Monday, November 30, 2009

Kisses on the Wind

I picked up the book Kisses on the Wind at NCTE at the Candlewick Press booth.  There was something about this book that caught my eye... and I'm so glad it did!

     This is a wonderful story of a pioneer family that is leaving for Oregon and a little girl, Lydia, who is saying goodbye to her grandmother, who is staying behind.  The illustrations by Kathryn Brown (The Old Woman Who Named Things) are wonderful (especially the one of the grandmother laying by the pond with her granddaughter sailing a bark boat).  
     There are two parts that blew me away, "Then I hugged Grandma a long time.  I breathed her in deep so I would not forget.  I listened to her heartbeat and made my ears remember." and "Grandma reached into her apron pocket.  She pulled out a brown book and laid it in my hands. 'I wrote my stories down for you, Lydia.  When you miss me, you read them.'  I opened the book that Grandma had made and turned the pages.  Words floated by, Grandma's words.  Grandma's stories.  Stories she's told me since I was a baby.  I rubbed the smooth leather cover with my hands.  'Now you'll always be with me,' I said.  'And every day I will think of you and love you.'... 'And I'll be loving you,' said Grandma."
     This is a wonderful book.  I'm so glad I picked it up on my way out of the convention center! 

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek

I picked up this book at NCTE and had it signed by Deborah Hopkinson (one of my favorite authors).  I was excited to add Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale to my already full carry-on!  But who can resist the sales on the last day in the exhibition hall?
     As the story goes... In 1816, Abraham Lincoln and his friend Austin traveled down to see Knob Creek after a rainstorm.  The creek was full after heavy rains and they decided to cross it on a log.  Abe fell into the swollen creek and his friend Austin saved his life.  Even as president, Abraham Lincoln remembered his friend and never forgot his promise to Austin--a promise to remember that day forever.
     I love this unique book.  Deborah Hopkinson and the illustrator, John Hendrix, create an interesting narrative... they draw you in through creative illustrations and wonderful storytelling.  I love the ending... 
     "Now we're coming to the last page.  About all that's left is to remind you of the moral of our story:  Listen to your mother and don't go near any swollen creeks.  WHAT?  Oh, you don't think that's really the point?  A mite weak, perhaps? Like Abe, a bit thin?
     Then how about this:  Remember Austin Golaher, because what we do matters, even if we don't end up in history books.
     Yes, let's remember Austine Gollaher, who, one day long ago, when no one else was there to see, saved Abe Lincoln's life.
     And without Abraham Lincoln, where would we be?

     But that's a story for another day.  Because ours, at last, is done." 
Check out Deborah Hopkinson's website:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Poetry Party... NCTE

One of the sessions we attended at NCTE was called, "Poetry Party:  Celebrating 2009 NCTE Poetry Award Recipient Lee Bennett Hopkins."  They served sparkling cider, cookies, and amazing readings at this celebration.  Each of the attendees received a copy of Dear One: A Tribute to Lee Bennett Hopkins, a compilation of poetry by some of Lee's friends... whom he calls "Dear Ones." 
     Some of our favorite poets read their poetry in tribute to Mr. Hopkins... Jane Yolen, Georgia Heard, J. Patrick Lewis, Kristin O'Connell George, Heidi Mordhordst, Walter Dean Myers, Eileen Spinelli, Ralph Fletcher, Bobbi Katz, John Grandits, Janet Wong... the words, the poetry, the language, the laughter, the passion... it was an amazing tribute to man who has touched the lives of poets (young and old) with his brilliance and dedication of collecting poetry for children.  Walter Dean Myers said of Mr. Hopkins, "Good people in the field hold you feet to the fire!"  Isn't it the truth?  Ralph Fletcher said that Mr. Myers, "Embodies a life of living with passion."  Passion.  What's yours?

      In the back of the book we received, there is a wonderful quote by Lee Bennett Hopkins:  Poetry and I fit together.  I can't imagine being without it... It is the food and drink, it is all the seasons, it is the stuff of all existence.  It was so evident by the poets who read their words to their dear friend that he, indeed, has touched their lives.  It was one amazing tribute of words after another... story after story... poem after poem!  And Mr. Hopkins relished in each and every poem and story.

     This session was a reminder to me of the power of poetry and the extraordinary role it plays in the lives of our students... and how just a word, or two, or three can change a life!  
     What's your favorite Lee Bennett Hopkins' collection?  Here are a few of mine...



Friday, November 27, 2009


Where did the week go?  Loved NCTE, so much to blog! 

     The best part was spending time with my friends Randi Allison and Troy Rushmore.  We stayed in a Bed and Breakfast about 1.5 miles south of the Convention Center (lots of walking).  I preferred to call it a Bed and ____ (noun) ... (pretend it's a MadLib and fill in the blank).  Obviously they hired someone to create their website and brochure that had never stayed there.  Could be such beautiful place with just a few touch ups, including a breakfast upgrade (rotten fruit in a bowl and dried bagels, really?) and perhaps a housekeeper who does bathrooms!  Note the "electrical chord" situation in one of our rooms in this picture (courtesy of Randi).  Nonetheless, we did laugh a lot... 
     We also ate well!  

     Thursday night... we were joined by Debbie M. at Mezza Luna, a great Italian Restaurant near our B & B.  The crowd was small on a Thursday and the owner/chef was so interesting.  Delicious (the gnocchi was amazing).  We had a great conversation with him about apprenticeship.  He was trained in his native Italy and obviously had a passion for food and his craft.  We enjoyed our meal (although who knew Philadelphia had a "bring your own" rule in many of their restaurants).  This was a great little neighborhood restaurant. 

     Friday night... we were looking for a nice little steak place near South Street and ended up going to Bellini Grill after a recommendation from a native Philadelphian that happened to see us wandering lost and confused.  The food was terrific!  A great recommendation (Veal Saltimbocca...yum!).  The restaurant was small and we ended up sharing a table for six with a family from Canada that was in town for the Philadelphia Marathon.  It was one of those times when you're thrown into a somewhat uncomfortable situation that ends up being such a great experience.  We even got the table for two next to us involved in our conversation... it was a delightful evening!

     Saturday night... a nice walk from the Convention Center to Fork.  We joined a small group of Stenhouse friends (editors Bill, Philippa, and Holly) and authors (Jeff A. and Terry T.).  It was nice to toast Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop.  After quite a long wait (and opening many doors) we were seated for a delightful meal in a rather "hip" restaurant.  This was a fun night... lots of laughing (especially when Randi's fish arrived with its head and wasn't filleted) and conversation (Oven roasted house-smoked pork shop, delicious) about life and learning.

     But Philly was more than food!  I'll be blogging a bit more about the more important things I learned throughout the week!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Philadelphia, Here we come...

Off to Philadelphia today for the NCTE conference.  Two of my colleagues are joining me and we're excited to see what the weekend holds... great learning, great friends, great food!  Randi, Troy, and I are looking forward to the conference and seeing a bit of Philly.  Staying in a Bed and Breakfast that was built in 1860!  Older than Laura Ingalls.  I'll try to blog a bit while I'm there and when I return!  Book signing on Friday at 12:30... 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop

Thanks to my fellow bloggers who have been gracious enough to welcome my new book, Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop to their blog.  Last night, my principal, assistant principal, and building resource teacher (and my beautiful wife) attended our local school board meeting where I was recognized and we went out for celebratory dinner at Union in Castle Rock, Colorado (a wonderful little bistro).  As we laughed and chatted and ate and shared wonderful fellowship, I looked around the table and counted wonderful colleagues as one of my many blessings!  Such support.

     So I wanted to acknowledge my fellow bloggers and tell them how much I appreciate their support as well.  There are interviews with me about the book on and  Always fun to think through your process and talk sincerely about your writing!  
     Also, has done a lot of reflecting on her first read of the book and I so appreciate her thoughful response to what she's read so far.  I have enjoyed hearing what she has to say!

     Thanks bloggers!

     Tomorrow, I leave for NCTE in Philadelphia.  I'll be doing a book signing on Friday.  My teammates and friends, Randi Allison and Troy Rushmore, are heading to Philly with me.  Staying in a Bed and Breakfast that was built in 1860!  We're looking forward to connecting with friends and colleagues from around the country.  I can't wait to blog about my new learnings.  Of course, my students are excited that I get to see "Mary Poppins" on Friday.
     I asked my students to tell me one thing they'd like me to ask Ralph Fletcher if I run into him.  One of my girls said, "Please ask him if he'll come live with my family for a while!"  I was conferring with another third grade boy (who was reading Poetry Matters) and he said, "Ask him how he does it.  How does he write so that I hear his voice (even though I've never met him)?  And, how does he connect it all?  I'm sitting here reading this introduction and I'm hearing him in Marshfield Dreams and I'm hearing him in Twilight Comes Twice.  It's like, well, he's speaking to me and he's a friend.  Like he's right in this room asking me to write poetry.  It's like, to him, writing is the greatest gift he can give to his family, to me, to anyone..."  Amazing!
     So, count your blessings today.  We'll chat tomorrow, perhaps...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tom Newkirk and Ellin Keene

Check out the PEBC's learning opportunities at
     December 11th Tom Newkirk and Ellin Keene will copresent at the Winter Literacy Seminar.  Should be a great day of learning!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Snow, Snow, Snow...

A wonderful snowy day in Denver gets me thinking about creating an "All About Snow" basket of books in my classroom.  The perfect bundle of "I have nothing to write about" texts.  There are so many!  I'm always on the look out...
     Today I ran across Snow, Snow, Snow by Lee Harper (I know what you're thinking, not a play on words)... this book is a cute one!  It reminds me of those magical moments when you go to sleep and wake up the next morning with the ground covered with a blanket of fun (unless, of course, you have to work that day)!  It reminds me of walking to the nearby school and hitting the hill with my children.  It reminds me of being a child... the illustrations fit the whole "spend some time as a child" theme of this book!
    I may have to gather up my collection and create a basket of snow books... the perfect launch for a memory write or line lift in a writer's notebook during the composing time of reader's workshop.  I can't wait to add this one to the collection!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


I love the story of Sojourner Truth and I admire many of the picture books that tell her story.  Three of my favorites are Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth by Anne Rockwell, A Picture Book of Sojourner Truth by David A. Adler, and When Harriet Met Sojourner by Catherine Clinton and Shane W. Evans.  It looks like I'll have a new one to add to my list:  Sojourner Truth's Step-Stop Stride by Andrea Pinkney and Brian Pinkney. 
      In this stunning book, we hear again the familiar story of Belle (Sojourner) who fought to help end slavery and for equal rights for all!  She was a tall woman with a powerful voice, a woman before her time.
     This book would make the perfect think aloud during a study of determining importance.  I can't wait to add it to my collection!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A book about light

My students and I were talking about the noises we hear at night when we're trying to go to sleep... creaks and cracks inside the walls, scritchs and scratchs on the windowpanes, pops and pounds on the rooftops... talking about the "normal" things that happen in ordinary events often help students plant writing seeds in their reader's/writer's notebooks.
      This week, I ran across Night Lights by Susan Gal.  It's about all the light that is present in a child's night--the glow of the porch light, the fireflies, the fire during a backyard cookout.  This is a book that helps bring to "light" the simple things that surround us that deserve to be written about... including the light caused by lightning!  The perfect to chase away childhood fears.  This is a book that just might encourage young writers to write about the ordinary things in their lives.  And, Susan Gal's illustrations are delightfully abstract (you can check out her artwork at

     I was thinking about writing about the annoying glow of the green light on my clock at night... sometimes I wake up at night and it's illuminating the whole room!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Jane and the Dragon

Can't help it... I'm addicted.  I'm addicted to To Jane and the Dragon on QUBO.  So much for not having cable!  
It's a children's show based on the Jane and the Dragon by Martin Baynton.  I'm not a big "children's books turned into television shows" fan, but this is an exception.  "Jane and the Dragon" cracks me up!  You can watch episodes at 
     I am sure you won't be disappointed (well, okay you might be, but it's worth a look).  
     Jane's website is: 
     Not a typical post on my blog, but I can't resist this one.  Dragon is hilarious and my 5th grade daughter loves it... she dressed up as Jane for Halloween this year!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More, more, more... Happy Birthday!

When she was a baby, our oldest daughter loved Vera Williams' More, More, More Said the Baby.  And today she's turning 19...
     I remember reading Williams' text with it's musical rhythms and repetition; the perfect text to encourage language development and love of words.  She'd want to hear the book over and over... and all these years later it still holds a special spot on our bookshelf.  I love the bond that is created between child, parent, and text when we take the time to read.  It's just joyful!
     And, now all these years later... she's doing more, more, more!  A college student settled into new learning and a new chapter in her life!
     I remember once we were sitting in the waiting room of an auto mechanic's shop, waiting for our car to be finished.  Our daughter must have been two or three years old.  Across from us sat a lovely elderly woman, completely dressed in purple and lavender.  Her floral blouse matched her pants and shoes and jewelry perfectly.  Her snow white hair was piled high on her head, forming loose curls held in place with shining hairpins.  On her lap, she held a pillow and a small white dog.  She, too, was waiting... and her dog caught our daughter's eye.  It was love at first sight! 
     We spent the next half hour in the waiting room.  I read to our daughter, she'd get up and wander over to pet the dog, then return to my lap for another read.  For a half hour, it was small talk, small pets, and small moments shared with a lovely woman we didn't know.  She fell in love with our daughter during that short time.  Her smiles were as bright as the hairpins in her hair. 
     She left first.  She gathered up her handbag, scarf, gloves, dog... but as she left the room, she turned for a moment and smiled at our daughter.  She walked over and touched her on her small cheek, looked her directly in the eye, and said softly, "Have a blessed life, Beloved."  And in a whisper she was gone.
     That's what it's like when our children grow... in just a whisper they've moved on to new adventures.  Out in the world, looking for more, more, more!  And we're left wishing they were little again!  
     So, as you turn 19, I hope you know how blessed our lives are because of you, Beloved!  Happy Birthday!
     Some of your other (19+) favorites: 
  • Wild Wild Sunflower Child Anna by Nancy White Carlstrom
  • Airmail to the Moon by Tom Birdseye
  • Any Madeline book by Ludwig Bemelmans
  • Baby Beluga by Ashley Wolff
  • Jillian Jiggs by Phoebe Gilmon
  • Sadie and the Snowman by Allen Morgan
  • Any Franklin book by Paulette Bourgeois
  • Big Sarah's Little Boots by Paulette Bourgeois
  • Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
  • Amber on the Mountain by Tony Johnston
  • The Mitten by Jan Brett
  • Annie and the Wild Animals by Jan Brett
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney 
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Did you remember the...

Put It On The List!  Okay, I doubt this book is destined to win the Pulitzer Prize... BUT it cracked me up!  I can't tell you how many times the same things have happened to our family... Did you remember toilet paper? No.  Did you remember syrup? No.  Did you remember jelly? No.  Did you remember the cereal? No.  Every time I go to the grocery store, I forget at least one or two important items... so does the mother chicken in this book.

     It's one of those books that had me laughing outloud in the bookstore, for no particular reason except that it just plain cracked me up... "On Monday, they had pancakes with no syrup (ketchup makes a poor replacement); on Tuesday they had toothbrushes but no toothpaste (no matter that chickens lack teeth)..." and then the toilet paper incident!  I loved the simple, but silly illustrations. 
     And what would I use it for?  Perhaps to nudge a piece of narrative about the time you forgot an item at the store or perhaps to use the chronological structure to organize writing.  Perhaps to use during a study of inferring.  But mainly just to have a jolly good time reading it outloud!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Land is Your Land...

I found this beautiful book in the biography section of The Bookies... Denver's premiere children's (and teacher's) book store.  Woody Guthrie: Poet of the People is a wonderfully illustrated book by Bonnie Christensen.  The story of Guthrie's life brings new meaning to the songs he sings.  
     As we read, we learn about his life.  Details from his hardscrabble life in Oklahoma during the Great Depression until his adult life on Mermaid Avenue near Coney Island.  I love the way Christensen lets us in on the lyrics of Guthrie's most famous song... and the lines from several others.  He was a singer's songwriter!

     I love the that we learn that Guthrie began singing because he "...heard the songs that swept across the prairie wind and rain songs, thunder rumbling, and lightning crackling songs."  From his childhood filled with song... to the mental illness of his mother following the tragic death of his sister in a fire... to the Merchant Marines... to his own children... to his singing behind the New York Public Library... Christensen sets forth a wonderful tribute to this singer/songwriter.  I love the time line of his life in the back of the book.
     Guthrie sang "Dust Bowl" ballads on the radio, many based on the old time country music his father sang and the hymns his mother played on the piano.  His life as a performer illustrated his hope that his songs would help people feel better about their lives, their social situations, their hopes, and their dreams. 
     Children love the song "This Land is Your Land" and this tribute to Guthrie is the perfect accompaniment to the song.  It's one of those books that just feels good in your hands when you pick it up off the shelf!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Show Don't Tell!

Show Don't Tell is by Josephine Nobisso, the author of Grandpa Loved and Grandma's Scrapbook.   In this book, she shares her vision of what it means to be a writer and offers up some of her "secrets" of writing.  She invites us to think carefully about some of the most important decisions we can make as a writer. 

     It's not a "how to" book, but a whimpsical invitation into the complex world of the writer.  Each page invites us to think deeply about the specifics of being a great writer.  My students love the scratch and sniff pages and the sound card at the end that invites them to "listen" and write.  I love how the author talks about complex writing concepts in such a creative way; it's like a "let's think more about this" book... and we can take specific concepts into whatever writer's craft or unit of study we are tackling.  I think it's a great book to use as a "think aloud."  And the beauty is, you can bring the book back to your writer's workshop again and again. 
      This is a brilliant book to use during a study of how readers create sensory images or how writer's add detail for their readers to create sensory images.  Plus, it's beauty captures so much about writing and the process of composing.  I love the beginning, "If you were to walk into my office, you would NOT see me typing away, a million words a minute.  You would find me, hands dangling, over the keyboard, lost in a daydream..."
     Show Don't Tell!:  Secrets of Writing.  It's a wonderful invitation! 

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean teamed up to write Crazy Hair.  Gaiman wrote this as a poem originally just after his daughter made a comment about his own hair.  The team turned the poem into this delightful, albeit somewhat bizarre, look at what takes place in a man's hair ("hunters send in expeditions, radio back their positions" or "gorillas leap, tigers stalk, and grown sloths sleep").  The artwork is unique to say the least... both whimsical and scary (the little girl in the books ends up getting sucked into the mess).

     The text is rhythmical and fun to read.  I have to admit the whole idea of carousels, pirate ships, and comb-eating bears living in someone's hair kind of creeped me out a bit... but the book itself is a frenzy of fun language and I think children will love reading it.  There's so much to see in this book and I think that reader's with an artistic sense will love the illustrations.  And, it could be a launching point for some great writing.  I'd put this one in my "Just Fun to Read Outloud" basket...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

For the ballerinas...

This book is filled with references to Impressionism artists (Monet, Renoir, Cassatt, etc.) and the illustrations are beautiful.
     In the text, Monsieur Degas paints portraits of ballerinas dancing.  Monsieur Degas accidentally takes a young ballerina's bag, which has her costume for the evening's performance.  She looks all over Paris looking for Degas and her missing satchel.  The illustrations are very "impressionist" like and I think this book is perfect for budding dancers and readers who like art.  The ballerina in the story runs into many famous painters working in historic Paris.
     The actual paintings that inspired the story and the illustrations are listed in the text.  It's a sweet little book that I think readers to love dancing will enjoy reading it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Jackie Robinson

While perusing the shelves at our local bookstore, I came across Testing the Ice:  A True Story of Jackie Robinson.  This book takes place after Robinson retires from baseball and has settled in Connecticut with his family.  The story is beautifully told and written by his daughter, Sharon.
     There is a lake on the property and all the children want to ice skate as soon as it freezes over.  Jackie says they can go skating, but only after he "tests the water" to make sure it is safe.  But for some reason, it's the first time he has gone near the water since the family moved to their new home.
     Jackie pokes and prods the ice... and faces a fear he's never shared with his family.  He doesn't know how to swim!  But he bravely continues until he reaches the middle of the lake and declares it safe for skating.  Not the first time he's overcome a fear to help others. 
     Kadir Nelson (Caldecott Honor Medalist) has filled the book with incredible artwork.  You can check out an interview with both the author and the illustrator at: 
     This is definitely a book I'll be adding to my collection of "Stamina and Endurance" books!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Clean Your Room!

After three days off last week for snow days and having our children on fall break at the same time, this is the moniker we were using around our house, "Why don't you clean your room?"
     In her book, How to Clean Your Room, Eileen Spinelli provides some much needed advice for children hearing the same question from their parents; in the most delightful and poetic way!  "First, wade through the clutter of color like an artist. . . what a lovely mess. Next stop at the books teetering by the bed, tottering with words, worlds you have read about, pages you have danced in. . ."  The author is a bit more kind than I am, I'm afraid.  Who knew cleaning your room could take on such a pleasant tone?  Who would have thought that cleaning your room, the most dreaded chore of all, could become such a pleasant experience?

     This book is filled with pop-ups, pull tables, and even a spinner... so your children might just spend more time reading this book than actually cleaning their own rooms.  It might also make a special gift for someone who keeps things tidy.  And perhaps it might inspire children to take on the piles, the "stuff", the clutter...
     It might just help a child realize that having a bedroom to clean is a gift.  Or, it might just encourage them to write a bit about other chores that they dread... with language so graceful that the chore is quickly forgotten.  "How to" writing with a special twist that only Eileen Spinelli could spin!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Walter Dean Myers...

When you look in a mirror, who do you see?
      A boy? A girl?
     A son? A daughter?
     A runner? A dancer? 

Whoever and whatever you see–
just put out your fist and give yourself an I am BAM!

     In this new book, Looking Like Me, Walter Dean Myers writes about Jeremy trying to discover himself by looking in the mirror and seeing other members of his family.  Jeremy discovers who he is... a brother... a son... a dancer... a runner... an artist.  Myer's son, Christopher, did the illustrations is such a unique way.
     The book is really about celebrating who you are and who you will become... the poetry is rhythmic and jazzy.  And the story is an important one.
     I could see using this book to encourage learners to write about their own uniqueness during a study of poetry.  It might also lend itself to determining what's important in text.  Reading this book was a special treat.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop

Today's the day, Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop makes its debut.  There are so many people who have made this project come to fruition:
  • Bill Varner, my editor, and the staff at Stenhouse Publishers, who have nudged me for quite some time to get this book written
  • My friends and colleagues, Randi Allison and Troy Rushmore, who inspire me every day to be a better teacher
  • My students, past and present, who make conferring such a thought-provoking and wise part of our reader's workshop
  • My colleagues at the PEBC (Public Education and Business Coalition) for our 20+ years of learning together
  • My mentors, especially Judy Gilkey, Debbie Miller, Ellin Keene, and Cris Tovani, who always make me think
  • My fellow "Friday Freaks" (Cheryl Zimmerman, Lori Conrad, Missy Matthews, Troy Rushmore, Randi Allison, Ilana Spiegel, Kristin Venable, Karen Berg, Susan Logan) who make the first Friday of every month a night of learning, sharing, and blessings
  • My dad, Glenn, and mom, Freda, who are looking down right now and smiling.  Boy, I miss them
  • My family - Susan, Graham, Anneke, Jensen, and Lauryn - for their patience, understanding, and constant encouragement as I wrote this book.

You can read Conferring online at for limited time.  I'm very proud of this project and I hope you'll enjoy taking a gander at it.  And, I hope you'll continue to hone your own conferring, look at your students today, and ask, "So... what do you think?"  I know I will be.   

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Truly Terribly Horrible Sweater... That Grandma Knit

What is the worst gift you've ever gotten from your grandmother?  
      My favorite, a yellow plastic tissue box cover with gold plastic filigree from Dollar General.  Even into her 80s, my mother made sure every member of the extended family got a gift at Christmastime... the tissue cover was ours one year.  I still look at it an smile (it's been chosen to adorn to the desk in the basement).

     In The Truly Terribly Horrible Sweater, Cameron receives a "lovely" hand knit sweater from his grandmother.  He can't stand the sweater... he pours mustard on it, puts the sweater on the dog, and tries to send it to the nearby rummage store.  He thinks it is, indeed, a truly horrible sweater; not quite the gift her was hoping to receive.
     Little does he know, but his grandmother took great care in choosing the colors for his striped sweater--green to represent a soccer goal, yellow because he's the "sunshine" in her life... of course there comes the point where he has to wear it in front of his grandmother and learns the truth about why she knitted it.
     This is a sweet book; a new telling of an old story (think 1950s sitcom or the pink rabbit pajamas in A Christmas Story)..  The authors include the instructions for knitting the same sweater, a nice touch.  
     So glad I can't wear a gold plastic tissue cover!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Never Smile at a Monkey....

Steve Jenkins, the author and illustrator of the Caldecott Honor–winning What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? has a new book called Never Smile at a Monkey:  And 17 Other Important Things to Remember. 
     In this book, he explores several mysteries of the animal world, including the things you should never do when you come upon a platypus, a cone shell, a tang fish, an electric caterpillar, a cassowary, and many other animals.  Jenkins explores the unusual ways some creatures have come to protect themselves... and what we should do if we see any of them.  And some of the book's stories are almost scary!
     Of course, the illustrations are typical Jenkins... colorful, detailed, compelling... it's a nice addition to the collection of his books I just bought at Kohl's a few weeks ago (part of the Kohl's Cares for Kids program).
      Steve Jenkins is a Colorado author and you can learn more about him at:  On his website he says, "Every book starts with an idea.  Usually the idea is really a question.  It might be a question that a child asks, or something I'm curious about myself."  There is a great video about the making of a book on the site; it's worth taking a look!  I love how he links science to picture books in such a fascinating way.