Sunday

The Sinking of Captain Otter by Troy Wilson and Maira Chiodi - a book bite

Publisher's Synopsis: "Kelpy is an otter―and also a passionate sea captain. He builds himself a ship that he adores, from keel to cabin to crow’s nest. All the other otters and pirates and sharks just laugh at Kelpy’s ramshackle craft, but Kelpy sails on. Until one day on the high seas, he encounters a sailor even more laughable than himself―a petite butterfly pirate in a teeny-tiny boat. Kelpy’s laughter shifts to empathy when he realizes how much he has hurt the tiny pirate’s feelings. So Kelpy decides to scuttle his beloved boat in a playful ploy to repair the emotional damage he’s done. Along the way, an unlikely friendship (and rivalry) begins. Packed with rhyme, repetition, and lots of humor, this is a read-aloud with a heartwarming message about following your dreams even in the face of ridicule and doubt, and how even an underdog can lift someone up."

My Quick Two Cents:  It's a little harder for me to "review" all picture books. First, I'm solidly a middle grades gal myself, having spent the bulk of my teaching career between 3rd - 8th grade. Secondly, I could go all 'reading specialist' on a review and try to come up with phonics and foundational reading activities - even if I had to think a bit harder on them. So, it's sometimes easier just to talk about if I like a book (or not) and if I think kids will like it and, consequentially, if teachers and parents should buy it.

Saturday

Book Bite: Sleep, Sheep! - a bedtime story for the reluctant sleeper

Publisher's Synopsis: "There are lots of things Duncan likes about bedtime --- the stories, the pajamas, the bubblegum-flavored toothpaste ... The only thing he doesn't like is going to sleep. And he'll do anything he can to avoid it. Until one day, Duncan's mom has had enough of his stalling. ?Try counting sheep,? she tells him. So, he does. At first, it's kind of fun. As he counts, each sheep appears, wearing its number like a race car, and leaps over the bed. But then comes Sheep #68, who hesitates. He needs a drink of water before he can jump. Then he has to go to the bathroom. Then he wants to put on running shoes. Will Sheep #68 ever do what he's supposed to?

 Kerry Lyn Sparrow's hilarious picture book story offers a new take on a universal experience. Using delaying tactics to avoid going to sleep at bedtime is a common routine for young children, and they'll love the sly humor when Duncan's own tricks get turned on him by the (?sheepish?) sheep. In subtle colors with lots of telling details, Guillaume Perreault's illustrations bring Duncan's bedtime rituals and his unexpected sheep guests humorously to life. This book makes a fantastic, funny read-aloud, appealing to both children and adults."

My Two Cents: Sleep, Sheep! is mostly a bedtime book for small pre-school age children, but I wanted to give it a spot on here because it may not get a lot of buzz in the US (Canadian folks involved) and it has some strong merit in the bedtime story department. There's lots of humor complimented by very interesting and elaborated illustrations. I like the idea that the "mom knows best and is always there for you" as that is clearly part of my own favorite picture book (Reading Rumpus didn't get named accidentally!).

Friday

Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo - a great middle grade read

Publisher's Synopsis: When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana’s and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.)

My Two Cents: I typically shy away from writing about books that I know will get a lot of “buzz.” Mostly because I am a late-to-the-party girl and by the time I set out to write a review, all sorts of accolades from folks way more influential than I have already been given. But, Kate DiCamillo is one of my very favorite, like top five - count on one hand, children’s writers and I don’t think I have ever written a word about any of her books! Her fabulous collection of meaningful and powerful works of art have their very own special shelf in my home, but nary a word on this little blog. That ends today with Louisiana's Way Home! I will still reserve my favorite Kate DiCamillo spot for the fantastical The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread, but Louisiana's Way Home has all the makings of another Newbery-worthy addition to the Dicamillo canon. Just like most of her stories, it's filled with: Hope, Forgiveness, Trust, and Tenacity. Not surprisingly, since I read it as an eBook, I’ll be rushing out to my local bookstore in order to add the book to my DiCamillo shelf.

Monday

Banned Books Week: How Harry Potter Brought the Devil into My Classroom

Anyone who has read this blog, even a little, knows my adoration for the Harry Potter books. But LOTS of people adore those books (duh). My Harry Potter story is a bit different. Although I adore the books as a reader, my true adoration lies within the joy they brought to my students back in 1999, 2000 and 2001. My adoration began before the MANIA, before nary a toy or movie, before Harry Potter hysteria took over.

Wednesday

CYBILS: Kid Appeal & Literary Merit. The Perfect Award.



I have written many a post about the fabulous CYBILS award over the years. Those who know me in person have heard me drone on about how it is the best children's literature award out there because it removes the politics involved in organization sponsored awards. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE those awards too, but I think they usually lean toward the 'adults like' side of the children's literature equation, without a lot of consideration for kid appeal. The CYBILS are a complete LABOR OF LOVE with all volunteers, reading frantically, discussing into the wee hours of the night, trying to find that perfect balance of both literary merit and kid appeal. Having done it four times, I can attest that it is no easy task! So...

Saturday

Two Books to Add to Every Classroom Shelf & a Little Soapbox on Citizenship


I'm going to talk about two books today that need to be on every classroom shelf ; I'm talking K-12, even though they are listed as for a younger crowd. The reason I want to talk about them BOTH has mostly to do with my own tardiness. When I read Her Right Foot last fall, I was very, very, very remiss in not mentioning it because I so instantly adored it for so, so, so many reasons. Then, when the team of Eggers (writer) and Harris (illustrator) followed-up with What Can a Citizen Do?, and Chronicle Kids sent me a copy, I knew I couldn't just talk about one without the other.