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Results 1 - 25 of 85
1. Picture Book Roundup - October 2015 edition

This edition of the Picture Book Roundup features three funny books, a hilarious cautionary tale, and a sweet bookish story to melt your heart. Enjoy!

Review copies of Night Animals by Gianna Marino (Viking, 2015) and In! Over! and On! by Ethan Long (Penguin, 2015) were provided by the publishers at my request. The Good Little Book by Kyo Maclear (Tundra, 2015), Everyone Loves Bacon by Kelly DiPucchio (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2015), and Ragweed's Farm Dog Handbook by Anne Vittur Kennedy (Candlewick, 2015)

If you can't access the slide show with reviews below, you can see it on RiffleBooks at this link. [https://read.rifflebooks.com/list/185319]

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2. The Death Knell for Show-and-Tell

 The Death Knell for Show-and-Tell
For  Library Card Sign-Up Month, I visit every Kindergarten class in town.  I talk about all the great reasons to have a library card, drop off applications for each student, and read a book - preferably a funny one.  Because I visit at least 12 different classrooms, I usually bring an assortment of books so I don't get bored reading the same one in each class.

This year, I brought Otto the Book Bear by Katie Cleminson (not funny, but a perfect choice for pitching libraries!) A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell (the "what not to do with your library book" book), and Elise Parsley's, If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don't!.

If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don't (2015, Little, Brown) is a new book that I find hilarious.   A little girl brings her alligator to school for show-and-tell, and all havoc breaks loose.  I thought it would bring some giggles to Kindergarten kids.  At my first visit, I asked the teacher if the kids had begun show-and-tell yet. I wanted to make sure they would get the joke.  I was told that the new, more rigorous Kindergarten curriculum did not allow the time necessary for the rather lengthy process of show-and-tell.  The teacher suggested that the book would be best shared with preschoolers as they are the only ones with time for show-and-tell.  How sad.

This isn't an individual teacher's decision, it is a by-product of strict, standards-based education.  I get it.  I truly do, but I am glad that I am not a child today.  Today's body of knowledge is so much greater than it was when I was in school, and the process of educating children has moved to a business-like model.  These factors combine to remove much of the joy of early learning - free play, music, art, and show-and-tell.

If you're a parent or librarian or teacher with a few minutes of free time, spread some joy wherever you can.  Life is hard - even in Kindergarten. 

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3. Picture Book Roundup - First Day of School Books

School will be starting before you know it! 
 Here are some new books that feature the first day of school.

(if you cannot access the slide show, reviews are below)

  • First Grade, Here I Come! by Tony Johnston 

A playfully rambunctious boy plans his first day of first grade, "For show-and-tell, no teddy bears. I'll bring my snake - oh joy! My friends will hold my boa up. (I call him Huggy Boy.)" For this scene, the playful illustrations show the teacher standing atop her desk while the kids hoist Huggy Boy. Cheerful, silly fun!

  • Bob and Flo by Rebecca Ashdown

It's Flo's first day at preschool. Not only does she find her missing bucket, she finds a friend. Cute.

  • ABC School's for Me! by Susan B. Katz

"Eating snack around the rug, Friends who share a hello hug." A cute, rhyming, and encouraging ABC book. Dad's First Day Mike Wohnoutka Here's a twist on "first day of school" books - it's Oliver's dad who has the first day of school jitters! (Picture Oliver's teacher carrying Oliver's crying dad outside.) "The teacher walked Oliver's dad outside." "Bye, Daddy!" But don't worry ... it all turns out OK.

  • Monkey: Not Ready for Kindergarten by Marc Brown

In crayon-inspired illustrations, Marc Brown tells the story of a monkey worried about his first day at school. "What if his teacher doesn't like him? What if he gets on the wrong bus? What if he can't find the bathroom? ..." With time and patient help from his parents and friends, Monkey slowly gets ready for Kindergarten.

  • Rosie Goes to Preschool by Karen Katz 

Rosie's not worried about her first day of preschool. In fact, she'll tell you all about it! Happy, simple, and multicultural - this is a classic Karen Katz book.

  • Not This Bear: A First Day of School Story by Alyssa Satin Capucilli 

In this story of a bear's first day at school, author Alyssa Satin Capucilli shows that going to school does not mean giving up one's individuality. Bear clings to some familiar things and habits from home, but still fits in and enjoys himself at school. An interesting and reassuring take on "first day at school" books.

  • Ally-saurus & the First Day of School by Richard Torrey 

Is there room for a dinosaur girl in a school filled with princess girls? Of course there is! "Taking off her favorite dinosaur pajamas, Ally-saurus dressed in her brand-new first-day-of-school outfit. "Your pants are on backward," said Father. "That's so my dinosaur tail can stick out," explained Ally-saurus. Let's wear our pants the right way," said Father. "ROAR!" said Ally-saurus."

  • Eva and Sadie and the Best Classroom EVER! by Jeff Cohen 

Big sister Sadie tries to help Eva get ready for Kindergarten - but teaching her math and reading may not be the best way to help!

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4. Night Animals - a review

I think I am predisposed to like anything done by Gianna Marino, so I requested an Advance Reader Copy of Night Animals, which is on shelves now.  I was not disappointed.

Marino, Gianna. 2015. Night Animals. New York: Viking.

Full bleed illustrations let the night sky offer an expansive and inky stage for highlighting a comical group of nocturnal animals that are afraid of noises in the night.  The large illustrations clearly detail the animals' antics, wide-eyed fear, and varying reactions to things that go "aaaarrrrooo!" in the night.  The skunk is often depicted with a noxious greenish cloud behind him (much to the dismay of Possum), while the possum (appropriately) plays dead,

"I'm not here."

Minimal text is presented in cartoon-style word bubbles,

 "What are we hiding from?"  "Night animals!  Now keep QUIET!"

Bear, Wolf, Skunk and Possum run from the "night animals."  It takes a bat to tell them the real danger in the nighttime forest.

Night Animals will tickle the funny bone of any young child.  This is a perfect book for sharing with a group.  Possum is hilarious!

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5. Bee Dance - a review

9780805099195Bee Dance by Rick Chrustowski(Henry Holt, 2015)

Suitable for sharing with a story time group, Bee Dance is presented as a conversational entreaty to bees,

Waggle faster, honeybee! Buzz louder! Your dance points the way to the prairie."
Bee Dance is lyrical nonfiction with large, bright, cut-paper illustrations.  An author's note contains additional facts and the author's source material.

  • You can watch an actual "waggle dance" below.

It's STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

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6. Storytime picks for Hispanic Heritage Month

Each year, I try to do something new for Hispanic Heritage Month at the library.

This year, I fell in love with Susan Middleton Elya's, Little Roja Riding Hood (Putnam, 2014), so I based a program around that title.  We had a fun time retelling the classic story as we knew it, recreating it with felt board pieces,  reading Susan Middleton Elya's version, using the globe to find Spanish-speaking countries, playing a game of Color, Colorcito, and finally some free play with the felt board pieces and a rojo coloring page.

Below is a slide show with reviews of other bilingual favorites that I've used for storytime.  I also have a list of fun preschool songs, music, and activities for Hispanic Heritage Month.  Feel free to ask me about them.  If you have trouble seeing the slideshow, you can access it on Riffle. [https://read.rifflebooks.com/list/181065]

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7. Picture Book Roundup - January 2015 edition

Some new picture book favorites!  A fairytale, a toddler book, and poetic nonfiction.  Enjoy!

A beautiful princess, a pony, a red umbrella and red tights.  This is the girls' empowerment fairytale that you've always wanted. Be who you are; love who you are. If the illustrations in this one do not enchant you, you have no magic in your soul.  (So glad that this one made the leap across the pond!)

While tow truck and fire truck are out performing rescues, mild-mannered and bespectacled garbage truck "just collects the trash." It takes a snowstorm and an attachable snow plow to turn him into Supertruck! Simply told and simply illustrated for a young audience, this is a story of doing your job simply because it's the job that needs to be done. I like it! 

Note: Despite its snowstorm theme, this one should be popular for the 2015, "Every Hero Tells a Story" summer reading theme.

A beautifully photographed, poetic look at rain - what it does and where it lands and how we see it. Simple, gorgeous science,

It thuds.
Makes mud.
It fills.
It spills.

Have a great week, and don't forget to check out the posts on the Nonfiction Monday blog.

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8. Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos - a review

Sisson, Stephanie Roth. 2014. Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the mysteries of the cosmos. New York: Roaring Brook.

In simple text augmented by word bubbles, thought bubbles, and sketches, Stephanie Roth Sisson gives us the highlights of Carl Sagan's lifebut more importantly, she offers a sense of his wondrous enthusiasm for the cosmos,

It gave Carl goose bumps to think about what he had learned about the stars, planets, and the beginnings of life.  He wanted everyone to understand so that they could feel like a part of the stars as he did.
So he went on television.

This is the first book that Stephanie Roth Sisson has both written and illustrated.  The fact that she is enthralled with her subject is apparent in the artwork. Painted cartoon images (often in panels with word bubbles), depict a happy Sagan, wide-eyed and curious.  While some pages are like panel comics, others are full-bleed, double spreads depicting the vastness of the darkened skies, dotted by planets or stars.  One foldout opens vertically, reminding us of our infinitesimal existence in the cosmos.  We are so small, yet we are reminded,

The Earth and every living thing are made of star stuff.
Star Stuff is a 2015 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award Honor book for "outstanding nonfiction for children."

Substantial back matter includes Author's Note, Notes, Bibliography and Sources, Special Thanks, and Source Notes.

Preview the first eight pages of Star Stuff on the publisher's website.

Carl Sagan graduated from Rahway High School in Rahway, NJ.  As far as I can tell, he's not mentioned anywhere on the school's website. Pity.

It's STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
See all of today's STEM-related posts at the STEM Friday blog.

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9. Feathers: Not Just for Flying

As I've mentioned before, I had the great honor and opportunity to serve again as a second round judge on the Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction book award panel for the Cybils Awards.  If you're not familiar with the Cybils awards, they are the Children and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards.

Our judging panel chose the following as the 2014 Cybils Award winner for best Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction book:

Congratulations to Melissa Stewart,  Sarah S. Brannen, and Charlesbridge

The judging panel's description:
Using child-friendly similes, Feathers shows that there is both beauty and purpose in nature and that, although we do not fly, we have many things in common with birds, such as the need to be safe, attractive, industrious, communicative, and well-fed. The simple, large text is suitable for reading to very young children, while the inset boxes contain more details for school-aged kids. The scrapbook-style watercolor illustrations show each feather at life size, and provide a nice jumping-off point for individual projects. Science, art, and prose work together to make this the perfect book to share with budding young artists, painters, naturalists, and scientists, and it will be appreciated by parents, teachers, and kids.

Melissa Stewart's website offers teaching resources and activities to go along with Feathers.

Be sure to check out all of the Cybils award winning books (and apps!) at [http://www.cybils.com/2015/02/the-2014-cybils-awards.html ]

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10. Picture Book Roundup - new or coming soon!

This edition of the Picture Book Roundup features "jampires" (!), two Stanleys (one dog, one hamster), and a new Kadir Nelson book for which I can't find enough superlatives.  Enjoy!

If you can't see the slideshow, I've included my reviews below.


If You Plant a Seed is a brilliantly written and exquisitely illustrated book about kindness. Sparse but meaningful text, combined with joyfully detailed illustrations of plants, birds, and animals. I love it!

  • MacIntyre, Sarah and David O'Connell. 2015. Jampires. New York: David Fickling (Scholastic)

Who could be sucking all the jamminess out of the doughnuts?  Jampires!  Will Sam find jam?  Will the Jampires find their nest?  If you like funny, this is the best!

  • Bee, William. 2015. Stanley the Farmer. New York: Peachtree.

Stanley is a hardworking hamster. Illustrations and text  are bright and simple, making Stanley a perfect choice for very young listeners. Along the lines of Maisy, but with a crisper, cleaner interface.  Nice size, sturdy construction.

The Wimbledons can't sleep.  What IS all that noise?  It's only Stanley, the dog.  He's howling at the moon, fixing the oil tank, making catfish stew, ...?  Hey, something's fishy here! Classic Jon Agee - droll humor at its best.

Review copies of Jampires, Stanley the Farmer, and It's Only Stanley were provided by the publisher.

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11. Picture book roundup - more funny ones!

Here are two new funny additions to add to my earlier post, Picture Book Roundup - new or coming soon!

We were reading these at work the other night.  All you could hear were laughs, chuckles, and "awww"s.

  • Dyckman, Ame. 2015. Wolfie the Bunny. New York: Little Brown.  Illustrated by Zacharia OHora.

This one had all the library staff laughing! Wolfie is the cutest little wolf in a bunny suit, but the star of this story is his sister, Dot. Doesn't anyone else realize that a wolf does not make a good brother for a bunny? Every time I read it, I find something else amusing in the illustrations.  See you at the Carrot Patch Co-op! (Bring your own shopping bag.)

  • Slater, David Michael. 2015. The Boy & the Book. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. Illustrated by Bob Kolar.

This wordless book about a book and a "rough-and-tumble" little boy will crack you up and then make you say "Awww!" It's sure to become a librarian favorite. You'll love the blue book (but "read" them all!)

Musing for the day: How does one become a wordless picture book author? ;)

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12. Terrific - an audiobook review

Below is my review of Jon Agee's Terrific as it appeared in the April 1, 2015 issue of School Library Journal.  The review was slightly edited from my original.  I didn't refer to Eugene as "the boy."  Eugene is definitely not a boy, as you can see by the cover illustration.  ;)

AGEE, JON. Terrific. 1 CD. 7 min. Dreamscape. 2014. $14.99. ISBN


PreK-Gr 2--Eugene's life follows Murphy's Law--if something can go wrong, it will. And when inevitable misfortune falls, Eugene's favorite expression is a sarcastic, "Terrific." So, it's no surprise that when the boy's Eugene's cruise ship sinks, all the passengers (except Eugene) are rescued, and he finds himself on a deserted island with a talking parrot. "Terrific," says Eugene. Narrator Kirby Heyborne plays the resigned, older, and long-suffering Eugene perfectly with a mix of sarcasm and fatigue, and creates a suitably squawking voice for the take-charge parrot who will change his attitude. Sound effects including boat horns, construction din, and ocean waves complement the story. Though listeners will miss Agee's humorous illustrations, the CD includes a fun musical version of "Terrific," sung by Heyborne with music by the Promise Makers. The lyrics are slightly modified from the text to fit the upbeat rhythm and rhyme scheme of the song, but stay true to the original story. VERDICT Purchase this one for sharing with school or storytime groups, one with a copy of the print book.--

Copyright © 2015 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
Reprinted with permission.

Listen to an excerpt from Terrific here.

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13. Feet, Go to Sleep - a review

Welcome to the final stop on the Barbara Bottner blog tour for her latest book, 
Feet, Go to Sleep, illustrated by Maggie Smith and published by Alfred A. Knopf.

Fiona has spent the day at the beach and now it's time for bed.
"Time to say good night," said Mama.
"I'm not ready!" said Fiona.
"You've had a long day.  You must be tired, from your head to your toes," said Mama.
"Maybe just a little tired...."

This may be a bedtime story, but Maggie Smith's bright illustrations are richly colored and full of life. 
"Toes, go to sleep!" said Fiona.
Toes were for gripping flip-flops on the way to the beach.
Toes were easy.  They went right to sleep."

The illustrations feature bright and bold depictions of Fiona's earlier daytime activities, while the pajama clad Fiona is contrasted in a smaller inset box, growing wearier with each page until she is finally and peacefully asleep against a backdrop of evening blue.  Feet, Go to Sleep is an attractive combination of enjoyable and practical.

Although I was traveling, and did not have time to submit interview questions to author Barbara Bottner, she was kind enough to answer one question for me.  As a Jersey Shore gal, I was curious if Feet, Go to Sleep is based on any particular beach - perhaps one of Ms. Bottner's favorites. Bottner enjoyed frequenting Jones Beach on Long Island as a teenager, however, the location of Fiona's activities are not based on any specific beach, In fact, the book's location was added after the first draft. I have actually (succesfully) used the relaxation technique in Feet, Go to Sleep many times, although I've never needed it after a day at the beach. For me, a day at the beach is a relaxation technique in itself.  Ah, that salt air!

Previous stops on the blog tour include:
Feet, Go to Sleep by Barbara Bottner
Blog Tour Schedule

My copy of Feet, Go to Sleep was provided by the publisher.

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14. Picture Book Roundup - June 2015 edition

Enjoy a slide show version of this month's picture book roundup - a sampling of my new favorites!
 If the slide show doesn't work for you, I've listed the books below with links to my reviews on LibraryThing.


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15. Baseball Animals - a review

Whether or not you buy MLB's position that Opening Day is March 22, 2014 in Australia (Sorry Australia, baseball "down under" just doesn't feel right), baseball season, will soon be here. Opening Day for the US and Canada is March 31.

If you are a baseball fan, are raising a young baseball fan, or are trying to connect with a young baseball fan, here's the book for you - a marriage of baseball and animals!

Jordan, Christopher. 2014. Baseball Animals. Plattsburgh, NY: Fenn/Tundra.

Which MLB team shares its name with a songbird that loves acorns?
This blue, black and white bird is thought to be responsible for spreading the oak tree across North America.

If the beautiful photograph of my favorite bird on a stark white background doesn't give you the answer, just turn the page to reveal a full-page action shot of a Toronto Blue Jays batter. (Sorry that I don't know which one. Since they beat the Phillies in the 1993 World Series, I refuse to pay attention to the Blue Jays. We fans have long memories.)

Each baseball page features the team's logo, a full-page action photo taken at the ballpark, and some team uniform trivia.  Did you know that the Cardinals (often called the Redbirds) were not named for the beautiful bird, but rather for the color of their original uniforms? Their uniforms were cardinal red. So, presumably they are named after the traditional color of a Catholic cardinal's cassock.  Now that's a great baseball trivia question!

Fun and informative, this is a must-have for little baseball fans. I don't know why someone didn't think of it earlier!  An Appendix of MLB Teams and Logos rounds out the book - featuring all of the teams - even those sans animals on their logos.

Advance Reader Copy supplied by LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

In addition to being St. Patrick's Day, today is Nonfiction Monday.  Be sure to stop by the Nonfiction Monday blog for all of today's featured books.

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16. Picture Book Roundup - Wordless edition

It's been ages since I've done a picture book roundup!  Here are two wordless masterpieces.

  • Becker, Aaron. 2013. Journey. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Harold and the Purple Crayon for a new generation.  Beautiful!

  • Kim, Patti. 2014. Here I Am. North Mankato, MN: Capstone Press. 
An insightful story of a young boy's experience in emigrating from Asia to the United States.

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17. The Cat with Seven Names - an audiobook review

(My review of The Cat with Seven Names, as it appeared in the April, 2014, edition of School Library Journal.)

Johnson, Tony. The Cat with Seven Names. 1 CD. 15 min. Recorded
Books. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781490602479. digital

PreS-Gr 2— A plump, seemingly stray cat wanders occasionally into the home of an older librarian. She names her visitor Stuart Little. At an elderly neighbor's home, he receives the moniker Kitty-boy, while a lonely Mexican man names him Placido for his "singing" voice. A homeless vet calls him Dove, for the peace he brings. Only the cat is lacking his own voice in this heartwarming story of a busy neighborhood, full of unconnected adults. Each character has his or her own first-person narrator, each distinctly different. The Hispanic man peppers his speech with Spanish words, as he first meets "Placido" on a day when it rains gatos y perros. Humorous wordplay abounds throughout, in which the cat is the common fixture in the lives of seven adults and a young girl. When the cat has a near accident, the full cast calls out seven different names, as each rushes to save the feline that has befriended them all; and through the cat, they befriend each other. The Cat with Seven Names will be sold with and without its corresponding picture book. Consider purchasing the set. Absent illustrations, the steady stream of elderly and adult voices may not be enough to hold a child's attention.

Copyright © 2014 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

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18. Picture Book Roundup: Historical fiction edition

Here are two fiction picture books that feature days gone by.  Both books should tickle your fancy and make fun read-alouds for school-aged children, K-2.

  • Kulling, Monica. 2014. The Tweedles Go Electric. Ontario, Canada: Groundwood. Ill. by Marie Lafrance.

The year is 1903, and the Tweedles are "a bunch of fuddy-duddies," according to their neighbors.  Even when they finally decide to purchase a car, neighbors still tease them,
"People don't want that.  They want noise.  They want smoke." ... "They want a car to sound and smell like a car." 
But rather than the latest in gas-powered autos, the Tweedles purchase a smart, green, electric car.

With a wink and a nod to the future of "green" transportation and women's empowerment, it is the youngest of the Tweedles, Frances, and the "green" car that save the day when an emergency arises.  Marie Lafrance's illustrations accurately evoke the era and are reminiscent of the style of Hergés Tin Tin.

With an illuminated capital I and leafy, gold flourishes, Brother Hugo and the Bear begins firmly planted in the monastical world of the Middle Ages,
It befell that on the first day of Lent, Brother Hugo could not return his library book.
As the reader soon discovers, a bear has eaten the monastery's beautifully illuminated copy of St. Augustine's letters.  It becomes Brother Hugo's job to painstakingly recreate the massive, illustrated tome —a job that "would have been full easy to endure if it had not been for the snuffling."  The source of the snuffling, we soon discover, is the bear, who has not yet had his fill of letters.  Written and illustrated with great reverence for the early art of book-making, Brother Hugo is humorous as well.  Both the monk and the bear are earnest and joyful.

Based loosely upon a true story, Brother Hugo, in combination with its included Historical Note, Glossary, Author's Note, and Illustrator's Note is illuminating for both children and adults.

  A Discussion Guide for Brother Hugo and the Bear.

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19. The Streak - a review

Rosenstock, Barb. 2014. The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio became America's Hero. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek. Ill. by Terry Widener
(Advance Reader Copy)

If you know only one baseball statistic, you likely know its one "unbreakable" record - Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak.  According to the Author's Note, its probability for occurrence is once every 746 to 18,519 years.  It was the most talked about news story of 1941, even edging out  news of the war raging in Europe.

Oil-painted illustrations evoke the bygone era; references to new immigrants and mention of the war in Europe place the story in the context of history. However, The Streak is essentially a story of baseball, one man, and his favorite bat, Betsy Ann.

When DiMaggio was up, he strolled to home plate.  He didn't pull at his cap, scuff his feet, or make Betsy Ann dance behind his head.  He rubbed dirt on his hands, tapped the plate just once, and set his wide-legged stance.  For a minute, Joe stood perfectly still, then he and Betsy Ann went to work.
The book includes: Author's Note, Statistics, Source Notes, Bibliography, Acknowledgments

Baseball, it's my favorite season of the year.  Enjoy The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio became America's Hero, and be sure to take in a baseball game this summer.  You may witness history in the making.  You never know.

Other reviews at

If you're looking for another great picture book about Joe DiMaggio, the 1941 baseball season, or "the streak," be sure to check out The Unforgettable Season: The Story of Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and the Record-Setting Summer of '41.

This YouTube link will let you see Joe DiMaggio's famous swing and hear Les Brown's popular song of the day, "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio."

Today is Nonfiction Monday.  Check it out.

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20. This Is Not My Hat - an audiobook review

Below is my review of This Is Not My Hat, as it appears in the July 2014, edition of School Library Journal.

This book offers a wonderful opportunity for cross-curricular instruction - adding music knowledge and appreciation to language arts.  Think of it as "Peter and the Wolf lite" for young listeners!

Listen to an excerpt from This is Not My Hat on Audible's website.

KLASSEN, JON. This Is Not My Hat. 1 CD w/tr book. 34 min.
Scholastic Audio. 2014. $29.95. ISBN
PreS-Gr 3— Opening with "This hat is not mine. I just stole it," a small fish takes the listener into his confidence as he makes his getaway toward a place where he thinks that no one will ever find him. This unapologetic thief, his annoyed (and very large) victim, and a stool pigeon crab tell this wryly humorous and cautionary fish story. The outcome contains enough ambiguity that sensitive listeners can believe that the robber has more options than becoming a fish dinner. Irish narrator John Keating does a great job with a title that relies heavily on sight gags. Appropriately, his impudent robber is not particularly likable. Nevertheless, the listener empathizes with the brash little chap. A string ensemble, in a manner similar to Peter and the Wolf, accompanies the narration. A cello represents the larger fish, who never speaks, while a violin characterizes the smaller fish. The music ebbs and flows to match the story. Two versions are included on the CD. A gentle marimba riff signals page turns on the first version. The accompanying hardcover book is a "must" to truly enjoy this Caldecott Medal winner. Humor fans will love it.

Copyright © 2014Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.


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21. I'm My Own Dog - I love it!

Stein, David Ezra. 2014. I'm My Own Dog. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

I've got a few deadlines to meet so this will be short, but I couldn't let another day go by without shouting out to the virtual world, "I love this book!"

Funny, inventive, clever and touching, this book will work its way into your heart even as it has you laughing out loud.

This is no ordinary dog.  No one owns him, no sir!

Every morning when I look
in the mirror, I lick my own
face because I am so happy
to see me.
I say, "GOOD DOG.
You'll think so, too!

Don't just take my word for it.  See more great reviews at

From the end papers,
The illustrations' line work was created using pen as well as a kids' marker hacked to dispense India Ink; it was then photocopied onto watercolor paper.  The painting was done in liquid watercolor, with a hint of crayon on the dog's muzzle.
Ingeniously childish - a perfect presentation of a delightfully independent dog with a soft spot as big as his heart.

Click here to see an inside spread from I'm My Own Dog.

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22. Picture book roundup - Library books

September, National Library Card Sign-Up Month, is almost over, but if you're still looking for a good book to share, here are two new ones:

  • Kohara, Kazuno. 2014. The Midnight Library. New York: Roaring Brook. 
By the time this month is over, I will have visited thirteen kindergarten and four preschool classrooms to promote Library Card Sign-Up Month.

It doesn't matter what other books I have in my bag.  When kids see The Midnight Library, it's the one they want to hear!  Apart from Kazuno Kohara's eye-catching linocut illustrations in three colors, here's why I like it:
  • It features a library that's open all night long.  I wouldn't want to work there, but it makes for a really good story!
  • It highlights the fact that libraries are adaptable.  The squirrel band needs to practice some new songs for an upcoming concert?  No problem!  The library has an activity room they can use.
  • It features one of a librarian's favorite activities - reading stories.  Wolf is crying because her book is sad?  No worries! The librarian reads it with her.  It has a happy ending!
  • It's absolutely perfect for Library Card Sign-Up Month!  Tortoise can't finish that 500-page book before the library closes at sunrise? A library card is what he needs!

See this and more interior artwork at the publisher's website.

  • Becker, Bonny. 2014. A Library Book for Bear. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton.

I've loved the Bear and Mouse series ever since it came out, and while this one is not my favorite (I still love A Visitor for Bear best!), it's a good addition to your collection of library-themed books.  You really can't go wrong with Bear and Mouse.

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23. Mr. Ferris and His Wheel - a review

Davis, Kathryn Gibbs. 2014. Mr. Ferris and his Wheel. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Illustrated by Gilbert Ford.

Though written in a fully illustrated, engaging and narrative nonfiction style, Mr. Ferris and his Wheel is nevertheless, a well-sourced and researched picture book for older readers.

The story of the 1863, Chicago World's Fair debut of the world's first Ferris wheel (or Monster Wheel, as Mr. Ferris originally named it),  is told in a flowing and entertaining style,
     George arrived in Chicago and made his case to the construction chief of the fair.
     The chief stared at George's drawings.  No one had ever created a fair attraction that huge and complicated.  The chief told George that his structure was "so flimsy it would collapse."
     George had heard enough.  He rolled up his drawings and said, "You are an architect, sir. I am an engineer."
     George knew something the chief did not.  His invention would be delicate-looking and strong.  It would be both stronger and lighter than the Eiffel Tower because it would be built with an amazing new metal—steel.

it contains sidebars that impart more technical information that might otherwise interrupt the flow of the story,
George was a steel expert, and his structure would be made of a steel alloy.  Alloys combine a super-strong mix of a hard metal with two or more chemical elements.
George Ferris' determination is a story in itself, but it is the engineering genius of his wheel that steals the show.  A "must-have" for any school or public library.

Some facts about the original "Ferris" wheel:
  • 834' in circumference
  • 265' above the ground
  • 3,000 electric lightbulbs (this itself was a marvel in 1893!)
  • forty velvet seats per car
Ferris wheel at the Chicago World's Fair c1893.
 Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division[/caption]

STEM Friday

It's STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
See all of today's STEM-related posts at the STEM Friday blog.

Site Meter Copyright © 2014 L Taylor All Rights Reserved.

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24. GUs & Me - a review

Richards, Keith. 2014. Gus & Me: The Story of my Granddad and my First Guitar. Hachette Audio.

Keith Richards, the rough-edged, raspy-voiced, Rolling Stones guitarist, is hardly the man that comes to mind for a picture book writer and narrator, but then again, who better to tell the story of his first guitar?

Richards wins the listener over immediately with his folksy, working class Estuary English accent (think dropped h's and "intrusive" r's) and unmistakable fondness for his topics - his first guitar and his beloved Granddad, Gus. It was the musically talented Gus who introduced a young Keith Richards to the guitar, teaching him how to 'old it, and suggesting the classical Malagueña(r) as the pinnacle of guitar mastery.

I have yet to see the print version of this story, but I don't believe it could surpass the audio book.  A story with music at its heart needs music to be understood. Richards plays bits from Malagueña in appropriate spots throughout the story, and during a visit to a music shop in London, we hear Steve Jordan on drums.  Once, the listener even hears a little chuckle - not musical, but surprisingly sincere.  Richards collaborated with other authors, but this is obviously his story, and he delights in telling it.

(Run time: about 7 minutes)

My review of Gus & Me for AudioFile Magazine appears here with a small excerpt.  Take a listen!

Visit the Nonfiction Monday Blog, "rounding up the best nonfiction for children and teens."

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25. Valentine's Day storytime - love is in the air!

I've been goofing off for a few weeks, enjoying some family time while my oldest were home from college for the holidays.  Now it's time to get back to business.

Roses are red. 
Violets are blue. 
Here is advice 
I offer you:

Winter is dark; 
Weather is drear. 
But story time kids 
always bring cheer.

Valentine's Day - 
and books will delight. 
One happy child 
can banish the night.

© L Taylor

I tried something new today.  I put my favorite, rhyming Valentine's Day books for story time in a Riffle list that should allow for scrolling.  I'll put my favorite Valentine's Day rhymes and songs below.  Enjoy!

"A Kiss"  (a fingerplay, prop story, felt board, or song)

There's something in my pocket,
Could it be a moose?
Could it be a train with a bell and a caboose?
Could it be a snake or some sticky glue?
Right here in my pocket is a KISS from me to you! (blow kiss)

I have a photo of a moose glued to a popsicle stick, a train whistle, a bell, a plastic, jointed snake, and glue.  I pull them all out at the appropriate times.

Credit: King County Library System

A Valentine fingerplay:

Show children how to put the "heels" of their palms together and then curve fingers around , meeting on top to form a heart. The rhyme goes like this:

"I put my hands together,
this is how I start;
I curve my fingers right around
and I can make a Heart!"

Credit: Everything Preschool

"Skidamarink" or "Skinnamarink"
You can find this favorite online if you don't already know it.

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