The Knights Before Christmas

Knights Before Christmas

It’s a little over a week before Christmas and due to some home renovations, we can’t access our ornaments, stockings, or Christmas books.  Luckily, we received a galley of The Knights Before Christmas by Joan Holub and illustrated by Scott Magoon this summer.  It’s been hanging out in my office (dining room table) for months.  This year it’s going to serve as our Christmas tree.  With my bed on the floor in the living room and everything in my closet in the dining room, there isn’t any space for a tree.  So I’ll place this book on my nightstand and put our presents underneath.  If you’re looking for a great book, especially for preschool and early elementary aged children, The Knights Before Christmas should go under your tree.

In years past, I’ve written a few posts about Christmas books.  I hope you take the time to enjoy some of these this Christmas.

Christmas Books – One to Twenty-Four

A Few More Christmas Books

Christmas Is Coming – What Should You Expect?



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


2014 Notable Books – How Did the Committee Do?


The results are in for the 2014 Notable Children’s Books chosen by the Association For Library Service to Children.  ML and my choices can be viewed at Notable Children’s Books:  ML’s Favorites and Mine.

When I compared ML and my picks with the winners, I was both excited and disappointed.  I admit, we haven’t read all the books which made the list for Younger Readers.  I requested the titles our library owns.  In a future post, I’ll share ML’s opinion on the books we haven’t read.

In the meantime, the book we are most disappointed not on the list, Little Red Writing by Joan Holub and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.   On a positive note, we are thrilled Warning:  Do Not Open This Book by Adam Lehrhaupt and illustrated by Matthew Forsythe made the list.  A sequel will be available Fall 2014 – Please:  Open This Book.  Three cheers for more monkey mayhem.

Will There Be Six More Weeks of Winter?

GroundhogSchoolGroundhogsSubstitute GroundhogGroundhogGetsSay

This past Monday – my prediction was no.  It was 65 degrees.  Today – after my hike to work through the ice and single digits I think yes.  (Actually, it had warmed up to double digits by the time I started my trek.)  We will know for certain on February 2nd when the groundhog does his job.  In the meantime, some great groundhog books to read.

Substitute Groundhog by Pat Miller -With Groundhog Day approaching Dr. Owl diagnoses Groundhog with the flu.  Groundhog takes his duties very seriously.  He searches for a replacement… interviewing numerous candidates before going to bed as the doctor ordered.  Sorry Dr. Owl, I’ve had the flu a few times in my life.  I think you misdiagnosed.  The world could have ended.  I wouldn’t have cared.  And job.  What job?  With all the fever and  throbbing pain, I could barely remember my name.  Thankfully, ML hasn’t experienced the flu.  Nonetheless Groundhog finally finds a replacement and goes to bed.  You’ll have to read the book to find out which animal predicted the weather.

Groundhogs by Chadwick Gillenwater – I learned a lot from this easy-to-read, nonfiction text.  ML the nature girl, already knew most of it.  So she read it to me.  We spent several minutes admiring the baby groundhog pictures.  The only thing ML loves more than animals is baby animals.

Groundhog Gets a Say as told to Pamela Curtis Swallow and illustrated by Denise Brunkus – Groundhog doesn’t like just having one day.  He thinks he deserves a month.  Squirrel and Crow do not agree.  As Groundhog shares more and more about his awesome abilities, the animals reconsider.  Squirrel had no idea they were cousins.  Crow becomes more and more impressed with all groundhog can do.  ML and I couldn’t believe during hibernation groundhogs take a breath around every six minutes.  Their hearts beat every four to five minutes.  An enjoyable, illustrated picture book with both a fun storyline and interesting information about groundhogs.  Kids will enjoy learning the artist illustrated Junie B. Jones’ books.

Groundhog Weather School by Joan Holub and illustrated by Kristin Sorra – I saved the best for last.  It’s written by the author of Little Red Writing, our favorite picture book of 2013.  This one is just as funny.  Rabbit is not happy.  Groundhog announced “Spring is Here.”  So rabbit threw on shorts, flip flops and a Hawaiian shirt.  Hopped up her burrow to a ground filled with snow.   Then, wrote a letter to complain.  Groundhog realized he couldn’t predict weather for the entire country.  So he started a weather school.  The fun begins.  Our favorite line… a student with her head on the desk lamenting, “Shadows?  Nobody said anything about shadows.  Dark, creepy shadows…”  Kristin Sorras’ inventive layouts add to her spunky illustrations. Elementary school students will love this book.  They have the experience to appreciate all the school humor – Pledge of Hog-Allegiance, GeoHOGraphy, research reports, lunchtime, drama, Shadow Studies, The Big Test, and Graduation.

Mock Caldecott 2014 List

Below are the books, I am hoping ML and her friend, Calvin will look at this weekend for their Mock Caldecott Award.  I’m still waiting on a few to come from other library branches.  So they may not have a chance to win.

One really cool aspect of our multimedia world is many illustrators have videos showing them creating their work.  This post includes links to these.  And a quick note if I know the mediums used to create the illustrations.


Hello, My Name is Ruby by  Philip Stead – Mixed media… chalk pastel, colored pencils, and colored ink


If You Want to See a Whale written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin Stead – Pencil and linoleum prints


Journey by Aaron Becker – Watercolor


Little Red Writing by Joan Holub and Melissa Sweet – Watercolor, pencil and collage


Locomotive by Brian Floca – Pen and ink, watercolor, acrylic, and gouache.  Scroll to the bottom of the following like to watch 3 short videos on the process and a view of a book dummy


Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown –   still trying to determine mediums


Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner – Water color and ink line


Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Boris Kulikov – mixed media


Stardines by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Carin Berger – shadow boxes, diorama and cut-paper


That Is Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems – pencil and watercolor with additional digital color and compositing


Tortoise & the Hare by Jerry Pinkney – Watercolor

Looking forward to seeing if one of the Stead books are chosen or a book with Mr. in it’s title.  I feel more confident in predicting which books I think the Caldecott committee will pick for the award and honors; than I do guessing what ML and Calvin will choose.  It’s going to be fun hearing two first-graders opinion.

My Favorite Picture Book of the Year – Little Red Writing


It was a hard choice, but I’ve decided my favorite picture book of the year is Little Red Writing  by Joan Holub and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.  (A book about writing, wonder why that’s my choice?)  I’ll ask ML her favorite when she returns from living it up with her grandparents and cousins.    Then, post it next week.

This book is a funny rendition of “Little Red Riding Hood.”  The teachers, students, janitor and principal are pencils.  However, the Wolf 3000 Pencil Sharpener has taken over the principal’s office.  Will Little Red Riding save the day?

Her class is led by Ms. 2.  Fellow classmates include a birthday pencil, two airplane pencils, two sports pencils, a dinosaur pencil, a candy pencil, a Pencilvania pencil, a pencil with a special grip and Little Red.

At the end of the book, each of these pencils provides a “punny” story.  ML’s favorite was the candy pencil… “Then Pencil and Gretel ate all the candy!”

The illustrations are detailed and full of humor.  We had a great time pouring over each page.

Teachers will love this book.  It’s a great way to teach the writing process, descriptive language, parts of speech and punctuation.  Even the most reluctant student writer won’t be able to keep a straight face reading this book.