Tag Archives: poetry

Themed Third Thursday: My Bin of Books


So, illness and vacations kept us away from the library this past month, but that doesn’t mean that we didn’t have plenty to read! This month, I’ll give you a glimpse into my living room where there is always a bin of child-chosen books ready to read! (There’s not enough space in a single blog entry to cover the books on the shelf in the kids’ closet or the giant IKEA shelving unit in my bedroom…)

Knuffle Bunny, by Mo WillemsKnuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, by Mo Willems (2004): The first book we purchased for GirlChild while she was still in utero, Knuffle Bunny’s tale of a beloved stuffed animal, mundane family tasks, and a child’s first words pretty much makes me cry every time still. GirlChild reads it to BoyChild now, and he chimes in for the “WAAAAA!” and points out facial expressions. We have three Scholastic videos of Mo Willems’ works (including this one), and the book and video remain favorites.

Margret & H.A. Rey’s Curious George’s Curious George's First Day of SchoolFirst Day of School, illustrated in the style of H.A. Rey by Anna Grossnickle Hines (2005): George goes to school on the first day to be a special helper, and he does help with many things. When he “helps” mix the paint, though, he makes a big mess. George feels bad about the mess, and the children feel bad for George, so they all chip in to help clean up the mess. George is invited to come back any time.

Alphabet RescueAlphabet Rescue, by Audrey Wood and Bruce Wood (2006): Charley’s Alphabet decides to take a trip to Alphabet City (where they were made) while Charley takes a trip to visit his grandparents. The lower case letters set out to try to rescue things with a little firetruck they fix up (after their first attempt at practicing fire-fighting with the capital letters fails), and they help M, u, and d wash a car and rescue c, a, and t from a tree. When the capital letters in their firetruck blow a tire as they head toward a fire at the letter-making factory, the little letters invite the capitals on board their truck and race to the fire. They rescue all the trapped letters, and the city throws a celebratory parade in their honor. They then return home to Charley to help him write his thank-you note to his grandparents for a good trip.

Alphabet Under Construction, Alphabet Under Construction, by Denise Flemingby Denise Fleming (2002): Mouse is very industrious, and he goes through the alphabet doing things like airbrushing the A, carving the C, and erasing the E. Uses a good variety of craft and construction related verbs with illustrations to help show the meaning of the words. The art is unusual in that it was “created by pouring colored cotton fiber through hand-cut stencils.” The last page shows Mouse’s work schedule calendar on which he has crossed off all the letters.

Barbie: Horse Show ChampBarbie: Horse Show Champ (Step Into Reading, Step 1, Ready to Read), by Jessie Parker, illustrated by Karen Wolcott (2009): Barbie gets out of bed on the day of the horse show, eats a big breakfast, and brings an apple to her horse, Tawny. Barbie prepares Tawny and herself for the show and tells her she hopes they win a blue ribbon. Tawny does well until she shies at a jump, but she tries again for Barbie and makes it. They end up with a white ribbon and a trophy.

How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read?, How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read?by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague (2003): Although learning to read can be frustrating and requires following some basic book-care rules, little dinosaurs who stick with it and treat books respectfully learn to love to read!

Product DetailsWhisper the Winged Unicorn: Journey to Julie’s Heart, concept by Amber Milligan, written by Christopher Brown and Jill Wolf, illustrated by Tom Kinarney (1986): Although this was published when I was but a wee lass, I have to admit that I do not recall having read this book. (It belonged to GirlChild’s aunt and came to our house with a collection of other old books from Grandma and Grandpa Florida [not their real names, clearly].) GirlChild, however, loves it enough to keep it upstairs with the books for frequent perusal, and I’m betting that the fact that 1980s cover illustration might make a little girl’s heart feel all warm and snuggly, along with a winged unicorn as a main character and Julie’s father being a veterinarian like GirlChild’s probably round out the reasons why a not-too-picky reader would choose this one as a current favorite. (The image here is not the same book, but it is the same series. If you click the image, though, it will bring you to a customer image of the actual book we have!)

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovelby Virginia Lee Burton (1939): It doesn’t matter to BoyChild that steam shovels have gone out of style…he loves any books about diggers! In this classic title, Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne, look for jobs to do when steam shovels are being replaced by electric and gasoline and Diesel shovels, and they find one in Popperville digging the cellar for the new town hall. They work faster and better as they collect an audience, and as the sun sets, they finish…but find themselves deep in the cellar without a way to get out. The people of Popperville decide to let them stay, Mary Anne converted to a furnace for the town hall and Mike as the janitor, and they live happily ever after right where they did their last digging job.

Lalaloopsy: Chasing RainbowsLalaloopsy: Chasing Rainbows, by Jenne Simon, illustrated by Prescott Hill (2014): Several of the inhabitants of Lalaloopsyland are spending a rainy day indoors when the rain stops and a rainbow appears. They have heard that there are surprises at the ends of rainbows, so they go out looking. Each time they think they’ve found the end of the rainbow, they encounter another friend who joins them as they see that the rainbow actually continues. Eventually they run into Bea, the resident librarian, and she tells them that a rainbow is actually a circle, so they’ll never find the end. (This, contrary to other things Bea finds in her library, is actually true.) They decide to celebrate the rainbow with a picnic even though they never found the end.

Cars 2: Travel Buddies, Travel Buddiesillustrated by Andrew Jimenez, Harley Jessup, and Jason Merck (2012): Lightning McQueen and Mater take a “shortcut” on the way home from the race in London, and they end up visiting ten different countries before finally arriving back on the mainland and home.

Doggies, by Sandra BoyntonDoggies: A Counting and Barking Book, by Sandra Boynton (1984): Ten different dogs (and one cat!) and a variety of different dog noises make up the pages of this silly counting book by my favorite board book author! BoyChild, despite aging out of the board book crowd at age three and a half, still loves to hear me woof my way through this one!

My Big Book of Trucks & Diggers, My Big Book of Trucks & Diggersby Caterpillar (2011): It might be clear that BoyChild is the one home most often to read books in the living room by this selection of titles, and this book is no exception. Each spread shows a different work vehicle with four smaller images of different labeled parts of that digger or truck on the facing page. Nothing makes BoyChild happier than knowing the specific words for obscure things, and this book is the reason that “ess-cuh-vay-tor” was one of his first multi-syllabic words after turning two!

Mele the Crab Finds the Way OutMele the Crab Finds the Way Out, written by Gail Omoto with Jan and Judy Dill, illustrated by Garrett Omoto (2007): Financed by a grant from the United States Department of Education and as a publication of the Partners in Development Foundation, this Hawaiian book is a story-with-a-moral. It tells of Mele (“merry”) the Crab who is used to getting her way by force, and she doesn’t care who she hurts to do it. When she gets caught by fishermen and put in a bucket with other crabs, she is frightened because they fight against her escape. When she remembers what her grandmother taught her about putting others first, she comes up with a plan to help the others out first, then escape herself. When she learns to put others first, she discovers the joy of friendship and taking turns. This book was purchased by GirlChild’s globe-trotting aunt (the same one with the winged unicorn book in her childhood library) while she was in Hawaii and comes with an audio cd of the story as well (which helps since Hawaiian words aren’t all easy to pronounce!).

Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!, Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!, by Mo Willemswords and pictures by Mo Willems (2006): The preschool-like Pigeon is supposed to be getting to bed, but he comes up with all kinds of excuses and reasons why he doesn’t need to…until he conks out mid-explanation! Like every Mo Willems book, tons and tons of fun for little listeners–my children like to read this one together.

Llama Llama Misses MamaLlama Llama Misses Mama, by Anna Dewdney (2009): GirlChild got this one almost two years ago, but they like hearing Llama Llama read aloud almost as much as their mama likes reading it! Llama Llama is dramatically upset about being left for the first time at preschool, but he comes to realize that it’s okay to like school and your mama!

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, Product Detailsby Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld (2011): Quite possibly BoyChild’s favorite book (he found it at the library at the same time as he found the Trucks & Diggers book, and we had to get them both for him at Christmas that year because the library’s copy was always at our house!), this story tells about the diggers getting ready for bed after a hard day’s work at the construction site. He can quote vast sections of it as he pages through on his own due to frequent rereadings with anyone he can snag!

Mudshark, by Gary PaulsenMudshark, by Gary Paulsen (2009): This book was a gift from Santa at GirlChild’s Breakfast with Santa at school, and we haven’t read it yet. It’s not in the same vein as Hatchet and many of Paulsen’s other works, but this one seems funnier and less dramatic than those and well suited for a younger readership (but probably still older than my kids) than some of those intense titles. We’ll give it a whirl before it gets relegated to the boxes with my boxes of fifth grade classroom books, though!

Viking Ships at Sunrise (Magic Tree House #15), Viking Ships at Sunrise (Magic Tree House #15)by Mary Pope Osborne (1998): I’ve not actually read this one (it was another gift from Santa at GirlChild’s Breakfast with Santa), but, like every other Magic Tree House book, it uses fantasy and time travel to help young children explore history and legend. Peppered with facts and trivia and with an extra list of facts at the end, if a child is particularly interested in a topic in one of these books, many of them have associated research guides for further factual information! I haven’t yet gotten GirlChild into these books, but I’m hoping to do so…historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and fantastical historical fiction is a great way for kids to ease into the craziness of history!

Besides the books, we also have several magazine subscriptions in the bin: American Girl, Clubhouse Jr., Highlights, and High Five!

While you may not care for all the titles we have here (and you can probably tell which of these aren’t my personal favorites!), it’s always great to have a selection of books for browsing out and available so your children get used to the presence of books in their lives and it’s easy to just grab something and get sucked in!





1 Comment

Filed under theme

A Pirate’s Twelve Days of Christmas, by Philip Yates, illustrated by Sebastià Serra

A Pirate's Twelve Days of Christmas

A Pirate’s Twelve Days of Christmas, by Philip Yates, illustrated by Sebastià Serra (2012)

For this fifth review of Christmas, I decided to go to the silly side…and there is very little sillier than a bunch of grinning pirates surprising the cabin boy with a variety of pirate-y gifts!

After a few rhyming couplets to introduce the story (the crew of a pirate ship leaves the cabin boy behind during “Christmastide” so they can go plunder and he can swab the decks), the song begins. The cabin boy wakes on the first morning to find a parrot in a palm tree (and the pirate responsible for the gift is grinning and hiding behind a barrel) and is inspired to sing! The second day, two cutlasses are added to his stash and his song (and that pirate is peeking up over the side of the ship). On the third day, three black cats arrive (and you can see their footprints coming from behind a tree where another pirate is hiding to watch her gift be received). Each day, another gift is added, another pirate (and you can identify them all from the small boats leaving the pirate ship at the beginning of the story) is watching gleefully as the cabin boy enjoys his surprise, and the scene gets crazier and crazier! Finally, on the twelfth day, the twelve absentee pirates themselves show up and wish the cabin boy a merry Christmas. They weigh anchor and head to bed so that “jolly ol’ Sir Peggedy” and his sleigh can visit. (There’s also a glossary in the back to help define any unfamiliar pirate terms!)

The illustrations for this book were drawn in “pencil and ink on parchment paper and then digitally colored.” The characters have almost a wooden doll look to them, and the progressive craziness fits the mood and contents of the book very well. There is so much to see in each picture that a simple read-through will not be enough for most young readers, and they will certainly want to spend time with the book on their own looking through all the pages.

GirlChild and BoyChild’s Reactions: Both GirlChild and BoyChild enjoyed this book. Thankfully, they have heard enough of me singing silly songs not to find my choral presentation off-putting, and GirlChild even joined in since she’s familiar with the tune (and can read along with the words). They both loved looking for the gifting pirate hiding somewhere in the picture before we moved on to the next round of gifts. We started by counting the items as they were added, but the pictures soon got so wild that we just went on singing instead. I’m sure that they will continue to find new silly parts in each picture as they reread the book on their own. Be prepared to burst into song with a pirate-y gusto when you share this read-aloud with kids from preschool to elementary age!

(The author and illustrator also teamed up on A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas, and it looks just as silly!)



Filed under Uncategorized

Themed Third Thursday: Grandparents Edition

My father officially retired at the beginning of this month after about a billion years (more or less–probably less) working for a local John Deere store. (Both GirlChild and BoyChild know that–in our family, at least!–the only real tractor is a stunning green!) In honor of his newly-free grandparenthood, I’m reviewing books this month about grandparents! (Also, this gives you tons of time to find that perfect book about grandparents before Grandparents’ Day in September!)

How to Babysit a GrandpaHow to Babysit a Grandpa, by Jean Reagan, illustrated by Lee Wildish (2012): As every little boy knows, sometimes he will have to babysit his grandfather. (*winkwink*) This little boy gives tips for what to do when a grandpa arrives (hide, then surprise him!), how to entertain him, what to feed him, and what to do during his naptime. Even BoyChild knows that you can’t just wait for a grandpa to wake up–you might have to yell, “Wake up, sleepyhead!” or crow, “Croc-o-dile-doo!” (BoyChild still isn’t great with the cockadoodledoo noise…) so that you can get cleaned up before your parents return! Saying goodbye is made easier when you give hugs and kisses, a picture you drew as a gift, and a request to babysit again soon. Cute illustrations complement the realistic depictions of what might go on in a little boy’s head while a grandpa is babysitting. I just might have to buy this book for BoyChild and his grandpas to read together, especially since my parents will be staying with our kids for a few days next month! (Also recently published by the author, How to Babysit a Grandma!)

Spot Visits his Grandparents, Spot Visits his Grandparentsby Eric Hill (1995): A typical Spot lift-the-flap book, this book follows Spot as he visits his grandparents and gets into some mischief with his grandfather (which they hide from his grandmother) while they are outside working in the garden and playing. Spot happens to find a ball in the garden that had belonged to his mother, and he happily shares his discovery with her when he returns home.

The Napping HouseThe Napping House, by Audrey Wood and Don Wood (1984): The cumulative nature of the story, where everything starts on a rainy day with a napping house and a cozy bed, leads to listener participation and prediction, and the illustrations (gently listing toward the reader as each page is turned, a subtle shift in perspective I didn’t even notice until almost the end of the book) provide comprehension clues and endless detail that make rereadings even more fun. This classic book has aged beautifully–while many children’s books get dated because of the illustrations, these are absolutely timeless! This was actually the first time I read this book to my children (I don’t know why!), and GirlChild was the first to be able to predict which napper would join the pile next, but BoyChild’s sharp eyes were the ones who figured out the flea! (GirlChild also predicted that the bed would break…but she was several pages too early in her prediction. 🙂 )

My Pop Pop and Me, My Pop Pop and Meby Irene Smalls, illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson (2006): Onomatopoeia, repetition, and rhyme characterize this book about a little boy baking with his beloved Pop Pop. The illustrations are brimming over with the joyful togetherness of boy and grandfather, and they even clean up after themselves! The book includes a recipe for the Lemon Bar Cake Bake that they are making together in the book. The author has also written My Nana and Me, but I wasn’t able to find a copy of that title to review!

I'm Going to Grandma'sI’m Going to Grandma’s, by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke (2007): The little girl who is going to Grandma’s is very excited and enjoys time with her grandma and grandpa and the puppy, but she starts to get nervous as bedtime nears. Her grandmother shares with her the story of the patchwork quilt on her bed, how it was made by her grandmother’s grandmother out of pieces of outgrown clothing, and each patch had a story to tell. The little girl then peacefully drifts off to sleep, dreaming of a story quilt all her own. The rhyme scheme in this book has an AAAB, CCCB, DDDB continuing pattern throughout (each page ending with a word that rhymes with “night”), so it would likely make a good mentor text for teaching that sort of continuity in a multi-stanza poem. Mary Ann Hoberman is also the author of the You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You books and several poetry compilations.

Sleepover at Gramma’s House, Sleepover at Gramma's Houseby Barbara Joose, illustrated by Jan Jutte (2010): A little elephant girl is really excited to go visit her gramma because they “love each other so.” She and her grandmother do all sorts of silly and irresponsible things together, and they end the day sitting on the porch swing listening to a summer storm because “the very best way to fall asleep is inside a hug.” I would recommend this as a read-aloud suitable for preschoolers to early elementary, but the unusual vocabulary and flow of the text and the punctuation irregularities might make it difficult for the intended audience to read independently.

Grandpa GreenGrandpa Green, by Lane Smith (2011): Lane Smith may be best known for his illustrations for books by Jon Scieszka (at least to me!), but he is also the author-illustrator of other titles, like The Happy Hocky Family and It’s a Book. This book–a 2012 Caldecott Honor recipient–is very different from his usual bizarre humor, however. It is written as a child telling about his great-grandfather’s life, but the life events are illustrated as topiary trees that the boy is helping tend in an elaborate garden. The great-grandfather apparently uses the garden to help him remember the things that his advanced age would otherwise cause him to forget. The last touching illustration shows the little boy beginning to create his own topiary to help him remember: a life-sized version of his great-grandfather.

What! Cried Granny: An Almost Bedtime Story, What! Cried Grannyby Kate Lum, pictures by Adrian Johnson (1998): Patrick goes to his granny’s house for an overnight trip, but as Granny tries to send him to bed, he realizes he’s missing one thing after another–from a bed to a teddy bear–and his overzealous grandmother hand-crafts each missing item in this tall-tale of a bedtime delay story. (She actually shears some sheep, spins the yarn, knits a blanket, and dyes it when it becomes clear he has no blanket to tuck under his chin.) In the end, he’s lacking nothing…but it’s already daylight again. Poor Granny. (BoyChild didn’t like that she cries at the end!)

Singing with Momma LouSinging with Momma Lou, by Linda Jacobs Altman, illustrations by Larry Johnson (2002): Tamika doesn’t really like visiting Momma Lou in the nursing home every Sunday. Momma Lou used to be her confidante, but now that her grandmother is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, she has to remind Momma Lou who she is every time she comes in. After one particularly unhappy visit, Tamika’s father shares with her a scrapbook of her grandmother’s photographs and newspaper clippings, and Tamika decides to try to connect with her again through these mementos. She starts with the picture of Momma Lou holding Tamika as a baby and ends with sharing the clipping of Momma Lou and fellow protesters in jail after a civil rights demonstration. After that last one, Momma Lou no longer has any lucid moments, but Tamika takes the memory of that clipping and sings “We Shall Overcome,” the song they sang in jail and in the nursing home sitting room as they remembered the event, to make herself feel happier when she’s sad.

Zero Grandparents (A Jackson Friends Book), Zero Grandparentsby Michelle Edwards (2001): Second grader Calliope James is unhappy to find that her class will be celebrating Grandparents Day the next week since she no longer has any grandparents. She struggles with her feelings of embarrassment and exclusion, refusing her friends’ offers to share their grandparents with her. Finally, she finds a solution in sharing about one of her grandmothers, the one whom she most resembles and whose picture and belongings she brings to class with her, and her friends’ grandmothers tell her how proud her grandma would have been of her. The second of three books in the Jackson Friends series.

Whether your child calls his or her grandparents Grandma and Grandpa, Meemaw and Pawpaw, Nana and Papa, Oma and Opa, or any regional, language, or family variation in between, sharing these books about grandparents is a great way to keep their grandparents fresh in their minds and on their hearts! (There are a million other great books about grandparents out there, I know! Share some of your favorites in the comments!)

Leave a comment

Filed under reader input sought, theme

Themed Third Thursday: The Naughty List Edition

Ever wonder what might qualify you for the Naughty List? The characters in these books might be able to give you a hint!

No, David!, by David ShannonNo, David!, David Shannon (1998): This Caldecott Honor book is David Shannon’s remake of a book he wrote when he was five that his mother sent to him as an adult. The only two words he could spell at the time were “no” and “David,” and he illustrated it with pictures of himself doing naughty things. As the author says in his note, “‘yes’ is a wonderful word…but it doesn’t keep crayon off the living room wall”! David is naughty in several other books of the series as well, such as David Gets in Trouble and It’s Christmas, David! (Just to help prove that naughtiness doesn’t have to stick with you forever, David Shannon is now a prolific and successful author and illustrator and probably no longer draws in crayon on the walls…)

Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak(originally 1963, 2012): Some little boys get into enough mischief to make their parents call them wild things…and win Caldecott Medals. Like many naughty children, Max has a vivid imagination and–after being sent to his room without supper for his wild behavior–goes on a grand adventure but gets lonely for “someone [who] loved him best of all,” someone who keeps his supper hot and waiting for him for when he’s done being wild. (That’s always good for a little mischief-maker to remember, that their parents love them even when they’re in trouble!)

Miss Nelson Is Missing!, by Harry Allard and James MarshallMiss Nelson Is Missing!, by Harry Allard and James Marshall (1977): The classic story of a classroom full of unruly students who come to appreciate their sweet-tempered teacher after a terrible substitute, Miss Viola Swamp, fills in for her one day. (I actually used this book as inspiration one year when I was having a tough time with a hard-to-manage class. I wore black business suits, my hair in a tight bun, and no smiles for a while, and it actually worked! I read them this book when my behavior modification period was over. 🙂 ) Miss Nelson’s class can also be found in Miss Nelson Is Back and Miss Nelson Has a Field Day.

Bad Kitty, by Nick Bruel (2005): Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Bad Kitty (formerly known as “Kitty”)Bad Kitty, by Nick Bruel goes through an entire alphabet of naughtiness to protest the foul menu she’s being offered when the family runs out of food for her. When reparations are made, Kitty does restitution, but then the family brings home a “new friend” for Kitty…a puppy to share her food! “Uh-oh” indeed. Bad Kitty makes an appearance in a number of other titles as well, including Bad Kitty Christmas and Poor Puppy and Bad Kitty.

M Is for Mischief: An A to Z of Naughty Children, by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Nancy CarpenterM Is for Mischief: An A to Z of Naughty Children, by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (2008): This alphabet book of awfulness tells (in poetic form) the misadventures of misled children, from Blustering Buster (who brags about his skills) to Impolite Irma (who irritates everyone in a variety of ways), and often chronicles the unfortunate results of their incorrigible behavior. (Crime doesn’t pay, folks.)

Horrible Harry in Room 2B, by Suzy Kline, pictures by Frank Remkiewicz (1988): Horrible Harry in Room 2B, by Suzy KlineTold from the point of view of his best friend and classmate, Doug, this introduction to Horrible Harry (whose parents hopefully don’t call him that) tells about some of the things that make him horrible. Written for early elementary age students, his pranks (which sometimes backfire) are usually relatively tame and barely seem to merit the title “horrible,” but that makes it a perfect series for a little vicarious mischief without the potential for truly terrible copycat behaviors. Harry can also be found in Horrible Harry and the Christmas Surprise and Horrible Harry and the Dungeon (among many others).

Horrid Henry, by Francesca Simon, illustrated by Tony RossHorrid Henry, by Francesca Simon, illustrated by Tony Ross (2009): Horrid Henry is so outrageously horrid that even his parents call him that. He makes Horrible Harry look like Henry’s younger brother, Perfect Peter (who, I have to say, is dreadfully obnoxious). All the children in these books have alliterative names detailing their usually less-than-charming character traits, and Horrid Henry’s antics are so over-the-top that I doubt anyone would try to emulate him. (I hope.) As I mentioned in my review of the tooth fairy book in this series, it’s not really my cup of tea, but the vocabulary and imagery are major positives for this distressing series (which is apparently wildly popular in the UK)! Horrid Henry also appears in Horrid Henry’s Underpants and Horrid Henry’s Stinkbomb.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara RobinsonThe Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson (originally 1971, 2005): Known as The Worst Kids in the World in several countries outside the US, this book features the Herdmans, a brood of foul-mouthed, belligerent, neglected children who strike fear in the hearts of their classmates and adults alike. When they show up at church (because they heard they served snacks) and insert themselves into the Christmas pageant, everyone is afraid that they’re going to ruin everything, but their curiosity and wonder about the story so many have begun to take for granted instead open the minds and hearts of the regulars and the Christmas story–as it should all of us–begins to change the Herdmans, too. Kids will probably mostly enjoy the outrageous behavior of the Herdmans, but adults will have a hard time finishing the story without shedding a tear or two. Although it’s impossible to top the original, the Herdmans also star in a few other books, including The Best School Year Ever and The Best Halloween Ever.

Artemis Fowl, by Eoin ColferArtemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer (2001): Artemis Fowl is a 12-year-old boy who is so naughty it’s criminal. No, literally: he’s a juvenile criminal mastermind who has taken over his father’s illegal empire in his absence. In this first book of the series, he makes plans to kidnap a fairy and demand the ransom to help rebuild the family fortune, but Holly may be more than even he bargained for. Like most naughty children, even the smart ones, he’s got a lot of growing to do, and he begins to question the way he does business and interacts with those around him. The story continues through a number of books, a true combination of sci-fi and fantasy (falling squarely into the speculative fiction genre), including Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident and Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code.

Now that I’ve shared some examples of true naughtiness, here’s a quote from the movie Fred Claus to get you thinking: “That Naughty-Nice List that you got? There’s no naughty kids, Nick. They’re all good kids. But some of them are scared. And some of them don’t feel listened to. Some of them had some pretty tough breaks too. But every kid deserves a present on Christmas.” No matter how naughty, every kid deserves love and a chance to put their energy to good use, so give it to them! You’ll be surprised at how not-naughty so many of them will become!

1 Comment

Filed under theme

Themed Third Thursday: Poetry Edition

Well, April is apparently National Poetry Month, so instead of the Jon Scieszka feature I was planning (which will just come later!), you get poetry books! One year when I was  a fifth grade teacher, we did a Poetry Café once a quarter. Each child either wrote or selected a published poem to perform for their classmates and parents, and we had refreshments afterward in the classroom. It was great fun! Here are a few books of poetry and poems that I had in my classroom back in the day that are still great to share with kids!

Where the Sidewalk Ends: 30th Anniversary Special Edition, by Shel Silverstein (2004): While my favorite Shel Silverstein poem is “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out” (which is in this volume), “Almost Perfect” from A Light in the Attic is a close second. Illustrated in the author’s signature style, some of the poems almost require the image for the poem to be clear, but many of the silly rhymes are meant to tickle the funny bones of children of all ages and are great for read-alouds as well. Not every poem is strictly proper or particularly school-appropriate, but the books as a whole are great reading material for children who need some encouragement to enjoy poetry.

It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles, by Jack Prelutsky, drawings by James Stevenson (2005): Intended for all elementary ages, these silly poems play with language and are great for young readers just getting into poetry (although some of the vocabulary is pretty advanced). This duo also composed A Pizza the Size of the Sun and The New Kid on the Block. While I personally prefer Silverstein, these relatively slim volumes drew the attention of many readers in my classrooms over the years!

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Eric Beddows (2004): Originally published in time to receive the 1989 Newbery Medal, this book of poetry is meant to be read aloud! Some of my students chose a choral reading from this book to perform with a friend, and they require extensive practice for young readers. I would often perform the “Whirligig Beetles” poem (they’re all about bugs!) aloud with a willing volunteer as an example, and it really is harder than it seems like it ought to be! Great for shared reading for increased fluency, this is just one of several similar books by the author, including I Am Phoenix: Poems for Two Voices and Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices.

Love that Dog, by Sharon Creech (2001): In this novel, Jack, a boy in Miss Stretchberry’s class, uses his class journal to express his distaste for reading and writing poetry…ironically, in free verse. Through assigned poetry readings and writings, Jack discovers that poetry might not just be for girls, particularly when he reads Walter Dean Myers’ “Love that Boy,” which inspires him to open up his feelings in a tribute poem entitled “Love that Dog” about his family dog that was killed by a car. Perfect for middle to upper elementary readers, this is a novel way to introduce a reluctant student to poetry (or just to use in a classroom as an example of reading responses, free verse, and inspiration from other texts). (I used this in a small reading group with fifth graders when I was teaching. After sharing this book with my group, I ordered a couple additional Creech titles for my classroom, Heartbeat and Granny Torrelli Makes Soup, that were also good reads for different reasons.)

Locomotion, by Jacqueline Woodson (2005): Eleven-year-old Lonnie Collins Motion (aka, Locomotion) has been in foster care since he and his sister lost their parents in a fire when he was just seven. While he is taking part in a poetry unit in class, he begins to find his voice and a way to express all his tough emotions though poetry. I happened upon this book after reading Love that Dog, and there are clear similarities, but this book deals with even more serious topics and is therefore even more heartbreaking and meaningful. Due to the depth of the topics and the need for extensive reading between the lines, I suggest this book for upper elementary and middle school readers. (Although a newer edition of this book is available, I prefer the 2005 paperback cover!)

Okay, it’s clear I prefer funny, rhyming poetry, so does anyone out there have suggestions for elementary readers who prefer beautiful, lyrical poetry or simple haiku or even limericks? I’d love to hear about some of your favorite childhood poetry collections!

1 Comment

Filed under teaching suggestion, theme

Themed Third Thursday: Fun on the Farm

BoyChild is rather fond of tractors and farm animals (he and his grandpa have found a common love of the green machines with the yellow, hoofed mascot), and I thought that–so soon after his second birthday!–it would be fun to feature a topic that he likes for a change! (Also, my uncle is retiring from his dairy farm at the end of this month, so I’m waxing a little nostalgic!) Here is a collection of fiction and nonfiction books with a farm theme for the very youngest readers up through middle school.

Spot Goes to the Farm, by Eric Hill (1987, reissued 2003): In this classic lift-the-flap book in the Spot series, Spot and his dad visit a farm to meet the new babies. Little readers learn the names of baby animals as they lift the flaps. A basic book for toddlers.

Moo Moo, Brown Cow, by Jakki Wood, illustrated by Rog Bonner (1991): With predictable repetition and animal noises, the kitty asks each animal if they have any babies (using the appropriate term for each), and they respond affirmatively with a number that grows by one with each asking. Concepts addressed in this board book are animal noises, animal baby names, colors, and counting!

Barnyard Dance!, by Sandra Boynton (1993): “Stomp your feet! Clap your hands! Everybody ready for a barnyard dance!” This is a square dance in board book format, and the animals do-si-do all over the barnyard. Written in Boynton’s standard silly rhyming style, this is a perfect farm book for a toddler or preschool Boyton lover! (Hear the audio version on the Philadelphia Chickens cd!)

Moo, by Matthew VanFleet, pictures by Brian Stanton (2011): The duo that brought you Dog now presents a farm theme! With the same fun rhymes and interactivity, young readers are introduced to proper farm animal names (calf, cow, and bull, for instance), animal sounds, and other related words and actions (like wallowing for the pigs and milking the cow). We don’t own this one yet, but, because of how much both BoyChild and GirlChild love Van Fleet’s other books, it’s on our list!

Tractor Day, by Candice F. Ransom, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant (2007): A little girl joins her daddy for farm chores using the tractor in a book that shows the day from beginning to end. Simple four-line stanzas in an ABCB rhyming pattern describe what is happening on each page. A trio of crows shows up on each spread except for the very last page…where the little girl has a black feather on her nightstand as she sleeps.

Farm Animals (DK Readers), by DK Publishing (2004): This pre-reader level book is meant to be shared with preschoolers who are learning to read and like to follow along. Each spread features a simple sentence, photograph of an animal with its babies, and labels for the animals.

Farm Tractors, by Kristen L. Nelson (2003): This book has all the features of  typical nonfiction and is written at an early reader level, so it is suitable for use with early elementary independent readers. Each page has a photograph of farm machinery or other farm features and one or two simple sentences of text about tractors and their uses on a farm. Preschoolers with an interest in tractors may also enjoy this as a read-aloud.

Senses on the Farm, by Shelley Rotner (2009): Each page has a photograph of a scene on a farm and a basic imperative sentence relating to one of the five senses, such as “Taste the farm-fresh milk.” Good for including a lesson on the senses in a farm themed unit.

The Cow Who Clucked, by Denise Fleming (2006): When Cow loses her moo, she (accompanied by the Chicks of Foreshadowing) sets off across the farm to find out who has it. As she meets each animal, she clucks a greeting, is answered with the appropriate animal sound (except the odd inclusion of “warf” for the dog), and concludes that the animal does not have her moo. At the end of the day, she returns exhausted to the barn and almost ignores Hen…who moos.

Tough Chicks, by Cece Meng, illustrated by Melissa Suber (2009): Penny, Polly, and Molly are no ordinary chicks. While every animal on the farm (and even the farmer!) admonish their mother to make them be good, she knows that they are good…and smart…and tough! When something goes wrong with the tractor and it’s on a collision course with the henhouse, the quick-thinking, quick-moving, tough chicks pop in to solve the problem fast! A very cute story with cute illustrations…and the important message that it’s okay to be a tough chick!

Old MacDonald Drives a Tractor, by Don Carter (2007): Although you may be tempted to try to sing this book to the song (adding the appropriate E-I-E-I-Os where needed), don’t! The rhythm will be completely off as you say words like “cultivator” and “harvester” in the same breath as you would say “cow” in the original! Perfect for young farmers and little ones who want to know exactly what that green machine you pass out in the field is called and what it does!

An Edible Alphabet: 26 Reasons to Love the Farm, by Carol Watterson, illustrated by Michaela Sorrentino (2011): Originally published in Canada under the title Alfalfabet A to Z, The Wonderful Words from Agriculture, this book features a plenitude of farm facts for each letter of the alphabet (including the heading “Stink, Stank, Stunk” for S…to discuss manure and decomposition). Each spread has full-color collage art to add to the fun. While the alphabet concept may make this book seem like a title for young readers, the vast amount of information and more sophisticated vocabulary make this either a good book to share with the kindergarten crowd as a read-aloud or for more advanced independent readers, but any elementary age student with an interest in agriculture would enjoy the information (if he or she could get past the idea that alphabet books are only for “little” kids)!

Mary and Her Little Lamb: The True Story of the Famous Nursery Rhyme, by Will Moses (2011): Oil paintings, some full-spread, accent this simple account of the true story of Mary Elizabeth Sawyer of Sudbury, Massachusetts, and the rejected lamb twin she rescued and befriended as a child. The art reveals beautiful images of a New England farm in the early 1800s, and the text describes Mary’s interactions with the farm animals, particularly the unnamed lamb. The nursery rhyme itself (well, the first stanza) was written by John Roulstone, a visitor to the one-room schoolhouse on the day that Mary’s little lamb followed her to school, and was given to Mary because the writer so enjoyed the event. (By the way, the author/illustrator is none other than the grandson of the artist Grandma Moses!) Independent reading for elementary students, this would make an excellent read-aloud for all ages.

Serious Farm, by Tim Egan (2003): Although this farm and its inhabitants are all very serious, I was giggling by the third page with its illustration of the deadly serious animals. Okay, I was laughing on the first page when Farmer Fred said, “Nothing funny about corn.” The animals decide that they need to do something to get some laughter on the farm, and they do increasingly silly things to try to get Farmer Fred to laugh, but nothing works. Finally, they get so discouraged that they decide to leave. When Farmer Fred discovers they are missing, he is sad, and he sets out to find them. Farmer Fred actually chuckles a little when he finds them in the woods and thinks about them “runnin’ wild” out there, and the animals decide that he’s right about them all needing each other, so they go on home to the serious farm where they can sometimes get Farmer Fred to laugh a little…but never about corn. Available for Kindle and used in hardback and paperback.

A Fairy in the Dairy, by Lucy Nolan, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant (2003): Buttermilk Hollow is starting to suffer population loss, and Farmer Blue confides in Pixie, his favorite cow, that he’s worried about the future of the town now that a toothpick factory is wanting to buy up all the farmland, and he thinks the town needs a fairy godmother to sort things out. Then, strange things start happening, and the dairy business starts to flourish despite Mayor Clabber’s efforts to get others to join him in selling out. The fairy in the dairy gives this dairy town another chance. Full of  cheese-themed puns, this book would be good for early elementary age readers and listeners (particularly those who know their cheeses!).

Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis, by Robbin Gourley (2000): This is a pseudo-biography  of a year in the life of chef Edna Lewis (1916-2006) as a child on a farm with her family. (It’s a work of fiction, but the real Edna Lewis did grow up on a family farm in Freetown, Virginia!) From springtime to the onset of winter, Edna and her family harvest crops and pick berries and share “garden lore” with one another as they work and dream of what they’ll make with the food they pick. The book also contains some of Edna Lewis’ recipes (modified for modern tastes) at the end. This book would make a great read-aloud for any preschool or elementary age, and early elementary to middle elementary readers would enjoy it independently.

Farm (Eyewitness Books), by Ned Halley (1996): Eyewitness Books contain all the features of a nonfiction book, and they are stuffed full of photographs and illustrations with detailed captions for young readers to explore! The history of farming as well as a variety of different kinds of animal husbandry and crop cultivation are covered. Perfect for interested readers in the early elementary grades for independent reading and for simple reference for all elementary ages.

Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams (1952): A Newbery Honor Book in 1952, this classic farm tale tells the story of Wilbur–the runt pig that farm girl Fern rescues as a piglet–and Charlotte–the benevolent barn spider–and their quest to keep Wilbur safe from slaughter as he grows into “some pig.” The 2006 live action film adaptation features Dakota Fanning as Fern and the voice of Julia Roberts as Charlotte.

Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Garth Williams (1953): Originally published in 1933, this book is a fictionalized account of a year in the life of Almanzo Wilder (husband of the author) on a prosperous farm in upstate New York in the late 1800s. I remember that when my mom read this book aloud to us when we were kids, I was constantly hungry because it seems like all his family ever does is eat! Reading the other Little House books (of which series this is a part), I wonder if her focus on the food and relative wealth of the family is because this part of his life was so very different from the hard times Laura grew up experiencing. The main character turns nine in this book, so reading this book with 3rd-5th graders might give them an idea of how very different life is for nine-year-olds now from how it was then! Then again, I’ve never been a child on a farm (well, not since I was a baby), so I don’t know if modern farm kids are as heavily involved in the work of the farm as they were then, so maybe it would only surprise the “city” kids!

Barn Boot Blues, by Catherine Friend (2011): Taylor’s parents unexpectedly move the family from Minneapolis to a farm outside of Melberg to fulfill her mother’s lifelong dream, and Taylor is anything but happy about it. While she likes a few of the friendlier animals, she misses the mall, her friends, and going to school without evidence of the dirty work of a farm on her somewhere. She also misses her parents since her dad still commutes to the city for work and her mom is busy with the constant work needed on the farm, and things don’t seem to be going very well between them either. Taylor finds a sympathetic friend at school who vows to help her with the TEFF project: Taylor Escapes From Farm. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Taylor is willing to do anything–even sacrifice her reputation at school–to get away from the farm that seems to be ruining all their lives. For upper elementary and middle school readers.

And for a couple things completely different…

Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary, poems written by Maya Gottfried, paintings by Robert Rahway Zakanitch (2010): Beautiful, realistic paintings add visual interest to this collection of a variety of poems in different styles “written” by animals from Farm Sanctuary, a sanctuary in for “neglected and abused farm animals” with farms in California and New York. These are very cute poems for independent reading or sharing with even the youngest of listeners, and the illustrations will hold small listeners’ attention while the poems are being read aloud.

1-2-3 Draw: Pets and Farm Animals, by Freddie Levin (2001): One of the how-to-draw books that gives step-by-step instructions for drawing animals (some more simple than others). For budding elementary aged artists.

Leave a comment

Filed under theme