May 2 – It’s Children’s Book Week

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About the Holiday

Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy program in the United States. The history of the holiday goes back to 1913, when Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, toured the country to promote a higher standard in children’s books and proposed a Children’s Book Week. The week is celebrated by authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers, librarians, and schools with special readings, events, and materials to get kids excited about reading. To learn more and find free, downloadable bookmarks and graphic novel, visit Every Child a Reader.

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of the Itchy Book to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Disney-Hyperion in a giveaway of a fantastic prize pack of books and other swag. See details below.

The Itchy Book! 

By LeUyen Pham | Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! Series from Mo Willems

 

Piggie has a question for Elephant: “Do you like books that make you feel things?” Indeed, Elephant does! And Piggie has just the book to give Elephant the feels all over. It’s called The Itchy Book!, and it opens like this:

Dino-Mo, a thoughtful, bespectacled pachycephalosaurus, comes strolling by and notices a sign that reads Dinosaurs Do Not Scratch. “Who knew?” says a tortoise snoozing next to the rock. Dino-Mo is contemplating this new bit of knowledge when a young triceratops comes by whistling a tune. Suddenly, she stops and bends down to scratch her bandaged knee, but before she can get her claws moving, the pachycephalosaurus rushes forwards to stop her.

He shows the triceratops the sign. “But I am ITCHY!” Triceratops tells him. There’s only one thing to do. “Dinosaurs are TOUGH! We do not scratch!” Dino-Mo instructs. The triceratops is doing her best not to think about it when a pterodactyl flies by chased by a bee. The bee catches up to her, and now she has a terrible itch. After a dire warning, Pterodactyl keeps her wings up and toughs it out.

Pterodactyl is ready to do battle against Brontosaurus’s back itch, though and zips up on top to help out. Triceratops thinks this looks like fun and is making the leap when Dino-Mo shouts, “HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!!!” He reminds them all of the sign, and, duly dejected, the three dinos quit their itchfest. But someone else is coming! It’s T-Rex with a scratchy, scratchy tag. He even promises not to eat anyone if they’ll just help with the incredible itching that he can’t reach.

“You tell him,” says Triceratops, and Dino-Mo does. They all acknowledge that “It is tough to be tough.” Only Dino-Mo is itch free, but in a show of solidarity, he asks the other dinos to make him itchy. Triceratops tickles him with a feather. Pterodactyl throws cut grass on him, and Brontosaurus adds an ant. Everyone else is getting itchy just watching all of this, but Dino-Mo doesn’t flinch. Even a wool sweater brings no response.

With a bit of a crazed look in his eyes, Dino-Mo recites the mantra “Dinosaurs…Do…Not…SCRATCH!” as the other dinos shower him with itch-inducing things until they’re all just a bundle of itchiness. They’re hanging tough, though. They’re proud. They’re doing what the sign says. Then the tortoise, refreshed from his nap, gets up and wanders away leaving the whole sign exposed. It seems there’s a little more to this dinosaur scratching business than originally thought. Have an itch to find out what? You’ll have to read along with Elephant and Piggie!

LeUyen Pham rocks the prehistoric landscape with her hilarious early reader that will have all ages of kids—and adults too—giggling, laughing, and groaning in sympathy for these dinos with Gigantosaurus-sized itches. As anyone knows, just thinking about scratching makes the problem worse. Throw in a rule about not scratching, and you have Pham’s recipe for a perfectly frantic and giddy story that kids will love to read again and again.

Pham’s expressive dinosaurs—who really want to obey the law etched in stone—are endearing as they tough it out and encourage their friends to do the same. Bold colors, a great dynamic among the dinosaurs, and the cartoon-inspired format will engage kids. Repeated words and phrases as well as speech bubbles color-coded to each dinosaur will guide early readers.

The Itchy Book!, Book 5 of the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series, is a must for early and emerging readers or for any fan of the Elephant & Piggie books, It’s also a terrific read-together for younger kids. Adding The Itchy Book! to home bookshelves and classrooms will make them richer—and funnier! 

Ages 6 – 8 , younger children will enjoy having The Itchy Book! read to them.

Disney-Hyperion, 2018 | ISBN 978-1368005647

Discover more about LeUyen Pham, her books, and her art on her very cool website.

Learn more about Mo Willems and his books, find fun activities, and much “Mo” on his website.

To Learn More about The Itchy Book! visit the book’s Official Site.

Children’s Book Week Activity

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Dino Diorama

 

Ever get an itch to visit the land of the dinosaurs? With this fun Dino Diorama craft you can make a mini version for your own room.

Supplies

  • 1-pound plastic deli container or glass jar
  • Three or four small plastic dinosaur toys
  • Dirt or sand to create a ½-inch ground layer in the bottom of the container
  • Small rocks or pebbles
  • Plastic leaves or plants, available from craft or fish tank supply sections of pet stores
  • Or use succulents in place of plastic plants to make a terrarium diorama
  • Goo-B-Gone for removing label-glue residue from the deli container (optional)

Directions

  1. Wash the deli container and carefully remove the label
  2. Use Goo-B-Gone to remove any residual glue (optional)
  3. Spread the dirt in the bottom of the container
  4. Place the rocks, plants, and dinosaurs into the container
  5. Put the lid on the container
  6. Or plant the succulents and decorate around them with the rocks and dinosaurs
  7. If using succulents, leave the container open

Picture Book Review

April 7 – It’s National Poetry Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate poets and the poetry they create to illuminate our lives in new and often surprising ways. National Poetry Month is a world-wide event, bringing together tens of millions of poets, readers, teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, and other poetry lovers in readings, school visits, and special events. To celebrate, check out some events in your area and enjoy reading the work of your favorite—or a new—poet. You might even try writing your own poetry!

Read! Read! Read!

Written by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater | Illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke

 

In twenty-three poems Amy Ludwig Vanderwater takes readers on a journey of…Reading, from when a child first recognizes that those “squiggles / make letters. / Letters / make words. / Words / make stories / that fly like birds…” through the world they discover as they take in the printed word in all its forms.

In Pretending, a little girl remembers “tracing my fingers / under each letter/ I used to pretend / I could read to myself.” At the library she would “pull from the shelf– / a rainbow of rectangles.” For days, weeks, months, she practiced. “Learning to read / felt like / learning to fly. / And one day / I took off. / I was swooping / alone / over words / once confusing / but now / all my own.”

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Cereal Box and Sports Page are placed side by side like the brother and sister eating breakfast together. But which sibling is reading “Recipes. / Stories. / Jokes. / Weird facts….the box” and which is “Scanning scores / studying stats / …checking on my team?”  Children will discover that there aren’t many things the little boy in I Explore has not done as he reveals, “I have stood upon a moonscape. / I have witnessed peace and war. / I have ridden a wild horse. / I’m a reader. / I explore.”

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Reading doesn’t just inform you, it reforms you, as An Open Book explains: “An open book / will help you find / an open heart / an open mind / inside yourself / if you’re inclined. / An open book / will make you kind.” Or maybe all that reading can give a younger brother a moment of power when he uses new-found information. “At dinner I ask— / Do you know / how many pounds of skin / a person sheds by age seventy? / My sister puts down her fork. / No. / One hundred five. / Oh. / She will not look at me. / She will not pick up her fork. / I keep eating. / I love reading.”

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Reading comes in many forms, from Maps, which “…fold / into themselves / like perfect beetle wings.” to Road Signs, in which the alphabet was once “like a secret code / for grown-ups / splashed / on every sign.” There’s also the Internet for Googling Guinea Pigs, where an eager pet sitter can “read about treats. / Read about exercise. / Read about safe holding” before the class pet comes home for the weekend. A Birthday Card with a poem from Grandpa, a Magazine that “…comes / by mail / twelve times / each year,” and Sunday Morning with the comics, where a loyal fan can “know every character / know every name” all bring joy to avid readers.

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017, text copyright Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

For readers there may be no more exciting time than Late at Night when a little lie—“I cannot sleep”—is exposed as Mom “…reaches out to touch my lamp. / The bulb is warm. / My mom knows why” and a special bond is formed with a mom who can empathize. A final cozy image closes the book in I Am a Bookmark, where a nighttime reader compares himself to a bookmark “holding the page between dark and light.”

Along the way Amy Ludwig Vanderwater also explores Reading Time, a lyrical Word Collection, a Field Guide, the emotional effect of Stories, how reading can be like leading a Double Life, the benefits of a Book Dog, and the Forever connection between real people and characters in books.

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017, text copyright Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s charming poems on the joys of a reading life will engage children just starting out on their own journeys or those who are better versed in this exceptional art. At once inspiring and homey, these poems open the vast world and the private pleasures of the written word. Vanderwater’s verses are in turn smooth, conversational, reflective, humorous, and fun to read aloud.

Ryan O’Rourke opens Read! Read! Read! with a beautiful image of squiggles turned letters turned words turned books that soar like birds over a young reader’s head. The image wonderfully carries readers into the rest of the book where fancies and facts enlighten young minds. O’Rourke’s imaginative interpretations of each poem enhance their effect and cleverly convey extended meanings and visual humor. 

For children who love poetry, reading, writing, and seeing the world through a lyrical lens, Read! Read! Read! would be a terrific choice for any story time or bedtime. The book would also be welcome in classrooms for teachers to dip into again and again.

Ages 5 – 10

WordSong, 2017 | ISBN 978-1590789759

Discover more about Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, her books, articles, and poetry on her website.

View a gallery of book, map, and editorial illustration by Ryan O’Rourke on his website.

National Poetry Month Activity

 

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Grow a Poem Craft

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also an art piece!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

Picture Book Review

March 25 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Starting with Read Across America Day on the 2nd, the month of March is dedicated to reading. Special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities bring authors, illustrators, and educators together with kids to get them excited about this favorite past time. A love of reading is a life-long pleasure with so many benefits. Every day, avid readers wake up and just want to…

Hug This Book!

Written by Barney Saltzberg | Illustrated by Fred Benaglia

 

When you grab onto a book and open the cover, you know what to do! But did you know that books themselves may have some ideas on the subject? Today’s reviewed book has plenty of fabulous, page-turning suggestions and is happy to share them with you. Its first thought is a pretty big one: “You can read this book to a hippo.” I know!—wouldn’t that be a blast?

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Image copyright Fred Benaglia, text copyright Barney Saltzberg. Courtesy of Phaidon Press

It seems that books watch how readers treat their pets, and they want in: “You can kiss and hug and smell this book. / That might sound sort of silly. / You can wrap this book in a sweater, / if it ever gets too chilly.” That sounds as cozy as enjoying hot chocolate in front of a fire—with this book, of course!

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Image copyright Fred Benaglia, text copyright Barney Saltzberg. Courtesy of Phaidon Press

The book continues—“You can make up a story to tell to this book.” Hmmm… maybe books don’t like doing all the work all the time. Maybe they’d like to just relax and be entertained once in a while. I’m sure you can come up with something fantastic! And just to keep you on your toes, the book offers a few more challenges: “Can you read this book in the mirror? / Or sing the words in this book like a song? / If you sing it to the birdies, maybe they’ll sing along.” After completing those activities, it might be time for a nap. Don’t forget to take the book too, but be ready to giggle because… “Maybe you’ll hear it snore.”

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And when you wake up all refreshed you can try reading the book while dancing, twirling, leaping, skipping…you can even take it to lunch, “just do not try to feed it.” Then suddenly and all too soon the book comes to the last page. Don’t be sad, though. “Even though this book is over, / it isn’t really the end. / You can start at the beginning / and read it to a friend!”

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Image copyright Fred Benaglia, text copyright Barney Saltzberg. Courtesy of Phaidon Press

Barney Saltzberg’s love for books is infectious. His witty rhymes bubble with the thrill of reading and playfully challenge kids to take books along no matter where they go or what they do. The cadence of Saltzberg’s lines invite multiple readings—the way the rhythm of movement in hopscotch, jump rope, or dancing is inherent in the fun. Kids will giggle at the examples Saltzberg conjurs up—reading to a hippo, listening to a book snore, feeding a book—and you can bet that they will want to invent some of their own! Get ready to hug this book—and many others. After all isn’t that what best friends do?

Fred Benaglia’s adorable characters swim and paddle, snuggle and swing, play and imagine all the while with their nose in this book. The fanciful coloring and quirky landscapes enhance both the originality and universality of this tribute to book love. Benaglia’s artwork—from the fish nibbling at a child’s toes to the cars zipping through the cities—radiates personality and invites creative thinking. Readers will especially want to linger over the two-page spread of a smiling child conjuring up a host of stories to catch every imaginative detail in the chalk drawings. The big red heart on the  cover under the book jacket is a clever touch, connecting Hug This Book! to “this book” in the text.

For all book lovers, Hug This Book! is a fun, funny romp and will be a welcome, often-asked-for addition to a child’s library.

Ages 2 – 7

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872841

You’ll love discovering all the books, music, and videos on Barney Saltzberg‘s website!

Cuteness abounds on Fred Benaglia‘s website, where you’ll find book illustrations and so much more!

You’ll love this Hug This Book! book trailer?

Book Lovers Day Activity

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Book Lovers Book Bag

 

Whether you’re buying new books at your local bookstore or checking some out at your library, carry those treasures home in their own special bag! This kid-sized bag was made from recycled materials!

Supplies

  • Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template
  • Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
  • Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
  • Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
  • Scissors
  • Small sharp scissors (or cuticle scissors) for cutting out the center of the letters
  • Fabric glue
  • Thread (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

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Directions

  1. Print the sayings and cut out the letters
  2. Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
  3. Cut out cloth letters
  4. Iron cloth bag if necessary
  5. Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
  6. Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
  7. Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
  8. Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag

Picture Book Review

February 12 – Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who was born in 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky.  He rose from poverty to become a statesman, lawyer, and the 16th president of the United States, serving from 1861 until he was assassinated in 1865. He guided the country through the Civil War and on January 1, 1983 signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery. By 1890, Lincoln’s birthday was recognized as a state holiday but never became a federal holiday. The celebration of Lincoln’s birthday was combined with George Washington’s in 1971 when President’s Day was instituted. Only a handful of states still recognize Lincoln’s birthday as a separate state holiday. 

Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country)

Written by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer | Illustrated by Stacy Innerst

 

Throughout his life things were grim for Abraham Lincoln, but he had a way of responding that made them better. He was born in 1809 in a log cabin that had a dirt floor, cornhusk mattresses, and cracks in the walls so thick that the snow blew in. All day long he did backbreaking work for his strict father, but in the evenings his father “told jokes and the family laughed together.” Of his father, Lincoln once said, “‘My father taught me how to work, but not to love it. I’d rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh.’”

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2016, text copyright Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, 2016. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

Even as a child, Lincoln loved to read and write. His mother died when Lincoln was only nine years old, but “words and humor seemed to ease the pain.” He liked to get together with friends and read aloud from joke books, and at the age of eleven, he wrote his first nonsense poem. Lincoln loved to learn, but because of all the work at home, he “had a total of only one year of official schooling.” Instead, he read everything he could.

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2016, text copyright Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, 2016. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

He grew up to be six feet, four inches tall, with huge feet and hands, and a big nose. His appearance was one of the things he joked about the most. When he was nineteen, Lincoln moved to New Salem, Illinois. He had such a reputation for humor that a local judge asked him to come to court to comment on cases. Here, Lincoln learned the importance of words and how they could be used by watching and listening to the lawyers. Despite all their learning, these men couldn’t fool Abe. He once commented of one lawyer: “‘That man can pack the most words into the least ideas of any man I know.’”

When he was twenty-three he served in the military, but he said the only battles he saw were with mosquitoes. After he was discharged that same year, he ran for the Illinois state legislature and lost. When he tried again two years later, he won and went on to serve for four terms, keeping the “‘House in a continuous roar of merriment.’”

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2016, text copyright Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, 2016. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

As he got older his looks and sometimes depressive personality only seemed to get worse, but Lincoln kept joking and was a favorite of children. When he, himself, became a lawyer, he was brilliant at summing up hours of testimony in “one clever story that would get the jury on his side.” Then he met Mary Todd, who was “witty, bubbly, and very smart about politics.” He loved her and she loved him, but her family rejected him as not wealthy or high-society enough. Even their attitude, though, was fodder for Lincoln’s jests.

When Abe and Mary did marry, he joked about their sixteen-inch height difference, and when they had four boys, he kept them entertained with his humor. Lincoln even thought jokes should be taught in school because he believed they made kids smarter.

Lincoln continued to run for higher political offices, losing many races, but always maintaining his sense of humor. Along the way, he gained a reputation for honesty. He also had a talent for skewering even serious topics in a way that brought out the truth: “‘Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.’”

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2016, text copyright Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, 2016. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

When Lincoln was elected president, his White House rang with laughter. Guests were charmed, while reporters, those wanting inside knowledge, or people asking for favors were left chuckling but not any wiser. During the Civil War years, Lincoln alleviated the stress and kept a clear head by reading his favorite humor writers, encouraging his advisers to do the same.

Lincoln’s talent for words helped keep the country together even through its worst crisis.  “His gift for language—and how it can inspire people—is one reason he is considered one of our best presidents” even though during his presidency he was one of the most unpopular due to his politics. When he was shot at Ford’s Theater five days after the war ended, Lincoln was attending a comic play and may have been “laughing even in the final moments of his life.” Abraham Lincoln had an amazing life, fueled by his sense of humor that took him from a tiny log cabin to the White House and into American’s hearts.

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2016, text copyright Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, 2016. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer have written a terrific biography of Abraham Lincoln focusing on the personality trait that made him such a unique individual and uniquely qualified to shepherd America through its most difficult time. Lincoln’s sense of humor was charged with intelligence and true cleverness and showcased his love and understanding of words and language. Children, with their own well-developed senses of humor and affinity for a good joke, will be captivated by Krull and Brewer’s conversational tone that is sprinkled with the wit and wisdom Abraham Lincoln displayed from the time he, himself, was a child. Lincoln Tells a Joke reveals not only facts from Lincoln’s life but the all-important aspects of his character that allowed him to rise above his lack of formal education and leading-man looks to become one of the most admired men ever born. 

Stacy Innerst’s hip, folk-art-style paintings mirror Abraham Lincoln’s humor with unusual perspectives, quirky details, and plenty of peppered-in “ha, ha, ha’s” while highlighting his stature both as a sensitive, thoughtful man and as a politician. Lincoln’s elongated arms and legs stretch across the pages, children laughing at his jokes don’t even reach his knees, and the tall tower of papers in front of him on his desk completely hide him except for his arms. Innerst’s color pallet of muddy sepia tones, rusty reds, and deep aqua blues; flat landscapes, and political imagery give readers the feel and spirit of the 1800s Midwest and Washington DC. In a moving double-spread illustration, Innerst seats Lincoln at his desk as the handwritten words of the Gettysburg Address form the backdrop. As the story closes, Innerst re-imagines the Lincoln Memorial statue with  Lincoln laughing while reading his favorite book, Quinn’s Jests. It’s a fitting tribute to both Lincoln and the power of laughter.

Lincoln Tells a Joke is a fantastic biography for home libraries for children who like biographies, history, Abraham Lincoln, or a well-told story. The book would be an inspired choice for classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016

Discover more about Kathleen Krull and her books on her website.

Learn more about Paul Brewer, his books and his art on his website.

To view a portfolio of books and artwork by Stacy Innerst, visit his website.

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday Activity

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Abe Lincoln’s Stovepipe Hat Chalkboard

 

Abraham Lincoln was known for the black top hat he wore – and for his inspiring words In this activity you can learn how to make a top hat chalkboard to use for your own drawings or inspiring words!

Supplies

  • Cereal Box (I used a large sized cereal box), cardboard or poster board
  • Chalkboard Paint (black)
  • Paint brush
  • Hot Glue Gun or extra-strength glue
  • Removable mounting squares
  • Chalk

Directions

  1. If you are using cardboard or poster board: cut a rectangle at least 8 inches wide by 12 inches long for the hat and 12 inches long by 2 inches wide for the brim (but your top hat can be any size you’d like!)
  2. If you are using a Cereal Box: open the seams of the Cereal Box
  3. Cut the panels of the cereal box apart
  4. Take one face panel and one side panel
  5. With the chalkboard paint, paint both panels
  6. Let the panels dry
  7. Attach the side panel to the bottom of the face panel to create the shape of Lincoln’s top hat
  8. Hang Abe Lincoln’s Top Hat Chalkboard 

Picture Book Review

February 3 – It’s Library Lovers Month

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About the Holiday

Book lovers love the library! The stacks of books, the reading tables, the stacks of books, the quiet study nooks, and…did I mention the stacks of books? Spending time at the library—whether in story time, perusing the shelves, or reading in a comfortable chair—is a fun way to wile away a morning or afternoon. To celebrate this month, check out the special events at your library, and take an extra moment while checking out your books to thank your librarian!

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Written by Lisa Papp

 

Madeline does not like to read—anything. “Not books. Not magazines. Not even the menu on the ice-cream truck.” Madeline especially doesn’t like to read out loud. At school the teacher tells her to keep trying, but the words often don’t make sense, sentences get stuck in her mouth “like peanut butter,” and other kids laugh when she gets things wrong.

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Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Madeline would love to get a star sticker or even a smiley face for reading, but she only ever gets “Keep Trying” stickers. “Stars are for good readers, Stars are for understanding words, and for reading them out loud.” But Madeline knows that stars are also for making wishes, so she wishes for her very own star. All week Madeline waits for her star, but by Friday she still doesn’t have one.

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Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

On Saturday Madeline’s mother takes her to the library, where Madeline reminds the librarian that she doesn’t like to read. Mrs. Dimple tells her that today they have something she might enjoy. The librarian asks her, “‘Madeline Finn, would you like to read to a dog?’” Madeline looks into the reading room to see kids and all kinds of dogs—big and small—on the reading rug.

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Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Mrs. Dimple introduces Madeline to Bonnie and tells her that Bonnie is a very good listener. Madeline thinks “Bonnie is beautiful. Like a big, snowy polar bear.” Madeline chooses a book and begins to read. At first the letters get “mixed up, and the words don’t sound right.” Madeline looks at Bonnie and Bonnie gently looks back at her. She doesn’t giggle like the kids at school, and Madeline feels better. She begins again. When Madeline gets stuck on another word, Bonnie doesn’t mind. She just puts her paws in Madeline’s lap and waits until she figures it out. After that, Madeline and Bonnie “read together every Saturday. It’s fun to read when you’re not afraid of making mistakes,” Madeline thinks.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-meets-bonnie

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Bonnie teaches Madeline to be patient—even about getting a star sticker. Pretty soon it’s time to read aloud at school again. Madeline goes to the library on Saturday to practice with Bonnie, but neither she nor Mrs. Dimple are there. Back at home, Madeline worries. But her mom tells her that Bonnie was just busy and that she will do fine at school. She suggests, “Just pretend that you’re reading to Bonnie.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-reading-with-bonnie

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

On Monday, Madeline is nervous as she gets up to read. “The first sentence goes pretty well,” but in the next Madeline makes a mistake, and then another. She hears someone giggle. Madeline takes a deep breath and pretends that Bonnie is next to her. Before she knows it, she’s at the bottom of the page. Madeline looks “at her teacher, and she has a big smile on her face.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-reading-in-class

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Holding her star in her hand, Madeline exclaims, “I did it! I got my star!” On Saturday, Madeline shows Mrs. Dimple her star. She’s excited for Madeline then tells her that Bonnie has a surprise for her too. Mrs. Dimple opens the door to the reading room and asks, “Madeline Finn, would you like to read to Bonnie–and her puppies? Yes, please!” Madeline says. “Nice and loud.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-puppies

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog is a gentle and uplifting story for all children—whether they are reluctant or avid readers. Lisa Papp’s moving portrayal of a little girl struggling to read, keep up with her classmates, and attain a gold star is filled with honesty and heartfelt emotion. Papp’s pacing is excellent, demonstrating Madeline’s ongoing efforts, and Bonnie’s absence right before reading day allows for Madeline to find within herself the courage and confidence to read in front of her class. Papp’s story is a good reminder that a nonjudgmental environment is best for anyone trying to learn a new skill.

Papp’s soft-hued illustrations beautifully represent her story with realistic portrayals of the kids at school, Madeline’s frustrations at “messing up” words and sentences, and Madeline’s hopeful nature and perseverance to achieve reading success. The calm, quiet tone to Papp’s illustrations echo the acceptance that Bonnie offers to Madeline. Kids will love the sweet reading therapy dogs and are sure to pick out the one they would most enjoy reading to.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog is an encouraging story for reluctant or struggling readers at home and a thoughtful addition to classroom libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Peachtree Publishing, 2016 | ISBN 978-1561459100

Discover more about Lisa Papp and her books on her website

Library Lovers Month Activity

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Reading Buddy Bookmark

 

Puppy’s make great reading companions! With this printable Reading Buddy Bookmark you’ll always have a friend to read with!

Picture Book Review

February 1 – World Read Aloud Day

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About the Holiday

Sponsored by global non-profit LitWorld and Scholastic, World Read Aloud Day encourages reading aloud to children not only today but every day. Reading aloud to children from birth is one of the best ways to promote language development, improve literacy, and enjoy bonding time together. Millions of people celebrate today’s holiday all across the United States and in more than one hundred countries around the world. Special events are held in schools, libraries, bookstores, homes, and communities, and authors and illustrators hold readings and visit classrooms. To learn more about World Read Aloud Day  and to find stickers, bookmarks, posters, and a reading crown to decorate, visit LitWorld.

Read the Book, Lemmings!

Written by Ame Dyckman | Illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

 

On the whale ship S. S. Cliff, first mate Foxy quietly reads a book about lemmings. “‘Huh!’ he said. ‘Says here, lemmings don’t jump off cliffs.’” But even though Foxy emphasizes the word “don’t” the lemmings sitting on the railing only hear the word “jump.” “‘Jump? I’ll jump!’ said a lemming. ‘Me too!’ said a second. ‘Ditto!’ said a third.” And with a long Geronamoooooo! the three lemmings jumped overboard.

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Image copyright Zachariah Ohora, 2017, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2017. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Polar Bear Captain PB, engrossed in his newspaper, had just one thing to say. “‘Huh…I guess they didn’t read the book.’” Foxy looked over the side and heard the first lemming shout out “‘Wet! Very wet!’” “‘Me too!’ called the second. ‘Ditto!’ called the third” With a sigh, Foxy took Captain PB’s bucket (with a stern warning not to let the lemmings eat his fish) and hauled the lemmings out of the sea.

On deck, Foxy gave each lemming a name and a hat “so he could scold them properly.” The first jumper was, appropriately, named Jumper; the second was called Me Too; and the third was named Ditto. Foxy held up the book about lemmings and said, “‘Read the book, lemmings!’” The lemmings seemed surprised by what they saw, and Foxy was glad they understood. But did they? Not so much. As soon as Foxy mentioned the word “jump,” it was “Geronimoooo” all over again.

Captain PB was pretty sure they hadn’t read the book. “‘Help! I need help!’ called Jumper. ‘Me too!’ called Me Too. ‘Ditto!’ called Ditto.” Captain PB handed over his bucket with the now lemming-flavored fish, and Foxy once more retrieved Jumper, Me Too, and Ditto from the ocean. He gave them a harsh talking to and was just about to say the fateful word again when he stopped himself and told them to just read the book themselves.

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Image copyright Zachariah Ohora, 2017, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2017. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

“‘Ahhhhh!’” said the lemmings as they went off with the book. Captain PB was impressed. “‘Good thing you didn’t say jump,’” he told Foxy. Six ears perked up, and….” Geronimooooo!” The three lemmings were sinking fast, so Foxy did what any good first mate would. “Cannonball!” he yelled as he dove into the water. Foxy rescued the lemmings and flopped back on deck.

“‘Saved! I’m saved!’ said Jumper. ‘Me too!’ said Me Too. Ditto opened his mouth. ‘I love you!’” Foxy blinked and said “‘Thank you.’” Still, he wanted to know why the lemmings hadn’t read the book. “‘Can’t! Can’t read!’ said Jumper. ‘Me neither,’ said Me Too. ‘I can burp the alphabet,’ said Ditto.” Captain PB thought this was a good start.

For the rest of the day, Foxy practiced reading with the lemmings until they had it down: “Lemmings… don’t jump…off cliffs.” Foxy was satisfied and went back to reading his book. But the captain could not find his newspaper until…. The paper airplane zoomed by with three lemmings on board, shouting, “‘We fly!.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-read-the-book-lemmings-saved

Image copyright Zachariah Ohora, 2017, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2017. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Ame Dyckman’s laugh-out-loud story is pure genius, filled with personality and characters that make Read the Book, Lemmings! a perfect book for dramatic and spirited read-aloud story times. The sweet, reactive lemmings offer plenty of hilarity and opportunities for kids to chime in, while Foxy and Captain PB are terrific foils for the frolicking lemmings and their foibles. The nod to literacy is given a light touch that is sure to resonate with young readers, and which in the end reveals a truth worth repeating: with the ability to read, anyone can soar.

Zachariah Ohora’s little balls of fluff are as adorable as they come. Who can fault them for having so much fun following their instincts as they jump overboard with a gusty “Geronimoooo!”? Clever details, such as a whale as a fishing trawler and the life ring sporting the name S. S. Cliff, are inspired. Readers will love the graphic novel elements that make it easy to follow the dialog and the expressive characters who, as Ditto reveals, love each other.

Read the Book, Lemmings! is highly recommended and would be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and library shelves. The book would also make a much-appreciated gift.

Ages 5 – 8

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0316343480

Discover more about Ame Dyckman and her books on her website.

Learn more about Zachariah Ohora and his books and view a portfolio of his work on his website.

Jump right into watching this Read the Book, Lemmings! book trailer

World Read Aloud Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chocolate-chip-mug-cookie-from-genius-kitchen

Chocolate Chip Mug Cake

 

There’s really only one activity that is just right for today! So, why not make some hot chocolate or a chocolate chip mug cookie and settle in for a night of reading together? Here’s a recipe for a delicious mug cookie from geniuskitchen.com

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk (2% works well)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 (or more) tablespoons of dark chocolate chips (I use milk chocolate, the amount used may depend on the size of the chips)

Directions

  1. Place butter and milk in a mug and microwave for 30 seconds or until butter melts
  2. Stir in brown sugar
  3. Stir in vanilla and salt
  4. Add flour and stir until smooth
  5. Stir in 2 tablespoons chocolate chips
  6. Add more chocolate chips on top if desired
  7. Bake in microwave oven on High for about 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, depending on the consistency you like
  8. Can top with ice cream, if desired.

Picture Book Review

January 9 – Poetry at Work Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday encourages people to consider their jobs, their office environment, their coworkers, and maybe even that snack in the desk drawer through the lens of poetry. You may find inspiration in today’s book about William Carlos Williams, who wrote many of his famous and well-loved poems while working as a physician. Whether you find poignancy or humor in your workplace, take a moment to jot down a few thoughts in free verse or rhyme and share your poem with your friends!  

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Willie Williams was just like the other boys in his neighborhood—well, almost. When the other boys went home after a day of playing, Willie took off for the woods and fields behind his house. “As he walked through the high grasses and along the soft dirt paths, Willie watched everything.” He liked to sit next to the Passaic River and listen to the rhythm of the water as it “went slipping and sliding over the smooth rocks, then poured in a torrent over the falls, then quieted again below.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

But as Willie grew older, he didn’t have time for these leisurely pursuits. In high school, he was on the track team, attended lots of classes, and had even more homework. His was a rushed and hurried life. Except for in English class. There, when his teacher read poetry, he was taken back to the flow of the river. Each line created pictures in Willie’s mind.

One night, Willie began writing his own poems. He copied the English poets he had learned about in school, using structured beats and rhyming endings. But soon these rules began to frustrate Willie; they didn’t give him the freedom to fully express his thoughts. He wanted to write about what he saw nearby, the things he was familiar with. Things, he said, like “plums, wheelbarrows, and weeds, / fire engines, children, and trees— / things I see when I walk down my street / or look out my window.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-river-of-words-sparrows

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Willie began writing poems the way they came to him, with their own shape and sound. Writing this way made Willie feel free, and he filled notebook after notebook with poems. While Willie wished he could make a living as a poet, writing did not pay much, and he needed to be self-sufficient. Willie’s uncle had been a doctor, and Willie liked the idea of healing people. He wondered, though, if he could be a doctor and still write poetry.

When Willie graduated from high school, he went off to the university to study medicine. There he met the writers Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle and the artist Charles Demuth. Spending time with his new friends made his difficult studying easier. After college, Willie returned to his home town of Rutherford and opened his practice. He had so many patients that some people said he was “the busiest man in town.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

No matter how busy he was, however, he found time to write. Sometimes he jotted lines and ideas on his prescription pads. Then, after his long days at work, Willie climbed to his attic room where he studied the notes he’d made and wrote poems late into the night.

A Timeline, Author’s Note, and Illustrators Note about William Carlos Williams follow the text. The endpapers present a selection of Williams’ poetry.

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams is an inspirational book for children who have creative ideas of their own and would make an excellent addition to classroom and home libraries.

From the title through to the end of her lyrical biography, Jen Bryant captures the flow of William Carlos Williams’ creative and scientific life, which was as purposeful and free as the river that inspired him. Young readers and would-be writers will find much encouragement and insight in Bryant’s story, which reveals that talent and day-to-day life not only can co-exist but can enrich each other. By showing how Williams broke free from the structures of the poetry he copied, Bryant also motivates children to find their own voice.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-river-of-words-plums

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Melissa Sweet lends her distinctive collage style of illustration to this story, bringing to life the lines of and natural world reflected in Williams’ poetry. The busy-ness and business of Williams’ days are depicted in vibrant images of winding streets, classrooms, offices, and the outside world where he composed his uniquely revealing poems.

Ages 6 and up

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008 | ISBN 978-0802853028

Learn more about Jen Bryant and her books on her website!

Discover more about Melissa Sweet, her books, and her art on her website!

Poetry at Work Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grow-a-poem-craft

Grow Your Own Poem

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also a piece of art!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

Picture Book Review