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.

It’s all good and right and as it should be, and we are proud and excit­ed for all these new life stages, etc. It is also hard some days. This relent­less grow­ing up thing that chil­dren will do…at times it makes this Mama’s heart catch.

But I’ve had my eye on #1 Son’s bed­room for a while now. It’s the largest bed­room in our house. He was five when we moved in and he lob­bied hard to have our room because he liked the idea of hav­ing his own attached bath­room. (This was hilar­i­ous then and now.) Our counter argu­ment was that his actu­al room would have the biggest clos­et — more room for Legos® — and we would paint two of the walls the bright­est bold­est red we could find. It worked. He gave up the per­son­al bath­room.

My office all these years has been in the small­est bed­room. The stacks of books and the paper that seems to go with writ­ing books has been crash­ing and slid­ing down around me in this wee room for quite some time. So we took this past week­end and cov­ered the red walls in the big­ger room with a sun­flower yel­low (sev­er­al coats!) and start­ed mov­ing things in.

You don’t real­ize just how many books you have until you’re forced to touch them all as you move them. As mov­ing books goes, this was an easy gig — I just car­ried arm­loads of books from one room to the oth­er — a mere six feet of hall­way. I logged over four miles doing this one day. So it did not escape my notice that I have A LOT of books. Also, I inher­it­ed a large, over­packed, floor-to-ceil­ing book­case in #1 Son’s room. (He took some books, of course — as well as a small­er book­case — but felt com­fort­able leav­ing the major­i­ty of them because he knows it is unlike­ly I’ll get rid of many.)

It was a trip down mem­o­ry lane, all that book mov­ing. In gen­er­al we don’t buy books we don’t love, and once you love a book it is hard to get rid of it. So we have…well, two children’s child­hoods of books. It was bit­ter­sweet to revis­it the mem­o­ries as I traced my steps up and down the hall­way.

I could prac­ti­cal­ly feel the kids nes­tled up against me when I moved the Pooh books…. Could remem­ber the tea I drank as #1 Son and I poured over David Macaulay’s Cathe­dral book every day for an entire snowy win­ter….  I remem­bered many of the spe­cif­ic books read dur­ing child­hood ill­ness­es, a fevered list­less body on my lap…. I teared up remem­ber­ing read­ing aloud The Sword in the Stone to the new­ly mint­ed big broth­er in those weary days/weeks after his sister’s birth. (NOTE: It’s a dif­fi­cult book to read aloud when utter­ly exhaust­ed!) When I moved the Bet­sy books by Maud Hart Lovelace, it was as if Dar­ling Daughter’s entire tween years flashed through my mem­o­ry at top speed. We read many of those books snug­gled up under the cov­ers in one of our beds, her long skin­ny legs draped over mine.

So many of our favorites trans­port­ed me back to nights camping…long road trips and vacations…medical appointments…new mile­stones. There are sev­er­al book series I have con­nect­ed to these ear­ly weeks of fall when the kids head­ed back to school. Sep­tem­ber is always an excit­ing but stress­ful time. We chose books care­ful­ly for those weeks to pro­vide com­fort and rou­tine — Nar­nia, Har­ry Pot­ter, The Mof­fats, Swal­lows and Ama­zons….

It was exhaust­ing — both phys­i­cal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly. I’m glad I write for kids — I have an excuse to keep all these books! And I’m absurd­ly grate­ful for these read­ing mem­o­ries. The kids have them, too. There was a lot of “Oh! I remem­ber this one!” And they enjoyed hear­ing things like this: We read that in Dr. Ott’s office the day you were test­ed for aller­gies.

How do you remem­ber that?” they ask me. I don’t know — it’s vis­cer­al for me, I guess. What we read was a huge part of their child­hoods, and in these days when they’re grow­ing up and mov­ing on, these books that stay behind pro­vide me great com­fort and sweet mem­o­ries.


Deb Andries and Her Reading Teams
May 2019

Guess How Much I Love You?For this addi­tion to our Rais­ing Star Read­ers fea­ture, we’re delight­ed to once again be show­cas­ing Deb Andries, a Nation­al Lit­er­a­cy Con­sul­tant who lives in Wis­con­sin, and her grand­chil­dren: Fin­ley and Grayson, who live in Cum­ber­land, Wis­con­sin, and Emmer­syn, who lives in Sartell, Min­neso­ta. Gram­my and her Read­ing Teams recent­ly shared Guess How Much I Love You, writ­ten by Sam McBrat­ney and illus­trat­ed by Ani­ta Jer­am, while enjoy­ing mile­stone read-togeth­ers dur­ing their Mother’s Day cel­e­bra­tions.

Deb explains that the book was giv­en to her by a friend five years ago when she was a lit­er­a­cy coach in Min­neapo­lis and her fam­i­ly was eager­ly antic­i­pat­ing the arrival of both Emmer­syn and Grayson. Deb explains, “My friend knew how excit­ed I was to know that there would be two to love (and they were born five days apart!).”

Deb, Fin­ley, and Grayson read­ing Guess How Much I Love You

The book has become very mean­ing­ful for the fam­i­ly. As Deb says, “When I think about the bond of the love between grand­par­ents and grand­chil­dren, this book sends that mes­sage. As far as our arms can reach, as high as we can hop or jump, all the way up to our toes and across the lane and down the riv­er … our love extends THAT far. When we read the book, the grand­kids are enam­ored by the illus­tra­tions and how Lit­tle Nut­brown Hare and Big Nut­brown Hare share how much they love one anoth­er. Then, we talk about those very same things. ‘I love you, Gram­my, as far as my arms can reach.’ And, ‘I love you, Emmer­syn, Grayson, and Fin­ley as far as MY arms can reach!’

Read­ing Guess How Much I Love You has become a spe­cial tra­di­tion for Deb and Emmer­syn

Deb loves the time spent read­ing aloud togeth­er. As she explains, “This time with a book, snug­gled up tight togeth­er, is spe­cial and cre­ates a bond of love that is like no oth­er. There’s always room on Grammy’s lap for all of us to lean in to lis­ten and share the words, and then our own ‘I love you as much.…’ We also have a tra­di­tion with the book: we trace their hand­print once a year and write their name, as a ‘mem­o­ry mak­er’ of this love and bond.”

Deb adds: “We read the book around Mother’s Day this year, but we also read it many oth­er times dur­ing the year. Any day, and every day, is a good day to spend time togeth­er in books and con­ver­sa­tions around them. Read­ing indoors or out­doors, books are a pow­er­ful way to help my grand­kids learn about the world around them, share sto­ries we love, and find new sto­ries, too.”


We here at Bookol­o­gy wish Deb and her Read­ing Teams many won­der­ful hours of read­ing togeth­er this sum­mer! If you would like us to fea­ture your Read­ing Team when Bookol­o­gy starts up again in the fall, con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion about how to par­tic­i­pate.


What is Research, Really?

From an ELA point of view, “research” is some­thing you do to gath­er infor­ma­tion for a report or project. But if you’re a sci­en­tist, research has a whole dif­fer­ent mean­ing. It’s a way of devel­op­ing a new under­stand­ing of the world and how it works.

Every once in a while, my hus­band and I have a con­ver­sa­tion about why two seem­ing­ly dif­fer­ent pur­suits have the same name. So recent­ly, I decid­ed to do a lit­tle, er, research to track down the ori­gin of the word and, if pos­si­ble, find a con­nec­tion.


It turns out that our mod­ern word “research” traces back to the Old French term recercher, which means “seek out, search close­ly.” This could apply to both types of research, so I start­ed look­ing at all kinds of con­tem­po­rary def­i­n­i­tions. Even­tu­al­ly, I came across this one, which I like a lot:

cre­ative and sys­temic work under­tak­en to increase knowl­edge”

Here’s a way of think­ing about research that encom­pass­es both kinds of research. From the ELA point of view, an indi­vid­ual increas­es his or her per­son­al knowl­edge about a par­tic­u­lar top­ic. From a sci­en­tif­ic point of view, we are increas­ing our over­all body of knowl­edge about life, space, Earth, and the phys­i­cal laws that explain how every­thing works.

Anoth­er rea­son I like this def­i­n­i­tion so much is that it includes the word “cre­ative.” In fact, it puts that word right up front.

Why is that so impor­tant to me? Because that’s what makes research excit­ing. To me, gath­er­ing research for a book is like a trea­sure hunt — a quest for tan­ta­liz­ing tid­bits of knowl­edge. It’s an active, self-dri­ven process that requires a whole lot of cre­ative think­ing.

drone research

Ide­al­ly, I want my every one of my books to fea­ture fas­ci­nat­ing infor­ma­tion that no one else has ever includ­ed in a book on the top­ic. To find that infor­ma­tion, I think cre­ative­ly about sources.

  • Who can I ask?
  • Where can I go?
  • How can I search in a new or unex­pect­ed way?

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, kids often don’t bring that same kind of cre­ative spir­it to their research, and that’s why they often find it bor­ing.

research with the five senses

Ide­al­ly, research should employ as many of the five sense as pos­si­ble.

  • We can use our eyes to watch doc­u­men­tary films, observe ani­mals first­hand in the wild or on web­cams, and search archival pho­tographs for clues about the past.
  • We can use our ears to lis­ten to pod­casts, radio inter­views, or experts we inter­view our­selves.
  • We can use our hands to feel arti­facts and get a sense of what it would have been like to hold them and use them long ago.
  • It may be a bit hard­er to use our mouths and noses to expe­ri­ence smells and tastes relat­ed to a top­ic, but it’s cer­tain­ly a goal to keep in mind.

Can you think of some more cre­ative ways of con­duct­ing research?


Vera’s Story Garden

Ver­a’s Sto­ry Gar­den Estab­lished
as a Lit­er­ary Land­mark by Unit­ed for Libraries May 4, 2019

by Mary Paige Lang-Clouse, Direc­tor
Ethel­bert B. Craw­ford Pub­lic Library
Mon­ti­cel­lo NY

Vera B. Williams

Vera B. Williams

I met Vera B. Williams in the ear­ly 2000s while work­ing at the pub­lic library in Nar­rows­burg, N.Y. It should come as no sur­prise to any­one that knew her that Vera didn’t waste any time iden­ti­fy­ing and using her local pub­lic library. She offered sev­er­al pro­grams at that library for chil­dren as well as shar­ing her wis­dom about writ­ing and illus­trat­ing books for chil­dren with the youth ser­vices librar­i­ans of the Ramapo Catskill Library Sys­tem (RCLS), the pub­lic library sys­tem serv­ing all the Sul­li­van, Orange, and Rock­land Coun­ty pub­lic libraries as well as a few in Ulster Coun­ty. I think Vera was very gen­er­ous to the libraries in her com­mu­ni­ty large­ly because she rec­og­nized their val­ue and she chose to live hers.

Home at LastThe cre­ation of the Sto­ry Gar­den as a Lit­er­ary Land­mark along­side the Ethel­bert B. Craw­ford Pub­lic Library in Mon­ti­cel­lo, N.Y., will serve as a last­ing lega­cy to Vera B. Williams, her sto­ries and illus­tra­tions, and to the inspi­ra­tion she gave to the chil­dren she wrote them for. Unit­ed for Libraries, a divi­sion of the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion with a mis­sion to sup­port those who gov­ern, pro­mote, advo­cate, and fund raise for all types of libraries, accept­ed the appli­ca­tion of the library for its sto­ry gar­den to be des­ig­nat­ed as a Lit­er­ary Land­mark in hon­or of the con­tri­bu­tions to children’s lit­er­a­ture made by Vera B. Williams dur­ing her life­time and in Sul­li­van Coun­ty. Williams’ last book, Home at Last, was one she worked on col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly with Chris Rasch­ka from her home in Nar­rows­burg until her death in Octo­ber, 2015. It was our good for­tune that Vera B. Williams chose to live the last 15 years of her life in Sul­li­van Coun­ty and that she was no stranger to the pub­lic libraries in her com­mu­ni­ty.

Vera gave back. She did a school vis­it at the Robert J. Kaiser Mid­dle School in Mon­ti­cel­lo, much like the many she’d done dur­ing her years liv­ing down in Brook­lyn. That vis­it made a last­ing impres­sion on both the stu­dents and teach­ers. She also gen­er­ous­ly donat­ed an antique library chair she designed for a fundrais­ing auc­tion the Friends of the Ethel­bert B. Craw­ford Pub­lic Library held back in 2011 dur­ing a cel­e­bra­tion of the library’s 75th Anniver­sary. I’m hap­py to report that that chair sits in the library of a pub­lic school in Orange Coun­ty, N.Y.

Vera's Story Garden

A Chair for My MotherWhen plans for the new library were get­ting under­way there was a desire to have a “big, fat, com­fort­able, won­der­ful chair” — like the one in Ms. Williams’ Calde­cott Hon­or book, A Chair for My Moth­er—in the new children’s room — for peo­ple to cozy up togeth­er in and read but there wasn’t room for a chair of such grandeur there. Instead one was built — out­side — in what became Vera’s Sto­ry Gar­den. Our land­scap­er got cre­ative and, with the help of a local mosa­ic artist, our chair became a real­i­ty. The idea to estab­lish a Lit­er­ary Land­mark was put in my head by the youth ser­vices con­sul­tant at RCLS at that time, Ran­dall Enos. I am so glad he did — and how fit­ting that we were able to receive this won­der­ful des­ig­na­tion dur­ing the 100th Anniver­sary of Children’s Book Week. I think Vera would have been pleased.


Celebrating the Square Pegs

This month the two of us are actu­al­ly in the same place at the same time, and we’re hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion about square pegs.

We are all not just square pegs and round pegs. We are tri­an­gles, pen­tagons, hexa­gon, oval, rhom­boids, stars. There are shapes for every­one and places, too, where each of us fits best. But we all know what being a square peg means.

Sweety by Andrea ZuillSweety in the book Sweety by Andrea Zuill didn’t know, though, exact­ly what it meant when her grand­moth­er said, “Well, aren’t you Grandma’s lit­tle square peg?” Young read­ers might not know either, but we do learn that Sweety is awk­ward and doesn’t always fit in, can be intense, and has bizarre hob­bies like study­ing mush­rooms.

Jack­ie: Zuill tack­les the sub­ject with humor and com­pas­sion. She begins with humor in a par­en­thet­i­cal note. “(Please note that naked mole rats are born with­out fur but not with­out the love of clothes. The illus­tra­tor is grate­ful for this since she didn’t have to draw a bunch of high­ly embar­rass­ing pic­tures.)” I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw Sweety describe her doll: “Friend of the friend­less, destroy­er of evil, lover of choco­late beet cake with cream cheese frost­ing!”


Sweety gives her book report with inter­pre­tive dance! from Sweety by Andrea Zuill, Schwartz & Wade, 2019. illus­tra­tion copy­right Andrea Zuil

Phyl­lis: And she does it in an extreme­ly loud voice, aston­ish­ing her class­mates. Com­pas­sion comes to Sweety in the form of her Aunt Ruth, who talks about how she was called a square peg when she was young. She tells Sweety “that being dif­fer­ent was one of the best things about her life, and that if you stayed true to your­self, you’d find your peo­ple.”

Jack­ie: And by the end of the book Sweety does. This is so much more than a “mes­sage” book. It’s so much fun, and we are as hap­py as Sweety when her “peo­ple” appear in the form of a mush­room-lov­ing, cater­pil­lar-lov­ing naked mole rat named Sandy.

Phyl­lis: There’s even a secret hand­shake.

Red: A Crayon's StoryJack­ie: Red A Crayon’s Sto­ry by Michael Hall is not just a crayon’s sto­ry. It is a sto­ry of wear­ing a label that doesn’t match who you are; Red’s wrap­per says he’s red, but every­thing he col­ors comes out blue, and read­ers can see that he’s real­ly a blue cray­on. The crayons around him can only see his wrap­per.

Phyl­lis: The oth­er crayons try to fix him. “He’s got to press hard­er.” “He’s got to apply him­self.” But every­thing he col­ors keeps com­ing out blue — blue straw­ber­ries, blue bugs, blue hearts, blue fox­es, blue street­lights. Even­tu­al­ly with the help of a new berry-col­ored cray­on friend, Red comes out, too. He dis­cov­ers that he’s not lazy, not real­ly “not bright” as the oth­er crayons spec­u­lat­ed. He is just real­ly blue.

Jack­ie: And once he finds his true col­or, the oth­er crayons are glad for him, and one even says, “I always said he was blue.” They want to do projects with him and cel­e­brate, as we do, when he reach­es for the sky. This is an under­stat­ed sto­ry, and the illus­tra­tions, which appear under­stat­ed, too, are so effec­tive.

Red A Crayon's Story

Red does his best to draw straw­ber­ries, from Red: A Cray­on’s Sto­ry by Michael Hall, Green­wil­low, 2015. Illus­tra­tion copy­right Michael Hall.

Phyl­lis: This book makes us both so hap­py and even makes us want to reach for a box of crayons.

Fantastic Jungles of Henry RousseauPhyl­lis: The Fan­tas­tic Jun­gles of Hen­ri Rousseau by Michelle Markel, illus­trat­ed by Aman­da Hall, begins with a man who doesn’t fit. He is a forty-year-old toll col­lec­tor who wants to be an artist. “Not a sin­gle per­son has ever told him he is tal­ent­ed,” but he paints any­way because he loves nature and teach­es him­self tech­nique by going to the Lou­vre and exam­in­ing “the satiny paint­ings of his favorite artists.”

Jack­ie: One day he puts his can­vas­es in a hand­cart and wheels them to an exhi­bi­tion. It does not go well. Experts say mean things. He keeps paint­ing — pic­tures of plants and ani­mals from far away places. “Some­times Hen­ri is so star­tled by what he paints that he has to open the win­dow to let in some air.” And even though every year he takes his paint­ings to the exhib­it, the experts con­tin­ue to make fun of him. “They say it looks like he closed his eyes and paint­ed with his feet.”

Phyl­lis: He keeps paint­ing. “He spends all he earns on art sup­plies and pays for his bread and coal with land­scapes and por­traits.” No mat­ter what the experts say, “every morn­ing he wakes up and smiles at his pic­tures.” Final­ly, when he is six­ty-one, oth­er artists dis­agree with the experts, befriend­ing Hen­ri and com­ing to con­certs in his stu­dio. Picas­so throws a ban­quet for him. And when Hen­ri exhibits his paint­ing “The Dream,” few peo­ple make fun of him.

The Fantastic Jungles of Henry Rousseau

The Fan­tas­tic Jun­gles of Hen­ri Rousseau by Michelle Markel, illus­tra­tions by Aman­da Hall, Eerd­mans Books for Young Read­ers. Illus­tra­tion copy­right Aman­da Hall.

Jack­ie: The illus­tra­tor made a spe­cial trip to Paris before illus­trat­ing this book, and it shows. Her paint­ings cap­ture the wild spir­it of Rousseau’s work while still being unique­ly her own. In this book, Rousseau start­ed out as a square peg, and his tal­ent reshaped the world.

Julian is a Mermaid

Phyl­lis: Julián is a Mer­maid by Jes­si­ca Love is a book about a boy named Julián who loves mer­maids and about his abuela. Julián sees peo­ple dressed as mer­maids on a train, and he dreams (in gor­geous art) that he is a mer­maid, too, com­plete with tail. In his dream a benev­o­lent fish gives him beads. On the way home Julián tells his abuela he is a mer­maid, too. While she takes a bath he has an idea.

Jack­ie: With a fern and flow­ers for hair and a cur­tain for a tail, Julián trans­forms him­self. The book’s cri­sis occurs when his abuela comes out of the bath, sees him, frowns, and walks away. Uh-oh, says Julián. A wor­ried Julián looks again at his long beau­ti­ful tail. He looks in a mir­ror at his fer­ny and flow­ery hair. Has he done some­thing wrong? Then his grand­moth­er returns. “Come here, mijo,” she says right before a page turn — which we turn quick­ly. She gives him beads.

Julian is a Mermaid

from Julián is a Mer­maid by Jes­si­ca Love, Can­dlewick Press, 2018. Illus­tra­tion copy­right Jes­si­ca Love.

Phyl­lis: A smil­ing mer­maid Julián and his abuela head out for a walk. “Where are we going?” asks Julián. “You’ll see,” says Abuela. One more page turn shows us Julián and Abuela at the mer­maid parade on Coney Island. And like Sweety, Julián has found his peo­ple.

Jack­ie and Phyl­lis: Round pegs, square pegs, pegs of every shape — may we all, like Sweety and Hen­ri and Red and Julián, find our peo­ple.


Summer Reading Kick-off

Ericson Public Library

For the past four years, my library has pro­vid­ed our com­mu­ni­ty with a sum­mer read­ing car­ni­val to kick­start our sum­mer read­ing pro­gram. For the first two years, we had a few bounce hous­es and cot­ton can­dy and 400 patrons attend­ed. To plan our past car­ni­val, I brain­stormed ideas on how to con­tin­ue by pro­vid­ing a car­ni­val with more than bounces hous­es and cot­ton can­dy. The one word that was in my head was part­ner­ships. I made a list of cur­rent library part­ners and sent them an email invi­ta­tion. Every part­ner agreed to par­tic­i­pate. When word got out about our car­ni­val, I received emails from new agen­cies and orga­ni­za­tions ask­ing if they could par­tic­i­pate. A total of 42 part­ners par­tic­i­pat­ed and our atten­dance was over 1,600 (our pop­u­la­tion is at or around 12,500)!

A kick-off car­ni­val is a won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ty for any library to begin its sum­mer read­ing pro­gram. I per­son­al­ly love these types of pro­grams because library part­ners pro­vide the activ­i­ties at no cost to us or the com­mu­ni­ty. We do apply for a local grant to help with any addi­tion­al costs. It is always impor­tant to remem­ber that a pro­gram does not have to cost mon­ey to be suc­cess­ful nor does it have to be large scale.

cotton candy and children

The fol­low­ing is my plan­ning process to pull off a suc­cess­ful kick-off pro­gram.


  1. Spend time review­ing the past car­ni­val and iden­ti­fy both the suc­cess­es and the areas need­ing improve­ment. For exam­ple, last we year we did not have a map for patrons to locate activ­i­ties and to ensure part­ners had enough space;
  2. Send a thank you let­ter to the part­ners and invite them to the next car­ni­val.
  3. Do you see a lack of activ­i­ties for a spe­cif­ic age group?


  1. Review the cur­rent list of part­ners and begin to research new part­ners. Our kick-off car­ni­val has a com­bi­na­tion of part­ners from social ser­vice agen­cies, schools, ear­ly learn­ing orga­ni­za­tions, local com­mu­ni­ty col­leges, ser­vice orga­ni­za­tions, and uni­ver­si­ty depart­ments.
  2. Begin reach­ing out to new part­ners and invite them to the car­ni­val.


  1. Con­tin­ue adding new part­ners if need­ed. Remem­ber to think about both spaces inside the library and out­side the library so you can accom­mo­date the amount of part­ners attend­ing. Do you have a street out­side of your library you could block-off? Our library is three sto­ries and has a large street so we can accom­mo­date a lot of part­ners;
  2. Send out the first email about the date for the kick-off event, infor­ma­tion about last year and the date for them to con­firm their par­tic­i­pa­tion.
  3. If you are using a street, reach out to your city to request a street clo­sure for your kick-off pro­gram.


  1. Fol­low up with part­ners if they have ques­tions;
  2. If you have room, con­tin­ue invit­ing part­ners to the kick-off pro­gram;
  3. Begin review­ing your space and map­ping out con­firmed part­ners;
  4. Begin cre­at­ing posters, draft­ing out social media posts, and locat­ing poten­tial mar­ket­ing avenues. The poster I cre­ate for this event does not list every activ­i­ty, only high­lights. See exam­ple below.

summer reading kickoff


  1. Final­ize posters and begin adver­tis­ing on social media;
  2. Con­tin­ue review­ing the space and updat­ing the map as need­ed.
  3. Recruit vol­un­teers to help. The Friends group, col­lege stu­dents, high school stu­dents, retirees, and the local 4‑H club are great choic­es;
  4. Through­out these months, I cre­ate Face­book Live videos to announce all of the fun activ­i­ties at the kick-off and invite part­ners to join me.


Science Center of Iowa

one of our excit­ing draw­ings for 4 tick­ets to the Sci­ence Cen­ter of Iowa

Hope this helps you plan your own sum­mer read­ing kick-off for next year. Please reach out to me if you have any ques­tions.

Have a great sum­mer!

-Mr. Z


summer reading list


Possible Detours

Once, in one of my (not uncom­mon) moments of think­ing that I could no longer han­dle the finan­cial uncer­tain­ty of the children’s book writ­ing life, I read a book that pur­port­ed to match cre­ative peo­ple to poten­tial career pur­suits. I read the advice, filled out the quizzes, and final­ly received my assigned “type.” With great antic­i­pa­tion I turned to the sec­tion at the back of the book where pos­si­ble career paths were list­ed by type. I expect­ed to be told I should train to become a lawyer or an ad exec, some­thing with a per­haps-some­what- more pre­dictable income stream than my own.

But here are the career options I was strong­ly encour­aged to pur­sue:

  • Pup­peteer
  • Mime

With apolo­gies to all the high­ly paid mimes of the world, I couldn’t help but feel dis­cour­aged at this advice (almost the way one might feel if one were trapped inside a glass box).

I was recent­ly remind­ed of these pos­si­ble detours on my life’s path when some writer friends shared “Non-Teach­ing Jobs Twit­ter Rec­om­mends for Writ­ers” (I have already added “crim­i­nal mas­ter­mind” and “dol­phin” to my own buck­et list). And all of this popped into my head again at a school vis­it, when a stu­dent asked me the ques­tion I am almost always asked: “How much mon­ey do you make?”

The truth­ful-but-vague answer, as I explain when­ev­er I am asked, is that while a few children’s book writ­ers do get rich, most of us do not. I try to describe to the stu­dents some of the oth­er advan­tages I find in the writ­ing life, but I know that’s not what most of them remem­ber. I wor­ry that those of them who want to grow up to be pup­peteers or mimes or even dol­phins will give up their dreams too ear­ly after they hear my hon­est response.

So if you have a young writer in your life, go ahead and tell them the truth: most like­ly, they won’t get rich. But on my behalf, I hope you’ll also let them know that there’s a lot to be said for lov­ing your work. In hav­ing the chance to make an impact on the lives of young peo­ple who know you only through your sto­ries. In defin­ing your­self not by how much mon­ey you make, but by the rich­ness of your expe­ri­ences.

Tell them that liv­ing their dream may be tough, but that there is more than one kind of pay-off in life.


Waiting for My Editor, part 5

Waiting for My Editor Part V


When Sue Found Sue

When Sue Found SueIs there any muse­um exhib­it more fas­ci­nat­ing than Sue, the T. rex, at The Field Muse­um in  Chica­go, Illi­nois? 

Now there’s a curios­i­ty-rais­ing, shy­ness-rec­og­niz­ing, dis­cus­sion-wor­thy book about the oth­er Sue, the woman who dis­cov­ered the T. rex dur­ing a dig in South Dako­ta. For ele­men­tary school stu­dents and your dinosaur-inspired kids in the library and at home, you can see from the cov­er that this book is irre­sistible.

Toni Buzzeo, the author, begins Sue Hen­drick­son’s sto­ry when she was a curi­ous child who spent a lot of time find­ing things. She was a shy girl, so for shy kids every­where, When Sue Found Sue is an inspi­ra­tion. I was a shy child myself (and a shy adult), so I’m cer­tain about this. If Sue Hen­drick­son could start the way she did, then all dreams are pos­si­ble.

The writ­ing is engag­ing, telling a well-researched and true sto­ry. 

Sue Hen­drick­son was born to find things:
miss­ing trin­kets,
pre­his­toric but­ter­flies,
sunken ships,
even buried dinosaurs.

The illus­tra­tor, Diana Sudy­ka, cre­ates a con­nec­tion through emo­tion, sus­pense, and “gouache and water­col­ors made from earth pig­ments for the Dako­ta scenes.” I’ve had fun imag­in­ing how she mixed those paints. The end­pa­pers are charm­ing, empha­siz­ing the theme of find­ing things.

illus­tra­tion from When Sue Found Sue, copy­right Diana Sudy­ka, Abrams Books for Young Read­ers

Think what you could do in the class­room and library with the theme of “find­ing things.” And talks about shy­ness, and curios­i­ty, and how our inter­ests as chil­dren can become our pas­sions as adults.

This inter­view with the author will help you talk with your stu­dents and patrons about When Sue Found Sue.

Toni Buzzeo, author:

How were you drawn to writ­ing a book about Sue Hen­drick­son?

Near­ly sev­en years ago, a fifth grad­er at a school vis­it in upstate New York asked me if I’d ever writ­ten non­fic­tion for kids. He was obvi­ous­ly a non­fic­tion lover. As I began to respond in the neg­a­tive, say­ing that I write fic­tion because it allows me to tell a sto­ry of a character’s jour­ney with a nar­ra­tive sto­ry arc, I real­ized that I was describ­ing a writ­ing endeav­or that def­i­nite­ly includes biog­ra­phy. I made a promise to that boy that I’d go home and find a bio­graph­i­cal sub­ject. Hap­pi­ly, I land­ed on Cyn­thia Moss, the sub­ject of my first pic­ture book biog­ra­phy, A Pas­sion for Ele­phants: The Real Life Adven­ture of Field Sci­en­tist Cyn­thia Moss, a woman who has ded­i­cat­ed her life to study­ing the African ele­phants of the Amboseli region of Kenya.

I loved the research, I loved find­ing the through-line from Cynthia’s child­hood to her adult work, and I ulti­mate­ly loved writ­ing the book, so much so that I deter­mined to write anoth­er pic­ture book biog­ra­phy of anoth­er strong woman of sci­ence. I sent the call out to my fel­low school librar­i­ans and found among their sug­ges­tions the per­fect next sub­ject in Sue Hen­drick­son, anoth­er strong self-taught woman of sci­ence who lives with pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion — and who found the largest, most com­plete Tyran­nosaurus rex ever dis­cov­ered!

As a once and future librar­i­an, you’ve focused on Sue’s curios­i­ty. What do you find appeal­ing about her sense of curios­i­ty?

I’ve nev­er thought about the curios­i­ty aspect of Sue’s per­son­al­i­ty and my own, pri­mar­i­ly because so much of Sue’s curios­i­ty took an exter­nal turn. While she sure­ly was a curi­ous (and vora­cious) read­er, from an ear­ly age she went out with a mag­ni­fy­ing glass into the world while my curios­i­ty was always much more intel­lec­tu­al — lead­ing me all the way to the field of librar­i­an­ship where I could prac­tice curios­i­ty for a liv­ing!

You’ve also empha­sized how shy Sue Hen­drick­son was. How does that res­onate with you?

Yes­ter­day I vis­it­ed Thomp­son School here in Arling­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts where I live, and the stu­dents and I were talk­ing about just this ques­tion. I was the shyest child ever born — or at least it seems that way when I think back. In ear­ly ele­men­tary school, if my best friend Lin­da Benko was not at school, I would pass the entire day with­out speak­ing to any­one, and that includ­ed my teacher. So find­ing a bio­graph­i­cal sub­ject so much like myself as a child was a great plea­sure!

There’s a great deal of infor­ma­tion in the illus­tra­tions, com­ple­men­tary to your text. Did you and Diana Sudy­ka have any occa­sion to con­fer before she began her illus­tra­tions?

Diana and I did not con­fer before she began, no. Aren’t her illus­tra­tions just so amaz­ing? I love her work, her sen­si­bil­i­ty, the way she cap­tures char­ac­ter, set­ting, and dra­ma. I’m very excit­ed that she and I will be doing an event with Sue the T. rex at the Field Muse­um in Chica­go on June 26, 2019. I hope that some of your read­ers local to Chica­go will join us!

In work­ing with your edi­tor on this book, did the text or struc­ture change in any sig­nif­i­cant way?

Oh good­ness, yes, the con­tent, and thus the text, changed in a very sig­nif­i­cant way. The man­u­script that I first sub­mit­ted had a work­ing title of Find­er! As you may guess from that title, the text was much more wide-rang­ing than When Sue Found Sue. It exam­ined Sue Hendrickson’s uncan­ny abil­i­ty to find thing across all of her many pur­suits in much more detail, from amber inclu­sions to marine archae­ol­o­gy. My edi­tor, Tamar Brazis, wise­ly guid­ed me in the process of con­dens­ing all of that and real­ly con­cen­trat­ing on the T. rex dis­cov­ery. It’s a much more focused and suc­cess­ful book as a result.

Did you have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to inter­view Sue Hen­drick­son?

Sue Hen­drick­son is a very pri­vate per­son. She lives 40 miles off the coast of Cen­tral Amer­i­ca on the Hon­duras Bay island of Gua­na­ja, so no, I did not have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to inter­view her.

Both Sue Hen­drick­son and the book’s illus­tra­tor, Diana Sudy­ka, have spent time in The Field Muse­um in Chica­go, Illi­nois. Have you also spent time there? What is your favorite part of the muse­um?

It has been many, many years since I have been to the Field Muse­um but I already know that when I return on June 26, 2019 for my joint event with Diana, my favorite part of the muse­um will be the amaz­ing new gallery where Sue the T. rex now lives—Grif­fin Halls of Evolv­ing Plan­et. Have a look here and you’ll be as excit­ed as I am!

There is a quote that pre­cedes your Author’s Note. “The thrill of dis­cov­ery is a real emo­tion … like a ‘rush’ … the excite­ment is worth the days or months of hard work … and keeps me going on and on … look­ing for more.” As an author, do you feel a con­nec­tion to this state­ment?

Oh absolute­ly! When I final­ly have that last essen­tial piece of infor­ma­tion I need in order to begin writ­ing, I feel this way. When I look through all of my notes and final­ly spot the one uni­fy­ing aspect of my subject’s life or per­son­al­i­ty that I will build the sto­ry around, I feel this way. When I com­plete the first full draft, and I feel it glow­ing on the screen, I feel this way.

At Thomp­son School, with my audi­ence of sec­ond graders, I was talk­ing about the hard work it takes to write and pub­lish books for kids, the years invest­ed, the rejec­tions and revi­sions and ded­i­ca­tion to the process. One quite pre­co­cious and deeply thought­ful young man in the front row raised his hand, but it wasn’t ques­tion time yet. I asked if it was a ques­tion that could wait until ques­tion time at the end, and he said no, that it was about what I had just said. So I nod­ded for him to go ahead and that sev­en-year-old boy looked at me with earnest eyes and asked, “But is it worth it?”

Oh yes,” I said. “Oh yes, it is.”

When you talk with chil­dren about this book, what will you dis­cuss with them?

We talk about my life as a child and my key per­son­al­i­ty traits. We talk about me as a writer and the kinds of books that have come before this one. Then we talk about the things I need­ed to learn about Sue Hen­drick­son to write this sto­ry effec­tive­ly. Kids are won­der­ful­ly good at nam­ing those things, all the way down to her char­ac­ter traits. Then we talk about how my two T. rex books are aston­ish­ing­ly dis­sim­i­lar. No T. Rex in the Library and When Sue Found Sue have only a very large dinosaur in com­mon.  Next, we “dig” into the exca­va­tion, the chal­lenges, the serendip­i­ty, and the court case it inspired. And final­ly we talk about the new learn­ing that has allowed the sci­en­tists at the Field Muse­um to reunite Sue and her gas­tralia, a col­lec­tion of bones that had been omit­ted from her skele­ton as it was pre­vi­ous­ly on dis­play and is now reunit­ed with her skele­ton in the new hall and in her new pose. It’s all very inter­est­ing and excit­ing to kids.

Do you enjoy find­ing things?

Is this a trick ques­tion? I must lose my glass­es and my phone on an aver­age of five times a day. Love find­ing them! But yes, in seri­ous­ness, I love to find facts. I just adore that. v


When We Reach Them

Let Your Voice Be HeardWe’re out of school today in obser­vance of Oaks Day here in our area. This morn­ing, Ani­ta Sil­vey, chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture expert and resource, remind­ed us on Face­book that Pete Seeger cel­e­brates a birth­day today. 100 years. I might not have known that with­out her post. How many of us would? How many of us would have known that Ani­ta Sil­vey has writ­ten one of the best non­fic­tion looks at Seeger’s life and work?

Adam did.

And, as you will see, as luck might have it, I had Adam’s project to share with you out in the van. Here is that project. As you will see in the pho­tos below, Adam’s instal­la­tion is built like a stage that dis­plays a bro­ken-down ban­jo Adam found at the Ped­dler’s Mall right before the project.

Adam's stage display for Pete Seeger's life

Stage dis­play of Pete Seeger’s life and music

Adam had no aware­ness of Seeger or his music or his influ­ence on many of the artists Adam did know. When Adam was stuck in his sub­ject choice, we had just fin­ished watch­ing clips of Bruce Spring­steen’s Broad­way show to inspire some writ­ing in Room 407. I thought that Pete Seeger would be a great sub­ject to tie into the idea of the theme of an Amer­i­can Creed and how music can be the lan­guage we use to express our per­son­al creed as Amer­i­cans.

This is a moment that we might stop and remind our­selves that our stu­dents do not read 100% of the books and they do not write 100% of the pieces they might if we don’t know about them, shelve and share them, and work these with stu­dents while they are in our build­ings. I had Sil­vey’s book in the room as well as oth­er resources you see in Adam’s Anno­tat­ed Bib­li­og­ra­phy. I had Seeger CDs at the ready or I would not have made a rec­om­men­da­tion to him to pur­sue the project.

Watch as Adam lists his Table of Con­tents right after the orig­i­nal tracks on this album set (and that his project is tucked inside of a vin­tage boxed record set). His review of Sil­vey’s book (post­ed to Ama­zon) is also includ­ed with­in the project. A lit­tle book­let is tucked inside of the project that serves like “Lin­er Notes” for the project.

Cover of the project

Cov­er of the project, a riff on the ban­jo Pete Seeger played through­out his life, which bore the inscrip­tion, “This machine sur­rounds hate and forces it to sur­ren­der.”

Boxed set

Adam lists his Table of Con­tents right after the orig­i­nal tracks on this album set.

Detail of project enclosure

Table of Contents

I sim­ply love the earnest­ness of this project as it is pre­sent­ed. Adam nar­rates the “turns” in the project as well as how it all comes togeth­er in the end. Adam has (and he will not mind or push back against this) been a lit­tle late on some of the pieces along the way. All I want­ed for him this spring is that a project could come in that reflect­ed his love for music. All I want­ed for Adam was to take a deep­er look at the roots of the music he lis­tens to today. That’s what I want­ed. And Adam deliv­ers here.

project statement

Adam nar­rates the “turns” in the project as well as how it all comes togeth­er in the end.

Introduction to the Project

Book Review

Adam’s book review of Let Your Voice Be Heard: The Life and Times of Pete Seeger, writ­ten by Ani­ta Sil­vey

annotated bibliography

Anno­tat­ed bib­li­og­ra­phy for the project

As a side note, Adam’s project caught the eye of senior, Calvin, and he want­ed to know more about the ban­jo Adam had found (Calvin is a pick­er). This led to an IRP (study hall) con­ver­sa­tion between two stu­dents who might not oth­er­wise had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to share an inter­est in the instru­ment and the music.

It is a joy to share Adam’s project with you today on Seeger’s birth­day.


Richard Adams Gave Me Rabbits

Watership DownKnee-deep in spring! The rab­bits will be here soon, rangy after a long win­ter. They like our yard because we have low bush­es good for hid­ing and we let the lawn go to clover and dan­de­lions. I like to think rab­bits feel safe because they have lit­tle chance else­where. If ever there was an ani­mal with “a thou­sand ene­mies,” it’s the cot­ton­tail rab­bit, a crea­ture I nev­er paid much atten­tion to until Water­ship Down.

I found Water­ship Down in 1974. I was twen­ty-two, still in the thrall of The Lord of the Rings and The Once and Future King yet feel­ing jad­ed that the world was noth­ing like Mid­dle-earth or Gramerye. One day on my lunch hour, I walked into Wood­ward & Lothrop to browse the book depart­ment. On dis­play were stacks of a new nov­el with a com­pass rose and a rab­bit on the cov­er. It was thick — over 400 pages — British, and a fan­ta­sy. The hard­cov­er cost $6.95, a for­tune on my secretary’s salary, but I bought it. At work I kept the book on my knees, slid­ing out from my desk to sneak-read when no one was look­ing.

With the first fore­bod­ing sen­tence, “The prim­ros­es were over,” I knew this was not a sto­ry about bun­nies. It was dark­er, sharp­er, and exact­ly what I need­ed. At that time, my life seemed all edges and uncer­tain­ty. I felt a lot like Fiv­er, the ner­vous “out­skirter” (in the hier­ar­chy of Adams’ rab­bits, out­skirters lacked aris­to­crat­ic parent­age, weight, and strength). I want­ed to write for chil­dren, but, more than two years out of high school, couldn’t seem to move for­ward. Was I doomed to type oth­er people’s words for­ev­er?

I learned that the author, Richard Adams, worked for the civ­il ser­vice and didn’t start writ­ing until he was fifty. Water­ship Down began as a tale he told his daugh­ters on a dri­ve to Strat­ford-on-Avon. They urged him to write the sto­ry — it took two years. After four­teen rejec­tions, a small pub­lish­er print­ed 2500 copies. The book became an instant clas­sic, allow­ing Richard Adams to quit his job and write full-time.

The book won the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fic­tion Prize. A review­er for The Econ­o­mist declared, “If there is no place for Water­ship Down in children’s book­shops, then children’s lit­er­a­ture is dead.” I’ve nev­er felt it is a children’s book, but that could be because I came to it as an adult. Adams him­self refused to pin down the book’s intend­ed audi­ence: “What age-group is it aimed at?” some­one would ask. “I don’t aim it, madam. It just goes off by itself.”

Adams cred­its Ronald Lockley’s The Pri­vate Life of the Rab­bit for nat­ur­al his­to­ry details, but in aim­ing for the truth in his sto­ry, he drew upon his child­hood love of Wal­ter de la Mare’s poet­ry, espe­cial­ly “The Chil­dren of Stare”:

Tis strange to see young chil­dren
In such a win­try house;
Like rab­bits’ on the frozen snow
Their tell­tale foot­prints go.

His reac­tion to the poem: “Cold, ghosts, grief, pain and loss stand all about the lit­tle cocoon of bright warmth, which is every­where pierced by a wild, numi­nous beau­ty, cat­a­lyst of fear and weep­ing.” The poem was far from com­fort­ing, but it told the truth, and led Adams to tack­le “the real­ly unan­swer­able things” in Water­ship Down, which is also about grief, pain, and loss, while every­where pierced by a wild, numi­nous beau­ty.

Water­ship Down changed my life (the last book to do so). I nev­er saw rab­bits — or the nat­ur­al world — the same way again. I turned to the works of Rachel Car­son and Hal Bor­land.

I took notice of the envi­ron­ment. And I watched rab­bits dur­ing evening sil­flay, Lap­ine for feed­ing above-ground.

Rab­bits kept me ground­ed to the plan­et. I bought rab­bit gar­den stat­u­ary, rab­bit fig­urines and paint­ings. A framed poster of Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait’s Rab­bits on a Log hangs in our bath­room. The porch is inhab­it­ed by rab­bits, and each spring I buy new pieces of rab­bit-themed chi­na.

In the pub­lic domain, Rab­bits on a Log by Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, 1897, oil on can­vas, Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art, acces­sion 1979.490.7

In 1978, before we were mar­ried, my fiancé and I saw the beau­ti­ful­ly-ani­mat­ed (and not for kids) movie. When Art Gar­funkel began singing “Bright Eyes” at the death of main char­ac­ter Hazel, I cried so hard my fiancé almost called an ambu­lance (yet still mar­ried me). I still haven’t got­ten over it.

Richard Adams gave me rab­bits, but he also gave me direc­tion. I decid­ed to get a move on with my career. Instead of shop­ping on my lunch hour, I went to the library, staked out a table in the children’s room, and wrote sto­ries. My first children’s mag­a­zine sale came from a lunch time work ses­sion.

Most of all, Richard Adams gave me human­i­ty. Through his band of small, ordi­nary ani­mals fac­ing home­less­ness and sur­vival, I saw myself, also small and ordi­nary, as a sto­ry­telling ani­mal. I give mys­ter­ies, fan­ta­sy, his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, biogra­phies, and con­tem­po­rary tales to chil­dren. One day, those read­ers will tell their own sto­ries. Maybe even about rab­bits.




Suc­cess. Thesaurus.com offers more than fifty syn­onyms for the word “suc­cess”… accom­plish­ment, fame, hap­pi­ness, progress, tri­umph, and vic­to­ry all have a place on the list. With test­ing hys­te­ria mak­ing the rounds in schools and class­rooms every­where, the def­i­n­i­tion of suc­cess as it relates to read­ing, has like­ly weighed heav­i­ly on the minds and hearts of many teach­ers. How do we mea­sure read­ing pro­fi­cien­cy? How do we mea­sure suc­cess? I firm­ly believe that it is both illu­sive and dan­ger­ous to decide whether a child has been suc­cess­ful by turn­ing only to a score on a high-stakes read­ing test.

Sad­ly, in Min­neso­ta, our leg­is­la­tors have deemed a pro­fi­cient score of 350 on the third-grade read­ing MCA such a sig­nif­i­cant mea­sure of suc­cess that for years our state has used it as a way to reward schools with what they call “Lit­er­a­cy Incen­tive Aid” which is explained in A Pub­li­ca­tion of the Min­neso­ta House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Fis­cal Analy­sis Depart­ment (p. 48):

Schools are eli­gi­ble for addi­tion­al aid based on how well stu­dents in the third grade read (called “Pro­fi­cien­cy Aid”), and how much progress is being made between the third and fourth grades in read­ing skills (called “Growth Aid”). Pro­fi­cien­cy aid is cal­cu­lat­ed by mul­ti­ply­ing $530 times the aver­age per­cent­age of stu­dents in a school that meet or exceed pro­fi­cien­cy over the cur­rent year and pre­vi­ous two years on the third-grade read­ing por­tion of the Min­neso­ta Com­pre­hen­sive Assess­ment, mul­ti­plied by the num­ber of stu­dents enrolled in the third grade at the school in the pre­vi­ous year. Sim­i­lar­ly, Growth aid is cal­cu­lat­ed by mul­ti­ply­ing $530 times the per­cent­age of stu­dents that make medi­um or high growth on the fourth-grade read­ing Min­neso­ta Com­pre­hen­sive Assess­ment mul­ti­plied by the pre­vi­ous year’s fourth grade stu­dent count. [124D.98]

Let’s think about that for a moment. Basi­cal­ly, this “read­ing boun­ty” that is placed on the heads of our stu­dents offers schools with few­er Eng­lish Lan­guage Learn­er stu­dents, schools with few­er stu­dents who receive free or reduced lunch, and schools with few­er Spe­cial Edu­ca­tion stu­dents, a hefty finan­cial boost for every stu­dent who attains that score of 350. There seems to be lit­tle regard for the fact that stu­dents from these demo­graph­ic groups already face a seri­ous oppor­tu­ni­ty gap and that gap is a pre-exist­ing con­di­tion that is fur­ther exas­per­at­ed by this mod­el of school fund­ing. In oth­er words, the rich get rich­er, while the poor con­tin­ue to strug­gle.

How I wish I could con­vince our leg­is­la­tors that defin­ing read­ing pro­fi­cien­cy or suc­cess as a score of 350 on the read­ing MCA is sim­ply not the only, and espe­cial­ly not the best, way to deter­mine whether a diverse group of eight- and nine-year old kids are suc­cess­ful in terms of lit­er­a­cy. I am con­vinced that I have plen­ty of data in addi­tion to the MCA score, both the “hard” and “soft” kind, that paints a bet­ter pic­ture of whether or not my stu­dents have attained lit­er­a­cy suc­cess. You name it, I’ve got it. Sum­ma­tive, for­ma­tive, for­mal, infor­mal, flu­en­cy CBMs, anec­do­tal con­fer­ence notes, run­ning records, NWEA MAP data, essays, opin­ion writ­ing, research reports, writ­ing in response to read­ing … the list goes on and on. A 350 is cer­tain­ly not the only way to mea­sure lit­er­a­cy suc­cess in Room 212. Just as impor­tant (if not more impor­tant) are the con­ver­sa­tions, deep-think­ing, and per­son­al reflec­tions my stu­dents share with me and each oth­er on a dai­ly basis.

Front DeskAs easy as it is to be dis­cour­aged and feel like I’m the one who has failed when some of my bril­liant, hard-work­ing and oh-so-wise stu­dents come up short of that mea­sure of suc­cess, aka a 350, I need only to call up mem­o­ries of a recent read-aloud moment in Room 212. The book, Front Desk, by Kel­ly Yang, tells the sto­ry of Mia Tang, a deter­mined, resource­ful and coura­geous ten-year-old who dis­cov­ers the pow­er of the writ­ten word. Mia and her par­ents are Chi­nese immi­grants, work­ing end­less hours at the Calivista Motel under the scruti­ny of the heart­less own­er, Mr. Yao in the ear­ly 1990s. Mia befriends Lupe, anoth­er immi­grant in her class, whose fam­i­ly came to the Unit­ed States from Mex­i­co. The two girls dis­cov­er they were both hid­ing sim­i­lar secrets that were attempts to cov­er up the harsh real­i­ties of their lives. Once they real­ize they could be vul­ner­a­ble with each oth­er, they share a great deal more about their inner most thoughts and feel­ings. Much like my reflec­tions and won­der­ing about what it means to be suc­cess­ful, Mia shared the fol­low­ing:

I was curi­ous what Lupe thought of as “suc­cess­ful.” Every­body seemed to have dif­fer­ent cri­te­ria. I used to think being suc­cess­ful meant hav­ing enough to eat…

When I asked Lupe, she put two fin­gers to her chin and thought real hard. “I think being suc­cess­ful in this coun­try means hav­ing a liv­ing room with­out a bed in it,” she decid­ed.

After read­ing that excerpt to my incred­i­ble kids, we dug deep­er into the con­ver­sa­tion and opin­ions shared by Mia and Lupe. There was a con­sen­sus that Mia was right about peo­ple hav­ing very dif­fer­ent ideas about what it might mean to be suc­cess­ful. Some kids shared their def­i­n­i­tion and oth­ers were very qui­et. I invit­ed the class to think more about the top­ic of being suc­cess­ful and to con­sid­er writ­ing about what it means to them. A num­ber of kids accept­ed the invi­ta­tion.

If only that “Lit­er­a­cy Incen­tive Aid” could include cri­te­ria beyond an MCA test score of 350. I would like to believe that the thought­ful reflec­tions shared by my stu­dents would con­vince our leg­is­la­tors that pro­fi­cien­cy is more than a num­ber derived from a bunch of cor­rect answers to mul­ti­ple-choice ques­tions about read­ing pas­sages stu­dents may have lit­tle inter­est in read­ing. 

Two of my favorite stu­dent respons­es:

success is

Suc­cess­ful means that you do some­thing you’ve always want­ed to do and it went how you want­ed.

success is

Suc­cess­ful means hav­ing a house and a dog, hav­ing a tree­house, hav­ing a gar­den, learn­ing a lot, going to col­lege.

After all, isn’t being a suc­cess­ful read­er as much about what read­ing does to our heart as it is about what read­ing does to our head? I doubt there will ever be a stan­dard­ized test that can ade­quate­ly mea­sure the impact of read­ing on one’s heart. How­ev­er, if there were such a thing, there is no doubt that all of my stu­dents would sur­pass a 350.


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. Bless the schools — the teach­ers, par­ents and kids — who make this such a fun tra­di­tion each year. What a great cel­e­bra­tion!

I was vis­it­ing Pre‑K and kinder­garten class­rooms, so I put togeth­er a lit­tle sto­ry­time cen­tered on the themes of peace, gen­tle­ness, inclu­sion, and love—The Big Umbrel­la, One Dog Canoe, Worm Loves Worm, Xander’s Pan­da Par­ty, and Strict­ly No Ele­phants—and went to read.

The kids at this school are obvi­ous­ly read to — they are polite, engaged audi­ences. They enjoyed what­ev­er com­bi­na­tion of books I read, but it was Strict­ly No Ele­phants by Lisa Mantchev, illus­trat­ed by Taee­un Yoo, that was the biggest hit in each class. They were hooked from the first line.

The trou­ble with hav­ing a tiny ele­phant for a pet is that you nev­er quite fit in.

Near as I can tell, it was the two word phrase “tiny ele­phant” that made them sit up and lean in. When I turned the page, they leaned in fur­ther. 

No one else has an ele­phant.

The text is spare, but it’s the illus­tra­tions that made them lean in, I think — an apart­ment house, every oth­er win­dow show­ing the usu­al sorts of pets that peo­ple have. Pup­pies, gold­fish, cats, a bird in a cage etc. And then the boy with the tiny ele­phant who lives next door. Sep­a­rate. Apart.

We’re then treat­ed to spreads of quo­tid­i­an activ­i­ties with the tiny ele­phant — going for walks, strug­gling over cracks in the side­walk (the tiny ele­phant is afraid of them) and the like.

And then! Joy! It’s Pet Club Day — every­one is meet­ing at Num­ber 17. All the cats and dogs and their peo­ple head out to the club meet­ing. As does the tiny ele­phant and boy.

But when they arrive at Num­ber 17, there is a sign that says: Strict­ly No Ele­phants. 

The tiny ele­phant leads the boy back home, obliv­i­ous to the side­walk cracks now, because: That’s what friends do: brave the scary things for you.

You could’ve heard the prover­bial pin drop. I looked out on lit­tle faces reg­is­ter­ing the pain of exclu­sion. We all know what that feels like. When I turned the page and the art showed rain and a blue and grey col­or palette that mir­rored our emo­tions, their lit­tle faces grew even sad­der. But I held the page open just a bit longer than usu­al. The spread is word­less, leav­ing the pic­tures to car­ry the mag­ic. The boy and his tiny ele­phant have red and yel­low on their cloth­ing (the ele­phant wears a scarf, of course)…and so does a girl sit­ting on the bench, her own pet in her lap.  

I watched their eyes trav­el from the boy and his ele­phant to the girl. They sat up just a tiny bit straighter, the light of hope return­ing to their eyes. I turned the page.

Turns out, the girl has a skunk for a pet. The trou­ble with hav­ing a skunk, of course, is that you nev­er quite fit in.… 

He doesn’t stink.,” the girl says. And the boy agrees.

They start their own club! My read­ers were ecsta­t­ic — what a great idea! There’s a glo­ri­ous spread of unusu­al pets. The kids went wild. We iden­ti­fied each of the unusu­al pets — a por­cu­pine, nar­whal, giraffe, and pen­guin among them. We were gid­dy with relief that every­one had found each oth­er.

The kids and their pets find a park with a tree­house and they paint their own sign. This part was my favorite. At first they fol­low the mod­el they’d seen—Strict­ly no strangers. No Spoil­sports. But then they change it. It’s a sign that says who is wel­come instead of who is not.

All are wel­come. 

A most sat­is­fy­ing pic­ture book!


Explorer Academy: The Falcon’s Feather

The Falcon's FeatherExplor­er Acad­e­my: The Fal­con’s Feath­er
Tru­di Trueit
illus­trat­ed by Scott Plumbe (with a blend of pho­tos)
Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Part­ners, 2019
ISBN 978−1−4263−3304−0

I’ve writ­ten a pri­or Read­ing Ahead essay about my love for The Neb­u­la Secret, the first book in the Explor­er Acad­e­my series. Now book two, The Fal­con’s Feath­er, con­tin­ues the sto­ry and I think it’s even more excit­ing. I can­not wait for the next install­ment in the series, The Dou­ble Helix, which won’t be avail­able until Sep­tem­ber 3, 2019. Do you remem­ber that kind of excite­ment as a young read­er, wait­ing for a book by your favorite author?

In this book, Cruz Coro­n­a­do, his friends and fel­low Explor­ers, Emmett, Sailor, and Brandys, and their entire class embark on The Ori­on, a superb high-tech­nol­o­gy ship that will vis­it var­i­ous trou­bled spots on the Earth, teach­ing the stu­dents about ecol­o­gy, con­ser­va­tion, sci­en­tif­ic inquiry, and involv­ing them in cur­rent exper­i­ments. A con­gru­ent sto­ry­line finds Cruz and his best friend in Hawaii, Lani, putting clues togeth­er that Cruz’s sci­en­tist moth­er left before she dis­ap­peared. It’s all very involv­ing, page-turn­ing, and will appeal to peo­ple who love mys­ter­ies, non­fic­tion, puz­zles, sci­ence, and Har­ry Pot­ter.

I am so excit­ed by this book that I asked if I could inter­view the author, Tru­di Trueit. How on earth does she write a book, much less a sev­en-book series, of this cal­iber? Here’s how she answered me:

Trudi Trueit

Tru­di Trueit

What’s in your back­ground that prompt­ed Nation­al Geo­graph­ic to ask you to write The Explor­er Acad­e­my series?

Many writ­ers will tend to choose a genre, but I’ve always had a pas­sion for writ­ing both fic­tion and non­fic­tion. My work includes more than nine­ty non­fic­tion library titles for kids on every­thing from video gam­ing to storm chas­ing for pub­lish­ers like Scholas­tic and Lern­er. I’ve also writ­ten nine mid­dle grade fic­tion titles, includ­ing the Secrets of a Lab Rat series for Simon & Schus­ter. I will go back and forth between the two gen­res, writ­ing a fic­tion title, then writ­ing a short series of non­fic­tion books. It’s the per­fect mix. Just when I am eager to fin­ish writ­ing about a non­fic­tion top­ic, it’s time to switch and let my cre­ative juices take over. Explor­er Acad­e­my is a com­bi­na­tion of those worlds, allow­ing me to cre­ate a fast-paced adven­ture series that’s root­ed in sci­ence.

I recent­ly saw you on WCCO in Min­neapo­lis with Eri­ka Bergman, sub­mersible pilot, a Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Explor­er. When you’re writ­ing each book in the series, do you pull the plot togeth­er with actu­al Nation­al Geo­graph­ic projects as the basis for your scenes … or do you and your edi­tor work out the projects to fea­ture in each book?

The plots aren’t nec­es­sar­i­ly based on actu­al Nation­al Geo­graph­ic projects, how­ev­er, I do look to expe­ri­ences from the explor­ers and real-world tech­nol­o­gy to enhance the sto­ry­line. Some­times, a sto­ry is sparked by some­thing an explor­er shared with me, a project they are work­ing on, or an arti­cle they wrote. Oth­er times, it’s an issue that has touched my heart, like help­ing marine ani­mals caught in fish­ing nets. I research and learn what we are (or aren’t) doing to address the prob­lem and then cre­ate a mis­sion for the explor­ers to go on.

Are you some­one who enjoys puz­zles and mys­ter­ies? Do you like to play games?

I adore games, puz­zles, and mys­ter­ies! As a kid, one of my favorite books was called Two Minute Mys­ter­ies and it was exact­ly that: short sto­ries where you had to fig­ure out who­dunit. I also devoured pret­ty much every Nan­cy Drew book out there (Hardy Boys, too!). I love games, too, espe­cial­ly word games and triv­ia.

Your plots are jam packed with adven­tures. How do you orga­nize your plots, phys­i­cal­ly and men­tal­ly?

I try to keep things orga­nized through an out­line, scene list, and what I call Thread Notes. These are notes that I car­ry through from book to book, to remind me of the dif­fer­ent threads that I have start­ed so that I can decide when and how to wrap them up as the series pro­gress­es. For each book, I will do a gen­er­al four to five page syn­op­sis to estab­lish the main plot ele­ments and how I want it to end. I do try to keep as much in my head as pos­si­ble, because if you’re expect­ing a read­er to remem­ber details as they read, it’s only fair that you do the same. I don’t do an extreme­ly detailed out­line because I find it tends to sti­fle cre­ativ­i­ty. Half the fun of get­ting up in the morn­ing is see­ing what will pour out of my head and onto the page!

What does your work­space look like?

My work­space is noth­ing fan­cy — my home office with a desk, book­shelf, and lit­tle flo­ral sofa. The sage green walls are dec­o­rat­ed with can­vas prints of some of my book cov­ers. It’s pret­ty neat, because I can’t write in chaos. I do have three edi­tors, who see to it that I stay on track: my cats Pip­pin, Emmy­lou, and Woody. They snooze (and some­times, snore) the day away next to my com­put­er and occa­sion­al­ly steal my pens and pen­cils. Woody is a twen­ty-pound boy, so he takes a bit of room. I think I need a big­ger desk!

Trudi Trueit's cats

What are your five top go-to ref­er­ence sites or ref­er­ence books while you’re writ­ing?

It varies, depend­ing on the top­ic and book. Sources that I’ve looked to while writ­ing Explor­er Acad­e­my include The Smith­son­ian, Nation­al Ocean­ic and Atmos­pher­ic Admin­is­tra­tion (NOAA), U.S. Geo­log­i­cal sur­vey, NASA, NOVA, Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can, Dis­cov­ery, and, of course, first and fore­most, Nation­al Geo­graph­ic.

Map of Orion

I love maps! This one is so detailed that I’ve spent quite a lot of time refer­ring to it. Map of Ori­on from Explor­ers Acad­e­my: The Fal­con’s Feath­er, illus­tra­tion copy­right Scott Plumbe, Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Books for Kids, 2019

The Ori­on Ship Map at the begin­ning of The Falcon’s Feath­er is one of the coolest things ever. Did you draw a ver­sion of that map to help you with writ­ing the scenes on board The Ori­on?

Yes, I did a very basic ver­sion of the ship so I could visu­al­ize where every­thing was and keep track of things. Thank­ful­ly, tal­ent­ed artist Scott Plumbe took my crude draw­ing and craft­ed an incred­i­ble illus­tra­tion for the book. I love its futur­is­tic look!

You explain the gad­gets so well. Are these sci­en­tif­ic inno­va­tions some­thing you’ve been able to see to help with describ­ing them or are they fic­tion?

Some gad­gets I have been able to see, such as minia­ture drones and smart glass­es, but things like the time cap­sule, octo­pod, or shad­ow badge are fic­tion­al. Often, the gad­gets are a com­bi­na­tion of both. Because the explor­ers are liv­ing in the not-too-dis­tant future, I will often take ele­ments of the famil­iar and expand them via my imag­i­na­tion. For instance, the CAVE (Com­put­er Ani­mat­ed Vir­tu­al Expe­ri­ence) is a vir­tu­al real­i­ty room, which we are all famil­iar with, that gives off an actu­al sen­sa­tion when you touch an object, which is some­thing that we are not famil­iar with – yet!

Taryn Secliff, the kids’ school res­i­dent assis­tant, has a High­land White Ter­ri­er named Hub­bard, who’s affec­tion­ate­ly regard­ed by Cruz, Emmett, and Bryn­dis. Do you have a pet?

Yes, I have three pets. I think you met them on my desk: Pip­pin (snow­shoe), Woody (gin­ger tab­by), and Emmy­lou (Siamese mix). They all get along great and are so much fun. Pip­pin has his own Face­book page, because you can nev­er have too many cat pic­tures, right?

What’s your best hope for this series of books?

I hope that read­ers have as much fun read­ing Explor­er Acad­e­my as I am hav­ing writ­ing it (I’m writ­ing Book Five in the series now!). It would be won­der­ful if some read­ers see them­selves in its pages, per­haps, even dis­cov­er a pas­sion that leads to a career. More than any­thing, I hope the series spurs kids to par­tic­i­pate and con­tribute, just the way the Nation­al Geo­graph­ic explor­ers I have met seek to make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence in the world.

Scott Plumbe's illustration for The Falcon's Feather

One of Scott Plumbe’s excit­ing illus­tra­tions for The Fal­con’s Feath­er, copy­right Scott Plumbe, Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Part­ners, 2019

Vis­it Nation­al Geo­graph­ic’s Explor­er Acad­e­my web­site.

Trudi TrueitTru­di Trueit has writ­ten more than 100 books for young read­ers, both fic­tion and non­fic­tion. Her love of writ­ing began in fourth grade, when she wrote, direct­ed, and starred in her first play. She went on to be a TV news reporter and weath­er fore­cast­er, but she knew her call­ing was in writ­ing. Trueit is a gift­ed sto­ry­teller for mid­dle-grade audi­ences, and her fic­tion nov­els include The Sis­ter Solu­tionSteal­ing Pop­u­lar, and the Secrets of a Lab Rat series. Her exper­tise in kids non­fic­tion encom­pass­es books on his­to­ry, weath­er, wildlife, and Earth sci­ence. She is the author of all the nar­ra­tives for the Explor­er Acad­e­my series, begin­ning with Explor­er Acad­e­my: The Neb­u­la Secret. Born and raised in the Pacif­ic North­west, Tru­di lives in Everett, Wash­ing­ton. Vis­it her web­site.


Libraries and Librarians

We’re post­ing this when it’s Nation­al Library Week, but we believe every week should be Library Week. If you love pub­lic, school, and spe­cial libraries as much as we do, add these books to your read­ing list and share them with your favorite read­ers.

As always, if you have a book you believe should be on this list, let us know in the com­ments or send us an e‑mail. We’ll most like­ly add it, with a thanks to you.

Bats in the Library  

Bats in the Library
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Bri­an Lies
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2008

Join the free-for-all fun at the pub­lic library with these book-lov­ing bats! Shape shad­ows on walls, frol­ic in the water foun­tain, and roam the book-filled halls until it’s time for every­one, young and old, to set­tle down into the enchant­ment of sto­ry time. Bri­an Lies’ joy­ful crit­ters and their noc­tur­nal cel­e­bra­tion cast library vis­its in a new light.


Book Scavenger  

Book Scav­enger
writ­ten by Jen­nifer Cham­b­liss Bert­man
Hen­ry Holt, 2015

The first of a three-book series joins Emi­ly and James as they try to crack Gar­ri­son Griswold’s online game to find books hid­den in cities all over the coun­try. They work hard to solve puz­zles and sort our clues. Gris­wold has been attacked and lies in a coma in the hos­pi­tal. Will they com­plete the game before and find the secret before Griswold’s assailant comes after them?


Dewey the Library Cat  

Dewey the Library Cat: a True Sto­ry
writ­ten by Vic­ki Myron and Bret Wit­ter
Lit­tle, Brown, 2011

When a cat is aban­doned in a library book drop in the mid­dle of win­ter, he is adopt­ed by Spencer, Iowa’s pub­lic library, quick­ly becom­ing a favorite with library patrons. Dewey Read­more Books, a real cat and a true sto­ry, is the cat­a­lyst for a love­ly sto­ry about hope and friend­ship.


Down Cut Shin Creek  

Down Cut Shin Creek:
The Pack Horse Librar­i­ans of Ken­tucky

writ­ten by Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Can­nel­la Schmitzer
Harper­Collins, 2001

From 1935 to 1943, the WPA paid women to ride into the Appalachi­an hills of Ken­tucky to deliv­er books, mag­a­zines, pam­phlets, and oth­er read­ing mate­ri­als to peo­ple who lived in hard-to-reach loca­tions. The Pack Horse Library Project was inno­v­a­tive in help­ing to raise peo­ple up dur­ing the Great Depres­sion. The pho­tos in this book are evoca­tive of the era. Very inspir­ing.



writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Yuyi Morales
Neal Porter Books, 2018
(con­tributed by Dr. Hei­di Ham­mond)

Shar­ing her own sto­ry about immi­grat­ing to this coun­try from Mex­i­co with her young son, we learn that they did not have an easy time of it. By vis­it­ing the pub­lic library, they learned the lan­guage of their new home. It is a book about becom­ing a cre­ative artist despite heart-break­ing chal­lenges. It is a beau­ti­ful book, illus­trat­ed with Ms. Morales’ charis­mat­ic vision. “We are two languages./ We are lucha./ We are resilience./ We are hope.”


Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library  

Escape from Mr. Lemon­cel­lo’s Library
writ­ten by Chris Graben­stein
Ran­dom House, 2013

Kyle Kee­ley, who would rather play board games and video games than do any­thing else, is invit­ed to a sleep­over at his hometown’s brand new library, cre­at­ed by Lui­gi Lemon­cel­lo, the game inven­tor Kyle admires most. There are games galore and lots of fun but when morn­ing rolls around, the doors mys­te­ri­ous­ly stay locked. Kyle and the oth­er game-play­ers have to solve the games and puz­zles or they won’t get out. Lots of fun.

The Haunted Library


The Haunt­ed Library
writ­ten by Dori Hillestad But­ler, illus­trat­ed by Aurore Damant
Gros­set & Dun­lap, 2014 (a series)

There’s a ghost haunt­ing the library. Kaz is a boy ghost who is forced to move when the build­ing he and his fam­i­ly haunt is torn down. He meets a real girl, Claire, who can see ghosts. She lives above the library. Will the two of them be able to solve the mys­tery to fig­ure out who the library’s ghost is and what they’re doing there?

The Imaginary  

The Imag­i­nary
by A.F. Har­rold
illus­trat­ed by Emi­ly Gravett
Blooms­bury, 2015

Aman­da Shuf­fle­up has an imag­i­nary friend, Rudger. Nobody else can see Rudger … until the evil Mr. Bunting knocks on the door. He wants to eat Rudger because that’s how he con­tin­ues to live. Aman­da dis­ap­pears and Rudger is alone. He must find her and he has to escape from Bunting. Soon, he finds him­self in a library filled with imag­in­ery friends who are try­ing not to fade out of exis­tence … or be eat­en. It’s a delight­ful­ly spooky and off­beat mid­dle grade nov­el.


Librarian of Basra  

Librar­i­an of Bas­ra: A True Sto­ry from Iraq
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Jean­nette Win­ter
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 2005
(con­tributed by Ani­ta Dualeh)

Alia Muham­mad Bak­er is a librar­i­an in Bas­ra, Iraq. For many years, her library has been a meet­ing place for those who love books. Until war comes to Bas­ra. Alia fears that the library, along with thir­ty thou­sand books in its col­lec­tion, will be destroyed for­ev­er.

In a war-strick­en coun­try where civil­ians, espe­cial­ly women, have lit­tle pow­er, this true sto­ry about a librar­i­an’s strug­gle to save her com­mu­ni­ty’s price­less col­lec­tion of books reminds us all how, through­out the world, the love of lit­er­a­ture and the respect for knowl­edge know no bound­aries


Libraries of Minnesota  

Libraries of Min­neso­ta
text by Will Weaver, Pete Haut­man, Nan­cy Carl­son, Mar­sha Wil­son Chall, David LaRochelle, and Kao Kalia Yang
pho­tog­ra­phy by Doug Ohman
Min­neso­ta His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety Press, 2011

Does your state have a book hon­or­ing its many libraries? If it doesn’t, you’re miss­ing a treat. This book shares the sto­ries of a num­ber of children’s and YA book authors who fond­ly remem­ber their expe­ri­ences at the library, accom­pa­nied by a mas­ter­ful photographer’s images from those and many oth­er libraries.


The Library  

The Library
by Sarah Stew­art
illus­trat­ed by David Small
Far­rar, Staus, Giroux, 1995
(con­tributed by Beth Raff)

Eliz­a­beth Brown loves to read more than she likes to do any­thing else. She col­lects books and soon they are mak­ing it hard to open the door to her house. So many books! What to do? Why, start a lend­ing library of course! A charm­ing book with beau­ti­ful illus­tra­tions.


Library Lil  

Library Lil
by Susanne Williams
illus­trat­ed by Steven Kel­logg
Pen­guin, 2001

From the day she was born, Lil had a book in her hand…so it’s no sur­prise when she grows up to become a librar­i­an her­self. She even man­ages to turn the peo­ple of Chester­ville — who are couch pota­toes — into read­ers. But then Bust-’em-up Bill roars into town with his motor­cy­cle gang. Just men­tion read­ing to him and you’re toast. Has Lil final­ly met her match? This orig­i­nal tall tale by a real-life librar­i­an, com­bined with Steven Kel­log­g’s trade­mark humor, is great fun.


Library Lion  

Library Lion 
by Michelle Knud­sen
illus­trat­ed by Kevin Hawkes
Can­dlewick Press, 2006

Miss Mer­ri­weath­er, the head librar­i­an, is very par­tic­u­lar about rules in the library. No run­ning allowed. And you must be qui­et. But when a lion comes to the library one day, no one is sure what to do. There aren’t any rules about lions in the library. This is an endear­ing book and a good read-aloud.


Lola at the Library


Lola at the Library
writ­ten by Anna McQuinn
illus­trat­ed by Ros­alind Beard­shaw
Charles­bridge, 2006

A good sto­ry for intro­duc­ing young read­ers to the library. She and her mom­my go to the library every Tues­day, where Lola has dis­cov­ered friends. They share books, lis­ten to the librar­i­an tell them sto­ries, and engage in play. They don’t even have to be qui­et! No won­der Lola loves the library.

Lost in the Library: a Story of Patience and Fortitude


Lost in the Library: A Sto­ry of Patience and For­ti­tude
writ­ten by Josh Funk
illus­trat­ed by Ste­vie Lewis
Hen­ry Holt, 2018

Did you know that the lions in front of the New York Pub­lic Library are named Patience and For­ti­tude? Well, now you know. When Patience goes miss­ing, For­ti­tude does his best to find her. Where should he look? He begins at the Library …

The Man Who Loved Libraries


The Man Who Loved Libraries:
The Sto­ry of Andrew Carnegie

writ­ten by Andrew Larsen
illus­trat­ed by Kat­ty Mau­rey
OwlKids, 2017
(con­tributed by Beth Raff)

Andrew Carnegie arrived in Amer­i­ca in the 1840s, hav­ing emi­grat­ed from Scot­land. His work­ing class fam­i­ly raised him to believe in hard work and deter­mi­na­tion. He worked hard and invest­ed in telegraphs and rail­roads, even­tu­al­ly becom­ing the rich­est man in the world. He believed in phil­an­thropy, donat­ing more than 2,000 libraries around the world. He changed the land­scape of pub­lic libraries and how peo­ple think about books and read­ing.

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise


Miss Moore Thought Oth­er­wise: How Anne Car­roll Moore Cre­at­ed Libraries for Chil­dren
writ­ten by Jan Pin­bor­ough
illus­trat­ed by Deb­by Atwell
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2013

There was a time when Amer­i­can chil­dren couldn’t bor­row library books. Many thought it was­n’t impor­tant for chil­dren to read. Luck­i­ly Miss Anne Car­roll Moore thought oth­er­wise! This is the true sto­ry of how Miss Moore cre­at­ed the first children’s room at the New York Pub­lic Library, a bright, warm room filled with art­work, win­dow seats, and most impor­tant of all, bor­row­ing priv­i­leges for the world’s best children’s books in many dif­fer­ent lan­guages.

No. T.Rex in the Library


No T.Rex in the Library
writ­ten by Toni Buzzeo
illus­trat­ed by Sachiko Yoshikawa
Mar­garet K. McElder­ry Books, 2010

It’s a qui­et morn­ing in the library until a lit­tle girl roars out of con­trol! Tess resigns her­self to a time-out, but finds that she must be the one who has to main­tain order when T.Rex leaps from the pages of a book into real life. Will the library ever be the same?

Pete the Cat Checks Out the Library


Pete the Cat Checks Out the Library
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by James Dean
Harper­Collins, 2018

When Pete the Cat vis­its the library for the first time, he takes a tour and reads some of the cool sto­ries. With­out even leav­ing the library, Pete goes on groovy adven­tures. All Pete needs is a lit­tle imag­i­na­tion — and of course, his library card!

Planting Stories


Plant­i­ng Sto­ries:
The Life of Librar­i­an and Sto­ry­teller Pura Bel­pré

writ­ten by Ani­ka Aldamuy Denise
illus­trat­ed by Pao­la Esco­bar
Harper­Collins, 2019

When she came to Amer­i­ca in 1921, Pura Bel­pré car­ried the cuen­tos folk­lóri­cos of her Puer­to Rican home­land. Find­ing a new home at the New York Pub­lic Library as a bilin­gual assis­tant, she turned her pop­u­lar retellings into libros and spread sto­ry seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush land­scape as gen­er­a­tions of chil­dren and sto­ry­tellers con­tin­ue to share her tales and cel­e­brate Pura’s lega­cy.

Properly Unhaunted Place


Prop­er­ly Unhaunt­ed Place
writ­ten by William Alexan­der
Mar­garet K. McElder­ry Books, 2017

Ingot is the only ghost-free town in the world. When Rosa moves to Ingot with her moth­er, she can’t fig­ure out why they’re there. Rosa’s moth­er is a ghost-appease­ment librar­i­an. Her job is to keep ghosts out of the library, but there are none. Or is that true? Rosa joins forces with Jasper, long-time Ingot res­i­dent, to solve the mys­tery and keep the angry spir­its from attack­ing the town and the library. It’s a fast-paced and humor­ous tale. A page-turn­er for mid­dle grade read­ers.

A sec­ond book, A Fes­ti­val of Ghosts, con­tin­ues the sto­ry.

Ron's Big Mission


Ron’s Big Mis­sion
writ­ten by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden
illus­trat­ed by Don Tate
Dut­ton, 2009
(con­tributed by Dr. Hei­di Ham­mond)

Nine-year-old Ron loves going to the Lake City Pub­lic Library to look through all the books on air­planes and flight. Today, Ron is ready to take out books by him­self. But in the seg­re­gat­ed world of South Car­oli­na in the 1950s, Ron’s obtain­ing his own library card is not just a small rite of pas­sage — it is a young man’s first coura­geous mis­sion. Here is an inspir­ing sto­ry, based on Ron McNair’s life, of how a lit­tle boy, future sci­en­tist, and Chal­lenger astro­naut deseg­re­gat­ed his library through peace­ful resis­tance.



Schom­burg: The Man Who Built a Library
writ­ten by Car­ole Boston Weath­er­ford
illus­trat­ed by Eric Velasquez
Can­dlewick Press, 2017

Amid the schol­ars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renais­sance stood an Afro – Puer­to Rican named Arturo Schom­burg. This law clerk’s life’s pas­sion was to col­lect books, let­ters, music, and art from Africa and the African dias­po­ra and bring to light the achieve­ments of peo­ple of African descent through the ages. When Schomburg’s col­lec­tion became so big it began to over­flow his house, he turned to the New York Pub­lic Library, where he cre­at­ed and curat­ed a col­lec­tion that was the cor­ner­stone of a new Negro Divi­sion. A cen­tu­ry lat­er, his ground­break­ing col­lec­tion, known as the Schom­burg Cen­ter for Research in Black Cul­ture, has become a bea­con to schol­ars all over the world.

That Book Woman


That Book Woman
writ­ten by Heather Hen­son
illus­trat­ed by David Small
Atheneum, 2008
(con­tributed by Ani­ta Dualeh)

Cal does­n’t like to read so he has a hard time under­stand­ing why that book woman rides up to his house over some of the tough­est ter­rain in Appalachia just to bring his sis­ter more to read. He admires the per­sis­tence of this Pack Horse Librar­i­an, though, and read­ers of this book will be awed by how this WPA lit­er­a­cy projects turned so many peo­ple into life­long read­ers.

Tomas and the Library Lady


Tomás and the Library Lady
writ­ten by Pat Mora
illus­trat­ed by Raul Colón
Knopf, 19972

Based on the true sto­ry of the Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can author and edu­ca­tor Tomás Rivera, a child of migrant work­ers who went on to become the first minor­i­ty Chan­cel­lor in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia sys­tem, this inspi­ra­tional sto­ry sug­gests what libraries — and edu­ca­tion — can make pos­si­ble.

When the Library Lights Go Out


When the Library Lights Go Out
writ­ten by Megan McDon­ald
illus­trat­ed by Kater­ine Tillot­son
Atheneum, 20015

When the library clos­es at night, have you imag­ined what goes on inside? Three sto­ry-hour pup­pets believe the “closed” sign means “open for adven­ture.” At first there are only Rab­bit and Lion. Her­mit Crab is miss­ing. Where can she be in the library dark­ness? Find out for your­self when — mag­i­cal­ly — only pup­pets are mov­ing about in the library.

Who Stole the Wizard of Oz?


Who Stole the Wiz­ard of Oz?
writ­ten by Avi
Knopf, 1981

When a rare edi­tion of The Wiz­ard of Oz is miss­ing from the local library, Becky is accused of steal­ing it. She and her twin broth­er Toby set out to catch the real thief and prove her inno­cence. Clues clev­er­ly hid­den in four oth­er books lead to a hid­den trea­sure — and a grip­ping adven­ture. A good read-aloud for ear­ly grades.


The Lost Forest

The Lost ForestHow many books can you name that are about sur­vey­ing … and a mys­tery? I know. Right? And yet we see sur­vey­ors every day in fields, on busy street cor­ners, and in our neigh­bor­hoods. What are they doing? Would it sur­prise you to know that near­ly every acre of your state has been sur­veyed? That knowl­edge about those acres is record­ed on plat books and maps that peo­ple in gov­ern­ment and com­merce con­sult all the time?

What if 40 acres of old-growth trees (actu­al­ly 114 acres) were some­how record­ed incor­rect­ly by sur­vey­ors in 1882? What if those trees were left to grow, undis­turbed, because they appeared on maps as a lake? Then you would have The Lost Forty, which inspired The Lost For­est, by Phyl­lis Root, illus­trat­ed by Bet­sy Bowen (Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press).

So inter­est­ing to learn how those sur­vey­ors worked, the instru­ments they used, the cloth­ing they wore to fend off the snow, sun, and insects. Then the author invites us to think about the chal­lenges of sur­vey­ing:

If you have ever walked through the woods
you know the land does­n’t care
about straight lines.

This book’s for­mat is tall, just like those old-growth pines, and it con­tains all kinds of infor­ma­tion that will fit beau­ti­ful­ly into your STEM cur­ricu­lum.

The writ­ing is engag­ing, telling a true sto­ry and invit­ing us to use all of our sens­es to explore the sto­ry. Bet­sy Bowen’s illus­tra­tions cause us to linger, exam­in­ing each page care­ful­ly.

from The Lost Forty, text copy­right Phyl­lis Root, illus­tra­tions copy­right Bet­sy Bowen,
used here with the per­mis­sion of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press

In the back mat­ter, there’s a list of 15 trees, flow­ers, and birds that may live in old-growth forests. You and your fam­i­ly can trav­el to The Lost Forty Sci­en­tif­ic and Nat­ur­al Area in the Chippe­wa Nation­al For­est to con­duct your own expe­di­tion, using the book to iden­ti­fy these species.

In addi­tion, the book offers notes about how land is mea­sured (fas­ci­nat­ing … and some­thing you could do as a field trip), How to Talk Like a Sur­vey­or (“mean­der line”?), and How to Dress Like a Sur­vey­or (prac­ti­cal). Do not miss Bet­sy Bowen’s illus­tra­tions of Phyl­lis and Bet­sy on the last page!

Two admirable pic­ture book cre­ators, Phyl­lis Root and Bet­sy Bowen, have teamed up once again to bring us a fas­ci­nat­ing and beau­ti­ful book about those incor­rect­ly sur­veyed acres of trees. Bookol­o­gy asked them how this book, shar­ing an unusu­al his­to­ry, came to be.

Phyllis RootPhyl­lis Root, author:

I was work­ing on a count­ing book, One North Star, for the Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press about habi­tats in our state and the plants and ani­mals that live in those habi­tats. That led me to Minnesota’s Sci­en­tif­ic and Nat­ur­al Areas (SNAs), and on a trip north to vis­it the Big Bog I made a detour to see the Lost Forty SNA and was enchant­ed. The trees, some four hun­dred years old, tow­er so tall that it’s hard to see the tops, and the trunks of some are so big it takes three peo­ple to wrap their arms around. Since then I’ve gone back at least once each year, not only to see these amaz­ing trees but also to look for the wild­flow­ers that grow around them — bunch­ber­ry, moc­casin flow­ers, rose twist­ed-stalk, spot­ted coral­root, wild sar­sa­par­il­la, Hooker’s orchid, gold thread. Hik­ing in the Lost Forty real­ly is a trip back in time to before Min­neso­ta was logged over.

The Lost Forty

In the course of writ­ing One North Star, I also wrote a book about the bog (Big Belch­ing Bog) and one about the prairie (Plant a Pock­et of Prairie). I want­ed to write a com­pan­ion book about Minnesota’s forests but strug­gled to find a way in that would be both engag­ing and also spe­cif­ic. Because the Lost Forty is one of the few remain­ing stands of old growth pines in Min­neso­ta, and because the sto­ry of how it got lost was fas­ci­nat­ing, I began to write about it.

Most­ly I con­cen­trat­ed on the plants and ani­mals, with a nod to how the for­est got lost. I remem­bered a sign at the entrance to the Lost Forty that talked about a sur­vey­ing error. But my mem­o­ry mis-remem­bered, and I wrote sev­er­al drafts before real­iz­ing that the error was made not by tim­ber cruis­ers, the peo­ple employed by lum­ber com­pa­nies to esti­mate the amount of usable lum­ber in a cer­tain area, but by land sur­vey­ors. This led me to research the fas­ci­nat­ing world of the cas­das­tral sur­vey that mea­sured off most of the land in the Unit­ed States, step by step, acre by acre, sec­tion by sec­tion. The Bureau of Land Man­age­ment has dig­i­tal records that include the map and jour­nal of the crew who sur­veyed what is now the Lost Forty. For some rea­son (there are sev­er­al the­o­ries as to how it hap­pened) they mis-sur­veyed part of the for­est as a lake. Spec­u­la­tors and tim­ber com­pa­nies who stud­ied maps weren’t inter­est­ed in buy­ing lakes, just for­est, and so the site was over­looked for 76 years. I couldn’t track down the exact per­son who “found” the Lost Forty, but I did find a let­ter dat­ed 1958 that request­ed a re-sur­vey which dis­cov­ered those vir­gin white pines.

Per­haps one of the biggest real­iza­tions for me work­ing on this sto­ry was under­stand­ing that how we mea­sure land reflects how we treat the land: as a com­mod­i­ty to be bought and sold, often with no attempt to under­stand the organ­ic nature of the land itself. It made me so hap­py when one review not­ed that the book’s “implic­it mes­sage that the nat­ur­al world is some­thing more than a mea­sur­able com­mod­i­ty.”

I have always loved maps (although I am also fre­quent­ly lost). Just pour­ing over the names of places fas­ci­nates me, as does know­ing that maps are only an approx­i­ma­tion of real­i­ty, and that some­times maps delib­er­ate­ly lie. You can find the Lost Forty on maps now, no longer lost but pro­tect­ed for any­one to vis­it who wants to take a trip back in time. And it makes me think about what oth­er won­ders might not be on maps but still wait­ing to be found. v

Betsy BowenBet­sy Bowen, illus­tra­tor:

When this man­u­script came to me from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press, I eager­ly took it on. I have lived on the edge of the north­ern Min­neso­ta for­est for over fifty years, and there are only a few places to see the real­ly big, old trees. I’d had the expe­ri­ence of canoe camp­ing in Cana­da and find­ing sec­tions of the for­est that felt like no one had ever seen it before, thick spongy moss, deep green light, and gigan­tic trees. There was a mag­i­cal sense to it. My grand­fa­ther P. S. Love­joy was a forester in the ear­ly 1900s and an ear­ly con­ser­va­tion­ist voice who made an effort to save some wild places for us all to expe­ri­ence. I loved vis­it­ing The Lost Forty and feel­ing like a lit­tle kid try­ing to put my arms around such a big tree!

I used acrylic paint on ges­soed paper, first paint­ing the whole page flat black, and then draw­ing with a chalky ter­ra-cot­ta-col­ored Con­té cray­on.  I had help from some present-day foresters to find the orig­i­nal old sur­vey notes that I could page through online, and pho­tos of the sur­vey crew in 1882. My father, a civ­il engi­neer, was also a sur­vey­or, still using the same equip­ment that Josi­ah used to sur­vey The Lost Forty. I remem­ber look­ing at the moon through his old brass tran­sit. My moth­er was a car­tog­ra­ph­er in the 1930s and ‘40s, and I gained my love of maps from her. 

I love the sense of dis­cov­ery in Phyllis’s writ­ing of this sto­ry. The book was great fun to work on. v

Our thanks to Phyl­lis Root and Bet­sy Bowen for shar­ing their cre­ative process with us, a process that result­ed in this impor­tant book. We hope you’ll trea­sure it as much as we do.


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. Con­flict is dif­fi­cult for me to write, so I’ve had to fig­ure out ways to approach is from the side…. But oh, the imag­i­na­tions of kid­dos! They are mas­ter­ful at cre­at­ing what a writ­ing teacher of mine calls “incre­men­tal per­tur­ba­tions.”

At the begin­ning of each ses­sion I asked them to intro­duce them­selves with name and grade, and then tell me a favorite book of theirs and some­thing about why it’s a favorite. I love ask­ing kids those last two ques­tions — I feel like I learn some­thing about them very quick­ly. I also build my read­ing list. If they men­tion a book I’ve read, I try to say some­thing about why I like that book, too. If they men­tion a book I’ve not read, I write it down.

They think this is fas­ci­nat­ing — that I read the same books they do, and keep a list of books that they rec­om­mend. One boy said, “This is a book for kids, just so you know….” And I said, “I know — those are the best books!”

What I learned from two days with third and fourth graders is this: They real­ly like series books. They enjoy read­ing all the books in the series, or at least attempt­ing to. They enjoy what I con­sid­er pell-mell action books — cliff hang­ers at the end of every chap­ter, so many incre­men­tal per­tur­ba­tions your head spins, con­stant per­il etc. They also enjoy less rau­cous books, espe­cial­ly if ani­mals are involved — books like Charlotte’s Web, Mrs. Fris­by and the Rats of NIMH, Pablo and Birdy, Black Beau­ty. They think these are best read out loud — a teacher of par­ent read­ing to them. They can be sharply divid­ed as to whether they like a magical/fantasy ele­ment to their books, though Har­ry Pot­ter and the Per­cy Jack­son series seems to rise above any objec­tions to fan­ta­sy — they feel real, I’m told.

I love these kinds of book dis­cus­sions with kids — the exchange of titles, the pas­sion­ate opin­ions, the “…and if you like that, then you’d real­ly like ______!” It’s not only a great way to begin class, but also an easy way to put out there that books are things to be talked about.

As they left, many kids were feed­ing me more titles. “I bet you haven’t read this one…” they’d say. And they were so tick­led if I had, or if I ran to put it on my list.

Such an easy fun thing to do: Ask the kid­dos in your life what they’re read­ing….


Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

Eat dessert first! Inspired by Rube Gold­berg’s love of Cool Whip (and Sarah’s love of writ­ing what makes her hap­py!)
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Author: Sarah Aron­son


  • 2 eggs plus 4 egg yolks
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 12 cup unsweet­ened cocoa pow­der
  • 1−1÷2 cups heavy cream
  • 1−1÷2 tsp cin­na­mon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 oz bit­ter­sweet choco­late
  • 1−1÷2 cup sug­ar
  • 1 tsp vanil­la
  • 6 to 8 crois­sants
  • Cool Whip!


  • Pre­heat oven to 325 deg F.
  • Whisk 2 eggs plus 4 egg yolks togeth­er. Set aside.
  • Over a low flame, com­bine 2 cups whole milk, 12 cup unsweet­ened cocoa pow­der, 1 12 cups heavy cream, 1 12 tsp cin­na­mon, and 1 tsp salt in a sauce pan until smooth.
  • Add 8 oz bit­ter­sweet choco­late, 1 12 cup sug­ar, and 1 tsp vanil­la .
  • Stir.
  • Slow­ly add milk-and-choco­late mix­ture to the eggs. Don’t be aggres­sive! (If you do, you
  • will get scram­bled eggs.)
  • But­ter an 8″ x 8″ bak­ing dish.
  • Cut 6 – 8 crois­sants into cubes and place in dish.
  • Pour choco­late mix­ture over crois­sants. Let them sit to soak up all the choco­latey good­ness. Be patient!
  • Bake at 325 degrees for 45 – 50 min­utes.
  • Scoop on some Cool Whip and eat!

Bookstorm™: Just Like Rube Goldberg

Just Like Rube Goldberg

Just Like Rube Goldberg

Edu­ca­tors across the coun­try have been inspired by Rube Goldberg’s intri­cate, clever, engi­neer­ing-based, but unlike­ly-to-be-made-in-real-life car­toons. Stu­dents are gath­er­ing to cre­ate their own Rube Gold­berg machines, using every­day objects in fun and inno­v­a­tive ways to accom­plish sim­ple tasks with fun results. Just Like Rube Gold­berg inspires all its read­ers with the details about Rube’s child­hood and his trip into adult­hood. He was deter­mined to become a car­toon­ist for a major news­pa­per but went to engi­neer­ing school at his dad’s insis­tence. When Rube final­ly found his dream job as a car­toon­ist, would his fan­tas­ti­cal draw­ings have become pop­u­lar world­wide if he hadn’t been trained as an engi­neer? So much to dis­cuss with this book!

In each Book­storm™, we offer a bib­li­og­ra­phy of books that have close ties to the the fea­tured book. You’ll find books, arti­cles, web­sites, and videos for a vari­ety of tastes and inter­ests.  




You’ll find more infor­ma­tion about Sarah Aron­son and Robert Neubeck­er on their web­sites.


About Rube Gold­berg and His Art. We share with you a num­ber of good books, arti­cles, videos, and web­sites where you’ll find infor­ma­tion to cre­ate your own cur­ricu­lum around Just Like Rube Gold­berg.

Alter Egos and Secret Iden­ti­ties. Gold­berg attrib­uted his inven­tions to his alter ego, Pro­fes­sor Lucifer Gor­gonzo­la Butts. We’ve found sev­er­al books that delve into alter egos and secret iden­ti­ties. Author Sarah Aron­son has a delight­ful activ­i­ty she brings to her school vis­its that invite stu­dents to explore their own alter egos.

Car­toon­ing and Draw­ing. For the kinet­ic and visu­al learn­ers in your class­room or book club, here are top-notch books to lead them through try­ing their hand at car­toon­ing and draw­ing.

Crit­i­cal Think­ing. Math puz­zles, cre­ative prob­lem-solv­ing, Albert Ein­stein, brain­storm­ing … a num­ber of books will start you and your stu­dents on the path to think­ing crit­i­cal­ly.

Engi­neer­ing. We rec­om­mend two videos, one from NASA and one from Crash Course Kids, to give inspir­ing intro­duc­tions to the field of engi­neer­ing.

Mak­ing Machines with Mov­ing Parts. There are more books on this top­ic than you might real­ize. From Girls Think of Every­thing to Mon­key with a Tool­belt to Build Your Own Chain Reac­tion Machines to Dump­ster Div­er … and many more … inspi­ra­tion awaits!

San Fran­cis­co Earth­quake, 1906. Yes, Rube Gold­berg lived through that earth­quake and it changed his life. Here are books both fic­tion and non­fic­tion to bring your stu­dents up to speed on one of the largest nat­ur­al dis­as­ters of all time.

Resources for Adults. As always, our Book­storms include books and videos that will give you the back­ground you need to guide stu­dents in both class­room and library set­tings.

Let us know how you are mak­ing use of this Book­storm™. Share your ideas and any oth­er books you’d add to this Book­storm™.


Make This!

Make This!Make This! Build­ing, Think­ing, and Tin­ker­ing Projects for the Amaz­ing Mak­er in You 
Ella Schwartz, pho­tographs by Matthew Rako­la
Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Kids, 2019

When pre­sent­ed with this book, wheels start turn­ing, ideas begin pop­ping, and your tem­per­a­ture ris­es! This is going to be fun.

And a care­ful­ly thought-through learn­ing expe­ri­ence … but who needs to know that?

By the book’s def­i­n­i­tion, “A mak­er is some­one who tin­kers, fix­es, breaks, rebuilds, and con­structs projects for the world around them.” With great empha­sis, it is evi­dent that “A mak­er is you!”

We are shown mak­er spaces and we learn that mak­ers reuse, recy­cle, and cre­ate.

You know these kids. (You prob­a­bly know some who grew up to be adults.) There are some kids who are mak­ers but don’t know it yet. Give them this book if they’re old enough or sit down with them on an oth­er­wise bor­ing after­noon or work these projects into your class­room lessons or library pro­grams.

Sam­ple chap­ters are “Sim­ple Machines,” “Optics,” “Acoustics,” “Forces,” and “Motion.”

The book is col­or­ful­ly and thought­ful­ly designed, allow­ing the mak­er to ful­ly focus on def­i­n­i­tions, facts, step-by-step num­bered instruc­tions, warn­ings, and pho­tos that are excep­tion­al­ly clear in delin­eat­ing the steps in case the ver­bal direc­tions don’t answer all of your ques­tions. You’ll find a dif­fi­cul­ty meter, a box with the num­ber of peo­ple it takes to do the project, and some­times an admo­ni­tion to “grab an adult.”

Make This! Interior page

from Make This!: Build­ing Think­ing, and Tin­ker­ing Projects for the Amaz­ing Mak­er in You, © Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Chil­dren’s Books, 2019, used here with per­mis­sion

Projects include “Rolling Pin Pul­ley” (using a rolling pin, rope, and two friends to lift a heavy book), after which we’re chal­lenged to keep a list of the pul­leys we see through­out one day.

For “Pen­cil Push­er,” we’re intro­duced to The Mys­tery of Stone­henge. How did ancient mak­ers move those huge stones 160 miles from Wales to near Sal­is­bury, Eng­land? Work­ing with pen­cils and a pile of heavy books offers one pos­si­ble solu­tion (and the cur­rent the­o­ry).

We’re asked why any­one would care about the col­or of a roof in “Pow­er Col­ors.” This project requires two small bal­loons, two 2‑liter soda bot­tles, black paint, white paint, and a sun­ny day. Applied knowl­edge.

On “Clean & Clear,” there’s a warn­ing about fil­ter­ing water “It’s impor­tant to keep in mind that even though the water looks clean, it is not safe for you or your pets to drink. There may be oth­er harm­ful things in the water, like bac­te­ria or microor­gan­isms, which are too small to see.” Even the warn­ings are instruc­tive!

This book teach­es sci­ence with­out mak­ing a big deal out of it.

Sign­ing off. I need to go make a con­vey­or belt, a periscope, a skee-ball game, and a mar­ble maze. Irre­sistible!