King Hugo’s Huge Ego

King Hugo's Huge Ego
Now that it’s summer, we have some school age kids coming, and I find that I need to select some picture books with more words, more humor, gorgeous art, etc. They’ll sit politely for a couple of lift-the-flap books and one-word-per-page books, but then they need something for them. When the babies start wiggling and running and sharing snacks, I pull out the big-kid books.

Winter Books

The Sandcastle that Lola Built
I have picked out a month’s worth of snowy books for the long wintery month of January. But I’m second guessing it now. Must our storytime be so snowy?

Storytime Planning!

Lily Leads the Way
It’s that time of year — new schedules and planning, new notebooks and books, new activities, and priorities … and a new storytime!

And the People Stayed Home

And the People Stayed Home
Per­haps you saw it. On social media, or in a chain email. A poem that seemed like a hope­ful sigh went out into the world very ear­ly in the pan­dem­ic last spring and made its rounds as quick­ly as the virus. And the peo­ple stayed home.
And they lis­tened, and read books,
and rest­ed, and exer­cised, and made art,
and played games, and learned new ways of being,
and were still….
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Reading Mary Oliver with Kids

Mary Oliver Devotions
Sun­day morn­ings find me on zoom with a gath­er­ing of kids ages 3 – 10. We call this time Songs & Sto­ries. It is a high­light in my week. They come in their paja­mas, often eat­ing break­fast, and usu­al­ly with some “stuffies” they want to intro­duce to the group. They are full of ener­gy and good cheer.
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The Very First & Last Page

Last week I zoom-vis­it­ed a kinder­garten class to read my own pic­ture book. The class was ter­rif­ic and at the end we had a time for Q & A. They are work­ing on the dif­fer­ence between ask­ing a ques­tion and “shar­ing.” It’s an impor­tant and dif­fi­cult skill. One lit­tle girl, who might’ve been a stringer for the New York Times, or per­haps an after-school pros­e­cu­tor, so mature and earnest in her ques­tion­ing was she, asked to see “the very first page of the book.”… more

Shall I Knit You a Hat?

I’ve received a won­der­ful ear­ly Christ­mas gift this year — two new reg­u­lar sto­ry­times to con­duct. Both inter­est­ed in the season’s books — and do I have Christ­mas books to share! The only down­side — and I can live with it — is that it’s via the tech­nolo­gies with which we see peo­ple these days. I’m so grate­ful for the Zooms, the Face­Times, the Face­book Lives…it’s the only way to safe­ly see folks and it makes things like sto­ry­time pos­si­ble.… more

Poetry Teatime

On Halloween morning, Pooh Bear came for a visit on our porch. There was coffee for her parents and hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles for her, as well as a round of pastries for all. A lovely morning, however distanced and masked we had to remain.

Enola Holmes

I sent the email as a joke, real­ly. Net­flix sent me the announce­ment that the much antic­i­pat­ed Eno­la Holmes movie would pre­mier on the upcom­ing Wednes­day, and so I sent our (grown-up) kids an email with words I cer­tain­ly nev­er thought I’d utter and don’t real­ly under­stand: We should have a Net­flix Party! (For those of you who also don’t under­stand this — though I rec­og­nize I’m like­ly part of a dimin­ish­ing group of peo­ple — a Net­flix Par­ty is a new fea­ture of Net­flix in which Net­flix syn­chro­nizes your video watch­ing on your sep­a­rate devices in your sep­a­rate places and adds a group chat to the screen.… more

Thanks for the Memories, Miss Rumphius!

Today, the day I am writ­ing this col­umn, has been a long one. It start­ed with a 4 a.m. alarm. It is the day Dar­ling Daugh­ter moves to col­lege. In Boston. Which is far from Min­neso­ta and so neces­si­tates a plane ride. Dur­ing a pan­dem­ic. Alone, as her uni­ver­si­ty is not allow­ing par­ents on cam­pus dur­ing this chal­leng­ing time. Tell me you think I’m very brave.… more

Almost Time

I’ve been wait­ing for Eliz­a­beth Stick­ney and Gary D. Schmidt’s Almost Time for quite awhile. Seems appro­pri­ate — it’s a book about wait­ing, after all. I read very ear­ly drafts of it years ago, so long ago that I can hard­ly recall details — only that it’s about the mak­ing of maple syrup. What I dis­cov­ered upon read­ing it in pub­lished form is that in addi­tion to being about the mak­ing of maple syrup, this book is also about the solace found in wait­ing and work­ing together.… more

Storytime in the Time of Coronavirus

I’ve had the great joy these last few weeks of pulling togeth­er “dis­tanced” sto­ry­times for a few fam­i­lies who could use a half hour of sit­ting on the couch and let­ting some­one else enter­tain and inter­act with the kids. This has been a stretch for me. Though I’m grate­ful for all of the apps and plat­forms that allow us to see and talk vir­tu­al­ly — dur­ing this time, espe­cial­ly — I would not choose to do sto­ry­time this way.… more

The Rabbit Listened

In my cur­rent reg­u­lar sto­ry­time group, I have a lit­tle one who insists he has what­ev­er book I’m read­ing at his house, too. I hold up a book and he jumps in excite­ment. “I have that book at my house!” he says, while his par­ents shake their head behind him. I tease him say­ing, “We must have exact­ly the same book­shelves.”… more

Heidi Bread

I real­ized (again) over the win­ter hol­i­days this year that much of hol­i­day friv­o­li­ty cen­ters on food. I’d have it no oth­er way, myself, but I must say that after a couple/few weeks of eat­ing grand meals, too many sweets, and grab­bing tea/coffee more often than usu­al, I crave sim­plic­i­ty when I sit down for lunch in the mid­dle of a writ­ing day.… more

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Hey! Unto you a child is born!” I think of this line each and every Christ­mas Eve when the Christ­mas sto­ry accord­ing to Luke’s Gospel is read. If I’m the one doing the read­ing, and you were to pay close atten­tion, you’d prob­a­bly notice that I have to take a nano-sec­ond pause so as to drop the “Hey!” and read it “straight.”… more

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

In my sto­ry­time bag this past month I’ve been car­ry­ing The Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar by Eric Car­le. I don’t always use it, but I like hav­ing it with me — I know it will always work. When I pull this book out of the bag, there are smiles, clap­ping some­times, and always a cho­rus of  “I have that book!” The Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar is fifty years old this year.… more

Bee-bim Bop

I’ve been on the sto­ry­time cir­cuit this last month as I have a new pic­ture book of my very own. Read­ers of this col­umn know how much I adore sto­ry­time, so wher­ev­er I’ve gone to read my book, I’ve asked if I can do a whole sto­ry­time, the bet­ter to read oth­er pic­ture books, as well. Usu­al­ly the reg­u­lar belea­guered sto­ry­time read­ers are hap­py to have this happen.… more

Moving Books

Many momen­tous things have gone down in our house this sum­mer. #1 Son grad­u­at­ed from col­lege in May, is gain­ful­ly employed (local­ly!) as a soft­ware engi­neer, and has recent­ly moved to an apart­ment. Dar­ling Daugh­ter start­ed her senior year of high school last week and is busy work­ing on col­lege appli­ca­tionsIt makes me a lit­tle light head­ed to think of it.… more

Strictly No Elephants

  It had been one of those news days…. Actu­al­ly, there had been a string of such news days — hate-filled head­lines, bom­bas­tic egos, dan­ger­ous threats. The world seemed extra prick­ly and dan­ger­ous. It’s at these times that I espe­cial­ly like read­ing with kids. For­tu­nate­ly, I had a read­ing gig all lined up at an ele­men­tary school — it was the week lead­ing up to Read Across Amer­i­ca.more

Kids & Books…Books & Kids

Last week I was a teacher-pre­sen­ter at a young authors and artists con­fer­ence for a cou­ple of days. Tremen­dous fun — the kids who come to these things want to be there and want to learn. They’re read­ers, writ­ers, artists! They are an engaged, engaging, and exu­ber­ant lot, which I enjoy immensely. I taught six ses­sions on bring­ing con­flict to your sto­ries — “Mak­ing It Even Worse” was the title of my ses­sion.… more

The Season Of Styx Malone

Our Books & Bagels book group met a cou­ple of weeks ago to dis­cuss The Sea­son of Styx Mal­one by Kekla Magoon. When I pick the books for this par­ent-child book­club, I’ve usu­al­ly read them in advance and know they will be good for dis­cus­sion. This one I picked before I’d read it. I’d read reviews and what­not, of course, but I think it was actu­al­ly the cov­er that made me sure this would be a great book for our group.… more

Bim, Bam, Bop … and Oona, an Interview

Bim Bam Bop ... and Oona
Poor Oona — she’s always the last duck to the pond…. But then her frog friend Roy reminds her: you’re good with giz­mos… And so Oona the duck goes to work in the barn on her giz­mos, pour­ing her cre­ative and deter­mined self into get­ting to the pond before the faster ducks. Along the way, she learns there is more to life than just being fast and get­ting some­where first.… more

Olive, The Other Reindeer

I’m writ­ing this on the birth­day of my dear friend, Mol­ly. She is one of my bestest friends from col­lege days. It’s a big birth­day — well worth cel­e­brat­ing, which she’ll do next week with a roller­skat­ing par­ty com­plete with musi­cal hits from the 1980’s. This is very Mol­ly — the kids imme­di­ate­ly said, “Only Molly!” Mol­ly is, quite pos­si­bly, the coolest of our friends.… more

The Christmas Alphabet

When our kids were small and we were build­ing our Christ­mas book col­lec­tion, the night on which we brought out the hol­i­day books that had been in stor­age since the pre­vi­ous year was always a very spe­cial night. With #1 Son, this was but a hand­ful of books at first; but once we added Dar­ling Daugh­ter to the fam­i­ly, and St.… more

The Quiltmaker’s Journey

Ear­li­er this week I pulled out our small stash of Thanks­giv­ing pic­ture books. The kids are old­er now, but they seem to like it when the old favorites come out. I got lost, as I always do, in The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brum­beau, illus­trat­ed by Gail de Mar­ck­en. I’ve writ­ten about that book for Red Read­ing Boots — you can find that here.… more

The Princess and Her Panther

Last week, I was work­ing on my WIP, a sprawl­ing mess of a nov­el. I’d hit a rough patch and I set myself the assign­ment to just type away for ten min­utes — ten min­utes of non­stop typ­ing just to Get Words Down — I wouldn’t let my fin­gers stop. I sim­ply need­ed some words to work with, I told myself.  I do not usu­al­ly resort to this, but it was not a par­tic­u­lar­ly good writ­ing day.… more

The BIG Umbrella

I am extra­or­di­nar­i­ly lucky in that I have a group of wee ones who join me for sto­ry­time most weeks. They’re lit­tle — age three and under, with sev­er­al babies in the mix — so we don’t tell long sto­ries or read great doorstop­per books. But with pic­ture books, some of the best ones are pret­ty spare in terms of words.… more

The Penderwicks

I have a mixed his­to­ry with The Pen­der­wicks books by Jeanne Bird­sall. The first book, The Pen­der­wicks: A Sum­mer Tale Of Four Sis­ters, Two Rab­bits, and a Very Inter­est­ing Boy came out in 2005 when #1 Son was eight and Dar­ling Daugh­ter was three. It won the Nation­al Book Award that year and there was much flur­ry over it.… more

The Stuff of Stars

I’ve been anx­ious­ly await­ing the book birth of The Stuff of Stars by Mar­i­on Dane Bauer, illus­trat­ed by Ekua Holmes. I heard the text a year ago and for­got to breathe while the author read it out loud. And then I heard who the illus­tra­tor was. Let’s just say, what a pairing! When I opened my much antic­i­pat­ed copy — after oohing and aaahing over the cov­er — and read the first page, I heard cel­lo.… more

Story Time for All

A cou­ple of weeks ago, Dar­ling Daugh­ter and I made our way to the Farm­ers Mar­ket. I’ve been recov­er­ing from a bit of surgery, and truth be told, I wasn’t feel­ing great that morn­ing, but need­ed to get out and about. We wan­dered the stalls, got our veg­gies, our goat cheese, our sunflowers…then some cof­fee and lemon­ade and car­damom donuts so as to sit down and rest a bit.… more

Little Women

Dar­ling Daugh­ter and I watched the recent PBS ver­sion of Lit­tle Women last weekend.I was out of town when the first episode aired, but she wait­ed for me and we streamed it Fri­day night so we’d be caught up to watch the final two episodes Sun­day night. I liked Lit­tle Women just fine as a kid. I read it tucked between the ban­is­ters and “the old book cab­i­net” at the top of my grand­par­ents’ stairs when I was prob­a­bly nine or ten.… more

The Giant Jam Sandwich

Recent­ly, I was invit­ed to a baby show­er. I love shop­ping for baby show­ers, because I almost always give books and knit a wee lit­tle hat — two of my most favorite things. I had the hat all done except for the top lit­tle curly-cues, but I was fresh out of board books and so went on a hap­py lit­tle jaunt to one of my local bookstores.… more

Waiting

I had the plea­sure this past week­end of accom­pa­ny­ing an ener­getic eight-year-old boy down Wash­ing­ton Avenue on the Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta cam­pus. We were on foot — his feet faster than the rest in our par­ty, but we eas­i­ly caught up at each of the pedes­tri­an inter­sec­tions because he stopped at the light at each and every one.… more

Eliza Wheeler

Eliza Wheeler
Eliza Wheel­er is the fas­ci­nat­ing illus­tra­tor of many books, includ­ing John Ronald’s Drag­ons: The Sto­ry of J.R.R. Tolkien, The Pome­gran­ate Witch, and Tell Me a Tat­too Sto­ry. You can read about her work on her Wheel­er Stu­dio blog. For this inter­view, we are focus­ing on a series she has illus­trat­ed for Can­dlewick Press, the Cody books by Tri­cia Springstubb.… more

Planting Giant Pumpkin Seeds

As I write this, Min­neso­ta is in line to get hit with anoth­er Major Win­ter Storm. I know many of you in the north­ern lat­i­tudes can sym­pa­thize as we’ve all been hit, but it’s mid-April, and even by Min­neso­ta stan­dards, this is demor­al­iz­ing. Proms are being can­celled this week­end, the gro­cery stores are crazy, everyone’s watch­ing the radar while they make soup, and I … I have avert­ed my eyes from the win­dow so as to bet­ter ignore the wet slop com­ing down and bet­ter focus on my gar­den planning!… more

Pablo and Birdy

  There are books I read with my eyes leak­ing begin­ning to end. Count­ing by Sevens…Swallows and Amazons…The View From Saturday…Because of Winn Dixie…Orbiting Jupiter…. I don’t mean to say these books make me cry — that’s anoth­er cat­e­go­ry, the ones that make you ugly cry so you can’t read it out­loud. Rather, these leaky-eye books are sto­ries read through a watery prism from the first page on.… more

Linda Sue Park

Melanie Heuis­er Hill recent­ly inter­viewed Lin­da Sue Park, curi­ous about her dai­ly work habits as a writer, and how Lin­da Sue bal­ances life and work. Do you have specific writing goals that you formulate and work toward—a certain number of words/pages a day, a draft finished by a certain date, revision done in x number of weeks etc.?more

The Hate You Give

  This past week­end, Dar­ling Daugh­ter and I par­tic­i­pat­ed in a par­ent-teen book dis­cus­sion about The Hate You Give by Ang­ie Thomas. This book has won many awards, received fan­tas­tic reviews, and is a hot top­ic of dis­cus­sion in both the book and teen world — espe­cial­ly where those worlds over­lap. It’s about the after­math of a police shoot­ing of an unarmed black teen.… more

A Porcupine Named Fluffy

It’s Read Across Amer­i­ca Week this week and I had the priv­i­lege of haul­ing a bag of books to a local ele­men­tary school and read­ing to five dif­fer­ent class­es — K‑2nd grade — last Tues­day. A tru­ly won­der­ful way to spend the after­noon, I must say. #1 Son’s 21st birth­day was Tues­day, which made me all nos­tal­gic for the days of pic­ture books, and so I’d packed a bag full of his long-ago favorites (and a cou­ple new­er ones, too).… more

The Human Alphabet

At my local library, a cou­ple of weeks ago, I flipped through the books that were for sale by the Friends of the Library. These are most­ly books that have been removed from the shelves for one rea­son or anoth­er. The kids’ books cost $.50—fifty cents, peo­ple! I’ve found some great ones in these bins. The find this time: Pilobo­lus Dance Com­pa­ny’s The Human Alpha­bet.… more

The Pushcart War

I first heard of  Jean Merrill’s The Push­cart War in grad school. I read it because a fel­low stu­dent spoke with absolute glee about it. I’ve not heard a book rec­om­mend­ed with such laugh­ter and vig­or before or since. And I fell into the book just as she insist­ed I would. Fell, I tell you. Lost my head, really. My kids did, too.… more

A Wrinkle in Time

It was a dark and stormy night.  When I read this aloud one chilly fall evening on the porch to my kids, I laughed out loud. It was Banned Books week and we were “cel­e­brat­ing” by read­ing Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrin­kle in Time, one of the peren­ni­al repeaters on banned books lists. #1 Son was in fourth grade, which is when I’d been intro­duced to A Wrin­kle in Time.more

The Grinch

I’m just going to say it. Go on the record. I do not like The Grinch. I do not like the book. I do not like the char­ac­ter. I do not like the sto­ry of How The Grinch Stole Christ­mas. I do not like the bril­liant the­ater pro­duc­tions of the sto­ry (though I acknowl­edge the bril­liance.) I do not like the TV spe­cial, which I grew up watch­ing, and which I did not let my kids watch.… more