105 Ways to Give a Book

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Today is the perfect day for looking back and looking forward. First, a round-up of the best of March in the Carnival of Children’s Literature, with thanks to the host, Jenny’s Wonderland of Books. Lots of great posts to peruse.

Today is the last day to contribute your list to Fuse#8’s Top Picture Books. I already sent mine in, but would someone please do me a favor and submit The Day the Babies Crawled Away in their top ten? I owe you one.

Today may be the last chance (or almost the last chance) to participate in the various Library Loving Challenges, where you comment your way to their donations. Many of the bloggers have reached their goals, but there are several that still need your comments, and you’ll find that list with Jama.

And that’s enough on March — a month that has been killing me with its lack of Springness. Yeah, I see the daffodils and blooming cherry trees and I am not impressed. Because the heat is still running even though I’ve turned the thermostat down to 65 degrees. Because we’re still routinely pulling out our puffy winter coats. Because our bushes are dead piles of branches flanking our walkway. (Though that last one might be our fault.)

So onward to April, and hopefully some better weather. Soon. But if the warm days aren’t enough to sell the month, then the amazing kidlitosphere Poetry Month events (as lifted from A Year of Reading) should do it.

Gregory K. at GottaBook announced his project, 30 Poets/30 Days: “Every day in April, I’ll be posting a previously unpublished poem by a different poet.” Authors include Jon Scieszka, Linda Sue Park, Jack Prelutsky, Nikki Grimes, and Douglas Florian.

Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect is sharing her interviews with “the most amazing writers of poetry for children on the planet.” She’ll have 36 interviews in 30 days. Authors include Jane Yolen, Adam Rex, Ralph Fletcher, and Joseph Bruchac.

Jone at Check it Out will be doing a variety of poetry projects with students in her school, as well as challenging herself to write 30 poems in 30 days for a third year!

Anastasia Suen, author of Pencil Talk and Other School Poems, has started a new blog just for students’ poems about school. She’ll feature a student’s poem every day in April.

Sylvia Vardell at Poetry For Children will be reviewing a new children’s poetry book every day.

OMG, this month the Poetry Fridays are going to ROCK!

If the poetry doesn’t wow you, then how about the School Library Journal Battle of the Books starting the week of April 13th? Print out the competitors and wait for the fun to begin. There is a wonderful, boiled-down-to-the-bone comparison at Tea Cozy. I’m going to print that out too for reference. Particularly to remind me not to comment indignantly about how very different the books are in BOB when apparently that is the point.

On April 16th, you can Rock the Drop by leaving a great YA book for a teen to find and enjoy. Check out readergirlz for more info.

On April 18th, you can indulge your need to read with the 24 Hour Read-A-Thon. (Wondering about the 48 Hour Book Challenge? Let’s say same time — June 5th–7th — same place. More info soon.)

Funny story that Maureen writes about Maureen making it a thing to Blog Every Day in April. I was already planning to do this, except I call it Blog Every Day in April Except on Weekends or When I Don’t Really Feel Like It.

All month long — heck, all year long — you can do your searching on Hoongle to help hunger. Huh? Here’s the scoop from Miss Rumphius:
When you perform a search using Hoongle, your search is routed through Google. So the results you see are identical to Google’s. The difference is that when your query originates with Hoongle, Google shares a portion of its revenue. This income is donated (less necessary operating costs) to the United Nations World Food Program, which carries out operations around the world to deliver food aid to those in need.
It’s also time to start booking your hotel room for the Third Annual KidLitosphere Conference here in Washington, DC, on Oct 16th–18th. A website should be ready soon for online reservations, but feel free to set up your hotel room now by calling the Sheraton reservations line at 800-627-8209 and making a reservation under the group block for “Kid Lit Conference.” The cost is $109 per night. I’ll be getting together more information on the conference this month while all these other blogs are doing the heavy lifting post-wise. Basically, I can say that Friday will be an optional dinner get-together in Arlington. On Saturday we’ll have the conference running from breakfast to a late dinner, with lots of social time, and the cost will be about $100. On Sunday, we’ll do a visit to some DC place. Unfortunately, the Library of Congress isn’t open on Sunday, so maybe we’ll arrange a visit there for Friday during the day.

Nonfiction Monday: Helen’s Eyes

Helen’s EyesIt would be hard to finish out National Women’s History Month without hearing about Helen Keller or her teacher. I thought that I had read all I needed to on the subject until I found Helen’s Eyes: A Photobiography of Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller’s Teacher, by Marfe Ferguson Delano.

Annie Sullivan overcame incredible obstacles in her own life before becoming the “Miracle Worker.” She grew up poor, with little education. An untreated eye disease left her almost blind by the age of eight, and she went to a poorhouse for years after her mother died when she was ten. Even her horrible circumstances could not squash her intellect, and she was sent to the Perkins School for the Blind at age fourteen. After graduation, she was hired as a teacher for Helen Keller, a young girl who was both blind and deaf.

This compelling biography of Annie Sullivan is made particularly special by the many large photographs throughout the book. When a photo of the subjects themselves isn’t available, another is substituted to give us a visual of the setting — for instance, of children at the Perkins Institute for the Blind. Having grown up with poorly illustrated biographies of both women, I found myself fascinated by the seeing the real pictures.

The author describes the total devotion and link between the two women for the rest of Annie’s life. One picture is particularly telling. In it, Annie’s husband is between Annie and Helen. Annie looks over his shoulder reading the paper in his hands, Helen looks straight ahead in profile, and John is finger-spelling into her hands and looking at the camera. When I saw the photo, my first thought was that he couldn’t be happy — and indeed, John left the marriage right around the time the photograph was taken.

Nonfiction Monday is hosted at Tales from the Rushmore Kid.

“A Linguistic Push-Up Bra”

I’ve read a few things lately about Obama’s use of the teleprompter as a a crutch and been a little confused by the snarkiness expressed. After the years of stupid phrases that came out of Bush’s mouth, I can’t see teleprompting as a bad thing. Clearly for years it wasn’t used enough. Indeed, when Obama went off script on Jay Leno’s show he made joking reference about his bowling score being like the Special Olympics that made me cringe and made others furious. I’m glad that Obama immediately called the head of Special Olympics to apologize for the thoughtless mistake. But this quick, unplugged moment didn’t show me anything about what Obama was really thinking. It just showed me that these cultural verbal tics and punchlines that we’ve grown up with can come on out at bad times.

The Washington Post has an op-ed piece today called “What the Telepromter Teaches.” I was expecting another rant about Obama not being authentic or real. But instead, I was treated to a tribute to writing — and one great title phrase:
Those writers and commentators who prefer the unscripted, who use “rhetoric” as an epithet, who see the teleprompter as a linguistic push-up bra, do not understand the nature of presidential leadership or the importance of writing to the process of thought.

Governing is a craft, not merely a talent. It involves the careful sorting of ideas and priorities. And the discipline of writing — expressing ideas clearly and putting them in proper order — is essential to governing.
I am glad that someone took this non-issue and gave it an intellectual interpretation. I, for one, am tired of off-the-cuff statements that led us to tell terrorists to “bring it on.” Authentic? Yes. Stupid? Also yes. I’m thinking that we give thoughtful, crafted statements and governance a try. The piece’s writer, Michael Gerson, is no Obama fan, but he recognizes that “good writing has an authenticity of its own.” I couldn’t agree more.

Over the Fence with Standard Hero Behavior

Chasing Ray suggested that we break up this dreary, not-quite-springtime month by highlighting a book that we loved. I mean, LOVED — all caps. She gives the image of leaning “over the fence” to tell your neighbor about that fantastic book you just read. I saw it as a chance to share a book that didn’t seem to get the big blogger buzz, for whatever reason. I looked through my notes for titles I’d never blogged about, and there it was — Standard Hero Behavior, by John David Anderson.
“Now, you agreed you wanted the standard iambic format with rhyming couplets, correct?” Mason pointed to the top line. “With the refrain we discussed, that’s going to run you about twelve pence.”

“Is that with the coupon?”

“Yes, that’s with the coupon.”
Mason is a public bard writing about the barely heroic encounters of the townspeople. A real bard rides along with true heroes writing memorable tales of triumph. But all the heroes have left town since the duke took over all the hero jobs. But it turns out that the duke isn’t nearly the man he proclaimed himself to be, as Mason finds out and shares with his friend Cowell, a failed plume salesman.
“So let me get this straight. You and I have been sent on a mission by the duke’s butler to find enough heroes to repel an imminent marauding horde under the banner of an orc named Bennie who feels he is owed money since uncovering a deal between Darlinger and some other orc who is now dead.”

Mason gave him a shrug, “I still can’t quite believe it, either.”

“That’s just stupid.”

“I saw them. I’m telling you the truth.”

“And Darlinger’s really the wuss that we always wished he’d turn out to be?”

“Right. And now we are the ones who have to find real heroes.”

“What do we know about heroes?”

“Well, you stick feathers in their helmets and I make up stories about them.”

“And that’s supposed to make us qualified?”

“No, but we’re the only ones who know about it, and we’re supposed to keep it that way.”
They go off in search of heroes to save the town from terror and ultimate destruction, finding in the midst of their journey a sleeping swordsman, a wanna-be witch, a hiding hero, and a buried past (sorry, couldn’t find alliteration for that one.)

Standard Hero Behavior is one funny and completely enjoyable book. The author gets off some amusing lines, but never forgets to tell an engaging story. It’s not all about the laughs. At the core, the book is about rising to a challenge, stepping outside a comfort zone, and facing the unknown. The premise is great, the adventure is exciting, and the characters are wonderfully flawed. I particularly loved the anachronistic stuff thrown in along the way. While I can recommend this title to anyone, it would be perfect to read to a class of older elementary kids because it’s funny enough to keep them listening, but includes themes of challenges, expectations, and self-discovery to be explored.

You can check out more suggestions with Chasing Ray. Of course, you can also share your favorite unsung book over the fence — which in this case, means in the comments.

T-shirts for Writers, Artists, and Book Lovers

What luck! I didn’t know what I was going to write about today until Threadless extended its sale. If you don’t know about Threadless T-shirts, you owe it to yourself to take a look. Seriously. They have most interesting, artistic, unique T-shirts out there. The designs come from all over the world, and are voted on by the members to see which ones get printed. I find several shirts a year that I can’t resist at full price, like this Choose Your Own Adventure-themed shirt.


During the Threadless $5 and $10 sales, I have to stock up. Of particular interest to the writers and book lovers are at least three designs featuring the slogans:

Plot, it builds character.

Shakespeare hates your emo poems

MOVIES: Ruining the Book Since 1920

Sizes are limited during the sales, so don’t procrastinate. Already a fan? Well then, what’s your favorite Threadless shirt?

Nonfiction Monday: Round-Up

First things first: I’m hosting Nonfiction Monday today, so leave your links in the comments and come back later for a full round-up of nonfiction reviews.

It’s National Women’s History Month, and I have done... hold it, let me see... yes, apparently nothing, nothing at all to bring attention to women in history. I’ve certainly let down the sisterhood. At least I can heap praise on the one site that has books and resources galore, Wild Rose Reader. If March has gotten away from you too, blame the weather and head there for some great reading ideas.

Today I do have a biography about a woman to share. A woman ahead of her time. You might even say a maverick.

What To Do About Alice?The title and subtitle can serve as a decent one-sentence summary: What to Do About Alice? How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy! Of course, the title can’t capture the pleasure of getting into the head of a spirited girl who was all about “eating up the world.” While other girls her age went to boarding school to become proper young ladies, Alice joined an all-boys club and used her father’s library to teach herself astronomy. As she grew up and her father became the President, she refused to settle for a supporting role in her own life. While some women were appalled at her behavior, most of the country loved her outrageous ways.

With What To Do About Alice? Barbara Kerley has written a fun picture book about a fun-loving girl, while also conveying the history surrounding the Roosevelt family. The lively illustrations by Edwin Fotheringham are a perfect complement to the story of Alice — and are the most enjoyable when they are in direct opposition to the text. We can laugh at a picture of Alice and her siblings riding trays down the curving White House steps while the sentence above mentions, “She watched her younger brothers and sister so her stepmother could get some rest.” This was one woman in history who was anything but boring.

Since I’m gathering your nonfiction reviews today, I’ll update this post a few times with those links. C’mon and give me something good to read.

Nonfiction Monday Round-Up, 9:00 AM Edition

We have...

Noon Edition

Plus...

5:00 PM Edition

Adding on...

9:00 PM Edition

Closing out with...

Vegas, DVR, and Obama

This week both our vacation plans and our DVR imploded. I’ve spent a lot of time online trying to reconcile the fact that airline fares are going down to lure in travelers in a tanking economy with the reality that I can’t find a reasonable flight from DC to Las Vegas. It’s maddening. At the same time our satellite digital recorder died, taking with it hours of unwatched movies and TV shows, along with the ability to tape new shows. I can look at this as a mixed blessing. While it is annoying to have lost all those things we were going to watch, now we have less on our list of things to do.

I was worried about missing President Obama with Jay Leno last night, but fortunately the whole thing is available on the Tonight Show website. It’s a great interview, where Obama covers the AIG and banking issues, but also talks about how cool it is to ride on Air Force One. It’s no secret that I am a big Obama fan, but I loved watching him talk in this setting. He’s so genuine.

I’m too distracted to come up with a poem for Poetry Friday, but will direct you to the host, Wild Rose Reader. Besides, I have to save my energy to host Nonfiction Monday in three days. I’m looking at a woman in history book for my review... you know, for Women’s History Month. How about you?

ABC Storytime: P is for...

Back on track with ABC Storytime. As always, feel free to name your favorite letter P books in the comments.

The Letter P

Book: The Pigeon Wants a Puppy, by Mo Willems

Song: “Puppy in the Window”
How much is that puppy in the window? (arf! arf!)
The one with the waggly tail
How much is that puppy in the window? (arf! arf!)
I do hope that puppy’s for sale.
(Yes, I changed “doggie” to “puppy.” BTW, the tune is here.)
Book: Please, Puppy, Please, by Spike Lee

Book: Time to Say “Please”, by Mo Willems

Song: “Please and Thank You”
Say please and thank you,
They’re called the magic words,
If you want nice things to happen,
They’re the words that should be heard.
Remember please and thank you,
’Cause they’re the magic words.
Use ’em in the morning, noon, and night,
’Cause it’s a great way to be polite!
Please and thank you,
They’re the magic words.
(Yes, it’s the Barney song. Sorry.)
Book: If You Give a Pig a Pancake, by Laura Numeroff

Fingerplay: “This Little Piggie”
This little piggie went to market.
This little piggie stayed home.
This little piggie had roast beef.
This little piggie had none.
And this little piggie went...
Wee, wee, wee all the way home.
(Use fingers or toes for piggies.)
Book: Pssst! by Adam Rex

Alternate Books: Mr. Pusskins and Little Whiskers, by Sam Lloyd; Pilot Pups, by Michelle Meadows; Peg Leg Pete, by Brie Spangler

Nonfiction Monday: The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau

I’m generally not a Dan Yaccarino fan. Nothing wrong with the man or artist, but his work is not my cup of tea. Until now.

he Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques CousteauI just received his new book, The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau from Random House. I was working hard to go into the book with an open mind, but found that I didn’t need to go any further than the title page to fall in love. I was looking at a different Yaccarino than I knew, and I LIKED IT!

The title page is a two-page spread set under the sea with light blues and soft greens in waves, topped by a series of growing soft yellow bubbles emanating from the breathing equipment of a small dark blue figure swimming under the title. Lovely. But the next two-page spread is even better. There the man is in the foreground against the waves of now soft greens and oranges and surrounded by seaweed, fish, and light. Gorgeous!

When the subject, Jacques Cousteau, is out of the water, the illustrations resemble the more typical Yaccarino style of sharp contrasts and edges. When Cousteau is shown in the water, the pictures become magical, with those edges softened, the palette less contrasted, and the whole page filled with an undersea world. Each spread features a quote from Cousteau that accentuates the picture and the text.

It’s hard not to focus on the illustrations in this beautiful book, but the writing works well too. The book is fairly simply written, with only a couple of sentences per page highlighting the main parts of Cousteau’s life. Not knowing much about the man, I found it fascinating. I didn’t realize that as a boy, Jacques was sickly and that doctors encouraged him to swim to build up strength. That advice would come in handy again when he was hurt in a car accident and took to the Mediterranean Sea to swim and build up strength. Then a friend gave him goggles so that he could see underwater. His quote is moving:
Sometimes we are lucky enough to know that our lives have been changed. It happened to me that summer’s day when my eyes opened to the world beneath the surface of the sea.
The book goes on to talk about Cousteau’s advancements in diving gear and underwater filming equipment. It features his adventures in the sea and his commitment to show and protect the world’s oceans. The end of the book lists some of the important events in his life, and gives the resources used for more information.

To sum up all this gushing, I completely recommend The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau. It’s perfect for school and public libraries, and also for the home libraries of ocean lovers and art aficionados.

Today’s Nonfiction Monday round-up is hosted at L.L. Owens.

Not in the Mood

I was going to find a poem to share for Poetry Friday, but I’m not in the mood. Fortunately, lots of other people are up for poetry today, as you’ll find in the roundup at Miss Rumphius. So go there.

I’ve really enjoyed the Share a Story – Shape a Future blog initiative, and had intended to come up with something for today’s focus on technology and reading, but I’m not in the mood for that either. Besides, Elizabeth Dulemba has got it covered in one amazing post. Don’t miss it.

So what am I in the mood for? Apparently those cheapo beef and bean burritos you get at the grocery store for “emergency dinners.” Oh, and for the weather to match the buds on the trees and the bulbs popping through the soil. It snowed a little bit this morning, and I almost cried.

ABC Storytime: Taking the Library Home

It’s a pleasant surprise to find out that your favorite restaurant offers carry-out service. Sure, no one serves your meal, and you have to provide your own seasonings. But you can get a high-quality meal in the comfort of your home, where you can wear your sweatpants or even pajamas.

Well, the children’s department at your public library has been providing a similar service for years, and it’s often a pleasant surprise when parents realize it. The storytimes that you attend with your children aren’t one-time performances that can only be handled by a trained professional. They are models for your own reading times. Sure, no one serves up the stories, and you have to provide your own “seasonings.” But you get high-quality books and songs that you can enjoy in the comfort of your own home, where you can wear your sweatpants or even pajamas.

Like many restaurants that provide a take-home menu, the libraries will often have a program that lists the recommended books, songs, and fingerplays. If a handout isn’t available, you can write down book titles or song ideas for use at home. And just like you don’t need to order everything off the menu, the program also allows you to choose your favorite things. Maybe the cleverly written fingerplay about the little birdies didn’t do it for you, but the program may remind you to teach your child the “Two Little Dickie Birds” rhyme. You might not want the book about the wacky parrot, but you find that How to Heal a Broken Wing deserves closer inspection. (Yes, I am going to mention that book every chance I get.)

You can also learn tricks of the trade at storytime. Balance shorter books with longer ones. For the youngest readers, show that that every book has a title, an author, and words that tell the story. You don’t have to do special voices — though bonus points if you do — but modulate your voice. Read quieter, louder, faster, slower, or stop to make the point. If you have busy toddlers, leave some time to get those wiggles out with fingerplays or songs or a stand-up, shake-it-out minute. Be prepared to bail on a book if it isn’t holding their interest, and have a backup, never-fail book at hand. (Can you guess mine? Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! of course.)

If you can’t always get to storytime at the library or bookstore, here at MotherReader I’ve been sharing my own ABC Storytimes. Based on the letters of the alphabet, the program theme is simple, and has given me the chance to highlight some of my favorite picture books. I tend to select very simple rhymes and songs, believing more in the value of reinforcement of the basics. I’m about halfway through posting the programs, which can be used for home, preschool, or day care. As libraries lose staffing all across the country, they may even help out some librarians now tasked with storytime with no prep time.

Remember, bringing storytime home reinforces the new concepts and the old rhymes. It gives you books to find at the library, instead of always bringing home the latest Dora the Explorer. It can breathe new life into your reading routine. And best of all — and most unlike your favorite restaurant — it’s all free.

For more ideas on using your library, visit Share a Story – Shape a Future and the host of Day 4, Eva’s Book Addiction.

Reading Aloud: Picture Books Rule!

For today’s topic for Share a Story – Shape a Future, I’m going to let you in on my secret of great read-aloud success: Reading Picture Books until the kids actually roll their eyes and walk away.

Now they may roll their eyes and yet sit down. Why? Because they want to read these books, but are afraid that they’re too old. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an excited kid pulling out picture books at the library only to hear a parent yell, “Those are baby books! Look for a real book to read.” When I can intervene, I share that I love picture books myself and one is never too old to enjoy them. And then I whack the parent on the head with Knuffle Bunny Too.

It’s great to also read longer books to children, though I do believe that there are parents who use books that are too big with kids that are too young. But there’s room for both types of books, and they each add different elements to reading growth. Picture Books offer short stories and/or concepts that help kids build their comprehension skills. They offer practice in finding connections to other books or their own lives. Picture Books have become a source of some amazing artwork, a subject that receives little attention in schools. They reinforce the concepts of good storytelling or voice or imagery. And if the book happens to be bad at storytelling, voice, or imagery, then that’s a good lesson for why one book works better than another.

When I read a book to a class, I take questions or responses at the end. At the beginning of kindergarten, most of the kids only reply that they liked the book. I gently push back with questions. What part? Why? How did it connect? Which book did you like better? By the end of that year, some will be ready to answer these questions, and with each grade it’s a few more kids. By third grade, I had my pinnacle moment when a boy connected the book Clancy the Courageous Cow — where the Belted Galloways can’t eat in the same field as the bossy Herefords — to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement. My work there was done.

Picture books offer the perfect opportunity, in a classroom or one-on-one, to practice comprehension and connection, to experience art and imagery, to learn analysis and comparison. My own experience shows that the kids are only getting good at these skills in third grade (and that was a gifted class), but people are pushing these books out by first grade. It’s especially bad when parents become obsessed with the Reading Game, where one’s self-worth or the self-worth of one’s child is determined by his impressive Reading Level. (Don’t play this game. There are no winners.)

Picture Books come in many forms, and there’s something for everybody. There are ones that are more directed to toddlers, preschoolers, or school-age kids. There are Picture Books that are collections of poems or biographies or informational books. There are fairy tale and folk tale and religious picture books. There are amazing new books and timeless classics. Make them part of your read-aloud sessions, and if the kids eventually roll their eyes and walk away, enjoy them yourself.

Find more posts on reading aloud at Share a Story – Shape a Future and today’s host, Book Chook.

Share a Story, Days 1 and 2

This week Share a Story – Shape a Future is rounding up posts about literacy and reading promotion. The first day was on the topic of Raising Readers. I missed contributing to that day of posts because I spent the day driving back from the beach, taking my Girl Scouts roller skating, and grumbling about my headache while watching Season 4 episodes of Lost. (Almost caught up!). If I had participated, I would have shared a true story about raising readers in my house. It goes like this:
When my oldest daughter was five, she asked me to play house. “I’ll be the mommy and you’ll be the little girl,” she said. I agreed and prepared myself for my role. Meanwhile, she sat down on the couch, opened a book to read, and looking over the top said, “Go play with your sister.”
Never have I felt so much angst and pride at the same time. Of course, my mother guilt kicked in. Did she think that all I did was read? Did she feel so neglected? What kind of mom was I? But at the same time, I felt proud of the lesson she had picked up from me, namely that Moms read and reading is important. That’s how I raised readers.

Today’s topic is Selecting Reading Material, and while I don’t have the perfect post for that topic, I do have a related one. Fuse#8 is working on a very ambitious project of finding the Top 100 Picture Books of All Time. You — and I — can contribute by submitting to her our favorite picture books of all time by March 31, listed in order of preference. When completed, this list will be another incredible resource for parents, teachers, and librarians in selecting reading material.

For my contribution, I looked to books that came top-of-mind quickly. Each also represents a connection to my life when I first read the book. So I have my own favorites as a child, my first favorites to read to my kids, and my first favorites as a librarian. There are hundreds of picture books I have loved and do love, but these are the ones that I won’t ever give away from my own collection. So don’t even ask.
  1. The King, by Dick Bruna
    The king was sad because all he wanted was a friend, not a crown. I drew teardrops all over this book, bless my heart.

  2. Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell Hoban
    Picky eaters unite! I loved all the Frances books and can only choose this as a favorite by a slight margin.

  3. The Monster At The End Of This Book
    Grover talking directly to the reader made this book absolute genius.

  4. The Grouchy Ladybug, by Eric Carle
    It’s hard to pick one Eric Carle book, but I really like doing the grouchy voice while reading this aloud.

  5. On the Day You Were Born, by Debra Frasier
    I never get through this book without tearing up. It’s a great baby shower gift.

  6. Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney
    This book does a wonderful job of reflecting the love and relationship between parent and child.

  7. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin
    If you think this book is fun to read, watch the video or listen to the CD of the music. Catchy.

  8. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
    Funny, clever, and the perfect read-aloud. Mo-tastic.

  9. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, by Mo Willems
    Again — funny, clever, and the perfect read-aloud, but with the bonus of being feeling familiar to moms and dads.

  10. How to Heal a Broken Wing, by Bob Graham
    This book may be top of my list because I’ve read it recently and can’t get it out of my mind, but I’ll stand by this year’s Cybils winner as being an outstanding book about courage, kindness, and love.
Have you done your list yet? I know that Wagging Tales has.

Daylight Saving Time (And Other Lies)

I don’t have a problem with daylight saving time in general. Certainly not like my husband, who talks about “that time when we as a society collectively lie about what time it is.” For me, of all of the things that we collectively lie about as a society — continual growth of the stock market being top of mind — whether or not I can grab the morning newspaper in light or darkness is fairly minor.

That said, on Sunday, I was hating the idea of changing the clocks. It figures that the day we lose an hour is the day where the temperature is in the seventies and we’re spending time with my adorable niece. Except we spent one less hour with her than we would have otherwise thanks to daylight saving time. Why couldn’t we lose an hour last weekend when it was frigid, and I was fighting a stomach bug? I could have shaved sixty minutes from that Sunday.

My daughter, with the 6:30 a.m. bus, is dreading tomorrow. We talked about how wonderful it is to have more sunlight in the evening when we have free time, how exciting it is to know that Spring is on its way, and how much these next mornings are going to totally suck.

Well, I’m not going to lie to her.

Poetry Friday: 15 Words Poem

For the most part, I read blogs through Google Reader. But when I have a some extra time, I’ll go to the blogs from my blogroll. When I do that I can get immersed in the voice of the blogger and catch things that flew by scrolling through the feed. While taking some time at Susan Writes, I saw that she was guest hosting “15 Words or Less Poems.” The photo grabbed me and instantly inspired my poem:


Now a grown-up
I wish
that making new friends
was as easy
as touching noses.

I was so excited to have written something that I didn’t even realize that it was the previous week’s round-up. Afterward, I read the poems that others had written, and was amazed by the many different ways people responded to the picture. Take a look.

Laura Salas offers this poetic opportunity on her blog every week, but I don’t usually participate because no poem comes to mind. But now I’m curious about those who do write to these challenges or any such poetry challenges. Are you instantly inspired? Do you push yourself to find the words? Do you see the photo, mull about as you wash dishes, and then come back with the idea? Can you force inspiration?

Anyway, the Poetry Friday round-up is over at Picture Book of the Day, where she is reviewing my favorite poetry book. I am spending the day trying — oh, trying — to tie up some loose ends before the spring weather hits Virginia this weekend. And may I say, Thank God for that. I loved seeing the eight inches of snow on Monday, but if we didn’t get a break in this cold weather I was going to snap.

Amazon Bargain Book Bonanza!

It’s been a long time since I pointed out the amazing deals you can get on Amazon if you happen to hit it right. I don’t know exactly how Amazon works, but these look like overstocked books rather than close-outs and they do this all the time. When I have a need for a brainless, but moderately fun task, I skim through the section for Bargain Books. Then I go to Children’s Books. And now I’ve learned a new trick that eliminates most of the pesky third-party sellers. In the left sidebar, narrow down your selection by Shipping Option: Free Super Saver Shipping. Bingo. Now you’re getting hardback books...
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but they are all books that I highly recommended. One that I haven’t read, but would buy (and did) sight-unseen as a great teacher gift is An Illustrated Treasury of Read-Aloud Myths and Legends: More than 40 of the World’s Best-Loved Myths and Legends Including Greek, Roman, Celtic, Scandinavian, Indian, Mexican, and Many More. Now it’s about ten bucks, but I got it for six, which just goes to prove that the pricing is about inventory and that you have to act fast.

(It’s only right to mention that as an Amazon Associate I do receive a small referral fee from Amazon which helps support this blog.)

The Untold Jeff Kinney Story

With the Diary of a Wimpy Kid author having a big profile article in The Washington Post Style section, I feel it’s now time to tell my Jeff Kinney story. Here’s what I wrote when I met him at the American Library Association conference in June 2007:
I was able to get to the signings of Avi, Gregory MacGuire, Jack Prelutsky, Nancy Perl, Eric Kimmel, Laura Schlitz, and Jeff Kinney. The only one I really had to wait for was Jack Prelutsky, and he was very friendly and funny about signing the book “You’re a winner!” for the 48 HBC. Other notables were Avi, who was a little bit cranky about doing the same thing, and Jeff Kinney of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, who was very sweet and gracious. I may be biased though, in that at least he knew my blog. I bought his book for my daughter, but he’s committed to a donation for next year’s contest and I will remember that.
First let me note that I didn’t remember that after all. But there’s more to the Jeff Kinney story that I never told, because at the time it sounded so sad. Now it’s kinda funny.

It’s June 2007 and I’ve been trudging through the exhibition hall looking at the publisher displays, picking up ARCs, and getting a few books signed. It’s terribly fun, but also exhausting. I claim a place along the wall to sit for minute and sort out my plunder. Directly in front of me is a nice-looking man, with a huge stack of books and not one autograph seeker. I recognize the book because Fuse#8 raved about it, and I paid attention since we often have the same taste. At this point, I don’t need more to carry home, but I feel so bad for the poor guy sitting there, that I go up anyway to buy a book for my daughter. Jeff Kinney has been sitting there long enough to draw a decent little doodle in the book he signs for me. We talk about Fuse#8’s review, blogging, and the 48 Hour Book Challenge. He says he reads my blog, which I’m not sure I believe, but I give him niceness credits for saying so in any case. I could have probably used that to get a free book, but it doesn’t seem right to even try. And he’s just so nice. I wish him luck on his book, gather my belongings, and continue on my way. I see him again as I finish that side of the exhibit hall still with no one in line. Poor guy.

So now here he is, on his third book with more than 11 million “Wimpy Kid” books in print. The movie — a freakin’ movie — is getting together. And less than two years ago, I could have pulled up a chair and chatted with him at his empty book-signing table for the better part of an hour.

I could share this story now as a way to highlight the success of a nice, deserving guy. I could share this story as a way to remind other children’s authors that their break could be just around the corner. But I’m sharing this story to make sure that Jeff Kinney doesn’t renege on his offer to contribute an original illustration for the year’s 48 Hour Book Challenge. Or at least give me my ten bucks back.

Nonfiction Monday: Unite or Die

I’m not sure how I’ve made it through my daughters’ elementary school years without one class play. Sure, I’ve pulled together costumes for Bug Day (second grade), Colonial Day (fourth grade), and Greek Myth Day (sixth grade), but never a class play. Is it just my school or is the country losing this tradition of homemade costumes, adoring parents, and uncomfortable children?

Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a NationWell, not in the book Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation, where author Jacqueline Jules uses the setting of a class performance to convey historical information. The homemade costumes are on display, as kids wear the thirteen original states around their torsos and ill-fitting wigs over pigtails. The adoring parents are in the front row clapping like Tinkerbell’s life is at stake. As for the uncomfortable children, I’m sure that New Jersey is annoyed that she has to carry a garden plant on her head. (I’m guessing that is a tribute to New Jersey as the Garden State, and also guessing that the artist chose not to tackle the slogan “Virginia Is for Lovers.”)

The kids take us through the time after the Revolutionary War, when America had won its freedom but had yet to become a country. With all the states having separate governments and leaders, they needed to find a way to resolve conflicts between them and make decisions as a nation. Through a narrator’s text and dialogue from the “states” and “statesmen,” the reader learns about the process of forming our government. An afterword and notes section answer additional questions. The cartoons by Jef Czekaj will feel familiar to kids, and keep the illustration fun. I do think that the illustrations could have gone funnier and taken better advantage of the performance aspect — I wanted to see the kid who holds his sign upside down or who knocks over the scenery. Maybe next time.

The book’s style makes a complicated topic more accessible and enjoyable. It’s perfect for classroom use and covers a subject that all American kids will study, even if they don’t have their own class play.

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today at Books Together.