105 Ways to Give a Book

Closing of the Year

I haven’t been doing Poetry Friday for a while, but today I bring you song as poetry. I think of this one from Toys every New Year:
If I cannot bring you comfort
Then at least I bring you hope
For nothing is more precious
Than the time we have and so
We all must learn from small misfortune
Count the blessings that are real
Let the bells ring out for Christmas
At the closing of the year
Let the bells ring out for Christmas
At the closing of the year.
Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Carol’s Corner. Happy New Year!

Books for Christmas??!!!

Yes, indeedy.

And this doesn’t even count the books I bought for myself as I was shopping for others. Come on, you do it too.

Christmas Newsletter

I was a little proud of my holiday newsletter, which summed up the highlights of the past year without getting too boring or braggy (I hope). As I wrote it, I realized that my blogging buddies are so much more in touch with the things I’m doing than most people on my Christmas card list. (I may need to work on that this year.) So while I was going to post it here, it’s not really necessary.

Except... I have to share parts of it, because I just have to:
I had decided that the theme of this year’s newsletter would be togetherness, because so much that our family does — at least the important things — are interconnected. Excited, I pitched this idea to the fam, suggesting that we brainstorm and pen our seasonal missive. Erin saw the forced communication as a school assignment, and clammed up. Anna — the smart, funny one — succinctly listed events. Bill went into office mode, using the words cooperation and — I think — synergy. So apparently the one thing that we are not good at together is writing newsletters. But we rocked it in…

Shoveling Snow! Ah, Snowpocalyspe. Looks like we’ll miss a return of this kind of snowstorm over the weekend, but many of you will be getting a bit of snow, I hear.

Making Movies! I’ve failed to mention the TIVA Peer Awards won for “Liability” in writing, directing, and editing. Okay, that part is kinda braggy.

Hitting New York! And we are already planning to do this trip again.

Supporting the Arts! Apparently I haven’t been talking about my daughters’ various plays, talent show performances, and improv competitions. Or Bill’s audio show. Though I dare say you know a thing or two about MotherReader.com.

Restoring Sanity! “Our own sign spoke not to a liberal cause, but as an ironic call for something that we’ve been so lucky to have in our family: communication and cooperation. And a sense of humor. For all our togetherness, we don’t seem to photograph together — so our one family photo of the year would be… unique.”

To make the photo appropriate for the holidays, I lightly pasted on a tiny piece of paper with “Merry Christmas” over the sign. That still makes me smile to think of it. I wonder how many people will peel back the paper. Oh, well — Happy Holidays!

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Christmas Time for the Jews

Oh! I almost forgot to post this — the Best Holiday Video Ever. Merry Christmas, everyone!


Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Festivus: The Airing of the Grievances 2010

Yes, it’s Festivus, the holiday for the rest-of-us. The iron pole is up, the feats of strength are on the schedule, and now is the time for the airing of the grievances. You have free space in the comments — my gift to you this holiday season — or you can always go to the official site. But truly, it would be more fun if you did it here. At least for me. I’ll start:
The parents at my daughter’s elementary school park like idiots. It’s street parking, people, not a cow pasture. Pull up to the car in front of you.

And on the same note, we aren’t living in a world where You and Your Child are the only ones in existence. When you stop in the drop-off line to watch Your Child walk up to the school, time doesn’t magically stop for the rest of us still waiting to move forward. Get out of the way!

It’s driving me insane that I tell my mom something important and she won’t believe it until a different person tells her the same thing. Sometimes it’s someone official, like the doctor, but just as often it’s a clerk in a store. OMG, Mom! Listen to me! (She doesn’t read this, and even if she did, I’ve expressed this to her many times.)

I love my sweet cat Chloe, but I’m so tired of feeding her half cans of food every couple of hours because that’s the only way she’ll eat enough to keep on, you know, living.

Talent isn’t necessarily rewarded. I know, big surprise.
So how about you? None of your people are likely to see your grievances all the way over at my blog, so go nuts. Talk about your boss, your neighbor, your mother-in-law. Tomorrow we can get back into the spirit of the season, but now it’s venting time.

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Surprisers and Getters

There are two basic kinds of gift-givers: Surprisers and Getters. Surprisers want to search out that perfect gift for you. Getters want to know exactly what you want. Both kinds of gifters have their benefits and downfalls. It’s a lovely thought to shop with the person in mind, but sometimes the surprises are way off. Getters certainly will buy the right gift, but a little of the magic is gone.

In my experience, it seems that Surprisers and Getters often marry each other — and therein begin the problems. A Surpriser can’t understand why her in-laws want to know not just what video game system they own, but precisely what games to buy for the kids. Where’s the fun in that? A Getter is baffled as to why his wife would purchase a Zen garden desk set when all he wanted was the latest Batman movie on Blu-Ray. He circled it on the Best Buy flyer.

I have found and used the perfect solution, and its name is Amazon Wish Lists. During the year — but especially during the holiday season — I put in some specific books, movies, and games that the kids and I would enjoy. When I am approached by a Getter for gift suggestions, I point them toward the list. They love it because it lists the exact things and as they are purchased, they are taken off the list so there is no duplication. One can even buy the item from another source, and still have it taken off the list. I’m happy, because nothing throws a Surpriser more than hearing, “But what exactly do you want?”

I’ve been happy with Amazon Wish Lists for years, but now they’ve taken it to a new level that is un-freaking-believable. Now you can put anything — ANYTHING — on your wish list. From any online store. Anywhere. You can put Abercrombie clothes on your list. You can put Borders gift cards on your list. You can even put Etsy items on your list.

And it’s so easy. You drag the Amazon wish list button to your browser (instructions here) and then when you’re shopping at Etsy or Borders or Abercrombie, and see something you like — click the button and it’s added to your Amazon gift list. It shows up with a “shop this store” button that clicks through to the page you marked, and the transaction takes place outside of Amazon.com.

I can’t express how helpful this new feature is, both for Getters and Surprisers. There is plenty of opportunity to mark specific items, but it’s also useful for people who like to shop to know which stores the gift-receiver frequents. On my wish list, I marked gift cards from some of the girls’ favorite stores. Maybe they’ll get a gift card — which is fine — or maybe the giver will feel like shopping around that store for something — which is also fine.

This is the point where I should mention again that I am an Amazon Associate and do get a small referral fee from Amazon should you go there and purchase items and the money I earn helps support the things I do with this blog. However, I would talk about this wish list thing anyway, because it is such a helpful solution in the war between Surprisers and Getters.

How about you? Are you a Surpriser or a Getter? How about your family? How have you worked it out?

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Giving Away Books

I’ll tell you, I am feeling like Santa today. I’ve been giving away books, and boy does it feel good. First let me send out a huge Thank You to the publishers who sent books for the Cybils — in this year and previous ones — which allowed me to give away so many books to kids who need them.

Last week I pulled together collections of the Cybils-nominated picture books to give away two sets of books in the ABC Giveaway. One set is on its way to a librarian in Utah, who was excited to have some new titles to add to their small library collection. Another set will be on its way soon to a school librarian in Baltimore — she let me hold back a few titles until I’m done reviewing them. When all is said and done, that will be fifty books finding new homes.

Then today I called a local charity to see if they might be able to use books to give to the kids in the community. As it turns out, their holiday gift giveaway is this afternoon, and they were thrilled to have new hardcover picture books (and a few chapter books) for the kids. I had put together a full box already, but when I heard that these books were going as holiday gifts, I quickly perused my shelves to find more fun titles. When I dropped them off, the volunteers were so grateful that I felt amazing. I’ll definitely be back there with more books.

And as if all of that weren’t enough, I also received some thank you letters from a class that I supported through Donors Choose. I’ll have to figure out how to scan these and post them, because they are so touching. For now, I give you the note in one card, written in highlighter in alternating colors of yellow, pink, and orange: “Thank you for the book. I injoy the Book. I Love the story about Molly the Bavre Brave Me.” I had to look that one up to find a sweet beginning reader, Molly the Brave and Me, and btw, the student crossed out “brave” and corrected it. So cute. I can’t plug this charity group enough, as it supports teachers who write up requests for what they need in the classroom. Plus, they send you letters, which makes you want to donate more!

For one of the richest counties in the nation, I live near to some areas of poverty, making it easy to find places to donate books. (It’s much harder for me to get my act together to actually donate those books, but that’s a whole other issue.) But for those of you who would like to have places to send books, consider the international list of charities over at Playing by the Book.

Of course, in talking about giving away books, I can’t skip the fun in giving books to nieces, nephews, cousins, second cousins, teachers, friends, Girl Scouts, and the crossing guard. I should probably give some to the mailman to thank him for carrying all of my books to me from the publisher. Who will you give a book to this holiday season?

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Christmas Around the World

I get pretty frequent searches for books about Christmas around the world, so I’m reposting those titles today. Enjoy.

What’s Cooking, Jamela?
by Niki Daly


What's Cooking, Jamela?Jamela’s family gets a chicken to fatten up for Christmas dinner, but Jamela gets attached to the chicken as a pet. Tension builds as a woman comes to prepare the chicken dinner, but in the end, Jamela’s mother finds something else for the Christmas dinner and gives the chicken to Jamela as a present. A fun story of a South African Christmas, conveying a sense of the culture along with a few words of the country.

The Magic Maguey
by Tony Johnson, illustrated by Elisa Kleven


The Magic MagueyA large maguey plant sits in the middle of a Mexican village providing many resources to the people of the town, as well as a gathering spot. As Christmas approaches, a rich man who owns that land says that he will get rid of the maguey and build a house there. Miguel, with the help of the other children, decorates the maguey so beautifully for Christmas that the rich man realizes his error and doesn’t cut it down. A great story about resourcefulness with a little bit of Christmas tradition and a smattering of Spanish words.

A Kenya Christmas
by Tony Johnson, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins


A Kenya ChristmasJuma’s Christmas wish is to see Father Christmas, and his special aunt brings a red and white suit to the village. She tells Juma to find someone to wear the suit so that the whole village can see Father Christmas for the first time. He does so, and Father Christmas surprises the village with his arrival. But it is Juma who is surprised later when he finds out that the man who was supposed to play the part didn’t do so after all. Who was that man on the elephant? A very different picture of Christmas in Africa with amazing pictures by Leonard Jenkins.

Cobweb Christmas: The Traditon of Tinsel
by Shirley Climo, illustrated by Jane Manning


A Cobweb ChristmasIn Germany, a old woman sets up a Christmas tree and cleans her house throughly, chasing the spiders outside. Let back into the house by Kris Kringle, the spiders are curious about this interesting tree, and end up “decorating” it with their cobwebs. What could be a holiday mishap becomes magical as Kris Kringle turns the webs into silver, making the first tinsel. A sweet story about the Christmas tree tradition.
Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Cybils Nominees ABC Giveaway WINNERS

Well, here we are at the end of the ABC Giveaway! I’ve had fun putting it together, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed the book suggestions and storytime ideas. But now it’s time to close up shop and announce our winners, who were selected by random numbers generated at Random.org.
Winning the books reviewed throughout the ABC Giveaway series is Karen, a children’s librarian in Utah who gave some wonderful book suggestions for future alphabet storytimes.

Winning the second ABC set of Cybils-nominated books is Katie, a school librarian in Baltimore, Maryland, who blogs at Book Love.

And for commenting on every single ABC Giveaway post, a bonus prize of five Cybils-nominated titles goes to Aaron, an illustrator from Michigan, who blogs at Bookie Woogie and Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty.
Congratulations to you all! Please drop me a line at MotherReader AT gmail DOT com so that I can arrange shipping for your prizes.

Thanks again to everyone for playing along and promoting the giveaway. Maybe we can do it again sometime next year. For now, I need to concentrate on the holiday season — maybe share some Christmas book favorites or add more Ways to Give a Book. I have mentioned that I’ve worked hard to make your holiday shopping easier by pairing MotherReader-approved books with other gift ideas — often including links to the actual gifts — which I’ve selected from Amazon for price, appeal, and age-appropriateness, right? Yeah, I probably said something about that. Let me also make it clear that I get a small referral fee if those items or any other items are purchased at Amazon if you come from this site, and that little bit of income helps to support this website and giveaways. So, you know, shop away!

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Cybils Nominees ABC Giveaway: The Letters Y & Z

You have until Tuesday, December 14, at 9:00 p.m. EST to enter to win twenty-five picture books with the ABC Giveaway. After that time, I will close all comments and pick the winners to be announced on Wednesday, December 15th. I hope that even if you don’t win the books, I have given you some ideas for titles and storytimes in your own library, classroom, or home. As planned, I’m finishing up the ABC Giveaway with combined letters, because finding a book for X is simply too much work and I’m kind of ready to be done now. Thanks again for following and for all of your wonderful book suggestions. Let’s do this again sometime!

Yasmin’s Hammer
by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Doug Ghayka


Yasmin’s HammerYasmin and her family live in Bangladesh, and each day she and her little sister go to work breaking bricks to be used in concrete. They used to live in the countryside, but flooding took everything they owned and forced the family to the city to make a living. The girls can’t go to school because their income is needed, but Yasmin longs to be able to read. Working especially hard with her hammer, she is able to put away a few coins to purchase one book — and this one book inspires the whole family to put their greatest effort towards sending the girls to school. Yasmin’s rural life is described with a peaceful tranquility, but the city is also seen with a positive light as bustling and lively. There is harshness, certainly, in their boss and the slum houses. But there is also kindness in the shopkeeper who accepts too little money for a precious book and in the sacrifice of the parents. While conveying the deep poverty of the characters, the story keeps the focus on aspiration, industry, and family. The bright colors of the engaging illustrations reinforce this not as a tale of bleakness, but of hope. While the text and length would be fine for a preschool audience, the topic is little serious for storytimes, but it is perfect for elementary school classroom or library reading times to share a greater world view.

First Come the Zebra
by Lynne Barasch


First Come the ZebraAs a Maasai boy follows the herd to a new home, he meets the boy of a local farmer. Traditional conflicts between the nomadic Maasai and the farming Kikuyu cause the boys to take an immediate dislike to each other. But in an emergency, the boys work together to save a young child, and in doing so find a path to friendship. The story of conflict and resolution is universal, even if the Kenyan setting is unfamiliar to readers, and makes this a wonderful book to share with children. The message seems a bit strong, but the uniqueness of the situation in the story supersedes that minor flaw. The illustrations are delicate watercolors that find the most beauty in the scenes of wildlife. (Honestly, I could just cut out and frame the spread of the zebras crossing the grasslands.) The book would be a fine choice for preschool or elementary storytimes, classroom or individual reading. Oh, by the way, this was a nominee for last year’s Cybils, but it was too perfect a choice not to include it today.
Consider giving one or both of these books along with a donation to Global Movement for Children or look for more Ways to Give a Picture Book or over a hundred other Ways to Give a Book this holiday season.
The Letters X, Y and Z

Song: “The Alphabet Song”

Book: Appaloosa Zebra, by Jessie Haas

Song: “The X Song”
(to the tune of “Where is Thumbkin?”)

Where is X?
Where is X?
Here I am.
Here I am.
How are you today X?
Very well, I thank you.
X away, X away.

(The first time you sing the song, cross your fingers to form the letter X. The second time, cross your arms.)
Book: The Yellow Tutu, by Kirsten Bramsen

Song: “Let’s Give a Yell for Y”
(to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”)

Let’s give a yell for Y,
Let’s give a yell for Y.
Y is for you and for yellow too,
Let’s give a yell for Y

Yarn begins with Y...
Yawn begins with Y...
Book: Zee, by Michel Gay

Fingerplay: “Zebras in the Zoo”
(counting on fingers)

Five zebras in a zoo
The first one said, I need new shoes
The second said, I do too
The third one said, My name is Sue
The fourth one said, It’s nice to meet you
The fifth one said, How do you do?
Book: One Night in the Zoo, by Judith Kerr

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Cybils Nominees ABC Giveaway: The Letter W

You can still win twenty-five picture books for yourself or your school. Learn more about the ABC Giveaway.

Willow’s Whispers
by Lana Button, illustrated by Tania Howells


Willow’s WhispersWillow has a lot to say — she just can’t seem to say it loud enough. When it’s time to speak up to get a seat at the table or the right kind of juice, Willow only manages a whisper. With her father’s unconditional support, Willow comes up with a solution. A handmade magic microphone allows her to find her loud voice — and also to find out that she doesn’t even need a microphone after all. The charming story is illustrated with simple cartoon characters against a white background, keeping the focus on the message. This book would be great in classroom and preschool settings, including storytimes, or with a special quiet child waiting to find that strong voice within.
Give this book with a Magic Mic or look for more Ways to Give a Picture Book or over a hundred other Ways to Give a Book this holiday season.
The Letter W

Book: Wake Up, City, by Susan Verlander

Book: Walk On! A Guide for Babies of All Ages, by Marla Frazee, or Night Walk, by Jill Newsome

Song: “This is the Way We Walk to School”
This is the way we walk to school,
Walk to school, walk to school,
This is the way we walk to school,
So early in the morning.

This is the way we wiggle to school…
This is the way we whoosh to school…
Book: Whoosh Went the Wind! by Sally Derby

Song: “Blow, Blow, Blow the Wind”
Blow, blow, blow, the wind
Gently through the trees.

Blow, and blow, and blow, and blow.

How I like a breeze!
Blow, blow, blow the clouds,
Blow them through the sky.
Blow, and blow, and blow, and blow.
Watch the clouds roll by!
Book: A Weekend with Wendell, by Kevin Henkes

Song: “Days of the Week”
(to the tune of “Oh My Darling”)

Sunday, Monday

Tuesday, Wednesday

Thursday, Friday, Saturday

Sunday, Monday
Tuesday, Wednesday

Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Book: Whistle for Willie, by Ezra Jack Keats

Alternate Books: Diary of a Wombat, by Jackie French, or Wombat Walkabout, by Carol Diggory Shields

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Cybils Nominees ABC Giveaway: The Letter V

You can still win twenty-five picture books for yourself or your school. Learn more about the ABC Giveaway.

Lily’s Victory Garden
by Helen L. Wilbur, illustrated by Robert Gantt Steele


Lily’s Victory GardenDuring World War II, the government encourages citizens to plant Victory Gardens to ease the strain on food resources, and Lily really wants to participate. She is too young to get a plot in the town square, but bravely asks a neighbor if she can use part of their garden. That family has lost a son in the war, and has not tended their own garden of late, but reluctantly lets Lily work there. As she gets better at gardening, she also brings a bit of joy back to the grieving mother. Life comes again. The soft watercolors reflect the quiet tone of the book. It’s not an ideal choice for storytime, but would work nicely in a classroom setting and as a picture book for older children.
Give this book with seeds and gardening tools or look for more Ways to Give a Picture Book or over a hundred other Ways to Give a Book this holiday season.
The Letter V

Book: The Ugly Vegetables, by Grace Lin

Book: This is the Van that Dad Cleaned, by Lisa Campbell Ernst

Song: “The Wheels on the Van”
(Yeah, “The Wheels on the Bus” song adapted as needed.)
Book: The Village of Basketeers, by Lynda Gene Rymond

Book: Violet’s Music, by Angela Johnson

Book: Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, by Lloyd Moss

Song: “What Begins with V?”
(to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”)

What begins with V?
What begins with V?
We all know, we’ll tell you so.
What begins with V?

Violin begins with V.
Violin begins with V.
We all know, we’ll tell you so.
Violin begins with V.

(and so on)
Alternate Books: Violet the Pilot, by Steve Breen, or Odd Velvet, by Mary Whitcomb

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Cybils Nominees ABC Giveaway: The Letter U

You can still win twenty-five picture books for yourself or your school. Learn more about the ABC Giveaway.

Today I’m posting both U and V, because I thought that I had them combined in one storytime. As it turns out, I didn’t and I certainly don’t want to smoosh my storytimes together based on my need to post both today... and that’s why you’re getting two posts today. The end.

Bear in Underwear
by Todd H. Doodler


Bear in UnderwearA bear who is bare finds a bag of underwear. He tries on different kinds — some are too big, some are too small — to find the tighty whitey ones are just right. Of course, then all his forest friends want underwear too, and fortunately there is something for everyone. Hooray! There is no moral of the story here, no higher purpose than inviting giggles, starting with the cover itself with its insert of soft underpants. The bright, sharp cartoon illustrations would make this easy to share at storytime — though I kind of dare you to do so. I’m actually laughing as I imagine the scene. The book will be a hit in sharing one-on-one, undoubtably.
I suppose you could give this book with special underwear for the holidays, though that seems wrong. It would be the perfect gift for beginning potty training, as it doesn’t talk about potty training at all, but focuses on the prize — real underwear. Anyway, look for more Ways to Give a Picture Book or over a hundred other Ways to Give a Book this holiday season.
The Letter U

Book: The Umbrella Party, by Janet Lunn

Song: “Rain, Rain”

Book: What’s Up, What’s Down? by Lola M. Schaefer

Rhyme: “Up and Down”
Put your arms up
Put your arms down
Put them through the middle
Move them all around
One arm to the left
One arm to the right
Give someone a hug
And hold on tight.
Book: I Wished for a Unicorn, by Robert Heidbreder

Rhyme: “Five Little Unicorns”
Five little unicorns playing in the sun
The first one said, “I’m having lots of fun.”
The second one said, “See my shiny horn?”
The third one said, “Of course, you’re a unicorn.”
The fourth one said, “I am as white as snow.”
The fifth one said, “So are we, you know.”
Book: The Ugly Truckling, by David Gordon

Song: “What Begins with U?”
(to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”)

What begins with U?
What begins with U?
We all know, we’ll tell you so.
What begins with U?

Umbrella begins with U.
Umbrella begins with U.
We all know, we’ll tell you so.
Umbrella begins with U.

Unicorn begins with U…

Up begins with U…
Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Cybils Nominees ABC Giveaway: The Letter T

You can still win twenty-five picture books for yourself or your school. Learn more about the ABC Giveaway.

Gracias*Thanks
by Pat Mora, illustrated by John Parra


Gracias ThanksIn poetic text, a boy conveys his thanks to the things that make his day — make every day — special. There is gratitude for both family — like the mother who finds his homework in the trash — and nature: “For the ladybug that landed on my finger, a little red flying surprise, thanks.” While the bilingual book demonstrates thankfulness for the big things, the message is conveyed in the smaller ways these things are seen in daily life. The childlike viewpoint keeps away the clich├ęs that could easily appear in a such a book, and the bright, engaging illustrations spotlight beauty in the ordinary. The artwork joyfully portrays Hispanic culture without establishing a specific setting and features a diverse group of family and friends. An absolutely perfect book to share in the classroom, library, preschool, or home.
Give this book with a journal to record all the things the child is thankful for or look for more Ways to Give a Picture Book or over a hundred other Ways to Give a Book this holiday season.
The Letter T

Book: Duck in the Truck, by Jez Alborough, or The Old Blue Pickup Truck, by Candice Ransom

Book: Night Train, by Caroline Stutson, or Train Song, by Diane Siebert, or for a totally different take, Shark vs. Train, by Chris Barton

Song: “Down by the Station”

Book: Turtle Splash: Countdown at the Pond, by Catherine Falwell, or Emma’s Turtle, by Eve Bunting

Action Rhyme: “There Was a Little Turtle”
There was a little turtle,
He lived in a box
He swam in a puddle,
He climbed on the rocks.

He snapped at a mosquito,
He snapped at a flea,
He snapped at a minnow,
And he snapped at me.

He caught the mosquito,
He caught the flea,
He caught the minnow,
But he didn’t catch ME!
Book: Miss Spider’s Tea Party, by David Kirk, or The Tiger Who Came to Tea, by Judith Kerr

(This review from the Publishers Weekly of the now-famous Kirk made me laugh: “First-time author Kirk’s rhyming text, with its singsong rhythm and counting motif is slack and predictable, but his illustrations are thoroughly original.”)

Song: “I’m a Little Teapot”

Book: The Teeny Tiny Teacher, by Stephanie Calmenson, or This is the Teacher, by Rhonda Gowler Green

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which this site may receive a referral fee.

Cybils Nominees ABC Giveaway: The Letter S

You can still win twenty-five picture books for yourself or your school. Learn more about the ABC Giveaway.

(I apologize. I thought this was scheduled to post yesterday, and forgot to check. My bad.)

All the Seasons of the Year
by Deborah Lee Rose, illustrated by Kay Chorao


All the Seasons of the YearA mother’s love follows her son through the seasons, all beautifully described and illustrated. “I love you when winter blows/when wind chills our faces, fingers, toes/when snowflakes glitter the quiet night/and morning greets us all in white...” The two are together sharing activities — raking, sledding, gardening, swimming — and enjoying the season joys. While this is a Mommy Love book, it’s not cloying, as most of the text focuses on the special and uniques aspects of each season. The artwork is delicate, detailed, and just so pretty. The title would work well for a preschool storytime on the seasons, but it is meant to be shared with the special child in your life. Please do so.
Give this book with a handmade coupon book for various seasonal activities — sled ride and cocoa date, for example — or look for more Ways to Give a Picture Book or over a hundred other Ways to Give a Book this holiday season.
The Letter S

Book: Some Smug Slug, by Pamela Duncan Edwards

Rhyme: “Squirrels”
Wisky, frisky, hippity, hop
Up he climbs to the tree top.
Whirly, twirly, round and round
Down he scampers to the ground.
Where’s his supper? In a shell
Snappy, cracky, out it fell.
Book: Scaredy Squirrel or Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, by Melanie Watt

Book: Silly Tilly, by Eileen Spinelli, or Silly Sally, by Audrey Wood

Song: “Shake My Sillies Out”
I’m going to shake, shake, shake my sillies out.
Shake, shake, shake my sillies out.
Shake, shake, shake my sillies out.
And wiggle my waggles away.

I’m going to clap, clap, clap my crazies out.
Clap, clap, clap my crazies out.
Clap, clap, clap my crazies out.
And wiggle my waggles away.
Book: Russell the Sheep, by Rob Scotton

Song: “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep”

Book: Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie, by Norton Juster

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Cybils Nominees ABC Giveaway: The Letter R

You can still win twenty-five picture books for yourself or your school. Learn more about the ABC Giveaway.

How Rocket Learned to Read
by Tad Hills


How Rocket Learned to ReadRocket is minding his own business, taking a nap under a tree when a yellow bird tries to teach him. Rocket is having none of that, and moves his napping place. But he can’t help but hear as the little bird reads a story and then stops just before the good part! Well, Rocket can’t wait to find out what happened in the book, and then eases into the world of the written word. This could be just another “Reading is Great!” titles, but the author saves it from becoming preachy with gentle humor and endearing illustrations. The book also subtly shares that learning to read is work. Fun work, maybe. Rewarding work, definitely. But that it isn’t a skill picked up overnight. This helpful message makes this book a natural for preschool or school storytimes, and will be just a valuable one-on-one with your own beginning reader.
Give this book with some beginning reader titles or look for more Ways to Give a Picture Book or over a hundred other Ways to Give a Book this holiday season.
The Letter R

Book: Duck? Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, or Rabbit Ears, by Amber Stewart

Fingerplay: “Five Little Rabbits”
Five little rabbits sitting by the door.
One hopped away, and then there were four.

Four little rabbits moved under a tree.
One hopped away, and then there were three.

Three little rabbits drinking morning dew.
One hopped away, and then there were two.

Two little rabbits resting in the sun.
One hopped away, and then there was one.

One little rabbit isn’t any fun.
He hopped away to find the others,
and then there were none.
Book: Rattletrap Car, by Phyllis Root

Book: Rain Drop Splash, by Alvin Tresselt

Song: “Rain, Rain Go Away

Book: Ruby the Copy Cat, by Peggy Rathman, or Ruby’s Wish, by Shirin Yim

Song: “Ram Sam Sam”
A ram sam sam
A ram sam sam
Guli, guli, guli, guli, guli
Ram sam sam...
Book: Hello, Robots, by Bob Staake

Alternate Books: Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney; How to Hide a Crocodile and Other Reptiles, by Ruth Heller

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Cybils Nominees ABC Giveaway: The Letter Q

You can still win twenty-five picture books for yourself or your school. Learn more about the ABC Giveaway.

The Queen’s Secret
by Frieda Wishinsky, illustrated by Loufane


The Queen’s SecretA little girls has an obsession with the queen. Not about her jewels or throne or castle, but about her purse. What could she be carrying in her handbag? What could a queen possibly need? When fate tosses her a chance to find out, she is very surprised and in keeping the secret makes a new — and royal — friend. A cute story from Canada where they are still connected with that whole queen thing. The rhyming text was uneven in quality, with the best bits describing the possibilities of what the bag might contain, “A pink velvet cape in case of a chill? A stout walking stick in case of a hill?” The illustrations are bright and friendly, and the book would be fun to share with preschoolers who will enjoy the image of a modern-day queen — and being part of the secret.
Gift this book with a purse craft kit or look for more Ways to Give a Picture Book or over a hundred other Ways to Give a Book this holiday season.
The Letter Q

Book: Little Quack, by Lauren Thompson

Song: “Six Little Ducks”
Six little ducks that I once knew,
Fat ones, skinny ones, fair ones too.

Chorus: But the one little duck
with a feather in his back,
He led the others with a
Quack, quack, quack.
Quack, quack, quack!
Quack, quack, quack!
He led the others with a
Quack, quack, quack!

Down to the water they did go.
Wibble, wobble, wibble, wobble to and fro.
(Chorus)

Home from the water they did come,
Wibble, wobble, wibble, wobble, ho-hum-hum.
(Chorus)

(BTW, the tune is here.)
Book: Stella, Queen of the Snow, by Marie-Loise Gay, or Sally Jean, the Bicycle Queen, by Cari Best

Nursery Rhyme: “The Queen of Hearts”
The Queen of Hearts,
She made some tarts,
All on a summer’s day;
The Knave of Hearts,
He stole the tarts,
And took them clean away
Book: Quiet! by Paul Bright

Song: “What Begins with Q?”
What begins with Q?
What begins with Q?
We all know.
We’ll tell you so.
What begins with Q?

Quack begins with Q…

Queen begins with Q…

Quiet begins with Q...

(This is song to the tune of “Farmer in the Dell” and can be used for any letter — but is probably never needed more than when you get to Q.)
Book: QPootle5, by Nick Butterworth, or Quick as a Cricket, by Audrey Wood

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Cybils Nominees ABC Giveaway: The Letter P

You can still win twenty-five picture books for yourself or your school. Learn more about the ABC Giveaway.

Please Take Me for a Walk
by Susan Gal


Please Take Me for a WalkA precocious puppy pleads for a promenade — perhaps in the park — with a pleasant presentation of the plentiful possibilities. His pitch is perfect, his proposal is pleasing, and his puppy-face is precious. And it’s impossible to pass over a polite “please.” Wow, I didn’t think I was going to make it through that paragraph. You may have wondered why I went all alliteration on you. Honestly, it has been a long day and I’m a little punchy. I can easily recommend this lovely book. With its slight text, engaging illustrations, and diverse neighborhood setting, it would be great for preschool storytimes or at home. Don’t pass this one by.
How about giving this book with a puppy? Ah, kidding. I’m uninspired to find a gift other than one of the stuffed animal variety, so take a look for more Ways to Give a Picture Book or over a hundred other Ways to Give a Book this holiday season.
The Letter P

Book: The Pigeon Wants a Puppy, by Mo Willems

Song: “Puppy in the Window”
(Yes, I changed “doggie” to “puppy.” BTW, the tune is here.)

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: Pigs Make Me Sneeze, by Mo Willems

Fingerplay: “This Little Piggie”

Book: Time to Pee! by Mo Willems — or another Pigeon or Elephant & Piggie book if you want to go with the safer choice.

Alternate Books: If you choose not to go with the all-Mo storytime, here are a few other choices: Pssst! by Adam Rex; Mr. Pusskins and Little Whiskers, by Sam Lloyd; Pilot Pups, by Michelle Meadows; A Penguin Story, by Antoinette Portis
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Cybils Nominees ABC Giveaway: The Letter O

You can still win twenty-five picture books for yourself or your school. Learn more about the ABC Giveaway.

Oscar and the Very Hungry Dragon
by Ute Kraus


Oscar and the Very Hungry DragonTeenReader, your favorite literate teen, strikes again with the “O” review, Oscar and the Very Hungry Dragon. This is the tale of a young boy named Oscar who, against his will and the will of the village, has to go up the mountain and become the annual meal of a very vicious dragon. But using the power of good cooking, Oscar makes the dragon seriously consider whether or not human children are really the tastiest thing in the world.

When it comes to literature, I love it when a book takes the middle way (sounds like a band name, doesn’t it?). It makes the average Joe (like myself) feel like they have a place in literature. The dragon, although he starts this way, is neither a godless killing machine nor a soft mushball. (Let’s face it — the he’s-tough-but-really-kind-and-sweet routine has gotten old.) This book is fun to read and a very neat mix of modern and medieval culture.
For the culinary genies in your gift-receiver, a cooking set would be a lot of fun, or a cuddly dragon for the sweetie pies, or look for more Ways to Give a Picture Book or over a hundred other Ways to Give a Book this holiday season.
The Letter O

Book: My Very Own Octopus, by Bernard Most

Fingerplay: “Open, Shut Them”
Open, shut them, open, shut them.
Give a little clap, clap, clap.
Open, shut them, open, shut them.
Lay them in your lap, lap, lap.
Creep them, crawl them, creep them, crawl them
Right up to your chin, chin, chin.
Open wide your little mouth...
But do not let them in.
(Act out the hand motions.)
Book: Owl Babies, by Martin Waddell, or Little Hoot, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Fingerplay: “Five Little Owls”
The first little owl has big, round eyes.
The second little owl is of very small size.
The third little owl can turn her head.
The fourth little owl likes mice, she said.
The fifth little owl flies all around,
And her wing hardly make a single sound.
(Count owls on fingers, and then “fly” hands around.)
Book: Over in the Meadow, by Olive A. Wadsworth (I sing it instead of reading it.)

Book: Some “O” name book like Olivia, by Ian Falconer; Olvina Files, by Grace Lin; Otto Goes to Camp, by Todd Parr; Owen, by Kevin Henkes; or Otis, by Loren Long

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Cybils Nominees ABC Giveaway: The Letter N

You can still win twenty-five picture books for yourself or your school. Learn more about the ABC Giveaway.

Nabeel’s New Pants: An Eid Tale
by Fawzia Gilani-Williams, illustrated by Proiti Roy


Nabeel’s New PantsTeenReader here, filling in for MotherReader to review the “N” book, Nabeel’s New Pants. It is the story of a man named Nabeel going to buy his family and himself some new clothes for Eid. He buys himselfs a lovely pair of pants — the only drawback being that they are four fingers too long. He is sure that he can find someone to shorten them in time for Eid, but that proves harder that he thought.

This book, aside from being a delightful embarkation into another culture, wouild be enjoyable to read at story time. Nabeel, after buying too-long pants, proceeds to ask his mother to shorten them. When she cannot, I was afraid it was going to become one of those books where the author fills page after page with the same dialogue and substituted names (a feat only achieved successfully in The Grouchy Ladybug). But it managed to pull away well before annoyance ensued and embark on the rest of what so many books lack nowadays: the plot.
This is a great book to read just for fun or to learn a bit about another culture. It would go perfectly with a sewing kit or a pretty set of bangles, or look for more Ways to Give a Picture Book or over a hundred other Ways to Give a Book this holiday season.
The Letter N

Book: The Gift of Nothing, by Patrick McDonnell, or Let’s Do Nothing! by Tony Fucile

Book: Our Nest, by Reeve Lindbergh, or The Perfect Nest, by Catherine Friend

Rhyme: “Little Birdie”
Little birdie in your nest.
Little birdie it’s time to rest.
When the sun comes out to play.
Little birdie — fly away!
Book: The Napping House, by Audrey Wood

Song: “Brother John”

Book: The Longest Night, by Marion Dane Bauer

Book: 1000 Times No, by Tom Warburton (If you’re feeling brave enough to try the numerous ways to say one word in many, many ways.)

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Cybils Nominees ABC Giveaway: The Letter M

You can still win twenty-five picture books for yourself or your school. Learn more about the ABC Giveaway.

Maneki Neko: The Tale of the Beckoning Cat
by Susan Lendroth, illustrated by Kathryn Otoshi


Maneki Neko: The Tale of the Beckoning CatIn long-ago Japan, a cat came to the home of a poor monk. Though he had very little food to spare, he couldn’t resist the sweet cat and they shared a home. One night the cat was stuck outside in a storm as a samurai was riding seeking refuge. He saw her shape against the shrine, and with her paw raised it seemed that she was beckoning to him. He stayed that night with the gentle monk, and in gratitude bestowed riches on him and his poor village. This story of Maneki Neko, the beckoning cat, is apparently well-known as evidenced by the many, many tributes to the cat in statues made in Japan. It just so happens that I’d never heard it, and as such my mind is now blown because all I can see is instances of this beckoning cat image that I never realized were like, a thing. This particular picture book lays out the story very nicely, with expression and dramatic tension — and even a lesson in graciousness and gratitude. The illustrations are also lovely, with soft colors and gentle landscapes. The story would translate well not only to preschoolers but to early elementary kids as well, either in a storytime or one-on-one. Wonderful book.
It was when I started looking for a gift pairing for this title that I realized the prevalence of the legend. Try searching “beckoning cat” if you doubt me. Consider giving this book with an adorable bank or look for more Ways to Give a Picture Book or over a hundred other Ways to Give a Book this holiday season.
The Letter M

Book: The Grumpy Morning, by Pamela Duncan Edwards, or Good Morning Sam, by Marie-Louise Gay

Song:Good Morning Song

Book: Five Little Monkeys with Nothing to Do, by Eileen Christelow

Rhyme: “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”

Book: Jeremy Draws a Monster, by Peter McCarty

Song: “Horns, Fangs”
(sung to “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”)
Horns, fangs,
knees and claws,
knees and claws.
Horns, fangs,
knees and claws,
knees and claws.
Eyes and ears and tail and paws.
Horns, fangs,
knees and claws,
knees and claws.
Book: The Magical Mystical Marvelous Coat, by Catherine Ann Cullen
(Man, I love this book.)

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Cybils Nominees ABC Giveaway: The Letter L

You can still win twenty-five picture books for yourself or your school. Learn more about the ABC Giveaway.

Library Mouse: A World to Explore
by Daniel Kirk


Library Mouse: A World to ExploreHey, Library Mouse has a friend! And she’s a cutie. As he’s looking over the bookshelves, she’s parachuting from the high shelves. She knows about adventure, he knows about research, and together they bring out the best in each other. Incorporated into the story are messages about the value of research and books, certainly, but also about the value of getting outside the comfort zone and exploring the world around us. This may be one of the first picture books I’ve read where I’m primed for the sequel with the line, “‘We didn’t have to leave the library,’ Sarah said with a twinkle in her eye, ‘but just think of the books you could write if you really got to see the world! What do you say we take a little research trip?’” Whoa, slow down, honey. You just met the boy. Kidding — it’s a cute book illustrated with the great Kirk style.
I don’t have a way to give this book with a present, though I do think that it would make a good gift to your school or preschool library. Look for more Ways to Give a Picture Book or over a hundred other Ways to Give a Book this holiday season.
The Letter L

Book: Leonardo the Terrible Monster, by Mo Willems

Book: Lost and Found, by Oliver Jeffers, or Russell and the Lost Treasure, by Rob Scotton

Rhyme: “Little Bo Peep”

Book: One Little Lamb, by Elaine Greenstein

Song: “Mary Had a Little Lamb”

Book: Lizzy’s Do’s and Don’ts, by Jessica Harper, or Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen (better for older preschoolers and up)

Book: Ladybug Girl, by David Soman, or The Grouchy Ladybug, by Eric Carle

Song: “Ladybug’s Picnic”
Whenever I come to the letter L, I have to face that strange ladybug rhyme. I mean, “Your house is on fire”? What is that all about? So instead, I’m substituting this Sesame Street song, which pokes fun of the rhyme with its line “They talked about the high price of furniture and rugs and fire insurance for ladybugs.” (Watch and learn the song below.)

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Cybils Nominees ABC Giveaway: The Letters J & K

I apologize for the lengthy break in the ABC Giveaway. I didn’t expect that my holiday weekend would be so consumed with extended family that I wouldn’t have time or energy to blog. Or think, for that matter. I had always planned to put up a new Ways to Give a Book, but had thought I’d be doing the actual work for it over the long weekend. Because apparently I allow myself to forget what family visits are like — perhaps out of self-preservation.

Anyway, I combined the letters J and K because I never did an actual storytime for either, so I was kind of working from scratch. Also, I don’t have Cybils-nominated books for either letter — at least that I’ve received yet — so I’m highlighting two school-themed picture books that I’ve reviewed before.

Jake Starts School
by Michael Wright


Jake Starts SchoolWhen we last saw Jake, his parents were trying to get him to sleep by going everywhere around the house with him. Well, Jake is still having separation issues at school, where he cannot let go of his parents. He literally clings to them through the whole day, making the seesaw hard and bathroom breaks impossible. The teacher is finally able to engage him with a book with the same name as his dog, and Jake finds his school groove. Bright and wacky illustrations fit the silly — and sometimes strained — rhyming text. (“There it was, Room Number 1/where Jake would join his class./It looked so big, he felt so small,/he passed a little gas.”) I can’t call this my favorite book, but kids will enjoy the silly take on starting school.

Kindergarten Cat
by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Alice Busby


Kindergarten CatThe kindergarteners come to school to find that their room has its own cat — and what a smart kitty she is! She may not know her colors or numbers, but she listens to the teacher’s lessons and responds. And boy, is she cute. While many books approach kindergarten with a list of all the things kids do, this slight story allows the reader to see what happens in a more natural way. The illustrations are engaging with a childlike feel, rich colors, and a diverse class. The rhyming couplets seem a bit strained, but it’s unlikely to bother the target audience, who will be thrilled with the idea of a cat in a classroom as even a remote possibility.
Consider giving these books with fun school supplies like a Hello Kitty set or some scented markers, or look for 105 other ways to give a book and 45 ways to give a picture book.
The Letters J and K

Book: This is the House that Jack Built, by Simms Taback

Rhyme: “Jack and the Candlestick”
Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack jump over the candlestick.
Book: One, Two, Three... Jump! by Penelope Lively

Book: I Love You, Blue Kangaroo, by Emma Chichester Clark

Fingerplay: “The Brown Kangaroo”
The brown kangaroo is very funny
She leaps and runs and hops like a bunny
(two fingers up and hop)
And on her stomach is a pocket so wide
(place other hand on tummy)
Her baby can jump in and go for a ride
(first hand jumps into “pocket”)
Book: Katie Loves the Kittens, by John Himmelman

Fingerplay: “Five Little Kittens”
Five little kittens standing in a row
(hold up five fingers)
They nod their heads to the children so
(bend fingers)
They run to the left, they run to the right
(run fingers to the left and then to the right)
They stand up and stretch in the bright sunlight
(stretch fingers out tall)
Along comes a dog who’s in for some fun
(hold up one finger from opposite hand)
MEOW! See those little kittens run!
(let fingers run)
Alternate Books: A Kiss Like This, by Catherine Anholt; Jumpy Jack and Googily, by Meg Rosoff, and Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Willems.
Go here for more on how to win twenty-five picture books in the ABC Giveaway.
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