Sunday, October 8, 2017

Praise & Prompts

Because Schools of Hope starts this week, I am reposting this helpful guide for young readers.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Expository Non-Fiction Picture Books

What is expository non-fiction? The simple answer is in the words of Joe Friday, "Just the facts". Some kids really want to learn about a subject; they are not interested in a story about their favored topic, but facts. Years ago, I had a second grade student who knew more about black holes that 99% of adults who were not astronomers. All he wanted was more pieces of data to build his understanding of what a black hole is and how it is formed. He was willing to learn to read anything that would further his understanding. In a guest post from author Melissa Stewart, in a School Library Journal blog, there is a much clearer explanation and some interesting research about how many students are interested in expository non-fiction.

Let's take a look at some recent books in this category, the first by Melissa Stewart Can an Aardvark Bark?, illustrated by Steve Jenkins. The simple answer to the title question is no, but it does grunt. What other animals grunt? River otters, Hamadryas Baboons, white tailed deer and oyster toadfish, each species grunts mean something different. Can a seal squeal? No but it can bark and so can capybara, barking tree frog, common barking geckos and woodchucks. To the caybara, it is a warning, to the tree frog it is a mating call, the gecko uses a bark to let other geckos know where he is and woodchucks bark when they are fighting with one another. Other sounds explored that animals use to communicate include squeal, whine, growl, bellow and laugh.

The Sonoma County Library has three copies.

Jess Keating is another author who known for her expository fiction. Pink Is For Blobfish is an exploration of pink animals. Each two page spread introduces a pink toned animal with a picture, facts such as species name, size, diet, habitat, predators and threats. Plus an interesting fact in cartoon form about each animal. Seventeen perfectly pink animals are featured. A map showing where you can find them, a glossary and where to find out more is included at the end of the book. The illustrator is David DeGrand.

The Sonoma County Library has one copy. 

Jess Keating and David DeGrand have paired up for another book What Makes A Monster? The unifying idea this time is exploring animals who look like monsters or act like monsters. The Aye-Aye's witch like claws are only dangerous to bugs. A legend in Madagascar says a sighting of one of these lemurs is a prediction of death. Laid out like the blobfish book, this book features fifteen animals and one fungus. The last animal can be found in every house. The end of the book pairs famous monsters with animals in the book like Dracula and the vampire bat and a glossary of useful words.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Two New Beginning Chapter Books

I may not have spent the summer writing much but I did read a couple dozen children's books, two of which, I will review today. The first is the 17th book in the Fly Guy series Fly Guy's Big Family written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold

Buzz finds Fly Guy drawing pictures of his family because he misses them. He decides to throw a surprise party for his friend. He makes up little signs inviting Fly Guy's family to the party. He puts them in all the places you'd expect to find flies: garbage cans, rotting fish and spoiled food. The first guest to arrive is Cuzz. Once Buzz assures him there are no Swatterzz in the house, he calls out "Okayzz!" and thousands of flies fly into the house yelling "Surprizze!!!" After Fly Guy hugs his many cousins, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and finally his mother and father, it is time for dinner. Buzz has thought of everything: a garbage truck pulls up and dumps a load on the front lawn and the flies party in the garbage. 

Kids love this early chapter book series. It is funny, easy to read with a large font and only a sentence or two per page. The Sonoma County Library has sixteen copies.

Hilde Lysiak is a ten year old journalist who publishes The Orange Street News in Selinsgrove, PA. Now she is also the author of a new Branches series for Scholastic, Hilde Cracks the Case: Hero Dog! Hero Dogis the first book in the series, Bear on the Loose comes out on Halloween and Fire! Fire! comes out the day after Christmas.

Hero Dog takes place on Orange Street. It is the day of the yearly bake off sponsored by the Kind Kat Cafe. Three of the past winners have their baked goods or ingredients stolen the morning of the bake off. Hilde is on the trail of the culprit. A good journalist tries to answer six questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? After each interview, Hilde writes the clues under those questions. Her sister, Izzy, is a photographer and together they sift through the clues and confront the perpetrator with the help of the hero dog, Zeus.

I am a big fan of Sue Grafton's Alphabet Mysteries, Hilde reminds me a bit of Kinsey Milhone, the private eye protagonist of the series. You get to see the step by step of solving the mysteries in each book much like a real PI would work. You get to see Hilde's method in this book, too.

Hilde's co-author is her father, former journalist Matthew Lysiak. The black and white illustrations are by JoAnne Lew-Vriethoff. There are pictures through out, a map of the Orange street neighborhood, the type is large and easy to read. There are one or two paragraphs on each page with 15 chapters versus three for the Fly Guy books. The Sonoma County Library has one copy. The book will also be available at Strawberry's Scholastic Book Fair this fall and at Yulupa's in the spring.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Creepy Pair of Underwear!

We met Jasper Rabbit before in Creepy Carrots. Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown team up again to bring us an older Jasper in Creepy Pair of Underwear!. Jasper and his mom go shopping for new underwear. She picks out white underwear but he spies some creepy underwear, "so creepy and so comfy". Could he have just one pair?

Mom thinks they are a bit too creepy but Jasper protests that they are cool not creepy and besides he is a big rabbit now. He wears his creepy underwear to bed. With the lights out, his cool new underwear glows a ghoulish green. After changing his underwear, he buries the creepy underwear at the bottom of his hamper. When he wakes the next morning, he is wearing the ghoulish underwear!
He throws them in the garbage can but when he gets home from school, they are in his drawer. He mails them to China, but they return, he cuts them up with his mom's good sewing scissors; they are gone for good. Just to be sure, he checks his room carefully, they is no creepy underwear. Stepping into the bathroom to brush his teeth he sees them hanging from the towel rack. 

It is time for serious measures; he takes the underwear and a shovel and bikes past Crackenhopper Field to Creekhanger Hill. He digs a deep hole at the very top of the hill and throws the glowing underwear in. He buries the creepy underwear and rides home. So all is well, right? Not so fast. There might be something worse than creepy underwear.

Peter Brown's artwork is black, white, grey and ghoulish green with just a touch of orange in Crackenhopper Field.

The Sonoma County Library has ten copies.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


Newbery Medalist, Patricia MacLachlan, has written a charming beginning chapter book about a girl and her dog. Barkus is a gift from Nicky's Uncle Everton. Barkus is smart, he does tricks and he doesn't bite. Perfect! In five chapters, Barkus becomes class pet in Nicky's classroom, has a birthday party, finds and mothers a newborn kitten and goes on a backyard campout with Nicky and the kitten.
Dog lovers will love this book, I have had a dog like Barkus and I bet many of you have, too.

The full color illustrations by Marc Boutavant animate the story. The font is large and the words are well spaced. Emerging readers and older reluctant readers will find this beneficial. If you look closely at the tag on Barkus' collar, you will see it says "Book 1". A sequel is due out next year.

The Sonoma County Library has five copies. Great book for first and second grade classrooms.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Jabari Jumps

In 1956, I convinced my father to part with the princely sum of $7 so I could swim every summer day in our municipal pool. Like Jabari, it took me awhile to get up the nerve to jump off the diving board. Gaia Cornwall has perfectly captured the process of gathering the courage to jump the first time in Jabari Jumps. 

Jabari decides that today is the day, he has passed his swim test and he's good at jumping. He and his dad watch other kids climb, it looks easy. He starts to climb the ladder, it is very tall. He's a little tired, he climbs down to do some stretches first. Maybe tomorrow would be a better day. Dad tells him it is okay to be a little scared but sometimes it can turn into a little surprise, too. Jabari starts his climb again, all the way up and onto the board to the very edge. We see what he sees, his toes on the edge of the diving board and the water far below. He is ready, he loves surprises. Off he flies into the water. He did it! He is a good jumper! High fives from dad and he is off to jump again.

The Sonoma County Library will have twelve copies by the end of the month. This book was published May 9 so it doesn't have an AR level yet. Most of the vocabulary is accessible to kids who read at the end of first grade beginning of second grade level. The font is large and bold with just a couple of sentences per page.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors

Drew Daywalt, author of The Day The Crayons Quit and The Day The Crayons Came Home has teamed up with Adam Rex to create The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors. It is such a genius idea, I am surprised it hasn't been done before.

This is the story of three great warriors, Rock who lives in the Kingdom of the Backyard, Paper who lives in the Empire of Mom's Home Office and Scissors who lives in the tiny village of Junk Drawer. Each warrior has beaten all who have challenged them in their realms and leaves their homes to find greater challenges. Rock and Scissors meet in the great cavern of the Two-Car Garage. Scissors asks Rock if he is wearing his battle pants, Rock agrees to fight her. An epic battle ensues, Rock wins. Scissors is grateful to be beaten. Rock is less happy because there is no one to challenge him. Enter stage right is Paper. Rock challenges him to a duel. Paper wins. Rock thanks Paper for beating him. This time it is Paper who bemoans the lack of a worthy opponent. Enter Scissors. A great battle begins with Scissors victorious. The three warriors dance for joy and become great friends. Then begins round after round of  three-way battles. Battles so epic that children today still honor the warriors by playing...Rock, Paper, Scissors.

The Sonoma County Library has seven copies. Several second graders have read this book to me and had very little problem with the vocabulary. It does not have an AR level yet as it was just published on May 2. I am looking for someone to explain to me why it is inevitable that Paper beats Half Eaten Bag of Trail Mix.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Value of Fairy Tales

Fairy Tale and Folk Tale recommendations at A Mighty Girl from picture books to chapter books including books with diverse characters. One of my favorites is Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munch is one of my go to books for baby showers. 

The Sonoma County Library has eighteen copies. The AR is 3.8.

The Princess in Black series by Shannon and Dean Hale is a favorite of my youngest granddaughter.

The Sonoma County Library has eighteen copies. Thr AR is 3.2.

The Whisper by Pamela Zagerenski 

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

The Sonoma County Library has thirteen copies. The AR is 4.9.

This just a sample of the almost 200 books with mighty girls as heroines at A Mighty Girl. There are literally hundreds of articles and topics all with book recommendations, check it out.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Good for Nothing Button!

 The third Elephant & Piggie Like Reading book is out: The Good for Nothing Button! by Charise Mericle Harper. Red Bird and Blue Bird see Yellow Bird who has a button. What does it do they ask. Nothing says Yellow Bird and he demonstrates, nothing happens. Blue Bird wishes to try pushing the button. He pushes it and is surprised. Surprise is not nothing! Red Bird tries, but is not surprised, but then is sad because she wasn't. Sad is not nothing! Yellow Bird is frustrated with his pals. A button cannot make you sad. Blue Bird tries again, this time he is surprised again. The button makes them happy. Yellow bird is frustrated, the button does NOTHING! He presses the button again and again. Does it make him mad? Or calm? Or icky? No, the button makes funny. He likes being funny. The three birds press the button and frolic until they are exhausted, then head off to do more nothing. Elephant & Piggie introduce the book and end it with Gerald wanting to push a button, the only available looking one is Piggie's nose. She is im-press-ed.

All the words in the book are in speech balloons. the fonts are large and well spaced making it easier for beginning readers. The entire story is told using less than 75 different words. If your child does not know the words button or nothing, they surely will by the end of the book. They will laugh, too.

 The Sonoma County Library has twelve copies.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Bad Guys

Aaron Blabey, like his fellow Australian, Andy Griffiths, knows what kids like. He has picked characters that everyone knows are bad guys: Mr. Wolf, Mr. Snake, Mr. Shark and Mr. Piranha, but has them form a gang to do good deeds and redeem their reputations. Of course, they aren't particularity talented at doing good deeds but the job gets done one way or an other. 

The original idea belongs to Mr. Wolf. He's a good guy at heart; maybe he has blown down a house or two and dressed up like an old lady but he is really a nice guy deep inside. We get a peek at his rap sheet. There appear to be a few more incidents than he reported. He introduces Mr. Snake whose rap sheet includes a rampage at Mr. Ho's Pet Store. We are next introduced to Mr. Piranha who has come all the way from Bolivia. His rap sheet includes one crime: eating tourists. The last to arrive is Mr. Shark, Mr. Wolf covers up his rap sheet. About all we can see is a notation "Will literally eat ANYTHING or ANYBODY".

Over cupcakes, Mr. Wolf introduces the idea of the Good Guys Club. The others are a tad skeptical. After some coaxing the guys decide to try a small project: rescuing a cat stuck in a tree. The cat gets down from the tree by being scared to death by Mr. Piranha. But they still feel pretty good about helping the cat so they plan a bigger caper. This time it is freeing 200 puppies kept prisoner in the maximum security dog pound. The scheme is elaborate, not everything goes according to plan but the puppies are freed, terrified of their rescuers. Success! To be continued...

The story and pictures each tell part of the story, every page has just a few sentences with dynamic black and white drawings and the fonts are bold and easy to read. The series is a good transition to longer chapter books. Two of my second grade students read out loud all 138 pages in less than thirty minutes laughing all the way. There are two more books in this series, with a third due out in August.                             

The Sonoma County Library has six copies. The AR is 2.4.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

We're All Wonders

In 2012, R.J. Palacio wrote a book about a boy named Auggie Pullman who was born with severe facial deformities called Wonder. Auggie is finally going to a regular school in the fifth grade.He wants to be treated like everyone else but that is easier said than done. Over 5 million copies of the book have been sold. It inspired the Choose Kind movement. For years, teachers and librarians have wanted a picture book about Auggie. We're All Wonders is the result. 

Auggie narrates his story. He is an ordinary kid inside, he likes the same things kids his age like. But he doesn't look like other kids. His mom says he is a wonder but some others just see how different he looks. Kids staring, pointing and laughing at him hurt his feelings. When that happens, he and his dog Daisy put on their helmets and blast off to Pluto to see old friends. From there he looks back at the earth, it looks so small but he knows that billions of people live there. People who look different and speak other languages. The world is big enough for all kinds of people. Auggie can't change the way he looks but maybe people can change the way they see because everyone is a wonder.

The Sonoma County Library has fifteen copies. The AR is 1.5. There are thirty copies of Wonder.
The AR is 4.8 with 11 points. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Importance of School Libraries

Teachers: James Patterson Would Like to Help You Build Your Classroom Libraries

Two years ago James Patterson gave independent bookstores grants, last year he gave grants to libraries. This year he is giving away $1.75 million to help teachers build their classroom libraries. Scholastic will kick in 500 bonus points, too. You'll find everything you need to enter here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Happy D.E.A.R. Day

Every year on April 12, Beverly Cleary's Birthday, we celebrate Drop Everything And Read Day. She wrote about D.E.A.R. in Ramona Quimby, Age 8. So, you know what you have to do.

Beverly Cleary is 101 years old today!

Hat tip: Reading Is Fundamental

Friday, April 7, 2017

Sick Days

When I was three, I had a very serious illness that lasted a few weeks. My mother read to me several times a day even though I had a baby brother that kept her busy, too. She didn't remember much about that time, but I sure do. Decades later those memories are still very vivid.

Hat tip: Imagination Soup

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Reading Ideas

I came across a couple of interesting articles this morning. The first is from the  October 3, 2016  The New Yorker, What Makes A Children's Book Good? by Adam Gidwitz. He is the author of The Inquisitor's Tale Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. If you have middle-grade age readers, this is a rollicking, medieval and timely story. Gidwitz looks at the criteria that has been used to make judgments about the worth of children's books. Should the judgment be about content or results?

The Sonoma County Library has thirteen copies. The AR is 4.5 and is worth 11 points.

The second article is from Brightly by Jean Reagan, the author of How To Babysit A Grandma and How To Babysit A Grandpa: How to Make Reading Fun: 25 Ideas Kids Will Love. One idea I particularly love is to give kids Calvin and Hobbes books. Bill Watterson channeled  kid's  imagination and emotions perfectly. Another great idea that worked with my oldest grandson is to read aloud a book just to the exciting part. More often than not, even a reluctant reader will want to finish the book. Another great idea is using audiobooks. The same grandson as above just needed the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to hook him on the whole series (Jim Dale is a magnificent narrator. He had over 100 distinct voices for the many characters over the seven books. Even if your kids read the books, listening to them is a real treat).

The Sonoma County Library has seven  copies of How to Babysit a Grandma and six copies of How to Babysit a Grandpa. The AR for the Grandma book is 3.0 and the Grandpa book is 2.4.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Good Night Owl

Greg Pizzoli seems to have a thing for obsessive characters. The crocodile in 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal book, The Watermelon Seed, was obsessed with watermelon and then obsessed with the imagined consequences of swallowing a watermelon seed. While reading this book, a first grade student  said repeatedly, "I really, really love this book".

In Good Night Owl, Owl hears an unfamiliar noise as he is going to bed. He checks the door, there is no one there. As he is returning to bed, he hears it again, this time from the cupboard. He takes everything out but can't find the source of the sound. He goes back to bed and hears it again. Is it coming from under the floor? He pulls up every floor board but does not find it. This pattern is repeated as he dismantles the roof and the walls but he is no closer to finding the source of the sound. In his bed, under the stars, he finally sees the source of the noise: a mouse. After Owl says "good night noise" they both go to sleep. This book received a 2017 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor.
I love that Owl is holding a book on the cover; a picture says a thousand words. The font is large and well spaced. It is easy for a beginning reader to tell where one word ends and another begins.

The Sonoma County Library has five copies. The AR is 1.7.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I Am (Not) Scared

My first ride on a roller coaster was when I was dating my husband. We rode the Cyclone at Excelsior Park towards the end of its almost fifty year life. To say it was rickety would be an understatement. I was pretty sure the whole thing would come down before the end of the ride but it didn't. It took a good fifteen years before I got on another one and that was because I didn't know Space Mountain was a roller coaster. Roller coasters are even more terrifying in the dark. I am sure this is a brain issue because my favorite ride is a log flume ride. I have been on them in parks all over the United States; they are scary but I have fun. Other than the addition of water, what is the difference between a log flume ride and a roller coaster?

Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are back with another book about two bear friends from the Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal book You Are (Not) Small. Our friends want to ride the Loop of Doom but one is brave and one is a little scared. The brave one lists many things that are much scarier: snakes, a tub of hairy spiders, a hot lava pit, a pan of fried ants and a space alien with pink eyes and furry teeth. Suddenly, the roller coaster seems less scary. Their car comes forward with a snake in the back seat. They decide to be scared together. Up they go, around a loop-de-loop, down with their arms in the air and back to safety. Smiling, they agree that the ride was scary but off they go, with the snake, to ride again.

With about fifty unique words, Anna Kang creates a funny story about having fun while being scared. Christopher Weyant's ink and watercolor pictures fill in the details. The font is large, bold and well-spaced which makes it perfect for beginning readers.

The Sonoma County Library has four copies. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Author, Mac Barnett and illustrator, Jon Klassen's two previous collaborations,  Extra Yarn and Sam & Dave Dig A Hole won Caldecott Honors. They have teamed up again to create Triangle, the first book in a planned trilogy. 

Triangle lives in a house shaped like a triangle, with a triangle shaped door. He wants to play a trick on his friend, Square. On his way to Square's house he passes triangular shaped hills, then hills "that weren't triangles anymore" and finally to square shaped hills. Because he knows Square is afraid of snakes, Triangle says "HISS" sounding like a snake at his friend's door. Square is frightened. Triangle keeps hissing but soon he is laughing too hard to hiss anymore. Square recognizes the laugh and chases Triangle past the square hills , the undefined shape hills and the triangle shaped hills to Triangle's house where he gets stuck in the triangle shaped door. He is blocking the light and guess what? Triangle is afraid of the dark. Square says he planned his revenge, does the reader believe him?

John Klassen's artwork is known for his use of earth-toned palettes. In this book, he introduces a pale blueish green that he uses both alone and in overlays of earth tones to create darker toned greens. The font is large, well spaced and easy to read. There is plenty of white space and few words on each page. Kids who read at a mid-year first grade level or higher can read this book with little help.

The Sonoma County Library has ten copies. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Go, Otto, Go!

David Milgrim won a Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor this year for the fifth book in his Adventures of Otto series, Go, Otto, Go! Otto misses his family, so he decides to build a spaceship to go visit. His friends are sad to see him leave. They watch as his ship goes "up, up, up" and then "down, down, down" right back to where he started: "home, sweet, home".

Most of the story is told by the illustrations. The text is simple and minimal.The font is large and easy to read and there is plenty of white space. Go, Otto, Go! and the other books in the series are perfect for brand new readers.

The Sonoma County Library has twelve copies. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Happy Birthday, Dr Seuss

Tomorrow,  March 2 is the 113th anniversary of the birth of Theodor Seuss Geisel, known to generations of children as Dr. Seuss. He believed learning to read should be fun and exciting. He respected children and trusted their intelligence. As I have said before, I grew up in a Dick and Jane world. Dr. Seuss changed that.

It is also  is Read Across America Day. Celebrated in conjunction with the March 2 Birthday of Dr. Seuss, The National Education Association (NEA) sponsors the day to help create a nation of readers.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Scholastic Book Fair February 27-March 3

This week is Yulupa's annual Scholastic Book Fair held in the Library/Media Center from 8-9 AM and 1-4 PM. On Wednesday it will stay open from 1-7:30 PM. This is a great opportunity to get your kids some books, both for read alouds and for reading on their own. And maybe even pick up a book for your child's classroom; teachers fill out slips of paper with the names of books they would like to add to their classrooms. Check out the Scholastic Book Fair Flyer. This is just a small sample of the books available.

One of the books I plan to purchase is Dog Man Unleashed by Dav Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame. This is the second book in the Dog Man series. In this short clip, Dav Pilkey talks about why graphic novels should be in every classroom. You can here more from him in this January, 2013 interview on NPR.

Another book that interests me is Pig the Pug because it is 1) a dog book and 2) it is about a pug, albeit a rather naughty one. This book is part of a picture book series.

One of my granddaughters loves the Upside Down Magic books. The flyer features Showing Off, the third book in the series.

To help you and your child find the just right book to read here is the Five Finger Rule again: