Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Dog Rules

The Dog Rules by Coco La Rue, illustrated by Kyla May, is the first book I have read authored by a parrot. A parrot on a mission to get rid of the monstrous mutt, Monty. The parrot, Coco La Rue, finds Monty to be dim-witted, dirty and smelly. She is on a mission to get him banished from the house forever. Both Coco and Monty live with the Lane family: Coach Walker, Dr. Aurora and Parker. The Coach (or the big hairy human) has six rules for Monty: don’t act like a dog, gym shorts are for wearing, not for eating, don’t touch the Coach’s meat loaf, the couch is a dog-free zone, if your name is not “Trash”, stay out of the can and Mr. Famous* is not a toy. Coco’s plan is to trick Monty into breaking all the rules so that he will be banished forever and she can live in peace. Her plan is working beautifully until, Monty, quite by accident, rescues Mr. Famous and becomes a hero.

The Dog Rules The story lends itself to the graphic novel format with plenty of humorous asides and questionnaires. The AR level is 3.2.

* Mr. Famous is a cat, who is also a movie star. He lives next door.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

Is there a kid in your life who is a fan of The Wimpy Kid books? Or the '”Pearls Before Swine” comic strip? Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by local cartoonist and author, Stephan Pastis, might be the perfect book.

Timmy Failure (formerly from the French, Fayleure, which does not mean failure in French) is the founder, President and CEO of his own detective agency,Total Failure, Inc. His business partner is a very hungry, 1500 pound polar bear named Total. He gets a call from Gunnar, neighbor and classmate,  now  missing his Halloween candy. Timmy and Total hop on the Failuremobile (his mom’s Segway) and head to Gunnar’s house.  The interview reveals that the candy was in an orange, plastic pumpkin on his nightstand. Now it is gone. Timmy quotes his fees and expenses to Gunnar and on the way out he walks past Gunnar’s brother, Gabe’s room. Gabe is sitting on his bed surrounded by candy wrappers with an empty plastic pumpkin and chocolate smeared on his face. Timmy, ever looking for clues, writes in his notebook: “Gabe not tidy”.Timmy Failure Mistakes Were Made

The adult portion of the review: Timmy seldom interacts with reality. The script in his head is so much more exciting and less threatening. He isn’t doing well in school, his mother’s hours have been cut and they have to move from their house to an apartment. Things are even so bad that Total has to go live in the zoo. Who wants to deal with all that? In Timmy’s mind, he is just one case away from freeing his mother from worrying about money forever.

Back to the fun part of the book: some of Timmy’s scheme’s involve his classmates, Rollo Tookus (aka Stanfurd because he wants to go to a good college) and Molly Moskins (aka Tangerine Girl because every time Timmy is near her he gets a whiff of tangerine). His nemesis and rival is the “ One Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered”. Her detective agency, CCIA is located in a fancy building downtown with pillars, marble floors and a large safe. However,  that does not make her a good detective!

Stephan Pastis has interesting adult characters who lookout for Timmy. My favorite is the biker librarian, Flo, who reads Emily Dickenson and  helps Timmy with his “research”.  According to Timmy, they are professional colleagues.  The yard lady, Dondi Sweetwater, gives Timmy Rice Krispies Treats for Total. And New Guy, the substitute teacher who takes over the class when Timmy drives Old Man Crocus on a sabbatical. New Guy has a clever way of getting Timmy to do his school work, he hires him to do research!

I am looking forward to the further adventures of Timmy Failure. I laughed out loud many times while reading this book. As a further incentive, right on the cover is an enthusiastic endorsement from Jeff Kinney. My eight year old grandson just finished the book. He gives it a big thumbs up.

The Sonoma County Library has several copies. If you live in Sonoma County, Copperfield’s has signed copies in stock.

The AR level is 3.8.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Children First

At the link is a great video about the Children First community program in St. Louis Park, MN (I grew up in a suburb next door). Children First’s vision  is that all kids in St. Louis Park get the support they need to grow up happy, healthy and successful in a thriving community. The organization  promotes 40 developmental assets. A child who has 30 or more of these assets is more likely to  grow up to be  healthy, caring and responsible. The assets are divided into eight general catagories: support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, constructive use of time, commitment to learning, positive values, social competences and positive identity.

Reading through the 40 assets, I thought that Schools of Hope volunteers help provide a few of them to the kids we work with. The first is that a child has support from 3 or more non-parent adults. We are also showing that our community values young people. That not only applies to the kids we work with but also others in the classroom. We are also modeling positive, responsible behavior. And finally, we are helping them become readers who can, on their own, read for pleasure at least three hours a week. You can check out the full list of assets here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

8 Ways Parents Discourage Their Kids From Reading

From the No Time for Flash Cards Blog is a great article that any parent, grandparent or tutor working with young readers should take to heart. Some we have talked about here: reading to your kids every day, finding “just right” books to read to gain confidence and giving books as gifts.

As a young parent, working with my oldest child when he was learning to read, I was guilty of the 7th way to discourage reading: don’t over-correct and over-practice! It took me some time to realize that I wasn’t encouraging him to read but actually discouraging him. Fortunately, I didn’t do any permanent damage.

Our job as parents, grandparents and tutors to is make reading so enticing that our kids are willing to do the hard work to learn.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

3-D Thrillers! Space

Not every child is interested in a narrative. Some, like Joe  Friday want “just the facts”. The 3-D Thrillers series  provides just that. There are books on the Ice Age, monster trucks and  T-Rex. As well as bugs, sharks and snakes. All come with a pair of 3-D glasses so you can see the pictures in all their  glory. This book, 3-D Thrillers! Space by Paul Harrison is kid tested and approved. My second grade tester is knowledgeable about space but learned a few things he didn’t know. He also found it easy to read because he knows words like galaxy and universe. It is recommended for grades 1-3.

3-D Thrillers Space

The book is out of stock on the Scholastic website but you can check back to find it here. If you have a space obsessed grade schooler, he or she will enjoy the book.

Z is for Moose

Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky is not your ordinary ABC book. Zebra envisions an orderly abecedary but hasn’t counted on an impatient Moose. On the opening pages we see all the characters lined up backstage in alphabetical order starting with apple. Zebra, dressed as a referee, is directing them on stage, one by one. Everything goes well until Moose pushes Duck out of the way on the D page. Zebra steps up to order Moose off the page. He then steps onto the E page and pokes Elephant. F and G go well. Moose turns up on the H page asking if it is his turn yet. He appears IN the ice cream cone on the I page, on the label of the jar on the J page and in the Kangaroo’s pouch on the K page. Very excited, he pokes his head onto the L page to let you know he is next. Except, Zebra announces, in a phrase heard by many a job applicant, “Sorry we decided to go with the mouse this time’. Moose crashes through the remaining letter pages protesting the unfairness of it all. Finally, on the Y page Zebra tells Moose he can be on the Z page: “Z is for Zebra’s friend, Moose” Z is for Moose

The text is easy and the artwork is wonderfully detailed. Kids will have a great time studying each page, sometimes having to look carefully for the object or animal associated with the letter.

The Sonoma County Library has several copies. You can still order a copy online from Yulupa’s Book Fair here until March 19, 2013.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Happy Birthday, Hamster

The characters from Hot Rod Hamster return in this new book, Happy Birthday, Hamster to give Hamster a surprise party. Newbery Honor author, Cynthia Lord teams up again with illustrator, Derek Anderson to create a colorful, funny, rhyming adventure.

Hamster greets his friend, Dog, with a question, “Do you know what today is?” “Yes,” Dog says, “it is my shopping day.” Dog and Hamster set off for the bakery. There are plenty of cakes to choose from. Hamster wants the one with the most frosting (a hamster after my own heart) but Dog is there to buy dog biscuits. Then they are off to the Toy Store. Hamster chooses a riding toy but Dog came to get a ball. Dog needs one more thing, a card. So they head off to the party store. Unseen by Hamster, at all the stops the mice and rats that helped build his car in the previous book are gathering a cake, the riding toy and lots of party supplies. With one final stop at the barber shop, Hamster and Dog finish the errands and head home. Hamster is a little down; he thinks his friends have forgotten his birthday. He invites Dog in and is greeting by a huge SURPRISE! All his friends have gathered to celebrate his birthday.

Happy Birthday Hamster

Somehow, I missed the “Newbery Honor author” subtitle on the first book, Hot Rod Hamster. I didn’t miss it on this one. Her 2007 Honor book, Rules, is at the top of my stack of books to read. A review will be forth coming.

The Yulupa Library has one copy. You can still order this book online from the Yulupa Book Fair here until March 19, 2013.

The AR level is 1.4.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Road Trip

Readers of this blog will note that I review lots of “dog” books, but I believe Road Trip is the first one that has a dog co-narrator. Atticus is a fifteen year old border collie, he pays attention to everything. The other narrator, fourteen year old, Ben, like many of us,  does not.

On  the first day of summer vacation, Ben’s father wakes him up at 5 A.M. and announces that they are going on a trip to rescue a border collie puppy. Ben’s dad is a spur of the moment kind of guy, so he isn’t too surprised by the idea, but not too happy with it either. Atticus, who is less than thrilled that they are going to get a dog, is going along, too. As they are getting ready to leave, Ben finds out that there may not be money to send him to hockey camp this summer. A camp that he had been planning on since he got his first pair of skates at age five. And the reason: his dad had quit his job and was going to flip houses for a living. Ben is mad. To show his displeasure, he calls his new friend, Theo, who his dad thinks is a hoodlum and invites him along. Atticus fills us in on all that Ben has missed these past few months. The boss (as Atticus calls Ben’s dad) has been working until late at night and on the weekends on the house he bought. It  is finished and there is an offer on it. Ben didn’t notice his dad was always gone and always tired. Atticus did.

Theo is not the only one to join Ben and his dad on the trip to rescue the puppy. The truck breaks down and they pick up a school bus that comes with its own mechanic named Gus. And a waitress named, Mia, who is feed up with rowdy customers and quits her job after she saves Theo from a thug named Bobby. The five of them have a few exciting adventures on their trip and a big surprise when they arrive at the animal shelter.

Because this book is for children, everyone gets what they deserve. Gus steps in to help Mia and Theo get an education, Ben works with his dad over the summer and the thug, Bobby is arrested. Atticus discovers that the puppy isn’t a dog, but a border collie just like him.

Road Trip

Gary Paulsen, has written over a hundred books for kids. Three of them have won Newbery Honors. He co-wrote the book with his adult son, Jim Paulsen, who is a sculptor and a former elementary school teacher. It is tempting to think that some of their relationship is reflected in this story. I have absolutely no evidence, just an opinion.

The Sonoma County Library has several copies and it can still be found online at Scholastic with credit going to Yulupa School until March 19, 2013.

The AR level is 4.3.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Read Aloud Dad

In honor of World Read Aloud Day (today) and International Book Day (tomorrow), I’d like to introduce you to the Read Aloud Dad blog. The post that made me want to share this with you is The No. 1 Way To Excite Children About Reading. It involves The 10,000 Hour Rule. One of my sons-in-law has been a read aloud dad for a couple of decades, he would agree with everything in the post.

World Read Aloud Day Print

To find out more about World Read Aloud Book Day click here. You can find out more information on World Book Day here.

The Puppy Place Guide to Puppies

Ellen Miles has written a companion guide to her hugely popular The Puppy Place series about the Peterson family who rescue and foster homeless dogs. Her guide includes chapters on finding the right dog for your family and where to find one, getting ready for the new puppy or dog and meeting your new friend’s basic needs of food, water, exercise and housetraining. There is a very good chapter on making it easy for your dog to be a good dog. She talks about using positive reinforcement instead of punishment: reward the good, ignore the bad. Instructions are given to teach your dog to SIT as well as instructions to teach your dog a simple trick. She includes a chapter on the importance of regular veterinary visits and what to ask the  vet. The chapter called Fun, Loving and Understanding includes a graphic called “ How to Speak Dog”. One of the main ways dogs communicate is with body language. Ellen Miles has a handy, dandy visual guide. The final chapter deals with the unexpected: a lost dog and death. Interspersed throughout the book are little vignettes from many of her Puppy Place books.

Guide to Puppies There is plenty of good information aimed at second to fourth graders and some good reminders for their parents, too.

This is another book that according to Amazon has a publication date in the future (April 1, 2013), so as of today the libraries do not have copies. It is available at the Yulupa Book Fair or online until March 17th at Scholastic/bvusd.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fly Guy Presents Sharks

The Fly Guy series is turning to non-fiction in Fly Guy Presents Sharks. If fictional characters like Buzz and Fly Guy narrate a factual book on sharks is it still non-fiction? I’ll leave that to someone else to determine.

Buzz and Fly Guy take a trip to the aquarium. Buzz was excited to see the sharks but Fly Guy was scared. We meet many kinds of sharks, find out how they breathe underwater and learn that sharks have no bone, just cartilage. We look at lots of shark teeth, rough skin made of denticles and learn about  shark senses underwater. Did you know that a shark can hear a fish’s muscles moving underwater? Or that two-thirds of a shark’s brain is used for smelling? Or that baby sharks are called pups?

Fly Guy Presents Sharks 

The information in the book is presented as part live action and part scrapbook. Buzz is taking notes as he and Fly Guy walk around the exhibit. We get a microscopic look at various kinds of dentricles and a close up of a shark eye that can see in very murky water. The cartoon drawings of Buzz and Fly Guy are superimposed over photos of the sharks. The humor of the series characters is intact. This is a great book for kids who love Fly Guy and for kids who want to know more about sharks. And, by the way, Fly Guy is not scared of sharks at the end.

Scholastic has this book rated at a 3.o grade level (most of the other books in the series are in the 1.4 to 2.4 range).

According to Amazon, the publication date is May 1, 2013, so the  libraries have no copies yet, but it is available from Scholastic, either at the Book Fair or until March 19th at Scholastic/bvusd

Monday’s Trip to the Book Fair

Yulupa School is hosting a Scholastic book Fair this week. I had a bit of a list but bought a few other books that caught my eye. I’ll be reviewing the books one by one but I thought I’d let you see what I bought today.

Road Trip AR level 4.3, 3 points.

Whatever After If the Shoe Fits AR level 2.9, 3 points

Snow Treasures 5.3 AR, 5 points

The Dog RulesAR 3.2, 0.5 points

Happy Birthday Hamster AR 1.5, 0.5 points

The following books currently have no AR grade level and test:

Fly Guy Presents Sharks 3-D Thrillers Space

Guide to Puppies Z is for Moose

For the Love of Dogs

As usual, my purchases are heavy on dog books. I also couldn’t resist  a new Fly Guy book or the sequel to a book I just reviewed and one I first read in 1957.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


If kids had coffee tables, Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger would be sitting on them. A 2013 Caldecott Honor book, it is a beautiful, painterly exploration of the color green.


Each two page spread features a different shade of green. The paintings are acrylic on canvas. Laura Vaccaro Seeger  applies the paint with both brush and palette knife, giving each painting  texture on the flat page. We can even see the canvas through the paint in some places. She also uses die cuts to give us a peek at the next spread. The first painting is forest green. Two die cut leaves become fishes when you turn the page to sea green. Using a tone poem of about fifty words, she tells us about green, what is not green and about lasting green.

Green is a great gift for toddlers learning their colors. It is easy to see all the many tones and shades of the color we call green. It is also for artistically inclined older children. They will love to linger over the art work, looking at all the details.  A first grader should have no trouble reading the words.

 The Sonoma County Library has many copies.