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Rescue animals – That Cat Can’t Stay

  • Posted on January 12, 2013 at 5:18 PM

Cat_cover_That Cat Can't StayThat Cat Can’t Stay by Thad Krasnesky. Illustrated by David Parkins. Flashlight Press, 2010. ISBN: 9780979974656

That Cat Can’t Stay is on my list of fun rhyming read-alouds for elementary students. I love sharing this title, but never stopped to think about it in context of rescue animals until I started collecting books about rescues and helping find homes for animals.

Flashlight Press had sent out a newsletter reminding us that many families give puppies and kittens for Christmas gifts, but the thrill wanes and the animals end up in shelters. My beloved Lucy girl from a shelter had a note on her that “the kids don’t want her no more.” It broke our hearts. Fifteen years later we still love our Lucy and laugh when she stands outside wondering which direction is in. Fortunately my son’s German Shepherd Gabby goes out to herd her back in the house while she snaps and argues the entire time. Dogs and cats are lifetime commitments, not just spur of the moment gifts.

The publisher states:  “That Cat Can’t Stay is a wacky story about a family with a pet-adoption dilemma. Mom keeps bringing home stray cats, while Dad comes up with ridiculous reasons why each one can’t stay. Dad grudgingly gives in – 5 times! – but finally finds his perfect pet at the end.”

One of the best parts of this book is finding all the cat-aspects in the illustrations. I was amazed to read snippets from so many reviews and blogs here I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. When my new Promethean board is set up, I’ll be using the sneak peak in pdf form from the publisher to share with my students.

Have you used this title for conflict resolution? Mom always seems to get her way despite Dad’s protests and complaints. Each time she brings home a stray needy cat, she acknowledges Dad’s concerns, states what could happen to the cat if they don’t take it in, and then waits for Dad to give-in. Each time he thinks its temporary, but those cats gather around him just like real cats will rub against people who hate cats (Is it to irritate them?). Those cats seem to be winning dad over, but he does take action in the end to show his preferences.

I’ve paired That Cat Can’t Stay with the poem Cat! by Eleanor Farjeon  before. Look for the blog posts on rescue animals coming this year. There are some wonderful titles and I promise to give you tear-jerker alerts when necessary.

Lady Hahn and Her Seven Friends

  • Posted on January 4, 2013 at 8:00 PM

Lady Hahn and her Seven Friends by Yumi Heo. Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt and Company, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8050-4127-9. $16.99LadyHahn

Lady Hahn and her Seven Friends is a lovely picture book  to enhance your multicultural folktale collection, This Korean retelling of a seamstress and her seven tools for sewing provides a message on getting along while giving us a glimpse into aspects of sewing. The question of “who is most important?” occurs often in literature. This classical tale from the 1800s is retold swiftly with subtle touches that will stimulate questions about sewing.

The illustrations and text use a literary device teachers often request, but I get confused whether to call this anthropomorphism or personification. The tools of ruler, scissors, needle, thread, thimble, flatiron, and iron are feminized, talk, and portrayed with human physical features. They talk, have distinct personalities, and their feelings can be hurt. Technically which term should I use? Regardless, I am adding this to my list of teaching texts for literary devices.

The font and the design of text make reading aloud easy. The illustrations incorporate Korean fabric patterns with sweet, subtle details. The double-paged spread showing Lady Hahn coming to realize she needs her friends is sophisticated and worth careful attention. The author studied graphic design and this pleasing rendition joins my shelf with one of my favorites –  The Green Frogs: A Korean Folk Tale.

The terms of flatiron and iron can be confusing to non-sewers, so be prepared with some photos or real artifacts. I appreciate this title for the use of tools which is commonly integrated in second grade education. Often “tools” is related to hammers, nails, and saws rather than more broadly being linked to all the tools necessary to accomplish a task. STEM schools can utilize this title when talking about technology.

Review Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls

  • Posted on January 1, 2013 at 7:33 PM

Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen, PhD. A Snap book from Capstone Press. 2012. part of the Girls Science Club series including:

  • Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls
  • Cool Biology Activities for Girls
  • Cool Physics Activities for Girls
  • Cool Engineering Activities for Girls
Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls cover

Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls cover

Shela Crisler (the current PTO president, a former engineer, and a parent volunteer in the library who puts in more hours than some teachers) and I unpacked books from Capstone Press to preview. Shela picked up Cool Engineering Activities for Girls while I picked up Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls. We looked at each other and both commented on the aspect “for Girls.” Hey! We’re girls. We love science and engineering. Why does this say “for girls?” Is there another series out there of Cool Engineering Activities for Boys? Is this real science or pseudoscience? We decided to both take our books home to read and compare on this blog.

Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls includes ten hands-on activities with “insider info” on each that explains the scientific principles which apply. The bright design is open with very readable and approachable text. Photo illustrations feature girls of middle school age so the interest truly will extend from grades 3-8.

The activities are appropriate for elementary and middle school interest and include many experiments that my STEM school had already planned as part of our curriculum this year. I can’t wait to see the teachers’ faces when I present them with this title. We use the Science NSRC kits and the Engineering is Elementary Kits in our science integration throughout the curriculum. Some of these activities are explored in the kits, but none of them explain and extend the learning in such an exciting way as this series. I wish this set had been available when I was younger. For all my former students who asked me for titles like this before publishers created them, I wish I could hand you each a copy.

STEM schools will naturally want to purchase the entire set. It is essential that more school and public libraries carry titles like this. They walk the line between the craft titles with their practicality and informational scientific titles. It’s an opportunity to inspire a new generation of female (and male) scientists.

My favorite aspect of science is chemistry followed closely by geology and physics. I am an avid reader of anything chemical and constantly seeking titles. After reading Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls, I cannot wait to purchase the complete set and to advocate for more being published. We need geology, botany, astronomy, meteorology, statistics, forensics,… there is so much more to include.

The Capstone website includes reviews for Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls from Science Books & Films – Deborah Stevens, Musselman High School, Warrenton, VA, and Laura McConnell with Library Media Connection.  Junior Library Guild includes a review of Cool Biology Activities for Girls on their website for members only. That title was part of their Science set for grades 6-8. I was happy to see this series noted so highly by JLG.

When I clicked the publisher’s website to seek related nonfiction and related fiction titles, I was disappointed. There are not enough titles out there to sustain a beginner’s interest in chemistry. The related nonfiction titles were primarily heavier-text middle school biography titles and were not designed to draw in new science enthusiasts as these Girls Science Club titles do. While the title Marie Curie mariecurieis an essential middle school purchase, it does not appeared designed to attract my students to extend their interest in elementary school.

The related fiction included lower level graphic titles but the relationship was misleading. One title was to scientists playing rock, paper, scissors. Another to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde which at best could lead to a discussion of science and ethics. The third was to Buzz Beaker and the Speed Secret which describes an invention to make skis faster. All of these are good titles on their own, but they won’t be excellent matches to EXTEND the excitement of discovering chemistry.

I appreciate the links, but, librarians, we have far to go to encourage more publishing efforts of science topics for women. In fact, I’m going to email Capstone tonight and suggest that they link some of their other series to this title like the Kitchen Science books including Science Experiments That Fizz and Bubble: Fun Projects for Curious Kids, Gross Guides series, and of course the Monster Science titles. All of those would have made much more sense if included in the related titles section. Should I assume that Gross and Monster are the answer to my search for “Cool Chemistry Activities for Boys?”  Do I even need to step on my soapbox and start ranting about the equality of the sexes in scientific exploration and research? Or that I have many boys who would also do these “girl” experiments, too? I hope boys will take time to participate in these scientific activities.

I know there are many more exciting biographies of scientists, including chemists that we should be sharing with students. Keep reading this blog and I’ll bring you more titles. You are always welcome to share your ideas, too. I need you to help me communicate my love of science and chemistry with younger students.

Bejeezers uses Squidoo to share lenses like the Top 10 Chemistry Books for Kids which includes a great quiz. For adults who love chemistry and would like to explore the significance of how scientific knowledge relates to history, be sure to pick up a copy of Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History. The Crabtree series “Why Chemistry Matters” was one of my previous middle school picks. I’m hoping others continue to develop more STEM titles for elementary and middle school interests.

Enjoying a new e-reader in your house? Be sure to add Chemistry for Everyone: A Helpful Primer for High School or College Chemistry to your list of ebooks to read. It’s currently available on the kindle for $5.99 but periodically shows up for a discount. It’s worth reading as an elementary teacher because it reminds us of the big picture or how what we do and the way we approach learning will have more impact on our students long down their educational path.

Sprouting Readers Through STEM

  • Posted on October 26, 2012 at 12:31 AM

After taking some time off, I’m ready to hit the keys again and update readers on excellent titles. Today I’m listing some of the tools I’ll be mentioning during the Tennessee Association of School Librarians conference during the presentation “Sprouting Readers Through STEM”. Dr. Regina Etter and Lakisha Brinson, STEM designers at Hattie Cotton STEM Magnet Elementary School, and I will be presenting together Friday, October 26, 2012. We’ll be posting our powerpoint, but you know you are missing the true dynamics and excitement of our “presentation” if you aren’t there with us.

Here are some of the  library tools I use in the school library to support the growth of the STEM initiative at our school.

Netbooks and Desktops (25 in the library)

Pebble Go Databases

Britannica Imagequest

Britannica Online

World Book through TEL

Super 3

PowerKnowledge Life Science

FollettShelf with ebooks

Capstone Interactive Books

Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites: 20 Instructional Strategies That Engage The Brain by Marcia L. Tate. Corwin, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4129-7850-7

PBL in the Elementary Grades: Step-by-Step Guidance, Tools and Tips for Standards-Focused K-5 Projects. Buck Institute for Education, 2011. ISBN 978-0-9740343-1-7

The Super3: Information Skills for Young Learners by Michael B. Eisenberg and Laura Eisenberg Robinson. Linworth Books, 2007. ISBN 158683286-7

Teaching Information & Technology Skills: The Big 6 in Elementary Schools by Michael B. Eisenberg and Robert E. Berkowitz. Linworth Books, 1999. ISBN 0-938865-81-1

Common Core Curriculum Maps: English Language Arts. Grades K-5. Common Core. Jossey-Bass, 2012. (p67)

Narrative Nonfiction, Biographies and more:

Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird by Stephanie Spinner. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. ISBN 978-0-375-86846-7 A Junior Library Guild selection and excellent true story of Irene Pepperberg’s work with an African grey parrot named Alex – short for Avian Learning EXperiment.

Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why by Lita Judge. Roaring Brook Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-59643-646-6

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola (also author of Planting the Trees of Kenya) Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012. ISBN 978-0-374-38068-7

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8037-3511-8. True story of 14 year old William Kamkwamba’s perserverance in building a wind mill in his African village.

Leopard & Silkie: One Boy’s Quest to Save the Seal Pups by Brenda Peterson. Henry Holt Books, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8050-9167-0. Seal Sitters in the Pacific Northwest.

Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudi by Rachel Rodriguez. Henry Holt, 2009. ISBN 978-0-8050-8745-1 Architecture in a unique style.

Just as Good: How Larry Doby Changed America’s Game by Chris Crowe. Candlewick Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-7636-5026-1. The first black player in the American League, Larry Doby’s second season playing for the Cleveland Indians helped pave the way for other African Americans in the major leagues.

Annie and Helen by Deborah Hopkinson & Raul Colon. Schwartz & Wade Books,  2012. ISBN 978037585706-5

Paiute Princess: The Story of Sarah Winnemucca by Deborah Kogan Ray. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012. ISBN 978-0-374-39897-2

Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Roaring Brook Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-59643-397-7

What If You Get Lost? by Anara Guard. Picture Window Books, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4048-6684-3

Haunted Histories: Creepy Castles, Dark Dungeons, and Powerful Palaces by J. H. Everett. Henry Holt, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8050-8971-4

Write Horror Fiction in 5 Simple Steps by Laura  Baskes Litwin. Enslow, 2013. ISBN 978-0-7660-3836-3

Picture Yourself Writing Nonfiction: Using Photos to Inspire Writing by Jennifer Fandel. Capstone Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4296-6125-6

Nature’s Cycles: Food Chains / Los ciclos de la naturaleza Las cadenas alimentarias by Dana Meachen Rau. Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7614-4789-4


Plants (Investigating Earth) by Kate Walker. Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2012. ISBN 978-1-60870-559-7

New Plants: Seeds in the Soil Patch by Emily Sohn and Erin Ash Sullivan. Norwood House, 2011. ISBN 978-1-59953-408-4

How Seeds Travel: Popguns and Parachutes by Jane Belk Moncure. The Child’s World, 1990. (Who will publish a modern update to this title?)

Disgusting Plants by Connie Colwell Miller. Capstone, 2007.

The Plant Hunters: True Stories of Their Daring Adventures to the Far Corners of the Earth. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012. ISBN 978-0-374-30908-4

Grow Your Own Cat Toy (Grow It Yourself!) by John Malam. Heinemann Library, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4329-5110-8

Grow Your Own Sandwich (Grow It Yourself!) by John Malam. Heinemann Library, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4329-5108-5

Freaky Plant Facts: Extreme Greens (Plant-ology) by Ellen Lawrence. Bearport Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-61772-591-3

Amazing Plant Bodies: Tiny to Gigantic (Plant-ology) by Ellen Lawrence. Bearport Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-61772-592-0

Cooking with Sunshine: How Plants Make Food (Plant-ology) by Ellen Lawrence. Bearport Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-61772-586-9

Meat-Eating Plants: Toothless Wonders (Plant-ology) by Ellen Lawrence. Bearport Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-61772-589-0

Environments: Beetles in the Garden (iScience Readers)  by Emily Sohn and Barbara M. Linde.  Norwood House, 2011. ISBN 978-1-59953-423-7

Living Systems: Life’s Inside Story (iScience Readers)  by Emily Sohn and Patricia Ohlenroth.  Norwood House, 2011. ISBN 978-1-59953-423-7

People Need Plants! (I Like Plants!) by Mary Dodson Wade. Enslow, 2009. ISBN 97807660-3153-1

Plants Live Everywhere!  (I Like Plants!) by Mary Dodson Wade. Enslow, 2009. ISBN 97807660-3155-5

Seeds Sprout!  (I Like Plants!) by Mary Dodson Wade. Enslow, 2009. ISBN 97807660-3154-8

Plants Grow!  (I Like Plants!) by Mary Dodson Wade. Enslow, 2009. ISBN 97807660-3152-4

Little Seeds (my little planet) by Charles Ghigna. Picture Window Books, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4048-6790-1

The Secret Lives of Plants! (Graphic Library) by Janet Slingerland. Capstone Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4296-7686-1

Food Chains and Webs: Freestyle Express edition (The Web of Life) Raintree, 2012. 978-1-4109-4424-5

Life on Earth (Energy in Action) by Pennie Stoyles and Peter Pentland. Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2012.

Articles to be sure to read:

The National Science Digital Library: STEM Resources for the 21st-Century Learner by Daniel Toomey. School Library Monthly. Volume XXVII, Number 2/November 2010.

Collaboration–Programs-Role Models-&-Empowering Girls for Librarians. NorCol STEM Girls.

IMLS-Funded Research Explores How School Librarians Use Digital Content for STEM Learning by Marcia Mardis The Web2MARC Tool.

Space Exploration, an illustrated timeline

  • Posted on June 16, 2012 at 2:53 PM

Being a very diverse learner who needs to see the big picture and enjoys assembling pieces to construct new knowledge, I appreciate publishers and authors who try new ways to communicate. Hence my review today of Patricia Wooster’s book An Illustrated Timeline of Space Exploration, illustrated by Eldon Doty and published by Picture Window Books (a Capstone imprint), 2012. ISBN: 9781404866607. 

I admit that I am crazy about this title and the way it’s presented. I would be one irritating librarian to anyone unwilling to learn as I share new books hourly with people – even complete strangers. Whenever “bigwigs” show up in school and I notice people deferring to them, I usually find an interesting book and approach them to look. They don’t scare me and I’ll use every opportunity I get to convey why printed books are vital to elementary and middle schools. I showed this to a STEM leader in our district.

Have you ever just sat and read timelines? Why not? Perhaps you have never had anyone relate the timeline to how you learn, how information is organized, or how we construct knowledge. Timelines can be difficult for teachers to relate to their students. Once they have students create a timeline of their life, most classes lose interest and move on. Not with this title. An Illustrated Timeline of Space Exploration will keep them asking questions and at the end, seeking more titles in this format.

The entire book is a timeline from Early Space discoveries in 2773 BC to current events. The first double-page spread takes you through moments in time for 2773 BC, AD 1543, 1608, 1687, 1781, 1846, 1929, and 1930. There are some big gaps on this page alone, but if I remember to focus on the word exploration it is a little easier to understand why this page is minimized. There is also a significant gap between the end of that page 1930 and the Soviet Union’s launching of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957. It takes someone to share with readers that other events were happening at this time, but the authors chose not to focus on them.

The illustrations are appealing to my graphic novel readers. There are a myriad of details throughout that will keep the students reading and re-reading. I found myself stumbling on the first few pages and had to actually place my finger on the timeline to follow the links of information to keep myself in order. This is an excellent skill for students to acquire in reading intricate scientific and historical information as they get holder and here is a safe way to practice.

Some of the topics addressed include: Early Discoveries, The Space Age, The Space Race, Testing the Skies, Walking on the Moon, Another Station in Space, Reaching Farther into Space, Living in Space, A Telescope in Space, Space Records, Touring Space, Private Space Flight, The Future of Space Exploration and Building your own timeline.

Perhaps one of the greatest strengths is how the illustrations and text will inspire students to ask questions and do research.

I do have a criticism to share that I have heard from some of the scientists involved. Some ask where is the rest of the information that is so vital such as the star charts of ancient nations, and the contributions of Wernher Von Braun and the V2 rockets. Another asked why we used BC and AD on the first page instead of the B.C.E. and C.E.

According to the Marshall Space Flight Center in nearby Huntsville, Alabama’s biography page for Werner Von Braun.

Wernher Von Braun is well known as the leader of what has been called the “rocket team” which developed the V–2 ballistic missile for the Nazis during World War II…. The brainchild of von Braun’s rocket team operating at a secret laboratory at Peenemünde on the Baltic coast, the V–2 rocket was the immediate antecedent of those used in space exploration programs in the United States and the Soviet Union.”

As for the BC and AD distinction, there are always controversies as you can see in this blog from the Free Republic (no endorsement intended) “Educators and historians say schools from North America to Australia have been changing the terms Before Christ to Before Common Era and anno Domini (Latin for “year of the Lord”) to Common Era. In short, they’re referred to as B.C.E. and C.E.” Even Wikipedia addresses the controversy

I found that neither of those points deterred me from gaining a tremendous amount of knowledge from this title. In many schools in the United States during the 70’s and 80’s space exploration was taught as a race against the Soviet Union which we “won” because we landed a man on the moon first. When you read An Illustrated Timeline of Space Exploration, the focus is on world-wide space exploration so you are exposed to a more realistic depiction of space exploration with events from Russia (the former Soviet Union), China, and the business community.

When I showed someone this title, she asked me if NASA wasn’t really closing down all the space programs. SHOCK!!!! What?! How could I let anyone in my school think this? I must contact the NASA booth at the American Library Association conference and gather as much material and links as possible to correct this error in perspective.  Just because the Space Shuttle program ended, does not mean the end of space exploration.

Today I saw the headline news from CNN that China sent the first female astronaut into space – People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force fighter pilot Liu Yang.  Perhaps you have not been following the Chinese aspirations to ” conduct a manned mission to the moon”. In addition to the People’s Republic of China the European Union, Japan, and India have also planned future manned space missions to the Moon (and in the EU’s case to Mars) during this century. Manned space travel is ongoing.

Other Links that I like and which help understand our space program is alive and functioning include:

NASA’s Education Materials Finder will help teachers locate resources that can be used in the classroom. My favorite link it helped me find was What’s next for NASA? The U.S.

NASA’s People and technology page (intended for K-4)

NASA’s topical index page with exciting links guaranteed to keep students clicking, learning, and shouting out to their friends “Look at this!”

Fortunately this book is part of the FactHound site so students can access NASA and spacekids links like From the spacekids site I learned this and wondered who else is missing:

“In 1989, Helen Sharman entered a competition to become the first British astronaut in space. After 18 months of intensive training, Helen was part of a Russian mission to the MIR space station. “

The need to convey exploration and innovation as part of a continuum is one reason why I will purchase all the titles in this series:

  • An Illustrated Timeline of Inventions and Inventors,
  • An Illustrated Timeline of Transportation
  • An Illustrated Timeline of U.S. States
  • An Illustrated Timeline of Space Exploration
  • An Illustrated Timeline of U.S. Presidents
  • An Illustrated Timeline of Dinosaurs

Those of you who know me may have been forced to sit and watch the DVD’s of Apollo 13 with all of the background information, narratives, commentaries, etc. I wanted to be an astronaut growing up and remember watching hours of space documentaries – until I realized with my horrible ears and bad eyesight that I was never getting close. If I’d lived closer to Huntsville, AL, then I would have realized I could have been a valued scientist supporting the work and part of the team. With my work at a STEM school, perhaps I will be able to motivate others and open their career paths to broader avenues.

It is important for our future to provide continuums of learning, timelines of history, and the links for our students to understand their importance. Books like An Illustrated Timeline of Space Exploration help us set the path for learning.

What else do I need now? I need biographies. Here are some names of people that we should be reading more of their research and work in the field of space exploration:

  • Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
  • Robert Goddard
  • Hermann Oberth
  • Reinhold Tiling
  • Wernher von Braun
  • Kerim Kerimov
  • Sergey Korolyov
  • Valentin Glushko
  • Vasily Mishin
  • Robert (Bob) Gilruth
  • Christopher C. Kraft, Jr.
  • Maxime Faget

Did you know that “Initially the race for space was often led by Sergei Korolyov, whose legacy includes both the R7 and Soyuz—which remain in service to this day. Korolev was the mastermind behind the first satellite, first man (and first woman) in orbit and first spacewalk. Until his death his identity was a closely guarded state secret; not even his mother knew that he was responsible for creating the Russian space program.” If that isn’t enough of a hook for some author to start writing, I don’t know what you need. I’m waiting. Start writing.

Two poetry books you must have before we leave SLJ

  • Posted on May 31, 2012 at 8:20 PM

As of tomorrow, June 1st, Practically Paradise will no longer be hosted on the SLJ page, but instead on our new domain site at I am very excited about the new opportunity and cannot wait for you to follow us over there. Please pop in and leave a comment.

In the meantime, I cannot leave without mentioning two of my favorite poetry titles this year.

The Arrow Finds Its Mark: A Book of Found Poems edited by Georgbia Heard and illustrated by Antoine Guilloppe. Roaring Brook Press, 2012. ISBN 9781596436657. $16.99

This slim collection of poems is best for upper elementary and middle school students. It was fascinating to read and contemplate where these ideas originated, but it would be more meaningful to produce our own found poems. The rules were simply stated on the website. Now we sit back and see how this collection came into being through the rules stated in the introduction.

My favorite poem in this  book was by  Laura Purdie Salas. She created a poem Top Ten Rules for Our Zoo Field Trip by listing some titles of picture books she ran across on a library shelf. An example of a couple lines from this poem:

  • Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus
  • Please don’t feed the bears
  • Don’t go pet a porcupine, etc.

The other book of poetry I simply cannot neglect is by Gail Carson Levine and is called Forgive Me I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems. I traded someone for this title. It is wonderfully wicked. As Gail Carson Levine points out, you have to be mean to read and enjoy these. Seems I have that ability.

Inspired by William Carlos Williams’ work, this collection of poems follow the sequence and rhyme structure of the original poem “This Is Just to Say”.  I was so worried that no one would be listening to me read this when suddenly it became popular. There is a little touch of meanness in everyone and this book provides the opportunity to creatively slam every person you’ve ever wanted and dazzle others with your ability use a formula to invent false apologies.

Perfect for middle school and upper elementary collections where the teacher enjoys leading the class in a little mayhem and madness, I’d definitely add this title.

We Made You Out of Love

  • Posted on May 28, 2012 at 6:04 PM

We Made You Out of Love: The Answer to the Number One Question on Every Child’s Mind: “Where Did I Come From?”  written by Dr. Greg Marconi & Michael Marconi.

Twenty-one years ago when I was expecting #2 son, doctors told us to use anatomically correct words in explaining where babies come from. For two year old #1 son, that meant when others would ask if he was excited about the baby growing in his mommy’s tummy, he’d reply “Actually, the baby is growing in her uterus. Your stomach is where food goes.”

Today, parents can use this book to explain where babies come from. Written for children the authors suggest are too young to be burdened with technical terms and too many details about the facts of life, this book does actually state that the baby grew in mommy’s tummy. One tiny detail that doesn’t prevent me from liking this title greatly.

The authors have managed to take a controversial subject and treat it with enough distracting humor and various facts that  parents can decide how much additional information they choose to provide. This title will become a standard for all public library collections and preschool-1 collections.

I watched as a parent shared this with her second and fifth grader. They were intently listening, laughing along, and looking at the illustrations. They wanted to hear the story again and to look at the pictures themselves. They particularly loved the illustrations because they were digitally familiar, like in a videogame. See this one below:


The fifth grader did laugh and ask, “Wait a minute! Does that mean you are making babies everytime you stand close to the daddy?”” The second grader said, “Of course not, there has to be some of that yucky stuff, too, like kissing.”

Fortunately for their mom, they were still laughing over all the funny ideas Jeffrey had as possibilities for where he came from, and they were distracted.

I enjoyed this story because it was heartwarming and loving. Two parents talking to their young son about making him from love and acknowledging that he is the best thing they ever made to become a family. This was sweet, yet not too icky-sweet.

Visit their website to see a video with the authors explaining their choices in creating this story.

I’m happy to see at least one book about making babies that won’t be challenged by parents or staff.

How the Troll Hunters helped with grieving

  • Posted on May 28, 2012 at 10:12 AM

Skyfall by Micahel Dahl. #1 Troll Hunters series. Stone Arch Books, 2012. ISBN: 9781434233073. $17.99. Reading Level: 2-3; Interest Level: 5-9. 112 pages.

Librarianship is a wondrous profession. Seeking and receiving information, matching it to the needs of patrons, and watching interests grow is a wonderful thing. One disadvantage to being in a school library is the end of the school year when all checkouts stop. Public libraries never have to close down yearly to inventory, put their books exactly in order, and cease checkout.

This year because I was part of the related arts team and served as teacher’s planning release, I had classes even the last day of school but had to shift classes to the computer lab instead of the library. Unfortunately, checkout stops ten days before then and we are expected to get our inventory done, shelves in order, and the end of the year reports turned in. (Mine isn’t finished yet, ahem!) School librarians often have the textbooks for classrooms to be returned and inventoried; moreover, the  technology must be returned, repaired, and surplussed.

This is the only time of year when I allow my volunteers and library assistant to get territorial and tell the kids not to touch the books. If I had my way, I’d be paid for a week extra to stay and put things in order. Since I don’t and my working next week is volunteering, I compromise and watch the shelves fill up with all the titles that we haven’t seen on the shelves all year. This is a mixed blessing because the students sneak in to view all the books in their place and marvel at titles they were waiting for all year. They always discover something new — maybe a new series, the rest of the books by an author they liked, an entire shelf of baseball books that “magically” appeared. And they beg. They plead. They bargain. Please, Mrs. Kelly, let me just checkout this one book.

This year a fourth grade  African-American boy quietly slipped in the library and wandered the shelves one morning. Finally, he stood at the desk with my assistant and just waited. When she asked what he wanted, he said he had just hoped to check out something. Through their conversation we discovered his beloved grandfather who was practically raising him, had just died. He’d had to move back in with his mother. He was at school but trying to deal with his emotions. He just needed to read something.

How can you help grieving children? Love, care, listening? Being there? Of course, but I helplessly clutched at the one thing I am good at doing – offering a book. I knew this boy had read the Library of Doom by Michael Dahl and was systematically reading everything Michael Dahl had written. I happened to have the new series Troll Hunters #1 and #2 to review on my desk, so I quickly grapped Skyfall and pressed it into his hands, asking him to tell me what he thought.

He loved it. He came back three times during the day to update me on where he was in reading. He asked if he could have the second and how quickly I could get the others. His teacher stopped me in the hall and said she had allowed him to just sit and read for two hours straight while he was coping. When we asked him for details about the book, he talked about how exciting it was. How quickly the action happened. How there was so much going on to keep track of.

We even had a funny moment when he pointed out Doctor Hoo was in the book. He knows how much I love the Doctor Who tv series so we had a giggle while we guessed Michael Dahl is a Doctor Who fan, too.

He showed me how interesting the color pages are in the front and back and that they made this book feel special and old-like. He liked the illustrations because they were scary. I pulled out my camera and showed his a real photo of Michael Dahl to compare to the artistic rendering in the back. He even mentioned to me that he liked the feel of the pages. I pointed out that these books were all printed in the U.S.A. in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and he mentioned that his grandfather would have been proud that he was reading a book made in the USA.

Coming in and chatting about Troll Hunters kept this sweet young man interested and involved throughout the chaos of the last days of school and the various “celebrations” that occur for milestones. We talked about questions we would like to ask Michael Dahl and about having a Skype session with him in the fall. When he realized he’d be at the middle school by then, he asked if he could come by to join in. He wanted me to pass on to the author that these books are exciting and easy to read and that they hook you. Finally, as he was getting on the bus the last day, he hollered out the window (yes, hollered, we are in the South) and said he would come by to visit me to help review books next year.

I cannot take away the pain of my students’ lives. I can help them escape, learn more, and get involved in reading and living someone else’s life.

How did I like the Troll Hunters? Troll Hunters is going to be the most sought after new series for my reluctant readers in fourth grade. The vocabulary is accessible, the action intense, and the characters intriguing. The second book Dark Tower Rising is my favorite because it introduced constellation mythology.

Both titles I read involve science and applying scientific ideals to myths from the past. I’m already seeking new constellation titles like the one pictured here to satisfy the growing interest in mythology.

Neither Troll Hunter title I read tries to answer all questions, wrap up all the problems, or even provide happy endings. The action keeps the reader involved and leaves lots of storyline possibilities open.

The series is giving my students something to look forward. I contemplated the correlations to the Common Core Standards including:

  • Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text. Subskill: Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text (e.g., through examples or anecdotes).
  • Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).
  • Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.

These are skills I can work with informally and formally as students read through the series. The Tennessee skills I can focus on include:

  • Predict and determine the sequence of events in a story including possible problems and solutions.
  • Identify the conflict of the plot.
  • Continue to identify how point of view (i.e., first person or third person, limited and omniscient) shapes the plot of the story or the perspective of the characters and audience.
  • Identify and interpret the main incidents of a plot, their causes, how they influence future actions, and how they are resolved.

Spring books

  • Posted on May 1, 2012 at 2:28 AM

Springtime and Easter present challenges. Most librarians have spent their book budgets, yet students get spring-book-fever and want new titles. What should you add to your list?

10 Hungry Rabbits: Counting & Color Concepts by Anita Lobel. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-375-86864-1. $9.99.

10 Easter Egg Hunters: a holiday counting book by Janet Schulman; illustrated by Linda Davick. Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. ISBN 978-0-375-86787-3. $8.99.

Home for a Bunny (A Little Golden Book) by Margaret Wise Brown; illustrated by Garth Williams. Random House Little Golden Books Classic, 1989. ISBN: 978-0-307-93009-5. $3.99.

The Bunny’s Night-Light: A Glow-in-the-Dark Search by Geoffrey Hayes. Random House, 2012. $11.99, 32 page. ISBN 9780375869266.

10 Hungry Rabbits. I’ve been a fan of Anita Lobel’s since she illustrated Princess Furball and spoke at a literature symposium in Illinois in the early 90’s. When I saw 10 Hungry Rabbits, I knew there would be little artistic touches added to each page. While not as elaborate as the flowers in Allison’s Zinnia or as amazing as her recent paintings of flowers in gouache on rice paper, Anita Lobel creates and hides beautiful flowers throughout the scenes of 10 Hungry Rabbits. She correlates colors of vegetables with the colors of each rabbits clothes while she counts vegetables. The most unusual food item is the page with ten black peppercorns. I’m glad I keep peppercorns on hand for grinding to show to students.

This idea for creating flannelboards to tell the tale of 10 Hungry Rabbits is perfect for spring storytime. I am a big fan of Reading Chick’s flannelboard blog posts. Here is a photo from her take on this tale.

Kirkus reviews notes the details in their review of 10 Hungry Rabbits, too.

There is an interesting tie-in between these two counting books. Anita Lobel dedicates her book to Janet Schulman “fine author, excellent editor, and very good friend. With love always.”

Janet Schulman’s rhymes in 10 Easter Egg Hunters are what caused this title to be added to my list. While I may not be a big fan of creepy teeth kids in the Linda Davick illustrations, I did find many hidden treasures (and eggs) in the photos. I can imagine reading this to a small group, possibly 2-4 students and having them find eggs in the illustration that are not referenced by the words until later on in the story. When students become accustomed to facts and details being strained out so they only focus on the “correct” image or answer, it can be disconcerting to be exposed to the larger picture throughout the book and having to focus oneself.

Home for a Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown; illustrated by Garth Williams remains one of the classic Little Golden Books. For tiny toddlers, looking for a bunny home under a rock, under a stone, under a log, or under the ground becomes a chant throughout this tale. Garth Williams sweet bunnies will always remind me of spring. He created such happy animals that the reader couldn’t help but feel happy for spring.

As for the book, The Bunny’s Night-Light: A Glow-in-the-Dark Search, I think Angie Mangino nailed this title with her review at the City Book Review at The publisher description isn’t as sweet.

“When Little Bunny can’t sleep because “there’s too much dark at night,” it’s up to Papa to find just the right night-light for his little bunny. The pair go for a walk around the woods and Papa points out the possibilities. Perhaps the moon is the ideal night-light? Or maybe the fireflies will be able to help? Or even the little glowworm? Featuring luminescent nighttime illustrations that glow in the dark, and a comforting text, this bedtime story will resonate with little bunnies and their parents.”

This was the last of a group of titles I picked up because my first impression was that it was just a gimmicky book of glow in the dark pictures. I was sooooo wrong! This is truly a reassuring bedtime story that is perfect for daddies to read to their little ones. The illustrations have the perfect balance of sweetness with variations in expression that will keep little ones looking at pictures again and again. The wording is perfectly paced with gentle rhythm and repetition.

I first read the story in the daytime and was very satisfied. Later at night I pulled out my flashlight to watch the pages glow around the edges and with aspects of night that naturally have light. As PaPa tries to find the perfect light to reassure Bunny, Bunny easily points out the flaws in each suggestion. At the same time, Bunny is opening his eyes to the night objects that glow or produce light. This will help toddlers realize that the night is not all dark.

The Bunny’s Night-Light is such a charmer that I have to take it with me to Michigan to show #3 grandchild while we wait the arrival of #4. I am prepared for the necessity of producing a nightlight after reading and anticipate shopping for a three year old. Will he want a bunny light or perhaps some type of monster truck light? Perhaps the glow in the dark objects will be a better gift to accompany this story. Whatever we follow up with, I am most anticipating that sweet moment of cuddling and reading. We’ll reach the end when Papa and Mama say Good Night and then we’ll go back to read it again.

Hopefully you are taking note of these titles to add to your collection so you’ll be ready next year when the bunny season arrives. Good luck.

Polly Horvath translates Rabbit to bring us Mr. and Mrs. Bunny Extraordinaire! by Mrs. Bunny

  • Posted on April 28, 2012 at 12:45 PM

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire! by Mrs. Bunny translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Schwartz & Wade, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-375-86755-2 $16.99

Have you experienced that moment when you are reading a new book and suddenly wished you had a class of students in front of you so you could read aloud and share the rush of fun? Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire! is such a book, simply hysterically fun and meant to be shared.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny book is deceptive! It is surprising! It is quick reading with lively banter and vocabulary that tickles your tongue. The cover is quite misleading. I was expecting a simple third or fourth grade chapter book featuring animals. Instead, I find plucky, practical fifth grader Madeline who possesses the skills to fend for herself and care for her hippie parents. This is an adventure story that happens to be divided not-so-neatly between human and animal characters.

Who could resist picking up a book with a letter on the back from “The Enemy” using the phrase “Mwa-haha?” I cannot resist reading aloud Mwa-haha. In fact, while I write now, my four dogs are staring at me wondering why I keep saying Mwa-haha yet aren’t causing any visible trouble.

Madeline and her parents live in Canada near Vancouver and Hornby Island. Of course, as all practical and plucky characters must be, Madeline is SMART and looks forward to Prince Charles’ presenting her three graduation awards. While she is diligently working to earn money to buy the shoes she needs for graduation, sinister forces – err… sinister foxes are at work. How do we find out? We read “Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Madeline, back at her house, sinister forces were at work.” Now that’s the kind of sentence we can inspire dreamers with.

Who are these sinister beings? Why, foxes, of course! When Madeline’s father Flo expresses his surprise that foxes are so commercial, the Grand Poobah replies, “Foxes are titans of industry! Have you never heard of Fox Studios? Fox Television? You didn’t think it was owned by hoomans, did you?”

Aha! This explains much of the evil doings of our world. The foxes are behind them. Of course, if I had been a bunny like Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, I would have known to beware foxes long ago. Mr. and Mrs. Bunny have recently moved from a mountain hutch to a new home in  Rabbitville in Cowichan Valley. Mrs. Bunny believes foxes “regard the houses in Rabbitville as a strip of fast-food joints.” and doesn’t “want to be someone’s Big Mac.”

When Madeline’s parents are kidnapped, Madeline needs a combination of animal and human helpers to survive. Since Mrs. Bunny is easily bored and they both look so dashing in fedoras, Mr and Mrs. Bunny have decided to become detectives. Soon Madeline and the Bunny’s join forces in this mystery adventure filled with slapstick moments and joyful banter.

You’ll have to pick up a copy of this wacky wonderful tale and share your joy with others. Be sure to read every bit of the last chapter. You won’t want to miss a moment of this extraordinary adventure.