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Archive for the category “Up to Seven”

Skunk on a String by Thao Lam

When a skunk is spot51-wjQyJ9FL._SY406_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgted among the floats during a parade, panic ensues. After all, skunks are not known for being the life of the party, are they? But poor skunk is not a float – he got caught in the balloon’s string and is unable to steer his balloon. What will happen and who will help him return to earth? This is a wordless picture book so readers have to look carefully at the pictures to get the story. Much of the story is told in skunk’s eyes which make it clear he is not where he intended to be! Skunk eventually saves himself but…wait….what is he up to now? This is a fun “read” for little ones and a great way to get them writing about where their balloon would take them.


Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Another gem! Put together two artists with a Newbery and a Caldecott between them and this is what you get…perfection! Five little51udZlcf2VL._SY388_BO1,204,203,200_ penguins look out the window of the igloo and see the first snowflakes starting to fall. Every child knows the thrill that the promise of a real snowstorm brings. The penguins get their boots, their mittens, and matching scarves and off they go to explore. Then it’s back to the house with Mama followed by jammies, cookies, and a sippy – off to bed. Winter has arrived! Rylant’s prose is lovely and evocative and Robinson’s art is splendid in cut paper collage and acrylics. I love the three penguins on the cover forming a perfect triangle – a stable image that readies the reader for the journey ahead. It’s gorgeous! Christian Robinson isn’t yet thirty and he won both Coretta Scott King and Caldecott awards. Watch out for him.

Think about pairing Little Penguins with Pak’s Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn when talking about seasons. They are perfect together.

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak


I like everything about this book and know that both children and teachers will love it. I was unaware of Pak’s work until someone asked me who created the cover art for Patricia MacLachlan’s newest, The Poet’s Dog. I knew he was an artist to look for. Consisting entirely of double-paged spreads, the story follows a child walking throughout his/her town and saying hello to all the creatures and plant life she encounters. There is always a reply from each thus providing their own particular point of view. Not only does this show children the slow, steady , and inevitable change of the seasons nut what happens to the animals and other living things as the transition occurs. The double-paged spreads are a perfect way of pulling your eye along on the child’s journey. This is one of those books where the art and the story completely dovetail. It’s just gorgeous. It comes out on August 16th just in time for back-to-school when the summer is, in fact, leaving and autumn will be arriving.

Blue on Blue by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes

What first drew me to this book was the cover art. You might remember Krommes’s work from her Caldecott Award-winning book, A House in the Night. It was magnificent and this artwork utilizes the same technique: scratchboard and watercolor. Gorgeous, is it not?


Caldecott committees aren’t necessarily looking for the best written books (the award is for illustration, after all) yet I can’t think of an award winner that is poorly written. This book is a beautifully poetic story that follows a young girl and her family through a sunny day that turns stormy and rains and rains and rains. The descriptive words will delight teachers who want children to use words with a little more oomph than usual. This is a book where the text and the artwork dovetail completely to create an absolutely stellar book. I keep going back to it just to enjoy the whole package. Indulge yourself.

George in the Dark by Madeline Valentine


I swear, every child is afraid of the dark at some point. I remember starting to  read to my 2nd grade students (years ago now) a book on that very topic. I asked if anyone was afraid of the dark and, to a child, they all said that they weren’t. Really. Really? I told them when I was a kid I was afraid of monsters climbing up into my bed so I was careful every night to make sure my covers weren’t hitting the floor because, of course, that’s how the monsters would arrive. Once I told them that they all started confessing that they were afraid of all kinds of things. It was hilarious. That led to talk about how sometimes we’re afraid of things that we really don’t need to be afraid of. It was awesome. This book, George in the Dark, is about a little boy who hates for the lights to be turned out when it’s time for bed. He imagines all kinds of scary things around him when, in fact, it’s the very same toys he played with that day that only look scary in the shadows. He reaches for his teddy bear and teddy isn’t in the bed. He scans the room and sees teddy all alone in a corner of the room. That’s when George starts getting brave. He wouldn’t want to be all alone in a corner in the dark so he makes a run for it and saves teddy! When he’s safely back in bed with teddy tucked in George starts feeling pretty darn brave after all. Kids will like this one and it provides them a way to talk about fears without feeling like a nincompoop. Try it out. 🙂

B is for Box: The Happy Little Yellow Box: A Pop-up Book by David A. Carter

I spend a lot of time with my granddaughter, Adelaide, reading books with her. Over Thanksgiving I brought out B is For Box and I wasn’t “reading” to her as much as exploring the book together. It is an interactive pop-up book from the word go and Adelaide wanted to read it with me again and again.


Adelaide is 2-1/2 now and this book is perfect for little ones like her. On each page the “happy little yellow box” can be manipulated by turning a dial, pulling on a tab, lifting flaps, and Adelaide’s favorite: pulling the box up and down the slide. The black backgrounds make the white drawings jump off the page and the little yellow box does so even more. Adelaide played and played with all the gadgets all the while chattering away: “up the slide and down the slide” again and again. This book provided Adelaide with an engaging romp through its pages and provided me with her wonderful narration throughout. All of you out there who have preschoolers, put David A. Carter’s B is for Box in their pile under the Christmas tree, on the Kwanzaa table, or next to their driel. They will think Santa is brilliant!

Blizzard by John Rocco

John Rocco’s Caldecott Honor winning picture book, Blackout, captured a moment in time when the lights literally went out in New York City and people were forced to interact with one another. Their phones didn’t work, TVs didn’t, and the computers, streetlights, and neon signs just stopped. We’ve lost those evenings on the front porch where people talked and told stories and connected with their neighbors. It took a blackout to have that happen in New York and Rocco’s book celebrated that moment. It’s a wonderful book.


Rocco’s new one is just as wonderful and it again highlights a specific moment (well, actually a week) when the snow falls up to 4 feet and the town shuts down. The protagonist  moves from sheer bliss that school is closed to being sick of being stuck in the house day after day as the food supplies dwindles. Its such a great tale from a child’s viewpoint. The art is terrific complete with a double gatefold with a map of the trail the boy takes as he ventures out to get groceries wearing tennis rackets as snowshoes. It makes me want to see the snow start falling.

This is a great book to read in class when the first snowflakes fall and the children are looking out the school house windows thinking only of getting out of school early. Pair it with Kevin O’Malley’s Straight to the Pole and Susan Jeffers’ beautifully illustrated version of Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods On A Snowy Evening to seize the moment and let the kids know you’re thinking of the days when you were the one looking out the window wistfully. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!





Rex Wrecks It! by Ben Clanton

Rex is a bull in a china shop. Well, he’s actually just a high energy, active little dinosaur but he breaks things just as much.  His friends Gizmo, Sprinkles, and Wild are getting pretty tired of building things only to have Rex knock them all down. He’s not mean; he just seems programmed to knock things down. The three friends try to build a Rex-proof structure but somehow he manages to knock each and every one down.


Rex finally understands that he is wrecking all the fun for his friends when Gizmo suggests they build something WITH Rex. The arch they build is fantastic – even Rex likes it. They built together and it will fall together. All four knock it all down together and have a blast doing it. I particularly like the last word Rex says: “Again?!”

This makes a great read aloud if you read it with some feeling. It is reminiscent in that regard to Dinosaur vs. Bedtime where the dinosaur repeats again and again: rawr, rawr, rawr! One of the characters, Wild, looks almost too much like Leonardo the Terrible Monster. Despite there being some derivative things in the book, it is a book that pre-K through 2nd will love.

Llama Llama Trick or Treat by Anna Dewdney

This board is definitely a treat! Made for little hands who will have them outstretched for candy on Halloween, this rhyming, lilting story follows little Llama as he and his mother prepare for Halloween. The lead up to Halloween is almost as much fun as the holiday itself, isn’t it?


Llama has to decide on a costume, of course, and little ones will wonder what he will choose. They pick a pumpkin, they carve it, they get their candy ready to give to trick-or-treaters, and before you know it, it’s time to don the costume. This will delight preschoolers who know well that Halloween = candy. Now that’s a holiday I can get behind!!!!

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up: Tales from Deckawoo Drive

Does Deckawood Drive ring a bell to you? If it does it’s because that inimitable pig, Mercy Watson, who loves toast with a great deal of butter, lives on that very street. And Leroy Ninker is a character from Mercy Watson that DiCamillo has given his own book. The name alone is priceless. Someone at the National Book Festival asked her how she came up with these crazy names. She said she grew up in Florida where strange Southern names abounded. She said she went to school with a boy named General Payne (sp?) and his brother Sergeant Payne.As a consequence, odd names just come to her. 🙂


Just as in the Mercy Watson books, the illustrations are done by Chris Van Dusen and they have that lovely slightly retro, slightly cartoony, warm feeling that we have come to know in Mercy Watson. Leroy Ninker works in the drive-in theater and watches night after night of cowboy movies. He wants to be a cowboy….he NEEDS to be a cowboy. But his friend points out that, sadly, he is lacking the one thing every cowboy needs: a horse. Determined to be a cowboy, Leroy Ninker answers an ad in the paper for a cheap horse and ends up with Maybelline, the quirkiest horse anyone could find. Leroy speaks to her in glowing compliments and feeds her homemade spaghetti. But Maybelline doesn’t like to be alone much and one night a thunder and lighting storm spooks her and she bolts. Read the book to find out what happens to Leroy Ninker and Maybelline.

There’s something great about DiCamillo’s writing. She has won the Newbery Medal twice: once for The Tale of Despereaux and recently for Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. She also won a Newbery Honor for Because of Winn-Dixie. For me, it’s her unusual language and her care to place the perfect word in a given sentence. The writing is always innovative, features some glorious words for kids to learn, and to top it all off, the stories are rock solid. I have connected to so many of her characters. How does she think them up? A pig who lives with a human family whose favorite food is toast with a great deal of butter? And a squirrel who not only survives being sucked up by a vacuum cleaner but comes out with super powers to boot? Thank heaves for DiCamillo’s wondrous imagination! I truly can’t wait to see what else is up her sleeve.


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