Monday, November 30, 2009

Mish-Mash Monday: Non-Fiction Titles for Children

Mish-Mash Monday seems an appropriate title for these non-fiction books... they certainly don't "go" together, but they're great books non-the-less and deserve special recognition!

Obama, Barack.
Our Enduring Spirit: President Barack Obama's First Words to America.
September 2009.
Review Copy provided courtesy of: HarperCollins Publishers

The election of Barack Obama to Presidential Office marked a turning point in American history. For those of us old enough to recall watching and understanding that important inaugural address, it will be a day to remember for years to come - a true first in American history. Despite the excitement that many children shared about an African American being elected to office, I tend to believe that they will remember the hullabaloo, but not so much the incredible inaugural speech that was given on that cold January day.

Given that it's a day we'll want to be able to share with children, this book is absolutely perfect! It depicts Obama as a man proud to be named President of the United States... proud to have the chance to try and change the direction of which our country was headed... and a man who wishes to make sure that life is as meaningful for ourselves as it his for himself. Bits and pieces of Obama's inaugural address to the Nation are shared here, in collaboration with illustrations that allow children to draw connections between the text and themselves. I am so glad to have this book to add to my collection that I must send a special thanks to my friend Jana at HarperCollins for passing this my way!

Bauer, Patricia.
B is for Battle Cry: A Civil War Alphabet.
April 2009.
Review Copy provided courtesy of: Sleeping Bear Press.

This book is so perfect for a 4th grade classroom here in New York that I must say I'm disappointed that I wasn't aware of it 4 years ago when I was completing my student teaching in that grade level! There is so much to teach children about the Civil War... from the basics (Confederate Troops and the Union troops) to the more obscure, less mentioned details of the war (letters expressing sentiments from home and war, and the different battles that were part of the war). This book allows teachers an opportunity to decide what they feel are the most important details and to use the alphabet pages in their own way to determine how much to share with students. So glad to have this to add to my shelf... even if I don't wind up in a 4th grade classroom here in NY, children seem to be drawn to the concept of war and battles, so I'm sure this will be a welcome addition to my ever-building (someday) classroom library!

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Weekly Blog Plan - November 30-December 4

Here's the weekly blog plan! Again, please remember this is subject to change and is dependent upon whether or not my materials come in from the library as planned. I realize that this may fall too late for you to use in your classroom this year, but the activities will definitely swing from year-t0-year! If you see something you really want to incorporate into your classroom, leave me a comment on this post or send me an e-mail, I'd be glad to provide you with the links I have, if nothing more!

Monday, November 30 - Mish-Mash Monday
  • Our Enduring Spirit: President Barack Obama's First Words to America, Barack Obama
  • B is for Battle Cry: A Civil War Alphabet, Patricia Bauer
Tuesday, December 1 - Jan Brett's Birthday
  • Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?
  • Christmas Trolls
  • The Night Before Christmas
  • Wild Christmas Reindeer
  • Trouble with Trolls
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
Wednesday, December 2 - Poetry Wednesday
  • Every Second Something Happens, Christine San Jose and Bill Johnson
  • Dear Mother, Dear Daughter, Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple
  • We Troubled the Waters, Ntozake Shange
Thursday, December 3 - Annual Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center
  • Who Would Like a Christmas Tree?, Ellen Bryan Obed
  • The Little Fir Tree, Margaret Wise Brown
  • Pinata in a Pine Tree, Pat Mora
  • Tree of Cranes, Allen Say
Friday, December 4 - Freaky Friday
  • The Hidden Bestiary, Judy Young
  • How the Nobble Was Finally Found, C.K. Williams
  • Jack Wants a Snack, Pat Schories
  • Quicky, Jerky, Extra Perky: More About Adjectives, Brian P. Cleary
  • Skin Like Milk, Hair of Silk: What Are Similies and Metaphors?, Brian P. Cleary

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cybils Post #5 - Better Late Than Never!

18 more of the 176 books nominated for the Fiction Picture Book award for you today and the count is up to 90/176! The Cybils committee has described an award-winning Fiction Picture Book as "a celebration of story and illustration, with lasting appeal for kids and/or adults. The best picture books completely excel in art, story, kid-friendliness, and adult appeal. A Cybils-winning picture book adds that special "It Factor." In message, in world-view, in connection, in humor, in reach, a book with "It Factor" rises to a higher level." (Cybils: 2009 Nominations Fiction Picture Books).

Wishinsky, Frieda.
You're Mean, Lily Jean.
January 2009.
North Winds Press (Scholastic Canada).

Sisters, Carly and Sandy, have always played nicely together. Then, Lily Jean moves in next door and Carly, because she's the youngest, ends up being bossed around until Sandy's had enough and decides to help Carly teach Lily Jean a lesson of her own! The easily portrayed message shows children that with a little creativity (and sometimes, some guidance) children can play nicely and all have equally important roles in imaginary play without anyone in particular needing to be the "boss" or in charge of the entire game. While the pinkish, girly nature of the book may deter boys from picking it up and reading, this is a lesson that's just as important for boys as it is for girls!

Omololu, Cynthia Jaynes.
When It's Six O'Clock in San Francisco.
July 2009.
Clarion Books.

Readers will follow children world-wide as they discover what time it is where they (the children in the book) live when it's six o'clock in San Francisco. This book (and the art, in particular) is very educational - not only does the book focus on the concept of time zones, the artwork allows for ample depiction of many, many cultures, as time zones are shared around the world. While I don't think this is a book that parents would pick out for a read aloud, I definitely could see teachers reaching for it to use as an aide when teaching time zones (I have never personally seen any other children's books related to the topic).

Say, Allen
January 2009.
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.

Erika, although having grown up in America, has always felt her heart belonged where the house from the picture at her grandmother's was located. As she grows, she longs to be there, living with her heritage and works and takes steps to make that dream come true. The lively, colorful illustrations seem to be accurate portrayals of Japan and the Japanese culture, allowing readers to perhaps understand Erika's longing to be there. I felt this book will allow children to see that home will be where you feel comfortable with yourself - your culture and heritage.

Hughes, Langston.
My People.
January 2009.
Antheneum Books for Young Readers.

In this picture book rendition of Langston Hughes' classic poem, "My People," children will hopefully take away the very important message that people come in all shapes, sizes, shades and ages, all of whom are unique for their own reasons. I don't think many children will have previously been exposed to this poem, so it will be vital that you discuss it thoroughly and perhaps even share it in the original poem format so that children are able to see the text for what it is outside of the photograph illustrations.

Luebs, Robin.
Please Pick Me Up, Mama!
March 2009.
Beach Lane Books.

It's long been believed that Mamas are for snuggling and this book certainly reinforces that idea! However, while little raccoon loves Mama's sunggles, she also enjoys her sense of independence, as she's content to do things alone as well. This book would be perfect for toddlers and preschoolers who are starting to venture out on their own, beginning to explore the world for what it is. The message that toddlers need a healthy balance of independent exploring coupled with displays of affection to form secure attachments make this book a good candidate for someone looking for books surrounding the topic of separation anxiety.

Schwarz, Viviane.
There Are Cats in This Book.
November 2008.
Candlewick Press.

The cats that "live in this book" tell the story of a typical day in their life - hiding beneath blankets, playing with yarn, exploring the inside of cardboard boxes and even having pillow fights and catching fish. The lift-the-flap style illustrations will definitely appeal to the youngest of readers (3-7), but I fear that older children will quickly lose interest, as the plot isn't very developed for more advanced minds. This would however, make for a wonderful toddler storytime read aloud!

Judge, Lita.
Pennies for Elephants.
June 2009.
Disney*Hyperion Books.

Based on the events of 1914 when the children of Boston worked together to raise $6,000 to buy the first three elephants for Boston's Franklin Park Zoo, Pennies for Elephants is a book that can reach all, from the youngest (animal fans) to the oldest (who may even remember hearing about this event having been a child at that time). The book was very representative of fashion and appearances during the early 1900's and shares with children a very powerful message - children can accomplish great things when differences are set aside and they unite and put their hearts and minds together.

Hughes, Langston.
The Negro Speaks of Rivers.
January 2009.
Disney*Jump at the Sun Books.

I've noticed during my time working in schools that children often seem lost when it comes to understanding poetry. Langston Hughes' poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers, presented here in picture book form, is shared in a way that allows children to begin visualizing the importance of water and rivers played in the lives of African Americans throughout history. This concept of water in the lives of African Americans is accented by E.B. Lewis' water color scenery and the accurate illustrations of African American faces. I found that this book would likely be appropriate for mainly older children who have a basic understanding of what African Americans have dealt with throughout their lives but is definitely usuable with younger children when combined with a discussion about the poem!

Schmidt, B. Lee.
My Name is Buttonz.
June 2009.
Author House.

Buttonz is a very unique ChiWeenie dog who shares all of the things that he likes to do that makes him unique, right down to his own name that's spelled with a "z" instead of an "s." Appropriate for young children (ages 5-8), this book would make for a perfect ice-breaker activity come the start of a new school year, as it could easily celebrate the uniqueness of all children.

Moser, Lisa.
Kisses on the Wind.
September 2009.
Candlewick Press.

Lydia is saddened by the thought of moving thousands of miles away from her grandmother. However, a brown leather book holds the stories they've shared near and dear to Lydia's heart, allowing her granmother to always be with her. The story shared here allows children to see that memories and stories will carry iwth you no matter where you are, allowing love to remain depsite distance. This is a perfect "family" gift, as it will likely inspire all family members to write down the stories they wish to remember for generations to come!

Cleminson, Katie.
Magic Box.
June 2009.
Disney*Hyperion Books.

For Eva's birthday, she's given a box - a magic box! And does magic ever happen as Eva's first wish comes true in more ways than she can imagine! Luckily, the magic box has the ability to end magic as quickly as it begins! This book is a perfect read aloud for your little one (ages 3-7) on his/her birthday. It seems likely that older children will probably lose interest quickly, as they tend not to believe in magic, however, I think that adults will enjoy the watercolor/sketched illustrations set against the splatter painted background as much as I did! I'll definitely be adding this book to my birthday shelf for my someday classroom (as part of each child's birthday celebration, I hope to allow them to choose the daily read aloud from the birthday shelf)!

Beaty, Andrea.
Hush, Baby Ghostling.
August 2009.
Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Baby Ghostling is ready to go to bed but needs mother's reassurance as before he heads off to sleep as he's afraid of the (not-so) childish bedtime "monsters," so to speak. I think young children (ages 3-8) will find this book funny, as like children are afraid of ghosts, this little ghost is afraid of children! What's to be learned here is that ghosts and children really have nothing to fear, as in the minds of each other, both are really just make-believe!

Barnett, Mac.
Guess Again!
September 2009.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Guess again! The title really does tell all there is to tell about this story! Readers are encouraged to guess what the silhouette is - and will likely need to be told "Guess Again!" as the pictures and illustrations are meant to be tricky to young eyes! Add the level of engagement to the bold, colorful lift-the-flap illustrations and hesitant readers will become actively envolved in the reading process and will be well on their way to developing a love of books! This would make for a wonderful preschool read aloud during storyhour!

Krensky, Stephen.
Chaucer's First Winter.
October 2009.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Little bear Chaucer is about to experience his first winter. His parents prepare his to spend the winter hibernating like bears do, but Chaucer has other plans! Children are likely to sympathize with Chaucer's desire to stay up and play rather than to "hibernate," as many children don't find bedtime their favorite time of the day! This is a perfect read aloud option during an Animals in Winter themed unit.

Vamos, Samantha.
Before You Were Here, Mi Amor.
May 2009.

Before You Were Here, Mi Amor, follows one family as they anxiously await the arrival of their newest family member. Interweaved throughout the story is bits of the Spanish language, making this book perfect for children learning Spanish language or for bilingual families, as context clues from the illustrations enable readers to discover what the Spanish words mean in English. This book would make a perfect gift for expectant moms and new babies. Everyone will likely appreciate this book as it shows just how much love is experienced while awaiting the arrival of a new baby!

Lechner, John.
The Clever Stick.
July 2009.
Candlewick Press.

A stick, sharp in more ways that one, discovers that even without a voice, there are ways to express himself. The watercolor and pencil-drawn illustrations take readers on an adventure as they quickly learn a message of utmost importance - actions speak louder than words... you don't need to have a voice to be able to express yourself. While children enjoy the story of a clever stick, adults are sure to enjoy the subtelties that children aren't likely to catch on to - since falling out of the tree, "he had been sharp," both in mind and shape!

Watt, Melanie
Scaredy Squirrel at Night.
February 2009.
Kids Can Press.

Readers follow along as Squirrel protects himself from the unwanted overnight visitors he's afraid of and the plan he puts into action (which eventually backfires on him). However, he does manage to overcome some of his fears in the process! Like all of the books in the Scaredy Squirrel series, this will be every bit as appealing to children and parents, for there's always a lesson to be learned - most dreams you experience are just in your imagination. More often than not, nothing horrible really happens!

Delessert, Etienne.
Moon Theater.
July 2009.
Creative Editions.

A young boy describes how night comes about - how the moon rises and the stars make their way into the night sky and his role in the whole event. The two-page illustrations are enough to tell a story alone, so children not yet able to read words will certainly be able to enjoy the story as well! This would make for a wonderful bedtime read aloud!

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

National Family Week

Celebrated annually the week containing Thanksgiving, November 22-28, 2009 is National Family Week!
-The Teacher's Calendar, 2008-2009

Here are a couple wonderful books to help you get in the spirit of celebrating your family!

Paulin, Chrita.
Let's Bake a Family.
January 2009.
Coal Under Pressure Publications.

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Non traditional families, unique in many ways, are really not so unusual these days. No longer just Momma, Papa, daughter, son. It may be grandma, auntie or anyone who contribute to those special memories of gathering round the table full of food, fun and holiday festivities. Let's Bake A Family surely proves that blended families are actually very cool. In this beautiful story of unit, Kyle learns just how wonderful it can be growing up in such an amazing blended family.

This is a perfect story to show children that a family is what you make it. Each family has their own way of showing love and support for one another. In Kyle's family, they bake. Baking helps Kyle not only adjust to the changes in his life but to celebrate his family for what it is. I think this is an important book for children to read, especially if they are living in blended family situations, as it shows that everything will work out for the best in the end.

Reading Activity:

The recipe that Kyle's family uses to bake a "family" at the end of the story is as follows:
  • a little bit of cake mix
  • a couple of eggs
  • a cup of milk
  • a teaspoon of butter; and
  • a whole heaping helping of love
Ask your child to define what makes up a "whole heaping helping of love." What are those "ingredients" that make up love? Once he/she comes up with an answer, share amongst the class/family and settle on a list a together!

Monk, Isabell.

Carlrhoda Books.

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Hope's new and unusual dessert blends well with the traditional dishes prepared by her cousins and Aunt Poogee at their annual summer get-together.

This isn't your ordinary family get-together... that's what makes it so neat! It's not a feast planned around any holiday, it's more a family reunion sort of feast! Everyone in the family has prepared their favorite (and in some cases, secret) recipes to share at the annual summer get-together. This concept, in my eyes, is a very important one, as it shows a loving family sharing with each other - not only food but also their love for one another, which is most important of all, especially as we consider that National Family Week is taking place during the week of Thanksgiving, in which many of us will have the opportunity to share our thankfulness towards family!

Reading Activity:

Plan a family get-together of your own. Invite the whole family! However, instead of planning a holiday-type meal, encourage each person to bring their favorite dish. It may just turn out that there are no meat dishes... perhaps there will be no veggies dishes, or maybe even no desserts! No matter, take the time to enjoy that your family is sharing with you their most favorite dish! Then, assign one person the job of making "The ______________ Family Cookbook," which will contain the recipes for all of the favorite dishes present at the get-together! To make it easier, you could ask each person to bring however many copies of their recipe so that each family member (including the kids) will get a copy of their own that can be stapled together to take home and treasure forever!

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Monday, November 23, 2009

National Alzheimer's Disease Month

National Alzheimer's Disease Month is celebrated from November 1-30 to increase awareness of Alzheimer's disease and what is being done to advance research and help patients, their families and their caregivers.
-The Teacher's Calendar, 2008-2009

I'm sitting here, typing up this post, nearly in tears. Alzheimer's disease hits home here... my mother and I have been tirelessly caring for my 83-year old grandmother who is suffering from the disease. From a caregiver's standpoint, it's painful to watch. As a grandchild, it's emotionally exhausting. Past circumstances beyond my control led me to living nearly 1/4 of my life without contact with her. As she's suffering today and unable to communicate effectively, I so wish I had the coping mechanisms available to me that are provided in both of the following reviews - some way to hold on to past memories to make sure they will live on for generations to come. However, that isn't the case for me... I'm not that fortunate. Take it for what it's worth, make the time to be sure your children are fortunate enough to be graced with these memories by hanging on to them in any way possible! Prepare yourselves (and your child(ren)) for the time when their grandparent's are no long able to share those memories!

Altman, Linda Jacobs.
Singing with Momma Lou.
Lee & Low Books.

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Nine-year-old Tamika Jordan dreads visiting her grandmother at the nursing home. Momma Lou has Alzheimer's and always forgets who Tamika is. But when Tamika's father shows her Momma Lou's scrapbooks, the young girl gets the idea of jogging Momma Lou's memory. During each visit, she shows her grandmother memorabilia from the scrapbook: Momma Lou dressing Tamika like an angel for a Christmas pageant, marching in a civil rights demonstration, and singing "We Shall Overcome" with other jailed protesters. One day Momma Lou recognizes a newspaper clipping and leads everybody in a celebration of song.

This book is perfect for encouraging children to share memories with loved ones suffering from Alzheimer's Disease or Dementia. While little Tamika is discouraged that her grandmother doesn't remember, she quickly realizes that with a little creativity on her own part, she will be able to help her grandmother momentarily bring back some memories of their shared times. This is a very moving story and will certainly help children cope with an Alzheimer's diagnosis in their family.

Bahr, Mary.
The Memory Box.
Albert Whitman & Company.

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Zach is excited---three weeks of fishing Gramp's lake and eating Gram's cooking. Their first day together is so good, Gramps calls it a 'Memory Box' day. But Zach isn't prepared for the story about the memory box. It's a box to save the memories forever; and it's especially for Gramps because he has Alzheimer's disease. The three of them spend their days together filling the box, with new memories and old. And all three support each other, building strength to handle whatever comes.

As young Zach comes to terms with discovering his Grandfather's Alzheimer's disease, a simple "memory box" helps him cope. I think the entire concept of a memory box is extremely important and I can only wish now that I had had the opportunity to do such a project, to ensure that the memories will last for generations to come. I didn't have this opportunity though, and for those of you who still have the chance - take it from me, you never know where life is going to lead you. Get a box (it doesn't have to be anything special) and alongside your children and parents, create a memory box of your own, so that if the day does come when you family is facing dealing with Alzheimer's disease, you're prepared and don't feel cheated out of forgotten memories.

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weekly Blog Plan - November 23-27

Here's the weekly blog plan! Again, please remember this is subject to change and is dependent upon whether or not my materials come in from the library as planned. I realize that this may fall too late for you to use in your classroom this year, but the activities will definitely swing from year-t0-year! If you see something you really want to incorporate into your classroom, leave me a comment on this post or send me an e-mail, I'd be glad to provide you with the links I have, if nothing more!

Monday, November 23 - National Alzheimer's Disease Month
  • The Memory Box, Mary Bahr
  • Singing with Momma-Lou, Linda Jacobs Altman
Tuesday, November 24 - National Family Week
  • Let's Bake a Family, Chrita Paulin
  • Family, Isabell Monk
  • The Graves Family, Patricia Polacco
Wednesday, November 25 - Marc Brown's Birthday
Thursday, November 26 - Death Anniversary of Sojourner Truth
  • Sojourner Truth: Path to Glory, Peter Merchant
  • A Picture Book of Sojourner Truth, David Adler
  • Let's Meet Sojourner Truth, Lisa Trumbauer
Friday, November 27 - Kevin Henkes' Birthday
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Lilly's Plastic Purple Purse
  • All Alone

Friday, November 20, 2009

United Nation's Children's Day

Designated by the UN General Assembly as Universal Children's Day, November 20 marks United Nations Children's Day. The day was first observed in 1953 as a time to honor children with special ceremonies and festivals and to make children's needs known to governments. It is observed on different days in more than 120 nations, however November 20 marks the day in 1959 when the General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
-The Teacher's Calendar, 2008-2009

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse.
Yes Day!
May 2009.
HarperCollins Publishers.

Summary from Barnes & Noble:

Pizza for breakfast? YES! Not having to clean your room? YES! Staying up really late? YES! Every kid's dream? YES! Welcome to Yes Day!

This book is perfect for celebrating United Nation's Children's Day, as it focuses solely on pleasing the mind of a child - by giving them that one-word answer they're just waiting to hear all the time! However, the problem with this book is that children are really going to be expecting a "Yes Day!" coming from you... and that's where we must be careful, as not all the questions they prompt you with might make for a safe and doable "Yes!" answer... Better decide how your children will take the context of the book, or at least forewarn them that it doesn't necessarily mean they'll be having a "Yes Day!" of their own! In a classroom setting, I would use the book as a writing (perhaps a journal) prompt. After reading, ask the students to describe their ideal "Yes Day!" What would it look like? What would they do? Definitely would be a great introduction to such a writing topic!
If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving on Thursday!

So, I stole the post title from the famous Magic Tree House series... but it's appropriate. Thanksgiving is officially one week from today, and therefore it's time to break out some literature to help the festivities begin! Here are a few suggestions for you and the children!

Havill, Juanita.
Jamaica Is Thankful.
October 2009.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Every year on Thanksgiving Day in my house, it's tradition to go around the table and tell what you are thankful for. A lot of times the things that we're thankful for seem to be trivial, unimportant things that we could easily get along without. If this is a tradition at your house too, this is a wonderful book to share with your family. While there is no Thanksgiving emphasis whatsoever, we see a little Jamaica as she learns that she's thankful for her brother, Ossie, even though his pet allergies result in Jamaica having to give up a cute, cuddly kitten. This would also be a good book to share if you have children at home who don't seem to really appreciate each other for who they are and not what they are!

Nelson, Robin.
August 2009.
Lerner Classroom.

I've featured numerous books by Robin Nelson on my blog in the past. However, this one stood out just a bit more than normal as I read it. It seems like it would be an ideal book for the youngest of children who are just beginning to learn what Thanksgiving's all about! Not only that, it's perfect for beginning readers, as the limited text works alongside the photograph illustrations to provide ample context clues for unknown words and vocabulary! This is definitely a book I'm glad to add to my library!

Friedman, Laurie.
Thanksgiving Rules.
September 2009.
Lerner Publishing Group.

Percy Isaac Gifford is a little boy who knows everything, EVERYTHING there is to know about Thanksgiving and he's here to share his knowledge with your little ones to ensure their Thanksgiving be as successful as possible! If they're willing to follow his ten rules (all of which are explained in greater detail in story format), everyone should have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Rule 1: Smile and say "Pumpkin Pie!"
Rule 2: Eat, drink, but first clean!
Rule 3: Short = Sweet
Rule 4: The early bird gets the turkey.
Rule 5: The more the merrier!
Rule 6: Don't be afraid to eat EVERYTHING!
Rule 7: Don't stop or drop, just take some rolls.
Rule 8: The 2nd time is the charm!
Rule 9: Life is sweeter when you eat sweets.
Rule 10: A hug makes the heart grow fonder.

While some of these rules (when stated alone) may make absolutely no sense to you or even your kids, everyone will for sure be chuckling as you read them alongside the rest of Percy's advice. This is a light-hearted, funny book that is perfect reading for the night before Thanksgiving! It might even be fun to encourage your child(ren) to come up with an 11th rule of their own that could be added to Percy's rules!

Some Thanksgiving Fun for the Kids:
If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Teddy Bear Anniversary

On November 18, 1902, the Washington Evening Star published a cartoon showing President Teddy Roosevelt while he was on a hunting trip in Mississippi refusing to shoot a mother bear. Candy store operator Morris Michtom and his wife of Brooklyn, NY, obtained the president's permission to use his name on their brown plush toy bar. While stuffed bears have been available for many years, this was the first to be called a teddy bear.
-The Teacher's Calendar, 2008-2009

Murphy, Frank.
The Legend of the Teddy Bear.
Sleeping Bear Press.

While chuck-full of history, this book will be no bore to children, for they'll love learning about Teddy's (Teddy Roosevelt's) bear! The book very basically describes how the teddy bear came to be, as well as it's namesake! The text is simple and the illustrations colorful - both of which will attract the eyes of children as young as four-years old. This is definitely a great book to share with children on this anniversary of the teddy bear or anytime, especially if they are teddy bear lovers!

Kay, Helen.
The First Teddy Bear.
2005 (1985).
Stemmer House Publishers.

This book, much like The Legend of the Teddy Bear goes to great length to share with readers the history of the "founding" of the "teddy" bear. Sure, stuffed bears had been around a long time, but it wasn't until that fateful day of Teddy Roosevelt's bear hunting adventure that they were dubbed "teddy bears."

This book is great for older readers (ages 8-12), as it is a bit lengthier in text. However, the illustrations and all of the detail provided within make it a very interesting story! I found it interesting that this book mentions how the original teddy bear is now on display, sitting in a glass case at the Smithsonian Institution... I think many children hesistate to "visit" museums because of fear that they will be "boring," but it's things like this that make museum visits such fun - you never know what you'll see!

Lesson Plans/Learning Activities:
If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Meet Dodsworth

Dodsworth is a new character name in children's books to me... kind of a neat way to introduce children to the big cities in the world!

Egan, Tim.
Dodsworth in New York.
October 2009 (September 2007).
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Dodsworth wakes up one morning and decides he's ready for an adventure!
Dodsworth wanted adventure.
He wanted to fly in a plane.
He wanted to sail on a ship.
He wanted to see the world.
But first, he wanted breakfast.
Little to Dodsworth's dismay, his trip to Hodge's Cafe is definitely going to set him on the right path for experiencing adventure, as Hodges' duck decides he needs some adventure, as well! This book will serve as a perfect introduction to New York City for children unfamiliar with the thriving city and all that it has to offer! It touches briefly upon introducing many different landmarks, all the while sharing a story that is funny and will be attractive to children! During Dodsworth's adventure through New York City with the duck, children will become familiar with the subway, Yankee Stadium, Wall Street and the Brooklyn Bridge, a few among the many mentioned landmarks. This book would make a perfect gift for families that are planning a trip to NYC and would make for a great read-aloud or just a book to read (in the car or plane) on the way there! Just when children might think the end of the book is drawing near, they're in for a surprise as they discover Hodges' duck isn't ready for the adventure to end...

Egan, Tim.
Dodsworth in London.
November 2009.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Well, I haven't yet read the second book in the series, Dodsworth in Paris, but from what I can gather, it picks up where Dodsworth in New York left off... with Dodsworth and the Duck arriving in Paris. I can only make the assumption that as Dodsworth prepared to leave Paris and made a phone call to Hodges', the Duck decided he still wasn't ready to call it quits on his adventure and that's how the pair has now ended up in London!

As children pick up this third book in the Dodsworth series, you can be certain they'll be learning about British culture, crumpets and tea and all! From trips to Buckingham Palace via the famous red, double decker bus, your children will be eager to travel on an adventure of their own to really discover London in person! I think these books are highly educational (in a basic sort of way), exposing children to bits and pieces of different cultures and all the while encouraging them to do even more research about these well-known cities around the world!

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Monday, November 16, 2009

Miscellaneous Non-Fiction Monday

I've got a couple different non-fiction works to share with you today that I've recently received in the mail. One I was previously familiar with, but not the second! Hopefully you'll enjoy them.

Raven, Margot Theis.
Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot.
Sleeping Bear Press.

I read this book several years ago as part of a reading project for one of my Master's classes. I loved it then and was so happy to receive a review copy in the mail a few weeks ago! Chuck full of history about the Berlin Airlift, stemming as a result of WWII, the concept of the "Chocolate Pilot" will easily draw in children. After Berlin blockaded off the roads, railroads and canal routes in an attempt to Germany under his communist control, West Berliners were left without food, clothing, heat and electricity, as there was no way for it to be delivered. The Allies (U.S., Great Britain and France) came up with the idea of a "sky bridge." The mission delivered more than 2.3 million tons of supplies to West Berliners. Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot tells the story of one seven-year old West Berlin girl, Mercedes and the "chocolate pilot" Lt. Gail Halvorsen. The children of West Berlin used to beg Lt. Halvorsen for "sweet freedom" and wished to give them something sweet, even though he knew it couldn't yet be freedom. Instead, he began dropping gum and candy to the children and even made a special delivery to Mercedes herself after she wrote a letter of appeal to him!

During this holiday season, perhaps more now than ever, there are many families here in the United States that are unfortunately not going to have the "sweetest" holiday season. Perhaps, in your own community (as part of a school, library, or even just your family), you could become "Chocolate Pilots" yourself, holding a chocolate drive. Collect as much chocolate as you can for the less fortunate in your candy. Then, as the holidays near, take your collection to the local food pantry that is in charge of putting together holiday meals and let them add a bit of chocolate to each family's meal basket - sweeten up someone else's holiday and in doing so, remember the kindness and love Lt. Havlorsen showed to the children of West Berlin!

Schonberg, Marcia.
I is for Idea: An Inventions Alphabet.
Sleeping Bear Press.

From the peanut butter sandwich to the sewing machine to dynamite and gas masks, this is the book for inquisitive children who love trivia and inventions! I think I've said this before, but these alphabet books by Sleeping Bear Press are great because they can be very basic when they need to be in order to use with the youngest of children but also provide a great deal of detail for older readers who want to know everything they can about a specific topic. That is what makes this book the perfect candidate to use in a 3rd grade social studies class here in New York when children are learning about inventors and inventions. Here, they will learn about 25 very different inventions by 25 very different inventors, all while learning that they, too, can become inventors, as the "I" page exhibits!
These are Inventions in our book
standing for the letter I.
You can be an inventor, too,
but only if you try.
I think you will find this book useful in many ways, even if you're just looking to encourage your child(ren)'s creativity and imagination. You will also find useful activities for using the book in the Teacher's Guide, provided by Sleeping Bear Press!

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to

Sunday, November 15, 2009

America's White Table Winner!!!

List Randomizer at Random.Org has chosen my three winners of Sleeping Bear Press' America's White Table!

I've sent emails to all, informing you of your winning! Please send me your mailing addresses no later than 11:59 pm EST on Wednesday, November 18, so I can get all the info to the publisher!

Thanks to all those who participated... keep checking back for more giveaway opportunities!

Cybils Post #4

18 more of the 176 books nominated for the Fiction Picture Book award for you today! The Cybils committee has described an award-winning Fiction Picture Book as "a celebration of story and illustration, with lasting appeal for kids and/or adults. The best picture books completely excel in art, story, kid-friendliness, and adult appeal. A Cybils-winning picture book adds that special "It Factor." In message, in world-view, in connection, in humor, in reach, a book with "It Factor" rises to a higher level." (Cybils: 2009 Nominations Fiction Picture Books).

I've definitely come across many favorites that I've decided to "shortlist." However, for the fairness of all those who have authored and nominated titles, I'm trying to just share my positive thoughts here to encourage everyone to seek out the books and see how you feel about them! Being a teacher and an avid reader, I can definitely find positive (and ways to use each book educationally) in each of these books! Please take the time to check some of them out for yourself and let me know what you think of them!

Ferrari, Della Ross.
Star of the Show.
September 2009.
Shenanigan Books.

Francine, the oldest of two siblings obviously rules the roost in this funny story about being in charge! Poor Max is left to being his sister's slave until one day he figures out a way to show her that he'll no long be bossed around. Together, the two learn to share and work together. The result is two "Stars of the Show." This is another story that perfectly shows the implications of sibling rivalry. Parents will like the idea of a story that shows siblings sharing and getting along. The message to be learned: work together and share the "fame" and you'll actually have more fun playing together!

Gribnau, Joe.
Kick the Cowboy.
September 2009.
Pelican Publishing Company.

Kick the Cowboy is, plain and simply put, way too proud of himself. And his bragging ways have resulted in him driving away all of his friends and terrorizing those people who live alongside him in his Texas town. When little Belle, a new child in town asks for Kick's helps in searching for her missing puppy, she has more of an effect on him than any of us could have hoped - helping him learn to mend his way through all those tattered fences. This book wonderfully depicts the way one would envision a Texas cowboy town, but even better, it teaches a very important message, and it's not even one that children will have to search in the pages for - it's stated right there in plain English!
When you're ridin' a high horse, there ain't no way to get off gracefully. You need to apologize. If is like bustin' a bronc... you're gonna get thrown. The secret is to get back on.
Enderle, Dotti.
Gingerbread Man Superhero.
September 2009.
Pelican Publishing Company.

This unique take on "The Gingerbread Man" is most appropriate for older children who will pick up on the little things that make it funny - the other cookies in the bakery talking to the Gingerbread cookie, for example. I don't believe a lot of younger children will pick up on what's really happening in this story. Another aspect of this take on "The Gingerbread Man" that children will appreciate are the comic-style approach to the writing over the story. This comic-style has quickly become popular with children, so they'll likely love the text bubbles that make up the entire story and show a great deal of character dialogue throughout (this would be a great way to teach children about dialogue in writing as a way to show characters interacting). However, that being said, I don't think I'll be using this book in a classroom for that purpose or even as a read-aloud. I was a bit turned off by one part in particular. The old lady adds a purple prune to the stomach of the gingerbread man to try and make the the old man happy? Kids won't understand what that's all about, but an adult will easily to recognize what's being inferred. I found it disgusting really. How do you think you'd respond to this? Would you likely accept it as funny or find it inappropriate like I did?

Sussman, Michael.
Otto Grows Down.
February 2009.
Sterling Publishing Co, Inc.

It's Otto's 6th birthday! However, instead of him having a blast at his party, we notice just how terrible sibling rivalry can be for Otto. Rather than wishing for something happy before he blows out his birthday candles, he instead wishes he could go back in time - back to the time before his sister Anna was born. While many times, our wishes don't come true (or at least they don't in my case!), Otto's does, and time slowly begins to go in reverse. As time rewinds, Otto slowly comes to the realization that he'd rather grow up with Anna than grow down without her. The illustrations are greart, really showing Otto's life "growing down" and I think parents will enjoy this book and will be happy to show older siblings this type of book when a new baby arrives. Not only is a good book for a child's mentality as new siblings arrive, it also teaches an important message along the way! Be careful what you wish for, as sometimes, wishes do come true!

Paquette, Ammi-Joan.
The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies.
April 2009.

Oh, how I would have loved to have this book as a child! I was always looking for creative things to do and I think the closest I ever came to looking for fairies was building chipmunk houses! I know my mom would have loved to give me this book as a gift, as it encourages cost-free imaginative play with children (outside the house - away from video games and computers). The unique blend of art and photography in this book will easily allow children to imagine themselves in such a situation, inviting them to their own backyards for their own adventures in tracking fairies. I think it will definitely be a hint among the little girls in your life!

Lazo-Gilmore, Dorina K.
Cora Cooks Pancit.
April 2009.
Shen's Books.

Little Cora, the youngest child in her family desperately wants to participate in cooking meals alongside her siblings. However, because she's a kid, she ends up with "kid jobs," drawing pictures in the flour, while the older kids get to do the adult jobs. One day, when her brothers and sister are out, she gets the opportunity to help her mother cook dinner and does so almost perfectly because of her previous attention to details while her siblings had all the fun cooking! This book vividly depicts Filipino culture and cooking style, making it a wonderful choice if you're looking to introduce your children to different cultures! It also will show you just how willing your children may be to help out in the kitchen, allowing you to pick up some special bonding time together, combined with fun learning experiences (yes, cooking can be educational, as many times recipes call for a certain amount of measuring that will expose your child to measurement skills)!

Haiber, Deen and Aimee MacDonald.
Seven Spirals: A Chakra Sutra for Kids.
January 2009.
Mushroom Hollow Press.

Through real-life situations, seven children learn about the chakras (circles of energy that exist throughout the body, if I'm understanding correctly) and their meanings (root, sacral, navel, heart, throat, forehead, crown). I had to to a bit of research about "chakras" on my own after reading this, because I was feeling completely in the dark! From what I gather, this could be a form of meditiation used to refocus the negative energy in the body to make it more positive. This book is very colorful, featuring every color of the rainbow and will likely appeal to children because the illustrations are eye-catching. It would probably be interesting to use at home with your children to help them get through troubling times (I don't think it would work just as a shared reading experience)... however, I think you'd have to make sure you really understand the concept of "chakras" before passing this on your child(ren)!

Ransom, Jeanie Franz.
What Really Happened to Humpty (from the Files of a Hard-Boiled Detective).
February 2009.
Charlesbridge Publishing.

Readers watch as Joe Dumpty workes to solve the mystery of how his brother, Humpty, really fell off the wall. Throughout his investigation, all of the other well-known nursery rhymes are waved into the story in some way. This is a really funny, creative book and I'm very fortunate that I'll now be able to add this to my library for use in an early childhood classroom some day when teaching a thematic unit focusing on nursery rhymes. Children will definitely be able to chuckle and enjoy this book as long as they are familiar with tradition nursery rhymes (Little Bo Peep, Little Miss Muffet, Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, etc). While all the clues may lead you astray, the real culprit will likely not surprise you!

Reagan, Jean.
Always My Brother.
June 2009.
Tilbry House, Publishers.

Becky and her brother John used to do everything together - until John died. Becky experiences a great deal of grief in trying to overcome his death, until her new job as soccer team goalie helps her to see that even though John is no longer on Earth with her family, he is still very much a part of their lives and that his memories and impact will last forever. The simple, realistic illustrations in this book are perfect for children who are dealing with the loss of a loved one. They will not take away from the important coping mechanisms found within. Coupled with the simplistic art, we never learn how John died, making this book even more appropriate for dealing with grief, as it can occur in all shapes and forms. Children should really be able to connect with this book on some level!

Robley-Blake, Colleen H.
Mom, I Fired the Babysitter!
November 2008.
Imaaginn This.

Alex is upset that his mom has hired a newbabysitter, especially when he thinks he is old enough to take care of himself. He does everything he can possibly think of to try and make her quit, until one day, Mom decides Alex's older brother Stephen is old enough to care for Alex (sure, a little bit of scheming from Stephen and even Alex's dad, helps out)! The graphic-like, comical illustrations will likely appeal to children, as more and more often, I'm seeing children reach for books with similar styles. I think this book is most appropriate for older children (8-12 years old) who have a babysitter and are likely to understand and sympathize with Alex's situation.

Malaspina, Ann.
Finding Lincoln.
September 2009.
Albert Whitman & Company.

Louis, an African American boy decides to take a stand and enter the "Whites Only" public library in order to learn about Abe Lincoln's childhood, as he wishes to "shake things up" like Lincoln did in order to help African Americans gain access to the library. Similar to Richard Wright and the Library Card, this book teaches children about the lack of rights that African Americans experienced through the use of activities that today's children can easily relate to. The paintings easily take you back in time to 1951 in Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement and certainly help to teach the message that it's okay to take a peaceful stand when you firmly believe in an issue.

Dulemba, Elizabeth O.
Soap, Soap, Soap: Jabon, Jabon, Jabon.
September 2009.
Raven Tree Press.

Hugo is sent on a mission by his mother to go to the store and purchase soap. Along the way, he encouters numerous setbacks resulting in him dirtying himself before he finally remembers what he was supposed to purchase. While there is no moral that I could find within this stoyr, it would certainly be ideal for bilingual children or children who are beginning to learn English or Spanish language, as Spanish words are interweaved appropriately, allowing children to easily pick up on their meaning (and there's a Spanish/English glossary at the back for easy reference). The colorful illustrations that portray Mexican, Latin, African American and Caucasian children also makes the book very appropriate to show intertwined cultures living in one area.

Stephens, Dawn.
The Little Pot.
May 2009.
bPlus Books.

A little pot or "vessel" is created for a special purpose - a fruit pot. However, before discovering his purpose in life, Little Pot must first endure life's trials and tribulations. Parents will love sharing this story! If not for the hand-sketched illustrations which are attractive to the eye, they'll love the inspirational story that's contained within. The message here, quoted directly from author Stephens,
Like "Little Pot," you, too, were made for a very speical purpose. And as you trust, believe, and accept God's plan for your life, you will become a "vessel" that bears "fruit."
Would this not be an amazing book to use in place of Oh, The Places You'll Go as a graduation gift?

Rylant, Cynthia.
All in a Day.
March 2009.
Abrams Books for Young Readers.

A person will realize just how much significance a day holds after reading this wonderful book! Everyone has experienced the time frame of a single day, not knowing what the future holds and unable to change the past. Each day allows opportunities and chances that will exist for just one day and never again, allowing readers to see that they should take advantage of every chance they're offered. This is a powerful story that I truly believe anyone can relate to and appreciate, and the message is blatantly stated, for those unable to pick up on it!
This day will soon be over
and it won't come back again.
So live it well, make it count,
fill it up with you.
The day's all yours, it's waiting now...
See what you can do.
Myron, Vicki and Bret Witter.
Dewey: There's a Cat in the Library.
September 2009.
Little, Brown and Company.

Librarian Vicki Myron found little Dewey abandoned in the drop box of the Spencer Library. She nursed him back to health and eventually named him mascot of the library, naming him Dewey Readmore Books. While Dewey impacted a great many library patrons, this children's book focuses on the library's youngest patrons and Dewey's interactions with them. Children will love the story, as Dewey is an adorable, easily likeable cat - one who shows that the best way to be is to be yourself! I don't think children will easily take away this message, but I think with a little conversation about how Dewey best interacted with the child patrons, children should be able to pick up on the message!

Brown, Peter.
The Curious Garden.
April 2009.
Little, Brown and Company.

Liam, a city-child at heart, sets out to explore the top of the buildings in his city. There, he discovers a few plants that appear to be dying off. Upon his discovery, Liam decides to take matters into his own hand and show the plants special love and attention. Little-by-little, the drab city is transformed as the plants begin to thrive because of the attention they've received by one small person, a message that allows readers to see that the efforts of one small person can help change the world! Perhaps what I liked the most about this story was the use of the boy as the gardener, as gardening (especially among children) tends to be a stereotypically girly-activity. I'm definitely glad I've had the chance to read this one!

Ubanovic, Jackie.
Duck and Cover.
January 2009.
HarperCollins Publishers.

Duck returns in this newest book in the "Duck" series, and fans of the series are sure to love this newest adventure. He's at Irene's house playing with their animal friends when suddenly a knock appears at the door and Harold the Alligator arrives looking for help after escaping the zoo, because he's eaten someone's dog. Cleverly, the animals band together to help Harold outwit the zoo detectives who show up looking for him. While I didn't find the book to be terrible appealing to me, I think many children will enjoy the humor within.

Pinkney, Jerry.
The Lion & The Mouse.
September 2009.
Little, Brown and Company.

Beautiful pencil drawn illustrations make this wordless version more than worthy of sharing! I can honestly say I've never seen such beautiful artwork for a book. While it is important for children to be familiar with Aesop's Fable, The Lion and the Mouse, this wordless version of the tale will certainly have little minds creating a story of their own as they examine the images. This is definitely worth sharing!

For more information or to purchase any of the books on this post, click on the image for a link to