series than last week's The Fox (but c'mon, wasn't that one fun?) is a tune I heard on the radio and ran inside to google. Since I get most of my cooler music from my teen daughter, it was exciting to find something on my own. So from Avicii, here's "Wake Me Up:"

Feeling my way through the darkness
Guided by a beating heart
I can't tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start
They tell me I'm too young to understand
They say I'm caught up in a dream
Well life will pass me by if I don't open up my eyes
Well that's fine by me
So wake me up when it's all over
When I'm wiser and I'm older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn't know I was lost
It's an interesting storylike video too.



Poetry Friday is hosted today at Teach Mentor Texts.

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28. Poetry Friday: "Wake Me Up"

Certainly more relevant in the song-as-poetry series than last week's The Fox (but c'mon, wasn't that one fun?) is a tune I heard on the radio and ran inside to google. Since I get most of my cooler music from my teen daughter, it was exciting to find something on my own. So from Avicii, here's "Wake Me Up:"

Feeling my way through the darkness
Guided by a beating heart
I can't tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start
They tell me I'm too young to understand
They say I'm caught up in a dream
Well life will pass me by if I don't open up my eyes
Well that's fine by me
So wake me up when it's all over
When I'm wiser and I'm older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn't know I was lost
It's an interesting storylike video too.



Poetry Friday is hosted today at Teach Mentor Texts.

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29. Thursday Three: Clever Picture Books

I wish I had a better theme for these picture books, because no one searches for the keyword "clever." But hey, that's what they are and I feel like sharing them now. So there.

Lovabye Dragon
by Barbara Joosse, illustrated by Randy Cecil

Candlewick 2012
Lovabye Dragon“Once there was a girl, an all-alone girl, in her own little bed, in her own little castle, who didn’t have a dragon for a friend.” But there is also a dragon out there waiting for a little girl. The princess's sad tears form a stream that wake up the dragon, who follows them to the girl, and they are immediately, perfectly best friends. Not a lot of plot or conflict to this tale, but it’s sweet in its simplicity. There’s a dreamlike quality of the story and the illustrations. The repetitive words, rhymes, and room under the text make this a good beginning reader book as well as a charming bedtime – or anytime – story.

The Chickens Build a Wall
by Jean-Francois Dumont

Eerdsmans, 2013
The Chickens Build a WallA hedgehog shows up in the middle of a barnyard, and the animals are confused by this new animal – especially when he rolls himself into a tight, unmoving ball. When he has disappeared the next day, the chickens get paranoid about the threat the creature represents. A rooster who wanted some attention from the hens, takes control and suggests that they built a wall about the henhouse. But they left the hedgehog inside, sleeping in the straw. Since it takes all summer for the rooster to dig him a way out, the chickens get used to him. “Meanwhile, the hens got used to the hedgehog. And the hedgehog wasn’t afraid of the hens anymore. And so he stayed.” Clever story about acceptance and insecurity that doesn't feel heavy-handed.

This Moose Belongs to Me
by Oliver Jeffers

Philomel, 2012
This Moose Belongs to MeWhen a moose comes into his life, Wilbur explains the rules of being a good pet. The moose is better at some of the rules than others, and it soon becomes apparent to the reader – and eventually Wilbur – that perhaps this moose is nobody’s pet. In fact there is a lady who has another name for the moose, even as Wilbur insists “this moose belongs to me.” With a (perhaps lucky) heroic act, Wilbur is able to forgive the moose and accept his freedom. Cute story with a gentle humor and interesting illustrations. I use “interesting” because of this statement of the artist, “The art for this book was made from a mishmash of oil painting onto old linotype and painted landscapes, and a bit of technical wizardry thrown in the mix here and there.” Fun book.


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30. Poetry Friday: "The Fox"

Honestly, this is a stretch even for me in the song-as-poetry series, but it's so freakin' awesome that I can't keep it to myself. This song is a techno cross of "Gangnam Style" and a Wiggles video with a huge helping of psychotropic drugs. And while I still can't decide if its sincere or satire, I know it's absolutely brilliant. Because, yeah... what does the fox say? So from the middle of the song, "The Fox" by Ylvis:

The secret of the fox
ancient mystery
somewhere deep in the woods
I know you're hiding.
What is your sound?
Will we ever know
Will always be a mystery
What do you say?


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Author Amok.

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31. Thursday Three: Reading Help

With my kids going back to school this week, I updated this post I did at PBS Booklights about helping your child with reading during the year. It's broken it down to the three people involved in your child's reading development - the teacher, the child, and yourself. Here are ways to help each.

1. Helping the Teacher
With class sizes growing and budgets shrinking, teachers need the help of parents more than ever. While you can't present the state-regulated curriculum, any parent can help with building reading skills. If you're good at reading aloud, offer to come in and read to the kids once in a while. Better yet, ask about that state-regulated curriculum and find books at your library that can support it. When my children were studying Native Americans, I brought in folktales to read. How Chipmunk Got His Stripes is one of my favorites. When they learned about insects, I brought in Farfallina and Marcel. You can also use the storytime to bring more depth to issues the teachers don't have time to cover in class. During the 2008 election, I was happy to share Grace for President.

There may be other ways you can help if you're not comfortable being a storytime presenter. Our school had a pull-out program for children who needed a little extra help with reading. Volunteer parents would bring the kids out in the hall for fifteen minutes, select beginning reader books, read along with them, and send the books home for them to practice in the week. This take-home reading program worked very well in giving kids a little extra attention and needed very little training. Volunteer parents also came in on occasion to help the children write stories, to run small book groups, and to prepare materials.

2. Helping Your Child
Other than potty training, I've found nothing that has tested my patience on a continual basis more than the beginning reading stage. There are wonderful successes, often followed by the third laborious rendering of the word then. It can be very frustrating for both of you. So you can help your child by remembering that she will benefit most in her reading growth by mixing up the type of reading she does. Books that are easy for her will reinforce the feeling that reading can be just pure fun. Books that are in her comfort zone will give her confidence of her skills. Books that are a challenge will push her learning to the next level. In fact, while this approach seems somewhat natural for the early reading stage, it applies throughout a person's reading life even to adulthood. It is one of many reasons that kids (and grown-ups) are never too old for picture books. Please don't be one of those parents I see in the library telling their first graders that they can't bring home a "baby book." A better approach is to let that first grader bring home some books that he chooses, and some more challenging books that you choose.

3. Helping Yourself
My last sentence leads nicely to one of the main ways that you can help yourself, and that is to avoid The Reading Game. You know it. It starts with something like, "We can't tear Jacob away from Harry Potter. What is your child reading?" This parental competition starts early ("Lizzie was smiling at us at two weeks) and goes on ("Jamal made All-Stars again!") and on ("Well, Reggie is going to Harvard, but I'm sure that's a good school too."). You'll find the competition in many factors of a child's growth, but verbal skills and reading level seem to dominate. In all my years as a parent, no one has ever asked me if my kids can do long division or sing in tune or climb a tree. But from the first year, I've been asked to compare what words they were saying and then what words they recognized and then what words they were reading until it was all about reading and levels and books.

There is only one way to win this game, and that is not to play. Don't let yourself get sucked into the competition, don't let yourself feel bad, and don't let yourself push your kid based on these conversations. Also, don't let yourself get too proud either, because kids have a way of surprising you. My oldest daughter had a slow start to reading, made methodical progress in first grade, and suddenly made a huge leap in reading level. Now she's looking at Ivy League schools. My younger daughter started reading at four years old and plodded along thereafter. In high school, she's still not much of a reader, yet can memorize scripts almost instantly. My point is that The Reading Game is pretty meaningless anyway, so it doesn't pay to take it seriously.

To be fair, there are a lot of honest exchange between parents about what their kids are doing that is helpful in knowing when to give a little push and when to wait it out. But I trust that you know the difference. One makes you feel connected to another mom or dad, and the other makes you feel like a failure as a mom or dad. Looking for those connections and avoiding those competitions will be one of the best ways that you can help yourself.


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32. Poetry Friday: "Jerusalem"

Yesterday I got back from a short vacation and I'm feeling, well... happy.

My in-laws treated the families to a stay at The Homestead, and it was lovely. Beautiful place, fun activities, good food, and lots of family time. With my own family, I mean. Yes, we shared meals and swimming with our relatives, but the core of it was us four. And I liked it. And I like how much I liked spending time with these people, my family. We get along so well as a group, and when split off in different pairings, that's great too. We joke and talk and sing so easily. Yes, sing.

One of the songs we couldn't stop singing is Dan Bern's "Jerusalem." It starts off very Bob Dylan in sound and lyrics, but gets really fun along the way. So that's today's contribution to the songs-as-poetry series:

When I tell you that I love you
Don't test my love
Accept my love, don't test my love
Cause maybe I don't love you all that much
Don't ask what kind of music I'm gonna play tonight
Just stay awhile, hear for yourself awhile
And if you must put me in a box, make sure it's a big box
With lots of windows
And a door to walk through
And a nice high chimney
So we can burn burn burn everything that we don't like
And watch the ashes fly up to Heaven
...and then it starts to go off road with the rest of the lyrics, but in an awesome way. Usually I pick a video with some actual video-like content, but the live shows weren't as good to me as just listening to the song. The payoff starts at about 1:20. Stick with it.



Visit our Poetry Friday host at Steps and Staircases. Hope that your summer is treating you even half as well as this:

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33. Fifteen Minutes

I literally have fifteen minutes before I leave for work, but I want to write something today. Actually, that's how I've been feeling all summer - like I'm cramming in a thought or action or activity between things. Random schedules of two active teens matched with my own irregular work schedule superimposed on the long days that my husband spends at work has my mind scrambling to find consistency and connection.

The Kid had theatre/music school weekdays until two and then "Fame" rehearsal every week night. Except when it's canceled. Or when she also has rehearsal on Saturday. Teen is working at Abercrombie a couple of days a week, but she doesn't know what those days are until Saturday. And she also has call-in shifts where they probably won't need her, but she needs to be available. She's also doing a service project at a local shelter and has the nerve to have a social life with friends.

My work schedule is always subject to change, but more so in the summer when I may be covering for coworkers on vacation. When I'm at work in the summer, I'm working hard. Programs of puppet shows and songsters, sure to bring in a crowd. Reshelving books attacked by kids released in the library on rain-soaked days. Readers advisory galore. And behind all of it, a creeping conversation about changes to come in the library system, many of which seem ill-considered.

I wrote about missing summer as a joyful season. But I'm also missing summer as a time to relax from the busy, chaotic schedule of the school year. I'm just tired, and my fifteen minutes are up, so it's time to go to work.

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34. Poetry Friday: "I Will Wait"

Another song as poetry, probably one you've heard on the radio. I love the harmonies of Mumford & Son, but especially in "I Will Wait." Enjoy.

Well, I came home
Like a stone
And I fell heavy into your arms
These days of dust
Which we've known
Will blow away with this new sun
But I'll kneel down,
Wait for now
And I'll kneel down,
Know my ground
And I will wait,
I will wait for you.



Poetry Friday is hosted today at Semicolon..

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35. Summer Blues

Everyone warned me about how hard it is having teenagers, but I haven't found that to be true. Except for now. Because summer isn't fun anymore.

Teen has a job, summer assignments, and a volunteer project. The Kid has theatre/music classes from 8:00a.m. to 2:00p.m. and then has rehearsals for Fame every weeknight. I'm working part time on an irregular schedule and trying to clear out the playroom which has long since stopped being a room for playing.

For years summer was all about playing. With long free days, the girls would create elaborate games with stuffed animals, dress-up clothes, or Barbies. They rarely stopped, only agreeing to "pause the game" while we did necessary chores. To keep things fresh, I also interrupted their play with the variety of free or cheap offerings around us including library programs, park activities, and morning movies at the discount theater. Even a trip to the grocery store often included a stop at Petco to look at the fish or an ice cream cone at McDonald's. There was always the pools and playgrounds for daily fun, and beach trips to anticipate. Putting on the sprinkler in the morning meant the swimsuits went on too, as did a drenching rainstorm.

Now that I have teenagers, the only thing that makes it Summer is not being locked into the pace of the school year. The girls are finally released from early wake-ups, long days, and hours of homework. And that's about it. They have no need to go to the pool, and if they do it's with friends. Movies are nighttime events - again with friends - and parks pretty places we drive by on the way to the mall. Going to beach is hard to coordinate with everyone's separate schedules. The girls get along great, but video games and TV shows have replaced their hours of playing together, naturally.

Looking back, my life with young kids sounds exhausting. But even if I had little time for myself, keeping the kids entertained allowed me to live through summer as a kid again and again because I also got to swim in the pool, watch the movies, and play on the beach. Summer was special then, and I miss that.

But to give a bright side, let me give a shout-out to air conditioning. Glorious cool air that you don't have to leave to play in a hot park while your child has a tantrum. So there's that. Happy summer, people.


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36. Nonfiction Monday: Zooborns: The Next Generation

That's right, another animal book. This has been a somewhat intense summer, so I'd like to surround myself with adorable pictures of baby animals for a while.

Zooborns: The Next Generation
by Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland

Simon & Schuster 2012, review from library copy
Zooborns: The Next GenerationCertainly, this book delivers on its promise of cute baby animals from zoos across the world. But along the way, it draws in the reader with stories about the particular baby animal - if it was rescued, abandoned or endangered - and information about the species and conservation. While the pictures dominate the spreads, the text goes beyond dry facts with an engaging tone. For instance in talking about an eagle chick, "While Caspian may be fluffy and awkward as a chick, as an adult he could have a wingspan six feet long, making him fully capable of hunting small deer." Some words may be difficult for the elementary school crowd, but the book itself is perfect for their interests and even a great size for smaller hands. This new title would make a great addition to any public, classroom, or home library.

For more Nonfiction Monday selections, visit the host of the round-up at Wrapped in Foil.


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37. Poetry Friday: "No Children"

Teen's contribution to the song-as-poetry series is a number for wallowing in despair, because there are songs for that too. The Mountain Goats have captured the dysfunctional relationship too perfectly in "No Children."

I hope that our few remaining friends
Give up on trying to save us.
I hope we come out with a fail-safe plot
To piss off the dumb few that forgave us.
I hope the fences we mended
Fall down beneath their own weight,
And I hope we hang on past the last exit.
I hope it's already too late.
And I hope the junkyard a few blocks from here
Someday burns down... and I hope
The rising black smoke carries me far away
And I never come back to this town.



Visit today's Poetry Friday host, Check It Out.


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38. Thursday Three: Chicks and Ducks

Chicks and ducks better scurry, when I review books in a hurry...

Lucky Ducklings
by Eva Moore, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Orchard Books, 2013
Lucky Ducklings“The Duck family lived in a pretty pond in a green, green park, in a sunlit little town at the end of a long, long island.” When Mama duck takes her ducklings on a walk through town, the ducklings fall through a grate and into a storm drain. With help from the townspeople and firemen, the ducklings are rescued and sent on to swim with Mama Duck again. Simple, true story speaks for itself, but is helped by a conversational tone and lovely, soft illustrations. It's a Make Way for Ducklings for a new generation.

Busy-Busy Little Chick
by Janice Harrington, illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2013
Busy-Busy Little Chick“Mama Nsoso’s chicks shivered in their cold, damp nest. Peo-peo, Mama. Peo-peo. We’re chilly-cold. Our tummies are chilly-cold. Our feet are chilly-cold. We’re chilly-cold all over.” The mother hen makes plans to build a new house for the family, but each day gets distracted by something new. Each day one little chick does the work that needs to be done. So at the end of the week, they all have a new house thanks to the work of one busy-busy chick. It is based on a fable told by the Nkundo people of Central Africa and uses words and storytelling traditions of the people. The illustrations are bold and abstract, with swirls and strokes of bright colors shaped with black lines. Personally I don’t get the moral of the story here. “Don’t worry about it because some schmuck will get it done?” But it would make a good contrast story to Little Red Hen.

Nora’s Chicks
by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Kathryn Brown

Candlewick 2013
Nora’s ChicksThe dedication reads: “To my grandmother Elenora, whose chicks gave her great comfort on the North Dakota prairie.” When Nora and her family move from their home in Russia to the American prairie, Nora is lonely. She thinks of her homeland, but mostly she misses friends. After a few tries, she finds company in her own flock of chicks and geese. They follow her everywhere and even help her make a new human friend. Based on a true story, it reads simply without drama. Soft watercolor in muted tones of browns and yellows show the prairie, while Nora tends to stand out more in her reds and purples. Even the sky is muted, until the last happy picture with a soft blue sky. Charming story.


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39. Nonfiction Monday: Just Joking

I'm falling a little bit in love with National Geographic for their books for kids. I've waxed poetic about the Book of Animal Poetry, and now I'm gigging over their Just Jokes series. The books were an easy hit in booktalking with a couple of knock-knock jokes for the school kids. I took them for a test drive at home, and my second grader niece could comfortably read many of the jokes without help. While she didn't always get the jokes without explanation, she enjoyed telling them.

National Geographic Kids Just JokingNational Geographic Kids Just Joking books are full of tongue twisters and funny photos along with knock-knocks and question jokes. ("Why do hens lay eggs? Because they break if they drop them.") But they've also brought something very new to the joke book genre: quality. Most of the joke books in our library are cheap paperbacks stuffed with jokes and one-liners only broken up with the occasional dumb illustration. The Just Joking series (the fourth book will be out in October) are hardback books with heavy paper, full-color photos, and attractive design elements. Variety in the page layout keeps visual interest while packing in as many as five jokes/twisters on a page. But interspersed with the joke-heavy pages, are two page spreads featuring one fabulous photo of animal with one highlighted joke and a fact about that animal. So with quality construction, engaging design, great photography, AND jokes, these books would make a fantastic addition to any library - public, classroom, or personal.

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by Abby the Librarian.


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40. Booktalks & Poetry Friday: Book of Animal Poetry

I've mentioned this book before as being a perfect present for a child or a teacher gift for the classroom. In booktalking, I showcased the title as being a way to read a book in the smaller bits of poetry. I opened it up to show several of the stunning photographs, and read a few poems.

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar! National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!
Complied by J. Patrick Lewis

National Geographic, 2012
If you are looking to dip into a book this summer, try a poetry collection. And if you are trying a poetry collection, don't miss this one. It combines the amazing photographs that National Geographic is famous for with poems about animals from known poets. There are serious poems and silly ones. Long and short... as little as the three lined haiku of the sandpiper: "Frantic sandpiper/ high tides erasing/ her footnotes." Here's one I particularly like:

About the Teeth of Sharks

The thing about shark teeth is - teeth,
One row above, one row beneath.
Now take a close look. Do you find
It has another row behind?
Still closer - here, I'll hold your hat:
Has it a thrid row behind that?
Now look in and.... Look out! Oh my,
I'll never know now! Well, goodbye.
- Jon Ciardi

Poetry Friday is hosted today at The Poem Farm.


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41. Thursday Three: Oddball Booktalks

I'm already over the idea of posting these booktalks, as evidenced by my weeklong absence. So let's knock out a few that had some oddball tricks to the hook. In the first, I howled. That shuts up a room, I'll tell you that. In the second, I used a fake mustache on a stick. Again, attention grabber. In the third, I used the ask-a-question technique, but with the twist that the third part of the question is clever. There were always a few who raised their hands, and I told the classes to hang out with those kids.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling
by Maryrose Woods, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Balzar & Bray, 2010
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious HowlingAwhooooooooo! That was the noise that Penelope heard as she was being interviewed to be governess to three children in a very grand house called Ashton Place. Oddly the mistress of the house was very eager to hire Penelope, even though she had yet to meet the children. Awhooooooo! Penelope heard as she followed the sound to the barn, expecting to find dogs in some distress. Awhoooooo! She heard just before she opened the door, and as her eyes adjusted to the darkness within she saw three children, dirty with tangled hair and wide eyes. Three children who had been raised by wolves, and who were now in her care. Other young ladies might have run away, but Penelope had the training of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, a determined state of mind, and a very, very fortunate love of animals. Can Penelope help The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place?

Fake Mustache
by Tom Angleberger

Amulet Books, 2012
Fake MustacheI couldn’t fool you with this mustache into believing that I am someone else, but that’s exactly what happens when Lenny’s friend Casper buys a fake mustache, specifically the Heidelberg Handlebar Number Seven. Along with a specially fitted suit for a man-about-town, he is fooling everyone into believing he is someone else, someone important. Lenny is the only one who can see the seventh grader behind the mustache and the only one who can keep Casper from taking over – not only the little town of Hairsprinkle – but the entire country. Yes, it's that wacky. Tom Angleberger, the author of the Origami Yoda books, has given us a funny, wild story in Fake Mustache: or How Jodie O’Rodeo and her Wonder Horse (and some nerdy kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind.

Earthling!
by Mark Fearing, illustrated by Tim Rummel

Chronicle Books, 2012
Earthling!Raise your hand if you’ve been the new kid at school? Moved in from another state? From another country? How about from another planet? Well, Bud has moved to New Mexico with his dad and he's waiting for the bus on the first day of school. It's early in the morning, and he thinks he sees it leave, but no, it pulls up and he steps on and the bus takes off. I mean, really takes off into space. Instead of Abraham Lincoln Elementary School, Bud finds himself on the way to Cosmos Academy on the other side of the galaxy. This it not the plan. Saving the life of a kid on the bus wins him a friend, and he needs one after finding out that his planet – our planet – is the most feared and despised in the universe! He has to fit in at this odd school of aliens or be discovered as an Earthling! His new friend Gort warns that he could get suspended or expelled – um, meaning “suspension for eternity in molecular binding gel or being expelled into deep place to die” – but Bud needs to get back to Earth. But how? Pick up this colorful graphic novel that’s funny and out of this world.

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42. Thursday Three: Fantasy Stories

Another in the series of booktalks, here are three where I set the scene by describing the beginning of the book. I added bits to these on the spot, but this covers the basics.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
written and illustrated by Grace Lin

Little, Brown 2009
Where the Mountain Meets the MoonIn long-ago China, Minli’s family is very poor, barely getting by living in the shadow of the Fruitless Mountain. All they have is a bowl and two copper coins Minli was given at birth. When an unexpected traveler comes by selling goldfish with the promise that the fish will bring gold to the home, Minli spends one of her two precious coins on a goldfish. Though her father supports Minli, her mother scoffs at the notion, angry that they even have as small as an extra fish to feed. Feeling bad for causing any trouble, Minli releases the goldfish into the river, asking out loud how to change their fortune. Imagine her surprise when the fish answers. That magical moment begins her a journey to the Never Ending Mountain for the wisdom the Old Man of the Moon.

Wildwood
by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Carson Ellis

Balzar & Bray, 2011
WildwoodWhen Prue's baby brother is picked up and carried off by crows, she has no choice but to go after him. She is responsible for him after all, and who would believe that he was stolen by birds. She can't believe it herself! She ventures into the Impassible Wilderness along with a classmate to find her little brother,and they discover a world of talking animals, warring factions, and terrible consequences for her brother if she can’t find him. An adventure story that continues with the new book, Under Wildwood. A great summer reading choice if you're missing the days of seven hundred page Harry Potter books (though this one is only 560 pages.)

The Last Dragon
by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Rebecca Guay

Dark Horse, 2011
The Last DragonCenturies ago, the islands of Dragonfield were rid of the dragons… except for an egg nestled in the roots of a tree, suddenly awakened. The egg hatches, and the dragon grew quickly Sticking close to the water, the dragon managed to go unnoticed by the nearby villagers occupied by the harvests. Until the town healer goes missing, and his daughter Tansy investigates his disappearance and the oddly scorched bag left behind. As the town discovers the dragon, they look for a hero and find one – sort of – in young man how brags of his battle scars (in hopes for money). But it will be more basic skills needed to save a village. Beautiful artwork compliment a classic fantasy story in this graphic novel.


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43. Booktalks: The Warrior Sheep Go West

This book is really funny, but I never did really capture that in the booktalk. But hey, I introduced the series to bunches of kids, so there's that.

The Warrior Sheep Go West
by Christine and Christopher Russell

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2011
The Warrior Sheep Go WestFrom the ancient Songs of the Fleece, the verses of prophecy: “A terrible monster will come from the West; And a brave flock of warriors will be put to the test. /For this monster has woken from centuries of sleep, /And its stomach will hunger for sheep. Then more sheep. /Hundreds of thousands will die every hour /All the sheep in the world it will seek to devour. /Like a gigantic dog from the West it will come /and the name of this monster, be warned, is: Red Tongue.” These words, along with an unfortunately timed pop-up ad, start a crazy adventure as The Warrior Sheep Go West. This group of highly intelligent sheep and their owners travel to the American west under the false promises of a sleazy scientist. But as the evildoers have search for the sheep that they have lost, the little herd is trying to save fleecekind from the terrifying Red Tongue in this silly, mixed-up story.

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44. Booktalks: Squish

Honestly, this is more like an approximation of a booktalk because after the first two sentences, I held up the book, the room buzzed with appreciative recognition, and I kind of winged it. It was an easy sell, especially when I hold up the latest book in the series.

Squish: Super Amoeba
by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Matt Holm

Random House, 2011
Squish: Super AmoebaI don’t know if you’ve ever heard somebody called “pond scum,” but it’s not a nice thing to be called. Unless that slimey, oozy stuff is your hometown, like it is for Squish. Squish is your everyday amoeba who loves comic books and idolizes his favorite hero, Super Amoeba! He has a couple of good friends, an odd amoeba named Pod, and Peggy a paramecium who is happy happy happy all the time. Squish has problems too, especially in a bully, Lynwood, who wants to copy Squish’s science homework and well... absorb Peggy. Can Squish live the message of his idol and “have the courage to do what is right?” Find out in the first book of the Squish series, by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm, the same team that brought you Babymouse.


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45. Booktalks: Katie Woo: The Tricky Tooth

When booktalking to kindergarten and first grade, I make sure to show them the inside of at least one beginning reader book and let them know that we have lots of these books to continue their reading over the summer. This year the Katie Woo series is one on our summer reading list, so I shared this talk in a pretty conversational way with a fair amount of acting (head shaking, tooth brushing, etc.)

Katie Woo: The Tricky Tooth
by Fran Manushkan, illustrated by Tammie Lyon

Picture Window Books, 2011
Katie Woo: The Tricky ToothI’ll bet some of you have lost a tooth or two. Raise your hand if you’ve lost a tooth. One? Two? More? Well, as this book begins Katie Woo has her very first loose tooth, but it doesn’t want to come out. Katie and her friend eat some popcorn, and her friend's tooth falls out. But what happens to Katie's tooth? Nothing! She thinks if she heads the ball in soccer that it will shake her head enough that the tooth will pop out. But what happens to Katie's tooth? Nothing! She brushes and brushes her teeth super good, ready for that tooth to come loose. But what happens? Nothing! She goes to school and the teacher has a chart that everyone can mark on with how many teeth they have lost, but you know what Katie can put on the chart? Nothing!!! But if you've lost a tooth, you know that eventually it has to come out at some point. Find out what finally gets it out in Katie Woo: The Tricky Tooth.

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46. Thursday Three: Early Chapter Books

I don't ever have enough time to talk about all the books I'd like to share, but here are three that I've been doing in a quick booktalk minute to show the variety of early chapter books for young readers.


Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off!Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off!
by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Miquel Benitez

Albert Whitman, 2010
Freddie gets a package delivered to his apartment, but he doesn't know who has sent it. What he finds inside is a cool pair of sneakers that let him run faster than a train! He looks for ways to use his new superpowers in his elementary school and tracks down the mystery of who gave him the shoes and thus, ZAPATO POWER!


The Great Cake MysteryThe Great Cake Mystery
by Alexander McCall Smith, illustrated by Iain McIntosh

Anchor, 2012
When a piece of cake goes missing and a fellow classmate is blamed for the crime, Precious becomes a detective to find out who really stole the sweet. Set in Africa, the book features great illustrations and a nice introduction to another culture.


Duck for a DayDuck for a Day
by Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Leila Rudge

Candlewick Press, 2012
Abby works hard to be able to take the class duck home for a day, but all of her plans can't match up to the unexpected. And could it be that her "weird" neighbor Noah will be the one to help get things back on track?






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47. Booktalks: Lulu and the Brontosaurus

This booktalk has been a real winner every time. I do put a lot of feeling into setting up the story, and I think the kids like my walking back and forth chant-singing the little song. I also make sure at the end to flip through the book to show them that it is an early chapter book with lots of pictures inside, and I let them know about the new title, Lulu Walks the Dogs

Lulu and the BrontosaurusLulu and the Brontosaurus
by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith

Atheneum Books, 2010
Lulu wanted a pet. But not just any pet. Not a cat or dog or rabbit or goldfish or turtle or hamster. No, Lulu wanted a brontosaurus. Now you know that is ridiculous and so did Lulu’s parents who said something she did NOT like. No. NO? Lulu didn’t like to hear no, and threw a terrible fit, stamping her feet and screeching. But when her parents didn’t give in and get her a dinosaur – because really, what were they going to do? – she decided to go out on her own and find one. She sang as she went into the forest, “I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna gonna get. A bronto-bronto-bronto brontosaurus for a pet. I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna gonna get. A bronto-bronto-bronto brontosaurus for a pet.” But as she goes into the forest she runs into some dangerous creatures who are bothered by her loud song. And some have fangs, and some have claws, and one might - just might - be a brontosaurus. Find out the rest of the story in Lulu and the Brontosaurus, by Judith Viorst.


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48. 48 Hour Book Challenge Begins...


But not here.

You'll find entry into the read-til-you're-dizzy weekend of the 48 Hour Book Challenge at Ms. Yingling Reads. There are instructions and prizes as usual to add to the fun that reading like crazy already is.

There is also quite a bit of generosity and dedication on the part of your host for running this year's 48HBC when I was unable. Give her your best support and marathon reading. Rock n' read, peeps.



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49. Thursday Three: Booktalk Read Alouds

When we go out to elementary schools to talk about the summer reading program, I share three or four books per class. Now that's assuming I am working with a partner who is booktalking the same amount of titles, and leaving time in our presentation to talk about the program in general and take questions. ("And remember first graders, a question is something that needs an answer.") I mix up the type of booktalking I do, but I always have a few picture books for the younger grades that I just read. No props. No fancy intro. In keeping with my booktalking series, these are the three books I just read aloud.

Pirate vs. PiratePirate vs. Pirate
by Mary Quattlebaum, illustrated by Alexandra Bioger

Hyperion Books, 2011
Why do anything else but add a pirate accent and read: "Bad Bart was the biggest, burliest pirate this side of the Atlantic. But he wanted to be the biggest, burliest pirate in the world. And the richest. So one day he roared, 'Hoist anchor, me hearties. Raise high the flag. We sail till I be the best.'" Believe me, you get one attentive group of children with a start like that.

Extra Yarn
by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Balzar & Bray, 2012
Extra YarnThis is not my regular kind of read aloud book, which tends to have bright colors, funny bits and a chance to do voice acting. But I like having a quieter choice for pacing - especially bringing back a boisterous crowd to listen again. This title starts gentle with, "On a cold afternoon, in a cold little town, where everywhere you looked was either the white of the snow or the black of soot from chimneys, Anabelle found a box filled with yarn of every color." Sometimes when waiting for all the classes to arrive I'll read an 'extra' book. Now doesn't Extra Yarn seem perfect?

Pest in Show: The Buzz of Broadway!Pest in Show: The Buzz of Broadway!
by Victoria Jamieson

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013
One of very few books I'm using not from our "official" Summer Reading Program list - the one I helped create, btw - I couldn't resist bringing a Broadway themed book along. There is even singing, and boy do I love books that let me sing. It's hard to beat a start like this: "Ladybug was born to be a star. Her kid brother, Fly, was born to be a pest!"



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50. Booktalks: The Three Ninja Pigs

Every year my library system puts together a list of book suggestions for summer reading, buys extra copies of those titles for the libraries, and then promotes the program (books included) in elementary schools all through my Fair County. I was thrilled to be among those selecting titles for the list, especially now as I am going into booktalking season with some really great books.

In all my years of booktalking, I've rarely written down any more than the first sentence "hook," and often not even that. I would never read booktalks at the school, but even seeing them written down makes the words feel stale to me. But this year I was very helpfully given specific time at work to spend on booktalking preparation and thought I would give this writing down thing a try. The next logical step was to share them here so you'll know some of the titles I placed on the list and how I plan to introduce them. So starting with the younger grades and working our way up to sixth, let's do this.

The Three Ninja PigsThe Three Ninja Pigs
by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat

Putnam Juvenile, 2012
I’m sure you know the story of the three little pigs – Wolf. Sticks. Straw. Bricks. Huff & puff and blow your house down. But here is a version with a kick – a karate kick. Threatened by a dangerous wolf, the three little pigs decide to learn the martial arts to fight back. While two of the pigs don’t put in the work, the third pig studies karate with determination. Are their ninja skills enough against the big bad wolf? Read The Three Ninja Pigs. (Note: I'll read a few pages of the book.)


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