Kid Presidents: True Tales of Childhood from America’s Presidents

Kid Presidents

It’s Halloween.  I should probably feature a scary book; but I’m not.  Instead, I’m highlighting Kid Presidents:  True Tales of Childhood From America’s Presidents by David Stabler and illustrated  by Doogie Horner because Bill Clinton’s in town.  He’s speaking at the high school ML’s likely to attend in six years.  Actually, he’s stumping.  The US Senate race in North Carolina is close and ugly.

Lately, ML’s said repeatedly, “There are too many elections.”  Each time, I explain, “We’re fortunate to live in a place where we are allowed to vote.”  ML understands; but she’s sick of all the political ads.  Last week, she said, “All they do is say he did this, she didn’t do that.  They are not respectful.”

Obviously, we won’t read books tonight.  Candy is the priority.  Next Tuesday, I’ll take ML with me to vote.  Then, we’ll read snippets from Kid’s Presidents and laugh at the cartoonish illustrations depicting the Presidents as children.


My Little Vampire

ML decided months ago she wanted to be a vampire. We bought a black dress for the occasion. Recently, we’ve read several vampire picture books.  The books reminded us she needed a cape, fangs and bright red lipstick.  They have been purchased and are ready for Friday night.

Below are our favorite vampire picture books.  Plus a bonus for parents of toddlers.


Vampirina Ballerina written by Countess Anne Marie Pace and pictures by Mistress of the Night LeUyen Pham – ML loved the illustration of Vamperina demonstrating her plies and arabesques to all the creatures in her house… a ghost, Frankenstein, a mummy and more.

Vampire Boy

Vampire Boy’s Good Night by Lisa Brown – ML found the illustration featuring two legs with black and white tights and ruby red slippers sticking out from under a house hilarious.  We saw The Wizard of Oz Broadway play last year; so ML fully appreciated the reference.

Dear Vampa

Dear Vampa by Ross Collins – “A young vampire writes a letter to his grandfather bemoaning his new neighbors.” The vampires decide to sell their house.  ML and I howled when we saw who bought the house. Here’s a hint about the buyers.  On the full moon, they’ll be howling too.


The Sleepless Little Vampire by Richard Egielski – Why isn’t the little vampire sleeping.  Is it the noisy creatures around?  Spiders, bats, cockroaches and more?  Of course not.  He’s waiting for the sun to rise.


Hampire! by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and illustrated by Howard Fine – Who is this vampire and what does it eat?  Not your average vampire book.

I'm a Vampire

I’m a Little Vampire by Sonali Fry and illustrated by Sanja Rescek – It’s a board book so ML wouldn’t let me read it stating, “That’s for babies.”  But it’s so adorable I had to include it for those of you with toddlers.

Handle With Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey

Butterly Journey

Handle With Care:  An Unusual Butterfly Journey by Loree Griffin Burns and photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz mesmerized us.  Curious how museums acquire butterflies for Butterfly House Exhibits?  This is the book for you.

One of my fondest memories of ML, when she was experiencing the first adolescence, (aka as age three).   A visit to the Butterfly House at the Museum of Life and Sciences in Durham, NC.  Well, until she threw the biggest temper tantrum she’s ever thrown.  All because we had to leave.  You can ask my cousin Ashlee about it.  She was there and wasn’t a mother yet.  Thankfully, it didn’t deter her from motherhood.  Ashlee’s daughter is almost three.  Pretty certain she can relate now.

Halloween Books – New and Old

I love Halloween picture books.  Most aren’t very scary.  Instead, they’re funny scary.  Below are my favorites published this year; and my all-time favorite.

Sweetest Witch

The Sweetest Witch Around by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Harry Bliss – “On Halloween, a little witch and her baby sister study humans and their mysterious ways.”  Notice the Easy-Bake Cauldron and the Graveyard Barbie in the illustrations.  Other funny details are interspersed throughout the book.


Not Very Scary


Not Very Scary by Carol Brendler and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli – “On Halloween, Melly is invited to Cousin Malberta’s home for a surprise, but as she walks there on a beautifully spooky evening, she is followed by increasing numbers of creatures that may actually be frightening.”  They aren’t very frightening.  Notice the smiling skeleton, ghost, mummy, monster and more on the cover.

Shivery Shades

Shivery Shades of Halloween:  A Spooky Book of Colors by Mary McKenna Siddals and illustrated by Jimmy Pickering – “Introduces colors to young readers, in spooky scenes with rhyming text featuring a little monster on a Halloween adventure.”  A unique book featuring a subject I’m asked for often… colors.  When Halloween is over, I’ll still recommend this book to those looking for books about colors.

Tricks and Treats

Dog and Bear: Tricks and Treats by Laura Vaccaro Seeger – This book is comprised of three hilarious Halloween themed stories.  Each story includes a funny twist.


Little Old Lady

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams and illustrated by Megan Lloyd – “A little old lady who is not afraid of anything must deal with a pumpkin head, tall black hat and other spooky objects that follow her through the dark woods trying to scare her.”  This is a classic.  I read it at every story time the week of Halloween.  Preschoolers clomp, wiggle, nod, and clap along.

Ten Thank-You Letters

Thank-You Letters

ML had a huge birthday party two weeks ago.  As I told her, “This is your one big birthday party.”  She and around 30 of her closest friends played Jedi Dodge Ball, Toilet Tag, and other fun games in the gymnasium at our local community center.  The games were led by a teenager, so I didn’t have to herd the cats.  I was responsible for the last forty-five minutes of the party.  We had cake, I told a scary story, they decorated mustaches and had a dance party.  It was chaotic fun.

Between homework, dinner and bedtime; ML hasn’t written many thank-you notes.  Today I said, “We’re not going to the Halloween Party unless you write ten thank-you notes.”  After a little grumbling, she wrote all ten.  Nothing works better to motivate ML than to miss out on a social event.

Before bed tonight, ML pulled out new books from my library bag.  Appropriately, there was a new book titled, Ten Thank-You Letters by Daniel Kirk.  It’s a delightful read.  Need to show your child how to write thank-you notes?  Check out this book.  Although, ML refused to let me read her notes; and sealed them to make certain I didn’t sneak a peek.  Knowing her, there isn’t any telling what they say.

ML fed my ego while we read Ten Thank-You Letters.  One of the thank-you notes states, “Dear Mr. Moose, You are the best librarian.”  ML disagreed, “He’s wrong.  You are the best librarian.”  Tonight, I feel like one.  Nothing pleases librarians more than getting the right book, in the right child’s hands, at the right time.


Need to Talk to Your Child About Chores? Use Julia’s House for Lost Creatures

Lost Creatures

When we started reading Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke, I had no idea I would use it to discuss ML’s need to step it up on her chores.  After Julia hangs a sign at her house stating “Julia’s House for Lost Creatures,” a variety of characters arrive… a kitty, a troll, gnomes, a mermaid, a dragon, a ghost and a host of others.  Chaos ensues.

Eventually, Julia has enough.  She yells at the creatures, runs to her workshop and places a “Do Not Disturb” sign on her door.  After a bit she returns with a new sign, “Julia’s House Chore Chart.”  We giggled at the appropriateness of the assignments.  Dragon – make toast.  Ghost- polish and dust.

One of the most creative story lines I’ve seen in years.

Last Night’s Hit – Cats Got Talent


Last night, we plowed through some picture books.  Cats Got Talent by Ron Barrett received two thumbs up from ML.  I read the story and ML sang the “MEE-YOWLS.”  We both enjoyed the quirky illustrations.  An added bonus.  ML learned two new words… despicable and tumultuous.  And here’s four words to describe the book… a boisterous, rollicking adventure.

Red Hats

Very Little RedRed Knit Cap Girl

Women of a “certain age” embrace red hats.  So does children’s literature.  Recently, we read two stellar books featuring girls with red on their heads.

Usually, ML won’t read picture books to me.  I’m the designated reader.  However, ML and her friends are going through a baby talk stage; so it wasn’t hard to convince ML to read Very Little Red Riding Hood by Heapy & Heap aloud.  In this rendition, Red is a toddler who outsmarts the wolf the way all young children outsmart their elders… by tiring him out.

ML and I enjoyed the first two Red Knit Cap Girl books by Naoko Stoop this summer.  When I realized a new title was being published in September, I decided to wait to introduce you to to this adorable character.  I’m glad I waited.  The third book, Red Knit Cap Girl and the Reading Tree, is our favorite.  Two things we love in one title… reading and trees.  In this book, Red Knit Cap Girl, White Bunny, Squirrel, Bear, Hedgehog, Birds, Beaver, Deer, Turtle and other animals of the forest contribute their skills to build this “Woodland Library.”  Just like the real world… libraries are built by communities.

The illustrations in the Red Knit Cap Girl books are created using acrylic, ink and pencil on plywood.  The grain of the wood adds a surprise element and depth to the illustrations.  I’ve acquired a piece of plywood.  We’re trying this art technique next weekend.

What are your favorite books featuring red hatted characters?


Colors Versus Shapes – Earns Gold Star

Colors vs Shapes

A little over a year ago, I highlighted 123 Versus ABC by Mike Boldt stating… “I don’t want to spoil the ending but . . . what would happen if colors joined the fray?”

I often email authors and illustrators my posts about their books.  Many respond.  Here’s what Mike Boldt had to say.  “And just because you liked the ending, I’ll share this top secret piece of not-even-approved-yet part of what may-or-may-not be for a sequel book about Colors and their rivals that rhyme with apes.”

Thankfully, the sequel referred to in the message was published. Colors Versus Shapes earned a gold star from ML and myself.  This book ends with a fabulous last page too.

Currently, ML tries to determine how the illustrations are created for each book we read. The pictures in this book were created digitally using Corel Paint.  I tried to explain digital design; but my knowledge is limited.  Thankfully, Mike Boldt gives a demo on one of his blog posts… Swamp.



Dress Like a Book Character Day – A Change in Plans


Earlier this month I wrote about ML’s plans for her school’s Dress Like a Book Character Day

“ML knows who she wants to be; and even has the costume idea.  Thankfully, we can create it with items we have at home… pink clothes, pink chenille stick, pink felt and a headband.  Any guesses?”

Today is the big day.  Last night, I asked ML to collect the supplies needed for her costume.  Then asked, “Do you need me to wash some pink clothes?” She yelled, “I don’t need pink clothes anymore.  I’m not going to be Mercy Watson.  Where’s the felt? Where are my reading glasses?”

ML created her costume using  green pants, a green shirt, red felt, tacky glue and glasses.  Any guesses on who her character is?  Hint:  I blogged about this character last week.

“Guess what Ms. Baker’s giving me for my birthday?”


That’s what ML asked me last Friday.  My guesses were wrong.  In a lilting voice she said, “A test.”  I was surprised at her excitement.  Ms. Baker is ML’s math teacher.  A few weeks ago, ML was weepy and anxious after her first math test.  I fully expected bemoaning with the next one.  Then, I remembered they are studying geometry.  My little artist loves shapes.  These past few weeks she’s enjoyed identifying rhombuses, quadrilaterals, parallelograms, calculating the perimeter and creating shape people.

From time to time, I read as many books by an author or illustrator as I can get my hands on. Marla Frazee’s new book, The Farmer and The Clown arrived for me Saturday.  A delightful reminder to explore more of her work.  I read all the books on the shelf.  Then, requested the rest.  I highlighted her book Boot and Shoe on my dad’s 70th birthday.

I realized Stars by Mary Lyn Ray and Marla Frazee is the perfect book to highlight on ML’s birthday.  It’s about many of the things ML loves… shapes, imaginative play, the night sky, dressing up, strawberries, pumpkins, fairies, snowflakes, dandelions and fireworks.

I highlighted her book Boot and Shoe on my dad’s 70th birthday.  My brother’s birthday is the next one in the family.  Wonder what Marla Frazee book I’ll highlight then?  Hint… as a young child, he insisted his name was Farmer Brown.


ML said, “Will you walk me to my classroom so I can show you the book I like?”

Geronimo StiltonRoom on Broom


Recently, ML told me about a series with mice in it she liked from her classroom library.  My first thought was the classic mouse series from my childhood featuring Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary.  It wasn’t and I was stumped.  Stupid is the only word to describe how I felt when ML showed me, It’s Halloween You ‘Fraidy Mouse, a Geronimo Stilton book.  He’s the main character in the most popular mouse series in publication these days.  I’m most likely to find his books on the cart of books just returned to the library, not the bookshelves.

Tomorrow is ML’s birthday.  On the way to work, I ran into Target thinking surely they will have a Geronimo Stilton book.  They didn’t.  I work until 9 pm tonight, so I can’t get to a bookstore.  ML’s schedule is such I don’t see her on Thursdays.  I couldn’t bear to not see her on her birthday; so her dad’s going to drop her at the house in the morning. I will take her to school; so I can give her a “birthday card.”  Actually, I bought her the book Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.  It’s hard to believe; but a paperback book costs about the same as a fancy card.

The Scholastic Book Fair begins Friday at ML’s school.  I feel certain she will have a chance to buy a Geronimo Stilton book because Scholastic Books publishes the series.  To be on the safe side, I checked out one of the three books from the recently returned bookcart.  As usual, I didn’t find any on the shelf.  The Mystery in Venice will be waiting for ML Friday night after her school’s Fall Festival.




ML wants a phone. I brought home the new picture book Telephone instead.


Last week, ML informed me “When I get a phone.  I don’t want it to be like your phone. I want an iPhone.”  I laughed responding, “Who knows what phones will look Iike by the time you get a phone?”  I turned it into a financial education lesson explaining not only do you buy a phone, you pay over $100 per month to use the phone.  It resulted in the desired effect.  “Wow!  That’s a lot of money.”

Telephone by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jen Corace recently arrived at the library.  I didn’t bring it home because I wasn’t sure if ML had played the game Telephone.  A basic understanding of the game makes the book funnier.  After our iPhone conversation, I decided to take a chance ML knew the game.  While we read the book, she laughed many times.  At the end, I asked “Have you ever played Telephone?”  She said, “Yes.”  I didn’t have a chance to ask where because she wanted to look back through the book.

Birds perched along telephone wires pass along Mama Bird’s request, “Tell Peter:  Fly Home for Dinner.”  As the message moves along, it changes drastically.  Resulting with a bird, who looks a lot like Chicken Little, spewing a long list of warnings to Owl to share with Peter.  Wise Owl discerns the real message… “Your mom says fly home for dinner.”

One reason we explored the book again… an illustrated story line in the houses and yards under the telephone wire.  The other reason… the birds possess distinctive personalities wearing props to emphasize their interests.  You can’t appreciate all the details in the first reading.

Animalium curated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom


I know I’ll check out Animalium curated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom many times.  This illustrated compendium of the animal kingdom, referred to as a museum, houses six galleries… Invertebrates, Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals.

A few years ago, I viewed a small gallery of John James Audubon paintings.  The illustrations in Animalium are as remarkable as Audubon’s birds.  ML hasn’t seen the book.  I wonder which page will captivate her first.

I hope another book curated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom will be published.  My recommendation… a book on plants.

A Young Adult Novel – Jackaby by William Ritter


My biggest professional weakness as a Youth Services Librarian is I don’t read enough books written for Young Adults.  (Also known as books for teens.)  I read all the book jackets, but very few tempt me for my limited personal recreational reading time.  Until this week.  Jackaby by William Ritter enraptured me.  I read it in two nights.

A fast-paced mystery with evidence of the supernatural and hilarious text.  Seems a little strange to call a book about a serial killer funny.  Trust me.  I’ll be surprised if you don’t laugh at several of the quotes in the book.  For example, “I excused myself to see a duck about a dress.”

I demand another book about Jackaby and his assistant Abigail Rook.  If it happens, I’ll let you know.

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

The Right Word

Since elementary school, I’ve been a “Thesaurus Junkie.”  I use an online thesaurus when writing my posts.  Santa filled my stocking with a pocket thesaurus last Christmas.  I keep it by my bed… sometimes reading it instead of a book before bed.

Ecstatic is one word describing my feelings when The Right Word:  Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet arrived.  Thrilled, overjoyed, elated, delighted, exultant, jubilant and pleasantly surprised to read a book explaining how my favorite book metamorphosed describes my glee.  The fact it was in my favorite book format… a picture book made it even sweeter.

Speaking of sweet.  One of my favorite illustrators, Melissa Sweet, created the art for this book using watercolor, collage and mixed media.  Her detailed illustrations are whimsical, lively, fanciful, entertaining, magical, imaginative, amusing, engaging and fun.

My favorite quote from the book…

 -In 1852 Roget published his Thesaurus,
a word that means “treasure house” in Greek.-

To my knowledge, ML has yet to use a thesaurus. Last year, ML asked Santa for a dictionary.  I am hoping Jolly Old Saint Nick will bring her a “treasure house” this year.

*** was used abundantly in writing this post***

Dress Like A Book Character Day

question mark

October is here.  For ML’s school, it means spirit week.  On October 15th, students are encouraged to dress like their favorite book character.  ML knows who she wants to be; and even has the costume idea.  Thankfully, we can create it with items we have at home… pink clothes, pink chenille stick, pink felt and a headband.  Any guesses?

Other schools ask students to dress like a book character on Halloween.  Based on prior experience, I’m prepared for the parents who will visit the library in desperation on October 30th seeking a book to complement their child’s costume.

My Halloween treat for you.  A heads up and free recommendations to make October 31st a stress-free, candy-filled day. I’m taking requests.

Or keep Robot Zombie Frankentsein! by Annette Simon on hand.  It’s a perfect choice for a multitude of costumes… a robot, zombie, Frankenstein, pirate, superhero, outer space invader or chef.


Robot Zombie Frankenstein

Middle Grade Novel Author Crush: Katherine Rundell


In the middle grades, kids often experience their first real crush. So it’s only fitting I have a crush on a middle grade author’s books… Katherine Rundell.

I featured her book Rooftoppers last January. When Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms arrived this summer, I immediately checked it. Then, devoured it.

The short summary from the library catalog doesn’t provide any glimpse of the liveliness of this book and the quirky, lovable main character.  “Will must find her way after she’s plucked out of a wonderful life in Zimbabwe and forced to go to boarding school in England.”

After reading Rooftoppers, I knew the language would be magical.  I opened a pack of hot pink Post-it notes to mark various passages.  The quotes below describe Will’s first impressions after her arrival at a boarding school in England.

“The room smelled foul — of eggs and feet and the eternal indoors.  It was the smell of English.” p. 126

“She fell asleep with their voices jabbing at her heart, and dreamed of being chased through the bush by a pack of wolves, with sleek ponytails and rosebud pajamas.” p.129

I’ve never visited Zimbabwe, but Katherine Rundell’s vivid descriptions transported my imagination.  Having visited London and other large cities, the depiction of Will’s experience on the streets of London after running away from the boarding school were easier to form.  However, the flapdoodle of the situation required thinking about London from a different perspective.

While researching for this post, I discovered another title by Katherine RundellThe Girl Savage.  I immediately started looking for it.  Then, discovered it’s the original title of Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms from it’s 2011 release in Great Britain.  I was not happy. I’m ready to imbibe in another of her books.

Her last post on twitter was June 28th  “And now I’m off again, to tie myself to this chair and to get this book finished.”  She better!  (I wrote this post a few weeks ago.  She’s back on twitter.  I hope that means a new book is written.)