Archive for January 2010

The Chipmunk Hunter

January 29, 2010

“If you could choose one characteristic that would get you through life, choose a sense of humor.” — Jennifer Jones

Mice, voles, chipmunks, hamsters, gerbils, groundhogs… Rodents! Those skittering, scratching, sneaking, gnawing critters give me the creeps. Tom, my husband, on the other hand, is bothered by only one type of rodent – the chipmunk.

The chipmunk became Tom’s nemesis last summer when one of them began to wreak havoc in our backyard. It was then Tom took life back to its basic form – hunt and kill. After a long day at work, Tom arrived home and immediately went to his next job as The Chipmunk Hunter. He gathered his hunting tools, a stick and a shovel, and proceeded to investigate what new damage the little critter had caused. Tom stalked, poked, prodded, and pounded. I alerted the neighbors that he was not unhinged, but he was pursuing his passion to rid the yard of the Chip and Dale species. When Tom was convinced he had taken out the rodent, he entered the house with a smile on his face and declared himself the victor. The morning after when the chipmunk boldly strutted across our patio, Tom gave him the evil eye and banged on the window. The chipmunk chattered back. (Was he swearing or laughing?) Not to be outdone, Tom rushed out the door, shovel and stick in hand, shouting, “This isn’t over yet!”

During the summer and fall, this scene repeated itself too many times for the likes of me. Now the winter snow covers the chipmunk’s hiding places. Tom’s hunting tools hang in the garage. Peace reigns, but I know Tom is secretly preparing for the time when The Chipmunk Hunter will take action again. Who will be the victor? Any bets on the chipmunk?

In deference to Groundhog Day, I give Punxsutawney Phil and Wisconsin’s own Jimmy the Groundhog a day of reprieve from my abhorrence of rodents as long as they don’t see their shadows.

Jimmy the Groundhog recommends Ten Grouchy Groundhogs by Wisconsin authors, Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook (Cartwheel Books, 2009)

See Esme Raji Codell’s Blog, January 27, 2010, for other great Groundhog Day books.


It’s a Washout

January 26, 2010

“Laugh at yourself first, before anyone else can.” — Elsa Maxwell

As soon as I opened the lid of the washer, I saw the evidence. Little white flecks were clinging to the clothes. Tissues! Tissues that were holed up in the nooks and crannies of my family’s clothing. Tissues that the agitator beat to a pulp and left behind to agitate me.

I have had my share of laundry indiscretions. I’ve put wool sweaters into the dryer and then had to sell them at garage sales as doll clothes. I’ve mistakenly put bleach where no bleach should ever go. The results were clothes that looked like they belonged to the tie-dye generation. My washer has been a toy car wash, produced water colors from crayons, soothed rough sheets with lip balm, and taken potato chips from oven crisp to washer limp. And yes, I’ve even laundered money.    

Laundry isn’t my favorite past time, but I find it necessary for personal hygiene. Clean body. Clean clothes. I’m doing my part. So why can’t my family do what I have told them to do over and over again? “Empty the pockets of your clothes of all matter before you toss them into the laundry basket.” I’m the mom. Doesn’t anyone listen to me?

Still annoyed, I dumped the speckled load of laundry into the dryer. When it was done, I was treated to a tissue storm as I shook out each piece of clothing. Whatever happened to tissues that could be washed, dried, and used again? Oh yeah, those are called handkerchiefs. As I pulled the last pair of blue jeans from the dryer, a clump of tissue fell out of the pocket. Evidence of the offender! Evidence from his – no her – no my blue jeans! I was the offender.

 Never mind!

See what’s in this laundry book basket:  Knuffle Bunny:  A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems (Hyperion, 2004), Doing the Washing by Sarah Garland (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2009), Stinky Clothes by Joanna Emery (Children’s Press, 2005)

A Bum Rumor

January 22, 2010


If you have a bump on your butt, you can’t get a book. Who says? The librarian says. It’s a new rule, but not according to me, the librarian. I wondered who was behind this rumor airing its way through the halls of the school. It was up to me to get to the bottom of the scuttlebutt. Using the tips I had honed from reading Nancy Drew books, I was out to find the guilty party and put an end to the rumor.

When I found time, I lurked in the halls, paused in front of open classroom doors, and eavesdropped on unsuspecting students. I came up with nothing. Then while shelving books, I heard the tail end of a very revealing conversation, taking place outside of my room. I grabbed the culprits and pulled them into the library. They were on the edge of their seats as I interrogated them.

I found out they had heard the rumor from a third grader, who had heard it from a kindergartener, who had heard it from Mrs. E.

Mrs. E? The preschool teacher? Next stop was Mrs. E’s room. She confessed that she may have started the rumor when she told the kindergarten teacher what one of her preschoolers said when she asked him about his library book.

He said, “I had a bump on my butt so I couldn’t get a book.”

It was an “ah-ha” moment. Appropriately, the week before I was reading, Kitten’s First Full Moon, to the preschoolers. Before they had a chance to check out books, the mom of the above mentioned preschooler came to pick him up for a doctor’s appointment. Hence, he couldn’t get a book because he had to see a doctor about a bump on his butt.

Case solved. Rumor bumped off. The End!  

Find out who’s the culprit:  Detective Small and the Amazing Banana Caper by Wong Herbert Yee (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2007), Detective LaRue:  Letters from the Investigation by Mark Teague (Scholastic Press, 2004), Dirk Bones and the Mystery of the Missing Books by Doug Cushman (HarperCollins, 2009), Ace Lacewing:  Bug Detective series by David Biedrzycki (Charlesbridge Publishing)

Dueling Blogs

January 19, 2010

“Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!” ─ Lerner & Loewe’s My Fair Lady

I’m not really sick of words. I’m a writer. I love words, but there are certain phrases that curl my toenails.

Pat Zietlow Miller beat me to the word punch in her Read, Write, Repeat blog that appeared Sunday, January 17. In it, she wrote her personal list of words that should be banished. I, too, have my own list of phrases that I think should be cast into the Sea of Oblivion.

My mother majored in English. When we were growing up, if we used an incorrect verb tense, a language lashing was in order. Answering the phone was not a simple task. If the caller was calling for you, and you answered, “It’s me,” ─ look out! It was drilled into our heads the correct way to answer the caller is, “It is I” or “This is she.” Proper usage of the English language was a number one priority in our house. As babies, my siblings and I cried in the correct tense!  

Okay Pat, here is my personal list of phrases that I think should be banished:   

  • Change up ─ When you change something, you adjust it, switch it, swap it, modify it. What’s with the up? It’s an unnecessary word. Change it and be done!
  • Separate out ─ Separate means to split, take apart, detach, divide. Adding the word out after separate is redundant. So out the out!
  • Refer back ─ Refer means to look up, recall, consult, send. If you refer back, can you refer forward? How about saying, refer to?
  • Gone missing ─ If you’re gone, you’re gone. If you’re missing, you’re not there. You’ve disappeared, vanished. Can you make yourself go missing? You’re either gone or missing, or I’m missing something!   

Who comes up with these phrases? Don’t they know they’re playing with the minds and tongues of our future generation?

Final note:

I’m going to change up some pictures in our bedroom and then separate out the black socks from the blue socks that are scattered on our bed. If you’ve found that I’ve gone missing from this blog, you can refer back to this note and know where to find me.

Check this out:  Don’t Say That Word! by Alan Katz (Margaret K. McElderry, 2007)

More word fun:


It’s a Gamble

January 15, 2010

“The more I live, the more I think that humor is the saving sense.” — Jacob August Riis

Grocery shopping is a dirty word in our house. No one mentions it until the only things left in the refrigerator are sticky shelves, and the pantry grumbles from hunger pangs. I am the chosen one to brave the crazed crowds. Luckily, I no longer have young children to tow along. That gives me an edge.  

From the time I get into the car until I get home, grocery shopping is a gamble. It begins with parking. Will I get a spot near the front door, or will I end up in the back forty of the big box store lot?  

I have two main objectives:  Get in. Get out.

With list in hand, I survey the crowd to determine my plan of action. There are things to consider when you’re on a grocery cart roll. There are the dawdlers – the people who can’t decide what they want. There are the middle-of-the aislers – those guilty of obstruction with cart. There are the crashers – those who should be required to carry cart insurance. There are the family clanners – those who arrive in big groups and swarm around like busy bees, creating mayhem. There are the cell phoners – those who wander aimlessly while carrying on personal conversations. Then there are those like me who just want to get in and get out. This can be the source of cart rage. Keep your hands on the cart, eyes on the aisle, and watch those wheels!

Will this be a good shopping day or not? I expertly sniff my way through the bakery section. I peel through the bananas and steer my way around the produce, tossing fresh food into my cart. Things are going well. I’m in aisle twenty-five and almost finished. Then I realize I’ve forgotten something in aisle two. I rev up my engine and burn rubber. I make a detour at the cleanup in aisle six, grab my forgotten item in aisle two, and head for the checkout.

This is a crucial moment. Which checkout line will be the fastest? I skip the line with the screaming kids and pull up behind a couple whose groceries aren’t spilling over the sides of their cart. There is a little old lady in front of them, checking out. This shouldn’t take long. Ah, but then she discovers she bought the wrong brand of orange juice and can’t use her coupon. She insists on getting the right brand. We wait. And wait. And wait. The lines get longer. I browse through a magazine to pass the time. When the couple in front of me finally begins checking out, they divide their groceries into three piles. Yours. Mine. Ours.


Then I hear the man behind me grumbling, “Peapod home delivery is the way to go.”

Hmmm… Is it worth the gamble?

Shopping for books?

For the littlest:  What’s in Grandma’s Grocery Bag? by Hui-Mei Pan (Star Bright Books, 2004)

Picture Books:  Shopping with Dad by Matt Harvey (Barefoot Books, 2008), Bebe Goes Shopping by Susan Middleton Elya (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2006), Supermarket! by Charlotte Doyle (Candlewick, 2004)

Educational:  Supermarket  by Kathleen Krull (Holiday House, 2001), Grocery Store (Field Trip!) by Angela Leeper (Heinemann Educational Books, 2004)

And the Tony Award Goes to…

January 12, 2010

“Humor is everywhere, in that there’s irony in just about anything a human does.” — Bill Nye

Secretly, I’ve always wanted to act. I wanted my name in lights, to be a Broadway star, to win a Tony Award. Okay, I’m not a Broadway star. I don’t have my name in lights, but it’s on the door of the library, and inside, I’m a star! I can be charming, harebrained, or totally obnoxious. When I’m reading a book, I’m a drama queen, bringing down the schoolhouse with my performance.

I love my job! I can be as zany as I want as long as I have a book in my hand. Along with sharing incredible books with the students, I also teach library skills. This can be a bummer. Right now I’m in the middle of teaching the Dewey Decimal System. Okay, it’s ingenious and a necessary part of the curriculum, but it doesn’t rock my world. I needed something to ramp up the excitement for learning good old Melvil’s system. Then I discovered Candace Fleming’s, The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School.

This book is hilarious! It’s right up my alley of humor. In fact, it’s downright punny, and it has a great chapter on teaching the Dewey Decimal System.

Thank you, Candace, for making my life so easy!

After reading The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School, I was possessed. I was on a mission to use this book to mesmerize my students with Dewey’s classification system. My lesson was going to be an award-winning performance. I was ready. Plastered on the wall was the name of the chapter, “Dewey We or Don’t We?” As each fourth-grader walked into the library, my mantra was, “Dewey! Dewey! Dewey!”

They looked at me like I was from another planet. Ha! Little did they know that one of the characters they were about to meet was a teacher named Mr. Jupiter. They sat. I read. I reached into my inner self to provide an awe-inspiring learning experience. I had the characters down pat. By the end of the chapter, the entire class was loudly chanting these words from the book. “Do we know about the Dewey decimal system? Do we? Dewey? Boy, do we?”

The Dewey Decimal System was a hit—well, almost. I’m still working on that, but the book was a hit and so was my performance. I expect calls from agents any day. Now if only I could sing…

Girls’ Bathroom Becomes Library

January 8, 2010

“A good laugh is sunshine in a house.” — William Makepeace Thackeray

It’s true! The school library I work in used to be the girls’ bathroom. I plumb forgot to ask about it until yesterday. That was when the clanging-banging water pipes decided to compete with my story time, and I wanted to know why they were hanging around in the library.

Clanging-banging Pipes

Never say ingenuity is down the toilet. When the kindergarten room was wired for a computer room, the new kindergarten settled into the cafeteria. The new cafeteria managed to eat up the library space, leaving piles of books in search of a new home. Brilliant minds got together and came up with the resourceful idea to makeover the downstairs girls’ bathroom into the new library. And so it was done.

When I took over as the part-time librarian, the walls were a dull army green—very different from the shock-your-socks-off pink walls in the hallway. I requested a color that would be more upbeat for the library. I thought a mellow yellow would be perfect, but the smack-you-in-the-face yellow it was painted bowled me over the first time I saw it. What the heck, I thought, the room was a bathroom converted to a library. The space was already unique. I brought in red and blue colors, added a few artistic touches, and the library was ready and waiting.

Girls’ Bathroom Door

 Library Door

Toilet Seat

Library Seat

Now I’m flushed with pride with the results. The library is little, but it’s bright and provides students with a wide variety of books. Louis Sachar’s book, There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom, has nothing on us. There are lots of boys in our girl’s bathroom with reams of reading material to plunge into!

Some of my favorite picture books about the library:  Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair by Patricia Polacco, (Philomel, 1996), The Library  by Sarah Stewart, (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2008), The Library Dragon by Carmen Agra Deedy, (Peachtree Publishers, 1994), Please Bury Me in the Library by J. Patrick Lewis (Harcourt Children’s Books, April 2005), Library Lion by Michael Knudsen, (Candlewick, 2006), Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller (Lee & Low Books, 1999)

And for those of you interested in bathrooms, try:  Flushed With Pride:  The Story of Thomas Crapper (Trafalgar Square Publishing, 1998)

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