Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cyber Monday - NICU book promotion and giveaway

The NICU book promotion continues. 

The folks at Usborne books have started their Black Friday Sale and it runs through Monday. Right now, my Usborne consultant is offering a drawing for folks who Click here to Christmas shop at Usborne books. All hostess gifts will go toward purchasing books for the NICU babies at McKay Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah to help them become lifelong readers. Make sure when you click on the link that it says, eShow: NICU Babies.

Here are some suggestions of books you can find at Usborne for the children in your life.

Newborn to age four:

Usborne has a large selection of books that have textures, which is just what a young baby needs. These board books are just right for toddler hands.

1 year and up:

This is one of my grandson Vincent's favorite books. He loves to make all the animal sounds. He is He is 18 months old. This is not a board book, but the pages are sturdy.

For any child with anxiety:

This book goes through everything a child might worry about and helps them move forward. It is fun to read because of the rhyme.

Starting school age:

This sweet story has a little girl who wants to make a friend. She tries to make friends by bringing gifts for people, but she learns that the greatest gift she can give is herself.

Teaching point of view:

This is an all around fun story that helps children understand that there are often two or more sides to a story.

Ages 10 and up:

I wish this had been in my library when I took a Shakespeare class and struggled to understand the old language. The stories have pictures and are told in modern language, which will help your reader know what the story is about, so that they can appreciate Shakespeare's language and poetry


Usborne has many, many other books, but these are a few of our favorites.

On Friday, December 4, I will draw a winner to receive Usborne's Mosaic Picture Sticker Book a book for your child (or you) to create fun pictures with over 4,000 stickers. This book retails for $10.99. 

"How do I get entries in the drawing?" you ask. 

  • Follow my blog.
  • Leave a comment on my blog.
  • Share a link to my blog on Facebook, and let me know in the comments that you did so. 
  • For each $10 you order from the NICU book party, you get another entry. Remember that the money you spend, goes to buy gifts for your own children and your order will be shipped directly to you. The NICU babies get the generous hostess gifts, and Usborne is very generous. 
  • Book your own Usborne Party with Catherine Johnson - she does Facebook parties and they are a lot of fun. Leave a message on this blog, and I will have her contact you. 
  • Invite a friend to follow my blog. Make sure they let me know that you sent them by posting in the comments. 
As you can see, you can get a lot of entries to win this fun book. I will draw the winner in one week at 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time (Utah) on Friday, December 4th. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday to Cyber Monday NICU Book Drive and Giveaway

The folks at Usborne books have started their Black Friday Sale. Right now, my Usborne consultant is offering a drawing for folks who Click here to Christmas shop at Usborne books. All hostess gifts will go toward purchasing books for the NICU babies at McKay Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah to help them become lifelong readers. Make sure when you click on the link that it says, eShow: NICU Babies.

On Friday, December 4, I will draw a winner to receive Usborne's Mosaic Picture Sticker Book a book for your child (or you) to create fun pictures with over 4,000 stickers. This book retails for $10.99. 

"How do I get entries in the drawing?" you ask. 

  • Follow my blog.
  • Leave a comment on my blog.
  • Share a link to my blog on Facebook, and let me know in the comments that you did so. 
  • For each $10 you order from the NICU book party, you get another entry. Remember that the money you spend, goes to buy gifts for your own children and your order will be shipped directly to you. The NICU babies get the generous hostess gifts, and Usborne is very generous. 
  • Book your own Usborne Party with Catherine Johnson - she does Facebook parties and they are a lot of fun. Leave a message on this blog, and I will have her contact you. 
  • Invite a friend to follow my blog. Make sure they let me know that you sent them by posting in the comments. 
As you can see, you can get a lot of entries to win this fun book. I will draw the winner in one week at 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time (Utah) on Friday, December 4th. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Stone Soup - Happy Thanksgiving

We've all heard the story of stone soup where hungry and weary travelers come into a town. The villagers are worried the travelers will take too much, so no help is offered to the travelers. The travelers decide to make stone soup, which incites the curiosity of the townspeople who now long to help make the soup better. By the end of the story, all are fed, rested, and friendly.

This story matters a lot at this time because our world is facing a refugee crisis. People we don't know may come to our towns. We can be afraid of them, be unwilling to share, but they may have just what our town needs - a way to bring people together because when we know and understand people, fear flees and friendship enters in. This story shows the importance of each person and how we are all connected and part of a larger whole.

Once a year, my grandchildren gather for our Stone Soup party. Each child brings an offering for the soup. I start out with a stone and some water. We read the story and then each child adds their offering in the order it is added in the book. Even the pickiest of eaters is excited to taste the creation, and they can see the importance of each person's offering. The soup needs each one of us to be the best it can be.

Today I am missing my son and his wife and family who are stationed far away from us in the USAF. They won't be here for Thanksgiving and the day will be a bit less bright without them, but we will enjoy the company of those who are able to be here.

There are a lot of retellings of Stone Soup available. My favorite is out of print (of course - if I like a book it goes out of print).

Marilyn Sapienza retells the story and her characters are so much fun and a bit over the top with their emotions. Hans Wilhelm is the illustrator and his drawings add the personality to this story published by Weekly Reader in 1986.

Max and Molly are the travelers. Mr. Ratfink and his family are the first to notice the travelers are almost to their village. They warn the villagers and soon the entire village is closed up tight to the weary travelers. All of the villagers are animals (not a human in the story). By the end of the tale, they have learned to share and all have become friends.

I love the last lines of this story: '"How can we thank you for the secret recipe?' they called.
'Share Stone Soup with everyone,' sang the travelers."

On the very last page is the recipe for Stone Soup:

"Heat some water in a pot.
Add some stones you've scrubbed a lot.

Sprinkle pepper, salt, and herbs.
Let it boil undisturbed.

Drop in carrots, onions too.
Let the soup heat through and through.

Stir in milk to make it sweet.
Add potatoes for a treat.

Toss in meat cubes. Let it stew.
Let it bubble. Let it brew.

Taste the soup and when it's done,
Share Stone Soup with everyone."

We end up with extra vegetables besides carrots and onions because I have eleven grandchildren, but that makes it even better.

During this holiday season, may your water and stones be added upon until what is created is rich, soothing, hearty, and healthy for you and all of your loved ones.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Squids Will Be Squids by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

From the same duo that brought you The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, is the book Squids Will Be Squids: Fresh Morals, Beastly Fables  published in 1998.

This fun book has a fable for our times along with a moral on each page. Jon tells us about Aesop and his fables and how important it is to change the person you are telling the story about to an animal and to also change their names.

The book begins with a grasshopper who wants to go out to play and tells his mom he only has a little bit  of homework, but later that night when Mom sees the assignment, she freaks because it says, "Rewrite twelve Greek myths as Broadway musicals, Write music for songs. Design and build all sets. Sew original costumes for each production."

There is an elephant who never learns that you shouldn't take advice from talking insects, and a slug who fails to pay attention and gets flattened by a steam roller.

As always, Jon Scieszka uses humor to suck the child into his story. Lane Smith's illustrations are fun with details that add to the story.

This would be a great book to use in a classroom when sharing Aesop's fables. Children could also write their own fables using a moral and turning folks into bugs or animals, and as we are reminded in this book - always change the names, always!

Monday, November 23, 2015

An Egg is Quiet By Dianna Aston

When I was a little girl birds, eggs, and nests of all types fascinated me. I would make nests out of dead grass, climb trees to place them for a bird to use, and sometimes fall out of trees. I thought eggs with their fragile beauty were wonders.

I stumbled on An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Aston a couple of weeks ago. It was published in 2006. Sylvia Long is the amazing illustrator of this beautiful storybook that shows eggs from insects, birds, frogs, and fish. The illustrations are frame worthy. I would have poured over this book as a child and tried to absorb every detail and then taken it into the world to try to find the same things in nature.

From the cover art to that inside the pages, just look at the pictures, aren't they lovely?

"An egg is quiet. It sits there under it's mother's feathers . . . on top of it's father's feet . . . buried beneath the sand. Warm. Cozy.

My only complaint with this book is that the font of the story is in cursive, which isn't taught until third grade - if it is taught at all. Many of the children who would adore this book will be unable to read it. That means we will have to share it with our children, but hey, we can make that sacrifice, right?

Read to a child today even if that child is you. Find a book that speaks to your inner child. This one speaks to mine.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman

Are you ever afraid to pick up a book with a dog on the cover? If you've read Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yellow, or Love That Dog, you know what happens to the dogs in those books. I love all three of the previous books, but I have friends who prefer a happier ending.

Wallace Wallace, the main character of No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman, tells his English teacher just what he thinks of the book (Old Shep, My Pal) that they read in class. He writes in his review of the book, "Old Shep, My Pal by Zack Paris is the most boring book I've read in my entire life. I did not have a favorite character. I hated everybody equally. The most interesting part came on the last page where it said "The End." This book couldn't be any lousier if it came with a letter bomb. I would not recommend it to my worst enemy" (4).

"I wasn’t surprised,” I said. “I knew Old Shep was going to die before I started page one.”

"Don’t be ridiculous," the teacher snapped. “How?”

I shrugged. “Because the dog always dies. Go to the library and pick out a book with an award sticker and a dog on the cover. Trust me, that dog is going down" (5).

Wallace's teacher, Mr. Fogleman is upset and sentences Wallace to after school detention until he writes a positive review. This means Wallace can't play on the football team, and his team is counting on him. His team mates want him to lie and write a good review, but Wallace can't lie. His father lied about everything, and Wallace always tells the truth even if the truth hurts.

He stays in detention for weeks making him an unwitting player in the school play, but someone is trying to sabotage the play. Is it Wallace? Is it an angry football player?

This story is told from multiple points of view, is fast paced, and fun just like I expect from Gordon Korman. Published in 2000, the Lexile is 610 and the characters are middle school students. They seem older and more sophisticated than they should, but the story is fun enough to overlook that fact.

If you are sick of books where the dog always dies, you will like this one with its surprise ending. Korman kept me guessing right up to the very end.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday: There Was a Hill . . . by Lark Carrier

Published in 1985, There was a Hill written and illustrated by Lark Carrier is currently out of print, but it is such a fun book to share with a child.

The story begins: "There was a hill"

 You lift the flap and it says, "that was a bear"

The next page: "That climbed a tree"

Lift the flap: "that was a trunk"
The story continues with soft illustrations that go from one animal to the next until it ends: "that was the moon that lit the hill that was . . ." The story is circular, and of course when I get to the last page, my grand-kids say, "Read it again."

Now if I could just get publishers to stop letting books go out of print. I found this copy at a thrift store, so they are out there. I've also seen them on and for reasonable prices.

I am reading this one for my grandchildren.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Kizzy Ann Stamps by Jeri Watts

From Kizzy Ann Stamps' very first letter to her white teacher, I was hooked and wanted to know more about this child who tells thing straight out. Kizzy Ann will be attending the white school in the fall because it is 1963 and integration has come to her town. Her black teacher has given up her job and encouraged her students to make the most of this opportunity and like Kizzy Ann says, "When Mrs. Warren tells you do something, you do it" (1).

In this book published in 2012, Jeri Watts lets Kizzy Ann tell her story through a series of letters and journal entries written to her new white teacher.

She writes, "I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Kizzy Ann Stamps. I like reading most everything, but I hate history. I just don't really care what some dead folks did or said two hundred years ago. Sorry, guess that isn't trying to work together, the way Mrs. Warren wants. But Mrs. Warren would tell you I'm trouble in her class, and I guess that's fair. I say what I think quite often - too often, she says - and I ask questions. Lots of questions. And I don't like to be bossed. Stand up for something, thats what I say" (2).

I love books with strong female characters and this one has several of them. Kizzy Ann has a scar that runs from her eye to the corner of her mouth. She wears hand-me-downs from one of her white classmates. She is stubborn, but she loves to learn. She has a nice white teacher, but her brother's teachers at the high school refuse to even acknowledge his presence in class. It's their way of saying they don't want or agree with integration.

Kizzy Ann also has a dog, Shag, an extremely intelligent border collie. Throughout her letters and journal entries, Kizzy questions relationships between black and whites. She questions the racial prejudice she and her brother are subjected to. She and her dog learn that what's inside of someone matters more than color.

Kizzy Ann often does what she doesn't want to do because of her love and respect for her family. After her mother brings home the beautiful hand-me-down dresses, she says, "Maybe it's because of my scar. Maybe it's because I don't have a sister. Maybe it's because of how I spend my time, working with Shag on the farm. I don't feel comfortable in dresses and fancy wear and anything that's bringing attention to me. Still, I cannot make my mother's sacrifice be for nothing. After Labor Day, I will wear cloths that are not me and try as hard as I can to fit into someone else's dresses, someone else's school, and someone else's world. I don't think this will be easy" (44-45).

Jeri Watts allows Kizzy Ann to tell her story is such a way that I forgot this was fiction. I felt that Kizzy Ann was real as she tells what it's like to be a black child integrated into a white school during a time of civil unrest. She does this without making either side the good guy or the bad guy. Good people are good and bad people are bad.

Integrity has no color.

This would be a great book to use in a social studies or history classroom. I would love to teach it in a reading, language arts, or English classroom. Thank you, Jeri Watts for such a positive story with wonderful characters.

Monday, November 16, 2015

And the Winner is . . . Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds

When I visit my three-year-old grandson, Jace, he asks, "Gamma Cafwine, you bwought books?" Of course I always bring a bag of books with me so I can answer yes. He will say, "Come, sit on the couch and wead."

If he is visiting at my house, after greeting me, he checks on Mack and Lightning, and puts them together.
Then he pays a visit to the reading room and gets a book for me to read. I love this little book case. I have hundreds of children's books and this gives me a place to put a few books out that I think specific grand-kids will enjoy. I  change the books in here frequently. I like that this shelf is sturdy, doesn't tip (the base is wider than the top), and allows a child to pick what they like. There are board book in the bottom and in the basket for the babies. 

Usually he chooses Pizza Pat by Rita Golden Gelman and illustrated by Will Terry or Opposites by Mary Novick and Sybel Harlin. Both of these books are darling and fun to read. 

A reading of Pizza Pat by me for Jace.

Today, however, he chose Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown. This book was published in 2012 and is a Caldecott Honor book. 

Jasper Rabbit loves carrots, especially those from Crakenhopper field, but he thinks he sees creepy carrots following him everywhere. He gets pretty creeped out until he can find a solution to keep the creepy carrots in Crakenhopper field away from him. The pictures are cute and are all done in shades of grey and carrot orange. The shadows are long and add to the sense of creepiness. 

I read this book to Jace four times, and then he said, "I'll read it." He sat and turned the pages and delighted in the creepy carrots, and then brought it back and wanted me to read it one more time.  We read Pizza Pat before it was time for him to go home. 

When he starts reading for himself, we may never see him again. He may get a stack of books, go to his reading place, and stay there for hours. I think he likes books as much as I do. 

I love how much he loves books, and I hope the joy he feels when opening a book, whether it be an old friend or a new one, will always be there for him. 

Find a good children's book today and read it to a child, even if that child is you. 

Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit so their parents can read to them while they grow. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. We can use both English and Spanish books. If you have a graduate of the NICU, or if you have a baby whose life you would like to honor by donating books to this project, let me know, and I can make a book plate with their name for the books you donate.

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

Friday, November 13, 2015

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by Patricia Castelao is a perfect book for any animal loving child. The Lexile measure of this book is 570, which makes this a great book for children from third grade to adulthood. There are not a lot of words on a page, and the chapters are short. The book is thick 301 pages including pictures, so a struggling reader could gain a sense of accomplishment by reading this book.

Published in 2012, this book won the 2013 Newberry award.  Ivan the gorilla narrates his tale of being imprisoned in a small domain (cage) for nearly three decades. He paints, he has friends, and he wants to save a baby elephant from the fate he has been subjected to. He has never seen another gorilla in person since he was kidnapped from his parents and his sister died en route to the U.S.A.

This story shows that the understanding of one person can change bad situations for animals. Applegate based her fictional story on the real Ivan from Zoo Atlanta. You can read about him here. He has passed away, but they have a lot of information about his life. Applegate took creative license and gave Ivan words, and I am okay with that. How do we know how much animals really know. I think they are smarter than we often give them credit.

This book has the potential to make any child an animal activist. Bob the dog was a wonderful friend to Ivan, as was Stella the elephant, but it was Ruby the baby elephant that helped him become a true silverback and protect his family.

Patricia Castelao's illustrations add to Ivan's simple narration. The beautiful, uncluttered pictures help visual learners fully experience the story.

If you have a reader who gets intimidated by a lot of small font words crowded on the page, he or she will love this book. Here is an example of what your reader will experience: larger font with a lot of white space that allows their eyes and their mind the needed space to process. The pages are a soft cream color, also easier for a struggling reader to deal with.

If you or your child love animals, this is a great book to share. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Light Between Oceans

After reading a lot of good things about The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman, I finally read it. This book is historical fiction, is set right after WWI, and was published in 2012. I hadn't read about the story line, so I was completely surprised at the twist and turns in this novel.

Stedman is a good storyteller who at times made me want to throw the book across the room because I was so frustrated by Isabel's choices.

After surviving WWI, Tom becomes a lighthouse keeper on Janus island on the coast of Australia. His wife has two miscarriages and then a stillborn baby boy. She is devastated, but when the tides carry in  a small boat with a dead man and a baby on board, she convinces Tom to put off reporting the baby or the dead man for a few days. Tom feels uneasy about this choice, but he loves Isabel and does as she insists. Isabel feels the baby is a gift from God to make up for her three lost babies.

If you haven't yet read The Light Between Oceans, stop reading this review now because there are some veiled spoilers ahead; however, this is a good book worth reading.

I love how Stedman gets into the head of the child. I love how she calls herself Lulu Lighthouse, and how the dialogue sounds just like a child. I love how Tom and Isabel parent Lucy. They are wonderful with her.

However, their decision to keep Lucy creates a web that very nearly strangles everyone involved.

The love story between Tom and Isabel is sweet and easy. I can understand her grief and near craziness after the stillbirth of their son, but I have to admit, I really started to hate her when she refused to do the right thing by the baby. Yes, she was worried the baby would go to an orphan asylum; yes, she was overcome by grief and want, but I agreed with Tom and wish he would have done the right thing anyway.

Hannah went through so much, and though angry, she reminded me of the mother from King Solomon, the one willing to give up her baby in order to save it. I was so angry at how the town treated Frank, and the fact that no one in the town ever called the mob to justice for his death. I loved Septimus Potts and how he helped Little Grace.

I worried so much for Tom's future. I can't believe the anxiety Stedman built in me for him.

Ralph was such a good friend to Tom. I loved his character.

"I've learned the hard way that to have any kind of future you've got to give up hope of ever changing your past" (332). This is so true. We torture ourselves with what ifs and if onlys that we forget to keep moving forward. We can't change the past, only learn from it and try to have a better future. The book also shows that our choices affect more than just us.

This book is worth the read. It was written for adults. There are only one or two swear words (sorry if there are more. They didn't stand out to me). The love scenes are not explicit, so even your grandma could read this book.  I gave it four out of five stars.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Spells by Emily Gravett

I came across this absolutely darling book last week during my travels and had to bring it home with me. In Emily Gravett's storybook called Spells, published in 2009, a frog finds a spell book, and wishes it was a book about boats, so he rips and folds and makes it into a boat. He wishes it was a book about castles, so he rips and folds and cuts some more and creates a castle. He notices at the top of a torn page the words, "Spell to become a Handsome Prince." The spell has been ripped up, but he tries to put it back together with some pretty funny results.

What did you say?

"The pages are broken in half."

Why, yes, the next five pages are split in half, so while the frog tries to get his spell right from all the scraps he created turning the book into a boat and then a castle, your child (or you if you don't have one and love storybooks) gets to see all the creatures Frog turns himself into as he tries to put the Handsome Prince spell back together. The inside cover says this book is for ages 4 to 8, but I think this book would be fun for any age of child. I shared it with my thirteen-year-old son and he laughed out loud.

This book has a cute ending that lets the reader know that in the end, one can't be anyone but who one truly is.

Bravo, Emily Gravett for this clever and beautifully illustrated story.

Angela Jensen, one of Angie's coworkers from the NICU, donated six new books for our NICU book project. In Utah, we have a bookstore called Seagull Book where they sell books for less than market price. They often have discount tables of cute children's books for under five dollars each. Angela Jensen found six new books for the babies at Seagull Book. Thank you, Angela!

If you'd like to help with books for the NICU, click on this Link to the book project to see how to help.

Read every day, and let your child see you read. Make sure your child knows that readers live at your house.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Books About Objects: The Friendship Doll and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

The two books for today reminded me of each other because they are both about inanimate objects that seem to have life. One is about a Rabbit doll and one is about a Japanese doll.

Kate DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane  published in 2006, is a sweet story about a very arrogant rabbit doll. The inside cover reads: "Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who treated him with the utmost care and adored him completely.

And then one day he was lost.

Kate DeCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the top of a garbage heap tot he fireside of a hobo's' camp, from the bedside of an ailing child to the streets of Memphis. And along the way, we are shown a true miracle - the even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again."

Each person who possesses Edward changes him in some way.

This is such a charming story, and I can't believe the story of a toy rabbit could make me cry, but it did. The Lexile is 700, and it would make a great read aloud. The hardback edition contains beautiful illustrations for the novel. Kate DiCamillo also wrote Because of Winn-Dixie, which is another great read.  

The Friendship Doll written by Kirby Larson and published in 2011 is historical fiction. She tells the story of one of the missing friendship dolls that were sent to American from Japan in 1927. Her writing really comes alive because I distinctly remembered there being illustrations in this book, but alas, it was all in my mind. The only illustration is the one on the cover. This doll also begins quite arrogant, and somewhat mirrors Edward Tulane's story. 

Miss Kanagawa (the doll) is changed by the people she meets, but she is also able to influence the people to be better friends. By doing this, happiness is increased in each life that she touches. 

There are some time flow issues in this book, but it is more thoroughly edited than her novel Hattie Big Sky. I liked the ending of this story and wondered if that is what really might have happened to Miss Kanagawa. My only issue with the book is that Larson portrays a real person from history in a negative light without knowing if that was her true personality. I am always bothered by that because Hey, that is a real person you are writing about. She says in the notes section, "I am certain that the real Belle Wyatt Roosevelt, grand-daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, twenty-sixth president of the United States, was a lovely child; however, since I invented Bunny, I also invented Belle's less-than-pleasant personality to add tension to the story" (196). I felt she could have added tension in another way without disparaging a real child. This book is worth reading, and even with my issues with it, I enjoyed it immensely. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The Ghost of Windy Hill by Clyde Robert Bulla

I bought The Ghost of Windy Hill last Friday and only picked it up because I recognized the artwork. I had never heard of the author, Clyde Robert Bulla before. This book is illustrated by Don Bolognese. Yes, the same Don Bolognese who illustrated one of my all time favorite books from when I was a kid, The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden by Mary Chase.

I've been known to buy books based only on the pictures. I can't draw, but I appreciate those who are artistic and good at it.

This little book, published in 1968 by Scholastic, is a good for the seven to ten age group. It is a mystery, but it isn't too scary. It has interesting characters who grow during the course of the short story. It is eighty-four pages of larger font with interesting pictures on several of the pages.

The book is set in the late 1800s or early 1900s.  Jamie and Lorna's father has been invited to stay in a supposedly haunted house because the owner believes the father can rid the house of the ghost. The family stays in the house for the summer. There are a few strange characters who live near the house. Are they responsible for the ghost?

This is a story of friendship and keeping one's head on straight in a crisis.

This picture was right inside the front cover, and let me know that I wanted this book because I recognized Don Bolognese's style immediately.

This is a picture of one of the odd characters in the book.

This is one of the last pictures in The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden.
This is a picture of the parents and the daughters towards the end of the The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden. I'm not sure how one gets a publisher to reprint a book, but I'd love to have this one reprinted with the original artwork.

Have you ever purchased a book just because of the artwork?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman

Have you ever felt invisible? At the beginning of the story, Anthony Bonano meets Calvin Schwa, a boy who is functionally invisible, and the experiments he conducts prove that four out of five people don't see or notice the Schwa.

What would you do to be noticed? In Neal Shusterman's novel The Schwa Was Here you get to find out, and if you've ever felt like the Schwa, this book will impact you. Published in 2004 by Puffin Books, this book won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction and Poetry in 2005, and was an honor book for the Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children's Literature in 2005.

Anthony, known as Antsy, is the character who tells us the story. He is a middle child sandwiched between an older brother who is a great student and an adorable little sister who everyone loves. He feels invisible at home.

Calvin Schwa is a boy without friends until Antsy becomes his friend. Schwa isn't noticed by people and is easy to forget. When he was five, his own mother disappeared while shopping, leaving him abandoned in the cart at the supermarket. Now Schwa worries that he, too, will simply cease to exist at some point. What really happened to his mother? Where is she?

This would be a fun book to teach. The themes are right on target for sixth through eighth grade students. Shusterman shows the importance of reputation and responsibility in this story. This story shows the importance of relationships and the roles we and our family members assign to us in our family dramas. Having students figure out their family role would make a great discussion. The Schwa collects paperclips - but only famous paperclips. Any one of his paperclip stories would make a good research project. Mr. Crawley reminds me of Mr. Potter in It's a Wonderful Life. The man thinks he owns everything and can purchase anyone. He owns fourteen dogs named after the seven virtues and seven vices. Any of the dogs' names could become topics of discussion or research projects. This story also shows how we often get it wrong in our relationships.

I am reminded of Andrew Clements Things Not Seen , which is a story about an invisible boy. Just like in Clements story, there is  a blind girl who can feel his presence even though most can't or don't see him.

I am also reminded of some of my students who were hard to get to know and were easily forgotten - like the Schwa. This book shows how important it is to be seen and how we all must work to see those around us even those who appear to blend in completely.

I found a couple of student made book trailers on Youtube. I enjoy student made book trailers because you can see what jumped out at them in their reading. They also show how creative students are.

This one is by Jus. B. Cauz - I'm pretty sure positive that is a moniker.

This one was created by RockwallRead's Channel

I think they did a great job. Book trailers are just one way to get students excited about books. Book talks are good, but in our fast paced world, sometimes book trailers are even better. They are not all created equally, and most are created by students, so make sure you preview them before sharing with your students. You can even have students create book trailers as a project.

Read often because reading connects us to everything in the world. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Tin Forest by Helen Ward and Wayne Anderson

On Friday, my good friend, Michelle and I went book shopping. We went down to Utah County and hit several thrift shops to look for books. One of my favorite finds of the day was The Tin Forest published in 2001. The book is beautifully constructed with silver end papers and good thick pages in this hardback edition. I paid $1 for this book that normally sells for $15.99. Good books can be found at thrift shops and yard sales for low prices if you need a low cost way to build a home library.

The Tin Forest was written by Helen Ward and beautifully illustrated by Wayne Anderson. I'll be honest right now and say that I bought this book because it was so beautiful, luckily, the story is also beautiful.

The story begins:
"There was once a wide, windswept place, near nowhere and close to forgotten, that was filled with all the things that no one wanted.

Right in the middle was a small house, with small windows, that looked out on other people's garbage and bad weather."

The man lives in the middle of a junk yard, and he tries to clean it up. He sorts, buries, and burns the garbage, but he longs to live in a tropical forest. One day he sees an old lamp that reminds him of a flower, so he begins to build a forest from the garbage. He even builds animals.

A bird comes to visit one day, but leaves, and the man, so lonely, makes a wish. The bird comes back with a mate and seeds, and a real forest begins to grow in the tin forest.

This book is magical. As an educator, this would be a fun book to use in a classroom. This story could kick off projects to save the environment. Imagine building a bulletin board creating art from garbage. You could do a pen pal activity with students from a far off place. You could encourage students to find the ones that have been nearly forgotten and to make a friend. You could learn about a tropical forest. You could learn about a junk yard and how the garbage is processed.

If you've used this book in your classroom, what did you do?

Is there a storybook that you find magical?