Wednesday, December 11, 2013

More Best Books of 2013

Horn Books and James Patterson’s Read Kiddo Read blog have published their list of best children’s books for 2013. You will notice a great deal of overlap with the Nerdy Award finalists and between the two lists. There is a book to please very kid. Check it out!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The 2013 Nerdy Award Finalists

Just in time for A Book on Every Bed, The Nerdy Book Club has come out with a list of the finalists for the 2013 Nerdy Book Awards. The categories are Picture Book Fiction, Picture Non-Fiction, Early Reader/Chapter Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult Non-Fiction, Graphic Novels, Poetry and Novels in Verse, Middle Grade Fiction and Young Adult Fiction. There are several terrific books in each category to help you find just the perfect book to wrap and place at the foot of your favorite child(ren)’s bed.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Beautiful Children’s Books

Apartment Therapy  (who knew?) writes about the  20 Most Beautiful Children’s Books. There is a  blog favorite on the list, Sleep Like A Tiger. Lots of classics like Where the Wild Things Are, Madeline and Good Night Moon plus newer classics like Olivia and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Since this is a decorating article, there were also links for ways to display your children’s books to entice them to pick up a book and read. 7 Ideas for Making a Forward Facing Book Display and Little Readers: Most Appealing Book Displays of the Year give you plenty of ideas for interesting and pleasing ways to display books.

Hat tip: Jump Into A Book

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Reading Fluency

The Room Mom has a post up today about helping your child improve her reading fluency with lots of practical tips. If your child is doing a lot of reading on her own, do you know if she comprehends what she is reading? One of the things I see frequently with second graders is that they change words they do not know into something they think would fit. Doing this occasionally is not catastrophic but it can become a bad habit that will affect your child’s understanding of what she reads. See also The Five Finger Rule to help find books that are just right.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Trouper is a novel in verse told by a three legged dog who wanders the streets with other homeless dogs looking for food wherever they can find it. One day, a man lures them into his truck  with a huge steak and takes  them to a shelter. Trouper watches as each of his friends is adopted, finally, he is the only one left.  His heart is a cold heartless night until a  young boy comes  to the shelter and takes Trouper home. The last page should bring a tear to your eye.

Based on the real story of her own rescue dog, Trouper, Meg Kearney wrote a poem about the life she imagined he had before she adopted him. Caldecott Honor medalist, E. B. Lewis used the real Trouper as the model for his paintings


Meg Kearney did a video on You Tube about the real Trouper. The book was published at the end of October, so it is not yet at the Sonoma County or Yulupa libraries, but it is available from Scholastic.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Locomotive is part geography book, part history book and part instruction manual for all things to do with trains. Written and illustrated by Brian Floca, it is a homage to the locomotive which was the height of mid-nineteenth century technology.

It is 1869. you, your mother and a sibling  are taking the train out of Omaha, Nebraska to join your father in San Francisco. You learn about the crew and what they do to keep your train running. As the train crosses Nebraska, you get a glimpse out your windows of the Platte River Valley and the Plains beyond. Are you hungry or bored? A “butch” ( a young boy selling books, newspapers and food) comes through your car. You learn how the passengers stay warm and that it is rude to use the “convenience” when the train is sitting at a station. You get off the train for a simple railroad dinner along the way. At the end of the day, a new crew boards and a new engine pulls the train. At night, some people sleep in berths the porters pull from the ceiling. In your car, you try to sleep on your bench seat as best you can.

Out of Cheyenne, Wyoming your train starts climbing up the Rocky Mountains. That requires two engines to pull the train. You see the beautiful rock formations out your window. Near Salt Lake, you reach Promontory Summit; the place where the Union Pacific meets the Central Pacific Railroad and where a golden spike joined the two halves. This is where you change trains. You got here by way of the Union Pacific Railroad. You will finish your journey on the Central Pacific Railroad.  On through the high desert to Truckee to start the steep climb over the Sierra Mountains. Up to Donner Pass, through the summit tunnel and down hill from Summit Station to San Francisco, where your father is waiting for you at the station.


All along the route, we learn what each crew member is doing to keep the train moving towards its destination. Each page is beautifully illustrated, not with generic scenery but what you would actually see if you where on the train. This is a book to be poured over.  Inside the front cover is a map of your journey and a little about how people traveled before the railroad.  Inside the back cover is a primer on steam power.  Locomotive is my new favorite picture book. It is a book for kids who think they are too old for picture books. It is a jewel!

The Sonoma County Library has several copies of Locomotive. The AR level is 4.7.

Friday, November 1, 2013

How To Train A Train

Lately, books about trains seem to be jumping off the shelves to get my attention. Maybe it is because the “Thomas the Tank Engine” crowd is growing up and this year I have a couple of students  interested in trains. Of course, it could be that people have been fascinated by trains for over one hundred and fifty years and I have just begun to notice.

How To Train A Train claims to be an instruction manual on how to choose and train your train. Jason Carter Eaton’s imaginative story is well illustrated by John Rocco. Who doesn’t want a pet train?  What kind of a train would you like? And how do you catch it? This involves some early morning stakeouts, coal  and smoke signals. Then your  train needs a name. Several suggestions are offered to get you thinking. What do you do if your train is shy? Or has trouble falling asleep? The answers can be found in the book. Did you know you can teach your train to do tricks? Once you gain your trains trust, you can ride him, but it is best to start in the caboose. Soon you and your pet train can socialize with other children and their pet trains or even pet airplanes. If you follow this plan, your train will be happy!

How To Train A Train

The humor extends to the author’s note at the end. It is sure to be a favorite with kids who love trains, especially those from 4-8 years old.  How To Train A Train is on order at the Sonoma County Library.

November is Picture Book Month


Picture books are an important tool in introducing children to reading. Toddlers love “lift the flap” books and “touch and feel” books. Dr Seuss helped introduce funny and colorful “easy to read” books in the late fifties that changed picture books forever. But there are many picture books meant for older children; the reading level can be as high as fifth grade. As S.T.E.M. and the new Common Core become ubiquitous, we will be seeing more non-fiction picture books that can be wonderful learning tools.  We are headed fast into the giving season and I have been collecting picture books to present to you for consideration as gifts. You can find out more about Picture Book Month  here. Join us as we explore the wonderful variety of subjects, artistic styles and genres available in bookstores and libraries.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

10 Ways your Child Can Become a Better Reader

10 ways

It is simple: to do something well, practice is necessary. The more your child reads, the better reader he becomes. Thanks to Melissa Taylor at the Imagination Soup blog for this graphic.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein

Jennifer Berne uses Albert Einstein’s curiosity to take the reader on a journey through his life. Even as a young boy, he was curious about the world around him. A gift of a compass helped him to see that there were hidden mysteries in the world and he wanted to understand them. One day while riding his bike, he looked at the beams of light coming from the sun to the earth. He imagined himself racing through space on a beam of light. Albert began reading about magnetism, gravity, light, sound and numbers. But he still had questions. He keep on reading and wondering and learning.

The illustrator, Vladimir Radunsky, helps to visually illustrate the scientific concepts that Albert was thinking and wondering about: motion, the universe and his famous equation, E=mc2 . Right to the end of his life, Einstein was thinking about and working on questions.  But still there are many questions to be answered; maybe you or your child might become one of the scientists who will answer one of them.

on a beam of light

At the end of the book is more information about Einstein’s life and his thought experiments, as well as a list of more books about Albert Einstein.

Several copies of   On A Beam of Light can be found at the Sonoma County Library. The AR level is 4.5.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Thought For Today

The American Library Association is offering a poster by Jarrett Krosoczka featuring The Lunch Lady, superhero in disguise; wise advise.Lunch Lady Poster

Hat Tip: Read Across America

Saturday, October 19, 2013

What is S.T.E.M.?

With the full implementation of the Common Core Curriculum in the 2014-2015 school year, you will be hearing lots more about S.T.E.M. or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics as drivers for the economy of the future. Two-thirds of my Schools of Hope students this year want to be scientists. Their interests range from space to oceanography to curing diseases. Most kids are natural scientists; they want to know how things work.  In the coming months, we’ll be looking at a wide range of books, websites and apps that inform kids about S.T.E.M. subjects. Two we have already featured are Why With Nye on the Juno mission to Jupiter and Bedtime Math’s daily math problems for kids of all ages.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thought For Today

Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or a duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift. – Kate DiCamillo

Hat tip: Imagination Soup

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Juno Mission to Jupiter

It it has been my experience working with elementary grade students that many of them are fascinated by space. Bill Nye (The Science Guy) has a new web series in conjunction with NASA to explain the Juno mission to Jupiter. In an interview on NPR this morning, Bill Nye said that his show was aimed at an audience of ten year olds, as that seemed to work for a wide range of ages. As of today, there are five episodes of Why With Nye with a new one set to air tomorrow. The topics include: the Juno Earth flyby, the super storm on Jupiter and is Jupiter like a piece of the Sun? In two to four minute episodes, Bill Nye uses props and geeky humor to give you the answers. Check it out!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky Treat

Farmer Brown and the cows, chickens  and Duck from Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type are back in a new adventure from Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin: Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky Treat.

Farmer Brown does not like  Halloween. As the night approaches,  he puts a bowl of candy on the porch, closes up the  house and goes to bed. In the barn, a party is just getting started. As the party goers approach the barn, Farmer Brown hears sounds he does not like: crunching, creaking, tapping. Then he hears quack, quack, quackle Quackle? Farmer Brown goes to his door, the candy is gone and there is a note on the door: Halloween Party at the Barn. Angry, he runs to the barn, where he is invited in and awarded “Best Costume”. A book for Halloween that is spooky but not scary.

Click, Clack, Boo


The Sonoma County Library has several copies of Click, Clack, Boo!. The AR level is 2.5. This book has been kid-tested and approved.

Learning to Read

You are reading with your child or one of your students. When he comes to a word he doesn’t know, is sounding it out the best strategy? Not always. Melissa Taylor  offers some Word Attack Strategies on her blog, Imagination Soup. Several of them I have used successfully with my Schools of Hope students. She also has free printable bookmarks listing the strategies. My favorite advise is about giving specific praise rather than a general “good job”. Check it out!

Monday, September 30, 2013

NYPL Top Children’s Books of the Last 100 Years

The New York Public Library (NYPL) presented its first ever list of the Top Children’s Books of the Last 100 Years. Many of the books are no surprise: Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle and Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Some have been featured on this blog: Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Holes by Louis Sacher and The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. There are books that I loved as a kid: Charlotte’s Web by E B White, Madeleine by Ludwig Bemelmans and The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien. A generation later my children loved: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume, The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. My grandchildren love: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J K Rowling .  Check out the  complete list at School Library Journal.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Reading Comprehension Strategies

Is your child able to understand what he reads? Melissa Taylor has outlined strategies that parents can use to determine if their child is comprehending what they are reading and what to do to help them learn. These techniques are for beginning to advanced readers:  Part I and Part II.

Hat Tip: Imagination Soup

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Raising A Reader

We want our children to be good readers, it is an essential life skill. How do parents motivate their child to become an enthusiastic reader? Read Across America has some ideas. Check it out!

A Very Brave Witch

Did you know that witches are afraid of humans? Why? Because they are not green, they are afraid to fly and they seldom cackle. One brave little witch finds out, on Halloween, that she and a brave little girl dressed up like a witch have lots in common.
A very brave witch
Alison McGhee (Bink & Gollie books) has written a charming, not at all scary Halloween tale. The cartoonist, Harry Bliss, illustrates. His pictures of the Witches’ Estate are filled with plenty of interesting detail. I especially liked the Library, the sub-basement costume unit and the looks of horror on the adult witches’ faces.
There are a few copies of A Very Brave Witch at the Sonoma County Library and they also have an video recording of this book and other Halloween favorites. The Yulupa Library also has a copy of this book. The AR level is 1.4 with 0.5 points.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Schools of Hope Tutor Resources

Welcome to the new and returning Schools of Hope tutors. For those of us who like instant gratification, this is a great way to spend an afternoon. Yulupa uses the PALS (Peer Assisted Learning Strategies) from Vanderbilt University. You can read about the program here. We use a slightly different version of PALS but the principles  are the same.

When many of us went to school, the most used reading method was Whole Word (the Dick and Jane days). If you would like to review the letter sounds, you can go to Alphabet Sounds. Spring Creek Elementary made a video of a tutoring session. They do no use the same materials as Yulupa, but it gives you some idea of the flow.

If you need some additional insight check out this  Advanced Tutor Training by MaryAnn Nichol. She is a professor at Sonoma State and is part of the team doing research on Schools of Hope.

Finally, for more ideas to help you with your students, just click on the Schools of Hope tag at the bottom of this post or in the left hand column on this blog.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Free Money Extended

Give with Target 

The Give With Target was supposed to end yesterday, but there is still more than a half million dollars that has not been claimed. The program has been extended until September 30th or until all the money has been claimed. Boost your school’s total by voting here.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fly Guy and the Frankenfly

Buzz and his pal, Fly Guy, are back with a new adventure called Fly Guy and the Frankenfly. Tedd Arnold’s Frankenstein inspired book comes just in time for Halloween. On a dark and stormy night, Buzz  and Fly Guy are pretending to be Frankenstein’s  monsters. Before Buzz goes to bed, he draws a picture of Fly Guy and himself with the caption, “Fly Guy is my best friend”. As he goes to bed, he sees Fly Guy making something.

Fly Guy and the Frankenfly

Soon, Buzz is having a nightmare. Fly Guy has made a huge Frankenfly who is coming after Buzz. Fly Guy saves his friend. In the morning, Buzz wants to know what Fly Guy was making. He finds a picture of himself captioned “Buzz iz bezt frienz”. Great minds think alike!

The Sonoma County Library has many copies of Fly Guy and the Frankenfly  The AR level is 1.6. The book is also available from Scholastic.

Sonoma County Book Festival

Tomorrow, Saturday, September 21, is the annual Sonoma County Book Festival held this year at Santa Rosa Junior College, 1501 Mendocino Ave in the Bertolini Student Center, Quad and Library. The hours are 10 AM to 4PM. The admission is free and so is the parking. For more information and directions go here.

Sonoma county book festival

Mac Barnett is the author of 2012 Caldecott Honor Book  Extra Yarn.

Monday, September 16, 2013

James Patterson Wants Your Kid to Be a Good Reader

James Patterson was on CBS this morning talking about kids and reading among other topics. He is serious; he wants every child to be a good reader. Check out the video and then check out his website Read Kiddo Read to find book recommendations for  all ages and genres. While you are there, scroll to the bottom of the page and read his CNN opinion piece, We Can Get Our Kids Reading. It will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about helping your child become a good reader.

Read Kiddo Read

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pete the Cat I Can Read Books

Pete the Cat books have been favorites of both  my students and my grandchildren. James Dean has  pared down the vocabulary for early readers with three new I Can Read books: Pete the Cat: Pete at the Beach, Pete the Cat: Play Ball! and Pete the Cat: Pete’s Big Lunch. As in the earlier books, things do not always go Pete’s way but he is resilient. Pete is an optomist, for him the glass is always half. If he fails or fate is cruel, as the song goes, “he picks himself up, dusts himself off  and starts all over again”.

PTC Play Ball PTC At The Beach PTC Big Lunch

The AR level is 1.2 to 1.3 which makes them perfect for beginning readers. The Sonoma County Library has several copies each of  Pete at the Beach, Play Ball and Pete's Big Lunch.

Thought for Today



Hat tip: E-Book Friendly

Friday, September 13, 2013

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

Peter Hatcher has a problem, his little brother Fudge. He gets in the way, messes up everything and screams and kicks and bangs his fists when he doesn’t get his way. Fudge is two and a half. To make things worse, grown-ups (most of them anyway) think he’s adorable.  As Peter’s mother tries to tell him, two and a half is like that. 

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume is a hilarious romp. Perhaps it is funnier now, when I have some distance from my children’s childhood than it was the first time I read it in the late seventies. There weren’t honest books like this when I was growing up. As the oldest of six, I would have appreciated Peter’s point of view as I had more than one cute but annoying sibling. Judy Blume was a leader in writing children’s books that told the truth about children’s real feelings about the business of growing up. It seems unremarkable now, but forty years ago, it was revolutionary. Kids still love the Fudge series for that reason.

Tales of a fourth grade nothing

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is the first in a series that includes Otherwise Known as Shelia the Great, Superfudge, Fudge-a-Mania and Double Fudge. All the books are narrated by Peter, except the second one but all of them are laugh out loud funny.

The Sonoma County Library has many copies and the Yulupa Library has several copies. The AR level is 3.3 with 3 AR points.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

Today seems like a fine day to write about a book that has been compared by many reviewers to Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Luigi Lemoncello is a world famous board and video game maker who got his start in a now defunct library in Alexandriaville, Ohio. As a gift to his home town and to honor the memory of the librarian who befriended a twelve year old boy, he has built a state of the art library (if Disney Imagineers or George Lucas built libraries). Kyle Keeley is a twelve year old boy who comes from a family of experienced game players but does not necessarily miss the fact that his town had no library. Of course, the Keeley’s favorite games were Mr. Lemoncello’s games.

Escape From Mr Lemoncell's Library

Mr. Lemoncello invites every 12 year old in town to write an essay about why they want to attend the invitation-only all night party at the new library for a night of food and games.  In the morning, the attendees are offered a  new challenge: find a secret escape from the library by solving puzzles and riddles and using clues found in the library. This time it is a competition. Can one person find the route or does teamwork pay off?  Like in the Willy Wonka story, character counts but smarts do, too. You’ll learn plenty about the Dewey Decimal System.  And there are also many of references to classic and current children’s literature. Maybe that will spark an idea for the next book to read.

The Sonoma County Library has several copies. The AR level is 4.5 with 7 points.

Happy Birthday Roald Dahl!

Each year on September 13th the book world celebrates Roald Dahl Day. His books, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and James and the Giant Peach, have entertained generations of kids. Thanks for all the fun!Roald dahl day 
“I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn't be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.” –Roald Dahl

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Free Money: Continued

Give with Target As of this evening,  2.87 million dollars of the 5 million dollars Target is giving away to schools has been allocated. Two schools, St. Charles School and Northside Elementary  in Benson, MN have maxed out at $10,000. I don’t know anything about St. Charles School but I went to college near Benson, MN. It is a small town of less than 3500 people, but somehow they managed to come up with 10,000 votes on the Give With Target program. How is your school doing? If you are not on Facebook or Twitter, vote here. The program ends September 21 or when all the money has been allocated. You can vote once a week. Do it now!

How Rocket Learned to Read

Rocket loved to play hard. One day after a romp, he fell asleep under his favorite tree. He woke up to find a little yellow bird declaring, “Aha! My first student! Wonderful!” The little yellow bird pointed out a sign that said “class starts today”. She told Rocket that she would be there every day until the weather ‘turns’. Rocket did not want to be a student, he wanted to nap. He went off to find another play to sleep. After awhile, the yellow bird started reading a story about a dog who had lost his favorite bone. At first Rocket was irritated, but then he was captivated. The yellow bird stopped reading the story at the most interesting part. Rocket got up but could not find her. The next morning he was waiting at the tree for class to start. 

How-Rocket-Learned-to-Read-by-Tad-Hills Rockets Mighty Words

Tad Hills has written a book, How Rocket Learns to Read, that mimics the way many children approach learning to read. The yellow bird started the day by finishing the story she was reading while Rocket was napping. Every day she taught Rocket a new letter. Soon they were singing the sounds in each letter and spelling the sounds they heard around them. When the weather turned, the little yellow bird had to leave to fly south but she told Rocket she would be back in the spring.  Rocket spent the winter sounding out words like W-I-N-D and  C-O-L-D . He even spelled out the names of his new dog friends. When Rocket sounds out M-U-D he realizes that spring is near. Soon the little yellow bird arrives  and she and  Rocket read books about birds and dogs  together.

Rocket’s Mighty Words is really just a book with pictures and identifying words. Many of the words are things found in Rocket’s world, like wind, up and down, in and out and grass. But there are four pages of pictures and words written on a blackboard that are relevant to kindergartners and first graders too, like robot, ball and sock. The last pages have sight words that Rocket has found useful like again, there and very. The book comes in a board book version and an electronic version (Kindle and Nook).

The Sonoma County Library has many copies of  How Rocket Learned to Read and the Yulupa Library also has a copy. The AR level is 2.9, which makes it a great read-a- loud book for K-1 graders. So far, I have been unable to find neither the electronic nor board book version of  Rocket’s Mighty Words in either library. How Rocket Learns to Read can also be found as an app for the iPad in the iTunes store

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction Raises 621K for Literacy Programs

Only 46% of Sonoma County third graders read at or above grade level. The Sonoma’s Harvest Wine Auction “Fund the Future” lot raised money for three charities with a proven track record of improving literacy rates: the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, the United Way of the Wine Country’s Schools of Hope and Pasitos (Little Steps in Spanish). The wine auction is making a three year commitment to this effort. They want to make a big difference in literacy rates.  Students who are proficient in reading by third grade are more likely to graduate from high school and find jobs. Two thirds of students who are not literate by the fourth grade will spend time behind bars.

The United Way’s Schools of Hope program trains volunteer tutors to work one one with struggling first and second graders. In 2012, third grade reading proficiency increased 3% across all Sonoma County schools, but at the Schools of Hope schools the rate was 7%. Last year Schools of Hope helped 500 students become better readers. This year they would like to increase the number of volunteers to 800. You can find out more about the program here.

The Sonoma Valley Education Foundation plans to grow their summer reading academy which served almost 100 third graders for three weeks this past June to include  first and second graders.

Pasitos, a program of the Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County is focused on English language learners, specifically 3 to 4 year olds who do not attend preschool and their parents.

You can read more about the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction’s “Fund the Future” program at  Sonoma News.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dolch Word List

Dolch words are the 220 most frequently used words in the English language. Learning these words makes learning to read easier. Most of these are sight words, words that don’t follow decoding rules. The author and artist, Jan Brett has put these words on eleven decorated lists that you can download and print here. Check out the first one:

Jan Brett Dolch list

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Fly Guy Presents: Space

Tedd Arnold is back with a new non-fiction book about space starring two of his fictional characters, Buzz and Fly Guy. Buzz and Fly Guy go on a field trip to the Space Museum in Fly Guy Presents: Space. Like his previous non-fiction book, Fly Guy Presents: Sharks, this book is part live “action” and part scrapbook. All the photos come from NASA and satellite images. They learn  about the solar system, the sun, planets and the moons orbiting the planets. They also learn  about meteoroids, comets and asteroids. They learn about the sun’s gravity, that it acts like a giant magnet keeping the planets in orbit around it. We meet famous astronauts and learn about some of their accomplishments and about some of the equipment needed to get to space and even to live in space. This is a great introduction to space for kids who only know about it from Star Wars movies.

Fly Guy Presents Space

Tedd Arnold includes pronunciation guides to big, perhaps unfamiliar words like universe (yoo-nih-vurs). The Scholastic reader level is  2nd grade and appeals to K-2nd graders. The Sonoma County Library has several copies of the book. It is also available through Scholastic and other booksellers.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Some Good Advise From C.S. Lewis

Brave Knight

Hat Tip: Jump Into A Book

The Day The Crayons Quit

The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers has been getting lots of buzz. This is another great collaboration between author and illustrator. Duncan wants to color but instead of finding his box of crayons, he finds a stack of letters. Each letter is from a color  complaining about it is used. Red, Grey and Blue feel overworked, Pink complains that it is not used at all and Black wants to do something besides outlines. Purple is not happy that Duncan does not color in the lines. Beige is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown and Orange and Yellow are having a disagreement over which one of them is the color of the sun. White is unhappy that it doesn’t show up on white paper and Peach feels naked because Duncan has torn off its paper. Each colors’ letter is written in the appropriate color crayon a wide variety of papers you’d find at home or in the classroom.

The Day the Crayons Quit 

Duncan wants to color and wants his crayons to be happy so he takes his crayons criticism to heart and colors a picture that gets him an A for coloring and an A+ for creativity. Duncan’s picture reminds me of one of my favorite Eric Carle books, The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse which is dedicated to German expressionist painter, Franz Marc. 

The Artist Who painted a blue Horse

The Sonoma County Library has a few copies. The AR level is 3.8.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bink & Gollie

Roller skating Bink and Gollie are best friends. In this, the first of three books by Newbury Honor winner Kate DiCamillo and New York Times best selling author Alison McGhee, Bink & Gollie, features three adventures  about the two friends. One friend, Bink, is short, with wild blond hair and a penchant for loving things that drive her friend crazy. Gollie is tall and put-together, serious and steady.


The illustrations by Tony Fucile brings these girls to life with all their personality and quirkiness. I have long been fascinated by the relationship between author and illustrator. What kind of collaboration goes on? Whatever happened between the illustrator and the two authors, two unforgettable characters have been created. Bink & Gollie was given the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award in 2011.

Is this a chapter book? It has three of them but with pictures and only a sentence or two per page, perhaps not. Is it a graphic novel? It does not follow the conventions of one. Is it a picture book? It has 81 pages. Even different libraries within the Sonoma County system disagree what it is.  An Amazon review called it a hybrid of all three. Works for me!

The AR level is 2.5. The Sonoma County Library has many copies of this title and the two sequels.

Give With Target Update

Have you voted yet? If you voted for your school last week, you can vote again this week and every week until the program ends on Sept 21 or the $5 million has been allocated. To see what one school did to raise $2750 last year and how they spent the money, check out this You Tube video. You can vote here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Because of Winn-Dixie

In Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo,  India Opal Buloni goes to the Winn-Dixie for some groceries and comes back with a dog. A big, ugly dog who was tearing up the produce aisle at the store. To keep him from going to the pound, Opal (as she is called) claims the dog as her own.  The first name that pops into her head for him is Winn-Dixie.


Opal and her daddy, the preacher, have just moved to Naomi, Florida from a Watley in the north of the state. Since she has moved, she has been thinking about her mother, who left  when Opal was three. As she is bathing and brushing her new dog, she is telling Winn-Dixie about missing her mother. He is looking at her extra hard, so she asks him, “Do you think I should make the preacher tell me about her?”. Winn-Dixie looks at her so hard he sneezes. ( Note: My dog Piper would answer questions with a sneeze for yes and a whole body shake for no.) So Opal learns 10 things about her mother because of Winn-Dixie. She also makes friends with the librarian, a pet store clerk who plays beautiful guitar music and an almost blind woman who the neighbor boys think is a witch, all because of Winn-Dixie.  Opal’s dog becomes the catalyst for creating her new community in Naomi.

The Sonoma County Library has many copies of this Newbery Honor book.

The Yulupa Library has eight copies. The AR level is 3.9 and the test earns 3 points.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Classic Literature Board Books

We don’t often wander into pre-school territory on this blog but the new Baby-Lit books by Jennifer Adams, illustrated by Alison Oliver, are too good to ignore. Since my favorite book of all time is Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, I’ll start with Pride and Prejudice: A Baby-Lit Counting Primer.

Baby-Lit Pride and Prejudice

The books stay true to the original story. Here are the “4” pages:

4 marriage proposals

So far there are 12 Baby-Lit classics including Moby Dick (an ocean primer), Alice in Wonderland (a colors primer) and Dracula ( another counting primer). What a great way to learn concepts every pre-schooler needs to know while planting a seed for the future discovery of classic literature.

The Sonoma County Library has a few copies of Moby Dick and Alice in Wonderland. I have found some of these books at Whole Foods and Copperfield's and all of them on Amazon.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Lulu and the Dog from the Sea

Seven-year old Lulu loves animals and she has lots of pets. Her mother says, “The more the merrier! As long as Lulu cleans up after them!” She has two guinea pigs, four rabbits, one parrot, one hamster, lots of goldfish and an old dog named Sam. Lulu’s best friend and cousin, Mellie, is going on vacation to the beach with Lulu and her family. At the beach house, the family is warned about a dog from the sea who is stealing food wherever he can find it. Right away Lulu wants to know more about the “dog from the sea” and sets out to find out. Lulu and then Mellie and eventually, even Lulu’s parents gain the dog’s trust. In the end, the dog from the sea comes to the rescue of Lulu and Mellie.

Lulu and the dog from the sea 

Lulu and the Dog from the Sea by Hilary McKay is the second in a series of books about Lulu and her love for animals. I found out about the first book, Lulu and the Duck in the Park, from Anita Silvey’s Children's Book-A-Day Almanac. She had high praise for the first book but when I found a book about a dog, I had to go with that one. A third book, Lulu and the Cat in the Bag is going to be published on September 1, 2013. All the books are illustrated by Pricilla Lamont.

The Accelerated Reader rating is 4.7, but the book is short (108 pages) and the story is straight forward. These books would be great for kids who are reading above grade level at a young age or as read-a-loud books. There are plenty of issues to discuss about animal welfare.

There are many copies of this book in the Sonoma County Library.  The book is also available from Scholastic.

Free Money For Your School.

Again this year, Target is giving away millions of dollars to schools in the United States using the social media sites  Facebook and Twitter. A school needs a minimum of 25 votes to receive money. Twenty-five votes equals $25 for your school. Each additional vote brings one additional dollar to your school. Target is giving 5 million dollars away between now and Sept 21st or until all the money has been allocated. Last year, Target gave 2.5 million dollars this way and it took less than three weeks to give the money away. You can vote once per week. Vote and read about it here.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Now Something for the Six to Ten Year Olds

From the There is a Book for That Blog is a list of read aloud books for 6 to 10 year olds. Carrie Gelson teaches 3rd and 4th graders in Vancouver, BC. She has read these books to her children and to her students in grades 1-4.

In another post, she recommends books for early readers: Ease into Reading-ready for chapters. Check them out!

Hat Tip: Children’s Literature Network

The Ultimate Backseat Bookshelf

From NPR, a list of 100 Must Reads for Kids 9-12. Not all books are appropriate for the youngest in this category. There is some discussion in the comments about whether To Kill A Mockingbird should have been included as it is frequently taught in high school English classes. I read it in seventh grade with the rest of my class. Of course, when I was in the 7th grade, it was a contemporary novel and issues pertaining to civil rights were in the news every day.

The Teen list from last year included a series I read in the second and third grade: The Betsy, Tacy books. It also included at least ten books or series that are in the Must Read List for 9-12 year olds, including To Kill A Mockingbird. Both list include many writers that write for both age groups. One book may lead to another by the same author. There is plenty to keep even your most voracious reader occupied.

Friday, August 9, 2013

E.B. White Explains Why He Wrote Charlotte’s Web

A few weeks before Charlotte’s Web was published, E. B. White’s editor asked him about his inspiration for the book. You can read what he wrote here. It is exactly what I hoped he might have said as I listened to Mrs. Graham, my third grade teacher, read the book to our class.


Hat tip: Read Across America

Glory Be

Today is National Book Lovers Day. The origins of the day are lost in time but it is celebrated on August 9th each year. It is a good day to talk about the book, Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood. Glory Be was the July selection of NPR’s Back Seat Book Club. You can listen to the interview with the author here.

Glory Be

It is June 0f 1964 in Hanging Moss, Mississippi. Eleven year old Glory is hot and waiting for her friend, Frankie, so they can go to the Community Pool to cool off. In twelve days, on the fourth of July, Glory will be 12 years old. Every year since she can remember, her birthday party was held at the Community Pool. Glory and Frankie and everyone else soon learns that the Community Pool will be closing to fix “cracks” in the pool. The truth is that the pool is closing because the Civil Right’s Act has passed and been signed into law and blacks can no longer be excluded. Rather than open the pool to everyone in Hanging Moss; the town council has decided to close it.

The other place Glory hangs out is the Library. She helps the librarian, Miss Bloom. One afternoon, she meets a girl from the north, named Laura. Her mother is in town helping set up a medical clinic for the poor. Miss Bloom is looking after Laura while her mother works. Like Glory, Laura loves Nancy Drew mysteries. She shows Laura around town and during their stroll, Laura helps a small black girl drink out of the “whites only” drinking fountain. Glory was, as the Brits say, gob smacked. There was one fountain for whites and another for coloreds and that is the way it had always been.

Glory’s mother died when she was very young. The only mothering she can remember has come from the family's black housekeeper, Emma. Glory and her sister, Jesslyn love and respect Emma. Jesslyn is going into high school in the fall. She and Glory have been on different paths for months. Jesslyn is growing up and her interests are changing and she is not as available as she has always been.

Change is coming to Hanging Moss, too. Freedom Riders are in town registering voters and setting up a medical clinic. Some in town fear the change and others, like Miss Bloom and Glory’s father, Brother Joe Hemphill, embrace it. The story is told through the eyes of an adolescent who until now has not questioned the rules she has lived by. Glory begins to understand that the custom and law she has always lived with are not the same thing as the values she has learned from her father and Emma. As Glory grows and sees that her cancelled birthday party is only a small part of what is wrong with closing the Community Pool, she and Jesslyn forge a new relationship.

The Sonoma County Library has 2 copies of the book. The Yulupa Library also has a copy.  The AR level is 4.3.

Friday, July 12, 2013

James Patterson & Jon Scieszka Want Your Kids to Read

James Patterson has been all over the media promoting a book, Middle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli and Snake Hill, the latest in his popular  Middle School series.  Even in his TV commercial for the book, he is taking time to encourage you to get your kids reading. In his interview for public radio’s Marketplace, he said he worries that the popularity of e-books with adults are leaving kids behind. He released both an adult thriller and his newest Middle School book on the same day for that reason. He ended the interview by saying that if your child is not a good reader, you are sending them out into the world with a handicap. That is the issue right there and the purpose of this blog. To find out more about his new book, check out his NPR interview.

Patterson’s website for kids, called  Read Kiddo Read has reviews of books for kids from babies to young adults. Scroll on down to the bottom of the home page and read an opinion piece he did for Read Kiddo Read has always been on the Reading Sites We Love blog list on the right hand column of this page.

Jon Scieszka, author of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, The Stinky Cheese Man and the Time Warp Trio series, has a website devoted to getting boys to read called Guys Read. He has organized his recommendations into categories like, How to build stuff, Realistic kids in realistic situations and one sure to be a hit with my grandsons, At least one explosion.  Other categories include Series, Ghosts and Action/Adventure and several more. Scieszka includes comics (Gary Larson’s The Far Side comic books are prominently featured), graphic novels, magazines and audio books. You can listen to a 2005 NPR interview with Jon Scieszka talking about his website.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

One In Three

According to a survey conducted by Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and Macy’s, only one in three parents  with kids 8 and younger  read to them every night. Fifty percent of parents say that their children play video games or watch TV before bed. Macy’s and RIF are partnering to provide 1.6 million  books for children in need. Check out  the Be Book Smart program.

The most important thing you can do to help your child to become a reader is to read to him! The amount of reading done outside of school is consistently related to gains in achievement. Children who do not read well by the end of third grade are 4 times more likely to drop out of high school. Today is a good day to start!

Monday, June 17, 2013

More Ideas To Get Kids Reading This Summer

Melissa Taylor, on her Imagination Soup blog, has some ideas to help your kids get reading this summer. At the bottom of the post are links to Easy Chapter Books (in a series) and Chapter Book Series That Kids Love. One of the best ways to get your kids to read over the summer is to find a series that interests them. They will already know which book they want to read next. The Chapter Book Series features one of the blog’s  favorite series, The Red Blazer Girls.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Back Seat Book Club The One And Only Ivan

June’s  Back Seat Book Club discussion with author Katherine Applegate about The One And Only Ivan aired today on NPR. You can listen to it here. The July selection is Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood. It has been on my to read list for months. Better get cracking!

The One and Only Ivan Glory Be

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

20 Minutes of Reading a Day

A simple graphic from EBook Friendly to illustrate what 20 minutes a day of reading at home adds up to over the course of the elementary school years. The math is based on 180 school days per year. You can double that if your child reads 20 minutes every day. Standardized test scores aside, which student is going to have the best chance at a fuller more rewarding life?

Why read 20 minutes

What Kids Are Reading, In School and Out

An interesting piece from NPR about what kinds of books kids are reading as they get to high school. There is an interview with someone from Renaissance Learning about the Accelerated Reading Program (Yulupa and Strawberry Schools participate in the AR program) that helps to explain how the books are rated.  There is also a plug at the end for this month’s back seat book club choice, blog favorite The One And Only Ivan. Check it out.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Stanley Yelnats  is unlucky. His family is cursed. It is all the fault of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great grandfather for breaking a promise.  Because Stanley was in the wrong place at the wrong time, he is sent to Camp Green Lake. A camp that is not a camp nor is it green or a lake. It is a detention facility in the Texas desert. Every morning, the boys detained  arise at 4;30 AM to dig a 5 foot wide and 5 foot deep hole in the desert; one boy, one hole. Stanley’s story is interwoven with the pig-stealing-great- great grandfather’s story in Latvia and in the United States, his great grandfather and the story of Kissing Kate  Barlow in Green Lake, when it was green and a lake. Eventually, Stanley figures out that all the hole digging is not just about building character; the warden is looking for something. All the strands of the story are woven together in the satisfying conclusion of Holes by Louis Sachar . 

Holes was awarded the 1999 Newbery Medal.  This is another book that has been a favorite in my family. It will keep your child turning the pages to find out what happens next.


The Sonoma County Library has many copies of this book as well as audio recordings and copies of the Disney movie made from the book.

The AR level is 4.6, the test is worth 7 points and Yulupa has the test.

Happy Birthday Maurice Sendak

Today, June 10, 2013 would have been Maurice Sendak’s 85th birthday. Today’s  Google Doodle honors him with an animation. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thought For Today

Kids who love reading

Artwork by Calef Brown, you can view more of his work here.

Hat tip: Educators Spin On It

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Kelsey Green, Reading Queen

How could I pass up a book called Kelsey Green, Reading Queen? Besides, I know a young lady who  definitely is a reading queen. The story by Claudia Mills is about a one month reading contest at Franklin School. The classroom that reads the most books in April wins a pizza party and the student in each class who reads the most books gets their name on a plaque in the library and a certificate (that may not be a lot of motivation for your average 3rd grader). As an added incentive, the principal will shave his beard if the the number of books read passes 2000. Kelsey is an avid reader and she is going to place first in her class. Her only possible competition is Simon Ellis. At first, Kelsey focuses on beating Simon, who halfway through the month is a few books ahead of her. Kelsey’s class is also coming in second to a fifth grade class. To change that Kelsey helps a student who is a poor reader read lots of books  and in the process help him become a better reader.

Kelsey Green, reading Queen

What I loved about the book was all the books talked about in the story, like Harriet The Spy,  Sarah, Plain and Tall and The Secret Garden (one of my all time favorites). Kelsey and Simon become allies when they discover that both of them love The Secret Garden. Maybe the reader will want to check out some of the many books mentioned within the story.

The illustrations by Rob Shepperson add to the story, especially the before and after of the  principal's beard.

Since the book was just published today (June 4, 2013), there is no AR level yet. This is the first in a new series by author, Claudia Mills.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Summer Slide

Reading Is Fundamental blog has a post up today about summer slide, the up to two month learning loss over the summer. Here are some simple ideas to prevent summer slide from the article:

  • Visit. Head to the library and sign your kid up for a library card if they don’t already have one. In addition to a wide selection of books to borrow, many libraries have free, child-friendly summer reading programs. Going to a baseball game? Read a book about baseball before you head off to that double-header.
  • Lead. Kids look up to you, so lead by example. Read the newspaper at breakfast, pick up a magazine at the doctor’s office, and stuff a paperback in your beach bag. If kids see the adults around them reading often, they will understand that all types of reading can be an important part of their summer days. Storybooks aren’t the only thing that kids can read. Be prepared and keep all kinds of reading material on hand that might spark the interest of a young reader.
  • Talk. Talking with your kids about what you have read also lets them know that reading is an important part of your life. Tell them why you liked a book, what you learned from it, or how it helped you—soon they might start doing the same. Going camping? Have your kids tell stories to their friends.
  • Relax. Reading is supposed to be fun. So relax. Don’t set daily minute requirements or determine the number of pages they should read. Instead, make sure they pick up books that appeal to them and help find ways for them to choose to read on their own.
  • Sunday, June 2, 2013

    Because of Mr Terupt

    Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea is about the new fifth grade teacher at Snow Hill School in Connecticut, Mr. Terupt. The story  is told by seven of his students: Peter, Jessica, Alexia, Luke, Danielle, Luke and Jeffery. Each student represents some archetype of the typical classroom, but each child is fully fleshed out and real. The story is structured month by month during the September-June school year. Mr. Terupt is a fun but challenging teacher. He sees the best person each one of them can be and tries to help each one find that person, until an accident changes everything. Because of Mr Terupt

    Because this is a children’s story everything is wrapped up neatly at the end. Even the teen queen, Alexia, who at the beginning of the book is trying to manipulate all the girls in the class by pitting them against each other, gives up her facade. The whole class pulls together. There is a little bit of unbelievable contrivance at the end, especially about what the kids do not know of their teacher’s condition, but I forgive the author because he has given us a sequel,  Mr Terupt Falls Again. 

    The AR level is 3.7.

    The Sonoma County Library has a few copies of Because of Mr Terupt and a single copy of the sequel.

    Friday, May 31, 2013

    NPR’s Back Seat Book Club

    A few years ago, NPR’s All Things Considered started a Back Seat Book Club. At first it was aimed at 11-14 year old readers but in the past few months they have been reading more middle grade books. Next month’s selection is The One and Only Ivan. Your child can submit questions for Katherine Applegate at this link.

    In May, NPR’s monthly Back Seat Book Club followed author Jarrett J. Krosoczka while he talking to a group of students in Washington, DC. Krosoczka is the author of the Lunch Lady series of comic novels.

    Lunch Lady

    As you can see, the Lunch Lady has some superpowers, among them attracting reluctant readers. Now, that is a superpower I could use!

    Kids like to hear from authors about how they write and why. Krosoczka had plenty of challenges to over come as a child.  As a response to a question from a student,  he says he became an author at age 8 when he wrote his first book. He then asked for a show of hands of kids who had written a book. He told them, “you are authors, too”. You can listen to it here.

    Follow this link to check out more of the Back Seat Book Club broadcasts here