Picture Book Month: Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted November 22, 2012 by cathyso3
Categories: Special Days

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Wishing everyone a bountiful Thanksgiving!

And don’t forget to thank Sarah Hale, the woman who saved Thanksgiving.

Thank You, Sarah The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving was written by Laurie Halse Anderson and illustrated by Matt Faulkner.

This book is a wonderful nonfiction addition to Thanksgiving stories. Laurie Halse Anderson cleverly tells the story of Sarah Hale, a superhero, who set out to right the wrongs in our society and make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Anderson reveals how Sarah Hale wrote thousands of letters to politicians and presidents, trying to convince them to make Thanksgiving a day everyone in America celebrated together. It took her thirty-eight years, and, finally, President Abraham Lincoln agreed! Anderson’s story and Matt Faulkner’s humorous illustrations beg readers to keep turning the pages. Anderson has also included “A Feast of Facts” at the end of the story which is filled with a bounty of information. This book gives readers a lot to be thankful for!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Picture Book Month: It’s a Bear!

Posted November 15, 2012 by cathyso3
Categories: Picture Books

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I was pawing through some books when I came across one of my all-time favorite bear books, Winnie-The-Pooh, written by A.A. Milne and illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard. I hold this book close to my heart. It has charming characters and many pearls of wisdom. If you’ve never read it, do it!

I can “bearly” contain my excitement when it comes to a good bear book. Bear Snores On, a winner of multiple awards, is one of them. It was written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman. This book deserves a big bear hug! Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books in 2002, this delightful story is told in rhyme. As the bear snores on, little critters sneak into the bear’s cave. Each brings something to share, and soon they’re having a great time as the bear snores on. When the bear is awakened, he grumbles and growls then whimpers and moans because he missed the party. The critters are more than happy to share. As a new day dawns, the bear is wide awake, but his new-found friends snore on. Jane Chapman used whites and blues to depict the outside scenes. Scenes inside the cave are done in earth tones, giving an otherwise cold, dark cave a warm feeling – just like the book!

Another bear book I’d like to roar about is Baby Bear Sees Blue written and illustrated by Ashley Wolff. This charming book was published in February of this year by Beach Lane Books. Wolff does an excellent job of portraying Mama Bear and Baby Bear as loveable creatures. Each page turn shows Baby Bear discovering different signs and colors found in nature. The illustration of Mama Bear and Baby Bear admiring a rainbow is sweet, but I adore the double spread of Baby Bear and the butterflies! This is a perfect book to introduce and reinforce colors while enjoying a romp through nature with Mama Bear and Baby Bear. Four paws up for this one!

Picture Book Month: Classic and Contemporary

Posted November 8, 2012 by cathyso3
Categories: Picture Books

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In honor of Picture Book Month, I thought it would be fun to compare a classic picture book to a more recent one. I happened to be shelving Goodnight, Goodnight,  written and illustrated by Eve Rice, when it occurred to me the cover was very similar to the 2009 Caldecott Award-winning book, The House in the Night, written by Susan Marie Swanson and illustrated by Beth Krommes.

Goodnight, Goodnight, which was first published in 1980 by Greenwillow Books, takes place in an urban setting. The reader sees members of the neighborhood community wishing each other goodnight as they go about their evening routines. There’s the chestnut vendor, the baker, the fireman, the policeman, ordinary people, and a little cat that isn’t quite ready to go to bed.

This is an excellent bedtime story. It’s calming, and the text is simple. The book allows youngsters to become an active part of the story as they repeat the word, goodnight.

The illustrations are done with a minimal use of color – black, white, and yellow. A lithographic crayon, black pencil, and pen and ink were used by Rice. She added yellow to each page, which gives the windows, the lights, and the moon a glow that evokes a feeling of warmth. She has included a multitude of details that children can point out at each page turn.

The House in the Night, published in 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Company, is another bedtime story with simple text that is also calming. In comparison to the previous book, this book takes place in a suburban setting. It’s a cumulative story that begins with a simple object – a key – that is given to a child.  The story continues with the inclusion of other simple objects – light, bed, book, bird. When the bird takes flight with the child, an entire world of whimsy opens up and then circles back to the simplicity of the beginning.

Once again, the use of color is minimal – black, white, and yellow. Beth Krommes used a scratchboard technique with the addition of yellow to effectively create a feeling of coziness and warmth on each page.

Both of these books are delightful. The simplicity of the texts encourages children to read along, and the illustrations beg for children to point out details found on each page. Goodnight, Goodnight and The House in the Night make perfect lap books or bedtime books. Make it a good night and read one!

Superheroes to the Rescue!

Posted November 1, 2012 by cathyso3
Categories: Uncategorized

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Last Wednesday in honor of our students reaching their magazine sales goal, the teachers dressed up as superheroes for the day. Batman, Batwoman, Superman, Ninja Turtle, Underdog, Spiderman, and Flash were just a few of the superheroes roaming the halls.

Unfortunately, that same morning there was an accident on the road that curves around our school. It’s a well-traveled county highway. Very quickly there was a backup in traffic as police and rescue vehicles blocked off access.

For those in the know, there is a shortcut through our school property. Many cars began sneaking through to avoid the accident and delays. This was NOT GOOD! Teachers, students, and buses were arriving. This created a safety hazard for all involved.

Never fear! Superheroes here! Our principal, dressed as Batman, and our technology teacher, dressed as Superman, were on the scene in a flash ready to remedy the situation.

Batman and Superman positioned themselves at the school’s entries along with an official policeman. They worked together to keep unwanted traffic out while providing a safe entry for school buses and children. It’s the American way!

We may look like a motley crew, but we’re teachers — we’re superheroes!

Check out these superhero books.

Superhero ABC written and illustrated by Bob McLeod

Eliot Jones, Midnight Superhero written by Anne Cottringer and illustrated by Alex T. Smith

Dex The Heart of a Hero written by Caralyn Buehner and illustrated by Mark Buehner

Timothy and the Strong Pajamas written and illustrated by Viviane Schwarz

Tidbits from a Writing Conference

Posted October 25, 2012 by cathyso3
Categories: Conferences

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This past weekend I attended a writing conference at what I call “The Nunnery.”

The room and food — not so good. The speakers and attendees — fantastic!

With editors like Melissa Manlove from Chronicle Books, Kristen Nobels from Candlewick Press, and Michelle Poploff from Delacorte Press Children’s Books and authors like Kathi Appelt, Sara Zarr, and George Shannon, who wouldn’t be excited? The weekend was filled with camaraderie, laughs, encouragement, and valuable information.

Alas, I cannot share everything I learned, but I can let you in on some tidbits of information from the faculty.

Find your voice and unique style.

There is magic in words. Use them to your advantage.

Word choice should have patterns of sound, rhythm, a sense of urgency, and pitch that provide emotional impact.

Surprise your reader.

Put personality and place in your writing.

Actively engage your readers.

The number one job of an author is to worry the reader. That will keep the reader turning the pages.

Up the ante to create tension.

Every word counts.

Perfect your craft.

Good writing plus good pacing equals a good book.

If you have a passion for writing, no matter what, stay in touch with what you love.

Suggested Reading:

Dear Genius The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom written by Leonard S. Marcus and illustrated by Maurice Sendak

You’re My Little Cupcake

Posted October 18, 2012 by cathyso3
Categories: Special Days

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This is your lucky day. Today is National Chocolate Cupcake Day. What more could you ask for?

Cupcakes are in, and today they should be in your tummy. A cupcake is little cake you can call your own. You can poke it, prod it, lick it, nibble it, or gobble it down because it’s all yours!

Here’s a perfect way to treat yourself to a cupcake whenever you’re craving one. It’s as simple as 3-2-1 Cupcake!


1 box of Angel Food Cake mix

1 box of any flavor cake mix – chocolate is my flavor of choice

Combine the two mixes in a gallon Ziploc® bag.

For a true “cup cake”…

Put 3 tablespoons of cake mix into a microwave-safe cup.

Put 2 tablespoons of water into the cup.

Stir well to combine.

Microwave on high for 1 minute.

Voilà!  A perfect little “cup cake.”

For an extra delicious treat, I added some whipped topping and a raspberry. Store the bag of cake mix for a “cup cake” treat anytime!

Now please excuse me while I indulge myself!

Take a bite out of one these yummy cupcake books.

Cupcake written and illustrated by Charise Mericle Harper

Little Mouse and the Big Cupcake written by Thomas Taylor and illustrated by Jill Barton

If You Give a Cat a Cupcake written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond

Tina Cocolina: Queen of the Cupcakes written by Pablo Cartaya and Martin Howard and illustrated by Kirsten Richards

Fancy Nancy and the Delectable Cupcakes (I Can Read) written by Jane O’Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

It’s Raining Cupcakes (Middle-Grade) written by Lisa Schroeder

What Did You Say?

Posted October 11, 2012 by cathyso3
Categories: Uncategorized

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What do The I-I-I’s Have It, The Town Crier, and Give Me an R have to do with the library? Secretly, they’re my nicknames for a few of my preschool and kindergarten students.

I adore these youngsters. It’s a pleasure to have them come to the library. They’re enthusiastic and full of energy and surprises. Because their speech and language skills are still developing, understanding what they have to say can sometimes be a challenge. Thus, the nicknames.

The I-I-I’s Have It:  This child gets so excited he stutters. He’s determined to tell you some exciting bit of news in his own way as quickly as he can. By the time he finishes, my head is spinning, but I dare not ask him to repeat it.

The Town Crier:  I never know when, but it happens more often than not. It’s a spontaneous crying fit. When asked what’s wrong, all I get is “Wha, wha, he wha me. Ah, ah, ah, wha me.” I’m usually left clueless.

Give Me an R: This preschooler hasn’t mastered the pronunciation of the letter R, and that makes for some interesting comments. When he complimented his teacher on the pretty shirt she was wearing, it came out as, “I like your shit.”

Some of our conversations remind me of the book Hen Hears Gossip written by Megan McDonald and illustrated by Joung Un Kim. When Hen hears Pig whisper something to Cow, Hen passes along what she thought she heard to Duck who passes it along to Goose. You know the story – lots of misunderstandings. Of course, in the end, everything is straightened out with a nice surprise.

There are some library days it takes extra patience and understanding from both sides as we try to decipher what everyone is saying. I always hope everything gets straightened out just like in Hen Hears Gossip. No matter what, the enthusiasm of these youngsters keeps me going and some of their comments are priceless.

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