Sunday, December 30, 2012

Too Many Toys

This seems like the perfect week to introduce David Shannon’s Too Many Toys. Spencer has too many toys. He gets toys from Grandma and Grandpa, aunts and uncles and cousins, he got toys for his birthday and at birthday parties, at the drive-thru and even at the dentist. Sound familiar? Mom is fed up with Spencer’s toys strewn everywhere and tells him he needs to downsize. “A CATASTROPHE!” He loves all his toys so Mom helps him. They negotiate over almost every toy except for a misspoken pirate who turns out to be Dad’s toy. Finally all the toys have been sorted into keep or give away piles. The give-away toys are boxed up and Mom goes to have a well-earned cup of tea and a short rest. She returns to find a big messy pile of toys on the floor. Spencer agrees that he has too many toys but he says the box makes the best toy ever.

Too Many Toys

David Shannon’s artwork adds to the text. There is a wonderful drawing of Spencer’s Dad stepping on a Lego with wildly dramatic exaggeration in a way that many kids see adults (much ado about nothing).

The Yulupa Library has 3 copies and the Sonoma County Library has many copies of this book.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jan Brett

Jan Brett’s books are used in many kindergarten and first grade classrooms at Yulupa, especially in December.

Mossy is Jan Brett’s newest book. Mossy is a turtle who lives in a cool damp place. A garden begins to grow on her shell. On the day she meets Scoot, another turtle, she is scooped up by Dr. Caroline for an exhibit in her museum. Dr. Caroline and her niece, Tory, make a beautiful home for Mossy, but Mossy wants to go back to her old home and her new friend, Scoot. Visitors flock to the museum to see the extraordinary turtle. On the day of her class visit, Tory notices that Mossy looks sad. She asks her aunt if she thinks Mossy is happy at the museum. Will Dr. Caroline and Tory devise a way for visitors to see Mossy’s beautiful garden and let her go back home to her friend, Scoot?


The author actually saw a snapping turtle with an underwater garden on his back. It was her inspiration for the book.

The Sonoma County Library has several copies of this book. The Yulupa Library does not have this book, but has a huge selection of other Jan Brett books.

A  recently published seasonal  book is Home For Christmas. It is about a troll named Rollo who runs away from home because he does not want to do his chores.  Rollo lives with an owl family, a bear family and an otter until it turns cold. Then he travels with a Lynx who was as wild as he is until food gets harder to find and he notices the hungry look in the lynx's eyes. Next he comes upon a Moose family who eventually lead him home in time for Christmas.

Home For Christmas  Like all of Jan Brett’s books, this one is lavishly illustrated.

home_for_christmas_14-15 The Sonoma County Library has many copies and it can be found in many local bookstores.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

There’s A Fly Guy In My Soup

This afternoon, I was finishing up a tutoring session in a first grade class when the teacher started a vocabulary lesson. One of the words was “ridiculous” and she said it meant something wasn’t true or shouldn’t be true. That is as good an explanation of the Fly Guy series as any. Not to say that is a bad thing. For many kids it is a wonderful thing. A new Fly Guy book was published this fall, There’s A Fly Guy In My Soup. Tedd Arnold knows what delights kids. He takes an old Marx Brothers’ joke and turns it into a family vacation tale.

Buzz is a young boy with a pet fly named Fly Guy. They became friends when Buzz heard Fly Guy call his name “Buzzzzz! In this book, Buzz, his parents and Fly Guy go to stay at a hotel. The family decides to go to the restaurant but Fly Guy cannot go with them, so he heads out to the garbage cans to find a meal, he smells something delicious and follows the aroma to the restaurant kitchen. He winds up in a bowl of soup and causes messy mayhem in the restaurant. At the end, everyone needs a bath.

You can read about another Fly Guy book here.


There's A Fly Guy In My Soup

The Yulupa Library has six copies. The reading grade level is 1.6. The Sonoma County Library has many copies.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lemony Snicket on the Radio

Yesterday, Terry Gross interviewed Lemony Snicket aka Daniel Handler on her NPR program Fresh Air. The author of the 13 volume series, A Series of Unfortunate Events was on Terry’s program to talk about his new series starring a younger Lemony Snicket called Who Could That Be at This Hour?  using a detective noir style inspired by Raymond Chandler. The first book in the series is All The Wrong Questions. He has also written, in conjunction with illustrator Jon Klassen (I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat) a book for younger children, called The Dark. You also get to hear him play the accordion. Check it out!

How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?

Normally, I would not be reviewing this book for the blog, but since I am building a library for a two month old boy, you will get a glimpse. How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Mark Teague is one of a long series of books by the pair examine how dinosaurs go to school, say goodnight, eat their food, get well soon and laugh out loud, just to name a few.

How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah

 How Do Dinosaurs say Happy Chanukah starts with the usual misbehaving dinosaur when mama comes in with the holiday lights, who snatches away dreidels so no one else plays, writes his name on every gift card and grabs up all the gelt. A reformed dinosaur finishes out the eight day celebration by sharing the dreidel, eating his latkes, helping with the dishes and giving  Bubbie and Zaida big Chanukah wishes. Kids who like the other books in this series will like this one too. The artwork is wonderful.

The Sonoma County Library has many copies.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lulu and the Brontosaurus

My oldest daughter’s favorite book in the second grade was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. A few decades later, Judith Viorst is still writing and this time collaborating with Lane Smith as her illustrator. Lulu and the Brontosaurus is the story of Lulu and her quest for a pet brontosaurus.Lulu and the Brontosaurous

The book opens with a disclaimer by the author that she KNOWS that dinosaurs and people never lived on earth at the same time but she is the author and she wants to write about a little girl and a Brontosaurus, so there! Lulu is a very spoiled little girl. She gets what she wants most of the time and when she doesn’t she screeches until the light bulbs burst and throws herself on the ground and kicks her heels and flings her arms. “Just this once” her parents say when they give in to her tantrums.

Two weeks before her birthday, Lulu announces to her parents that she wants a Brontosaurus for her birthday. Her parents try to patiently explain that a brontosaurus is big and would not make an ideal house pet. They suggested alternatives such as a dog, a cat, a hamster even a rat. NO! Lulu wanted a brontosaurus!! After days of pleading, screeching, flailing her arms and kicking her heels, Lulu decides to take things into her own hands. She packs her suitcase and heads out to find a brontosaurus. And find one she does but the brontosaurus wants HER for a pet. How does it end? I am not telling. You will have to read it yourself.

The Sonoma County Library has several copies.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Templeton Twins Have An Idea

Yesterday, I was wandering around Copperfield’s and came across a table that featured children’s books the staff thought were the best of the year. For some reason, The Templeton Twins Have An Idea by Ellis Weiner and illustrated  by Jeremy Holmes stood out. Maybe because the inside flap says that the book is “perfect for boys and girls who are smart, clever and funny (just like the [Templeton] twins), and who enjoy reading adventurous stories (who doesn’t?!).”

The Templeton Twins Have an Idea

Abigail is the theoretical twin who loves cryptic crossword puzzles (pay attention, these are important facts) and John is the practical twin who loves to play the drums. Their father is a famous inventor and scientist and they have a ridiculous dog named Cassie. The twins and Cassie are kidnapped by twins Dean D. Dean and Dan D. Dean because Dean D. Dean wants something from Professor Templeton. The story is told by an opinionated narrator who keeps asking for affirmations. He (perhaps, she, it is not clear) asks questions at the end of each chapter. Some are practical, some theoretical and some are ridiculous. Oh, and the narrator loves alliteration and there is a recipe for meatloaf.

Abigail and John use their smarts and their talents to escape from their kidnappers, save their father and at the end are getting ready for their next adventure. As you can plainly see, the Templeton Twins are planning on a series.

This would be a fun book to read out loud. It is a perfect book to try out Mo Willem’s Secrets for Raising a Reader, especially secret number 1.

The Sonoma County Library has two copies.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Tale of Despereaux

This Newberry Award winning fairy tale by Kate DiCamillo is the story of Despereaux Tilling, an unusually small mouse, with big ears, who loves the human Princess Pea, music and tales that begin, “Once upon a time” . It is also the story of Roscuro, a rat who loves the light and a serving girl named Miggery Sow who wants to be a princess. As all four of these characters do not conform to their expected roles an interesting fate awaits them. This is a story of love, hope and forgiveness told in a “dear reader” style. The author occasionally asks the reader, “what would you do if…” , which makes it a great book to read with your kids so you can answer those questions together.

The Tale of Despereaux

The Sonoma County Library has many copies of this book and it can be downloaded to a Kindle or in pdf. format. The Yulupa Library has four copies of this book.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Art & Max

Art & Max by David Wiesner is about Art(hur), an artist and Max, an aspiring artist. Arthur is finishing a painting, Max offers a compliment and then asks if he could paint, too. After a bit of a protest, Arthur fixes Max up with canvas, paints and brushes. But Max is stumped, what should he paint? Arthur suggests that Max might paint him. Max, taking the suggestion literally, starts to paint Arthur. What follows is a whirlwind tour through several artistic media to bring Art to a magnificent new look.

Art & Max

Most first graders have been able to read this book easily. They have fun sounding out “ridiculous” and “preposterous” and they love the pictures that tell how Max tries to fix Art’s problem.

The Sonoma County Library has several copies. The Yulupa Library does not have a copy but they have several other books by David Wiesner.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Interrupting Chicken

Caldecott Honor Book Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein is the perfect book for trying Mo Willem’s first secret for raising a reader. "Be ridiculous when you read together. Make loud noises and jump around. If your child sees that you're enjoying the book, she will think reading is cool.”

Interrupting Chicken

The Little Red Chicken wants Papa to read her a bedtime story. He says he will but she must not interrupt the story. Papa starts to read Chicken Hansel and Gretel. The children find a house made of candy in the woods and start to nibble on it. An old woman comes out and invites them inside, as they were about to go in a little red chicken jumps into the story and says, “Don’t go in, she’s a witch!” So Hansel and Gretel didn’t. The end! After another admonishment to not interrupt, Papa starts to read Chicken, Little Red Riding Hood. The story ends quickly when a little red chicken jumps in and says “Don’t talk to strangers!”  Chicken Little ends quickly when a little red chicken jumps into the story to say, “Don’t panic! It was just an acorn”. The weary Papa is out of stories, so he tells Chicken to write her own. She writes a story about a chicken who is putting her Papa to bed. Her story is interrupted by Papa’s snores.

As you can see there is lots of room for dramatic interpretation in this story, whether it is read by a parent or a child. The Sonoma County Library has many copies and the Yulupa Library has 2 copies. The grade level equivalent is 2.2.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

Mo Willems’ books are a favorites with my grandchildren.  This book  is a rather twisted, but hilarious retelling of the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story. It seems that the three dinosaurs are very hungry so they make up some chocolate pudding at three different temperatures, but decide to leave to go …uhhh…someplace else. The three dinosaurs go someplace else and were definitely not waiting for an unsuspecting kid to come by. Very soon a poorly supervised little girl named Goldilocks entered the dinosaur's house and ate all three bowls of pudding. The story proceeds with the dinosaurs hoping to return to find a chocolate-filled-little-girl-bonbon (which are totally not a dinosaur’s favorite treat in the whole wide world). Goldilocks finally catches a clue that she is not at the three bears house when all the chairs are too tall and all the beds are too big and escapes out the back door just as the dinosaurs return home.

Goldilocks and the three dinosaurs The Sonoma County Library has several copies. As an added bonus read Mo Willems’ Secrets for Raising a Reader. The interest level for this book is preschool to third grade.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Jackie Urbanovic and Max

When my children were young, in the seventies and early eighties, there was a trend in children’s books toward ‘learning life lessons’. They tended to be a little earnest; a little humor would have gone a long way to have made these books more readable. Jackie Urbanovic has figured out how to write funny books that just might offer a little insight into life.

Duck at the Door was the first of her books about Irene and her menagerie. One winter night a very cold duck named Max knocks on Irene’s door. He is invited to stay and he becomes a bit of a pest; he cooks meals no one likes and  he hogs the remote. But by springtime, when Max leaves to join his flock, all the animals  find that life is a bit boring and now they can’t wait for Max’s return in the fall.

Duck at the DoorThe Sonoma County Library has several copies. The Yulupa Library also has a couple of copies. The reading grade level is 1.6.

The next book in the series is Duck Soup. Max decides to create his own soup recipe. He is adding ingredients and decides that chives are just what the soup needs, so he heads out to the garden to pick the herb. As he leaves, Dakota, brody and Bebe enter the kitchen looking for Max. Dakota sees a feather in the soup and decides that Max fell into the pot. Chaos ensues. Max returns to find his soup destroyed but his friends elated that he was not duck soup.

Duck Soup

The Sonoma County Library and Yulupa Library have this book. The grade reading level is 1.4.

One day a very large alligator knocks on Irene’s door. He is fleeing a zoo detective because he mistakenly ate someone’s pet. “Please don’t eat us! everyone screams. But Max remembers what it was to be in trouble and alone, so he decides to help Harold, the alligator. He pleads with Irene to rescue Harold like she rescued him. Harold assures everyone that he is not dangerous. They decide to hide the alligator from the zoo detective. Again chaos ensues. It turns out that  Harold ate a HOT dog not a PET dog and the detective comes to bring the alligator back to his home.

Duck and Cover The Sonoma County Library and the Yulupa Library have copies of this book. The reading grade level is 1.6.

The fourth book in the series is Sitting Duck. Brody’s niece, Anabel, is coming to visit. Max agrees to help babysit because, “How much trouble could a puppy get into anyway?” Most of the animals, disagreeing with Max, flee. Anabel arrives. Chaos ensues. Exhausted, Brody falls asleep. Anabel asks Uncle Maxie to take her outside. He tries to interest her in the tire swing and the swimming pool. She doesn’t like either one but she spies a trampoline. That is perfect. Anabel jumps so high she gets caught in a tree. Chaos ensues. Anabel is saved when all the animals help to get her out of the tree.

Sitting Duck

The Sonoma County Library and the Yulupa Library have this book. The reading grade level is 2.0.

I have used these books with my Schools of Hope students. They love them. There is a bit of the Marx Brothers about these books that I don’t think is accidental.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The One And Only Ivan

Ivan is a lowland gorilla. His habitat has glass walls on three sides and a mural of a “waterfall without water and flowers without scent and trees without roots” on the fourth wall. It is located in the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade on I95. His animal friends are are Stella, an elephant and Bob a dog who “belongs to no one”. Ivan, like Julia, the daughter of the mall caretaker, is an artist.  He seldom thinks about his life before he came to the Exit 8 Mall until a new elephant named Ruby arrives.

The One and Only Ivan is written by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by Patricia Castelao.  This book has 304 pages, but the chapter are 1-2 pages long, double-spaced and many have just a few words on the page. Ivan says “humans waste words”. The format of this book would make it a wonderful, ‘you read to me, I’ll read to you’ book.

The One and Only Ivan

I loved this book. Ivan, Stella, Ruby, Bob and Julia are compelling characters. You will have lots of conversation about their story. The Sonoma County Library has several copies of this book.

24 Christmas Jokes

Most kids love jokes. At this time of the year, most adults are very busy. To the rescue comes a blog from the United Kingdom with 24 jokes formatted and ready to be printed and cut out. A sample: “What falls but never hurts itself?  Snow!”.  A joke a day packed with lunch would make a great seasonal treat.

Hat tip: Imagination Soup.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Book on Every Bed

Two years ago Amy Dickenson of Ask Amy fame launched a literacy program in conjunction with the Family Reading Partnership called “A Book on Every Bed”. The first present a child would see on Christmas or Chanukah morning (or whatever winter holiday(s) your family observes) is a wrapped book placed at the foot of each child’s  bed. The goal is to foster a generation of readers; passing a love of reading from parent (or grandparent) to child.

The idea for this program came from Pulitzer Prize winner, David McCullough, the author of John Adams, Truman and The Greater Journey. Every Christmas morning during his childhood, he woke up to find a wrapped book at the foot of his bed, left by Santa. The tradition continues with his children and now his grandchildren.

My husband and I will be doing this for our grandchildren for the third year. I’ll be profiling the books we will be giving our grandchildren as well as some others I have been reading this fall.

Start your own holiday reading tradition this year. It is one of the best gifts you can give the children in your life.

Friday, November 16, 2012

November is Picture Book Month

Caldecott Honor winner Doreen Cronin explains why picture books are important. Picture Book Month is an international literacy initiative that celebrates the printed picture book. Doreen Cronin’s book, Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type is a big hit with my grand kids and the kids I tutor.

Click, Clack, Moo, Cows that Type She even wrote a picture book for moms called M.O.M. (Mom  Operating Manual). A hilarious attempt to explain moms to their kids.

M.O.M. Last April I reviewed her first chapter book The Trouble With Chickens in a post about dog books at the book faire.  

Every day in November there is a new post from a different picture book author about why picture books are important. Each author has one book featured in their post. It is a great way to find new picture books to share with the young people in your life.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody

Wandering around Whole Foods yesterday. I spotted this book  Frankenstein A Monstrous Parody by Ludworst Bemonster. Actually, I spotted a parody of a Caldecott Honor sticker on the book that said “A CaldeNOT Horror Book”. Just had to pick it up!

frankenstein1Turns out that this book is a wickedly funny parody of the 1940 Caldecott Honor book Madeline  by Ludwig Bemelmans.  Instead of twelve little girls this book has 12 little monsters who are as imperfect as the little girls were perfect.

Ludworst Bemonster is the pen name for author Rick Walton and illustrator Nathan Hale. They decided one Halloween that Madeline would be much better with monsters in it.

The Sonoma County Library has three copies of this book.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

“Spooktacular” Picture Books for Halloween

I looked at three fairly new Halloween books published within the past two years. Halloween Night by Marjorie Dennis Murray and lushly illustrated by Brandon Dorman is a  parody of  The Night Before Christmas. It  tells the story of  some very special party preparations and the best Halloween night ever. The Sonoma County Library has several copies.

Halloween Night

Trick or Treat by Leo Landry is about another very special party preparation and some unexpected guests and making new friends. Be sure to read the front flap as well as the pages in the book. The Sonoma County Library has several copies on order.

Trick or Treat

The Monster’s Monster by Patrick McDonnell (creator of the Mutts comic strip) is about three fellows who fancied themselves to be monsters. They argued among themselves was the biggest, baddest monster. One day they decided to make the biggest, baddest monster ever. Like Frankenstein, a lighting bolt enlivened their creation. But unlike, Frankenstein, this monster was happy to be alive and grateful to his creators. Patrick McDonnell is the  Caldecott Honor illustrator of Me... Jane. The Sonoma County Library has two copies of this book.

The Monster's Monster

Minimum Day Monday

Monday, October 22 is a minimum day at Yulupa School. School lets out at 12:45 PM. There is no Schools of Hope on Monday.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Happy Birthday Charlotte’s Web

Sixty years ago today, E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web was published. It quickly became a children’s favorite. Four years later, in a third grade class in Minneapolis, my teacher, Mrs.. Graham, started to read Charlotte’s Web to our class. At the end of the day, she read a chapter until she finished the book.  All forty (no small class sizes in those days) of us looked forward to the next chapter in Charlotte and Wilbur’s saga. We cried when Charlotte died. In the spring, Mrs.. Graham told us that since we were the best class she had ever taught, she would reward us by reading Charlotte’s Web to us again. Decades later, I had a chance to talk to her and found out that all her classes were the “best” and all her classes got two readings of E. B. White’s classic.

Charlotte's web

I read this book to my children a couple of decades later. They loved it too. In 1970,  E. B. White,  recorded an audio book. It took 17 takes for the author to read the passage about Charlotte’s death with out crying. This is a book that is as fresh today as it was in 1952. It is a story of love and friendship, life and death.

Today on NPR Morning Edition, there was a tribute to the book which includes a clip of E. B. White  reading Charlotte’s Web.

The Yulupa Library has two copies of this book and the Sonoma County Library has many copies. The county library also has Charlotte’s Web picture books.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Schools of Hope

The Schools of Hope program starts Monday, Oct 8, for the 2012-2013 school year. We have 27 volunteer tutors working with 28 first and second graders to improve their decoding and reading comprehension skills.

Schools of Hope is a United Way of the Wine Country project to help children build the reading skills to succeed in school. At the start of the 2010 school year, fewer than half of third graders in the six Santa Rosa elementary school districts were reading at grade level or above. Schools of Hope tutors provide  one-on-one half hour lessons that focus on phonics, blending sounds, learning sight words and reading skill level appropriate stories.

The stories come from the Treasures reading program at Yulupa. Once a week the stories are sent home with the student and are intended to be read at home to help reinforce their new skills. A little boost now, from teachers, tutors and parents can make all the difference in a child’s academic achievement.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Star Wars Reads

Saturday, October 6, is “Star Wars Reads” Day. It is a joint project of Lucas Films and many publishers to promote reading. The closest events to Sonoma County are in Corte Madera, Fairfield and Vacaville:

Pottery Barn Kids, 1610 Redwood Hwy, Corte Madera, from 10-10:30 AM

Barnes and Noble, 313 Corte Madera Town Center, Corte Madera, from 1-3 PM

Barnes and Noble, 1600 Gateway Blvd, Fairfield

Vacaville Public Library, 1 Town Square, Vacaville

This is the first year for this event. You can find the website at here, their Facebook page here. You can always celebrate the day at home by reading a book with your favorite Star Wars fan.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Happy Birthday, Clifford

Fifty years ago, Norman Bridwell wrote the first Clifford The Big Red Dog book. His stories about Clifford and Emily Elizabeth have made him one of the best selling authors of all time.

clifford-the-big-red-dog-1 You can hear a Scott Simon interview with the author at NPR. The early books (there are over 40 Clifford books) have simple text that is easy to read for beginners. The spacing between words is also helpful. The Sonoma County Library and the Yulupa Library have copies of many of the Clifford books.

Wells Fargo Center for the Performing Arts is presenting Clifford The Big Red Dog, the musical on Tuesday, October 30th at 6:30 PM. For more information and a short video check here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Guerilla Tactics to Get Your Child to Love Reading

My niece recently posted on Facebook that something had clicked with her third grader and suddenly he is excited about reading . One of the series that interests him is the Encyclopedia Brown books. Those were my son’s favorite books in third grade, too.

Encyclopedia Brown EB Lends A Hand

This got me thinking about an Imagination Soup post from last year. Melissa Taylor’s goal was for her children to  LOVE to read and the book itself was the reward. This is a goal I agree with completely and the some of the strategies she outlines worked for me with my children and grandchildren. She also explains the Five Finger Rule for finding “just right” books for beginning readers. You can find her post at Imagination Soup.

Kidsworx Creative Workshop

Saturday, October 6, is supposed to be a beautiful fall day. A great day to take the kids (or grandkids) to the Sonoma County Children’s Museum’s Kidsworx Creative Workshop located in the parking lot of Friedman’s Home Improvement in Santa Rosa. The workshop is from 9 AM to Noon. This month, kids will make “marvelous monsters” and launch them into the air, climb aboard a fire truck, learn about fire safety and play with the Museum-on-the-Go science exhibits. The workshop is free. Friedman’s is located at 4055 Santa Rosa Ave.

Last month, I had the chance to “play” with the Museum’s science exhibits. They are  fun. informative and kid-sized.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Raising a Book Lover

Melissa Taylor, at Imagination Soup, has a post by author,  Helen Perelman (Candy Fairies series) about raising a book lover. Check it out.

Andrew Lost: On The Dog

From pirates and picture books, we head to beginning chapter books, thanks to the Adventures in Reading With Kids blog, the Andrew Lost series. The series by J. C. Greenburg (illustrated by Debbie Palen) is about ten year old inventor, Andrew, his thirteen year old cousin Judy and his robot, Thudd.

AL On the Dog Andrew’s new invention, the Atom-Sucker goes haywire and shrinks Andrew, Judy and Thudd down to microscopic size and they wind up in the nostrils of the neighbor’s basset hound, Harley. After a little inventive thinking, they get out of Harley’s nose and start to climb to the top of the dog’s head to get a better view. They encounter dust mites that are eating dead skin cells, eyelash mites and since we are “on a dog”, fleas. At the same time as they reach the dog’s head, Harley decides to get into the garbage. His owner, Mrs. Scuttle, discovers him in the garbage and takes him and our miniature friends in the house for a bath.  How will Andrew, Judy and Thudd get back to normal size? You will have to read In The Bathroom, In The Kitchen and In the Garden to find out.

AL In the Bathroom AL In the Kitchen AL In the GardenThudd is very smart and gives Andrew and Judy plenty of information so they can figure out how to get back to the Atom Sucker and get back to normal size. But Thudd knows much more and we can read about what he knows in a chapters called “True Stuff” and  “Even More True Stuff” at the end of every book. In this book we learn about dog’s amazing sense of smell, what colors dogs can see,  the life cycle of fleas and some facts about other insects. Did you know that there are mites who live on fleas?

There are 18 books so far in this series. You can read more about them here.

My grandson, Noah, has read all four books and loves them. They are fun, sometimes gross (a feature, not a bug) and offer lots of good information about the unseen world. My only complaint is the babyish-robot talk of Thudd.

The Sonoma County Library has several copies of each: On the DogIn the Bathroom, In the Kitchen and In the Garden.  The AR level is 2.5.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade

Today is the 10th annual “Talk Like a Pirate Day”. It is the perfect day to introduce  a book written in pirate lingo: A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade by James Preller and illustrated by Greg Ruth.A Pirate's Guide to the First Grade

It is the first day of first grade for a young pirate and his crew. The boy’s day is in color and his crew is in sepia tones. He narrates his day: waking up, getting ready for school, boarding his ship (the school bus), and meeting Cap’n Silver (his teacher). He tells the Cap’n that he seeks “swag and treasure”. As the day goes on the pirate and his “crew” have story time and work very hard at counting and spelling. At the end of the day, he is tired and wonders, “Where’s me treasure?” Cap’n Silver hands him a map with X marking the spot. He follows the map until he finds his “treasure”:


The book is fun to read and the content is great for five and six year olds who like pirates, although it is a rare child of that age who can read at the level this book is written. It makes a perfect bedtime story. It  may even lead to questions about  Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, a book I read to my kids when they were this age.

The Sonoma County Library has several copies of this book.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Schools of Hope tutors are using a research based reading program called Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies or PALS. It was developed by Vanderbilt University about ten years ago and is being used in classrooms in Nashville, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, Arizona and now at Yulupa. As developed, students are paired and one is the “coach” and one is the “player”. For Schools of Hope tutoring sessions, the tutor is the coach.

First Grade PALS emphasizes decoding skills and fluent reading by using Game Sheets that reinforce letter sounds, practice sounding out words, first by s-t-r-e-c-h-i-n-g the letter sounds in a word and then by sounding it out and saying it. Sight words are introduced and reinforced in each lesson and the last exercise is a short reading (the photos below are from a later version of the program than the one we are using).

PALS lesson 16 PALS lesson 16b

The right hand column is the coach’s “script”. You can find out more about this program at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development.

Second graders at Yulupa are using advanced PALS:

PALS lesson 66 Pals Lesson 66b

The format is similar to the earlier PALS but the stretching exercise is replaced with more sight words and longer stories.

When I began to use the PALS program, I was a bit skeptical of the stretching exercise. But as the weeks progressed, I found that it helped the students blend the sounds of the letters into the word. Most of your students will know the letter sounds but have problems blending those sounds into words.

This was first posted in February, 2012. It has been edited to update the lessons as they are now being used in the 2012-2013 school year.

Schools of Hope Needs Tutors

Schools of Hope needs 500 new volunteers for this school year to expand to 20 schools and add third grade tutors. The Press Democrat has an article about Schools of Hope in today’s paper. There will be five schools in Sonoma added and a school in Forestville as well as more schools in Santa Rosa and Petaluma. If you have friends in those communities, please tell them about this program. The job satisfaction is great!

Tutor Training Video From Spring Creek

Reposted from last winter: the United Way website also has a seventeen minute Schools of Hope tutor training video from Spring Creek Elementary in Santa Rosa. They use different materials than we do but it is helpful, especially for new tutors and for learning some new cues for experienced tutors. You can watch this video here.

Letter Sounds

Reposted from last winter: the Schools of Hope page on the United Way of the Wine Country website has a phonics song on an audio player to review basic letter sounds here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Adventures in Reading With Kids

Many of the comments I get on this blog have to do with lists of books for kids to read. Over the summer, I have run across some great blogs that review children’s books and some even have activities inspired by the books.

Kim Payne is one of a growing number of teachers who are staying home with their kids and writing an education blog. Her blog is Adventures in Reading With Kids The stated purpose of her blog is to write about the books she and her sons read  every night. She plans to highlight 365 books in 365 days. She has just passed her 220th day, so there are plenty of books to choose from. She categorizes the books, so if you are looking for books about dogs (who isn’t?), you can click on the “dog” label in the right hand column and see all 14 books about dogs. If you are on Facebook, you can find her here.

The post that attracted my attention was from August 3 about the Andrew Lost books By J.C. Greenburg and illustrated by Debbie Palen. Next week, my grandson, Noah, and I will be reading the first book in the series Andrew Lost: On the Dog. When we are finished, I will write about it.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Free Money!

Target is giving away up to 2.5 million dollars to U.S. elementary and secondary schools. The way they have chosen to allocate the money is by the number of votes on the Give With Target Facebook page. For every 25 votes a school gets, the school will receive a $25 Target Gift Card. The contest ends on September 8, 2012 or when the 2.5 million has been completely allocated. If you are on Facebook, you may vote for your favorite school(s) just once a week. The week starts on Saturday (if you vote on a Monday, you can vote again on Saturday). Tell your friends! It is FREE MONEY!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bedtime Math

The main focus of this blog is reading but this was such a great idea, I had to pass it along. Yesterday, on NPR’s Morning Edition, Laura Overdeck was interviewed about her nightly math problem ritual with her children. You can listen to the interview here. Overdeck wanted her children to be math literate so she started giving her children a math problem at night along with their nightly bedtime story. Her friends started asking her for math problems for their kids and her website Bedtime Math was born.

Every day there is a story, today’s is about anteaters and their prey, with math problems for wee ones, little kids and big kids. The problems for the wee ones are simple adding, subtracting or counting ones. The little kids and big kids problems are more complex and take greater skills at each level. There are also bonus questions each day. You can sign up to have each day’s story and problems e-mailed to you. Try it out with your family!


The Children’s Museum of Sonoma County’s Museum-on-the-Go will be at Friedman Bros on Santa Rosa Avenue on Saturday, August 4th from 9AM to Noon. The KidsWorx Creative Workshop will feature interactive exhibits about aerodynamics. The workshop is recommended for children 3 and up.children's museum

Monday, June 25, 2012

Happy Birthday Eric Carle!

Experienced teachers, parents and grandparents know about the beautiful picture books by Eric Carle. Watch The Very Hungry Caterpillar to see why.
h/t: The Educator’s Spin on It

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Children’s Book Week

Children’s Book Week is May 7-13. Although there are no official celebrations in our area, it is a great time to read a favorite book with your favorite child or children. For more information check here.

Maurice Sendak 1928-2012

Maurice Sendak died today at the age of 83. His 1964 Caldecott Medal Book, Where The Wild Things Are, has been a childhood favorite of generations of children.

Where the wild things Are  

You can listen to Maurice Sendak read his book at When this book was published in 1963, most books featured well behaved children (or animals)whose problems were solved by the end of the book. Perhaps taking cues from his own childhood, Sendak’s characters had untidy emotions and unsettling inner lives. He understood that children do not live in cocoons protected from everything happening around them.  In an interview he said, “. . .from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, they continually cope with frustrations as best they can. And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things.”

Monday, April 16, 2012

Baseball Books

Now that the season has started, Melissa Taylor of the Imagination Soup blog has a post up about newly published baseball related books. There are picture books, chapter books and even a non-fiction book about Babe Ruth. You can view the post here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary

Today is Beverly Cleary’s 96th birthday. In her honor, today has been designated Drop Everything and Read Day ( or D.E.A.R.) an annual event aimed at getting families to read together for at least 30 minutes. She wrote about D.E.A.R. in the second chapter of  Ramona Quimby, Age 8 in 1981.

Ramona Quimby age 8 Ramona and Her father

She won a 1982 Newberry Honor award for this book and also for Ramona and Her Father in 1978. In 1984, she was awarded the Newberry Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw. At the request of two of her readers, she wrote one of the first children’s books that dealt with divorce.

Dear Mr Henshaw

Three generations of my family have read Beverly Cleary’s books. On their behalf, I’d like to wish her a Happy Birthday and to encourage your family to read her too. Here are a couple places you can go to hear more about this author: Beverly Cleary website and KQED's Perspectives.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Magic Tree House Books

Twenty years ago, the first Magic Tree House book, Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborn was published. In a walk through the woods eight and a half year old Jack and his seven year old sister, Annie, find a tree house filled with books high in an old oak . The first book Jack opens is about dinosaurs. Soon the tree house is spinning and when it stops they are still in the tree house but not the same oak tree. Through this devise of the magic tree house and piles of old and new books, Mary Pope Osborn has taken Jack and Annie on adventures through time and space and even to  mythical places. There are 47 Magic Tree House Books and 22 non-fiction Fact Tracker companion books. The Yulupa Book fair has several of these books in stock and most of the books can be ordered online as well. Credit for orders before April 20th will go to Yulupa and Strawberry Schools.

Dinosaurs Before dark dogs in the dead of night

Abe Lincoln at last Fact Tracker Abe lincoln

This series can be found in the Yulupa Library and the Sonoma County Library. The AR level is 2.6 to 3.3. To learn more about this series and to read the first chapters of all the books you can go to the Magic Tree House website. Please be advised that there is audio as soon as you open the site.

Dogs at the Book Fair

We love dogs around here, so the first bo0ks I checked out at the Book Fair were about dogs. The picture book I picked was Charlie The Ranch Dog by Ree Drummond and illustrated by Diane DeGroat.

Charlie the Ranch Dog

Charlie and his pal Suzie are ranch dogs. Charlie likes to think he works hard on the ranch but the pictures tell a different story. But in the end, Charlie saves Mama’s garden from the marauding cows. This is a light hearted story that is true to  real dogs’ natures. The book is AR level 2.2. For more about this book check here. Oh, and it comes with a Lasagna recipe!

The next book, Travel-Size Pups Around the World by Ed Masessa , looks at small dogs and the countries they came from.

travel size pups

You visit countries on four continents and learn about the dogs from those places. Cute puppies and lots of dog facts. This is a Level 2 book. For more information check here.

 The Puppy Place books by Ellen Miles are about the Peterson family, especially Lizzie and Charles, who foster dogs from the animal shelter until they get their “forever” home. The book I chose was Muttley.

The Puppy Place-Muttley

This book is fiction, but the author bases her dog portraits on dogs she knows, so at the end of the book you learn about the real dog, Barley. She also includes ‘Puppy Tips’ to help kids understand their dog friends. There are more than two dozen Puppy Place books including a gratuitous pug appearance, Pugsley.

The Puppy Place-Pugsley

You can find out more about this series here. The AR level for these books is 4.0-4.2.

2002 Newberry Award winner, Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, is about an eleven year old boy, Marty, and the dog he grows to love and tries to save from an abusive owner.


Marty faces and resolves a moral dilemma is his quest to  rescue Shiloh. The book  does have a happy ending.

The final book, The Trouble With Chickens by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Kevin Cornell, is not about a real dog or a dog who could be real like the previous books. This one is about J.J. Tully a recently retired search and rescue dog who has retired to a farm. 

The Trouble With chickens

Doreen Cronin (Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type) uses her deadpan humor and a film noir style to tell the story of J.J. and his search for some missing chicks.  Their mother, Moosh, asks J.J. to help locate Poppy and Sweetie. A ransom note complicates things as does the presence of the mysterious Vince the Funnel who lives in the farm house. The AR level is 3.8. To see a video preview, click here.

Cronin’s second J.J. Tully Mystery, The Legend of Diamond Lil, is also at the book fair.