Tag Archives: toddler

The Beasts and Children, Day 11: A Christmas Goodnight

A Christmas Goodnight

A Christmas Goodnight, by Nola Buck, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright (2011)

BoyChild was disappointed that “all it had was goodnight!” I think that’s because he is at the age where he prefers a story with a plot, and this cute book would be a great bedtime book for toddlers and preschoolers at Christmas time!

The book opens with a semi-typical depiction of the nativity scene, different only in that they are pictured in a cave (a more likely traditional setting for a stable than a wooden structure). Like usual (and inaccurate to the Biblical account), the Wise Men are there at the birth with the shepherds. (Just getting my beef with many nativity-based stories out of the way!) From that point, the story is more implied than told, and you don’t really fully understand what’s been happening until the end of the book! The book is, as BoyChild said, a series of goodnights. The words and pictures show a goodnight to (among many others) “the baby in the hay” and “the sleepy mother,” a variety of animals, the angels, and the rest of the nativity story characters. The very next page starts with goodnights to the moon and the cold air (with an appropriate image of a rural nightscape), then moves into a house where we see a family with a young child saying goodnight “again, sweet baby” to the baby Jesus from their nativity set, then finally, “Goodnight–God bless the whole wide world, for tomorrow is Christmas Day!”

If you have very young children, you know that going to bed can involve a lot of goodnights to people and inanimate objects; this story seems to tap into that tendency. My understanding is that the whole story is actually part of the child’s nighttime routine at Christmas: say goodnight to all the pieces in the nativity set before saying goodnight to his own surroundings and the world (with one more goodnight for the baby). The pictures help move the text along in that they start with close-ups of all the characters in the nativity story, then zoom out to show some of the surrounding area, then move away from Bethlehem into the fields. They then transition to the snowy outdoors scene, then to the farmhouse window, then inside the home where you see the parents and child with the nativity set. The very last picture, with the words “for tomorrow is Christmas Day” shows a wide view of a snowy Christmas morning on a farm with a small village in the distance. The publisher’s recommended ages are 4-8, but I think that skews a little old for such a simple bedtime book (at least one that hasn’t become tradition for the child) and would suggest starting a little younger. It is a really adorable book for small ones!

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1960-1969

My list for the 1960s is long…too long. It seems like every iconic picture book, every novel or easy reader I ever picked up off the shelf or was assigned in class during the ’80s and ’90s was published in the 1960s! (That, I must admit, is hyperbole. Maybe half of them, not all. 😉 ) Instead of listing every one with a synopsis, I’m going to do this list in halves–half picture book/easy reader, half novels–and a basic summary. Then you can access the printable book list below for just a list!

[1960 to 1969 book list]

In the news and popular culture during this decade, as found on about.com, including many events from the American Civil Rights Movement:

1960–presidential debates first televised, lunch counter sit-in at Woolworth’s
1961–first man in space (Soviets)
1962–first Wal-Mart opens, first James Bond movie
1963–first Doctor Who episode airs, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech
1964–GI Joe action figure first made, Civil Rights Act passes
1965–U.S. gets involved in Vietnam
1966–Kwanzaa first celebrated, Star Trek first airs
1967–first heart transplant, first Super Bowl, Thurgood Marshall becomes first African-American justice on the Supreme Court
1968–Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated
1969–Neil Armstrong is first man on the moon, Sesame Street airs

Newbery Medalists for the decade:

1960–Onion John, by Joseph Krumgold
1961–Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell
1962–The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare
1963–A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
1964–It’s Like This, Cat, by Emily Neville
1965–Shadow of a Bull, by Maia Wojciechowska
1966–I, Juan de Pareja, by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
1967–Up a Road Slowly, by Irene Hunt
1968–From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg
1969–The High King, by Lloyd Alexander

Caldecott Medals for the decade:

1960–Nine Days to Christmas, by Marie Hall Ets and Aurora Labastida
1961–Baboushka and the Three Kings, by Ruth Robbins, illustrated by Nicolas Sidjakov
1962–Once a Mouse, retold and illustrated by Marcia Brown
1963–The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
1964–Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
1965–May I Bring a Friend?, by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, illustrated by Beni Montresor
1966–Always Room for One More, by Sorche Nic Leodhas, illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian
1967–Sam, Bangs & Moonshine, by Evaline Ness
1968–Drummer Hoff, adapted by Barbara Emberly, illustrated by Ed Emberly
1969–The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, retold by Arthur Ransome, illustrated by Uri Shulevitz

Picture Books/Easy Readers:

Bedtime for FrancesBedtime for Frances, by Russell and Lillian Hoban (1960): This is first in the series about Frances the strong-willed, inventive badger child who, in this book, is not quite ready for bedtime.

Green Eggs and Ham, Green Eggs and Hamby Dr. Seuss (1960): Sam-I-Am persistently offers green eggs and ham to an abstainer who is finally convinced to try them because he is tired of being pestered. Turns out, he does like green eggs and ham! This is just one of many Dr. Seuss books published in this decade, my favorite of which is Dr. Seuss’s ABCs (1963).

The Fire CatThe Fire Cat, by Esther Averill (1960): Pickles the cat wants to do big things, but because he can’t find big things to do, he acts out. Mrs. Goodkind gets him hooked up with the local fire department, and he learns how to use his big paws for good.

Go, Dog, Go!, Go, Dog, Go!by P.D. Eastman (1961): Dogs are doing plenty of un-dogly things in order to showcase a variety of adjectives and opposites. The story culminates in a big dog party at the top of a tree and two dogs riding off together into the sunset.

The Snowy DayThe Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats (1962): Peter wakes one morning to find that it has snowed overnight! This Caldecott Medal winning book then follows Peter through his day in the snow, his disappointment that the snowball he tries to save melts, and his joy when he wakes again the next morning to find fresh snow has fallen once again.

Amelia Bedelia, Amelia Bedeliaby Peggy Parish (1963): Amelia Bedelia is a very literal woman who goes to work for the Rogers family as housekeeper. Her confusion over idioms and unclear phrases used by the family result in many funny misinterpretations, but her fabulous cooking skills save her job. (There is a new branch of this series being published about Amelia Bedelia as a little girl as well.)

Clifford the Big Red DogClifford the Big Red Dog, by Norman Bridwell (1963): Clifford is a friendly, red, and very oversized dog, and this book is the introductory book of the series. He and his owner, Emily Elizabeth, do many things together, and Clifford both gets in trouble because of his size and often saves the day.

Where the Wild Things Are, Where the Wild Things Areby Maurice Sendak (1963): The 1964 winner of the Caldecott Medal, this book tells the story of Max who is feeling rather beastly before dinner and is sent to his room where he imagines himself sailing to the land of the wild things. When he starts to feel lonely for a place where “someone loved him best of all,” he “sails” home and finds his dinner waiting for him in his room.

The Giving TreeThe Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein (1964): A tree loves a little boy and gives him all that he wants and needs all through his life, even to the point of giving up her own life. (Many people love this book. I am not one of them.)

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodileby Bernard Waber (1965): Lyle the crocodile lives in harmony with the Primms and everyone on their street except for Mr. Grumps and his cat. When Lyle causes a stir at the store where Mr. Grumps works, Mr. Grumps gets the city to put him into the zoo. When he is sprung from the zoo and is returning home, he coincidentally saves Mr. Grumps and his cat from a house fire and is welcomed back into the neighborhood.

CorduroyCorduroy, story and pictures by Don Freeman (1968): Corduroy is a stuffed bear in a department store who has a missing button and is overlooked because of it. After a night of adventure looking for a new button, Corduroy is purchased by a little girl who comes to be his friend.

Swimmy, Swimmyby Leo Lionni (1968): Swimmy is the one black fish in his school of red fish, and a big fish eats all his friends. Swimmy wanders the wonders of the sea until he finds another school of his kind of fish (still all red), and he helps them learn to swim together to discourage big fish from attacking (and he, with his distinctive color, plays the part of the eye). This book was a Caldecott Honor book.

Caps for SaleCaps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina (1968): A peddler who has trouble selling his hats one day rests beneath a tree and has all his hats stolen by monkeys while he sleeps. In his angry attempts to get them to return his hats (which they mock by copying his every move), he throws down his own hat to the ground in fury, prompting all the monkeys to toss down the hats they have stolen as well. The peddler reclaims his hats and goes back to town to try again to sell them.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Hungry Caterpillarby Eric Carle (1969): A very hungry caterpillar eats and eats (creating holes in the pages of the book) until he feels a little sick and makes himself a cocoon. When he wakes, he’s a butterfly (with what appear to be upside-down wings)!

Novels:

Island of the Blue DolphinsIsland of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell (1960): Karana is left alone on the Island of the Blue Dolphins when she leaves the evacuation ship to be with her brother who is accidentally left behind. He is soon killed by wild dogs, and Karana survives for many years with only the company of a wild dog she tames and the things she scavenges or creates until another ship comes, and she trusts them to take her away as well. This book won the Newbery Medal.

The Phantom Tollbooth, The Phantom Tollboothby Norton Juster (1961): Milo is a spoiled and bored boy who one day opens an unexpected delivery: a toy tollbooth. He wearily drives his toy car through the booth, and he is transported to a strange and ridiculous land where the rules don’t make sense and there is great division between the rulers about whether words or numbers are most important. Milo’s journeys and adventures teach him to find excitement in the world around him.

James and the Giant PeachJames and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl (1961): James lives miserably with his two awful aunts until one day when a giant peach grows as a result of a batch of magical crocodile tongues being spilled. (Really.) He finds a tunnel into the center of the peach, and he and the oversized crawling creatures he discovers inside take a trip across the ocean from Dover, England to New York City where they take up residence and live happily ever after.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Wolves of Willoughby Chaseby Joan Aiken (1962): When Bonnie’s parents take a holiday for the health of her mother, they are unaware that the distant relative with whom they leave their daughter is a villain. She and an unscrupulous man plot to take over Willoughby Chase and oust Bonnie’s family. Bonnie, her cousin, and the helpful goose boy work together to foil their plot and return to Willoughby Chase, despite the wolves. (I have not read this book–it was a favorite of my sister’s–but it is supposed to be pretty funny!)

Product DetailsA Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle (1962): Meg’s father has been missing for years; her brother Charles Wallace does not even remember him. One “dark and stormy night,” however, three mysterious ladies arrive and start Meg, Charles Wallace, and friend Calvin on a wild, space-hopping, time-bending adventure to save the world (and other worlds!). This Newbery Medal book is the first of a series.

The Chronicles of Prydain, The Chronicles of Prydainby Lloyd Alexander (1964-1968): The second book in this fantasy series (The Black Cauldron) was a Newbery Honor book, the last book (The High King) won the Newbery Medal. Taran is the assistant pig-keeper in charge of Hen Wen, a pig who prophesies. The books follow him as he adventures and grows to adulthood while fighting for the freedom of Prydain from the Death Lord.

Harriet the SpyHarriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh (1964): Harriet is a curious and regimented child, raised by a nanny who is soon to leave her to get married, and her life seems to fall apart when the notebook she keeps about her spying is found by her classmates who don’t much care for the blunt musings about each of them they find there. Eventually, she accepts the advice and help of the adults in her life to find a solution and a better outlet for her keen observation skills.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle, The Mouse and the Motorcycleby Beverly Cleary (1965): Ralph is a mouse who lives with his family in an old hotel off the beaten path. A boy arrives and brings his toy motorcycle, and Ralph discovers he can actually drive it. He and the boy become friends during the family’s stay, and the boy leaves Ralph his motorcycle when his family continues their trip.

Baby IslandBaby Island, by Carol Ryrie Brink (1965): 12-year-old Mary and 10-year-old Jean are traveling by boat to meet with their father in Australia, and a storm causes them to have to abandon ship–with the four babies entrusted temporarily to their care–when their lifeboat is set loose abruptly when the boat’s sinking seems imminent. They land on what they believe to be a deserted island but later meet Mr. Peterkin who lives on the other side. When they least expect it, rescue arrives, and there are happy reunions all around. (This was a favorite book of mine as a child!)

The Egypt Game, Egypt Gameby Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1967): A group of children who live in the same apartment building sneak into an unused storage yard nearby to play an elaborate game meant to replicate ancient Egyptian rituals. When another child is murdered in their neighborhood, they are kept from their game for a long time because the assailant is unknown. When one of the children returns to their play area to retrieve something after they are allowed to play again, she is attacked and is saved when the owner of the storage yard (who has been watching all along, unknown to the children) calls for help, and the murderer is found. This book was a Newbery Honor book.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg (1967): Claudia feels unappreciated by her family, so she plans an elaborate scheme to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (with her brother, because he has money) long enough for them to miss her. While they are there, they discover a mystery about a statue that is purportedly one of Michaelangelo’s, and Claudia is so intrigued that she leaves the museum to pursue further information about Angel at the home of its previous owner, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, who keeps her records organized in a peculiar way–a way she won’t explain when she allows the children one hour to discover the answer they’re seeking.

Striped Ice Cream, Striped Ice Creamby Joan M. Lexau (1968): Becky’s birthday is approaching, and times are hard, so she knows her family isn’t even going to be able to afford her favorite striped ice cream to celebrate. She would be okay with that except her family, usually so loving, seems to be treating her particularly meanly for a girl whose birthday is coming up. She soon discovers the reason for their distance, however, in their loving birthday surprise.

And here are the lists for picture books and chapter books from the 1960s featured by the What Do We Do All Day blog. There are no duplicates on the picture book list, and only three from the chapter books this time!

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Fun Fourth Friday: Bookworm Gardens

I had a themed post almost all the way ready, but then today I visited a magical place…a place called Bookworm Gardens. (That should be read in a voice of hushed awe, by the way, possibly with starburst hand movements.) The planned post will wait until next month.

Bookworm Gardens (in Sheboygan, Wisconsin) is awash in story-themed imagery and interactive experiences for kids. Everything is there to be looked at, touched, climbed on, climbed in, and read about. Even the bathrooms have picture book murals, a laminated copy of a book, and a bay windowsill to perch up in to read! Instead of trying to do it justice in words, however (as a picture is worth a thousand of those), I’ll leave it to my photos and brief annotations to show you how it is (and link you up to the books being featured)! (Believe me, though, seeing the pictures is nothing to being there and having your children immersed in storyland! The place was bustling (you won’t believe how hard it was for me to get the clean shots of these things without someone in the frame!), but it didn’t feel claustrophobic or crowded. It’s an amazing place!) Then I’ll link you up to some other places to stop while you’re in Sheboygan so you can justify a weekend or weeklong visit! (Just pay attention to the open dates–May through October–so you don’t come for the beautiful gardens and end up looking through the fence at a snow-covered garden!)

[Bookworm Gardens book list]

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First of all, I have an almost unhealthy obsession with Little Free Library boxes. This was right outside the Bookworm Gardens. The book at the very front was quite appropriate: Books Every Child Should Know: A Literature Quiz Book.

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Here’s the scene as you walk up to the front gates. I believe the cottage you see is called the Hansel and Gretel Learning Center, and there’s where you’ll find the tiny gift shop, the restrooms, and the huge and lovely reading room pictured to the left!

2015August_031This isn’t the only place in the two acre gardens where you can sit and read, though (just one of the few indoors). All throughout the grounds you’ll find chairs or other suitable perches along with stashes of the featured books that have been disassembled, laminated in heavy plastic, and bound back together with a spiral binding. To the left you’ll see one of the pillars that marks the beginning of a new section of the gardens with a little metal cubby for storing the books (pictured open to the right).

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Some of the displays are pretty stinking elaborate. Here’s the one for Little House in the Big Woods (set in Wisconsin!), 2015August_087complete with an actual house and covered wagon! Inside, in a little cabinet, they even have a china shepherdess like Ma’s! The kids loved setting the table, sweeping the dirt floor, and pretending to build up the campfire outside!

Others are more floral and decorative, like this tribute to Lois Ehlert’s (a Wisconsonite as well!) Planting a Rainbow. Note the conveniently placed chairs! The plants all through the gardens, whether trees or flowers or vegetables, are labeled so you can tell what they are. (If you look to the far right, behind the yellow pot of gold flowers, there’s a tiny Harold and the Purple Crayon plot–just a purple metal crayon and a bunch of purple flowers!)2015August_035

There were also a number of sculptures, topiaries, and mosaics dedicated to various books or just as an embellishment to an already beautiful scene.

2015August_136Here’s a treehouse gazebo that would be just right for breaking out a certain Magic Tree House series.

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Here’s a metal sculpture that I’m pretty sure has something to do with a children’s book, but I can’t recall the title! (This dangerous looking venus fly trap wasn’t labeled.)

2015August_203Here is one of the sidewalk mosaics; there were several with different encouraging words on them!

Here is one of many child-sized statues of children reading 2015August_258(and GirlChild just had to cozy up to this one and ask, “Do you want to read together?”).

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I actually almost forgot the bathroom murals, and I totally missed an awesome photo op with my daughter! How fun would it have been for her to climb up in the “tub” and read the The Big Red Tub? Again, rushing, rushing to get through the whole garden (and we were there for three hours!), and we didn’t stop here. (The men’s restroom had Bugs for Lunch as its theme, but I didn’t get photos of that one.)

Now I’ll just put up a few pictures of some of the amazing and interactive displays found throughout the gardens and links to their books. Generous supporters sponsor these structures and activities, and kids absolutely love them!

2015August_065Winnie-the-Pooh (child-sized door allows small children to enter and sit in a tiny chair to play with a few themed toys and stuffed animals)

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Frankie the Walk and Roll Dog (kids could take the doggie wheelchair off of the cement dog statue to examine, and there was a big chair right next to the display to sit and read the story (which we didn’t do because we plan to come back again and just wanted to get a peek at the whole garden this visit))

2015August_230The Three Little Pigs (just big enough for a small child or two to enter, my kids made their daddy be the Big Bad Wolf for a good ten minutes–there are many, many versions of this story to choose from, so I just linked one!)

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Katie and the Sunflowers (various sized frames where kids can pose with some of Vincent Van Gogh’s works peeking out around the frame–there was a child-sized ballerina statue to represent Degas and the Little Dancer, too!)

2015August_247Stuart Little (a tiny toy house complete with car!)

2015August_117Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes (a Japanese teahouse, there was a large paper crane hanging precariously outside–I’m sure they’ll adjust that soon!–and a gong to ring)

2015August_152Charlotte’s Web (look closely right above the joist for the titular character–I’ll let you go and see the Diary of a Worm (and composting!) display that shared this space for yourself!)

2015August_143Tops and Bottoms (the sliding door revealed the roots below–this book is actually a trickster tale that was a Caldecott honor book!)

2015August_219Horton Hatches the Egg (one of the few things kids couldn’t climb on, there were three giant, concrete eggs in nests below where they could sit!)

2015August_241Dinosaur Bones (while they couldn’t climb on this part, either, there was a sand pit fossil dig right below this reading dinosaur statue!)

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A Playhouse for Monster (the book might be out-of-print and hard to find, but a goodly number of kids fit in this playhouse complete with chairs, a table,  some play food, and plenty of windows and doors to open–my kids loved this thing!)

Seriously, this place is beyond amazing, and many others visiting (many who mentioned that displays were new, indicating that this wasn’t their first visit!) agreed! My small sampling of pictures doesn’t even begin to do it justice, I promise. (We’ve already made plans to visit again in October with my librarian sister and her family!) If you get a chance to go, admission is free, but definitely consider dropping in some paper money to show your appreciation for what these amazingly dedicated people do!

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As promised, a list of local attractions to fill out your trip (although this place could take you all day!):

Il Ritrovo: We went here for lunch. It was a little pricey, but it was good stuff. Definitely worth a drop-in while you’re here!

Victorian Chocolate Shoppe: Right down the street from the Italian place, we stopped here for dessert. The website isn’t kidding about the chocolate aroma when you walk in! It was chocolate covered raspberries and truffles for the win!

Blue Harbor Resort: We didn’t stay here this time, but we came here for the weekend earlier this year to celebrate BoyChild’s fourth birthday (at his request to go to a waterpark)! It’s a beautiful place–huge!–and there are some shops and restaurants within walking distance (if it’s not March in Wisconsin and freezing like it was when we visited)! The waterpark is pretty fun for the kids, and our kids loved the aquarium-themed room we got (marina side to keep the costs down)–complete with bunk beds! There were several free activities for the kids throughout the day, a couple restaurants, an arcade, and a gift shop in the main building, and there are also spa services available!

Above & Beyond Children’s Museum: We didn’t get a chance to visit this museum (we were actually only in town for the day!), but at $6 a person for admission, it’s another decently-priced activity to do with the kids (particularly if the day turns rainy like it did today)!

If those ideas aren’t enough, here’s the Visit Sheboygan site to give you more reasons to come visit America’s Dairyland!

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Fun Fourth Friday: Bugs and Crawly Things

I had already chosen this theme on our last library day when I stumbled across a few bugs books and thought, “Yeah, bugs are big in July! I’ll cover bugs!” Then we went to a nearby state park and signed the kids up for the Wisconsin Explorer program, and–lo and behold!–one of the shared topics between the two age groups is bugs! Because “bugs” is a kind of vague term, I’m going to go ahead and include insects, arachnids, and other creepy critters with exoskeletons and various numbers of legs! (This is a Fun Fourth Friday because we were in the middle of moving on the third Thursday and had no internet access!)

[Bugs and Crawly Things book list]

National Geographic Kids Look & Learn: BugsLook & Learn Bugs (2015, infant to preschool): This board book has versatility for use from the smallest readers (board book style, enlarged photographs of insects with simple backgrounds) to still-small readers who want to know more about bugs (simple labels, fact bubbles, and interactive read-aloud text). Each spread has a large photo and a few simple sentences.

Big Bug Little Bug: Big Bug Little BugA Book of Opposites, by Paul Stickland (2010, toddler to preschool): This concept book is a bright examination of some pretty wild-looking bugs. The bugs are stylized to be cute and not particularly realistic, but readers can identify things like pillbugs (roly-polies), ladybugs, and rhinoceros beetles among the psychedelic menagerie. Not all of the contrasts are strictly opposites (stripes and spots, for instance), but the huge pop-up at the end is sure to please every little reader!

Beetle BopBeetle Bop, by Denise Fleming (2007, preschool to early elementary): A very simple book of beetles, real beetle types are introduced just through bright illustrations (“created,” according to the title page, “by pouring colored cotton fiber through hand-cut stencils”) and simple descriptive text. I recognized whirligig beetles, click beetles, fireflies, and ladybugs, to name a few. Because of its simplicity, this is a great read-aloud or browsing book for very young listeners and readers.

ABC Insects, ABC Insectsby the American Museum of Natural History (2014, toddler to early elementary): This oversized board book introduces a different insect for each letter of the alphabet along with an interesting fact about each one. The pages have blocks of color for each letter, a large capital letter, and a photographic image of the insect. The information is presented in simple phrasing with some specialized vocabulary (like predators and antennae) that is easily understood with context or a little explaining. Even X has an insect: the Xerces blue butterfly, thought to be extinct since the 1940s. If my youngest hadn’t already learned the basics of the alphabet, I would probably just buy this book (instead of checking it out on occasion) because it seems like the kind of thing he would have really liked when he was littler and needed prompting to be interested in books! (GirlChild, on the other hand, insists that she can’t sleep because she’s thinking about the scary velvet ant! It might have more to do with the fact that the house is in upheaval as we prepare to move!)

The Very Clumsy Click BeetleThe Very Clumsy Click Beetle, by Eric Carle (1999, preschool to early elementary): Eric Carle is famous for his collage art, and his stories often feature the passage of time as an element of the story. They also very often include insects and crawly things (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Grouchy Ladybug, The Very Lonely Firefly, and The Very Busy Spider, for example), and often have a novelty element (texture, cut-outs, lights, etc.). This book happens to have a little bit of each of those characteristics, and the novelty in it happens to be a noise-maker! (This caught both GirlChild and me off guard–I thought the computer was sparking!) A clumsy little click beetle falls on his back, and a wise old click beetle teaches him the click-and-flip method of righting himself. He tries unsuccessfully in front of several different animals, but when a human boy approaches and the need is great, he succeeds! Like many of his other books, this book also includes a brief scientific explanation of the background to the story, so there is more detail about the clicking for an adult or older reader’s information.

Butterfly, Butterfly: A Book of Colors, Butterfly Butterfly: A Book of Colorsby Petr Horáček (2007, preschool to early elementary): The large text looks almost poetic or artistic in itself as it mingles with the simple acrylic paintings of the art. It tells of Lucy, a little girl who finds a colorful butterfly in the garden one day but can’t find it the next. She does, however, find a variety of other creatures of various hues (with cut-outs in the pages for a peek to the next illustration and the previous one). When she has almost given up, she lies down in the grass, looks up in the sky, and sees the butterfly above her (as a large pop-out). I love the art in this one! (The author/illustrator also has a book called The Fly which is a playful first-person account of a fly’s danger-filled day as he just tries to live his life and get along with others!)

These Bees Count!These Bees Count!, by Alison Formento, illustrated by Sarah Snow (2012, preschool to early elementary): This book tells the story of a small class going to a bee farm on a field trip. (The field trip is a great setting because it makes sharing facts and childlike understanding logical.) The middle part of the book is a kind of counting story (supposedly the bees “talking” as they fly to work). (It does not share a huge amount of important information in this section, so perhaps it is intended as a kind of mental break for very young listeners.) The field trip story picks up again as they discuss what bees do and how honey is collected and processed. The last page of the book is written for adults and shares more information about the some of the topics discussed in the story. This book would be perfect for a unit study on bees in preschool or primary classes.

Butterfly Counting, Butterfly Countingby Jerry Pallotta and Shennen Berseni (2015, preschool to elementary): Since this is partly a counting book, I am tempted to lower the upper end of the age range, but, really, there is a lot of beautiful photo-realistic art and scientific and linguistic detail in this book, and I believe it would appeal as a read-aloud for younger children interested in the topic (or as a classroom introduction to a unit on insects for up to middle elementary) or as independent reading for an interested older reader. The vocabulary is pretty sophisticated, and the book shares the word for butterfly in over twenty different languages (from Tagalog to German–search YouTube for the video comparing German to other languages…I love “schmetterling” (butterfly) almost as much as “krankenwagen” (ambulance)!) Still, it is a counting book, and small children can count the butterflies on each page, from zero (no butterflies on Antarctica!) to the twenty-five Piano Keys. The last page is a single brightly-colored insect (and tells that the word for butterfly in Great Britain is…butterfly), but the tricky insect is actually a type of grasshopper. The author has written a number of other insect-themed concept books, and the illustrator has a number of other insect books under her belt, too.

Big Bug SurpriseBig Bug Surprise, by Julia Gran (2007, early to middle elementary): Prunella is preparing to bring a special bug to show-and-tell, and she spouts random insect and crawly-thing facts as she starts her day, but everyone (from her parents to the bus driver to her teacher) seem kind of exasperated by her bits of trivia (“Not now, Prunella!”). When her off-hand observation that the bee that has flown into the classroom window just as she begins her show-and-tell is a queen bee (which never flies alone) leads to a classroom full of bees, Prunella saves the day by luring them outside (robed in white and toting a jelly sandwich) and showing them a new place to nest. The class thanks her for saving the day, but when she reveals her surprise insect for show-and-tell, they seem less appreciative: it’s a dung beetle. Really, though, all their declarations of how gross it is are really signs of interest, and they say, “Tell us more, Prunella!” An appendix of “Big Bug Facts” can be found on the last page of the book.

Bugs by the Numbers: Bugs by the NumbersFacts and Figures for Multiple Types of Bugbeasties, by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss (2011, preschool to elementary): The format and topic of the book make it the sort of thing that may be intended for one age group but accessible and enjoyable by a much broader audience. The first spread introduces the text with a poem, part of which proclaims, “Not all critters that fly or crawl on the ground/Are technically bugs, but we both have found/Most folks call them bugs, and since they do,/We figured, why not? We’d call them “bugs” too.” Each spread thereafter has a “bug” (the image of the bug created by numbers significant to the information somehow) with number-based facts (three or four per creature) and artistic flaps to lift to find more information. Perfect for an adult to share with a budding entomologist or for independent elementary-aged readers to pore over on their own or with like-minded friends, the book ends with a little poem about the ways that bugs benefit humans (and a list of the fonts used to create the images). Other books in this vein include Alphabeasties and AlphaSaurs.

Bugs GaloreBugs Galore, by Peter Stein, illustrated by Bob Staake (2012, preschool to early elementary): This rhyming book seems intended as a read-aloud with its repetitive, rhyming, and alliterative text. The mainly geometric illustrations are in no way realistic, but the bugs and experiences mentioned in the text are. Definitely a good book to read at the start of a storytime or unit about bugs as it could lead to discussions about the types of insects and crawly things the listeners have experienced.

Some Bugs, Some Bugswords by Angela DiTerlizzi, bugs by Brendan Wenzel (2014, preschool to early elementary):This is another great rhyming book to introduce bugs to a group of children. While the illustrations in this book have somewhat stylized insects, they are recognizable as real bugs (and have a whole spread at the back of the book where each insect is pictured and named). This book is actually simpler as far as the text goes, but the illustrations are much busier, so this might be a fun book to include in a classroom library after a read-aloud for further browsing. Because of the semi-realistic illustrations, it would be easy enough to poll children about which bugs they recognize and which they’ve actually seen or some other interactive activity to kick off an insect unit, particularly since the last page of the story encourages readers to “find some bugs in your backyard!”

Picnic! A Day in the ParkPicnic! A Day in the Park, by Joan Holub, illustrated by Will Terry (2008, preschool to early elementary): Although this book is simpler than the previous ones, it is intended as an early pre-independent reader. (The child should recognize some words but not necessarily be able to actually read fluently through the text alone.) There is basic dialogue, rhyming, and many simple names to help make comprehension easier. The main characters are ants invading a picnic and the fireflies/lightning bugs that help light their way home.

Hi! Fly Guy, by Tedd ArnoldHi! Fly Guy (2005, early elementary): This early independent reader tells the story of when Buzz (the boy) meets Fly Guy (the fly) when he’s on the lookout for a cool pet to share at the Amazing Pet Show. The very brief chapters have just a simple sentence or two on each page, and large, funny illustrations fill up the rest of the space. Like all the other Fly Guy books, this one is silly and just a little bit gross in bits. (He is a fly after all!)

Bugs and Us Bugs and Us(DK Readers, Level 1), by Patricia J. Murphy (2012, early elementary): For a level 1 (beginning to read) book, this book about bugs has a lot of detail. Some of the sentences are short, but others are more complex and contain a number of somewhat sophisticated vocabulary words, so I would say that this book probably requires more adult interaction than most “early reader” books unless the reader happens to have a strong interest and background knowledge in insects and spiders. This particular title focuses on how we interact with bugs, both positively and negatively, and how we can both help and be helped by them. Bugs Bugs Bugs! (level 2) is another book in this series, and it has much more specific information about a number of interesting insects and might be most tempting to a reader who really likes the gritty side of insect life…a lot of fighting, eating, and being eaten in this one!

The Delicious BugThe Delicious Bug, by Janet Perlman (2009, early elementary): Two chameleons, Willy and Wally, happen to both catch a particularly tasty bug at the same time. Although they are usually good at sharing and kind to one another, they end up arguing over this catch. Things get pretty heated, and they start name calling (“Just back off, shlobberface!” (talking with your tongue hanging out makes enunciation difficult) and “Why don’t YOU back off, dragonlipsh!” are as nasty as they get), then actually fighting one another, and all the animal spectators are getting uncomfortable and embarrassed for them. In all the ruckus, the coveted bug gets free, and–after the chameleons reconcile following a dangerous close call–the beleaguered creature falls dead at the feet of the pleased tomato frog. Since the chameleons have always shared with him in the past, he invites them both to share the meal with him, and they all agree that it is the most delicious bug they’ve ever eaten. Then the chameleons begin making reparations with all the animals they inconvenienced during their row, and peace is restored to their forest. (This story is clearly more about getting along and sharing than it is about the actual bug…)

Hurry and the Monarch, Hurry and the Monarchby Antoine Ó Flatharta, illustrated by Meilo So (2005, early elementary): Disguising information about monarch migration as a story of the interaction between a land tortoise named Hurry from Wichita Falls, Texas, and a migrating monarch from Canada, this book gives tidbits of specific detail relating to the annual migration (like months of the year when it happens, specific cities, and life cycle details). At the end of the book, there is an afterword that gives more scientific detail to piece together the events of the story.

Diary of a FlyDiary of a Fly, by Doreen Cronin, pictures by Harry Bliss (2007, early to middle elementary): Dated June 7 through August 2, this “diary” tells about a fly’s day-to-day experiences and reveals facts about flies in a sly way (often utilizing the illustrations to get the full point across, like when Spider’s grandfather makes Fly feel good when he tells her that she is so very important to the food chain…). The underlying theme is that Fly has some pretty cool talents and that, even though she doesn’t seem to fit the stereotypical superhero mold, “[t]he world needs all kinds of heroes.”

Fancy Nancy: Explorer Extraordinaire!, Fancy Nancy: Explorer Extraordinaire!by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser (2009, early to middle elementary): Fancy Nancy and her friend Bree form a club called the Explorers Extraordinaire Club, and this book presents the rules of the club (and is fashioned partly like a scrapbook and partly as the story of their adventures). The title page includes this note: “Everything in this book is scientifically accurate. (That’s a fancy way of saying it’s all true.)” If you have little girls who are a blend of fancy and frolicsome (kind of like GirlChild!), they may identify, but this is one Fancy Nancy book that might have a broader appeal. It gives good tips for young explorers (staying in places you know and are allowed to go, not handling butterflies, how to treat flowers and trees when exploring) and has actual photographs of a few different insects, plants, and birds. It also provides recipes and instructions for some fun activities and treats (like Nancy’s Extra-Fancy Lemonade (planning to do this with GirlChild and some friends with raspberries from our bush!) and simple bird feeders). I think I’m going to check this book out again (or possibly buy it for my little ornithologist/entomologist/wordsmith)! (Fancy Nancy: Bonjour, Butterfly is a slightly simpler, much girlier story (about Fancy Nancy having to miss her friend Bree’s birthday party to attend her grandparents’ 50th anniversary celebration) that has butterflies as a consolation prize at the end.)

Product DetailsI, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are, by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas (2015, elementary): A fly buzzes into a classroom of students and discovers that, of course, they are learning about butterflies–not regular flies–of course. He informs the class that he, too, goes through metamorphosis, and he tells them the heartwarming story of being laid (as an egg) in a pile of dog doo along with his 500 brothers and sisters and his transition into a poop-and-trash eating maggot (or “larva,” as the scientists would call him), then pupa, then full-fledged fly–parent, grandparent, still a poop-eater. He then shares facts about his wing speed, the throwing-up-before-eating “myth” (not really a myth…but they only throw up on solid foods), spread of disease, lifespan, and crime-solving capabilities (er, well, helping determine how long a body has been dead, at least). It ends with a fun glossary, bibliography, and a panel of experts on flies. Simply written, this book has appeal for most elementary grades (if you think they can handle some of the grossness) as a fun source for nonfiction fly information presented in a picture book format.

DK Eyewonder: Bugs, DK Eyewonder: Bugswritten and edited by Penelope York (2015, early to middle elementary): DK can do no wrong when it comes to nonfiction books. Enlarged photographs, interesting information, arrangements by heading (which can be read through or found in the table of contents), and a typical glossary and index all make this book an accessible browse or for simple research. Rich scientific vocabulary means that independent readers will need to use context clues and the glossary for a full understanding, but casual readers will enjoy just looking at the photographs and reading blurbs of information as it interests them.

Insiders: Insects & SpidersInsiders: Insects & Spiders (2008, middle to upper elementary): I was previously unfamiliar with this series of nonfiction books, but this is an interesting title with in-depth information. Less cluttered than a typical DK book (which isn’t a criticism…the “clutter” is part of the draw of those books!), the pages feature extreme close-ups, diagrams, graphs, and illustrations. Each creature featured includes a little “fact sheet” kind of preview that includes a world map showing its range, a description of its habitat and diet, measurements and an image of the insect on a child’s hand for size reference, and the creature’s scientific name. The page spread either features a photograph or a detailed illustration of the creature with many labels and other information. The introductory page for the group of creature includes a diagram of the typical internal organs and a labeled diagram of the typical body parts. Includes a glossary and index.

Gregor the Overlander,Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (2003, upper elementary to middle school): 11-year-old Gregor is missing summer camp this year because his grandmother is no longer lucid enough to care for his toddler sister, nicknamed Boots, while their mother goes to work. His father has been gone for “two years, seven months, and thirteen days”–suddenly disappeared without a trace–and everyone has their own assumptions about what happened. When Gregor brings Boots down into the laundry room of their apartment building that first hot afternoon of summer, she disappears into a vent in the floor, and Gregor chases after her. They find themselves falling for a long, long time, and when they finally land, they come face to face with what Boots calls simply “beeg bugs!”–four-foot long cockroaches that can speak (though a little oddly). These “crawlers” (as they come to find out they’re called in the Underland) play a big role in the rest of this adventure/quest story that also features regular-sized (but incredibly pale) humans and enormous bats, rats, and spiders.

(If you happen to know of any really great books about bugs, let us know in the comments! I still struggle to find good middle school and up books on some of my favorite picture book topics!)

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Themed Third Thursday: Heroic Reads

A friend of mine is a teacher at a school where the theme next year is “Reading Is My Superpower.” I don’t know if I necessarily agree that reading is a superpower so much as that reading gives me superpowers, but perhaps that’s just semantics. 🙂 I had also forgotten that the Milwaukee Public Library theme last summer and this one is Super Readers, and I stumbled across the display at my local branch and filled up my library bag with some of their suggestions, too. So, if your summer isn’t saturated enough by Marvel’s superheroes (and I will include some of them, just to give you fair warning!), your young readers will have a chance to explore what makes a hero super! (Weird fast fact: My family was playing the board game Life a couple of days ago, and one of the action cards called for the kids to state their superpowers. GirlChild said strength, speed, and wisdom. BoyChild said punching people in the face. Oy. That child.)

Super Reader selection

The Super Reader summer reading display at the Mill Road branch of the Milwaukee Public Library (before I pillaged it).

Superhero Me!Superhero Me!, by Karen Katz (2009, toddler to preschool): Karen Katz appears to have a board book for nearly every occasion! Her typical round-faced, happy toddlers try out different superhero identities, from Super Rexosaur to Puddle-Jumper, in this rhyming touch-and-feel book. My children have always loved these simple, bright books and are drawn to them in the board book section of the library with regularity even now! This is a perfect first introduction to the idea of superhero play for little ones!

Super Duck, by Jez Alborough Super Duck(2009, toddler to preschool): Like all his other Duck books, this Alborough installment features the very eager duck, several somewhat exasperated barnyard friends, and a lot of rhyming! When Sheep, Goat, and Frog are trying to fly a kite, Duck proclaims that he is Super Duck and tries his best to help (with mixed results). When Frog gets swept away with the kite, Duck actually comes to the rescue and gets him safely back to the ground. Sheep and Goat are so happy that they call him Super Duck, too!

Do Super Heroes Have Teddy Bears?Do Super Heroes Have Teddy Bears?, by Carmela LaVigna Coyle, illustrated by Mike Gordon (2012, preschool to early elementary): This picture book asks questions (“Do super heroes make capes with blankies and string?”) followed by italicized answers (“We can turn blankies into most anything.“) Judging by the illustrations (and I didn’t quite get it at first), members of a family are asking questions of one another about super heroes (based on the daily activities the self-styled super hero brother and (potentially) sidekick little sister). Many of the questions are from little sister to older brother and some are the kids to their parents. (A helpful comprehension activity might be to work with your little listener to figure out who the speakers are on each spread.) I have definitely had these kinds of conversations going on randomly throughout the day at my house (topic based on whatever long-term role-play my kids are currently into), so once you get the hang of the abruptly changing speaker concept, this story is pretty representative of real kids doing what they do best–imagining!

Superhero School, Superhero Schoolby Thierry Robberecht and Philippe Goossens (2011, preschool to early elementary): You can kind of tell that this book is a translation (from Dutch, if anyone’s interested) because it just feels a little off in the cadence and phrasing. Still, my kids enjoyed the storyline! Henry (who wears headgear that suggests a jester’s cap) attends superhero school, but he is kind of the class clown and struggles with his superhero studies. He can’t fly, isn’t super strong, and believes pranks to be his only superpower. When a horrible monster comes to the school, Henry’s classmates are quickly neutralized, but Henry’s quick-thinking prank catches the monster off-guard, and his tickles drain the monster’s strength. The others step back in and ship the monster back to the planet he came from, but Henry is celebrated for saving the day!

These Are the AvengersThese Are the Avengers, adapted by Thomas Macri (2012, preschool to early elementary): This early reader book introduces the six Mighty Avengers: Captain America, Ant-Man, Wasp, the Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man. (So, you know, not the cinematic universe version of the Avengers.) The book gives the basic information about the six characters in short, easy to read sentences. (BoyChild enjoys this as a quick read-aloud, but a budding reader with some knowledge about Marvel characters could handle it as a simple text for independent reading.) There are a number more of these books available, and there are games and other activities available on the Marvel Kids website as well. You can compare the different levels and types of books available about Marvel characters by checking out This Is Thor (World of Reading: Level 1, preschool to early elementary), Heroes of Asgard (World of Reading: Level 2, early elementary), and Marvel Adventures: The Avengers: Thor (a graphic novel, middle school to high school).

Ten Rules of Being a Superhero, Ten Rules of Being a Superheroby Deb Pilutti (2014, preschool to early elementary): A young boy and his superhero action figure present the ten rules of being a superhero. (The action figure appears to be living in each scenario, but he is toy-sized and sometimes his movement is controlled by the boy, so I’m assuming all life-like qualities are just the boy’s imagination shown as reality.) My favorite rules are Rule Number 1: “A superhero must ALWAYS respond to a call for help…even if the odds are against him” (and showing a number of other toys in dire situations that need to be rescued) and Rule Number 4: “A superhero must use his power in a good way” (as opposed to the selfish villain thinking about using his powers in a bad way). The last rule, Rule Number 10, is also a good one: “Every superhero needs a sidekick. Because saving the day is more fun with a friend.”

The Day I Lost My SuperpowersThe Day I Lost My Superpowers, by Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo (2014, preschool to early elementary): A small child discovers one day (with the help of her father’s hands tossing her in the air) that she can fly! She realizes she has a variety of other powers, too…like making things disappear (although that works better with cupcakes than with peas) and becoming invisible herself (with the help of the underside of her bed). One day, however, she falls when “flying” (with the help of her dog and a string), and she realizes she has lost her superpowers (and hurt her knee)! Her mom comes to the rescue, however, with a magic kiss that makes her feel “all better (even if [her] knee still hurt[s] a little),” and she is excited to realize that her mom might have superpowers, too! The illustrations help tell the story by revealing the reality behind her superpower statements, and they help young readers and listeners feel like they’re in on the joke (as well as give them good ideas for superhero play of their own).

SuperHero ABC, SuperHero ABCby Bob McLeod (2006, preschool to early elementary): While a typical alphabet book has a limited audience (based on those who are still getting comfortable with the alphabet), the contents of this book will bring in a greater range of readers (and will make some parents shy away!). Twenty-six superheroes (or superhero groups) represent the letters of the alphabet, and some of the powers get downright gross (like Goo Girl (who “shoots gobs of goo at gangsters”) and The Volcano (who “vomits on villains”)) and the characteristics silly (Upside-Down Man “wears his uniform under his underwear” and Astro-Man has asthma (?!)) as the real-life-comic-book-artist author puts as many of the featured letter onto the pages as possible. My only gripe with the book is that, although the general public depicted in the art is reasonably diverse, the vast majority of the featured heroes/heroines (and there are a decent number of females) are pretty pale (with just a couple exceptions…and a few aliens).

Dex: The Heart of a HeroDex: The Heart of a Hero, by Caralyn Buehner, illustrated by Mark Buehner (2004, preschool to early elementary): Dexter is a dachshund dog (living in a world populated by anthropomorphic dogs, cats, and rodents) who dreams big dreams. (The ultra-dramatic superhero-esque thoughts are written in comic book handwritten style in yellow text boxes.) He is very ordinary and very small, but he decides that if he wants to be a hero, he needs to make himself one! He begins training by exercising to get strong, climbing trash piles to gain endurance, and pushing himself those extra few circles before lying down to sleep. When his efforts pay off, he completes his transformation with a mail-order costume. His heroic acts are all pretty mild but satisfying–helping a puppy cross the street, finding a lost kitten, and organizing a neighborhood clean-up day–until the night that Cleevis the tomcat finds himself in a precarious situation high in a tree. Dex uses his wits and the resources around him (in this case, a teeter-totter and a crowd of onlookers) to save Cleevis and win his respect…and a partner in crime-fighting!

Superhero, Superheroby Marc Tauss (2005, preschool to early elementary): All in black-and-white enhanced photographs, the story starts in the front endpapers with Maleek (the main character, a young boy) browsing an aisle full of different comic books. (Maleek likes to “catch up on his fellow superheroes’ adventures.”) Maleek wears a costume with goggles and a cape with a large M on it, and he builds inventions in his laboratory. When he reads in the newspaper one day that all the city parks and playgrounds have disappeared (replaced by tall buildings), he and his robot jump into their time machine and go back 500 years to collect plant specimens that he uses to create GIGUNDO JUICE. He sprays his concoction all over the city, and large, beautiful plants spring up to replace many of the big buildings. His work complete, Maleek goes back to his comics again. The last page shows him reading a comic book and with other props around him that appear to have contributed to the superhero daydream he seems to have been having, and the final endpapers show Maleek in full costume wandering the same aisle…which is now full of comics about himself.

Eliot Jones: Midnight SuperheroEliot Jones, Midnight Superhero, by Anne Cottringer, illustrated by Alex T. Smith (2008, preschool to early elementary): Eliot is a quiet boy who spends his days doing quiet things. Once the clock strikes midnight, however, he is a superhero. He answers the call of everyone from the Coast Guard to the queen, and his skills and powers are always up to the task at hand! His mission tonight involves saving the world from a rogue meteor, and he blasts it just in time. At the end of the story, we are back to the beginning, in Eliot’s quiet room, and we are told that “being a Midnight Superhero is very tiring. It doesn’t leave Eliot with much energy. So by day…Eliot is quiet.” This is a cute story that might leave kids wondering what secrets lurk behind the commonplace faces they see every day!

Wonder Woman: The Story of the Amazon Princess, Wonder Woman: The Story of the Amazon Princesswritten and illustrated by Ralph Cosentino (2011, early elementary): This almost-picture-book graphic novel is written in first person as Wonder Woman explains her origins, her powers, and how she came to be Wonder Woman. It even introduces many of her chief antagonists, like Cheetah and Ares, and states her mission: “to teach peace and respect to all…and to show the world how to live in harmony with nature.” Some companion books to this one are Batman: The Story of the Dark Knight and Superman: The Story of the Man of Steel. These books are a simple way to introduce your young readers to the most famous DC superheroes!

Buzz Boy and Fly Guy, Buzz Boy and Fly Guyby Tedd Arnold (2010, early elementary): In this book from the Fly Guy series, Buzz writes a book that stars him and Fly Guy as superheroes! Buzz (Buzz Boy!) is the same size as Fly Guy, and Fly Guy can talk! They use their wits and their superpowers to defeat wicked pirates, befriend a dragon, and return home safely. A great first chapter book (which is mostly a simple graphic novel divided into chapters) for young readers, parents or teachers might (subtly, so as not to spook an inspired reader into thinking it’s a homework assignment!) suggest that the reader write a comic book about himself or herself as a superhero with an animal sidekick.

Fireboy to the Rescue: A Fire SaFireboy to the Rescuefety Book, by Edward Miller (2010, early elementary): As the title suggests, this is more a fire safety book than a superhero story. Fireboy is a narrator of sorts, telling about the good and bad things about fire. Although he is the title character, the book sticks to facts about fire safety, including what you should do in case of a fire (from calling 911 to how to evacuate a home, high-rise building, and school), how firefighters respond, and how to prevent fires. This book serves as a PSA about fire for young readers, and both GirlChild and BoyChild loved it as much as if it had an actual storyline! (GirlChild is really into fire safety anyway because of school, and BoyChild has asked several times (possibly because he heard GirlChild ask, partly because it sounds cool) about the fire escape ladders we’re going to have to buy when we move into a two-story home this summer! The author has written a couple other health and safety books that I’m sure my children would love as well!)

Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chicken, Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chickenby Sarah Dillard (2014, middle elementary): Warren is a typical chicken, but he has grown tired of all the pecking and peeping and general blandness of his life on the farm. None of the other chickens agree, however, and he feels very alone. He happens upon a rat who is digging through the trash and bemoaning the lack of really good food…and he accidentally sets himself up to be on the rat’s menu! He (literally) bumps into an egg on his way home to tell the other chickens about the fact that someone considers him “Chicken Supreme,” and he tells the egg his story and that the egg can be his sidekick. When he leaves his unsuccessful flying lesson that day, he sees the rat with a cookbook and realizes the truth of what’s going on! In his attempts to convince the other chickens of the danger and to stop the rat’s plans, Warren has to rescue the egg, and it ends up hatching. Then Warren and his willing sidekick, Egg, set off together to continue to right wrongs and save the other chickens from the dangers that lurk nearby.

Zero the Hero, Zero the Heroby Joan Holub and Tom Lichtenheld (2012, elementary): Although this is technically a picture book (Joan Holub has an impressive list of both fiction and nonfiction children’s books for a range of ages, and Tom Lichtenheld is the illustrator of BoyChild’s favorite bedtime book (among many, many others)), the concepts explored range from the additive and commutative properties of addition to Roman numerals and place value, making the audience much wider. The fact that zero times anything is zero is vital to the climax of the story (as well as being part of the original conflict). Math teachers who like Math Curse or Sir Cumference and the First Round Table are likely to enjoy this book for their cross-curricular endeavors as well! (And I always have to plug Erin McEwan, Your Days Are Numbered, too–I used to read it to my fifth graders at the beginning of the year!)

Night of the Scaredy CrowsDC Super-Pets: Night of the Scaredy Crows, by Sarah Hines Stephens, illustrated by Art Baltazar (2012, elementary): In this series of books, the superheroes’ pets come to the rescue! And, not surprisingly, the villains’ pets are the cause of most of the problems. This particular book is about Ace the Bat-Hound and the troubles caused by Scarecrow’s pets/minions, Croward and the scaredy crows, as Halloween approaches. A Word Power page at the end of the book gives definitions and pronunciations for some of the more unusual words (like toxic and utility collar). There is quite a bit of text on each page, but there are frequent full-color illustrations to break it up. The text is larger than a typical chapter book but smaller than a picture book, and, at an approximate third-grade reading level, it could be a high-interest book for older kids who need a slightly simpler story that’s still interesting. (Marvel doesn’t have a monopoly on super-hero easy readers, either. The I Can Read series of books has several DC character stories, like Batman: Winter Wasteland (Level 2) and others on Amazon.)

Captain Raptor and the Moon Mystery, Captain Raptor and the Moon Mysteryby Kevin O’Malley, illustrations by Patrick O’Brien (2005, elementary): I’m not sure this technically qualifies as a superhero story…but technologically advanced dinosaurs with space gadgets who fight off a beast who attacks a group of aliens (um, humans) and save the day (combined with the graphic novel format and typical superhero (well, like the old Batman show, at least) cliffhanger moments) certainly make Captain Raptor and his crew seem like superheroes! Jurassic Park meets Tony Stark meets Star Trek, maybe? Although this was shelved with the picture books, the graphic novel style and the realistic, detailed art make this more of a middle elementary and up kind of book.

Flora and UlyssesFlora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (2013, upper elementary to middle school): In this Newbery Medal winner, 10-year-old Flora embraces her mother’s description of her as a “natural-born cynic” and strives to observe, not hope. (We can tell by her obsession with the superhero Incandesto and her frequent need to remind herself to observe, not hope, that she is not as natural a cynic as she and her mother try to believe.) When her neighbor Tootie’s new vacuum cleaner, the Ulysses 2000X, runs amok in the yard and nearly kills a squirrel, Flora runs to the rescue and discovers that the experience has somehow imbued the hapless, now hairless, squirrel with special powers–strength, flight, and understanding. Occasional comic-book style panels are part of the story and not just illustrations. Flora and Ulysses (the squirrel) discover things about themselves that they would have never dreamed they’d discover before their first encounter.

Public School Superhero, Public School Superheroby James Patterson and Chris Tebbets (2015, upper elementary to middle school): Technically, there is no actual superhero in this book. In Washington, DC, in an inner-city neighborhood and school, Kenny escapes his mild-mannered alter-ego’s stress by imagining himself as Stainlezz Steel…a hero as brave and heroic as Kenny feels intimidated and embarrassed. (The superhero moments are shown in comic-book style panels, so it’s easy to tell when he’s taking a mental break, and there is typically a segue statement where Kenny acknowledges that it is wishful thinking.) Kenny–a chess-playing, superhero-loving sixth grader–is just starting middle school in an overcrowded, rundown local building, and things aren’t looking good. A misunderstanding (compounded by the lack of interest of the principal) results in his first ever detention, but he manages to hide it from his involved grandmother. When that principal leaves abruptly, Dr. Yetty takes over, and she really cares about both the school and the children in it. Kenny finds himself in trouble once again, but his consequence is to teach Ray-Ray, the boy who instigated the issue, how to play chess. Ray-Ray eventually offers to teach Kenny how to not be so easily intimidated, and Kenny (against his better judgment) accepts…and hides all the shady goings-on from his grandmother, too. The characters and the situations feel very real, and the book demonstrates the idea that we can’t all be superheroes but that we can each do something to make our world a better place.

SidekickedSidekicked, by John David Anderson (2013, middle school): 13-year-old Andrew Macon Bean has a rare sensory disorder that makes him acutely aware of pretty much everything (although, luckily for him, his sense of touch is only slightly amped up so he isn’t tickled to death just by getting dressed in the morning), and that makes him perfectly suited for one thing: suiting up. Yes, his overpowered senses make him a perfect candidate for sidekick training (and, eventually, superhero-dom), and The Sensationalist is born! Drew’s only problem (well, biggest problem–he is thirteen!) is that his assigned superhero doesn’t really want to have anything to do with him or the superhero business anymore. And that becomes even more of a problem when the villain he was thought to have defeated (and who was supposedly killed in an explosion during the final battle) springs his minions out of prison and starts knocking off banks and taking out superheroes…and their sidekicks. Like his erstwhile hero says: maybe it’s time for Drew to save himself! (Companion novel: Minion)

Marvel Encyclopedia: Marvel EncyclopediaThe Definitive Guide to the Characters of the Marvel Universe (revised 2014): This book is really for the die-hard fan. With a foreword by Ralph Macchio and an introduction by Stan Lee, the intended audience appears to be mainly the men and women who grew up with these comic books as their constant reading material, those who care deeply for canon and who can discuss the similarities and differences between different timelines and reboots and all the different forms of media where Marvel super heroes can be found. (It might also help for the uninitiated significant others of these longtime fans to give them an idea of who exactly it is they’re watching in the cinematic universe–my personal background information on these characters all comes from a quick internet search before my husband and I go see a movie together (or afterward when I’m already confused)!) There are entries for individuals and teams, and both heroes and villains are covered. There is a “Factfile” sidebar for the major characters, and each character’s first appearance, powers, occupation, and base are included. A brief summary and illustration (both modern and old-school styles are shown for many characters) of each is also included. For families whose children are old enough to watch the new movies, this book might be a good way to introduce upper elementary and older ages to some of their parents’ favorite characters, and there will be some kids/teenagers who will pore over this volume for hours, I’m sure! BoyChild actually spent some time looking through the book to find pictures of his favorites–Captain America and Iron Man–and ask about other characters he saw, but he’s nowhere near old enough for either the movies or the detailed information in the book, so his exposure was limited to that!

Finally, here are some links just for the adults in the house.

First, a Lunar Baboon cartoon that shows us that encouragement can be a superpower.

Next, a blog talking about an online Bible curriculum from Orange (252 Basics) called Stand Up: Get in the Story.

Finally, a link to Amazon where you can find a vast assortment of mass marketed and indie superhero books and stories for adults, teens, and children! There’s even a (not-for-children) short story written by a college friend of mine–and it’s free to borrow on Kindle with Amazon Prime!

Another finally! I forgot to link to my friend’s custom art page! He does art called Your Face Heroes (I am so proud of the word play!); you send him a couple photographs of the person you want hero-ified along with some information about them to inform his imagination, and he’ll create a custom superhero work of art. Check out his work here! The image to the left is a quick sketch he did of me as Word Girl (not a commissioned piece) from a (very) old photograph!

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Fun Fourth Friday: Out Like a Lamb

It’s March, and our weather in Wisconsin has been pretty awful. (Not East Coast snow awful, but arctic chill awful.) The extended forecast, though, is calling for something a little less lion-like and a little more wooly. (Highs above freezing, yeah!) Because the month may possibly be going out like a lamb, I chose sheep for my March theme! (Update: March doesn’t seem to actually be going out like a lamb–we didn’t get the snow we were forecast this week, but many did!–and my kids have been sick to the point of one missing three days of school and the other having a burst eardrum, so this Themed Third Thursday had to revise itself to a Fun Fourth Friday!)

Moo, Baa, La La La!Moo, Baa, La, La, La, by Sandra Boynton (1984, infant/toddler/preschool): I have been reading this book to my children since they were able to, well, listen. So, birth-ish. It’s in bad shape at this point. This is a halfway typical animal sounds book, but it’s Sandra Boynton, so there’s a good bit of silliness thrown in with the rhythm and rhyme that’s in nearly all her books. Sheep figure pretty small, but they’re in there!

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, as told and illustrated by Iza Trapani Baa Baa Black Sheep(2001, preschool/early elementary): The first page contains the rhyme with which we’re all familiar (and illustrates the black sheep in the doorway to her home wearing a nice shawl around her shoulders). Each additional spread has a different animal asking the black sheep for something as she goes about her day shopping and knitting, and they all seem pretty put out when she says she doesn’t have what they’re asking for. They actually end up all coming to her home to tell her she’s selfish (what?!), and they discover that she’s been doing what she does best (knitting, apparently) and is more than happy to share her wool with all of them, having created a special gift for each of her grumpy friends. In the end, they realize that she shared her best (even if she wasn’t able to share what they asked for at first), and they respond in kind with their best gifts.

Sheep in a JeepSheep in a Jeep, by Nancy Shaw, illustrated by Margot Apple (1986, preschool/early elementary): The titular sheep are none too careful with their vehicle and get into all kinds of trouble with it. Lots of repetition and lots of rhyme make this first of the many Nancy Shaw sheep books both fun and accessible to little listeners and early readers. This board book version gives instructions for making a handprint sheep.

Russell the Sheep, by Rob Scotton Russell the Sheep (2005, preschool/early elementary): Russell’s flock settles down for the night, but Russell is having a hard time getting to sleep. He tries all kinds of tricks and finally gets to sleep when he counts all the sheep…including himself. The story is silly, and the illustrations are quirky; there’s even a little frog pal in each illustration that small children would have a fun time finding. The pictures really add to comprehension, and I found that I had to question BoyChild some to make sure he was catching the implications of certain expressions or actions, and I definitely had to explain the concept of counting sheep so he could get that joke! If you’re teaching a unit on sheep (or whatever unit into which you might fit sheep books), you might want to give that explanation before embarking since references to it abound in sheep books!

The 108th SheepThe 108th Sheep, by Ayano Imai (2006, preschool/early elementary): Emma is having a hard time getting to sleep, and the warm milk and books are not helping. She decides to count sheep, figuring she’ll be asleep by the time she gets to 10. When she gets past 100, she’s surprised, but then something goes wrong; the 108th sheep tells her that he can’t make it over her bed (despite all his training), and this will keep all of them (Emma and the sheep) from getting to sleep. After several attempts to help him succeed, she saws a hole in her headboard so the sheep doesn’t have to jump as high to get over (er, through). He manages at last, and they all fall asleep. In the morning, the hole and the sheep are gone, but little hoofprints on Emma’s blanket convince her that she’ll never have trouble getting to sleep again. Unique illustrations and approach to the sheep counting idea make this book a different kind of book to add to your sheepish collection.

Another Brother, by Matthew Cordell Another Brother(2012, preschool/early elementary): This book is hardly about sheep (the characters are sheep, but they could just as easily be any other creature and the story would still work), but BoyChild loves this book with a passion (he asks for it multiple times a day!), and I’m not sure what the draw is for him since he is neither the oldest nor a devoted follower of his big sister! Davy is the oldest in his family, and his twelve younger brothers follow him everywhere and do everything he does. He’s quite sick of it, but his parents assure him that this is just a phase. When the phase ends suddenly, Davy is thrilled…until he realizes that he is now lonely without a single brother to play with him. One morning, however, something unexpected happens, and Davy now has a baby sister who follows him wherever he goes and does whatever he does, and he is happy once again.

WoolburWoolbur, by Leslie Helakoski, illustrated by Lee Harper (2008, early elementary): Woolbur’s free-spirited ways are a daily struggle for his worried parents and weigh heavily on their minds (but not his grandfather’s–he says not to worry), and they finally tell him that enough is enough and he needs to act like the other sheep. So, after a night pondering this, Woolbur does…because he teaches all the other lambs to act like him! An excellent reminder that thinking outside the box doesn’t mean the thinking is wrong! A very cute story of an enthusiastic sheep who marches to the beat of his own drum and teaches others how, too!

Buford the Little Bighorn, by Bill PeetBuford the Little Bighorn (1967, early/middle elementary): Buford has a bit of a problem–all of his growth seems to be concentrated his horns! They soon grow so long and curved that they have curled right back alongside his body and to the front again! Unable to climb the mountains like the other bighorns, Buford finds refuge in a herd of cattle where he goes unnoticed for quite some time. When hunting season arrives, however, his impressive rack of horns is spotted by some airborne hunters, and he makes his escape by accident–by falling and landing with his hooves on his long, curved horns–and he skis right past the hunters and onto a ski resort where he becomes the star attraction because he is the “only skier ever to grow his own skis.”

Charlie and TessCharlie and Tess, by Martin Hall, pictures by Catherine Walters (1995, early elementary): This mostly realistic fiction book tells the story of an orphaned lamb named Charlie who is raised by the family and thinks of himself as another sheepdog like Tess. When he gets big enough and has to rejoin the flock, he struggles not to play the part of the herding dog, but his learned skills in that area help save the flock when an early snow threatens to strand them in their mountainside pasture. BoyChild liked this book well enough, and it’s one of the few realistic fiction books featuring sheep I found!

Warm as Wool, by Scott Russell Sanders,Warm as Wool illustrated by Helen Cogancherry (1992, early/middle elementary): According to the jacket flap, this historical fiction story is based on information found in an old record book about the first pioneer in Randolph Township, Ohio, to own a flock of sheep in the early 1800s, Betsy Ward. Mrs. Ward had brought all her spinning supplies with her when the family moved from Connecticut, but she had no flock to shear. She had, however, brought a stocking filled with her savings, and she managed to purchase a few sheep from a drover who passed near their land. From those few sheep, she clothed her family and raised up a whole flock.

beforeitwasasweaterWhat Was It Before It Was a Sweater?, by Roseva Shreckhise (1985, preschool/early elementary): This interesting and informative book has a terribly outdated appearance. BoyChild listened patiently as the book told the story of the little girl’s birthday sweater from the birth of a lamb through shearing, the manufacturing process, and even through the wholesaler and the store. If it could be redone (probably along with the rest of the series) with updated illustrations, it would be something I would recommend as a nonfiction book for preschool and primary school classrooms!

How Do They Grow?: From Lamb to Sheep, From Lamb to Sheepby Jillian Powell (2001, early elementary): This simple book pretty much follows the nonfiction template. It includes a table of contents, bold print words defined in a glossary, headings, specific data, a section with further reading (including books, videos, websites, and addresses to contact 4-H), and an index. It gives the information chronologically and with scant detail (particularly on things that could be upsetting or disgusting to a young child, like giving birth, docking tails, and the livestock market).

I’m going to admit right now that I didn’t get the chance to read the chapter books I chose for this theme, so bear with the super-basic summaries for the following!

Agnes the SheepAgnes the Sheep, by William Taylor (1990, elementary): Agnes the sheep is a terror, and Belinda and Joe are suddenly responsible for her when her owner, Mrs. Carpenter dies. The jacket flap says this book is funny, but the few Amazon reviews are somewhat mixed (with one warning that there are a few inappropriate words, and the sheep dies suddenly near the end), so you might want to give it a read-through before you share it with a younger reader.

…And Now Miguel, by Joseph Krumgold, Product Detailsillustrated by Jean Charlot (1953, upper elementary): This book received the 1954 Newbery Medal, yet I have not actually ever read it. (I’ve never read the author’s second Newbery winner, Onion John, either. I think I have some work to do!). The author was a documentary filmmaker and this book is based on the Chavez family who had herded sheep in New Mexico for over one hundred years. Miguel is the middle child of the family, and he is discontent. He wants to be like his older brother, Gabriel, who can get whatever he wants, and he wants to be like his younger brother, Pedro, who is satisfied with whatever he has, but he is stuck in the middle. When his much loved older brother is drafted into the army, he gets his chance (although it’s not how he would have wished it) to join the men on their summer journey into the mountains with the sheep. (Teachers can purchase lesson plans and reading guides for this novel here. I’m sure there are also others available. Also, the image to the right does not feature the original artwork.)

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Fun Fourth Friday: Halloween Book Blog Round-up

Well, wow. I promised an Andrew Clements themed post, and then we took a weekend trip, BoyChild got a cold, then BoyChild’s sinus issue changed into his asthmatic cough, and none of us have gotten any decent sleep for several days. Between necessary errands, a trip to the doctor, and helping with preparations for the festival at GirlChild’s school this evening, I just haven’t had the chance to give the books the attention they deserve. Therefore, I’m serving up leftovers, so to speak–I’m linking you to other blogs that have reviewed Halloween-themed books for kids so you can at least get something useful from my blog this month! (All blogs were found via Pinterest.)

Scary and Scary-ish Halloween Books on Imagination Soup: This list of books about Halloween is for ages two to twelve. It includes not-scary picture books, a Halloween craft and recipe book, and scarier chapter books.

Halloween Books That Won’t Give Your Child Nightmares on No Time for Flash Cards: I’ve linked this blog before, and here’s another goodie–a list of easy-on-the-spooky picture books about Halloween. Includes contributions by many favorite children’s authors, like Jane Yolen, Laura Numeroff, and Karen Katz.

Halloween Books and Crafts to Match on No Time for Flashcards: Not reviews on this No Time for Flashcards entry, but each book and its link is paired with a craft (image shown so you know what you’re considering) and its link. Perfect for family or small-group activities at the library or in the classroom!

Halloween Book Countdown on Simply Kierste: While it’s a little late this year for the whole one-book-a-day countdown to Halloween that this family does, there are a number of Halloween and pumpkin-themed books here from which to choose–thirty-one, to be exact! The books aren’t reviewed (the post is mostly a description of the tradition), but there are links to the Amazon pages for each of the books she uses so you can check them out and decide for yourself (and maybe give it a go next year!).

Best Kids’ Halloween Books {a children’s librarian’s list} on Modern Parents Messy Kids: Just seven books long, this selective list suggests a good mixture of old and new, artsy and simple, funny and spooky.

Halloween Books for Preschoolers on Little Us: Most of the books on this list are unique (although there are a few repeats from other blogs), and I really like the looks of Are You My Mummy? (GirlChild always called the mummy rubber duck we had the “mommy duck” because the only use of the word “mummy” she knew at that time was from Topsy and Tim…) The summaries are apparently taken from the front flap or back cover of the books, so you get a good idea about each of the titles from which to choose.

There are many, MANY more lists from which to choose, and I’ll let you peruse them on your own. Here’s a link to my Pinterest search that you can use to discover the perfect Halloween books for your family!

(Don’t forget to visit your local IHOP to let your kids try out their Scary Face pancakes this year–free on Halloween at participating restaurants! My kids love them!)

GirlChild's scary face pancake (2013, age 5)

GirlChild’s scary face pancake (2013, age 5)

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