Friday, July 29, 2011

Quote of the Week

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."

~ Albert Einstein

Thursday, July 28, 2011

July 2011 I Can Read Carnival

Fittingly for July, this month's round-up of posts is a spectacular display. Click through and read the wonderful contributions and see for yourself. A big thanks to everyone who posted!

Jennifer from Jean Little Library reviews a nonfiction early reader collection about backyard wildlife. Squirrels and Raccoons and Chipmunks. Oh, my!

Picky readers will love this one. Lisa Taylor from Shelf-Employed shares a review of Josh Schneider's Tales For Very Picky Eaters. Yum!

Katie at Sharing Secrets & Soda reviews My Friend Is Sad by Mo Willems.

Another Elephant and Piggie post! This one is from Mary Lee at A Year of Reading. She fills us in on why she loves Mo Willem's endearing characters

A spunky new third grader is on the scene! Franki from A Year of Reading reviews Michael Scotto's Latasha and the Little Red Tornado, a chapter book with illustrations.

Roberta Gibson at Wrapped in Foil has two posts to share. The first, a review of Carrots Grow Underground, includes links to carrot-realted activities that Bugs Bunny would love. The second is a review of Blueberries Grow on a Bush and it also includes fun related activities. Did you know you can use blueberries to paint?

Heidi Grange over at Geo Librarian reviews a National Geographical early reader series featuring such fascinating animals as sea turtles, dolphins, cheetahs, sharks, bats, and snakes.

Mary Ann Scheuer from Great Kid Books wants to keep kids busy during the summer months. She reviews a bunch of activity books for kids ages 5 to 8 that will do just that.

Litland gives a stellar review to Astro the Steller Sea Lion, true tale about an orphaned sea lion pup who refuses to leave his happy home at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA.

And here's a timely subject. Anastasia Suen over at Chapter Book of the Day reviews Amanda Pig and the Really Hot Day by Jean Van Leeuwen.

Beginning readers can develop their reading skills when they recite and perform poems from The Gooch Machine, reviewed by Brod Bagert at Booksicals.

Victoria of ObSEUSSed tells how she motivates her early reader to keep reading through incentive bookmarks.

And last, but not least, here is my review of Clementine and the Family Meeting, #5 in Sara Pennypacker's outstanding series and due out in September.


Clementine and the Family Meeting

Clementine is back, and #5 in the series is as fresh as the first. What keeps this series strong is the main character's appealing and oh-so-believeable voice. Unquenchable as ever, the third-grader with the fruit name has a lot to deal with in Clementine and the Family Meeting, starting with the dreaded meeting. As she puts it: "Because even though my parents say they are about things we have to talk over as a family, I have noticed that they are usually about something I am doing wrong." 

Not this time. The family meeting brings unexpected news to Clementine and her little brother--they are going to have another sibling. Clementine is less than pleased, and, like many young children, would rather things stay the same. But change is everywhere. Her best friend Margaret has become obsessed with becoming a make-up artist and talks nonstop about moving to California to live with her father. At school, Eighteen, a rat from science class, has disappeared and Clementine worries for his safety. Eighteen was also her science project, and now that he's missing, her partner is trying to convince her to use one of his many superpowers as a substitute project. Rounding things off, her favorite hat, knitted for her by her grandmother, is missing and her dad refuses to let her try on his new tool belt.

Like the very best Seinfeld episodes, all the different plot strands come together in the end, prompting Clementine to call her own family meeting. Clementine's transformation from disgruntled sister to enthusiastic one is convincingly shown, and will leave readers eagerly waiting the next book. Hopefully Mushroom Soup (Clementine's unofficial name for her newest sibling) will be making an appearance.

Clementine and the Family Meeting
by Sara Pennypacker
illustrations by Marla Frazee
Hyperion, 160 pages
Published: September 13, 2011

This title was reviewed from NetGalley.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children

Gum chewers, thieves, liars, cheats, some children are too naughty for Mother Goose to handle. So she ships these troublemakers off to her sister's school for wayward brats. Spinster Goose runs a tight ship and doesn't tolerate misbehavior.

The pinchers get pinched,
and the pokers get poked.
The biters get bit,
and the smokers get smoked.
The takers get taken.
The sordid get sore.
The shakers get shaken
right down to their core.

Lisa Wheeler has taken familiar rhymes from Mother Goose and subverted them. Readers will delight in finding their favorite characters in new guises. Mary still brings her lamb to school, but the young lady is a big fibber and claims her pet is a horse. Jack and Jill ditch class to climb that hill, and Little Miss Muffet dines on chalk, not curds and whey. All get their comeuppance. Sophie Blackall's sublime illustrations are worth the price of admission alone. She must have been channeling Edward Gorey when she drew her cast of ghastly characters. Great fun!

Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children
by Lisa Wheeler
illustrations by Sophie Blackall
Atheneum, 48 pages
Published: 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Quote of the Week

"A good reader is one who has imagination, memory, a dictionary, and some artistic sense."

~ Vladimir Nabokov

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Submit to the July I Can Read Carnival

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Calling all Kidlit bloggers! The Cath in the Hat is hosting this month's I Can Read Carnival, a monthly meme that highlights easy readers and illustrated chapter books. For the next week I will be collecting any and all posts that relate to learning to read. Book reviews, author interviews, teaching tips--bring them on. And don't feel you need to write a special post for this meme. You can recycle a previous post of up to a year old as long as fits the I Can Read theme. First timers, don't be shy!

To submit, please either comment here with a link to your post, or send an email to, between now and Wednesday, July 27th. I will post the round-up first thing on Thursday morning.

To get an idea of what the Carnival is all about, take a gander at these previous round-ups.

June 2011 @ Secrets & Sharing Soda
May 2011 @ Playing By the Book
April 2011 @ Jean Little Library 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Prudence Wants a Pet

Poor Prudence. She wants a pet. Bad. Real bad. Her parents deny her repeated requests. Pets are expensive; they make noise; they take up too much space; they're messy. But Prudence is one determined little girl. If her parents won't give her a pet, she'll find her own. And so she does.

Her first pet is a branch. Prudence takes excellent care of Branch. Then one day her dad trips on Branch and her pet is broken into bits and delegated to the wood pile. Undeterred, Prudence gets a new pet--Twig. And so it goes. She makes a pet out of her dad's shoe, a car tire, and even her baby brother Milo. Readers will be rooting for Prudence and her quest to finally get the pet of her dreams.

Prudence Wants a Pet is a must-read picture book for any child who's ever wanted a pet of his or her own, and let's face it, that includes just about every child on the planet. The sly, humorous text is written in short, easy-to-read sentences, making it a good choice for beginning readers. And the cartoon-like illustrations are a riot, as we see Prudence enthusiastically react to each new pet she adopts. Highly recommended.

Prudence Wants a Pet
by Cathleen Daly
illustrations by Stephen Michael King
Roaring Brook Press, 32 pages
Published: June 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Quote of the Week

"There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we believe we left without having lived them, those we spent with a favorite book."

~ Marcel Proust

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fractions = Trouble!

Boy, don't they! Fractions and I have never been friends. So I can completely identify with the hero of this appealing chapter book, a sequel to 7 x 9 = Trouble! Wilson never met a fraction he liked. He'd much rather play with his new pet hamster Pip (short for Pipsqueak). Instead, his parents inform him he'll have to start seeing a math tutor. Wilson is determined to keep his secret a secret--from his classmates and especially from his best friend, Josh, who's great at math. A subplot concerns the two boys' attempts at devising a winning science project. Josh wants to know if pickles can be made to explode. Wilson only knows that hamsters will figure in his.

Wilson is a believable third-grader with third-grade-size problems. Claudia Mills takes these problems seriously but still manages to let the fun shine through. G. Brian Karas's black-and-white cartoon-style illustrations add to the book's charm. Fans of Johanna Hurwitz's Monty series and Barbara Seuling's Robert books will enjoy reading about Wilson.

And as we learn from an author's note at the end of the book, Mills was also bad at math. And she ended up more than okay. Her books will bring hope to all of us who tremble at the sight of a numerator and denominator. Now which is which again?

Fractions = Trouble!
by Claudia Mills
illustrations by G. Brian Karas
Farrar Straus Giroux, 128 pages
Published: June, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cork & Fuzz: The Swimming Lesson

Cork the muskrat got his name because he's a natural in the water. Not so his friend Fuzz the possum. He sinks like lead. So when Cork invites Fuzz to his house to play, Fuzz regretfully declines. Cork, however, is determined to teach his friend how to swim. Like any landlubber, Fuzz doesn't even want to get his feet wet. So Cork starts by teaching him on the grass. When faced with actual water, Fuzz chickens out and decides it would be safer to crawl along a long branch that reaches almost to Cork's lodge and then jump down. Except it doesn't quite work out that way. Fuzz topples from the branch straight into the lake below. With Cork shouting instructions, he puts the lessons he learned to good use and paddles to Cork's house. Success! Tomorrow brings a new challenge. That's the day Fuzz plans on teaching Cork how to climb a tree. Uh-oh!

Dori Chaconas has fashioned another fun tale about this unlikely duo for beginning readers. Like the best early readers, most of the text is conveyed through natural-sounding dialog and key vocabulary words are seamlessly repeated without appearing obvious. Lisa McCue is a wizard at portraying appealing looking critters, and her muskrat and possum characters are no exception.

Cork & Fuzz: The Swimming Lesson
by Dori Chaconas
illustrations by Liza McCue
Viking, 32 pages
Published: 2011

Friday, July 8, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Each in his own way imagines Paradise; since childhood I have envisioned it as a library."

~ Jorge Luis Borges

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tales for Very Picky Eaters

I was not a picky eater as a child. Of course, there were a few foods I didn't care for (succotash, anyone?), but overall I ate and enjoyed most meals. My daughter was the same. And so for many years I was blissfully unaware of the trials of cooking for a fussy eater. Then I met K, my SO (Significant Other) and soon to be husband. The list of foods he won't eat is jaw-dropping (to me at least). Snow peas are one of the few veggies he likes (along with string beans and fresh greens), and if I never see another green pod in my life it will be too soon.

So I was intrigued to find an early reader with the commanding title: Tales for Very Picky Eaters. Josh Schneider, the author-illustrator, got one thing right--the types of foods picky eaters don't like and the reasons why. The five tales feature the following foods: "disgusting broccoli," "smelly lasagna" (the kind with mushrooms), "repulsive milk," "lumpy oatmeal," and "slimy eggs." In each tale, James is served one of these foods, and like any self-respecting picky eater won't try them. His father attempts to change his mind with some unusual tactics. Since James doesn't want to try broccoli, what about some dirt? Not just any dirt, mind you, but dirt that's been "walked on by the most skilled chefs wearing the finest French boots." Or some gum previously chewed by children with especially clean teeth? Or socks worn by a runner fed nothing but apples and cinnamon? Faced with these alternatives, James agrees to the broccoli. So it goes with the other foods. James tries the lasagna to avoid sending its maker, a troll who lives in their basement, back to the rat circus. He samples the oatmeal so it won't grow into a mushy monster that overtakes the house.

The father's outlandish tall tales are amusing, as are the illustrations of them, especially the oatmeal monster with bits of the family's belongings stuck in it. Will they actually get a picky eater to try a detested food? Not one bit. Will they get a reluctant reader to devour the book in one sitting? You bet.

Tales for Very Picky Eaters
by John Schneider
Clarion Books, 48 pages
Published: May 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

An Interview with Stephanie Barden

I recently had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Cinderella Smith, a chapter book about Josephine-Kathryn Smith, aka Cinderella, a girl who loses shoes at the drop of a hat. Stephanie Barden, the first-time author of this engaging read, popped over to The Cath in the Hat for an interview. Here's what she had to say.

First question--How many pairs of shoes do you own?
Ha -- fun question! I own about 25 pairs, including tennis shoes (3), hiking boots (2), and flip-flops (2) -- is that a lot? I seem to have an overabundance of black though -- I think I need to add some color. I like shoes, but they have to be comfortable -- no super high heels for me!

What inspired you to start writing?
I used to think it was my son getting older that did it, but I think maybe it was a crow. I had a fun/funny relationship with one and I shared the stories with everyone who would listen. People kept telling me I should write them down--I finally did and that got me started.

Describe your writing routine.
My goal is to write for four hours four to five days a week. I've done a lousy job up 'til now, but with my son going off to college next year I plan to be much more disciplined.

What writers influenced you?
Hmmm...there are so, so many. In the interest of space I'll share the first five that come to mind: E. L. Konigsburg, Karen Cushman, Beverly Cleary, Ellen Gilchrist and Jean Craighead George.

Tell us a little about your path to publication. 
After scribbling about crows for a while, I decided to get serious. I started taking writing classes and joined SCBWI. After I had something I was willing to share with a "professional," I sent a query letter out to twenty agents. I got eighteen "no's," one "maybe" and one "yes." Luckily you just need one, and my "yes" became my agent. We polished up my manuscript, sent it out to editors and found a publisher.

Some authors start with their characters and others with plot. Where do you begin?
It varies a bit from story to story. Usually, though, I have a very sketchy plot in mind that the characters quickly take over and "flesh" out.

What do you find to be the hardest part of writing?
As a mom, wife, daughter, friend, neighbor, aunt--and all the other things we all are--I find the hardest thing is making writing my top priority.

Tell us a little bit about the next book in the series. Will Rosemary T. remain Cinderella's nemesis?
In book 2, The More the Merrier, Cinderella's aunt is taking care of the sisters while their parents are away. She encourages Cinderella to try to straighten things out with Rosemary T., but Cinderella's not so sure that's possible--especially with the All School Spelling Bee and a class party at stake.

Going forward, are you interested in writing for other age groups or other genres? If yes, what would they be?
I'm so enjoying "channeling" Cinderella Smith right now that it's hard to image. I love picture books and YA, though, so who knows?

What advice can you give aspiring writers?
Taking classes and joining a professional network, like SCBWI, is a great way to connect with like-minded, supportive people. Additionally, Karen Cushman shared the following advice and it's taped to my computer so I can read it everyday:

Show up--make a commitment to write.
Pay attention--stuff yourself with honest experiences.
Tell the truth--based on your own beliefs and passions.
Let go of the outcome--publication is only one reason to write.

Thank you for the interview!

And thank you, Stephanie, for your insightful answers. Best of luck with your series!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Quote of the Week

"What can we see, read, acquire, but ourselves. Take the book, my friend, and read your eyes out, you will never find there what I find."

~Ralph Waldo Emerson