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.

ML Finally Likes Elephant & Piggie Books


I’ve checked out Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems for years.  ML emphatically refused for us to read them stating, “You know I don’t like comic books.”  Recently she said, “Mommy, I don’t like the Pigeon books anymore.  I like the Elephant & Piggie books.”  The Pigeon books are by Mo Willems too.

The library received a new pigeon book days before this conversation.  I responded, “OK, I won’t bring home the new Pigeon book, The Pigeon Needs a Bath.  ML changed her tune requesting, “Please bring home the Pigeon book, but also bring home some Elephant & Piggie books.”  Excitedly, I seized the opportunity and requested every Elephant & Piggie book published.

The night I brought home The Pigeon Needs a Bath  bedtime snuck up on us.  I wanted to multitask the bedtime routine by reading to ML while she ate her bedtime snack.  Sitting on the floor in the kitchen, I was ready to begin reading.   ML said, “Wait! I want to read The Pigeon Needs a Bath to you.”  On our dusty wooden floor, I realized something.  The only people who read picture books out loud with more feeling than a children’s librarian are the children of these librarians.

I’m glad I didn’t force the Elephant & Piggie books on ML.  The dramatic opportunities in these books are beyond measure.  Of course, I didn’t realize this until ML showed me.  She decided I should be Elephant and she would be Piggie.  We’ve been reading them out loud together.

Recently, her friend came for dinner.  They acted out seven different Elephant & Piggie books.  I sat on the sofa and held the books open so they could read the words.  It was fun watching them taking turns being Elephant & Piggie.  There were even costumes made from blue painter’s tape.  A long strip taped to Elephant’s nose and a short curly tail for Piggie allowing for quick costume changes after each book.

My wonderful friend from library school who lives in California posted Elephant & Piggie Do Reader’s Theater last week on her blog.  Looks like children from coast to coast are performing dramatic readings of Elephant & Piggie books.

When you read the Elephant & Piggie books (because you must no matter your age or access to children) make sure to check out the back inside covers of the books.  The Pigeon makes an appearance.  I’m not buying ML’s comment, ” I don’t like the Pigeon books anymore.”   She loves finding that silly bird hiding out in the Elephant & Piggie books.



Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss – “Oh, that’s why they look so old.”


Today is Read Across America Day.  Better known as Dr. Seuss’s birthday.  His birthday is actually March 2, but  ML’s class celebrated today.  Well, they tried… school released 3 hours early.  Yesterday, it was almost 70 degrees.  Currently, it is 24 degrees with slick, icy roads.

Tomorrow, ML plans to take two Dr. Seuss books from our collection to school…  Hop on Pop and Green Eggs and Ham.  I requested ML take good care of them because they’re from my childhood.  ML responded, “Oh, that’s why they look so old.”  I prefer the term well-read.  According to ebay these books are “vintage.”  The images above are from ebay.  Our Hop on Pop looks better.  Thankfully, no mold spots.  However, the spine of our Green Eggs and Ham is partially detached.  Hopefully, it won’t return home completely detached.

What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss book?

Going to the Doctor


Last night we read two books about doctors in preparation for ML’s seven-year-old check-up today.  On the way she said, “I’m going tell the doctor I am allergic to shots.”  To ML’s delight it was a shot free visit.

ML’s next comment left me cringing.  “I’m fat” she said.  Concerned I asked, “Why do you think that?”  ML’s response, “Because the backs of my legs jiggle.”  ML’s expressed this a few times these past few weeks.  Her doctor did a fantastic job assuring ML she shouldn’t be concerned about her weight.  The doctor kicked out her leg to show the jiggle at the back of her own legs, and explained how muscles contract and relax.

Doctor Ted by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre – Doctor Ted is imaginative; but his diagnosis and treatment plans leave many of his patients angry.  It’s best not to tell the principal he has bad breath and a shot in the mouth is needed.  Eventually, the principal reconsiders Ted’s doctoring abilities.  A teacher falls on the playground.  The principal is too busy yelling “HELP… call an ambulance!  Call the fire department.  Call the library.”  Meanwhile, Doctor Ted is saving the day.  ML chuckled at the illustrations throughout the book.  She howled at the one of the librarians arriving at the scene of the accident with books balanced on their heads.

Doctor Ted ends with Ted smelling burnt toast. He decides to leave the medical profession for another occupation.  Can you guess?  ML did. She exclaimed, “I read Firefighter Ted.”  I asked, “Do you want me to bring it home?”  I received a resounding, “Yes.”  To complete her Ted adventures,  I’ll bring home Ted’s other book, Artist Ted.

Calling Doctor Amelia Bedelia by Herman Parish and illustrated by Lynn Sweat –  During first grade, I was Amelia Bedelia’s number one fan and hoped ML would follow the family tradition.  She didn’t until last night.  I tried Amelia Bedelia books on her in kindergarten, but the text requires an understanding of language and idioms to appreciate the humor.  Last night, most of the wordplay made sense to ML.  I explained some of the ones she didn’t understand.  The others she can discover at her own pace.  My all-time favorite Amelia Bedelia scene is when she “dresses the chicken.”  ML enjoyed Amelia Bedelia allowing the boy to “draw” his on blood using a red pen and the paper on the examination table.

Luckily no blood was drawn today.  The one time ML remembers blood being drawn traumatized her.  The nurse returned to the room with “the sticker.”  Without warning, she went straight to ML’s finger and gave it a prick.  ML cried more from being startled than in pain.  She’ll probably ask for Amelia Bedelia’s way the next time she needs blood drawn.

Amelia Bedelia’s provided laughter to families for fifty years.  Amelia Bedelia books were written by Peggy Parish until her death in 1988.  Her nephew, Herman decided to continue the series almost 10 years after her death.  Amelia Bedelia adventures are now in picture books, easy reader books and chapter books.

Now for a chance to share a story time rhyme which can help kids get ready for a doctor visit.  Awhile back, I discovered one perfect for getting the wiggles out.  I wanted to use the rhyme but had a dilemma.  It asked the children to “touch your tongue.”  I stamp hands at the end of story time.  The last thing I want to do… touch hands which touched tongues 10 minutes earlier.  So I modified it to “stick out your tongue.”  Then, realized I wasn’t modeling p0lite behavior.

So I modified it again asking the preschoolers to stick out their tongue and say ahhhhhh.   It’s a hit!  Especially when I ask, “Can you be loud?”  Then, we scream it at the top of our lungs.  We usually start in a normal voice.  Then, really loud.  Finally, a whisper to calm before the next story. It’s a rhyme that works with preschoolers and elementary-aged children.  Try it out….  Maybe I should teach it to doctors for those children who refuse to say ahhhh.

Oliver Twist
Oliver Twist can you do this?
Number 1 stick out your tongue.
Number 2 touch your shoe.
Number 3 touch your knee.
Number 4 touch the floor.
Number 5 jump up high.

Other Book Awards To Be Announced on January 27th

My posts these past few weeks are Caldecott centric.  Awards for children’s and young adult books will be announced also at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference on Monday, January 27th at 8:00 am. (EST)  I haven’t read enough books to form an opinion on awards other than the Caldecott Medal.

All the definitions of the awards are straight from the Association for Library Service to Children’s website.

Images of the 2013 winners are included in this post.

My Family

Batchelder Award – Awarded to the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.


Belpre Medal – Presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.


CaldecottMedal -Awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.


Coretta Scott King Book Awards – Awarded to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.


Geisel Award – Awarded to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States.


Newbery Medal – Awarded to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.


Odyssey Award -Awarded to the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States.


Sibert Medal – Awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published in the United States.

Katherine Paterson

Wilder Award – Honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.

The Young Adult Library Services Association chooses many awards too.  You can view their site at www.ala.org/yalsa/bookawards/booklists/members  At this point in my life, I’m uneducated about potential winners.  In 6 years, this genre will be a primary focus.  ML will be 13.  Oh no!  Only 6 years til she is a teenager!

Books for Boys – Beginning Readers


Beginning reading books, often called easy readers, can be boring.  With a controlled vocabulary, repetition and built for increasing fluency it’s a challenge to write a truly fascinating story.  Below are some series boys learning to read like.

Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold

Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems

Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Sucie Stevenson

Mr Putter and Tabby by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Arthur Howard

In the past few years, publishers have stepped up publication of non-fiction easy readers.  I’ll do a post about those soon.  But wanted you to know that is an option for those boys you know who are mostly interested in stories about real things.

Would love input on more ideas of easy readers that boys enjoy.  Any suggestions?

Back to School, Back to Lunch and Pete the Cat



School’s back in session for three weeks and I’m already searching for new lunch ideas. Peanut Butter is out of the question. ML is allowed to take it to school, but she refuses because some of her friends are allergic. She doesn’t want to put them at risk for an allergic reaction.

Pasta, grapes, carrots, hummus, yogurt, cucumbers, lebnah, tomatoes, chex mix, pita chips, sweet peas, clementines, pretzels, cheese and apples are mainstays. But there are 180 school days.

In Pete the Cat: Pete’s Big Lunch created by James Dean, Pete is hungry! He builds a huge sandwich. Then, finds it is too big for him to eat alone. So he invites his friends to join him. The book features some foods I can’t pack. Ice cream – obviously. Bananas – I’ve tried but they return home uneaten and smushed. Eggs – ML won’t touch them. But pickles are something she loves. I’ll add them to the list.

And you should add Pete the Cat books to your reading list. Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttonsby Eric Litwin and illustrated by James Dean is my favorite. Check out a portion of the Pete the Cat song and video below. You must check this book out at the library to see the hilarious ending.

How many Pete the Cat books have you read? And please share what you pack for school lunches?

The Tooth Fairy is Overextended


The tooth fairy neglected to arrive three nights. Not one, not two, but three times!

Afraid to let me pull her first tooth, ML went to bed with it hanging by a thread. The next morning, she had a gap in her mouth, but no tooth to show for it. It wasn’t under the bed, lost in her sheets, inside her pillow case, or on the floor. We concluded she swallowed it sometime in the wee hours of the morning. We decided the tooth fairy didn’t come because she had finished her rounds for the night.

The second and third time the tooth fairy didn’t arrive on time were last week. Tuesday evening, I tried to pull her tooth. She refused my offer. On Wednesday morning, she asked me to pull it. That night she spent the night with her friend. She rushed home from camp on Thursday finding her tooth, not money. We decided it was because ML spent the night away from her tooth.

ML awoke on Friday morning. Once again her tooth was there. She thought it was because she spent the night on the living room floor, not in her room. On Friday evening, ML sealed her tooth in an envelope. She took it to her Dad’s house and planned to put it under her pillow. If the tooth fairy doesn’t come, we will know our other theory is true. . . the tooth fairy is on vacation.

There are numerous easy reader books about losing teeth. . . Makes sense as most kids are learning to read at the same they are losing teeth.

Our favorite easy reader teeth books include
Young Cam Jansen and the Lost Teeth by David Adler and illustrated by Susanna Natti
The Magic School Bus and the Missing Tooth by Jeanette Lane and illustrated by Carolyn Bracken.

There are some funny picture books about teeth. In Clarabella’s Teeth by An Vrombaut , a crocodile and her friends brush their teeth together in the morning. Her friends finish and go out to play, eat lunch, play some more; but Clarabella is still brushing her teeth. She finishes as her friends are getting ready for bed and brushing their teeth. Thankfully, she has kind, smart friends who solve the problem of her missing out on fun because it takes so long to brush her teeth.

Rod Clement’s Grandpa’s Teeth is a hilarious account of missing false teeth. They turn up at the end of the story. You’ll never guess where.