Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku

Won Ton and Chopstick

In Won Ton and Chopstick:  A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin, created an ingenious way to explore the challenges of a puppy introduced to the old pet, a cat.  The illustrations evoke the jealousy of the cat and silly innocence of the puppy.  The rhythm of haiku compliments the overall story.  It’s hard to pick a favorite among these expressive and entertaining poems.  Here’s a small taste from this outstanding book.

outputhimoutputhim — wait!
I said him, not me!

A remarkable introduction to big words with understandable context clues… suspicion, altercation, banishment, adjustment, vindication and harmony.

Candy Experiments 2

Candy Experiments 2

Last autumn, I wrote about the book Candy Experiments.  ML loved it so much she based her science fair project this winter on one of the experiments in the book.

Candy Experiments 2 by Loralee Leavitt arrived last week.  After a busy weekend, I remembered the book.  ML perused it in her bed last night.  Then, quickly asked if we could go to the store tonight to purchase warheads, pop rocks and an egg.  In the name of science, we’re doing a candy run after work and school.

ML wouldn’t let me see the experiment.  She wants it to be a surprise.  I’m pretty certain there will be some fizz; but I’m not sure why she needs an egg.

Dinosaur VS. ? by Bob Shea

Dinosaur VS PottyDinosaur VS SchoolDinosaur VS BedtimeDinosaur VS LibraryDinosaur VS MommyDinosaur VS Santa

Dinosaur fights everything. . . the potty, school, bedtime, the library, mommy and even Santa.  This adorable, hilarious series by Bob Shea is perfect for the toddler and preschool set.  Each book has great quotes and funny details in the illustrations.  I’m highlighting what I love the most from each book.

Dinosaur VS. The Potty – “a three juice box lunch!”

Dinosaur VS. School – Love the googly eyes.  A first in my picture book reading experience.

Dinosaur VS. Bedtime – Love the pants and shoes on the “talking grown-ups.”

Dinosaur VS The Library – “The library wins!  Okay, they both win.”

Dinosaur VS. Mommy –  So much to love in this book.  From the freshly folded laundry to Dinosaur’s creative collage of an argyle sock, orange, pants, a plaid shirt, underwear and even a pink bra.   There’s an added bonus in this book.  A balloon featuring a character from one of my favorite Bob Shea books. . . Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great.

Dinosaur VS. Santa – I love the decorated Christmas tree.  Reminds me of a story my neighbors shared about me helping decorate their tree when I was a preschooler.

I’m curious if a book titled Dinosaur VS Daddy is in the works.  In the meantime,  I’m eagerly anticipating Bob Shea’s newest release on 05/05/2015. . .  Ballet Cat:  The Totally Secret Secret.

Ballet Cat


I’m On My Own – Twenty Picture Book Arrivals

Looks like I’m on my own for a bit with picture books.  ML wants us to read chapter books together.  I thought I could sneak a few picture books into our bedtime reading.  It didn’t work, she’s adamant.  We’ve decided to start the first Harry Potter book.

So I’m on my own until I convince her that picture books are great for every age.  In twenty words or less, I’m sharing my favorite part of the following seventeen??? picture books

Little Red's Riding Hood

Little Red’s Riding Hood by Peter Stein and illustrated by Chris Gall – “Why, Granny!  What a big GRILLE you have!”

Yeti and the Bird

Yeti and the Bird by Nadia Shireen – Worm Jam


Hoot Owl

Hoot Owl:  Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor and illustrated Jean Jullien – Pay attention to the eyes.

Nobody's Perfect

Nobody’s Perfect by David Elliott and illustrated by Sam Zuppardi – “This is my room before I clean it.  This is my room after I clean it.”

Backwards Birthday

The Backwards Birthday Party by Tom Chapin and John Forster and illustrated by Chuck Groenink – “We blindfolded the donkey, and he pinned the tail on us.”

You Are Not Small

You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant – I loved the big gray-green, hairy monster leg and the parachuting pink monsters.

No, Silly

No, Silly! by Ken Krug – “I like to sleep on cookies.”


Glamourpuss by Sarah Weeks and illustrated by David Small – The cat says “ME” and the dog says “WOW.”

Little Puffin's First Flight

Little Puffin’s First Flight by Jonathan London and illustrated by Jon Van Zyle “a puffling will eats as many as 2,000 fish in its first six weeks of life.”

Big Tractor

Big Tractor by Nathan Clement – A unique book about seasons sharing the life of a farmer and various farm equipment used throughout the year.

You Nest Here

You Nest Here With Me by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple and illustrated by Melissa Sweet – Who knew cowbirds don’t make nests? “the uninvited guest, Leaves her egg in a foster nest”

I Don't Want to Be a Frog

I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty and illustrated by Mike Boldt – “You are a Wet, Slimy, Bug-Eating very luck Frog.”


In by Nikki McClure – Don’t miss the Owl Guide at the end of the book.


Counting Crows

Counting Crows by Kathi Appelt and illustrated by Rob Dunlavey – Fun words throughout the book. . . by jango, smackers, grackle, yeppers.  Who knew crows could look so delightful?

My Pen

My Pen by Christopher Myers – A book celebrating drawing in creative illustrations and words.  “My pen tap-dances on the sky.”

Nana in the City

Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo – “I felt brave in my cape.”  what a great line.

Room for Bear

Room for Bear by Ciara Gavin – I love Bear’s problem solving and the “Eat Quack Love” sign in his den.

Little Bird Takes a Bath

Little Bird Takes a Bath by Marisabina Russo – I broke out in song throughout the book, “Rain, Rain Go Away” “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and many other classics.


P. Zonka Lays an Egg by Julie Paschkis -I love this chicken that marches to a different drummer and lays eggs on her own terms.

If I Had Triceratops

If I had a Triceratops by George O’Connor – The illustrations for “I’d be sure to clean up after her” and the one of her playing fetch.



If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

If You Plant a Seed

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson is exquisite and motivating.  This weekend, we’ll make a special trip to the garden store to pick up seeds.  After this harsh winter, we’re looking forward to digging in the dirt.

Kadir Nelson’s illustrations are stunning.  Don’t miss the page without any words and 5 birds.  Their expressions are priceless.  My coworker claims, “It makes me think about what my teenagers look like when I ask them to do something.”  Sadly, they look a little like the look ML gave me last night after she said, “Don’t talk to me.”  She’s only eight, I’m not ready for teenage looks.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan – A Young Adult Novel


Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan has been echoing in my heart all weekend.

I’m not an avid reader of young adult novels.  So the arrival of of an almost 600 page one, did not tempt me.  Until I continued to see one rave review after another about Pam Munoz Ryan’s new book.  I decided to give it fifty pages.  Then, read fifty more and fifty more. Suddenly, I realized I was almost finished with the book.  This novel reads faster than most of the 300 page young adult novels I’ve read.

It’s classified as historical fiction; but includes magical realism.  Finding a historical fiction for young adults is often difficult.  Finding one that is interesting is even harder.  Finally I’ve found a go to for the assignment “You must read a historical fiction book.”  Now I just need to figure out how to convince a seventh grader this 585 page book reads faster than Divergent.  Any ideas?

Home by Carson Ellis


I’m highlighting Home by Carson Ellis today because of a post I wrote yesterday for my readbykerri blog.  I already knew it; but that post proves I’m a homebody.  It’s no wonder I was enamored with the picture book, Home, from the first time I saw it.  I’ve started a draft for our Mock Caldecott 2016 because of this hand-lettered book created with gouache and ink.

Having moved into a small house a few years ago, I did a major purge.  As stated in the previous post The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, I’ve been there long enough to know what hasn’t been used since we moved and should probably go.

It’s the other part of my life which needs tidying.  Marie Kondo encourages one to only keep things that give “a spark of joy.”  I can’t follow her advice completely.  If I only kept the clothes that give me a spark of joy, I’d go to work naked.  Comfort and durability are the most important requirements for my professional wardrobe.  However, I can fill my life with experiences that give me joy.

This lead me to make a list of activities and things which provide a spark of joy in my life.  This list includes any and everything that popped in my head in a five minute time period

  • My daughter
  • Cutting flowers from our yard so I have fresh flowers in vases around the house.
  • Bacon at Whole Foods on Sunday mornings with my daughter
  • Taking my daughter and friends swimming
  • Spending kid free time with friends
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Volunteering with Postpartum Education and Support.
  • Planting and Weeding
  • Being a part of Listen To Your Mother
  • Daffodils
  • Plants from my mother and grandmother’s houses which now live in my yard
  • Eavesdropping on second graders’ conversations
  • The color green
  • Looking at dresses on www.eshakti.com
  • The new Cinderella movie
  • Spending time with family
  • The game Apples to Apples Junior
  • Entertaining friends with the ridiculous things I read on online dating profiles.
  • Coffee ice cream with chocolate chips
  • Home grown tomatoes
  • Our house

Julia’s Review of All The Answers by Kate Messner

All The Answers

Another book review by sixth grader, Julia, All the Answers by Kate Messner.

  • Write three words to describe this book.  moving, interesting, funny
  • What was you favorite part of the book?  I liked when Ava climbed the entire ropes course, because she overcame her fears and felt like she could do anything.
  • Who was your favorite character?  Why?  I really liked Emma, her idea of having a doesn’t name each day is really funny. I also liked Mrs. Galvin.
  • How did the book make your feel?  I felt sorry for Ava because her mom had cancer, and her grandpa was sick and he died.
  • Did anything in the book make you happy?  I was happy when Ava made all the people at the nursing home so happy, and when her mom got better.
  • Did anything in the book make you sad?  If so, what? I was sad when her grandpa died.

Book Synopsis from Bloomsbury Publishing –What if your pencil had all the answers? Would you ace every test? Would you know what your teachers were thinking? When Ava Anderson finds a scratched up pencil she doodles like she would with any other pencil. But when she writes a question in the margin of her math quiz, she hears a clear answer in a voice no one else seems to hear.
With the help of her friend Sophie, Ava figures out that the pencil will answer factual questions only – those with definite right or wrong answers – but won’t predict the future. Ava and Sophie discover all kinds of uses for the pencil, and Ava’s confidence grows with each answer. But it’s getting shorter with every sharpening, and when the pencil reveals a scary truth about Ava’s family, she realizes that sometimes the bravest people are the ones who live without all the answers…

The Orchestra Pit and Firebird – A Tribute to Mom

FirebirdOrchetra Pit

My mom would have been seventy-three today.  Last year two fabulous picture books were published Firebird by Misty Copeland and illustrated by Christopher Myers  and The Orchestra Pit by Johanna Wright. However, I waited until today to highlight them because they remind me of my last memory with my mom before she was diagnosed with cancer.

In 2001, I lived Charleston, SC.  Mom loved to visit me and this beautiful city.  We planned a special Mother/Daughter weekend to enjoy the Spoleto Festival.  “For 17 days and nights each spring, Spoleto Festival USA fills Charleston, South Carolina’s historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces with performances by renowned artists as well as emerging performers in opera; theater; dance; and chamber, symphonic, choral and jazz music.”

The last day of her visit, we attended the Charleston Ballet’s performance of Firebird under The Angel Oak on John’s Island.  We were excited because a young lady who grew up in our suburban Atlanta neighborhood was performing.  Her parents grew up in the same small town in Middle Georgia as my parents.

The Angel Oak is perfect location for an outdoor ballet.  No scenery is needed with this majestic live oak with sprawling arms as the background.  The tree is thought to be over 1500 years old.  A truly magical experience.  Unless, you’re a ballerina, required to dance underneath a tree where the start is delayed because two snakes are fighting over a third.

After wrestling for over five minutes, one snake fell out of the tree onto the stage.  The other two crawled into a hollow in the tree. Mom and I were amazed at how calmly the dancers  pirouetted under the tree knowing two snakes were above them; most likely copulating.  The show continued, even through a huge thunderstorm. It’s a mystery how the dancers didn’t fall all over the place. (Their stage was a plastic tarp)

Synopsis of the books from the publishers websites are below.  Can you tell why I waited to share these two books until today?

Firebird by Misty Copeland and illustrated by Christoper Myers – In her debut picture book, Misty Copeland tells the story of a young girl–an every girl–whose confidence is fragile and who is questioning her own ability to reach the heights that Misty has reached. Misty encourages this young girl’s faith in herself and shows her exactly how, through hard work and dedication, she too can become Firebird.

The Orchestra Pit by Johanna Wright – “When a slightly befuddled but surprisingly endearing snake wanders into the wrong pit—the orchestra pit—peculiar things start to happen. A well-meaning snake interacts with the orchestral instruments, scares the musicians and conductor, and causes general chaos in this sweet and funny book.”


Red Butterfly – A Middle Grades Book

Red Butterfly

Red Butterfly by A. L. Sonnichsen and illustrated by Amy June Bass – You would not anticipate the beauty of this book from the summary provided by the Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data.  “In China, a foundling girl with a deformed hand raised in secret by an American woman must navigate China’s strict adoption system when she is torn away from the only family she has ever known.”

The Library of Congress CIP provides “a brief, non-critical, one-sentence annotation (commonly referred to as the summary) that describes the content of the work being cataloged without making any judgmental statements. The general rule of thumb about length is twenty-five to thirty words.”

Here’s my long, run on sentence about this book which I feel captures the essence of the book more than the CIP summary. . . A lyrical novel in verse which delicately navigates the implications of China’s strict one child policy realistically and with compassion using the poetry of a young girl, Kara, who was abandoned by her birth mother and cared for by an American woman living in China for many years, until she is taken away from her “adoptive mother.”

The black and white sketches throughout the book enhance this heartbreaking yet uplifting book.  After reading this book, look closely at the cover.  It will touch you in a way it didn’t when you first opened the book.

I Can’t Keep Up – Fantastic Picture Books We’ve Read in 2015

Goodnight AlreadyBear Ate SandwichViolin for ElvaCastle Full of Cats

Goodnight Already by Jory John and illustrated by Benji Davies – I read this to my five-year-old nephew.  He loved the illustrations.  At the page spread without words he howled.  The text cracked him up too.  “Wanna play some cards?  Watch a movie?  Start a band?  Make smoothies?”

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach – Other than a lettuce leaf, a sandwich has disappeared.  Was it the bear or someone else?  ML thinks the bear.  I’m not convinced.  We’re curious to hear what you think.

A Violin for Eva by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Tricia Tusa –  When Elva was young, she wanted a violin more than anything; but her parents didn’t know her dream.  As she grew older, she still had the dream but felt she was too busy.  Then, too old.  Until, one day…

A Castle Full of Cats by Ruth Sanderson – ML thinks this book is exquisite.  The detailed illustrations of dozens of cats, the castle, the queen and the king enchant.

Virgil & Owen by Paulette Bogan

Virgil & Owen

The cover of Virgil & Owen by Paulette Bogan includes a polar bear and a penguin.  I asked ML, “Which do you think is Virgil?  And which do you think is Owen?”  She guessed correctly.  Her reasoning was impressive.  The text for Virgil’s name on the cover is darker.  The text used for Owen’s name is white.  Can you guess who is who based on this clue?

Another fabulous picture book about friendship.  This time featuring the challenges of a friend wanting undivided attention.  The simple text and engaging illustrations make it a perfect read for preschool teachers to their students.


Julia’s Review of Fish in a Tree


We heard from Lily.  Now it’s time to hear what Julia, her sixth grade sister, thinks about Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

  • Write three words to describe this book.  memorable, interesting, realistic
  • What was you favorite part of the book?  I liked when Albert and Keisha stood up to the boys that had been bullying Albert.
  • Who was your favorite character?  Why?  My favorite character was Keisha because she was brave and easy to befriend. If I were a new student I would really like to have someone like that to help me. I also really liked Travis, because he was so caring.
  • How did the book make your feel?  I felt sorry for Ally, but I also felt like she would make things so much easier for herself if she had told the teachers that she had trouble reading. I think that Mr. Daniels is a lot like my sister’s math teacher. She’s always talking about the funny things he does, and both teachers are very eccentric.
  • Did anything in the book make you happy?  I was happy that Ally learned to like Mr. Daniels and that Jessica stood up to Shay.
  • Did anything in the book make you sad?  If so, what? I was sad when Ally squished the butterfly. She reacted without thinking and the lady at the Butterfly Gardens thought she was stupid.

Book Synopsis from Penguin – “Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.”

Finding Spring by Carin Berger

finding Spring

With eight out of the past ten school days cancelled due to inclement weather, it’s been an exhausting two weeks.  Even the kids are happy to be back in school.  When I entered the living room this morning, ML had her pink backpack strapped to her back.  Sitting on the sofa waiting for 8 am.

Last night, we read Finding Spring by Carin Berger.  A few pages in ML shouted “collage.” At the end she called it a “lovely book.”  It’s both of these things.  It’s hard to imagine the time and skill required to cut each snowflake and delicate flower.

We know we’re getting close to Spring.  The Robins have returned, our first daffodil bloomed, and bluebirds are building a nest in our house.  We just need to make it past Thursday.  Temperatures close to 70 on Wednesday and a wintry mix forecast for Thursday.

I won’t feel completely safe from winter weather until after March, 12th.  That’s when the Blizzard of 93 hit north Georgia and Berry College students were stranded with no power and little food.  Except me, a family reunion sent me home for the weekend.  Our power never went off, the ACC basketball tournament was on and the fresh green beans and Honeybaked ham for the family reunion provided sustenance for our family.  As for the ACC tournament, I relished Georgia Tech beating Chapel Hill.  Little did I know in a few years I would be a Tarheel.