Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Very Best Pumpkin, written by Mark Kimball Moulton, illustrated by Karen Hillard Good

The Very Best Pumpkin, written by Mark Kimball Moulton, illustrated by Karen Hillard Good (2010, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ISBN 978-1-4169-8288-3)

Peter lives at Pumpkin Hollow Farm with his grandparents, and one day he follows a long vine away from the patch and discovers a lonely little pumpkin growing at the end. He takes special care of this little pumpkin while his unnoticed new neighbor, Meg, watches from a distance. In the fall, when all the pumpkins are ready, Peter helps visitors to the farm select just the right pumpkin. Meg comes with her family but has trouble finding just the right pumpkin. In the end, Peter leads Meg to the very best pumpkin out at the end of the very long vine. Meg admits that she has been secretly watching Peter tending this pumpkin all summer, and Peter tells her that he knew it all along and that was why he wanted her to have it. The two become friends (of course) and tend pumpkins together the next year.

This was a very cute, simple story about two apparently shy children becoming friends over a (covertly) shared experience. As the last line of the story says, “And just like the pumpkin, their friendship grew and grew and grew.” For anyone looking for a lesson out of the book, nurturing friendships is one almost as apparent as pumpkin care. (The last page of the book actually has “Peter’s Guide to Growing Your Own Very Best Pumpkin” for anyone wanting a basic tutorial on pumpkin husbandry.) I also loved the vocabulary: curlicue, clambered, rambling…fun, fun words!

My favorite part of this book, however, is the art. It has muted, earthy colors that have a vintage feel despite the simple lines, kind of like the weathered style of scrapbooking and cardmaking, kind of like an old quilt. I peeked at the publication page and was delighted to find that the illustrations were “rendered in watercolors, instant coffee, and bleach”–a definite first in my experience! They are the kind of pictures, sort of like the illustrations in Mathilde and the Orange Balloon, that you could use to decorate a little girl’s room without being overly cutesy or babyish. They feel more hand-crafted than just painted on a two-dimensional surface. Very charming art! (Click on the illustrator’s name above and you can go to her website to see more of her work!)

GirlChild’s Reactions: GirlChild quietly enjoyed this book, and she says she likes the mice and the pictures of Meg the best. (I was kind of surprised she didn’t mention the ladybugs and rosettes that pop up in many of the pictures, but I guess she was concentrating more on the story than on the smaller elements in the pictures.) Afterward, she said she wanted to plant pumpkins, and she paraphrased the page that says, “Big pumpkins, small pumpkins, short pumpkins, tall pumpkins,” adding, “I want to grow all kinds of pumpkins!” Apparently, she also wants to grow them in the front yard…sorry, kiddo. 🙂

Additional titles:
(by the author and illustrator (with different last name))

(by the author and illustrator)

(by the author and illustrator)


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Themed Third Thursday: Weather Edition

Coming from the northern United States and now living in Texas, I find it difficult to explain seasons to GirlChild; around here, leaves sometimes don’t change until December, fall and spring are plenty hot, and winter lasts about two weeks. (Okay, that last bit might be an exaggeration.) One thing we do get to experience is a lot of wild weather, so here are some great books about all different kinds of weather!

Snow Baby: Baby Seasons Board Books

Snow Baby, by Mary Brigid Barrett, illustrated by Eve Chwast (infant/toddler, rhyming verse, board book): Told in rhyming verse, this story tells of Snow Baby’s day in the snow with Gram and Mommy. (Other books in the series are Mud Baby, Beach Baby, and Leaf Baby.)

Little Princess Board Book: Weather (Little Princess Board Books)

Little Princess Board Books: Weather, by Tony Ross (infant/toddler, concept book, board book): This book features a little princess (who doesn’t look like a princess at all, actually, except for wearing that crown in a few illustrations) and presents weather words in paired sentences that express opposites (“The sun is hot. Splash! We are cool.”). Great for teaching little ones weather words and opposites.

The Big Storm: A Very Soggy Counting Book

The Big Storm: A Very Soggy Counting Book, by Nancy Tofuri (toddler/preschool, concept book): This counting book follows ten animals as they escape one by one from a thunderstorm only to find themselves face to face with a couple of sleeping bears!

Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather, by Debi Gliori (preschool/early elementary, rhyming verse): This read-aloud bedtime book gives a comforting picture of animal parents putting their children to bed and sheltering them from all kinds of weather. The illustrations are rich with detail and rather unique.

Stormy Weather? Stick Together (Tales from Duckport, Reading Level 1)

Stormy Weather? Stick Together!, by Suzy Spafford (early elementary, fiction, easy reader): This book contains three short stories for early readers that feature the Suzy’s Zoo characters in rainy weather.

It's Hailing! (Weather Watchers)

Weather Watchers series, by Nadia Higgins, illustrated by Damian Ward (early elementary, nonfiction): I don’t have a copy of one of these on hand, but I found them on Amazon when I was searching for the Weather Watcher’s Library series (a different series for older children featured below). They are written and illustrated for primary age children to educate them about a varity of weather phenomena. Titles include It’s Hailing!, It’s Raining!, It’s Snowing!, It’s a Tsunami!, It’s a Tornado!, and It’s a Thunderstorm!

Weather Words and What They Mean

Weather Words and What They Mean, by Gail Gibbons (elementary, nonfiction): Each new weather word is written in all caps in a speech bubble with a description and an illustration. After the first several general words (temperature, air pressure, moisture, and wind), the book is divided into sections where more specific words in each category are given (such as mild, chilly, and warm in the temperature section). While the format and phrasing is basic, this book goes into enough detail for me to say that it would be useful for all elementary ages (and maybe preschool as a parent/teacher reference).

The Magic School Bus Inside A Hurricane

The Magic School Bus Inside a Hurricane, by Joanna Cole, illustrated by Bruce Degen (elementary, sort-of-nonfiction-ish): At the end of the book, there is a little note from the author and illustrator that reads, “To all readers: Some of the things that happen in this book are make-believe. But of course, all the science is real!” As a teacher, I always loved if I could find a Magic School Bus video to show to help illustrate a science concept because they were fun, memorable, and really, truly informational, and this book is just the same. The Magic School Bus Kicks Up a Storm: A Book About Weather is based on the television series and also includes great general weather information.Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, by Judi Barrett, drawn by Ron Barrett (preschool/elementary, fantasy fiction): One of my childhood favorites, this fun weather fantasy explores what life would be like if our meals were served a la cloud! Independent reading level (middle elementary) is obviously higher than preschool, but preschoolers would love the topic as much as any older child! (Note: The book is almost nothing like the movie, and that’s a perfectly good thing.)

Tornado (Trophy Chapter Book)

Tornado, by Betsy Byars, illustrated by Doron Ben-Ami (early elementary, realistic fiction): When a farm family takes shelter in the cellar as a tornado approaches, their hired man distracts them all by telling stories about his dog Tornado, a dog that landed–doghouse and all–in his family’s yard during a tornado when he was a child. While real weather information is scant, the book does include characters employing basic tornado safety and the distraction technique is a good one to remember!

Tornadoes (Weather Watcher's Library)

The Weather Watcher’s Library series, by Dean Galiano (elementary, nonfiction): This series of weather books includes detailed titles covering information about the formation of certain kinds of weather and any safety information related to the topic. Each includes a table of contents, glossary, list of other books on the topic, and Internet resources such as the National Weather Service website and websites created specifically for kids. The chapters are relatively text-heavy, but they have somewhat large print, occasional photographs and diagrams, and colorful pages to make the presentation less intimidating. Books in this series include Hurricanes, Thunderstorms and Lightning, Tornadoes, and Clouds, Rain, and Snow.

Lost in the Blinded Blizzard (Hank the Cowdog (Quality))

Hank the Cowdog: Lost in the Blinded Blizzard, by John R. Erickson, illustrated by Gerald R. Holmes (upper elementary, fiction, series): This sixteenth book of the Hank the Cowdog series–a humorous adventure/mystery series told in first person by Hank himself–finds Hank facing a blizzard when he needs to deliver medicine to a sick baby.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Books of Wonder)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum (upper elementary, fantasy, series): There’s not much to do with weather in this fantasy classic, but that cyclone plays a pretty important role in getting the action started! Watching the movie is not enough; the books are clever and fun, and they would make great read-alouds for a family with younger children who wouldn’t be able to read them independently.

Weather (Eyewitness Books, No. 28)

Weather (Eyewitness Books), by Brian Cosgrove (elementary, reference): Like all Eyewitness Books, this one features brief written descriptions and many thoroughly captioned photographs, illustrations, and diagrams to explain phenomena from mountain weather to how clouds form. This would be a good book to keep in a home or classroom library for budding meteorologists. (There are newer editions of this title available as well.)

Can it Really Rain Frogs: The World's Strangest Weather Events (Spencer Christian's World of Wonders)

Can It Really Rain Frogs?: The World’s Strangest Weather Events (Spencer Christian’s World of Wonders), by Spencer Christian and Antonia Felix (elementary/middle school, nonfiction): Full of information both typical and amazing, this book contains good information, plenty of trivia, and quite a few weather-related experiments to try.

Janice VanCleave's Weather: Mind-Boggling Experiments You Can Turn Into Science Fair Projects (Janice VanCleave's Spectacular Science Projects)

Janice VanCleave’s Weather: Mind-Boggling Experiments You Can Turn Into Science Fair Projects, by Janice VanCleave (elementary, nonfiction): Janice VanCleave has written several science project books (I had several in my classroom library when I taught fifth grade), and this weather-related title includes twenty projects with complete directions, explanation of the phenomenon, and suggestions for what to do at a science fair with the project. A great place to start when looking for a topic for that yearly science fair if your child is interested in weather!

The Handy Weather Answer Book

The Handy Weather Answer Book, by Walter A. Lyons, Ph.D. (reference, trivia): Written in basic question and answer format, this book is a great reference book for weather-related facts, figures, and trivia. Although it is technically an adult book and is most likely to be used by parents and teachers answering questions about weather–from why we have seasons to what to do if you’re stranded in your car in a blizzard–good middle school readers and above should be able to use the book independently for research or answering all kinds of questions about weather. (There’s apparently a second edition–written by Kevin Hile–that came out in 2009 as well that updates this 2004 edition.)

Weather: A Visual Guide (Visual Guides)

Weather: A Visual Guide, by Bruce Buckley, Edward J. Hopkins, and Richard Whitaker (reference): While the previous book is big on answering questions, this book is big on illustrating phenomena and all other kinds of weather information. Photographs, charts, and diagrams are the main focus of this information-rich reference book for parents and teachers.

Weather Fairies books (Rainbow Magic)

UPDATE 12/1/14: Now that GirlChild is older and reading chapter books, I’ve discovered the Weather Fairies books from the Rainbow Magic series. Not serious weather stories by any means, but weather-related nonetheless!

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