The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

The Midnight Library

I wanted to publish this 200th blog post of 2014 at 11:59 tonight.  However, there’s no guarantee I’ll still be a awake.  And I’ve worked so hard to publish two hundred posts in one year.  It’s appropriate I end the year with a book about midnight and a library.

The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara – “Pay a visit to the Midnight Library where you can snuggle up for a nighttime story. There is a little library that only opens at night. In the library there is a little librarian—and her three assistant owls—who helps everyone find the perfect book. The library is always peaceful and quiet . . . until one night when some of the animals stir up a little trouble (and a little fun!)”

Why should you read this book?
It’s about a library with all it’s fun and drama.  Music playing squirrels, crying wolves, slow moving tortoises.  In my library world, the musicians are not squirrels.  They are invited to perform.  The crying wolves are toddlers.  The slow moving tortoises are the people who insist the library is open until 9 p.m. on Fridays.  I adore Kazuno Kohara’s illustrations.  This time she uses a trichromatic color scheme.  (Yes, I made up the word.)  Most of the illustrations are black and gold.  However, the books and a few other objects are a lovely blue.  The blue I wanted to paint my old house.  It made me smile when I saw the new owner painted it exactly how I wanted.

Before After

Before After

Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein & Matthias Aregui is a distinctive picture book.  Most picture books are 32 pages and include text.  This book is 176 pages  of illustrations featuring no text.

“Everyone knows that a tiny acorn grows into a mighty oak and a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. But in this clever, visually enchanting volume, it’s also true that a cow can result in both a bottle of milk and a painting of a cow, and an ape in a jungle may become an urban King Kong. Just as day turns into night and back again, a many-tiered cake is both created and eaten down to a single piece.”

Why should you read this book?
It’s a springboard for conversations.  Cautionary – the slingshot illustration followed by a broken window.  Historical – the candle, followed by the gas lamp, followed by the electric lamp.  Environmental – Instead of always having pristine art materials… opening a fresh box of colored pencils and using them until they are nubs.

The Numbers Never Lie

WordPress sent me an “Annual Report” about my blogging in 2014.  I’m amazed.  Barring technical difficulties, my goal of 200 posts will be reached tomorrow before midnight.  So far there have been 11,414 page views from readers in 97 different  countries.  How does this compare to 2013?  Last year I was humbled by 7977 views in 42 different countries.

The most popular post this year was In Memory of a Courageous Athlete.  I’ve copied the text below.  On New Year’s Eve, remember all those who have lost someone this year.  I think of Keaton’s family everyday. My favorite day of 2014?  ML and I meeting up with Keaton’s entire family… parents, grandparents, brothers, sister-in-law, aunts, uncles and cousins for lunch.  They were visiting Keaton’s brother who plays football for UNC and wasn’t able to visit his family in Georgia for the holidays.  I didn’t know Keaton; but I felt the spirit of he and my mother looking down on our visit with smiles.


My heart is breaking at the death of a young man I never met.  Over forty-five years ago, my parents were newlyweds living in a small town in south Georgia.  They met lifelong friends who had two small children.  When my parents moved three hours away, the friendship continued.  Doris and my mom wrote letters to each other back when that still happened.  Their family visited our family.  We visited them.  Braves games and Six Flags and just hanging out are some of the memories I have. Since my mother passed away, Doris has continued this lifelong friendship.  Reaching out and supporting me through both happy and difficult times.

The grandson of this wonderful family passed away yesterday.  When he was a junior in high school, Keaton was diagnosed with brain cancer.  Even through his treatment, which included surgeries and chemotherapy, he played football.  For the past two years, I’ve been following his story on Facebook via his mom and grandmother.  Watching with amazement at this courageous young man who didn’t let brain cancer keep him from enjoying high school to the fullest.  Football games, homework, high school dances.  He did it all.

Since learning of his death, I’ve been searching for the perfect picture book to honor him.  I thought maybe a story about football.  But I couldn’t find one I liked.  Through a web search using the words picture books and courage, I found one.


Wilma, Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became The World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by David Diaz – A biography of the African-American woman who overcame crippling polio to become the first woman to win three gold medals in track in a single Olympics.

Just like Wilma Rudolph, Keaton plowed through showing others what one can do with determination and pure grit.  A few weeks ago he was chosen as Georgia’s Male Positive Athlete of The Year.  No one deserves this honor more.

Albie’s First Word

Albie's First Word

Albie’s First Word:  A Tale Inspired by Albert Einstein’s Childhood by Jacqueline Tourville and illustrated by Wynne Evans – “Three-year-old Albie has never said a single word. When his worried mother and father consult a doctor, he advises them to expose little Albie to new things: a trip to the orchestra, an astronomy lecture, a toy boat race in the park. But though Albie dances with excitement at each new experience, he remains silent. Finally, the thoughtful, quiet child witnesses something so incredible, he utters his very first word: “Why?”

Why should you read this book?
ML wanted to read it two nights in a row.  This detail should be enough to convince you to read the book.

The Sky is Falling!!!

Chicken Little

One of my favorite stories growing up was Chicken Little.  Recently, a new version arrived at the library entitled Brave Chicken Little retold and illustrated by Robert Byrd.  Before reading the book I asked ML, “Do you know who Chicken Little is?  She immediately yelled at the top of her lungs, “The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!”

Why should you read this book?
It’s a great read-aloud with characters I’m not familiar with from other editions… Piggy Wiggy, Rabbit Babbit, Natty Ratty, Froggy Woggy and Roly and Poly Moley.  Then, there’s Foxy Loxy’s children… Foxy Boxy, Foxy Doxy, Foxy Hoxy, Foxy Moxy, Foxy Noxy, Foxy Poxy, and Foxy Soxy.  The opportunity to read those names is in itself a reason to check out this book.

This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne

Book Ate Dog

This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne – “When her dog disappears into the gutter of the book, Bella calls for help. But when the helpers disappear too, Bella realizes it will take more than a tug on the leash to put things right. Cleverly using the physicality of the book, This book just ate my dog! is inventive, ingenious, and just pure kid-friendly fun!”

Why should you read this book?
Everyone I’ve shared it with starts out grinning.  Then, chuckles.  Then, snickers.  Then, giggles.  Then, cracks up.  At the end, they roar with laughter.

Farmer Brown

I Love My Hat

Yesterday, I texted my brother, “Happy Birthday!”  He responded “thank you;” and didn’t correct my mistake.  Today, is his real birthday.  I cannot let the day go by without a post to celebrate him.

According to family lore,  during preschool my brother insisted on being called “Farmer Brown.”  When I Love My Hat by Douglas Florian and illustrated by Paige Keiser arrived, I loved it.  However, I decided to wait to share this book.  In honor of the boy who irritated me as a child; and I wish I saw more than twice a year as an adult… a book with a character named Farmer Brown.

According to Amazon, “One autumn morning, Farmer Brown gets on his tractor and heads to town. Along the way, he picks up a cat in a hat, a goat in a coat, an ox in socks, and other animals who love their clothes—and each animal sings a little song about what it’s wearing. When they reach the town, it’s Farmer Brown’s turn to sing about his clothes—after he gets some new ones. This silly farmyard romp will have kids singing about their own favorite clothes.”

We’re seeing my brother and his family in a couple of weeks.  This book is making the trip.  I’m eager to tell my niece and nephew about their dad, Farmer Brown.  I should probably hold off sharing about the time we were fighting and my bedroom door fell of the hinges as a result.


TipTop Cat by C. Roger Mader

TipTop Cat

TipTop Cat by C. Roger Mader – “An inspiring picture book about a brave cat who has the courage to bounce back from a frightening fall from the tiptop of the world.”

Why should you read this book?
ML oohed and aahhed over it, especially on the page showing the Eiffel Tower.  The exquisite pastel illustrations provide a luminous depth rarely seen in picture books.  This story about a cat regaining it’s spirit is the perfect book to read when a child is anxious.

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel – Another Fantastic Nonfiction Book


I wrote this post in October.  Then, neglected to pretty it up and post it.   Mr Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis and illustrated by Gilbert Ford is a another of ML’s favorite illustrated nonfiction books from 2014.

The North Carolina State Fair wrapped up this past Sunday.  So we won’t be hearing fireworks at 9:45 each night until October 16, 2015.  I’m not ashamed to say I’ve never attended.  I’m not against fairs; but my body is against being anywhere near a horse.  And horses are at the fair.  So ML enjoys the fair with her dad.

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis and illustrated by Gilbert Ford arrived the week after ML attended the fair.  Earlier in the week, she exclaimed, “I rode the ferris wheel at the fair.”  So I knew it would be a hit.

This beautifully illustrated, historical record of the 1893 Chicago World Fair wanting to outdo the Eiffel Paris from the 1889 World Fair is a highly readable amusement.  The perfect pacing left us wondering if this engineering feat would be completed in time for the fair.  If so, would it actually work?

An official photograph of Geroge Washington Gale Ferris Jr is included at the back of the book.  ML pointed to a picture frame on our bookshelf saying, “He looks like the guy over there.”  It was a photograph of my great grandfather.  She was correct.  They both had somber faces,  similar hairstyles and clothes.  Neither was looking directly in the camera.

The Noisy Paint Box – ML’s Favorite Nonfiction Book of 2014

Noisy Paint Box

ML rarely asks me to read a nonfiction book again; and never repeatedly for several nights in a row.  Then, I brought home The Noisy Paint Box:  The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosentock and illustrated by Mary Grandpre.  Mary Louise couldn’t get enough of this book.

“Vasya Kandinsky was a proper little boy: he studied math and history, he practiced the piano, he sat up straight and was perfectly polite. And when his family sent him to art classes, they expected him to paint pretty houses and flowers—like a proper artist.

But as Vasya opened his paint box and began mixing the reds, the yellows, the blues, he heard a strange sound—the swirling colors trilled like an orchestra tuning up for a symphony! And as he grew older, he continued to hear brilliant colors singing and see vibrant sounds dancing. But was Vasya brave enough to put aside his proper still lifes and portraits and paint . . . music?”

Why should you read this book?
I’m buying ML the book for Christmas. I know it’s a book she’ll treasure for years.  Colorful language surges throughout the book.  The opening illustrations depict the life of “a proper Russian boy” during the mid 1800’s.  As Kandinksy follows his dream, the book’s illustrations transform from realistic to abstract.

You’ll learn something.  At least, I did.  If I knew about Vasya Kandinsky before, it’s buried somewhere deep inside my brain where I can no longer retrieve it.  It is know thought Kandinsky had a genetic condition called synethesia.  “In people with synesthesia, one sense triggers a different sense, allowing them, for example to hear colors, see music, taste words, or small numbers.”  Kandinsky began hearing colors after his Auntie gave him a wooden paint box.


Naughty Kitty by Adam Stower


Naughty Kitty by Adam Stower –  Lily’s mom said, “Dogs were too messy, too smelly and far to much trouble.”  So Lily received a kitty.  He was cute and sweet until Lily left him alone.  Then, he wreaked all sorts of havoc.  The cute little kitty turned into a beast or so it seemed.

Why should you read this?
It’s a perfect story for both preschoolers and elementary aged children.  ML loved the discretely placed newspaper and a television report in the illustrations giving a clue to what was happening.

Can A Penguin Soar? Yes, With the Help of Friends

Flight SchoolMountain of Friends

It’s hard being a penguin.  You’re a bird; but you can’t fly.  Luckily the penguins in the following books meet some amazing friends who help them realize their dreams.  These books are similar in concept. Both penguins want to fly. However, the story line and illustrations are unique. Read both as a segue into conversations about problem-solving and helping friends.

Flight School by Lita Judge – “Although little Penguin has the soul of an eagle, his body wasn’t built to soar. But Penguin has an irrepressible spirit, and he adamantly follows his dreams to flip, flap, fly! Even if he needs a little help with the technical parts, this penguin is ready to live on the wind.”

A Mountain of Friends by Kerstin Schoene – “Heartwarming and beautifully illustrated, Kirsten Schoene’s North American debut picture book shows how working together can accomplish seemingly impossible goals. Young readers will enjoy helping penguin achieve his dream by reorienting the book and building a ‘mountain of friends’ to support him”

In Flight School the penguin is bold and seeks out the challenge.  In A Mountain of Friends, the penguin needs more of a boost from his friends.  The combination of these two stories mimic life. Sometimes, we’re bold.  Other times, we’re timid.  In each case, it’s the encouragement and help of friends that help us soar.  Just like in the books.

Catch That Cookie!

Catch That Cookie

Catch That Cookie! by Hallie Durand and pictures by David Small – “Marshall knows one thing for sure, despite what all the stories say: Gingerbread men cannot run. Cookies are for eating, and he can’t wait to eat his after spending all morning baking them with his class. But when it’s time to take the gingerbread men out of the oven . . . they’re gone! Now, to find those rogue cookies, Marshall and his class have to solve a series of rhyming clues. And Marshall just might have to rethink his stance on magic.”

Why should you read it?
It’s a clever, treasure hunt of a story.  Perfect for this cookie baking time of year.

ML is rarely able to attend programs at the library where I work.  However, one afternoon I was able to take a late lunch.  I picked her and two friends up from school to enjoy building and decorating cookie houses.  Unfortunately, I waited until the last minute to pick out a book to read to the crowd.  My first choice, Catch That Cookie!, was checked out.

Trust me and take my advice.  I’ve been there.  Don’t buy a gingerbread house kit.  Instead, grab a milk carton, graham crackers, frosting, pretzels, candy, cereal and sprinkles.  It’s an easier and more enjoyable experience for parents and kids alike to decorate a milk carton “gingerbread house.”  ML’s creation is pictured below.

Cookie House (2)

Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep by Barney Saltzberg


Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep by Barney Saltzberg – “High in the trees in the middle of the night, all of the pandas are sleeping except for Chengdu, who tries everything and still cannot fall asleep until he finds the perfect spot.”

Why should you read this book?
Chengdu is adorable, the story is funny and the ending is cuddly.  A perfect bedtime story.

A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell

Perfectly Messed Up

A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell – “Little Louie’s story keeps getting messed up, and he’s not happy about it! What’s the point of telling his tale if he can’t tell it perfectly? But when he stops and takes a deep breath, he realizes that everything is actually just fine, and his story is a good one–imperfections and all.”

Why should you read it?
Because ML found it hilarious.  Louie is almost as dramatic as ML and friends.

Hooray for Hat by Brian Won

Hooray Hat

Hooray For Hat words and pictures by Brian Won – “Elephant wakes up grumpy—until ding, dong! What’s in the surprise box at the front door? A hat! HOORAY FOR HAT! Elephant marches off to show Zebra, but Zebra is having a grumpy day, too—until Elephant shares his new hat and cheers up his friend. Off they march to show Turtle! The parade continues as every animal brightens the day of a grumpy friend. An irresistible celebration of friendship, sharing, and fabulous hats.”

Why should you read this book?
Firstly, it was a hit at preschool story time.  Secondly, the publishers description says it best “an irresistible celebration of friendship, sharing and fabulous hats.”  Thirdly, because I said so.  Oops my mommy brain started took over the keyboard.

A Bean, a Stalk and a Boy Named JACK


A Bean, a Stalk and a Boy Named Jack by William Joyce and Kenny Callicutt – “You might think you know the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, but you might want to think again. In this fairy tale with a twist, it hasn’t rained in days and the king has dictated that something must be done—his royal pinky is getting stinky! With a little magic from a wizard, young Jack, paired with his pea pod pal, will find a GIANT reason as to why there’s no water left in the kingdom…and prove that size doesn’t prevent anyone from doing something BIG.”

Why should you read this book?
It’s a boisterous yarn including puns, stinky pinkies, Princes Blah Blah Blah, a bean, a stalk and a boy named Jack created at Moonbot Studios.  You must read this funny book.  Preschoolers will enjoy the story.  Early elementary school students will love the merging of a few well known classics from fairy tales and Mother Goose.  Plus the illustrations are a lively delight.

Dory Fantasmagory – A New Series for Ivy + Bean Fans

Dory Fantasmagory

Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon is the first book in a new illustrated beginning chapter book series.  It’s perfect for fans of Ivy + Bean.

Here’s ML’s book review for school on “Dory Fantesmgory.”  Word for word, spelling for spelling, punctuation for punctuation.

ML’s Summary
This story is about a girl who a 2 older siblings and has a monster vision.  Her pet Mary an her try to get away from Gobble Gracker.

ML’s Recommendation
fun power!!!
3 smiley faces followed by thumbs up!!!

We are eagerly anticipating book two Dory and the Real True Friend.

How to Lose a Lemur by Frann Preston-Gannon


How to Lose a Lemur by Frann Preston-Gannon – “Everyone knows that once a lemur takes a fancy to you there is not much that can be done about it. That’s just what happens to a little boy when a lemur begins to follow him in the park one day—and more of the adoring animals join in. The boy does everything to ditch the playful creatures, from jumping on a train to flying in a hot-air balloon to climbing the highest mountain. But nothing works—AND he’s lost, too! It’s then that his constant companions show just why they make the very best of friends.”

Why should you read this book?
Frann Preston-Gannon was a recipient of the Sendak Fellowship allowing her the opportunity to spend a month in the fall of 2011 living with and learning from Maurice Sendak.  Yes, that Maurice Sendak!  The one who wrote and illustrated Where the Wild Things Are and many other perfect children’s books.  I understand why she was chosen.  Just like Sendak’s books, How to Lose a Lemur has a quirky story line and magnificent illustrations.

The Boys by Jeff Newman

The Boys

The Boys by Jeff Newman – “A shy boy, seeking the courage to play baseball with the other children in the park, is coaxed out of his shell by some “old timers” sitting nearby who, in turn discover they are still in the game.

Why you should read this?
First off the illustrations are hilarious. It’s fun to watch how the shy boy and old timers choice of clothing evolves.  This mostly wordless picture book is a prime example of something missing in many kids lives.  Interaction with older adults who are not grandparents.  I was fortunate to live in a neighborhood where there were older adults.  They nurtured me.  My worldview is broader because of them.  This year, I plan to provide ML more opportunities to interact with senior citizens.

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton


Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton – “Four friends creep through the woods, and what do they spot? An exquisite bird high in a tree! “Hello birdie,” waves one. “Shh! We have a plan,” hush the others. They stealthily make their advance, nets in the air. Ready one, ready two, ready three, and go! But as one comically foiled plan follows another, it soon becomes clear that their quiet, observant companion, hand outstretched, has a far better idea. A simple, satisfying story whose visual humor plays out in boldly graphic, vibrantly colorful illustrations.”

Why you should read this book?
ML immediately picked it from the stack of books we always have around our house.  A book read on the first day it enters our house rarely happens.  Read Shh! Then continue to his other book Oh No George!.

Oh No George