Math Curse

Posted February 28, 2013 by cathyso3
Categories: Picture Books

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Gas prices are skyrocketing. Food prices are creeping up. The economic outlook remains questionable. In this time of uncertainty, what should we do?

My advice is simple. Check your receipts. Every penny counts!

Case in point:  My husband and I ventured out to the grocery store after finding our cupboards were bare. We picked up the staples of life – milk, bread, fruit, and vegetables. I thought we did a pretty good job following our grocery list, but when I saw our total bill, I choked. We needed a grocery reality check.

On the way to the car, I went through the grocery receipt line-by-line. And there it was. Right before my eyes was the total for the four avocados we had purchased – $24.50. Math curses! I bought the avocados because they were two for a dollar. Something was amiss. On closer inspection, I discovered we were not charged for four avocados. We were charged for forty-nine avocados! Holy guacamole! That’s enough green stuff to last from now until St. Patrick’s Day! An immediate trip back to the service desk brought our grocery bill down to a more reasonable total.

Word to the wise. Check your math. Check your receipts. Check your bills. Check your checks. Check. Check. Check.

Don’t let math be a curse. Below are some books you and your kids can count on!

Kids + Parents + Math Books = 3x the fun!


Math Curse written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith

The Grapes of Math written by Gregory Tang and illustrated by Harry Briggs

Math Potatoes written by Gregory Tang and illustrated by Harry Briggs

How Much Is A Million? written by David M. Schwartz and illustrated by Steven Kellogg

Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Michael Slack

Math-terpieces written by Greg Tang and illustrated by Greg Paprocki

Apple Fractions written Jerry Pallotta and illustrated by Rob Bolster

Addition in the Forest written by Jennifer Rozines Roy and Gregory Roy

Ten Apples Up On Top! written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss


Black History Month

Posted February 21, 2013 by cathyso3
Categories: Poetry

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I couldn’t let Black History Month pass by without mentioning a wonderful book written by award-winning poet, Arnold Adoff with paintings by the very talented R. Gregory Christie.

Roots and Blues A Celebration is a book filled with poems that speak of the difficult journey of African American slaves and how the joys and sorrows in their lives were intertwined with the rhythm and music of the world around them.


Adoff’s word choice and placement of words create rhythmic patterns that flow off the page and sing to the reader. With his unique style, Adoff introduces the history and culture of the blues to readers. References to such music greats as Muddy Waters, Bessie Smith, W.C. Handy, Ma Rainey, and others are made. Interspersed throughout the book are paintings by R. Gregory Christie, a Coretta Scott King Honor Award-winner, that capture the suffering and joy of African American life.

This is a book to be savored.

Read to Your Child Day

Posted February 14, 2013 by cathyso3
Categories: Classic Books

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Have a heart! Not only is it Valentine’s Day, but it’s also Read to Your Child Day. What better gift to give to your child than a book that you can read together. It’s a great way to bond and to instill the love of reading on this special day.

Here are some classic book suggestions from our family’s treasure trove of books that have been well read over the years.

Toddler Books


Pat the Bunny was a real favorite in our house, but I think we patted the bunny a bit too often.


The pop-up version of The Little Engine that Could provides lots of fun for both parent and child, but the original version is still my favorite.

Picture Books


While living in the Boston area, my daughter made Make Way for Ducklings one of her favorite picture books.

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As you can see, she still loves those ducklings!


Dr. Seuss’ And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street is a great way to encourage imagination!


Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and Katy and the Big Snow are long-time favorites for both boys and girls.

Beginning Readers


Who could not love these two books? The Cat in the Hat and Frog and Toad Together

For Middle Grade Readers


Here are two more enduring classics to enjoy. Runaway Ralph and Charlotte’s Web

For Older Readers

Little Women and The Secret Garden



These books have remained all-time favorites in our house. The older copy of Little Women belonged to my mom and was passed on to me. The newer copy belongs to my daughter. The older copy of The Secret Garden was given to me as a gift, and the copy on the right I gave to my daughter.

There are so many wonderful books to share. Children grow up quickly. Don’t let a day pass by without reading to them or with them.


You’re never too old to be read to. So cozy up with your child and some books in a comfy chair and read!

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Posted February 7, 2013 by cathyso3
Categories: Uncategorized

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Pat Zietlow Miller, author of the forthcoming picture book, Sophie’s Squash, asked me to take part in the Next Big Thing Blog Hop.

What is the Next Big Thing? Participating writers answer a standard set of questions about what they are currently writing or have written. They then tag other writers to do the same. It keeps the Next Big Thing Blog Hop hop, hop, hopping along!

I’ve been writing for quite a while. I’ve had articles and stories published in children’s and educational magazines, and I’ve had two early readers published. I’ve also had the unfortunate experience of having a two-book contract cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. Writing is hard work. It takes time, passion, patience, creativity, a little bit of luck, and a hefty sense of humor (for those rejections).

So what’s my NEXT BIG THING? I’m hoping it’s the piece I’m currently revising.

What is the working title of your next book?

Up Your Nose, Noah Zielinski!

Where did the idea come from for the book?

My husband has always said my nose smells things most noses don’t. So I put my nose to the grindstone and my brain to the task at hand and came up with an idea for a book where the main character’s nose plays an important part.

What genre does your book fall under?

Chapter Book Humor

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m clueless here. Casting call! I’m looking for two fresh young actors for the main characters who are naturals when it comes to acting and humor. Of course, the actor playing Noah must have a good looking sniffer on his face.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Noah Zielinski is on a mission to convince his mom to let him get a potbellied pig, but his plans go awry and a freak accident involving his nose creates chaos in his quest for his pet.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My agent is Stephen Fraser from The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. I’m in the process of doing a revision for him. When I’m finished, I hope he thinks Noah Zielinski reeks of success!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Sometimes it’s easier for me to think of an idea than it is to actually get it down on paper. After much procrastination, it took me eight months to complete the first draft.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Dare I compare my writing to these authors whose works I admire? There are similarities in my book and That Crazy Eddie and the Science Project of Doom written by Judy Cox and Mason Dixon Pet Disasters written by Claudia Mills. Each of these stories has two boys as best friends, some crazy ideas, and humor. I can only wish to be as prolific as these two wonderful authors.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with my agent at a conference we both attended. He suggested I try writing a chapter book. I came up with a few ideas, and after a short session of brainstorming, Noah was born.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Noah has an older sister who he considers a diva. The two of them are constantly at odds, trying to one-up each other with their zingers. Beneath all their squabbling, there is genuine admiration between the two.

Writer you’ve tagged for the NEXT BIG THING Blog Hop.

April Jones Prince, my friend and talented author, has graciously agreed to hop aboard and do the NEXT BIG THING. Look for her blog post next week. April Jones Prince: Blog

Yad Drawkcab!

Posted January 31, 2013 by cathyso3
Categories: Special Days

Tags: , , , , ,

Translation:  Backward Day!

Today is Backward Day. Don’t get up. Say goodnight and stay in bed.

Okay. If you must get up, get up on the wrong side of the bed. Wear your clothes backwards. Walk backwards. Talk backwards. You’ve heard of breakfast for lunch. How about dinner for breakfast, starting with dessert? Now that’s a treat!

Backward is the way to go today. Have some fun. Tomorrow you can put your best foot forward.


A perfect book for Backward Day is The End written by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Richard Egielski. The story begins with “And they lived happily ever after.” Yes, it begins at the end and works its way back to the beginning. Cause and effect becomes effect and cause. Besides the usual fairy tale characters of princess, prince, giant, and dragon, this book includes bunny rabbits, a giant tomato, a teacup, lemons, and a blue flying pig that appears throughout the story. Whether you read it backwards or forwards, this clever story with its colorful illustrations is sure to entertain readers.

More Backward books:

Mirror Mirror A Book of Reversible Verse written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Josee Masse (Dutton Juvenile, 2010)

Tell Me the Day Backwards written by Albert Lamb and illustrated by David McPhail (Candlewick Press, 2011)

The Backward Day written by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Marc Simont (NYR Children’s Collection, 2007)    


Posted January 24, 2013 by cathyso3
Categories: Classic Books

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Books are fascinating. When my niece gave me a copy of Riley Child-Rhymes with Hoosier Pictures written by James Whitcomb Riley, I was captivated. The book is an 1898 edition and belonged to my great aunt. The pages are yellowed and it’s falling apart, but Riley’s poems and the Hoosier Pictures by Will Vawter are all there. I was holding a treasure!


James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916) was known as the Hoosier Poet because of the poems he wrote, using childhood memories and dialect of his home state of Indiana The illustrations, known as Hoosier Pictures, were created by Will Vawter (1871-1941), also of Indiana. He worked closely with Riley and illustrated many of Riley’s works.


In Child-Rhymes, Vawter’s black and white illustrations enhance Riley’s poems. Some poems are short and others are longer and tell a story. “Little Orphant Annie” entertains children with witch-tales and warns them “the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you Ef you Don’t Watch Out!” “The Bear Story” is a funny tale of how a youngster went out to kill a bear. It reminds me of how children love to exaggerate when telling adventures of their own. In “The Happy Little Cripple,” Riley writes about a little child who has “Curv’ture of the Spine” and whose Pa “runned away” because he was drunk. They’re not your ordinary rhymes of today, but Riley’s poems provide humor and insight into what life was like in simpler times.

This new-found treasure has been a source of entertainment and has enriched my life.

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Posted January 17, 2013 by cathyso3
Categories: Classic Books

Tags: , , , , , ,

As the announcements of the Caldecott and Newbery Awards approach, I came across the 1948 Caldecott winner. White Snow Bright Snow was written by Alvin Tresselt and illustrated by Roger Duvoisin.

The eighteen inches of snow we had dumped on us days before Christmas has all but disappeared, and I find myself yearning for more of the fluffy white stuff. White Snow Bright Snow is the perfect answer for the winter season. It’s an ideal book to cuddle up with someone special in front of a nice warm fire and read together.


The book starts with a snow poem, which sets the stage for what is to follow. As the story begins, the postman, the farmer, the policeman and his wife, the children, and even the rabbits are anticipating what is to come. Suddenly, snowflakes appear. The adults deal with the snow in very practical ways, but the children laugh and dance while trying to catch snowflakes on their tongues. During the day and into the night, the snow falls to create a beautiful white landscape as can be seen by Duvoisin’s double-page spread. The next day the children and the rabbits take advantage of the snow, enjoying their time outside. The adults go about their daily chores despite the snow. The snow slowly melts as the story comes to a close. “…the smell of wet brown earth filled the warm air.” When the children see the first robin, they know spring has arrived.

Tresselt’s lyrical language found throughout the story adds to the beauty of the book. And Roger Duvoisin’s use of bright red and yellow make the pages sparkle against the more subdued background colors. The team of Tresselt and Duvoisin make this book a classic.

I eagerly anticipate the new Caldecott Award winner and Caldecott Honor books.

Enjoy these snowy picture books:

Snow written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Lauren Stringer

The Snowy Day written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats

Snow written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz

Over and Under the Snow written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

Snowballs written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert

Oh! written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes

A Perfect Day written and illustrated by Carin Berger

Katy and the Big Snow written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton

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