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1. Writing Unit: How to Build a Snowman, with Stranger in the Woods, by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick

If you're a teacher, and you live somewhere in the general vicinity of the northeast United States, you may be reading this from underneath a giant pile of blankets, cocoa in hand, enjoying at least one unexpected day off from school.

And if you're reading this, then you may be browsing for what to do when school is back in session, because your kiddos' focus will most likely still be on the gigantic piles of snow outside, and not on whatever you originally had planned.

Second graders who are still marveling at the biggest snowstorm of their little lifetimes might have a good time writing about snow: Specifically, writing about how to build a snowman. So, here is a set of plans you might like to use, focusing on temporal words and how-to writing.

Some technical notes: 

  • I wrote these plans based on Sailing Through First Grade's How to Build a Snowman: Instructional Writing Mini-Pack. Clicking on the link in the previous sentence will take you to the Teachers Pay Teachers store page, where you can download the packet for free!
    • These plans use only pages 1-5 and 17-18 of the packet, but feel free to adjust and tweak as you like.
  • The plans are aligned with Pennsylvania Common Core standards, but you can easily adapt to the standards in use in your state.
  • The plans are for second grade. However, they can be easily adapted for first and third grade - just adjust your core standards and tweak the plans accordingly to fit.
  • The plans use the book below as an anchor text. (But if you don't have it and are pressed for time, any book about snowmen, or ideally, building a snowman, should do):
    • Title: Stranger in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy (Nature)
      Author and photographer: Carl R. Sams II, Jean Stoick
      Pages: 48
      Reading Level: Ages 5 and up
      Publisher and Date: Carl R. Sams Photography, November 1999
      Edition: 1st 
      Language: English
      Published In: United States
      Price: $16.52
      ISBN-10: 0967174805
      ISBN-13: 978-0967174808

And finally, the plans:

Thank you for visiting, and happy reading and writing :)

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2. A LIterary Apprecitation of Dragons 2015 – Part 4 of 4

Far too soon, we've come to the end of the Third Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons Series. Anyone needing some backstory, or a refresher, can click on the link in the first sentence and get caught up quite nicely. But don't forget to come back here to catch this last literary dragon post for the 2015 series.

Drawing courtesy of Chez Wheedleton's resident Dragon Expert: Lovely Girl

So far, we've read our way through three Fridays of dragon book fun:


And for today's post, we've got something really fun:

Drawing Dragons

That's right! We here at Bugs and Bunnies were delighted to find this little collection of books, so we could learn how to draw the dragons we love to read about! We hope you enjoy them, too:

1-2-3 Draw: Knights, Castles, and Dragons: A step by step guide
By Freddie Levin
Ages 5 - 10

This one is great for the beginner level artists out there. It starts with a list of very basic tools you will need - all things you probably already have around the house. The book is separated into several sections, starting with drawing basic shapes. As you move through the book, these basic shapes are used to guide you through drawing a variety of medieval-type things, starting with a basic person, and moving through to specific ones (king, queen, prince, princess). There are sections for drawing castles, heraldry, knights, and of course dragons. And there are other sections, too, each related to knights, castles, and dragons, plus an index.

How to Draw Dragons (Drawing Fantasy Art)
By Jim Hansen and John Burns
Ages 9 and up

This one is great for those who want to both learn a little about dragons as well as draw them. The Introduction section explains the equipment you may want to have on hand before you begin. (Some of the supplies listed are more advanced equipment, but you will still be able to use this book with just the basics - pencil, paper, eraser.) Then there's a short lesson on Perspective. And then there's the instruction, separated into types: Western Dragon, Eastern Dragon, and North American Dragon. The book also contains a glossary of art-related terms, as well as a section on suggestions for further reading. The instructions start basic and work up to the details fairly quickly, so this book will be most helpful to those who already have a good base of drawing skills.

Draw! Medieval Fantasies: A Step by Step Guide
By Damon J. Reinagle
Ages 8 - 14

This one starts with a list of basic drawing tools, and a few "Common Sense Drawing Rules" to get you started. It is for those who are a little more advanced in drawing skill, yet still starts with Basic Shapes, then moves on to sections showing you steps for how to draw Rods and Joints, Dragons, Castles, and Heroes and Villains. Then there is a section on adding Textures and Patterns to your drawings, and finally, one on Putting It All Together.

Ralph Masiello's Dragon Drawing Book: Become an artist step-by-step
By Ralph Masiello
Ages 8 - 12

As with the others, this one also starts with a section on the drawing tools you may want to use. It is also for those who know a little about drawing already. There are step-by-step instructions for drawing eleven different types of dragons, from all over the world. For each dragon, you'll be shown one detailed step at a time, using just the drawings to guide you - no text instructions. You can easily tell which is the new line to add for each step, because it is shown in red.

Once you've been guided in drawing the dragon, the next page for each one shows what the fully-complete drawing could look like, with all color and pattern added, as well as some information about the type of dragon you just drew, and hints for how to create the patterns you see in the finished drawing example. At the end, you'll find a section on Resources for you to learn even more about dragons, as well as a Pronunciation Guide, so you'll know how to pronounce the names of the dragons you've just learned how to draw.

* * *

And so, we've reached the end of our series for this year. We hope you enjoyed this Third Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons Series as much as we did, and we hope you'll come back again next year to celebrate a whole new bunch of fabulous dragon books with us!

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3. A Literary Appreciation of Dragons 2015 – Part 3 of 4

Another Friday in January, another post in the Third Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons series. (Not sure what this is? Click on the link in the previous sentence, and that will get you up to speed quite nicely. Then come back here to continue the book-ish dragon fun.)

Drawing courtesy of Chez Wheedleton's resident Dragon Expert: Lovely Girl

Back now? Great! Let's get to it:

If you've been here for the last two posts, you'll recall that we've added a new component to this year's festivities: Themes! And if you're new to Bugs and Bunnies? Well, now you know. The theme thing is new.

So far, we've had fun with two themes:

Dragon Fact, Dragon Fable – with dragon books that are informational in nature


Chinese Dragon Tales – with dragon books rooted in Chinese culture, with Chinese dragons

For this week, we present:

Other Dragon Tales

These dragon stories involve a variety of world cultures - Egyptian, Viking, English, and one that's unspecified but seems American. Enjoy!

The Dragon and the Thief
Written by Gillian Bradshaw
Ages 9 and up

Prahotep was born backward, with his eyes wide open. The people of his small Egyptian village took that to mean he was frowned upon by the gods. And it seemed to be so, for this son of a fisherman was no good at fishing. 

When one day a crocodile attacks Prahotep's father, his dying wish is for Prahotep to leave his small village near the Nile river, and try to find something he is good at. So Prahotep travels to Thebes. But his attempts at learning new trades there goes no better, and he finds himself labeled with a new name: Bad Luck. Finally, there is only one trade left for him to attempt – theft. When even that doesn't go well, he begins to think the gods really do frown on him. 

And then, Prahotep stumbles into the cave of Hathor, the last of what was believed to be an extinct line of dragons. Her discovery by others will mean her death. Could this be the destiny Prahotep has sought for so long? Could he be the one who can save the last Egyptian dragon?

Dragon Stew
Written by Steve Smallman
Illustrations by Lee Wildish
Ages 5 and up

Five bored Vikings are looking for an adventure. But they don't want to do the same old things. Battle? Nothing new. Shark fishing? Nope. Wresting a bear...in their underwear? Been there, done that!

And then, Loggi Longsocks comes up with one last idea: Catch a dragon, and make a dragon stew! To that, the other Vikings say, "Now, that's something new!" And the adventure begins...

The Reluctant Dragon
Written by Kenneth Grahame
Illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard
Ages 7 - and up

Long ago, there lived a shepherd, his wife, and their small son. One day, the father came across a dragon living in a cave outside the village, and he was beside himself with fear. But the boy, who read lots and lots of books and knew about these things, was less upset. "It's all right, father. Don't you worry. It's only a dragon."

And then, the boy befriended the dragon, and soon convinced his parents the situation was not as dire as all that. The dragon was rather cultured and quite mild-mannered. But when word spread, as word is wont to do, the villagers were not so serene. And they sent for St. George, slayer of dragons. 

The boy sees only one way to save his friend. And it involves convincing the whole town – and a dragon slayer  – to not slay a dragon. But, how?

The Best Pet of All
Written by David LaRochelle
Illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama
Ages 3 - 5

This is the story of a boy who wants a dog for a pet. But each time he asks his mom for a dog, she refuses.

Then one day, the boy decides to ask for something new. He asks for a dragon for a pet. And this time, his mom says, "If you can find a dragon, you can keep it for a pet." 

So he finds a dragon. But a dragon does not make a good pet. And when the boy's mom tells the dragon to leave, it refuses.

The boy has an idea how to get the dragon out of the house, though. And it involves a dog...

* * *

And that's that for this week. We hope you enjoyed Part 3 of 4 of the Third Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons. Please join us again next Friday, for Part 4 of 4, when we present dragon books that will satisfy those who like to do more than just read about dragons...

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4. A Literary Appreciation of Dragons 2015 – Part 2 of 4

Here we are, with the second of four posts for the Third Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons!

Drawing courtesy of Chez Wheedleton's resident Dragon Expert: Lovely Girl

Regular readers – or at least those who follow this particular series here on Bugs and Bunnies – already know what's what. For those who are new: click on the link up there in the very first sentence of this post, and you'll find all kinds of information that will catch you up quite nicely. Then come on back here to continue the dragon-y fun.

Last week, our theme was Dragon Fact, Dragon Fable. This week's theme is:

Chinese Dragon Tales

It's a little round-up of four picture books focused on stories rooted in Chinese culture, with Chinese dragons:

The Paper Dragon, by Marguerite W. Davol
Illustrated by Robert Sabuda
Ages 5 - 8
* Summary courtesy of Chez Wheedleton's own Lovely Girl

Humble artist Mi Fei spends most of his time painting scenes of the glorious past on paper scrolls. The people of his village love to admire his epic portraits of gods, festivals, heroes, and great deeds. When news arrives one day that Sui Jen, the great dragon of Lung Mountain, has woken from his hundred years' sleep and is rampaging through the country, the villagers are sure that Mi Fei has enough knowledge of ancient heroes to save the day. But Mi Fei is just a simple artist! Can he live up to his village's expectations and convince the mighty dragon to sleep once more?

The Boy Who Painted Dragons
Written and Illustrated by Demi
Ages 7 - 10
* Summary courtesy of Chez Wheedleton's own Lovely Girl

 Ping paints dragons everywhere - on the walls, columns, doors, windows, tables, and chairs, and all over the ceiling and floors. All of the other children are in awe of his skill, but none of them know Ping's secret: he is terrified of dragons. No matter how many he paints, he still is unable to get over his fear. When the mighty Heavenly Dragon catches a glimpse of his art and decides to pay Ping a visit, the boy artist is in for a big shock... 

Written and Illustrated by Jon Berkeley
Ages 4 - 8

Chopsticks is a small gray mouse, living on a floating restaurant in a busy harbor on the island of Hong Kong. The restaurant's entrance is flanked by two huge pillars, each of which has coiled around it a magnificent carved wooden dragon. One night – New Year's night, Chopsticks is going about his usual business of foraging for crumbs, when one of the dragons of the pillars speaks to him, and asks him for help with something very important. But how can one small mouse help a dragon made of wood and lacquer to realize his most cherished dream: to be free, so he can fly?

Dragon Dancing
Written by Carole Lexa Schaefer
Illustrated by Pierr Morgan
Ages 3 and up

A class of students listen to their teacher read a book about dragons. And then, during art class, when it's time to decorate for Mei Lin's birthday, the sparkly paper and ribbons give the kids a great idea. And very soon, a sparkle-headed Birthday Dragon is off exploring imaginary lands, far, far away...at least until they hear their teacher calling.

* * *

And so we've come to the end of Part 2 of 4 of the Third Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons. Be sure to come back next Friday, for Part 3 of 4, when we'll explore some more dragon tales...



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5. A Literary Appreciation of Dragons 2015 – Part 1 of 4

We're getting a bit of a late start for the Third Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons, but let's not let that dampen our fun, shall we? Counting today, there are still four Fridays left for us to fill with fabulous books full of fantastic dragon stories of one sort or another.

Drawing courtesy of Chez Wheedleton's resident Dragon Expert: Lovely Girl

A Bit of Explanation, for those new to Bugs and Bunnies, or new to this series:

A Literary Appreciation of Dragons is a series where we feature books with some sort of dragon connection, with posts appearing each Friday in January. It began here at Bugs and Bunnies as part of our 2012 observance of Appreciate a Dragon Day - a holiday celebrated annually on January 16th. The day officially came into being ten years ago, courtesy of author Donita K. Paul, to celebrate the release of her novel, DragonSpell (Waterbrook Press, 2004). Want more details? Click on any of the links above for all kinds of dragony fun. When you've had your fill, come on back here, and we'll get started with this year's bookish dragon festivities.

And now, on to the literary dragon fun:

New for this year: Themes! (Not planned, but the books did seem to just fall into categories of their own accord. Weird, how that happens sometimes, isn't it?)

This week's theme:

Dragon Fact, Dragon Fable

All of today's books are informational in nature. All but one contain brief descriptions of various myths, legends or stories specific to various world cultures and histories. And that one that doesn't? Well, we'll save it for last. It's kind of in a category all its own:

Dragons (Monsters and Mythical Creatures)
By Carla Mooney
Ages 13 and up

Dragons is a well-researched, informative book presenting a wide variety of information, images and illustrations on everything to do with dragons. Five chapters cover the general similarities and differences dragons have across different cultures and mythologies, content specific to Western dragons and Eastern dragons, animals that may have inspired dragon myths, and dragon depiction within pop culture. There are also useful sections at the end, detailing the author's sources, a list of various media to consult for further exploration, a content index, and picture credits.

Dragons (Mythologies)
By John Malam
Ages 8 - 10

This beautifully illustrated Dragons book focuses on dragon myths and stories within various cultures. It covers information, myths and legends about dragons of Europe, the Middle East, China and Japan, and India. For each of these areas of the world, general information is presented about how dragons were depicted and described, as well as brief retellings of one or two myths or stories from those cultures. A helpful glossary and index are included at the end.

A Time of Golden Dragons
Written by Song Nan Zhang and Hao Yu Zhang
Illustrated by Song Nan Zhang
Ages 9 - 12

A Time of Golden Dragons traces the history and significance of dragons in Chinese culture, from their earliest beginnings up through today. The authors weave together history, culture, myth, art and storytelling to give the reader a clear, easy-to-understand narrative of the ways dragons are used, referred to, and depicted by the Chinese people.

There are sections on Where Dragons Come From, the difference between Eastern and Western dragons, dragons as a symbol of imperial power, Where Dragons Live, dragon references and their meanings within the Chinese language, the significance of dragons in Chinese festivals, dragon references and use in modern Chinese culture, and the dragon's part in the Chinese time measurement system. Each page is accompanied by colorful and detailed illustration to enhance understanding of the text.

The Complete Book of Dragons: A Guide to Dragon Species (How to Train Your Dragon)
Written and Illustrated by Cressida Cowell
Ages 8 - 12

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, reluctant hero of the How to Train Your Dragon series, against the wishes of his Viking Barbarian father, Stoick the Vast, Chief of the Hairy Hooligan Tribe, presents to the reader: The Complete Book of Dragons: A Guide to Dragon Species, which contains everything Hiccup has learned about dragons.

He includes sections on Dragon Anatomy, Nesting Sites, Dragon Eggs, Training Your Hunting or Lap Dragon, Dragon Riding, The Wilder Species, The Mighty Monsters, The Future of Dragons, and Know Your Dragons. Each section contains drawings, illustrations, typed information, and handwritten notes – some whole-page and some margin, and even a handy reference chart of dragon types and their respective characteristics. There is also a fold-out Map of the Barbaric Archipelago – the lands where Hiccup and the Hairy Hooligan Tribe and the dragons live and travel.

* * *

And so, that's that for this week. We hope you haven't yet had your dragon fill, though. Come on back next week for Part 2 of 5, when we delve into books with dragon lore from one particular corner of the world...


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6. The Dragon (Books) Are Returning...

The Third Annual Literary Appreciation of Dragon Series is most definitely on its way. Bit of a late start, as the first Friday in January has already whooshed past – dragonless. But there are still four Fridays left, and we here at Bugs and Bunnies have four Fridays' worth of deliciously dragon-y books we're excited to share with you!

If you're a regular reader here, you already know what's what. If you're new, clicking on the link up there in the first sentence of this post will take you to the main series page, where you can explore everything we've presented about dragon books so far, to your heart's content. And of course, regular readers are welcome to click, too, and reminisce.

Then, be sure to come back this Friday, January 9, 2105, for the first of four new posts full of fabulous dragon books. 

Until then, we'll leave you with this:

"We men dream dreams, we work magic, we do good, we do evil. The dragons do not dream. They are dreams. They do not work magic; it is their substance, their being. They do not do; they are."
                                         – Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore


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7. Wonderful Weirdos of Literature 2014 – Installment #19

All too soon, we've come to the last post for our Fifth Annual Bugs and Bunnies Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series. If you're new here, clicking on the link in that first sentence will bring you right up to speed. If you're not new here, you can click the link, too, for nostalgia or for a refresher...or not. But whether you're New or Not New, if you click, don't forget to come back to this post to see what's up for today.

The first three posts in this year's Picture Book and Poetry Palooza sub-theme have had the following Variations on the Overall Weirdo Theme:

And now, let's revel in one last variation for this 2014 series:

Animals Are People, Too (And Vice Versa)

Pretty self-explanatory, this one.

Also, if you'll recall from the Weirdly True post, we promised one anomaly would be included in this otherwise all-picture-book-and-poetry presentation: a novel. And today's post has that novel. (We're big on keeping our promises here at Bugs and Bunnies.) Here we go:

Stuart Little
Written by E.B. White
Pictures by Garth Williams
Ages 8 - 12
Summary graciously provided by Chez Wheedleton's own Lovely Girl:

When the Little family welcomed their second son, Stuart, it was obvious from the start that he was a little...different. He wasn't much bigger than a mouse. In fact, he looked like a mouse in every way. Let no one say that the Littles weren't open-minded about things, though. From doll's clothes to a bed made out of a cigarette box to a tiny mallet to turn the faucet handle, the Littles made every effort to accommodate their unusual child.

Stuart could walk and talk almost immediately, and being the adventurous type, he got into quite a bit of mischief in his hometown of New York City. After befriending a pretty sparrow named Margalo, though, Stuart decides that he'll need to go out into the big wide world to find her after she migrates away. But it's dangerous being a mouse in a human's world... This city mouse will need to keep his wits about him as he ventures into the countryside on his own!

I'm a Manatee
By John Lithgow
Illustrated by Ard Hoyt
Ages Preschool - 3
Another Lovely Girl-provided summary:

One little boy is so sick of his humanity that in his dreams, he becomes a manatee! He and the other manatees spend their time enjoying their watery world and peacefully chowing down on their favorite foods. Good things don't last forever, though...

*An extra bit of fun: Also included with this book is a CD and musical score of the story, with lyrics by John Lithgow and music by Bill Elliott.

Have you ever seen a Moose taking a bath?
Story by Jamie McClaine
Art by April Goodman Willy
Ages 4 and up
Yet another Lovely-Girl-provided summary:

Maybe you have seen a moose taking a bath before, but never quite like this!

This particular moose isn't satisfied with just splashing around to get clean. Bath-time is a very serious event – one that requires goggles, a noseplug, a scrubby-dub brush, Mr. Moose Bubbles, and of course his ducky Bill Webber. Be sure to stand back as he gets ready to get in the water, or you might end up soaking wet, too!

No Moon, No Milk!
By Chris Babcock
Illustrated by Mark Teague
Ages 3 and up

Martha is sick of cowing around in a pasture. And when farmer Rob asks her what she would like to cow around in, her answer has him stumped: "The Mooooon."

Rob doesn't see how he can get Martha to the moon, but he has to do something to meet her demand. No moon, no milk!

So he tries a few things. He takes her surfing. He takes her to see an honest-to-goodness crater right here on Earth. He even takes her to Radio City Music Hall to see the famous Rockettes. But Martha is unmoved by all of it. The only thing she wants to do is cow around on the moon.

Finally, Rob suggests one last thing to try. But will it be enough to meet Martha's out-of-this-world demand?

* * *

As this is the last Friday in September, so this is the last post in the Fifth Annual Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series. But never fear, we'll be back next year with a whole new bunch of wonderfully weird books to explore.

Until then, we'll leave you with this:

"The world is still a weird place, despite my efforts to make clear and perfect sense of it."

                                        – Hunter S. Thompson 


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8. Wonderful Weirdos of Literature 2014 – Installment #18

If you've been following along with our Fifth Annual Bugs and Bunnies Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series, we're glad you're back for more. And if you're visiting for the first time, well, we're glad you're here.

If you need a refresher on what this series is all about, clicking on that link up there at the beginning of the post will catch you up quite nicely. Then come on back here to keep the weirdness rolling.

So far in the Picture Book and Poetry Palooza that is this year's sub-theme within the Overall Weirdo Theme, we've frolicked through the following weekly Variations on the Overall Weirdo Themes:

And today, we bring you Installment #18:


Specifically, monsters. Not the dark, blood-curdling, super-scary kind. (We don't do a lot of dark here on Bugs and Bunnies.) Just the quirky ones:

The Monster Trap
Story and pictures by Dean Morrissey
Written by Dean Morrissey and Stephen Krensky
Ages 5 - 10

Paddy has come to stay with his grandfather for a few days. It's his first time there on his own, and Pop's place seems darker than Paddy remembers. That night, they listen to Monster Radio Theater, and when bedtime comes, Paddy is sure he hears the monster from the radio stories. Pop's solution? A monster trap, complete with "sure-fire, high-grade monster bait."

The next morning, the small trap is empty. Pop thinks that means there aren't any monsters. But Paddy thinks they were just too smart for the trap. So Pop and Paddy get to work building a bigger, smarter trap.

And if it works? Well, that could be a whole new problem.

I Need My Monster
Written by Amanda Noll
Illustrated by Howard McWilliam
Ages 5 - 8

When Ethan heads to bed one night, instead of his usual monster under the bed, he finds a note: "Gone fishing. Back in a week. – Gabe" 

Ethan can't sleep without his monster under his bed. And he can't go without sleep for a whole week. So he does the only thing he can think of – interview for a replacement.

But can any of the other monsters measure up to Gabe?

* An added treat: We found this video from SAG Foundation's StoryLineOnline.net, with actress Rita Moreno reading I Need My Monster, including animated illustrations from the book presented as she reads. A bit over 11 minutes, total, and very, very fun!

Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-Zoo
Written and illustrated by Mercer Mayer
Ages 3 - 8

Professor Wormbog's beastie collection is incomplete. Though he has found a beastie for nearly every letter of the alphabet, from the Askinforit to the Yalapappas, there is one last beastie that still eludes him: the one for Z, the Zipperump-a-Zoo.

So the professor sets off, determined to catch one and complete his collection. He digs a pit. He fishes the sea. He tries to lure it out of the air. He climbs a craggy peak. He drops into caves. Each time, he finds something. But each time, it is not the Zipperump-a-Zoo. Finally, the disappointed professor gives up and heads home, empty-handed.

But sometimes? The very thing a person searches for the hardest tends to turn up in the most unexpected of places...

The Mysterious Tadpole
Written and illustrated by Steven Kellogg
Ages 5 - 8

Every year, Uncle McAllister – who lives in Scotland – sends Louis a birthday present for his nature collection. And when this year's gift arrives, Louis proclaims it "the best one yet," and takes it to school the next day. His teacher proclaims it a tadpole, and Louis names it Alphonse.

By summer, Alphonse still looks nothing like a frog, and has outgrown his jar, the kitchen sink, the bathtub, and even the apartment. Louis decides what Alphonse really needs is a swimming pool – which they don't have, and can't afford to build. Though nobody wants to, it looks like the only option is to take Alphonse to the zoo. But that night, Louis remembers the middle school pool, which sits unused all summer. He happily sneaks Alphonse in, and it works...until the swim team shows up for its first practice, and the coach says Alphonse has to be gone by the next day.

Louis is out of options and in despair when he runs into his friend, Miss Seevers, the librarian, on his way home. He tells her his problem, and then takes her to meet Alphonse. And then, Miss Seevers comes up with a plan to help. A plan so far-fetched, it just might work.

* * *

See? Not scary at all. Be sure to come back next Friday, September 26th, for Installment #19 of the Fifth Annual Bugs and Bunnies Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series, when animals and people show there's more to them than meets the eye.

Until then, we'll leave you with this:

"The possibilities that are suggested in quantum physics tell us that everything that we're looking at may not be in fact there, so the underlying nature of being is weird."

                                    – William Shatner

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9. Bookish Ways (for the Young-ish Set) to Celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Avast, me hearties! International Talk Like a Pirate Day be soon upon us. Aye, very soon. Tomorrow, in fact.

If this oh-so-fun little-known holiday, celebrated annually on September 19th, has taken ye by surprise this year, never fear. We scalawags here at Bugs and Bunnies have some fun and bookish ways for teachers an' kids ta celebrate the day.

Since pirates are some of our favorite people, we've reviewed a fair number of fantastic piratical books. Below are summaries of all of 'em to date. If we've done a full review, clicking the titles will take ye to the full review posts for each one:

The Mousehunter 
Written and illustrated by Alex Milway
Ages 10 - 12

Twelve-year-old Emiline Orelia is mousekeeper for Isiah Lovelock, Old Town's most famous mouse collector and one of its wealthiest citizens. Emiline cares for her own Grey Mouse, named Portly, as well as all of the mice in Lovelock's vast collection. It's not a glamorous job, but Emiline is very good at it, and hopes one day to become a mousehunter, so she can go out and discover new and interesting mice.

In Emiline's world, collecting and trading mice is valued above all else - but these are no ordinary field mice. There is the Sharpclaw Mouse: a sneaky, mischievous mouse with huge, dagger-like claws on its front paws that can slice through even wood and metal with ease. Or the Magnetical Mouse: prized by sailors for their bulletlike nose that always points due north. Or the Howling Moon Mouse: best known of all the howler mice, it howls only on nights with a full moon. And this is only to name a few.

When Mousebeard, the most feared pirate on the Seventeen Seas, sinks Lovelock's merchant ship, Lovelock hires Captain Devlin Drewshank to hunt him down and capture him. Emiline overhears the deal and, seeing this as the chance of a lifetime, runs away and boards Drewshank's ship, excited to be on the adventure. The journey is a dangerous one, filled with pirates, and battles, and even sea monsters. And Emiline soon comes to realize that all is not exactly as she thought it was, and that no one she's met is exactly who she thought they were.

By Gregory Mone

Ages 8 and up

Maurice "Fish" Reidy is eleven years old when Shamrock dies. Without their horse, the family can't afford to feed itself, let alone farm their land. Someone has to go into the city to work and send money home. Since Fish is the worst at farming, it's agreed he should be the one to go.

His father arranges for Fish to work for his uncle as a courier. When Fish is entrusted with a mysterious package of coins, he's robbed before he can make the delivery. He tracks down the thief amongst a bunch of pirates, aboard their ship, the Scurvy Mistress. Determined to get that package back and to its rightful recipient, Fish sneaks aboard and joins the pirate crew. He soon learns the coins are more than what they seem, and some of the crew are not as loyal as they'd have their captain believe.

As the Scurvy Mistress sets sail, Fish finds himself on an adventure he never saw coming, with friends he never imagined making. It's a journey that promises to change his life - and that of his family - forever.

How I Became a Pirate
Written by Melinda Long
Illustrated by David Shannon

Ages 4 - 8

Jeremy Jacob was just a boy building a sandcastle on the beach - until the day the pirates came. The pirates were in need of a digger to help bury their treasure. And the captain couldn't help but notice that "He's a digger, he is, and a good one to boot!" The crew heartily agreed, "A good one to boot!" And that is how Jeremy Jacob became a pirate.

Here Be Monsters! The Ratbridge Chronicles, Volume 1
Written and illustrated by Alan Snow

Ages 9 - 12

Young Arthur is a resident of Ratbridge. Or, rather, a resident under Ratbridge. He's not sure why he lives below ground, except that his inventor grandfather says that they must. They share this underground world with curious creatures: boxtrolls, cabbageheads, rabbit women, and the rather fearsome trotting badgers.

One day, Arthur gets caught above-ground on one of his nightly forays to the surface world to gather food. The rather nasty Snatcher, his grandfather's old nemesis, has stolen the machine Arthur's grandfather built for him to be able to fly about, and he doesn't know how to get back home.

But Arthur is not without friends. He is helped by the kindly retired lawyer Willbury Nibble, and the underlings who live with him: the boxtrolls Fish, Egg, and Shoe, and the shy cabbagehead Titus. Then there's the pirates-turned-laundry-workers, talking rats and crows, and oh! we can't forget The Man in the Iron Socks. They are all determined to get Arthur back home safely.

Arthur and his friends soon discover that something stinks in Ratbridge, and it isn't just the cheese: Someone has begun hunting Wild English Cheeses again - an outlawed sport. And mysterious goings-on are afoot at the old Cheese Hall. And all the entrances to the underground world have been sealed up. And the boxtrolls and cabbageheads are all disappearing. And the underlings' tunnels are starting to flood. Grandfather is worried, and they all know Snatcher is the root of this mystery. Somehow. Whatever will they do?

Another Whole Nother Story
As told by (The Incomparable) Dr. Cuthbert Soup
Ages 8 and up 

Mr. Ethan Cheeseman and his three smart, polite, and relatively odor-free children are back in another adventure - with all-new names, of course. Now that they've got the LVR working (the supposedly secret, yet relentlessly sought-after time machine introduced in A Whole Nother Story), the family is all set to travel back in time to just before their beloved wife and mother Olivia Cheeseman meets her unfortunate end at the hands of those seeking to "acquire" the LVR.

But all does not go according to plan. First, they wind up not in the relatively recent past, as they'd planned, but way back in 1668. Worse, their crash landing has damaged the LVR, and unless they can find the proper parts to repair it, the family has no way to return to their own time in the 21st century. As if that weren't trouble enough, the family finds themselves facing suspicion of witchcraft, battling pirates, and navigating a haunted castle. Add to that their tangle with a dangerous nemesis from their present whom they believed they'd seen the last of, and things don't look good.

Despite these odds, the likeable Cheesemans are not without friends, meeting several helpful souls along the way. But is it enough to help them get out of the distant past, and into the nearer past, so they can save their beloved Olivia Cheeseman, and get back to their own time?

* * *

Well, land lubbers, that's all we got, and we ain't got no more. But keep a weather eye on the Bugs and Bunnies horizon – we've got our eyes on more'n a few other fantastic pirate-y books we'd love ta be postin' about in future.

But for now, mateys, we hope you enjoy what we've presented here today, and have a most fabulous International Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19th.


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10. Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series 2014 – Installment #17

Today marks the second of four posts this month in the Fifth Annual Bugs and Bunnies Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series.

Wondering what this is all about? Click on the link up there in that first sentence, and you'll be caught up nicely. Then come back here to continue the festivities.

* * *

Back now? Great! Let's get to it, shall we?

You'll recall (if you've been here before) or you now know (if you're new but clicked that link up there) that for our Fifth Anniversary of the Bugs and Bunnies Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series, we've focused our weird-detecting magnifying glass on picture books and poetry anthologies.

Last week's post had all picture books, with the Variation on the Overall Weirdo Theme of Weirdly True.

Well, fans of verse, rejoice! Because today is the day we're:

Waxing Poetic 

That's right! Today is all about the rhymes. The weirder and the funnier, the better – and one collection is even set to music:

A Light in the Attic
Poems and drawings by Shel Silverstein
Ages 6 - 8

Readers of this collection of Shel Silverstein's poems and drawings will have lots to ponder, lots to smile about, and lots to laugh through.

With poems about stars needing a polish, and a bee who may want to consider a career in tattoo artistry, and a camel wearing a quite unusual piece of clothing, kids will have lots to giggle over.

With poems about a bridge that will only take you halfway there, and a difference in perspective between two friends: a tree and a rose, and someone who shoots an arrow into the sky, kids will have plenty to think about.

And with illustrations like the boy with the hot dog for a pet, and the anteater (or rather, aunt-eater), and the polar bear in the refrigerator, kids will have that little bit of extra fun to go with the poems they're enjoying.

It is a collection not to be missed.

The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders
Rhymes by Jack Pretutsky
Pictures by Petra Mathers
Ages 4 - 8

Here is a beautifully illustrated collection of children's verse by Jack Prelutsky. Readers will chortle through poems about a disastrous shopping trip, and a partying group of farm animals in Tuscaloosa, and pigs and frogs performing onstage for a swooning audience of chickens and ducks. They'll smile through rhymes about a gardener's unconventional crops, and a little brown toad's chronicle of his carefree life, and a description of a smiley, giggly baby. They'll take time to let their eyes and hearts exploew the rich, full-page illustrations. 

An afternoon spent with the verse and pictures in this book is an afternoon well-spent.

A Bad Case of the Giggles: Kids' Favorite Funny Poems
Selected by Bruce Lansky
Illustrated by Stephen Carpenter
Ages 6 - 12

This is a collection of funny poems written for kids, and chosen for inclusion by editor Bruce Lansky – with the help of a panel of 800 elementary school kids!

Readers will laugh over poems about the joy (or not) of having a baby sibling, the indignities of being a boy who must wear hand-me-downs...from his family full of sisters, a girl with questionable hygiene habits, the olfactory downside of living in a shoe, the classic about the old man from Peru, and many, many more.

Written by an ecclectic mix of poets both well-known (like Judith Viorst) and well-known-but-kind-of-not (like Anonymous), the poems in this collection are the laugh-out-loud type that kids just love to read, and read, and read. Often out loud. Expect guffaws.

Frog Trouble and Eleven Other Pretty Serious Songs
Songs and Illustrations by Sandra Boynton
For Ages One to Older Than Dirt

Fans of Ms Boynton's previous musical collaborations (Philadelphia Chickens, Blue Moo, Dog Train, Rhinoceros Tap, and GRUNT Pigorian Chant) will revel in this newest venture. Frog Trouble is a CD and songbook full of country songs written by Ms Boynton, produced by Ms Boynton and Michael Ford, and sung by some of the biggest names in country music today.

Listeners will enjoy reading along in Part One as they enjoy songs with lines like, "It's a beautiful thing – When Pigs Fly," and "I really don't like it when you Copycat," and "...I don't need shoes 'cause I've got alligator feet," and of course, "I've got two words to say: Frog Trouble."

Part Two is a Sing and Play Along complete with melodies and lyrics for each song from Part One. Part Three introduces readers to the performers, and there's even a cut-and-fold activity sheet at the end to make a puppet. (But we won't tell you what the puppet is. You'll have to guess...)

* * *

And that's that for this time. Be sure to come back next Friday, September 19th, for Installment #18. It should be a monstrously good time.

Until then, we'll leave you with this:

"Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that's easy. What's hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity."

                                              – Charles Mingus


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11. Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series 2014 – Installment #16

Welcome to the Fifth Annual Bugs and Bunnies Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series!

If you've been here before, you already know what's up. But for new readers, or for those who need a refresher, here's how this works:

In honor of Wonderful Weirdos Day, celebrated each year on September 9th, we here at Bugs and Bunnies present a few books each Friday in September that we just love: Fantastic stories that celebrate the unusual, with characters who are, well, characters. You know: the misunderstood, the eccentric, the quirky, the unique, the weird, the wacky. These books might be picture books, or chapter books, or middle grade books, or young adult books.

As usual, each week will have a Variation on the Overall Weirdo Theme. But, new for this Fifth Anniversary of the Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series is the addition of one big, overarching theme for the whole month (besides weirdness, of course):

That's right – we're hovering our weirdo-loving magnifying glass over picture books and poetry anthologies this year. (Well, that's not entirely true. There is one novel. But it works, right? What would a celebration of the weird be, without at least one thing that doesn't fit the mold?)

* * *

Let's get started with Installment #16, shall we? Today's Variation on the Overall Weirdo Theme is:
Weirdly True

True Stuff. Just presented in totally weird (and fun) ways:

Pigs Over Colorado
Written and Illustrated by Kerry Lee MacLean
Ages 4 - 8

A personal quirky favorite of Chez Wheedleton's own Lovely Girl, who has graciously provided this summary:

Sand dunes, dinosaur fossils, roller coasters, mountain climbing, ghost towns, and skiing? You might say that a vacation that cool could only ever come around when pigs fly...

Good thing the flying family of Sky Piggies is here to lead you on a tour across the weird and wonderful state of Colorado!

If Dinosaurs Came to Town
Written and Illustrated by Dom Mansell
Ages 1 - 8

Another personal fave of Lovely Girl, who couldn't resist writing this summary, too:

Everyone knows something about the dinosaurs. Some were big, some were small, some were fierce, some were gentle. They lived MILLIONS and MILLIONS and MILLIONS of years ago, though, so we should be safe now, right?

Wait, is that a diplodocus holding up traffic? Did a quetzalcoatl just fly by overhead? What's an eryops doing in the bathtub? And who is that outside the window? AAAAGH! A T-Rex!

It looks like dinosaurs aren't so extinct, after all. At least we can learn about them up close now! (Not TOO close, though...)

Twenty-Odd Ducks: Why Every Punctuation Mark Counts!
By Lynne Truss
Illustrated by Bonnie Timmons
Ages 6 - 8

From the author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Why Commas Really Do Make a Difference, comes this giggle-worthy illustrated treatise that shows the young (and not-so-young) exactly why punctuation matters. Swapping a period for a coma, and some differently-placed quotation marks, could be the difference between a visit to you from Santa, and a visit to Santa from his mom. Or, your history teacher could be one hyphen-placement away from being either a teacher of old history, or an old teacher of history. Want to read (and see) more? Find the book, and check it out.

How Much is a Million?
By David M. Schwartz
Pictures by Steven Kellogg
Ages 4 - 8

When a kid wants to know how much a big number is, they don't want you to tell. They want you to show. If that number is, say, 100, there are lots of easy was to do that: lay out 100 pennies, or line up 100 pebbles, or stack up 100 blocks.

But, what if that kid is really ambitious? What if what that kid wants to know is: How much is a million? A million! Even most adults struggle with picturing what that looks like. 

Never fear, help is here! Enter Marvelosissimo the Mathematical Magician, who takes curious kids on a journey to show them exactly how much a million is, in ways the non-magical just can't – stacking a tower of kids that stretches up past the sky, conjuring up an enormous goldfish bowl, taking an impossible hot air balloon ride through pages and pages of tiny tiny stars, and even traveling through time.

Of course, when one question is answered, however fabulously, others are sure to follow. What does a billion look like? the kids want to know. A trillion? And Marvelosissimo responds each time, in spectacularly large and dazzling fashion.

And for those readers who want the hard numbers and calculations behind Marvelosissimo's enormous examples, the author includes detailed explanations at the end of the book for each one.

The Truth About Poop
By Susan E. Goodman
Illustrated by Elwood H. Smith
Ages 7 and up

You can do so many more things with poop than flush it away. Useful things. Who knew?

Though there is certainly much in this book that will elicit giggles – both from the young, and from the young-at-heart – The Truth About Poop is full of interesting, surprising, and quite useful aspects of the oft-avoided and much discouraged subject of poop.

Covering a variety of living creatures, from insects to land animals to creatures of the sea to people, this book explains how poop is used for defense, attack, fuel, building material, identification – even entertainment.

There is a history of the toilet in two parts, and a history of toilet paper. There is a description of where poop goes once flushed. There's even a section devoted to "Waste in Space."

And if, after reading all of that, you aren't totally pooped out, the author includes resources for further reading on the subject. Where you choose to sit and read? That's up to you.

* * *

That wraps things up for today. Be sure to come back next Friday, September 12th, for Installment #17 of the Fifth Annual Bugs and Bunnies Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series, when we'll wax weirdly poetic.

Until then, we'll leave you with this:

"To be nobody-but-yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."
                                                  – e.e. cummings

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12. 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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13. 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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14. 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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15. The Defenestration of Prague

May 23rd, 2014, marks the day, 396 years ago, that The Defenestration of Prague took place. Having learned a few years ago that defenestration is "the act of throwing a person or thing out a window," our curiosity here at Bugs and Bunnies about this Little Known Holiday was piqued.

For one thing, this particular defenestration involved not things flung from windows, but people(Eek!) For another, this wasn't the only such event to occur in Bohemia's history - nor was it even the first.

And so, into the rabbit hole of research we willingly dove. Dive with us, won't you?

* * *

The First Defenestration of Prague happened on July 30, 1419. It was a bloody and lethal affair, with a judge, a burgomaster, and about thirteen town council members heaved out of the windows of Prague's New Town Hall by an angry mob. None survived, and The Hussite Wars broke out soon after.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia
The Second Defenestration of Prague is the one people generally mean when discussing *The* Defenestration of Prague. This incident was decidedly less fatal: Two Catholic regents and their secretary were thrown from the third floor window of the Bohemian Chancellory by an angry crowd of Protestants, yet all three survived the 50 foot (some sources say 70 foot) fall. Two years later, The Thirty Year's War began.

* * *

These defenestrations are not the only ones known to have happened in Bohemian history, but they are the most well-known ones. And so, despite the knowledge that there is more to find down our little rabbit hole of research, we propose climbing out here.


First, because we scouted ahead, and this particular rabbit hole gets pretty dark, and we don't do a lot of dark here on Bugs and Bunnies. (You're free to continue researching on your own, though, if you like.)

And second, because amidst all the seriousness and gruesomeness of Prague's defenestrations, there was just a little bit of some giggle-worthy stuff, and we do so like to delve into giggle-worthy stuff. Ready? Here we go:

Catholics of the time claimed the trio from The Second Defenestration of Prague in 1618 survived that three-story fall due to the intervention of angels. Protestants of the time, however, countered with a far less heavenly explanation: that the trio survived due to the dung heap they landed in. Translation? Saved by poop!

One last thing: Philip Fabricius, the secretary from that surviving trio, fled to Vienna to tell the Emperor what had happened. The Emperor later granted this secretary the title Baron von Hohenfall. Translation? Baron of Highfall.

* * *


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16. Find a Rainbow Day is April 3rd

Who knew there was a day dedicated to finding rainbows? Not me. But apparently, Find a Rainbow Day is a thing.

Well, I didn't find a rainbow today (yet), but I did find a pretty awesome one last year. The picture is a great reminder for me, but seeing it in person...well, it was just spectacular. It showed up all of a sudden, big and bright and beautiful, when the sun burst through all at once after a totally epic summer afternoon rainstorm:

Have a radiant Find a Rainbow Day, and happy colorful hunting!


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17. Tell a Fairy Tale Day is February 26th

Fairy tales are a beloved and meaningful part of the lives of many people, across many languages and cultures, and so surely it comes as no surprise that there's a Little Known Holiday dedicated entirely to those time-honored tales:

Tell a Fairy Tale Day

Celebrated annually on February 26th, it's a day to have some fun and tell some fairy tales in whatever way suits your fancy. And just in case you're stuck for ideas, we've collected a few suggestions to get you started:

Make Up Your Own Fairy Tale to Write or Tell or Act Out

You can have a ton of fun creating your very own original fairy tale. Need help getting started? No problem. Here are a few basic guidelines on what makes a fairy tale...a fairy tale:
  • The story begins at a non-specific point (such as: "Once upon a time..." or "A long, long time ago, in a kingdom far away..."). 
  • Things tend to happen in threes.
  • There is usually some type of royalty involved.
  • Some sort of good vs evil theme is always a good bet.
  • Some sort of magic is typically included (say, a talking animal, perhaps, or a magic sword).
  • Often, there is some type of quest to be embarked upon, or a difficult task to be completed, before the hero/heroine can accomplish their goal.
  • A lesson is usually found at the end.
  • Most endings are of the "Happily Ever After" sort...but not always. There could instead be a "cautionary tale" aspect to the ending.

Find Some Ready-Made Fairy Tales to Share
  • Visit your local library and check out some of your fave fairy tales to share with your loved ones, no matter their ages. Or look for fairy tales that are new-to-you. Children, or adults, or preteens...even teens* love a good fairy tale. (*Yes, you do. You know you do - especially if that fairy tale is of the Fractured Fairy Tale type, or maybe even a picture book with some really awesome illustrations.) 
  • Wander the aisles of your local bookstore, browsing their fairy tale collections, until you find a couple of fairy tale books that you just have to have. Stories so powerful that they've stayed in people's hearts and minds over so many, many years must certainly be worth adding to your own collection of books, right?

Go Online
  • Visit this Pinterest Tell a Fairy Tale page for a fun, informal game of "Guess the Fairy Tale."
  • The World of Tales web page has a large collection of fairy tales you can read online for free. The tales are from a variety of cultures, and also include folktales and fables.

Watch Some Videos

* * *

However you choose to celebrate Tell a Fairy Tale Day, we hope the fairy tales you enjoy today live on in your heart...happily ever after.

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18. Umbrella Day is February 10th


Whatever you call your rain protection device, have a very happy Umbrella Day!

But do try to make sure the one you choose to use is up to the task:

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19. National Read in the Bathtub Day is February 9th

National Read in the Bathtub Day is observed annually on February 9th, but we here at Bugs and Bunnies have no idea why. We couldn't find even the tiniest morsel of information as to Who-What-Where-When-Why this holiday came into being. We did, however, find several other bathtub-related revelries, with varying levels of backstory:

  • First, there's plain ol' Bathtub Day, celebrated every October 7th. We found a whole lotta very interesting info on this one – so much that it'll be needing its own dedicated post come October. (So be sure to come back and check it out.)
  • Then, there's National Bathtub Party Day. This one is simple and straightforward: Created by Thomas and Ruth Roy, it's an excuse to have a party in the tub, and is celebrated every December 5th.
  • And finally, there's Bubble Bath Day, the annual January 8th celebration which seems to have come about due to a greeting card company creation. 

Back to the holiday at hand, even though there seems to be no official origin or backstory for National Read in the Bathtub Day, that doesn't mean we can't celebrate it, with snacks and perhaps a similarly-minded rubber duckie:

But before you head off for a water-filled read-n-soak in the tub (or a pillow-filled read-n-snuggle in the tub, for those who'd rather not risk ending up with soggy books), you'll be needing some reading material. And so, for your consideration, here are a few books for kids – in which a bath or a tub or both feature prominently – that we here at Chez Wheedleton just love:

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub
Written by Audrey Wood
Illustrated by Don Wood
Ages 4 and up

King Bidgood has his own ideas about how to rule his kingdom, and much to his faithful Page's chagrin, he has gleefully decided to do it all from his tub. The members of his court, at the Page's frantic requests, try all manner of strategies to lure the king out of the bath. He cheerfully obliges each suggestion, with one caveat: they must join him - fully clothed, in all their courtly finery - in the tub. They battle in the tub. They lunch in the tub. They fish in the tub. They even dance in the tub. But the only ones to leave that tub are some very soggy, frustrated courtiers. Is there anyone who can convince the king to leave his bath?

The Dirty Cowboy
Written by Amy Timberlake
Illustrated by Adam Rex
Ages 4 and up

Ah, the life of a cowboy: roundin' up cattle, cookin' up some vittles, singin' songs around the campfire, with only his trusty steed and loyal dog for company. Yessir, life sure is perfect for a cowboy...until he gets it in his head that he oughta prob'ly have hisself a bath. The cowboy in this story sets out to do just that. Just gettin' to the river takes some doin,' but he gets there alright, and charges his dog with guardin' his duds. An' then he heads to the river, nearly-new bar of lye soap in hand, an' he gets good and clean. But, once he fixes t' go git his duds back? Well, that's when things get interestin.'

The House on East 88th Street
Written and illustrated by Bernard Waber
Ages 5 and up

The day Mr. and Mrs. Joseph F. Primm and their young son Joshua move into the house on East 88th street, they hear an unusual sound coming from somewhere in the house: SWISH, SWASH, SPLASH, SWOOSH. So Mrs. Primm goes to investigate. When she takes a peek in the bathroom, she finds the source of that sound: A crocodile! In their bathtub!

Then, an oddly dressed man arrives at the door, hands Joshua Primm a note, and leaves. Hector P. Valenti's note explains that the crocodile's name is Lyle, that he will only eat Turkish caviar, and that he can perform tricks. Will the Primms welcome Lyle into their family?

* * *

When February 9th rolls around, grab a couple of books, and then off to the tub with you. And whether you fill that tub with warm relaxing water, or soft fluffy pillows, have a very happy National Read in the Bathtub Day!

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20. A Literary Appreciation of Dragons 2014 - Part 5 of 5

And so, we've come to the final post – Part 5 of 5 – for the Second Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons. If you're new here, or new to the series, clicking on the link above will give you all the details. When you're done, don't forget to come on back to this post and see what's in store for today.

Drawing courtesy of Chez Wheedleton's resident dragon expert:  Lovely Girl

Each book featured in this series deals with dragons on its own terms; in some, dragons are central to the story, and in others, less so. But reading any or all of these books is a wonderful and fun way to appreciate a dragon.

Of the three dragon books we're sharing today, two are fun and full of fabulous illustrations, and one is a treasure trove of dragon myth, legend, and lore:

Serious Trouble
Written and illustrated by Arthur Howard
Ages 4 - 8

Ernest is a boy with a serious-sounding name, the son of serious people – King Olaf and Queen Olive – who expect him (as a future king) to be equally serious. Yet, despite the King and Queen's expectations, young Ernest wishes to be neither serious nor king. In fact, he tells his incredulous parents, he wishes to be...a jester.

One day, when Ernest rushes outside to practice some jokes, he comes face-to-face with the kingdom's serious problem: a fire-breathing, people-eating, three-headed dragon, which makes clear its plans to live up to the people-eating part of its serious reputation. Ernest begs it not to, then manages to escape as the dragon's heads argue amongst themselves. Unfortunately, his escape is brief.

Wrapped inside the dragon's tail and on the verge of being eaten, Ernest proposes a deal to his captor's three heads: If he can make them laugh, he goes free. The dragons decide to give him two chances. Or maybe three. So Ernest gets to work on some serious jestering. But will it be enough to overcome such a very serious predicament?

Written and illustrated by Ursula Vernon
ages 8 - 12

Danny Dragonbreath is a carefree kind of dragon, but he does have a few irritations. The best he's ever been able to manage in the fire-breathing department is a bit of smoke from his nostrils, despite his dad's entreaties to "Think hot thoughts." And he's a daily target for Komodo dragon Big Eddy, who loves to taunt Danny about that lack of fire-breathing ability. But for now, he's facing more pressing problems. His science report on "The Rare and Elusive Snorklebat" – which he totally made up on the 15 minute ride to school that morning – earned him a big, fat, red "F," plus a new assignment: Rewrite the paper. On a real ocean topic. By tomorrow.

Danny's first approach to the problem is to hope for a snow day. But his ever-practical best friend, an iguana named Wendell, points out that's not likely, since it's April. Then Wendell suggests a research trip to the library, which does not go over well. But when Danny's mother suggests a research trip to his sea serpent cousin, Danny agrees wholeheartedly. So, a very excited Danny and a very apprehensive Wendell take the bus to a rickety dock on the Sargasso Sea for a visit with cousin Edward.

Wendell is petrified by the undersea tour, but Danny is thrilled by the creatures they encounter: a barfing sea cucumber, a color-changing octopus, and a snot-shooting vampire squid, to name a few. But when a giant squid comes after them, Danny's thrill turns to fear. Though Edward tries to draw the enormous creature away, the tactic doesn't work, and eventually it wraps its tentacles around Wendell, pulling him towards its giant chomping beak. Danny is beside himself with terror, wracking his brain trying to think of something, anything he could do, to try and save his friend. But what can such a small dragon do against something so big?

Dragons: The Myths, Legends, and Lore
Written by Doug Niles
Foreword by Margaret Weis
Ages: Young adult and up

This book is a nicely organized collection of the history of dragons within various cultures and peoples of the world via their folklore, art, mythology and poetry, beginning from antiquity and continuing all the way up through the fiction, films and games of modern pop culture. Within its pages, the reader will find descriptions and illustrations of various dragon types, as well as retellings of the legends and folklore surrounding specific dragons.

* * *

Here ends our literary dragon fun for the Second Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons. We hope you've enjoyed the journey!

Be sure to come back in January 2015, when we'll present a whole new set of dragon books to revel in. And in the meantime, feel free to contact us and let us know of any dragon books you just love that you'd like to see included in next year's celebrations. 

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21. A Literary Appreciation of Dragons 2014 - Part 4 of 5

Three down, two to go: Today marks Part 4 of 5 for the Second Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons. If you're new here and wondering what all the fuss is about, click on the link above, and that should get you nicely up to speed. Then come on back here to continue the festivities.

If you already know what's up (or you're new but now up to speed), you'll probably be wanting to get right to it. Scroll on, then, and let's get started.

Drawing courtesy of Chez Wheedleton's resident dragon expert:  Lovely Girl

Each book featured in this series deals with dragons on its own terms; in some, dragons are central to the story, and in others, less so. But reading any or all of these books is a wonderful and fun way to appreciate a dragon.

Today we have three more books to share. Two involve helping a brand-new-from-the-egg dragon get its start in this life. The third involves a typical dragon-and-princess scenario that comes about through decidedly non-typical circumstances:

The Egg
Written and illustrated by M. P. Robertson
Ages 5 - 8

George does what any self-respecting boy would do when he finds an enormous egg under his mother's favorite chicken: He takes it to his room, where he keeps it warm and reads it stories.

And when the egg hatches three days and nights later, out comes a dragon who seems delighted when he sees George. And so, George takes on the motherly duty of teaching the dragon some "dragony ways." There are flying lessons, and fire-breathing lessons, and lessons in rescuing damsels in distress. He even teaches the dragon how to defeat a knight, and reads him dragon tales in the evenings.

But one day, the dragon becomes lonely for his own kind, and George can only sadly wonder: Is this the end of his days with the dragon?

Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher
Written by Bruce Coville
Illustrated by Gary A. Lippincott
Ages 9 - 12

Sixth grader Jeremy Thatcher, on the run from two bullies intent on making him submit to a rather insistent girl's kiss, suddenly finds himself in a part of his small town that he's never seen before, in a small magic shop he's never been in before, unintentionally buying what he thinks is a mysterious marble.

When he gets home, Jeremy gets out the instruction sheet the shop's owner gave him, and can hardly believe what he reads there: What he has bought is not a marble. It's a dragon egg, and he's now charged with both hatching and raising the beast - neither of which he knows anything about. 

Hatching the egg turns out to be fairly simple, but raising the dragon he names Tiamat is not, even with help from Miss Priest, the town's librarian, and – to Jeremy's great surprise – Mary Lou Hutton, the girl who was so fervently determined to kiss him the day he got the egg.

But when the shop owner sends another note a few months later, Jeremy discovers hatching and raising a dragon are not nearly as hard to do as what what must come next - seeing that dragon home.

Dealing With Dragons: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book One
Written by Patricia C. Wrede
Ages 10 and up

Princess Cimorene of Linderwall does not fit the customary princess mold. She is dark-haired, instead of fair like her six sisters. She is tall, instead of petite like her six sisters. She does not enjoy princess-ly lessons in etiquette or embroidery, and does all she can to wrangle fencing lessons or magic lessons for herself – at least until her parents get wind of what she's doing and ends them. And as for her disposition? Well, "strong-minded" is a phrase often aimed her way, and sometimes, "stubborn as a pig."

One day, Cimorene learns of her parents' plans to marry her off to Therandil, prince of a neighboring kingdom, thereby taking her off of their exasperated hands. Frustrated and angry, she despairs of ever living an exciting life. But then she meets a talking frog who points her in the direction of a source of help. Following the frog's advice to the letter, Cimorene soon finds herself in a damp, dark hovel, conversing with unseen voices. It's not until a ball of light illuminates things that she finally lays eyes on those she's conversing with: Dragons!

Frightened at first, Cimorene slowly begins to see a way out of the boring life her parents have planned for her. It is a bold idea, and what she proposes shocks the dragons: What kind of young woman volunteers to be a dragon's princess?

* * *

Time does fly when one is having literary dragon fun, and we are nearly done for 2014. Join us next Friday, January 31st, for Part 5 of 5, where we'll share three more books in the final post of the Second Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons.

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22. A Literary Appreciation of Dragons 2014 - Part 3 of 5

Yesterday, January 16th, 2014, was Appreciate a Dragon Day. We here at Chez Wheedleton spent the day reading dragon books to mark the occasion. But yesterday wasn't our only day of literary revelry in all things dragon.

Here at Bugs and Bunnies, we choose to appreciate dragons not only on Appreciate a Dragon Day, but also on every Friday in January - sharing with our readers the dragon books we've read in the past year that we think are just fab. And today, Friday, January 17th, is one of those Fridays - the third one of 2014, in fact.

So, welcome to Part 3 of 5 of the Second Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons. We're glad you're here.

Drawing courtesy of Chez Wheedleton's resident dragon expert:  Lovely Girl

Each book featured in this series deals with dragons on its own terms; in some, dragons are central to the story, and in others, less so. But reading any or all of these books is a wonderful and fun way to appreciate a dragon.

Today's post brings three more dragon-tastic books. Chez Wheedleton's own Handsome Boy writes about the first one. The second one is the first in a series, and the final one is a delightful picture book for the very young:

Dragon Run
Written by Patrick Matthews
Ages 8 - 12  
*summary written by Handsome Boy

Dragons rule over twelve-year-old Al's world. Al is a human, one of the five mortal races created by the Dragons as vessels to gather magic for the Dragons' own use. Al's life up until now has been an ordinary one: He works in the fields his family owns every day, and he comes home every evening.

But everybody starts to become nervous as Testing Day rolls around. Al and the rest of the twelve-year-olds will be tested and assigned a rank, with the number carved on the backs of their necks. What happens to Al on Testing Day will shock everyone, make him a target for the merciless killers known as the Cullers, and ultimately flip his life upside down.

Can Al make things right? How far will the Dragon overlords go to see him dead? Will Al beat the odds? Or will the world take him down?

The Coming of Dragons: The Darkest Age, Book One
Written by A.J. Lake
Ages 8 - 12

Eleven-year-old Edmund, son of King Heored, is traveling in disguise aboard the Spearwa, on his way to Gaul to live with his uncle. Elspeth, also eleven, is aboard as well; the sea-savvy daughter of Master Trymann, the ship's captain. Besides the disguised prince, the Spearwa has another mystery aboard, a wooden chest held fast by a huge, rusted iron padlock with no keyhole.

When a sudden raging storm blows up, its cause is not nature, but a deliberate attack on the Spearwa by the terrible ice dragon, Torment, who has been freed by powerful dark magic from his thousand-year imprisonment in the frozen North. 

By the time the storm abates, the Spearwa is wrecked, and Edmund and Elspeth are the sole survivors. They wash up on the shore at Gullsedge along with the smooth-padlocked chest. All three are found and taken in by an old man named Aagard. While staying with Aagard, Elspeth comes into possession of something she neither asks for nor wants. And Edmund comes to realize he has powerful skills of the mind - ones that frighten and confuse him. Neither Edmund or Elspeth want anything more than to deny what has happened and return to their respective homes, despite Aagard's pleas for them to stay and let him help them.

Aagard tasks the mysterious traveling minstrel, Cluaran, with seeing Edmund and Elspeth safely east and toward their homes, though Cluaran is not happy to do so. On their journey, Edmund and Elspeth face dangers they never imagined coming to bear. They battle unexpected enemies, and gain help in unexpected ways. Even if they can survive these dangers, can they learn to live with the unwanted powers they never knew they had and are unable to refuse?

Waking Dragons
Written by Jane Yolen
Paintings by Derek Anderson

Even the littlest of knights have chores, and this little knight must wake the dragons before school. And so, joined by his faithful pup, the little knight does just that.

But there's more to waking dragons than just rousting them from their dragon-sized beds. There are dragon-sized fangs to be brushed, dragon-sized jammies to put in the hamper, dragon-sized waffles to be launched into dragon-sized mouths, and outdoor clothes to fit on dragon-sized bodies.

And all the little knight's hard work does not go unappreciated. When it comes time for him get to school, he gets a dragon-sized ride!

* * *

Thank you for joining us today! Be sure to come back next Friday, January 24th, 2014, for Part 4 of 5 of the Second Annual Literary Appreciation of Dragons.

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23. A Literary Appreciation of Dragons 2014 - Part 2 of 5

Here at Chez Wheedleton, the temperatures have been positively arctic, which is the perfect excuse to stay in and warm up with some celebratory dragon reading during this Second Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons.

If you're new here, clicking on the link above will fill you in quite nicely. Once you're all caught up, come on back and continue the literary dragon festivities.

If you've been here before – or if you're new and back now from catching up on things – you're probably itching to get started, so scroll on down to see what's in store today:

Drawing courtesy of Chez Wheedleton's resident dragon expert:  Lovely Girl

Each book featured in this series deals with dragons on its own terms; in some, dragons are central to the story, and in others, less so. But reading any or all of these books is a wonderful and fun way to appreciate a dragon. 

For Part 2 of 5, we have three more dragon books to share: one picture book, and two middle grade books. All three have never before been seen here at Bugs and Bunnies (and we wonder how on earth we've missed them all this time):

Not Your Typical Dragon
Written by Dan Bar-el
Illustrated by Tim Bowers
Ages 3 and up

Crispin Blaze is about to turn seven. When the day finally comes, the little dragon sits in front of his birthday cake, excited to light his very own candles with his very own firebreath for the very first time. But when he opens his mouth, all that comes out is...whipped cream! Crispin's father is angry. His mother is worried. His sister is thrilled. (She loves whipped cream.) So his parents take him to the doctor, and Crispin tries again: Bandaids! At fire-breathing practice after school, he tries a third time: Marshmallows!

Despairing that he will ever be a "real dragon," and fearing his family's disappointment, Crispin runs away and hides in a dark cave. Soon, along comes Sir George – a frightened young knight who can't return home without fighting a fire-breathing dragon. He offers to help Crispin find his fire, which they are certain will solve both of their problems. But after a long day of experimenting, they are no closer to their goal, and Sir George takes the little dragon home to his worried parents.

Then who shows up at Crispin's house but Sir George's angry father, the king, who demands an explanation for Sir George's presence there. When he hears about Crispin's predicament, the king laughs, which makes Crispin's father angry. Things soon get very hot indeed, and it seems like all is about to be lost. And then, Crispin feels a bubbling in his belly. So he opens his mouth. But will what comes out be the one thing they need to fix this?

The Last Dragon
Written by Silvana De Mari
Translated from the Italian by Shaun Whiteside
Ages 10 and up

Yorsh is an orphan elf, born lately, and the last of his kind. Humans have forced the elves into the harsh life of the Elf Camps, believing the elves were to blame for the unpleasant turn that life in the world has taken: Everyone is cold, wet, and plagued by hunger. When the rains flood Yorsh's home, his grandmother, who is unable to save herself, commands him to run. So he does.

Trying to survive out in the larger world on his own, Yorsh is on the brink of failure when he comes into the reluctant company of a human woman named Sajra and her unnamed dog. The three are soon joined by an even more reluctant human man named Monser. But these are dangerous times, and the trio are nearly killed in the city of Daligar when Yorsh is recognized as an elf. During their escape, Yorsh discovers a prophesy carved into the stone arches of the city, which says in part that the last elf must find the last dragon, for only when the two meet can the darkness be driven from the world.

Their journey to find the dragon is long and fraught with danger, and when they find him, Sajra, Monser, and the dog Yorsh has named Fido, travel on to make their own lives. Yorsh stays behind, tending to the dragon's every need, all the time believing the prophesy has been fulfilled. Thirteen years later, Yorsh discovers that though he is the elf named in the prophesy, the dragon is not the old one he's been caring for all these years.

It's the new one in the egg about to hatch. And the prophesy is only just beginning.

Dragon Keeper
Written by Carole Wilkinson
Ages 8 - 12

In China, at the remote Imperial Palace at Huangling Mountain, lives a nameless girl, whose only friend is a rat named Hua. She was sold as a slave by her parents long ago to Master Lan, the lazy Imperial Dragon Keeper who neglects the last two imprisoned dragons in his care. When one of the dragons dies, the slave girl determines to better care for the surviving dragon and the dragon stone he so carefully guards.

Over the next several weeks, the dragon's health begins to improve under the girl's care. But then the Emperor pays an unexpected visit, during which the slave girl learns of his plans to sell the sole remaining dragon to a hunter with plans to kill it for further profit. In the slave girl's panicked attempt to help the dragon flee, she finds herself caught up in his escape. Eventually, the dragon convinces the girl to leave behind her miserable existence at the palace and travel with him on his quest to get the dragon stone to a place he calls "Ocean." The journey is long and full of dangers, during which they face both friend and foe alike.

Along the way, the girl learns that she has always had a name, and it is Ping. She learns that the dragon has had many names, but his real name is Long Danzi. She learns that the dragon stone is more than it appears to be. And she learns that she is far more than the nameless, helpless slave girl she had always thought herself to be.

* * *

And so ends Part 2 of 5. Be sure to come back next Friday, January 17th, for Part 3 of 5, when we'll present three more books to further celebrate our Literary Appreciation of Dragons.

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24. A Literary Appreciation of Dragons 2014 - Part 1 of 5

Today is the first Friday in January, which means it's time to begin the Second Annual Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons!

Drawing courtesy of Chez Wheedleton's resident dragon expert:  Lovely Girl

If you're new here, you'll probably want some backstory...
A Literary Appreciation of Dragons is a series where we feature books with some sort of dragon connection, with posts appearing each Friday in January. It began here at Bugs and Bunnies as part of our 2012 observance of Appreciate a Dragon Day - a holiday celebrated annually on January 16th. The day officially came into being ten years ago, courtesy of author Donita K. Paul, to celebrate the release of her novel, DragonSpell (Waterbrook Press, 2004). Want more details? Click on any of the links above for all kinds of dragony fun. When you've had your fill, come on back here, and we'll get started with this year's bookish dragon festivities.

Back now? Fabulous! Let's get to it, shall we?
Since there are five Fridays in January this year, we'll have five fab days to post about all sorts of dragon books, from picture books to middle grade to young adult.

Today's post features three books. The first has been seen here on Bugs and Bunnies once before, as part of 2013's Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series (Installment #15). The second is a classic I found at my local library, and the third is one our very own Lovely Girl loved so much she wrote the summary herself. Each book featured in this series deals with dragons on its own terms; in some, dragons are central to the story, and in others, less so. But reading any or all of these books is a wonderful and fun way to appreciate a dragon:    

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Written by Catherynne M. Valente
Illustrations by Ana Juan
Ages 10 and up

Twelve-year-old September is a young girl living an ordinary life in Nebraska, and she is quite tired of it. The Green Wind notices, and decides to swoop in through her kitchen window and offer her an escape. September jumps at the chance, joining the Green Wind on his Leopard of Little Breezes and trying her best to listen to the rules she must follow as they fly on to Fairyland. But the Green Wind can take her only to the border.

Once there, a surly gnome named Betsy Basilstalk pushes September through, but not before flinging some golden jelly in her eyes so she can see Fairyland as it actually is. Once in Fairyland, September encounters witches named Hello, Goodbye, and Manythanks (one of whom is a wairwulf – not to be confused with a werewolf). They send her on a quest to retrieve Goodbye's spoon, stolen from her nine years before by the Marquess – an individual quite young yet greatly feared by those in Fairyland. In return, September asks the witches for safe passage back to her home, as well as a favor as yet unnamed.

Bargain struck, September sets off. Along the way, she befriends a "wyverary" named A-Through-L (who believes he has a wyvern for a mother, and a library for a father), a marid named Saturday, and a 112-year-old living paper lantern named Gleam, who all journey with her at one time or another. And it's a good thing she has them, because this quest that she hoped would be very straightforward? Turns out to be anything but.

My Father's Dragon
Written by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett
Ages 8-12

Elmer Elevator is a young boy with a kind heart who takes in an old stray cat in need of a warm place to sleep and a full stomach. The cat tells Elmer about a captive baby dragon he had met once on faraway Wild Island. The dragon is chained to a post so he cannot not fly away, and he is forced to ferry the island's lazy wild animals back and forth across the river. When Elmer hears this, well, what do you think he does?

That's right – he decides to find that poor baby dragon and set him free. The journey, the old cat warns him, will not be easy: First, Elmer must stow away on a ship for the long trip. Once he finds the island, he will face dark nights, and dangerous animals who won't be pleased at losing their means of river crossing. Despite the dangers, Elmer packs a knapsack with supplies and off he goes, determined to save that dragon.

The Last Dragonslayer
Written by Jasper Fforde
Ages 10-14
*summary written by Lovely Girl

Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange has her hands full enough already with trying to manage the forty-five sorcerers, movers, soothsayers, shifters, weather-mongers, carpenteers, and other assorted magical artisans at Kazam Mystical Arts Management, especially now that magic is fading. Things get a lot more complicated when pre-cognitives across the Ununited Kingdoms begin to have premonitions that the last dragon, Maltcassion, will die the next Sunday at the hands of a Dragonslayer.

Now, people from across the world are converging on the edge of the Dragonlands between the Kingdom of Hereford and the Duchy of Brecon in hopes of snatching up free property after the dragon's death, and sorcerers everywhere are whispering of the approach of Big Magic.

Jennifer is thrust right in the middle of things when she's named the Last Dragonslayer. She is now expected to mediate a war, and balance all of her media appearances, product endorsements, and marriage proposals. And on top of all that, she must slay the dragon Maltcassion. There's just one problem: She doesn't want to kill him.

* * *

Wasn't that a ton of dragon-appreciative fun? Be sure to come back next Friday, January 10th, for Part 2 of 5, with three more books full of literary dragon adventures!

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25. First Foray into Vector Drawing

Two years ago today, I was teaching myself to use a tablet to draw digitally on my computer – a first for me. I am pleased to report that despite a not-so-smooth initial learning curve, I'm enjoying digi-drawing immensely.

This year, I'm expanding my digi-drawing horizons: trying my hand at some very rudimentary vector drawing. Happily, there was considerably less hair-pulling-out, and – thanks to much-appreciated auto-save settings  – absolutely no loss of work. Altogether a much more enjoyable learning process:

And so, this most fashionable snowlady and I wish you and yours a very Happy, very Productive New Year.

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