Month: June 2014

After Ivy + Bean – A Booklist for Eleanor

My friend requested some series ideas for her daughter, Eleanor, when she finishes the Ivy + Bean books written by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.  Eleanor is on book nine.  Time is of the essence  as there are only ten books in the series.  All the books I recommend below are on similar reading levels and include illustrations.  I’ve featured picture books by illustrators of most of these series.  The combination of high quality stories and engaging illustrations make an early grades chapter book desirable to children bridging the gap from picture books to chapter books.

Like Pickle Juice On Cookie









Like Pickle Juice on A Cookie by Julie Sternberg and illustrated by Matthew Cordell – I don’t think ML and her friends will be able to resist a book where the first chapter states, “I had a bad August.  A very bad August.  As bad as pickle juice on a cookie.  As bad as a spiderweb on your leg.  As bad as the black parts of a banana.  I hope your August was better.  I really do.”  The main character’s name is Eleanor just like ML’s friend.  There are two more books in this series with equally funny titles.  Like Bug Juice on a Burger and Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake.


Nikki Deja

Nikki and Deja by Karen English and illustrated by Laura Freeman – Nikki and Deja are best friends who happen to live next door to each other.  As a former teacher, the author understands the trials and tribulation of being a third grader.  Along with the importance of friendship.  With only five books in this series, I hope another is published soon.

Judy Moody

Judy Moody by Megan McDonald and illustrated by Peter Reynolds – Judy Moody has been around for 14 years, and she continues to resonate with elementary school students.  She’s funny, fiesty and always in a mood.  The illustrations are authentic.  Just like Judy Moody’s brother Stink, I’ve seen ML lie upside down on the couch with her head touching the floor and her legs against the back of the couch.  There’s a reason titles continue to be published.










Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry and illustrated by Middy Thomas – I’ve posted about Gooney Bird before.  Click on Gooney Bird Greene to see the post.


Clementine by Sara Pennypacker and pictures by Marla Frazee – No series post for a second grade girl is complete without mentioning the Clementine books.  All you have to do is read this quote from page one.   “Someone should tell you not to answer the phone in the principal’s office, if that’s a rule.”

Looking forward to seeing which books Eleanor decides to try.  ML’s on an Ivy + Bean kick right now, wanting to read all of them.  I’ll put Eleanor in charge of recommending ML’s next series.


I Got the Rhythm

I Got The Rhythm

Recently my friend shared a Huffington Post article titled Pediatricians Call For Parents to Read Aloud To Their Children Every Day.  My response to my friend…

“I first noticed this at our last well visit. The doctor made a big deal about it. Unfortunately, ML took it a little too seriously. She’s more interested in me reading to her than reading a book on her own. Last night, I tried to get her to start a new chapter book by giving her a variety of choices. She batted her eyes and said, “But I want us to read these together.” Since I was coughing uncontrollably, I was able to convince her to read a few picture books to her stuffed animals. She made me close the door. But of course I stuck my ear to the door to listen.”

The book I overheard ML reading was I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison and illustrated by Frank Morrison.  “On a trip to the park with her mother, a young girls hears a rhythm coming from the world around her and begins to move to the beat, finally beginning an impromptu dance in which other children join her.”

ML had the rhythm; and I can’t wait to get the rhythm at story time.  I guarantee you I Got the Rhythm will be a story time hit.  Tomorrow, the preschoolers at my library will sniff, sniff.. snap, snap… knock, knock and more. I anticipate smiles on the faces of the children in story time as big as the smiles on the beautifully illustrated children in this book.

Hands & Hearts: With Fifteen Words in American Sign Language

Hands & Hearts


My first experience with sign language was watching my grandmother and her brother communicate.  He lost his hearing at a young age due to a childhood illness.  He moved in with my grandparents later in his life.  I don’t know when.  As long as I can recollect, he was always there.  I remember Grandmommy and Uncle Ed’s conversations in the kitchen, living room and dining room.  You could always tell if one of them was frustrated with the other.  The hands sped up; and when the hands connected for a sign it was a noisy clapping sound.

Now that I am older, I can imagine the conversations.  “Your five granddaughters are driving me crazy running around the house while the Braves game is on TV.”  Uncle Ed was an avid fan.

When Hands & Hearts: With Fifteen Words in American Sign Language by Donna Jo Napoli and illustrated by Amy Bates arrived at the library, I immediately thought of Uncle Ed.  I rarely interacted with him.  I wish I’d tried to learn some sign language, other than finger spelling my name, so I could have developed a relationship with my great uncle.

Hands & Hearts is both a beautiful introduction to fifteen words in American Sign Language and a lovely story of a mother and daughter’s day at the beach.  Each page spread introduces a word to sign.  The clear instructions make it easy to try the signs.  Don’t miss the letter at the end of the book written by the author.  It explains her  interest in sign language and provides a link to an online dictionary for American Sign Language.

ML is currently on the way to the beach with her Dad.  She spends a week each summer hanging out with her Oregon cousins.  It’s been several years since ML and I visited the beach together.  I hope she remembers the few times we’ve frolicked at the beach.  Nothing is sweeter than watching a mother and daughter explore the beach together.  Amy Bates depicts it perfectly in her illustrations.  It’s motivated me to make certain ML and I visit the beach this summer.  Even if it’s only one overnight.


The Lightning Catcher – A Middle Grade Novel

Lightning Catcher

I describe The Lightning Catcher written by Anne Cameron and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson as “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs meets Harry Potter.”  Below is a blurb from the publisher comparing it to other well known books.  No matter the comparison, it’s a unique book deserving a following.

According to Harper Collins…

“The first book of a funny fantasy and adventure series about three friends who discover they have the ability to control the weather. It’s Storm Chasers meets The 39 Clues, in a story that Booklist called “fascinating . . . mixing serious science with full-on fantasy.”

Eleven-year-old Angus’s world is turned upside down when he is mysteriously whisked away to become an apprentice at the Perilous Exploratorium for Weather and Vicious Storms. At Perilous, the world’s most dangerous weather is studied to protect mankind from its ravages. There, Angus discovers that his parents aren’t boring government workers after all—they are actually famous Lightning Catchers, and they’ve been kidnapped. With the help of two loyal new friends, Angus intends to find them. This fast-paced, action-packed, funny story of friendship, adventure, science, and mayhem begins a high-octane four-book series.”

I’ll end with a Trivia Question…

The idea for this book formed after the author read an article about fulgurites.  Do you know what fulgurites are without googling it?  The Utah Geological Survey provides an easy to read explanation of this fascinating lightning related phenomena.

What Is A Middle Grade Book?

Under The EggMeaning Of Maggie

While branching out and exploring juvenile fiction, I’ve noticed the terms “middle grade novel” popping up.  It’s not a term I learned in library school; nor saw when I was a librarian prior to ML’s birth.  So I went to an expert, my colleague who is responsible for the school age books and programs to find out what that term means.  She said, “It’s books written for kids who want something more than simplistic elementary books but aren’t ready for young adult books, which often include serious issues.”  Her theory is this term came out of the tween movement.  Before this books were marketed to children or teens.  Nothing specifically marketed to the sophisticated; but not too sophisticated middle grade students

To get a better handle on what a middle grade novel is I read a few articles.  I liked An Introduction to Middle Grade and Young Adult, Part 1 – Definitions by Malinda Lo.

From time to time I will post about middle grade novels.  I’ve read three excellent ones in the past month. I already blogged about one of them. . . A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd.  The covers pictured above are two books I can’t wait to tell you about.

The Birds Have Flown the Nest


Last year we had two broods of bluebirds in our bluebird box.  This spring sparrows built a nest in the box.  Three little sparrows were hatched from three teeny tiny eggs. While the sparrows were building a nest, a bluebird couple was flying around interested in the box.  Around the time we discovered the sparrow eggs, the bluebirds disappeared.  I accepted it would be a sparrow spring instead of a bluebird summer.  Then, the sparrows fledged.

Nest by Jorey Hurley shows why birds love our yard.  Easy access to nest building materials, lots of worms, and berries for a feast.  The subtle illustrations show the excitement and challenges birds experience.  Luckily, we don’t have a cat.  Though one does visit our yard when the butterflies arrive.  Check out this video to see how the illustrations were created.

We read this book the night after ML asked if brother and sister birds can get married.  I said, “I don’t think birds get married.”  ML’s response, “I know that Mommy.  You know what I mean.”  Innocently, I said, “Oh.  Can they have babies together?”  ML responded, “Yes, that’s what I am wondering.”  I responded, “No”  and was afraid the next question would ask for specifics on how birds reproduce.   I admit, I didn’t know.  Based on a link my friend sent from a piece performed at a Listen To Your Mother Show about going to the internet with your child to find an answer to a question like this, I panicked.  Luckily, she didn’t ask… giving me time to research the answer.

Since writing the first draft of this post. . . a new development.  Last weekend ML noticed the bluebirds return.  She discovered they were building a nest on top of the sparrow’s nest.  Friday night I checked the box.  No eggs.  Saturday morning ML checked the box.  One egg.  Sunday morning we checked the box.  Three eggs.  Sunday evening I checked the box.  Four eggs!  I’m thinking we will have five eggs.  ML thinks six.  No matter what we are happy our bluebirds returned.

Check out the sparrow eggs from this year and the bluebird eggs from last year.  It’s hard to tell from the pictures but sparrow eggs are much smaller than bluebird eggs.

Sparrow EggsBluebird Eggs





Goldi Rocks and The Three Bears – We Think You Rock

Goldi Rocks

When I say we think you rock, I’m talking about all the kids and adults at preschool story time last week, ML and myself.  Another great modern day version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

The three bears start a band in Goldi Rocks and The Three Bears by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton and illustrated by Nate Wragg.  Unfortunately, none of them are talented singers.  So they go searching for a singer who can hit high C.  While away, Goldi enters their studio enchanted by the smell of porridge.  She immediately forgets about being hungry when she sees the musical studio.  She tries out each bears’ mike stand and instrument.  Then, in true Goldilock fashion falls asleep until the bears…

ML picked a good one for my “Music” story time theme.  It goes without saying the illustrations are fantastic.  My main requirement for picture books read at story time are books with spectacular illustrations.