Happy Birthday from Aunt Kerri and ML

Today is a special day.  It’s the day ML was due to arrie in 2006.  She didn’t.  But a few years later my nephew did.  Every year, I send him books for his birthday.  This is the first year I wasn’t sure which direction to go.  He’s at the age where children could be reading Easy Readers or as some parents like to brag, “books on a high school reading level.”

I did what every responsible Aunt does.  I asked what he’s enjoying reading.  My sister-in-law quickly responded Dog Man and Diary of a Wimpy Kid but thought I’d be hard pressed to find one he hadn’t read.  This was music to my ears.  My nephew has entered the independent chapter book reading stage of life.  One where series are king.  In later years he will reminisce about these characters he met and fell in love with as he was truly learning to be a reader.  Not just someone who sounded out words.

I had a few ideas but consulted with ML too.   A Diary of a Wimpy Kid series read-alike was easy.  Timmy Failure started the amazon shopping cart.  Mr Pants was added as  T’s next graphic novel series to explore.  I knew I wanted to send an I Survived book; but was at a loss of which one to order.  ML helped with this.  She suggested The Shark Attacks of 1916.  Then, she reminded me how much she loved Geronimo Stilton at this age.  With the edition of Geronimo Stilton:  The Karate Mouse, our order was complete.

After the order shipped a new graphic novel arrived at the library.  I read it Thursday night and there’s no doubt it would have been a perfect edition to the list.  With Christmas around the corner, I’ve started a new cart.  Yes, I am THAT aunt.  The one who gives books.  Come December 25th my nephew will also own Toby Goes Bananas.  And a few other yet to be determined titles.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid + You Wouldn’t Want To = Julius Zebra

Julius Zebra

There’s a new series in town just in time for the summer rush.  It makes me think of Diary of a Wimpy Kid meets You Wouldn’t Want To.  If you don’t know who Diary of a Wimpy Kid is, you’ve been hiding under a rock since 2007.  If you’re not familiar with the You Wouldn’t Want To series I’ll cut you a little slack.  You can learn more about it on my blog post  Books for Boys – You Wouldn’t Want To.

“What happens when you you mix the gladiatorial combat of ancient Rome with a fast-talking creature who is DEFINITELY NOT A STRIPY HORSE?” (Candlewick Press webpage)

The answer is Julius Zebra, the coolest zebra to enter children’s literature.  I read a portion of the first book a few weeks ago.  Until, a mother was looking for a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book.  There were none on the shelf so I added her name to the request list.  In the meantime, I encouraged her to take home Julius Zebra:  Rumble With The Romans by Gary Northfield.

So far it appears the second book Julius Zebra: Bundle With the Britons is only available for Kindle.  I hope paper copies land at the library before school ends on June 9th.


Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls are Used In War

Child Soldier

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.   Yesterday, I read Child Soldier:  When Boys and Girls Are Used in War written by Jessica Dee Humphreys & Michael Chikwanine and illustrated by Claudia Davila.  This book covers a horrifying subject matter in an age appropriate way for later elementary and middle school students.  It’s written in the graphic novel format.  According to wikipedia, “A graphic novel is a book made up of comics content. Although the word “novel” normally refers to long fictional works, the term “graphic novel” is applied broadly and includes fiction, non-fiction, and anthologized work. It is distinguished from the term “comic book“, which is used for comics periodicals”

While the subject is one of the most horrific ones I’ve read in children’s literature.  The illustrations are not graphic.  Ml doesn’t like graphic  novels.  Anytime, I’ve brought one home, she’s said, “You know I don’t like graphic novels.”  If she did, I would take it home and introduce her to this heartbreaking reality before she sees a more graphic version in the news.

Until yesterday, it would not have occurred to me to add the fact that my daughter and friends are not being recruited as soldiers to what I am thankful for.  After reading this book, it will be one of the top things on my list.

Super Fly: The World’s Smallest Superhero!

Super Fly

I read 5 pages of this 115 page illustrated, novel. . . Super Fly:  The World’s Smallest Superhero! by Todd H. Doddler.  That’s all it took to realize this book is going to be a hit.  Particularly with the Kindergarten through 3rd grade set obsessed with the word poop.  Notice I did not single out boys.  I’m amazed at how often the words poop and pee come out of ML and her friends’ mouths.  I do not remember having this fascination in elementary school.

Now for a synopsis from the publisher, Bloomsbury.  “From just a tiny larva in diapers to . . . SUPER FLY! This is the story of Eugene Flystein, a small and nerdy, mild-mannered housefly, who also happens to be the world’s smallest superhero and humanity’s greatest crime fighter.

SUPER FLY!: Able to stop tornadoes from destroying towns with just one breath.
Strong enough to push a ship away from a looming iceberg.
He’s even read every book in the library twice. Yes, twice!

Can this four-eyed little bugger, along with his trusty sidekick Fantastic Flea, take on Crazy Cockroach and his army of insect baddies? It’s housefly vs. cockroach in this epic battle of good vs. evil. Who will come out on top? Stay tuned!”

Lily’s Review of Fish in a Tree


I’ve found an avid reader to help me review books for middle grade children.  Lily is a fourth grader.  I gave her mom a few new library books at a PTA meeting last week.  Within days, Lily had written two reviews for me.  She emailed me her first review saying, “Thanks, I really liked the book.”  Based on the word bookworm in her email address, I anticipate she will be an active reviewer.

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

  • Write three words to describe this book.  Intriguing Exciting Satisfying
  • What was you favorite part of the book?  Why?  My favorite part of the book was the end when Mr.Daniels meets Travis because Travis will start learning to read.
  • Who was your favorite character?  Why?  My favorite character was Mr.Daniels because he is funny and not like an ordinary teacher.
  • How did the book make your feel?  The book made me feel happy for Ally because she is finally getting help.
  • Did anything in the book make you happy?  If so, what?  The part of the book that made me feel happy was the part when Albert finally stands up to the boys that are mean to him.
  • Did anything in the book make you sad?  If so, what?  I didn’t like the parts where Shay and Jessica are mean to Ally.

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.”

Presidential Reads

Presidential MisadventuresThose Founding FathersThomas JeffersonDear Mr WashingtonPresident TaftiPhone George Washington


It’s Presidents Day and I planned to finish this post before the day arrived so I could post it.  I didn’t; but have decided to post it in it’s incomplete form.  These are some great books.  Trust me.

Presidential Misadventures:  Poems that Poke Fun at the Man in Charge by Bob Raczka and art by Dan E. Burr – Have you ever heard of a clerihew?  I hadn’t until I read this book.  It’s a four line poem that pokes fun at a famous person.  The first two lines rhyme and the third and fourth lines rhyme.  There’s a poem written about each of the forty-four presidents.

The Founding Fathers: Those Horse Ridin’, Fiddle Playin’, Book Readin’ Gun Totin’ Gentlemen Who Started America by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Barry Blitt

Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything by Maria Kalman – An exquisitely illustrated picture book describing the interests and complexities of Thomas Jefferson in simple age appropriate words.

Dear Mr. Washington by Lynn Cullen and pictures by Nancy Carpenter

President Taft is Stuck in the Bath by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

The Left Behinds and the iPhone That Saved George Washington by David Potter


Forget Chocolate. . . Give a Book

SuperloveWho Wants HugHug MachineStormy NightHow to Grow FriendI Love Dogs

Today I purchased a book to give ML for Valentine’s Day.  Last year, I gave her chocolate.  Guess who ate most of it?  At the bookstore recently, ML saw a new Geronimo Stilton book.  She asked, “Will you buy it for my birthday?”  Her birthday isn’t until October.  I wish I had a red valentine chocolate box to put it in.  That would make ML laugh.

Below are some new picture books about love.  Perfect for the huggable child in your life.

Superlove by Charise Mericle Harper and illustrated by Mark Chambers – Most girls dream of being a flower girl.  ML did.  The young girl in this book has a plan; but Pinky her cat has other plans.  Who will come to the rescue?  A delightful story highlighting imagination and loving families.

Who Wants a Hug? by Jeff Mack – Bear loves to give hugs and is always asking skunk if he wants a hug.  Skunk refuses time and again.  Bear perseveres.  Will skunk finally give in?  Adorable, animated illustrations fill this book.

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell – No thing is too small or big to receive a hug from Hug Machine.  A perfect read with my favorite hugger in the world. . . ML

Stormy Night by Salina Yoon – As a child, I was petifried whenever there was a thunderstorm.  This sweet, loving book is a perfect read for children like me.

How to Grow a Friend by Sara Gillingham – Other than one’s family, the greatest love in childrens’ lives is friends.  Read it.  Then, read it again to see if you can find the cute little bird that graces each page spread.

I Love Dogs by Sue Stainton and illustrated by Bob Staake – What kind of dogs do you love?  Lazy or Crazy? Spotty or Dotty? Prowling or Howling?  Use this book to help children love adjectives.

Now for the unveiling of the Geronimo Stilton book ML is receiving February 14th.

Geronimo Stilton


Cole’s Review on The Terrible Two

Terrible Two

Cole is a third grader who enjoys Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.  When The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett and illustrated by Kevin Cornell arrived, I knew Cole was the perfect boy to read and review the book.  Why? The front cover includes a quote from Jeff Kinney, the author of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.  “A DOUBLE HELPING OF FUN AND MISCHIEF!”  You can learn more about this new series at The Official and Secret Website of The Terrible Two.

  • Write three words to describe this book.  Funny, Entertaining, Interesting
  • What was your favorite part of the book? Why?  When principle Parkin’s car was pulled up to the top of the stairs.  It was my favorite because it showed a picture of a trampled car.  I found that to be incredibly amusing.
  • Who was your favorite character?  Why?  Niles because he was a prankster.
  • How did the book make you feel?  Happy, also made me feel like I wanted to maybe be a little mischievous.

You can learn more about this new series at
The Official and Secret Website of The Terrible Two.

A True Honor – LeUyen Pham Asked for My Help


A few weeks ago I received an email from LeUyen Pham with the subject line “book suggestions from some of my favorite book people.”  Before I even opened the email, I was honored.  She’s presenting a lecture in Chicago this winter and  wanted ideas of newer books to include on a reading list.  The lecture is titled “Wandering Wonderland: An Immigrant’s Story Told Through Books.”  A week later, LeUyen asked if I would write about why I liked three of the books I recommended.  I’ve always wanted to visit Chicago.  Wish I could make it there on March 5th to attend the Butler Lecture at Dominican University.


Elephant and Piggy Series by Mo Willems – Most easy reader books are boring.  It’s difficult to write a fun book with a limited vocabulary using words which are pronounced utilizing conventional phonics .  (It’s one reason Dr. Seuss and Amelia Bedelia books are still popular today.)  In 2007, the first of twenty-one Elephant & Piggie books was published.  Each one is as funny as the one before.  These easy readers build confidence and vocabulary in even the most reluctant of readers.  Each book is a conversation between Elephant and Piggie.  A perfect parent/child read-aloud where one can read Piggie’s lines. . . the other Elephant’s dialogue.


Long Walk to Water

A Long Walk to Water:  Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park – This book should be required reading for fifth and sixth graders.  Told from two perspectives. . . a Sudanese boy in 1985 and an eleven-year-old girl during 2008.  Use this book as a springboard for important conversations about war, poverty, lack of clean water and other issues eleven-year-old children in other countries experience daily.

Inside Out & Back Again

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai  – A novel in verse based on the author’s personal experience fleeing Vietnam and eventually landing in Alabama.   The short free verse poems perfectly evoke the struggles acclimating to a new language, food, clothing and customs.

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.

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.




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.)

Captain Underpants – Number 1 in Most Challenged Book Category for 2 Years Running

Captain Underpants

This week is Banned Books Week.  For the past two years, the Captain Underpants books by Dav Pilkey have received the most challenges.  This series has been around for over fifteen years.  I’m curious why there’s a new found interest in keeping them off library shelves.

Admittedly, I’ve never read one.  It’s hard to find one on the library shelf.  Kids love them.  Recently, I noticed our copies were almost in shreds.  I requested new copies be ordered.  They went out like hotcakes as soon as they arrived.

Guess I need to get on the list for a Captain Underpant’s book…  see what all the fuss is about.

Slumber Party: My Friend is Crazy

I’m a little upset with my friend.  My “go to” excuse for not having a slumber party with over three kids at our was our house is too small.  Not going to work now.  My friend’s place is the same size.

The first slumber party I remember attending was at Laura’s house.  Sometime that night, her mom threatened to pop us with a wooden spoon if weren’t quiet.  The next morning we watched Saturday morning cartoons.  If I remember correctly, it was the premiere of the Smurfs, September 12, 1981.  (Thank you Wikipedia for confirming this.) Laura’s birthday was in September; so I’m sure my memory is correct.

Can’t write a post without recommending some books.  Second graders still love being read picture books; and are proud of their ability to read chapter books.  I’ve included both.


What! Cried Granny:  An Almost Bedtime Story by Kate Lum and pictures by Adrian Johnson – This my favorite story to read to kids about a sleepover for two reasons.  One… it’s funny.  Two… it’s at his grandmother’s house.  For many children, spending the night with grandparents is their first sleepover experience.  “When her grandson Patrick arrives for his first sleepover, Granny’s resourceful efforts to provide him with a bed, pillow, and other necessities result in a sleepless night for both of them.”

Froggys Sleepover

Froggy’s Sleepover by Jonathan London and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz – The story line and illustrations in Froggy books are always funny and a delight to share with a group.  The stuff he packs for the sleepover are quite noisy.  The sleeping bag “sloofs” and the pillow “poofs.”  “Froggy is excited about his first sleepover, but a series of events sends Froggy and Max back and forth between their houses, until it seems they will never fall asleep.”  They finally fall asleep at 9 a.m.  Hoping this isn’t my friend’s reality.

Rabbit Robot

Rabbit & Robot:  The Sleepover by Cece Bell – Rabbit is looking forward to Robot coming over for a sleepover.  He’s written out a plan for the evening.  1. Make pizza.  2. Watch TV.  3. Play Go Fish.  4. Go go bed.  However, things do not go as planned.  A clever story deserving of the Theodor Seuss Giesel Honor it received.

Marigold Lake

The Critter Club:  Liz at Marigold Lake by Callie Barkley and illustrated by Marsha Riti – This is a perfect series for the birthday girl and friends.  They are animal crazy!  The Critter Club is made up of “Four best friends who band together to form a rescue shelter to save lost and lonely animals in their town. Amy, Ellie, Liz, and Marion each have different personalities and interests, but they all have one thing in common: a serious love of animals.” In book seven, “Liz is excited her three best friends are visiting her family’s cabin at Marigold Lake, but something seems to go wrong with every activity she plans.”


I can’t forget to mention Sleepover With Beatrice and Bear by Monica Carnesi.  I featured it a few posts ago.  Another great sleepover picture book.


We Met Jon Scieszka

Stinky Cheesefrank einsteinBattle BunnyTrue Story Pigs

In 1991, my good friend from college introduced me to Jon Scieszka books.  She was taking a Children’s Literature course for her degree in Early Childhood Education.  I’ve followed his career for over twenty years.  I consider him the father of the “Fractured Fairy Tale” subgenre.  I’m sure others penned these types of tales before him; but his book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs was the first I read.

Several months ago, I learned he was visiting our local bookstore on August 25th to promote his new book.  I hesitated for a second… 7 pm after the first day of school.  Might make our day extra crazy.  Sanity returned.  I thought, “Who cares?  Jon Scieszka doesn’t visit a bookstore half a mile from your house everyday.”

ML’s book club read The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales for their second meeting.  I drove four girls from the club to the event.  With the windows rolled down, they were singing at the top of their lungs some pop song out the window to the high school guys playing basketball at our local park.  I love second grade girls.  Free as can be, not worrying about what others think.

That’s what I love about Jon Scieszka too.  He didn’t follow the conventions of children’s literature in the nineties.  All you have to do is read The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.  This book includes the words stupid and ugly.  Various fonts and different sized text are used.  Common these days; but rare last century.

I love the timelessness of his books.  I am confident his new series will continue this trend. Frank Einstein and The Anti Matter Motor is the first book.  Five more books to come. “Frank Einstein loves figuring out how the world works by creating household contraptions that are part science, part imagination, and definitely unusual.”  The series  “takes readers from Matter to Energy to Humans to Life to Earth and on through the Universe – from the smallest objects (atoms) to the largest (the cosmos).” (Quotes from Frank Einstein’s website.)

When we meet authors or illustrators, I always purchase a book to be autographed.  ML chose Battle Bunny.  I stood in line while she and her friends perused the children’s books.  Each girl begged me to buy them a Rescue Princess book.  I said, “I’m not buying any more books tonight.”  In unison, they begged, “Please, please, please.”  I told ML, “You’re welcome to use your money to buy the book and share it with your friends.”  She did.  I asked Jon Scieszka if he could “Battle Bunny” it.  Not sure what this means, check out mybirthdaybunny.com.  I know I shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover; but I am princessed and fairied out.  Want to “Battle Bunny” a book, print up a copy of Birthday Bunny, get out your pen, and go to it.

He has so many other great books for kids, especially boys.  I featured his Time Warp Trio on the Series Fiction for Elementary School Boys post. I can’t wait to read some of his Guys Read books.  I discovered them a few days before the event.

Finally, here’s proof we met him.  After, I told him about ML’s book club reading The Stinky Cheese Man, he started calling them “The Stinky Cheese Club.”











Circus Camp


While visiting New York, ML called to tell me she was at the circus.  At intermission, she called with an important message, “Mommy, I’m joining the circus.”  We specifically discussed this spring how she could attend camp at Cirque de Vol this summer, with the agreement she would NOT run off to join the circus.  Yesterday was the last day of camp with a performance for family and friends at the end.  The group demonstrated a variety of circus arts… mime, trapeze, hoop dance, poi and aerial silks.  I didn’t know what poi was until ML and two other girls performed a routine.

I cannot rave enough about this camp.  When you hear the words circus camp… you may think flashy, showy, even over-the-top.  It wasn’t.  ML learned flexibility, concentration and how to take risks in a safe, supportive environment.  Lots of creativity in this camp too.  Every afternoon when I picked ML up, she was hiding from me.  In forts she and her friends built using parachutes, hula hoops, gym mats and all the other cool things in the studio.

Below are some great books about the circus.

Extraordinary Jane

Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison – “Jane the dog doesn’t have a unique talent in the circus like the rest of her family, until the ringmaster discovers what is special about her.”  The illustrations in this book are extraordinary. ML insists I add it to our Mock Caldecott 2015 list. Even though she’s a little miffed with the author/illustrator for copying her.  ML put a bandage on her ostrich stuffed animal’s neck long before reading this book.

Circus Girl

Circus Girl by Clare Pernice – When this book arrived at the library this spring, I didn’t take it home.  Instead, I saved it to read the week of Circus Camp.   “When a little girl dons her leotard and socks, she becomes “Circus Girl,” the star of the show that incorporates her toys and stuffed animals.”  ML’s favorite illustration… when the girl performs using aerial silks.  Amazed is the only word to describe watching ML on the aerial silks demonstrating “the birdcage” and “diaper dropdown.”

At the Circus

Simple Steps to Drawing:  At the Circus by Helga Bontinck – Sometimes ML draws in bed before lights out. Tuesday night she yelled, “How do you spell Paige?” Knowing she climbed in her bed with the At The Circus drawing book, I guessed Paige was a teacher. ML did a rough sketch of an elephant on a scrap of paper. Then, used a crisp, white piece of paper for the final product with extra details not shown in the book.

The Show Must Go On

Three-Ring Rascals:  The Show Must Go On by Kate Klise with illustrations by M. Sarah Klise – I’m a big fan of the Klise sisters.  When their new series,Three-Ring Rascals arrived at the library, I was excited to see I could add a chapter book to the mix for our circus-themed reading.  “Two mice and an old crow, who travel with a circus, cleaning up the spilled popcorn after every performance, come to the rescue when a greedy con artist takes over the management of the circus.”

I’ve decided The Show Must Go On will be the first book for ML’s bookclub this school year.  Every member will need to bring the circus application from the Three-Ring Rascals website.  Thanks to ideas from the website, the meeting is planned.  Food… popcorn.  Activity… performance of special circus tricks.  Discussion questions… available at Algonquin Young Reader’s.

We won’t meet until October or November.  By then, there will be three books in the series published.  I’m betting several of the girls will read all three before the meeting.

North Carolina Children’s Book Awards 2015 Challenge

I can tell school is starting soon.  We’ve started receiving extra copies of the books nominated for the 2015 North Carolina Children’s Book Awards at the library.  As I expected, I’ve read most of the books on the Picture Book’s list.  I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve read none of the books on the Junior Book’s list.

So I’ve made a personal goal to read all the books nominated for both awards.  Two picture books and twelve chapter books to go.  Then, I’ll post my top picks.

Anyone want to join me in this challenge?

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.


ML’s Book Club This Summer

I’ve learned this year ML’s book club meeting will be a quarterly event.  Anything more doesn’t work with my schedule.  I’m trying to model a life to ML where one is not over-scheduled.

Here’s the message I sent the parents of the members:

Knowing summers are busy, I am planning to have a book club in August.  Below are three books we will talk about.  It’s not a problem if your daughter doesn’t read all of them.  Just wanted to give a few choices.  All are available at the library.

The Trouble With Chickens by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Kevin Cornell
The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron and illustrated by Ann Strugnall
What is the Statue of Liberty? by Joan Holub and illustrated by John Hinderliter

As soon as I nail down my work schedule for August, I’ll throw out some possibilites.  In the mean time, I am happy to create a list of books for any of your children based on their reading preferences and reading level.  Let me know.  I’ll “interview” your daughter to learn what she likes and find 5-9 titles she may enjoy.  Looking forward to another year of reading with your girls.
                                                                                                                                                               ***I am happy to report two parents have already taken me up on the offer to put together books ideas for their daughters.  Hopefully, their daughters will read the books.  Like them.  Then, encourage ML to read them.  I don’t want to say my offer had ulterior motives.  I think of it more as a fringe benefit.  I love connecting books to readers, especially ML’s friends***
Trouble With ChickensStories Julian TellsWhat Is Statue of Liberty

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.


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.

Summer Camp… What does ML Think?

Camp TimberwoodCookingCampDisasterIvyBean Make Rules

Below is the transcript of last nights phone conversation with ML.

Me: I signed you up for 4 weeks of Y Camp today.

ML: No fair!

Me: – (guilty working mom thoughts bubbling up)

ML: Only 4 weeks at Camp Skyline. Why can’t I go more?

In college, I worked as a Camp Counselor for two summers.  Then, I was the Program Director for the 9 & 10 year old girls for two summers.  I saw firsthand the wonderful opportunity camp is for girls to develop independence and experience new things.  Recently ML asked to go to sleep-away camp.  I’m fully supportive of this idea.  So it’s time for me to start saving pennies.  Sleep-away camp isn’t cheap.  It won’t be an every summer thing for ML.  However, I will try my best to get her there a few summers.

Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood by Ellen Conford was one of my favorite books during my late elementary school years.  I don’t recall the plot.  I only remember I loved it.  Here’s the plot summary from Goodreads. . .  For thirteen-year-old Melanie Kessler, going to overnight camp was no way to spend a summer vacation. Right from the start, Melanie knew there was going to be trouble. Getting stuck with the six-year-old Tadpoles in the beginners’ swim class was downright embarrassing. So was her horse’s decision to take a trot in the lake–with Melanie aboard!

Now, to top things off, Melanie finds herself falling in love with Steve, the cutest boy in camp.  Of course, she’s not the only girl to feel this way.  Can she keep her archrival, Erica Stone, from breaking things up between her and Steve before they even get started?  This just might turn out to be Melanie’s best summer ever!

A few years ago, I bought a copy at a used book store.  When ML is older, I’ll share it with her.  In the meantime, I’ll encourage her to read two early chapter books about camp.

Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew:  Cooking Camp Disaster by Carolyn Keene and illustrated by Macky Pamintuan – Nancy and her friends are excited to spend part of their summer at a cooking camp, but when the recipes start making kids sick, they must find out who is sabotaging the food.

Ivy + Bean Make the Rules by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall – Seven-year-old Bean is too young to go to the camp her sister Nancy is attending, so she and her best friend Ivy decide to create their own camp.


ML is Branching Out – Ivy + Bean


Every time we visit the library I ask, “Why don’t you try an Ivy + Bean book?”  ML responds, “No.”  I admit I haven’t read any of the books, but lots of girls ML’s age ask for them.  I’ve held off reading them. . . hoping ML would eventually be interested.  Then, we could read them together.  Well, that moment has arrived.  Last night she showed me a book.  “Look!  I checked out an Ivy + Bean book, and I already read 5 chapters.”  With that speed reading, I may not have chance for us to read them aloud.  There are 10 books in this series by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.  ML’s starting with book 4 Ivy+ Bean Take Care of the Babysitter.  Like most series for this age, I don’t think it matters the order you read them.

ML still reads the Rainbow Magic books.  She’s saving her  money to buy the Rainbow Magic Earth Fairies Series from the latest Scholastic book order flyer.  I asked, “Do you want to donate them to the school library when you are finished?”  She said, “That’s what I was thinking.”  She’s paying $7 and is very proud of it.  I’m covering the rest.  I love it my daughter wants to spend her money on books.  Then, share them with others.

We continue to read picture books and marvel over the illustrations.  Last night, she was still awake when I arrived home from the board meeting for Postpartum Education and Support.  A cause which, as a survivor of a postpartum mood disorder, is near and dear to me.  ML informed me she couldn’t sleep because she wanted me to read her a book.  She picked A Gift For Mama by Linda Ravin Lodding and illustrated by Alison Jay from my 8 Great New Picture Books post.  She loved it.  I shared about my time in Vienna showing her places in the book I visited.  She didn’t realize European cities include buildings from a long time ago and modern days.


Grimmtastic Girls Arrived at the Library Today


Today, a new series arrived at the library.  Grimmtastic Girls by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams.  I learned of the series when one of the authors, Joan Holub, sent me advanced copies of the first two books.  I immediately let the librarian who orders books know about it.  The authors’ series Goddess Girls and Heroes in Training are immensely popular.  I knew Grimmtastic Girls would be too.

The advanced copies arrived the evening ML’s good friend spent the night.  Here’s my email to the author.

“I was excited to receive advanced copies of Grimmtastic Girls in the mail.  It was such a pleasant surprise.  I read 4 chapters of the first book to ML and her friend last night.  They wanted me to keep going but it was 11pm.  I’m going to pass the copy of the one you sent to us to ML’s friend from last night.  She’s a better reader than ML so she will probably be able to read it herself.  One thing I can already tell I like about the books is the vocabulary used.  So many times, series books can be watered down.  I look forward to this opening up ML’s interest in the 398.2 section of the library.”  (For non-librarians – the 398.2 section is the Dewey Decimal Number where the non-Disney folk and fairy tales are housed.)

Even though I wrote a post called “Not Another Princess Book,” I am excited about this series.  Based on what we’ve read so far, the princesses have depth and take care of themselves.  The first book starts with your typical Cinderella story… evil stepmother, mean stepsisters.  From there it changes.  Cinderella or Cinda as she is called in the book starts at the boarding school her stepsisters attend,  Grimmtastic Academy.  We haven’t finished reading about the first day of school and the stepsisters have tried to sabotage Cinda three times.  Luckily, she meets Snow, Red and Rapunzel.  It looks like they are going to show her the ropes.  Other characters introduced include the school secretary Mrs Jabberwocky , the lunch room lady Mistress Hagscorch, the headmaster Grumpystiltskin.  And of course Prince Awesome who the stepsisters swoon over.

I look forward to reading more of this book with ML.  Her reading is improving so she’s likely to be reading the series on her own September 30th when the third and fourth book in the series are released.

Book 1 – Cinderella Stays Up Late
Book 2 – Red Riding Hood Gets Lost
Book 3 – Snow White Lucks Out
Book 4 – Rapunzel Cuts Loose