Books Will Never Go Out of Print!

Grab a cup of coffee. Sit back. Check out meanderings about books I've loved.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Biggest, Best Snowman - Winter Picture Book

The Biggest, Best Snowman
By Margery Cuyler
Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
(Scholastic Inc., 1998)

The Biggest, Best Snowman has the funnest characters! Little Nell is adorable and faces the problem of being the baby of the family. Consequently, she is usually told that she is too little to do anything for or by herself.

Unfortunately, Little Nell believes the hoopla passed on by Big Mama, Big Sarah, and Big Lizzie.

Enter the forest friends of Little Nell. With their encouragement and teamwork, Little Nell makes the biggest, best snowman. Ever.

I love the characters and the repetitive language used in this picture book. The story is enjoyable and lets little ones believe that they can do anything, even though they are small. The illustrations are delightful. This is a perfect book for preschoolers and kinder-aged boys and girls.

Kid Kandy:

Snowman Glitter Play Dough


3 cups white flour
1 cup salt
1/4 cup silver or white glitter
1 T. alum
2 T. baby oil

3 cups boiling water

1. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl.

2. Add baby oil and boiling water.

3. Stir with wooden spoon until cool enough to handle. Pour out on counter and knead until well mixed. Warning: This dough is very hot. Only an adult should knead it.

4. Cool and store in a lidded container.

To Play:

Roll glittery snowballs. Stack on top of each other to make snowmen. Provide chenille stems, twigs, and buttons to use on snowmen. Or dig out the rolling pins, roll the dough, and use snowman cookie cutters to make a snowman family.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Two Renegade Realms - Book Two of the Realm Walkers Trilogy

Two Renegade Realms, Book Two of the Realm Walkers Trilogy
By Donita K. Paul
(Zondervan, 2015)

Oh, boy!

I have almost reached the end of the second book in the Realm Walkers Trilogy. I can't seem to stop myself from reading just one more chapter, just one and rescue, search and rescue...

Donita K. Paul is again over-working her imagination and creativity (for our benefit) in this new world of realm walkers.

The first book of the trilogy, One Realm Beyond, introduced new world ideas such as stacking planets, portals, mor dragons, hampers (bigger on the inside pocket type storage containers - flat to the touch from the outside, but full of great things on the inside), and special crowns that enhance the wearer's ability to do a wide variety of things.

In Two Renegade Realms, Mrs. Paul continues to add new (delightful, odd, interesting, and scary) creations and characters like Neekoh, Old Trout, and orreries. The path of our heroes-on-quest travels through the air, underground, over water, and through mountains and valleys. Mrs. Paul builds the suspense, thickens the plot, and continues the story of the realm walkers with numerous problems, detours, hazards, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

A massive and destructive collision between two renegade realms following a special orbit and the planets inhabited and visited by our story characters is quickly approaching. Cantor, Bixby, Bridger, and Dukmee must find a way to prevent corrupt leaders from capitalizing on the soon to arrive catastrophic events. Add a shortage of mor dragons, lack of realm walkers, and the urgent and necessary search for Chomountain (the right hand of Primen and famed realm walker) - the action and troubles never end!

Will they stop the invasion? Do they find everyone? Can they stop the corrupt council members? Is that romance building between Cantor and Bixby?

I don't think I can wait for the third book in the Realm Walkers Trilogy. I hope Mrs. Paul is busy writing.

In the meantime, maybe I will work on figuring out my own hamper. And it can't hurt to look for a mor dragon.

Note: I received this ARC (Advance Reader Copy) copy of Two Renegade Realms free of charge. In return, I am giving you my honest opinion of this book.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Snowy Day - Winter Picture Books

The Snowy Day
By Ezra Jack Keats
(Scholastic Inc., 1962)

I don't have snow. I really, really want snow. But it just hasn't happened yet.

So let me give you a favorite book about snow.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a Caldecott Medal winner, so I know I am not alone in my love for this book.

Peter. Meet Peter, a young boy who wakes up to a brand new world covered with mountains of snow.

After breakfast, Peter puts on his adorable snowsuit and heads out to explore. Just as any child would do when confronted with fresh snow, he makes tracks, drags sticks, makes a snowman (who looks suspiciously like Peter), makes a snow angel, and watches big boys throw snowballs. Peter even makes his own snowball and puts it in his pocket to keep for later.

The story is perfect. The illustrations are simple yet speak volumes. The Snowy Day is a classic. And a must for any reader.

Kid Kandy:

~ If you have snow, go outside! Copy the things that Peter did in The Snowy Day.

~ Make a snowball. Where can you keep it so that it stays frozen? Experiment. Make three snowballs. Put them in different places. Which one stays frozen the longest? Which melts the quickest?

~ No snow? Get out the white tempera paint and a big piece of dark paper. Use fingers to make your own snow prints.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Snowmen at Christmas - Christmas Picture Books

Snowmen at Christmas
By Caralyn Buehner
Pictures by Mark Buehner
(Scholastic Inc., 2005)

Don't you just love snowmen

I do. I'm at the age that I may not want to play in the snow, but I definitely want someone to build a snow family in my front yard. Without a doubt.

And while the lovely volunteers are busy creating my snow family, I will be inside, wondering what my snowmen will do at night while I slumber. How will they celebrate Christmas? What will they eat? What will they drink? Do they give gifts? Sing songs? Dance?

I do enjoy the Snowmen series of books. I'm glad a gifted writer and illustrator have explained the night mysteries of snowmen. For a fun time, read Snowmen at Christmas.

Now all I need is snow. And volunteers. Any takers? Hot cocoa provided.

Kid Kandy:

~ Build a snowman. Make sure he/she has a scarf, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and hat. Maybe add a few arms and feet. You can spray on color to make clothes. Mix food coloring in a water bottle. Spray where you want the colors to go.

~ Use large and small marshmallows to build mini snowmen. Stick toothpicks in to marshmallows to make them stay in place. Use frosting to stick on raisins, chocolate chips, and little candies for features and clothes. Eat carefully! (First remove toothpicks.)

~ Use white crayons to draw snowmen on blue construction paper. Choose other colors to add details. Add white glitter glue to make snowmen sparkle!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving - Christmas Picture Books

The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving
By Jan & Mike Berenstain
(Scholastic Inc., 2010)

Merry Christmas!

Giving. That's what The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving is all about.

Maybe you've heard it. The gimmee's. Are there any more presents? We're all done? Why can't I have more? I didn't get...

Actually, there is one commercial from this season that I do not like at all. I'm not even sure who the company is that the commercial represents. But I do know that the entire focus of the commercial is "Wha'ja'git?" That question is repeated, repeated, repeated, and repeated from numerous famous cartoon and imaginary characters.

That is NOT the message I want children to learn and inhale about the Christmas season. Not one bit.

Rather, I would have them learn about the joy of giving.

Reading The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving is a great tradition that speaks to the important character trait of giving. Or we could call giving a positive social habit. Or a generous human social trait.

Brother and Sister Bear enjoy the usual trappings of a family and church Christmas. But the ending is what promotes the true spirit of giving. Read this book to find out more.

It's Never Too Late.

Kid Kandy:

~ Give away old toys. Some families have children choose one toy to go out for each new one that comes in.

~ Save change in a jar throughout the year. Carry coins as you go about your errands during the holidays. Let your child put money in the red buckets or donate cash to a shelter.

~ Adopt a family with same-aged children as the ones in your family. Let your child shop for the child his/her age. Wrap the gifts and deliver.

~ Ask your child what he/she would like to do to give. Find a way to do it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The First Night - Christmas Picture Books

The First Night
By B. G. Hennessy
(Puffin Books, 1993)

The First Night, a Christmas picture book about the Nativity, is filled with delicate and beautiful paintings. The simple language is perfect for retelling the story about the birth of baby - Baby Jesus. Young children will enjoy both the story and the illustrations.

For young children, The First Night gives a story in simple format. As parents, teachers, and caregivers read aloud, preschoolers will internalize concepts of print - reading front to back, front and back, text, illustrations, and story features.

Merry Christmas!

Kid Kandy:

Look at the illustrations. Dig out a black permanent marker or felt tip pen. Let your child draw a picture on heavy paper. Use watercolor pencils, water, and brushes to color in and paint the picture. Discuss the different techniques used by illustrators and artists. Maybe your child will grow up to become an artist or illustrator. How awesome would that be?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Christmas Song, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire - Christmas Picture Books You Can Sing

The Christmas Song, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire
By Mel Torme and Robert Wells (1946)
Illustrated by Doris Barrette
(Scholastic, Inc., 2007)

Here is a beautifully illustrated Christmas picture book you can read and sing!

Everyone knows "The Christmas Song", though I would hazard a guess to say we instead call it "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire." Each year, as I go around humming this song to myself, I am again urged to go hunt down some chestnuts and throw them on an open fire. Tried that once and managed burnt chestnuts.

Now that certain home and cooking magazines have shown the correct way to prep and cook chestnuts, should I venture to purchase those chestnuts (which magically appear in the produce section of the grocery store come every December), I think my success would be much greater. Perhaps even tasty.

Go for it. Sing the song. I mean read this book. And sing the song.

And while you are at it, pick up some chestnuts. Watch an online video on how to cook them up proper.

And have a wonderful, beautiful Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Christmas Story - Christmas Picture Books

The Christmas Story
By Patricia A. Pingry
(Ideals Children's Books, 2005)

Welcome to a children's picture book that tells the story of the birth of Jesus using the language of kids.

Yes, the story is familiar to many adults, and even many children. But when it comes to easy to read and understand, Patricia A. Pingry does a wonderful job in simplifying and keeping the story accurate. The illustrations by Wendy Edelson are colorful and perfect for this book. I like the way the text, in red and black, is set apart on a field of white. This text feature helps young readers locate the words.

Thumbs up for this version of The Christmas Story.

And while we are at it - celebrating the birth of Christ - why not add a birthday something to your Christmas traditions?

Such as:

~ share a birthday cake or cupcakes complete with candles for Christmas Day

~ sing the birthday song to Jesus

~ wear birthday hats and bounce balloons as you cheer for Jesus' birthday

~ take an annual photo of your kiddos holding the birthday cake for Jesus

~ add a new Nativity ornament to your tree each year, letting the children remember each and putting them on the tree

Peace and Merry Christmas to you!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Jingle Bells - Christmas Picture Books You Can Sing

Jingle Bells
Illustrated by Darcy May
(Scholastic Inc., 2001)

"Jingle Bells" is a simple and very much loved song, and now picture book, that children over the ages have repeated - ad nauseum. I don't think there are many that are not familiar with this melody and seasonal favorite.

The picture book, Jingle Bells, is just as delightful. Beautiful illustrations combined with song lyrics add meaning and help beginning readers to figure out text. The only problem is how fast one can turn the pages of Jingle Bells while singing a spirited version of "Jingle Bells."

If only I lived where loads of winter snow was the norm and I had a horse and a sleigh.

That would be a truly fantastic white Christmas.

Sing the song! Come on, jugs of jingle bells are on sale all over the country. Buy one and add bells to chenille stems. Twist the ends together and jingle away as you sing.

Better yet, head down your street and sing at the top of your voice(s). Neighbors love caroling!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Morris's Disappearing Bag - Christmas Picture Books

Morris's Disappearing Bag
By Rosemary Wells
(Scholastic, Inc., 1975)

I absolutely love Morris's Disappearing Bag. What a fabulous book that showcases the imagination of children!

As the baby of the family, Morris is often overlooked and not included in play with his older siblings.

That is, until he discovers one overlooked present under the tree. A disappearing bag! Suddenly, his family social standing switches place with all siblings. And the fun begins.

The story and illustrations are perfectly married and give the gift of a wonderful story. Look for this book. And expect requests for disappearing bags to jump onto the Christmas list.

For added fun?

I can't advise you to locate disappearing bags, since I doubt they exist. Or do they?

But do add gifts of toys that encourage make believe play and the use of imagination. Your child's brain will thank you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gingerbread Baby - Christmas Picture Books

Gingerbread Baby
By Jan Brett
(Scholastic, Inc., 1999)

I love naughty characters. Meet the Gingerbread Baby. He reminds me of my kitties. Naughty but adorable and delicious.

Jan Brett works her book magic in both the story and the illustrations found in Gingerbread Baby. Borders give clues about what happens next, a feature that captivates my listeners when I am doing a read aloud. As always, I adore her detail and intricate illustrations.

One might expect the Gingerbread Baby to meet the same fate as gingerbread cookies worldwide. No spoilers here. But don't expect the expected.

Gingerbread Friends
By Jan Brett
(G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2008)

And after reading this book, look for Gingerbread Friends to find out what happens next.

In her second book about gingerbread, Brett includes the recipe for gingerbread. But instead of a one page recipe, she adds the recipe, page by page, in border illustrations. Lovely.

So get going. Make some gingerbread cookies. And follow the recipe exactly.

Or you never know what might happen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Santa Cows - Christmas Picture Books

Santa Cows
Written by Cooper Edens
Illustrated by Daniel Lane
(Green Tiger Press, 1991)

Santa Cows is one of those picture books that crack me up. I once did a skit at church, complete with the handing out of little cartons of milk and the reading aloud of this book. I believe I wore a Santa hat, possibly horns, and my cow helpers wore the same. It was quite the fun treat.

Set in a similar cadence as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, this rhyming picture book tells the story of cows that visit a family. These red-hat wearing bovines bring not only gifts, but sing Christmas songs and lure family members out into the snow to play a game of baseball.

If you have any sort of quirky sense of humor, this book is a must. The illustrations are wonderful (makes me wish I had a cow) and the story delivers comic relief and a unique experience.

Read this book with milk and cookies. And then dress warmly and head out to play baseball.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Christmas Baby - Christmas Picture Books

The Christmas Baby
by Marion Dane Bauer
(Scholastic, Inc., 2009)

The Christmas Baby
is an unusual version of the biblical Christmas story in that the telling ends with both the celebration of the birth of Jesus and the birth of a human baby. What starts out as the retelling of the Nativity ends as the family of the new human baby looks on in joy. And the new baby (not Jesus) watches his mobile of angels dance and spin. This story shares how the joy of the new birth is retold and enjoyed by all.

One phrase that impressed me was when the author talked about Baby Jesus smiling "God's own smile." The other baby gets the same phrase "God's own smile."

I love imagining God's own smile. Isn't that what Christmas is all about? God smiling upon us as He gives us the best and most perfect gift - His Son.

Fun Activity:

Make your own angel (or other Christmas shape - tree, star, gift, heart, candy cane, gingerbread boy) mobile.

Draw, color, cut out, and add glitter glue accents to your choice of mobile shapes.

Tie different lengths of gold thread or yarn to the shapes.

Make the mobile from bent wire hangers or branches that are tied together.

Hang the mobile from a hook as you tie on the characters to make sure they hang at different lengths and balance each other.

Of course, this activity should be enjoyed by all family members, young and old.

Hang the mobile where a gentle breeze will make it move, like near a heater vent. Remember the Baby as you watch the sparkling mobile flutter.

Friday, December 12, 2014

This Is the Stable - Christmas Picture Books

This Is the Stable
by Cynthia Cotten
(Scholastic, Inc., 2006)

This Is the Stable is another example of a book with captivating illustrations.

Written in rhyme, This Is the Stable tells the story of the birth of Christ. Simple text shares the biblical account with readers. Young preschoolers and children will love reading this version.

Offering a variety of picture books that tell the same story allows readers to compare and contrast what lies between front and back covers. And invites deeper understanding of story and events.

I keep This Is the Stable in my Christmas collection of books for just those reasons.

Add a song:

Listen to songs that tell the Christmas story -

"Away in a Manger,"
"The First Nowell"
"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"
"O Little Town of Bethlehem"
"Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come"

Hearing and learning stories put to music is an age-old way to remember details and story line.

Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Twelve Days of Christmas - Christmas Picture Books You Can Sing

The Twelve Days of Christmas
Illustrated by Jan Brett
(G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1986)

Move over Youtube. It's time to sing some books. You know, those paper things with words and pictures?

Welcome to a favorite version of a much loved Christmas carol. The Twelve Days of Christmas, illustrated by Jan Brett, offers delight for the mouth and the eyes.

I may have mentioned previously on this blog how much I enjoy books that can be read - with words and by illustrations - and books that can be enjoyed through song. Kids love that stuff!

Jan Brett is one of my favorite illustrators (just ask my students). Not only does she do an excellent job telling stories with her drawings, she adds so much detail that one is always finding something new. Her love of complete illustrations is obvious, as is her love of the Christmas and winter season. Animals and fantasy characters are evident in most of the books she has illustrated.

But her borders! I adore the way she gives story hints and adds complexity to the storytelling process by what she includes in her decorative borders included on most pages.

The Twelve Days of Christmas is a beautiful example of her signature artwork.

Sing, read, and look at The Twelve Days of Christmas. And while you are at it, check out Jan Brett as an author. She has quite the list of excellent books.

Extension Activity:

Do your own 12 days of Christmas. Count back from December 25 (that should be the 12th). On each day, make an ornament that matches the verse in the song (and book). Or add store bought ornaments that match. For example, add or make a partridge (or any bird) and a pear for day 1. Continue daily through the song. You will have a beautiful tree.

Have fun singing the song!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Too Many Tamales - Christmas Picture Books

Too Many Tamales

by Gary Soto
(Scholastic Inc., 1993)

I love the tradition many Hispanic families have of making tamales for Christmas. What could be tastier?

Too Many Tamales is the story of Maria. Maria feels grown-up when she gets to help her mother mix the masa for tamales. But she is tempted to try on mother's beautiful diamond ring. And it disappears!

The question becomes how can we find the ring - in all of those tamales?

My own children loved me to read and reread this book when they were younger. I think they identified with helping the mother yet losing something important and having to solve the problem of how to find it. And then having to go and confess what had happened.

I love the marriage of the illustrations and text in Too Many Tamales. This delightful book has been a favorite in our home and my classroom for many years.

Tasting Fun:

It's time for a new tradition! As a family, learn to make tamales. Or adopt yourself into a family that makes tamales each year (that means you will need to help cook them). Or go out for tamales at a Mexican food restaurant. You can't go wrong with any of these yummy choices.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Claude the Dog, A Christmas Story - Christmas Picture Books

Claude the Dog, A Christmas Story
by Dick Gackenbach
(Weekly Reader Books, Field Publications; 1974)

Some of the best books are the old ones. I doubt many can find Claude the Dog, A Christmas Story, but it deserves a mention because of the message.

Claude the dog has a homeless friend, Bummer. Bummer came to visit right after Claude had received three very special Christmas gifts from his family. Bummer, who had nothing, appreciated the gifts. And Claude unselfishly gave Bummer his gifts. Bummer finally noticed what was happening. But was Claude upset?

No. Claude understood the importance of something bigger - his family and his home. He was happy to share his gifts, because he could simply go and enjoy the love of his owners.

I love the generosity of Claude and how he helps his homeless friend.

I suppose you could say that Claude sets an example for all of us. And isn't Claude the cutest dog?

Fun Activity:

Do you have a dog? Let your child act out the story with a pillow, a blanket, and a toy mouse. Use the real dog. Substitute a stuffed dog or other favorite animal. Want to be like Claude and help out this season? Collect pet items and donate them to your local pet shelter.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Child Is Born - Christmas Picture Books

A Child Is Born
By Margaret Wise Brown
(Hyperion Books for Children, 2000)

I love sharing a variety of books with children, as we are a world filled with diversity and uniqueness.

I discovered A Child Is Born at the public library when I was searching for Christmas books for my classroom. It perfectly fits my interest in giving children a not-everyone-is-white worldview and let's-check-out-other-colors-of-skin.

And the Lord God made them all.

I secured my own copy of A Child Is Born so that I could use it at school, church, and home. The board book I have has compelling illustrations and simple text, perfect for any age. A Child Is Born simply retells the story of the birth of Jesus, the Christ.

It's a big, big world out there. Let's be (skin) color-blind.

Tip: Do you have a library card? Is there a bookstore near your home? Visit and see what wonderful books you can discover.

And remember, a book makes a great Christmas gift!

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Olive Farm

The Olive Farm
by Carol Drinkwater (Penguin Books, 2001)

The Olive Farm has nothing to do with Christmas. Though there are several delightful scenes in the book that occur during the Christmas season.

I love reading books that take place in France. France is the country near and dear to my heart. So when I found this book, I was eager to secure a copy so I could read it.

Written by Carol Drinkwater, actress in All Creatures Great and Small, The Olive Farm takes place in the South of France. Drinkwater and her fiancé discover an abandoned olive farm. They cannot resist. They hock everything to buy the dilapidated farm. Extremely dilapidated.

Thhe story leads readers through the challenges of farming. And particularly, farming and fixing up a property in France. From other books I've read set in France, the difficulties are a common theme. Sometimes depressing and amazing, other times hysterical and unbelievable. This tale of the redemption of a lonely, overgrown piece of land, is captivating.

Through it all, Drinkwater transparently shares her life, struggles, successes, problems, and victories. The Olive Farm made me want to move to the south of France and grow olive trees so I can share my own home grown bottles of olive oil.

Perhaps I will just go and visit my new friends at their farm, Appassionata.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tosca's Christmas - Christmas Picture Books I Love

Tosca's Christmas
By Matthew Sturgis
Illustrations by Anne Mortimer
(Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Books, 1989)

What attracted me to this Christmas picture book ages ago when my children were young was the illustrations. That seems to be a theme for me. I adore great illustrations. What caught me next was the story about naughty Tosca, the beautiful fluffy feline who desperately tries to join Christmas festivities.

Only to be tossed outside on a cold winter's night. And who should she meet on the roof, but a jolly old soul wearing a red suit!

Matthew Sturgis creates a wonderfully explorative character in Tosca. I see my kitties in this book as I read, for they adore Christmas and at times cause just as much trouble.

Anne Mortimer has illustrated this book in such a way that it appears that we can reach out to touch and cuddle furry little Tosca.

Tosca's Christmas is a beautiful story about a cat at Christmas. Not only does it have a great story and gorgeous illustrations, this book has sentimental associations to the childhood of my children. I can still hear their little voices requesting the tale of Tosca - just one more time. Please!

Memories of a very special season. It is the most wonderful time of the year.

Reading Tip:
Curl up with a favorite stuffed animal and cozy pajamas to have the best of times when reading books with your child.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Watch For The Light ~ Readings for Advent and Christmas

Watch For The Light ~ Readings for Advent and Christmas

A Collection of Thoughts from a Variety of Authors
(Plough Publishing House, 2001; Orbis Books, 2004)

This year I am going to do it.

Last year I was finally able to track down a copy of Watch For The Light - Readings for Advent and Christmas. I had read about this book and was interested to add additional readings to my season of Christmas.

And then life happened.

I was unable to complete the book, which begins with a reading for November 24. The book continues through with daily readings until January 6, the day after Epiphany.

Again. I do love second chances.

This year, I began early and reread the entries I had read last year. This collection has been penned by a huge variety of authors, including some of my favorites like

Madeleine L'Engle
Martin Luther
C.S. Lewis
Philip Yancey
T.S. Eliot

And many, many more.

I look forward to delving into these contemplations about Advent and Christmas. With all of the commercial focus on the season, I think my soul will breathe a sigh of relief to be considering things not-physical.

Deep. Breathe.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Nativity - Christmas Picture Books I Love

The Nativity
Illustrated by Julie Vivas
(Voyager Books, Harcourt, Inc., 1994)

Please. Let me wax eloquently about illustrations that I absolutely adore!

Julie Vivas has illustrated this picture book, The Nativity, so beautifully and whimsically that it is always one of my favorites to read. To myself. To my grandchildren. To students and other children.

As the text of The Nativity is composed of Scripture verses, Vivas cannot lay claim to penning the words. But all credit is given to her creative, adorable illustrations about the very first Christmas.

One of the reasons I enjoy this Christmas story version so much is that Vivas gives the characters - well - character. Delicate yet vibrant watercolor illustrations tell what is going on behind the words. And just wait until you see the page where Baby Jesus is born. And the angel sitting down to have tea with Mary. And Joseph trying to help Mary get on a donkey.

You get my drift. Look up a copy of this delightful book. The Nativity will please everyone.

Reading Tip:

Be sure to have a child-proof Nativity set available. Preschoolers and children will want to reenact the story about the birth of Jesus. I am fortunate enough to have both a crocheted one with a wooden barn, made by my mom and dad, and a self-storing resin set. Both are sturdy and loved by all the kids who place themselves in the middle of the Christmas story.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Clifford's Thanksgiving Visit - aka - What's Important at Thanksgiving?

Clifford's Thanksgiving Visit
by Norman Bridwell (Scholastic Inc., 1993)

Clifford, the beloved giant red dog, loves his family. Emily Elizabeth is especially close to his heart. But what about Thanksgiving when Emily Elizabeth flies to visit her grandparents and Clifford cannot go? Imagine Clifford in a plane!

Clifford embraces the season and fights the normal adventure of travel on the Thanksgiving weekend to visit his mother in the big city. Traffic jams, parades, football games, turkey dinner - all are a part of his Thanksgiving travel. But what is most important to Clifford?

Emily Elizabeth. And his family.

Yes, Clifford is a picture book character, and I hear has his own cartoon on television - though I have yet to see it. But Clifford knows what is valuable.

Let's concentrate on that this Thanksgiving. Family and friends.

Tell someone you love them.
Greet the neighbors.
Shake hands.
Smile at people you see walking down the street and in the stores.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Turkey for Thanksgiving - Picture Book + Activity

A Turkey for Thanksgiving
By Eve Bunting (Scholastic Inc., 1991)

I love this picture book!

Mr. and Mrs. Moose are hosting friends for Thanksgiving Dinner. Mrs. Moose has always wanted a real, live turkey for dinner. Aided by his friends, Mr. Moose heads off to hunt for the real, live turkey that lives near the river.

Of course, he is successful. Mr. Moose herds Turkey home for dinner. And then what the reader understands to be true changes dramatically.

With adorable illustrations (Diane de Groat) and clever word plays, Eve Bunting delivers a holiday classic. My kinder students were able to understand the play on words that make up this story. They delighted in hearing about the Moose family Thanksgiving in A Turkey for Thanksgiving.

I'm sure you will enjoy it as well.

Celebrate like Mr. and Mrs. Moose

Decorate your table. Look through the book for ideas. Make and display one or more of the following:

~ make paper tube pilgrims with markers, glue, and construction paper

~ make a stand-up turkey (tape to a wooden block to make it stand)

~ display nuts, corn, and fall nature items arranged on a wooden tray

~ hang dried flowers, grasses, acorns, and pinecones around the room

~ paint wooden candle holders with fall colors; add candles (Adults only should light candles.)

~ help arrange chairs for table seating

~ make name cards with cardstock and skinny markers

Decorate and enjoy a festive Thanksgiving, just like Mr. and Mrs. Moose.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving is For Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is For Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland
(Scholastic Inc., 2000)

Thanksgiving is for giving thanks! This book perfectly gives examples that young children can identify with and understand. I am all for books that help preschoolers and young readers learn about some of the things we do as adults and families.

Like Thanksgiving. Why do we have Thanksgiving? Why should we be thankful? What is thankful?

I totally agree with the need for preschoolers to begin on that lifelong journey of getting outside of themselves and thinking about other people. The idea of saying Thank you! is an excellent skill and I believe, a necessary component of good manners.

We enjoy reading Thanksgiving is For Giving Thanks and talking about things for which we are thankful. It's the right time of the year for giving thanks.

(Though, like Christmas, we should act like it is Thanksgiving all the year round.)

Thanks, Margaret Sutherland, for this simple, delightful book.

Being Thankful Thanksgiving Activity

How about a countdown to Thanksgiving activity? Let's stretch out the thinking-about-being-thankful fun.

1. Check the calendar to see how many days there are in November until Thanksgiving Day. Or you could just use the total number of days in November - 30.

2. Make a construction or scrapping paper chain with your chosen number of links, one per day.

3. Attach the chain to a turkey picture or family photo or something that is important to your family. Set an empty glass jar beside the chain and picture.

4. Each day, tear off one chain link. Ask your child to share one thing for which he or she is thankful. Print what is said on the link. You can let each child list something and add them all to the same link. Put the link in the glass jar.

5. Continue through your number of chain links, taking time to be thankful each day. At the end of the days, look at the filled jar. Discuss all of the things for which you and your family are thankful.

6. Pray and give thanks for all good things.

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.

~ Psalm 92:1

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Thanksgiving Day - Book + Activities

Thanksgiving Day by Anne Rockwell (Scholastic Inc., 1999)
Illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell

Thanksgiving may be one of my most favorite holidays. The season has usually changed to winter, though winter does not officially start until December. We sometimes have snow. The food is delicious and abundant. We have friends and family visiting with us. We get to decorate for Christmas right after dinner. And watch our first Christmas DVD of the year.

And there are so many good, fun books about Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day is an adorable story about a classroom of children retelling the story of Thanksgiving - by putting on a play for family and friends. I love how the children act out the different parts for the drama. Thanksgiving Day is an easy to share recount of Thanksgiving, perfect for younger listeners and readers. Details, but not too many details.

Want to know what first captured my attention to this book?
The cover! I love it.

Here are a few Thanksgiving activities I like to do with my students (or my grands). Happy Thanksgiving!

~ Make a turkey. Let your child paint a paper plate brown. While it dries, trace big feather shapes on patterned scrapbook paper. Help your child cut them out. Trace basic shapes for the head and neck, eyes, beak, wattle, and feet on colored scrap paper. Help glue the feathers and body parts to the paper plate. Sometimes I have had to use a stapler to make them not fall off in transit. Hang your turkey where everyone can enjoy it.

~ Use thankful feathers to voice thankful thoughts. Let your child decorate a paper lunch sack. Fill it with several feathers. Take turns pulling out a feather and telling about one thing for which you are thankful. Give hints (grandma, your home, the garden, the car, snow, and so on) and expect some silly answers. But if your child says he/she is thankful for something very interesting, he/she probably really means it and gets great joy from that interesting thing. Pray and say thank you to God for all He has done and given.

~ Act like a turkey. Wear brown or gray clothes. Gather up all of your scarves - winter and dressy. Stick them in your child's collar and pretend they are feathers. Put on a long tube sock and make a beak with your hands. Walk around (with your child, of course) squawking like a turkey. Make your hand do the talking and wiggle your bottom and head to make the feathers dance. Be silly! It's Thanksgiving, after all!

Gobble, gobble.

The turkey is a funny bird.
His head goes wobble, wobble.
All he says is just one word -
Gobble, gobble, gobble.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf

by Lois Ehlert (Scholastic Inc., 1991)

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf is one of my all-time favorite seasonal books to read to and with children.

The number one reason is the totally engaging illustrations. A combination of photography, still life, paper cut-outs, painting, and I don't know what else creates a captivating collage that tells the story.

What story?
Ehlert masterfully tells the story of a sugar maple tree (hence the maple leaves on the front cover). This maple tree comes from a seed tossed by the winds in the woods.

Who tells the story? The narrator, a young child, loves her tree. (Or his tree - gender neutral.) She wants to tell the reader all about her tree.

What about science? The sugar maple life cycle is a part of the story. The other part of the story is how the tree arrives in the yard of the little girl. Helpful hints on planting live trees and ideas for documenting facts about live trees are included as a part of the story.

What else? Not only is the life cycle of a tree covered, but Ehlert shares the story of how a tree in the woods is processed, purchased, and transplanted to a yard.

Every time I read this book, I want a sugar maple tree. Each fall, I walk my neighborhood, enjoying the colorful leaves and helicopter seeds. Every spring I wonder how I can make a soon-to-be-giant sugar maple tree fit into my tiny yard.

I make due with reading Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf. And I walk the neighborhood.

Three favorite leaf activities (For the kids. Of course.):

1. Sugar maple leaf art. Cut large maple leaves from white construction paper. Working on a washable surface, pour small amounts of light corn syrup on a leaf shape. Help drop a few drops of red and yellow food coloring on the syrup. Using fingers, spread and mix the syrup and food coloring until the leaf is covered. Let dry. You will have shiny colorful fall leaves.
P.S. Aprons and wet washcloths are helpful for this tasty activity.

2. Real leaf decorations. Go on a leaf walk. Gather beautiful specimens of brightly colored leaves. Take home. Layer between newspaper. Stack heavy books on top. Let dry until completely dry. Check every few days or so. Pull out the leaves. Decorate the house, table tops, windows, and everywhere else you want to display fall beauty.

3. Make a leaf mountain. Rake your own or the neighbor's leaves. Make a leaf mountain. Jump into it. Have a leaf battle. Hide each other. Burrow beneath the leaves. Rake into a pile and repeat.
Tip: I have been known to approach neighbors who have plenty of leaves and ask if I can take some of their leaves. They are delighted to share.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Baby Beluga - Books You Can Sing

Baby Beluga
Song by Raffi
Illustrated by Ashley Wolff
(Crown Publishers, Inc., 1980)

We can listen to the song "Baby Beluga" approximately 5 times from my front door to the school where I pick up my grandson.

The boss (aka, Khloe, three-year-old backseat driver and order-er of music) sits in her carseat, happily singing along and chattering about Baby Beluga as we listen. Again. For the 900th time.

Seriously. I woke up two times last night with the lyrics and melody running through my head.

If you do not like to repeat songs, do not listen to and/or read Baby Beluga. But if you don't mind a little repeating, go ahead! It's a great song. Fabulous in fact.

After doing a little research, I found out that the beluga whale who inspired Raffi to pen this favorite children's song just recently passed away in Vancouver, B.C. Too sad! But this song and board book will keep Baby Beluga alive in the hearts and minds of preschoolers for years to come.

And in the subconscious of their parents, teachers, and grandparents.

What's next?

A few ideas for fun extension activities after reading and singing Baby Beluga:

~ Dig out the plastic dishtub. Fill it with water and give your child plastic fish. Hopefully, whales will be in your fish collection. I've seen ocean animal sets at Michaels and toy stores. Beware. The song may have to be playing in the background.

~ Help your child use crayons to outline a whale on construction paper. Color the whale white with crayons. Add seaweed, other fish, and so on. Paint over the whole picture with blue watercolor paints to make a crayon resist picture of Baby Beluga. Put on the fridge.

~ Visit an aquarium. Look for beluga whales. If your aquarium does not have a beluga whale (they do need a very cold climate, after all) look for other types of ocean life. Take lots of pictures and explore educational aquarium programs. The bookstore may have a book on whales. Get it. Read. Sing. Repeat.

Maybe, just maybe, your child will let you introduce a new song and book. Perhaps one about going to the Zoo or a few naughty monkeys jumping on a bed.

But until then, enjoy the read-sing-repeat ride. Your child will only be in this stage for a short time. Before you know it, you will be reading and singing to your grandchildren!

Like me.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Apples ~ 10 Fun Activities to Do in the Fall

Apples Grow on Trees
, Discovering My World Series by Melvin and Gilda Berger (Scholastic Inc., 2009)
Apples, Welcome Fall Series by Marilyn Easton (Scholastic Inc., 2011)
apples by Samantha Berger and Betsey Chessen (Scholastic Inc., 1998)

Apples, apples, apples. Fall and apples go together. Apple season is one of my favorite times of the year.

Scholastic Inc. has published several user friendly apple books. I love reading them with my grands and my students. The illustrations are mostly photos and works of art and truly add to the beauty and readability of the books.

Apples Grow on Trees is a photo journey through an apple orchard. From the tree to the store to the kitchen to the tummy is the path the apples take. Simple sentences in text boxes help beginning readers as they locate the words and text features.

Apples (Welcome to Fall Series) shows wonderful photographs of the life cycle of an apple. Bold vocabulary words and photo captions are perfect for readers wanting to learn more about apples. This book fits both in the literacy and science category.

apples takes a different approach. Photographs of apple art (by real artists) are used as illustrations. This book is an apple counting book. The reader admires the artwork of artists and then counts how many apples can be found on each page. Simple numbers are included. Information about each work of art, the artist, and questions for discussion are included at the end of the book.

Apples are a great theme for literacy, math, science, and even social studies.

A few fun activities to do with apples:

1. Who's got the apple?
Play this game (similar to Duck, Duck, Goose). Sit in a circle. Have IT walk around with an apple. As IT walks, she says, "Tree, tree, tree, apple!"
When IT says "apple," she puts the apple behind the chosen child and runs around the circle. The child with the apple grabs the apple and chases IT. Of course, the first child sits in the empty spot.

2. Bob for apples. Use small apples for this activity. If you are worried about germs, hang individual apples from a tree branch with string. Let each child try to eat an apple without using his or her hands.

3. Make caramel apples.

4. Apple slingshot. Visit an apple orchard and gather the thinned apples that have fallen to the orchard floor. (Ask permission first!) Make a slingshot by attaching stretchy rubber tubing to two solid fence posts. Add a piece of old sock for the apple holder in the center of the tubing.
To slingshot an apple, hold it in the sock, walk backwards to stretch out the tubing, and release! You may need to adjust the tubing or sling.
Set up targets or boxes and aim for them.
Be a good steward. Collect used apples (or their pieces). Feed to cows, horses, or chickens.

5. Make apple cider or juice. Many family farms, pumpkin patches, and corn mazes have areas where families can make juice. It's messy, fun, and tasty.

6. Tour an apple orchard. Again, this time of year has ample opportunities to discover a farm center that gives hayrides or walking tours through fruit orchards. If you live south of apple country, search for online videos about apple orchards.

7. Decorate with apples. Wash, polish, and display apples in your home (after you have visited a farmer's market or store to select some delectable apples). Use fun fabric, bowls, candles, and so on. The best part? You can eat your decorations.

8. Make an apple pinata. Inflate a big balloon. Cut strips of newspaper. Drag the strips through runny glue made with water and flour. This is a messy job! Cover the balloon (several layers) and let it dry. Cut a small hole in the top. Pop and remove the balloon. Cover the apple with your color choice of tissue paper squares (yellow, red, green). Add a construction paper stem and leaf. Fill with candy or treats. Hang with thin rope.
Use the pinata at a fall party or celebration.

9. Paint some apples.
Dig out the watercolor paints. Use a pencil to draw some apples, trees, pumpkins, and whatever else you want. Explore color mixing as you use watercolors to paint the picture. Search online for apple images for ideas on how artists use watercolor paints. Dry and display.
It's lots of fun to use real watercolor paints. Add several dabs of tubed paints to a palette. Mix, swirl, and add to wet or dry watercolor paper drawings of apples. Kids love to explore the differences between wet painting (on wet paper) and dry painting (on dry paper).

10. Make apple tarts. Use refrigerated biscuit dough for the base. After washing hands, let children flatten biscuits on pieces of parchment paper. Peel, core, and slice some apples. Give kiddos a butter knife and let them chop the slices. Put the pieces on top of the biscuits. Add a dab of butter and cinnamon to the top of each. Bake as directed on biscuit container.
Cool slightly and enjoy! This is one of my favorite fall treats to make with children. It smells and tastes so good.

I hope you enjoy fall and apples as much as I do. Here's to apple fun.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away!

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Apple Farmer Annie

Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington
(Dutton Children's Books, 2001)

Apple Farmer Annie has her own orchard of apple trees. Each fall, she picks, sorts, and processes apples into a lovely variety of fresh fall apple treats. Join Annie as she travels to a large town market and sells her wares.

I love Apple Farmer Annie! The illustrations are bright and colorful. Pages are interesting and have lots of detail. Annie is a successful apple farmer. Children will enjoy her apple growing and selling journey, while at the same time learning about the cycle of farming and marketing.

I feel like Annie. Each fall, I can't wait to get my hands on some apples!

Some fun things to do with apples:

~ Make one of the recipes included at the end of Apple Farmer Annie.

~ Purchase (or pick) apples of different varieties. Have a taste test and see who likes what type of apple. Give children colored construction paper to make their own apple of the proper color and graph the results. Who wins? Everyone!

~ Draw and cut out large apples from construction paper. Chop red, green, and yellow tissue paper into one-inch squares. Squish each square, dab the bottom with white glue, and attach to an apple shape. Cover the apple shapes with tissue paper for a textural apple decoration. Hang from the ceiling (or a hanging wooden branch).

~ Make apples for playing by showing children how to wad up red, yellow, and green construction paper pieces into balls. Let them wrap masking tape around the apple balls to secure the edges and keep the apples round. Give out canvas bags and let them 'pick' the apples from the floor. If you have a chain link fence, shove apples in the holes. Stand a solid step stool on the ground near the fence and let the kiddos have at it. Harvest by pulling out apples and dropping them in a canvas bag.

~ Take a trip to an apple farm. Ask for a tour. Pick some apples. Ask the farmer (some areas call apple farms apple ranches and farmers are called ranchers)questions about how apples are planted, grown, harvested, and taken to market.

~ Take pictures! If not at an apple farm, go to a fall fruit stand. They usually have displays of apples. At the least, hit the grocery store produce aisle. How many apple varieties are there? How much do they cost?

~ Dissect an apple. Help your child to cut open and pick apart the apple. Label the parts by drawing each on a sheet of paper (seeds, skin, core, flesh, stem). Will the seeds grow? Let them dry out. And then experiment.

~ Make applesauce! There is nothing more wonderful than a crock pot simmering away with chopped apples (I leave the peels on), some water, and cinnamon. Mmmm. Kids love to wash, chop, and add apples to the pot. Eat it while it's warm.
(Hint: Use one of those apple slicers to cut clean apples into sections and remove the cores. Give kids a butter knife and cutting board. It really works!)

~ Weigh some apples. Use a bathroom scale (cleaned) or a food scale or a balance scale.

~ Talk about fractions (1/2, 1/4, and so on) as you cut an apple for a snack.

~ Taste apple products - juice, cider, pie, turnovers, muffins, applesauce, dried apples, apple butter, baked apples with ice cream, apple crisp, apples and cheese together . . . There are many, MANY ways to enjoy apples.

Apples are great. Go to the library and check out some more books about apples. Or visit your local bookstore. I know they have excellent ideas.

And remember. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spider on the Floor - Books You Can Sing

Spider on the Floor
by Raffi
Illustrated by True Kelley (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002, First Board Book)

What's that scribbling across your neck? Does it have eight legs? Little furry feet? Sticky webbing? Aaahhhhhhhhh . . .

Fall is soon to be upon us.

With that seasonal change, it seems that spiders are dashing to get inside before the first freeze. Baby spiders have grown up into big, hairy scurrying arachnids. Spider on the Floor is the perfect bridge between screaming in terror as a spider scuttles across your bare toes and mollifying your children so that they can accept the importance of spiders in the food chain systems of the Earth!

Children love Raffi and his Songs to Read. Or as I phrase it, Books You Can Sing.

Meet the spider. On the floor.

This voraciously web-spinning spider takes on bigger and bigger things - until he catches all of you. And he jumps off. To start all over again.

Fingers work great for the spider - which travels up one's body. Or, buy those plastic spider rings to use while singing and acting out the song. They work perfect.

Listen to "Spider on the Floor" on Youtube or purchase a CD that contains this delightful and fun children's song. Either way, it will be a definite hit!

And while you're at it, here are some fun activities to do about spiders.

1. Get or make a bug catcher cage. Go on a spider hunt to catch one. As per lesson learned at personal experience, release one spider before adding another spider, or they may fight and eat each other! You can try to catch prey for them and watch them suck out the juices.

2. As soon as the dew starts collecting in the cool mornings, go on a web walk. Take a camera. Watch for beautiful droplet-decorated webs. Shoot away.

3. Read some books. The libraries are full of great spider books. Check out an identification book so that you can name that beautiful guy hanging out in the garden.

4. Make a spider. Use a Styrofoam ball for the body (you can paint it whatever color you want). Add chenille stems for legs (8, remember?). Glue on googly eyes (again, 8 is the perfect number) and short pieces of chenille stems for the pedipalps (those little finger things by the spider's mouth that help hold the prey) and chelicerae (sharp beak looking parts near the mouth) . Hang from the ceiling with string or hide in a spot to scare someone!

5. Start a nature journal. Sketch your live spider on the first page. Add details like where you found it, how large it is, and so on. Color it with colored pencils. Add to your journal each time you find an interesting specimen.

6. Need I say web? Make your own spider web (get permission first) by stringing masking tape back and forth on the walls down a hallway. Try and navigate the web crossing without getting stuck!

Have fun with those eight-legged arachnids of the scary category. "There's a spider on the floor, on the floor. . .

Thanks, Raffi.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mouse Count

Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh (Scholastic Inc., 1991)

I was recently talked into repeatedly reading this book.

While attempting to sort through boxes of books, with the help of two preschool-aged grands, I found this favorite.

So I read it.

They were glued to the illustrations and story line. Both grands were rapt with attention. Upon completion of reading Mouse Count, I was given my favorite response to a great book.

"Read it again, Nana!"

So we did. Again. And again.

You can't beat a good book. You just have to enjoy it.

Try one of these activities to add additional enjoyment to reading Mouse Count:

1. Wash out that empty peanut butter plastic jar and lid. Collect 10 small mice, 1 plastic snake, and 1 big rock. TOY mice, I might add. Act out the story! Count forwards and backwards.
~ I just realized, after watching my kittens, that cat toy mice would be the perfect size for this activity.

2. Use neutral colors (tan, brown, black, gray) and let your child sponge paint large sheets of thick paper. Dry. Trace ovals on the back and help cut out mouse shapes. Chop paper scraps for tails and feet and glue them on. Use a permanent marker for eyes, mouth, and whiskers. Tape together painted paper scraps to make a snake.
~ Retell the story.
~ Add magnets to the back and tell the story on a magnetic surface. (SUPERVISE magnets. Choking hazard for younger children).

3. Have fun acting this out on a large scale. Use a huge box as the jar. Add a big stuffed snake. Draw whiskers and nose on your child's face with an eyeliner pencil. Tie a piece of rope to a belt loop on the back of her pants for a tail. Take turns being the mouse and the snake.

4. Mouse snack: Place half of a pear cut side down on a plate. Add raisin eyes, mouth, and ears to the small end. Cut a strip of cheese for a tail and place on the big end. Cut a snake from a piece of bread. Glue on raisin eyes with a dab of peanut butter. Eat the story!

5. Rubber stamp-a-holic? Get out a mouse, snake, jar, and rock stamp. Show your child how to stamp on paper. Let him recreate the story with stamps. Add markers or crayons and help color the picture.

6. Play dough and plastic play dough tools make Mouse Count play time fun. Show how to roll a ball with the dough. Shape into an oval. Roll tiny balls for eyes and a long rope for a tail. Use a plastic knife to add whiskers and mouth. Roll a larger rope for the snake. Add a plastic jar for the story retell.

Count, count, count all the ways you have fun!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Three Billy-Goats Gruff

The Three Billy-Goats Gruff
A Norwegian Folktale with Woodcuts by Susan Blair (Scholastic Book Services, 1963)

"Read it again, Nana, again," exclaimed 2.75 year-old Khloe.

Classics will always bring that response from children. Especially if readers adhere to the strict requirement of utilizing different voices, sound effects, and actions. Guaranteed.

Some fun activities to do after reading (and rereading) The Three Billy-Goats Gruff:

~ Use blocks to build a bridge. Build on pieces of green, brown, and blue felt for setting the scene. Dig out the plastic farm goats and some ugly alien toy for re-enacting the story.

~ Use paper plates to make goat and troll masks. Cut out eye and mouth holes. Glue (and staple) on ears, horns, whiskers, beards, and so on. Use elastic or ribbons to tie in place. Add pieces of rope or leather to back of pants for tails. The bridge? A table for the troll to hide under.

~ Make play dough. Add sticks, rocks, plastic farm goats, and a troll figure. Build the set and act out the story.

~ Check out and watch a video version of The Three Billy-Goats Gruff from the library. While you are there, check out different versions of the same story. Read and compare them all. Vote for the favorite. Talk about illustrations and differences in books with the same story.

~ Fold a large sheet of construction paper (or take apart a brown paper grocery sack) into six sections. Let children draw each part of the story with markers.

*The troll hiding under the bridge.
*Little Billy-Goat Gruff tripping over the bridge.
*Middle Billy-Goat Gruff tripping over the bridge.
*Big Billy-Goat Gruff tripping over the bridge.
*Big Billy-Goat Gruff butting the troll off the bridge into the river.
*Three Billy-Goats getting fat on the hillside.

Really, kids love to act out this story! Beware, as you may soon be drafted to become any one of the characters.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Over in the Meadow - Books You Can Sing

Over in the Meadow, based on the original version by Olive A. Wadsworth, illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats (Scholastic, Inc., 1971)

Over in the meadow, in the sand, in the sun . . .

I cannot NOT sing this book. If I read the title, it instantly transforms into a song - complete with melody, animal sounds, and fumblings with who does what and when. I love this book!

The illustrations are adorable and opportunities for learning about life in the meadow many. Just think about it. Sing and learn. Young children learn so much when they can sing, act out, and explore nature and life in general when everything is accompanied by music.

Use this captivating book as a spring board for exploring and discovering nature.

Some fun things you can do:

~ Read and sing the book. Admire the illustrations and discuss the animals featured in the book.

~ Gather a magnifying glass or two and head out for a nature walk. How many bugs can you find?

~ Use a notebook (cheap this time of year at back-to-school sales) and make an observation journal. Date a page and draw a simple picture of each living thing that catches the interest of your child. Help draw and color with colored pencils. Add to the nature journal during subsequent walks.

~ Find a bug hotel at a thrift store or yard sale. Catch - observe - and release.

~ Hunt by phone. Or camera. Or Ipad. Make a slideshow of the photos. Do some scientific research to identify those critters you've electronically captured.

~ Go to the library. Check out books that will help identify and explain the findings from your investigations.

~ Put out the watercolor paints. Draw simple animals with a permanent marker. Fill in the lines. Or just paint and have fun. Rubber stamp animals and insects could easily be stamped on top of dry watercolor paintings.

Go nuts. Enjoy nature with a song in your mouth.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Shake My Sillies Out - Books You Can Sing

Shake My Sillies Out by Raffi (Troubadour Learning, 1987)

Oh, the joy preschool and kindergarten children have had with this book you can (and definitely should) read and sing! I've used Shake My Sillies Out for many a transition and steam releasing activity.

Illustrated by David Allender, this song-turned-picture-book delights with colors, words, and story line. Any person working with or loving young children needs this song in their arsenal of wiggle controlling delight producing "things to do with kiddos."

Some ways to use Shake My Sillies Out:

~ Learn the song first. Search Raffi and download the song. Teach to and wiggle with children before picking up the book.

~ Read the book as a picture book.

~ Read the book and sing at the same time. This has the added bonus of getting kids to pay attention to words and page turns.

~ Add props as you sing and wiggle - scarves, ribbons, crepe paper, or other flow-y materials.

~ View the illustrations and get children to help you make up a story that goes with the pictures.

~ Make a shaker by adding buttons to paper towel tubes and taping the ends shut. Let kiddos use markers to decorate the shakers. Sing and shake those sillies! (Caution: Supervise buttons - choking hazard if put into mouths - and securely tape ends closed.)

You may have to act silly and make a fool of yourself! But it's all in fun. Be a kid again.

Wiggle those waggles away.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Five Green and Speckled Frogs - Books You Can Sing

Five Green and Speckled Frogs - Illustrated by Constanza Basaluzzo
(Scholastic, Inc., 2008)

What do you get with five green speckled frogs, a great book, music, and a room full of children?

Silly, singing children having lots of fun.

This is one of the all time favorite songs and books of my kinders. No matter which version we sing, they love the story, melody, and motions. We read and sing through each as often as I can stand it.

Of course. I always add or make-up and then add motions - the sillier, the better.

You bet. Some examples are:

~ large cardstock frogs that are colored and laminated. These are held up by five students and go down one by one as the frogs jump into the pool.

~ plastic toy frogs. Just what it sounds like. Those funny, greenish plastic tub or play toys. They love this activity when I also provide a blue towel (the cool pool) and a bumpy, messy log (the speckled log).

~ hand-made puppets. They love making their own green speckled frogs from paper plates, markers, felt, googly eyes, glue, and staplers. Tip: Fold paper plate in half, color the outside green, draw a red tongue on the inside (a strip of red construction paper works better), glue on googly eyes, and add a strap on the top outside to help students to grip the puppet.

Other ideas:

~ felt frog stickers on top of wide craft sticks

~ magazine frog cut-outs, glued to cardboard

~ oh, I almost forgot the absolute favorite - froggy bean bags


Definitely. Our favorites are Raffi and CJ's Fundamentals.

You will have so much fun, you may find yourself outside with a net, digging through mucky ponds, hoping to secure a green and speckled frog for your terrarium!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Who Stole the Cookies? - Books You Can Sing

Who Stole the Cookies? by Judith Moffatt (Grosett & Dunlap, Inc., 1996)

Yes, many of my books-you-can-sing are old and well-loved. That is the truth of the matter between books, children, parents, teachers - if you love them, sing them, read them - they will look like it. It reminds me of The Velveteen Rabbit.

Who Stole the Cookies? is a favorite of every young student I have had in class. They love to read and chant the book. This cut-paper illustrated version shows a young girl predicting, using clues, and enlisting animal friends to help solve the mystery of who snitched the cookies. This may be the only time is is OK to steal something!

After our read/sing/chant aloud, we always sit in a circle and play the game that goes hand-in-hand with the book. In the game, each child has a chance to be blamed. I think this may be the only time they want to be blamed for something. I always continue until all have had a turn. And then we make-up who we think stole the cookies.

Eating real cookies after the book and game is the perfect ending.


All: Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?

Me (or student who was just it): Khloe stole the cookies from the cookie jar!

Khloe: Who me?

All: Yes, you!

Khloe: Couldn't be!

All: Then who?

Khloe: Hayden stole the cookie from the cookie jar!

And then Hayden has a turn. The entire game is echo and response. The more drama, the better. They love it!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Old MacDonald Had a Farm - Books You Can Sing

Old MacDonald Had a Farm with Pictures By Holly Berry (Scholastic, 1994).

I may have had this book since it was published in 1994! The edges certainly look well loved.

I love singing books, which leads to children memorizing the words and singing books, which leads to children connecting memorized words to text on pages, which leads to reading and the love of books! What a fun and amazing ride!

Old MacDonald Had a Farm makes its appearance each fall when the FARM theme comes to life. Most students and children are familiar with this song utilizing farm animal sounds. We have a grand time singing, making animal noises, and acting out animal movements.

Berry enlivens this popular children's song by adding the element of animal participation - by allowing them to become band members who play and sing with the Old MacDonald. And a fun time was had by all . . .

You know it. You are humming the song. E-I-E-I-O.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

America the Beautiful - Books You Can Sing

America the Beautiful (Scholastic Inc., 2001)

Just in time for the 4th of July, check out America the Beautiful.

Put out by Scholastic Inc., this small book delivers big on photographs of the natural beauty, space, vastness, and variety of our country. Large text words spread throughout the book of the first verse can be read, ignored, or enjoyed with the proper melody.

Share what makes our country great.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Lady with the Alligator Purse - Books You Can Sing

The Lady with the Alligator Purse by Nadine Bernard Westcott (Megan Tingley Books, Little, Brown and Company, 1998)

My absolute favorite books (you will find that I use those words quite a bit - my favorite books) are ones that I can read or sing to children. Once the rhythm and melody are in their heads, children easily memorize the words and can then go on to apply that knowledge to decode words and read to themselves. No, that is not my ulterior motive.

Actually, yes, it may be. I do want children to read to themselves - and love it!

But mostly, I want children to love singing and reading and become lifelong readers. So let's give a hip hip hooray for books you can sing!

The Lady with the Alligator Purse by Nadine Bernard Westcott is a perfect example. Though the words and tune are old (I remember singing them as a child, and I've reached the 50+ category), this board book is an adorable adaptation of the popular children's chant. Not only for reading, this book/song is also a hand-slapping rhythm game - the type you do with a partner. I've even heard the song being used as a jump rope rhyme.

Let's bring back those singing, clapping, slapping, jumping, and rhythm songs. And while we're at it, let's pull in the book version to give our children links to the printed word.

(Humming) Miss Lucy had a baby. His name was Tiny Tim ...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Snow Globe Family

Looking out the walls of my own private snow globe residence...

The Snow Globe Family
by Jane O'Conner (Puffin, 2008)

Current winter conditions make me think about a favorite picture book, The Snow Globe Family, by Jane O'Conner.

We recently read this lovely winter story at school. A family living inside the snow globe on the mantle is waiting for a snowstorm so they can play in the snow. They wait and wait. Meanwhile, a life-sized family enjoys a winter storm and heads out to play.

The baby is the one who notices the tiny family in the globe. Knocking it down causes a huge blizzard to appear for the family inside the globe.

Both families enjoy winter wonderlands.

After receiving snow globes for Christmas, several girls shared them with the class. Just last week, we had heavy snow days. It looked like we were living inside a snow globe while at school! The students loved the connection to the story and our real life weather event.

Make this delightful picture book a family winter favorite! It is perfect for inspiring the imagination of children as they create their own pretend snow globe worlds.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Dragons in Our Midst

Dragons in Our Midst
(Series) by Bryan Davis
Living Ink Books, AMG Publishers (2004, 2005)

Welcome to a great upper elementary, middle school, young adult Christian fantasy series by Bryan Davis.

I stumbled upon the first of the series, Raising Dragons, a few years ago. I started it, and then had to wait. I thought I had to wait. It has been out, but the library did not have the copies, that I could find.

Now I have personal copies. I imagine the library does as well.

Dragons in Our Midst is a fun adventure that combines dragons, humans (some that are dragons at the same time), the battle of good and evil, and a building climax where a war is waged for control of the Earth. Oh, and it's a bit of a love story. Merlin and King Arthur play into the story, but I won't tell you how. Christian themes are woven throughout the tale.

Read this series if you love history, fantasy, dragons, conflict, and a great story!