Month: October 2013

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.