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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: childrens books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature: Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, Peter Sieruta

Book: Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature
Authors: Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta
Pages: 288
Age Range: Adult Nonfiction

Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature is an insider's guide to the world of children's books and their creators, written by three well-known children's book bloggers. In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I have known Betsy Bird and Julie Danielson since my earliest days of blogging. While we've only met face to face a few times, I've read their blogs for years, and been on shared mailing lists and the like. I also read the late Peter Sieruta's blog, though I don't believe I ever had any direct contact with him. So you should consider my discussion of Wild Things! more along the lines of a recommendation than a critical review. I very much enjoyed the book. 

Wild Things! reveals the authors' deep affection for and knowledge of the field of children's literature. They discuss everything from the history of subversive children's literature to book banning to the ways that the Harry Potter books have affected the industry. This is the first book I've seen that openly discusses gay and lesbian authors of children's books, and how the outsider status of some of these authors may have affected their work. Like this:

"Unique perspectives yield unique books. It is difficult to be gay and not see the world in a way that is slightly different from that of your straight peers." (Page 54, ARC)

I especially enjoyed chapters on "scandalous mysteries and mysterious scandals" and "some hidden delights of children's literature." There's also an interesting discussion of the books critics love vs. the books that kids love. 

Despite covering a lot of ground, Wild Things! is a quick, engaging read. Though there are extensive end-notes citing sources, and it's clear that much research has been done, the book itself reads like a series of chatty essays written by friends. Wild Things! is full of interesting tidbits, like the extra pupil shown on one page of Madeline, and a rather disturbing claim by Laura that Pa Ingalls may have once encountered a serial killer. There are some resources that may help those new to thinking about children's books, such as a list of publications that review children's books. But for the most part, Wild Things! is a book that's going to appeal most to people who already have a reasonably solid grasp of the industry, and at least a passing familiarity with the key players. 

Wild Things! is not, however, insider-y in terms of the book blogging world. Because I've read so many posts by Betsy and Jules, there were certainly places where I could hear their distinct voices coming through. There are some fun sidebars in which all three authors briefly take on some question or author. But there is scant mention in the book of the authors' blogs themselves. The authors do muse a bit in the final chapter about the impact of cozy relationships between bloggers and authors, but for the most part they keep their emphasis on books and authors, and other people who have been instrumental in the evolution of the larger children's book world (like Ursula Nordstrom). They do include snippets of interviews with many authors and publishers, frequently backing up their own opinions with remarks from leaders in the field. 

Wild Things! is strong on the defense of the importance of children's literature (and fairly strong against message-driven celebrity books). Like this:

"And with every doctor, librarian, and early childhood educator telling us that childhood's importance is without parallel, it is baffling to see their literature condescended to, romanticized, and generally misunderstood." (Page 5 of the ARC)

"Childhood is not a phase to be disregarded; the same should be said of the books children read. They deserve well-crafted tales from the people who have the talent to write and illustrate them and who take their craft seriously. Do they need heavy-handed sermons from the latest celebrity "It" girl's newest children's book? Not so much." (Page 6)

I also loved this quote from A. A. Milne:

"Whatever fears one has, one need not fear that one is writing too well for a child, any more than one need fear that one is becoming almost too lovable." (Page 192)

Wild Things! is a book about the joy and quirkiness that is the field of children's literature. It is a celebration of books and their authors, and a defense of the importance of putting the very best possible books into children's hands. Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta accomplish all of this by sharing stories and opinions, theirs and those of others, with the reader. Fans of children's books, be they authors, bloggers, teachers, librarians, parents, or just people who appreciate a good book, are sure to enjoy Wild Things! Recommended for adults and older teens (there is definitely content that is not for kids), and a must-purchase for libraries. Wild Things! is a keeper!

Publisher: Candlewick 
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

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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2. #617 – Howard B. Wigglebottom and Manners Matter Howard Binkow & Reverend Ana and Taillefer Long

coverHoward B. Wigglebottom and Manners Matters

written by Howard Binkow & Reverend Ana

illustrated by Taillefer Long

Thunderbolt Publishing          1/01/2013


Age 4 to 8                 32 pages


“Using humor and a light approach this book introduces to 5 to 8 year olds the concept “to have good manners is to do and say only what makes people feel good and comfortable.” The thirteenth book in the award winning Howard B. Wigglebottom series. Teacher and Counselor approved. Tips and lessons are included. Reviews and support resources are available at wedolisten.org”


“Howard Wigglebottom woke up very worried.”

The Story

Howard is worried about his friends not doing well in the Pup Scout’s Good Manners Competition. They compete in just five days. Oinky habitually burps, never saying, “Excuse me.”

Joey bumps into people and never says, “Excuse me.”  Kiki uses unkind words, which is not nice. Even the Snorton Twins lack patience, cutting in l line, not willing to wait their turn. Howard must deal with a very ragamuffin group for this year’s contest. He needs help and enlists a coach. All good teams have coaches, right? Howard decided to get a coach for the manners team.

Howard cannot find a grown-ups willing to coach. Then he asked Ms. Owlee, who observed each kid’s manners at home, school, the park, and everywhere else they went. When the team had gathers for a coaching session, Ms. Owlee had basically one thing to tell the team. Some may say it’s a trick, because it involves secret magical words, but if it is a secret, no one will find out. Can Ms. Owlee coach Howard’s Manners Team on to victory?


Howard B. Wigglebottom and Manners Matter deals with many rude and yucky behaviors. Howard’s team coach, Ms. Owlee, takes a different from most approach to the team’s bad manner problems. Ms. Owlee not only shows the kids the right thing to do in their particular situations, she also gets them to understand why good manners are so important. Some of the kids burp and others fart but no one said, “Excuse me.” Part of the problem is that we often find those behaviors funny. This is especially true with young boys and fathers—when mom is not around. To be honest, sometimes it is funny, yet still not nice.


I like the secret magic words—two words—Ms. Owlee has the kids remember. Whenever they do something rude or gross, like fart or burp, they are to recall this secret. That, in turn, will help the kids remember to use manners. It works. This makes a lot of sense to me. If I know the reason behind something, I am more likely to comply with whatever it is. Understanding can go a long way in changing behavior. The next time Buzz sneezes, he remembers why he should show good manners and says, “Sorry for not covering my face.”  Well, it’s a start. Nothing in the story deals with actions, only good manner words.

The magical words work with all the team members, who are now ready for the Manners Competition. In the end, Howard is pleased with his team’s performance. The entire team is thrilled. The story is an interesting way of conveying good manners to young children. Ages  4 to 8, and even younger, need constant reminders about manners. Reading Howard B. Wigglebottom and Manners Matter can entertain kids while instilling the good manners they so desperately need to learn at this age. Kids can read, or listen while someone else reads, the book over and over, ingraining the information and the difference between good and bad manners. Repetition is a master at helping children learn. This is why so many young children’s books use repetitive lines in the stories.


The illustrations are cute. The animals all have human qualities and characteristics, a technique called anthropomorphism. The cute skunk, pig, alligator, dogs—Howard Wigglebottom is a bunny–, and many other animals, will entertain kids. They have bright eyes, big smiles, and wear a variety of clothes, some of which are funny. The mouse Kiki speaks to nicely reminds me of the Monopoly man, with his top hat and long circus-style coat. I love the turtle that needs a walker to get around. Her curved shell easy looks like a hunch back, or a woman with osteoarthritis. The characters, all animals, range from very young to very old. I like this mix of young and old, similar to what children see and deal with daily.

The Howard B. Wigglebottom and Manners Matter is one in a series of books devoted to helping young children grow up with the characteristics they need for success. Series titles always begin, Howard B. Wigglebottom . . . Titles include . . . Learns to Listen; Learns About Bullies; Learns too Much of a Good Thing is Bad; On Yes and No: A Fable about Trust; and the Power of Giving:  A Christmas Story, to name a few in this ever-growing series (13 thus far). The Howard B. Wigglebottom stories are well-written, interesting stories that will hold children’s attention from start to finish; perfect for use in the classroom. Young children love to learn and they love to please, making this a great age to learn and reinforce good manners. With the gentle persuasiveness of Howard’s friend, Ms. Owlee—a very smart owl in deed—Howard B. Wigglebottom and Manners Matter will help and encourage many children and their parents.

Oh, what was that? What are Ms. Owlee’s secret magical words? Well, it is a secret, and . . . you didn’t say, “Please.”

HOWARD B. WIGGLE BOTTOM AND MANNERS MATTER. Text copyright © 2013 by Howard Binkow Living Trust. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Taillefer Long. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Thunderbolt Publishing, through the distributor, Lerner Publishing Group, Minneapolis, MN.

Buy Howard B. Wigglebottom and Manners  Matter at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryiTunesLerner BooksWeDoListenat your favorite bookstore.

Learn more about the  Howard B. Wigglebottom Series HERE.

**Meet the author, Howard Binkow, at his website:  https://wedolisten.org/

For an informative interview with Howard Binkow, go HERE.

**Meet the author, Reverend Ana, at her website:    https://wedolisten.org/

Meet the illustrator, Taillefer Long, at his website:    http://childrensillustrationartist.com/

**Find more Howard B. Wigglebottom books at the Thunderbolt Publishing website:    https://wedolisten.org/

Distributed by Lerner Publishing Group:        https://www.lernerbooks.com/

**Collectively called the We Do Listen Foundation @ wedolisten.org

poster  wigglebottoms manners.

Free Poster HERE.

Listen to Song, find Lessons and Reflections HERE.



howard b wigglebottom
copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Series Tagged: bad manners, children's book reviews, good manners, Howard B. Wigglebottom, Howard Binkow, Lerner Publishing Group, picture books, Reverend Ana Rowe, Taillefer Long, Thunderbolt Publishing

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3. Review of Alphabet Wildlife A to Z by Nata Romeo, on THE BOOK REPORT!

Alphabet Wildlife A to Z 
by Nata Romeo
Reviewed by  J.D. Holiday

Children will enjoy the Alphabet Wildlife A to Z. Each letter is taught with Nata Romeo's unique and amazing style of artwork. The images
has a stunning effects in ink and pen, some in colored ink and others in black and white using shapes and various forms of line. Very creative.
It will appeal to new young readers on a few levels as they meet animals from around the world, viewing the book's fresh and innovative artwork, and learning at the same time. This book will surely do its job of introducing the alphabet and teaching them the letters needed to create words.
Alphabet Wildlife A to Z it is easy to follow and will be enjoyed by everyone.

That's my review of Alphabet Wildlife A to Z by Nata Romeoon THE BOOK REPORT!                                                          ~JD

Nata Romeo's site: www.nataromeo.com

0 Comments on Review of Alphabet Wildlife A to Z by Nata Romeo, on THE BOOK REPORT! as of 7/25/2014 12:14:00 AM
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4. All is Back to Normal — Or Will Be Tomorrow!

Great News! The faulty computer has returned home good as new. Literally. It is just as it was when I bought it. Now, I need to program in all the things I use and an anti-virus that I hope does its job. That is my evening plans. Now, with a new motherboard, the computer should be in tip-top condition. If not . . . but, let’s not go there.

Tomorrow, I will pick up where I had to stop and bring you more wonderful books and, soon, a special post. I am excited to be introducing you to an up and coming illustrator, starting his career at age sixteen. We’ll talk with him about his plans and his future, plus see some of his amazing work. I am very excited to interview this young artist.

Have a great night tonight. Enjoy the summer breezes—if you are in the Mid-East—and relax with a nice cold beverage of your choice.  I will continue writing and on Wednesday the first new post will be online. (Posts are usually written the night before they go live.)

In any case, enjoy your evening and tomorrow. Please return on Wednesday. I look forward to seeing everyone then. Thank you for all your good wishes and support regarding my broken computer. It seems like Deja vu.



Filed under: Children's Books

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5. #616 – Cousins and Robbers: Tales of Black Jack Jetty by Michael A. Carestio


Virtual Book Blog Tour — Cousins and Robbers: Tales of Black Jack Jetty by Michael A. Carestio


Cousins and Robbers: Tales of Black Jack Jetty

written by Michael A. Carestio

published by Michael A. Carestio         7/15/2013


Age 8 to 12


“The Great Recession is punishing families across the land: lost jobs, lost dreams, lost hope. Tough times bring out the best, and worst in people. The sleepy South Jersey shore towns are being hit by a crime wave, a band of robbers boldly breaking into homes right in the middle of a summer day. The cousins of Black Jack Jetty devise a plan to protect home and family. That plan will drag them into the mean streets of the meanest neighborhoods in Atlantic City. That’s where the tale twists and turns like a treacherous rip tide. Lucky will tell you the rest.”


“We’re going to Atlantic City,” Jack says, in a rare display of bravado.”

The Story

The cousins, nine-year-olds Riley, Jack, and Nick, seven-year-old Willy, and honorary cousin, nine-year-old Angel are determined to catch the robbers brazen enough to rob in clear daylight. They all fear their home on Black Jack Jetty will be next, thinking the robbers will be looking for the gold coins they recently found belonging to a deceased uncle. (Book 1) The kids go on reconnaissance, including using an old military lookout post on the top of the house. From there they can see most of the area.

Angel notices a lot of landscapers, which is not unusual in Margate. Only problem is, these guys never mow a lawn or trim a bush. Out on their bikes the kids go, looking for this black landscaping truck pulling a white trailer. Once found, two of the kids try to take a closer look and end up inside the locked trailer when it takes off to wherever the robbers take it at the end of the day. Two other kids follow the trailer and their cousins, while Willy goes home. He is to tell their Aunt Jane what has happened, but only after two hours have passed. Willy, though visibly distressed, refuses to say a word until those two hours have swept away. Will the cousins safely escape the robber’s trailer? Will the robbers be brought to justice?


First, let me say that the narrator is so annoying that had this not been for a review, I would have tossed the book after page five. The story of Cousins and Robbers is a mere 89 pages, easily a one sitting tale. It took me several days. In frustration, I left the story several times only to pick it up a day or two later—because I had to. The narrator spends more time interjecting opinions and commentary more than he likes to narrate the story. It takes quite a while before you realize the “narrator” is a seagull that can talk. He also physically enters the story near the end. Lucky’s narration is always in italics, while a normal narrator is in regular print. Yep, two narrators. Plus, I found the paragraphs in italics—one nearly every page—annoying, causing me to shift from story to commentary. This interrupts the actual story, and I do not care what this seagull thinks about the action, the economy, or the Great Recession. This narrator simply interrupts the story, like someone talking about the day’s events while you try to read the paper. Now, kids might enjoy this oft-time funny bird and not feel the distractions I felt.


If you ignore all those italic paragraphs, what is left is a decent story, with a good plot, a good conflict, and an interesting ending, though easily solved. I say this with one caveat: in children’s stories, even cops and robbers, kids should be the ones who solve the problems. In this case, the talkative seagull and an adult rescue the kids, rather than the other kids rescuing their mates. Worse, these characters enter the story near the end. I don’t like reading about these great kid characters only to have two new characters (an adult and a seagull), show up in the last ten pages and save the day. In children’s literature, kids solve the problems, are the heroes, and empower the story—and the child reader.

The illustrations, photographs that look like someone’s old vacation pictures, often do not relate to what is happening on the page next to it or in the story as a whole. Granted, illustrations can be the most expensive part of a kid’s book, but if the alternative is confusing photographs that Uncle Jay took on his last vacation, skip them all together. Illustrations should enhance the story and move it along its journey.


I believe the author knows how to write a good story. He understands the elements needed for a good story. Maybe he took some bad advice about the seagull playing opinionated narrator, or having the seagull’s narration stand out by italicizing it. A good editor might have caught all of this and had it corrected. Here is the sentence, from the story, about the use of a talking seagull:

“Now before you go thinking what a cheap literary device . . . a talking animal . . . how cliché . . . Get over it . . . please.”

The author calls his use of a talking seagull cliché, and he is right, so why did he use it? Was he saying I know this is cliché but I do not care what you think? No, I think this was a tongue-in-seagull-cheek joke that took a dive, coming across arrogant instead of witty. As for “Get over it,” not possible. There is too much of this talking animal interrupting the story to express its opinion or make an unneeded comment, yet, in its defense, the author/seagull says,

“I am opinionate, informed, and do not suffer fools lightly.”

Oh, and the prologue, which I do not like anyway, is nothing more than the identical repetition of three pages (41, 42, 43) from the middle of the book. What is the reason for this? It seems like the author knows what he needs to do, but insists on not doing it or does it incorrectly. Don’t waste your time with the prologue. Skip it and start at the beginning of the story at Chapter 1.


Now, the good. Boys will enjoy this tale of cops and robbers. They, as I, will like Angel, the “guest cousin” whose father is in jail for robbery. Angel is a taller and bigger than average nine-year-old who could have saved the day. That would have been a great ending. Angle would have earned the position of a cousin and I would have looked forward to further adventures with Angel in the group. Kids will also like the bicycle chase. It has loads of adventure, suspense, and humor.

While Cousins and Robbers needs tuned—lengthening the story, correct the typos—the elements for a great kid’s story are there. The writing is good. The plot is good. The cousins are good characters that speak to kids and are easy to like. The conflict is believable. There is a nice twist. The adult characters, while they take on too much of the story (important sections like the ending), most are characters one can like. The setting is fabulous. Not just on the beach, but at a house that sticks out into the bay, looking dangerously defenseless—though defenseless it or its occupants are not.


Kids will like Cousins and Robbers. They might even think Lucky’s squawking narration is funny. It is witty in an annoying way. You never know what will influence a child while he or she reads a story. A good plot, convincing conflicts, excellent writing, and, humorous twists are great if not marred down by a cliché. Remove the unnecessary. Build on what really works. Write for kids. Think like a kid. Let the kids be the heroes. Accomplishing those, while not always easy, could bring Cousins and Robbers to the level of a Best of 2014 novel for children. The current story is a good start.

COUSINS AND ROBBERS: TALES OF BLACK JACK JETTY. Text copyright © 2013 by Michael A. Carestio. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Tony Auth, Alex Forbes, et al. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Michael A. Carestio, Philadelphia, PA.


Buy Cousins and Robbers . . . at AmazonB&NCreateSpaceAuthor’s Websiteyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about Cousins and Robbers . . . HERE.

Meet the author, Michael A. Carestio, at his website:     http://www.blackjackjetty.com/

About Michael A. Carestio

author use unsure probably notA native Philadelphian, Michael has spent much of his career in advertising as a Creative Director. Black Jack Jetty: A Boy’s Journey Through Grief is his entry into children’s literature and reflects the loss he felt as a young boy over the death of his own father.

quoteThe story takes place in Margate, down beach from Atlantic City where Carestio spends his summers with friends and family.

Mr. Carestio has two daughters, two granddaughters, and two World Series Championships thanks to his beloved Phillies.

 Find Michael A. Carestio at these sites:
Also by Michael A. Carestio
Black Jack Jetty

Black Jack Jetty

cousins and robbers



Virtual Book Blog Tour

Cousins and Robbers: Tales of Black Jack Jetty


Monday, July 21st

Kid Lit Reviews – http://kid-lit-reviews.com/

Tuesday, July 22nd

Cubicle Blindness Reviews – http://cubicleblindness.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, July 23rd

Bright Kids Books – www.brightkidsbooks.com

Thursday, July 24th

Literary Diva – http://www.blogtalkradio.com/diva29

Friday, July 25th

Jenn’s Review Blog – http://www.jennsreviewblog.com

Monday, July 28th

The Write Stuff –  http://rosihollinbeckthewritestuff.blogspot.ca/

Tuesday, July 29th

Morgen Bailey’s Writing Blog – http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/guest-blogs/topics/

Wednesday, July 30th

Gabina49′s Blog – http://gabina49.wordpress.com/

Thursday, July 31st

Morgen Bailey’s Writing Blog – http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/guest-blogs/topics/

Friday, August 1st

Get Kids to Read – http://www.mrtierneyslibrary.com/



copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Filed under: 4stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: Atlantic City, Atlantic Ocean, Black Jack Jetty, children's book reviews, cops and robbers, Cousins and Robbers: Tales of Black Jack Jetty, Michael A. Carestio, middle grade novel

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6. Book and Activity Suggestions to Match Your Summer Adventure: Outdoor Summer Concerts!

I and I Bob Marley

I and I Bob Marley

Each week this summer, we are pairing Lee & Low titles to your favorite summer destinations with fun activities!

Summer is an incredible time to hear and enjoy music. From public parks to local high school auditoriums to subway platforms, many towns and cities offer summer concerts. Whether it is part of an official concert series, a festival, a rehearsal, or an impromptu get-together of musicians, there are a ton of opportunities to enjoy music alongside reading.

Our motto this summer: Love Books + Keep Cool + Learn Something New

Your summer outing: an Outdoor Summer Concert

Book recommendations:

Summoning the Phoenix

Summoning the Phoenix

Questions during reading:

  • What instruments are used in the book?
  • What type of music is featured in this book?
  • How is the music in this book different from other kinds of music?
  • How does music create community?
  • What character traits does someone need to become a successful musician?
  • Why do you think people enjoy music and find it meaningful?
  • Why do you think every culture has created some form of music?


  1. Pair the book with a music recording or live performance of the same type of music featured in the book. What instruments do you hear? What patterns do you hear? What mood/tone does the music set? How does this music make you feel (unhappy, excited, calm, agitated)? How many musicians are performing? Is there a band leader/conductor for this type of music?
  2. Drummer Boy of John John

    Design and create a drum! Although many cultures and forms of music have distinct instruments, it is fascinating to note what instruments seem to pop up over and over again. Take for example the drum! Variations of the drum appear in music from all over the world. Check out the drum instructions from Spark!Lab, part of the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History.

  3. Turn listening to music into seeing music! Talk about the senses we use to enjoy music. Children may think we can enjoy music with only our ears. Yet, the author and illustrator of the book had to communicate the music and its mood through words and pictures. What words does the author use to describe the featured music? What words does the author use to capture the mood of the music? What colors or actions does the illustrator use to capture the music? After attending a concert or listening to a recording, encourage your child to draw a picture that captures the mood, feeling, or story of the song. What colors would you use for each instrument and why? How would you draw a quiet, slow, fast, or loud moment?
  4. Drummer Boy of John John

    Study the geography of the music featured in the book. Where does this type of music originate? Who are famous composers, contributors, or musicians? What kinds of instruments were/are used? Out of what materials from the region were instruments traditionally made?

For further summer reading and ideas:


Jill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

Filed under: Educator Resources, Summer Tagged: children's books, close reading, Educators, ELA common core standards, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension, summer, summer reading

0 Comments on Book and Activity Suggestions to Match Your Summer Adventure: Outdoor Summer Concerts! as of 7/21/2014 8:37:00 AM
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7. #615 – Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt & Shane Prigmore


Planet Kindergarten

written by Sue Ganz-Schmitt

illustrated by Shane Prigmore

Chronicle Books          7/01/2014


Age 4 to 8        32 pages

“Today is liftoff.  ‘You are well prepared,’ says Dad. Mom counts down. Into the rocket ship . . . the boosters fire, and we launch. I’m off to PLANET KINDERGARTEN. Suit up for a daring adventure as our hero navigates the unknown reaches and alien inhabitants of a       plante called . . . Kindergarten. This clever book will prepare young explorers for their next mission—whether it’s a strange new world, or somewhere much closer to home.”


“We arrived at the base camp, then orbit while we look for a place to dock.”


Planet Kindergarten hooked me from the pre-story pages. I love this picture book, as will little boys and girls. Kindergarten is the first time at school when you must stay without mom or dad. Very frightening. Sure , there are toys scattered about and a giant slide, and a doll house you can go into, but school . . . alone . . . take me home.  The hero of Planet Kindergarten is just as leery about kindergarten. I love the use of a new planet for the school and the hero needing to climb aboard his personal rocket ship. I think I walked.


The story actually begins long before the first page. On the end page, the young boy is waking up to . . . an . . . alarm! The countdown begins for liftoff. Before that can happen, he must prepare. A calendar marks off the days until school begins, his mom takes him shopping, the dog drills him the ABC’s, a doctor passes him for takeoff, and dad helps him organize his supplies. Now it is just the alarm and it has rung louder than expected. BLAST OFF! The young boy is on his way to Planet Kindergarten. Now the story begins.

I love the author’s imagination, as will parents and kids. This is a great way to prepare kids for the first day of school, or camp, or going to Aunt I-Don’t –Want-To-Go. The author takes the major points of school and translates them into an alien adventure. Gravity is different, making it hard for the kids, I mean crewmates, to stay in their seats. Gravity also means trash must go in a bin or it will float away. Quickly, the young boy finds out what a time-out is all about as he and another boy fight over a red ball. The two become fast friends while sitting out. Mom even gives her son a Spock salute as she leaves him on his own.


Planet Kindergarten is the most imaginative book I have seen about starting school. Boys will love this, as will some girls. Planet Kindergarten looks like a boy’s book with its dark, yet bold cover of the young boy in a spacesuit against a backdrop of stars. I think reluctant readers will enjoy this picture book. The imaginative text makes Planet Kindergarten an easy and enjoyable read. I doubt parents will mind re-reading it.

The illustrations look like the young boy is on a strange planet, but with all the trappings of kindergarten. And when nap time becomes more than the young boy can handle, he remembers a NASA motto: Failure is NOT an Option. You can’t fail with Planet Kindergarten in your pre-school arsenal. Kids will love the space jokes and the alien kids (who just might look like some of their own classmates). School is in session soon. Have fun on Planet Kindergarten.


For a different perspective—one closer to kindergarten than mine—check out Erik’s review HERE!

PLANET KINDERGARTEN. Text copyright © 2-14 by Sue Ganz-Schmitt. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Shane Prigmore. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Pick up your copy of Planet Kindergarten at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryChronicle Booksyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about Planet Kindergarten HERE.

Meet the author, Sue Ganz-Schmitt, at her website:    http://sueganzschmitt.com

Meet the illustrator, Shane Prigmore, at his website:    http://shaneprigmore.com

Find more great books at the Chronicle Books’ website:    http://www.chroniclebooks.com/


Also by Sue Ganz-Schmitt

Even Superheroes Get DiabetesEven Superheroes Get Diabetes

Even Superheroes Get Diabetes Even Superheroes Get Diabetes







Also by Shane Prigmore

The All-Purpose SPHDZ Boxed Set: Books 1 - 4

The All-Purpose SPHDZ Boxed Set: Books 1 – 4



planet kindergarten

Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: children's book reviews, Chronicle Books, first day of school, picture books, Planet Kinder-Garten, rocket ships, Shane Prigmore, space, Sue Ganz-Schmitt

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8. Have you ever ridden on a sea lion?

Miriam at Create Hope Inspire blog interviewed me about Rescue on Nim's Island this week.

 Her two young sons also had some great questions! Here are a couple:

Have you ever ridden on a sea lion?
What does a sea lion's fur feel like?
Wendy sent this gorgeous photo in answer to these rather funny questions!

Was the cake actually poisoned? What with?
It was actually poisoned. They used juice from rhubarb leaves, because that makes you very sick but probably wouldn't kill you.

Why was there a passage where Tiffany's foot got stuck?
Why was the hole joined to the bat's cave?
All the passages, tunnels and caves were formed in the mountain by water dripping or running through the limestone rock, and gradually dissolving it, so that bigger passages, tunnels and caves were formed. Of course this took many thousands of years! Also, any small earthquakes or rumbling through the mountain when the volcano erupted made new faults and cracks, so the water dripped down those and continued to erode the new holes in the tunnel or passage.

For the complete interview and Miriam's review, go to: Create Hope Inspire

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9. #612-613 – Monster Knows I’m Sorry and Eddie and Ellie’s Opposites

Here are two wonderful board books for the youngest kids out there ready to open a book or two. Both are colorful and made me laugh. First up, an appropriate book for the mess my shotty computer has caused.


Monster Knows I’m Sorry

written by Connie Colwell Miller

illustrated by Maira Chiodi

Picture Window Books          3/06/2014


8 x 8 18 pages

“Monsters are at Plooble School. There’s time for work and play. Monsters make mistakes at times. “I’m sorry” is easy to say.”


“At Pooble School the monsters play. They also learn the words to say.”


The monsters at Plooble School are a fearsome bunch. From one eye to three eyes or no eye at all, these monster will not scare the little reader. Every monster wears a smile and is glad to be at school. The words to learn today are “I’m sorry.”
All the monsters are seated at their desks, except for one. This monster is goofing around, but when he realizes what he is doing, he faces his classmates and says,

“I’m sorry, friends. I’ll calm down.”

I’m sorry is used in many ways.

“I’m so sorry you feel bad.”
“Oops, I’m sorry, I forgot that rule.”
“I’m sorry, that wasn’t fair.”


What a great way to help young children understand how and why one says, “I’m sorry.” The monsters are funny, kind, and considerate. What wee one does not want to go to school like their big brother or sister? Now, they can go to school at Plooble School with the friendliest monsters seen around books this year. In addition to Monster Knows I’m Sorry, there are three more manner books: Monster Knows Excuse Me, Monster Knows Please and Thank You, and Monster Knows Table Manners. Each book is colorful and uses fun situations to help little children understand the concept of that particular book. I really like this series. I think kids will like the series and may just learn some manners faster than they might otherwise learn them.
But we are not done. No, not yet. Now we have the biggest beast know to man—the elephant. Meet Eddie and Ellie.


Eddie and Ellie’s Opposites

written by Daniel Nunn

llustrations by Steve Walker

Heinemann Raintree         8/29/2014


8 x 8 18 pages

“Eddie and Ellie are good friends. But sometimes, Eddie and Ellie can’t stop arguing. You see, everything that Eddie likes . . . Ellie likes the opposite!”


“This is Eddie the Elephant. And this is Ellie the Elephant. Eddie and Ellie love animals! But they can never agree which ones are best.”


Eddie and Ellie are the cutest elephants you will ever see anywhere. I love their big white curious eyes and the green bow atop Ellie’s head. Eddie and Ellie are so adorable a stuffed toy companion of each would be irresistible to hugs. Oh, who would not enjoy a “real” Eddie and Ellie sitting on their bed ready to show them some terrific animals? If only they could agree!

Eddie likes BIG animals like white polar bears. But Ellie likes SMALL animals like lizards. (I’ll go with Eddie on this one.) Poor Ellie is cross-eyed watching the lizard crawl up her long trunk. Yuck! Some kids will love it and it is funny to see. Eddie likes HEAVY animals like the rhinoceros, but Ellie likes LIGHT animals like the lemur. (I’m with Ellie, light is best for a pet.) Back and forth, these two elephants compare their likes to one another. One likes DIRTY animals while the other likes CLEAN animals. One likes animals that live in COLD places and the other likes animals that live in HOT places. (Hot, definitely wins.)

one to use with review

Kids will get more than a few animals to admire while Eddie and Ellie counter each other. By book’s end, young children should understand the concept of opposites. Young kids will love Eddie and Ellie’s Opposites. They never argue, just compare their likes to the other’s likes. Eddie and Ellie smile, stand up on two legs raising their arms in excitement, and seem to have a good time with the other animals. Ellie rides a hippo and Eddie admires the long neck of a giraffe. Eddie and Ellie’s Opposites is another cute board book from Heinemann Raintree/Capstone.

.Now, off with you. Go get your own Eddie and Ellie’s Opposites and of course Monsters Knows I’m Sorry. Go on. They are waiting for you. Don’t keep monsters waiting. Those elephants will remember how fast you came for them. Now, shoo!

MONSTER KNOWS I’M SORRY. Text copyright © 2014 by Connie Colwell Miller. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Maira Chiodi. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Picture Window Books/Capstone, North Mankato, MN.

Buy Monster Knows Manners series at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryCapstoneyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about the Monster Knows Manners series HERE.

Meet the author, Connie Colwell Miller, at her website:    http://conniecolwellmiller.com/

Meet the illustrator, Maira Chiodi, at her website:    http://mairachiodi.com/

Find more board books at the Picture Window Books website

an imprint of Capstone Books

EDDIE AND ELLIE’S OPPOSITES. Text copyright © 2014 by Daniel Nunn. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Steve Walker. Reproduced by permission of the publisher Heinemann Raintree, North Mankato, MN.

Buy Eddie and Ellie’s Opposites at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryCapstoneyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about the Eddie and Ellie’s Opposites HERE.

Meet the author, Daniel Nunn, at his facebook:    https://www.facebook.com/danielnunn

Meet the illustrator, Steve Walker, at this website:    http://stevejwalkerstudio.blogspot.com/

Find more board books at the Heinemann Raintree website

an imprint of Capstone Books

Filed under: 4stars, Board Books, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Series Tagged: board books, Capstone, children's book reviews, Connie Colwell Miller, Daniel Nunn, Eddie and Ellie’s Animal Opposites, elephants, Heinemann Raintree, Maira Chiodi, manners, Monster Knows I’m Sorry, monsters, opposites, Picture Window Books, Steve Walker

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10. Growing Bookworms Newsletter: July 16

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 currenty send the newsletter out every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book and young adult), two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently, and an announcement about a post that I did at The Nerdy Book Club about the 8th Annual Kidlitosphere Conference (which I am co-organizing). Not included in the newsletter, I shared announcements about the KidLitCon Call for Proposals and Registration Form

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

  • Sharon M. Draper: Out of My Mind. Atheneum Books. Middle Grade/Middle School. Completed July 5, 2014, on Kindle. Review to come.
  • J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Scholastic. Middle Grade. Completed July 8, 2014, on MP3 (library copy). This is my first time listening to the Harry Potter books, and I am quite enjoyig the experience.
  • J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Scholastic. Middle Grade. Completed July 12, on MP3 (library copy).
  • Betsy Byars: The Pinballs. Apple. Middle Grade. Completed July 14, 2014, on MP3. This was a re-read of a childhood favorite, and I was delighted to find that The Pinballs completely held up. 
  • Michele Weber Hurwitz: The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days. Wendy Lamb Books. Middle School. Completed July 2, 2014. Review to come. 
  • Naomi Paul: Code Name Komiko. Scarlet Voyage. Young Adult. Completed July 13, 2014, on Kindle. I'm not planning to review this one. I finished it, but it didn't quite work for me overall. 
  • Anthony Doerr: All the Light We Cannot See. Scribner. Adult Fiction. Completed July 3, 2014, on MP3. I enjoyed this novel, though it's a bit slower-paced than my usual reading diet of mysteries and children's books. It's about the lives of two teens (a radio-obsessed German boy and a blind French girl) leading up to events during World War II. 

Incidentally, I did not finish The Silkworm (A Cormoran Strike novel) by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) on Kindle. I had enjoyed the first book in this series, and continued to appreciate the relationship between Strike and his secretary, Robin. However, there were some aspects of the book that were just too dark for me. I put it aside about 1/3 of the way through, not wishing to subject myself to more. Other people report more appreciation for the book. 

I'm currently reading Rose by Holly Webb on Kindle, and Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater in print. I'm listening to Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright, while I await the third Harry Potter book (on request from my library). 

As always, you can see the list of books that we've been reading to Baby Bookworm here. We're closing in on 1000 books read so far this year, though this is a lower bound. I'm not good about listing books that we read on vacation, nor about listing books that anyone else reads to her besides my husband and me.

One thing that I've particularly noticed about reading with my daughter lately is that she notices things in the pictures that I wouldn't necessarily notice myself. For example, she always points out the "L" knitted into "Little Louis'" sweater in Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen. She is not good enough yet at observation to recognize the bear and other animals from Klassen's I Want My Hat Back making a cameo in Extra Yarn. But I'm working on her. 

I also love, love, love when a book makes her peal with laughter. The most recent standout in this arena was A Promise Is A Promise, by Florence Parry Heide & Tony Auth. This is the book that taught my daughter the word "Nincompoop", a new favorite. 

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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11. #611 – SLAM! A Tale of Consequences by Adam Stower


Slam!: A Tale of Consequences

written and illustrated by Adam Stower

Owlkids Books 3/15/2014


Age 3 to 7 32 pages


A boy heads to the store with his dog to buy some candy. On his way out, the door slams behind him. Oops. What starts off innocently builds into a contagious, calamitous, cacophony of crashing cars, flopping fish, wobbly workers, not to mention dogs, cats, rockets, kites, lions, clown, ice cream, dragons and . . . aliens? Where will this tale of consequences go next? You’ll never guess!”


“Don’t slam the d . . . SLAM!”


Have you ever thrown a pebble into a puddle and watched as the water ripples outward, never ceasing to end? Cause and effect. Now everyone has heard at some time in his or her life, “Don’t slam the door!” Why is this door admonition so universal? One word: consequences. Read SLAM! A Tale of Consequences and you will understand cause and effect.

A young boy, maybe nine or ten, steps out with his dog to make a candy store run. Someone inside the house yells to him,

“Don’t slam the door.”

The boy is listening to something on his headphones. Maybe a book on tape and a moment of crisis is about to unfold. He just cannot turn it down to listen to something he hears day in and day out. Okay, he is most likely listening to music while absentmindedly walking the dog. The boy slams the door and out bounces his red playground ball.


Now that the cause has been established, it is time for the effects—the consequences. The red ball bounces haphazardly onto the sidewalk, hitting the bag of groceries an older woman is was carrying. Eggs fly out and smack another woman jogging towards the first, and oranges roll out into the street where a fish truck swerves hard to avoid them. The back door of the fish truck swings open and fish fly everywhere. And you thought fish couldn’t fly. Wrong. Those fish flew into people smacking them in the mouth, knocking them down, and worse, an octopus flew down an open manhole. (In retrospect that probably saved two men’s lives, as it stopped them from entering the sewer.) The octopus hit a dragon that was calling the sewer home. The dragon flies out of the sewer, fire breathing everywhere, and goes crazy. Now the young boy, he is still oblivious to the destruction behind him, but his poor dog cannot get away from it all. Cause and Effect. Consequences.

The illustrations have so many details it takes a while to notice all that is happening on each spread. There are old and young people, dogs and cats, circus performers and a dragon, construction men and lots and lots of fish. The baker takes a swordfish in the rear while a dog, now on a skateboard, finds a fish over his head. Acrobats juggle a lion, clowns launch out the back of a circus van, and a big tough guy, he looks like he wants to run. Everyone ends up covered in various ice cream flavors.


Kids of all ages will love this hilarious minimal text picture book. Words, not needed. Once the door slams, the only thing people will be saying, or rather yelling, do not belong in a kid’s book, let alone a picture book for the youngest children. Even without words, SLAM! A Tale of Consequences is hilarious with a capital H. It is laugh-out-loud funny. It is read it too me again hijinks. If you like slam-stick, the kind that happened on older shows such as I Love Lucy or like Melissa McCarthy performs to today’s audiences of funny-lovers, you will love SLAM! A Tale of Consequences.  I love Slam!

The young boy does get his candy. On the way out of the candy store he once again fails to hear,

“Don’t SLAM the door!”

The young boy slams the door and the . . .

SLAM!  A TALE OF CONSEQUENCES. Text and illustration copyright © 2005 by Adam Stower. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Owlkids Books, Berkeley, CA.

**Originally published in the U.K. in 2005 by Templar Publishing.

Purchase SLAM!  A Tale of Consequences at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryOwlkids Booksyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about SLAM!  A Tale of Consequences HERE.

Meet the author / illustrator, Adam Stower, at his website:    http://www.worldofadam.com/

Find other books to enjoy at the Owlkids Books website:    http://www.owlkids.com/

  NEW in 2014 by Adam Stower

Naughty Kitty!

Naughty Kitty!

Dinosaurs (Pictura)

Dinosaurs (Pictura)

Troll und Oliver - Bilderbuch

Troll und Oliver – Bilderbuch

Snowball Fight!

Snowball Fight!

Around the World in Eighty Days

Around the World in Eighty Days


Filed under: 4stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Adam Stower, children's book reviews, dire consequences, hilarious action, laugh-out-loud, Owlkids Books, picture books, SLAM! A Tale of Consequences, slapstick

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12. Win a Doodle! Win a Doodle! Win a Doodle!


Join Mike’s contest for a doodle of anything you want. A real doodle from a real writer

Originally posted on heylookawriterfellow:

Who will be the lucky winner?

Who will be the lucky winner?

In March, I hosted a contest. The grand (and only) prize was an official, original, custom-made Mike Allegra doodle.

Despite my doodling ability, the number of people who entered this contest was pretty large. This surprised me.

What also surprised me was that some of you reeeeally wanted that ding-dang doodle. In fact, a few people threatened to sic their cats on me if I didn’t do another doodle contest post haste.

To these people I say settle down because here’s another chance to win a doodle!


Don’t believe me? Here’s proof:

Jenion (the winner of the March contest) wanted a drawing of a bicycle racer. So I drew her a bicycle racer.

Ta daa!

Ta daa!

But here is real proof: I am not fond of cats. (I am horribly allergic and keep rodents as pets.) But, once…

View original 341 more words

Filed under: Children's Books

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13. Science Fiction Picture Books for the Youngest Readers

Science fiction books supercharged my imagination as a kid. Everything from Star Wars storybooks to Ray Bradbury radio adaptations to The Black Hole – Read Along Book and Record inspired my childhood attempts at telling stories.

I want my 4-year-old daughter to have the same kind of experience, so I turned to the brilliant Goodreads “Science Fiction Picture Books List” for inspiration. It was created by Amanda R. Von Der Lohe who studied children’s literature at Hollins University—writing an entire thesis about science fiction picture books.

I caught up with Von Der Lohe recently, and she had a simple message for GalleyCat readers: “Authors, illustrators and publishers, please please please please please include more girls in science fiction picture books. Parents, read science fiction with your daughters.”


New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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14. Calling All Teen Writers.

My friend and fellow blogger Kathy Temean ( http://www.kathytemean.wordpress.com) posted this information about a west coast workshop event for teens seriously interested in learning the craft of writing for children:

TeenSpeak Novel Workshop
Convenes October 17-19, 2014 in coastal Santa Cruz, CA.

TeenSpeak offers a rare opportunity for international teens to interact with top level East Coast editors and agents, and adults who write for the teen/tween market. Open to 10 teens in an intimate setting, the event dovetails with 20 supportive adults in a concurrent, partly overlapping workshop.

FACULTY: Core teen instructor is Helen Pyne, MFA (Vermont College of Fine Arts), a former Doubleday children’s/YA book editor. Along with adult enrollees, teens enjoy novel crafting sessions with Knopf Associate Publishing Director Melanie Cecka (also an award-winning children’s book author) and agent Scott Treimel (former children’s book editor), president of Scott Treimel New York.

CONTENT: TeenSpeak workshop focuses on craft through dramatic improv and other vehicles. Teens receive in-person, mini critiques with editor and agent—and full critiques from their own instructor, and volunteer adult enrollees.

In reciprocity, teens offer adults target-reader feedback. After teens edit selected adults’ partial and full novels, they hear our editor and agent critique the same manuscripts. Lively discussion follows, for the benefit of all: “I loved the teens’ insights at this workshop,” says Erin Clarke, executive editor at Knopf Children’s Books. Well before the event, teens are offered tools to sharpen their critiquing skills, and may be paid for a job well done.

FEE: $549 covers up to three nights’ beachfront condo lodging with chaperone, kid-friendly meals, all critiques, and focus sessions.

TeenSpeak Scholarship Fund: This year’s donations will honor renowned children’s author, Elaine Marie Alphin. Teens (and adults) will apply exercises in her book, Creating Characters Kids Will Love. To contribute any amount to support a young person passionate about writing, contact us via the website, where you’ll find mixed testimonials from scholarship beneficiaries and other enthusiastic teens. (Alternately, ask about possible jobs for teens or parents, or split payments.) Teens appreciate your generous donation!

ENROLLING: Recommended enrollment date for maximum options: July 20. Details and contact: http://www.ChildrensWritersWorkshop.com(click FOR TEENS). TeenSpeak is an outgrowth of the Pacific Coast Children’s Writers Workshop, established 2003. Don’t delay; we fill fast!


0 Comments on Calling All Teen Writers. as of 7/14/2014 8:43:00 AM
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15. Book and Activity Suggestions to Match Your Summer Adventure: National and State Parks!

Grab a flashlight, bug repellent, and binoculars…

Each week this summer, we are pairing Lee & Low titles to your favorite summer destinations with fun activities!

Your summer outing: national or state parks!

Book recommendations:

Questions during reading:

  • How have humans affected the habitat or animal species in the book?
  • What suggestions does this book offer to take care of the world around us?
  • What risks does the animal species or habitat face in the book?
  • How does this person(group) demonstrate respect for the environment?
  • How do healthy animal populations and habitats benefit people?
  • What happens when people do not take care of the environment or an animal species in the book?
  • What does this text teach about sustainability?
  • Do you think communities and governments have a responsibility to protect animals or the environment? Why or why not?
  • Should school field trips include visiting national and state parks? Why or why not? What are the benefits of children visiting national and state parks?


1. Sound scavenger hunt!

Many animals rely on sound to detect nearby predators and search for food. For your next scavenger hunt, use the sense of sound to explore the wonders of the state or national park. This activity is a great way to teach young scientists about:

  • our five senses
  • how the human ear, like other animal ears, is a powerful physical adaptation and is very effective in detecting and differentiating sounds
  • how we can appreciate natural beauty as both visual and aural
  • the importance of slowing down and soaking in all the stimuli around us

Make a list of sounds for your child to “find” on the next hike. Together, check off and record as the child hears them! While you will want to adapt specific sounds to the park you are visiting, sound ideas include:

Everglades Forever

  • the local bird species
  • the rustling of an animal in the bushes
  • the wind among grass or tree leaves
  • sound of the nearest water source (river, ocean)
  • the buzzing/humming of insects
  • sound of walking on different types of surfaces: the trail, through leaves, in mud
  • a hiker whistling
  • a swimmer splashing
  • a dog barking or the clinking of a dog collar
  • sound of something being recycled
  • sound of something hollow
  • an echo
  • sound of food being unwrapped
  • horse clopping/trotting
  • a stick snapping
  • a hiker drinking (chugging) water
  • Bonus: the elusive spot of complete silence

To prove that your child experienced the sound, allow your child to:

  • record the sounds on a phone
  • take a picture of the creature or thing making the noise
  • describe the noise in a sentence with a juicy verb, such as chirping instead of singing

2. Animal and ecosystem observation!

Buffalo Song

Even if your nearest state or national park does not have the wildlife or habitat featured in the book, your young scientist can check out the featured animals or habitat in real life and real time from a computer or mobile device. Many national parks, zoos, and wildlife protection groups offer real-time footage of animals that serve as great opportunities to talk about behavioral and physical adaptations and habitat preservation.

Explore.org offers multiple livecam opportunities to observe wild animals outside of zoos. After finishing Buffalo Song, I checked out Canada’s Grasslands National Park for bison. I observed brown bears and salmon from Alaska’s Brooks River in Katmai National Park following I Know the River Loves Me. After A Man Called Raven, I used The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Macaulay Library for videos and audio recordings of ravens.

i know the river loves me 2

I Know the River Loves Me

For further book and activity suggestions to match your summer adventure:

Jill_EisenbergLiteracy Specialist, Jill Eisenberg, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

Filed under: Educator Resources, Summer Tagged: children's books, close reading, Educators, environmentalism, Reading Aloud, reading comprehension, summer, summer reading, Summer School

0 Comments on Book and Activity Suggestions to Match Your Summer Adventure: National and State Parks! as of 7/13/2014 11:43:00 AM
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16. #609 – The Bear’s Sea Escape by Benjamin Chaud



The Bear’s Sea Escape

written and illustrated by Benjamin Chaud

Chronicle Books       8/05/2014


Age 3 to 5      32 pages


“Papa Bear and Little Bear were trying to sleep  . . . Suddenly, a case of mistaken identity results in a big adventure for Little Bear, with Papa Bear in pursuit! This sequel to the New York Times Notable Book The Bear’s Song follows the bears from a snowy city to a tropical island where sea-inspired surprises are in store, leading to fun in the sun, a warm reunion, and, finally, the perfect place to sleep!”


“High atop the opera house with snowflakes falling fast, Papa Bear and his cub snuffle their snouts up through the snow.”

The Story

Papa Bear decides the rooftop of the opera house is not the best place for he and Little Bear to sleep. They go off in search of a better place to sleep. Papa Bear finds the perfect place among many, many other bears that are already hibernating comfortably. Little does Papa Bear know is that he has chosen a toy store in which to slumber. A little boy takes a liking to Little Bear, adopts him, and off they go to who knows where. Papa Bear awakes from his deep sleep enough to notice Little Bear gone. He grans a scooter and goes in hot pursuit after his cub.


By taxi and train, Little Bear finds himself escorting a young boy who believes Little Bear is his new toy. Now embarking on a cruise ship, Papa Bear will need some wits about him to get on that ship and find his Little Bear. And how Papa Bear gets on the ship is quite ingenious, especially for a bear. But this bear has been finding himself smack in the middle of Benjamin Chaud’s expansive imagination.

The illustrations are amazingly intricate. And Papa Bear is not the only one acting a bit strange around the ship. There is a man swimming, a kid in a pool ring, and even a penguin in what should be chilly waters below the ship. I love Chaud’s illustrations. In Bear’s Song and in I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . . Chaud adds details one can easily miss, even after several readings if one does not take the time to scan the pages, taking in the beautiful, and often zany, extra details no one expects.


The story is good—we know Papa Bear and Little Bear reunite—so for me, most of the fun in reading The Bear’s Sea Escape is taking in all the world’s Chaud has created. On each spread, somewhere, you can see, if you look well enough, both Little Bear and his Papa Bear. It is not always easy, nor should it be. But I would much rather hunt for those two adorable, anthropomorphic bears than Waldo any story time. Your child will need patience and focus to spot the two stars. A super sleuth might just find Waldo, wearing his iconic black plastic glasses and striped hat, somewhere on a beginning spread.

Papa Bear continues to chase after Little Bear who is crossing the ocean to a tropical island. Papa Bear hunts high atop the ship and low beneath the sea looking for his cub. Little Bear seems to be enjoying himself and why not? He is on a tropical island! In the middle of winter! What better place for a bear to hibernate than in the cool tropical breezes.

Children who read it The Bear’s Sea Escape will have a feast for their little eyes. The book is taller than most, allowing for large full-spread, mesmerizing illustrations that will look gigantic to some little eyes. Kids will like the funny situations Papa Bear gets into while chasing after Little Bear. He hangs from a crane, dives deep under the sea emerging thin and scraggly (and probably a tad smelly; he is a bear), and he dances in a never-ending Congo line. The ending is sweet and unpredictable.



I love Papa Bear and Little Bear and will devour every adventure they find themselves forced into by Little Bear’s disappearance. Though I wonder, will Papa Bear ever find himself in need of rescuing? Little Bear would find him, but not before strolling, running, and dancing through twelve luscious spreads of art.

THE BEAR’S SEA ESCAPE. Text and illustrations copyright © 2012 by Benjamin Chaud. English translation copyright © 2014 by Chronicle Books. Reproduced by permission of Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

The Bear’s Sea Escape was first published in 2012, entitled Coquillages et petit ours by French publisher helium. BLOG


Purchase The Bear’s Sea Escape at Amazon B&NBook DepositoryiTunesChronicle Booksyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about The Bear’s Sea Escape HERE.

Meet the author/illustrator, Benjamin Chaud, at his facebook:   https://fr-fr.facebook.com/benjamin.chaud.1

Find other great books at the Chronicle Books website:   http://www.chroniclebooks.com/


Also by Benjamin Chaud

Bear’s Song

Bear’s Song

I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . .

I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . .


Pomelo's Big Adventure (Pomelo the Garden Elephant)

Pomelo’s Big Adventure (Pomelo the Garden Elephant)






And in 2015:        A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School Hardcover – February 24, 2015

Video with Benjamin Chaud : http://www.wat.tv/video/fee-coquillette-mercredi-janvier-1zzgn_2ey1r_.html



bears sea escape

Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Series Tagged: adventures, Benjamin Chaud, brown bears, children's book reviews, Chronicle Books, French publisher helium., intricate illustrations, Papa Bear & Little Bear, picture book, The Bear’s Sea Escape

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17. #608 – The Highest Number in the World by Roy MacGregor & Geneviève Després

Hi everyone!

I am so sorry to have missed not only two days of reviews, but also replying to your wonderful comments. My new–less than a year old–laptop died, or at least it looks that way. While doing a restart, it twirled its little blue circle for close to fifteen minutes (it is solid state and should start and restart faster than you can clap your hands and say, “Abracadabra), and then it went black. It was still on, is still on, but the screen remains black and the machine silent. So off to the manufacturer, or wherever Best Buy sends computers they cannot fix in-house, for a nice one to two month vacation. Hopefully it will return refreshed and ready to get back to work. If not, well, I’ll worry about that if it happens.

So, if you visit Kid Lit Reviews and find the review is the same as the day before, I took a day off. If a review hangs around the Homepage for two or more days, a computer crisis has occurred and I will be back as soon as possible. The laptop I am using now is the one that breaks down more now than then, and the current ill machine was to have replaced. I am beginning to think CPU’s do not like me. Enough of that. Let’s move on to today’s review. The little girl, named Gabe, does not like the number on her jersey. What will the determined nine-year-old do about her situation?


The Highest Number in the WorldThe Highest Number in the World

written by Roy MacGregor

illustrated by Geneviève Després

Tundra Books of Northern New York      2/11/2014


Age 4 to 8           32 pages


“Nine-year-old Gabe (DON’T call her Gabriella), Murray eats, sleeps and breathes hockey. Her lucky number is 22, the same number as her hero, Hayley Wickenheiser. But when hew new coach hands out the team jerseys, Gabe is stuck with number 9. She’s crushed. How can she play without her lucky number? Gabe’s grandmother, Gabriella (DON’T call her Gabe), soon sets her straight. The number 9 has a long and interesting history and little Gabe has to lots to learn about the players who wore it—including Gabriella herself. Gabe begins to see that the number 9 isn’t so bad after all . . . “


“Today, Gabe had made The Spirit, the best hockey team in town.”


Nine-year-old Gabe is the only nine-year-old on The Spirit team. Some would say this is quite an accomplishment, but not if they knew Gabe. Gabe loves hockey. She even has a tricky puck move called “The Gabe.” Her lucky number, the number she always wears, is number 22, the same number as Hayley Wickenheiser, a Canadian women’s hockey legend and Olympic hero. This is also the source of Gabe’s problem. She is assigned jersey number 9, not 22. She can’t play as number 9. She won’t play as number 9. So Gabe hides the number 9 jersey, never to be seen again. The Spirit’s first game is tomorrow. Gabe announced she is not playing.



Gabe knows hockey better than most. She loves hockey and is ecstatic about making The Spirit team. She should be ecstatic. Gabe is nine while everyone else is ten. This is really a big deal. Gabe assumed she would get jersey number 22 because she has always played in jersey number 22. Gabe even has a practice jersey with that number, which she wore during the team try-outs. The other players jokingly call her “Hayley.” So how could the coach not understand that Gabe wanted, no, needed number 22? Getting jersey number 9 is a deal-breaker. Gabe cannot play in “the worst number in the world.”

I understand Gabe. My number was always 14. I do not think I could have played, at least not well, in any other number. Deciding not to play is rather harsh, especially for someone who lives and breathes hockey. I feel for Gabe. What I really like about this story is Grandma’s role. She shows Gabe a picture from her own hockey days. Back then, she said, number 9 was the lucky number. The best player on every team from peewee to the NHL wore number 9, including Grandma Gabriella. Her own story is the best part of The Highest Number in the World.

Kids who love hockey, especially girls, will love The Highest Number in the World. Those that love sports in general, will like this story. I am sure there are many players out there, be it hockey, baseball, basketball, or any other sport, that can relate to Gabe’s dilemma. As a bonus, the jacket flips into a poster of young Gabe in full gear. The illustrations are terrific from vignettes to spreads. I love spread number 3. Gabe is signing her name and the number 22 on the foggy winter window, practicing her autograph. But the final page holds the best illustration. In gouache is Gabriella, young and old, hand-in-hand, in uniform and on skates, each wearing jersey number 9—the lucky jersey. There is nothing else there, yet one can picture a number 9 jersey raising up to the rafters, immortalizing one name for two great players—“Gabriella.”

final use maybe

THE HIGHEST NUMBER IN THE WORLD. Text copyright © 2014 by Roy MacGregor. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Geneviève Després. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Tundra Books of Northern New York, Plattsburgh, NY.

Purchase The Highest Number in the World at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryRandom House of CanadaIndigoTundra Booksyour favorite bookstore.


Learn more about The Highest Number in the World HERE.

Meet the author, Roy MacGregor, at his website:    http://www.roymacgregor.com/

Meet the illustrator, Geneviève Després, at her website:   http://www.genevievedespres.ca/

Find other great books at the Tundra Books website:   http://www.tundrabooks.com/

Distributed by Random House of Canada:   http://www.randomhouse.ca/


Also by Roy MacGregor

Reality Check in Detroit (Screech Owls) 2/10/2015  

Reality Check in Detroit (Screech Owls) 2/10/2015 

The Boston Breakout (Screech Owls)  10/14/2014  

The Boston Breakout (Screech Owls)  10/14/2014     

The Mystery of the Russian Ransom (Screech Owls)  2/11/2014

The Mystery of the Russian Ransom (Screech Owls)  2/11/2014








Also by Geneviève Després

Best Friend Trouble  4/01/2014

Best Friend Trouble  4/01/2014

 Pas de bonbons?    1/01/2011

Pas de bonbons?    1/01/2011




Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Bobby Hull, Canada, children's book reviews, Geneviève Després, Gordie Howe, hockey, picture books, Roy MacGregor, The Highest Number in the World, Tundra Books of Northern New York

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18. At Nerdy Book Club: The 8th Annual KidLitCon

Member of the Nerdy Book ClubI'm proud to say that I have a post up today at one of my very favorite blogs, The Nerdy Book Club. I talk about the 8th annual KidLitCon, and how for me this conference on children's book blogging is really all about spending time with kindred spirits. For anyone curious, I also provide a bit of background about how KidLitCon came to be. Here's a snippet from the post:

"Attendees share a love of children’s books, as well as a determination to get the right books into young readers’ hands. I have attended six of the seven so far, and I have enjoyed them all. I find it rejuvenating to spend time, face-to-face, with kindred spirits. I try very hard not to miss this annual chance to see people who started out as online friends, but who have become, like the Velveteen Rabbit, real."

If you are not already following the Nerdy Book Club (which you should be!), I do hope that you'll take a minute to pop over and read the full post. I've read and shared countless Nerdy posts over the past couple of years, and it was an honor for me to have a chance to post there myself, particularly about something as near and dear to my heart as KidLitCon.

KidLitCon 2014. Sacramento, CA. October 10-11. I hope to see you all there! The call for session proposals is here, and the registration form will be available very soon. 

© 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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19. Using Picture Book Techniques in Novels by Anna Staniszewski

Anna Staniszewskiby Anna Staniszewski

As an author who’s slowly been transitioning from novels to picture books (my first picture book will be out in March 2015), I’ve realized that picture book techniques have started influencing my novel-writing process. Here are a few examples.

1. Brevity and Word Choice
This is probably the most obvious connection. When you’re used to working with 500 words, you tend to get a little pickier about the words you use in longer projects. Even when I have 50k words to work with, for example, I still find myself making sure to cut out unnecessary phrases (particularly unneeded dialogue tags) and using strong verbs and interesting nouns to make each sentence count.

2. Tying the End to the Beginning
This is my favorite picture book technique. In picture books, the ending almost always echoes the beginning of the tale. I love using this approach in novels, reflecting something from the opening chapter in the closing chapter in a different context. This technique shows us that the character has grown and changed, and it also makes the story feel cohesive and satisfying.

3. Repeating for Emphasis
Repetition can be great in picture books, but in novels it can feel like telegraphing. A strong repeated image, however, especially one whose meaning deepens over the course of the story, can work well if it’s revisited throughout the novel. It can help show how the meaning of that image or experience has changed for the character over time.

4. Using the Senses
In picture books, we have to be mindful of not focusing too much on the visual details so that we don’t step on the illustrator’s toes. That means we have to use other senses to give the story depth. I try to use a similar multi-sensory approach in my novels, so I’m not simply describing how things look to the characters, but I’m also thinking about the smells, sounds, and textures around them. I’ve also found myself using a lot of onomatopoeic words—kapow!

For those of you who write in longer and shorter formats, how do you find the two influencing each other? What’s your favorite picture book technique to use in novel-writing? Please comment below and join the conversation!


prank list cover 2Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. Currently, she lives outside Boston with her husband and their crazy dog. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, daydreaming, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series and the Dirt Diary series. Her newest novel, The Prank List, released on July 1st from Sourcebooks. You can visit Anna at www.annastan.com.

10 Comments on Using Picture Book Techniques in Novels by Anna Staniszewski, last added: 7/9/2014
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20. #607 – Father’s Chinese Opera by Rich Lo


Father’s Chinese Opera

Written and illustrated by Rich Lo

Sky Pony Press         6/01/2014


Age 4 to 8       36 pages


“The Chinese opera is anything but boring. Songs, acrobats, acting, and costumes make the opera a truly spectacular show to behold. Spending the summer backstage at his father’s Chinese opera, a young boy yearns to be a part of the show. Rehearsing his acrobatic moves day and night with the show’s famous choreographer, the boy thinks he is soon ready to perform with the others. But the choreographer doesn’t agree. Upset, the boy goes home to sulk. What will he do next? Will he give up on his dream, or will he persevere and work his way up in the show?”


“Father was the band leader and composer of the Chinese opera in Hong Kong. Sometimes I sat on top of the instrument cases and watched the actors onstage.”

The Story

A young boy admires his father and the Chinese opera. He wants to become a famous acrobat. He asks the best acrobat in the troupe to teach him some acrobatic moves. Gai Chui agrees. The two exercise and practice acrobatic moves, such as the praying mantis and the drunken monkey. The young boy is good and he knows it. At school, he brags that he will soon be an acrobat in the Chinese opera. The boy decides it is time to tell Gai Chui he is ready for a performance assignment. Gai Chui laughs and calls the young boy presumptuous. That evening, the young boy sulked. His father shows his son pictures of himself at the beginning his career. To be a band leader, the father explains, he had to learn every instrument so he could compose songs, which he also needed to learn to write. Does the young boy understand the message his father had imparted? Will he continue to dream of becoming an acrobat in the opera?



The first thing I noticed about Father’s Chinese Opera was the beautiful illustrations. The watercolor scenes are bright kaleidoscopes of color. The back and fore grounds are washes of orange, blue, green, and reddish-purple. The Chinese opera comes alive on the pages. The young boy, immersed in the opera through his father’s work, wants to be on stage as an acrobat. The famous, and real, Gai Chui agrees to mentor the boy. The acrobatic moves fly around the pages as student and teacher strike identical poses. Father’s Chinese Opera is simply a gorgeous picture book.

The young boy knows he is good. He brags to school friends, and then tells Gai Chui he is ready for his acrobat assignment. Being told he is disrespectful, unqualified, and overconfident the boy sulks, proving Gai Chui correct. I love how the boy’s father, the leader of the Chinese opera, explains to his son why Gai Chui said what he did. The boy wants to start at the top, or near the top, rather than earning his way as others must do. I had no idea a composer, at least for the Chinese opera, must know how to play every instrument. That feat in itself is amazing (and screams picture book story).


The boy’s indomitable spirit brings him back to the stage, this time as a flag carrier. You can see the joy on his face as he weaves towards the edge of the page. Learning to work your way up to where you want to be is a difficult lesson for a young child. Children live in the here and now, wanting what they want now. Delayed gratification is not a message in the story, but it falls in line with waiting your turn, working your way up, persevering, and keeping a colorfully bright spirit as you work toward that dream.

Children will love Father’s Chinese Opera. It will be a treat for their young eyes. At first, many will think of a circus because of all the color and movement. Boys will connect with the acrobatic moves the young boy learns from Gai Chui, looking at it as karate. It will be up to the reader to explain to the children the story is about a Chinese opera. But those problems are not due to story or art, but rather American culture. Father’s Chinese Opera is a wonderful book for school and classroom libraries.Children need to read about other cultures and Father’s Chinese Opera is a good book to start their journey.


The author’s note explains more about the Chinese opera, his father’s journey, and their move to the U.S. The note is an interesting read and quite informative. Adults will enjoy the author’s life story, though abbreviated. If the author expounded on this note, he would have a captivating memoir.

FATHER’S CHINESE OPERA. Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by Rich Lo. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Sly Pony Press, New York, NY.

Purchase Father’s Chinese Opera at AmazonB&NBook DepositorySky Pony Pressyour local bookstore.


Learn more about Father’s Chinese Opera HERE.

Meet the author/illustrator, Rich Lo, at his website:  http://greatsketch.com/

Find other multicultural books at the Sky Pony Press website:   http://www.skyponypress.com/

an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing Inc.   http://www.skyhorsepublishing.com/



fathers chinese opera

copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Debut Author, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2014 Tagged: acrobats, actors, childrens book review, Chinese Opera, Father's Chinese Opera, flag carriers, picture book, Rich Lo, Sky Pony Press, Skyhorse Publishing Inc.

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21. Quentin Blake Opens the ‘House of Illustration’

Famed artist Quentin Blake has opened the “House of Illustration” in London.

The gallery’s inaugural art show, “Inside Stories,” showcases Blake’s work. Many of the pieces on display can be found in books written by beloved children’s books writer Roald Dahl.

According to the gallery website, “the exhibition brings together first roughs and storyboards, many never shown before, with finished art work to demonstrate how ideas evolved, often in close collaboration with the authors.” Follow this link to view a photo album. (via The Independent)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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22. Summertime Stories

I started this post hoping to be able to report on any kind of literary celebration that was to take place/has already taken place at some point throughout the month of July. Having missed both Read Across America Day (though respects should be paid to the late, great Dr. Seuss every day of every month of every year), as well as National Poetry Month (April, for those who are so inclined), I was disappointed to find that there wasn’t any nationally ordained celebration of books during the month of July. Sadly, the only celebrations that I could find for July were ones of national independence (fun fact: Canada Day is July 1st, and Bastille Day (France) is the 14th), food (Blueberries and Ice Cream, the foods of summer) and good manners (National Cell Phone Courtesy Month: take note, dinner-table occupants). To some of these I say, frankly but fondly, bah humbug.

In opposition, I propose that we use this month to appreciate all of the books that make us feel warm and welcome, like nice weather or a day at the beach. I propose that we use some of our down-time to experience the books, whether newly purchased or plucked from a dusty shelf, that stick out in our minds and make us feel inspired, moved, or fulfilled. For the parents of young children, these are the days that count; fill them with memories and love and beautiful words and stories. Pick up a book and hunker down with your little one, whether inside or outside, under the sun or by a fire, and help them as they embark on adventures that, while imaginary, are everlastingly valuable.

Here are some summer stories, courtesy of Star Bright, that would make a great start!

Harriet Can Carry It
                by Kirk Jay Mueller
               Art by Sarah Vonthron-Laver
Follow Harriet the Kangaroo as she goes on an adventure to the beach with her little Joey. Looking for some time off after a long week at work, Harriet packs her little boy in her humongous pouch and sets off looking for some rest and relaxation. But appearances by her many marsupial neighbors make Harriet's journey both difficult and troubling, as Harriet tries to accommodate all of their requests to carry their things until finally....

Beach Socks
by Michael J. Daley
Art by Estelle Corke

No more shoes! No more socks! shouts the young boy in Beach Socks, a book by Michael J. Daley and Estelle Corke that mixes beautiful illustrations and charming descriptions in a delightful story of one child's day at the beach.

Visit our website (starbrightbooks.org) for these titles and more!

0 Comments on Summertime Stories as of 7/10/2014 4:19:00 PM
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23. Book Review: Walter: The Story of a Rat, by Barbara Wersba, illustrated by Donna Diamond

Words swam through Walter's mind like bright fish, darting back and forth. He did not always understand what he was reading, but the experience excited him. All those images, all those thoughts and ideas!

Walter is an unusual rat. For one thing, he has known how to read since birth. For another, he has a name – one he gave himself when he was very young. But now, Walter is quite old. For the last six months, he's shared a home with a writer named Miss Pomeroy, who is also old and, from Walter's observations, lonely. Though he wants to reach out to her, he's experienced enough unpleasant treatment in his past to know humans do not look kindly on his kind. And so, he keeps himself out of sight.

But then one day, as he's exploring the bookshelves of Miss Pomeroy's personal library, he discovers the children's book section – and the children's books she writes. And he's shocked to find that the vast number of books there, including her own, are full of stories about...mice. Why not rats, Walter wonders? He assumes it's because humans like mice and hate rats. It troubles him, to the point that he feels he must confront her on this, even though it means revealing himself. So one day Walter takes a chance, and he leaves her a note:

My name is Walter.
I live here too. 

And the next night, when Walter excitedly goes upstairs to the library to see if she'd received his note, he finds she's left him a note in reply, which says simply,

I know.

Walter is emotional. She knows! Yet she's never tried to get rid of him. What could this mean? There is only one way to find out: Walter writes back. And so begins the connection between a reader and a writer, a rat and a person. But will this tenuous beginning blossom into friendship?

For Teachers and Librarians:
Walter: The Story of a Rat is a quiet story, yet full of ways for you to integrate the book into your classroom. Here are a few examples:
  • Walter is well-read, even if he doesn't always understand everything he's read. He references titles and quotes from classic literature for both adults and children throughout the story, but the quotes are all unattributed. Help your students discover which quotes came from which books, then discuss why they think the books and quotes have stood the test of time. Another idea: discuss each quote, what the quote means to Walter, and how your students can apply the wisdom Walter gleans from the quotes to their own lives, followed by a poster project where each student depicts one quote he or she finds meaningful, with an appropriate illustration that connects the quote to their own lives.
  • A unit centered around writers and how they work would be appropriate. How does Miss Pomeroy get her writing work done? Have your students research current children's authors online, and compare their work habits with Miss Pomeroy's. Another fun discussion would be how each of your students conducts their own writing, and compare their writing habits to those of Miss Pomeroy.
  • Of course, a letter-writing unit would be lots of fun, combined with and centered around starting and building a new friendship. Finding another classroom in another school willing to become pen-pals is a great way to have your charges learn about both letter-writing and building new friendships.
  • Walter finds Miss Pomeroy's library organization confusing. Compare Miss Pomeroy's system to the school's library system, and the public library system, and even their own home libraries if they're fortunate enough to have one. Discuss pro's and con's of each organization system, why they are the way they are, and how each system benefits or hinders its particular users. As an activity, have your students (in small groups) create a new organization system (charts, maybe, or labeled room diagrams, or maybe a small 3D model) for Miss Pomeroy's library, in a way Walter would find it to make the most sense. Display their work in your room or the school library, then have them explain their choices.
  • Walter is dismayed and even a touch angry that humans hate rats, a belief he holds in part due to the proliferation of mouse stories in Miss Pomeroy's library, and in part due to his own previous treatment at the hands of humans. A related science unit could explore why humans have a negative view of rats, and whether their reasons are valid or based on myth or misinformation. Stretch this unit out to explore other animal species humans view with disdain or fear or loathing, in a similar manner.
  • How about a social studies unit? Walter feels humans' views of rats to be unfair and based on untruths. Have your students break into groups to come up with campaigns to change human's negative views of rats. Make sure they do the research to find scientific and historic reasons why those negative views are unfounded or unfair - or not, in some cases. Later, you can branch into a discussion of how humans unfortunately have throughout history given similar unfair treatment to other humans viewed as different than themselves.
  • Get some geography in there with a unit on maps. Let half of your students create maps of the house as Walter sees and uses it, and the other half as Miss Pomeroy sees and uses it. Or perhaps create a map of the places Walter and Miss Pomeroy have been in the town of Sag Harbor, where they live. Compare this to a map of the actual town of Sag Harbor, New York.  Perhaps do some research and then have your students create tourist brochures of the town - either as Walter and Miss Pomeroy live in it, or as it actually exists in real life.
  • The author, Barbara Wersba, lives in Sag Harbor, New York, in real life. The illustrator, Donna Diamond, is a life-long New York resident. Perhaps an aside of how authors and illustrators sometimes infuse things from their own lives into their work would be a fun discussion. Connect this idea to your students and their own writing. Do they use settings or events from their own lives when they write? Why? Why not?
  • This book is the story of two unlikely souls and the process of their becoming friends. But it is also the story of the relationship between a reader and a writer. If you can, find the address or email of this author or illustrator, or perhaps of whomever your students' individual favorite authors or illustrators are, and have your students write and send letters or emails to these people. Discuss their feelings after they've sent them off. How do their feelings compare to those Walter felt when he wrote that first note to Miss Pomeroy? If anyone is lucky enough to receive responses from the authors or illustrators, encourage them to share how it made them feel to hear back from someone they don't know but admire.

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
You will enjoy Walter: The Story of a Rat just as much as your kids. The many classic books mentioned throughout the story – both those for adults, and those for kids – will prod your own memories, even as they pique the curiosity of your kids. And the story is full of themes that mirror real life and the experiences we all face as we grow and learn and live and love. It's a great way for your kids to find they're not alone in things they may be facing or feeling, and that sometimes, life really does have happy endings, even when the journey may be hard, or confusing:
  • Walter and Miss Pomeroy's journey to friendship may mirror your kids' own attempts at forming fledgling friendships: small steps, occasional missteps, attempts to right unintended wrongs, little joys and triumphs, pangs of worry that their gestures of friendships may not be equally returned, or worse - not taken as a welcome gesture at all. But once that friendship takes root and starts to grow, each person finds themselves making little changes for the other one, such as when the usually untidy Miss Pomeroy beginning to spruce the place up a bit more when Walter mentions how nice things are starting to look, or when Walter becomes more careful in his treatment of Miss Pomeroy's belongings and more respectful to follow her wishes regarding his conduct in the kitchen at night.
  • Walter moved several times before finally ending up living with Miss Pomeroy, and faced different homes in different places, loss of loved ones, a feeling of insecurity, but also finding new and wonderful people and better situations, and hope for a happy life. Change can be scary, but it can also bring you to something better.
  • As Walter and Miss Pomeroy get to know each other and share their living space, several things become clear. It's important to respect the property of others, to clean up after yourself in order to be respectful of the others you lives with, to return things borrowed to build good faith and trust, and to show appreciation for those you share your life with.
  • At first, Walter judges Miss Pomeroy, sometimes unfairly, based solely on what he sees/observes/discovers. But once he actually makes a connection with her, he soon realizes not everything he assumed about her was true, and that getting to know a person before making judgments is a better – and more accurate – way to interpret what you think you know about a person.
  • Walter is lonely. But he notices that Miss Pomeroy is lonely, too. And instead of wallowing in his own loneliness and sinking into misery, he sets about trying to alleviate Miss Pomeroy's loneliness and help her be happy. In the process he finds he is able to defeat his own loneliness, too. Sometimes, focusing on helping others is a good way to help ourselves.
  • Miss Pomeroy and Walter exchange gifts for Christmas which they made themselves, from things they have at hand, that were custom made with much thought. The gifts cost them nothing, but were invaluable and very much appreciated by the recipients. It's an empowering idea for kids – small gestures that cost nothing, yet are big on thoughtfulness, can have a huge and lasting impact on those we care about, making both giver and receiver feel very loved, indeed.

For the Kids:
Walter: The Story of a Rat is about a reader and a writer. It's also about loneliness. And, it's about friendship. So far, so normal, right? Almost. See, the writer is a human. But the reader? He's a rat. (Yes, really.) But that's not the only thing that sets him apart from other rats: When he was very young, he decided he wasn't happy with the usual rat way of having no name, so he gave himself one. (Yep. He named himself. Walter. After a very famous writer, naturally.) Anyway, after moving around a few times, as rats are wont to do, Walter finds himself living in the house of Miss Pomeroy, who he soon finds out is a writer. Can you imagine the thrill of being a reader who discovers they're living with a real, live, honest-to-goodness writer?

Walter would love to get to know Miss Pomeroy, but he's a rat, and she's a person, and... Well, those two things just don't usually go together, even if they are a reader and a writer. So Walter stays hidden, sneaking food from the kitchen, and borrowing books to read from Miss Pomeroy's library up on the second floor. But then one day, Walter discovers that all the books Miss Pomeroy has written are about mice. Mice! Doesn't she know how wonderful rats are? Walter feels betrayed. And a teensy bit angry. So what does he do? He writes her a note, hoping to start a discussion: My name is Walter. I live here too. And to his shock, he finds she's left a note for him the next night. It says, simply: I know.

What happens next? What are you asking me for? So much better to find out for yourself, don't you think? Go get the book, and get reading! 

For Everyone Else:
Walter: The Story of a Rat is the sweet story of the slow-but-steadily-blossoming friendship between two seemingly unlikely souls: a human and a rat. And yet, they are also a pair of kindred spirits: a writer and a reader. Though written for the younger set, the story is timeless and heartwarming, and something that readers of all ages can connect to and enjoy. 

Wrapping Up:
Walter: The Story of a Rat is quiet, heartwarming, subtle, and sweet. A lovely story that's not to be missed.

Title: Walter: The Story of a Rat
Author: Barbara Wersba
Illustrator: Donna Diamond
Pages: 64
Reading Level: Ages 9-11
Publisher and Date: Boyds Mills Press, November 1, 2005
Edition: First
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $16.95
ISBN-10: 1923245411
ISBN-13: 978-1932425413

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24. Author Spotlight: Barbara Wersba

Barbara Wersba is the only child of a Russian-Jewish father and a Kentucky Baptist mother. Growing up, she wanted to be a musician, or a dancer, or a poet, thinking that becoming any of these would take her out of what she believed to be a sad life.
"I grew up in almost total solitude," she once said. "I thought I was lonely when I was simply a loner--and spent much of my childhood daydreaming, writing poems, and creating dramas for my dolls."

When she was 11 years old, in answer to a family friend's inquiry, she impulsively declared her intent to be an actress one day. Soon after, Ms Wersba landed a part in a local play. Though she came to decide she didn't actually like acting, she stuck with it because it gave her purpose, and helped her not to feel alone.

She continued as an actress through college and then professionally, until she fell ill in 1960 and was forced into a lengthy recovery. On the advice of a friend, she turned to writing to pass the time. The result was her first book for children, The Boy Who Loved the Sea, which was published in 1961. From then on, she continued as a writer.

Her breakthrough novel came in 1968, with the publication of The Dream Watcher. She went on to adapt this novel into a script when her childhood acting idol, Eva Le Gallienne, had read Ms Wersba's book and wished to play the role of the elderly woman from the story. The play opened at the White Barn Theatre in Connecticut in 1975.

Two of her most popular novels are Tunes for a Small Harmonica: A Novel (1976) - which was a National Book Award nominee, and The Carnival of My Mind (1982).

Ms Wersba has written more than two dozen novels for both children and teens/young adults. She has also reviewed children's literature for the New York Times, written play and television scripts, and taught writing. In 1994, she founded her own small publishing company, The Bookman Press.

Born in Chicago on August 19, 1932, Barbara Wersba later moved with her family to California. After her parents' divorce, she moved with her mother to New York City. She now lives in Sag Harbor, New York.

Barbara Wersba - Goodreads
Barbara Wersba Biography - Bookrags
Barbara Wersba Biography - Bookrags 
Dreaming of Broadway - Collecting Children's Books
Barbara Wersba - Answers.com
Barbara Wersba - Alibris
The Dream Watcher - Amazon.com

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25. Illustrator Spotlight: Donna Diamond

Donna Diamond graduated from Boston University of Art with a BFA in Sculpture, and has attended the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop. She works as an artist, focusing on drawing, painting, printmaking, and book art.

"...I am currently working in my studio on images that synthesize my recent work with light and my work as a printmaker. The challenge of exploring the character of light and creating processes that integrate multiple disciplines is incredibly compelling to me. When I am making art, I feel like I am home."

Her artwork is exhibited in galleries and museums in her native New York, across the United States, and internationally. She has also illustrated over 50 books for young readers, some of which have won prestigious awards, including Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson, which won the Newbery Medal in 1978; and Mustard, by Charlotte Graebner, which won the Irma Simonton Black Award in 1982.

Ms Diamond has won the Bronx Council on the Arts' BRIO (Bronx Recognizes Its Own) Award three times: in 2008 for Book Art and Illustration, in 2011 for Printmaking, and in 2013 for Drawing.

Born and raised in New York City, Donna Diamond lives in Riverdale, NY.

Donna Diamond - HarperCollins
Donna Diamond - Scholastic
The Art of Donna Diamond, official blog of the artist
Donna Diamond - Making a "Mark" of Her Own - bronxarts.org
Meet the 2013 BRIO Awardees - bronxarts.org
Artist's Experience: Donna Diamond
Ann deVere and SPARC present visiting artist Donna Diamond


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