Monsters are People Too – So are Doctors and Nurses

It was going to be a great week of postings this week.  I had one written and the rest planned in my brain.  Then my brain, gait and such started doing funny things so I was admitted to the hospital.  Thankfully, I am home today.  But wanted to share my one Halloweenish entry already written.  As for next year, I’m set with ideas.  After my hospital stay I have lots of new ideas.  Hopefully, my brain will become less muddled soon.

Here’ s ten of our favorite monster books in alphabetical order by title; except Go Away Big Green Monster.  It’s been ML’s favorite monster book since she was two.  I have fond memories of her “reading” it to me when she was three-years-old.  Ok she wasn’t reading it, she had memorized the words.  An important step in learning to read.

She didn’t start reading for real until she was a kindergarten.  In my opinion focusing on teaching a child to read at a young age is not a good idea.  Of course some children pick it up on their own from being read to and shows like Sesame Street.  The most important thing you can do to have your child ready to read is follow the advice from a program lots of libraries participate in – Every Child Ready to Read.  I’ll do a more extensive post about this in the future.  But the Wake County Public Library’s webpage does a good job of explaining it.

Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley


The Block Mess Monster by Betsy Howie


Hush Little Monster by by Denis Markell (Author) , Melissa Iwai (Illustrator)


I Loathe You by David Slonim

i loathe you

Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCart

Jeremy Monster

Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems


Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austin


The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell


Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Scott Magoon


Shrek! by William Steig


Jerry Pinkney and Aidan


Jerry Pinkney has illustrated over 100 book since the 1960s.  I haven’t read them all, but I’m working on it.

He  received the 2010 Caldecott Award for The Lion & the Mouse.  He’s also received the Caldecott Honor five times for Noah’s Ark, Mirandy and Brother Wind, The Talking Eggs:  A Folktale from the American South, The Ugly Ducking and John Henry.   The only illustrator to win more Caldecott Honors is Maurice Sendak of Where the Wild Things Are fame.

Jerry Pinkney’s most recent book The Tortoise and the Hare is my top choice for the Caldecott.  I know I keep naming books I want to win the 2014 award.  After reading this book with ML, my vote is decided.  She was mesmerized.  Mr. Pinkney set his version of the Tortoise and the Hare in the Southwest desert. His biggest challenge was making the characters pop off the page where survival depends on camouflage.  The solution – dress the animals in clothes. But not too many clothes.  The hare wears a vest and the tortoise dons a hat and bandanna.  Other animal’s clothes include top hats, bowlers and bonnets  All the clothes were popular in the past.  The result – a timeless feel just like the story itself.

While researching for this post, I learned that Jerry Pinkney suffered reading difficulties.  Most likely dyslexia.  You can read about his experience on the Learning Differences portion of his website.  Soon after, my friend wrote a piece featured in the New York Times titled Children With Learning Disabilities Don’t Need More Opportunity to Fail about her son’s struggle with dyslexia.

I know Liisa won’t mind me highlighting her advice to parents because I asked her.

“If you see your child struggling to read and write during those early elementary years, get in there and investigate. We know so much more today about how the brain works. And soon we may also better understand how dyslexics like Thomas Edison, Charles Schwab, Albert Einstein and many others, exercised the strengths conferred by their seeming disability.  Recognize when it’s O.K. to let your child fail, and when it’s not.”

I didn’t ask Jerry Pinkney, but I don’t he will mind me quoting his advice to those with learning challenges. “For the young person who is struggling in school, never forget there are many different ways to learn.  Be curious.  Do not be afraid to try.  Do not be disappointed when making mistakes.  You will discover your own unique way of understanding the things being taught.  Learn from mistakes.  Everything that happens to you will frame who you are, and who you will become.  Your path to success will follow.”

Luckily for Jerry Pinkney standardized tests weren’t a part of his childhood.  Thankfully for Aidan, his parents have the resources to hire specialized tutors.  Even more important, Aidan’s parents encourage him to focus on his strengths.  I’m certain Jerry Pinkney had someone doing the same for him.

I wonder who it was?

She said, “I need books on pumpkins, leaves and apples.” I explained specific books on those themes were checked out, but I could add her to the request list. I offered Baby Bear Counts One while she waited for the other books to arrive.


I opened the book showing  the title page illustration with the oak tree, falling leaves, squirrel and acorns.  The illustrations are created by printing linoleum blocks in black ink on paper.  Next, they are hand colored with a fall watercolor palette.  The power of the ink block prints and the warmth of the watercolors bring Baby Bear Counts One to life.

Preschool teaching themes are simple.  Seasons, colors, number, etc.  I’ve been a preschool teacher.  I know how monotonous books on specific themes can be. So  I introduced the teacher to another Ashley Wolff book, Baby Bear Sees Blue.

The teacher checked out both Baby Bear books.  I told her I am at the library every Wednesday night.  She’s been back; eager to find new books for those important preschool themes she’s taught for over 20 years.

I just heard some geese flying overhead while writing this piece.  I laughed.  It’s a scene straight from the book.  “Mama looks to the sky.  Honk!  Honk!  Honk!  “Who is calling to us Mama?” asks Baby Bear.  “Those are the geese,” says Mama, “flying south before winter comes.”  There’s a group of Canadian Geese who winter at ML’s Papa’s pond.  Who knows?  Maybe they’re in flight to Georgia.

DISCLOSURE:  I follow Ashley Wolff’s blog and she follows mine.  She provided helpful advice on how to tame my daughter’s curly hair.  There haven’t been any tears since she told me to drop the shampoo and just condition ML’s hair.  This in no way influenced my opinions about Baby Bear Counts One.  If anything, I didn’t gloat as much as I should have about this book.

As for her blog, take a look.  You’ll get insight into how she created this beautiful book and many others.


A Very Witchy Spelling Bee


This year ML started spelling homework.  She completes her homework at the after school program.  Ms. Brim is on my top ten list of favorite people.  In after school, she lovingly helps ML and friends with their homework.  Her hard work results in a more peaceful evening for our family.  I am sure it is that way for others too.  Because of Ms. Brim we get to read funny books about spelling; instead of working on spelling homework.

A Very Witchy Spelling Bee by George Shannon and illustrated by Mark Fearing was published recently.  From the title, you might think it’s a Halloween book.  It isn’t.  It’s a clever book about a spelling bee.  Beulah Divine, winner thirteen times straight, laughs when she hears the young witch Cordelia plans to compete in The Witches’ Double Spelling Bee. Below are the rules for the once every ten years spelling bee

  1. When your name is called, pull a letter out of the bowl.
  2. Choose something onstage and spell it.
  3. Using the letter you picked, cast a spell that transforms what you chose into something new.
  4. Spell the new word.

“Opal went first and pulled out an M.  With a wave of her hand she turned ice, I-C-E into mice, M-I-C-E,”  The fun begins.  Hoe becomes shoe.  Shoe becomes horse.  Map becomes lamp.  You can’t add a “b” to pumpkin to make a new word so pumpkin explodes all over the room.  Soon it’s only Beulah Divine and Cordelia onstage.  One will outsmart the other.  Which Witch will it be?

I”m nominating A Very Witchy Spelling Bee for the North Carolina Children’s Picture Book Award; an award voted on by the children of North Carolina.   When ML learns to spell better we can create “Spelling Spells.”  In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the silly story and illustrations.  Cordelia’s facial expressions are my favorite part of the book.

Science Friday – Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctor’s? – Not My Nephew


My brother told me this story.  He asked his son “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  His son said, “A lawyer.”  My brother asked, “You don’t want to be a doctor like Mommy,”  His son’s response shows how far women have come in the medical profession.  “No, daddy!  Only girls can be doctors.”

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?  The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman is one of my favorite books of the year.  First, it provided a chance to share the story above.

Secondly, it’s a well researched book.  Among the sources the author used is the primary source Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession by Elizabeth Blackwell.  Click on the title above and it will take you to a full-text version of the book.

Marjorie Priceman is the illustrator of two Caldecott Honor books.  I hope Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? is in serious consideration for the Caldecott Award this year.  The melding of the text, illustrations and white space is perfect.  The character’s faces are great… happy, sad, surprised, smug, filled with chicken pox.  There’s never a question of how a character feels.

My favorite part of the book includes the text, “Finally, Elizabeth asked doctors and friends.  Some thought it was a good idea, but didn’t think there was any way it could be done.  Others said it wasn’t right.” Below the paragraph is enough white space to focus the eye on the fancy text and drawings below.  As Elizabeth lifts up a huge basket overflowing with laundry, a man says. “Women are too weak for such hard work.”  While she is reading a book, another man states, “Women aren’t smart enough.”

I better write a revised version for my nephew.  Or else he’ll be a lawyer.  In his mind, only boys can be lawyers.  Guess who is a lawyer?

Belly Buttons


When ML was a toddler, I read her a lift-the-flap book called Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? by Karen Katz. She loved it.

Recently, I saw another belly button book on the shelf, Belly Button Boy by Peter Maloney and illustrated by Felicia Zekauskas. Billy doesn’t clean his belly button, so a plant starts growing out of it. The doctor cannot help Billy.  But the doctor’s gardener knows how to treat this unique medical condition.

Sadly, this book is out of print. So many good children’s books go out of print. But as I explained in a recent post, you can try to get it through InterLibrary Loan if your local library doesn’t own it.

I wish I purchased Sing, Sophie! by Dayle Ann Dodds and Shark in the Park! by Nick Sharratt before they went out of print.  What titles do you wish you purchased before they went out of print?  I know I can get them used.  But I want the library to be able to get fresh copies for circulation.



We Met Three Time Caldecott Winner – David Wiesner


The first David Wiesner book I read was Tuesday.  Dr. Amber Prince introduced me to his work in one of her Teaching Reading classes.

The Three Pigs was ML’s first introduction.  Last week, I brought home all the David Wiesner books I could find on the shelf.  ML was particularly fond of Tuesday and Sector 7.

I purchased his most recent book, Mr. Wuffles, for ML’s birthday.  She opened the book and said, “Mommy, you know I don’t like comic books.”  We didn’t have time to read it that evening, but as she closed the books she saw the photo on the book jacket of legs and a cat.  It peaked her interest.

So Monday night, we “read” Mr. Wuffles.  I say “read” because aliens do most of the speaking.  The text looks similar to Wingdings in Microsoft Word.  We enjoyed making up our own pronunciation.  ML was wrong.  She might not like comic books, but she loves David Wiesner’s books.  Even the ones that look similar to comic books.

Her favorite is  Sector 7.  A book about a child whisked away by a cloud from the Empire State Building Observation Deck during a field trip.  The cloud takes the child to Sector 7 where clouds are shaped and sent throughout the world.  The child modifies the blueprints resulting in artistic clouds; mostly fish and sea creatures.  We thought about other ideas for  clouds.  ML drew pictures of her ideas and gave them to David Wiesner. . . a pumpkin, a peace sign, a cherry, an apple with a worm, a flamingo, a peacock, a flower, a heart and a sun.  He enjoyed all of them but was especially impressed with the detailed peacock.

A lady asked David Wiesner, “I read Sector 7 every year to my students and have them design a cloud with batting.  They struggle coming  up with ideas.  What can I do to help them?”  He seemed as confused as I.  I wanted to answer the question for him.  “What do you mean they have trouble coming up with ideas?  My daughter drew 9 ideas in 15 minutes last night.”


P.S.  David Wiesner showed a painting from when he was 5 to illustrate he wasn’t a child prodigy.  Many children and most adults stop doing art.  He encouraged us to try it again.  Tonight, before I go to bed I’ll sketch something.  ML draws something everyday.  I want to encourage that for years.

Pigs who Ribbit and Cows who Cock-a-Doodle-Moo

There  are many books about animals making the wrong sound.



My first introduction to this “genre” occurred in Charleston, South Carolina where I began my public library career.   My boss loved Cock-a-Doodle-Moo! by Bernard Most.  Watching a forty-something-year-old bearded father “cock-a-doodle-mooing” at the top of his lungs is funny.  When it’s your boss, it’s even funnier.  The basic storyline is rooster wakes up with laryngitis and needs someone to awaken the farm animals.  Cow tries to take the rooster’s place… “Mock-a-moodle-moo!” “Sock-a-noodle-moo!” And finally, “Cock-a-doodle-MOO!”

Children all over the world find animals making the wrong sound comical. The most recent arrival at the library proves this.  Ribbit! is written by  Rodrigo Folgueira and illustrated by Poly Bernantene. Both are from Argentina.   The Spanish title for this book is Sapo de otro pozo and the pig says “!Croaca!” instead of “Ribbit!”  I didn’t take Spanish so I am relying on Google Translate.  I’m guessing the publisher thought the translation Toad out Water was too similar to A Fish Out of Water by  Helen Palmer and illustrated by P. D. Eastman.  I find it interesting the covers are different too.

Bonus Question – Who was Helen Palmer married too?
Click on    A Fish Out of Water to find the answer.
I had no idea!

I Suffered Postpartum Psychosis


This blog continues to evolve.  When I started this blog, I did not plan to share my journey through postpartum psychosis.  Keeping my love of children’s literature and my advocacy about postpartum mood disorders separated.

However, circumstances changed these past few weeks.  I feel compelled to share my experience.  First, we received a book titled, Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington.  I’ve only read a few chapters; but it didn’t take me long to realize the main character’s mother suffered postpartum psychosis.  As soon as it was revealed Sarah was a twin, her brother died as an infant and her mother was a patient at a mental hospital,  I knew.  Next, at least two women lost their lives to postpartum psychosis since I’ve started reading this book.  One took her life.  The other was shot.  While I am not a doctor, I know this disease takes over your life, your thoughts.  It leaves you scared, paranoid and often convinces you the only way to keep your child safe is to die.

A little over a year ago I was interviewed by Liisa Ogburn for her project, “How Motherhood Changes Us.”  As her bio states, she is “a mother, daughter, wife, neighbor, community member, friend and adjunct professor at Duke University.” She’s also a survivor of postpartum psychosis.  Liisa took my words and created a masterpiece describing my dark journey.

“I’m almost 40 years old. My daughter just turned six.

My daughter was very planned. We’d been married for a year. I got pregnant pretty quickly and we were very excited.

Her birth was an 8-5 job. When I woke up around 6:30 am, my water broke. We got to the hospital at 8 am. It was a pretty easy birth. I don’t remember a whole lot of it.

Before she was born, I fully anticipated a middle class life of staying at home while she was young, maybe teaching preschool half a day and being involved in my children’s school. We were going to have two kids, though not the dog and cat since I was allergic, but my life has taken a different course. I’m a single mom now working full time and doing the best I can.

In the hospital, not long after I had my daughter, I passed out. I woke up a different person. I woke up very anxious. I didn’t know where I was… for a second, I thought I had died. As I was being discharged, I started having an anxiety attack while my husband was getting the car. The nurse told me I needed to get over it because I had a baby to take care of.

I had intended to be the breastfeeding, cloth-diapering mom. To make my own baby food. But I wasn’t producing enough milk. I became more and more anxious. I was not sleeping well so my anxiety started fueling scary thoughts. At first I was scared I was going to drop my baby. Then I would see a target bag and I became afraid I might put her in there. I found a support group for moms who were experiencing postpartum depression (PPD).

I asked my OB for help about two weeks after delivering. She sent me to a retired psychiatrist who had experience with postpartum depression, but he was an hour away and didn’t take insurance.

About six weeks after I delivered, I became desperate. My mother had passed away eleven years earlier. I called my brother. His wife was completing her medical training. They immediately came over and wanted to take me to Holly Hill, a private psychiatric facility, but I had had some physical issues…so I was taken to UNC, where they put me on the eating disorders unit.

Postpartum depression… it seems the wrong term. So many women have anxiety that just builds and prevents them from sleeping. When people are not sleeping, they can become psychotic. People think psychotic is, you know, criminal. It’s actually seeing or hearing things that are not there, which is pretty common when you’re really sleep deprived. I was hearing things like my baby’s cry. I was put on Ambien to help me sleep, but it made me want to kill myself.

I was hospitalized five times. Before I was discharged the first time, I was told I needed to find a therapist, so I searched for one online who was close to home and took my insurance. The one I found…She didn’t know much about PPD at all. I met with her, but I was still not doing well. I was scared.

On the morning I was supposed to see my General Practitioner for follow-up on an infection, I woke up and couldn’t drive. My neighbor brought me to the appointment and by the time the doctor came in, I was on the floor crying uncontrollably. The doctor asked my friend to take me to Holly Hill, which is a private hospital in Raleigh and she did. She called my husband and he said “OK. I’ll pick her up from there.” My neighbor said, “I don’t think she’s coming home today.”

I was there several weeks, all the way through Christmas. They merged the substance abuse and crisis wards over the holidays, so I spent Christmas Eve in an AA meeting. On Christmas morning, my daughter was able to visit for ten minutes.

After I was discharged a second time, I continued to get worse and worse. A couple of weeks later, I tried to kill myself. I was found in the hotel room. Luckily I didn’t know that if you take tons of pills, you would throw them up. All I knew was that it was the first time I’d slept in months. I remember hearing banging on the hotel door. The police and EMT workers came in. As they were putting me in the ambulance, I remember seeing snow on the ground and that’s the last thing I can remember for a long time.

At the hospital, one of the psychiatrists felt like I would benefit from Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT). My friends and family said they came to visit me and I would just lay there catatonic, not talking. That it was just not me. They do various placements of the electrodes during ECT. They’re always trying to get the right placement. After awhile, they sent me home and my husband took me back to the hospital within 24 hours. They decided to do a different placement called modified bilateral and it worked wonders.

I finally started to feel better. I got connected with an expert on PPD. We changed my medication and continued the ECT. There was just a feeling of enormous relief. It was spring. It had been almost six months since I gave birth.

What have I learned about myself through all of this? I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I ever thought I was [laughing]. I’ve learned what I value. I’ve learned that I’m a very good mother. My daughter has no memory of me not being there when she was very young. I made sure there were people there who loved her and took care of her. Being a mother and these experiences have made me a deeply compassionate person. You meet a variety of people when working in a library, some who struggle with mental illness. I feel comfortable being with them and answering their questions in a way others don’t.

When I was in the hospital, I received a letter from a woman in Seattle who I’d known years ago and she shared her story of PPD… of how she would just hide in her closet and cry. I received a letter from a girl I knew growing up. The effect of their sharing their stories made me realize that I needed to share my own.

Initially, when I started feeling more like my old self, I was angry that I didn’t get the right help in the beginning, but I’ve chosen to use that anger to work towards change for others. I’m proud to say that the hospital I first went to now has an in-patient unit specifically for mothers and it’s beautiful. I would have recovered much more quickly had I been treated there. I might even still be married.

How am I different now? I’m a lot calmer. I worry less. I try to focus on where we are now and not worry about what’s going to happen in middle school or how we are going to pay for college. My daughter spends half her time with her dad and half her time with me. I try to make sure that it’s quality time, that we’re not on the go all the time.

I never thought I would be a working mom, much less a single mom. I lived a pretty charmed life. But now I am working and single. Maybe I’m a better mom? My daughter is very proud of me and my job. But at the same time, work is not my top priority.

Advice for first time mothers? Reach out for help. Put into place a support system for the first couple of months because it’s very difficult. If you do not have a mother… my mother passed away 11 years ago today, it will be an even harder experience.

Anything else? I’m just thankful to be alive and to get to enjoy my daughter.”

Sorry for the emotionally wrenching tone of the past two posts.  Tomorrow, I promise a lighter tone.

As for Sure Signs of Crazy, I can’t give you my opinion on it yet.  I fully intend to finish it, but it will probably take me awhile.  It’s hard to read about an adolescent  girl who essentially lost her mother to postpartum psychosis.  That was almost ML.

If you know a mom who is just not the same after the birth of her child, whether it be depression, anxiety, or inability to sleep; HELP HER GET HELP.  Postpartum Support International’s website, provides straight, honest information and links to places sufferers can receive care throughout the world.

It took me four years to admit I suffered Postpartum Psychosis.  I told people I suffered Postpartum Depression.  People are more knowledgeable about depression and it’s not as scary of a word.


Mom Loved Yellow


Tomorrow marks the 12th anniversary since my mom passed away. This week my story time theme is Yellow in memory of her. Yellow was her favorite color and describes her disposition best – always optimistic. She taught me to read, be kind to others and make lemonade out of lemons.

It’s hard to believe she’s been gone more than a quarter of my life. Her nurturing and love during my first thirty years helped shape who I am. Tomorrow, ML and I celebrate her 7th birthday at Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Broadway Production. I’ll tell ML how much Grandma Nell loved to “see shows.” How I wish she could join us. It’s fitting Belle wears yellow and loves to read.

Mom wouldn’t want me to end on a sad note. So here’s a book I shared this week – Gladys Goes Out to Lunch by Derek Anderson. Gladys is a gorilla that follows her nose out of the gates of the zoo and around the city looking for what smells so sweet and yummy. Finally, she finds the source – a loaf of banana bread. Another of Mom’s expertise – banana bread. Actually, everything she cooked was yummy. Except for the salt brownies. But that’s a story for another day.


When Blue Met Egg


Here’s another great one published this year.  When Blue Met Egg by Lindsay Ward is set in New York. A mysterious egg flies through the air and lands in Blue’s nest. It’s early for an egg. Central Park is filled with snow.

Blue searches for Egg’s mother at the Boathouse and Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. Then, she ventures into the city with Egg in a basket. They view the Empire State Building, move on to Battery Park and then take the subway back to Central Park. Blue has not succeeded in finding Egg’s mother. So they make the best of it .. riding the carousel … crossing the Brooklyn Bridge … visiting the Guggenheim Museum … attending an opera at the Metropolitan Opera House.

In April the city begins to thaw. Egg is getting smaller. Blue is concerned Egg is sick. So she serves Egg soup but it makes Egg smaller and weaker. Any guesses on what happened to Egg?

ML is 7 Today!

In honor of ML’s seventh birthday
seven of her favorite books
from her first seven years

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

Good Night Gorilla

Sleepy Dog by Harriet Ziefert and illustrated by Norman Gorbaty

Sleepy Dog

Where’s My Teddy by Jez Alborough

Where's My Teddy

Can You See What I See?  Seymour Makes New Friends by Walter Wick


Fancy Nancy Explorer Extraoridinaire! by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser


Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney


Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz


We’re Not Halloween Books

None of these books are about Halloween.
But they are perfect stories to read in October.


Crankenstein by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Dan Santat – All Crankenstein knows how to say is “Mehhrrrr!”  It’s my new sound for no.  When ML asks, “Can I have some candy for breakfast?” I say, “Mehhrrr!”   When she asks to watch television before she finishes her homework, I say “MEHHRRR!”  But when she tries to wake me up early on a Saturday morning, I say “MEHHRRR!  GO WATCH TV.”

Cake Girl by David Lucas –  Witch is alone on her birthday so she bakes a cake girl.  Then, demands it sing, dance and clean her house.  Witch tells Cake Girl she will eat her after she finishes all the chores.  Cake Girl sets a plan in motion to save herself.  She teaches Witch how to be nice, resulting in a magical friendship with Cake Girl.  Or is it Cake Princess? Or Cake Cat?  It’s hard to know.

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds – Jasper Rabbit loves to eat carrots, but he keeps seeing creepy carrots coming after him.  No one else in his family sees them.  Is he paranoid or is something else going on?

Dear Vampa by Ross Collins – The Pire family has new neighbors, the Wolfsons.  They stay up all day, sleep at night, love sunshine and have an unpleasant pet.  It gets so bad the Pire family moves to Transylvania.  There’s a great twist at the end.  The Wolfsons have a secret.  They’re not what they appear.

Enjoy these books in October and all year long.

Why So Many Dead Parents in Children’s Books?


I’m branching out.  My first foray into newly published fiction for grades 5-8 was Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan.  It was an amazing book.  I enjoyed the second book I read too – Unhooking the Moon by Gregory Hughes.

The books were very different.  However, they had one similarity I find in many books for late elementary and early middle schoolers.  Both parents in each book were dead.  I started thinking about the children’s books I’ve read.  There’s a lot of dead or missing parents.  Think Harry Potter, The Secret Garden, James and the Giant Peach, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond,

I did a little research on the subject and found two thoughts on why there are so many deceased parents.  One children’s editor, Leila Sales, shares her opinion in an article in Publisher’s Weekly entitled The Ol’ Dead Dad Syndrome. Her opinion is some authors are lazy.  It’s easier to have dead parents than fully develop more characters.  However, she agrees dead parents are important in books set in an orphanage or about a child coping with the death of a parent.  Julie Just, the children’s book editor with the New York Times shares a different opinion in this April 1, 2010 essay, The Parent Problem in Young Adult Lit.  Her opinion is there are too many parents in young adult fiction. “In fact, it’s the removal of the adult’s protective presence that kick-starts the story.”

That’s what happened in Unhooking the Moon.  It’s hard to create a characters ages 12 and younger who can smuggle themselves into New York from Canada, sleep in Central Park, hustle in Times Square, ride their bikes all over Manhattan, and spend the night at a famous rap star’s penthouse apartment if parents are in the picture.   And that’s just a tiny bit of the book.

Neither is a book, I’ll recommend to ML today.  But I’m glad both are on my radar for when she is older.  Hopefully, she and her friends will continue their book club.  Both of these would be excellent choices.  In the meantime, I’m recommending them to all my coworkers and any kid asking for good books.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Counting by 7s wins the Newbery Medal or named an Newbery Honor book this year.

Science Friday – Halloween Things

With Halloween approaching, I checked out non-fiction books about spiders, owls and bones. However, when I got them home, I realized we have too many library books in our house.  And I need to learn to share with others.   I asked ML  to go through the books and send back the titles she wasn’t interested in reading. All the spider books were returned.

The two books below made the “stay stack.”  Hopefully, they will be as good as their covers look.



Accelerated Reader

I knew ML’s school participated in Accelerated Reader, most often referred to as AR. As a public librarian, it’s the bane of my existence. Children and parents request help finding books at a certain level worth a certain number of points, not caring if the book looks interesting to the child.  Students are forced to reach a certain number of points each week, month or year.

Kindergarteners at ML’s school do not participate in AR. When I learned first graders participate in this program, I was ready to rumble. Accompanied with my Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Masters in Library Science, I planned to visit the school with the latest research on why AR was a bad thing. After reading the explanation of how ML’s school uses AR, I decided to stay home.

Here’s what I like about their implementation

  • “Children should be encouraged to select books in the range of one year above or below their current reading level. The higher books provide a challenge while the lower books provide a sense of mastery.” I love the word encouraged instead of required. ML can read a wide range of books. According to AR, the Rainbow Magic books I posted about earlier this week are at a 4th grade level. At many schools, ML and her friends would not be allowed to take tests on these books because they are way above their level. Considering these books are a large percentage of their recreational reading choice at this time, not being able to take tests on them would be frustrating.
  • The school specifically and succinctly explains non-fiction is harder to read. ML can read beginning fiction chapter books with multiple paragraphs per page. However,  her ability to comprehend and pass tests on non-fiction books include texts with only one or two sentences per page.
  • Students don’t get silly plastic prizes. Instead, they receive passport stamps throughout the year. When ML reaches the AR goal for her grade, she’s invited to the AR Celebration at the end of the school year.
  • It’s optional.  No one is required to participate.

What is a level anyway? Stay tuned. I’ve been working on a post for weeks about book levels. All I can really say at this moment is it’s complicated and it depends on a variety of factors. Intellectually I understand it, but putting it into non jargon words is difficult.

I’m holding back judgement of this program as a parent.  As a librarian, I’m not convinced there is a measurable benefit compared to the expense of this program.  Not to mention the stress it places on parents and their children who have to find a book at a certain level on the list in the few hours between school and bedtime.

But my hat goes off to the Friends of the Library and Media Specialist at ML’s school for creating a positive implementation of this program. I was so impressed, I attended my first Friends of the Library meeting at her school this morning.

A Three Word Book

ah ha

Last week, ML bragged, “I read an entire Rainbow Magic chapter book today.” I was both impressed and sad. I feared she might start telling me picture books were babyish. Thankfully, even books with the simplest text still appeal to her.

She was immediately hooked on the book AH HA! by Jeff Mack. There are only three words in this book Ah, ha, and aaah. Those three words and Mack’s brightly colored illustrations create a robust story. The facial expressions on the animals tell it all.

Another great book for both preschool and elementary-aged children. Other books illustrated by Jeff Mack are story time hits – Mr. Duck Means Business by Tammi Sauer, Hurry Hurry by Eve Bunting, Starry Safari by Linda Ashman and Rub-a-Dub Sub by Linda Ashman. For a few weeks when ML was four, the only book she wanted me to read was Starry Safari. She particularly loved the illustration on the last page of the book.

starry safari

Rainbow Magic Books


I did not introduce ML to the Rainbow Magic books on purpose. I knew she would learn about them from her peers. She did, and they can’t get enough of this series. The girls are requesting specific titles from the library, trading books, even devouring a book in one day.

As a person who read every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on, I can’t complain about these formulaic books. They built my reading confidence.

A few years ago, I read a book from the Rainbow Magic series. I don’t remember which one, but felt like I should as a children’s librarian. With 140 titles, you would think they would run out of fairy ideas soon. But a series already sporting titles Claudia the Accessories Fairy, Jade the Disco Fairy, and Scarlet the Garnet Fairy; and with Layla the Cotton Candy Fairy and Kayla the Pottery Fairy in the queue to be released in early 2014, most likely has more titles ready for publication.

Any ideas for new fairies to add to their series? Maybe some cleaning fairies? Daisy the Dusting Fairy, Vera the Vacuum Fairy, Lisa the Laundry Fairy and Bernice the Bathroom Scrubbing Fairy.