Month: September 2013

Stardines and Elecopter


Kids love silly words. Last week, I read Elecopter by Michael Slack at preschool storytime. ML thought it would be a hit, and she was correct. The rhyming text, bright colors and creative character make it one of my favorite books published for preschoolers this year. Don’t miss the blog post by the author/illustrator showing steps in the process of illustrating this book

Recently, ML and I read Stardines Swim High Across the Sky: and Other Poems by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Carin Berger. It’s a collection of creative poems. Each poem’s title is an animal name with a letter replaced or added to it – Stardines, Slobsters, Fountainlions, Tattlesnakes, Panteaters and Plandas – to name a few. ML exclaimed “Mommy, let’s make up our own animals.” So we did… Solar Bear and Chopperhead.

Check out Carin Berger’s lovely shadowbox artwork. We love the Fountainlion. What’s your favorite?

P.S. I’m going to call ML and friends Tattlesnakes when they come to me saying, “So and So did this. So and So did that.” My new response will be “Work it out, Tattlesnakes” instead of my of plain old “Work it out.” It may sound a little harsh to you. But it’s not as harsh as my second grade teacher placing a donkey tail made of construction paper around a tattletale’s neck.

Science Friday – Evolution

In honor of Banned Book Week, I decided to highlight a controversial subject… Evolution. I grew up in a certain place at a certain time. When I was in elementary school, a fellow Georgian was president. While researching for this post, I read Jimmy Carter’s written statement “As a Christian, a trained engineer and scientist, and a professor at Emory University, I am embarrassed by Superintendent Kathy Cox’s attempt to censor and distort the education of Georgia’s students,” The Department of Education in Georgia was trying to remove the word “evolution” from it’s curriculum. This quote is not from his presidential years, nor from any of the twenty something years after his election. It’s from this millennium; published on CNN on January 30, 2004.

I don’t remember what I learned about evolution in school. So I visited the children’s non-fiction section to brush up. Surprisingly, a report titled Creation vs. Evolution fell out of the first book I opened. The notes were thorough and interesting. The final paragraph arguing, “the giraffe is a good example against evolution” was well-organized, but easily debatable. However, it was encouraging to see the full process – notes, outline, final paper.

Back to the books on evolution. So many were overstimulating – photos, cartoons, charts, graphs, different fonts, several colors of text and at least three background colors on just ONE page. I saw this over and over in many of the books I checked out. Luckily, I found a revised edition of the Eyewitness Book Evolution on the shelf. I remember when the first editions were cutting edge in nonfiction publishing. Thank goodness they still exist and are being updated. A lot of today’s cutting edge nonfiction defeats the purpose of reading nonfiction to gain better understanding about a subject. They provide snippets of facts but lack depth. Anybody else agree?

The Long, Long Line

When the library receives new picture books, I scan all of them. Then, I decide which ones to take home. It’s amazing the details I miss in my initial look. As a prolific reader, my eyes are drawn immediately to words, not illustrations. ML’s eyes are drawn to the illustrations first. I love how she helps me look at books in a new way.

The Long, Long Line by Tomoko Ohmura is one of these books. The first page’s illustrations are a simple sign, “Please Line Up in Single File” and a drawing of #50 Frog. For eighteen pages, it’s a mystery why the animals are in line. A bird, the line monitor, appears on each page spread providing instructions, encouragement and polite reprimands. Finally, we meet elephant, the line leader, and find out why everyone is waiting.

Bird welcomes the animals aboard the Jumbo Coaster. A ride on the biggest animal in the world – the whale. It reminds me of my favorite childhood roller coaster. Both rides include three amazing feats. The Mind Bender was touted as the first triple-loop roller coaster. The Jumbo Coaster’s whale provides three thrills… The Whale Somersault, The Whale Dive and The Whale Spray.

After our first reading, ML stated, “Mommy the line goes from the biggest animal to the smallest.” She was correct, so we explored the pictures further. The sheep is afraid to move. There’s a wolf in front of him. The baby kangaroo is crying “Are we there yet” from his mother’s pouch. One animal starts a game of “Word Chain.” If you want to learn how to play Word Chain, you’ll have to read the book. I promise it will make waiting in line more enjoyable. ML started spelling homework this week. Before I know it, we’ll be able to play Word Chain.

Censorship by Mom and Others


Was Trina Schart Hyman’s Little Red Riding Hood banned for violence? After all, the grandmother was eaten by the wolf. Nope. Instead, someone was concerned the wine bottle in the basket encouraged underage drinking.

Where the Wild Things Are challenges started from the time it was published. One reason resonates with me. The book shockingly features a child who yells at his mother. My mother did not censor this book but she did ban it from bedtime reading. Apparently, it made my brother wild. Instead of going to sleep, Kevin turned into a romping monster. He may have even yelled at his mother.

Do you know the title of the poetry book among the most banned books in the 1990’s? A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein. It’s been read by millions of children throughout the world. Oh, the sweet taste of forbidden poems.

My personal favorite banned book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. It was briefly banned by the Texas State Board of Education. They confused its author, Bill Martin, Jr., with philosopher Bill Martin, author of Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.

When I was in elementary school, my mom served on the committee tasked with reading challenged media center books. Whenever a book was challenged, a copy would be sent home in a sealed, golden mailing pouch via me. This was unnecessary, as often times I read the book.

My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier was challenged for profanity. The irony is the challenger’s child signed my yearbook that year, “Remember the trees, remember the grass, remember me the pain in the ass.”

I don’t remember the outcome of the challenge. Hopefully, one of mom’s friends can recall. It’s a story to share with ML when she is older.

Dangerous Books


It’s Banned Book Week; a week celebrating the Freedom to Read. Be careful! Some picture books are dangerous. You should avoid them at all costs. ML and I tried not to read the books below, but we couldn’t resist.

The Book That Eats People
by John Perry and illustrated by Mark Fearing title says it all. This book eats people. Not just one person, but many people! It’s a hit with the children of North Carolina. In 2012, they voted it North Carolina’s Children Book Award Winner in the picture book category.

In Open Very Carefully by Nick Bromley and illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne, a crocodile is trapped in the wrong book. Only the bravest should open this book. Thankfully, ML and I braved the book. It’s one of the funniest books of the year.

Warning: Do Not Open This Book! narrated by Adam Lehrhaupt and illustrated by Matthew Forsythe warn you in both the title and several pages after to not open the book. But we couldn’t resist learning letting the monkeys out.

Stay Tuned! Tomorrow, I’ll highlight some banned or challenged picture books.

ML Won’t Talk To Me! She’s Too Busy Reading Gooney Bird Greene


Two nights a week, I work at the library and ML spends the night at her dad’s house. I call every Wednesday and Thursday night. ML isn’t, nor has she ever been, a big talker on the phone. In the past, she’s said “Mommy, I can’t talk, I’m watching a show.” or “I’m playing a game. Good-bye!” or “Hello. Goodbye.” All these conversations end with us blowing a kiss to each other.

Last week, ML said, “Mommy, you’re interrupting my reading.” I asked questions about her day but didn’t receive an answer. Instead, I heard her whispering words from the book Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry. “. . .her second day at Watertower Elementary School, Gooney Bird Greene was wearing a pink ballet tutu over green stretch pants and she had three small red grapes, an avocado and an oatmeal cookie for lunch.”

Gooney Bird reminds me of ML, a fiesty, friendly, free-spirit. Middy Thomas’ illustrations look like ML. . . creative clothes and imperfect hair. I’m betting ML will read all five books in the series before New Year’s Eve. Luckily, in January of 2014, Gooney Bird and All Her Charms is scheduled for release.

Thankfully, ML wasn’t too busy to blow me a kiss Thursday night.

Science Friday – Papa’s Mechanical Fish


Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming and pictures by Boris Kulikov is historical fiction with a scientific twist.

Papa is an inventor who conceives and invents all sorts of things. Edible socks – disgusting. Steam-powered roller skates – he forgot the brakes. One day his daughter asks, “Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a fish?” An obsession begins. Papa decides to create a mechanical fish. Through trial and error, he succeeds. His family joins him for a fish eye’s view under the water of Lake Michigan.

The last page of this book is called, “It’s Almost True.” Lodner Phillips was an eccentric man engrossed with the idea of inventing a submarine. After many attempts, his persistance paid off. His family joined him for a ride on his submarine, Whitefish, in 1851.