Friday, February 24, 2017

Vampirina Ballerina by Countess Anne Marie Pace

Put Vampirina Ballerina on your radar for next Halloween. Written by Anne Marie Pace and illustrated by Le Uyen Pham, this adorable book shows the challenges a vampire faces when trying to become a ballerina.

A vampire must find night classes, find ways to not scare the other dancers with her toothy smile, work on not turning into a bat during the dances, not tripping on her cape. Vampirina has a problem with not being able to see her reflection in the mirror as she practices at the bar.

The pictures are darling. If you have a little dancer in your life who likes Halloween and a bit of the dark side, this is a great book for that child.

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg is book three of the Elmwood Springs series. I'm glad I didn't know that before I read it because I would have waited and read the first two books, but this book can and does stand on its own. I didn't feel like I'd missed a thing.

 Flagg's characters come alive in all their quirky glory, something she is good at.

The story begins with elderly Elner Shimfissle on a ladder picking figs when a nest of hornets attack her - I know, Alysen, it sounds like a book you will hate, but hang in there, the fun is just getting started. Although this book deals with sad subjects, it is not a sad book. It is funny, hopeful, deals with human frailty, and shows us how to live with our mistakes and not allow them to rule us.

Elner takes us with her on an adventure that I look forward to some day and gives me hope that my grandma is eating vanilla cake with her sisters in heaven. This story also helps us see what really matters and how we each have the power to help one another. We also learn why an elderly woman is hiding a loaded gun in her dirty laundry. I love the symbolism of hiding a gun with dirty laundry.

Elner Shimfissle has now joined the ranks of my all time favorite characters, and boy oh boy is she a character. I want to be more like her.


Read this book to discover the child hiding inside yourself.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

Oh, my creepiness, if you liked Coraline, you will like Kenneth Oppel's The Nest. Published in 2015, this book has just the right mix of suspense, horror, and creep factor to keep you turning pages. I was listening to the audio version, but turned it off because I could read it faster by myself, and I just had to know how this one was going to end.

Steven has a new baby brother, but unfortunately, this baby was born with a lot of health problems, so many in fact, that he may not survive. Steven is an anxious, obsessive child, and a good big bother who worries about and loves his two younger siblings.

He starts having dreams about "angels" who say they can fix the baby - replace him with a new baby who is strong and healthy. All he has to do is agree to help them. This story will make you squirm and have you hoping that Steven can make things right. Both the parents and a nanny are present in this story. There is even a knife guy along for the ride for extra chill factor.

Jon Klassen is the illustrator of this novel, and his drawings add just the right touch. With a lexile measure of 640, wide margins, larger font, and good line spacing, this makes a great Hi/Lo read. This book is recommended for ages 8 to 10, but I feel the creep factor makes it a good book for older students as well. It may be too creepy for a sensitive 8 to 10 year old.

I must find another book by this author. Well done, Kenneth Oppel.


Read to a child today but don't read this one after dark. :) 



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne

I picked up Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne at my local library when they were selling books for ten cents each. Like his book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, this story is told from the young main character's point of view.

Although I am not a huge fan of Boyne's writing style, his books resonate with students because of the repetition and simple word choices. He also explains difficult concepts in a way that children can understand.

What I like about this book is that he address battle fatigue, shell shock, PTSD in the soldiers of WWI. This subject isn't often brought up in children's literature, but is it is one that is important to understand.

When Alfie is trying to save his dad, I didn't know if I should cheer for or against him, as his dad was getting medical care, but what the medical profession knew about PTSD at that time wasn't a lot, and the treatments were not ideal.

This book could bring out a good discussions on the ethics surrounding war such as: when is it okay to take something that doesn't belong to you, is it okay to remove a patient from medical care, how old should a child be to be left on their own, or should a person be allowed to avoid the draft if they don't believe in fighting? Boyne doesn't give the reader the answers to these questions but allows the reader to decide for themselves. I like that he respects his reader enough to allow them to do this.



Read to a child today even if that child is you.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

The author of my favorite book to movie adaptation ever is Rodman Philbrick's Freak the Mighty. The movie is called The Mighty and it is awesome. I've read three of his books, and he has the ability to use humor, sorrow, and scary moments well in all of his work.

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg published in 2009 almost begins too scary, but humor finds a way in to help lighten the serious subject of the Civil War. As an educator, this book would make a great catalyst for a query and research project. Rodman touches on technology and weapons that were being introduced during that time period, battles fought, carnival side shows, mining, the underground railroad, rules of conscription, and many other topics that are interesting to young minds. I can imagine many different presentations by students beginning with this one little 217 page book.

The story moves quickly and isn't as depressing as My Brother Sam Is Dead, and both are Newbery Honor books.


Read to a child today so that they may understand the history of our great nation.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Waiting by Kevin Henkes

Kevin Henkes has shown time and time again that he is a master at writing books for children. Waiting won a Caldecott Honor and a Theodor Seuss Giesel Honor.

Published in 2015, the soft colors of this book would go well in any nursery. This is a simple and sweet story about the toys in a nursery and how they wait for their child. The toys see the seasons go by through the window. They see the stars, moon, and sun. They see weather - both pleasant and powerful.

Henkes is on my "I must own every picture book he writes" list.




Michelle sent over seven more books for the NICU project today. Thank you, Michelle.


Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Book Nook - Black History Month

I am all ready for Black History Month. Although I am a pasty person, I want my children and grandchildren to understand Black History and that in order for our country to be united, we must understand and find love for one another.

I love that my little grand daughter understood who Ruby Bridges was when she was five - in fact it was her favorite book.


Close-ups of the books on top of the shelves.

These will be up for two weeks and then we have to go green for St. Patrick's Day. :)


Lori Russell recently donated money to our NICU book drive for babies, and this is what I purchased with her money. I wish every child could have a copy of Are You My Mother, and when I found that Humbug Witch came in Spanish, I couldn't resist.
Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Reading Corner

I made a reading corner in a room for the grand kids. I have a few thousand books in my house and have decided to put the series for kids and a display of picture books.

For the first half of the month, I did a Valentine display with red, white, and pink books. Today, I will set up a display for Black History Month. I hope this will make visible to the kids different kinds of books that are normally packed into a bookshelf. I plan on changing out the picture books twice a month.

Michelle donated another handful of books for the NICU babies. Thank you, Michelle.


How do you display your books so your children can easily access them?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Dear Mili by Wilhelm Grimm

In 1983, an unknown and unpublished tale by Wilhelm Grimm was discovered. Dear Mili was preserved in a letter he had written to a little girl in 1816. It was first published in 1988.

Like all the Grimm fairy tales, there are disturbing moments. This telling is partnered with the art of Maurice Sendak and he makes the story come alive.

In this story, a widowed mother and her young daughter live at the end of the village, when a war comes, the mother sends her little girl into the forest and instructs her to come back in three days. The little girl wanders protected by her guardian angel until she comes to the house if Saint Joseph who sends her home after three days, but alas, each day has been a decade, and while she is still a little girl, her mother has grown old waiting for her return.

The detail in the illustrations make this book worth the price.






Read a fairy tale to a child today as it has been shown to increase their ability to understand the world. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

NICU Update

Michelle brought me another collection of books for the NICU. I appreciated her constant support so very much. Do any of you see an old favorite in there?




Lori Russell, one of Angie's coworkers, donated $50 to our project. I was able to buy a dozen board books from Amazon with that money. Thank you, Lori.

If you'd like to help with our project, here is a link to our book registry at Amazon where you can purchase books that will be shipped to us for the babies. Book Registry at Amazon for NICU

We delivered another 200 books to the NICU for the babies in the last two weeks.

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis

Add Christopher Paul Curtis to my list of favorite authors. His novel The Madman of Piney Woods is a companion book to his novel, Elijah of Buxton that is set forty years earlier.

I listened to the audio version of this on the free app OverDrive that allows you to check out ebooks and audio books from your local library. The readers of this one were amazing. They hired Kirby Heybourne to read Red's chapters and J.D. Jackson to read Benji's chapters. The writing is amazing, but their reading really made the story come alive. They had me laughing and crying.

What do a red-headed Irish boy, and a black boy have in common? I wondered this as the story went forward until they met in the second half of the book. They have the Madman, or the Lionman as Red calls him, in common along with a few other things.

Benji is a horrible tease to his younger siblings and a bit arrogant, but his character is realistic and honest. He grows throughout the story and becomes a good friend to Red.

Red wants to be a scientist and has a mean old grandmother who scares the bejeebers out of him. He is blessed with a kind and loving father who helps him cope with his Irish grandma.

The characters come alive in this story, as they always do when Curtis is the writer. Curtis used beautiful language and makes the reader feel like they are right there in the story. He is a masterful storyteller and there are stories within the story.

I was sad when the story ended and felt like I wanted to be a better, more forgiving person.

Once again, Curtis has not disappointed, and I am shocked that this book didn't take home a Newbery.


Expand your knowledge of history by reading historical fiction. Read to a child today or allow amazing readers to read a story to you.



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

No Flying in the House by Betty Brock

No Flying in the House by Betty Brock is a delightful book that I can't wait to share with my granddaughter who can lick her elbow, because you see, being able to kiss your elbow is a sign that you are a fairy in disguise.

A tiny, three inch, talking dog shows up on the terrace of a lady who is fascinated with animal miniatures and tells her that she will stay if the lady will provide a home for the three-year-old girl who she is the guardian of. The woman doesn't much care for small children, but she agrees because she collects tiny gold, porcelain, and jeweled mechanical animals.

Gloria, the dog, tells Annabel that he parents will return one day, but Gloria isn't telling the girl the whole truth.

This story is full of magic and the sweetness of being a child. Wallace Tripp is the artist of the charming illustrations. This a great book for a 6 to 10 year-old child to read on their own, or you could read it aloud to those who are younger.


Discover magic when you read to a child today. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Boundless Grace by Marry Hoffman and Caroline Binch

This is the sequel to Amazing Grace, which I'm surprised I haven't written a blog post on as it is a darling book.

In Boundless Grace, Grace wants her family to be like those she see in books - a mother, a father, a brother, and a sister, but in her family, it is Grace, her mother, and her grandmother. Her father and mother split up, and he went to live in Africa.

He has a new wife and two new children. I could relate with Grace as she worries that she might not recognize her father when she goes to visit him as it has been many years since she's seen him. That was something I worried about after a long absence from my own father.

She worries he will love the new children more than he loves her. I also had this worry. Hoffman gets the emotions and worries of a child from divorce correct. Caroline Binch is the amazing artist who brings the story to life, and I spent more time just looking at each page because of her talent.

Grace is a strong female character who isn't perfect. She has doubts, fears, and frustrations, but she seems so real. She is strong and finds ways to learn and grow, which makes her the kind of character I love.


Read to a child today to help them know that their feelings and fears are a normal part of the human experience. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

My Garden by Kevin Henkes

Oh, Kevin Henkes, you are such a wonderful creator of children literature. This book reminds me of Henkes's book Old Bear. The pictures and story content go along the same lines.

In My Garden, a little girl who helps her mother in a real garden imagines what she would like her own garden to be like.

She imagines all sorts of things that are completely impossible but entirely charming. I love how Henkes taps into a child's imagination and makes things magical.


I googled this book and images of class projects kids have made in classrooms to go along with this book come up. How fun to allow children to create their own garden that can grow anything they can imagine.


 Imagine growing chocolate Easter bunnies.

Read to a child today and see what they can imagine

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Frog on a Log? by Kes Gray and Jim Field

Teaching about rhymes and word families help children become stronger readers faster - plus word families are fun.

Frog on a Log? by Kes Gray and Jim Field is a story that has a lot of fun with rhyme. Let me show you a few pages.








This book has a cute ending and can start you playing the rhyming game with your child. A couple of the animals don't exactly rhyme with where they sit, but the author is from Great Britain so accents must be taken in to account.

Read to a child today even if that child is you.