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


A Make Way for Ducklings Adaptation?


At a busy intersection of two four-lane roads this afternoon, I wondered, “Have I read Make Way for Ducklings to ML?”  Standing on a grassy shoulder at the intersection were several Canadian Geese and at least six baby geese.  In my rear view mirror, I saw a police car.  All players were present for a modern day adaptation of Make Way for Ducklings.  Sadly, the police car did not stop and direct traffic to allow the geese to cross the street.  So what I was calling in my mind “Make Way for Goslings” did not happen.  Or sadly, the modern adaptation is this story.  Wildlife being pushed to the shoulder of a busy intersection.

When I drove past the intersection later, the geese were no longer there.  There is green space in the area; so I’m hopeful they are safe and sound.  Tonight I’ll show ML the book Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.  I’ll secretly celebrate if she sighs and says, “Mommy, we already read that book.”  This is a classic book every child should hear before kindergarten.

In the Boston Public Garden, there’s a Make Way for Ducklings Statue.  I need to dig out a picture of me standing beside the statue to show ML.  It was taken two years before she was born.  I’ll notice the lack of streaks of gray in my hair.  I wonder what will catch ML’s eye?

Firefly July

Firefly July

This week, I received the entries for the Poetry Celebration at ML’s school.  The Friends of the Library is self-publishing a book of poetry from entries received using Lulu.  Families can purchase the book, and copies will be purchased for the school library.  I’m glad I’m not the one choosing the standout poems.  I read the entries.  Impressive!

Recently, the library received a new poetry book Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.  From the crisp title page to the bibliography acknowledging where the poems were first published, this book is a pleasure.

ML’s poem for the celebration was a rhyming, whimsical Dr. Seuss type poem.  I look forward to using the short poems in Firefly July as a way to show her poetry doesn’t have to rhyme.  Poetry is creative, descriptive and follows no rules.  After spring break, I’ll expand on the Pocket Poem idea;  surprising ML with a poem from Firefly July in her lunchbox.

We love Melissa Sweet’s artwork.  She illustrated our favorite picture book from 2013… Little Red Writing.  The depth of her mixed-media illustrations intrigue.  Our favorite illustration… the full page burst of yellow, with an orange cat, daisies and buttercups.

The final page shows a young girl asleep under a quilt.  While exploring the quilt,  we recognized a patch of striped fabric from a snowman’s scarf in one of the winter illustrations.  Then, we discovered illustrations and patterns on the quilt are hiding throughout the book… the ship, the phases of the moon, a robin, a dragonfly, and a multitude of fabric patterns.  There were a few patterns we’ve yet to find.  We’re certain they are hiding out somewhere in the book.

The first “Lunch Box Poem” for ML from page six in the collection…


Rain beats down,
roots stretch up.

They’ll meet
in a flower.

-Raymond Scouster

Nursery Rhymes


Tonight while reading Detective Blue by Steve Metzger and illustrated by Tedd Arnold,  I realized I failed ML.  She didn’t get parts of the story because she didn’t know all the nursery rhymes references. I feared I missed my chance.  Once children reach a certain age, nursery rhymes are seen as babyish.  Luckily, children’s authors and illustrators are keeping them alive in children’s minds by expanding on rhymes or changing the rhymes’ words.

Cindy Moo by Lori Mortensen and illustrated by Jeff Mack – Cindy Moo overhears the farmer’s daughter reading the nursery rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle.  She decides if the cow in the story can jump over the moon, she can too.  She tries and fails.  Then, tries and fails again.  But Cindy Moo doesn’t give up hope.  Even when the moon disappears completely.  After a very rainy evening, she is able to jump over the moon.  We love the various facial expressions on the cows throughout the book.

The Adventures of the The Dish and the Spoon by Mini Grey -Another book playing on the “Hey Diddle, Diddle” rhyme.  This book is a love story highlighting the fun and not so fun times the dish and spoon experience after running away.  The illustrations suggest they fell off the white cliffs of Dover and floated all the way to the Statue of Liberty.  After robbing a bank, dish is broken and immediately deported.  Spoon serves jail time and is deported upon release.  They reconnect in a Junk Shop.  I’ve featured Mini Grey before.  ML loves her books  and I do too.  The hidden comedy for adults in her illustrations delights.

Monster Goose by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Jack E. Davis – ML calls these “Scary Nursery Rhymes.”  With titles like “Mary Had a Vampire Bat” and Little Miss Mummy” popular nursery rhymes words are changed.  The new rhymes follow the same rhythm of the original.  ML and the boy down the street like to pretend they are zombies.  So ML’s favorite rhyme was “There Was an Old Zombie.”  I like “Slithery, Dithery, Dock.”  The illustrations are not too scary, but scary-funny.  No nightmares after reading this book.

The Web Files by Margie Palatini and illustrated by Richard Egielski–  Thankfully, I didn’t fail ML completely.  She got all the nursery rhyme references in this book and loved the play on words like “The sheep said this is b-a-a-a-d!  Really b-a-a-a-d!” and “quack the case.”  You can’t help but laugh at all the nursery rhyme characters featured in the illustrations.  Our favorite part of the book… repeating Dum De Dum Dum.

As a child, I remember pouring over Mother Goose:  A Treasury of Best-Loved Rhymes edited by Watty Piper and illustrated by Tim and Greg Hildebrandt.  Last night I found it on my bookshelf and shared a few rhymes with ML.  Thankfully, she’s not opposed to an overdue education on nursery rhymes.  She thinks it’s cool to read a book I read as a child, published the year of my birth.



What are Pocket Poems?


Part of my responsibilities co-chairing the Poetry Celebration is finding poems to include on the Pocket Poem display.  It’s a display in the school library where children can pick out poems to read, put in their pocket and keep.

I selected poems from the following books.

The 20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury selected by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Meilo So – A collection of more than 200 poems by such modern poets as Nikki Grimes, John Ciardi, Karla Kuskin, Ted Hughes, e.e. cummings, Eve Merriam, Deborah Chandra, Arnold Adoff, and more than 100 others.

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry:  200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar and Roar! edited by J. Patrick Lewis – Combines photography with lyrical text celebrating the animal world, in a compilation that includes works by such poets as Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost and Rudyard Kipling.

Pocket Poems edited by Bobbi Katz and illustrated by Marilyn Hafner – A collection of short poems by such authors as: Gwendolyn Brooks, Emily Dickinson, Emily George, Nikki Giovanni, Eve Merriam, and Charlotte Pomerantz.

Poems to pick up and put in your pocket.  What a great way to share poetry.

Haiku, Dogku and Hi, Koo!

dogkuHi Koo

Last night, I gave ML a choice.  Work on a poem for her school’s Poetry Celebration or clean her room.  She chose to clean her room.  Then shouted, “It’s opposite day.”

We turned the evening into a night of poetry.  First, reading a few poems of ML’s choosing from the classic, A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein.

Next, we read Dogku by Andrew Clements and illustrated by Tim Bowers.  A fun picture book about a stray dog looking for a home.  Each page of text is a haiku.  I read ML the author’s note at the end of the book.  “Ever feel like there are so many words?  And how could I ever put some together and make a poem?  That’s when a haiku can seem like a lifeboat.  A haiku is so simple — only 17 syllables, 5/7/5. And who can resist to write one?  Not me.”

I’m always amazed at the things ML’s learned without my knowing it.  When I asked “Do you know what syllables are?  She sighed, “Of course, Ms. Vinal taught us.”  Ms Vinal is the music teacher.  What a great place to learn about syllables.

Finally, I asked, “Do you want to  write a haiku?”  She said, “No, you.”  So I unleashed my inner poet.  ML checked to make sure the first line was five syllables, the second seven syllables and the third five syllables.  Two of my poems received checks.  One received, “try again.”  The two correctly formatted poems are below.  Embarrassingly the one with too few syllables included ML’s name.  I forgot it has three syllables, not two.

blue yellow green pink
my favorite flowers are
zinnias, rose, pansies

brush, brush brush your teeth
toothbrush up, down, all around
brush them very clean.

Yesterday, we received another picture book told through haiku:  Hi, Koo!  A Year of Seasons by Jon J. Muth.  I told ML about it when she was picking out bedtime books.  She was eager to read it.  I looked in my bag and realized I left it at work.  I need to go put it in my bag right now before I forget.  While I’m doing that, sit down and try to write your own haiku.  You’ll exercise a part of your brain many adults often forget to use.

My Caldecott Award and Honor Choices

Which of the three books below will I chose as my Mock Caldecott Medal Winner?  I’ve studied my long list.  Looked at the books over and over… and then some more.  Contemplated and finally decided to ignore all opinions, including Calvin and ML’s and choose from my heart.




I would like Stardines illustrated by Carin Berger to win the medal.  The quirky illustrations using diorama, cut paper and collage compliment Jack Prelutsky’s wacky poems.  Each time I looked at Bluebird by Bob Staake, the more I appreciated the artistry.  It almost didn’t make my long list.  I’m glad it did.  There’s a reason David Wiesner has won three Caldecott medals.  He’s that talented and his latest book Mr. Wuffles is worthy of a fourth.  I just couldn’t give it to him with so many other artists deserving to be recognized.  I know it’s not supposed to work that way.

ML and I are eager to hear the committee’s decision.  It’s the first thing she’ll want to know when I pick her up Monday from school.

Stardines and Elecopter


Kids love silly words. Last week, I read Elecopter by Michael Slack at preschool storytime. ML thought it would be a hit, and she was correct. The rhyming text, bright colors and creative character make it one of my favorite books published for preschoolers this year. Don’t miss the blog post by the author/illustrator showing steps in the process of illustrating this book

Recently, ML and I read Stardines Swim High Across the Sky: and Other Poems by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Carin Berger. It’s a collection of creative poems. Each poem’s title is an animal name with a letter replaced or added to it – Stardines, Slobsters, Fountainlions, Tattlesnakes, Panteaters and Plandas – to name a few. ML exclaimed “Mommy, let’s make up our own animals.” So we did… Solar Bear and Chopperhead.

Check out Carin Berger’s lovely shadowbox artwork. We love the Fountainlion. What’s your favorite?

P.S. I’m going to call ML and friends Tattlesnakes when they come to me saying, “So and So did this. So and So did that.” My new response will be “Work it out, Tattlesnakes” instead of my of plain old “Work it out.” It may sound a little harsh to you. But it’s not as harsh as my second grade teacher placing a donkey tail made of construction paper around a tattletale’s neck.

Censorship by Mom and Others


Was Trina Schart Hyman’s Little Red Riding Hood banned for violence? After all, the grandmother was eaten by the wolf. Nope. Instead, someone was concerned the wine bottle in the basket encouraged underage drinking.

Where the Wild Things Are challenges started from the time it was published. One reason resonates with me. The book shockingly features a child who yells at his mother. My mother did not censor this book but she did ban it from bedtime reading. Apparently, it made my brother wild. Instead of going to sleep, Kevin turned into a romping monster. He may have even yelled at his mother.

Do you know the title of the poetry book among the most banned books in the 1990’s? A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein. It’s been read by millions of children throughout the world. Oh, the sweet taste of forbidden poems.

My personal favorite banned book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. It was briefly banned by the Texas State Board of Education. They confused its author, Bill Martin, Jr., with philosopher Bill Martin, author of Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.

When I was in elementary school, my mom served on the committee tasked with reading challenged media center books. Whenever a book was challenged, a copy would be sent home in a sealed, golden mailing pouch via me. This was unnecessary, as often times I read the book.

My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier was challenged for profanity. The irony is the challenger’s child signed my yearbook that year, “Remember the trees, remember the grass, remember me the pain in the ass.”

I don’t remember the outcome of the challenge. Hopefully, one of mom’s friends can recall. It’s a story to share with ML when she is older.