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1. A Few Recent Baby Bookworm Literacy Moments

My Baby Bookworm is not such a baby anymore. She turned four this weekend (with much celebration, and many cupcakes). So far, our efforts to ensure that she loves books seem to be paying off. Here are a few recent tidbits. 

We were very nearly late for her birthday party (which we held out at her gymnastics place), because she wanted me to read her "just one more" Little Critter book. We incidentally let each child select a book as a party favor. The Fancy Nancy books were the most popular.

She had to stop in the middle of opening presents to ask Daddy to read her the newly unwrapped Mo Willems book (The Pigeon Needs a Bath). Yes, I did get that on video. When things do not go her way, she says: "Hmmpf." She does not seem to realize that she picked this up from the Pigeon. But we do. 

She has started using words like "mischievous" when describing the behavior of her dolls . She doesn't always use big words correctly, but she is clearly trying. 

As for me, I find it rewarding (if occasionally inconvenient) that she requests to have books read aloud at all hours of the day. We've also learned that when she becomes particularly insistent about us reading to her around dinnertime, it means that she is extra-tired. She wants to get her books in before she falls asleep. Because that's what bookworms, whether babies or not, do. 

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate.

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2. Michael Lewis, Mo Willems, & Emma Donoghue Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

Flash Boys Mech 3p_r3.REV.for cat.inddWe’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending April 06, 2014–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #1 in Hardcover Nonfiction) Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis: “Flash Boys is about a small group of Wall Street guys who figure out that the U.S. stock market has been rigged for the benefit of insiders and that, post–financial crisis, the markets have become not more free but less, and more controlled by the big Wall Street banks. Working at different firms, they come to this realization separately; but after they discover one another, the flash boys band together and set out to reform the financial markets.” (March 2014)


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3. Best New Kids Stories | April 2014

Hot New Releases & Popular Kids Stories Check out some of the best new kids books that release this month. April will be exciting for many children's book lovers with the release of another Mo Willems "Pigeon" book, The Pigeon Needs a Bath, and the latest from Lemont Snicket, File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents. There's also new books for "Big Nate" and "The Never Girls" fans—and a beautiful new novel by debut author Ava Dellaira, Love Letters to the Dead.

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4. The Pigeon Needs a Bath! and “It’s a Busload of Pigeon Books!” Collection | Series Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of The Pigeon Needs a Bath and “It’s a Busload of Pigeon Books!” collection. Giveaway begins April 1, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends April 30, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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5. The Pigeon Needs a Bath!

"I feel clean," the pigeon says. "Maybe YOU need a bath!" Kids and grown-ups alike will laugh out loud at this hilarious tale about a dirty, stinky, stubborn, argumentative, and completely lovable pigeon who will do anything to avoid taking a bath. Books mentioned in this post Portland Noir (Akashic Noir) Kevin Sampsell Used Trade [...]

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6. On the Shelf with Librarian Dana Skwirut

Dana Skwirut is a Youth Services librarian at the Fanwood Memorial Library in Fanwood, NJ, and the Summit Free Public Library in Summit, NJ. She is active in the Tumblarian community and on Twitter, where her sass got her featured in School Library Journal. When she isn’t in Ice Cream story time, she is seeing the world, one tiny road trip at a time.

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7. Growing Bookworms Newsletter: March 12

JRBPlogo-smallToday I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's and young adult books and raising readers. I currently send out the newsletter once every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book through young adult), as well as post about my daughter's latest literacy milestone, and one about why I think she loves Mo Willems' books so much. I have two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently. 

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I read one middle grade book, three young adult books, and one adult title:

I'm currently reading Insignia by S. J. Kincaid on my Kindle and The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill by Megan Frazer in print. I am very much enjoying my current audiobook, A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy. It is the perfect antidote to stress, and I wish it would never end. 

We're also still reading to Baby Bookworm these days, of course. You can check out the complete list of books we've read to her this year if you are interested. We also read the first two chapters of Winnie-the-Pooh last night. 

She turns four in a few weeks, and I can tell you that we're really seeing the impact of all the books that we've read. She can spell a few words now (her name, Mom, Dad, no, moo, Mo, so), and she'll notice those words if she sees them ("Why does that sign say 'No'?). She's asking how to spell things like "I love you" when she makes us cards. She enjoys the Reading Raven app. I can't remember who recommended that one, but thank you! We are careful not to push her, but she's like a little sponge these days, soaking up new words all around her. My goal is just to keep it fun!

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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8. All the Mo Willems Books

MoWillemsBooksMy daughter decided last night that before falling asleep, she wanted to read "all the Mo Willems books." She headed over to the bookshelf (well, one of many bookshelves, but this is the one where most of Mo's books live in our house), and started pulling them down. It took her a couple of trips, fully laden, to get them over to the bed. And then she commanded: "Read!"

We ended up reading three Elephant & Piggie books and two Pigeon books. We didn't get to the three Knuffle Bunny books last night, but they were in the stack, and are much-loved, too. We also have a couple of stand alone titles (That is NOT a Good Idea and Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs), but these don't register for her so much as having been written by Mo. What she LOVES is looking for the Pigeon on the inside back cover of the Elephant & Piggie books. She has a stuffed Pigeon, too. She sees these books as a whole universe of fun.  

The other night she was getting cranky around bedtime, as she is wont to do. She protested: "I'm NOT tired." Then, before I could anything she added "And I am NOT the Pigeon." This is because usually when she claims to not be tired we say: "OK, Pigeon." Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late hits the nail on the head better than any other book I can think of.  

I guess all of this is a long-winded way for me to say that if you have a preschooler or early elementary schooler in your house, and you have somehow not discovered the works of Mo Willems, you simply MUST remedy this. Your local library should have plenty of Mo's books, and that's a great place to start. Scholastic also has packages sometimes in the Reading Club, giving you access to less expensive paperback versions. But whatever you do, get your hands on some of these fabulous books.

I think the key to the success of all of Willems' various series and standalones lies in his keen understanding of universal child (and parent) behaviors. My daughter nods her head when Elephant and Piggie are crying over Piggie's broken toy, and says: "She's crying because of her toy. He's crying because of her." She just gets the interactions and expressions of the characters instinctively. She clutches her own beloved blanket a little when Trixie loses Knuffle Bunny. She giggles when the Pigeon says "I never get to do ANYTHING" because she knows that she has said something similar mere moments before. 

Of course it helps that the books are fun, too! What say you, readers? Do your kids ask for "all of the Mo Willems books", too? 


This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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9. There Is a Bird On Your Head!

thereisabird There Is a Bird On Your Head!Mo Willems has become THE master of easy readers. With pre-book work includes Sesame Street and animation, he had the perfect training to create child- and teacher-friendly easy readers. I think he deserves every one of his many awards. What do notice in this deceptively simple book? What does he do with simple shapes and lines in the art and very few words to create distinct characters? Would you share this book with children who are learning to read?

(Note to the Mo fans out there: I recommended a road trip to Amherst MA to visit the Eric Carle Museum. While you are out there, save some time to visit the R. Michelson Gallery in Northhampton where you can see — and buy — original Mo Willems sketches of Elephant and Piggie.)

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The post There Is a Bird On Your Head! appeared first on The Horn Book.

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10. Emerging Literacy Skills for My Baby Bookworm

I'm back with a few more recent moments in my daughter's journey towards literacy (and hopefully towards the love of books). She'll be four in about 2 months, and she is developing a few early literacy skills. These days she is: 

Appreciating new formats: We read Herve Tullet's Press Here together for the first time the other night. I learned that Press Here is actually not the best bedtime book. It is too exciting and interactive. But my daughter adores it! I also discovered that Press Here is even better than I thought it was when I reviewed it a couple of years ago. By mid-way through the book on our first reading, my daughter could anticipate what the book was going to ask her to do next, and was eager to do it. She was excited and engaged, and couldn't wait to read the book again with my husband. That is a successful book. Baby Bookworm's take: "This is a really crazy book!" (said with admiration).

Making Connections between Books and Life: On her first wearing of a new dress received from Nana, my daughter said: "I love it already." Then she laughed. "Just like Penny." She was, of course, referencing Penny and Her Doll, by Kevin Henkes. Penny receives a new doll from her grandmother, and says right away: "I love it already." 

Playing with Language: after reading Cool Dog, School Dog by Deborah Heiligman and Tim Bowers, my daughter wanted to make up her own rhymes in the same rhyming scheme ("Tinka is a fun dog, / a sun dog, / a run-and run-and-run dog."). Her results were not eloquent, perhaps, but I liked that she understood that there was a scheme, and wanted to try to follow it. I wish I had written some of them down. 

Acting Out Books: We regularly act out scenes from Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton's Bear and Mouse books, and add our own Bear and Mouse scenes. She's pretty good at channeling Bear. 

Learning New Vocabulary (Painlessly): I mentioned that it was drizzling as we drove to school the other day, and asked her if she knew what the word "drizzle" meant. She said, "Of course. Brother and Sister were at school one day and they couldn't play outside because it was drizzling." She was clearly referring to some Berenstain Bears story, though I don't know which one. She talks about Brother and Sister Bear as though they are people she knows. 

Assessing and Recommending Books: She just came in to show me the book that her babysitter had read to her, The Berenstain Bears Come Clean for School, a new selection from the library. She flipped it open to tell me what happened on the last page (something involving everyone washing their hands), and pronounced "It's pretty funny. Did you hear me laughing?" 

Recognizing Authors: The other night my daughter said, pointing to the stack of books we had selected: "I want to read the Mo Willems book, Mom." I'm not at all surprised that Mo is the first author that she recognizes. He does a nice job of linking his books together. (The Pigeon makes cameos in other books, for instance.) This particular title was an Elephant & Piggie book, Elephants Cannot Dance

 My conclusion from tracking these little book-filled moments is this: the path to literacy can be an awfully fun place. Thanks for sharing it with us!

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate.

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11. Video Sunday: Gobs of authorial types (and the filling of pants with tacos)

This is probably going to be of the most interest to those of you who have an interest in comic book inking in general.  Paul Karasik, who is the head of programming for Comic Arts Brooklyn, interviewed Jeff Smith while he (the creator of the Bone graphic novel series) inked a Bone illustration for the audience. I admit it. I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff.

Thanks to Phil Nel for the link.

Someday I hope I’m a big enough picture book author that I’m able to encourage grown people to put tacos down their pants. It’s a dream, but I think it’s one worth pursuing. Note: Ignore the contest mention at the end. The date is long past, children. Long past.

Thanks to Lori for the link (and for starring in it!).

We had the pleasure of hosting French illustrator Marc Boutavant at a recent Children’s Literary Salon at NYPL last month.  He is, as you may know, the man behind the art of Mouk, his best known picture book creation.  There is, in fact, a Mouk television show debuting here.  I, for my part, much prefer the French.  The intro is just doggone charming.  Can’t vouch for the show itself, but dig that catchy rhythm:

Speaking of television shows based on works of children’s literature, I was inordinately pleased to hear that they were turning Michael Rex’s Fangbone into a show of its own.  Makes perfect sense.  They’ve a fun little video element up right now where kids can vote on the animated voices and background sounds.  Enjoy!

Oh yeah.  This next guy’s embraced his time in France.

Probably fits in like a native.

I was pleased to see this Steve Jenkins video for his latest collage masterpiece The Animal Book making the rounds.  If only because it gives you insight into how he creates his art.

Finally, for our off-topic video, a commercial.  A blatant, sentimental commercial.  And danged if it didn’t make me well-up.  I must be getting soft in my old age.


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12. My First Group Read-Aloud

SophiesSquashI have read many picture books aloud to my daughter over the past 3 1/2 years. Prior to that I read books to my nieces and friends' children here and there. But until last weekend, I'd never done a read-aloud for a larger group. But when the organizers for my church's Mommy and Me group asked me if I would do a little storytime for the kids as part of one of our regular monthly playdates, I said "Of course!" How could a determined bookworm-grower refuse such an invitation? 

I sought out input from my Facebook friends (many of whom are librarians and teachers). With their help, I settled on Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller and Ann Wilsdorf and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. (It seemed especially fitting that our copy of the Pigeon book was a baby gift from Donalyn Miller, Book Whisperer and co-founder of The Nerdy Book Club.)

The reading took place at a local park, with the kids and their moms gathered around a picnic table. And I thought that it was quite successful. The kids ranged from 18 months up to about 8. One of the older girls recited Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus along with me, line by line, which was fun. And the 18 month old hung on to every word, however much he actually understood. With Sophie's Squash, we talked about what happens when one keeps a vegetable around for too long, and I think that at least the older kids and their moms appreciated the clever and heart-warming ending. I had some good talks about children's books and reading with a couple of the moms afterward, too. 

Bottom line: I do believe we'll try this again! Fun was had by all, especially me. My thanks to the Social Club of the St. Andrew Armenian Church for inviting me to read, and to Ani Yeni-Komshian for the above photo. 

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13. Mo Willems Writes Play Based on Elephant & Piggie Series

The Kennedy Center has commissioned a play from Elephant and Piggie series author Mo Willems.

Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play! will run from November 23, 2013 to December 31, 2013. Willems himself will make an appearance during the opening weekend of this show.

Willems and his team worked on the show “for almost a year now in semi-secrecy.” In addition to penning the story for this show, they developed a trio of back-up singers, “The Squirrelles!,” and a live band, “Dr. Cat & the Bear-a-Tones.”

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14. 11 Books for Back To School 4-8 yrs

Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie I broke my trunk back to school books for 4-8 year oldsElephant and Piggie: I Broke My Trunk – Mo Willems

Gerald is careful. Piggie is not. Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can. Gerald worries so that Piggie does not have to. Gerald and Piggie are best friends. In I Broke My Trunk! Gerald tells Piggie the long, crazy story about breaking his trunk. Will Piggie end up with a long, crazy story of her own?  Another hilarious escapade starring the Geisel Award-winning duo & vetted by an early-learning specialist

Yokos paper cranes rosemary wells back to school books 4-8 year oldsYoko’s Paper Cranes – Rosemary Wells

Ever since Yoko moved with her Mama from Japan, she misses her Obaasan and Ojiisan (her grandma and grandpa) very much. She especially misses doing origami with them. Luckily, Yoko knows just what to do for Obaasan’s birthday. Yoko’s Paper Cranes is a story about making paper cranes and letting them fly with your heart to those you love, even if they are thousands of miles away.

Un Alce veinte ratones clare beaton back to school books 4-8 year oldsUn Alce, Veinte Ratones – Clare Beaton

Count the animals from one to twenty while searching for the cat in this lively hide-and-seek selection that introduces animals like frogs, whales, monkeys, ducks, hens and elephants. (Spanish language edition)


Healthy Kids Maya Ajmera back to school books for 4-8 year olds

Healthy Kids – Maya Ajmera

Photographs showcase the many ways kids around the world can be healthy.

Officer buckle and Gloria Peggy Rathmann back to school books for 4-8 yearsOfficer Buckle and Gloria – Peggy Rathmann

Officer Buckle knows more about safety than anyone else in Napville, but his dull presentations put his audiences to sleep. Enter Gloria, Napville’s new police dog. Gloria knows just how to liven up the safety speeches – as long as Officer Buckle’s back is turned! Full color.


Daniel's Mystery Egg Alma Flor Ada back to school books 4-8yrsDaniel’s Mystery Egg (Bilingual) – Alma Flor Ada

Daniel encuentra en huevo. ¿Qué animal saldrá de aquí?

Daniel finds an egg. What kind of animal will it hatch?


Magic Tree House 42 Good Night For Ghosts Mary Pope Osborne back to school books 4-8yrsMagic Tree House #42: Good Night For Ghosts – Mary Pope Osborne

Jack and Annie are on their second mission to find—and inspire—artists to bring happiness to millions. After traveling to New Orleans, Jack and Annie come head to head with some real ghosts, as well as discover the world of jazz when they meet a young Louis Armstrong!


The Duckling Gets a Cooke!? Mo Willems back to school books 4-8yrs

The Duckling Gets a Cookie? – Mo Willems

The Duckling asks for a cookie – and gets one! Do you think the Pigeon is happy about that?



The very hungry caterpillar eric carle books for back to school 4-8yrsVery Hungry Caterpillar (Bilingual) – Eric Carle

Eric Carle’s classic story is now available as First Book’s newest BILINGUAL First Book Marketplace Special Edition.This bilingual edition is available exclusively through the First Book Marketplace!


Piggie Pie! Margie Palatini and Howard Fine back to school books 4-8yrs

Piggie Pie! – Margie Palatini and Howard Fine

Gritch the Witch wants piggies for dinner, but when she shows up at Old MacDonald’s farm, the pigs go undercover.



Drummer Hoff (Stories to Go!) Barbara Emberley books for back to school 4-8rs

Drummer Hoff (Stories to Go!) – Barbara Emberley

DRUMMER HOFF is a lively folk verse all about the building of a cannon. Brightly dressed in full uniform, each soldier brings a part for the remarkable machine. Corporal Farrell brings the barrel, Sergeant Chowder brings the powder, General Border gives the order-but it’s Drummer Hoff who finally fires it off and explodes the whole rhyme.

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The post 11 Books for Back To School 4-8 yrs appeared first on First Book Blog.

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15. That Is NOT a Good Idea!

Taking his inspiration from the silent film era, Mo Willems has crafted another winner. His latest picture book is set up to resemble a silent movie with the wolf cast in the role of villain. Playing the leading lady--make that leading bird--is a seemingly sweet, trusting goose. Spread by spread, the wolf tempts her nearer and nearer to his home in the woods. The journey is interrupted at regular intervals by a chorus of goslings who warn at increasingly higher and higher decibels that their hookup is not a good idea. But whom exactly are they warning?

As always, Willems knows how to pace a suspenseful tale, and his bold illustrations, especially those which highlight his character's expressive faces, add to the unfolding drama. Young readers might be savvy enough to see the twist that lies ahead--but this mature reader certainty didn't!

That Is NOT a Good Idea!
by Mo Willems
Balzer + Bray 48 pages
Published: May 2013

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16. Kids’ Choices for Best Books!

Irma Black award, designed by Maurice Sendak

The Irma Black award, designed by Maurice Sendak

The kids have spoken!

The Irma Black Award, given by The Bank Street School,  is unusual in that children are the final judges of the winning book.  This year’s award went to Big Mean Mike, written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Scott Magoon.  More than 7,500 first and second graders around the world voted  Big Mean Mike as their clear favorite.

There were three other Irma Black honor books, also chosen by kids themselves:

The Cook Prize medal, designed by Brian Floca

Children also choose The Cook Prize winners, sponsored by The Bank Street School:  The best science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) picture books published for children aged eight to ten. This year’s winner is:

The honor winners are:

Congratulations to all the winners!

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17. Mo and more Mo.

Found these wonderful interviews with Mo Willems, I thought I would share them with you.

"that's the sort of effort that goes into a book.. if you noticed it, you failed."

"While I'm working on a book with one set of characters, I'm thinking and doodling about another set"

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18. Literary Community Unites for Hurricane Sandy Relief

The literary community has created a number of relief efforts after the destruction of Hurricane Sandy.

If you want to help, you bid at the Kidlit Cares auction raising relief funds. Some of the items include Skype author visits with Elephant & Piggie author Mo WillemsSpeak author Laurie Halse Anderon and Divergent author Veronica Roth. Nonprofit group First Book is asking for donations so that they can give new books to children affected by the storm.

Check out NYCService.org to learn about ways to help out in the New York City area. For the readers who don’t live nearby, but want to come out to the East Coast to volunteer, travel service Airbnb is offering fee-free rentals until November 7th.


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19. Saturday Library Post

Bunch of books have to go back today; before they go, a quick catalog of the ones my gang loved:

Gideon by Olivier Dunrea, from the Gossie & Friends series.

Huck enjoyed this short, simple story about a gosling who isn’t quite ready to take his nap. A repeat request, usually as a stall tactic at naptime. ;) Sweet art; pleasingly small trim size. A good library choice, since Huck, at a month shy of four (eek), is on the top end of the age range this book is likely to appeal to.


Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin.

A leveled reader that enchanted all three of my youngest. The homey adventures of imaginative twin girls with very different personalities. The making-dumplings chapter is Rilla’s favorite. She’s hoping for more Ling and Ting tales.


Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell.

This early reader scored especially high with my boys. Huck’s an easy mark: you had him at “Robot.” Wonderboy was amused by the way Robot upended Rabbit’s careful sleepover plans. Plus: Magnetic hands! A lost remote control! A snack of nuts and bolts! And poor, flustered Rabbit, worrying about sticking to his schedule—a character Wonderboy can very much relate to. I might snag a copy of this one to keep.


Happy Pig Day! by Mo Willems.

One of the few Elephant & Piggie books we don’t own, which means we wind up checking it out often.



I’m sneaking Autumn Leaves out of the house after approximately thirty-seven reads.

Related: Early readers as read-alouds.

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20. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

Ah...Mo Willems. Always good for a belly laugh. Though I really love his Pigeon books, his stand-alone stories, in my opinion, have really been his best and this latest, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs made me snort-laugh. Always a good sign.

The riff on the traditional Goldilocks and the Three Bears is totally silly, as the three dinosaurs lay the perfect trap for a delicious, succulent little girl. Readers are in on the joke, making for great anticipation as the end draws near, trying to decide whether or not Goldilocks will become a yummy snack for a few sneaky dinosaurs.

If you're looking for a fun new book to use at story time, look no further. Bold illustrations and a hilariously fractured fairy tale made this one a winner for me. Loved it!

Thanks to Balzer + Bray for the review copy!

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21. One way to launch a library! (or 4 ways to celebrate World Book Day)

If you were invited to design a school library launch, how would you go about it? What events would you want to facilitate? Who would you want to involve?

These questions have been very much on my mind since the start of the year, for designing and delivering a school library launch is exactly what I have been asked to do by a local infant school. Can you imagine how excited I feel?

It’s an honour to be asked and trusted by the school to design a whole day of activities and I’ve loved every minute of it so far. Library Launch day is February 12th and now we’re counting down the days…

With apologies to NASA, whose original image I've modified.

With apologies to NASA, whose original image I’ve modified.

Having got to the stage where I’ve everything prepped and in place, I wanted to share my plans and resources with you as many of them are easily replicable in families, in classrooms, in clubs, anywhere would you might like to help young children and their families get excited about books. And with World Book Day coming up next month, you could take any of these ideas and use them to celebrate perhaps my favourite day of the year :-)

Today I’ll share the activities the 3-5 year olds will be getting up to, and next week I’ll share the session plans for Year 1 (5-6 year olds) and Year 2 (6-7 year olds), although I believe many of the activities could be adapted to work with children of any age.

ottoWe were keen to get as many children into the new library during the day as possible so each class of 3-5 year olds will spend one session going on a treasure hunt for book characters in the library. The basis of this session with be Katie Cleminson’s Otto the Book Bear, in which a bear in a book steps off the pages and into real life. Having read the book, kids (in pairs) will be given a treasure card to identify which books and book characters they need to find in the library.

Some of the sheets of cards kids will be given so they know which characters to hunt for in the library

Some of the sheets of cards kids will be given so they know which characters to hunt for in the library

No doubt 30 kids hunting 30 soft toys is going to be quite chaotic! Once all the characters are found, the session will finish with a reading of one of the books found by the kids during the session.

A couple of trips to charity shops resulted in a good number of soft toys that either were actual book characters (for example I found Paddington Bear, Pooh, and Poppy Cat without even really looking), then I raided my kids’ soft toys and chose ones which matched (near enough) great books. So, for example, I am borrowing a soft toy squirrel and teaming it up with A First Book of Nature, by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Mark Hearld.

I supplemented these with a few extra official character soft toys (who wouldn’t love the excuse to get a Mog cat or Tiger who came tea toy?). Castlemere Books, based in the US, is the most comprehensive site I found for official book character soft toys, though I didn’t end up using them because of shipping costs to the UK.

Some of the characters kids will be searching for in the library!

Some of the characters kids will be searching for in the library!

On returning to their classrooms the kids will paint/colour their own bookshelves and Otto the bear. You can download the shelves here and the bear here.


lululovesstoriesThe second session will be based around Lulu loves Stories by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw (follow the link to read it for free online). This is a gentle story about a child who is taken to the library every Saturday by her father. Each book they read together inspires different sorts of play, from being on a farm (having read about Old Macdonald) to making a pretend aeroplane (having read a story about going on an adventure).

Each table in the classroom will be set up with a different activity taken from Lulu Loves Stories: there will be one with princess dressing up, one with farm animals and one with construction toys. A fourth table will be set up for each child to create their own library to take home, by selecting and gluing lots of images of children’s book covers onto these shelves.


I’ve spent a fair few evenings cutting up old publishers’ catalogues to create enough “library stock”, but other than time in preparation, this activity has been very cheap to prepare with many publishers willing to send catalogues upon request. (If you were working with older kids you could simply give them the catalogues and ask them to do some fantasy shopping – seeing what books they themselves would chose for their library would no doubt be very informative.)

On a fifth table children will be able to cut out Lulu bookplates. These are available as part of an activity guide on the US publisher’s website. Don’t be confused by the name change – Lulu (in the UK) becomes known as Lola (in the US), but this doesn’t affect the bookplates.

This session will be rounded off by reading Lulu reads to Zeki also by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw, which is a simply delightful (and funny) window into a later stage in Lulu’s life;she now has a younger brother, and is passing on the love of books her father instilled in her to little Zeki, reading to him whenever possible.

mylittlestorybookThe third session for the 3-5 year olds will open with a reading of I Love My Little Story Book by Anita Jeram, which is all about the delights you can find inside different books, and the various places they can transport you to.

Each child will have the opportunity to make their own bunny which comes with a hidden story book of its own. It’s a simple collage activity to make the bunny out of an envelope, a pompom, some dried spaghetti, googly eyes and cardboard ears, all stuck on to an envelope, inside which each child will find a blank mini book (blue to match the one in the story). Kids will be encouraged to make the story book their own with whatever mark-making they like.


bunnysbookThe mini books are each made from a sheet of A4 paper, using this technique, my favourite way of making small paper books as it requires no sticking or stapling.

As well as there being tables set up with fairy tale activities (castles and knights to play with, dressing up, plastic animals in a forest play scene) kids will also be able to colour in and cut out several book plates designed by Anita Jeram.

These are all available to freely download (as long as you’re not using them for commercial purposes) from this brilliant website, http://www.myhomelibrary.org/, created by former Children’s Laureate, Anne Fine.

If time allows a reading of I like books by Anthony Browne will finish off this session. This is a very simple introduction to different types of books with just one sentence on each page. It’s a great reminder that there are all different sorts of books you can enjoy reading, not just story books.

charlie-cook-s-favourite-bookThe fourth session of the day will be based around an all time classic, Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Once the story has been shared, each child will be given their own cardboard treasure chest to embellish with sticky jewels. I sourced some great treasure chests (from http://www.littlecraftybugs.co.uk/) so large that kids will be able to store favourite books inside them.


Elsewhere in the classroom during this session kids will have the opportunity to dig for buried treasure in a sandpit, make aliens out of green playdough, and play with plastic dragons, as well as the chance to colour in this Charlie Cook sheet which you can download from the official Gruffalo website, or to draw their favourite book on this Charlie Cook activity sheet from the US Scholastic website.

This session will be wrapped up with a reading of We are in a book by Mo Willems – a perfect book for this age range where the oldest kids may well be able to join in with reading this funny story about what characters in a book think about their readers.

And as well as all of this, all classes will have a session with the award winning author who is coming to join the school for the day… but more about this in a later post!


3 Comments on One way to launch a library! (or 4 ways to celebrate World Book Day), last added: 2/1/2013
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22. Mo Willems' Keynote: "Writing in 4 Easy Steps, 4 Kinda Harder Steps, and 1 Impossible Step"

Don't let the pigeon drive the bus, but do let Mo Willems give the closing keynote at a conference weekend full of icons and inspiration!

Mo Willems!
Mo has six Emmys, Three Caldecott honors, three Geisel medals and as Lin says in her introduction, "He is the phenom of our business"

He cautions us that writers are filters, not spigots.  "Be a filter, don't be a spigot."  So here are a few of the filtered highlights of Mo's keynote:

"We're not trying to make stories that are going to be read, we're trying to make stories that are going to be read a millionty billionty times."

Three of his 9 tips:

*Be succinct.  'Nuff said.
*You may own your story's copyright but you don't own its meaning
*Be Superlative

"I've dreamed that everything I write will change the world for the better."  If you're just dreaming of being published, dream bigger.

For Illustrators,
Always start your illustrations in the middle (to kind of warm up) and save the cover and opening spreads for the end (when you're in the zone and it's flowing) - because those are the first ones people will read!

Mo is funny, irreverent, insightful, sharing advice and stories, showing us the difference between a hook and a story - while people are crying/laughing, laughing/crying -  telling us which is his most personal book, the truth about 'write what you know' (don't do it - write to discover what you don't know), giving us a bunch of great illustration tips and career tips, and so much more...

And perhaps most magically, this is the filtered line that's resonating for me...

"Your job is to be [through your books] some child's best friend."

We're riveted...

and on our feet, cheering!

Mo is amazing!

What a finale!

3 Comments on Mo Willems' Keynote: "Writing in 4 Easy Steps, 4 Kinda Harder Steps, and 1 Impossible Step", last added: 2/4/2013
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23. The Autograph Party

Almost the moment Mo Willems' keynote speech ended, people started lining up to get their books signed and we kid you not, the line ran the length of a football field (that's 100 yards, for those of you unfamiliar with the sport, or 91.44 meters if you're Canadian).

It's no wonder people are so excited to have their books inscribed, when you share the room with the likes of Julie Andrews, Mo Willems, Shaun Tan, Jane Yolen, Tomie dePaolo ...

We could and should go on, but we'll let the pictures speak for themselves. 

Mo Willems

Shaun Tan fans standing in a queue (do they say that in Australia?)

Shaun Tan

Mark Teague and Floyd Cooper

Meg Rosoff and David Ezra Stein

Lin Oliver and Theo Baker

Tomie DePaola and Jane Yolen

Margaret Peterson Haddix and Matthew Kirby

Arthur Levine is a full-service editor. Here, he's opening
the book to the right page for an inscription.

1 Comments on The Autograph Party, last added: 2/11/2013
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24. Help Second Graders Celebrate Friendiversary with New Books!

For the third year in a row, our friend Mo Willems, beloved children’s author & illustrator, will be providing brand-new Elephant & Piggie books and activity kits to kids in need!

Friendiversary collection & activity kit available through First BookThe books and activity kits will go to second grade students in New Orleans, Springfield and Holyoke, Mass. (These places have special meaning for Mo; he grew up in New Orleans and now resides in Massachusetts.)

Mo’s Elephant & Piggie characters inspired First Book to create Friendiversary, an annual  celebration of friendship and reading.  After all, who better exemplifies the meaning of friendship than Elephant & Piggie?

You can help second-graders across the country celebrate Friendiversary on Feb. 26!  Click here to donate.

For every $33 donated, 10 second grade students will receive their own Mo Willems books and activity kits for the celebration.

Happy Friendiversary!

0 Comments on Help Second Graders Celebrate Friendiversary with New Books! as of 2/13/2013 2:59:00 PM
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25. Happy Friendiversary!!

Mo Willems celebrating Friendiversary with 2nd graders at Peck & First BookThe spirit of friendship and the power of reading were in full force at Peck Full Service Community School, a Title I School in Holyoke, MA, yesterday.

The school eagerly awaited the arrival of beloved children’s author and illustrator, Mo Willems: Elephant and Piggie posters decorated the hallways and windows of the school while the receptionist tried her hand at sketching the characters, and every available Mo Willems book was checked out of the school library.

Click here to see Mo celebrating Friendiversary!

As second-grade students entered the library to celebrate Friendiversary with Mo Willems himself, costumed Elephant and Piggie characters greeted the students at door. After a grand entrance, Mo read two of his books – There Is A Bird on Your Head! and I Am Invited To a Party! He then conducted a Q&A with the second graders who asked him all sorts of questions. “Why did you work for Cartoon Network?” asked one of the students. “Do you have a pet pigeon?” asked another.

Elephant & Piggie celebrating Friendiversary with Mo Willems, Peck & First BookMo then informed the second graders that they would each be taking home their very own Friendiversary book and the library erupted with deafening screams of excitement. Students immediately began opening their books, each of which were personally signed by Mo. Smiles were on every face and many were sharing and showing their books to friends.

Friendiversary doesn’t have to be celebrated in February, it can be celebrated at any time of the year! Here’s how you can throw your very own Friendiversary party:

  • Get Friendiversary books for the second grade students in your program.
  • Invite everyone to a party!
  • Read together with friends and celebrate Friendiversary, an annual celebration of friendship and reading.

At First Book, we love celebrating Friendiversary each year, partly because we love Mo Willems, but mostly because it’s one more way to get new, quality books into the hands of kids in need, and seeing those kids become excited readers is what we’re all about.

Happy Friendiversary!

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