Career Day – I Booktalked Branches – A New Group of Beginning Chapter Books

Today I surprised ML and visited her class to tell about what I do at my job.  She was super excited and helped me with the story time.  We did a shared reading of an Elephant & Piggie book and the puppet show we performed for the incoming kindergarteners yesterday.  Not only did I perform a story time, I booktalked.  For those of you in the non-library world, it’s telling a little bit about a book to entice readers.  I chose a new group of beginning reader chapter books by Scholastic Books to highlight called Branches.  The students were intrigued by the books.  Hopefully, they will visit the public library this summer and check some out.  I consider the most important part of my job getting books to readers.

There are eight series in this collection.  I’ve read snippets from four of the series.  Descriptions of the series are straight from Scholastic’s website. Plus a sentence on what I think will appeal to readers from the books I’ve physically laid my hands on.


Kung Pow Chicken by Cindi Marko – “Gordon Blue was an ordinary second grader — until he became the superhero known as Kung Pow Chicken! Now he battles bad guys all over town!”  Readers will like the colorful pages, and the intermixing of traditional text with comic book bubbles.


Looniverse by David Lubar – “A magical coin makes Ed’s universe go more than a little loony in this edge-of-your-seat series.”  Readers will like the quirky stories and the funny illustrations.


Lotus Lane by Kyla May – “These fun diaries give readers a glimpse into the fabulous Lotus Lane Girls Club.”  Readers will like the diary format and the illustrations interspersed throughout the diary entries.

Monkey Me

Monkey Me by Timothy Roland – “Thanks to a wacky banana, energetic Clyde turns into a monkey when he gets excited!”  Readers will like the combination of narrative text and comic strip format.

Dragon Masters

Dragon Masters by Tracey West and illustrated by Graham Howells – “Dragon Masters has it all!  Dragons, a Dragon Stone, a king, a wizard, and magic!”

I am glad to have additional beginning chapter books to share with readers this summer beyond my regular go tos… Magic Tree House, Flat Stanley, and Rainbow Magic.

Libraries can’t buy every book.  Other series in the Branches group, I’ve yet to read include…


Boris by Andrew Joyner – “Adventure is always just around the corner for this enthusiastic warthog.”


Missy’s Super Duper Royal Deluxe by Susan Nees – “Missy does everything the super-duper-royal-deluxe way in this irresistible series about a girl with a big personality!”


The Notebook of Doom by Troy Cummings  – “Alexander Bopp has just moved to a new town where he uncovers all sorts of monsters!”


Future Librarian in Training and A Secret


I am a member of the Friends of the Library at ML’s school.  In previous years, the school librarian presented a story time for incoming kindergartners near the end of the school year.  Between End of Grade Tests and other responsibilities the media specialist wasn’t able to work one in her schedule.  So I volunteered to do it.

At 8:30 a.m. this morning, ML and I shared books, songs, a flannelboard game and puppets with these rising kindergartners.  Some of her friends’ siblings were in the crowd so it was extra fun.  ML is an excellent story time presenter.  She read The Pigeon Needs a Bath, played the flannel game with the kids and performed in the puppet show.  Below is what we did.

Book Eddie Gets Ready for School by David Milgrim (I read it to get the kids in the mindset of going to school.  And so the parents won’t feel bad if their mornings are crazy.  Eddie’s parents mornings are even crazier.)

Flannel Rhyme –  A is for Alligator

A is for alligator,
Chomp, chomp, chomp
B is for bunny,
Hop, hop, hop
C is for circle
That goes around and around
And D is for down.
Let’s all sit down.

Flannel – What’s Inside My Little Book? (A guessing game where various flannel items are hidden behind flannel cut in the shape of different color books.  We repeated a rhyme together and they tried to guess what was behind each book… ice cream cone, blue car, purple hippo and green monster.)

BookThe Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems (ML read it to remind them to bathe before the first day of school.)

Puppet Show – Using the tune “The Wheels on the Bus” we performed a show with animal puppets and appropriate props for various people found at school.

The teachers at the school  say, “Welcome to School.”
The art teacher at the school says, “Paint, Paint, Paint!”
The music teacher at the school says, “La, La, La!”
The coach at the school  says, “Run, Run, Run”
The librarian at the school says “Read, Read, Read!”
The students at the school  say, “We’re Glad You’re Here.”

ML doesn’t know I’ll be sharing this story time tomorrow with her class.  Then, I’ll tell the students all about being a librarian.  Shhhh!  It’s a secret.


Troll Swap3BillyGoatsGruff

I read so many picture books.  Sometimes I forget which ones ML and I read together.  The other night I pulled out Troll Swap by Leigh Hodgkinson.  ML insisted, “Mommy!  We’ve read it before!”  I said, “I don’t think so.”  She promised, “We did!  It’s really good, so we can read it again.”  ML was correct.  We did read it together a few weeks ago.  We enjoyed the book even more the second time.  We spent the evening laughing at the new details we discovered in the illustrations.  ML loves how the troll’s outfit and the girl’s outfit match.

It was a night of troll books.  We enjoyed The Three Billy Goats Gruff retold by Mary Finch and illustrated by Roberta Arenson too.  When ML saw the cover she exclaimed, “We have that book at school.  I love it.”  It was a shared reading experience.  In a deep voice ML read…

“Im a troll,from a deep dark hole,
My belly’s getting thinner,
I need to eat — and goat’s a treat —
So I’ll have you for my dinner.”

I don’t often name the publishers of books, but I want to highlight the publishers of these two books.  Nosy Crow, the publisher of Troll Swap, began publishing in 2011.  In just three years, they’ve published award-winning, kid approved books.  Barefoot Books, the publisher of The Three Billy Goats Gruff, began in 1992.  Several of my favorite books to read in story time are published by Barefoot BooksThe Animal Boogie sung by Fred Penner and illustrated by Debbie Harter is my go to for a group filled with children of all ages.

Animal Boogie

Happy Anniversary to ML Reads

Typewriter old

WordPress informed me this week, it’s the first anniversary of ML Reads.  When I started the blog, I did it on a whim.  Just a fun way to share books with friends.  I had no idea how much it would enrich my life; nor how it would evolve.

So 217 posts later with over 10,000 page views. . . this is what I’ve learned.

  • I’ve created a wonderful journal of ML’s reading and important events in our life.  Most make me smile; but the one about her friend dying hurts my heart every time I read it.
  • Authors and illustrators of children books are amazing.  Not only do they provide high quality books for children, they are kind.  A month or so into the blog I decided to contact authors and illustrators when they were featured.  I receive responses from the vast majority.  Some send ML copies of their books.  Others provide a sneak peak to artwork from an upcoming book.  A few even follow my blog.  I didn’t expect any of this when I started the blog.  All the authors and illustrators are gracious and appreciate learning how much ML enjoys their books.
  • People from all over the world view my blog…  78 countries and counting.
  • Writing is hard work.  211 posts are in some sort of draft yet to be finished.
  • I’m a better librarian for keeping this blog.  It’s renewed my enthusiasm for helping children find books they may enjoy.  I love it when they let me know if they like it or not.

I plan to continue posting for another year.  As ML grows I know the blog will continue to evolve.  With my love of picture books and ML’s interest in art, sharing about new picture books will be a permanent feature.  I anticipate ML’s reading skills to ramp up exponentially in the next year.  Maybe I’ll have her write posts on the chapter books she loves.


Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman


I’m having a hard time keeping up with posting about all the fantastic picture books arriving at the library.  I didn’t want to let the book ML and I read last night slip through the cracks.  Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman is an epic adventure with amazing watercolors.  I promise I didn’t copy “epic adventure” from the inner flap of the book jacket.  It’s immediately what popped into my mind when we finished the book.

However, I am going to copy from the flap now because it describes the book perfectly.  “This read-aloud shares its best qualities with classic picture books: breath-taking illustrations, epic adventure and a subtle message about taking responsibility for your actions.”

Reading this book reminded me of my mom and I cuddling and reading books when I was young.  It’s only fitting ML wanted us to cuddle after this book.  I smiled when she said, “Mommy, tell me a story about your mom.  I don’t know much about her.”  (My mother passed away almost five years to the day before ML’s birth) I told the story of the time mom made salt brownies.  Those who knew and loved my mom know this story well.

For my literary friends, check out the illustrations of various boats.  You won’t be able to read it without thinking of some classics from American Literature.

DO NOT MISS THIS BOOK!!!  It is deserving of all the starred reviews and accolades it’s receiving.  I promise it will show up on my 2015 Mock Caldecott list.

ML Finally Likes Elephant & Piggie Books


I’ve checked out Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems for years.  ML emphatically refused for us to read them stating, “You know I don’t like comic books.”  Recently she said, “Mommy, I don’t like the Pigeon books anymore.  I like the Elephant & Piggie books.”  The Pigeon books are by Mo Willems too.

The library received a new pigeon book days before this conversation.  I responded, “OK, I won’t bring home the new Pigeon book, The Pigeon Needs a Bath.  ML changed her tune requesting, “Please bring home the Pigeon book, but also bring home some Elephant & Piggie books.”  Excitedly, I seized the opportunity and requested every Elephant & Piggie book published.

The night I brought home The Pigeon Needs a Bath  bedtime snuck up on us.  I wanted to multitask the bedtime routine by reading to ML while she ate her bedtime snack.  Sitting on the floor in the kitchen, I was ready to begin reading.   ML said, “Wait! I want to read The Pigeon Needs a Bath to you.”  On our dusty wooden floor, I realized something.  The only people who read picture books out loud with more feeling than a children’s librarian are the children of these librarians.

I’m glad I didn’t force the Elephant & Piggie books on ML.  The dramatic opportunities in these books are beyond measure.  Of course, I didn’t realize this until ML showed me.  She decided I should be Elephant and she would be Piggie.  We’ve been reading them out loud together.

Recently, her friend came for dinner.  They acted out seven different Elephant & Piggie books.  I sat on the sofa and held the books open so they could read the words.  It was fun watching them taking turns being Elephant & Piggie.  There were even costumes made from blue painter’s tape.  A long strip taped to Elephant’s nose and a short curly tail for Piggie allowing for quick costume changes after each book.

My wonderful friend from library school who lives in California posted Elephant & Piggie Do Reader’s Theater last week on her blog.  Looks like children from coast to coast are performing dramatic readings of Elephant & Piggie books.

When you read the Elephant & Piggie books (because you must no matter your age or access to children) make sure to check out the back inside covers of the books.  The Pigeon makes an appearance.  I’m not buying ML’s comment, ” I don’t like the Pigeon books anymore.”   She loves finding that silly bird hiding out in the Elephant & Piggie books.



Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! Bunnies in Our Yard


Yesterday, I alluded to bunnies in our yard.  Today, I am highlighting a trilogy of bunny books by Candace Fleming and illustrated by G. Brian Karas.  And sharing some very sad news about one of our bunnies living in the urban wild.

In the first book, Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! a very grumpy Mr. McGreeley  is inundated with bunnies eating his garden.  Each day he works hard to keep the bunnies out of his garden.  Every night the bunnies muncha, muncha, muncha.

Winter’s arrived in the next book of the series…  Tippy, Tippy, Tippy Hide!  Mr. McGreeley looks forward to a quiet winter with no bunnies.  Doesn’t happen.  Those pufftails invade his home.

In the final book of the trilogy,  Tippy-Tippy-Tippy, Splash!, Mr. McGreeley decides to visit the beach to escape the bunnies who drive him crazy.  No such luck.  They hitch a ride.

I wrote this post yesterday.  Last night, we lost one of the three bunnies who have been visiting our patch of clover and strawberries everyday for weeks.  ML found it on the side of the street.  She’s named all the bunnies with first, middle and last names and was able to identify the deceased as “Strawberry Cottontail Bunny.”

Guess who buried the bunny? Personally, I think I deserve a  Mom of the Year award.  The tombstone ML made is below. She also took photos of the dead bunny. I’ll spare you.  It comforted ML she had made a special bunny salad of dandelions, clover and strawberries for the bunnies Sunday evening.   As for the person who sped down our street sometime between 6 and 8 p.m. and hit the hind leg of our “pet,” your speeding made my daughter cry. Was the three seconds faster you got to your destination worth it?


Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt and illustrated by Joyce Wan


It’s not often I wish ML was three years old again.   Don’t believe anyone when they say it’s the terrible twos.  ML’s third year was the most challenging.  Many of my friends experienced the same thing when they had a three year-old.  I call it the first adolescence.

When Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt and illustrated by Joyce Wan arrived at the library, I found myself wishing ML was three for one night.  So many books about bedtime are saccharine with similar story lines and illustrations.  Not this one.  Simple, original rhyming text and muted illustrations of animals hiding where they sleep abound.

I think I can convince ML to let me read her the book.  One page features a bunny sleeping in the dandelions.  We have three bunnies who visit our yard day and night.  At this time of year, ML spends most of her time outside.  At least five times a day I hear, “Mommy the bunnies are in our yard.”

I buy books for baby showers.  This one will be purchased for the next friend who has a baby.  Any takers?

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd


I’m giving A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd the highest compliment I can give a chapter book.  I don’t plan to finish reading it anytime soon.  ML saw me reading it the other night.  The cover peaked her curiosity.  Great job Gilbert Ford.  Illustrators of book jackets don’t get the credit they deserve.

Here’s the transcript of our conversation.

ML:  What’s that about?
Me:  Magic.
ML:  Are you going to recommend that book to me when I’m older?
Me:  I don’t know.  I’ve only read the first chapter, but Miss Jenn loved it.
ML:  She did?

(I work with Miss Jenn.  ML thinks she is super cool because she was Mama Bear in the local Christmas Parade.  So any book recommended by Miss Jenn is cool in ML’s eyes.)

I’ve read half the book and I’m stopping.  I want ML and I to experience the magic of this book unfold at the same time.  I’ve read enough to know it’s going to be great.  Sometime between 4th-7th grade we’ll read this book.

Below is the publishers synopsis.

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck’s about to change. A “word collector,” Felicity sees words everywhere—shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog’s floppy ears—but Midnight Gulch is the first place she’s ever seen the word “home.” And then there’s Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity’s never seen before, words that make Felicity’s heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she’ll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that’s been cast over the town . . . and her mother’s broken heart.


Froodle by Antoinette Portis


When ML was a preschooler, she loved to make up words.  She still does.  When Froodle by Antoinette Portis showed up at the library, I knew ML would love it.  It was perfect timing.   Last week in the post Dear Ms. Shaw, Sorry ML was late I wrote about ML’s fascination with birds.  Currently, there are three teeny tiny sparrow eggs in our birdhouse.

The book highlights all the places we see birds at our house… resting on the power lines, hiding in the bushes, singing from the trees, perched on the neighbor’s for rent sign and peeking over our side door awning.

The combination of silly words and perceived personalities of various types of birds amuses.  It’s hard to pick a favorite silly word from the book when it includes words like snoobly, zickle, itsy boggen, zinker triggy, pleemish and many more.

We’re looking forward to hearing our little brown sparrows when they hatch.  What do you think they will say?

Surprise – The Perfect Book to Read on Mother’s Day


Last night ML pulled out the book Surprise by Mies Van Hout from the stack of new picture books I checked out this past week.  A perfect choice for Mother’s Day.  Each page spread includes a page with one word.  The other page includes a black background with bright pastel, child-like illustrations of baby birds and their parents.

Many aspects of parenting are covered… yearning, hoping, expecting, marveling, caring, comforting, cherishing, teasing, enjoying, listening, encouraging,  and letting go.

ML received pastels from Santa.  I put them away for outside use and forgot about them this cold winter.  It’s time to purchase some black paper and see what surprises ML creates with her pastels.  After all part of ML’s Mother’s Day card said, “I love making art for you and you love me doing it.”

Dear Ms. Shaw, Sorry ML was late for school. We were bird watching.



Last week, I caught ML looking out the mail slot of the front door.  She continued doing this for five minutes while I rushed around getting my stuff together for work.  Finally, I asked, “What are you looking at?”  Her response, “The most beautiful bird I’ve ever seen.”  Two bright yellow birds were flitting around in our neighbor’s tree.

So I did what all responsible librarians do.  I posted a question on Facebook, hoping a friend knew more about birds than I.  Several did.

Then, I looked for books at the library.  Someone recommended National Audubon Society Field Guide to Birds but it was checked out.  I found Birds of Eastern North America by Paul Sterry & Brian E. Small  and The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America by Bill Thompson III.

Both of these bird books are easy to use with large detailed, photographs.  In no time, ML was able to identify the bird.  It was a goldfinch.



Miss Emily


Soon after reading the excerpt from Emily Dickinson’s poem, “The Moon was but a Chin of Gold”  in Firefly July:  A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeckzo and illustrated by Melissa Sweet …

The Moon was but a Chin of Gold
A Night or two ago—
And now she turns Her perfect Face
Upon the World below—
   -Emily Dickinson
(reprinted in Firefly July)
                                                                                                                                                                                  …a new book arrived at the library Miss Emily by Burleigh Muten and illustrated by Matt Phelan.


It’s a fictionalized account from the viewpoint of MacGregor Jenkins, the pastor’s son and playmate of Dickinson’s niece and nephew.  This story is set after Emily Dickinson withdrew from society to live in privacy.  However, the circus train is coming to town and Miss Emily plans an evening adventure for her niece, nephew and their friends long after bedtime.  Sneaking out of the house, pretending to be gypsies and mingling with circus performers… a night to remember.  As you would expect, the text is lyrical.  The illustrations intermixed throughout the book are subtle yet detailed.

Read the book and you will understand why the poem excerpt beginning “We never know how high we are…” is Emily Dickinson’s only poem highlighted in this book.

We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise.
And then if we are true to plan
Our statures touch the skies.
   -Emily Dickinson
(reprinted in Miss Emily)

                                                                                                                                                                       I’m saving this book for ML and I to read aloud this summer when she attends camp at Cirque de Vol.

The Baby Tree and Another Brother

AnotherBrotherBaby Tree

When ML was three she said, “I know I popped out of you, but how did I get in?”  We were in a restaurant, not the most conducive place for explaining how babies are made.  So I did what I do often,  I turned it back to her with a question.  “How do you think?”  She replied, “I think I popped into you.”  Technically she was right.  So I agreed and the conversation ended.

A few weeks ago, she called me to tell me she was getting a new sibling.  Obviously and thankfully, not from me. Yesterday, she stuck out her lips, moped and shuffled her feet while complaining  “It’s going to be another brother.”  Immediately, I thought of one of my favorite picture books from 2012, Another Brother by Matthew Cordell.  I posted about it last July when ML”s friend’s second brother arrived.  I’m bringing it home tonight.

Today, a new book arrived at the library called The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall.  Looking at the cover, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Truthfully, the cover freaked me out a little.  But it’s one of my favorite author/illustrators;  so I withheld judgement.  This is a case where you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.  A young boy learns a new baby is coming.  He begins questioning people on where babies come from and receives a variety of answers.  ML’s seven and it’s time she learned how babies are made.  This book will provide a perfect segway into the conversation.

Any advice or stories of your experience explaining where babies come from to children?

Bugged: How Insects Changed History


Two of ML’s friends love science and history.  When I say love history, I mean LOVE history.  When Bugged:  How Insects Changed History by Sarah Albee and illustrated by Robert Leighton arrived at the library, I knew I needed to share it with the world.  Earlier this year, I posted about their book Poop Happened:  A History of the World From the Bottom Up.  It was fascinating.

I flipped through Bugged and already learned a few things.  Can you name nine Presidents who suffered malaria?  Ask Eli and Will after they read this book.  In the meantime, feel sorry for Zachary Taylor whose illnesses included yellow fever, malaria, dysentery and possibly cholera or typhus.  I admit my knowledge about President Taylor is limited to his name.  Anybody know why he contracted so many insect borne illnesses?