December 2 – It’s Read a New Book Month


About the Holiday

You’ve heard the saying “Too Many Books, Too Little Time,” right? Well, this truism has spawned not only one, but two Read a New Book Month celebrations! Both December and September have been designated as times to make special plans to search out and read new books. These can be books that are newly published or books that are new to you. And if you find yourself putting a few old favorites in the pile, that’s okay too! It’s also a great time to think about adding books to those gift lists!

The B on Your Thumb: 60 Poems to Boost Reading and Spelling

Written by Colette Hiller | Illustrated by Tor Freeman


One of the joys of books for little ones is sitting with a parent, teacher, or other caregiver and listening to the story play out with wonder, silliness, sadness, and a whole world of feelings. Hearing the words and sentences, it all makes sense. But when kids start reading, start really looking at the words, well…all of those vowel combinations, silent letters, words that sound the same but look completely different, words that look completely different but sound the same… it can get confusing!

And that’s where Colette Hiller and Tor Freeman’s book of poetry comes in handy. Sixty poems covering the topics of spelling and pronunciation are broken out into four categories—Sounds, Silent Letters and Secrets, Spellings, and Words that Sound the Same—that make understanding the written English language easier and more fun to learn. With this ditty, Hiller welcomes kids in to this delightful book: “Some letters sound as they are meant to. / Other letters change. / They sometimes make surprising noises. / English can be strange!”


Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2020, text copyright Colette Hiller, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

One of the first sounds a baby hears may be a gentle “sh.” Encountering this consonant combination on the page, though, can seem daunting. Ssss and Huh? Hiller gives a hand in pronouncing it though, with a little intro to the two letters on their own and then… “S and H go sh, / that is what they do. / The sh that’s in your shoulder, the sh that’s in your shoe.” She then goes on to add a few more lines with familiar “sh” words that will make kids “shout!”

With clever versus that will bring on many giggles and even more “Ah-ha” moments, Hiller and Freeman introduces kids to the sounds that vowel combinations “o-u,” “o-i,” “a-i,” “o-a,” “e-e,” and “o-o” make with a sad U that’s just struck “out,” and a cheering crowd that invites them to join in chanting “oggy, oggy, oggy, oi, oi,oi!” There’s also a train filled with rain, a goat in love with a toad, a treed cheetah, and of course the man in the moon.

Hiller doesn’t forget about those perfectly matched consonant couples either. She relates the story of how Q and U fell in love in a queue; goes shopping with Mrs. Owl for a new gown and crown; and takes on that “bossy E” who always takes over when together with A. There are many more poems about letter combinations in this section as well, and each one is loaded with examples of words that incorporate those letters.


Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2020, text copyright Colette Hiller, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

In the chapter Silent Letters and Secrets, Hiller engages readers in the finer arts of the silent B in “doubt” and “thumb.” In the book’s title poem, she says, “Look, there’s a B / right there on your thumb, / but of course you shouldn’t mind… / For the B that you see / right there on your thumb / is not the stinging kind!” Silent K gets two poems of its own and silent W comes knocking in two more poems. She investigates that mysterious “h” in where, what, why, and when as well as the equally mysterious pair “g-h” in words like night and sight. Kids will also enjoy finding hidden words lurking in longer words.

Now, reading may be one thing, but spelling? At times that seems like something all together different. In the chapter Spellings, Hiller teaches kids some tricks of the trade. In her poem “Magical E,”  “Magical E / has magical might. / See how she turns / a kit to a kite…. / Abracadabra: / a cap is a cape! / She hops on a tub. / Now the tub is a tube. / Abracadabra… / A dud is a dude!” Readers discover rhymes that make it easier to remember unusual spellings in words such as “separate, important, and rhyme as well as that old favorite “I before E except after C” that includes a twist.

Colette Hiller finishes up with Words that Sound the Same. In “Two, Too, and To,” she explains the difference in those three little words that often trip us up and gives tips on remembering them. “Witch” and “which,” “here” and “here,” “whole” and “hole,” and “whether” and “weather” are also treated to poems of their own. 


Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2020, text copyright Colette Hiller, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

In each poem, the subject letters are called out in a bright color that allows kids to make the connection between the combinations of letters and how they contribute to the structure of a word visually and in sound. Following the poems, Hiller includes detailed tips and fun exercises and activities that adults and kids can do together to enhance learning from poem to poem and when reading classroom assignments and books and other materials at home.

Colette Hiller nimbly navigates the dual desires to teach and entertain with her jaunty rhymes that are ingenious, witty, and clear examples of how words sound and are pronounced. When shared with children reading along, the poems reinforce how each word looks with their sometimes-confusing mix of letters. When education is this humorous and joyful, kids will beg to read “just one more” which, of course, means better literacy, success in school, and opportunities in the future.

Accompanying each poem are Tor Freeman’s whimsical and hilarious illustrations of adorable letters interacting with people taking showers, fleeing from a wily cheetah, waiting in a queue, and even flying a car in outer space. There are also chimpanzees eating cheese sandwiches, a cat doing calisthenics, and an ant learning a lesson in importance. And, of course, there are letters, letters, letters rowing a boat, deigning to give audience to a princess, dining in a haunted castle, and cavorting from page to page and poem to poem.

A rousing collection of poems that kids will love on their own and as inspirational learning tools in language arts lessons, The B on Your Thumb is highly recommended for homeschoolers and home bookshelves and a must for classroom and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8 and up

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711254602

You can download a Teacher’s Guide with pre- and post-reading discussion questions, a writing activity and a word play activity on the Quarto Knows website.

Discover more about Colette Hiller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Tor Freeman, her books, and her art on her website.

National Read a New Book Day Activity


I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Collection


When you buy a new book, you need new book bling to go with it! Here’s a printable book plate and bookmark, plus a want-to-read list to help you choose your next new book to buy! 

I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Read List | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate


You can find The B on Your Thumb at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review


May 23 – World Turtle Day


About the Holiday

American Tortoise Rescue founded World Turtle Day in 2000 to raise awareness and respect for turtles and tortoises and to promote conservation to help them survive. Celebrations take many forms, from fun activities where participants dress as turtles to educational programs that teach about this fascinating creature and how people can help turtles in danger.

Turtle and Me

Written by Robie H. Harris | Illustrated by Tor Freeman


The little boy narrator of this story tells readers he met Turtle on the day he was born. Turtle was “way bigger” than he was. Now, the little boy is bigger than Turtle, but they are still best friends. When the boy was a baby he smiled and laughed every time he played with Turtle. As he grew he needed Turtle around to comfort him.

At naptime Turtle made him feel less sad and lonely and allowed him to sleep. Even now, when the boy is older, he still likes to play with Turtle even though his colors have faded, he’s ripped and raggedy, and some bad things have happened to him.


Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2015, text copyright Robie H. Harris, 2015. Courtesy of

When bad things happened to Turtle the little boy felt terrible; sometimes he even cried and knew Turtle was sad too. But the boy always made sure that Turtle “gets sewn up, washed up, fixed up—and is okay again.” Once Turtle was left at the park. The little boy and his mom raced back and found Turtle covered in mud, sticky with gum, and with two new rips.  Even though Turtle felt gross the boy held him tight all the way home. At home Turtle received a very thorough wash and dry and an extra big hug. The little boy promised Turtle he would never let anything happen to him again.

But then last Friday “the worst thing of all happened.” The boy and his friend were sailing around the world in a cardboard box. Turtle was the Captain. But the boy’s friend wanted to be Captain and steer the ship. She grabbed Turtle away, and the boy grabbed Turtle back. In the ensuing tug-of-war, Turtle suffered “the biggest, baddest, most gigantic, horrible rip ever!”


Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2015, text copyright Robie H. Harris, 2015. Courtesy of

The boy shouted at his friend: “You ripped my Turtle!” Before leaving, the boy’s friend yelled back: “Having Turtle’s a BABY thing!” The little boy hugged Turtle tight and then looked at him. Turtle had lost almost all his stuffing. The boy quickly pushed the fluff back in and taped Turtle’s tummy back up.

But the boy had a change of heart. Suddenly Turtle looked ugly, and the little boy left him on the floor alone. At bedtime, when Daddy brought Turtle to his son, he said he didn’t want Turtle anymore, but sleep without Turtle was elusive. Finally, the boy shouted, “I can’t sleep!” and his dad asked, “Do you want Turtle?” “‘NO’”, the boy said. “‘Having Turtle’s a baby thing! And I’m BIG! And I’m getting bigger! So I don’t need Turtle ever again!’”

His dad thought about this and agreed. His son was getting bigger, but he’s not all big. Daddy picked up Turtle and played with him, making the little boy laugh. Then the boy copied his dad, making his dad laugh. The little boy realized that holding Turtle still felt good. He hugged him close and in no time was fast asleep.


Image copyright Tor Freeman, 2015, text copyright Robie H. Harris, 2015. Courtesy of

Robie Harris’s sweet story of a little boy and his best friend Turtle reminds kids that no matter how big they get, it’s okay to find comfort in a favorite toy. The story has a deeper meaning for kids as well: things happen; sometimes bad things. But with love mistakes can be cleaned up, scrapes will heal, and scary situations will turn out all right. And when you need them, those who love you are there to help and help make you feel better.

The mishaps Turtle experiences are instantly recognizable and related in a gentile, honest way that will draw kids in. Near the end of the book, kids will root for the little boy and Turtle to patch things up and be best friends again.

Everyone wants a best friend as cool as Turtle! Tor Freeman’s vivid illustrations of the little boy and his plucky stuffed companion are adorable and full of emotion. The close family bonds are well depicted, and the images of the boy hugging Turtle will melt your heart. The looks of anguish on the little boy’s face as Turtle suffers stains and rips elicit sympathy and understanding and are followed up by comforting smiles when Turtle is fixed up.

Turtle and Me would be a terrific addition to home and classroom bookshelves for sweet story times and  when reassurance and a little extra love and comfort are needed.

Ages 3 – 8

little bee books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1499800463

World Turtle Day Activity


Follow the Turtles! Game


You can make this fun game from recycled materials and a little creativity! When you’re finished making the turtle shells, have fun guessing where the marble, bead or bean is hiding!


  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Green tissue paper in different hues
  • Green construction or craft paper
  • A marble, bead, or bean
  • Glue
  • Scissors



  1. Cut the egg carton apart into individual cups. You will need 3 cups for each game made.
  2. Cut the rims of the cups so they sit flat on a table.
  3. If the cups have open sides, fit two cups inside one another to fill the gaps
  4. Cut the tissue paper into small shapes
  5. Brush glue on a cup (I used a paper towel to apply glue)
  6. Cover the egg cup with pieces of tissue paper. Repeat with other cups.
  7. Let dry
  8. Cut a head and feet from the green craft paper
  9. Tape or glue the edges of head and feet to the inside of the cups
  10. Add a face to the head

To play the game:

  1. Line up the cups on a table
  2. Put a bead, bean, or marble under one of the cups
  3. Show the other player which cup the object is under
  4. Quickly move the cups around each other several times
  5. Ask the other player which cup they think the object is under
  6. Take turns playing

Extra Game: Make three more and play turtle tic-tac-toe!